Saturday, May 24, 2014

Headband Review: Halo vs. Bondi Band (and a gear update)

Since I started running, I almost always wore a cap or visor (usually a visor, so my head stayed cooler) when I ran. It makes me batty to have sun or sweat in my eyes and that took care of both!

But now that I'm running more trails (shady), and during the week I'm running mostly in the dark, visors seem like overkill, but I still needed to keep the sweat out of my eyes. When I did boot camp last year, I got a terry cloth sweat band that made me feel like I was doing a LeBron James impersonation and took 2 days to dry. I like the headband in theory, but that was not the right one.

I knew I could do better, so I researched and the two that came up the most were Halo and Bondi Bands. I picked up one of each at Luke's Locker and set about experimenting.

Near the finish (hence the smile) at
Whispering Pines 2014 wearing my Halo.


The Halo is made of a heavy-ish neoprene fabric, which means lots of absorbency but also some heat retention. Breezes aren't getting through this thing. The sneaky awesome feature it has is this plastic strip across the bottom on the forehead side that redirects sweat away from your eyes.

It's basically like a rain diverter you'd have over an exterior door on your house. And it works! I may have learned to love to sweat, but I practically get the shakes when it's pouring off my head and into my face faster than I can mop it up. Once it gets in my eyes, I'm just a big baby, and especially on trails where vision is so critical, eyeball sweat is just a non-starter.

They have a few styles. One ties in the back, the newest velcros in the back, and mine is just a sewn up circle. I have a pretty large noggin (thanks, Dad), and it fits me just right. I guess those with less well-endowed skulls should get an adjustable or know how to sew. They come in several colors but nothing particularly fancy. These are not "look cute" headbands, as you can see from my picture, but when it's 90% humidity and 85 degrees out, I'm not looking cute anyway. Might as well be comfortable.

Bondi Band

I could tell from the moment I picked up a Bondi Band, at least the "fashion lycra" version that was in plentiful supply at Luke's, that it was not a headband meant for serious sweat. It's very thin, light material. The upside to that is that once it's wet with sweat and you meet a breeze, it feels nice and cool on your forehead.

I've only used the Bondi for cooler, shorter runs. My weekday runs, it's fine. If it's 55 degrees out, it's fine. Despite the promise of "no drip, no slip," I do find it to be pretty slippery. It stays in place for the most part but it takes very little to shift it around.

Also, because the fabric is so thin and stretchy, the edges curl up, which isn't the best look. And while looks shouldn't matter, you're not buying these in one of the dozens of patterns and colors they offer because you don't care about how you look. They're cute and flattering and they're extra wide so they hold your hair back very nicely. The rolling edges aren't a big deal but it still just sort of annoys me and adds to the flimsy feel.

Despite using my Bondi for less sweaty endeavors, I have still managed to outsweat it to the point where sweat was dripping into my eyes. The flip side of it being thin and light and cooler is that it just doesn't have enough heft to absorb a lot of sweat. One thing I considered, if I see some lying around, is cutting a piece of ShamWow fabric and sandwiching it between my forehead and the Bondi Band. Not only might it help it stay in place better, but it would definitely increase the sweat absorption. Or... I could just wear my Halo.

Looking at Bondi's site, they do have some lines of "wicking" sweatbands that look sturdier and honestly look a lot like Halos minus the plastic diverter band. If I see one of those around, I'll pick one up and try it, but those don't come in fun patterns, so the Halo seems like a better choice.

Bottom Line

I actually like having both. For long runs and trail races, the Halo is the obvious choice. For shorter runs or cooler weather, Bondi Band is a less "industrial strength" solution. If looking cute is a high priority and/or you aren't a heavy sweater, Bondi might be enough.

More gear notes

I've been shopping a lot lately. I recently discovered Left Lane Sports, which has amazing deals on good quality sports products, and now am the proud owner of a Nathan Intensity hydration vest and, winning their way to me at the moment, a pair of Hoka Stinson Trail shoes.

The vest I ordered because my waist belt drives me crazy shifting around, plus it really doesn't hold that much water given the heat. I still have to plan routes around water fountains, which isn't really a "thing" when it comes to trails. This one has great reviews, is made specifically for the female physique (though I'm not sure how), and was around $50 on Left Lane.

The Hokas... I'd been skeptical of these silly looking shoes. But man, that race in Tyler last weekend beat up my feet and calves so badly. It's really taken me a full week to start feeling normal again. When I got the email that Left Lane was doing a big Hoka sale, and then when I saw that the Stinson Trail model was working for a lot of people with wide feet, and that I could get them for basically $100 off retail price (I had $30 in referral credits), I couldn't resist. Which turns out to be a really good thing, because unless they're out in my car, I'm afraid I left my trail shoes in the changing stall at Tyler State Park!

So, I'm looking forward to testing out my vest today and then getting the Hokas next week and, if they fit, giving them a try on the rocks and roots.

Also found a replacement set of my road shoes (NB1080) for way cheap and one of the 4 sizes left happened to be mine, and I got a second pair of compression shorts (I LOVE Road Runner Sports R-Gear brand... great quality and a HUGE pocket). I had lots of capris already, but in the summer, the shorts feel a little better. Wish I had the thighs to wear regular running shorts. They look so breezy! Alas, thunder thighs would chafe to pieces in those. *sigh*

Anyway, I'm off to run Arbor Hills with Rosie. First time up there, so I'm excited to check it out. Looking forward to some hill work!

Happy trails!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Whispering Pines 10M - 2014

In my head, I'd chalked this race up to be 10 miles of pine needle-covered smooth, easy trails. Maybe some hills, a root here and there, but otherwise, fast running. I was going to float through the woods like a woodland nymph and finish in a sturdy, slow-girl 3:00.

I got literally none of those things right. The terrain was consistent, I'll give it that, but it was almost non-stop roots and plenty of rocks. It was the kind of trail where you hear that there's lots of beauty around you but you never see it because you don't dare look up for fear of tripping or stepping on the wrong thing. There were some fast areas where you could at least look ahead 15 feet as you ran rather than every little step, and those areas you could book it pretty well and gain some ground.

(For pics of the trail, see Running Myself into a Coma blog from his photos last year. Though I don't remember that much open space. It felt like we were in deep woods 95% of the time. Maybe the trail changed some this year?)

I've never seen so much falling in a race before. Everyone in our group fell at least once, sometimes twice, except for me. I chose to step poorly a couple of times and twist my ankle instead. Feels okay after some ice, rest, and a good night's sleep though, so it was only a minor annoyance.

Oh, and the hills? Okay, they were there but they weren't all killers. However, there was one late in the race that felt like climbing stars. The legs were burning, we were huffing and puffing. Oh it was a doozie.

As usual, the aid stations were fantastic, as they always are at an Endurance Buzz event, and really well placed for this distance. First one was ~3 in, and the next was ~7 in, so even though there was a 4-mile gap in the middle, those are the comfortable miles (runnerly speaking... you're warmed up but not too exhausted yet). Debbie and Tina, my running companions, wanted to keep moving, so we blew through the stations pretty fast, which was fine by me. I had my Payday bars on me, too, but only ended up eating one.

We ended up finishing much faster than we expected. We'd walked a lot, it seemed, but I guess the areas where we could run, we ran pretty darn fast, which I don't think I would have done on my own, so I appreciated the pushed pace. We all came in right at 2:30-2:31, a good 30 minutes faster than I'd predicted, so that was fantastic. That just shows how much more difficult Possum Kingdom was. Only 2 more miles but took 52 minutes longer! Plus it was a bit warmer and more sun exposure in PK, which added to the fatigue.

I actually felt great after this one. Tons of energy at the end, but my legs were toast from the hills. I can certainly see the appeal of the 20 mile distance. I think the absolutely beautiful cool, breezy weather was fooling me a little, though. If it had been muggy and warm, it might have been just as exhausting as PK was and I would have sworn off such distances past March.

Rosie came with me to volunteer at one of the aid stations, but I drove this time, and I actually felt fine coming home, which I was very worried about after I was a zombie post-PK. I even had the energy to change clothes and eat a couple of tacos before we left the park. No nausea or any of that stuff I had from PK. I took an Endurolyte tablet at the second aid station, and I think that helped a lot, along with drinking a little Heed. I got plenty of fluid at PK, but not enough electrolytes for how much I was sweating.

Slowly but surely, I'm figuring this stuff out, maybe? Or maybe I just got lucky. Either way, that's the last one for a while. I'll be volunteering at Cedar Ridge in July, and might do the same at Rough Creek, both of which will be too hot for my taste, thank you very much, but I can earn free race entries by volunteering. I still want to give Isle Du Bois a go, and I'd be happy to do PK and WP again.

If I had any complaints about the race, starting with the 7k runners was tough. The course was very crowded the first 3 miles until they split off. But that's literally my only gripe. Very minor. The finish line area was wonderful. Very cozy, and as usual, I choked up when I crossed and Dave handed me my bottle of honey. :) Some day I'll be not choked up enough to ask him if he's Canadian. He definitely says "aboat." <3

Anyway, today I'm sore. My upper back and calves and feet are very achy, but I'm headed out to the Rangers/Jays game later, so I'll count all that walking as a recovery effort. Also, beer. Beer good. Go Jays!

Happy trails!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

JCC Bagel Run - 2014

For the first time ever, I repeated a race Sunday. The JCC (Jewish Community Center, which is about a 10 minute walk from my house) holds the Bagel Run every May, a 5k loop through my neighborhood, which is pretty hilly. It was my first race after we moved to Dallas last year.

It's cheap and I of course want to support a race that I can leave my house 10 minutes before it starts and still be early.

It has a 5k and 10k option, and since I don't get my legs for 3 miles, I go for the 10k. Last year, it was my very first time running the 10k distance. It was steamy and I hadn't brought any water, AND I didn't realize it was a double loop, so I got to the end and they said, "10k, keep going!" Ugh. Mentally, that was tough. I finished last year in 1:08, which is far from a PR at this point, but given the Triple H in effect (heat, humidity, and hills), I was happy if I could just beat that 1:08.

The thing is, I've gained 20 lbs since I ran that race last year. *sigh* It's been a tumultuous year. Moving, losing my job, and then starting a VERY sedentary job. So, I knew it would be tight.

Well, officially, I finished about :30 slower than the previous year, but I'll call it even. I ran it in 3/:45 intervals, didn't push particularly hard, other than to keep my pace on the hills. I really kinda treated it like a hill workout and put my energy into powering through those bad boys. And indeed, I felt strong on them.

I finished feeling strong, too, and I beat the two ladies I had my sights on. Hey, it's the small victories sometimes.

The race itself is very small. Maybe 200 people, with only a handful doing the full 10k. But there is a nice bagel buffet at the end. They even have a very cute "Fastest Rabbi" award for each distance. :) Mazel tov!

The bad side of the race is that they have run out of water at the last water stop both years, and they ran out of water at the finish last year. As warm as these races have been, that's really unacceptable to me. I ran with my handheld bottle this time, which I don't like to do, but knew I needed to because I knew that was a possibility. I nearly parched to death last year and got yelled at for dumping one of the cups of water on my head at the last stop last year. Sorry, phone somebody and get some damn water in that jug!

Next year, I'm going to make hubs bring our little cooler to the final stop to make sure ALL the 10kers get to hydrate for the final mile and a half and even get to dump water on their heads if they want.

All in all, it was a good race. I felt good, but I was happy to see the finish line. I had half a bagel with hummus on it, which reminded me why I can't eat hummus. I used to eat hummus as a snack before hockey, and found myself getting REALLY tired during games. So I quit buying the stuff. But I figured after a race, it wouldn't be a big deal. Well, how wrong I was! I spent all day in a zombie-like state of exhaustion. More than is normal for a 10k. Heck, worse than a half marathon! Finally caved and took at nap at 3 p.m. to try and get some humanity back. Woof. I'll stick with peanut butter or something. Something about exertion and hummus, man. Knocks me on my ass!

Apart from being a decent race, it definitely hit home that I have to get this extra weight off, so those efforts have commenced in earnest. And boy am I hungry. Ugh, I hate limiting my calories.

Ah well, it's about the journey, not the destination, right? :) Happy trails!