Review of Nathan Trail Mix 7 Liter Women’s Race Pack

For years I ran with a Nathan hydration waist belt and was pretty happy with it. I say that, but it was honestly more like a love/hate relationship. I loved having my favorite Nuun on my long runs plus a small area for my phone and Honey Stinger chews but I hated having to constantly push the belt down when it inevitably slid up my hips, further and further up my waist.

Finally, last October I took the plunge and bought a running vest, namely the Nathan Trail Mix 7 Liter Women’s Race Pack. From here on, I’m going to call it a running vest even though Nathan calls it a race pack. I had seen running vests primarily on marathoners and trail runners but also half marathoners and debated for a couple of years whether to buy one. Why the delay in buying one? Well, running vests are considerably pricier than running belts, about twice the price. Still, I thought since I could also take my vest hiking it would be dual-purpose and well worth it (plus no more struggling with it during runs).

I ran my fastest 5k ever wearing my Nathan running vest!

After looking at several other companies’ running vests online last fall, I thought I’d go to REI to try one on and see which I liked the best. I tried on an Osprey, Salomon, and this one by Nathan. I just liked how it fit better than the others plus it didn’t seem like more than I needed. The Trail Mix 7 Liter comes with a 2 liter hydration bladder, weighs just 7 ounces without the bladder and 11 ounces with it (empty of course). It’s also specifically designed for women, has multiple adjustable straps, three pockets in the front, and three zippered pockets in the back.

Another reason I bought my running vest at REI is their generous return policy. You can return anything within a year of purchase. I wasn’t sure how breathable and comfortable the vest would be for summer runs, so I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to test the vest out, including for hot, humid runs.

So how did it hold up for those hot runs? Great! I thought for sure I’d have a hot, sweaty back and would be too uncomfortable to wear the vest during the summer months (which, let’s be honest, the heat kicks in during the spring here and doesn’t cool down that much until mid-October) but never once was it an issue. I also took my vest hiking every chance I had, including Hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park-┬áRedux. The 2 liter hydration bladder is the perfect amount for me, and believe me, I drink a ton of water when I’m hiking.

When I go out for a long run, I don’t run with the hydration bladder, but I do run with a 500 mL flask in one front pocket, a 10 ounce flask in another front pocket (each has Nuun Endurance), and Honey Stinger chews in the third front pocket. In the back pockets, I have my phone and some emergency supplies should I ever need them (things like Bandaids, tissues, a mask during COVID, migraine pills, and things like that). There’s plenty of room in the back pockets, even with the full bladder. When I’m hiking and have the bladder (it’s full of only water), that goes in one back pocket and my emergency supplies go in the other back pockets.

So far you may have noticed there are only pros mentioned here. The only con I have is the adjustable straps don’t always stay put on long runs. Occasionally I have to grab them (usually both come loose at the same time) and tighten them again. This only takes a second, though, and is really a minor point. There’s probably a way to hook them to something once you tighten them, but I haven’t researched that because it’s such a minor thing.

The Nathan Trail Mix 7 Liter Women’s Race Pack comes in the pink color I have and a blue color that was out of stock when I bought mine. I just checked Nathan’s website and the blue is currently out of stock. They only have the men’s version on the REI site. That’s perhaps also a con I have about this vest: there apparently aren’t enough blue vests that they’re consistently out of stock. If anyone from Nathan (or even a competitor brand of running vests) just happens to be reading this, make more colors of running vests for women. Not all women exclusively like pink and purple.

Do any of you run with a hydration vest? Are you on the fence about buying one?

Happy running!

Donna

My Top Five TV Shows of All Time

Even though my blog is typically about either something running-related or something travel-related, hence the name, I’m going rogue for this post (thanks, COVID!). Although I’m still running, I’m not racing and haven’t been able to run what was supposed to be my final three half marathons this year to finish my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states (Iowa, New Mexico, and Minnesota are the ones left, if you don’t know or didn’t see my map). I’m also not traveling much this year and have had to cancel all of my spring, summer, and fall travel plans although I did have a couple of plan b vacations.

So, I’m stealing this idea from a podcast I listened to on a run recently, which you can find here: https://www.bibrave.com/podcast, episode 215, “The Best TV Show Characters of All Time.” I am going to put my own spin on the idea, however, and talk about TV shows in general, not limited to just show characters. I will also say that these are shows that while they’re no longer airing new shows, there aren’t any from my childhood, so I didn’t go back too far. You know the shows that you look(ed) forward to watching each week, eagerly anticipating what was going to happen? That’s what these shows were to me. Many of them I re-watched over and over again.

I’m not going to rank my top five TV shows because that would be way too hard. It was hard enough to limit it to five but I didn’t want to go crazy and five seemed like a good number. I’ll give some brief background about each TV show for those of you who have never seen the show. I’m also going to talk about some of my favorite moments from the shows and some of my favorite characters. Here goes!

House of Cards

This show is one that honestly surprised me that I loved as much as I did because I almost never like politically-based shows. House of Cards starred Kevin Spacey as Congressman Frank Underwood and Robin Wright as his wife Claire Underwood and was set in Washington, D.C. It aired from 2013 to 2018 on Netflix. The lengths that Frank and Claire would go to to secure the Underwoods’ spot in the White House was astounding. Every week I would just watch in disbelief as I watched some horrific acts being done by the Underwoods and would anxiously wait to see what else the writers of the show would come up with. I will say this show has some dark scenes and may not be for everyone.

My favorite character on the show was Claire Underwood because she was able to gradually reveal just how ambitious she really was. How she ended up where she was by the end of the show was truly incredible and while it may have seemed a bit too unbelievable, it was entirely possible. I loved how they often showed flashbacks of Claire’s childhood and young adulthood to reveal aspects of her character and how she got to where she was in life. The brutal killing of journalist Zoe Barnes was one of the more memorable moments for me, although I can’t say it’s my favorite. I won’t give away how she dies for anyone who hasn’t seen the show but would like to watch it.

Sex and the City

Sex and the City was based on a book of the same name by Candace Bushnell, which I devoured. Luckily for me when Sex and the City aired, beginning in 1998 and going into early 2004, I actually had the premium TV channel HBO (normally I’ve never paid for premium TV channels but it was included in a package I had at the time). Sex and the City was set and filmed in New York City and starred Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw, Kim Cattrell as Samantha Jones, Kristin Davis as Charlotte York, and Cynthia Nixon as Miranda Hobbes. While these four women were best friends, they had very different personalities, which just added to the draw of the show. The show focused on friendship, dating, and of course sex, in a way that was at times funny, shocking, and enlightening.

It’s hard to say which character was my favorite. Carrie Bradshaw was the main character and was kind of set up to be the favorite in many ways, but I found myself intrigued by Samantha Jones. Samantha was the extreme character of the show, who would say and do things that were edgy and pushed the envelope of what’s “normal” or “acceptable” for a woman in her 40’s. More often than not, I found myself rooting for Samantha, all the while astounded by some of the things she would say or do. The quintessential Sex and the City moment was when Carrie tripped and fell on the fashion runway. Instead of running away in tears, she got right back up and continued her walk, holding her head up high.

The X-Files

The X-Files is a science fiction drama that ran on Fox network from 1993 to 2002 and starred FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) whose job was to investigate unsolved cases involving paranormal phenomena. The two characters provided the perfect yin-yang since Mulder was portrayed as the alien-chaser, often obsessive in his quest to prove the government conspiracy to hide the truth and Scully was the skeptical, more sensible medical doctor just out to seek the truth, whatever that may be. Over the years, different plots were revealed, and I found myself curious as to where the show would go with the storyline. Although I’ve never been one to believe in government conspiracies, I found myself intrigued by the ideas on the show.

I was definitely drawn to the character Dana Scully and how her beliefs evolved over the years. By the end of the show, she had become a reluctant believer at least in some paranormal activities, though not nearly to the extreme as Mulder. She attempted to explain the paranormal using science and showed it was possible to believe in both. I liked how she was usually able to rein in Mulder and although she never came close to changing his mind when it came to aliens and the paranormal in general, she could at least get him to see the science behind it. One of the most memorable episodes for me is called “Home” and is about an inbred family of killers. Even though that was in season 4, I still remember that show in grisly detail.

Seinfeld

So far I feel like my choices have been TV shows that cover some shocking and/or controversial material. Seinfeld may have occasionally covered some controversial material, but it was first and foremost a sitcom. Created by Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, the show aired from 1989 to 1998 and was set in New York City. Although it was often described as a “show about nothing,” the characters made the show one of the most widely loved and influential TV shows of all time. The show starred Jerry Seinfeld as a fictionalized version of himself, Jason Alexander as George Costanza, Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Elaine Benes, and Michael Richards as Cosmo Kramer. Seinfeld was one of those shows that made you laugh at the characters but also relate to some of the often crazy things they would say or do.

I’m not sure I could choose just one character as my favorite. They each had an important part in the show and had so many moments that stand out to me. I remember Elaine’s bad dance moves, wiping her butt on her co-worker’s keyboard, eating olives straight from the jar with her fingers at Jerry’s apartment, and her many bad dating moments. I remember the time Kramer had an elite runner staying at his apartment the night before the NYC marathon and how badly that went, a group of Japanese business men staying with Kramer and sleeping in drawers in a bedroom dresser, and all of the times he barreled into Jerry’s apartment door. Then there’s the time George killed his fiance by buying cheap wedding invitations, when he was going to eat an eclair out of the trash at his girlfriend’s parent’s house and was caught, and the many crazy things that happened when he was at work with the New York Yankees. Jerry has the “puffy shirt” moment, dating the woman called “man hands,” and the “Junior mint” episode with Jerry and Kramer accidentally dropping a piece of candy onto a surgical patient below them.

Breaking Bad

OK, back to the shocking and/or controversial TV shows because this one has it all- drugs, violence, crime, lies, and deception throughout all five seasons. Breaking Bad was created by Vince Gilligan (who wrote for many years for the X-Files) aired from 2008 to 2013 and starred Bryan Cranston as Walter White and Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman. Set and filmed in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Breaking Bad begins with White, an underpaid high school chemistry teacher, being diagnosed with stage three lung cancer. Desperate for money and thinking he’s going to die soon anyway, White starts making crystal methamphetamine with his former student Pinkman. As you can imagine if you haven’t seen the show, Jesse and Walter get themselves into some harrowing situations but between Walter’s intelligence and Jesse’s resourcefulness they end up living to tell the tale, even if they end up being beaten to near-death upon more than one occasion.

I didn’t like any of the female characters in the show. Not a single one. I think my favorite character was Jesse Pinkman because his storyline was one of the best outside of Walter White’s. What drew me to Jesse was how the writers carefully and slowly over time showed just how complicated his character was. One of the more memorable moments in the show was from the first season when Jesse was told by Walter to get a specific kind of plastic tub to dissolve a body in hydrofluoric acid. Instead, Jesse put the body in his own porcelain tub. The crazy thing is hydrofluoric acid will dissolve porcelain but not the kind of plastic Walt had asked for, so the tub with the dead body and all of the bloody gore fell through the wood floor in a shocking, dramatic way. The final show from the last season was hard to top, though, as Walter went out in a blaze of glory like none other.

What about you? What are some of your all-time favorite TV shows? Did you watch any of these shows?

Happy not-running or traveling!

Donna

I Ran My Fastest 5k, but Does It Even Count?

We’ve all heard the saying, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” I thought about this when I recently ran my fastest 5k but it was a virtual race. Normally I haven’t been into virtual races but I chose to run this one because I saw there was going to be swag bags to the first 350 registrants, a virtual leaderboard, and virtual awards at the conclusion. Competitive? Me? Perhaps.

That brings me back to my thoughts about my “race” time. Both Garmin and Strava show my time for the 3.1 (actually 3.11) miles that I ran, but because I live in North Carolina where our COVID numbers aren’t that great compared to other states and we still aren’t allowed to have in-person races yet, this was a run, not a race. Or was it?

What defines a race? Swag? Check. An official course? Nope. Chip-timed? Nope. Other people running at the same time you are? Sort of; they weren’t running with me, but there were plenty of other people running, walking, and biking on the same greenway where I ran that morning. A leaderboard with results? Check. Awards? Check. A specific day and time that the race starts and ends? Not even close since people have the whole month of September to run 3.1 miles and record their times.

Even though a lot of boxes are checked, I’m not sure I would call this a race for one simple reason: there were no other runners with the sole intention of running 3.1 miles on the same exact course that I was running that day and time. To me, it was still just a run.

Catching my breath after I finished my 5k/3.11 run

It’s a shame really that I can’t claim this 5k as my fastest 5k ever, despite the fact that my watch claimed it was my fastest 5k when I saved the run. It does make me want to go out and run an official 5k just so it’s “official.” Well, kinda. To be honest, running this 5k was HARD. I had to mentally push from about 1.5 miles until I finally reached 3.1 miles. By the end I had a side stitch as well, which I never get. I’m not sure I want to suffer like that again.

Then again, who knows? Maybe once races start back again I will sign up for an official 5k just to prove to myself I can do it again, on an official course that’s chip-timed, with other people on the same course as me, starting at the same time as me. Even if I don’t finish quite as fast as I did for this virtual 5k or run or whatever you want to call it, I will know it “counts.”

How do you stand on virtual races? Love them/hate them/indifferent? Have you gotten any PR’s during virtual races you’ve done?

Happy running!

Donna