We hope to write more in-depth reviews for some of these items, but for now, we want to highlight gear/running products that we use in day-to-day training and in races. It isn’t easy to find stuff that you like, so hopefully this helps a little bit. This is just stuff we use, nothing we have gotten free (OK, the Nathan bottle was included in the awesome prize pack from the Central PA Trophy Series).
Trail (Ian): Inov-8 Trailroc 245 and 255: I have been running in these shoes since Fall 2014 (not much trail running during winter) and have been very happy with them. I got turned onto them by Ashley and David Lister, trail running friends that run in Inov-8s (Ashley is on their team too). The numbering system Inov-8 uses is based on the weight of the shoe in grams. So, the larger the number the heavier and more protective the shoe, although we are talking about 10 grams of difference here. To keep it succinct: I like the last they use, which is foot-shaped, meaning it is plenty roomy in the toebox with a rounded toe (not a pointed-toe style). Both are low drop (255: 6mm, 245: 3mm). I have stuck with low drop for a while now. The upper on both is well built and has been durable so far. I also like the sole, which is a nice solid chunk of rubber (some minimal trail shoes don’t seem as durable), and they are plenty protective for the rocky trails of central PA. The lugs are nice, large enough to provide good traction, but not too knobby. Differences: the 245s fit my feet a lot more snugly and hug the foot. This is nice for trying to move fast are corner quickly. The 255s on the other hand have a bit more wiggle room, which is nice for long-distance cruising. The slightly wider helps make them feel more stable on chunky or squishy stuff, although they can be slightly more squirrely on corners. All in all, I have been super impressed with these shoes and their combination of durability, protection, and minimal design works well for central PA trails, which I have found to crush a lot of shoes.
Trail (Christy): Inov-8 Trailroc 246: These are basically the women’s version of the 255s.
Road: Merrel Road Glove (V1) and Trail Glove (V1): Both of these shoes fit like slippers, or you know, gloves, which I love. While these shoes are definitely minimalist and have little cushioning, I haven’t had any issues in them. I have run 30+ miles at a time in the Road Gloves and 27 or so in the Trail Gloves.
Start with the Road Glove (V1). I have been extremely impressed with the fit and durability of these shoes. They fit my feet perfectly (size 10, like normal) and are very comfortable. They do force you, like most minimalist shoes, to not slam down quite as hard and to increase your cadence, which I feel is a good thing. The sole is plenty sticky, even on wet asphalt and there is enough traction and protection to run on mild, dry trails. I am on my 3rd pair of these, with the first two retiring only after I wore through the rubber sole in places, but I am pretty sure that was after 500+ miles. The first pair started to develop a slight hole on the inside at the flex point, but it would have taken a bit more running to make that problematic. I really have nothing bad to say about these shoes. The only downside? They no longer make this model, which is why I switched to the Trail Gloves.
Trail Glove (V1): I switched to these because I could no longer find the first version of the Road Gloves. I wore one pair of the Road Glove 2 and was much less impressed. They seemed a lot stiffer and less glove-like. However, most important to me, the durability just wasn’t there. I didn’t get nearly the same wear out of them and the uppers just tore from the lowers, making them unusable. So, the next best thing? The Trail Gloves from the same year as the Road Gloves I adored. I saw that people ran in the road and given that they really didn’t have that different of a sole (no giant lugs or anything) I figured I would give them a try. I ran 26 or so in them the first time out, but realized that after that soggy foot run, I had a nice spot rubbed raw on my achilles. I had to bandage my feet the next day. Long story short, they cut up my achilles and then gave me another raw spot on the top of my foot (big toe knuckle) where a piece of fabric from the tongue rubbed. The lining material on the heel was horribly rough, which I think, when combined with the moisture is what rubbed through the sock. I put some medical tape on the back to make it more “slippy”, cut out the fabric from the inside, and I haven’t had problems since. I haven’t run with really wet feet, but of the 100+ miles I have done in them, they have been great and have felt very similar to the Road Gloves, with just a little more bite in the snow or on unpaved surfaces.
Pearl Izumi Infinity LD Short: I love these shorts. Enough that I own 4 pairs and they are all that I run in for training and racing. They are a nice mid-length pair of shorts, and the material is amazingly soft and light. They come with a liner, but because I am used to wearing Under Armour compression shorts, I just chopped them out immediately and haven’t looked back. You could wear something shorter if you like freedom or showing off your legs, but I barely notice the extra couple inches of fabric. They have two front pockets and two rear zippered pockets. I don’t always use them, but it is super handy to have them to throw my Ipod or keys in. I don’t trust the Velcro on the front pockets to not lose “heavy” stuff that is just loose like keys, but it works great for other items. I have run several seasons in them with no sign of wear, so durability appears to be great.
Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Fly Evo Soft Shell Jacket: This jacket gets me through winter in PA. My first winter I wore a wind shell, but for most days in winter where weather is in the high teens or 20s, this jacket does the trick. I still need to wear lots of layers underneath because I get super cold, but the beauty of a softshell is it cuts the wind, but still breathes a bit so some of the moisture you are bound to make while running is allowed to escape. This helps prevent get soaked and getting really chilled. The fit is athletic, although Pearl Izumi sizing is always one off, so I wear a medium in this jacket, while I wear smalls in basically everything else. The bottom is a little bit loose and seems to jostle around a bit The sleeves are extra long and while the length doesn’t get in the way, they give you enough room to keep your hands warm. They have little mitten things on the inside, but if the weather is cold enough to use a jacket, I wear some sort of gloves. The jacket has some reflective accents, which are a nice addition for running at night. As with the shorts, I have been very impressed with the quality of this jacket.
Handhelds: Nathan QuickDraw Plus (20 oz), Ultimate Direction Fastdraw (20 oz)
Ultimate Direction SJ race vest: The Ultimate Direction SJ race vest has become a crucial part of my race kit and accompanies me on most long runs. I had to replace the bottles up front with two 16oz Amphipod Hydraform bottles. The 20 oz bottles that come with the vest are inexplicably shaped, which makes them roll around and bounce off my ribs. Two full 20 oz bottles are pretty heavy as well, which didn’t help with the bouncing. I have learned that by not filling the new bottles all the way, I can cut down the bouncing even more by allowing the water to use some energy to slosh around. There are plenty of pockets up front and on the sides to shove gels, arm warmers, camera, etc. into. I can access the side pockets using two hands, and I am not that flexible. The rear storage area is much harder to access and I have really only used it for training runs. I did use it for a bladder during Manitou’s Revenge, which was warm with plenty of time between some aid stations. There is lots of room back there and I can fit most anything I would need, including a light jacket, map, food.
Carb Boom! gels: I eat a mix of real food and gels while on long training runs, and rely more heavily on gels during races. Especially for non-ultra races, gels are a quick and easy way to get gels down. These are the only gels I have actually bought. I have a decently strong stomach and none of the other gels have given me stomach issues. However, I like the taste of these. They certainly taste sweet, but that is expected; it still is a gel. Unlike some other brands, they don’t taste chemical-y ate all and just taste fruity. Consistency is great and they are easy to get down, although I still like to chase them with a little water. My strategy with these for races tends to be to grab them at aid stations and then either carry them in my hand or in my vest until I eat them on the go somewhere between aid stations. This lets me focus on liquids and maybe some fruit or sandwiches at the aid station and guarantees I put down some calories in between aid stations. When I was super tired and parched during Eastern States, the Vanilla Orange flavor was a bit harsh on my throat, although the taste was still good. My personal favorites are Apple Cinnamon and Strawberry Kiwi.