Thursday, September 22, 2016

Orange Mud Endurance Pack Review

I started running with a hydration vest about two years ago. I spent much of my endurance running career trying different hydration belts with varying levels of success. I had a hydration vest that I would use for longer trail runs but never road running, for some reason. Finally I just gave up on the belt and started running with the hydration vest full time. Over the course of the past two years, I ran with either the Nathan Women's Intensity Vest, which I really liked, or the Ultimate Direction Jenny Ultra Vesta. I really like both of these vests but they each had something I didn't love or needed more of, leaving me wishing I could somehow combine the two. The Nathan vest allowed me to put the reservoir in from the top, allowing for easy loading and refilling. But it lacks pocket space for those long self-supported runs. The Ultimate Direction vest has plenty of space, even front pockets that allow for additional bottles for extra fluids. But the reservoir had to be placed in from the side and it was very annoying trying to refill it on a long run or during a race. I could never quite get it back into the vest the right way and it would bother me for the remainder of the run. So I was looking for something with extra pockets and space but a top-loading pouch for the reservoir. Enter the Orange Mud Endurance Pack. I'm reviewing my top 5 reasons for loving this new pack!

Before I continue, I'm linking up with the Friday Five link up hosted by Courtney at Eat Pray Run DC, Cynthia at You Signed Up for What and Mar at Mar on the Run. Be sure to check them out when you're done reading here!

1. As mentioned previously, the main draw to this pack is the way you place the reservoir inside the pack. There is a large open pocket where you just put the reservoir in and secure in place with a velcro tab (the tab -the thing being held in the pic below- goes through the black top of the reservoir and secures it to the pack). You then weave the reservoir tube through the various tabs on the vest so it sits how you like it. I've used this pack on several 20+ runs now, including two 50Ks that required several refills and it was amazingly easy and fast. Score!

2. The pack has one large zippered pouch on the back of the pack where I can keep items that I won't need on a regular basis throughout the run but still need, such as my medical supplies and back-up fuel. There is also a key clip to attach your car key more securely than just leaving it loose within the pouch. In addition to the zippered pouch, there is also an open pouch between the reservoir pouch and the zippered pouch for even more storage. I bought the endurance pack upgrade that includes cords and locks, as well as hardware to secure trekking poles to the pack. If I'm going to do a 100-miler next year, I need a way to secure jackets and poles that I'll need throughout that jaunt. This was attached easily to the large zippered pouch and works perfectly as advertised.

3. There are 4 pockets on the front: two that are open and can be closed by tightening the cords and two pockets that have velcro closures for items that need to be more secure. I keep my phone and food I'll need right away in one of the open pockets (that I can tighten with the cord) and then more food or another bottle in the other front pocket. I got the soft flask that has a tube and bite valve, that collapses as you drink. It's really convenient to have extra fluids but have the option to fold it up and put it in the pack when I'm done.

4. The pack comes with a 2 liter hydrapak fluid reservoir. It has a quick-remove tube, a locking bite valve and is really easy to fill and subsequently clean. This is a great reservoir that will last a long time and didn't have any plastic taste upon first use. I did rinse water through the tubing and bite valve a few times before filling it for my run.

5. This vest sits a little higher than other vests, which makes it much more comfortable for the long haul. My arms don't hit it while running and I don't feel I have a dead body laying on my back from my neck to my lower back. This sits right in the center of my back and, once the vest is adjusted, doesn't move.

Bonus: the vest came with a letter written by the owner of Orange Mud with tips on cleaning, storing and using your pack. There are tips in there that will save you time in learning how to adjust the pack and get it to your own specifications. That was a nice touch.

Note- I purchased this pack with my own birthday money and did not get compensated in any way. The opinions and photos are my own.

Do you run with a hydration system? Do you prefer a vest, belt or hand-held? Have you tried Orange Mud?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Five Ingredient Potato Corn Chowder

We're pretty big on soup in our house. I love a good soup, even when it's hot outside. I made this potato corn chowder and was asked for the recipe, so here it is! It's incredibly easy, has only 5 ingredients and is absolutely delicious. And if you decide to make it vegetarian, it's even easier!

Before I continue, I'm linking up with the Friday Five link up hosted by Courtney at Eat Pray Run DC, Cynthia at You Signed Up for What and Mar at Mar on the Run. Be sure to check them out when you're done reading here!

I'm also linking up with the Foodie Friday link up hosted by Annmarie at the Fit Foodie Mama, Farrah at Fairyburger, Esther at Chocolate Runner Girl and Jess at Hello to Fit. Check out their amazing recipes when you're done here!

1. Three pounds of baby Yukon Gold potatoes
2. 6 slices of uncured bacon (omit if you want to keep it vegan)
3. 32oz chicken broth (or use vegetable broth for vegan option)
4. 1-1.5 cup corn
5. My secret ingredient - 1 Gala or other sweet apple (unpeeled and cored)

Place the potatoes and broth in a large pot and bring to a boil. Add about half the corn to the pot. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. While the potatoes are cooking, chop the bacon into small pieces. Cook in a skillet on medium high heat until cooked to your liking. Add the remaining corn and cook until done. Chop your apple into small pieces and add to the potatoes. Using an immersion blender, carefully blend the soup together until the potatoes, corn and apple are smooth. Be careful not to splash the soup out of the pot. If you don't have an immersion blender, you can place the potatoes/corn/apple/broth mixture carefully into a conventional blender or your food processor to blend. Once blended, add the bacon and remaining corn and stir well. Serve!

That's it! I add the apple for a little sweetness but it's completely optional. It really depends on my mood.

Do you enjoy soup? What are some of your favorites?

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Five Trail Running Essentials

When it comes to trail running vs. road running, you may think things aren't really that much different between the two forms of running. And in the grand scheme of things, they aren't really that much different. But as anyone knows, when it comes to running, things aren't always as they seem. Trail running can get down right dangerous if you don't have some key items and while you may not use them every time you're out on the trail, just having them can make your trail running experience more enjoyable. You will feel more confident and capable as a runner. Maybe even a little badass. And when you're rocking it well on the trails, you'll see your road running improve exponentially. Here are five essential items I always have when running trails.

Before I continue, I'm linking up with the Friday Five link up hosted by Courtney at Eat Pray Run DC, Cynthia at You Signed Up for What and Mar at Mar on the Run. Be sure to check them out when you're done reading here!

Cell Phone

Always carry your cell phone with you when you run, but especially on trails. You never know when you may get lost or fall and hurt yourself and need to call for help. If you plan on being alone, be sure to tell somewhere where you are going and let them know when you are done so they don't worry. Another thing is to give people your location through Google Maps (you can share locations through texting) or use an app such as RoadID, Life360, Find Fiends or Strava, which now allows you to share locations. If you use Garmin Connect with your Garmin GPS, you can share your location through their app as well.

Trail Shoes

If you're running a soft, well-groomed fire road or single track trail, you could probably get away with running in road or hybrid shoes. But as you get into more technical trails with lots of rocks, blue stone (which is comparable to loose gravel) or climbing, it's best to have trail shoes that have more stability and traction. These conditions are very unstable and depending on your form, your pace and your shoes, can be very difficult. Remember, when conditions get difficult, shorten your stride, slow your pace and walk if necessary. But something that can help you are good trail running shoes. They differ from road-running shoes in that they're lower profile (lower to the ground), which reduces the chance of ankle rolls with a high heel. The rugged tread offers better traction on muddy, wet trails as well as on rocks. They should fit snug in the heel but have room in the toe box. There are tons to choose from, all with varying bells and whistles. Shoe brand aside, you should go with: what feels the most comfortable, has the best tread/lugs on the bottom to grip rocks, and toe protection so you don't stub your toes should you hit the rocks oddly while running.

I'm partial to Altras and wear gaiters from Dirty Girl Gaiters when needed

Hydration System

If you're running out on the trails for a short run of 30 minutes or less, you can probably do without a hydration system. But no trail-running-gear list would be complete without the mention of a hydration system. You will need to replenish fluids and electrolytes on runs that are over an hour and sometimes sooner depending on the conditions (hot, dusty trails are no fun without some form of hydration). I recommend a belt or vest over holding something. Believe it or not, holding something while running can alter your form, especially on super long runs. It affects your arm swing, which can throw off your balance and stride. It also creates tension in the arms and hands, wasting valuable energy. Look for a belt or vest that is adjustable, holds the amount of fluid you need, has a pouch (for phones, gels, keys, etc) and any other features you may want.

Personally speaking, I prefer a hydration vest to wearing a fuel belt. I have never been able to find a fuel belt that fits me just right. And when on the trails, I typically drink more fluids and need more fluids than what can be carried in a fuel belt (usually only 16-20oz in a water bottle). Usually there are no water sources out on the trails so you need to bring all of your fluids with you. That leaves a hydration vest as your best option. You can get one with a 1 liter bladder or a 2 liter bladder, depending on your needs. You can also get a vest that not only has a bladder but also has room for extra stuff. I've been running with the Orange Mud Endurance Pack lately, and I've shared my thoughts here on the blog!

Medical Supplies

Whether you're running 3 miles or 30 miles out on the trail, there is always a chance of a fall or other brush with nature. Throwing some bandaids, wipes, anti-biotic ointment, sunscreen and lip balm in your pack is a good idea. I also have a whistle in there just in case I need to call for help. You can put everything into a plastic bag and keep it in the section of your pack that you don't need to access during your run. I also recommend adding some tissues or toilet paper. You never know when the need to go will arise and it's better to be prepared than not.


Chances are you already wear a hat or visor and sunglasses while running on the road. But, they are essential when running trails. In our area, the trail systems are typically very exposed, meaning there is little-to-no tree cover. It gets hot and the sun is unrelenting. Protecting your eyes with sunglasses or a low hat or visor is very important. Not only do you need to protect your eyes from the UV rays, but it can also be very disorienting on the trails when the sun is in your eyes. And some trails, such as clay trails, tend to be blinding in the sun and quite dusty at times. Sunglasses make it easier to see and keep some of that dust out of your eyes. I always wear a hat and lately, they are of the trucker variety. These hats have larger bills and keep the sun out of my eyes better than the smaller running hats. And I get to wear cute ones like this one:

Do you run trails? What items are essential for you?

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Bulldog 50K Race Recap

Last weekend, I had the pleasure (is that really the right word?) of running the Bulldog 50K in Malibu Creek State Park. This served as one of two 50K training runs for the upcoming Cuyamaca 100K in October. Today I'm recapping the race in 5 quick and dirty points. Therefore, I'm linking up with the Friday Five link up hosted by Courtney at Eat Pray Run DC, Cynthia at You Signed Up for What and Mar at Mar on the Run. Be sure to check them out when you're done reading here!

1. The Bulldog 50K is run in Malibu Creek State Park, which is a beautiful park, campground, etc. that is part of the Santa Monica Mountain range. We ran this course back in December of last year when we did the Malibu Creek 50K. That was 2 loops of 15+ each to make up the 50K distance. This route was the exact opposite of the Malibu Creek course. Either way, it's 7+ miles up, followed by 7+ miles down, done twice. The course is both beautiful and hideous at the same time. It's beautiful because you are running gorgeous trails through Malibu Canyon up to the top of Mesa Peak and the views are just breathtaking, both of the canyon and the ocean. But it's hideous at the same time because it's close to 6000 ft elevation gain over the 2 loops, some of it quite steep. My quads were definitely feeling it the next day.

Beautiful Malibu Canyon 

2. If you're not interested in running the 50K, they also have a 25K (one loop) that starts an hour after the 50K starts. It's still a tough race but at least you're done when you get to the finish line. And you've conquered a tough course. Super rewarding!!

3. The trail is a mix of soft, smooth single track and technical trail. It is rocky at times, especially on the downhills. There were some runners that fell on the downhills. When approaching the top of the Mesa Peak, you're climbing up and over smooth rock. Which can be difficult on tired legs. But overall, the trail is really manageable and as long as you're focused, you'll be ok. And one thing I was SUPER happy about was that you do not have to run through the finish line when you finish the first loop. The 50K runners were directed back onto the course without having to pass through the finish line for the 25K. I can't tell you how mentally disruptive it is to pass through a finish line and know you have another hideous amount of running ahead of you. It was nice not having to deal with that.

4. The course runs through the original outdoor set of M*A*S*H (both the movie and the TV show). As many of you know already, I'm kind of a celebrity hound and I love stuff like this. I was pretty obsessed with running through the site during the Malibu Creek race. It also served as an aid station for that race, so we could stop and look around. For Bulldog, it wasn't an aid station and we ran through it pretty early on in the course (maybe 2-3 miles in, I don't remember). So I wasn't really that interested in stopping on the first loop. But on the second loop, I couldn't resist and I stopped for some pics. Yes, I'm a dork.

The signpost during the show. Pic courtesy of

The signpost today! 

5. The aid stations and course support were just amazing. The course was really well marked with ribbons, tape and chalk/flour. It would have been really difficult to get lost. And the aid stations had everything from soda, electrolytes, fruit, pretzels, peanut butter sandwiches, gummy bears, Pringles (these were great!) and water. There was more but I just focused on the Coke and Pringles. The volunteers were all upbeat and helpful. They were so great. The post-race food was good too. But honestly, all I remember was the watermelon at the end. We were so hot, that was the only thing that seemed appetizing!

Vanessa and me enjoying our post-race treat! 

I really liked the Bulldog 50K a lot. It did get pretty hot on the second loop, but I think we lucked out with getting some super overcast skies for over half of the race. While this was a training run for me, I do think I would do this one again some day. I loved the race organization, the belt buckle instead of a medal and the awesome trail running vibe. Though the traffic from San Diego to Malibu was NOT fun; nor was it fun coming home after the race. I think we spent more time in the car than running the race. And I'm not exaggerating!!

What fun races have you done lately? Do you ever use races for training runs?