Thursday, February 17, 2022

The Ultimate Tracksmith Gear Review

Ah, Tracksmith. The brand I love to hate and hate to love. 

What is Tracksmith?
Tracksmith is a high-end running apparel company based in Boston, MA. Founded in 2014, the brand markets itself to the "amateur" runner, with "amateur" meaning not professional, but definitely competitive. They even sponsored runners in the 2020 Olympic trials.

They sell primarily running clothing with a few overpriced accessories like an umbrella ($88), sunglasses ($255), and a necklace ($600). Their prices are about 50-80 percent higher than traditional brands like Nike, adidas, New Balance and Saucony and their color palate is somewhat muted, understated and neutral.

They rarely have sales and you have to spend $150 to get free shipping. They don't sell through any distributors that I know of. You can buy their clothing online or in their Boston store. They have a program called "Hare AC" which gives you a $100 gift card if you set a PR while wearing Tracksmith gear. You need to submit proof that the race was a PR and you were wearing Tracksmith. This program costs $198 to join, although it does come with a singlet and you get free shipping without having to spend a minimum amount.

Tracksmith gear has become somewhat of a status symbol in the running community, and I think that is their goal. If you wear Tracksmith you are saying, "I am a serious runner who spends serious money on my gear."

Hate to love and love to hate
Based on my description above, you can probably guess why I hate to love and love to hate this brand. I hate to love it because I have spent way too much money on their gear. I really do not need to pay for expensive running clothing, but I do anyway. I also hate to love it because I'm not a status symbol person. I don't buy designer handbags, belts or shoes. And yet I believe Tracksmith to be a status symbol.

I love to hate Tracksmith because I find the advertising to be a little pretentious and the prices for some of the items to be ridiculous ($48 for a pair of running undies!). They also have some really ugly items that I can't believe people would get. Their Black Friday deal was something on the order of "spend $150 this week and get 10% off a future order". Wow- how generous. 

Outside the Boston store
So then why do I have so much Tracksmith stuff? It makes no logical sense! It's an emotional purchase, for the most part. I enjoy the material (it's unlike traditional brands), the packaging, and the styles (for the most part). The pieces are high quality and they have a unique aesthetic. I like that the brand stands for the competitive amateur, and I feel fast when I wear it. That's excellent marketing. 

As a marketing professional myself, I applaud them for having marketing campaigns that are so effective, runners are willing to pay nearly twice the price for their gear. Good marketing appeals to the consumer's emotions. Want to show up at a race and look fast? Feel fast? Have disposable income? Tracksmith is the brand for you. 

They do have excellent customer service and if you need to exchange your item for a different size, they will ship it out to you immediately without having to purchase another item and/or wait for your return to be processed. I find that their items run true-to-size or slightly small. I wear an XS in everything except for the Bell Lap top. 

With that said, I will now review some gear items from Tracksmith. 

On a scale of 1-5 with 5 being "excellent" and 1 being "poor" - here are my thoughts.

The Van Cortlandt Singlet ($65)
This is a lightweight loose-fitting singlet available in both men's and women's versions. Usually when you think about Tracksmith, this is the singlet that comes to mind as it is their signature piece. They come out with new colors each season. I have 3 of these and Greg has 1. If you want other runners to know that you are wearing Tracksmith, this is the piece you get. I think this singlet is okay. It doesn't have much shape to it but it looks fast!

  • Comfort: 4
  • Fit: 3 
  • Material: 4
  • Style: 3
  • Value for money: 3 
The Van Cortlandt Singlet

The Twilight Tank ($52)
This fitted tank is available in both men's and women's versions. I prefer this tank to the Van Cortlandt Singlet because it's more flattering and less boxy. The material is super comfortable and lightweight. I have two of these and would probably buy another one if they came out with a color I really liked. 

  • Comfort: 4
  • Fit: 4
  • Material: 4
  • Style: 4
  • Value for money: 4
Tracksmith Twilight Tank

The Bell Lap Top ($72)
This is a women's crop top that does not have a built in bra. So far Tracksmith has not come out with a bra that supports my cup size (32D) so I wear a regular sports bra under this crop top. I'll be honest, the main reason I like this top is because it looks fast and feels fast. The material is heavier than I would like. They re-modeled this piece at some point in 2020, making it smaller. I like the new version better than the previous version because the fit is more streamlined. I like to race in this top because it looks fast!

  • Comfort: 4
  • Fit: 4
  • Material: 3
  • Style: 5
  • Value for money: 3
The Tracksmith Bell Lap Top


The Harrier Long Sleeve ($84)
This long sleeve shirt is available in both men's and women's versions. As far as long-sleeved t-shirts go, this one is super comfortable and flattering. But that's for everyday wear. I don't particularly like running in this shirt because when you sweat the material gets wet and it noticeably looks wet. It doesn't seem to breathe as well as other running tops. I like this shirt as an everyday shirt or something to slip on after a race. So if you want to spend $84 on a comfy t-shirt to throw on after a run, go for it!
  • Comfort: 4
  • Fit: 4
  • Material: 2
  • Style: 3
  • Value for money: 2

The Tracksmith Harrier Long Sleeve


The Brighton Base Layer ($88)
This long sleeve shirt is available in both men's and women's version and both Greg and I have one! Actually, I have two. I really like this piece. It has the signature diagonal stripe, but it's less pronounced because it's the same color as the rest of the shirt. It's form-fitted and has a long length. I wore this shirt in a snowy 5K and the snow stuck to shirt instead of the shirt soaking it in, which kept me warmer than a traditional long-sleeve. I love this fit, the fabric and the style. I highly recommend this one. 

  • Comfort: 5
  • Fit: 4
  • Material: 5
  • Style: 5
  • Value for money: 4
The Brighton Base Layer


The Downeaster ($148)
This merino wool top is my absolute favorite Tracksmith piece! I have 3 of them plus the "Wind Block" version ($188). If you only buy one Tracksmith piece in your life, it should be this. It's a lightweight material but keeps me warm in cold weather. I find that it's ideal for temperatures in the high 20's to low 30's and I don't wear anything underneath it. For colder temps I would probably throw a tank on underneath. The Wind Block version works well on those brutal cold and windy days. I wore it in 26 degrees with 12 mph winds and felt comfortable. I haven't seen anything similar from other brands aside from Smart Wool, which is also pricey. You do need to be careful when washing this top. Delicate cycle only and line dry.
  • Comfort: 5
  • Fit: 5
  • Material: 5
  • Style: 5
  • Value for money: 4
The Tracksmith Downeaster


The Turnover Half-Zip ($128)
This long-sleeve half-zip comes in both men's and women's versions. I feel like all running apparel brands have their signature long-sleeved half zip for cold weather and this is Tracksmith's. I really love the material on this one. I wear the Downeaster on easy runs and easy-paced long runs, but I break out the Turnover Half Zip for speedwork. The Downeaster is a cozy feeling while the Turnover is a "work hard" feeling. It wicks the sweat well and is best for temperatures in the high 20s to low 30s if you are doing speed work. (Disclaimer: I am a warm runner so most people would probably wear this in the high 30s to low 40s). I think this piece is rather pricey for what it is and you can get similar things from other brands, but I do like it quite a bit. It's a little short in terms of length, but I appreciate that for the sake of performance.
  • Comfort: 5
  • Fit: 4
  • Material: 5
  • Style: 4
  • Value for money: 3
The Turnover Half Zip w/Turnover Tights



The Trackhouse Crew ($98)
This sweatshirt is basically just a really nice sweatshirt. I don't think it's meant for running (I don't run in it), but it's nice to throw on after a cold race and before you have a chance to shower. I wear mine while working from home and while out running errands. It has a boxy cut and it's on the shorter side. Sweatshirts are "in" right now this one is about as stylish as you can make a sweatshirt. I have one of these from 2019 and from 2021, and they seemed to have changed it during that time. The 2019 shirt is light material while the 2021 is more substantial and heavier. I like them both - but I probably prefer the newer, warmer version. If you want an arguably over-priced sweatshirt, this is a good one to get! 
  • Comfort: 5
  • Fit: 4
  • Material: 4
  • Style: 3
  • Value for money: 2
Trish: Brighton Base Layer. Me: Trackhouse Crew


The Session Jacket ($118)
This lightweight jacket is perfect for warming up before a workout or cooling down afterwards. It's fitted, sleek and versatile. You can also wear it at the beginning of a long run and then throw it in your car as the temperature starts to warm up. Or you can wear it as a normal everyday jacket. 
  • Comfort: 4
  • Fit: 4
  • Material: 4
  • Style: 4
  • Value for money: 3
The Session Jacket


Lane 5 Short Tights ($58)
These form-fitted shorts are great if you like a tight fit. They have a 5" inseam. Most all form-fitted shorts ride up to some extent; and these do a little bit. But once you have sweated and gotten the material nice and wet, they tend to stay put! I wear these shorts in warm and humid weather and in the rain. Overall, these shorts are okay. I don't think they are anything special in terms of a tight-fitting short. I much prefer the "First Place" by Rabbit, which are shorter but seem to fit me better. 
  • Comfort: 3
  • Fit: 3
  • Material: 4
  • Style: 3
  • Value for money: 2
Lane 5 Short Tights

Bell Lap Shorts ($70)
These fitted shorts are almost the exact same as the Lane 5 Short Tights, only they have a 3" inseam as opposed to a 5" inseam. Just like the. Bell Lap top, they re-modeled this piece at some point in 2020 or 2021. I prefer the previous version, which you can see in the very first photo of this post. The new version doesn't have the roll-over waistband, which I liked, and these shorts do ride up. I would not wear them for racing, which is their intended purpose. My favorite form-fitted racing short is the First Place by Rabbit. Finally, there is absolutely no reason why these shorts should be priced higher than the Lane 5 Short Tight (above) They are practically the same thing, only the Bell Lap has less material.
  • Comfort: 2
  • Fit: 3
  • Material: 3
  • Style: 3
  • Value for money: 1

The new Bell Lap Shorts

Twilight Split Shorts ($52)
These loose fitting shorts are light and fast! They are available in both men's and women's versions. These shorts are comfortable and fast feeling, making your leg feel "free". They are great for speedwork and races. I prefer them to the Session Shorts ($68) which I will not review because they re-modeled them recently and I don't plan on buying the new model. The best thing about these shorts is the fabric - really light and smooth to the touch!
  • Comfort: 5
  • Fit: 4
  • Material: 5
  • Style: 4
  • Value for money: 4
Tracksmith Twilight Split Shorts


Van Cortlandt Shorts ($60)
These mesh shorts are another signature Tracksmith item that pair well with the Van Cortlandt Singlet. I really like the men's version of these on Greg but I'm not in love with the pair I have. I only have one pair (which I bought to go with the singlet) and I don't plan on buying another. I don't like the tie on these shorts- I prefer elastic waistbands with no tie. These shorts have chafed me on runs and the fit is sloppy on me. I like the burgundy color and the way they match the singlet, but that's about it.
  • Comfort: 3
  • Fit: 2
  • Material: 3
  • Style: 4
  • Value for money: 2
The Tracksmith Van Cortlandt Shorts


Turnover Tights ($128)
I have a pair of these tights in normal length and in capri. I like them quite a bit and I wish they would bring back the capri length which doesn't seem to be listed on their site anymore. I don't have any other tights from Tracksmith because I have so many tights already and I've been able to resist the "emotional purchase" for some reason when it comes to tights! These are lightweight and and fitted without having compression. They are fast and they perform well. I wear them for long runs and speed work. I might get another pair at some point. The website describes these as "a cold weather running tight" but I find them to be light and I would probably want something warmer if it were under 25 degrees. 
  • Comfort: 5
  • Fit: 4
  • Material: 4
  • Style: 4
  • Value for money: 3
Tracksmith Turnover Tights w/Downeaster top


Conclusion
Is Tracksmith an emotional purchase? Yes. Aren't most purchases emotional? Yes. Do we like to admit they are emotional? No. If you have never tried Tracksmith and you want some starter pieces, I recommend the Downeaster top, the Brighton Base Layer, and the Twilight Split Shorts. I love the style, material and comfort of these pieces. Tracksmith items make excellent gifts for your runner friends and family because it might be something they like but wouldn't buy for themselves. 

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Covid Recovery - Slow but Steady

I hope I am not jinxing myself by saying this, but I believe myself to be 100% recovered with no lingering symptoms. In my previous post, I said that this would either be a "normal" recovery or it would turn into my mono-like illness, taking months to recover from. 

In retrospect, it seems like it has taken me slightly longer to recover than the average person, but not abnormally long. Here's a recap:

Days 1-2: Mild sore throat
I noticed that my throat was slightly scratchy. It was more of an annoyance than anything else; I had no other symptoms and was fully energized. Thankfully, I didn't run during this time because I was on vacation and was planning to take a few rest days anyway. I took the required Covid test to fly home from Mexico and it was negative.

Days 3-5: Severe sore throat, loss of voice
These were the worst days. I was moderately fatigued but I couldn't eat whole foods and I couldn't speak. I was continually spraying throat-numbing solution down my throat and using NyQuill to sleep. My at-home Covid test was negative on day 3, but positive on day 5.

Days 6-12: Body aches, coughing fits, skin rash, fatigue
My sore throat lessened in severity but I had coughing fits about 8-10 times per day and it kept me up at night. I had tiny bumps all over my back, butt and stomach, and a few on my legs. Not loads of them; maybe 20 total. I started to feel more energized by day 11, so I walked on the treadmill on days 11 and 12.

Days 13-17: Lingering fatigue, body aches
It turns out that the treadmill walk was too much and I woke up the next day feeling totally wasted. I did, however, test negative for Covid on my at-home test. At this point I think I was rid of the virus, but I was now suffering from post-viral illness, which felt similar to my mono episodes. The big difference between this and my mono episodes is that I was never tired in the sleepy sense. I didn't nap. The fatigue was more of a bodily fatigue and not a head fatigue. I also did not experience dizziness like I had with my mono.

I decided not to engage in any physical activity at all during these 5 days. I just rested. On day 17, I decided to take one of my Turmeric supplements. I had read an article about post-viral fatigue and it said that some researchers believed it to be caused by brain inflammation. Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory so I figured it was worth a shot.

Days 18-22: Major improvement
The day after I took the turmeric I noticed a major improvement. If I was at 65% on day 17, I was at 85% on day 18. I felt almost normal the very next day. I decided I could go ahead and resume walking, but very slowly and only for 15 minutes. 

By this point, I had only slightly noticeable throat congestion and the sore throat was totally gone. I didn't have body aches any more. I continued with the turmeric plus the other vitamin supplement I had been taking all along (Zinc, D3, C + lots of other herbs). 

Every day from 18-22 I felt better and better, with my legs feeling stronger as I walked. Previously, they had felt like jello. 

Day 23-Today
By day 23 I was 100% symptom-free and feeling like my normal self. No lingering fatigue. No weakness. No throat congestion. I continued my walking regimen and got up to 2 miles walking before I attempted to run. My first run back was a run-walk on the treadmill because it was pouring rain outside. I did 6 x (3:00 walk, 2:00 run). And I kept the runs very easy. 

Everything felt great during the run and after the run. So I continued to progress my workouts, shortening the walk breaks and increasing the overall duration of each session. My most recent run/walk (today) was 8 x 1:00 walk, 4:00 run. This is 32 minutes of running. I didn't feel like I needed the walk breaks, but I kept them in any way as a chance to "check in" with myself to make sure everything felt normal after each run. 

I can't stress enough the importance of walking multiple times before attempting to run, and waiting to be  100% symptom free. I felt 100% symptom free for about 4 days before I started to run, and when I did run, it was a run/walk. 

While there is a protocol for returning to run post-Covid, everyone is unique and it also depends on how long you were sick and how severe the illness was. Because I have so much experience with illness, I know my body pretty well and I can tell when I am ready to walk and when I am ready to run. My rule is to always wait a few extra days after feeling ready! I probably could have run on day 22, but I waited an extra 5 days to be absolutely sure. I would much rather have a slow and steady comeback instead of a rollercoaster of ups and downs from doing too much too soon. 

Looking Ahead
Overall, this illness took about a month of training from me, plus the 2-3 weeks it will take to get back to where I was. With the Boston Marathon coming up in the middle of April, I certainly have my work cut out for me. Thankfully I was in pretty good shape before I got sick and my body adapts to workouts relatively quickly. I don't plan on doing any hard running for another week; I first need to wean myself off of walk breaks and then increase the duration of my runs. 

I'm not at all worried; I know I will be able to finish the marathon and I wasn't planning on trying to run a PR anyway. My original goal was to run a course PR and I think that's still possible, but I will re-assess as the race gets closer.