Second Wind

Second Wind
"Run With Purpose!"

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Product review: CEP RxOrtho+ Knee brace

First off, if you don't know already, I've had 7 knee surgeries.  So I'm testing this brace from that perspective... I'm not wearing this as a fashion accessory ;)

With that said, I hate knee braces.  Honestly, I despise them.  I think most of them are highly uncomfortable, they bunch up, they slide down, they twist, they turn, and they're all a placebo that just makes us feel better.  So, I never wear them.  I've had terrible luck.  I've worn walmart ones, I've worn sleeves, I've worn metal hinged cyborg ones, I've worn ones from various surgery centers.  I hate them.

The one exception I had found so far were these Tommy Kono Knee Sleeves for weight lifting.  But they are specific for weight lifting - they're terrible (by design) for running.

So again, here's my perspective on this:  my knees have been torn apart more times than I can count, I've had surgery on everything you can imagine on them, I've torn, ripped, chipped, chiseled, and replaced it all AND I hate knee braces.  Got it?

Alright, so, with all that said:
I was running the Virginia Creeper back in October and at about mile 15 my right knee (the "good" one) just quit on me.  Terrible pain, instability, the works.  I had to wwog (wabbly-walk-jog) the rest of the way and it sucked.

Then, 1 month from that run I had the 13"+" mile hell course in South Carolina in the Spartan Beast.  So, I reached out to CEP and asked them what they had from Medi (I respect them as a company and you may or may not know that CEP is CEPCompression is CEPSports is MediUSA).

What they came back with was the CEP RxOrtho+ Knee Brace

I was skeptical, but also out of options and quitting on this Spartan Race just wasn't an option for me.  The brace arrived and it was actually a touch big (I first ordered a V) so I returned it and they quickly got me out a size IV.  The IV fit perfectly, but since I had waited until the last minute, I got it 1 day before I left for SC for the race... so the first time I ever did anything in it was... the race itself.

The race day was cold and the about 1/2 the obstacles were in chest deep water which was freezing so I actually wore the knee brace and then wore a pair of compression tights over the brace (note that this is not recommended by CEP...).
The race was somewhere over 13 miles (combination of insane elevation change, water, and hypothermia temps that that people's GPS reported huge ranges of distance - anywhere between 13.5 and 16.6 miles) and consisted of lots of water, tons of mud, climbing walls, rope climbs, jumping, crawling, rope traverses, etc. etc. etc. (you can read the full account of the race Here).

The knee brace?  I loved it.  I couldn't believe it.  I've never even tolerated a knee brace before and this one I genuinely loved.  Not only did my knee feel great, stability was fantastic, and my knee cap tracked correctly... it never moved.  Honestly, it never moved.  Not once over that entire race, all those obstacles, up down, climb, crawl, jump, run, wet, dry, soaked, not one time did I ever have to adjust the brace.  I was floored.

Now, please hear me, this is not gushing to get free swag from CEP, I take knees very seriously and CEP was fully aware that I would be brutally honest in this review and I'm telling you the truth - it was amazing.  Better than any $300-$600 insurance paid surgical brace, better than... anything.

Here's some of the features (the how) that set this brace apart from everything else:

  • Lots of sizes:  1-7 (albeit the sizing is a little hard to match up-measure what's close and I would actually recommend going down 1 size)
  • Very breathable (50% polyamide, 30% polyester, 20% spandex) - this is not a neoprene brace!
  • It's compression - highly elastic (and good compression... it's CEP!)
  • Excellent anatomical fit 
  • The knee cap is 'open' but... closed:  it doesn't have compression or thick material over the knee, instead there's a loose "pocket" of covered material to protect but not restrict (see pic on my leg and you can kind of see what I'm talking about) --> 

  • inside, under that loose material pocket, there's a silicone horseshoe that stabilizes your knee cap, patella, and assists with proper alignment and tracking 
  • and, the Best part:  what really sets this brace apart are these integrated non-slip bands that run the full length on each side (see CEP stock photo below) - it's like ribs that grip and hold the brace perfectly in place despite whatever you happen to be doing.  This is what Makes this brace (the yellow ribbing in the picture below:)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Icebreaker Apparel: Quantum + Hoodie

Today we have another quality product from the folks over at icebreaker 

In the past I've done reviews on their GT Run Shorts, their short sleeve GT Run Top, and their LS Ace Zip.  Additionally, I recently named icebreaker the hands down winner of Best-of-the-Best: Apparel company

Now I have the chance to share with you their Quantum + long sleeve hoodie

This is from their 260 line (a midweight midlayer) which is still 98% natural Merino wool (2% elastane).  Like everything icebreaker makes, this is natural, ethically responsible, traceable back to the farm where the sheep came from that made that exact garment (how cool is that?), naturally odor resistant, and super breathable.  What this one adds is an extra level of warmth (above the 150 or 200 weight) and water resistance!

  • In addition to its inherent breathability, icebreaker added eyelet mesh panels in the underarms.  
  • It keeps the thumb loops in the sleeves, which I've come to love
  • It has 2 good size zippered hand pockets (large enough to fit your hands in them with gloves)
  • The zippered chest pocket with media cord port (and media loop in base of hood) is really nice in that it's actually usable.  So many of these chest pockets are so small I can barely fit my truck key in it.  This one comfortably fits my entire iPhone with Otter box case in it
  • I really like the slim fitted design of this hoodie.  
  • With that slim fit and light weight this hoodie is great to run in (and hike in, and wear out on the town, layer under a coat, etc, etc.!)
  • As far as warmth goes, this jacket will keep you plenty warm down to about 35 degrees or so and below that you simply layer it up (see icebreakers article on Layering)
  • The hood is fitted also.  Couple of things on this:  the hood is fitted so it stays in place well and doesn't allow a lot of wind to come in and 'fill' it up while you're running, however, for me, I would have liked the hood to be a little bit larger (the front of the hood basically comes just barely to my hairline - no further forward, no further down).

Now, one of the many things I love about icebreakers merino wool is that it is so unbelievably odor resistant you can sweat like a dog in it and then wear it out to a nice dinner that night and be fresh and fine.  
This odor resistance lasts forever.  It's awesome.  That is, unless you have kids ;)  I have already washed this hoodie more in the last couple of months then I've washed my LS Ace Zip in the couple years that I've owned it -  the difference?  
a 6 month old (our second).  
So, countless spitup and various other natural disasters have forced this hoodie into the washer a lot.  And, it holds up beautifully.  Nothing to it.  
Just throw it in the washer, with normal detergent (no fabric softner) and wash it.  Then just pull it out and let it air dry (I usually hang it on a drying rack or the back of a chair and put a fan in front of it to help it dry faster) and it's as good as new!  Can't beat 98% wool that can just be thrown in the washer!