Disclaimer: I received SiS isotonic gels to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!
I was pretty keen to try SiS gels as I know they are quite popular with my running friends in the UK. I received a very generous supply of SiS gels to test — Double Espresso, Apple, Salted Strawberry, and Lemon & Mint.
First The Science
So what’s all this Isotonic malarkey?! If you’ve taken gels before, you’ll probably know that you’re supposed to consume them with water. Isotonic gels are designed to be consumed without water, minimizing the risk of being bloated that can sometimes occur with over-drinking.
The isotonic formula allows the gel to empty from the stomach quickly as no fluid needs to be drawn into your stomach to dilute the gel, providing fast energy.
The SiS gel consistency is more watery than most other gels, which makes them real easy to consume on the run. The gel packs are also larger than regular gels, so you’ll need a little extra room to carry multiple gels packs on a longer run.
I had no problems carrying my normal supply (1 gel pack for every 5 miles) in my Flipbelt and Amphipod vest.
Now The Flavors
The “Double Espresso” gel has a 150mg boost of caffeine. When I group tested this pack, some of the crew did seem to benefit from the espresso jolt, sprinting to the finish of our long run.
I didn’t think I’d like the strong coffee flavor, actually I thought I’d hate it, but I didn’t! It was surprisingly palatable. However, due to the stronger flavor this gel is more suited pre-run (or post) as the caffeine effects can take up to one hour to kick in.
The yummy Apple flavor was my go-to for most runs, and the only isotonic flavor I was given to test. It had a subtle apple taste and was real easy to consume. This was also a group favorite as well.
Salted Strawberry and Lemon & Mint gels are packed full of extra electrolytes, but since these flavors are not isotonic, it’s recommended you consume some water along with them. If I’m on a long run that requires gels, I’m normally carrying water anyway.
When I shared out some gels with my running group, a couple of them commented on how the Salted Strawberry tasted like Guava Juice. I’ve never had Guava Juice, so I can’t compare!
I do have to say, I love these flavor combinations, they’re so fancy, and they definitely bring something a little different to the usual gel offerings.
As I mentioned above, the consistency of all these flavors is similar. They are not watery to the point they can be poured from the packet, which is great, as that may have caused issues for runners trying to consume them on the run!
Again, science, people.
Give It Away, Give It Away, Give It Away Now
Yes, it’s true, Science In Sport want to give away a pack of 6 gels each to 2 of my lovely social media followers. Go to the following post on Instagram, follow me, @alastairvance (if you haven’t already) and follow @scienceinsport. Then in the Instagram comments, tag two of your running buddies who could do with an energy boost. Easy peasey lemon squeezy.
Everyone’s A Winner, Baby, That’s The Truth
Didn’t win the drawing? Well, everyone is a winner here. Using code TRYSIS25 you can save 25% off your order on scienceinsport.com.
Check out other BibRave reviews of Science In Sport Isotonic Gels:
Disclaimer: I received a pair of AfterShokz Trekz Air headphones to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to find and write race reviews!
I have reviewed AfterShokz Trekz Air headphones before, and recently when AfterShokz released a range of new colors, I got a second pair in Midnight Blue. I’m glad, because my original slate grey Trekz Air headphones kept disappearing every time my wife went to the gym. 🤣
In the relatively short time since I last reviewed the Trekz Air, I’ve noticed the headphones popularity explode in the various running facebook groups that I frequent. They are definitely becoming something of a runner’s staple.
I’m also noticing that a lot of races that previously banned headphones for safety reasons DO permit bone conduction headphones. This is huge for AfterShokz — their bone conduction technology is the best out there.
It terms of weight, battery life, build quality, and safety, AfterShokz really deliver. My original pair of Trekz Air are still like brand new. The charge still lasts well over a week’s worth of running and gym visits.
As for comfort, nothing has changed there for me. There’s no bounce, or noticeable movement while running or exercising. So this time I did some more in-depth scientific testing. I wanted to ensure it even stayed put on little heads. My wee assistant, Xander, was only too happy to help.
Check out the results below (from my Instagram channel).
The good news is that you can now grab a pair of Trekz Air headphones for less money than before. The Trekz Air headhones are currently $149 from the AfterShokz website.
Alternatively, you can use code BRBUNDLE and get the $50 off the Trekz Air Adventure Bundle at bibrave.aftershokz.com.
Disclaimer: I received Ultima Replenisher to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to find and write race reviews!
Sometimes water is not enough.
When we sweat, our bodies are not just losing water, they are losing electrolytes, which play a vital role in how our bodies perform. So if we just drink water, we’re not replacing those essential ingredients (especially sodium) to help us from feeling rough during a workout (and probably for a while after).
The body reacts badly when we drink too much water (without the necessary electrolytes), and dilute our blood’s sodium concentration. This can result in headaches, sickness and fatigue.
Ultima Replenisher is a solution to this problem, and it happens to be a very tasty one. You can drink Ultima before, during and after your workouts. It comes in a number of different flavors, and the powder is very quick to mix up.
Ultima Replenisher is made with all 6 balanced electrolytes plus support minerals, real fruit flavors, plant-based colors, sweetened naturally with organic stevia leaf extract and no sugar, carbs or calories, ever!
It comes in 5 flavors — Orange, Cherry Pomegranate, Lemon, Raspberry, and Grape. My favorite flavor is Cherry Pomegranate, with Lemon being a close second.
My wife was out in the garden yesterday, planting flowers and spreading mulch in North Carolina heat and humidity. I quickly made her up a bottle of Lemon Ultima Replenisher and she loved it. She commented that the sweetness did not taste fake like other electrolyte based drinks we’ve tested.
After being out for a month because of an injury, I’m finding coming back to running and adjusting to the humidity outside has been difficult. I missed out on that transition period between Spring and Summer. Fortunately, Ultima Replenisher is helping me acclimatize a bit easier.
I ran this race way back in December last year and just noticed I had’t posted a review on it. Well, better late than never, right? This was the 2nd year I’d ran Race Across Durham. The first year, I signed up and ran it on my own, this year I brought a few pals along.
The trail conditions this time were really wet. They had to change the full marathon course drastically because of flooding. It looked like the 10 mile course would stay as planned, but on race day it was shortened to around 8.5-9 miles.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t mind that at all. My race pretty much sucked that day and I was glad to be done. I had really low energy and was not competing at the same level as the previous year. I found out later when I got home that I was running a fever which helped explain things. 🤢
I love racing (and training) along the Eno. The course had a few surprises this year too. There were a few bridges that had washed away in recent storms, so a couple of extra creek crossings were required!
In preparation for this race, I didn’t train quite as much in the Eno River State Park as last year, opting instead for the closer Umstead Park. The latter was a better option for the group, but I’m not sure provided the same level of training we needed.
The medals were hand-made again this year, using a slightly different design. I love these unique race medals. Check out last years review to see the medal from 2017.
As per last year, the food and drink afterward was great! We grabbed a table, and ate and drank as the band played. I have some video of Niles dancing, but she might kill me if I post it.
Friends and family can easily join for the post-race party if desired.
Race Across Durham is a race I look forward to every year now, and I’ll be signing up to run it this year again, no doubt about it. Registration usually opens at the start of July.
The 10 mile course is point-to-point. At the end you need to wait for a bus to transfer you out of the park and back to the start line where the post-race party takes place. This year the transport seemed to take longer — maybe I just got lucky the year before? We were waiting in line for what seemed like an hour to get on a bus. But. we made the most of it….
Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Allscripts Tobacco Road Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!
It’s kind of like a midlife crisis kind of thing. When you turn 40, you have to run the marathon, while all the parts still work properly.
Oh MRC! We trained together, and we raced together. Even though we knew we’d trained for this, and were familiar with the course, there was still a collective nervousness. We all knew that anything could happen on race day, anything.
But just look at those smiles from everyone at mile 25! We knew we had it in the bag! We were going to finish and we were going to be marathoners!
It was such an amazing experience! I’ve shared before that Tobacco Road was my first ever half marathon, and now it’s my first ever full marathon! This race will always have a special place in my heart.
The Early Start
There were a few grumbles about aiming to arrive in the parking lot by 5:15am. We had a parking pass, but it was still recommended that you arrived by 5:30am (for a 7am race start). It’s nice to get parked so close and convenient to the start/finish line, so I personally did not mind the early start.
We sat in the car for a while before venturing out to use porta-potties and take a few photos. I took the opportunity to meet up with my fellow BibRave Pros for a pre-race catch-up and obligatory photo!
The Starting Line
We found our space in the starting line around 6:45am. The half marathon and full marathon start at the same time and share the same route for the first 2.5 miles. So we squeezed into a crowd of 3,060 runners, 818 of those were running the full marathon.
There were ample pacers interspersed from the front to the back. They were all wearing bright yellow shirts for easy visibility. They carried signs which indicated the planned pace they would be running.
The morning started off a little chilly, but I knew it wouldn’t take long to warm up, so I only wore t-shirt and shorts, hat and gloves. This worked out perfect as after 20-30 minutes I was just right. It was totally worth the time standing around freezing before we started running.
The course started in Thomas E Brooks park in Cary. From there it run along on the road for 2.5 miles until it hit the trail. At that point the half marathon runners turned left, and the full marathon runners turned right.
We ran for around 6 miles down the American Tobacco Trail, an old railway line that has been converted to a trail. At around mile 8 we turned and came back. At mile 14 we crossed back over and ran the half marathon section of the trail. At mile 19 we turned and ran back again to the road which led back again to Thomas E Brooks park.
The entire American Tobacco Trail is tree-lined, and the trail itself is not wide. With runners coming both ways, you probably have room only for 2-3 abreast in each direction.
Most of the race was on hard-packed gravel (pictured above), but some of the trail (maybe 3-4 miles) was paved.
Since there is not a lot of access for spectators, I quite like passing the other runners and encouraging each other. Most of my group were ahead so I had a couple of sections on the course where I got to high-five everyone on their way past.
The race started off well. With my foot/ankle injury a few weeks back, I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the rest of the team. So I just relaxed and enjoyed the run. My ankle started to give the first signs of trouble around mile 6.
I was able to ignore it until around mile 14-15 when it became a little harder to keep going at the pace I was running at. I slowed down and took a few walk breaks to give my foot some rest. By this stage I was getting a sharp pain every so often when my foot struck the ground.
Marathon running, for me, was the most controlled test of mettle that I could ever think of. It’s you against Darwin.
Mile 20 felt just like it did in Ireland. It was exhausting. At mile 23 I started to get some calf cramps, but nothing too major and they didn’t stay too long.
At this stage of the race, the field had thinned out and you were running with people now around the same level. We’d take turns passing each other.
At one time I realized that I was going to complete this thing. It nearly brought me to tears — it wouldn’t be the only time.
Around mile 24 I was back on the road back to the park — to the finish line. This helped me pick up the pace a little, knowing I was definitely going to make it.
When you run the marathon, you run against the distance, not against the other runners and not against the time.
At mile 25, my friends Purvi and Thelma (who had ran and completed the half already that morning) where on the last hill on the way back cheering our team. Purvi’s husband took the photos at the top of this post. I love all the expressions of joy in the midst of pain. 😉
The Fuel Plan
The plan was to alternate between Water and Gatorade at each aid station. The Tobacco Road Marathon had plenty of aid stations – every 2-3 miles. The volunteers were super helpful and encouraging.
Quite a few stations had GU gels, but I was carrying my own gels since I hadn’t trained with GU. There was also various snacks on offer, as well as pickle juice, and even Mimosas and bacon.
So, going into the race my fuel plan was:
Water/Gatorade every 2-3 miles
Salt Tablet every 3 miles
Gatorade Endurance Gel every 5 miles
I stuck to the plan as best I could. At times my stomach felt really sick and I was close to throwing up (too much gel?). After mile 20 I started to drink more at the aid stations, as before I was taking only a sip or two.
The Finish Line
I had a look at my race photos today, and I don’t think I’ve ever looked as happy to have finished a race before. The feeling was amazing. Then when I saw my wife and little boy come running up to me at the end I nearly started balling again.
I had pre-booked a massage at the expo, so after I had a couple of slices of pizza and a chocolate milk, I got myself over to the massage tent. It was $20 for 20 minutes and worth every penny (cent).
The Support Crew
These are the people who supported us through this. I’m really thankful to my wife and family for allowing me to chase this crazy goal, and half expects me to try it again some time. 🤣🤣🤣
But seriously, a marathon is something I’d never seen myself doing. Even when I signed up, it still scared me. We’ve come a long way. We trained together, we raced together and now we are marathoners.
Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different.
Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Allstate Hot Chocolate 15k race as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!
This was my second year running the Hot Chocolate 15k in Charlotte (read about first year here). What better way to kick off this review with a big picture of the hot chocolate bowl packed with goodies for dipping. It ain’t called the Hot Chocolate 15k for nothing!
As I mentioned in my pre-race post, I couldn’t get out of work on time to reach the Expo, so I had Liz’s and my pack mailed out to us – this is such an excellent service. The packs arrived a couple of weeks before the race, and just like last year, the race shirts are amazing.
The post-race party venue was changed to First Ward Park this year, which also moved the start and finish lines. The new party location was much better. It was much more accessible, and better laid out.
Another improvement this year was the addition of some hot food. And it was so delicious. Liz and I grabbed some and stood under a toasty gas heater and chatted to some other runners for a while.
The race course changed this year. We ran outside the city (much like last year), except we used some greenway (paved trails) this time to move between neighborhoods. The Charlotte neighborhoods reminded very much of Durham, North Carolina.
I felt like the new course was also hillier than last year. When I compared the elevation gain to last years on Strava, it was indeed hillier, but not by a crazy amount.
There were plenty of aid stations on course, serving water, sports drink and chocolate! Thankfully there were porta-johns near each station, as I had to make a stop at mile 2 — and that is when I lost my 8:30/mi pacer. 😦
I came in around 3 minutes later than last year. I was hoping to see an improvement, but it wasn’t to be.
The medals were different this year. Previously every Hot Chocolate medal was the same, regardless of the city that hosted it. There was an additional “charm” added to the medal to identify the city. This year they incorporated the city name into the medal itself.
Race photos again this year were free — which is super! Who doesn’t love free race photos. I didn’t see many photographers on the course except near the finish. I don’t always look my best at the finish line. 😉
While it was free to download low-res versions of the photos, there was a $2.99 charge to download high-res copies. That is still good bang for your buck if you consider what other races charge for photos.
Liz and I stayed at the AC Hotel Charlotte City Center. It was a lovely hotel, with a fantastic rooftop bar and was only a couple of blocks from First Ward Park. I’d definitely stay there again, whether I’m racing Hot Chocolate, or just want a short city break.
There were a few other BibRave Pros racing Hot Chocolate Charlotte this year, so we all got together before the race to catch-up and take a group photo. Just look at all that Orange!
Disclaimer: I received a Zwift runpod to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!
Even though I get to travel to London every 2-3 years, I’ve never actually ran in the city itself, around all the great sights. I’ve wanted to, even planned some routes along the Thames, but it has never worked out.
Zwift started out as a cycling platform, allowing cyclists to meet in virtual environments to train and compete.
This same concept has recently been extended to runners. All you need to get started is a free Zwift account, a treadmill and a compatible foot pod (unless you have a fancy-smancy Bluetooth enabled treadmill).
Get 15% off a Zwift runpod with code BIBCHAT15 (first 1000 orders).
I’m not a treadmill fan at all, and rarely log any miles on one, except for a warm-up mile before working out at the gym. I find treadmill running very mundane, and struggle to run long distances on them.
After trying Zwift, my treadmill warm-up runs increased from one mile, to 3-4 miles. The Zwift environments, even though I’m using it on my small iPhone screen, are quite immersive and take your mind off the treadmill.
Unfortunately I was not able to test using a larger screen (computer or large-screen TV, etc.). If I had a home treadmill I would put together a set-up with a larger screen because I think that would be amazing.
BibRave Virtual Run
It was really fun to meet up with all my BibRave people across the globe and run together in Watopia — a fantasy island created by the people at Zwift. I was able to see everyone who had joined and send messages via a chat screen.
Again, this is where a computer or larger computer would really come into play. You need good eyesight to read the messages on a tiny iPhone screen — especially when running!
We ran 5K together in a number of different pace groups. I signed up for my chosen pace group in advance using the Zwift companion app. When I got to the gym early, I started a normal run, and when it was time it automatically switched me over to the BibRave run.
Running Through London
One of my favorite Zwift runs was when I was able to run around some of the streets in London. While I’m not from London, and didn’t recognize where I was at times, the feel is still very London, with red phone boxes and double-decker buses, etc.
Another thing I noticed on this run is that some routes have options to turn one direction or another, or if you like, turn a complete 180 and run back the way you came.
Syncing With Running Apps
When you’re finished, your run will upload to Zwift by default. You can check your past run history using the Zwift Companion app. It is also possible to upload your run to other running apps like Garmin and Strava.
This is a really great feature as it will send the GPS coordinates and map details to your favorite running app. I chose not to use this as my pace differs quite a lot on a treadmill, and I’m so used to using my watch to track my runs anyway.
Now, every time I visit the gym, I don’t leave the house without my runpod attached to my shoe. If I owned a treadmill at home I would be using Zwift way more frequently, and on a bigger screen.
Zwift also have several training programs built-in to the app as well which guide you through your runs.
The running platform is still relatively new, and I recommend you try it out while it’s free to run (the cycling accounts require a subscription).