Sunday, December 26, 2010

The hubby on a penny farthing

My birthday was last week!  I turned 31.  As my gift, I asked the hubby to take me to the Bodies Revealed exhibit at the Grand Rapids Public Museum. 

The exhibit was fascinating!  I would highly recommend seeing it.  Just avoid the examples of diseased organs if that sort of thing makes you squeamish.

Our ticket to the exhibit also gave us general admission to the museum, which I had never been to before.  It was fun to see lots of Grand Rapids history.

And I couldn't resist snapping a shot of the hubby riding this penny farthing.  Looking snazzy and really cruising down that street, isn't he?!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Fitness Photo Contest Winner

Congratulations to JJ, the winner of the Cyclin’ Missy Fitness Photo Contest! JJ has won a $60 gift certificate to Wayfair.

I love this picture! It shows so much fun, humor and determination. I’ll let JJ tell the story…

Photo by Leonard Johnson at

I can see why! Thanks for sharing your story and for the inspiration to laugh and keep going when we fall down.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the contest! You sent in some really awesome shots. You all deserve to win!
I decided to try racing cyclocross this year for the first time, despite the fact that I had never ever biked off road before. Road biking, I've been doing that for years, feel comfortable at it, etc. Off road? Mud? Gravel? Not so much. Terrifying. But the races I'd attended as a spectator had made me want to try it, and with a bit of encouragement from some friends, I decided to give it a go.

This picture is one from my 2nd ever cross race (the Battle at Barlow) and my first time biking in mud. Serious mud. Slippery, thick, goopy mud that more often than not gummed up my fork and brakes and wheels so I couldn't even ride. Mud that made me fall more times than I could count. Including once into a soccer goal. I had just cleared a set of barriers, was thrilled to be back ON my bike, then promptly bit it on the edge of the goal, and got tangled up in the net. Lay there laughing at the utter ridiculousness of it all (this race also included a run-up in the woods that involved a staircase made out of railroad ties, sized for a giant), debated quitting and never doing it again. Lucky me, someone was there with a camera to capture my favorite picture from the season.

And I did get up, and I finished the damn race. And I wasn't dead last. (It wasn't until the State Championships last month that I took that honor). I did 10 more races after that one, and the mud got more intense as the season went on, but with each race, my bike handling skills and confidence increased, and I don't think I will end up in that goal next year at the Battle at Barlow. At least I hope not.

I've got lots of pictures that I love from this season, but this one is the one I keep going back to, and it always makes me smile. :)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fitness Photo Contest - Last Day to Enter!

Reminder: Today is the last day to enter the fitness event photo contest for a chance to win a $60 gift certificate to Wayfair.  Enter by 11:59pm EST today!

The winner will be announced tomorrow.

For full details on the contest, see here.  If you are looking for the email to which to send your entry, it is here.  Good luck everyone!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Fitness Photo Contest Reminder

Reminder: The last day to enter the fitness photo contest for a chance to win a $60 gift certificate to Wayfair is Thursday, December 16, 2010!

For full details, see the rules here.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Fitness Event Photo Contest

I love fitness. I love hearing people’s fitness stories and seeing the joyful pictures of the athletic events that they have participated in or helped make possible as a volunteer or supporter. That’s part of why I read cycling and running blogs!

I also love shopping. But I’m constantly frustrated by the fact that sport-specific gear is overpriced. It’s a real turn off and causes me to make do with what I have and activate the Dutch heritage in me to seek out good deals.

But there is something better than getting a good deal on quality stuff. Getting that stuff for free!

To share the love, I’m holding another contest with Wayfair to give away a $60 gift certificate to use on any of their sites.

If you win, you could use the money to pick up a gift for the holidays or maybe buy yourself something you didn’t get. And while you could use this $60 for fitness gear, you don’t have to. They have lots of sites: luggage stores, housewares stores, tool stores, furniture stores, outdoors stores, and lots more (click here to see the full list of options).

So here are the details:
  • To enter, email me a photo from a fitness-related event or activity that you took part in (or served as a volunteer, helped on someone’s support team, etc.) in 2010. Include a brief description so I know what I’m looking at.
  • The contest is open to US and Canadian residents only (sorry overseas readers!).
  • Entries will be accepted through December 16, 2010 at 11:59pm EST.
  • For my last contest, I chose a winner randomly. This time, I’ll pick a favorite photo, so be creative and have fun!
  • The winner will be announced on Friday, December 17, 2010.
Looking forward to your entries!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Still in the game

While I've been out of the blogging habit lately,  I have not been inactive.

The hubby is still doing great on this exercise plan, and it has been a true pleasure to work out with him multiple times a week.

Winter officially hit Grand Rapids this week leaving snow on the ground and temps in the 30's F.  It's only going to get colder.  And sadly, we now endure the one downside of living just east of Lake Michigan...grayness.  The lake effect leaves the skies cloudy and dark so much of the time that we start contemplating trips to the south and full-spectrum light bulbs.

The coming of the snowy season has also shifted my exercise choices.  Less biking, more clothes when running, and more time at the gym.  I've been really enjoying focusing on some weight training with the hubby before I start getting more serious about marathon preparation.

I've decided to do the Chicago Marathon this year, and I can't wait for registration to open up.  My awesome friend, Cat, has agreed to run it with me.  I think this will be her 4th time.

Goals and staying active have helped both of us combat the depression of the season and the stress of busier work schedules.  I have to say I'm thankful because my company recently informed me that they want to replace me and move me out of my office manager position and into more of a project management position with the opportunity to learn some of the engineering side of the business.  Awesome! 

The same day, the hubby learned that his job will be ending in December instead of March as they had previously told us.  Not exactly the Christmas present I was hoping for, but we'll find him a new opportunity soon, I'm sure.

So that's what's new in the Cyclin' Missy world.  Happy belated Thanksgiving, everyone, and let's keep it moving!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

2011 Event List

The Cyclin' Missy events list has been updated to include 2011!

This is a list of races and events in cycling (road and mountain), running (road and trail), adventure racing, triathlon, duathlon, X-Terra, etc. in the Grand Rapids area and beyond.  If you're looking for a fun event to try in 2011, check out the list!

If you know of any cool races to add, let me know by comment or email.

And 2010 is not over yet!  There are still fun things to do before the year is out.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Iceman Cometh 2010 Video

Thank you to the commenter who sent me the link to the Iceman Cometh 2010 video!  I didn’t get pictures on the course, but this will definitely give you an idea of what it was like.
Check out the video on veloepic here!

Fitness Event Photo Contest in December

Remember back in July when I did a contest with Wayfair (formerly CSN Stores) to give away a gift certificate to one of my readers? Well, I’m doing it again, only this time the prize is twice the size!

In early December, you will have a chance to win a $60 gift certificate that you could use towards a bar stool set, a head lamp for camping or night riding, a power drill, a yoga mat…or something from any of Wayfair's many cool sites. Just in time to pick up a gift for a loved one (or for yourself) for the holidays!

To enter the contest, I’ll be asking you to send me a photo from a fitness-related event or activity that you took part in (or maybe you were a volunteer, someone's support team, etc.) in 2010. This will be open to readers in the US and Canada (sorry overseas readers!). The contest will open next month, so start thinking about what snapshot you want to submit!

More details to come!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Iceman Cometh 2010 - Race Report

I conquered the Iceman.  But really I felt like the Iceman beat me up.

The day before the race, it was cold, and we got our first snowfall of the year.  Not much stuck to the ground, but I still worried about what the trail would look like.  Fortunately, despite all signs, the weather forecasters were right, and Saturday was a sunny day with a high around 40 F.

I arrived at the race start and found my wave of women aged 18-34.  Most of us had never ridden the race before.  Then with the announcers joking about not getting this group's ages wrong and betting on who would blow the first kiss to the video camera as we rode by, wave number 41 was off and running.

I'm sorry I didn't take pictures out on the course, because it was a beautiful ride pedalling through the forests of northern Michigan.  Rays of sun shone through the trees onto a dusting of autumn snow along the trail.

But as beautiful as it was out there, it was also challenging.  The first half of the course actually rolled by pretty smoothly.  The trail itself followed some two tracks, some dirt roads and some single track.  Most of it was sandy - mostly packed down with a few tire sucking pits of loose stuff.  Then came the single most prominent feature of the rest of the race...mud.

It started with a long, slick stretch of deep, dark mud through a tight forest section.  Everyone just seemed to move through it in whatever way they could - on bike, on long you kept moving forward.  Then those muddy stretches became more frequent.  Long, steep hills became populated by dozens of racers hiking their extra heavy, mud-laden machines up one step at a time.  Derailleurs got mucked up and wouldn't shift.  Brakes got slick and wouldn't grip.  Cleats got clogged and wouldn't clip in.

It was slow going and exhausting, but at least we were all in it together.  All 4000 riders trudging through the same sludge.  I guess that's what you get from a warm day after the year's first snow.  Veteran riders said that the course was worse than it has been in 5 or 6 years.  I'll bet that no course records were set this day!

With 9 miles to go, I texted the hubby to let him know that I would be taking A LOT longer than I had expected. 

With 6 miles to go, I started repeating montras to myself.  Just keep moving.  I can do this.  I'm awesome.  I'm going to finish the Iceman.  But let me tell you...those were the longest 6 miles of my life.  Longer than any I've run.

With 5 miles to go, a fellow rider said..."We're almost there!  You can do anything for 5 miles, right?!"

With 3 miles to go, I wanted to cry.  I was so tired.  My hip hurt when I hiked up the hills.  Three miles seemed like forever.  But I could also hear the loud speakers and the cheers of the finish line crowd in the distance.  It had to be close.

With 1 mile to go, the cruel course designers took us through one more tire sucking stretch of muddy single track.  Then finally, I broke out of the threes and into the long chute weaving around the campground that hosted the finish line.  Spectators cheered and encoured every rider.  This is the last hill!  Go Icewoman!  You've done it!  A smile spread across my face.  My hubby screamed his head off for me at one corner then ran across the park and screamed for me some more. 

I made it up one small but impossibly steep ridge and rounded a corner to roll under the big arch that said I was victorious.  I had made it.  I rode from Kalkaska to Traverse City on a cool, northern Michigan afternoon.  I was dead last in my age group with a time of 4:42:46, but I didn't care.  I finished the Iceman. 

My hubby let me shed a few tears on his shoulder and vent about how HARD but fun the ride had been.  He parked my bike against a tree and bought me pizza and a regular Coke.  That was the most delicious beverage I've ever had.

As the pain in my legs subsided, we watched the professional male riders finish.  I don't know how they did it, but they flew.

Then, as we left Traverse City to return to our hotel in Kalkaska (to soak in the glorious hot tub), we looked out over Lake Michigan.  We have a beautiful state to ride in.

It was a challening, satisfying race.  But I'm glad it's done!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Iceman Cometh on Saturday

Hey all! I know I haven't posted much lately. The hubby and I have gone for the occassional run together. Nothing exciting to report about that except that they hubby is looking great!

I am taking the day off tomorrow to get ready for the Iceman on Saturday. I am totally unprepared fitness-wise, but I'm looking forward to it anyway. I'm just going to ride to have fun - one last big hurrah on my mountain bike before the winter sets in.

The temperature on Saturday is supposed to be in the 30's F (to a high of 40) with partial sun, so that should prove for me packing a lot more clothing options than I will actually need (so I have a selection when I feel things out before the race) and an assuredly fun time on the trails!

I'm contemplating using the shot-of-vodka-in-the-sports-bottle trick to keep my beverages from freezing. Ha ha!

Anyway, I'll try to take pictures during the race, and I'll do a report on the day as soon as I can!  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cold weather cycling gloves

I got a comment on my cold weather cycling tights post asking for some advice on cold weather cycling gloves.  Unfortunately, that's not something I've figured out yet either!

Usually, if it's cold but not freezing, I'll wear my padded fingerless gloves and throw a pair of big fleece gloves over the top.  If it is freezing, I'll put on my big thick skiing gloves instead.

I would love to pick up a good pair of actual cold weather gloves for biking, but I, too, would love some advice.  Which gloves give you good quality protection and comfort for a reasonable price?

What gloves do you readers out there like for cold weather on a bike?  Please leave your comments!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Shebeest Women's Wind Pro Tights Review

This week, I got some good advice on cold weather cycling tights from many of you, and my searching ended with the purchase of a pair of Shebeest Women's Wind Pro Tights on sale from Bike Nashbar.  They arrived yesterday, and I had to try them out right away!  So I pulled them on over a pair of bike shorts with some wool socks, a base layer shirt and my Team Fatty hoody and got on my bike for a ride - a trial run for what to wear at the Iceman.

These tights are amazing!  It was somewhere in the 50 degree F range outside (give or take a few degrees), and I have to say that these tights were borderline too warm.  They will be awesome for weather between about freezing and 50 F.


- The front panels really do block out the wind.
- They are lined with fleese that is soft and warm.

- They are comfy!
- The reflective strips really do reflect when light is shined at them.
- They are long enough for my tall legs!  A rare and wonderful thing.
- The zippers at the ankles make them easy to get on.

- The bands around the bottom keep them in place.
- They have a tall rise.  On the down side, this makes the tights less than sexy, but I don't care.  They keep me covered in the back when I'm stretched out on the bike.

- They look rugged and cool (in my opinion anyway). ;)
- They were a decent price for cycling-specific gear.
- You could wear a layer under or over them if you needed extra warmth.
- Since they don't have a chamois, you could wear them running or skiing, too.


- The small pocket in the back is not very deep.  I would be afraid that things will bounce out of it.  So I'd put a gel or some tissues in there but not my phone or ID.

- They are truly for weather of 50 F or below (if that is a con).
- Actually...I can't think of any other cons!

Also, they look like they would repel water pretty well on the front, but I haven't tested them in the rain.  If they did get soaked, they would be heavy, but possibly still warm due to the fleece lining.

So overall, I'm really happy that I bought these, and I can't wait to try them out in colder weather at the race!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

It's called the ICEMAN for a reason

Last night was a busy night, but I just had to squeeze a run in. So when I got home from work, I changed into running clothes and pushed out the door. I only had a short time before people were showing up at my house, so I stuck a note to the front door and chose a 2.5 mile route. Then, I ran like I had no time. I pushed the pace quite a bit for my out-of-shape-feeling legs. 2.5 miles in about 19:30 – that’s a 7:48 pace. It felt really hard, but it felt good.

It’s been tough to find the time to ride or run these past few weeks. But I really need to prioritize keeping my endurance up for the Iceman.

I got an email yesterday with race information updates, and it was signed “Keep riding and think snow!” Yes…keep riding. I should do that. ;)

And also…I know this is the ICE-man not the WARM-man or even the MUD-man. I should welcome snow as part of the experience. But really, I’d be fine with 50 degree F weather and nice dry, packed trail! I guess we’ll have to wait and see!

On that note, too, I need to figure out what I’m going to wear. I don’t own any cycling tights or much warm weather gear. Any suggestions for inexpensive cold weather tights, gloves, etc. would be appreciated!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bike Man...New Mysterious Super Hero?

I read an interesting article by J. Bennett Rylah today on Rapid Growth (see the article here). It’s about the mysterious Bike Man who apparently moved back to Grand Rapids recently and has been commuting around the city by bike wearing a mask and a black tux jacket.

Courtesy of Brian Kelly at

I certainly agree with what this guy is attempting to accomplish with promoting a healthy lifestyle and awareness of bicycles as transportation.

But I am a little annoyed with his apparent lack of homework on the cycling activism that has been going on in Grand Rapids for the past few years. The article does admit that “Bike Man had no frame of reference for what’s happened regarding biking during his absence,” which I appreciate. But I’m a little annoyed anyway.

In recent years, Grand Rapids has had its first bike lanes, miles of trails, a cycling friendly governor, the Ride of Silence, Bike to Work week, countless club and social rides, well attended cycling races and tours, recognition as a cycling friendly city and Critical Mass rides to name a few cycling community accomplishments.

The big event that Bike Man is organizing right now is a Critical Mass ride on October 29 starting at Veterans Park downtown. I’m excited that this fun, Halloween themed ride is happening, and I like how he’s presenting it as “a really good way for people who don’t ride their bikes in traffic to start out in a bubble of other riders and get used to riding in the streets.” But CM in Grand Rapids is not new. Though I'm not surprised that Bike Man was "unable to find an active Critical Mass group."  I rode with the group last year, though it has become inactive since then.

So, I really do wish Bike Man the best of luck. I’ll have to check out his Facebook profile. I look forward to seeing what he organizes in the future.

I guess I’m just a little defensive of the progress that Grand Rapids has been making toward cycling friendliness in the past few years. I want people to know about how cool the city is becoming. And I want attitudes, activities, legislation and infrastructure to continue in that direction. Maybe Bike Man will be an integral part of that process!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Island Lake Recreation Area

The hubby and I headed out to the Detroit area on Saturday, so the hubby could play in a Magic tournament and we could attend a friend’s birthday party later in the evening. So, I had most of the day free and decided to explore a little mountain biking in the area.

There are a surprising number of trails in the metro area, which I shouldn’t be surprised by due to the number of state parks, but I didn’t mountain bike growing up. I never looked for trails in the area before.

I ended up checking out Island Lake Recreation Area near Brighton, MI. The two trails, totaling about 15 miles of singletrack, were beginner friendly and fast. A few areas were moderately technical, but most of the miles flew over smooth, packed sand. It was great practice for the Iceman, but it confirmed that I'm moving pretty solidly into the "Intermediate" skill level.  I'm kind of proud of how much my skill and confidence have improved this summer!

I had a great time on the trails and could have gone a lot farther, but I had other places to be. And what an amazing day for riding! It was joy on a bike.

Gotta love the windblown look!

Friday, October 1, 2010

The plan

My plan for preparing for the Iceman Cometh Challenge is to ride every weekend until then and to run a couple times during the weeks.  I'd ride during the week, too, but the sun is starting to set to early to get any distance in.

In accordance with the plan, I went for a run last night.  I love the running weather we're having right now, where a light, long sleeve shirt is all you need and shorts are still acceptable.

I'm really hoping that I can get a long ride in this weekend.  I certainly plan to.  But I'll have to work it around the hubby's birthday on Sunday.

Happy Birthday, hubby!  I love you.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Preparing for the Iceman

I went for a fantastic mountain bike ride on Saturday at Luton Park. Since I rode the loop twice last time I was there, I wanted to ride just a little bit more than that this time. I ended up doing the whole loop twice then added the blue and green sections again for an additional 3 miles - about 21 miles total.

I think if I can ride once each weekend, increasing my distance a little bit each time, and do some running during the weekdays leading up to the Iceman on November 6, I’ll be in good shape for the ride. Even if I don’t, I think I’ll be fine – tired but fine – as long as I eat enough during the race.

I enjoyed myself so much on Saturday, that I’m actually looking forward to the race more now. I hope the trail is fast and not too technical.

I have found that I always ride a trail much better after I’m familiar with it. And I ride better the second time around a loop than the first. I tend to be really cautious until I know where the obstacles are, then I ride much faster and smoother - flowing, leaning into the turns and just floating over the obstacles.

In that sense I’m nervous about the Iceman, because I’ve never seen the trail before at all. But maybe my confidence will grow before then and I’ll settle into a groove after a few miles. Also, I hope it’s not cold and wet! But that’s part of the adventure of a mountain bike race in November in Michigan!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

After dark running safety

Occasionally I run at night, when it fits my schedule or weather conditions better than running earlier in the day. For example, I ran 4 miles last night after dark because that gave me time to digest a later than usual dinner.

When I run after dark, I choose light colored clothing and include reflective materials, if possible. I stick to main roads with more lighting. And I usually carry my cell phone in case of an emergency.

The same can be said when I ride my bike early in the morning or late at night, except that I also have some lights on my bike to help show motor vehicles where I am.

Due to the wonderful community of people who commute by bike, there is a lot of talk on the internet about bike safety in the dark. But I’ve found little discussion of night time (or early morning) running safety.

This could be due to the fact that runners can often choose routes with sidewalks or paths off of the streets themselves. But I still feel a need to be visible to cars turning across my path or coming up behind me. And it may be that male runners worry about this less, but I also try to be smart about who I might encounter out there alone.

How do you approach safety and visibility when running in the dark? Do you wear lights? Do you carry pepper spray? Do you have designated places that you can stop for help? Do you avoid remote, unpopulated areas or gravitate toward them?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The hubby is rockin' running

The hubby and I went for a run last night on our 2.5 mile route. It was the perfect temperature for running, which along with the colors of the changing trees, is the best part about fall in Michigan.

It’s clear that with a healthier diet and more frequent exercise, the hubby is getting into better shape. He likes to run the same route over and over until he feels strong at it, and he is definitely getting strong on this 2.5 mile route! His pace is getting faster every time we run it.

After we walked it out and our heart rates went back down to normal, he asked me how close our pace was to my max. I wasn’t topped out, but it was definitely on the high end for me. If the hubby keeps this up, he’ll soon be dropping me! At least on the shorter distances. ;)

I know the hubby doesn’t share the same passion for fitness that I do. So it makes me so excited to hear him say that he’s beginning to enjoy the regular exercise. I want this man around for many, many years with me, so his good health makes me happy! It’s also awesome to have a running partner. It’s fun to work out with a loved one and to encourage each other when the work gets tough.

So go, hubby, go! You are sexy and awesome. I love you.


Also, go help out my friend, Tiffany, at Skinny Don't Fix Ugly.  She needs contest votes to win a treadmill!  And this girl sure deserves it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Yippee! Dirt!

Yesterday was a beautiful Sunday, and I wanted to go for a bike ride around my neighborhood. My road bike is out on loan to a friend, so I hopped on my mountain bike and pedaled up to Ken-O-Sha park.

There is a nice paved path through the park, and off of this paved path are a number of dirt trails through the woods. Yippee! Dirt! There aren’t many miles of trail out here, but it’s the only dirt trail on the southeast side of town.

This particular set of trails is kind of ironic. The trails themselves are largely wide, smooth and not very technical at all. But every once in a while, the trail builders put a pile of logs across the path, which I haven’t had the guts to try to ride over yet. You can see ruts and cuts where pedals and chain rings have rammed into the wood repeatedly in the past. I look at these logs, and my mind sees “endo”. So I stop and carry my bike over these obstacles then continue on with my ride.

It was fun to just explore even if I didn’t really get to do a “training” workout for the Iceman, which I’m just not worrying about. Also, my bike computer’s battery died, so I couldn’t tell you how far I rode, if you asked. It was just fun time on the bike.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Late summer evening after a storm

After work last night, the power was out at our house due to the rain storm during the day. What a perfect evening to go for a run, I thought! A great activity that requires no electricity.

After lighting my gas stove with a match, cooking dinner and attempting to read by what little daylight was left, the hubby and I decided to go over to our friend Jair’s apartment. We were getting kind of bored without video games, books or movies to occupy our attention, and I needed to wait a while after eating dinner before attempting a run.

So over at Jair’s place, we played cards while I digested, and the dark of the evening settled in.

By the time I felt ready to run, the hubby wasn’t quite ready to go home. Which was fine, because I had brought my running clothes with me planning to run on the bike path nearby. But it was dark now, and I didn’t feel comfortable running on the path in the pitch black.

Solution: run home on the well-lit main roads and let the hubby follow with the car when he was ready. Brilliant!

It was one of those late summer nights where it’s cooler than the day but not yet cold at night. I loved it. I thoroughly enjoyed the run home – except for my stomach feeling a little off for some reason. But that didn’t stop me, and when I arrived safely at my house, the power was back on. Perfect.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

You can still get in to the 2010 ING NYC Marathon on a charity team

As a runner aspiring to do my first marathon in 2011, I’ve been keeping my finger on the pulse of this year’s upcoming races – Chicago, Detroit, New York… So when I got this email today, I immediately did some checking to see if it was legit and felt like the news was worth passing on to you guys.

With the lottery application for the 2010 ING New York City Marathon now closed, many people are disappointed at not winning a spot to run. But some of the official charity partners of the marathon still have guaranteed openings on their teams.

The letter I received today was from one of those charities, Team Continuum, saying that they have a limited number of guaranteed registrations left. When a cancer diagnosis results in hardship and uncertainty in someone's life, Team Continuum steps in to pay the patient’s bills, and to provide immediate and vital non-medical assistance to cancer patients and their families. The deadline for registration this way has been extended by the NY Road Runners Association until October 5th, but once the spots are taken, they are gone.

If you’d like more information about running with Team Continuum, go to

For more information on the ING New York City Marathon (and other charities that are still accepting team members), go to Believe it or not, registration for the 2011 race is already open, too!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

An unofficial race

I was going to go for a nice, easy, enjoyable run last night. But during that nice, easy, enjoyable run my competitiveness got the better of me.

I was in the latter half of a 3.5 mile loop running down a winding, slightly hilly road. Suddenly, another young woman ran out from a side street just ahead of me and turned onto the sidewalk on the other side of the street.

At first, I was determined not to speed up to keep up with her. This was supposed to be a leisurely run. But as I took the inside of a curve, I would catch up a little. As she took the inside of a curve, she would get a little farther ahead. Soon, the game was too tempting. If I pushed just a little faster, our paces would be evenly matched.

She probably didn’t even notice me on the other side of the street. Let alone become compelled to race me.

But I was compelled. Just a little. As we jostled for the lead, twisting and turning down the road, I knew I had to try to beat her to the traffic light at the end of the street.

One final, long curve gave the woman in orange shorts the biggest lead yet. And as that curve straightened out, the road rose up before us in a long, gradual hill peaking at the fateful intersection.

I pushed myself up the hill. I dodged a man and his unleashed dog. I slowed for a car turning in front of me without looking. And maybe 100 yards before the end of the road, I did it. I passed my unwitting competition. I’m sure if she had tried, she would have smoked me. But in my little world, I won.

I told the hubby about my unofficial race when I got home, and he asked me why I didn’t cross the street and run with the other woman for a while. The thought of being social just didn’t even cross my mind. It was “me” time. I was out for a run on a beautiful, cool evening. Probably, so was the woman across the street.

But next time, maybe I’ll introduce myself. Maybe I’ll find a local running buddy. That would be cool!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Running through my old stomping grounds

The hubby and I visited my dad in Redford this weekend. While we were there, we went for a run through my old neighborhood.

It’s strange how far away my elementary school seemed when I was 5. Now I see it’s just a couple blocks from my old house. It also looks so much smaller and older than it used to.

When I ran through these back streets and empty lots as a high school student, I could point out each of my friends’ houses. I could list off every side street for a mile in four directions. Now almost all of my friends’ families have moved away. And when the hubby asked me to call out the side streets on the way home to give him small goals to run for, I could only name a couple with certainty.

Redford will always be home. I lived there for the first 20 years of my life. I ran a lot of miles there. I rode my bike all over town – to stores, to friends’ houses, to summer and weekend jobs. But Redford grows more and more different every year from the town I used to live in. More buildings are run down. Houses look older. Plants have grown over more fences. Stores that I remember have closed or been replaced. Even my high school has received so many additions that it looks like a completely different building.

It’s kind of sad to see the place I remember aging, and yet, there’s also a joy to exploring my old stomping grounds on foot with my hubby. Running and biking give you the chance to catch the little details of a place that you might miss zooming by in a car. We saw many little treasures or pieces of unintentional art. I told a few stories as we ran past places that sparked memories.

Running this weekend reminded me a little bit of when I was a kid expanding my sphere of independence around my home. It was neat to share some of what shaped me as a person with the man I’ve created a life with as an adult.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Grand Rapids Mud Run Results

I just checked back at the Mud Run website, and the results are up from our August 28th race!

Team M.U.D. Players came in 50th of 73 coed teams with a finishing time of 47:26.5.  It was truly a team effort of encouragement, cheering through the pain and a lot of fun. 

We'll be ready for the mud again next year!  Go Team!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Grand Crossings River Walk 2010

It has been quite an active Labor Day weekend for me here in Grand Rapids. On Saturday, I met some friends to mountain bike Luton Park in Rockford. I rode the whole trail twice for almost 19 miles. After that, I was whipped! If I can work up to riding the trail three times in a row, I’ll be ready for the Iceman in November.

I’ve also been dog sitting for a friend this weekend, and I’ve been making sure this young black lab stays active, too. We’ve been on two walks a day, which I think may be more walking than he’s done all summer combined. It certainly adds to my mileage!

And finally, I did the Grand Crossings River Walk this morning in downtown Grand Rapids. This was sort of a local alternative to the Mackinaw Bridge Walk covering 5 miles and 8 crossings of the Grand River. The rain held off throughout the event, and it was a great time! I really like downtown GR, and the river is one of the prettiest stretches to see it from. I love all the bridges and the landmark buildings along the way.

Starting to arrive at Ah-Nab-Awen Park and the Gerald R. Ford Museum

Almost time to start on the pedestrian bridge near DeVos Place

On our way, led by Mayor Heartwell

The Varnum building and the Riverhouse Condos

Fishing near the dam and Fish Ladder Park

Crossing the 6th Street Bridge

Looking back south from Leonard

The Grand Rapids Public Museum

The Front Street Bridge

Crossing Front Street

The Amway Grand and JW Marriot Hotels

On the Fulton Street bridge looking back north

Friday, September 3, 2010

No more sitting in the garage

My poor neglected road bike, Slick, has been sitting in the garage for at least a couple weeks. Unused. Lonely. The tires getting low and sad.

Well, last night was such a beautiful evening with temperatures in the low 70s F and skies clearing after rain during the day. And I really needed the exercise. Plus it struck me that I’ve got a mountain bike race just a couple months away, and I need to start getting some miles in on whatever bike I can.

I couldn’t let Slick sit in the garage on a night like this.

By the time I decided to ride, I had a little over an hour of daylight left, so I set out on the bike path near my house on a familiar route – about 14.6 miles round trip.

The cool air, the setting sun, the day’s rain splashing up gently from the still-wet pavement. It was wonderful.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Grand Rapids Mud Run 2010

Saturday, our team consisting of me, the hubby and our friends Jair and Cat ran in the first annual Grand Rapids Mud Run. It was a blast and a great first attempt at the event!

The Team Before the Race

The pros:

--Fun course
--Upbeat music created a great atmosphere
--Good turn out
--Water, punch and snacks after the run
--Hoses to rinse off
--Very reasonable entry fee
--Plenty of parking at the event location

The cons:

--We weren’t told ahead of time that the race would run the course twice – we found out after the first lap when we went by the finish line but had to keep going.

--The wall climb obstacle was a huge bottle neck – needed more walls. Also needed ladders on the back side of the walls so you didn’t have to jump down if you didn’t want to (someone seriously hurt an ankle that way).

--The buildup to the start was awful – there was pumping music and a countdown on a big TV screen that the crowd got really into and expected to start running. But when we hit “…3-2-1!” we didn’t start. Instead, the announcer started talking about the sponsors, showing a cheesy video and explaining how the start would work. It was a real buzz kill. All of that should have happened 10 minutes before the start time, so the energy and excitement built up in the crowd could have flowed into actually running the race.

--The results still aren’t posted

The Team After the Race

I also come to the Mud Run having done the Warrior Dash this summer. The Warrior Dash was a better organized event and offered a lot more fun as an overall experience. I enjoyed the way the WD charged up each individual heat of runners before their start. I liked getting beer and BBQ after the race and meeting other runners at a huge, muddy party.

But I really think the Mud Run can learn from its shortcomings this year and come back better than ever. I would definitely run it again next year! I think this is a great event to have in Grand Rapids. It was a lot of fun and great for the community.

Me and Cat

Friday, August 27, 2010

One hundred push ups

I work in a small office with a fantastic group of guys (I'm the only woman).  We have a lot of fun as an office going out for sushi lunches, playing frisbee in the parking lot, mountain biking and talking up the latest video game.

Well, it seems that the latest fad in the office is the One Hundred Push Ups program.  I've never been particularly motivated to do a lot push ups, but I am motivated to encourage fitness amongst my office mates.  At least half of the office has done the inital test to determine which track of the workout to follow.  So I did my test today, and I'm ready to go.  The real work starts on Monday!

I'm not sure I can do 100 push ups, but it'll sure be fun trying to reach the goal together with my coworkers!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mountain Biking Vacation on the Horizon?

Last night I was tempted by Pedal GR (which sadly I have not yet tried out) and mountain biking co-workers, but instead the hubby and I played a super fun and rousing round of tennis. I think doing the triathlon this summer increased my general athletic confidence because the competition between us is a lot closer than it used to be. I’m a little quicker and more aggressive on the court.

In the end, I won a match and the hubby won a match. It was a series of tight games.

After tennis and a tasty dinner of French bread pizza, we watched Rome – a documentary on mountain biking made by The Collective. We were both in awe of what the amazing riders can do flying down a mountain at high speed. Some of the drops they took without a flinch made us both nervous just sitting on the couch!

Between this film and a PBS special last week on biking in Ontario around the Georgian Bay area (which I used to visit as a kid), the hubby has been talking about doing a mountain biking vacation. Awesome! I can’t believe it, but I’ll take it! He never realized that mountain bike meccas like Whistler, BC and Moab, UT existed. Places like this are beautiful and have some unbelievable trail systems.

So the question is, where and when to go?!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Does easy access to fitness infrastructure improve community health?

The following guest post is contributed by Paul Hench, who writes on the topic of masters in public health. He welcomes your comments at his email:

I actually would have made the opposite argument, but maybe that's just my personal taste for easily accessible fitness infrastructure like bike paths and affordable gyms, when I'm already planning to exercise.  I'd love to hear people's thoughts on this topic!

Does Easy Access to Fitness Infrastructure Improve Community Health?

A recent discussion with a few friends and family members saw us divided over the issue of whether easy access to fitness equipment made us healthier and fitter or lazier than ever before. I was among those who insisted that it’s the people who have a whole gym set up at home who don’t find the time to exercise. They have all that they need at their disposal; however, they don’t have what they need the most when it comes to working out – motivation and dedication.

I know it sounds like an irony, but when you have a treadmill, an exercise bike, dumbbells, and/or various other exercise paraphernalia at home, you get into what I call the “complacent mode”. Your mind believes that you have all the time in the world to exercise, whenever you want, simple because you don’t have to adhere to gym timings or worry about the weather or the safety aspect outdoors. However, what really happens is that you keep putting off your exercise time – you wake up too late to exercise and you think you can squeeze in your routine when you come home in the evening; but then you’re too tired and promise to wake up earlier the next morning. The following day however sees you too lazy to work out and you prefer to spend a quiet morning alone, and you tell yourself you will make it up over the weekend with an intense workout. The weekend brings its own social plans and the next week starts the same vicious cycle all over again. So at the end of it all, you have fancy equipment that gathers dust even as your body gathers rust – you lose your health and fitness and gain quite a few pounds in the process.

So this begs the question – is the same true of a community that has easy access to fitness infrastructure? If your neighborhood had affordable gyms that were open throughout the day, if you had easy access to parks and stadia where you could go for a peaceful jog or just go through your workout in the open air, would you jump at the opportunity or would you keep putting off your exercise needs? The answer lies in the individual motivation one has to exercise – no matter how easy your access to fitness infrastructure and equipment, no matter how convenient it is for you to exercise, you tend to work out regularly only when you are motivated enough to do so.

Some people find their motivation in the need to stay healthy; others go with vanity because they want to stay in shape; yet others find that exercise does them a world of good so they don’t want to give it up; and for the rest, it has become a way of life that they cannot and do not want to change. For these people who are motivated and dedicated, it does not matter that they do not have easy access to fitness infrastructure – they go where they need to in order to find it or they make do with what they have.

A very few people do tend to get tempted and swayed when they see gyms and parks around them and people sweating it out morning and evening; however, even though they start exercising, it is motivation that makes them stick to it. So coming back to the question in the title – irrespective of the ease of access to fitness infrastructure, a community’s collective health depends on the motivation that each of its individuals have to exercise and stay at it.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Family Anniversary and History

The hubby and I met my mom and her husband and my grandma and grandpa in Lansing yesterday to celebrate my grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary. How cool is that?!

But this was also cool. My mom showed us the July 2010 issue of Hour Detroit magazine featuring an article about a heat wave in Detroit in July of 1936 (read the article here). Page 41 of the printed magazine displays this picture of “Children swim[ming] at Detroit’s Waterworks Park, July 10, 1936.”

Photo courtesy of Hour Detroit magazine, courtesy of the Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University

The little boy at the front of the picture with the cap on holding his swimsuit is someone I know. It’s my grandpa! It’s neat to see my family in the history of Detroit.

I also noticed a couple of bicycles in the photograph leaning against the park bench. They have full fenders and look ready for the stylish, practical Detroiters of the 1930’s to ride!

From the left: the Hubby and me, Grandpa (74 years later) and Grandma, Jim and Mom

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Team MUD Players is a go!

I went for a run last night right after work. It was hot, and I feel out of shape. I even walked a couple house lengths. But I’m still feeling confident about the Grand Rapids Mud Run coming up on the 28th.

Even though I felt slow running yesterday, my pace was an 8:49 average mile over 3.5 miles.

For the Mud Run, I’m running on a team of 4, and two of the teammates are not really runners. The rule is that we have to finish all together as a team, so I expect this to be an easy, fun, muddy adventure as opposed to a race against the clock. I’ll be in good shape for that. I’m really looking forward to it!

It looked like we weren’t going to be able to do the Mud Run for a while there due to a wedding in the early afternoon. But the start time for the team races got moved an hour earlier, so we’re back in! Team "M.U.D. Players" is a go! Yah! Let’s do this!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Beer as sports drink?

Last night, the hubby and I went to a bar to see one of his co-workers off to a new job. The bar was called the Winchester. I couldn’t help but hear Simon Pegg in my head all night saying, “We’re going to the Winchester!”


First of all, this is the Winchester’s cools sign.

Second, upon setting my glass of wheat ale down on the bar’s provided coaster, I noticed this.

Erdinger Weissbier Alkolholfrei - “The sports and fitness drink.”

What?!?! Beer as a sports drink?! Apparently this German low-alcohol wheat beer is a very popular post-race beverage at triathlon, running and biathlon events in Germany. The Erdinger website says this:

With its isotonic effect, ERDINGER Non-Alcoholic is particularly well suited to regenerating the body after sport, as it quickly replaces the liquids and minerals the body has lost. In order to popularize the positive properties of its sporting thirst-quencher, ERDINGER Weissbräu launched a cooperation with professional triathlon couple Nicole and Lothar Leder in 2001. The two athletes were convinced of the regenerative effects of ERDINGER Non-Alcoholic and still actively promote the alcohol-free weissbier today.

Lothar Leder is the guy riding his bike on the coaster.

So, I understand that beer contains carbohydrates, water and probably some minerals. And if it’s low-alcohol, it won’t dehydrate you too badly after sports. And don’t get me wrong – I enjoy a beer with friends after a good mountain bike ride or mud run. But can beer really “regenerate the body after sport” as well as an actual sports drink with electrolytes (AKA salts), carbohydrates and water?

Maybe so. Maybe my consumerist, American sentiments are just skewed by Powerade and Gatorade commercials away from the time honoured European belief in beer as a recovery drink.

One way or another, I was surprised and amused by this marketing strategy.

Has anyone out there had Erdinger Alkoholfrei after a race? How did you like it?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Cycling News from Detroit

The Detroit Free Press published this article today about Tom Regan, a recumbant bike commuter in Royal Oak, and the upcoming Green Cruise.
On Saturday, Regan will join other bicyclists on a 23-mile morning tour of Ferndale and parts north and west during the sixth Green Cruise, a yearly celebration of alternative transport held the weekend before the glitz and glam of the gas-laden Dream Cruise along Woodward Avenue.
Another positive step for cycling and other forms of alternative transportation in the city of Detroit!

Getting ready to run dirty

I decided to run last night, but I waited until about 7:00. It was still hot but not as bad as it was earlier in the afternoon. I ran a 4 mile course and tested out the split capability of my new sport watch for the first time. It was interesting to see the effect of the hills on this route. And the heat. Though I slowed down significantly in the middle, hilly portion of the run, I brought my last mile pace back up close to my first again.  

***4 miles in 33:30 total - 8:01, 8:27, 8:51 and 8:10 splits – 8:22.54 average*** 

Not bad for being largely out of the running routine since my tri earlier this summer. That makes me happy because in just a couple weeks, I’m running the Grand Rapids Mud Run on a team with three friends. I need to get ready to run dirty!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Start the dang stopwatch!

The hubby and I went for a run last night. The hubby hasn’t been running as much as I have lately, so I let him set the pace. I was impressed over the 2.5 mile route that we did as every so often he sped up a little. By the end, we were running at a pretty good clip! As we approached our driveway, we both sprinted in for a strong finish.

After catching our breath, he asked, “What was our time?”

I said, “I don’t know, I didn’t look at my watch.”

“At the beginning of the run or at the end?” the hubby asked incredulously.

“Neither!” I answered, realizing that maybe he had pushed the pace to improve over the last time we ran the same route. “Sorry! I’m so bad at remembering to start my watch.”

Ha ha ha. Oops! Well, at least we had a good workout!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Grand Rapids' First Complete Street

Apparently I missed this about a month ago, but Grand Rapids has its very first complete street!  A section of Lake Drive now has a bike lane, cross walks at every intersection, seating at bus stops and nice new pavement.  I don't know how long this stretch is, but it's a great step for the city of Grand Rapids!

Thanks to all of the advocates, officials and community members who got this done.

Here's Mayor Heartwell doing the dedication.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Luton Park

I visited the mountain bike trails of Luton Park in Rockford, MI for the first time on Thursday with a co-worker. It was a really fun trail! Actually, it’s a multi-use trail system, so people can run, hike and bike on it, which I think is cool.

The system is broken up into a main easy loop (Blue) and five loops of varying difficulty (Green, Orange, Black, Red and Yellow) that branch off from it.

Compared to other trails in the area, Luton Park has relatively little climbing but a great deal of tight twists and narrow passes between trees.

There are also a few logs, rock gardens and plank sections to ride over.

These trails will definitely hone your riding skills. Since it was my first time there, I took it slow and really enjoyed myself. There was lots of camaraderie on the trail that night, too, as many people were out for a ride on a beautiful evening.

I would love to ride at Luton a lot more. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a drive from my house. It makes me wish I lived on the north side of town where most of Grand Rapids’ great mountain and road biking trails are.

So, Luton Park – lots of run to ride! I’d highly recommend it.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Common Cycle

Yesterday, Trisha at LGRAB did a profile of Molly Kleinman, a resident of Ann Arbor, Michigan and a cycling advocate working with a bicycle collective called Common Cycle.

Common Cycle, started in February 2010, is working to make Ann Arbor a better place for the cycling community with education, bike repair through their Mobile Repair Stand and eventually a shared workspace where bike-loving people can work, learn and hang out together.

I was really excited to see what Common Cycle is doing, because there was nothing like this in Ann Arbor when I lived there as a student. I even tried riding my bike around campus, but I found it too hard with the challenges of weather and pedestrians. If I had known more about cycling laws and bike repair – really any support from other cyclists – I might have stuck with it.

Common Cycle is in the midst of an ambitious fundraising campaign with the goal of raising $5000 by August 31, 2010 to buy tools and trailers for their Mobile Repair Stand. If you make a donation to their non-profit organization, they’ll send you cool stuff – the rewards get bigger the more you give! So go check out a great video explaining who Common Cycle is and consider pledging as a backer here.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Running - Coming Home

As the name of this blog might suggest, I’ve fallen in love with cycling.

I’ve been road and mountain biking for about three years now. When I started cycling as an adult, especially on my first road bike, it felt so natural. Like I was born to ride a bike. I wondered what would have happened if I had discovered cycling earlier in life. I probably would have raced in high school or begged my parents to take me to state parks to explore the trails.

But I didn’t discover my love for cycling early on. The sport that I first developed a passion for was running.

I started running during the summer before my freshman year of high school, at age 14, when one of the cross country moms invited me to check out a summer group run. I showed up at the middle school down the block from my house wearing Keds canvas sneakers. Running shoes? What are those?!

I think we ran a mile that first day and continued to work up to three or four miles over the next couple months. And for some reason, I kept going back. I think I was just too stubborn to give up on something I had started.

When school began in the fall, I went to a meeting for those interested in joining the cross country team. The coach asked us all to write down what our goals for the season were. People said things like “improve my times,” “improve my endurance” and “get in better shape.” I remember having to ask someone what “endurance” meant.

On the first day of cross country practice, the coach had us run a pretty intense workout – something like 6 one-mile intervals. That made me nervous, but the veteran runners told me not to worry. The coach was just weeding out who was really serious about being on the team. And I knew I was.

From cross country, I naturally moved to the distance events in track (also the high jump and some hurdles!).

I was never very fast, but there was always something about running that kept me doing it. Like I’d be missing something if I quit. I ran CC and track all four years in high school. I became a captain on both teams and earned a varsity letter in both sports.

My enthusiasm for running has had its peaks and valleys over the years since high school. Running is a sport that you can carry with you your entire life or let it drop and never look back. I love that running is still a part of my life, and I hope to be one of those awesome 80 year olds who is still running in races for fun.

Even though running can be a painful endeavor, there is just something about it that keeps me coming back. The challenge, the workout, the satisfaction, the accessibility, the health, the accomplishment, the high.

I do love cycling, but for me…running will always feel like my athletic “coming home.”

Friday, July 30, 2010

Goodhope Bags Hydration Pack Review

A couple weeks ago, I was approached by Wayfair to do a review of any product that I was interested in on their host of websites. I’ve been wanting to try out a hydration pack like a CamelBak, but I’ve been turned off by the high prices of the name brand packs. So, I decided to take this opportunity to try out a less known brand and see how the pack performed.

I ended up going with a 2-liter pack from Goodhope Bags.

I have now had the opportunity to use the Goodhope Bags hydration pack for a mountain bike ride, a run, a road bike commute, motorcycle riding and general walking. So far, I’ve been very happy with the pack.

When I first took a look at the Goodhope Bags hydration pack in person, I thought that it looked larger than I expected from the image on the website. However, comparing the pack to the CamelBaks that my friends have that also hold 2 liters of water or more, this pack is right on par in terms of size. When I actually put the pack on, it is not too large at all.

Probably the most impressive thing about this pack is the amount of cargo space that it provides without seeming bulky. There is a flat, zippered pocket on the front of the pack and another zippered compartment behind that. Then this compartment, along with some mesh, forms an expandable open topped pocket. Behind that is another, flat mesh pocket with a clip closure. Finally, there is a large, double-zippered main compartment that spans the entire length of the pack.

I cannot imagine having any trouble carrying everything I would need for a long bike ride, hike or other outdoor adventure in this pack. It will easily hold tools, food, phone, keys, sunscreen, even some compact clothing. I have been able to use the pack to successfully carry a change of clothes, shoes and tools for a bike commute to work. However, the pack would not be large enough if you needed to carry a sweater or books, too, and it is certainly not the bag for a laptop.

I have been pleasantly surprised by the comfort of the pack. It has padded shoulder straps, padding on the back and clip straps at the hips and chest. I consider these straps an absolute requirement for the comfort of carrying around a heavy pack for several hours. If I can’t distribute much of the weight onto my hips, forget it. The straps are also highly adjustable, so I’ve had no problem positioning the pack comfortably for different loads and activities.

For both mountain and road biking, walking and motorcycling, the pack has been very comfortable. I really forget that it’s there until I want to take a drink from it, at which point, I just grab the tube and put it to my mouth. If anything, the tube is a little long, but I’ve been able to just tuck it under the shoulder strap to keep it from flopping around.

For running, I found that the water in the pack sloshes back and forth with each step. Wearing the pack as close to my body as possible - without restricting breathing, of course – stopped the pack from moving around much as I ran. However, the shoulder straps did rub on my bare neck. This was not a problem on the bike and could be solved for running by wearing a sleeved shirt instead of a tank top. However, if you are sensitive to chaffing, I would probably not recommend this pack for running.

The bladder has a standard design with a large-mouthed, screw cover opening that is easy to fill with liquid and even ice, which is a plus because the water does warm up when you wear the pack in the hot sun. (I would guess that it would also freeze in cold weather conditions.) The tube is generously long and can be fed through a guide on either shoulder strap. There is a loop of Velcro on either side of the bladder compartment to hold the tube in place. The bite valve is easy to lock and unlock by pulling it out or pushing it back down on the tube. The bite valve itself was a little stiff to bite at first, but it softened up after only a couple uses and is now easy to draw water from.

The bladder does give a minor plastic-y flavor to water, but I’ve easily covered that up with a little sports drink or lemon juice. The plastic taste is so subtle that I think it will dissipate over time.

The biggest downside I see to the pack so far is the lack of hooks or clips to hold the top of the bladder in place. As it is, the bladder slides down in the compartment as it empties. This has not actually been a problem; water still flows freely out of the tube. But if it became a concern, it would be easy to use a couple of loose leaf binder rings to attach the corners of the bladder, which have holes molded right into them, to the Velcro loops in the top of the bladder compartment.

The pack looks attractive and modern. The color is not gaudy and there are no extraneous logos, tags or patterns. There is one reflective strip on the back of the pack that is about half an inch wide and six inches long. I wouldn’t stake my life on it as a safety feature (when riding in the dark, always use lights on your bike), but it does offer a little extra visibility – even in the day time.

The construction and materials of the pack look to be of decent quality and durability. Obviously after only a few uses, I cannot speak to the longevity of this pack, but I have no reason to believe that it won’t last for a long time.

I also did not test out the water resistance of the pack. It does not claim any waterproof qualities, so I would not expect more from it than a standard backpack.

Overall, I am quite impressed by this hydration pack and would definitely recommend it to others.