Monday, January 24, 2011

Six Degrees of Separation

Yesterday morning I rolled out of bed and began the slow process of getting ready for my 12-mile run.  As usual, the first thing I did was pick up my phone and look at the current weather conditions. And as expected, it was a chilly 24° outside. I pulled on pants, a long-sleeve base layer and a pullover, and then topped things off with a hat and what are basically ski gloves.

As I started my run I was struck by the cold. It'll take just a mile or so to get warm, I thought. But even though my muscles eventually  got there, the rest of me didn't. My face got numb to the point where I would have had difficulty talking, and my fingers were freezing. I made it through the run in one piece, but came away struck by how cold 24° felt.

This morning my routine began at about the same time, this time with different results. Today the temperature was 30°, or 6° warmer than yesterday. Instead of pants I put on shorts, and instead of a long-sleeve base layer I elected for one with short sleeves. I walked out the front door and was surprised at just how much warmer 6° felt. I took off down the hill and as I rounded my first turn I already felt warm. My pace was quicker and each breath I took in didn't produce that sharp winter reminder in my lungs. How could 6° make such a huge difference?

As I continued my run I began to wonder if the number 6 has some kind of magical meaning. What other things do we measure that are significantly different when separated by a measure of 6? How about 6 pounds? Over the holidays I ate a lot more than usual and one day noticed I didn't feel like my usual self on a run. I hopped on the scale and found I had gained 6 pounds. Ok, maybe it was 5ish, but I know my weight fluctuates 2-3 pounds all the time and don't notice it.

Can you think of any other measurements where a difference of 6 is suddenly noticeable? Pace? Distance? Ounces of wine or beer? Let me know in the comments.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Product Review - The North Face Bullhead Hydration Pack

About a year ago I got tired of carrying water bottles on my runs. I considered getting a hydration belt, but ultimately decided I didn't want the weight directly on my hips. After soliciting advice from other runners on Twitter (this was before I joined dailymile) I realized what I needed was a hydration pack.

I did some research to determine which size would be best for my needs and then headed out to the local sporting goods stores. As luck would have it I stumbled on a good sale at The Sports Authority, where I picked up a model by The North Face called Bullhead for only $27 after tax. At that price I wondered if I might be getting what I paid for, but figured it was worth the risk.

Long story short, the Bullhead has served me very well. It's light weight and comfortable to wear, holds about a liter and a half (50 oz.) and is the perfect size for 10-15 mile runs. Here are some of the features that I like:

  • The bite valve controls the flow of water very well. It also has a magnet attached to it so you can easily secure it while running.
  • It has a generously sized pocket for gels, cameras, cell phones, etc. There's even a clip for your keys so they don't get lost in the pocket.
  • The chest strap buckle doubles as a whistle, which could be handy if needed to signal for help.
  • The bladder is removable, making it relatively easy to clean and fill up.

The only problem I've had with this pack is that I bit down too hard on the bite valve and tore it. Fortunately, you can also stop the flow of water by closing the swivel valve it attaches to, so it still doesn't leak. I don't attribute this problem to the quality of the bite valve. I just have sharp teeth! In any case, I contacted The North Face customer service and not only did they send me a new bite valve, but they included a magnetic swivel valve and clip, as well. For free! No questions asked! How's that for customer service?

One feature the Bullhead doesn't have that I wish it did is a bladder that could be turned inside out to make cleaning easier and more thorough. Still, I wouldn't consider that a deal breaker and would buy one of them again.

Finally, here are a couple of tips I have if you're considering getting a hydration pack:

  • Don't fill up your pack all the way. Leaving a few ounces of space in the bladder will make it more pliable and allow it to better conform to the shape of your back. If you do fill it up all the way it is rigid and can make for an uncomfortable experience the first couple of miles.
  • After you've finished filling up your bladder turn it upside down and suck out the air. If you don't the water sloshes around inside, which can get to be an annoying sound while running.

Disclaimer: This product review has not been solicited, nor have I been compensated in any way by the manufacturer. This blog's terms of use disclaimer can be viewed here.