Thursday, May 31, 2018

May Books

I am stoked that even with our MoviePass membership, I am still getting in a decent amount of books. Let's be real, not having cable TV to keep me "entertained" gives me more free time to dive into a great book or seven ;)

There were TWENTY-FOUR books in the first four months of the year, so when I add May's FIVE that brings the total for 2018 to TWENTY-NINE! If you're interested in what I read (and how I'd rate them) or need suggestions on a book to grab, make sure to check out my previous write-ups! {January's Books / February Books / March Books / April Books}

  • The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin - If I remember correctly (which I may or may not... who knows?!), I didn't necessarily get a personal recommendation for this book but saw a few friends reading it (and noticed it on some "must read" lists) so jumped on the waiting list at the library (PS I normally jump in line at the library for books with long wait lists because I assume they must be good, which is not always the case, but figure people must be waiting for a good reason ;)). Thankfully this long wait panned out because I really enjoyed the book. I had no idea what it was about, but it was definitely worth the wait. I liked how the story was told in four different parts (one by each of the Gold children). Each of the characters were so different that it gave the book four different vibes, while still fitting together perfectly. The premise behind the book - knowing the date you will die - was very intriguing. {Had you start pondering the idea of if you knew the date you were going to die, would it change the way you were going to live.} There are definitely some graphic scenes in the beginning (quickly reminding me this was NOT a YA book), but I didn't think it detracted from the story. I'll be honest, I enjoyed the first two parts better than the last two, but still couldn't put it down. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • Presence by Amy Cuddy - I don't remember where exactly I came across this book (maybe it was on someone's Facebook post about the most influential book you've read recently), but I was stoked to give it a read. The author has actually given the second most viewed TED talk in history so I was expecting big things from this title. I love self-improvement type books and was hoping this one would have a ton of great nuggets I could take with me. I'll be honest... I was a little disappointed. It felt very clinical to me. I totally understand that she wants to back up her findings with evidence, but I felt like the majority of the book was about studies and experiments as opposed to real life outcomes. Since finishing the book I was able to watch her TED talk and thought it was great. I felt like the talk (maybe because it was only 20 minutes long) really focused on the main points of the book {FYI - The talk came first and due to the popularity and success of it, she then wrote this book to expand on the topic.}. If you have watched the talk or would like the science behind how body language can change your chemistry then this has plenty of info for you. If you would rather have the brief overview of power posing, I'd suggest sticking with the video. I would give it a 7 out of 10.

  • 10% Happier by Dan Harris - I will be honest, I added this book to my "On Hold" list at my library over a year ago... Apparently the person who had checked it out last had lost it (or kept it for themselves) and they finally got around to replacing it last week. With that said, I totally forgot what this book was about - but thought the title would be interested enough. Turns out, it's about a news anchor who has found meditation as a way to "tame the beast" in his head and become "10% happier". Let me start off by saying we don't have cable (and even if we did I wouldn't watch the news) so I have no idea who this broadcaster is. Even still, it was interesting to learn about him, his career and his journey in finding meditation. I wish I could say that I walked away with a bunch of tangible steps on how to become happier, but it wasn't necessarily that kind of book (it is definitely more of an autobiography than a "how to" books). I was left a little disappointed because it turned out to be more a book about someone finding meditation, rather than teaching the discipline itself. It did, however, remind me that I need to get back on the meditation train. I would give it a 6 out of 10.

  • The Little Book of Feminist Saints by Julia Pierpont - I saw this book at the library and had to grab it. I didn't know anything about it but would consider myself a feminist (FYI - Feminists are NOT people who hate men, but someone who supports women's rights. Feminists include ALL genders.) and figured I could learn about some amazing women. And learn I did! This book is laid out similar to a Catholic saint-of-the-day book, but instead of short biographies of the 100 women, each entry is a colorful anecdote that makes each woman unique! Like a traditional book of saints, each woman featured in the book has her own "feast day." It was a quick read (only about 100 pages of content, with 100 pages of illustration to accompany each "saint"). It gives you bite-sized information on a bunch of important ladies and why they’re so inspiring. It’s the perfect coffee table book (and one you'll want to gift to your #BadassLadyGang). It definitely introduced me to many women I didn't know much about and appreciate the broad array of feminists included. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish - I think I saw this book on someone's Instagram stories so I added it to my library list. I don't know anything about Tiffany, but apparently she is a pretty famous comedian. When I found that out I was expecting this book to be funny... it's not. It is about her real life experiences that she's lived and that have brought her to where she is today. And let's just say they are real and raw - including things like rape, domestic violence, etc. I think because I went into this book assuming it was going to be a comedy I was thrown off and didn't love it. I appreciate that she was keeping it real and her underlying theme of "if I can get through this, so can you" but it just didn't completely resonate with me. It was a very quick read though so I didn't feel like I had committed too much time not to see it through to the end. (Maybe knowing her and her type of comedy might have given me more insight before picking up the book.) I would give it a 5 out of 10.

With that, May has come to a close. My reading may have slowed (towards the end of May I wasn't too interested in picking up a book... maybe because this month wasn't filled with a ton I loved), but I definitely hope it never completely stops. If you have any suggestions, let me know! I'm always willing to add them to my queue if our library offers them!

What was the best book you read this month?

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Movies of the Month {May}

A few months ago the hubby and I each signed up for a MoviePass membership. In case you're unfamiliar with the program, you pay $9.95 per month and can see as many movies in the theater as you'd like (there are a few restrictions... like "unlimited" means one per day, only certain theaters work, no 3D or IMAX films, and can only see the same movie once, but for the most part it's all-inclusive). Although going to the theater has never really been my jam, it speaks the hubby's love language so I signed us up. {FYI - On Tuesdays, our local theater's movie tickets are discounted for $7 a piece, but otherwise the cheapest you can find is $10.70 for a matinee... which means if you go more than once a month you're technically saving money!} Since we're seeing more movies now, maybe you wanna know our thoughts on them.

So, let's get into it already, shall we?! I mean, that's why you are visiting the blog today, right?! You all are sitting on the edge of your seat waiting to get our thoughts on the movies we saw... I guess you can call us the new Siskel and Ebert!

Super Troopers 2

I'll be completely honest, I've never seen the first Super Troopers (I always figured it was just stupid {and less humor}), but when the hubby asked me if I wanted to join him to see the sequel I figured I'd bank a couple "good wife points" and hit up the theater with him. I wasn't expecting much, but I'm happy to report it was entertaining. I wouldn't say it was necessarily my cup of tea (and I definitely wouldn't have spent movie theater ticket prices to see it) but I chuckled a few times and it wasn't as idiotic as I was expecting. Again, maybe it was because I figured it'd be terrible so when I didn't want to walk out half way through I considered it a win ;) Also, I didn't feel like I really missed anything having not seen the first one. PS The hubby really enjoyed it, so maybe it's "guy humor" (but you could probably assume that from the previews, right?!).



Okay, so I know what you're thinking... "Wait, didn't think movie come out in 1986?" and I would answer, "Yes, in fact it did", but apparently Fathom Events thought it was good enough to bring back to the theater for three days. If they were willing to bring it back to the big screen, I figured we should probably give it a few minutes of my time and watch it. Neither the hubby nor I had never seen this movie before but had a free evening on one of the nights it was nearby so went to the theater. Ryan made a joke part way through and said it might make more sense if we were tripping on acid. It was definitely an "interesting" movie, but we left smiling and enjoyed ourselves. I'm sort of surprised I had never seen it before. It's funny to see how far movie making, special effects, etc has come since this movie was released. The only bummer part was that it was supposed to start at 7pm, but with all of the pre-movie stuff (trivia, "previews", a Jim Henson Storyteller short, etc) it didn't actually start till about 7:55pm. PS Did you know there was a costume contest for the movie goers?! Had I known this or known what to wear maybe I would have participated ;)



The Ted Kennedy scandal of Chaddaquiddick was before our time (we were babies of the eighties), so I didn't know much about the movie before going in. Although it might not be 100% accurate (but then again, even the movies which are "based on true events" never really claim to be the absolute truth, do they?!), both the hubby and I enjoyed it. It is interesting how much say the "winners" have on history. Americans tend to give a pass to celebrities, fame and status... and in this instance the pass was given when it came to a woman's life. The hubby and I both left shaking our heads about the amount of spin that politics (and even the news/ media) puts on reality. I wouldn't say this was a movie you need to run out to the theater to see (not many of them are... unless they've got amazing special effects or you love the actors), but with our Movie Passes we definitely weren't bummed we spent the time seeing the film. I would have been interested to see a little more of the "after", but I guess they assume you know or have followed Teddy Kennedy after the incident.


I Can Only Imagine

We weren't really sure what to expect from this movie. We have seen Christian films in the past and, to be honest, some of them have been pretty corny. Both the hubby and I surprisingly walked away really enjoying this one. I would say that it wasn't overtly Christian (even though it is about a chart topping Christian song by MercyMe and the lead singer's backstory). The movie focuses on forgiveness, love and trying to make things right before it's too late. I didn't feel as though it was being too preachy or in your face about Jesus (but the underlying tone was definitely there). The hubby said it sort of reminded him of Extreme Makeover Home Edition because he used to get choked up watching that too (#MoveThatBus), but redemption stories tend to pull on your heart strings. Like most of the movies we've seen, I wouldn't say it's a must to see in the theater, but we enjoyed seeing how the best-selling Christian single of all time came to be.


Avengers: Infinity War

Finally we get to a movie I'd say is worth seeing on the big screen (thanks to the special effects)! But before I get to that, let me discuss the movie as a whole. In general I really enjoyed it. I've never been into comics, but super hero movies are definitely entertaining and this one lived up to the hype for me. At times I felt like the movie was a little like the NFL Network's RedZone where it switches between games that appear to have scoring opportunities since the movie kept jumping from one epic battle scene to another, but I guess that just means it was action packed. Also, I haven't seen all the movies that the characters in this one were in (like Dr. Strange, Vision, etc), but I didn't really feel like I needed to know their back stories to enjoy this movie (but I'll be honest - it was a bit overwhelming to keep everything straight). Overall the hubby and I both liked this one even though you got the sense it was setting the stage for a follow-up film.



I had mentioned this movie in one of my Friday Favorites post earlier in the month because I was STOKED when I saw it show up on my MoviePass app. You see, I LOVE RBG and had NO IDEA there was a movie about her coming out. She is DA BOMB DOT COM! The hubby was swamped with work (we were entertaining his mom and uncle the week before so he didn't get much work done while they were in town) and the film finally was showing near us so I made my way to the theater. Since I have read multiple books about Ruth Bader Ginsburg I knew the majority of the information they shared about her, but it was still awesome to see it on the big screen. She literally is a ROCKSTAR when it comes to women's rights! I am thrilled that more people may learn about her and her amazingness thanks to this new documentary! Although I wouldn't say you need to see this at the movie theater, but I do hope you take the 90 or so minutes and watch the film!


American Dream: Detroit

When we were at another one of the Fathom Events we saw the preview for this movie. If you've been around my neck of the InterWebs for a while you know the hubby and I are both from Michigan so you better believe we were going to go see this film (even if it wasn't at our local theater and had to drive to find it). It was created and directed by Michael Bolton and was only in the theater for one day. We both really enjoyed it. Detroit often gets a bad wrap so I was STOKED to see some of the positive changes finally getting some publicity. Now I'm in no way saying that Detroit is "back", is "fixed" or doesn't have more changes that need to be made, but it's definitely moving in the right direction! I hope that even though you won't be able to see this film in the theaters that you still find it and give it a watch! If the hubby and I were to move back to the Mitten I'm sure we'd end up in either Detroit or Ann Arbor and once you see this film you'll understand why.


The Snowman Trek

The hubby and I had been looking forward to this film for a while. It's a documentary about a team of ultra runners (and the film crew and in-country team) tackling a 189 mile trail in Bhutan. Their plan was to set a speed record on the world's hardest trek. Bhutan's high Himalayan landscape is not known for athletic pursuits and its culture must be persuaded to let the runners pursue their dream. Seeing as this was a one-night event it was a bummer when the hubby realized he had already bought tickets and planned to go to a concert on the same night, but I was still down to go see the movie. I really enjoyed it (and I'm sure the hubby will love it whenever he is able to find it). I felt like it reminded me a bit of our three week road trip (all of the rain and inclement weather) and our Grand Canyon adventure (having to change up the game plan, be patient and enjoy the journey when you aren't going as quickly as you originally hoped or had planned). I loved that the team was eventually able to change their perspective, find the joy in the running and still accomplish their goals.


Deadpool 2

I remember really enjoying Deadpool, but after seeing it when it first came out I haven't seen it again... but thankfully you didn't necessarily need to remember the nitty gritty details to enjoy the sequel. The hubby and I both really enjoyed this one (although, truth be told, I seem to remember laughing out loud a lot more at the original). We love how it doesn't take itself too seriously (and often times will not only mock superhero movies but also themselves as actors or projects they have been a part of {read: Green Lantern}). It is definitely a little more vulgar than your standard superhero film, but that is where the comedy comes into play. I even got chocked up a little at the end which I was NOT expecting. I would totally recommend seeing this one in the theater (but know that it is NOT a kids movie... even though it jokes about being a "family film"). Now I think it's time for the hubby and I to go back and we-watch the first one soon!


Book Club

Believe it or not, but this was the hubby's pick! This is not the usual type of movie we would see in the theaters (or necessarily watch in general), but the previews looked decent and in between some house chores the hubby said he wanted to take a quick break and go see it. We were the youngest people in the theater by a good 20 or 30 years, but that sort of made it better - because when the crowd was cracking up at a joke we knew it was grandmas and grandpas having a laugh and it made us chuckle more. It was actually a very funny movie (I was worried all the funny parts were in the previews). The hubby even said he laughed more during this one than most recent movies we've seen - and that's saying something because he normally laughs at just about anything! Now I wouldn't say you need to rush out to the theater and see it, but if it shows up in a Redbox near you or you have time on an airplane it is definitely worth your 90 minutes or so!



The hubby and I both thought the preview looked intriguing for this one and figured it would be worth going to see. Little did we know it would only be in our local theater for a couple weeks so we would need to drive a ways to go see it. Thankfully the drive was well worth it because we both really liked this one! I'm not going to give anything away, but there was definitely a twist in the story that neither of us saw coming. Although I am not a mother (and never plan on becoming one), this story seems incredibly real. This film depicts motherhood as messy and loud and difficult AF (which I can only imagine are some of the emotions this stage of life produces to the tenth degree). Let's just say that the struggle is real and it is really portrayed in this film. You might not need to see this one in the theaters (by the time you are reading this it might not even be at one near you even if you wanted to see if there), but I would totally say you should give it a watch!


Life of the Party

This is one the hubby wasn't sold on seeing so while he was working one afternoon I went over to the theater on my own. I'll be honest (as if you would expect anything else ;)), it wasn't amazing, but I'd say it was entertaining, funny and had a few heart felt moments. I didn't go in with high expectations (I was thinking it would be somewhat like a female version of Old School but probably not as funny) and because of that I really enjoyed it. It's definitely not theater worthy, but if you're ever looking to fill some time, laugh a bit and have a couple "awwww" moments, then I'd totally suggest grabbing it.



I may not be a die hard Star Wars fan (I definitely didn't grow up with the films... I actually watched them all in college when the hubby was just a boyfriend and I knew he loved them), but I enjoy the movies. With that said, I guess I didn't walk into this film with as much trepidation as others may have (worried that this Han wouldn't live up to the role, that Disney was ruining the series, etc). I didn't know much about the film before going in (the hubby and I tried to stay away from reviews or spoilers before heading to the theater) and I am happy to say the trailers we saw didn't seem to give too much away beforehand. And, don't worry, you won't get any spoilers from me... Other than the fact that the hubby and I both walked away from this one really enjoying it! I felt like even if Star Wars isn't your jam you could still be entertained. Also, you didn't necessarily need to know all of the details about the other movies to see this one. Yes, there were some parts that tied well with the existing films, but this origin story can still stand on its own. And although I couldn't buy into some of the drama because I knew Solo couldn't die (this was his origin story), I loved some of the twists along the way.



This was another one of the hubby's picks (strange but true). I would have been okay not going to the theater to see it, but we had a couple extra hours and the sun was hidden with May Gray, so why not?! I didn't actually realize it was a remake of a 1987 movie (but then again, I would have been 3 years old at the time of its release so I guess you can forgive me, right?!). I went in expecting it to be pretty predictable... and it was... but surprisingly we both thought it was decent. I wouldn't say that this film will be making its way onto any "best of" lists anytime soon, but it was sweet and charming. I probably wouldn't go out of my way to watch it a second time, but it kept me entertained the first go-around.


And with that our May movies have come to an end. I was able to see 14 movies while the hubby saw 11. I think that is what you consider a WIN for the McDots ;) With our MoviePass membership, my movies each cost approximately $0.71 a viewing and the hubby's were $0.90 - a MAJOR savings compared to actual box office prices! BOOMSHAKALAKA!

What was the last movie you saw in the theater?

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Run to Save Lives

Let me start this post by saying I DO NOT HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS! I do not know exactly what needs to be in the realm of gun reform, but that doesn't mean I will sit idly by and let the violence continue. School shootings, mass murders, terrorism - these horrors should NOT be an every day occurrence... one we as a society are quickly becoming numb to!


I hope you know this is a space place - a place where people are free to respectfully state their opinions, no matter how different. This post is NOT meant to be divisive, but simply a starting point for conversation. Hopefully it will get you thinking about the issues at hand (and potentially about how this upcoming election can impact matters such as these).

Everytown for Gun Safety is a movement of Americans working together to end gun violence and build safer communities. Gun violence touches every town in America. For too long, change has been thwarted by the Washington gun lobby and leaders who refuse to take common-sense steps that will save lives. Everytown starts with you, and it starts in your town.
As I am sure we are all well aware, the reasons for gun violence are complex, but Everytown believes real change on a few key issues will help save lives and I agree they're a great place to start. They are fighting to close the loopholes that allow criminals and other dangerous people to buy guns without background checks. They are supporting laws that keep guns away from domestic abusers. They are educating parents about safe storage and responsible gun ownership. They are advocating for stronger trafficking laws to give law enforcement the tools they need to crack down on criminals. 

Now you may be saying to yourself, "Carlee, that's great, but what can I actually do about it?" I'm so glad you asked!

First and foremost, get informed! Look into how your elected officials feel about gun reform. {This link shows how your members of Congress have voted on past gun bills.} Then VOTE! There is a primary election next week where you can make your voice heard. If the officials in your area don't line up with your ideals and values, vote for someone who does!


Next, wear orange. Friday, June 1st is National Gun Violence Awareness Day and every year, Everytown and their partners across the country ask folks to #WearOrange as a way to honor those who have lost their lives and loved ones and to demand a future free of gun violence. Why orange? It's a color that symbolizes the value of human life. Hunters wear orange to alert other hunters that they're there -- as a way to take care of their own life and the lives of others. A color so loud it can't be ignored. And Everytown is doing its part to turn orange into a symbol for the value of human life everywhere. There are also a myriad of local events you can attend during Wear Orange Weekend, June 1-3.


Another option is to run! On June 2nd we're running to save lives! Whether you run virtually, or host and/or join a meet-up in your area, we have to get out, be seen, and join the millions of voices demanding change because enough is enough. {I will be running the Rock 'N' Roll San Diego 5K on June 2nd so will be unable to attend (or host) a meet-up, but you better believe I already have my She Can & She Did ORANGE "tubular bandana wrap" ready to rock for the race!}

Not only are we running for Everytown, but we're raising money so they can continue to make our country a safer, more sensible one. Every single donation (be it your time, voice, or money) makes a difference. If this cause has your name on it, please consider giving to help Everytown in their mission. This Gun Violence Awareness Day, we run for them.


Did you know on an average day 96 Americans are killed with guns?

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Workout Recap - Week 21

Sunday, May 20th – 11 mile run, Stretched & Foam Rolled

Monday, May 21st – 60 minutes on the stationary bike, Stretched & Foam Rolled

Tuesday, May 22nd – 14 mile run, Stretched & Foam Rolled

Wednesday, May 23rd – 5 mile run with the hubby, Stretched & Foam Rolled

Thursday, May 24th – 10 mile run

Friday, May 25th – 8 mile run

Saturday, May 26th – Rest Day (2 mile hike with the hubby and pup), Stretched & Foam Rolled

Getting back into the swing of things and it feels so good! The hubby was finishing up a Strava challenge (wanted to climb over 2,000 meters this month) so he did some of his runs on his own, which meant I could get in some longer distances. The body is feeling good, even though I missed foam rolling and stretching a couple days this week (I normally do it before I go to bed and was just too wore out by the time I should have been getting out the foam roller so I skipped it). The goal will be to get back to it daily for this upcoming week (especially since I have two races this weekend!).

How were your workouts this past week?

Friday, May 25, 2018

Friday Favorites

Who has two thumbs and is excited it's Friday?! THIS GIRL! I don't know why but this week drug on and on... so I'm STOKED that it's finally the weekend! Last weekend the hubby and I tried to tackle our ever growing to-do list (and got a large chunk of the items handled) so I am thinking this weekend calls for some maxin' and relaxin' (after our standard Friday "chips and salsa" date that is ;)). But before I check out for the weekend, let's see what I have been loving lately:

The North Face Collapsable Cups

Hopefully by now you know I try my bestest to take care of the environment... so when I saw that The North Face was making their five US ultras CUPLESS I was STOKED to say the least! In an effort to combat excess waste from disposable cups, The North Face announced last week that it will use reusable cups during its Endurance Challenge Series. The “cupless” movement will go forth during its five ultras through the use of HydraPak SpeedCups. The Endurance Challenge started going cupless with its Washington, D.C., event in April and New York in May. The rest of the series will take place in June, September, and November in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and California, respectively. By going cupless, they will effectively prevent 140,000 cups from taking up space at the landfill. Each HydraPak SpeedCup is collapsible, holds 200 mL of fluid, and weighs 10 grams. Reusable cups are common among ultramarathons in Europe, but races in the U.S. have yet to adopt the movement in full. EVERY CUP COUNTS!


ROAD iD Elite Bands

I have been rocking a ROAD iD Elite for a while now. Apparently they used to have an aqua/ turquoise color but stopped making that band (#SadPanda), so I settled on a boring black. Recently they just added some new, limited edition band colors and you better believe I'm loving them! Banana, Dragonfruit, Fuego and Grasshopper are definitely more my color palate (the brighter the better), so I'll probably have to stock up on replacement bands soon! I'm still holding out hope that they'll bring back an aqua or turquoise band in the future, but I guess until then I'll have to be okay with these.


Run with Des and Meb

Last week I shared about the #RaceDavid story. If you missed it, a BA six year old wants to use his new racing prosthetics to RACE THE WORLD! He will be starting this goal at the Rock 'N' Roll San Diego 5K. Not only can you help David on his quest to race everyone in the world, but you can also meet and greet AND run with superstars Des and Meb throughout the weekend! OH HECK TO THE YES! If you are running either the 5K or Half Marathon you have a chance to run with them (Des will be pacing the 2:00 Half Marathon group and Meb will be pacing the 1:30 Half Marathon group). If you aren't running but will be in the area you can always go to the meet and greets! PS If you want to run and haven't registered yet, feel free to use code "RNRRNB2018" to save $15 on the half and full marathon distances!

Etee Wraps

My mom tagged me in the @shopetee Instagram account so I had to check it out. As soon as I saw it I was intrigued. You see, the hubby and I try our best to be as environmentally friendly as possible. This company created beeswax & essential oil food wraps that keep food fresh, but without all the negative health and environmental side effects that accompany plastic products. After more than a year of testing, they developed a reusable (natural and biodegradable) way to keep food as fresh as plastic! On average the wraps get 120-150 uses! Now, I've gotta be honest and say I haven't tried them, so I can't corroborate their claims, but if they work as well as they say they do, then these could be a game changer! Just think of all the single use plastic (from saran wrap to ziplock bags) they could save the planet!

What are you loving lately?

Thursday, May 24, 2018

REVIEW: Nathan VaporKrar & VaporHowe 12L Race Vests

As hopefully you are aware, the hubby and I tackled the Grand Canyon a few weeks ago, completing our Rim2Rim2Rim adventure in approximately 16 hours. It was absolutely one of the most amazing experiences we've done thus far!

Let's be real, attempting to cross the Grand Canyon twice is NO cake walk! With an elevation change of 20,000 feet, and a potential temperature change of 70+ degrees, this trek requires some serious planning. Once we had decided to take on the challenge, the first step was figuring out how to train for the beast (which we did by using a 50-miler ultra training plan and incorporating stair workouts and trail runs). After having the training plan, next up was figuring out THE GEAR!

Not only have I worked with Nathan in the past on some giveaways, but the hubby and I love and use their products regularly! (Any run over 3ish miles we both have Nathan Handhelds we carry with us and whenever I'm running in the dark I have multiple of their visibility lights I rock to keep me safe and seen!) Shortly after setting our date in stone I reached out to my contact to see if they would be interested in outfitting us with some of their hydration packs. Although the hubby and I both had packs (I had been using the same Nathan Intensity Race Vest for the past 5 years and the hubby had one I received as a reward for fundraising for the AFSP one year), I knew we needed to step up our game.

Well, let's just say the sweet folks at Nathan HOOKED IT UP! They offered to send the hubby and I both a 12L Race Vest (the hubby got the VaporKrar 12L Men's Vest and I got the VaporHowe 12L Women's Vest) - OH HECK TO THE YES!

As all of you should know, you shouldn't try anything new on "race" day... that means you've gotta train with what you are planning to use on your BIG day. Well, unfortunately the vest they were sending me was out of stock, so in the meantime they sent me the VaporHowe 4L Women's Vest so I could get the feel of the pack and make sure everything would work for me. The first test would be a soggy 17 mile trail run - and let's just say they passed with flying colors!

The first thing we both noticed was the apparel-like fit with a lightweight, breathable structure. They literally fit like a glove. The VaporKrar comes in sizes ranging from XS to XL and the VaporHowe offers XXS to XL sizes (and is really designed to fit the female form specifically) to give you that perfect fit. There was no strange rubbing or bad bouncing. The vests fit snug and super comfortable. The compression system tightens the load against your back for stability and it sits high enough to feel ergonomically correct. The fabric reminds me of a tech shirt feel and it dries super quickly.

It rained on us for the first 15 miles of this run and yet our packs were dry by the time we got to the car!

And, let me tell you, we know a thing or two about the vests drying quickly because we brought them with us on our three week van trip up and down the West Coast where we did the majority of our runs in the rain. (Thankfully a few days before we left the VaporHowe 12L Women's Vest was restocked and one made its way to me before we hit the road!) 

We got in about 18 runs on the road and these must have been the only two sunny ones ;) 

Like I said, soggy trail miles were definitely done with these packs!

After getting in a handful of long runs with these vests we were both sure they'd be perfect for the Grand Canyon (actually, I'd say after the first run or two we were sold, but you gotta fully test them before you make a huge commitment, right?!). Because, let's remember, R2R2R is not a sanctioned race... It's not even a race at all... It is an unsupported ultra (depending on the trail(s) you take it could range from about 42 to 48 miles) where you have to take EVERYTHING you need with you (including layers of clothes, external batteries, headlamps, purification tablets, ALL THE FOOD, etc)! So the vest is not only important when it comes to comfort and hydration needs, but also how much gear you can fit in it!

I told you we brought everything with us ;) 

Thankfully these packs stood up to the test! We jammed them full of goodies and had zero issues the entire 16ish hours!

The VaporHowe 4L comes with two 12oz ExoShot soft flasks, with extended straw tubes to easily sip fluids without
removing flasks from the front pockets so I put those in the VaporHowe 12L so I would have more hydration on me.
(Thought I'd mention it because you may notice them in the front pockets during the Grand Canyon run.)

Even when we thought the packs were "full" we were still able to squeeze our jackets and gloves into them (we warmed up QUICKLY once we hit the trail and started to de-layer within the first mile or two). The material's stretch allowed us to fill every nook and cranny (and we still had room to spare!). There are tons convenient stash pockets for your essentials!

As you can see, there are even spots to attach your trekking poles to the bag! PS I may have felt a little like a
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle with the "shell" on my back, but it was never a burden or too cumbersome. 

The temperatures got up in the 90s while we were in the bottom of the canyon and I never felt like the pack was too hot or making me uncomfortable. We were also in and out of them every 45 minutes or so because we were doing our best to stay on top of our nutrition (one of the most important aspects) and they were super easy to take off/ put on/ get into.

I do have to say, after wearing my luggage on my shoulders in Boston the previous week, once we hit about the 14 hour mark of wearing this pack my shoulders did start to suffer. I would like to mention that I have fibromyalgia and one of my trigger areas is my shoulders so I'd attribute the pain to my fibro and NOT the bag, but you know I've gotta #KeepItReal so wanted to mention it. The hubby said he felt comfortable the entire time (well, his legs didn't, but that's another story ;)). 

My face says "when can we do this again?!" and his says "why do I let her talk me into these shenanigans?!".

All-in-all I would give these vests two MAJOR thumbs up! They did exactly what we needed them to and MORE! I have no doubt these will be accompanying us on many more adventures! I think if I had two critiques I'd say the women's pack color could be darker (don't get me wrong, I love bright colors, but these lighter colors definitely show dirt easily and they tend to get grubby quickly on the trails) and could use a waterproof zippered pocket in the front (I love having my phone handy to take photos and since we did a large chunk of our runs in the rain in the PNW during training I noticed the lack of a convenient, accessible, waterproof spot meant my phone stayed in my bag more often than I would have liked). But, honestly, those are nit-picky things in the grand scheme of things. When I asked the hubby if he had any suggestions or critiques, he thought for a couple minutes and said, "Nope, that vest is pretty BOMB DOT COM!" So there you have it ;)

What type of hydration gear do you bring with you on your runs?