The New Run Commuters – March 2017

Runner’s World magazine (Oct 2016) recently gave Seattle the silver medal for number 2 best running city in America (behind San Fran). Aaron Mercer, our runcommuter for this month, is a Seattle resident who uses his runcommuting to make the most of what the city has to offer. He braves the state’s rainy, wet conditions to runcommute almost every day. Aaron is helping his work colleagues stay healthy, too.

A scientist at Novo Nordisk, Aaron is also the Wellness Committee chair and promotes running to other employees. Aaron says he enjoys exploring his city on his runcommutes. He manages to incorporate cafe-testing into these runs as well, taking advantage of Seattle’s abundance of coffee joints. An excellent idea for all runcommuters: the combination of running and coffee is a classic, and what better way to start (or end) the day…especially when it’s raining!

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Runner Basics

  • Name: Aaron Mercer

  • Age: 33

  • City/State: Seattle, WA

  • Profession/Employer: Research Scientist, Novo Nordisk

  • Number of years running: 17

  • Number of races you participate in a year: 4

  • Do you prefer road or trail? Trail, but I have learned to love the road again with all of my run commuting.

 

Run Commuting Gear

  • Backpack: Formerly an Osprey Manta AG 28, but I recently made the switch to the IAMRUNBOX Pro.

  • Shoes: Anything around 7 – 8 oz in weight from Brooks or Saucony. Their shoes fit my narrow feet better than most companies’.

  • Clothing: A mix of tech shirts and shorts, as well as race shirts. I never match, because run commuting is about form over fashion!

  • Outerwear: I have a few running jackets from Brooks, but I typically layer a short sleeve and long sleeve tech shirt because winters are pretty mild in the Pacific Northwest.

  • Headgear: I typically don’t wear a hat but I will wear sunglasses in the warm/sunny months.

  • Lights: Black Diamond Sprinter. It has good lumens for the dark and drizzly evening commutes in Seattle.

  • Hydration: I’ll hold a water bottle if I bring anything at all. I tend to only bring extra hydration for runs longer than 10 miles (16km), or when the temperatures get too warm outside (above 75F).

 

Aaron Mercer

Aaron’s runcommuting route.

Beer Run!! Aaron and his friend Pete ran 10 miles between 5 breweries. Did they follow it with a coffee run?

Aaron’s runcommute pack, in his home’s appropriately white, scandi interior. 

On Run Commuting

Why did you decide to start run commuting?

Evening traffic in Seattle can be atrociously slow, and my run commute many days is as fast or faster than most forms of transport. My office is next to Amazon’s ever-expanding campus in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, so traffic is almost always a grind. Runcommuting also gives me a chance to get in miles without cutting into my family time outside of work.

How often do you run commute?

2-4 days per week after work, but even on my “non-running” days I add in 2 miles of running between the most efficient bus lines to get home [editor’s note: we consider any combo of running+vehicular transport to be runcommuting! So, Aaron runcommutes more than he admits ;-)]

How far is your commute?

10.5 miles (16km) for the full run, and around 2 miles if I mix in bus commuting.

Do you pack or buy a lunch?

Either, depending on what leftovers I have at home, and how much volume I have available in my backpack. My go-to spot for eating out is a Vietnamese food truck called Xplosive that seems to live on the Amazon campus — their vermicelli bowl is my favorite way to get veggies/carbs/protein when I’m in a hurry. I’m also fortunate that my job provides catered lunch twice a week.

What do you like most about run commuting?

1. I enjoy the efficient use of my time, since I get my commute and exercise finished in one activity.

2. Runcommuting keeps me disciplined with my eating and sleep habits to keep up with the demands of 20-40 miles of running per week.

3. It gives me a chance to explore the city. Seattle has a lot of history and interesting neighborhoods, so runcommuting gives me a great opportunity to scout the area. It’s also a good excuse to try one of the dozens of independent coffee shops here.

What are the weather conditions like for your runcommute?

Temperatures are always fairly mild in Seattle, but there are many days with rain and slick pavement. True to the stereotypes it is cool, wet, and cloudy for most of the year. It’s good running weather even if footing can get a bit tricky.

Do you know of anyone else in your area that runs to work? 

No, but I do see other people running with backpacks in the city. I would assume that they are runcommuting as well. There are many, many people in my office and in Seattle who bike commute, however.

When not run commuting, how do you get to work?

If I’m not running, I will either car pool, or mix in 2 miles of running to get to-and-from express bus lines. Once Seattle finishes expanding its light rail network, I will be two blocks from one of the stations.

If you could give one piece of advice to anyone who was considering run commuting, what would it be?

Invest in decent gear, and monitor your shoes for wear and tear. It’s hard to keep up with runcommuting multiple days per week with busted gear or a busted body.

Anything else that you would like to include?

My PR for a slightly longer run commute (11.46 miles) was set in October with a time of 1:18:32 (6:52/mile pace). I strive to beat that pace every time I run home!

I chair the Wellness Committee for Novo Nordisk in Seattle. My role is to oversee the budget for sports and events, as well as organizing our office’s participation in the annual JDRF Beat the Bridge Race. I encourage all Seattleites to run the race, and to join Team Novo Nordisk if they would like some camaraderie!

Even runcommuters need a holiday…Aaron in Tucson.

Are you interested in being featured on The New Run Commuters? If so, fill out the form below and we’ll send you more details.

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Review: Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20L

Is THIS the best run commuting pack…ever?

For some people, perhaps even many people, the answer is yes, the Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20 is the best run commuting pack ever.

Those who read my review of the OMM 20L will recall that I opened that review with a similar question, and a similar answer. There are reasons for this: firstly, I cannot deny that I enjoy using the question as a rhetorical device, but, secondly and in my defense, I have had the good fortune to test two outstanding run commuting packs this year, both of which are destined to become classics, in my opinion. Both the OMM Adventure Light 20 and the Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20 are brilliantly designed and made, and both function perfectly for the daily run commuter who totes medium to large loads of clothes/shoes/food.

 

The difference between these two packs is profound, however. The Ultimate Direction Fastpack is what is called a running ‘vest’ in the trail-running world. Right here on TRC Josh reviewed the smaller sibling of the UD Fastpack, the UD Peter Bakwin Signature Series Vest 3.0 (see review), so you may already be familiar with the new generation of running packs invented – and designed for – trail and adventure-running. My ‘Pack Off’ article comparing the relative merits and downsides of the two styles is coming to TRC soon!

The UD Fastpack 20 is across-between the traditional and the vest style. It is not a compromise, however. It is a fully functioning backpack with all the advantages (and possibly disadvantages) of no waist strap and double sternum straps on wide chest straps, instead.

Test Model

Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20L

Size: Small/Medium

Carrying Capacity: 20L

Cost: US $105

Add-on: Hi-Vis Rain Cover (X-Small)

Performance and Evaluation

For run commuters who have struggled with the combination of traditional backpacks and running, the UD Fastpack may be the answer. Say goodbye to the uncomfortable waist belt that pummels your stomach and bowels, and the (especially for women) awkward sternum strap that is never quite in the right position, and the shoulder straps that (again, especially for women) don’t sit comfortably on the torso. Embrace the freedom and comfort of the vest pack and run until you drop!

One of the recurring questions about backpacks is whether or not they can be tightened onto the runner sufficiently to prevent swaying and bouncing whilst running. Some people have suggested that the lack of a waist belt on vest-style and hybrid packs is responsible for a greater sway and bounce. Professional US ultra-runner Megan Hicks wrote a review of the UD Fastpack in which she says she wouldn’t use it in the Marathon des Sables, because it is less stable than traditional backpacks with a waist belt. However, Megan runs at an average of 10km an hour during the MdS, for an average of 6 hours a day. I run a lot slower, and for approximately 1 hour per run-commute leg. I have found the Fastpack to be just as stable as my traditional backpacks, with the same load (medium-full) and at the same speed. Perhaps, like Megan, those who run very fast with a very full pack will find the Fastpack sways more. Run commuters who fall into this category are lucky, and get the satisfaction of being fast to compensate for having to wear a traditional backpack! Seriously, though, unless the pack is very full — for example with everything you’d need for a three-day self-supported back-country camping trip — you’re unlikely to feel any difference in the movement between this pack and a waist belt/sternum strap pack.

Pros

Very comfortable, particularly for the internal (and external!) organs!

Multiple run-accessible storage areas

Very lightweight

Advanced hydration system

Double sternum straps

Not as ‘action sports’ as many other vest packs

Double sternum straps

Did I mention that it’s super comfy?!

Cons

Expensive

Slightly floppier, more sporty, less ‘office-y’ looking than many traditional backpacks

No rain cover

Sway/bounce may be very very slightly more evident than with a traditional backpack (though I did not experience this)

May be too large for smaller or thinner people

Chest and straps

This is where the action is on this pack. The vest-style flaps that come from the inner-back edge of the main compartment, over the shoulders and down the chest, are key to the comfort of the Fastpack 20. These flaps feature large pockets that can hold water bottles, smartphones or food, for easy access whilst on the run. Running horizontally between the two flaps are two chest straps, which can be adjusted vertically by sliding them up or down their rails, similar to the more limited adjustments that can be made to the single sternum strap usually found on a traditional backpack. Together, the two sternum straps on the vest pack secure the chest straps tighter or looser against the torso, and thereby cinch the pack more tightly or otherwise to the body.

The two sides of the chest have a different configuration of pockets. On the left is a water-bottle pocket with a pull-cord tightener, and underneath this is a smaller zip-up pocket that can easily hold a Clif bar and a credit card and car key. On the right is a pocket that is closed flat against the chest strap by a vertical zip. Opening the zip gives you room to stuff a water-bottle into that pocket, by virtue of a small expanding pleat. When the zip is closed the pocket still has an open top, and is the perfect shape and tightness to hold in a smartphone. Underneath this zipping pocket is a smaller pocket about the same size as the one at the bottom of the right chest strap. The one on the left is closed by a Velcro fold-over tab, however. This means you wouldn’t want to put anything precious in it, only cliff bars/food, as there are gaps where a key could potentially escape. All in all, the chest pockets are very well thought-out, and allow access to lots of food, water, phone and other necessities, whilst on the run.

 

Each sternum strap can also be tightened or loosened. Together with the strap that connects the bottom corner edges of the main compartment to the bottom corner edge of both vest flaps, this allows for further customization.  Playing around with different strap positions and tightness is worth it when you first get the pack, as the different configurations can change the feeling of wearing the pack a lot.

An example of the chest straps at three different positions can be seen in the photos below.

Sides

On either side is a large, mesh water-bottle pocket. It is not closed, but an elasticized rim keeps the bottles in. This elastic is not as tight as on some packs I have worn. Once I took out two full bottles in these pockets when there was nothing really in the main compartment, and the lack of padding from the main pack meant that there was more leeway for the bottles to agitate out of these mesh pockets. They didn’t actually fall out, but I was worried once or twice, and I had to keep checking… Otherwise, if the main compartment is at least half full, the water bottles feel pretty secure, even when running fast.

Main Compartment and Access Rolltop

The main compartment is like a sack, and it closes in the roll-top style, first being pressed shut with Velcro and then rolled over like rolling up a carpet, until it is tight against the pack. At this point each end of the roll is clipped in to a strap that comes up each side. The strap is then pulled tight, cinching the whole thing vertically while the roll secures it horizontally. This is a very effective closure method, though it does take a few more seconds to do than a single zip would (such as is found on the Osprey Stratos and Talon series, for example). The strap on each side that cinches down the roll does create the only annoyance I have experienced with this pack – the long, dangling excess lengths of each side strap can whip around as you run, sometimes even coming round and lashing you in the front (possibly as punishment for the evil thoughts I have about car drivers…). You can’t trim them off—as Josh shows you how to do here in the ‘Pack Hacks’ series—because the extra length is needed on occasions when you fill the pack to full capacity. (See photos) What you can do is thread the excess strap into one of the daisy-chain loops on the front of the pack, which keeps them out of the way.

The main compartment itself is huge and empty, awaiting your clothes and lunch. If you don’t put anything in the main compartment, but do fill the front pockets with heavy items (such as full water bottles), you may find the front pulls forward/down, which can cause pressure on the back of your neck. This is an unlikely situation to be running in, however. I did this once, just for the experiment to see what would happen, but in the normal run of things it’s not a configuration most run commuters will want to try. If you do, for some reason, want to carry tons of water but nothing much else, it’s better for the weight distribution to put the bottles in the side pockets of the main compartment, behind and under your arms. This scenario is not fool-proof either, however…(see comment in ‘Sides’, below).

Back

The back of the pack consists of a machine-knit fabric that is slightly thicker than t-shirt material, overlaying a nylon or other material than can just barely by glimpsed underneath.

There are no seams on this back panel, making it very smooth against the back. The whole back panel as well as the backing on both over-the-shoulder and down the chest vest flaps is a single piece of material. There are no seams or joins anywhere where the pack touches the wearer, except for where the yellow material meets the soft grey edging material. This trimming material is also soft. The pack did not cause any chafing on my back at all, ever.

Inside the main compartment of the pack is a Velcro-closed compartment that holds a foam pad cut into the shape of the back of the pack, and which gives the pack a firm, stable, back padding. This foam pad is smooth foam on the side that faces into the pack. On the side that sits against the wearer’s back, the foam pad has many little nipple-bumps all over it, for massage-style comfort. This pad can be taken out of the pack and used to sleep on etc when you’re doing a stage-race in the Sahara Desert, or when you get tired on the way home from work and want to take a quick nap in the park.

 

Hydration System

The Fastpack 20L does not come with a bladder or bottles, but hydration compatibility is one of its design priorities. There is a dedicated hydration bladder sleeve inside the main compartment. Immediately above this is a Velcro ‘hook’ for hanging the bladder from (so it doesn’t slump down into the sleeve). Above this, in the center of the top of the pack, underneath the grab-handle, is the hole for the bladder hose. There are two elastic/nylon strips on each vest flap near your clavicle bone for the hose to route through. Then there are two large mesh pockets on either side of the pack, as mentioned above, for water bottles. Finally (sort of), there is a pull-cord-closing bottle pocket on the left vest strap. If all this still didn’t give you enough storage for fluids, there is also the zip-closing pocket on the right vest strap, which can be opened wide enough to hold a 600ml bottle if necessary.

 

Above: An example of the amount of liquid you can carry in the UD Fastpack when simply using the designated pockets: 2L bladder, 3 x 750ml bottles, 1 x 420ml softflask. Of course, if you wanted to, you could also put a mini-keg in the main compartment….

Conclusion

So, how does the UD Fastpack 20L perform as a daily pack for run commuters? The answer is: extremely well…. For some, this will be the perfect run commute pack and, like the OMM 20L pack, the only pack they’ll need for both the daily run commute and the Marathon des Sables or the 4 Deserts adventure races!

Additional Pictures

By | 2016-12-21T12:47:00+00:00 December 21st, 2016|Categories: Gear, General|Tags: , , , , , , , |7 Comments

2014 International Survey of Run Commuters!

THE POLL IS NOW CLOSED

Thank you to everyone who participated! Please stay tuned for the results

Ever want to know how many people are run commuters? How far they run? Which city or country has the most people who run to work? We’d like to know, too! Please help us learn more about the run commuting world by taking part in the first International Survey of Run Commuters!

The survey will be open until September 30th, 2014 and we will publish the results on The Run Commuter in late-October.

Note: You don’t have to be a run commuter to take part. This survey is open to current and former run commuters, as well as anyone who is interested in run commuting.

Once you’ve completed the survey, be sure to share it with your friends and running groups!

Save the nips: Red11 Sport anti-chafe salve review

EDITOR’S NOTE: As of Feb. 2017, Red11 is no longer available for purchase. A good replacement is Body Glide.

I, like so many, have since my first tentative steps as a runner dreaded this happening to me. During an out-and-back segment of my first ultra, 24-ish miles into a grueling 50K, a runner in the opposite direction had upon his face not fatigue but wide-eyed fear mingled with agony. I understood why. Upon his white shirt: twin red streams trailing toward his waistband. And he had six more miles to go.

Bloody nipples. Nipple chafe (clinically: nipple fissures). Hell, chafe in general, as M. Suzette writes, in any of the body’s geography. Every runner harbors this terror in the heart and the skin above it, and holds forth numerous methods of mitigation: adhesive bandages; sport tape; petroleum jelly. But I give you today Red11 Sport, an anti-chafe agent unlike others I have known, a salve to save your nipples and nethers from being churned to hamburger when you run.
IMG_8432

The Run Commuter team has been using Red11 Sport for several months now, putting it on our delicate tissues, then putting this through the wringer. My first impression was a chuckle for its clever, snarky name. (Think about my description above of the afflicted gent.) Red11 Sport is a New York City-based newcomer, cheeky in its marketing and seems so in its company culture, judging by our correspondence with them. That is a good beginning to recommend it to runners: they’re like us.

But they can get away with it because the product works, and works extremely well. Red11 Sport is composed of shea butter (main ingredient), vitamin E, coconut, mineral wax and peppermint. In fact, the peppermint scent was among the first things we noticed, as soon as we popped the tin open. It’s present but not strong, just enough to notice. You won’t feel it on your skin, and don’t worry that your areolas will smell like candy canes: they won’t.

Red11 Sport feels to the touch like a lip balm: a bit waxy, smooth, but spreadable. In fact, one of our contributors, Nic, has used it just so when he forgot his lip balm at home. Rub some on the end of a finger; rub the finger on your nipple(s); go running: simple. Both sizes come in tins small enough to fit in a pocket.

Here’s the meat of this review: it works. This tiny tin of chafe-halting nectar works so much better than anything I have found. I’ll explain by way of comparison, then tout Red11 Sport’s merits.

IMAG1466The primary anti-chafe methods, anecdotally and from experience, are bandages/sport tape, petroleum jelly and BodyGlide. The latter will likely be Red11 Sport’s main competitor. Bandages/sport tape will protect nipples from being rubbed raw, but sweating will dislodge them. That’s been my experience with bandages, anyway, though sport tape usually stays put. Unfortunately, you can’t put them in your armpits, butt crack, upper thighs, and balls, all areas prone to chafe.

Petroleum jelly always works but it stains shirts, leaving competitors and onlookers to wonder why you’re lactating. I slathered it on my thighs mid-race in the 2011 Detroit Marathon, experiencing some chafe then, and it again worked but my shorts clung to it, riding waaaaay up into the nethers. And my shorts are short enough already; there’s little room to travel.

I’ve never been a fan of BodyGlide. It wears off too quickly. I’ve tried it, tried it again to be certain, but it seems to slough off maybe 5-10 miles into a long run or race. I’ve seen teammates and competitors in longer ultras reapply it periodically, which I never had to do with petroleum jelly. It always leaves me disappointed and raw.
IMAG1468Red11 Sport came to us just before the crush of southern summer. Most of my use has been on run commutes, but I’ve used this precious goo on shorter and moderate runs, about 5-10 miles, and several times on long efforts, up to and past 20 miles. No issues. No need to reapply. And nary a hint of chafe! Nor has there been any stain or mark on my shirts, any time that I have applied Red11 Sport. That is hugely important. Stains in no way alter the function of tech shirts but it is embarrassing and ruins some very cool race shirts.

It also has proved effective with irritation from heart rate monitors. Hall has used applied it in that way and had none of his usual chafing. We passed it along to a female friend who was experiencing significant chafe from her monitor whenever she ran. She says, “I ran twice last week with the heart rate monitor strap and used your special cream. I was free of all irritation!”

Here’s what one of our contributors, Nic, had to say:

“I have used the Red11 for about 150 km since I received it, and it is great. Seriously, it is the best anti-chaffing stuff I ever used (I got absolutely no chafing at all last week, and I ran a total of 114 km). My only comment would be to replace “nipple protection” on the container by something more gender neutral, but beside that, I liked the product and the format of the container. And I even used it as lip balm this morning since I could not find my usual one!IMG_8431

“I wore my chafing shorts for a 15 km interval training/run commute. (These shorts are very old, and I always have problems with them, even with Vaseline and Nok). So I decided to wear them, over a generous coating of Red11. And I am glad to report … nothing! Nothing at all! Baby skin throughout. I am very, VERY impressed.”

Heed Nic’s suggestion to alter the “nipple protection” labeling on the tins. That’s how Red11 Sport is primarily marketing the product — indeed, that is the top-tier trouble zone — but I’ve used it everywhere, as Nic has. Thoroughly saturated by sweat in 95-degree heat and maximum humidity after 18 miles: I felt nothing in any of the typical problem spots. If you see Red11 Sport at your running store, snap some up. Your nipples/genitals/miscellaneous, and anyone who has to see them, will thank you.

DISCLOSURE: Red11 Sport provided gratis samples for our review.

By | 2017-02-24T10:03:50+00:00 August 6th, 2014|Categories: Gear|Tags: , , , , , , |4 Comments

Run Commuting with Kids

We’ve got a great guest post for you today! Brendan Couvreux and his family of four run as their primary form of transportation. That’s right. Rather than drive or use public transit to get to work or run errands, they primarily run to get where they need to go (they do have a vehicle for longer road/camping trips).

Brendan and his wife Chloe, both avid climbers before having kids, made a few changes to their lives after their first child was born to continue to remain active and maintain their fitness levels. It worked so well for them that they continued to run everywhere around their hometown of Boulder, CO after having a second child. They chronicle their running, camping, and climbing adventures on their excellent blog, A Climbing Party of Four. Here is the post that Brendan shared with us:


Brendan and kids, running through Boulder, CO on a snowy day.

Brendan, running through Boulder, CO with his children in a Chariot stroller.  

I am a regular guy who appreciates the simple things in life. Along with trying to keep things simple, I’ve always had an appreciation for alternative means of transportation. Through my college years, I lived in San Francisco and learned to love biking all across the city. It was definitely the best way to get around, considering the traffic, parking hassles, money savings and of course the added benefits of some physical activity and a great MPG rating. I eventually ended up in Boulder, Colorado where biking around town was even easier than it was in San Francisco.

Soon my wife and I had our first child. We were both active individuals and spent lots of time climbing, mixed in with some occasional running, skiing and hiking. We had heard of the challenges and frustrations people run into in trying to stay active with children. We had heard that it was the small things that would start to trip people up. Things like running errands and going grocery shopping suddenly became incredible time consuming nightmares while trying to juggle the moods, naps and needs of a potentially screaming child. Add in some traffic, full parking lots, inclement weather and things can become downright stressful and dangerous. Who really wants to go “workout” after spending a day of doing that?

My wife and I wanted to try and just learn as we went and try to adopt as few of these assumptions as possible. We invested into an expensive, high-end stroller we could use as a bike trailer and running stroller. We also found one where our little kiddo could be fully enclosed and bundled in times of inclement weather. 

MilkChariotSoon after our first child was born, we began bringing him around town in the bike stroller a lot, and running with him in it on occasion as well. As time went on, we began running more and more. By the time our second child was born, we had learned and adapted to use running as our primary form of transportation.

Neither my wife nor I ever considered ourselves “runners.” We would enjoy occasional trail runs but nothing too crazy. As our life with children evolved, we began to realize the potential “exercise” and movement that was guaranteed by our daily life chores, simply by running everywhere, instead of using the car, or even the bike. Running, for us, would prove to be more versatile than biking. No matter the weather or the terrain, we could always run with the stroller and the kids. The bike was more questionable in times of snow and ice. Riding on the road in the dark never felt very safe either. Running proved to be much easier, and quicker, to tend to the children if one was unhappy, needed a pacifier, snack water bottle, or whatever. We could just stop and take care of them. There was no waiting for a red light or undoing seat belts to reach the back seat. Parking was obviously a non-issue. Time of day and nap schedule was hardly limiting in that one or both kids could nap in the stroller and we could go about our errands (in and out of stores) without having to wake them up and take them in and out of their car seat.

SleepingChariot

The miles would slowly add up through the days, through the weeks, and through the months. The kids became used to taking the stroller to go everywhere. Our bodies began to adapt to the running lifestyle. Running around town became baseline for us. We could always put one foot in front of the other while pushing the stroller. We adapted to all the seasonal conditions, and would run no matter if it was rain, shine, snow or wind. The kids could see this too, and started to become inspired on their own to mimic mom and dad.

When we marvel at people such as the Tarahumara and their incredible ability to run for long distances, and for it to be seemingly so consistent across so many generations; I wonder if this is part of what we are missing as a civilization. Something so simple, and so basic. Running is a wonderful form of transportation on its own, and it’s amazing what starts to happen when we use it as such. Is it about being committed to fitness, to the environment, or just going back to basics? Maybe it’s a little bit of it all.

Running

 
By | 2016-10-22T20:26:36+00:00 June 18th, 2014|Categories: General|Tags: , , , , , |3 Comments

The New Run Commuters – June 2014

What is the farthest you’ve ever run commuted? Personally, I’ve done about 15-16 miles or so round-trip. Pam Walker, from South Lyon, MI runs that distance to work in the morning… and then runs it again on the way home, for a round-trip total of 31.2 miles! Find out more about her and fellow midwestern runner, Anne Ellis, (who has also surpassed my farthest run commute) in this month’s edition of The New Run Commuters.

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Runner Basics

Pam Walker running the Run Through Hell race

Pam Walker running the Run Through Hell race

  • Name: Pam Walker
  • Age: 46
  • City/State: South Lyon, MI
  • Profession/Employer: Clinical Pharmacist (Emergency Medicine)
  • Number of years running: 8 years
  • # of races you participate in a year: 8-12, but cutting back this year to focus on ultramarathons
  • Do you prefer road or trail? 50/50, I like to have the balance. Trails are nice and easy on the leg and tend to have more hills for me to work harder on. The road (or rather paved Rails-to-Trails) gives me a more flat training environment and it’s easier to focus on form changes with the bonus of a safer environment being separated from vehicular traffic.

Run Commuting Gear

On Run Commuting

Why did you decide to start run commuting?

I started run-muting this past October since I needed to get in more training miles (training for my first 50 miler – JFK in November. I didn’t want to cut into time at home with my husband. He’s already been more than patient with my time out running. I found a shower facility at work so I just had to plan out the proper route to work and bring in needed clothes, food, etc., on the Mondays since I drive in on that day. I run 80% dirt roads (many rolling hills) into my job at the University of Michigan hospital in Ann Arbor.

Pam W 02

Pam’s route to work

How often do you run commute?

Twice a week – both round trips.

How far is your commute?

15.6 miles one way on some really beautiful back roads.

Do you pack or buy a lunch?

I pack and bring everything in on Monday for the full week. It’s far easier to make sure that I have healthy foods to ensure good recovery for the next run. I am big on using Garden of Life’s Raw Meal post-am run to cover all my BCAAs, protein and some glucose needs and that is easy to just leave a tub of it at work. I will take essential amino acids before I set back out to run home. Since I feel that this type of training can increase the inflammatory process I keep up on my Omega 3’s capsules and I do have issues with iron deficiency, so I have to take iron tablets to stay on top of that. Yeah, typical pharmacists popping pills, nutritional supplements that is ;)

What do you like most about run commuting?

I enjoy seeing the sun rise and/or set on my runs. It’s beautiful running on the rolling dirt roads, listening to the birds and frogs in the early morning. It’s interesting because I am far from a morning person but this run in helps prepare me for work and those running endorphins help with my needed creativity for certain projects that I may be working on.I love this run for all the farms and horses out and about, great way to leave the work day behind.

Pam W 03

Running through the countryside

Do you know of anyone else in your area that runs to work?

No, I wish I could find someone doing the same thing, especially if there was a way for our paths to cross and run a section together. But I have talked some friends into running a few miles with me after work.

When not run commuting, how do you get to work?

Drive my car but I am looking for ways to “inherit” my husband’s mountain bike and add that in for another 1-2 days of commuting.

If you could give one piece of advice to anyone who was considering run commuting, what would it be?

Use The Run Commuter page to get inspired and learn how to make it happen. I got started because I was inspired by how easy they made it all sound. Then I searched out a safe route and tested it out with my car to see how busy the road traffic might be and to make sure that I wouldn’t be too isolated. Planning, planning, and more planning. Let your friends and family know what you are doing, often times I have friends keeping their eyes open for me and it’s always nice to have them wave or shout out to me on my run-mute and its keeps me more motivated and potentially safer. In fact, I am thinking about getting a Spot Satellite Messenger to let my family and friends track where I am and use it to text when I am done or need help. Keep a foam roller in your office or cube, if possible, and see about finding a sports massage therapist if you don’t already. Have a backup plan, mine is bribery (dinner out) if I have to bail and get picked up. Really, if you put your mind to it and work up to the distance following aerobic heart rate training, it is not only easy but makes you a more content person.

Anything else that you would like to include?

Keep in mind the road conditions and your fellow cyclists and drivers. I did stop with my run-muting during this crazy winter (Jan – Mar) because of all the snow and ice on the roads. Not only do I worry about my own safety, but I do not want to create unsafe conditions for everyone else. Also, use bug spray and keep your cellphone dry (learned from a bad experience.)

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Runner Basics

  • Name: Anne Ellis
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New Run Commuter Anne Ellis

  • Age: 42
  • City/State: Chicago, IL
  • Profession/Employer: Program Manager at a large urban church
  • Number of years running: 18
  • # of races you participate in a year: 4-6 in the past 5 years or so, didn’t really race much before then
  • Do you prefer road or trail? I love both. When I started running it was mostly on trails (rural Massachusetts) and I still run on them whenever I can. I love the varied terrain (makes my run feel like play) and being in nature. But being in the city I’ve had to embrace road running. I like running through the different neighborhoods, I like my city and I like watching people. I think it would be hard to run on roads if I lived someplace less interesting. (Even now, I run off pavement as much as possible.)
  • Run Commuting Gear

    • Backpack: Ultimate Direction AK Race Vest (1.0) It is not water- or sweat-proof, so I put my important items in a large Ziploc bag before putting them in the back compartment, and my phone in a smaller Ziploc bag in front. I bring in my clothes and food the day before, and leave behind anything I don’t absolutely need overnight.
    • Shoes: Brooks Ghost
    • Clothing: Race shirts and Road Runner Sports compression shorts or tights
    • Outerwear: My favorite lightweight piece is a Mountain Hardware windbreaker, many years old now. Otherwise, I wear a mix of layers. I have a great cold weather running hoodie that I got from a race and I ran in that all winter. I could use something really waterproof, maybe next winter I’ll splurge. Also, as I get older I’m having more trouble with my hands getting cold and I need to get more running gloves, even for summer – it gets windy along the lake. Or, maybe I’ll just remember to wear the ones I have.
    • Headgear: Turtle Fur gaiters for when it’s really cold or bandanas when it’s just windy (I don’t like my neck to be cold). I have a beanie from another race and a Mizuno beanie for colder weather, and then I wear Brooks running hats when I need shade.
    • Lights: Not needed, I don’t run in the dark.
    • Hydration: I have a UD bladder that fits my race vest for really long runs but mostly I use 8 or 10 oz. Fuelbelt flasks in the front pockets of my vest – I like the way they fit against my chest. The bigger bottles that came with the vest are too unwieldy.

    On Run Commuting

    Why did you decide to start run commuting?

    I was training for my first marathon (2010) and needed a way to get the miles in! I commuted 1-2 times a week but stopped once the marathon was over. I was using a small backpack that I had jury-rigged with safety pins and it wasn’t very comfortable. Then last year when I decided to do a marathon again I splurged on the UD race vest and that made a huge difference. I also had a second child in the meantime and didn’t want to take weekend time away from the family for the long run, so I decided to incorporate that into my run commuting. Towards the end of my marathon training last year I was running in twice a week and loving how I felt with the higher weekly mileage, so I decided to continue with run commuting through the winter. I had to take a break for two months due to injury but have been back at it for a couple of months now.

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    A view from Anne’s run commute

    How often do you run commute?

    Right now, 2-3 times a week. In the winter I’ll probably drop back to 1-2 times a week.

    How far is your commute?

    At a minimum it’s 6 miles. I like to make it 7 or 8, and I also use it as my long run, so have done up to 18. I have a semi-flexible schedule and work several evenings a month so can make my commute serve that purpose when I need to.

    Do you pack or buy a lunch?

    Usually I pack a lunch (and snacks!) in the day before along with my clothes. At the end of the each week I look ahead at the next one and figure out when I’ll need to bring in clothing and food (and towels).

    What do you like most about run commuting?

    I like having the extended quiet time to myself, while still being out and about. I also like having a purpose to my run and the idea that I am getting myself where I need to go. And having the extra time though mostly I’ve filled that up with new athletic pursuits.

    Do you know of anyone else in your area that runs to work? (If so, tell us a bit about them)

    No. Very occasionally I’ve seen people running (usually on the way home) that look like they might be run commuting, but haven’t managed to get up close enough to them in time to make sure.

    When not run commuting, how do you get to work?

    Public transportation. That’s the only thing I miss with run commuting, the train is my reading time. On the other hand, running is my only opportunity to listen to albums in their entirety.

    If you could give one piece of advice to anyone who was considering run commuting, what would it be?

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    Anne’s office setup

    Make lists of what you’re going to need to bring in (or leave behind) and use them. I’ve forgotten a few things from time to time, usually not serious, but a couple of weeks ago I forgot to bring in pants. I needed to look semi-professional that day, otherwise I would have just stayed in my running kit all day, so I ended up waiting until the Columbia store opened and getting a new skirt. Luckily there are plenty of shopping opportunities where I work. I do plan to bring in a backup outfit to leave behind for the future, which would also give me more flexibility in deciding to run in or not.

    Anything else that you would like to include?

    I leave a cleanup kit at work. When I first started I relied on baby wipes and washcloths to get clean, but now we have lockers and showers at work which is nice, especially as I can go straight down to the basement and get cleaned up before anyone sees me, other than the security guards.

     

    By | 2016-10-22T20:26:37+00:00 June 16th, 2014|Categories: General, People|Tags: , , , , |1 Comment

    Review: Henty Wingman Backpack

    Henty takes a simple method of storing and transporting clothing to an entirely different level with their Wingman Backpack.

    This unique, smart bag transforms a heavy-duty garment carrier into a securely rolled-up backpack, making it a mobile gear transportation system for runners, cyclists, and walkers alike.

    Though a bit expensive, cyclists have sworn by the messenger-style Wingman for years. Listening to customer feedback, Henty decided to add backpack straps to make the bag more appealing to cyclists who preferred that setup to carry their bags. With that simple modification, the Wingman Backpack opened up to the running market. I ran with it multiple times over several weeks under varying conditions to see how it performed. Here are the results.

    Test Scenario 1: Suit coats and a laptop

    I chose to test the Henty Wingman Backpack out on the run commute home, so I dressed in my normal business casual attire, packed up my lunch and gear, then headed to the train station.

    Packed and ready to go

    Packed and ready to go

    The Wingman Backpack consists of two pieces – the garment bag, and the duffel. The garment bag seems like it is full of secret pouches, velcro attachments, straps, buckles and zippers. One pouch even contains an integrated raincover!

    Garment Bag Opened

    Garment Bag Opened

    One of the zippers reveals this quick-access area, complete with a detachable passport-style organizer. This is a great feature if you are a run commuter who combines running and transit (easy access to bus/train pass).

    Quick-access pouch with removable organizer

    Quick-access pouch with removable organizer

    Overall, there is a lot of space in this pack. The duffel is extremely durable yet simple, with no extra pockets or gadgets within. It held everything I needed to pack into it and had remaining space left over. The duffel bag buckles inside the empty, center space of the rolled-up unit. 

    Looking down into the WIngman Backpack from above. The duffel fills the empty space within.

    Looking down into the Wingman Backpack from above. The duffel fills the empty space within.

    The hanger system is awesome, consisting of a single, high-grade plastic hanger that pivots to allow you to pack the curved “hanger part” away when not being used. Henty recommends one suit jacket and one shirt, or three shirts as the maximum load for the garment bag. 

    The pack felt different when I donned it, but not in a bad way. I was unused to wearing a cylindrical-shaped backpack, and the feel of it against my back was unusual and tight, but out of the way of my swinging arms. It felt great while walking, though when I started to run, I could feel the effect of the change in center of gravity away from my back due to the extra weight of the suit coats and laptop. The laptop also altered the fit against my back, making the contact width wider than it would have been without a laptop. 

    Padded laptop sleeve rests against your back

    Padded laptop sleeve rests against your back

    The laptop protective sleeve is fantastic and kept sweat out like a champ. Around mile three, the shoulder straps started chafing under my arms a bit, but not terribly bad. I tried it again a few days later under the same conditions and had the same results. It works well for shorter distances under this configuration.

    Also, the suit coats looked great when I pulled them out after arriving at home. 

    Ideal Distance (no laptop, no suit(s), normal clothes): 1 – 3 miles

    Test Scenario 2: Regular clothes, no laptop, normal daily items

    For the second test, I again took the train to work dressed in my normal business casual attire, and packed my lunch and running clothes in the duffel. At the end of the day, I hung the clothes on the hanger, packed away my things, cinched everything up, and headed out.

    Without the laptop, the bag fit much better. It rested on my back in between my shoulder blades and maintained body contact down to my lower back. And, since it was a bit lighter this time without the suit coats and laptop, the pack’s center of gravity changed to a more normal location.

    On the run, I had to occasionally adjust the straps to keep the pack in place. That is a fairly common thing to have to do, and why we recommend choosing a running backpack with easily adjustable straps for on-the-fly cinching.  

    Unlike a regular pack, the Henty Wingman Backpack did not affect my arm swing, and it was a comfortable run for the entire 5.2 miles back to the train station. 

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    The end of a my run commute home with the Wingman Backpack

    I did not use the sternum strap very frequently, however, as it is a bit too short. I have a small chest, and it was tight on me. It could probably use another 5 inches of length, but the pack fit securely enough without using it all.  

    The only other thing I could see that might affect runners with a different body shape than mine is how far it extends down beyond the lower back. It might rub if the runner has a larger backside. With a standard cargo load, the Henty Wingman works well for medium distances.

    Ideal Distance (no laptop, normal clothes): 3 – 6 miles

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    Overall, it is extremely well-made, durable, and works pretty well for running. It would be ideal for run commuters who bring a suit or two in on Monday, and bring it back home on Friday. I would forgo carrying a laptop, as it will change the fit a bit too much for running. It’s also perfect for those run commuters who cycle in on Monday morning with clothes for a few days, and run home and to work until they need to change out clothing or supplies.

    The cool part about the Wingman Backpack for me is that it combines two things that I normally use – a clothing carrier (Eagle Creek Pack-It Folder 15) AND a backpack (Osprey Manta 20) – into one easy-to-use system.

    As always please try on a running pack to ensure that it fits your body properly and comfortably before you commit to it.

    Click here for Henty’s US Website, Facebook page, and Twitter account.

    How I spent my snow-mer vacation

    Mornings were a frenzy of sifting, mixing, baking and boxing goods; I filled the afternoons by running them to friends at the city’s four corners, where they’d cozied up or hunkered down at their homes; I thrived in the iciest, nastiest parts of the storm, without oops or incident, yet when it seemed spring sprung forth, the waxing sun clearing lawns and slopes and grass, and the temperatures rose, freeing sidewalks from the freeze, loosing ice from limbs, and flushing silt-clogged roads with melt, I nearly lost my life: this is a tale of how I spent my two-day snow-mer vacation. (more…)

    By | 2016-10-22T20:26:42+00:00 February 14th, 2014|Categories: General|Tags: , , , , , , |0 Comments

    REPREVE Fabric and the Importance of Recycling

    It’s time to up our game, run commuters.

    Yes, you are already doing an exceptional part in creating a better, cleaner, and healthier environment by replacing your automobile commutes with running, but I really had my eyes opened last week and it made me realize that we can do even more.

    We were sent a green beanie, whose fleece fabric, REPREVE, was made from recycled plastic bottles. In fact, six bottles go into the making of each one of their green, eco-friendly beanies. Awesome, right? The TRC team have always been big recyclers, but not everyone in the communities around us have taken up the torch. In fact, the U.S. plastic bottle recycling rate is less than 30 percent—so less than one-third of all plastic bottles get recycled.  So, Repreve is on a mission to get the word out: Just recycle more. That’s a message we support 100%. 

    You’ve probably heard about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is a large area in the Pacific Ocean where vast quantities of trash particles accumulate in the upper water column. Scientists believe that 80% of the materials in the Patch (which is primarily composed of plastic), arrived there from land-based sources, including storm drain runoff.

    I normally don’t notice trash around me when I run and I never look for it. But during a recent 5.3-mile morning run commute, I decided to conduct some field research and count the number of plastic bottles I could find littering my route. The results were pretty shocking.

    REPREVE, turnitgreen, recycled fabric, recycling, the run commuter, run commuting, neighborhood trash, recycling plastic, recycled plastic bottle products

    92.

    92 plastic bottles, slowly breaking down, and making their way into our storm drains and waterways. That’s 17.36 plastic bottles per mile.

    The majority of the bottles (60%, or 55 bottles) were found along partially fenced railroad tracks within a large shipping yard. However, 35% (32 bottles) were found in residential and small commercial areas. I found flattened bottles on the sidewalks near resident’s parked cars, in close proximity to recycle bins, in people’s front yards – everywhere you would think that homeowners and business owners would see them and pick them up. Yet, there they sat.

    The cleanest area was the downtown core of Atlanta with only 5 bottles (5%) found in just over a mile.

    REPREVE, turnitgreen, recycled fabric, recycling, the run commuter, run commuting, neighborhood trash, recycling plastic, recycled plastic bottle products

     

    REPREVE, turnitgreen, recycled fabric, recycling, the run commuter, run commuting, neighborhood trash, recycling plastic, recycled plastic bottle products

    Here’s what I’m asking you to do as run commuters: Pick up some plastic bottles on your run home and add them to your recycling. They don’t weigh much and, when flattened, can be stuffed into any side or external pouch on your pack. Pick up some trash and put it into a nearby trash can if you can. Let’s create our own, neighborhood Adopt-a-Highway projects along our running routes and help keep them clean and beautiful. Let’s add this small task to what a run commuter “does.”

    Repreve will take over on the other end, crafting fabric from our recycled bottles, allowing a plethora of companies to make products which fit our pursuit of a healthier, greener lifestyle.

    And, if you are feeling creative and lucky, REPREVE is giving away $5,000 and some cool gear as part of their #turnitgreen X-Games contest. Details below.

    Contest Dates: CONTEST HAS ENDED.

    Grand Prize: $5,000 cash. To celebrate the X Games, REPREVE invites participants to share how they “turn it green”, or how they live a more sustainable life by recycling or reusing materials, by sharing an image or video on Twitter, Instagram or Vine with the #TurnItGreen hashtag and @Repreve. Once you share the image or video with the hashtag and company link, you will be entered into a sweepstakes where four entries will be randomly selected as the Top Four. Those four will be voted on by visitors to Repreve.com where the image or video with the most votes will win a $5,000 cash prize. The other three video entries will receive a REPREVE Jacket and a Go-Pro camera (retail valued at over $350).”

    Thanks to REPREVE for sponsoring today’s post around recycling, an important topic to us!

    By | 2016-10-22T20:26:43+00:00 January 12th, 2014|Categories: General, News|Tags: , , , , , , , |1 Comment

    On everyone’s minds

    Two weeks ago, I got three comments while running home from work. It’s not unusual: friends passing might hail hello; would-be wits and jerks in general offer more inflammatory fare, often from a passing car’s window. One of the comments that day came from an addled homeless lady sitting spread-eagle in the middle of the sidewalk outside a warehouse down my street: “Did you just get off a fire engine?” she squawked. No, ma’am, I assure you: I did not. I am to firemen what Steve Rogers, pre-Super Soldier Serum, is to Captain America.

    The other two comments were the same, hurled heartily from speeding vehicles on North Avenue, a east-west artery of rolling hills, several lanes, and one speed: fast. It was while I was huffing up said hills that the aforementioned comments came, both of them, “Go, Boston!”

    Scrotum graffiti is an eyesore, but hearts are welcome.

    Scrotum graffiti is an eyesore, but hearts are welcome.

    Then I spied this on a viaduct not much further on that passes over North Avenue, and pulled up short to consider. That structure carries on its shoulders the BeltLine Eastside Trail, a spiffed-up rail-trail that is Atlanta’s shiny new thing, universally adored by the city’s yuppies (and, for some reason, parents who think such a busy multi-use trail is an ideal environment for their kids to learn to bicycle). On one side of the viaduct, Murder Kroger, a grocery store that perfectly ties together all qualities and characters of North Avenue’s parallel thoroughfare, Ponce de Leon Avenue. On the other side, the Masquerade, a music venue-nee-cotton mill outside which suburban teens, greasers, Nth generation punks, emo kids, goths, and Hall queue to see their favorite bands.

    One side of the viaduct has a colorful, well-crafted mural touting the BeltLine. This side, though, is a scratch pad for aspiring taggers, their handles like Crass, Squeak, Squeal, Queequeg, and Hall — seldom, if ever, seen again — snippets of bad teen poetry and the proclamations of self-fancied philosophers. Quite the contrast.

    But the area is changing; North Avenue is changing. Developments like Ponce City Market, Historic 4th Ward Park, and the BeltLine are gradually, inexorably altering the areas in which they are situated. I saw Tuesday morning bags of trash piled high along that side of the viaduct that formerly served as taggers’ collective scratch pad. Weeds were pulled. Dirt was swept away. And the wall was painted that Eastern Bloc gray-blue color that is rolled over all permutations of “Queequeg was here,” and denotes that graffiti was there.

    IMG_7519

    Except this. The entire length of the wall: gray-blue, then, bam: preserved with painstaking care, “Boston On My Mind” remained. And I hope it remains there for a long, long while. Community immersion is a benefit of run commuting, and running in general. Similarly, the marathon has been called the most democratic of sporting events, as it offers the least barrier between spectators and athletes, a minimum separation between those who cheer and those cheered on — including the former’s entrance to that athletic endeavor.

    Perhaps drivers that day spied this, inspiring them to call, “Go, Boston!” as I huffed over those hills, rather than something derogatory or deflating, or nothing at all. I enjoy when strangers shout encouragement. I enjoy that they engaged me, as a member of the neighborhood, as a fellow citizen and person, despite the odds that we will never know one another or even again cross paths.

    Perhaps passersby of all kinds, everyone, will take note, keep those barriers down, and keep the literal and figurative Boston on their minds and in their hearts.

    By | 2016-10-22T20:26:45+00:00 May 1st, 2013|Categories: General, News|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments
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