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Gear Reviews
OK, first things first: I am not a millionaire so I cannot afford to buy everything and review every piece of running gear out there.  I’m open to sponsors though (hint-hint: Nike, Brooks, Under Armor, Gu Energy to name a few).  Anyways, the beauty of today’s technology (IE the internet) reveals that most of these items are already reviewed by trustworthy, third party organizations (or users like us).  I just want to provide a decent review of some of the gear that I own and use.  Keep in mind, each person is different so don’t think that what is right for me may be the correct choice for you…..  Do some research! 
OK, let’s get down to the basics.  I like to start off by looking at some of the essentials: shoes, clothes (to include accessories), electronics, safety items, and training devices (IE treadmills).  The important thing to remember before buying anything is to do your research!  Most shoe stores allow for a “trial-period” to determine if you like your purchase.  I know for a fact the Dick’s Sporting Goods and The Finishline stores both honor these trials (from personal experience).  If you find yourself at the checkout counter and have not been told so by the clerk; “It doesn’t hurt to ask.”
As stated in my “Safety Page,” shoes are (in my opinion) one of the most important gear items…..  Knowing and understanding your feet weighs heavily in the decision too.  I recommend that you all accomplish a running analysis to determine what shoe best suits your needs.  This is important for several reasons; it matches your foot to the proper shoe, may prevent potential injury and will ultimately save you time and money (from unnecessary doctor’s visits and medical expenses). 
I have run with many different shoes over the course of my life.  As a child, I grew up wearing Nike and Adidas shoes.  I later transitioned into New Balance and Asics but discovered a new company just recently: Brooks.  Brooks has been in the running show business for many years (originally founded in 1914).  I tend to overpronate, so the shoe that seems to work best for me is cushioning/support running shoes.  The shoes that I currently run in are Brooks Trance (pictured below). 
Brooks Trance 10
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I previously ran in Asics Gel Nimbus running shoes (cushioning) but discovered that I had to rotate through two or three pair of them to allow for cushion recovery (yes, I owned three pair of Asics).  My Brooks Trance shoe (yes, I only own one pair) is very rigid and strong.  I’ve logged over 250 miles on them and they have always rebounded during training.  I’ve never had any problems with this shoe and will continue to run in them (until either my feet change or I find a better shoe). 
Running attire is almost as important as footwear.  I grew up in the 80’s and sweat pants were the craze…..  Could you imagine running a half-marathon in sweat pants?  Nope.  Well, I run in dry-fit, moisture wicking clothes (starting from under layers to top layers).  I always wear some sort of compression shrots/pants (depending on the temps) and continue with a running jersey and/or wind-stopper jacket (during rain and/or high winds).   I also wear moisture wicking socks and add gloves and/or a hat (or beanie cap) to keep my hands and head warm. 
Nike Compression Pants
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Nike Compression Shorts
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Nike Compression Long sleeve Shirt
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One of my favorite running gear items is my Adidas Adistar Gore-Tex running jacket.  It is vented for circulation, has a rain hood, reflective properties and is somewhat waterproof (keep in mind you have to maintain the jacket’s water proofing properties with some form of scotch guard spray). 

Adidas Gore-Tex Running Jacket
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Technology has advanced tremendously in the past few years enabling products to be smaller, lightweight and cheaper.  I always run with two different electronics items: iPod Nano with Nike+ sensor and a Garmin 305 GPS wristwatch.  I cannot run without music, and the Nike+ sensor isn’t as accurate as GPS.  My iPod Nano is a 5th generation device with calibration capability (I always calibrate every run from a reliable GPS source). 
Garmin 305 Forerunner GPS Wristwatch
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iPod Nano 5th Generation
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Nike+ Sensor
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Don’t forget to take proper care of your electronics to ensure longevity and reliability…..  I purchased a Garmin Velcro wristband (because the original rubber wristband doesn’t fit properly).  I also bought a neoprene iPod armband to keep my iPod dry and secure to my arm….. 
Tune Belt iPod Armband
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Garmin Velcro wristband kit
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Garmin velvro wristband installed

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Other items are running water belts and bottles…..  I use Nathan’s two-bottle trail belt for my longer runs.  It secures 20 ounces of water, cel phone/ID pouch, and Gel holders.  My favorite is the SpiBelt, because it is compact and holds a smart phone and ID card (note: the SpiBelt was invented by a Texan!  :p ). 
Nathan Two-bottle Trail Belt
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In addition to nutrition, re-fueling your body during a run is critical (due to the length of some of these races).  It takes and average person about two hours to finish a half marathon and about four and a half hours to complete the full distance; your body needs the energy, and Gu energy gels have worked well for me!  There are many flavors to choose from and these can be purchased at sporting goods stores, grocery stores and online.  My favorite flavor is Lemon Sublime! 
Gu Energy Gels
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Safety Items
Most important of any item are those that keep you safe!  I’ll discuss things that are common and highly preferred…..  First of all, I do not recommend running in the dark!  If you have to, wear reflective material and run with either a flashing strobe light or headlamp (in your camping section).  I usually run with my cell phone when I am trekking out of the neighborhood (or on trails) just in case of emergencies.  I always carry my ID card too, usually in my SpiBelt, and some cash.  Other items include, but are not limited to: a whistle, water, food (IE gels), emergency contact info, and anything that would assist you in the event of an emergency. 

Training Devices
We recently purchased a SOLE F80 treadmill and we love it!  Most people hate the “dread-mill” but it has its advantages: availability during severe weather, convenience and adaptability (variable speeds and incline).  Heck, most treadmills now have digital training programs, built in cooling fans and allows you to plug in music devices (such as an iPod). 
SOLE F80 Treadmill
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What you look for in a treadmill is dependent upon what your intended use is (IE running, jogging or walking).  First and foremost, ensure that you do your research and purchase a machine that is from a reputable company with a warranty.  The treadmill running platform (or deck) should be wide and long enough for you.  The motor’s horsepower should be consistent for what you intend to do: the larger the motor the more reliable it will be (ability to maintain constant speed, sufficient enough for your body weight, etc). 
Other components to consider are the treadmill’s electronics and programs.  These functions are entirely optional but may be important for some users.  I prefer a nice digital display with a built-in heart rate monitor in the grab handles (and chest heart monitor capability).  Make sure you put some thought into the control/safety features too (speed/incline buttons and emergency shut-off lanyard).  Our treadmill has a built-in cooling fan which is a bonus!  Folding decks, cup and magazine holders are other things to think about too….. 
SOLE Treadmill Control Unit
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I also recommend researching treadmill calibration as well (Google that one, it is VERY difficult to explain).  Most treadmill manufacturers perform a calibration on their machines prior to shipping…..  Bottom line is, a treadmill is not accurate like a GPS (while running outdoors).  
Alternate training devices are available but I don’t own any of them (IE drag chutes and tires, resistance bands and weight belts/packs, etc). 
Websites and Blogs
I am a member of Daily Mile, a runner’s Facebook (social network), that allows you to log and track your workouts.  I use Nike+ Running website primarily for tracking my run data and building training plans.  My Garmin 305 came with training software that depicts your GPS routes on a map and displays run data (time, distance, speed and pace, elevation, heart rate etc).  And last but not least, this blog that you are currently on….. 
As an old mentor and friend said to me, “pay it forward George.”  So many people have helped me get to where I am at now, and I do not know how to thank them all…..  I hope that this blog inspires others to find their niche to stay in shape (despite their personal challenges and mountains).  Happy running, “If I can do it, anyone can!”
Remember to tailor your gear for your needs.  There are people out there who are “minimalists” and only take what is essential (clothes, shoes, and that is it).  Enjoy your runs and be safe!  

A winter must-have:  Running spikes!  

Running spikes are a must-have item if you plan on training in northern climates during winter.  I am originally from Texas and wasn’t too thrilled of the cold/snow but I’d rather be running in cooler temperate climates than in the southern heat…  

The spikes that I’ve had a lot of success with are made by as company called Due North.  The spike in particular is the “All Purpose Traction Aid” and cost around $20-25 each.  They are very durable and have six tungsten carbide spikes (which are replaceable) and seemed to work best for me.  I’ve run on snow, snow/ice mix and even on ice.  The tungsten carbide tips dig into the ice very well, are spark-free and hold up better than steel spikes.  

 (Due North spikes on Brooks Trance 10’s)
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Another reliable and useful traction device that is great for everyday use (while on snow/ice) are Yaktrax (see below image).  They work about the same but I prefer the spikes over the steel coils…  They have other products too for many different applications…  

(Self explanatory)
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Hydration is a critical component in running performance and prevents heat-related illnesses and dehydration (which could ultimately lead to injury).  I've tried a variety of bottles, waste packs, and containers ranging from your ordinary commercial bottled water to a full-blown Camelbak.  One thing that I've learned is, I hate running with a pack (both on my back and waste). So, I ran across Amphipod's little gadget (no pun intended) and decided to give it a whirl.  

Amphipod has a lot of hydration products to choose from.  One of my favorites (which has replaced my waste pack) is the handheld runners bottle.  The one I use (similar to the one pictured below) is form-fitted to your hand and includes a neoprene band to provide a secure and snug fit.  It also has a zippered pouch for your ID, some cash and keys.  I ran with this particular item during the 2011 USAF Marathon and it survived the 26.2 mile test!  It holds 20 ounces of liquid (comfortably) which is ideal for mid-level distances and refills are a snap!  It is easy to clean and goes for around $20.    

(Amphipod handheld bottle)
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In my previous reviews, I discussed random electronic devices that worked for me (IE a Garmin 305 GPS wristwatch and an iPod Nano paired with the Nike+ foot sensor).  Well, much has changed since then.  I've upgraded to a Garmin 610 GPS wristwatch (picture 1) back in 2012, and downsized my music by purchasing an iPod shuffle touch (picture 2), which is much smaller than the Nano.  These devices have served me well over the years, but I was always yearning for something better.

Garmin Forerunner 610 GPS Wristwatch

iPod Shuffle Touch

The Garmin Forerunner 610 is a touch screen device that enables you to track your activity to the Garmin Connect website.  Garmin's website, or dashboard, is really easy to use and self explanatory.  It utilizes Google Maps architecture to overlay your run data onto in either a street map format (similar to a car GPS) or with actual satellite imagery (depends on how accurate the satellite imagery is for your respective location).  Initial setup was a pain; the 610 utilizes a bluetooth wireless transfer of data (unlike a tethered USB transfer cable like my older 305).  Pairing the 610 device with the USB bluetooth receiver was a pain, but thankfully I was able to sync it.  I already owned a Garmin Connect account, so configuring my account with the 610 was a breeze (much easier than the initial device pairing).  

Sync Issues: For all of my activities with the 610 (well over 3 years of use and several hundred miles), I'd say that 98% of my runs sync'd with no issues.  For the remainder of the runs (with sync issues), successful pairing of the 610 wristwatch with the bluetooth USB device was the root cause for delay.  This was apparent even after all firmware was updated.  A simple reboot of the computer and removal and re-insertion of the bluetooth USB device solved those sync issues.  Not bad considering the reliability and ease of corrective action.  It was designed to simply sync by placing the watch next to your computer (with bluetooth USB devices plugged in).  Not always so simple...

Touchscreen: Lastly, the touchscreen on the 610 isn't so reliable.  The device has a power button, start/stop button, and reset/lap button.  There is also a "home" button on the face of the watch, but I found that it wouldn't work all of the time.  Additionally, I always have trouble navigating the menus of the device via the touchscreen.  It doesn't always work as advertised - a cursor button would have been more effective.

Faulty Heart Rate Monitor (chest style): I purchased a separate heart rate monitor and paired it with the 610 (effortlessly, as compared to my initial pairing with the bluetooth USB device).  Unfortunately, Garmin's heart rate monitors lack the reliability of most heart rate monitors (IE as on treadmills or with other heath tracking devices).  This hear rate monitor was an absolute waste of my money, and I DO NOT recommend it to anyone.  I still use the 610 (minus hear rate monitor) and completely satisfied with it.  However, the device's days are coming to an end.  

iPod Shuffle Touch: As for the iPod shuffle touch, I never had any issues with this device.  I encountered an "anomaly" after my return from my recent plantar fascia injury; I discovered the iPod's battery depleted and recharged it prior to my latest activity.  Little did I know, that by allowing the iPod shuffle's battery to die, the device defaults to a date of 1 April 1970, even after an initial recharge prior to my activity!  Had I sync'd the device to iTunes first, I would have avoided this anomaly.  But, since I was unaware of this phenomenon, I unknowingly sync'd my iPod device (via iTunes) to my Nike+ account and the run data reflected a 1 April 1970 date.  Funny.  I had to call Nike+ representatives to resolve this issue.  A Nike+ representative answered the phone on the first ring and was able to fix the issue.  The reliability of the iPod and amazing customer support through the Nike+ team won me over (again).