Friday, March 27, 2015

Tested: Marmot Women's Jump Start Capri

This is an initial review since I've only run in them once, but since I can't find a single other review of these on teh interwebz I figured what the hell - I can always update later.

A bit of background: I strongly dig knickers/capris/whatever you want to call stretchy shorts-ish things that come down to the vicinity of your knee. They're my go-to kit for running in temperatures between 0-10c (32-50f), which seems like a pretty narrow range until you consider that a lot of spring & fall weather lies within that range...making them pretty damn useful for about half the freakin' year. Thus, I like to keep a few pairs on hand at all times.

I haz a problem with many of them, though. Something that made Tanker the Wonder Sherpa quite literally laugh out loud when I described it as The Dreaded Cantaloupe Crotch.

What it means is that, as I run, the abdominal portion of the knicks work their way down such that I could smuggle brunch buffet supplies between the tops of my thighs.

My friends will never eat any fruit I bring for brunch again.

Having had to ditch a couple of pairs of knicks that caused ceaseless bouts of mid-run contortions in a vain attempt to correct their positioning, I decided I'd give the Marmot Women's Jump Start Capri a shot.

** WARNING: doughiness ahead**

Based on the expedient of trying them on and standing there for a minute.

What it is: Calf-length lycra for athletic pursuits.

Why you want them: For those in-between days when shorts just aren't quite enough, but tights are too much.

Duration used: 1 run (will update further as needed)

Front view

Side view after tag removal

Price paid/purchased from: Price tag said $64.99 +tax; I paid $63 at Sail because they were having a 15% off sale.

Manufacturer's description: "Whether performing warm-up stretches or hitting the pavement or trail, the midweight Women’s Jump Start Capri is built with a stretchy knit fabric that wicks and dries to keep you comfortable. A gusseted crotch allows uninhibited movement; the COOLMAX® gusset liner ensures supreme moisture management."

  • Stretch, Midweight, Quick-Drying Performance Knit Fabric
  • Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) 50
  • Quick-Drying and Wicking
  • Inseam Gusset Panel for Increased Range of Motion
  • Flat-Locked Seams for Added Comfort
  • COOLMAX® Gusset Liner
  • Interior Drawcord for Custom Fit
  • Reflectivity
  • 19 Inseam
Main Materials: 88% Polyester, 12% Elastane Single Jersey 8.5 oz/yd
Fit: Athletic Fit
Weight: 0lbs 7.35oz (208.4g)

Sorry for exposing you to my winter insulation.

Wide yoga pants-style waistband with no drawcord.

What rawks: They're a decently flattering fit, and the fabric is lovely and soft. They're quite lightweight but don't feel too delicate. Having run in them once, I found that they did shift a bit, but not nearly as much as many other pairs - rather than The Dreaded Cantaloupe Crotch, I could only smuggle a kiwi at most (I am seriously not going to be welcome at brunch anymore). Once I started to sweat a bit, a final adjustment kept them in place for the rest of my run. The wide waistband is very comfortable and non-compressive, and even with my absurdly long legs the length seems pretty good. The rise is reasonable - not so high that short-waisted me has to pull them up to my ribs, but also not so low that people with normal size torsos will have their cheeks peeking out. The knicks are not restrictive at all, offering complete freedom of movement and the flatlock seams should limit chafing. There is a lovely, very soft binding around the bottom hem that is very pleasant against the skin, and they do include reflective elements both front and rear. There is a small pocket that could accommodate a car key, single gel packet or hotel key card/credit card in the left side of the waistband.

Back heat-laminate tag.
Tags at the left hip.

What sucks: If you're looking to purchase your regular size in athletic apparel, you will either be sorely disappointed or extremely flattered. I initially tried on a medium, as that's what I expected to wear, but the fabric was merely "fitted" rather than the slightly compressive skin-fit I prefer for running knicks. I sized down, which feels comfortable but seems a bit ridiculous - I'm a 5'8" slightly-over-150-fairly-athletic-but-still-a-bit-pudgy-pounds chick, and I wear about a size 10 right now. Unless I've got the intention of the cut of these completely wrong, the Small = size 6 shown on the tag above is bloody well absurd. Look at the photos above (if you can do so without permanent damage to your eyesight) - it's not like I'm straining the seams on these things, which should technically be 2 sizes too small, and the material is just snug; I have to put it in place and wrinkles appear when I bend at the hip or knee. These are not signs that say "too small" to me.

Pocket in the waistband - you're not getting much in there.

Soft binding around the bottom hem, but unnecessarily overlapped. 

There are a couple of other issues as well. While my sole run in them so far was fairly short, I felt a bit of irritation during the start of the run (while they were still shifting a bit) at the back of the knicks where the waistband meets the body (or booty) of the garment. There was also an inkling of some chafing from the stitching around the gusset, which leads me to believe the thread used may be the culprit - flatlock seams are all very well and good, but if the stitching is too stiff you're still going to chafe. Without taking them apart I can't tell if the gold standard "fluff" thread has been used, but right now I'm just hoping that time and washing will soften it.

My main beefs with these knicks are that they do still shift down on me (I honestly do own some that don't, but they haven't been made for years), and the placement of the reflective is pretty poor for actually providing visibility. While the former of these two is an individual problem based on body shape - I'm sure it's my giant thighs pulling the material down - the latter could be considered a safety issue.

Rear reflective is poorly placed

It's not just my short torso - any shirt would cover that tiny rear reflective patch.
Sorry to make you look at my bum.
It's like they used shy reflective transfers that just want to hide.

Now, not everyone will have the same problem with the reflective brand name below the left knee - I know that I have freakishly large calves for my size and other women will not have them ride up the same way. However, I do feel like having the reflective above the knee would be more visible, and that tiny spot on the rear seems to be completely useless.

What I'd like to see: Less abrasive thread used, ditch the fancy-schmancy v-cut at the back of the calf, improve the placement of the reflective on both front and rear, and make the sizing more realistic.

What I'm saying: I'm somewhat satisfied with these. The fit is better than my last 2 attempts at buying knicks that stay put, and the fabric really is lovely - if only the stitching lived up to the softness of the rest of them. Since they're a non-returnable item, I'm stuck with them anyway, so I can hope that with repeated washing the thread will soften. I will, however, be sure to use some lubrication in suspect chafing areas and will probably keep these for shorter-duration runs until I build more confidence in them. Basically, I don't hate them...yet.

Overwhelmed by meh.

For further edification: Well as I stated before, I couldn't find any other reviews online as of the end of March 2015. You can always watch this listing to see if anyone posts a review there.

Friday, March 20, 2015


I've been feeling a little beat up lately.

Ok, I will admit that having run 576km since January 1st might have something to do with it. Today being the first day of spring, I even went back through my logs and worked out that I'm at about 630km for the whole of that buggardly winter to which we finally bid adieu.


However, I've run much higher mileage in the past and not felt quite as sore on a daily basis. My legs whine every time I get out of a chair, let alone lace up and go for a run. Why is it such a problem right now, and how much doom does this spell for my Sulphur Springs build?

Fortunately, I think I've found the problems, and while one of them rests in the hands of the weather to cure (just STAHP with the cold & snow dammit!) the other is something I can get some relief from right away...but that has another problem built in.

Problem No 1: Surface

Because of the "icy death" status of the trails and the suicidal tendencies that treadmill running tends to engender in my addled little brain, I have been putting in my mileage almost exclusively on roads. Yes, the dreadmill happened a couple of times out of necessity - one was a double run Sunday after a long run on Saturday, and the other was a day when nothing could stay alive for more than about 10mins outdoors. We're talking a total of 11.5km out of the stupid amount I've run since winter started. Additionally, I have done a few trail runs since the year began, but not since mid-February when I went for what can only be described as a "high speed stumble" through Linear Park that took every ounce of energy I had just to complete. No, really: part of that trail includes a 20% hill on which the snow was actually packed down, and it was easier running up that hill than it was running through the crusty-on-top, loose-underneath snow that had been broken up slightly by one or two people's passage, but remained obstinately unpacked. Since then I've been hiking on various local trails on Sunday afternoons with Tanker the Wonder Sherpa, and at no point have I thought to myself "Yeah, this would be just fine for running". My thought processes have been more along the lines of "If I'm having this much trouble staying upright in hiking boots..". I haven't managed to do my weekly long run on trail since January 24th, and that's pretty huge - I'm no wee slip of a thing, and this winter has required some *ahem* extra insulation, so running over 20km with those extra pounds on a hard surface just beats me up all the more. I seriously can't wait until I can hit the trails again, especially since the first couple of events I have coming up are, in fact, trail races.

Problem No 2: Shoes

Running shoes have a life expectancy, and it's measured in kilometers. No matter how diligent I am about rotating my shoes - and I am, to the point of bringing 2 pairs with me when we go motorcycle touring so I don't have to run in the same shoes two days in a row - their expiry date is inevitable. For high mileage runners, buying new shoes is kind of like getting a goldfish: sure, they're pretty neat now, but you can't get too heavily attached since you know this isn't going to be a long-term relationship. Their conversational skills are about on par, too.

Ok, I'm sure I had a point.

Having looked at my training log, it appears that 2 out of my 3 pairs of regular rotation shoes (I did mention I was a little particular about them - I try to rest each pair 2 days between outings and I run 6 days per week) are at the very least nearing the end of their useful lives, if not actually well past it.

The rule of thumb is to replace your shoes after about 500 miles / 800km. I've managed to eke about 900km out of a pair of Brooks Launch in the past (I freakin' love that shoe, and the 3 listed above are actually my 3rd, 4th and 5th pairs of them), but I was only doing short runs in them and my legs were still getting beaten up. The cushioning foam in the soles only lasts so long, you see, before it simply ceases to do its job. With the Launch being more of a hybrid trainer/racer shoe (that I just happen to use as my every-day trainers), most people recommend replacing it after not more than 300 miles / 500km, which means even the lowest mileage pair in the current roster is getting a bit tired.

Really, I might as well be running with cinderblocks on my feet with the other two.

Not recommended.

So, easy fix - sort of. I have one precious pair of Launches left, having bought the last of a local shop's stock in my size a few months ago. They're still in their box in my kitchen, patiently waiting their turn. I can't think of any better time than the first long run of spring to break them out, so that solves half of my shoe dilemma, and really the most important half - I'll have cushy, new shoes for running long.

The second half of the problem - replacing the other pair that is in dire need of retirement - will take some more effort. Brooks has come out with an updated model called (surprisingly enough) the Launch 2. While this sounds incredibly promising, initial reports indicate that they've made the forefoot of the shoe narrower...which may be a deal breaker for me. I have wide feet, and even the Launch just barely cuts it - I actually have to skip a set of lace holes near the widest part of the shoe, otherwise they end up putting too much pressure around the ball of my foot.

Seen here on my original pair at Around the Bay 2012.

So the hunt may be on for a new pair of trainers to call my very own. If you have any suggestions for a nice cushy, neutral trainer with relatively low ramp (<10mm drop from heel to toe) that accommodates a "fuller-figured" foot, let me know!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Making me melt


With the arrival of Daylight Savings Time, I finally got to run in natural light on Monday after work! I raced the streetlights and was beaten by a mere 5mins for a 6-ish kilometer run. Still, this was the sky as I finished:

Complaints: 0

While the evening sun is most welcome, this week has brought something even more welcome - temperatures capable of sustaining human life! I haven't worn a jacket for a single run since Sunday, and have even been running with some exposed skin.

There has been a lot of ice on the sidewalks due to the melting and re-freezing, but since the roads are dry and our neighbourhood is pretty quiet, my training paces have come up has my confidence that I'm not going to fall and break my neck or snap my ankle.

The dry roads also led to another first for the year.

Oh, sweet return of sanity!

It's impossible to quantify just how much more fulfilling it is to roll around on a bicycle in the sunshine than to grind away on the trainer. Even if the bike is a bit cantankerous; the roads a riot of meltwater puddles and potholes; and the wind a gusty reality check of how badly you've let your cycling fitness slip in the last few dark months: that first outdoor ride of the year, in mild air with the warm sun shining's bloody glorious.

Especially if you happen to spot a random waterfall of melting snow on the side of a busy road.

I hope that all of you who have just suffered through the depths of the coldest February on record get to experience some of the frenzied joy of spring as it softly pries the world from winter's icy grip. Go outside and see for yourself!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Horses on courses

I live on the edge of town, so many of my longer runs and rides take me out through the farmland surrounds us. It's generally quite peaceful - less traffic than in town, fewer intersections to navigate, and the tranquillity of the countryside.

You're happily pedalling or trotting along, enjoying a lovely day. Or you're suffering as you gasp your way up yet another hill. You're completely immersed in the training experience, and then suddenly you feel it.

Those eyes on you.

You're being judged, and found wanting.

Looking around quickly, you try to locate the source of the censorious cloud that hangs above you.

And there it is.

Supercilious bugger.

I can't speak for anyone else's experience, but I'll be damned if every single horse I've ever seen while out doing sweaty things hasn't levelled a disdainful eye at me as I pass. Whether training or racing, near home or far away - every paddock holds enough imperious looks to positively wither even the brightest mood.

I grew up riding horses. I actually quite like them, and always seem to get along with long as I'm not trying to propel myself past them.

I know I'm not fast. I'm definitely not the one to whom they refer when it's stated that humans can outrun horses.

I know I'm not elegant as I puff and pant my way through my workout. These graceful creatures cover miles with an élan I will never approach, striding fluidly along as though they have a special arrangement with gravity.

But just once, could you let me pass without the attitude?

Every. Damn. Time.

Don't even get me started on ducks. Cheeky bastards!