Bag Review: Ogio X-Train

Ogio X-Train 4

I love the hardshell pocket on the top of the bag.

The second bag that I used during my search for the perfect work/workout bag was the Ogio X-Train.  (You can see my review of the first bag, the Adidas Energy Backpack here.) I found the Ogio bag online and it was openly advertised as a great bag for someone who
bicycles to work. Although in many of its favorable reviews there were many references to the bag being great for much more than that.  As with any online purchase I was not able to see this bag before I actually bought it so I had no idea how well this bag would fit my needs before it arrived at my door.

From the time I first opened this bag I was very impressed with what I saw.  This bag is specifically built as a bag for clothes but in many of the reviews people mentioned that they were able to successfully put their computer in it with plenty of space for their clothes.  Not only is there a great pocket space for clothes that is plenty big for my workout outfit for the day.  In addition to the standard clothes pocket there is also a great space in a wet/dry pocket that can either be used to put your shoes (the pocket fits my 10.5 size shoes) or I used it to put my clothes after I used them to help better keep my sweaty or wet clothes away from my computer and other papers.

Ogio X-Train 3

No specific compartment for my computer.

Two more features of this backpack help it stand out.  On the top of the backpack there is hardshell pocket that really adds a lot of value.  In this hardshell there is plenty of room to fit your glasses, your watch, your phone carrier and your headphones.  The pocket not only keeps the items safe, it also allows you to keep them separated from the other items that could cause damage during the time you are carrying the bag.  The second feature is an extra strap attached to the right shoulder strap that Ogio advertises as a strap for you bike helmet (since they advertise the bag as a great bag for bicycle commuters). For me, this gives me the ability to carry my lunch box that I often carry to work. I frees up my hands and allows me more comfort during my public transit commute.

Here is the wet/dry compartment for shoes or wet clothes

Here is the wet/dry compartment for shoes or wet clothes

PROS:

  1. The hardshell pocket is great and can be used for so many different things.  It allows for safety and for comfort when carrying electronics and fragile items
  2. The wet/dry compartment allows you to keep your wet or sweaty items separate or allows you to keep your shoes in their own pocket
  3. The additional bike helmet strap allows my hands to free up while wearing the bag
  4. The bag has a great profile on your back and is the bag that bulges out the least from my back

ogio X-Train 2CONS:

  1. No pocket made for your computer.
  2. When you put a computer in the bag the clothes pocket shrinks greatly
  3. The close profile does not allow there to be much room in terms of space in the bag
  4. Few other pockets to hold the extra items that I must carry including my computer charger, pads of paper, folders and even  pens and pencils.

OVERALL: This bag is a perfect bag for a workout but it lacks in what is does for you going to work.  The lack of a specific spot for my computer and the other items that I must bring to work.  This is the best bag, that I tried, to bring to the gym or to a race.  That being said, it is not a good bag for me to bring to work.  If I was just going to work (especially if I was a bicycling commuter) or if I was just going to work this bag would be my pick, but its combination of the two is not the best.  Unfortunately this bag lacks in some key areas and although it has some wonderful and unique features its deficits are too big to overlook.

Advertisements

Bag Review: Adidas Energy Backpack

I recently realized that I needed a new bag to take to work.  Recently I have been having to carry a duffle bag back and forth every week with multiple workout outfits.  I would then have to take them home as they were used, usually in a plastic grocery bag.  This was not the most convenient, or the easiest way to bring my clothes back and forth. Adidas 3Knowing that, I began a search for one bag that I could bring to work that could carry my computer, my workout clothes.  Also important was the bag having the ability to keep them separate since so often my workout clothes smell after use and I often times have to take the bus or the metro to work and cannot just leave them in my car after wearing them. The first bag that I bought for this process was a red Adidas Energy Backpack. I did not find this bag at any sports apparel store but instead I found it at one of my favorite shops to find workout clothes…MARSHALLS!!!  It was a great find and I was so excited to find a bag that could possibly work for my needs. I tested this bag out the next week before I went to Illinois.  I found that although this bag is close to fitting all my needs there are some needs that I wish it had that would make it more useful for me. PROS:Adidas 2

  1. The straps and the build of the backpack made it easy to carry even when it is fully loaded
  2. There is a zipper pocket close to your back that can easily fit a pad of paper or folders
  3. There is a pocket specifically built for your computer
  4. There are side pockets for my phone charger and mouse

Red Adidas 1CONS:

  1. The computer pocket is in the same compartment that the clothes are kept
  2. There is not much room for other office supplies besides my computer
  3. All but the computer pockets are just generic pockets, not necessarily built to hold anything specific
  4. The pocket for the clothes shrinks a lot when the computer is in the computer pocket

OVERALL: I am impressed with this bag and as the cheapest bag that I tried it is a bargain for what it can do.  Although this bag’s size is impressive and it looks as if it can hold plenty of stuff but the way the pockets are set up, when you fill one it actually takes away space from the others, rather than having its own dedicated space. This bag is serviceable but I think that there are definitely better bags available.

The Hardest Part of Training

When most people ask me what the hardest part of training for a marathon or half marathon they expect me to say the long runs on Saturdays and Sundays but I believe that another aspect of training is well ahead of those runs. I have found that actually NOT running is the hardest part of training.  When you train you have to have the mindset that you will run four-five times a week and those runs are necessary so I have found that if you have to miss one or some of these scheduled runs you find yourself in a depression from not running, rather than a depression because you have to run 20 miles on your Saturday morning.

Any marathoner has been there, that time when you have a scheduled run and something unexpected or unplanned comes up and causes you to miss your run.  Later that day you feel the dread of missing the run and you begin to feel a state of running depression when that causes you to believe that missing just a few runs can set you back months of training.  Whether missing the run was from an illness, an unplanned emergency, a family event, a vacation or something else going about your business that day while remembering that you were supposed to be out pounding the pavement instead is always difficult.

This sign has represented my running journey lately.

This sign has represented my running journey lately.

I have experienced that sense of running depression lately.  Last Saturday on mile 9 of my 11 mile long run I felt an unfamiliar discomfort in my left knee.  I slowed down and the pain subsided only to pop up a half mile later causing me to slow down again until it disappeared.  The discomfort remained after my run so I began to look into what could be causing it and it turns out that it is my IT band that is irritated and causing the pain.  Fortunately it is just from over use and with some rest and some ice it will be back to normal soon…but the resting is the hard part.

As I continue to rest and miss my planned training runs I have to continue to remind myself that resting now will bring about better results in the long run.  My goal race in Chicago is not until the middle of October so I have plenty of time to put in  the miles before the big race.  With that being said I still get a feeling of jealousy when I drive home and see someone enjoying their run in cool summer weather this week. I even had to miss going on a run with Bride this week because of my injury.  This week has taught me one thing, the next time when I am at mile 14 and dreading the next few until my long run is done, I will take comfort in the fact that at least I am running and not having to go through the hardest part of training.

Roller Coaster Review: Hershey Park

Being the adrenaline junkie that I am, I am always looking for a way to go faster or higher (in a safe way of course). Often times this release is found at an amusement park by getting on roller coaster. Last Friday I could think of no better way to celebrate America’s birthday, as well as my anniversary, than venturing to Hershey Park with Bride and getting on a few Roller Coasters to feel the excitement that each entails.

The only previous time I visited Hershey Park was in the 2003 with my family during a family vacation where we also visited Washington DC, Cooperstown, NY and Niagara Falls. I remember the park fondly and can remember having a great time during our visit there but I did not remember it as being a park with a lot of roller coasters or thrill rides. Since that visit HersheyPark added multiple world class roller coasters. Considering that my second visit would be very different than the first one. There would be many more exciting tides with high speeds, sharp turns, big hills and flips.

Below I will discuss the coasters that I rode during our visit and I divide them up into a simple 1-10 scale with each of five categories (speed (S), hills (H), loops (L), twists & turns (T), uniqueness/intensity (UI)) given a rating of 0-2 to come up with the final number. The way I think of them is as follows:
9-10: The perfect mix of the categories
7-8: Great in one or more of the five categories but lacking in others
5-6: Overall a good ride with a good amount of each category
3-4: Lacking in most categories but has a good amount of one
0-2: A disappointment. These rides were expected to be better and were missing many factors that make a great ride

Coasters:

Top of the Lift Hill on Fahrenheit

Top of the Lift Hill on Fahrenheit

Fahrenheit: This ride began with a unique feature.  It began with a vertical lift hill to the first hill where the fall goes beyond 90 degrees.  This feature alone warrants points in the uniqueness category.  Unfortunately the ride was overall lacking in many of the other categories and despite a great start it quickly slowed to a manageable speed and despite the fact that it is a new coaster is was very shaky, so much so that it took away from the experience and the impact of the ride.  OVERALL RATING:6  S:1 H:2 L:1 T:0  UI:2

Great Bear: I must admit that danglefeet roller coasters are one of my favorite types and Great Bear was one. This ride started from the very beginning with intensity as you flew down the twisting first hill and into loops, corkscrews and plenty of speed.  Although I have been on plenty of similar types of coasters throughout the parks that I have visited this one still stood out as unique.  I felt that this ride was much more compact than many coasters.  I felt that the track was always close to other parts of the track yet the ride still was open enough to gain plenty of speed. OVERALL RATING:8  S:1 H:2 L:2 T:2 UI:1

Sky Rush at Hershey Park

Sky Rush at Hershey Park

Sky Rush: This is the highest and the fastest of all the roller coasters at Hershey Park.  This ride is at the front of the park and was the first ride the Bride and I rode.  This ride sets the tone front the beginning as you are lifted quickly up the first lift hill just to take a plunge over 200 feet reaching 75 MPH just during the first loop.  This ride also has a great feature with the clamshell lap bar that gives you much more freedom as you sit, with plenty of protection.  This ride takes advantage of this freedom by ending the ride with multiple quick hills that give you plenty of air time.  As a huge fan of airtime on rides this part of the ride is always a highlight for me. OVERALL RATING:8 S:2 H:2 L:1 T:1 UI:2

SooperDooperLooper: This was the most unique ride in the park, not because of its height, or its makeup, but because of its age.  It is the fir

st steel looping coaster on the east coast and you can tell the age as you look at the type of track and the design of the course.  There are no large hill beyond the first hill and the ride shakes quite a bit but, much like a wooden coaster, it just give it personality.  Surprisingly I enjoyed this ride a lot more than I thought I would.  This ride was the one that Bride was excited to ride so I was happy to oblige her desires but I thought that it would not be one near one of my favorites.  The uniqueness of this ride gives it a personality like no other steel coaster had at Hershey. OVERALL RATING:5 S:1 H:1 L:1 T:0 UI:2

Coming out of a Cobra Loop on Storm Runner

Coming out of a Cobra Loop on Storm Runner

Storm Runner: Personally this was my most enjoyable ride.  It has many of the features that I enjoy.  It starts with a launch that takes you from 0 to 72 MPH in just 2 SECONDS!!!  This launch takes you directly into a vertical lift hill and immediately into a dive hill.  This is followed by huge cobra loop, barrel rolls and a great snake dive. This coaster was one where I was always looking forward and seeing the next thrill coming up without time to react and although the ride is just as short as any other coaster, it packs a ton of excitement and intensity into that short period of time.  The only thing that I can ask more of during this ride is air time.  I felt that sometimes the ride was just going towards the next feature and not giving the riders time to enjoy the ride.  OVERALL RATING:8 S:2 H:2 L:2 T:1 UI:1

WildCat: This was the only Wooden Coaster that we rode during the day.  I am not the biggest fan of wooden coasters, although I love one that gives plenty of air time (the Screaming Eagle at Six Flags St. Louis comes to mind).  This one was named after the original wooden coaster in the park, although it was built in the late 1990s.  Like many wooden coasters it had a lot of character in the feel of the ride.  Wooden coasters are always rough, and you must embrace that as part of the ride.  This one did not have any unique characteristics that delineated it from many other coasters and I do not believe that this ride will stand out in my mind going forward.  OVERALL RATING:3 S:1 H:1 L:0 T:1 UI:0

 

 

One Year of Marriage

On July 6, Runner and I celebrated our 1st wedding anniversary. We can no longer call ourselves newlyweds. Luckily for us, the first year was not our hardest year. Having lived together for 3 years prior and already having made some big decisions as a couple led us to feeling very stable and settled this first year.

With our anniversary falling so close to the 4th of July, we made it a weekend of celebration. On the morning of the 4th we traveled to Hershey, Pennsylvania for a day at Hersheypark. Runner found us a great deal on tickets. We purchased them at the Giant close to the park for a $15 discount per ticket (a better deal than the $10 coupon from Wendy’s).

IMG_2429 IMG_2414

Runner gets his thrills from coasters, I get the opposite – terror. Alas, a sacrifice of marriage, I sucked it up and rode some. We started with the Skyrush. Check out the first drop:

IMG_2410IMG_2431

The longest line we waited for was about 1 hour and 10 mins but thanks to the cool weather, an unbelievable 75 degrees, it felt manageable. Other lines were much shorter and with it being a holiday I expected the lines to be worse. Runner did let me ride a few baby rides, lol, and then we took a tour of the Hershey Chocolate Factory. The free sample at the end of the tour was Brookside Dark Chocolate pomegranate seeds. Our night ended with dinner at Red Robin and watching the fireworks on TV from our hotel room.

On July 5, we visited Lancaster County which is known for being the land of the Amish. We spent a good amount of time at the Kitchen Kettle Village. The shopping center had artwork, quilts and lots of food. The best part about each shop was that you could sample almost every product – meats, cheeses and relishes, oh my! I will also admit that this part of our trip was indulging our old married couple style ;p

Our main event that day was the Lancaster Barnstormer’s baseball game. Runner and I decided that we would try and start a tradition of going to a baseball game on the 5th of July in honor our our pre-wedding Nationals baseball game last year. I hope we can keep it up!

IMG_2447

We had a great time at the game – again, beautiful weather – and you’ve got to love minor league prices. The “Stormers” lost to the York Revolution 0-2. Following the game, there was a strong man competition and a fireworks display. So we got to see our fireworks after all.

With all the travel and fun, we made our actual anniversary low key. We unpacked our new apartment (post to come!) and indulged in cupcakes in our wedding cake flavors:

IMG_2450

Lemon and Red Velvet

Funny story, these are from Crumbs Bake Shop. The next day, the bakery announced they were closing all of their locations. Our first and last time having them! We had a similar situation happen to us in Boston with JP Licks.

One more note, last night Runner and I went to Wendy’s, as he was craving a pretzel burger. As we were sitting eating we realized that exactly one year ago, on July 11, we were on our honeymoon in Grand Cayman. Before we headed to the beach, we stopped at Wendy’s to try their newest pretzel burger. Another anniversary tradition has been created … well, as long as the burger trend lasts, I guess.

PS: Thanks to all our amazing friends and family members who shared our special day with us. The memories are so fresh in our minds because of how much fun we had thanks to you!

View More: http://roneyfieldphotography.pass.us/brandon-mitra-wedding

PPS: Did we not have the most successful garter/bouquet toss ever?

City Review: Harrisburg, PA

Myself and Bride love to travel and experience the cities that we visit and I believe that one of the best ways to experience, and get to know a city is to run around it.  Knowing this I am going to start regularly writing about not just the cities that we are travelling to now, but I will write about the cities that I have traveled to in the past.

Overall Opinion:

Harrisburg is situated on the Susquehanna river and has the benefit of having many waterfront parks that provide the perfect environment for a great running trail.  Harrisburg’s waterfront is home to many old homes, stores, and buildings that have maintained their charm.  Harrisburg, being the capital of Pennsylvania, has the capital building and the surrounding area to run through.

Route:

When researching my route my realized that many of the regular online resources are not very active for Harrisburg routes.

Samsung Galaxy 5 Upload 07-07-2014 3223 Normally a simple Google search will provide ample routes in many cities I have visited in the past.  As I looked the most commonly states area was city island.  This small island is home to the Harrisburg Senators Minor League baseball stadium as well as attractions and the city marina. This island became the starting point for my run.

Samsung Galaxy 5 Upload 07-07-2014 3215 I parked near the capital building and planned on finishing my run with a nice run around the capital complex.  I started by running down Walnut Street to the pedestrian bridge to city island.  When I first made it to the island I quickly was impressed with the atmosphere.  Even though it was early and there were not many people on the island I could tell that before during and after baseball games this would be a great place to hang out and enjoy America’s pastime. The island included places to eat, a paddle boat, a miniature golf course and a small train that goes around the stadium.  Running around it allowed me to see everything and I really think this island would be a great place to go back to.

After running two laps around the island (around 3.75 miles) I ran back across the pedestrian bridge and started running on the path along the river that is part of the Capital Area Green Belt.  The Green Belt is a 19 mile trail  through and around the city.  My time was running tight so I just ran one mile west on the trail and one mile back to Walnut Street.  The parks that this trail connects are clean and are sprinkled with memorials and gardens.

PA CapitalAfter making it back to Walnut street I ran up to the Capital and was very impressed  with the grounds surrounding the capital as well as the building itself.  This capital is one of the few that I have been too that is not built on a hill yet they built it in such a way to still provide strong and dignified feel to the building.  That being said, I can imagine that this area is not an ideal place to run during the week when there are many employees and visitors on the grounds.

 

Highlights:

  • City Island was not only a great place to run in the morning, but I could tell that it would be a highlight for any night when the Senators are in town.
  • The pedestrian bridge to City Island provides a safe and scenic way to get to and from the island
  • The Capital Area Green Belt provides a clean and easy running trail that any runner can follow.
  • The capital is one of the most impressive that I have seen and provides a great area to run

Lowlights:Samsung Galaxy 5 Upload 07-07-2014 3228

  • I have ran in many neighborhoods in many cities but I felt that in the area between the capital and the waterfront was not the safest for any runner.  I felt that the stop lights were not very pedestrian friendly and could use some improvement
  • Although the Capital Area Green Belt is a nice path, that was really the only option for any run over a few miles if you did not want to just do laps around City Island.
  • One of the highlights of running in DC is the ample amounts of water fountains in and around the mall and on many of the public routes that I have frequented  but in Harrisburg I passed only one water fountain and it was not turned on.

Score (1-5): 2 Despite Harrisburg’s waterfront charm its attractiveness does not go far from the water and despite much of my route was empty of traffic so I was not distracted or affected by it but on work days the normal traffic would greatly effect the attractiveness of my route.

2014: First Half Running Goals Review

Well we are officially half way through the 2014 calendar year and a recap is in order.  At the beginning of the year I set some goals for my year and so far I am happy to say that I have accomplished these goals, or am on track to accomplish them by the end of the year.

My first goal was to run 1,000 miles this calendar year and at the end of June (despite slowing down the last couple of weeks due to travel, illness and moving) I have ran 534 miles.  This obviously puts me over my 1,000 mile mark if I continue at the same pace but if everything goes to plan, my marathon training during the second half of the year will put me well beyond my current pace and well past my goal.

Another goal I had was to successfully train and run well at the St. Louis GO! Marathon in April.   This goal is obviously more subjective but after successfully completing my own training plan that I laid out weeks ahead of time and completing the race with a PR of 4:32:42 I believe that I can comfortably say that goal was reached.

Looking back on these first six months of 2014 there are other accomplishments that deserve to be highlighted as well.  I traveled for work throughout this period, taking multiple trips for multiple lengths but I was able to successfully continue to train for my April Marathon (even enjoying a long run on Bayshore Blvd. in Tampa, FL one Sunday morning) as well as continuing to keep up my running pattern despite the travel.

I also started doing multiple two a day runs during the work week to help build up my mileage in preparation for my fall marathon training to begin in earnest.  These workouts included many during my lunch break from work where I would do specific training runs including mile repeats, hills or fartleks.

As excited as I am to look back at what I have accomplished I cannot help but smile when I look at what I have coming up.  On Labor Day weekend I get to run in one of my favorite races, the VA Beach Rock and Roll Half Marathon.  Not only is this fun because Bride runs a 5K at the same time, but also because together we get to enjoy a concert on the beach that night, courtesy of the Verizon American Music Festival (previous years the headliners have been Train and Third Eye Blind).

That race is just the warm up for my big month of October.  On October 12 I get to travel home to the Midwest to run in a World Marathon Major race, the Chicago Marathon.  I was lucky enough to be picked in the raffle to run this year and cannot wait to run through the city of big shoulders and strive for my big goal of a Sub 4-Hour Marathon!

Two weeks later I am going to run the Marine Corp Marathon here in Washington DC where, afterwards, I will be able to join the Marathon Maniacs for completing two marathons in three weeks. Two years ago I ran Marine Corp (last year I deferred my registration in order to run the NYC Marathon) and was pushed along by Hurricane Sandy which hit Washington DC and the northeast the next day.  Marine Corp is always around my birthday so it is always great to have that extra momentum to think about as I am out pounding the pavement, completing this race is just a birthday gift to myself.

The previous six months have been a full of accomplishments and I know that the next six months, with continued hard work and support, will include more accomplishments.  I could not have reached my goals for the first six months with the support of Bride, who is always allowing me to leave her for hours and choosing running over spending more time with her and my parents and brother, who came out to support me in St. Louis and to watch their first ever marathon.  Without their support and more I know I would not be where I am today, or have the motivation that I need to keep reaching for the goals that I have set.