I do a great deal of running. Its rarely organized, I often don’t wear a watch, and I couldn’t tell you anything about my heart rate, split times, or PB’s to save my life. But nearly every day I go for a run. Some days thats for 30 minutes and some days its for two hours. I have run since high school when I competed in cross-country events (which I hated – I was pretty slow). It wasn’t until the final two years of high school when I hit a growth spurt that I started to go for longer 20km+ runs and thats when I began to really enjoy myself. I’ve tried to carry that energy since then and find running to be an essential tool for staying happy, fighting off depression and quiet reflection.
Skyler and I have often discussed how the standard gear reviews that abound on the internet frustrate us – they are cursory at best and rarely speak to any extended use of the piece. They seem in fact to be all about convincing people that they have already made the right choice, rather than actually offering criticism or considered opinions about what one should be looking for. So here are some thoughts based on from four months to four years of use. The following are a few things I take on runs near and far.
Ultimate Direction Handheld Bottle – a water bottle with a fancy strap and pocket so that you can hold it in your tired sweaty hand without too much effort. Probably not a priority for most bike packers, but as a runner I find this to be one of the most used pieces of outdoor gear in my arsenal. As a heavy sweat-er with a fairly lackadaisical approach to proper sports nutrition when I’m in the city it is a huge help to be able to bring this on my runs loaded with nuun and sometimes gels (if I’m out for more than an hour and a half). If I’m wearing shorts without a pocket I also tend to use the pocket on the bottle strap for my keys. There’s a whole raft of options when it comes to carrying keys/gels/phones/junk while you go running, but I really like holding the botte in my hand – I drink more, it doesn’t bounce around and annoy me, its easy to fill at water fountains or mountain streams (easier than fooling around with a bladder anyhow). I use it on a near daily basis. When I lived in Montreal and was running consistently in the summer this was in use constantly.
Small Personal Item Belt – A glorified mini-fannypack this has rapidly become an essential part of my running routine. A couple of summers ago during a hiking trip with E’s family through Strathcona Park in the interior of Vancouver Island I discovered I was allergic to wasps. ‘How?’ I hear you ask. Well, I got stung, and without being overly dramatic – hilarity ensued (for those observing), while I suffered through about as full-blown an anaphylactic reaction as one can suffer through without expiring completely. Entertaining (and surprising – I had been stung just weeks before with no reaction) as that experience was, I now run with an epipen and a dose of Reactin – which fit perfectly in this inconspicuous waist belt. The fabric is very stretchy so if need be one could also carry a phone or cards. I think the most I have squashed in is an epipen, Reactin, a phone and about three gels. Now that its wasp season, I try and remember to always have this along.
Nuun – The world of stuff to drink and eat when you exercise is packed with the latest-and-greatest. The only thing I find myself coming back to consistently is Nuun – small caplets of electrolytes and sugars that you add to your water. I use them whenever its hot out and I think I’ll be sweating hard. They are definitely not an everyday thing though as they can be pretty sugary. They come in a variety of flavours – I prefer the less sweet options (lemon lime, tea, kola), as I find on longer runs the sweetness of gels and all that crap definitely takes its toll. Since I introduced Skyler to it he seems to have developed an even worse addiction than I thought I had.
So there you have it – three things that make me a happier, faster, safer runner…and in turn a faster, better, fitter climber, skier and bikepacker!