Review: Spring ShokzBox

It feels as if it was just yesterday that I began participating in #bibchat – a weekly Twitter-based discussion group focused on running, hosted by the folks over at BibRave.com. Over the course of my interaction, I’ve had the opportunity to converse with some really awesome runners, learn about new running opportunities, and become aware of some amazing running gear I knew nothing about.

One particular piece of gear (er, brand) that had been popping up on accounts I’ve followed recently is something called AfterShokz. This company makes a different take on the wireless headphone, sitting the main sound output OUTSIDE of the ear – rather than in it – enabling the user to still hear what is going on around them. I got a chance to see a few pairs of these headphones in person a few weeks back when I ran into a few of the BibRave Pros (@daddydidyouwin and @mmaynard551) before the start of the Glass City Marathon in Toledo. Their positive take on these only helped fuel my curiosity.

Naturally, when it was announced that AfterShokz was going to put out their Spring ShokzBox, I was interested. This box is essentially a grouping of some very popular running gear at a very good price. So, I jumped at the opportunity and splurged on a box for myself.

It arrived about two weeks ago. Having now had an opportunity to put the items inside to use, here’s my review of the Spring ShokzBox.

Overall

The biggest and overarching big win of this box, without a doubt, is the value. Anyone who says that running is an inexpensive experience is a liar. Adding up the approximate retail prices of the products reviewed below, the total cost to buy these products individually (before any taxes & shipping) comes to right around $280. The Spring ShokzBox itself with all these items inside is $199.95 – with no shipping cost. Even someone who got an F in Algebra can figure out that the ShokzBox this is a great deal.

Products

AfterShokz Trekz Titanium Headphones (retail $129.95)

I genuinely cannot say enough good things about these headphones. After finally getting to see them in person in Toledo before the GCM, I was sold on the idea. They sit VERY comfortably over the ears and they stay in place – no bouncing, no movement of any kind.The sound output is fantastic and I really can hear everything going on around me. I run primarily outdoors, so being aware of what is going on around me is crucial. An added bonus with these headphones is that I don’t feel as I’m yelling when I still have them on – as is the case with most in-ear or over-ear configurations. If you don’t already have these, get them NOW.

AfterShokz Buff (retail ~$18)

This one I’ve been skeptical about for a while, but was also very eager to see what all the fuss is about. Turns out, it’s pretty darn handy. First off, it’s made from moisture-managing microfiber fabric – the closest thing I can compare it to would be a DriFit-esque type material – which means it is very lightweight and keeps you dry. It is also wind resistant which can keep you protected from windburns during your workouts. The big takeaway here is that it can be worn more than 12 different ways, making it very easy to create your own look while still being comfortable. I prefer the traditional headband look, but I’m sure that will evolve. The only downside to THIS particular Buff (if there actually is one at all) is that it is not available for individual purchase and is just part of this ShokzBox. However, there are PLENTY of traditional Buffs in a variety of designs over at Buff’s website.

BibRave Trucker Hat (retail $22.95)

I’m not one for hats on a daily basis, nor when I run, so this is actually the one thing in the box that I can honestly say I have not used when running. However, if I did wear it while running, I’m pretty sure that I’d comfortable. This trucker style hat boasts a wicking headband on the inside and generous mesh panels around the side and back, which would keep me both cool and shaded. If I’m being completely honest, I like it because it’s orange – sue me. Perhaps it’ll make it out on one of my runs in the future, just not yet.

Orange Mud Transition Seat Wrap (retail $39.95)

Since I drove to my running location today, I actually put this one to use (finally!). There really isn’t a whole lot of fanfare to this one besides the fact that it is multifunction – it can be used as a car seat cover, a towel, and/or as a cover/wrap for an impromptu wardrobe change. If you are using it for the latter, it does have a built-in “belt” of sorts to keep it in place. Comes in a variety of colors (mine is blue) and is fairly soft to the touch. Sure beats a regular beach towel for the driver’s seat and it fits better too.

Brilliant Reflective Safety Strips (retail $9.95)

No fanfare here. Simply put, these are removable and reusable reflective strips, designed to enhance visibility of the wearer in lower-light conditions. Incredibly smart idea and I wish EVERYONE who goes for a run/bike ride/etc after the sun goes down had these.

Knuckle Lights (retail $59.99)

On that same note about nighttime safety, carrying some kind of light source during a night run is essential. Using a traditional flashlight or even the light on a smartphone isn’t very efficient for one’s activity, as one would have to hold the light source at an uncomfortable angle. A headlamp is a great solution, but the down side is an often itchy or uncomfortable headband. Solution? Knuckle Lights. These handheld lights wrap around the base of the fingers with a flexible strap. This ultimately utilizes the natural way the hands close when we run to A) hold the lights and B) put the light exactly where it is needed. The lights themselves are INCREDIBLY bright and has three modes (high beam, low beam, and strobe). If you’re running at night and you don’t have these yet – GET THEM.

***

When looking at the items in this particular ShokzBox, I’m hit with a trifecta of themes: comfortable, convenient, and safe. Everything in this box has value and will absolutely have a place in my plethora of running gear (well, maybe not the hat right away, but it’s still cool). Thank you AfterShokz for putting together such a great deal!


Get your ShokzBox while they are still available over at AfterShokz.

#PresRunsCbus Training Update

Back on 26 May, I had posted that I had committed to running the 2015 Columbus Marathon this coming October. It definitely does NOT feel as if almost 2 months have passed. Today marks the end of training week #5 (of 18) and I thought it’d be a great time for an initial update as to how things are going.

First – a reminder of my goals for this endeavor:

  1. Run the entire Columbus Marathon (26.2 miles)
    • If I can’t run the whole thing, at least run as much as possible.
  2. Beat my previous marathon time (4:49:55)
  3. Raise $1000 for Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

As of today, I have run 84.06 miles (50.9 of those in July alone) with an average pace of 9:00 minutes per mile. The average elapsed time of my runs is right around 38 minutes. Longest run so far (without substantial walking) has been 9.11 miles, run in Tacoma, Washington one week ago on 11 July. If my training continues as it has so far, and I am able to keep my pace close to or under 9:00/mile, I should complete the Columbus Marathon in the neighborhood of 4 hours even – almost an hour faster than my time 11 years ago!

So, I would say that at this point – with 13 weeks of training to go – I feel that I am at least on pace to achieve goal #2 and beat my previous marathon time. As for running the entire distance (goal #1), the jury is still out, but I’m feeling very optimistic about the possibility!

As for #3, I have raised $360 of my $1000 goal for Nationwide Children’s Hospital thus far – but there is still much work to be done. Nationwide Children’s Hospital works day in and day out to cure, mend, comfort and save an estimated one million children who will walk through the hospital doors this year. Like so many others, I am seeking to raise money to help support the work of Nationwide Children’s Hospital and simply ask for your support as I work to meet that goal. If you would like to learn more about Nationwide Children’s Hospital and support me as a Children’s Champion, please click here — any amount you can give is helpful and appreciated!

Finally, THANK YOU to all those who have been so supportive – in person or online. It’s always great to get that cheering noise from the Nike+ app! In addition to tracking via Nike+, I also upload my progress to Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram after every run- usually with the standard “#dropNgimme20“. This serves two purposes: keeps me publicly accountable and allows me to reflect on what I’ve achieved so far.

Sidenote: If you need/want motivation to start running or to keep running, get on Instagram or Twitter and search for #nikeplus, #running, #training (just for a start). There is an amazing community of runners out there who are super supportive and willing to share their knowledge and experiences. You can follow MY running via Instagram and Twitter.

Going for Two

Click HERE to learn more about Nationwide Children’s Hospital and to support me as 2015 Columbus Marathon Children’s Champion.


Over the last few weeks, I’ve been debating what I want to do next in regard to my running. Should I stick to the 5k circuit? What about a marathon? I can tell you now that I hope to run a few more 5k’s this year and maybe even move up a few more spots in the Wayne Healthcare Challenge. However – and as I’m sure you may have guessed by now – I have also answered the question about taking on a marathon as I have officially registered for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon this upcoming October.

So let’s be honest – the headline for this post should read more like “Going for (26point)Two“.

Anyhow, before I touch on this year’s endeavor, here’s some backstory for you:

***

In the spring of 2004, I lost my father to a very severe form of brain cancer (more on that here) and I was struggling pretty bad. I was struggling with my academics, I was struggling socially, I was struggling emotionally. At any given point in 2004, one could say that I was a first-class passenger on (or potentially the captain of) the Hot Mess Express. The only places or times that I felt I had control and where I wasn’t struggling (as much) was when I was playing music or running.

By the time fall of 2004 came around, I had changed my major to one with a sports focus. This meant I needed physical education credits. Thankfully, BGSU offered both Jogging which was taught by an experienced coach, runner, and all around great person. Running – exactly what I needed. She and I figured out very quickly that “jogging” wasn’t going to cut it for me – I needed more “running” – and we made it work quite well. As a result, my instructor nudged me to take on a greater running challenge. Her intent was not for me to specifically go after the marathon, but hey – go big or go home, right?

So, I that it would be cool to sign up and participate in the 2004 Columbus Marathon – my first marathon ever. What a day that was. My training wasn’t great and my performance wasn’t much better. There was quite a bit of both running and walking throughout the day, but I am proud to say that I did, in fact, run approximately 20 of the 26.2 miles and finished in 4:49:55. It wasn’t pretty and I was pretty well useless for the next 36 hours, but damnit I finished.

***

Running is my sport. It has helped me connect with new people, taught me discipline, and (obviously) has helped me cope with some of the not-so-pleasant parts of life. Running has helped me to remain healthy and able to participate in a wide range of activities, including collegiate marching band. Running is my sport and it is high time for me to get back to it.

So, I’m going to run the Columbus Marathon for the second time. The difference is that this time around I want to do MUCH better. I have my 18-week training schedule (Thanks, Hal Higdon) plotted out along with some supplemental workouts. My wife, Tammi, and I do what we can to cook at home and eat healthy, but let’s face it – cheat days happen. Ultimately, I would love to run a sub 4-hour marathon. Hell, I’d love to run well enough to qualify for Boston. Honestly though, I just want to do three things: run all 26.2 miles and beat my previous time.

The third thing I want to accomplish is meeting my fundraising goal as a Children’s Champion. Nationwide Children’s Hospital works day in and day out to cure, mend, comfort and save an estimated one million children who will walk through the hospital doors this year. I am seeking to raise $1000 to help support Nationwide Children’s Hospital and simply ask for your support in working to meet that goal. Your contribution will help children everywhere through the life-saving research and care done right here in Columbus.

Click HERE to learn more about Nationwide Children’s Hospital and to support me as 2015 Columbus Marathon Children’s Champion.

UPDATE: #AIP2WGI

FULLY FUNDED – two words that bring me so much joy right now. 

One week ago on March 19, the news came down that the final performance(s) for the Aurora Indoor Percussion – a trip to WGI World Championships – might be in jeopardy. Long story short, all because of potential transportation issues. After a number of setbacks, emails, phone calls, and even more setbacks, a mutually beneficial solution was identified. Part of this solution resulted in the creation of a GoFundMe campaign, which set out to raise the funds needed ($800) in order to transport our equipment to and from WGI World Championships.

The campaign was made public on Tuesday, March 24 around 8pm. Why is that relevant? Because as of TODAY (March 26), at 12:30pm – just slightly more than 40 hours later – our campaign to send #AIP2WGI is FULLY FUNDED.

Thanks to the support of so many amazing people, these talented high school musicians will be able to finish their season as planned – performing at WGI World Championships for the first time. THANK YOU to those who gave, those who shared our cause with others, those who love music, and to those who just want the to see these students succeed.

Help Aurora Indoor Percussion Get To WGI World Championships

CLICK HERE TO HELP AIP GET TO WGI WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

For the last two winters, I have served as an instructor with the Aurora Indoor Percussion ensemble from Aurora High School in Aurora, OH. These students put in, on average, 9 hours of rehearsal time a week, not to mention the amount of time they practice on their own. In 2014, the work paid off as the ensemble earned 3rd place at the state championships.

This year, the ensemble is made up of 24 talented students whose shared mission is 1) to create and perform music 2) while enjoying a positive social experience and 3) striving to perform at the highest level.

Our season is set to end in just a few weeks at the WGI World Championships in Dayton, OH on April 9 & 10. However, we have recently been made aware that our trip may be in jeopardy as the primary means of transporting our equipment to and from the event is no longer guaranteed. As a result, we have kicked off a GoFundMe campaign to raise $800 in order to rent a vehicle large enough to haul our equipment.

I take great pride in giving back to music programs and educating young musicians and it bothers me greatly to think that a transportation issue – be it for people or equipment – could dictate when a season ends. These students have worked too hard to be cut short this close to the opportunity of performing at WGI World Championships for the first time in the ensemble’s history. The students will remember this experience forever, but not without your help. 

Send #AIP2WGI!

CLICK HERE TO HELP AIP GET TO WGI WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

Ice Bucket Challenge

Update: To keep myself accountable, donations to both ALS Association (for the Ice Bucket Challenge) AND to the American Cancer Society (in memory of my father, Philip Ramsey) have been submitted. 


Yesterday (August 23), I was challenged by my mother-in-law to take the ALS #icebucketchallenge. Today, I accepted the challenge and, of course, recorded the video to document the event. However, you’ll have to wait for that.

What is ALS?

ALS, or Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that impacts nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body – the drivers of the body if you will. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost, often leading to victims becoming partially or completely paralyzed. ALS is not a contagious disease and knows no racial or socioeconomic boundaries – affecting approximately 5,500 Americans annually. (Source: ALS Association)

This is where I get frustrated.

The piece that is missing from most ice bucket challenge videos and/or posts is the paragraph above. I hate to say it, but there is a lack of education throughout the Ice Bucket Challenge on what ALS actually is and how it affects its victims. This is what people NEED to know. Now, sure – there have been some great response videos out there – Patrick Stewart, Benedict Cumberbatch, and so on. However, just as much fun as it is to watch others, it is important to know what it is you’re fighting against.

What is the Ice Bucket Challenge?

That’s a really good question. The simple answer, as best I can tell, is:

  • Someone nominates you for the challenge
  • You accept the challenge
  • You nominate others for the challenge
  • Douse yourself with a bucket of ice water
  • Remind your nominees that they have 24-hours to complete the challenge and/or donate. 

At first, I thought it was a novel way to simply engage and challenge one another. As the movement grew, it became slightly annoying, but then it also became somewhat entertaining. I’ve seen videos posted by celebrities, athletes, and even a good number of my dear friends. Of course, at a certain point, it became clear that eventually the nomination would be knocking on my door as well.

Some of my friends and I have had a number of discussions on this concept. Would we accept the challenge if nominated? Why or why not? Why has this taken off and become such a massive movement? Is it legit or just a fad? These are just a few of the questions we’ve pondered. To be honest, I had absolutely no intention of ever accepting the ice bucket part of the challenge. But, then again, I’m occasionally a proud and challenge-accepting person. Additionally, and probably more important, I see myself as something of a philanthropist. Maybe not the T.Boone Pickens (Oklahoma State) or Bob Sebo (BGSU) kind of philanthropist, but a philanthropist all the same.

Philanthropy 2.0

The idea of giving back isn’t about who gives the most or how often they give. It’s about giving back – period. You don’t have to be the person who donates a million dollars to an institution in order to have an impact. An individual should give when they are able to so and to those organizations or causes to which they have a connection. Even the smallest gift can make a difference.

My Response & Challenge

I’m well aware that to someone out there, my actions of accepting the challenge doesn’t necessarily line up with the words here. I’m okay with that because I know what I’m supporting and honestly, it was a bit of fun in the process.

SO, with all of that out of the way and in the spirit of giving, I have accepted the #icebucketchallenge from my mother-in-law and will be donating to the ALS Association as well as to the American Cancer Society. I have nominated my wife’s aunt, uncle, and younger cousin to take on the challenge as well.

To everyone else: I challenge you to go out and find a cause that interests you and support it in whatever way you are able – financially or otherwise. 

Until next time…keep striving.

Honeymoon Chronicles: Traveling by Train

Just a few days ago – 1 August to be exact – our time in Germany had come to an end, which meant another travel day and two more train rides. I should note all of our travel since arriving in Europe has been made possible thanks to a variety of European trains. In this post, I’ll do what I can to highlight the experience.

First off, know that this is the first time that either one of us has utilized traveling by train as a primary transportation method, as we usually fly or drive. I’ll be honest – I had my apprehensions about traveling by train across Europe. What if we miss a train? What if we can’t figure out the time tables? What if we get separated? More “what if’s” than I care to list. To my pleasant surprise though, the whole process has been incredibly easy and SIGNIFICANTLY less stressful than air travel.

There isn’t really any secret to train travel. You show up, get on your train, and go. For the most part, and assuming you have your ticket/reservation in advance (which I’ll talk about in a moment), you can show up at the platform for your outgoing train pretty much as it’s rolling into the station. I would not recommend doing so, but you don’t have to show up 2 hours early like you would for a flight. On average, we’ve been 30-45 minutes early for each train. And security? With the exception of the high-speed train between London and Paris, there aren’t really any security checkpoints.

Earlier, I mentioned having a ticket AND a reservation. Think of it this way – for a flight, you have to buy a ticket which will also include your seat assignment. For European rail travel, a ticket gets you on the train – and that’s all. Having a reservation in addition to that ticket will get you your seat. Without a reservation, you can sit down, but you are not guaranteed that seat for the whole trip. With that said, if you’re sitting in a seat without a reservation and along I come with the reservation for that seat – I get the seat and you get to move.

The biggest part of traveling by train…or by any method really…is knowing your travel information. This is nothing new but I cannot stress this enough though. You need to know your train number, what coach you’re sitting in, what seat your reservation is for, and where your train is going and where you get off. Not knowing your train info could quickly become a costly error. For example, there was a couple a few rows up from us on our train from Paris to Amsterdam. The train manager had come around to check tickets to find that this couple did not have the correct tickets. The gentleman in the couple was quite sure (see: arrogant) that he was on the correct train, in the correct seats, and was sure the train manager was incorrect. The train manager then pointed out, quite plainly, that the passenger and his companion were to have boarded a different regional train, not the high-speed service between Paris and Amsterdam. The couple had two options: 1) get off the train at the next stop with no penalty OR 2) get charged the full fare for the trip, as if they had joined us in Paris. They got off the train. What can be learned here? Know your travel information and NEVER argue with the man who could boot you off the train.

I can say that Tammi and I have really enjoyed traveling via train during our honeymoon. Most of our trains have been of the high-speed variety or darn close, making our travel days go by much quicker. As a result, I’m actually looking forward to possibly utilizing Amtrak in the future for travel back at home.

Until next time…