Quick Review: PATH Project

A friend Mike B. mentioned PATH Project shorts to me a couple of months ago when we were out for a run. He really enjoyed them, and loved the pockets, so I finally decided to pull the trigger and pick up a pair of their Sykes shorts and take them for a spin. Initially I bought the wrong size. However, when I contacted PATH, they went out of their way to make sure I got the right size in time for an upcoming trip I was doing. I can’t stress enough how awesome their customer service was for to me on this occasion.

I’ve had the shorts for about a month now and feel like I’m ready to comment on how they’ve worked for me. First, one of the unique things about PATH Project shorts is the pockets. The model I picked out is more akin to a biking jersey style, with three pockets on the back. I really like this style, as it allows you to secure valuable things, like your ID and keys, without items banging against your leg in a loose pocket. The zippered pockets feel secure and hold everything tight against my hip.

img_3338My only issue with the pockets is for regular day-to-day wear. Lacking pockets on the side of the shorts means that it’s not as comfortable and convenient for me when I’m driving to/from the trailhead. Sitting in my car with my bulky phone up against my back works, but it’s not the most comfortable. Thankfully, this is only one of the styles that PATH has, and I’m thinking the next pair I pick up will be the Graves model which has one large zippered phone pocket in the back, but also has the traditional open side pockets. Despite this, the Skyes model works great for running, and it’s been very handy for when I’m running at lunch at work. No more worrying about forgetting my waist pack.

In terms of fit, the PATH Project shorts are great. They are cut just right for running and at no point have I ever felt like they’re shifting when I’m running in them. Some other shorts I’ve worn will bunch up between the thighs when I’m running. That’s not an issue I’ve encountered with these. The leg length also works well for me, and the fit around the glutes is comfortable. Overall, I have no complaints about fit, and once I got the right size for me (large) they’ve been nothing but a joy to wear.

Although I’ve only had the shorts for a month, I’ve put them through their paces at some local parks, as well as the Porcupine Mountains. The build and material quality feels top notch, and I haven’t had any issues with any seams splitting or fabric tears. The waistband elastic seems fine, and the cinch ties are pretty standard. The zippers feel pretty solid and not flimsy, which is a nice perk. This is one area that could easily have been skimped on, but I’m glad that they didn’t. It’s hard to predict how the shorts will wear over the long term, but after 30 days, things seem good. I’ve still got shorts I’m wearing from 7 years ago, so I’m hopeful these PATH Project shorts will be able to go the same distance.

img_3335Something that I really like about PATH Projects is that their shorts do not come with a liner. I’m one of those people who hate how many running shorts come with a liner built-in. I prefer to run with running underwear that goes down my legs a bit. Many of the running shorts you find have a simple liner that doesn’t mimic a boxer brief at all. In fact they feel more like a simple hammock for your goodies, than anything that would give real support or protection. I end up avoiding shorts that have liners for this very reason.

PATH has decided to separate the liner from the short, and let you pick what you want for either. They sell liners, but if you already have your base layers that you like, then you can just go with them and not worry about it. This allows me the freedom to chose what type of underwear I want to use, and even tailor it for the type of running conditions I’m in. Colder weather? I can use something a bit thicker. Hot and muggy? Pull out something thinner with a smaller inseam. I like being able to choose.

Overall, I really like the PATH Project shorts. They’re comfortable, appear durable, and have lots of great features when it comes to pockets. They are $40-50, but if they last me for many years, I’m OK paying that price. They’re tailored to the sport that I do, and for me that’s worth paying a bit of a premium. If you’ve never tried these before, I’d encourage you to give them a shot. I think you’ll like the result.

 

Bring back Facebook Groups!

Facebook and I have a love/hate relationship. On one hand, I love the ability to interact with folks, digitally, from all over the world. I’m able to see what’s going on with friends and family, and in general it helps me stay connected. Yet, on the other hand… I hate the general newsfeed. It’s often filled with people sharing things I don’t want to engage with (such and political memes) or controversial topics that just serve to heighten my blood pressure.

One area of Facebook that I actually like a lot is Groups. Facebook groups are small communities of people who post about a shared love of a given topic. Many of the communities I’m a part of have Facebook groups, and it’s a great way to talk about items of shared interest. It’s also a wonderful way to coordinate real world events. Many of my running friends are a part of different Facebook Groups, and without them, I would never know what’s going on with running meet-ups, or other adventures. The problem is, you can’t get a nice simple interface to just your Groups posts.

A while ago, Facebook had an app dedicated to Groups. It was an decent app lacking in a bit of functionality, but I loved it since it allowed me to see what people were posting in these communities, without needing to wade through a Newsfeed. I felt like it helped me engage better with the things I wanted to use Facebook for, without having to deal with divisive arguments that permeate the Newsfeed. Facebook decided to can the app, deciding to focus more energy on the main Facebook app. Needless to say I was disappointed.

Thankfully, Facebook has recently brought back a part of that interface to the main Facebook app. There is now a button on the bottom of the main app that brings you to a Groups interface. You can scroll through a feed of all the most recent posts to your various communities, and drill down into a single community with just a click. It’s a lot closer to what I want my Facebook experience to be.

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I really wish that Facebook would continue to expand the ability to work with Groups. Google+ actually did a great job with this years and years ago, but with that platform’s transition to obsolesce, there’s a real opportunity for Facebook to lead. For now, I need to suffer through the pain of the Newsfeed, but I’m hopeful that this won’t always be the case.

Sawyer Gravity Water Filter Review

Since we were going camping in the Porkies as a group, we decided to get a larger gravity style water filtration system. It would be easier to share a larger quantity of water among three people, than having to mess with a bunch of smaller bottles or pump filters. We did a bit of research and decided on the Sawyer brand gravity system, specifically, the 1 gallon, 2 bag setup.

The package comes with everything you need to create a full gallon of water, in an easily dispensable format. You start by filling the dirty water bag with your source water. My only complaint was that this took a bit of practice to get right. You have to hold the bag under a water source, and at the same time make sure that no air bubbles push the bottom of the bag up out of the water, thereby dumping out your water. I found what worked best was to use a scooping motion to quickly dunk about 3/4 of the wide mouth opening under the water, gathering up as much water as I could in a single swing. I was usually able to get 2/3 to 3/4 of a gallon of water that way, without having to dip a second time.

WaterFilter.jpgOnce you have your bag of dirty water, you then need to hook up the hose and filter that will lead to the lower bag. It’s important to practice this at home a couple of times, so that you’re not scrambling to figure out which ends connect to which, while standing in the wilderness. Once you bleed the line of aid (lifting it above the level of the bag and then lowering it until water comes out), you hook up the filter, and the attachment that goes to the lower bag.

img_3308There is a clever little stopper on the line, similar to what you see in medical IV systems, to control the flow of water into the clean bag. Once everything is hooked up, you open up this stopper and the flow of water begins. It only takes about 15-20 minutes for the bottom bag to fill, at which point you have clean, filtered, water for whatever you need. The real beauty of this system, is that once you have finished filling the “clean” bag, you then can hang it up where the dirty bag was, and you have a dispensing system.

Anytime you need water, you just walk over to the hanging bag and open up the stopper. This made camping with a group incredibly easy. Anytime someone needed water for drinking, cooking, or cleaning, they just walked over and grabbed some from the bag. We always filled up the dirty bag right away so that we were never more than 20 minutes away from another bag of filtered water.

img_3309This is the first gravity system that I’ve used, but I have to say that I’m impressed. The flavor of the water wasn’t chemical or metallic at all (which goes to show how long it’s been since I’ve drank filtered camp water). We also had some good water sources that helped with overall flavor. This included Lake Superior herself, which not only tasted good, but was nice and cool.

The entire setup is incredibly easy to work with, and the plastic bags are very malleable and durable. Since they’re just plastic, they will be easy to replace if they tear or become damaged. We kept all of the tubing in it’s own sealed ziplock baggie, and made sure to clean and dry everything before we put it away at home. There is a flush kit included for backfilling the filter and cleaning out any gunk that’s gotten in there.

Once we were done with 5 days in the backcountry, we all agreed that this was an incredible system, and loved using it. It gave us tons of water, in an easy to use format, and packed down nice and light. For those who are weight conscious, the kit comes in at 12oz. If you’re traveling even lighter, you can cut that down by leaving the clean bag at home, and only bringing enough tubing to get water to the filter. From there you can attach a sport-cap to the filter, and drink directly from it. The filter is a standard Sawyer MINI filter, which means you can use it in a lot of different configurations, depending on how you’re traveling.

I’m certainly a believer in this system, and I’ve heard from others who have used it that they love it as well. It’s one of the best camping investments we’ve made, and I’m sure it will give us many years of outdoor fun.

Going slow for better results

Since my running goals this year have been mostly intrinsic, and not heavily reliant on races, I’ve been able to do things that I normally hadn’t tried before. Once of those things is running with my wife more often.

My wife Lisa is one of the people who was instrumental in getting me in to trail running, but unfortunately, we run at very different speeds. It’s a rare occasion when I run with her, because it involves slowing down a lot more than I’m used to. However, that changed this summer. She’s been working with a coach, and has prescribed workouts 6 day a week. Since I didn’t really have any speed goals this year, I decided to join her for some of her early morning runs.

From a practical standpoint, this means that I’m running closer to a 13:00 min/mile pace, vs. my usual 10:30 min/mile. That’s a significant slowdown, but it’s come with some great benefits. First and foremost, it means that I get to spend more time with my wife, which is always a good thing. Two to three mornings per week we head out together for a run together, and get to spend some time chatting and simply being with one another without any obligation, other than run.

Secondly, I’ve gotten to benefit from some of the speed and hill workout reps that her coach is putting her through. I’m not trying to leech of her plan, but if we’re together, I’ll join in. In particular, some of the speed reps have been incredibly fun. I showed my wife that we have a track nearby, and so we’re able to do 4×20 second reps on a steady surface. I’ve managed to pull myself down to around a 5:20 min/mile pace for my best 20 second reps, and it’s helped me focus on good cadence and form while I sprint.

Finally, I’ve seeing great benefits to myself from a performance and injury prevention standpoint. For those of you who are into low heart rate training, running with my wife has been incredible. I’m able to keep my heart rate solidly in the 130s for 6-7 miles, and finish up feeling great. When I go out for runs on my own, I’m finding my heart rate is in a much better place, usually in the mid 140s. Even when I do a speed run I see improvement. A few weeks ago I did 4 miles and negative split the run, starting at 10:24 min/mile and finishing the final mile at 8:33 min/mile. My HR eventually climbed into the 170s towards the end, but my average over the entire run stayed in the solid 150s. I know that this type of progress is a great benefit to my overall endurance, and I’m feeling a lot more comfortable running longer distances, even at a reduced pace that takes me longer.

Injury prevention has also been a lot better this year. I’ve topped 1000 miles without any significant issues in the first 8.5 months of the year. That’s a first for me, as I’m usually dealing with some manner of ‘niggle’ or repetitive stress injury by this point in the year. However, all the slower runs are really helping me keep my form in better shape, and reduce the strain I’m putting on my body. At the same time, I’m still hitting better mileage goals than I ever have before.

So there you have it. Going slow is working for me, and it’s great for my marriage. I still get my own runs 2-3 days per week where I can work as hard as I want, but they’re getting better and better because of how I’m treating my body the rest of the time.

I still need to work on nutrition, but that’s a whole different can of worms…

Hitting 1000 early

This year my running has been in a new place. I’m feeling strong, I’m logging miles, and I’m avoiding injury. My attitude is completely different, and I’m finding joy in running that I hadn’t had for many years. As a part of all of this, I’m reaching goals a lot sooner than in previous years. In fact, today was the day that I hit 1000 miles for the year.

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This is 53 days sooner than 2016, and 95 days sooner than 2015. In fact, veloviewer is predicting that I’ll be hitting a new all time mileage goal by the end of the year, close to 1500-1600 miles. I’m sure I’ll slow a bit towards the end of the year as holidays and winter weather take hold, but so far this is looking like my best year yet.

I realize that 1000 miles is just an arbitrary number, but it’s awesome to see that number hit four digits.