Disclaimer: I received Science in Sport Isotonic Gels to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!
It’s funny, during ultras I’m the girl you jealously watch as she pigs out on literally anything and everything (sans gluten) at the aid station.. But soon as you give me special fuel designed to be eaten while running my stomach is begging to go back to potato chips and m&m’s. I have tried a decent amount of different gels at this point with varying success, but after recently trying out SiS I have to say they are quite different from most others in all the best ways!
I really like that SiS gels are so thin you can just squeeze and swallow. No chewing, worrying about it being stuck in your teeth/throat, or having to wash them down with water. During my hike, I was wishing I had brought a flavored drink (water was getting old) and I was able to take a gel as a replacement. I also used SiS during the Savage Race OCR and it was awesome they were thin enough that I could pour them into my mouth so I didn’t have to stick my mouth on the package that was covered in dirt from the race.
I wanted to demonstrate how different their consistency is myself, but I am no video maker and found they actually already had a video that shows it perfectly!
Their flavors do a really good job of not being nearly as in your face as most gels. They also seem to leave way less aftertaste, if they do at all. I LOVE the apple. I am not generally someone for super sweet gels, leaning toward more savory ones like PB, but do have times when I want sweet stuff. I have yet to find a time when the apple’s flavor wasn’t appealing to me though. I also feel like that flavor leaves literally no aftertaste. I was very surprised by the lemon & mint being so good. It had a very soothing feel to me, like it would be good for an upset stomach. Salted strawberry was also good, but not apple status, and possibly better for sweeter times. I personally didn’t like the double espresso, but I also don’t really like any form of normal coffee (I know, BLASPHEMY! 😱).
The packaging is a decent amount larger than most gels but it still fits in all of my gear pockets meant for gels. Also even though you are “eating” more, I find it much easier to eat more of SiS than less of other gels due to the consistency and taste. The part about the packaging I really like is the shape of their top. For me it is MUCH easier to open. My hands get really slippery with sweat and I have actually had times where my fuel plan went out the window with other products because I couldn’t manage to open the package.
SiS gels are so different from others that if you thought gels weren’t for you, but are still looking for a fuel source I would definitely recommend giving them a try!
If that sounds tempting use the code TRYSIS25 for 25% off all items on the site except clearance items!
Disclaimer: I received an entry into the Vermont City Marathon to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!
As you may know by this point, I am not a phenomenal planner, so of course I had family things to do marathon weekend that made it so I wasn’t able to be in Burlington nearly as much as I would have liked. Originally I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal, but after seeing how much the entire town gets into the race, I really would love to make an entire weekend of it next time! I haven’t run many large races to compare, but living so close to Boston I have spectated the Boston Marathon many years, and Vermont had the similar feel of the entire city being taken over by running. Needless to say, it was very cool!
My boyfriend and I arrived Saturday evening (after a few delays) right at the end of the expo so we didn’t get to really see all the awesomeness. Though the volunteers were INSANELY friendly and helpful in suggesting food stops, shops, race day spectating spots, or any other tips you needed about the area or race!
I love camping (and saving money isn’t terrible) so if I can I generally try and find a campsite rather than hotel for racecations. I found the North Beach Campground was not only right on the bike path that was part of the course, but it was only a little over a mile away from the start! I loved that in a worst case scenario of being unable to find parking (since the start was in downtown), Christian could just drop me off and walk back to the action. This also gave us the option of just walking to the start as a nice morning activity/warm up. In the end it was torrential raining all night making for a pretty cold next morning so we opted to drive.
I generally am laid back about races and don’t need to be at the start much earlier than necessary so the 6 minute drive was perfect to let me sleep in as much as possible. Also contrary to my worries, we had no issue finding parking what so ever, even with it being the latest time they recommended parking due to road closures. AND we were only like a 5 minute walk away from the start.
The park that the start is held at was mildly chaotic, but again I’ve never had experience with such a large race before so it easily could have just been the sheer amount of runners. We were in line for the port-o-potties when they announced that we needed to evacuate the park because of a severe storm. I honestly thought it was a joke at first because the half of the sky I had been looking at looked like a beautiful day, but looking the opposite direction it looked SUPER ominous. We evacuated to the nearest building which, for Christian and I, ended up being an awesome little church. Since we were all just hanging out, the pastor decided to redo a portion of the morning’s service. It was all running/racing based and included a talk/prayer and a song! It was honestly really, really cool and I was really grateful for the storm in the end because as a non-religious person I would have never gotten to experience it had there been no evacuation. We also happened to take shelter with the local weatherman so we got a live weather forecast and update about the storm afterwards! It down poured and lightninged, but it passed pretty quickly and we were allowed back to the start.
The start was HUGE! It was kind of hard to squeeze into place, but once it actually started the pace picked up surprisingly quickly! There were a lot of people around you for awhile, but I didn’t feel like people were in the way or slowing/blocking me. After the storm passed it seemed like it was going to be a hot, sunny day so I tried to drink a little water at every station. Literally my only “complaint” about this race was that the water was in plastic cups instead of paper, making it so I couldn’t squeeze the top shut for a smaller hole to drink from. For me being able to use that technique is a big deal because otherwise I’m hopeless at drinking from a cup 😅
The first segment flew by! (But it was only a 5k..) And we were back at the start area! I did REALLY like this course’s “clover” shape so you see your spectators 3 times not including the start and finish. That also means you have 3 mid-race segments that have end-of-race crowd density while you run through the center of downtown that’s been completely closed off by the race and spectators. Again, I felt that little Boston vibe.
The second segment is an out and back over a closed segment of highway (but scenic highway). I’m pretty sure it was gradually downhill out and gradually uphill back. I was a fan. It was also cool because we drove down it as we left and I was all, “This looks familiar.. wait we ran here!” and Christian wouldn’t believe they closed the whole highway down for us until I showed him it definitely was on the course map. I always think it’s neat when they shut down and let runners take over entire roads for races!
Once in downtown again I got a lay! It was crazy how many people there were with signs or handing out things to help runners (nutrition, hydration, and motivation-wise). I feel like the rest of the race, anytime we were running through neighborhoods, every local was outside cheering or offering you something. As for my race, I accidentally totally subconsciously sped up at mile 12 because half marathons.. oops. And kept it up through 15 because we were back in town and it was hard not to get overly hyped. There was also one big hill DURING the crowded section (YAAAAAS hills ❤️)so you know I was going to try and sprint up that.
The last section was definitely not my best. I started having some stomach problems at mile 17ish, I think. I wasn’t thinking I could eat my fuel anymore and plain water sounded awful. Luckily there were an INSANE amount of locals handing out ice pops and watermelon which did sound ok so I lived off crowd support the rest of the race. I think part of my problem was I don’t plan ahead so I hadn’t really looked at the course in detail and though the segments were more even. The last one being extra long when I didn’t expect it was definitely disheartening. Mile 21 I slowly started my pity party and now I wish I had thought to bring my Aftershokz for when I did actually need something to take my mind off the race. At mile 23 my hip (sleeping on the ground definitely left me sore) started to hurt so badly I came stupidly close to stopping. Honestly I think I might have if I hadn’t had to quit Providence at mile 23. For some reason that was the last straw, and there was absolutely no way I was stopping at the exact same mile again. I think I had even talked myself into being able to stop at 24, just not 23 lol. But then soon as I got to 24 I started feeling better and kind of figured I should just finish it at this point 😂 It was definitely hard running directly by my campsite. I think 25 is when the 4 hour pacers caught me so I cranked out mile 26 way faster than I thought I could in order to pass them back. The last like 100-200 meters was on grass which was a really cool throwback to highschool XC for me! I made my goal of under 4 hours with 3:57:51, but by gun time I missed it by 5 seconds (which doesn’t actually matter, just makes my finish photo looks SUPER disappointing 😂).
Like I said, I had to scoot after the race, even more so with the late start since we were now late to checkout of our campsite. But again the whole city was in on the race so the campground already knew and weren’t upset. We did run by the Ben & Jerry’s factory on our way out, but the tours aren’t self-guided and everyone seemed to have the same idea so we didn’t have time. We did take a look at the ice cream flavor graveyard though which I didn’t know was a thing, but was funny!
Disclaimer: I received Ultima Replenisher to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!
As someone who sweats a ton and doesn’t really like plain water, I have been looking for a good hydration/electrolyte drink mix for awhile now. But I guess I am picky with flavors because I hadn’t found anything that I would rather drink consistently than be dehydrated half my life 😂 All that said, I was very excited for the opportunity to try Ultima after hearing great reviews on it during my search!
My Experience with Ultima
Ultima is a powder so it dissolves instantly with a few shakes. This might not be super high on your (or even my) list of needs but a very sick, impatient boyfriend once asked why his drink was taking so long with a different brand of electrolyte product 😂
I LOVE lemonade, so that’s always the first flavor I try in hydration products, but I had yet to find one that I thought actually tasted like good lemonade. I found that all of Ultima’s flavors seem more spot on than other brands, but their lemonade is SO GOOD! I also noticed they have a pink lemonade (that I need to try), but it’s sold out right now.. probably because it’s too good.
I’ve been trying to cut back on sugary drinks since I eat enough sugar I certainly don’t to drink it too. That means pretty much every flavorful drink, including my precious lemonade, is out. It’s awesome that their lemonade flavor is so on point AND has no sugar for me to feel bad about!
Disclaimer: I received an Orange Mud Gear Vest Pro to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!
Vest are by far my favorite way to carry liquids while on a run. They cost zero extra effort, unlike holding a handheld, and from what I’ve seen are way more secure and less bouncy than belts. But even narrowing your search down to just hydration vests, there are still tons of different ones out there. As someone who was in the market for a new hydration vest recently, here are some of the key things I was looking for and found in the Orange Mud Gear Vest Pro:
Coverage (or lack of)
I almost always run hot so with all my running gear the less fabric touching my skin and keeping heat in, the better. I was extremely happy to find this vest goes above and beyond to be as non-covering as possible. The back pockets are stacked width-wise so the pack only covers the top part of your back, while still holding lots. The sides and front (besides the front pockets) are made of thin straps, for as little coverage as possible, while still being very secure. The vest pretty much only covers about where a sports bra does, and that is a huge bonus for me. I was able to use it on the first hot, buggy day of the season and return without feeling like a complete puddle. It also made me think how much other hydration vests are actually helping if wearing them makes me sweat way more than normal 🤔
POCKETS!!!! (Especially front accessible ones!)
One major issue with my last hydration vest was the small number of very tiny front accessible pockets. The Gear Vest Pro has tons of them! It has two Velcro shoulder pockets, two very large cinch-able chest pockets, and one pocket on the outside of each of those chest pockets. It’s fantastic to be able to access so much of your gear without having to take off your vest!
The back has three large pockets that cover the entire back and are layered. The inner most Velcros shut and is where you would place the bladder when you plan to use it and the outer most is a fully closable zipper pocket. All three can be cinched tight with the zigzag elastic cord on the back. I was sick during the Newport Half and couldn’t decide how many layers I needed and was able to easily take them all with me with plenty of room to spare!
The front pockets are also large enough for front bottles, which I would now highly recommend! Not only is it nice to be able to have multiple different fluids on you, but placement and shorter straws on the front bottles keep the liquid cooler longer. My least favorite thing is having cold water in my bladder warm up as it sits in the long straw on my shoulder.
You can also get add-ons to attach poles that can go on the front or the back of the vest!
My last vest was specifically “made for women” but I honestly like the fit of this vest better. I found putting the front pockets over your chest (just like a guy would) worked better than having them go around it. When I used to put my vest around my chest it would cause my arm swinging to hit the pockets sometimes. I feel like putting it over your chest is actually more secure and keeps everything out of the way. This vest is also easy to get on and off so accessing the back pockets isn’t an issue!
Overall this vest is the perfect balance of space and coverage (and honestly better on both ends than I originally thought possible together). I can’t wait to actually be responsible with hydration while hiking this year since this vest so comfy that I’ll actually wear it 😂 And I can’t wait to try running my second ultra in it!
If you want to check out Orange Mud gear for yourself use the code BIBRAVEGVPRO for 15% off!
Gear Vest Pro
Disclaimer: I received an entry to the Rugged Maniac Phoenix to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!
After years of running the Rugged Maniac New England, I finally got to try a second location by running the Rugged Maniac Phoenix this past weekend!
The Rugged Maniac races are so fun that even my non-runner boyfriend loves them. They are currently the only race he actually asks me to sign him up for each year instead of just tolerating me dragging him along 🙈 So when I mentioned the race he jumped at the opportunity to join me!!
One great thing about most OCR (including the Rugged Maniac) is that the race goes off in small heats. These heats are usually throughout the day so runners have the chance to choose what time of day suits them best. We arrived the day before the race because I like time to adjust after travel so we could have run in the morning, but my boyfriend LOVES diners, cafes, and large breakfasts. Last time we were in Phoenix we found an AMAZING all gluten-free cafe, Jewel’s Cafe so we opted to go there first and took a later race time of 12:45 PM.
We are not a timely people though, so we ended up late to the race anyway.. But the process to fix our mess-up was painless and didn’t cost us anything (thanks Rugged!!).
On an unrelated note, (I’m not going to pretend like this was the reason we were late because it wasn’t) make sure you listen to their special instructions as to how to get to the race. The address was slightly off, but they gave you special instructions that I originally confidently ignore that corrected the issue.
We ended up with a little time before our new start time (we chose to) and quickly realized we weren’t prepared for a race in the desert (will I ever learn??). We ended up having to buy water because we couldn’t wait for the usual bottle you get at the finish. To us it seemed kind of cruel not to have free water beforehand, but I realize now that not only have I never run a race with that, but literally no one else seemed phased. I think it was just us being out of our element, but a note for other non-locals.
The race course was really similar to New England in many ways. Both are held at some kind of motocross park and use part of the park’s course and part of the natural land surrounding it. Both, when on the park’s course, are comprised of a very fine dirt and had twists, turns, rises, and dips. I would say New England’s motocross course portion featured more ups and downs, while Phoenix’s more twists and turns, but they were still pretty similar. The natural land was where they varied, New England’s wooded portion versus Phoenix’s desert. I was happy they did add some more up and down into the desert with man made dirt mounds and by making us run stadiums. (Wouldn’t want it to be TOO flat and easy 😜)
I love how they always seem to find the perfect mix of challenging, doable, and just for fun obstacles! There are too many to mention them all, but here are some of my favorite/most memorable:
Barzan – This one’s a new, classic arm & grip strength obstacle where you need swing across bars facing different ways & angles. It’s definitely one of the more difficult ones and I was excited to try it. I didn’t make it across, but my boyfriend did. I’m very excited to try again at New England!
Antigravity – It’s got trampolines!! Plus it’s hilarious how many people don’t seem to know how to use a trampoline 😂
Off The Rails – You have to run at and grab a rope with enough forward momentum that you slide on it down a rail to the end where you ring a bell. We’ve had many renditions of this type of slide on a rope obstacle in ninja class. Also someone got the bell stuck up in the metal framework a couple of people before our turn and my boyfriend was able to dislodge it to become the hero and be cheered as he left the water pit!
Full Tilt – A teeter totter hanging ladder! It’s almost like my ninja gym knew I’d need to climb an inclined ladder because we did exactly that the week before in class! In my opinion this one was a good intermediate obstacle that was slightly easier than Barzan. The only weird thing I noticed was this was the only hanging obstacle I’ve ever seen them have without a water pit under it. One of the things I love about the Rugged Maniac is they always have water pits under their hanging obstacles so you can try them without fearing the fall. (I’ve seen someone fall and break their elbow at a different brand OCR.)
Iron Curtain – Didn’t know about this one but I LOVE IT! But telling you about it would ruin it so just trust me it’s a fun one! 😉
Feed The Beast – I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one. Blowup obstacles aren’t generally my favorite (except the slide!), but I really enjoyed the blowup walls you have to bounce over!
Check out the full list of obstacles here if you want!
This race gave me confidence to continue recommending the Rugged Maniac to anyone who will listen because it seems they put on similarly AWESOME races no matter the venue! Rugged Maniac are friendly for all skill levels and make sure everyone has a blast! For Phoenix specifically, I would just recommend you bring water and sunscreen if you aren’t a crazy local who doesn’t seem to notice they’re out in the middle of the desert 😂 Also the parking lot situation gets a little crazy toward the end so I’d recommend an earlier time slot if you need to be out of there ASAP.
This weekend will be my second racecation of the year, the Rugged Maniac Phoenix! The Rugged Maniac and I go way back since 2010! I honestly don’t remember how we got signed up for that first one anymore (possibly a birthday gift because it was around her birthday), but it ended up being me and one of my best friends running the race with her family spectating. Since then it has become a tradition, with more and more people actually running it each year!
Don’t get me wrong, I have really enjoyed every OCR I’ve run so far, but the Rugged Maniac is the most well rounded, caters to all skill levels, and makes sure absolutely everyone has a freaking blast!
They have the Best Mud
The amount of mud and it’s placement is PERFECT at the Rugged Maniac. While there are TONS of opporunities to get dirty (so you’ll end up just as muddy as a Spartan/other mudders), the parts of the course between obstacles aren’t just miles of mud for you to trudge through. This allows you to actually be able to run (unlike at some of the other mudder’s I’ve run)! They also have more water/mud pits, which I am a super fan of!
They have the Best Obstacles
I really like their variety of obstacles! Not only do they have obstacles for all levels of skill, but the types of obstacles varies more than at other OCR as well. They have the standard climbing and arm strength obstacles, but also include a decent amount of balance ones too. This aligns more with my ninja warrior class and it seems overal ninja warrior. It also allows for more people with different skills to shine during the race! As for difficulty, they still have obstacles that take all that upper body strength and a high level of skill, but others that are easier, and some just completely for how insanely fun they are, like the giant slide! I feel like the mix of obstacles makes everyone able to leave feeling accomplished. I know both friends and I have left other OCR feeling kinda bummed about not being able to do obstacles, but no one I’ve run with has had this issue with the Rugged Maniac.
Another one of my favorite things about their obstacles are they put water pits under any that you could fall from. With the guarentee of a soft fall, I have tried many obstacles at Rugged Maniacs that I wouldn’t have tried at other OCR for fear of injury.
They have the Best Course
Again, the Rugged Maniac found the pefect balance. With their courses being actually runnable mud-wise, they seemed to know they could throw in a bit more challenge during the running sections. I LOVE that the course isn’t just pancake flat like most other fun races. Not so much vert that non-runners can’t do it, but enough to make it fun for actual runners too! In New England (not sure about other locations since woods isn’t always a local terrain) they also added in a wooded trail section! It was great to get to run through the woods, but also be on an actual trail (unlike another OCR we ran lol).
Overall the Rugged Maniac is excellent at being challenging, but never discouraging to all levels of runner/obstacle course racer. I love that I have a race that currently has a 100% success rate at sucking my non-running and running friends in year after year. It’s great to run an OCR and feel accomplished, but it’s even better to get to share that with friends and family and participate in all their accomplishments as well!
I’ve actually been meaning to write this post for awhile now.. Like since I ran the Spartan Beast at Killington last year 😅.. But I figure since I currently have discount codes for two locations of my favorite brand of OCR there’s no better time than now!
They are INSANELY FUN – OCR have all the positives of a rainy run without any of the negatives, mud and puddles but no wind and rain, heck yes! And the obstacles are just playground equipment for adults! The whole race is basically letting out your inner child!
It’s Easy to Take Easy – If you have never run one you don’t have a PR to stress about beating (and you’ll get one automatically 😉), but even if you have, they are similar to trail races where the course is always different so you can’t really compare times and can take it easy instead. Also they are pretty much always on dirt so they’re easier on your legs!
Branching Out is Fun – It’s really fun to be good at more things than just running. But OCRs do involve running so you’re already halfway to being good at it from the start!
It’s a Gateway Exercise to Running – I’ve found most people don’t start these for the running, they just tolerate running between the obstacles at first. Once they’re hooked though and looking to get better, guess what they have to do? It’s start running! So many of my non-runner friends have been converted to at least part-time runners because of OCRs 😈
The Adrenaline of Running will Make You a BEAST – While the running parts tire out non-runners, I find it pumps me up CRAZY amounts. During the Spartan Super, and especially the Beast (since there were more runnable bits and it was UP A MOUNTAIN) I was able to complete obstacles I wouldn’t normally dream of completing in ninja class. ‘The Bend’ obstacle was at the top of a big incline and I literally climbed the obstacle only using my arms like instantly, when I’m not sure I could normally make it even with the help of my legs. After I got down multiple strangers came up to me like, “THAT WAS INSANE!!”.
So have I convinced you yet? And for the record I was no way inclined toward OCR besides the running parts beforehand. Before I started ninja classes (years after I ran my first and many other OCRs) I literally could never even open a pickle jar on my own 😂 but still had a blast at the races!!
Anyway, soon I’ll be writing another extremely overdue post up on The Rugged Maniac and why it’s my favorite OCR but for now, just know it is and if you want to give the Phoenix, AZ (I’ll be there!!) or Dade City, FL race a try use the code RUN10 for 10% off!
Disclaimer: I received entry to The Rugged Maniac Phoenix to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!