#FridayFuel – Muir Energy Gels Product Review


During my spring training trip I decided to test a new gel on the market. Muir Energy caught my eye when I saw they are using simple, clean ingredients. I also love that the products are hand-made in small batches in Southern California. SoCal is where I got my start in running – a place close to my heart! Here is what stood out to me on their site:

  • Muir Energy uses only 4-6 ingredients for all of its products. That’s it!
  • Muir Energy is 100% Organic, Vegan, Paleo, Gluten-free and non-GMO.
  • Muir Energy is loaded with nutrition. For example, each serving contains 290-350mg of Potassium. Comparable to eating a small banana!
  • Muir Energy’s taste. You will have to decide for yourself, but everybody who’s tried it says it is unbelievably good, unlike any other gel you’ve ever tasted.
  • Muir Energy contains 115-150 calories per 30g serving – 15%-50% more than other energy gels.

I also like what founder Ian Muir McNally had to say:

“Like many endurance athletes, I struggled to find the right nutrition to keep me going while pushing my body to its limits. Most food bars are dry, heavy and not very healthy. Most energy gels are sweet and synthetic tasting, and contain ominous sounding ingredients. I wanted something simple. And quick. Something that tasted really good and was made with real organic ingredients – derived from nature, not in a lab. Something clean, reliable and good. Clean Nutrition. Pure Energy.”

Let’s start with the ingredients. On their site they do an excellent job going into detail about some of their key ingredients and how they will help you not only during activity but with overall health. Check it out here.

Now to move on to the taste… Gel haters rejoice because Muir Energy gels are not like your typical gel! The gels are known to be thick which made me apprehensive – I’ve always steered away from the thicker gels. There is even mention on their site that you actually “eat” the gels. There’s no liquid to them at all. The reason?

Bacteria and pathogens proliferate in an aqueous environment. To keep their products food safe, thinner or watery gels must use synthetic preservatives. We use exclusively real food ingredients with no synthetic preservatives. We have accomplished this by reducing water activity in our products. This results in a thicker, more viscous – as well as more flavorful, nutritionally and calorically dense – product.

Back to the taste…I started out with the Passion Fruit Pineapple Banana gel and my first reaction was “this is unlike anything I’ve ever put in my mouth!” I don’t always like to be a follower, but they can add me to the list of people who say it’s unlike any other gel I’ve tasted. Yes, it is that different from other gels on the market. I immediately understood the comment about “eating” the gels – you can actually chew on them. Unreal! The best way to describe it is an airy taffy – but without the stickiness and sugariness. Like a light and fluffy whipped taffy. I was sold after the first one. Throughout my week I tried many other flavors (see list below). I noticed that on colder days they are a little tougher to squeeze out of the packet. Their suggestion for that is to pre-cut the gel pack a little further down from the neck so that you can rip it open there and get more out easily. Having them against my body seemed to do the trick for me.

The only one I wasn’t too fond of was Blackberry Thyme. That’s really a personal preference as I’m not a big fan of thyme. I would totally eat it again – just not one of my favorites. My hands-down favorites are the Passion Fruit Pineapple Banana and Pineapple Kale. I’m a fruity kind of girl (keep your comments to yourself) and they really nailed it with these flavors! I also really enjoyed the Cashew flavors I tried (especially Cashew Vanilla because…vanilla!) In the past I have used nut butter packets for fuel but Muir Energy makes ingesting nut butters on the run even better by adding ingredients like blackstrap molasses & pink himalayan salt. Be still my heart!

My favorites ❤

FLAVORS

Fast Burning
*Blackberry Thyme
*Red Raspberry
Red Raspberry Matè
*Passion Fruit Pineapple Banana
*Pineapple Kale

Slow Burning
Cacao Almond
Cacao Almond Matè
Cacao Almond Peppermint
*Cashew Lemon
Cashew Lemon Matè
*Cashew Vanilla
Cashew Vanilla Matè

(* flavors I have tried)

That’s right – they offer both slow burning and fast burning gels – how awesome is that? As you can tell by the flavor names the fast burning gels are fruit and berry-based while the slow burning are nut butter based. Not only does this provide options for short, intense vs. long endurance sessions, but it will also appeal to the fat-adapted athletes who want to stick with higher fat fuel towards the beginning of the race and then transition to quick metabolizing simple sugars during later stages.

They also offer Energy Jams and Spreads. On their site they state you can eat them like the gel, or you can spread them on toast, waffles, bananas, and even add it to hot water or an espresso. I will be ordering some of the Jams and Spreads next!

Photo: Muir Energy

There is a growing list of stores where you can find their products – just check on their web site. Or you can go the online route where they offer a custom variety pack so you can create your dream team!

​I’ll be using Muir Energy gels to fuel my run at UROC next weekend!!

Happy Training 🙂

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Gear Review – Altra StashJack

I would not consider myself a gear nerd. I can get overly excited about cool gear, but it tends to be simplicity that gets me going. I don’t need a lot of bells and whistles – give me an innovative piece of gear that requires little to no instruction and serves a purpose. The Altra StashJack is precisely this piece of gear and it brought out the child-like enthusiasm in me. It’s also the first of its kind – ratchet that excitement up a few more notches. With the constantly fluctuating weather we’re experiencing at this time of year I’ve already utilized it many times – not only because I think it’s so cool but because it truly does make a lot of sense and is so easy to use.

The Skinny



The StashJack is a 3.3 oz wind and water resistant shell that stashes conveniently into its own pocket. That pocket is a hip belt, so you wear it just as you would any other hip pack. The real magic comes with its unique open-back design. When you’re out on the trail (or road) wearing a pack you don’t have to stop moving and/or remove your pack to throw on this jacket. The jacket keeps your pack exposed so you continue to have access to it while adding a layer of warmth and protection from the elements. It also frees up space in your pack since you don’t need to store it. Genius. No instructions required, but just to show you how simple it is:


​1) Open velcro hip pocket
2) Unfurl jacket (I really just wanted to use the word unfurl)
3) Put your arms through the sleeves
4) Throw the jacket over your head
5) Close around your waist by using velcro closure on your lower back
6) Keep running without skipping a beat


Taking it off is equally simple – the jacket is super-easy to roll up and stash back into its own pocket. The jacket is a half zip and also has a hood along with a velcro closure at the chin. You can really get all snuggled up in this thing. It features flat lock seams and is made of 100% ripstop nylon. There is also a mesh pocket on the back side of the waist pack in which you can store a small item or 2.


Potential drawbacks

– If you’re like me your packs hold bottles on the front. Wearing this jacket covers those bottles. I did not find this to be a major issue because the half-zip allows easy access to those bottles. Plus if you worry about nozzles freezing this thin layer of protection and warmth can help prevent that. (As an added bonus wearing the jacket over these bottles makes me look…ummm…well-stacked if you know what I mean).

– Wearing the jacket as a waist pack means there will be some bounce. So far this hasn’t bothered me because it’s so lightweight.

– It’s not going to protect you in extreme cold and/or wet conditions, but hey – it’s not marketed for extreme conditions. I’ve worn it in the snow and wind in sub-freezing temps and it kept me warm and dry through the duration (1 hour). I actually find it beneficial to have the protection on the front while allowing ventilation out back.

Overall it’s perfect for long days on the trails where you experience variable conditions requiring you to add and remove a layer multiple times. I can see myself getting a lot of use out the StashJack for all of the fun training adventures I have planned for 2017!

LivWell Plant-Based Protein

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I know what you’re thinking…another vegan protein powder. As public perception shifts towards the many benefits of opting for plant-based nutrition and athletes in particular notice that they can recover and perform at higher levels when they switch to a vegan diet the market is becoming super-saturated with plant-based protein powders which can leave your head spinning. I have to be honest in saying that my interest in LivWell piqued when I learned that the company is based out of Philadelphia, PA – close to my home town. I always have much love for Philly and anything that comes from this fine city so I had to check it out.

The story is one I can definitely get behind as an athlete who cares a great deal about the quality of the fuel I’m putting in my body. The founder is a fitness and wellness enthusiast who grew tired of corporate influence over the food industry and began to question the quality of the ingredients going into some of the products he was consuming. After months of research, consulting and experimenting he came up with his own vegan protein powders that boast only high-grade, organic, 100% plant-based ingredients.
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Before I get to the fun stuff, the contents of LivWell Protein are definitely worth talking about. I’ll start with the protein sources:

Brown rice – 95% protein, fast absorption, aids muscle recovery, all 20 amino acids, lean muscle gains
Yellow peas – 80% protein, high levels of BCAA’s, high in lysine & arginine, healthy circulation, collagen formation
Sacha inchi – 60% protein, high in tryptophan, brain boosting, fatty acid omega 3, easily digested
Hemp seeds – 50% protein, packed with fiber, fatty acids, sustained absorption, easily absorbed

What you’re getting:
– 17 grams of complete protein
– state-of-the-art cold processed
– powerful amino acid profile (with all 20 amino acids)
– smooth texture
– fast & slow digesting proteins for sustained intake
– 3rd party lab testing of every batch – no heavy metals
– packaging made with recycled material
– free from soy, gluten & dairy
– no artificial anything – flavors, sweeteners or preservatives
– USDA Certified Organic – non-gmo, free from any synthetic fertilizers, hormones, antibiotics and chemicals
100% VEGAN 🙂

Now onto the fun part…testing the product! The first thing I noticed was the pleasant smell of both flavors when I opened the packages – this was a good sign! You can tell there is nothing artificial in these powders. LivWell uses organic wild vanilla bean pods and Ecuadorian raw cacao for natural flavors.

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I started with one of my simple yet delicious smoothies – chocolate peanut butter banana. 1 cup of Califia Farms unsweetened almond milk, 1 frozen banana, 1 heaping Tbsp of peanut butter, and 1 serving of LivWell Raw Cacao protein. I can tell you that the protein tasted as great as it smelled! And what I really noticed is how smooth it was – there was no chalky or grainy consistency that you sometimes find with protein powders. I was off to a great start!

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Next up I decided to use the Wild Vanilla Bean protein in my classic Protein Pancakes (topped with banana and peanut butter – do you notice a trend here?) One word: delicious!

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Then I went onto LivWell’s Instagram page which showcases so many amazing recipes it’s hard to choose where to start. However once I saw Vegan S’mores Protein Milkshake I was sold. I used 1 cup of Califia Farms unsweetened almond milk, 1 frozen banana, 1 serving of LivWell Raw Cacao protein, 4 pitted dates, 1/4 cup cashews, and I topped it with aquafaba marshmallow fluff.

For my last taste test it was an easy decision when this Raw Vanilla Protein “Donut” recipe popped up on their IG page. Wow. These were super-easy to make and the flavor is incredible. I will definitely be making them again…and again.

Raw Vanilla Protein “Donuts”

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 6 soaked medjool dates, pitted
  • 1 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
  • 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 2 scoops LivWell vanilla protein
  • ¼ cup pecans or walnuts
  • pinch of sea salt
  • Icing:
  • 3 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup

Directions

  1. Blend all ingredients (except icing ingredients) in a processor until a dough forms.
  2. Roll into balls and freeze for about 20 minutes.
  3. Melt icing ingredients and roll balls into the icing once cool.
  4. Freeze balls again until solid and continue rolling balls in icing and freezing until desired icing is achieved (I rolled them twice).
  5. Store in fridge or freezer.


Credit: LivWell Nutrition

My verdict? I’m definitely sold on this protein and will be purchasing both flavors. The taste is superior, the texture is unlike any other protein powder I’ve tried, and the ingredients are clean and pure. Bonus: I’ll be supporting a local PA company! If you’re interested in trying LivWell you can order yours here. And make sure to check out their IG page if you’re looking for fun new ways to use their protein powders. Enjoy!

 

Topo Runventure Review

RV stock 1Now that I have about 200 miles on my Topo Runventures, it’s time to tell you about them. Weighing in at 7.5 oz (my size) with a 2 mm drop these trail shoes have certainly impressed me.

The good news: the shoes felt comfortable out of the box
The better news: the more miles I throw at them, the better they feel

Topo Athletic is relatively new to the scene but they are making waves by providing high-quality shoes while utilizing feedback received from athletes to constantly improve their line.

Fit
Topo Athletic’s main feature is the wide toe box on their full line of shoes. As a runner with small, narrow feet I never saw a need to have a roomy toe box, and instead opted for that snug fit. After long training runs and races on trails my feet – especially my toes – would ache. I thought this was part of ultra running and shrugged it off. Now that I’ve been running in Topo shoes I realize that my toes don’t have to, and shouldn’t, hurt after long runs.

I will admit that I was skeptical of having a wide toe box on a trail shoe. Surely there would be slippage either laterally, into the front of the shoe, or both. This isn’t the case for me. In lacing the shoes I still get that snug fit through the midfoot and the heel is comfortably snug as well.

A view from above - check out the room in the toe box

A view from above – check out the room in the toe box

Benefits of a wide toe box include:

  • your toes will splay naturally, making them stronger
  • allows more power in the toe-off
  • provides a stable platform

Upper
The upper is made of a durable, dual layer, rip & abrasion resistant mesh. I have put quite the beating on these shoes and so far the upper is showing no signs of wear or weakness. The dual layer has an added bonus of helping to keep debris out, but at the same time allowing breathability.

Dual layer rip-proof mesh upper

Dual layer rip-proof mesh upper

Another detail I find very useful is the ample toe bumper. I’m not the most graceful runner on trails so between the roomy toe box and the sturdy rubberized cap my toes have not complained once!

Toe bumper for added protection

Toe bumper for added protection

Midsole
A stand-out feature on this model is the midsole which includes compressed EVA on top of a full length TPU rock plate (which you can see at various spots on through the outsole).

A view of the TPU rock plate through the outsole

A view of the TPU rock plate through the outsole

In New Mexico I encountered sharp rocky terrain that I do not see as much on my local trails. Not once did I find a “soft spot” on the shoe where I could feel sharp rocks.

Outsole
I was most skeptical about the outsole of the Runventure. Mainly because I have been accustomed to trail shoes with aggressive soles and deep lugs. During my first true test – a technical run in wet conditions – I started out holding back on the wet rocks and descents. However I quickly gained trust once I found that these shoes had great traction and before long I was pushing the envelope to truly test their grit. I was pleasantly surprised (and relieved) by their performance.

All terrain outsole with breaks to allow for a smooth ride

All terrain outsole with breaks to allow for a smooth ride

They may lose some traction on super muddy or loose terrain but in exchange they maintain the minimal ground feel. When I raced at TNF 50k it was a mudfest. At times I was wishing I had a lugged shoe with more traction to get through that muck, but quickly realized that I was happy to not be carrying around the extra weight of mud caked into the tread.

The Topo Runventure offers a ton of protection in every area of the shoe while also maintaining a light weight and minimalist feel. I even heard that Maggie Guterl raced in the Runventures at The Georgia Death Race, where she earned her Golden Ticket to Western States! If that’s not a testament to these shoes… Congrats Maggie!

If you’re interested in trying the Topo Runventure, or any of Topo Athletic’s shoes, you can use code TOPOKLINE20 for 20% off your order. If you want to know more about any of their shoes feel free to contact me!

Happy Training!

A minimalist’s dream – the Ultimate Direction TO Race Vest 3.0

My very first hydration pack was from Ultimate Direction – this was back in the day when I had no use for a running pack that carried hydration, had lots of space for gear, and plenty of pockets for easy access to nutrition and other fun items. I still thought the pack was very cool and mainly used it to run commute in Syracuse – rolling up my “work attire” as tightly as I could to fit it into the pack.

Once I discovered my love of trail running I purchased my first handheld – the Fastdraw – and after trying different handheld options and sizes from other companies I found that I liked the Fastdraw best. It is easy to drink out of, easy to fill, and it fit my hand well without having to “hold on”. But in all honesty, I do not like handhelds. I prefer to have my hands free while training and racing. Handhelds still have their place in my gear closet for those training runs or races where a pack is too much but I still require some fluids. They had a place that is – until I got my hands on the TO Race Vest 3.0.
UD fullI was in the market for a new race vest this year and the minimalist TO 3.0 caught my eye immediately. So much utility packed into such a small vest – it was a quick and easy decision. I will review the features of the vest highlighting the pros and cons.

Rear
The upper half is open mesh which allows maximum ventilation and reduces the overall weight of the pack. The lower half consists of 2 layered pockets – both which I can unzip and access while running which typically isn’t easy with the minimum range of motion in my shoulders. One pocket has a key clip so that you don’t have to worry about your key falling out when you open the zipper.

Rear pockets

Rear pockets

Along with the mesh on the upper back which extends over the shoulders to the chest pockets, it’s worth mentioning the edging that runs all along this pack. It is super-soft making it comfortable against your skin. As someone whose skin is very sensitive to practically anything that touches it while running, this material is the most comfortable I have come across.

Mesh and edging

Mesh and edging

Front
I’ll start with the 2 pockets that sit closest to the shoulders. They both have Velcro closures which is a bonus. One with a flap covering the pocket (I believe this one is waterproof) and one without.
UD pocketUD flap pocket

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sternum strap clasps are easy to open and close. Sounds like a minor detail, but this is something I have struggled with on other vests/packs – especially when it’s cold and my digits aren’t functioning well. The sternum straps can easily be adjusted to multiple positions along the length of the vest with a simple t-hook.

Sternum strap clasp - a simple squeeze of the blue and you're free!

Sternum strap clasp – a simple squeeze of the blue and you’re free!

Next in line is the bottle holsters. The fabric of these pockets make it easy to get the bottles in and out as the pocket maintains its shape – I’ve found that I can remove and replace a bottle with one hand after loosening the opening using the cord locks.

Bottle holster

Bottle holster

The vest comes with two 500 ml Body Bottles. Once you’ve switched to soft flasks there is no turning back. They conform to your body, shrink as you empty them, and the wide mouth makes them easy to fill & add powdered mixes on the go – you can even add ice to your drinks. The hi-flow bite valves live up to their name – I like a high volume of liquid 🙂

Hi-Flo Bite Valve

Hi-Flo Bite Valve

Below the bottle holsters are 2 more pockets. These mesh pockets are great for stashing nutrition. One issue I did have during my first race with this vest is that once the body bottles were empty these mesh pockets do not hold items in as tightly. I had to stop twice during my race to retrieve gels that came flying out. Now I stash only the nutrition that I will be using in the early miles or once I replace the fluid in the bottles. With all of the other storage options that are easy to access while running this isn’t an issue for me.

Finally, below the mesh pockets are super-convenient trekking pole holders. Although I do not have a use for these yet, someday…

Mesh pockets and trekking pole holders

Mesh pockets and trekking pole holders

I will admit that the first time I wore this vest on a long run I didn’t like it. And I was super-bummed because I wanted to love it. The location of the bottles on the chest make it uncomfortable for women (*note this is not a women-specific vest, and Ultimate Direction offers a women-specific line). The bottles were bouncing around too much making it very annoying. Since I was testing it out the weekend before my first trail 50k I realized that there was no way I could run with this for a race of that length. Feeling dejected after my run I noticed that there was room to tighten the pack on the side straps. Voila! Problem solved – no more bouncing bottles!

1st race in the TO 3.0 - TNF DC

1st race in the TO 3.0 – TNF DC

Pros
lightweight – The abundance of ventilation & lightweight materials make this vest super-comfortable – like you’re not even wearing a pack. (the pack weighs in around 6 oz, just over 8 oz with bottles)
storage – For a minimalist vest there are plenty of pocket options (6) and all are easy to access on the run.
aesthetics – I love the color and overall look of this vest. The fact that it matches my Suunto is an added bonus, and totally coincidental 😉

Coordinating like a boss

Coordinating like a boss

Cons
lower mesh pockets – Although I like the deep storage capacity of these pockets and the ease of getting into them, the only thing holding the items in are full body bottles. Smaller items like gels can easily fall out while running if your flasks are low or empty.
fit – I ordered the small and every adjustable strap is as tight as it can go. For me the fit is perfect. Make sure you order the size that will work for you and spend time adjusting all 4 straps to get that snug fit. If you have any bounce the vest will not be comfortable. (*follow the sizing instructions on UD’s web site). So…not really a con, just a word of advice!

My fun photo shoot when the vest arrived - thanks Eric Eagan for the inspiration

Yippee it’s here! My fun photo shoot when the vest arrived – thanks Eric Eagan for the inspiration

 

 

 

 

 

Reasons Why I Love The Feed

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If you are not familiar with The Feed, let me introduce you. The Feed is a web-based sports nutrition store supplying athletes with the best fuel (and snacks) on the market. You’re in great hands with The Feed knowing that the team is composed of athletes who have tried and tested everything they are offering to their customers. I have been a customer for over a year now and if you have yet to order from them let me share with you some of the reasons why I love this service.

  1. Ease of searching for products. The site is super user-friendly with an extensive menu on the left of the screen giving you many options to narrow your search. Type of product you’re looking for, when you would be using it (pre-workout, post-workout, during workout, etc.), brand, and of course my favorite – dietary choice. That’s right – I hop on to The Feed and click on vegan which takes me to all of the products made for me 🙂
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  2. Single servings for everyone! I’m a sample girl for sure. Sports nutrition can be pricey, and I’m sure we’ve all made the mistake at some time or another where we buy the latest and greatest product only to find that either we don’t like it or it doesn’t work for us. Most of the products you find on The Feed come in single serving size! It’s a great way to test before you commit to a new product. Or just to add some variety to your life.
  3. The box. Everyone loves the box. While I know that many people are tickled pink by the personalized message you receive inside every box, for an super-organized person like me there is even more to love.
    These are a few of my favorite things...

    These are a few of my favorite things…

    I will admit, the first thing I do when I open my box is read the message, but then I take stock of what’s inside and close it back up to be packed away. Beyond using The Feed to try new products, my main reason for shopping with them is to purchase everything I need for a race at once and have it all tidied up and safe inside its box ready for my race. I started this at Cayuga Trails 50 last year. It was my first 50 miler and I wanted to make sure I had plenty of nutrition and hydration for before, during, and after the race. I simply logged on to The Feed, clicked on all of the necessities (Skratch Labs hydration mixes and energy chews, Huma gels, Beet Elite shots, and Vega Sport Pre-Workout & Recovery Accelerator), reviewed everything in my shopping cart, and when the box arrived I was able to pack it in my bag for my trip. It was even more helpful for my trip to Switzerland. I was there for a whole week prior to the race and when you travel abroad you never know what you will and won’t find to meet your needs. I was able to purchase all of my pre, during, and post-race fuel along with plenty of healthy snacks to keep me well-fed throughout the week leading up to the race.

Those are my main reasons for using The Feed, but there are still plenty of other perks. They actually send you emails that you want, and not too frequently. If there is a new item they think you may want to check out, if they’re having a special, even tips on fueling from the pros. I always enjoy getting a code for a free water bottle. It’s the little things… There is a blog on the site that features some cool articles on nutrition and training. If you’re not sure where to start, they offer pre-made boxes (that you can specialize to some degree) for different sports or dietary needs, like the Vegan Nutrition Box 🙂 They even offer subscriptions. You can either build your own box to be delivered to you monthly so you have control over what’s in your box along with how much you’re spending, or go with one of their boxes. And there’s free shipping on all orders over $49!

So, now you know why I love The Feed and use their service for my training and racing needs. If you’re looking to try some new products or just want an easier way to order your favorite nutrition products I highly recommend it. And while you’re at it, feel free to use my referral link to get $5 off 🙂  https://thefeed.com/?raf=14308

Happy Training in 2016!

I found my match! Inov-8 Race Ultra Vest

To say I am picky about my methods of hydration is an understatement. Let’s face it – I drink A LOT while training and racing. Some people give me odd looks and/or make fun of me. I don’t care. I’m a thirsty girl. Of the many lessons I’ve learned over the years one of the most important for me is to HYDRATE! Waking up in an ambulance after collapsing on a race course from a heat stroke will do that to you.

Hydration is easy on the bike – so many options and places to store bottles of fluids. There are also various options for running – handheld bottles of varying sizes, waist packs that can hold multiple flasks/bottles/gel packs, etc. And then there are packs. All of them have their positives and negatives. If you are anything like me you’ve probably tried them all. I’m at the point where upon opening my “gear cabinet”, run-specific bottles and flasks come a-tumbling. I like options.

Handhelds are okay for shorter runs, but I get really annoyed by carrying anything in my hands. Waist packs can also be good for shorter runs, and they offer options for conveniently carrying other gear like keys, food, and you cell phone. However I don’t always have the easiest time removing and replacing the bottles while I’m running. And of course there is inevitably some sort of “bounce” factor. My favorite way to go is the pack. They can hold large amounts of fluid which sets my mind at ease, and most have extra storage/pockets for other goodies.

Although I prefer packs, there are times when they just seem like “too much.” That was until the inov-8 Race Ultra Vest came into my life. It may sound cliché, but it was a game-changer for a hydration junkie like myself. A dream come true for a thirsty minimalist! As soon as I strapped it on I was in love.
raceultravestConfession time: when it first arrived I actually wore it around the house that day. I was so excited by its sleek design and badass look I just couldn’t resist! And the comfort? Okay it was empty at the time but it fit unlike any pack I’ve ever tried. With adjustment straps across the chest and on the sides you could practically mold this bad boy to your torso. A hydration vest that works well for a petite female? Pinch me!

Time to put the vest to the test

The first time I used the vest I opted to fill the reservoir only which holds 2 liters. The reservoir fits nicely into an insulated sleeve which then drops into the large stretch mesh pocket in the rear. The straw is insulated as well and can be fed through the shoulder straps on either side of the pack.
raceultravest2The nozzle has an on/off option and a cap that can either be used to keep dirt out or be removed entirely. I tend to use the cap only during travel and remove it when it’s time to run. When using the pack without the bottles this opens up 2 large pockets in the front to stash lots of handy items – cell phone, trail snacks, etc. But fear not, there are still 2 additional stretch mesh pockets on each side that although may be narrow at the opening (which is great for security like your key and/or money) can hold a lot of items as well!
raceultravest3I set off on my run with a full pack and immediately fell in love with the snug fit that kept the vest from bouncing around. I realized that I would be relying heavily on this vest for training runs!

The big question for me –  would the addition of the 2 – 500 ml bottles throw me off by making the pack too wide? Surprisingly they were not in the way at all. They are angled in a fashion as to not hinder your arm swing, which also makes them easier to retrieve and replace on the run. Each pocket has a bungee strap that stretches over the cap to keep the bottles from flying out on rugged terrain. The small pull tab make the bungees easy to maneuver as well. So now I can have 2 liters of water and another 1000 ml of electrolyte drink. Score!

Other cool things to mention? The whistle that is latched onto the chest strap of course! Go ahead bears, try me.
braveheart bearAlthough the vest is not made for a ton of storage, the reservoir pocket on the back is stretchy enough to allow for some gear. So far I’ve used it for a trail map (I’m forever getting lost), gloves and sleeves. I’m sure you could stash a few other small items in there as well.

I’ve now raced twice with this pack – once with the bottles and once without. Complaints? None that I can find yet! And although I’ve (mostly) given up wearing it around the house, I have definitely put some miles in. I’ve even used it on a shorter run that required me to carry some gear. I removed the insulation sleeve and reservoir and had lots of space to store things.

The pack in action!

SRT 20 miler - with bottles. Photo credit: Tom Bushey

SRT 20 miler – with bottles. Photo credit: Tom Bushey

Blues Cruise 50k - without bottles. Photo credit: Jim Blandford

Blues Cruise 50k – without bottles. Photo credit: Jim Blandford

So there you have it – the Race Ultra Vest is the perfect fit for me. It’s no surprise that this vest has been the recipient of some big time awards. If you love getting lost in the trails for hours and are looking for a minimalist pack that provides all the necessities while at the same time is barely noticeable – I highly recommend you check this one out!
Race_Ultra_Vest_awardSee you on the trails!