Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Team Commando or Team Runderwear?

"Disclaimer: I received a pair of Runderwear Men’s Running Boxer Briefs to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review, find, and write race reviews!"

Time to talk underwear! More specifically, Runderwear. Runderwear are the first underwear that I have ever run in that were designed specifically for running. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going out and running ultras wearing cotton boxers that offer no support. I am typically a wearer of athletic boxer/briefs made from a polyester/spandex blend. While this has worked for me thus far with minimal complaints, I’m always willing to try new running products to see where improvements can be made in my running habits.

Runderwear started with a common running problem: chafing. Most runners have experienced it at some point and many have accepted it as just coming with the territory. I know I have had my fair share of chafing during ultramarathons. Others, the lucky ones, often look at you perplexed when you tell them about the misery you experienced in the shower after your last 100k (if you’ve ever chafed worse than you realized then took a shower, you know what I’m talking about). Runderwear’s founders are runners whose goal was to create chafe-free, comfortable underwear for runners. Since then, an entire line of chafe-free athletic wear has followed: socks, baselayers, and triathlon suits. I’d say it is easy to see they have had success just based on the accolades their products have received with recognition by Runner’s World, Women’s & Men’s Running, Outdoor Enthusiast, and 220 Triathlon. Not to mention receiving the “Best Underwear & Socks Brand” at the 2018 Running Awards. But I am a bit of a skeptic and like to learn through experience, so I was excited at the opportunity to try a pair out for myself. 

With the primary Runderwear claim being supreme comfort and chafe-free running, I decided to really test them out in that department and take them out for a long run. I intended for my first run wearing them to be the NJ Marathon where I was shooting for a new marathon PR, but decided at the last minute that it may not be the best plan if it turned out these new underwear rubbed me the wrong way ten miles in. So I took them out for a few shorter runs and then finally for a 20 mile long training run this past weekend. Comfort? Check! Chafing? Negative! Runderwear made good on their Chafe-Free guarantee.

So how do these underwear do it and how does a company have so much confidence in their product that they actually offer a Chafe-Free guarantee? Well, here is an excerpt from the Runderwear website and then I’ll offer my thoughts on all of the key features:

Chafe-Free Guarantee

"Runderwear’s whole ethos is about creating chafe-free performance clothing. Runderwear clothing has no side seams and is label-free to prevent irritation and rubbing. Runderwear technical fabric is extremely soft, breathable and highly effective at wicking sweat away from the body, ensuring you remain chafe-free in ultimate comfort, no matter how many miles you run.

We’re so confident that your Runderwear will provide the solution to your chafing, that we offer a 28 day, no fuss guarantee. If you wear our products and they cause you to chafe, we will happily refund you, it’s as simple as that.

Remember, Runderwear will stop chafing in the area that it covers and not the surrounding areas, so make sure you select the best style for your problem area. For example, briefs will protect your nether-regions from chafing but not your thighs, whilst our Long Boxers (for Men) and Hot Pants (for Women) will protect all that they touch."

Runderwear’s tagless and seamless design are two key features in preventing chafing. Chafing is caused by continual rubbing from clothing or accessories against your skin. Take away features that are prone to rub, such as tags and seams, and you reduce the likelihood of chafing. Simple. Compared to some boxer/briefs I have worn that have a sewn on tag on the waistband, the tagless design was exponentially more comfortable. The lack of seams also did not go unnoticed. Most of my other athletic underwear has seams running along the inner thigh to the crotch in addition to the seams running from the waistband at the hip down to the bottom of the boxer/brief along the outer leg. Runderwear has none of these seams with their 360 degree seamless design. The little stitching that is used, around the elastic waistband, is a style of flatlock fine stitching which was barely noticeable and non irritating for the entirety of my 20 mile run.

Moisture is another deadly sin that can lead to chafing. How Runderwear goes about combating this one is via moisture wicking fabric. Runderwear are made from polyamide (92%) and elastane (8%), a much different composition than my normal athletic wear blend of polyester/spandex. Their blend is designed to wick sweat away from the skin to keep you dry and stop chafing before it starts. I can’t say how much better this material is at pulling moisture away as I haven’t had the opportunity to test them out during a truly hot and muggy, typical East coast August day, but I can say they performed well during my 20 mile test run on one of the warmer (high of 76° F) May days we have had. Part of the key to removing the moisture is the breathability of the fabric. The fabric blend used by Runderwear has mesh panels containing micro perforations that make it breathable and allow moisture to be removed from the body.

The last benefit I found with Runderwear is not specifically related to chafing, but rather just overall comfort. The material is soft and form fitting, providing great support to keep things from getting jostled around while running without being restrictive. Unlike other boxer/briefs I’ve worn that like to migrate a bit during long runs and need some readjustments, Runderwear stayed right where they were supposed to for all of my trial miles with them. This is in part due to the “rubberized” strip at the bottom of each leg hole. At first glance after unpackaging, I thought this was an adhesive to keep the Runderwear in place in the packaging. Then I realized the true purpose, to keep the legs of the boxer/briefs from creeping up your legs while in motion. And it works too! I didn’t have to adjust or pull my boxer/brief pant legs down from creeping up my running shorts once. Cleanliness is one more aspect of comfort where Runderwear impressed me. Much of my athletic clothing tends to get a bit of a funky smell attached to it after enough use even freshly out of the wash. With the limited amount of time that I have used Runderwear, they seem to wash well and come out looking and smelling super fresh. Granted, that is only after about five uses and washes, but I have high hopes for that trend of cleanliness to continue.

Although my relationship with Runderwear has been limited (thirtysomething miles), I can say I have enjoyed them for all of those miles and found them comfortable and chafe-free. If you are looking to try a pair for yourself, they can be found on Amazon (Runderwear) or on the Runderwear website where you can use code “BIBRAVE20” for 20% off. Valid until Friday 31 May.

Friday, May 3, 2019

2019 Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon

Ten Years In The Making

"Disclaimer: I received free entry to Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review find and write race reviews!"

It’s strange how 10 years can sound like a long time when you say it, but when you reminisce over the same portion of time in your life it appears to have gone by in a rushed blur of all of the events, big and small, that have culminated to be the story of your life. This past weekend’s race, the Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon, motivated me to examine that roughly quarter sized chunk of my life thus far. It was just a little over 10 years ago that I ran my first and only marathon up until this past weekend. Now with my second official marathon finish, I’ve found myself looking back at where I was before my first, where I’m at now, and wondering what the heck happened in between.

I ran my first marathon about a week after my 29th birthday. Running a marathon wasn’t a bucket list item for me or a box to check before my twenties ended. It was something I decided I wanted to do to hopefully keep running interesting to me. Leading up to it, I’m regretfully admitting, I had become a bit bored with running, or at least the running I was doing at the time. I wasn’t racing, training for a race, or exploring new trails to run. It was before I even entertained or had a desire to run an ultra. At the time, I was basically only running what I consider now to be my “maintenance” runs, for the most part 3-6 miles at an easy pace. The required training and challenge that comes along with preparing for a marathon I hoped would reignite the passion for running that it had originally sparked when I first started running recreationally about five years earlier.

I'm pretty happy with how my CEP compression socks performed as well!
Thankfully, it did. In fact it made me want to run even farther and longer than the marathon distance. I didn’t dive head first into ultramarathons. I studied them and the training methods others had used. For several years I said I was too busy due to other personal events 
(marriage, baby, etc.) in my life to commit to training for an ultra. Looking back and having the experience I do now, I know it would have been possible, but I may have been a bit too naive and impatient to make it work. Even if I had pulled it off then, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it. So I waited and then in 2013 when I decided it was time to train for my first ultra, I got taken out with a hip injury that required corrective surgery (here’s the full story on that). I waited longer spending 2014 recovering and rebuilding a decent running base. I began ultra training for real in 2015 and ran my first ultra that October, the Blues Cruise 50k in Leesport, PA. 

The course map and my Strava data.
After discovering and experiencing trail ultras, I lost interest in road marathons for the most part, until recent years as I started wondering how I would do if I were to take another crack at one. The question of how I would do at a road marathon after several years of running trail ultras piqued my interest enough for me to run a marathon distance around my neighborhood, finishing it about five minutes faster than my one and only official marathon time (3:43:02). After this I decided it was time to sign up for another road marathon. Deciding which marathon to run was easy as I was offered the chance to run the Novo Nordisk New Jersey Marathon as a BibRave Pro. Sweet! Now my only goal was to run a marathon faster than I had 10 years ago. 

I went with my Altra Escalantes for the race, it was a good decision.
I changed up my normal training routine a bit by getting a gym membership and increasing my mileage earlier in the year than I normally do because I’m not the happiest cold weather runner. I didn’t do this specifically for marathon training, although I believe it paid huge dividends on race day, but mainly to go into this ultrarunning season with a higher mileage base established. I arrived for the race and immediately felt out of my comfort zone. Mainly because of the crowd size. This is a big marathon with over 2,300 marathon runners plus marathon relay runners and half marathon runners all starting at the same time from the same starting line. It was in stark contrast even to the starts at the largest trail runs (several hundred runners at most) I’ve experienced. I did my best to try to appreciate the energy of such a large crowd rather than allow it to make me feel uneasy and worked my way into my assigned starting corral.

Having my Aftershokz for my training runs and during the race was a huge plus!
I went out with a plan at the start to race smart. Knowing that I needed to average just under 8:30 minute miles to better my marathon PR, I told myself I would take it easy the first few miles. As the wave I started with crossed the starting line, I saw the 3:35 pacers not far ahead of me in the crowd. I ran at what felt like a comfortable pace until catching up with that pace group. I decided to avoid doing anything stupid like running too hard too early I would stick with this group for awhile and then pick it up later if I was still feeling good. That only lasted until about the six mile mark. The Eminem on my playlist started playing through my Aftershokz at that point and I decided that this pace felt too easy. I said to myself “I’m running this to see how fast I can run it, not just to improve my PR!” And with that I picked up my pace and pulled away from the pace group.

The AWESOME finisher medal!

It was a matter of several miles, but it was surprising to me how quickly it seemed that I caught sight of the signs held by the 3:30 pacers. I continued to run at what felt like a slightly more strenuous than comfortable pace until joining this pace group crowd. I decided to reel it in a bit at this point and just see if I could hang with the 3:30 pace group or if that would be too tough to maintain for the 16 or so miles left. I told myself if I can maintain this pace and I felt like I had anything left I would try to empty the tank in the last five miles.

I have to admit, Strava's "Last Mile" challenge drove me at the finish.
As we passed the halfway point of the race, the course got a bit more interesting and scenic in my opinion. Rather than it feeling like the course was mostly running through neighborhood roads (my take on the majority of the first half), the second half really displayed more of the traditional Jersey shore scenery as the ocean and beaches were in sight and we began running stretches of the boardwalk. Along with the more attractive scenery came the out and back portion of the course. Seeing the fast marathon front runners still hammering hard after 20 or so miles kept me inspired and motivated to keep my pace up. A short time later with about 10 miles to go I decided it was time to pick up my pace and part ways with the pace group I had become comfortable running with.

My final mile pace according to Strava.
Shortly after pulling away from the 3:30 pace group I saw all of the faster pace group returning from the U turn of the out and back. The 3:15 group went by followed shortly after by the 3:20 and the 3:25 groups. A short time later I found myself at the turn around (about the 19 mile mark). Realizing the 3:25 pace group wasn’t that far ahead of me, I decided I would make it my goal to catch that group before the end of the race. I had only seven miles to pull it off. It was exciting to have an additional goal that I wasn’t sure was actually achievable. It motivated me to push myself harder than if my only goal was to get a new PR which at this point was nearly guaranteed. Passing other runners nearly continuously for the next six miles kept me pushing until I finally caught site of the 3:25 pacer signs with about a mile to go. I continued pushing and made my last mile of the marathon my fastest of the race passing the 3:25 pacers with the finish line less than a quarter mile away.

Cheers from the finish!
My official finish time was 3:23:17, nearly a 20 minute improvement over my only other marathon finish over 10 years ago. It was a greatly satisfying race as everything went so well. Other than a little upset stomach early on, I felt great the entire race. As happy as I was with my finishing time I still walked away with a bit of regret. Solely because I left the race wondering what would have happened if I had pushed harder earlier? What could my marathon PR be if I focused on running marathons? What if I hadn’t just run Hyner 50k with 7,500’ of elevation gain just one week earlier? All are questions that I don’t have an answer to, but am curious to explore.

Scott Snell
May 3, 2019