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REVIEW: Zwift Run (and the BibRave Virtual 5k)

Disclaimer: I received a Zwift RunPod to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!


Let me start with this statement: I. HATE. TREADMILL. RUNNING. 

The treadmill has never been something I have found to be particularly enjoyable. Honestly, treadmills bore me beyond imagination. I am one of those “weirdos” who would much rather be outside in any variety of conditions (rain, snow, wind, etc) than to be confined to staring at a boring screen let alone be in a line of others doing the same thing. With that in mind, I was not convinced at all that I would get anything beneficial or enjoyable when the opportunity came to combine a treadmill with an app called Zwift.

What is Zwift / Zwift Run?

Zwift is primarily an online platform used by cyclists for indoor training. Cyclists can pair their controllable trainer as well as their bike with the Zwift app to ride on any number of courses in realtime with other cyclists from around the world. One can ride on their own in a free mode, tackle a structured workout/workout program, or even jump in on a group ride. Upon initial account setup, a cyclist gets a 7 day free trial and then must signup for a subscription, which starts at $14.99/month.

Apply that ideology to running and you have Zwift Run. All a runner needs is a treadmill, a footpod (some work better than others), and a device – such as a laptop/tablet/or phone –  to run Zwift. Alternatively, a runner could also use a Bluetooth-enabled treadmill. Ultimately, this allows runners to run more than 100k across a variety of routes, including virtual courses inspired by central London, Richmond, VA, and New York City. Similar to our cycling counterparts, runners can run in a free mode, tackle a specific workout or workout program, or join a scheduled group run – all in realtime with runners from across the world. And of course, cyclists and runners alike can pair their Zwift account with other third-party apps, such as Strava, to keep track of distance and other stats. Oh, did I mention that Zwift Run is FREE?

My Zwift Experience

Full disclosure: I do not own a treadmill. In order to participate in this experience, I had to take a step WAY outside of my comfort zone and utilize the resources of a local fitness club – I’ll cover the pros and cons of THAT side-experience in a separate post. Spoiler alert though – the reason(s) I don’t have a gym membership were kind of confirmed as a result of this experience. More on that later…

First things first, I received my Zwift RunPod with plenty of time before the BibRave Virtual 5k. It was SUPER easy to set up. After I downloaded the Zwift app and got my account set up, I opened up the box, removed the protector plastic from the battery, and popped the pod on my shoe. At that point, I was ready to get on the treadmill and get going.

Didn’t even really realize the pod was there!

 

My view during my Zwift runs – apologies for the poor quality photo!

When I made it to the gym and hopped on the treadmill for the first time, I was a little apprehensive about it. I was going to have my phone (or my tablet) on the treadmill with what looks like a video game on the screen. Thankfully, the app itself is very easy to use and makes your forget (for a little bit, at least) that you’re actually at the gym. The Zwift Companion app also makes it very easy to engage with the other runners (& cyclists) that are on at the same time!

 

Running in Watopia – Zwift’s fictional virtual world.

The BibRave Virtual 5k

On November 29, all of the BibRave Pros participating in this Zwift opt-in were invited to jump in on a scheduled group run called the BibRave 5k. Using the Zwift Companion app, we were not only able to RSVP for the run, but could also select our desired pace group. This run got so much attention via the Zwift Companion app, a runner from the United Kingdom who records his Zwift runs on his YouTube channel joined in – despite the start time being at 11:45pm in the UK!

This run was a great way to bring so many members of our BibRave community “together” without actually being in the same physical location. BibRave and Zwift teamed up at The Running Event (an annual running industry event) in Texas to get four of our Pros on the treadmills with the rest of us across the country. Personally, I was pretty much stride-for-stride with fellow BRP Matt M. (who is also a fellow Ohioan) for the majority of our run, pushing each other quite a bit throughout – even if it wasn’t exactly intentional.

BibRave Pros running with me on Nov 29 in realtime from The Running Event in Texas!

 

Running with fellow Ohioan and Bibrave Pro, Matt M., during our BibRave 5k.

 

Even in a virtual world, I still get to run in the rain!

Takeaway

With this experience in the books, I am still not a proponent of the treadmill. HOWEVER, my experience with Zwift definitely takes some of the monotony out of the equation and opened my eyes to considering actually using one, even if only a handful of times throughout the winter months.

I still don’t own a treadmill, and am not actively seeking to add one to my basement…yet…but if YOU have a treadmill or access to one, I would encourage you to snag a footpod and give Zwift a shot.


Check out some other Zwift reviews from my fellow BibRave Pros!

LoganStaciaJennLissaMattKaty – MeganVirjinia – Stephanie

Snag a RunPod for yourself and use code BibRave15 to save 15% – but hurry, this code is only good for the first 1000 RunPods!

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REVIEW: Buff DryFlx Hat and Neckwarmer

Disclaimer: I received a DryFlx Hat & Neckwarmer from BUFF® to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to find and write race reviews!


As the year comes to a close, so does my first year as a BibRave Pro. It has been a unique experience – I’ll reflect on it in another post – which I have absolutely loved. One of my favorite parts of this program is the opportunity to test out various pieces of running gear. Some of my favorite pieces of running gear are my various Multifunction Headwear from BUFF®. Truth be told, when we got the message that there were new products to test from Buff, I immediately opted in – almost without truly reading the details! Of course, I did go back and review the details before hitting that submit button. Either way, I’m excited to share my review of Buff’s DryFlx Hat & Neckwarmer!

What is BUFF, anyway?

It’s amazing, that’s what. Personal feelings aside though, BUFF® makes Multifunction Headwear – a variety of head and neckwear that is flexible enough to become any number of garments in the blink of an eye. First developed in 1992, these One item alone can be a cap, a doo-rag, a headband – just to mention a few. All of their gear is designed with an active lifestyle in mind and there’s a BUFF for the entire family, even your dog – and our dog, Ruby, has one!

The DryFlx Hat is lightweight and rated to provide warmth during cool weather activities. Truth be told, I used both products on runs that would be best described as cold and I was very comfortable.  Like many of BUFF’s products, the fabric is highly breathable and quick-drying. The fit of this hat is much nicer than others of the “skullcap” variety. It fits comfortable enough that I can still pop on my Aftershokz headphones and they aren’t getting pressed into the side of my head. An added bonus is the 360º reflective design, providing increased visibility (see photos below).

The DryFlx Neckwarmer is designed much the same way – lightweight, flexible, and designed to provide warmth during cool weather activities. The articulated design helps provide plenty of coverage without excess bulk. As with the hat, the neckwarmer has 360º reflectivity providing higher visibility (see photos below). While BUFF® touts this as a neckerchief, neck gaitor, or face mask, I would go as far to say that this could be used as a headband as well!

Overview

I’ve been using BUFF® Original Multifunctional Headwear for a little over a year now and I absolutely love it. I’ll use multiple pieces for warmth on cool/cold runs as a neckwarmer and a cap, and one on warmer days as a way to keep sweat out of my eyes. With the DryFlx line, I now have BUFFs that are designed for my winter training – keeping me warm on those cold outdoor runs. As mentioned above, a HUGE bonus (for me AND my wife) is the added reflective features which help keep me visible as many of those cold outdoor runs are in the dark. I can throw all my BUFFs in the wash with my running gear and they are ready to go again – no special care needed.

Here are my big takeaways for the BUFF® DryFlx Hats & Neckwarmers

  • Flexible for any activity
  • Designed to provide warmth during cool weather
  • 360º reflectivity for increased visibility
  • 4-Way ULTRA STRETCH fabric that is breathable & quick-drying

With winter now here in Ohio, I’m glad to have another piece of gear that will allow me to get out there and get those miles without weighing/slowing me down. Ultimately, if you haven’t gotten your hands on gear from BUFF® yet – you absolutely should!


Check out some other reviews from my fellow BibRave Pros!

ANGIE — BEN — JANELLEKATY — MARK (video!) — STEPHANIE — VIRJINIA

Whatever your preference, there is a BUFF for everyone – even your dog! Head over to buffusa.com to snag one for yourself. 

REVIEW: Sabre Runner Pepper Gel

Disclaimer: I received a Sabre Runner Pepper Spray to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to find and write race reviews!


In my home, the conversation of being safe while out on a run comes up quite a bit. I always run with an ID wristband. I strive to be as visible as possible (headlamp, reflective gear, etc) when running at night. When I use music, I utilize headphones that allow me to remain aware of my surroundings. I make it a point to give my wife an idea of where I plan to run, sometimes giving an exact route. However, I’ve never really given a whole lot of thought to doing much else.

That’s somewhat problematic given where I run sometimes – in unfamiliar areas in Columbus, on country roads, etc. When I think about it like that, there is perhaps more I can do to be prepared. Enter Sabre Red Duathlete Pepper Gel with Adjustable Arm Band.

Rather than a traditional pepper spray, this pepper gel is absolute step up in terms of personal protection. Sabre claims that this is police-caliber strong, which that statement alone would sell me. However, the fact that it’s gel minimizes the potential for blowback AND can reach a target from a further distance (up to 12ft!). The safety trigger makes sure that someone (like me) doesn’t accidentally spray themselves in the face! Check out some of the details below:

sabrep-22j-annotated

Truth be told, I’ve NEVER carried any kind of defensive product before in any setting. It could have come in quite handy during a hiking trip this past summer though, as two dogs on a country road property came barreling out towards the road with no signs of stopping! Thankfully, the owner was close by and the situation was avoided, but it could have been worse.

Pros:

  • affordable – $18 (before shipping & applicable taxes)
  • incredibly lightweight.
  • incredibly flexible – worn on ARM or HAND
  • multiple use – up to 35 bursts in ONE canister.
  • keeps baddies at bay – 12 ft range
  • peace of mind, defense

Cons:

  • one more thing to carry

I think it goes without saying – the PROs vastly outweigh the CONs!

Unfortunately, it’s not always animals that we runners have to worry about. Far too often – especially in recent months – we’ve heard about runners being assaulted (sexually or otherwise) on local trails, kidnapped, or worse. In most cases, these incidents have impacted female runners, but let me be clear – things like this could happen to anyone. I hope that I never have to use Sabre Runner Pepper Gel (outside of a test scenario), but it definitely adds peace of mind should a situation arise.

When you venture out for your next run, remember:

  • Be visible – wear brighter colors during day runs and reflective gear at night
  • Be aware – turn your music down OR utilize headphones that DON’T go inside your ears
  • Be willing to carry & use protection – carry Sabre Runner Pepper Gel, Defense Spray, and/or a Personal Alarm

Head over to Sabre Red to check out the Sabre Red Duathlete Pepper Gel with Adjustable Arm Band or any of the other safety products they offer!

Review: AfterShokz Trekz Air

Disclaimer: I received the AfterShokz Trekz Air headphones to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador) and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!


About a year ago, I became aware of a weekly Twitter conversation called #bibchat. As my participation in #bibchat has grown, I have met (in-person or online) some fantastic runners who have inspired me to push harder and strive for bigger goals. Additionally, I’ve been made aware of brands that are putting out great products for running – products I would probably not know anything about if not for #bibchat. One of those companies is AfterShokz and the product in question are their Trekz series headphones. In this post, I’ll be focusing on the Trekz Air headphones.

Spoiler alert: I love these headphones. 

Not long after I got involved with #bibchat, I had an opportunity to get a pair of headphones from AfterShokz. The pair I purchased was the Trekz Titanium – which I reference HERE – and they have served me very well. Naturally, when the opportunity was presented THIS year to test and review the latest & greatest version (Trekz Air), I jumped at the chance.

My approach with the majority of my running gear is that it must fit and work well before I give a second thought to how it looks. Well, I try to employ that mindset at least! So that’s how I’ll layout this review – function before looks. Luckily for me, AfterShokz makes this very easy. But first, some background…

Background and Technical Info

The Trekz Air is the newest addition to the AfterShokz family. They are about 20% lighter than the previous Trekz Titanium model and have a much more comfortable fit. They have a run-time of approximately 6 hours and are water/sweat resistant. The OpenFit™ design ensures maximum situational awareness – which is absolutely essential when running in any environment, be it urban, suburban, or rural. They are wireless and connect via Bluetooth to your device of choice and have dual noice cancelling microphones which make picking up a call while on the run a seamless action. The Trekz Air come with a hassle free 2-year warranty.

So what’s my take on them? 

Fit

The Trekz Air fit perfectly – almost TOO perfect because it I barely even know I have them on. They are much lighter than their big brother (Trekz Titanium) and the piece that wraps around the back of the head is just right. It’s not too big, not too small, and it doesn’t bounce or rub against my neck.

Sound Quality & Battery Life

The sound quality with the Trekz Air is great as well. When synced, the volume control (behind the RIGHT ear) actually takes over the volume control on your device rather than having two independent volume controls. This is a great upgrade from previous wireless headphones I have tried! Podcasts are still a little quiet and are often drowned out by a strong gust of wind or a passing truck, but that’s to be expected. Aside from that, music and other content come through strong and sound amazing.

The great sound quality will just keep going and going thanks to the battery life that is packed in. These headphones can go quite a bit without having to be recharged. This is great especially when someone like me takes them off and tosses them in the car and doesn’t remember to A) turn them off of B) bring them in the house to recharge them. Either way, in the month or so that I’ve had these, I think I’ve only had to charge them fully ONCE. Coincidentally, that is happening now!

Looks

Well, they fit amazingly, they sound great, and they hold a damn good charge. So, how do they LOOK? If you look at the picture above this and the one below, you can see that they honestly blend in and are almost not noticeable at all. The side profile photo a little bit further up shows a little bit different look, but again, they look like they are supposed to be there and they’re out of the way. I think the most common questions I’ve gotten when other runners see me wearing them are:

  • “Aren’t they supposed to go IN your ears?” NO. 
  • “Those look weird to me. Do they feel weird sitting over your ears?” Nope. *at this point, I usually take them off and hand them to the person asking, insisting they try them on.* 
  • “Do they still sound like normal headphones?”YEP. *as they try them on, I’ll usually play something fun…like The Humpty Dance.*

Caution: side effects when wearing AfterShokz Trekz Air include answering all kinds of questions, making new friends, and advocating for your fellow runner’s safety.

Like I said at the beginning of the review, I’ve been using Aftershokz headphones for my running for about a year now and that is unlikely to change anytime soon. My first pair sold me on the idea and my Trekz Air has set the bar massively high for anything to dethrone it. The Trekz Air fit like they almost aren’t even there, the sound quality is fantastic, and they hold their charge for a WHILE. Plus, they look great no matter which color you go with.

So, if you want to run safely AND still want to be able to enjoy your content while running through some comfortable and powerful headphones, then you’ve got to get yourself the AfterShokz Trekz Air!

I’m not the only one who thinks so – check out what some of my fellow BibRave Pros are saying!

Danielle – Lindsey – Amy P – Barb S – Amanda L

SamanthaLoganAmyLisaBrad – Dodie


Convinced? Want to get a pair for yourself? Of course you do. Especially when you have three awesome color choices – Slate Grey, Forest Green, or (my personal favorite) Midnight Blue. Head over to bibrave.aftershokz.com and use the code BIBRAVE30 to save $30. 

When Pigs Run – Flying Pig Marathon Preview

Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Flying Pig Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!


A few weeks back, I was scrolling through my various social media feeds and reading up on what my fellow BibRave Pro’s (BRP) were up to in the coming week. Ever since becoming a BRP, I’ve always enjoyed seeing everyone’s race previews, pictures, and reviews. This time around, it seemed as if everyone was focused on races in or around Chicago. Naturally, this got me thinking “Where’s the love for Ohio races?” and after sitting on that thought for a day or so, I decided to act.

I reached out to Team BibRave to see how we could get some more traction for races in the Buckeye State. After hearing some less than thrilling reports of previous partnerships, I was more than happy to step up and continue to push my participation in (and for others to join me at) the Glass City Marathon. It was at this point that Stephanie Hoppe (our BibRave Pro Community Manager) came with an offer – “Thanks for reaching out – wanna run the Flying Pig?” – an offer I couldn’t refuse!

Why the Pig?

Honestly, I’ve never run the Flying Pig or any of the associated races. In fact until now, I’ve avoided this event – which doesn’t make sense because I’m from southwestern Ohio, was raised a fan of Cincinnati sports (ugh), and and got my running start on the wonderful hills of the region. But hey, there is a first time for everything and the offer is there, so here I go!

What’s your Goal(s)?

Well, this will be my second marathon in as many weeks, so I’m genuinely not pushing for any PR’s – or that’s what I’m telling myself. If I’m able to come in at or near 4:15, I’ll be pretty happy, but I’ll take simply finishing over a time goal this time. I’m really just excited to get to Cincy, experience the expo, link up with some other runners and BibRave Pro’s, and survive the run. Not overly excited for the big incline around mile 6/7, but it looks like a pretty decent course before and after that! Oh, another goal – get some SKYLINE CHILI, because Cincinnati.

Can I Track You?

Absolutely! The race kicks off at 6:30am on Sunday (5/6) morning. If you want to track the race or *cough* your favorite runner *cough*, head over to the Flying Pig Marathon website for information about how to download the tracking app.  The system the race is using is one I’ve used before and really like as it is pretty accurate, especially if your runner (like me) is using the live tracking option.

***

Truth be told, I wasn’t originally excited about the prospect of heading to Cincinnati, but the pre-race energy has taken over and I’m genuinely ready to experience the Flying Pig and cross the FINISH SWINE!

Review: Under Armour Horizon RTT Trail Shoes

Disclaimer: I received a pair of Under Armour Horizon RTT Trail Shoes to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. To learn more about becoming a BibRavePro (ambassador), check out BibRave.com where you can also find and write race reviews!


I have been, for the majority of my running career, a runner of the paved variety. Roads, rail-trails, sidewalks, etc. The predominant exception to this rule was when I ran cross country in grade school. Once that was over, however, I “hung up” my trail experiences and haven’t really gone back. That is, until this year.
Back in February, I had the opportunity to opt-in and try out something “new”. This something new was really something I just hadn’t really sought out intentionally for more than a decade. Trails – proper dirt and mud trails. In typing that last statement, I suppose “proper” isn’t the right word. As a result of opting-in, I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to test a pair of the Under Armour Horizon RTT trail shoes.

Unboxing

Like any package that arrives at my door, I’m thrilled to open it and get at what’s inside. This was no different and while I knew what it was before I opened the box, I was still incredibly excited. However, this subsided to a degree as I suddenly remembered how cumbersome trail shoes looked and felt. As far as looks go, this pair was par for the course (read: clunky), but the feeling of the shoes was much different. While they still felt stiff to me (as most new trail shoes would, I imagine), they felt significantly lighter than I remember trail shoes to feel. As far as the color scheme, I really didn’t care too much. I just wanted to get them out onto a trail!

Out on the Trails

I finally had an opportunity to put these shoes through their paces (pun intended) once I was able to get out to a local metro park with some decent trails / hills. Fortunately for me, it had been raining quite a bit in the days leading up to this particular run – and it was still going. My kind of day!
This particular run had it all – rain, snow, mud. IT WAS FANTASTIC. Did I get muddy? You’re damn right. Was I soaked? Hell yes. Through all of it though, these shoes held up and did NOT disappoint. There were a few points where I was sure I would lose my footing or even roll an ankle, but the stability I had thanks to these shoes was spot on. Mud seemed to roll off the upper. The mud that would collect in the lugs on the bottom was easily knocked off by kicking a nearby stump. While my feet did get quite wet, I never felt waterlogged or weighed down. All and all, these shoes felt like they belonged on this run.

Review

Full disclosure – I have taken these shoes out on other runs, but the most memorable to date was most certainly the run referenced above. 

If I had to give the UA Horizon RTT’s a 1 to 5 star rating, I’d probably give them a 4. I’ve been out of trail shoes for a long time, but even then I expect all running related shoes to have a certain amount of give – especially after breaking them in. Aside from that, I really don’t have any major issues with them. I’d definitely recommend checking them out if you’re looking for a middle-of-the-road, stable, and durable trail shoe.

***

I am still a road runner and will continue to fall into that sliver of the running world. It’s where I’m comfortable. However, choosing to review these shoes has reminded me of a segment of running that got me started on this crazy journey in the first place. Time to get back to my roots to a degree and embrace the trails!

As always, keep striving.


The Under Armour Mountain Running Series is designed for runners of all skill levels. Races include a variety of distances with events taking place at Copper Mountain, CO (JULY); Killington, VT (AUGUST); and Mt. Bachelor, OR (SEPTEMBER). Whether you’re an experienced trail runner OR you just fancy a challenge, get signed up and use code “BIBRAVE20” to get 20% off your registration.

Check out the Under Armour Mountain Running Series on Social:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/uamtnrunning/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/uamtnrunning
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MtnRunning

Follow me on
Facebook: @presramsey
Twitter: @presramsey
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And last, but certainly not least of all – don’t forget to join me and my fellow BibRave Pros on Twitter for #bibchat every Tuesday evening at 9pm EST, where we’ll chat about upcoming races, running gear, running in general, and more!

Review: Sweat X Sport

Disclaimer: I received a bottle of Sweat X Sport Detergent and a bottle of Sweat X Sport Odor Eliminator Spray to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRavePro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Use code “bibrave15” to save 15% off your purchase at https://sweatxsport.com/shop/.


Friends, let me tell you – this absolutely stinks. Don’t be confused though, this review doesn’t stink – it’s the laundry I’m doing right now!

YIKES! Gear from this past weekend’s cold & rainy long run. Let’s see how well Sweat X Sport will handle this!

Winter, especially in Ohio, makes life interesting if one is a runner. It’s an on-going guessing game as to how cold it will be or if it will snow/sleet/rain/etc. I, for one, do not own a treadmill – therefore, my miles take place outside no matter what. The one constant, however, is the art of the layer. ALL THE LAYERS. With all those layers comes a certain funk after a good run, the result of course of all the sweat having really nowhere to go.

Thankfully, my Sweat X Sport arrived just as I began ramping up my training coming into 2018. The funk and sweat now have a place to go – AWAY!

Sweat X Sport is specially formulated to remove foul odors and eliminates the deep down funk that often gets trapped in running gear and other activewear. This is a definite plus as of late – a pregnant wife with a nose like a bloodhound does NOT appreciate the funky smelling gear I come home in/with. Sweat X Sport is designed to knock out difficult stains, such as grass, dirt, clay, mud, and blood. Worried about the various fabric types you own? No sweat (pun intended) – Sweat X is safe for ALL fabrics.

A little bonus with this test was the bottle of Sweat X Sport Odor Eliminator spray I was sent as well. Why? Well, I’m not fond of the idea of putting my 150$ running shoes in the washer/dryer and watching them fall apart, BUT they do get quite funky as time goes on. A couple of shots of spray on my shoes kicks that funk nasty foot smell to the curb.

Remember that load of laundry I mentioned above? It’s done now and it smells SOOOOO much better – almost as if I hadn’t gone for Saturday’s long run OR left it to air-out in the garage for 2 whole days. My gear smells fresh and ready to go. I would not be embarrassed to wear any of this particular gear out in public because it looks good and it smells good – all of which makes me FEEL good.

In all honesty, I’ve seen this stuff in my local running store(s) for years, but I’ve never been one to give it a go. In fact, I thought it was gimmicky. I was VERY wrong and am very glad I got selected to give Sweat X a try. Sweat X Sport Laundry Detergent does the job I need it to dode-funk de stuff – and it does it very well.

Give it a try for yourself! Head over to https://sweatxsport.com/shop/ and save 15% off your purchase by using discount code “BibRave15”. If you’re really eager to try it and want to get it now, head over to your local running store – I’m almost certain they’ll have it!


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Twitter: @presramsey
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Don’t forget to hop on Twitter for #bibchat every Tuesday evening at 9pm EST. Chat with me and my fellow BibRave Pros about upcoming races, running gear, running in general, and more!