Archive for the ‘Play’ Category

Product Review: Icebreaker Bodyfit 200 Oasis Crewe Base Layer

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Icebreaker

BACKGROUND:
The New Zealand company, Icebreaker, opened a Portland Office in 2007 and then soon after re-located its headquarters here too. For those unfamiliar with Icebreaker they make fine (very fine) merino wool clothing. Not only do they take making natural clothing to a whole new level, but also the ‘way’ that they make it is very impressive. Their philosophy is based on a lifestyle that involves great design, quality, sustainability, nature, and playing. Who can argue with that? 

PRODUCT:
Over 12 months ago I became the proud new owner of several Icebreaker products: socks, jacket, hat, scarf, and base layers. I’m going to focus on the base layers for this review. I have 3 of the bodyfit / 200 Oasis long sleeve base layers. The number (200) refers to the amount of merino wool used. The higher the number the heavier, and therefore warmer the garment.

Icebreaker Oasis Base Layer

Icebreaker Oasis Base Layer

FIRST IMPRESSION:
The Oasis base layer is not at all itchy like I have previously experienced with some wool tops I’ve had in the past. The cut was nice and long in the body and arms. Yeah!  Nice flat lock stitching.

USES:
I use the base layers for any cold weather activity: cycling, running, walking the dog, snow shoeing. You name it, it’s the base layer I always reach for during the winter months.

Icebreaker Oasis Bodyfit 200

Icebreaker Oasis Bodyfit 200

SECOND IMPRESSION:
It was stuck in my head that wool looses it’s shape, gets all “bitty” and is itchy. Quite the opposite. I love that it is a snug fit (and even after lots of washes it retains its shape) and that the arms are long enough. Nothing worse than having a base layer with short arms.
I don’t like being too cold, but I really hate being over dressed and too hot. The bodyfit 200 is perfect for this climate. Wicks great and kept my body temperature comfortable.  And no sweaty stink!  How is that possible? I read on Bikeportland.org  that Jonathon wore his Icebreaker short sleeve top every day for several days of cycling during the summer last year. No washing in between. And no stink!

DRAWBACK:
Made in China.
So the wool isn’t itchy, but the label inside is. Nothing a pair of scissors can’t fix.

COOL FACT:
There is a ‘Baa’ code on the label that allows you to trace online the origins of the wool used to make your garment. There are some really cool stories about the farms, farmers and sheep. It makes you want to go visit New Zealand.

baacode

baacode

SIZING:
Depending on brands, I am between a Small or Medium. The Small Oasis base layer fits me. However, the Medium Jacket was a better fit. The information on the packaging mentions a potential 5% shrinkage after washing. There may have been a little shrinkage, but nothing I really noticed. And I’m embarrassed to admit that I wasn’t careful with laundering . I threw them in a warm wash and then by accident threw them into the dryer too. Normally I like to hang dry. 

DESIGNS:
The designs of the items I have are very under-stated. Plain black. But I like them like that. They are base layers afterall.

COST:
Icebreaker is not inexpensive. I don’t think I would have tried the base layers if I hadn’t had a chance to get one on a super duper sale. After a couple of uses though, I was converted into an Icebreaker fan.

Looking forward to seeing some of the new cycling jerseys that they are working on.

Long Distance Runner going Free

Monday, June 21st, 2010

I have Grateful Dead’s ‘Fire on the Mountain’ song stuck in my head: “Long distance runner, what you standin there for? Get up, get out, get out of the door”.  Seems a good way as any to start this blog posting on running.

I remember my first running race back when I was 8 or 9 years old. It was to try out for the schools relay running team.  I remember finishing in 4th place which meant I had just made the relay team.  I think the actual real race against other schools didn’t go so well. For some reason I think we were disqualified. That was the start for me. I think I have consistently ran ever since.

Through middle school and high school we had grass running tracks.  That meant we could run bare foot. And I did whenever I could. I ran 800, 1500, and also competed in the long jump and shot put…Yeah, can you believe it “a long distance running shot putter”.   (I think I was the skinniest shot putter out there.)   And when we couldn’t run bare foot, the shoes we wore were pretty minimalistic. They basically kept our feet from getting muddy and cut up. 

I still love running. I love the simplicity. The freedom. And the childlike feeling it gives to me. I like to run all the time. I run from the car to the grocery store, when crossing the street, run from the bus stop to work, down to the mail box; you get the picture.  Now I have a 4 year old daughter, Indie, who likes to run with me. We run to the library, to the swimming pool, to ballet class. People think we’re running because we’re in a hurry or late and not because we just like to run.  One day this guy said to me “ya know, if you left earlier, you wouldn’t always be late and then you wouldn’t need to run everywhere”. 

All my years running no one had ever really mentored me on how to run. I did what came naturally. But it wasn’t without its aches and pains.  One year I suffered with hip pain so bad I had to hang up my running shoes for awhile. But at least I could ride. (And that was the start of me riding and racing my bike more.) I wanted to figure out why I was hurting from running. Many x-rays later, PT visits, and orthopedic surgeon visits I got orthotics. The first day I ran in them I was pain free.  This made me a big fan of orthotics. But I still didn’t really understand why I needed orthotics.

I took a break from running while I was pregnant, but after I had my daughter it seemed like a good time as any to work on changing my running technique. I had been reading about Pose, chi and Evolution running techniques and their differences and was intrigued. The first change I made was to slow down. I started to run more upright. I increased my cadence and tried to land on the ball of my foot. It was hard at first to break life-long habits, but after 5-6 weeks the running started to feel more natural.  It was better than heel striking.  And my hips didn’t hurt!

Recently I read “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougal. I loved this book. It spoke to me. It was almost visual. I loved the idea of people running and having fun and being able to do it when they are older, and do it well. The book talks about how the human foot has a built in shock absorbing system when you land on your ball of your foot.  And that modern day shoes cause us to heel strike and not make use of this system. The book even goes as far to say that today’s shoes are the cause of  many running injuries.  There are a few articles out there alluding to this. So this book got me thinking about my humble beginnings as a runner when I was running around a grass running track without any shoes.   I wanted to do a little test.  Was it my youth that allowed me to run around barefoot and get away with it? Or was I running with a technique that suited my body?   I wasn’t ready to take the plunge and go with the Vibram five fingers. Instead I got myself a pair of the Nike Free shoes.  They’re like the shoes I had when I was running back in middle school, very minimalistic, except for the hot pink laces! 

My new Nike Frees

 I’ve run on trails with these shoes for a month now. And they feel great. It was a lot easier to land on the ball of my foot without the big heal cushioning getting in the way. My feet did feel more “free” for the want of a better word. I could feel the ground under my foot, but in a good way, not in an “I’m going to bruise my foot” kind of way.  I can see that running in these minimalistic bare foot wannabe shoes are for the longer slower trail runs, and not the faster aggressive road runs. And at this point in my life, I’m not interested in going fast, I just want to be able to hit the trails and run for the sake of running.