Nogii Gluten-Free Protein Bar Review


I realize that this picture is msuch less convincing on my computer screen than it was on my iPhone. I’ll confess: I snarfed this bar right down before it even occurred to me to snap a picture of it, so this is only the wrapper. My first impression after randomly buying a Nogii bar at CVS was good enough to convince me to spring for a whole box on Amazon.

The Good:

-Taste: These have a good sweet and salty thing going on with a peanut butter infused soy and whey protein filling and a chocolatey coating. This chocolatey coating (rarely will you get real chocolate in a protein bar) tastes like chocolate, isn’t crumbly, and doesn’t melt in my hands too easily. The caramel is kind of unnecessary, but it tastes like real caramel: soft and sweet, though not complexly sweet.

-30 grams of high-quality whey and soy protein. It’s nice to get some whey protein in a bar. The presence of the whey explains the cost of these bars.

-Texture: Dense and crispy, without being too crunchy. Imagine a double layer of Luna bar enrobed in chocolate, and you’re probably not too far off from what a bite into a Nogii bar is like.

-Size: This could easily be a meal replacement. At a whopping 3.34 oz, this thing is a monster and doesn’t leave me feeling hungry.

-Calories: Not too bad: 390 calories for 30 grams of protein is a lot more efficient than the 180 calories for 10 grams of protein in my beloved Lemon Zest Luna bars.

-Carbohydrates: 38 grams of carbs — probably could be lower if the overkill caramel weren’t included.

-Gluten-free: I’ve noticed that eating too much gluten, such as an artisanal pizza, gives me serious tummy troubles. Other than allowing me to avoid something that occasionally gives me gas pains, I’m not sure that there’s a real nutritional benefit to this being gluten free, but it’s not a bad thing.

The Bad:

-Fat Content: 120 of the bar’s 390 calories come from fat. There are 14 grams of fat in this Nogii bar, 7 grams of which are saturated fat. This may not be extraordinary for the category, but it’s not desirable for me for a bar I plan to eat almost daily.

-Sugars: 22 grams of sugar — more than I’d like to see, but probably not too, too much considering that this bar can be a meal replacement. And the bar tastes so good, I can kind of look past this.

Overall: 8/10


Brooks Cascadia 7 Review


I’ve done three trail half marathons and I’m a member of a trail running club, but I still consider myself an aspirational trail runner, a wannabe, rather than the genuine article. Trail runners eschew crowds, finisher medals, and race T-shirts in favor of more camaraderie, better scenery, the sounds of nature, and more dynamic terrain. They can roll with the punches: if their race course is marked too long or too short, they don’t whine about it. Their competitive events are marked by good times, good friends, and good food, rather than throbbing music, interminable bag check lines, and corporate sponsors. Trail racing is a low-key good time, and plain old trail running even more so.

Unfortunately for me, I don’t live within running distance of any major trails and I can’t seem to condition myself to drive somewhere in order to run unless I’m racing. I’m too used to lacing up, grabbing a key, and just heading out the door. I also like to run much earlier in the morning than most parks in this area open.

Not only am I unwilling to mess with my routine to make trail running more of a part of my life, but I’m a little bit of a chicken about running alone on trails. My sense of direction is lousy and I can see getting myself into some trouble if I’m not careful. Having that worry is probably enough to ensure that I won’t get myself into trouble, but it still holds me back.

All of this is to say that I’m not some badass jackrabbit trail running beast. So take the following with a big grain of salt:

I really like the Brooks Cascadia 7. I bought this shoe in 2013 when it was already an old model, but the Cascadia is such an enduring classic that you can surely still find it somewhere for a nice discount.

My first run in the Cascadia 7 started out on pavement, like all of my runs do. And I wasn’t overly impressed: it felt solid and reassuringly firm, but the moderately aggressive tread made it feel as if I were running in cleats or golf spikes.

But then as if attracted by a magnet, my feet started pointing me to the only trail I knew of near my house, just a little bit of woods near a nature center, a place I knew of, but had never run in before.

Everything made sense after that first step on soft earth. The lugs dug into the dirt, and the firm midsole, combined with the natural cushion of the ground made the ride feel perfect: firm enough to be fast and nimble (despite its weight), but soft enough to be comfortable.

Three trail half marathons and a recent 21-mile trail and road run later and I still haven’t looked back. This is a sturdy, grippy shoe that’s a strong performer on moderately technical trails. It’s a bit heavy for short distance or speed work and the lugs are perhaps not aggressive enough for certain terrain, but since I’m a mere dabbler in trail running, it’s adequate for me. I’m not in love with its pavement feel or the attendant hard rubber on pavement noise, but it’s not built for pavement. The Cascadia 7 is built to run trails and run them for as long as you can handle.


-The upper: sheds mud and dirt like a champ.

-Fit around the ankle: largely keeps out rocks and other trail detritus without gaiters. Also comfortable without being overbuilt or plush. No blisters, no bloody bites taken out of the skin covering my Achilles.

-Tread: moderately aggressive, plenty of grip for soft dirt, maybe too much for frozen dirt.


None really. If pressed, I might say the weight since it is practically boot-like compared to some of the road trainers I wear, but I mostly find the weight to be reassuring rather than a hindrance. I don’t have more items in the Likes section because this shoe is a workhorse and kind of unremarkable when deconstructed to its component parts, but good in sum.

Overall rating: 8/10

Remember How I Said I Wanted to Run Sub-32:00 for My 4-Mile Race?

Well I ran 28:07, good enough for 78th place overall (out of 1508, I think), 15th overall female, and 6th in my age group. Really surprised myself!

The second to last hill was the toughest part of the race, as I knew it would be. I felt gassed and like I was breathing and breathing and getting no oxygen. But I stayed calm and pushed through. That final mile was my slowest of the race by far, but I lost a lot less time on that hill than I’d feared I would.

For almost the entire race I ran with a guy I didn’t know who looked to be about 55 years old, possibly current or former military. If he got a little behind me on a hill, he’d be sure to catch up; if I got a little behind him on a straightaway I’d increase my speed to match his. When we saw the huge crowd of runners on our way back from the turnaround point, he made a friendly comment about that. We paced each other without discussing it. I didn’t look at my watch until after I’d crossed the finish line, so I didn’t know what kind of pace we were maintaining. I knew it was challenging, but I didn’t know if it was sub-8:00, especially given how rough the fourth-mile hill was.

Well, it turns out that randomly latching into someone who wasn’t all freaky competitive worked out pretty well; I suspect we both helped each other.

I was bowled over by how fast I ran, especially considering how unsure I was that I’d meet my sub-32:00 goal. I dropped nearly 8:00 from my 2013 time of 36:01. Very proud of my effort and very appreciative of my dedication to my 50k training. This really motivates me to get out of bed each morning and hit my workouts hard so they continue to pay dividends.

I’ll sign off with a quote from the US President who I thought was hunkiest when I was a kid, Calvin Coolidge, that I think speaks to the importance of training:

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrehearsed genius is almost a proverb… Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

The Hotspot, or How I Picked My Shoes for Today’s Race

I like to get on my soapbox about not using new gear or nutrition items on or immediately prior to race day. I’ve seen far too many dudes clad in shirts red with blood where their nipples used to be. The shirt they’re wearing? Usually it’s the race shirt that was distributed at packet pickup the day before. Using new stuff during or just before a race is just asking for trouble. Go with what you know.

But going with what you know entails getting to know your gear, and that testing period during training comes with its own risks.

A few weeks ago I hauled off and ran 21 miles after only planning to run 14 miles that day. I left the house with 14 miles still firmly in mind, but everything felt right: I’d managed to lock in at a zippy pace and I was more than keeping up with the folks from my trail running club, so I extended the run.

Unfortunately for me, I was wearing a previously untried shoe-sock combination. I’d run comfortably in this model sock with other shoes, and I’d put about 40 miles in the shoe without issue, but for some reason these two didn’t play well together over the 21-mile distance. When I peeled off my sweaty socks at the end of the day, I found the hotspot.

I’ve had blisters before, and I even got two blisters that healed up almost overnight from this run, but I’ve never had anything like this hotspot. Located on my left pinky toe, this hotspot became the axis of pain in my life. It hurt when it was touching something. It hurt when it wasn’t touching anything, or wasn’t touching anything more than it had been but a moment before when it was just fine. It would randomly send shooting, fiery pains up my leg that made me struggle to hide my winces in public. I began to hope that it would turn into a regular blister so it could finally heal. This thing was a monster. Taping it and applying bandaids just seemed to make it angry.

So I did what any good crazy runner would do: I ran on it.

Running with a blister, or a blister-type injury is not for the faint of heart. Every step is guaranteed to hurt, it’s just a matter of how much it will hurt. A sane person would rest and let a friction injury heal. I like to put myself in simulated race conditions during my training so I’m both mentally and physically prepared for what may lie ahead. Running with what could plausibly be a race-induced blister is valuable preparation, just as running without water to simulate the dry miles in between aid stations is critically important to establish what it feels like to struggle and how I’ll handle that.

In my extensive shoe collection I found a shoe that supports my feet comfortably without squeezing my blister or bothering it with any heavy overlays: the great New Balance 890v4.  So if you’re looking for a moral to this story, such as, ‘don’t run with a blister,’ I’m sorry to have to disappoint you, because my hotspot healed through my running on it. Long days stuffed into boots will still make it cranky, but I can run pain-free and the seemingly random searing pains have stopped.

For my four-mile race this morning, (and probably for my marathon at the end of the month, stay tuned) I’m going with what I know will protect my feet best: the New Balance 890v4 aka the Hotspot Healer.

I’m excited to get back into the racing mix, so my A goal (Have fun!) is already working out. Can’t wait to lean into my B (Finish) and C goals (finish sub-32:00) as well. Happy running!

Pre-Race Pi Day Friday Musings and Inspiration

Four pieces of of un-attributed inspiration to carry us all through the weekend:

Fear of failure is only for those arrogant enough to think that somehow they can achieve success without paying the price.

Don’t pursue happiness — create it.

A river cuts through a rock, not because of its power, but its persistence.

Never forget why you started.

This weekend I’m running the Four Courts Four Miler for the fourth time. I wish I’d been part of the inaugural event so I could have a really special streak going, but I’m happy to have found this whimsical local race. The start is filled with Irish cloggers, green everything (especially tutus), and lots of smiles. Partway through the race, an elite runner associated with the local running store that puts the race on will start dressed as a leprechaun, and for each runner the leprechaun leaps, $1 will be donated to charity. Those who finish before the leprechaun will receive a prize item. The first two years I ran this race I beat the leprechaun with times of 36:32.3 (2011) and 37:50.1 (2012). In 2013, after losing much of the weight I gained in 2012, I posted a 36:01, but the leprechaun got on the course merely 10 minutes after the initial starting gun, much sooner than in previous years, so I didn’t beat him that year. That was pretty disappointing, but the race itself was still fun.

This year I’m going into the race in even better shape and much better prepared to excel in the short distance due to all of the fast treadmill running I’ve been doing. I genuinely hate the treadmill, but I respect it and appreciate it for all that it’s done to improve my speed, determination (it’s so easy to quit when I don’t have to run back home, so each moment I continue on the treadmill past the point of wanting to stop is a victory), and mechanics.

I looked up the leprechaun’s 2013 finish time: 24:51, which is 34:51 by the gun. In order to match his 2013 time, I’d have to run 8:42.75/mile on average. I consistently run around 7:45/mile on the treadmill and in the 8:00-8:15/mile range outdoors while wearing a pack and/or my cell phone. Phone free and otherwise unencumbered, I can probably run sub-8:00 miles. I’m very familiar with this course having run it three times previously, so I know how tough it is, particularly the steep finish hill, so although I’m confident that I can log a strong performance, I’m not sure how realistic my time goal is.

That’s were the A-B-C goal principle comes in. With three goals, ranked in order of importance, it’s a lot harder to completely fail at a race and have a horrible day. Here are my goals for the Four Courts Four Miler:

A Goal: Have fun

B Goal: Finish

C Goal: Finish in 32:00 or less

I celebrated Pi Day (March 4 = 3.14) with my customary Friday muffin from a coworker (life lesson: be nice to people and help them and they will sometimes bring you blueberry muffins). My treadmill jaunt was a tough 4.02 miles (7:43.93/mile), rather than a festive 3.14 miles, but I was glad to have given my legs a moderate test. After the nine-hour flight back from Amsterdam on Sunday, my legs were swollen for a few days. On both Monday and Tuesday I was awoken not by my alarm, but by  agonizing leg cramps. I doubled up on bananas and took a day off from running on Thursday and the lingering tightness has finally abated.

I don’t really throw myself wholeheartedly into short distance races. I’ve got a lot of respect for short distances and those who run short distances well, but I’m not one of those people and I like training for long distances too much to probably ever become one of those people, but you never know. I keep saying I have no interest in a triathlon (multiple people have pressed me about attempting a tri), but ask me about that again in a decade. But since I’m coming at this race with a desire to do well, but an admitted lack of genuine seriousness, I’m not planning a quiet, carbohydrate-filled night in to prepare mentally and lay out my gear. On the contrary, after packet pickup I intend to busy myself celebrating a couple of family birthdays then visiting a friend who has bravely shaved her head in support of St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a charity aiding the fight against cancer.

I’m very excited for the first race of the spring season. I have to qualify “season” as “spring season” since there really isn’t seasonality to running. Even when it’s miserable out, there are still races to be found and outdoor training/fun to be had. My cancelled 50k was supposed to be in the dead of winter in February. So there are seasons when the elements are more favorable towards running, but running is always fun and always in season.

Brilliant, but Flawed: Adidas Adios Boost Review

It’s fitting that the Adios Boost boasts a sole made of Continental tire rubber because a car often comes to mind when I think of this shoe. It’s what I imagine it’s like to be in a Corvette stuck in traffic: it’s frustrating.

I don’t know what sort of shoe company Adidas wants to be. Do they want to make solid performance shoes, or do they want to sell gimmicks? In 2013 they gave us Boost midsole foam which is good, maybe even great (more on that later), but they also gave us the Springblade, which looks like a joke and a serious dog turd trap for incautious sidewalk runners. The Adios Boost could have been a really impressive shoe, and it certainly managed to be one of the buzziest and most sought-after shoes of 2013, but to me it feels like it was rushed to market to showcase the Boost midsole foam.

My Runs in the Adidas Adios Boost

I like to get at least 60 miles on a shoe before reviewing it. So you can get a sense of how I run/at least how I ran in these shoes, here’s a list of the runs:

Thursday, January 9, 2014
8.08 miles
7:54.50/mile average pace
6:00/mile max pace
Terrain: Treadmill

Wednesday, January 29, 2014, 6:35 am
4.08 miles
7:53.53/mile average pace
6:40/mile max pace
Terrain: Treadmill

Thursday, January 30, 2014, 6:11 am
6.28 miles
7:42.74/mile average pace
6:00/mile max pace
Terrain: Treadmill

Friday, January 31, 2014
3.34 miles
7:38.38/mile average pace
6:00/mile max pace
Terrain: Treadmill

Saturday, February 1, 2014, 5:18 pm
3.13 miles
8:08/mile average pace
Terrain: Mostly hilly sidewalks

Sunday, February 2, 2014, 4:21 pm
5.05 miles
9:06/mile average pace
Terrain: Paved trail and mostly hilly sidewalks

Tuesday, February 4, 2014, 6:21 pm
3.16 miles
8:23/mile average pace
Terrain: Mostly hilly sidewalks

Thursday, February 6, 2014, 7:00 am
2.28 miles
7:46.67/mile average pace
6:00/mile max pace
Terrain: Treadmill

Thursday, February 6, 2014, 6:14 pm
3.10 miles
8:20/mile average pace
Terrain: Mostly hilly sidewalks

Saturday, February 8, 2014, 6:57 am
5.03 miles
8:14/mile average pace
Terrain: Paved trail and mostly hilly sidewalks

Sunday, February 16, 2014, 8:01 am
2.18 miles
11:06/mile average pace
Terrain: Thickly iced sidewalks

Monday, February 17, 2014, 9:57 am
1.76 miles
10:45/mile average pace
Terrain: Thickly iced sidewalks

Tuesday, February 25, 2014, 6:49 am
4.07 miles
7:58.87/mile average pace
6:40/mile max pace
Terrain: Treadmill

Thursday, February 27, 2014, 6:04 am
9.07 miles
7:58.17/mile average pace
6:00/mile max pace
Terrain: Treadmill

Total: 60.61 miles

The Good

The best thing about the Adios Boost is the Boost foam. I’m coming around to the idea that simpler is often better. That’s not to say that new technology and innovative design doesn’t still turn my head, but at its core a shoe should be simply a slab of foam, a slab of rubber to protect the foam and add traction, and a step-in, lace up upper to secure my foot  to the foam + rubber. Improve the upper, the midsole foam, and/or the sole in this formula and you might have a winner. I don’t need plastic plates or tabi toes or arch wraps or bomb-proof toe caps or any of that goop. Just the basics.

Boost foam is an improvement on the industry standard EVA foam midsole. It’s bouncier. I’m not sure it offers the 1% energy return that Adidas claims, but it’s impressively springy and lends the shoe a fast feel. I ran outdoors in cold weather and the Boost material didn’t stiffen up like some other midsoles do in frigid temperatures. If only I were as unaffected by the cold as Boost foam!

The Bad

There’s a lot of bad.

1. Too firm forefoot. The Adios Boost seems like it was designed with heel strikers in mind. The 10.5 mm drop flies in the face of the 4-8 mm drops that are becoming more and more common. Not only is the heel stack height much higher than that of the forefoot, but the Boost foam gets awfully thin at the forefoot and there is absolutely no Boost foam at the front inch of the toe of the shoe. How exactly are we supposed to get energy return from this magical midsole flubber at toe off if there’s none of the material in the toe area? Land on your heel and the Boost foam can do its job, but land anywhere north of there and you’re on your own. During the time I was putting the initial 60 miles in on this shoe I was doing a lot of treadmill running due to extreme cold and that treadmill running caused me to develop a shorter stride and more of a midfoot/forefoot strike, so the firm forefoot was particularly noticeable to me. I grant that some of that firm feel may be desirable in a performance shoe/racing flat, which the Adios Boost reasonably could be considered, but the firm feel isn’t consistent throughout the shoe since the heel is so bouncy so I tend to think that a firm feel wasn’t what the shoes designers were going for.

2. The lacing system is a nightmare. Okay, maybe I’m being dramatic here, but this lacing system sucks. I always double knot my running shoes since I don’t want to have to stop to retie my shoes during a run, especially during a race (I once ran the last five or so miles of a half marathon with one shoe untied because I was that determined to not stop to tie it). I’ve never found it so inconvenient to take the extra moment to untie a double knot to get my shoes off that I’ll complain about laces that don’t stay tied with single knots. Some people do that. I’m not one of those people. My gripe with the laces here isn’t that they’re too long (they are) or that they don’t stay tied (like I said, I do double knots so this isn’t an issue for me — come undone from double knots and we’ll have a problem), but that they get caught in the notches in between the eyelets. Every. Single. Time. The laces are supposed to lay over the eyelet tabs, that’s the only way they’ll pull tighter/looser as you adjust the shoe when you step into it. However, invariably the lace loops slide between each eyelet tab into the notch of no return, from which they have to be individually plucked out in order to adjust the shoe. This is a pain and seems like it could’ve been avoided by eliminating the tab+notch design of the lacing system.


3. Sloppy fit. The lacing system is really a pain because I always have to adjust the fit of the shoe when I put it on because I can’t seem to get a decent lockdown. I’ll pull the laces so tight that the upper puckers at the toe and I’ll still feel like I’m not locked in enough. Not only is the toe pucker a bad look, but feeling loosey goosey in the forefoot in a performance-oriented shoe is unacceptable. The upper puckering started after about 30 miles in these shoes, so I have to wonder if I somehow stretched out the upper which then forced me to have to lace the shoes tighter and tighter.

4. Not flexible enough. I found that I was able to bend the forefoot of the Adios Boost manually, but it only bends in one place and it feels like I’m breaking the shoe when I do it. The layer of firm midsole material that sits above the Boost foam (or directly above the Continental rubber outsole if we’re talking about the toe area) coupled with the lack of flex grooves in the forefoot make this shoe very inflexible. That inflexibility along with the swim my forefoot actually led me to stumble and catch my toes on uneven surfaces while walking. Not even running. Walking. Not a great choice for confident outdoor running on anything but the smoothest of roads.

5. Only built to go fast. Here’s where I got the Corvette simile. I took the Adios Boost out for a couple of runs on snowy, icy sidewalks in DC. There is a statute on the books requiring residents to shovel their sidewalks within a reasonable amount of time (either 24 or 48 hours), but that doesn’t mean that people do it. I had to slow way down to traverse some particularly treacherous sidewalks and these shoes made what was already turning into a bummer of a run feel like a slog. 9:00/mile is about as slow as these shoes are willing to go happily. Any slower than that and they just start to magnify that slowness and make it feel like a death march. Exactly how they do this is hard to explain, but trust me when I say that you don’t want to find out what I mean.

6. Ugly. I can deal with the purple and pink of the upper even though it looks like a box of Nerds exploded all over my shoes on Valentines Day, but why exactly did the classic Adidas stripes have to be silver? The silver doesn’t match, doesn’t even go, and it doesn’t look good.

By the Numbers

Fit: 4/10 (At least my heel didn’t slide around)

Performance: 7/10 (They are indeed fast and the Boost is bouncy.)

Feel: 7/10 (Pretty comfy, but nothing to write home about.)

Looks: 5/10 (They’re loud, I’ll give them that.)

Overall: 6/10

I like the Boost foam enough that I’d consider trying it in a different model, maybe the Glide Boost at some point, but despite being the the shoe of choice for the top finisher at the 2013 New York Marathon, the Adios Boost is not a winner for me.

Clif Shot Bloks Review


I discovered Clif Shot Bloks by accident. At packet pickup for the 2013 Flying Pig Marathon attendees were herded through the entire expo before being allowed to exit. Like the little sheep that we all turn into in a crowd, I did what those in front of me did, so when people popped energy chew samples into their mouths, I popped energy chew samples into their mouths. (Don’t do this the day before your race. Especially if it’s a marathon. Just as you shouldn’t mess with new clothing *cough* like the race t-shirt *cough* immediately prior to or during an event, you shouldn’t try new food if you can possibly help it. I have kind of delicate digestion on a good day, so this was particularly not smart of me. Do as I say not as I do!) I particularly enjoyed some large (maybe 75% of the size of a standard domino), dark chews that had a non-sticky feel to them in addition to good texture and taste. After the race I took the plunge and bought a box of Black Cherry Clif Shot Bloks from Amazon. Well, whatever those chews were at the expo, they weren’t Clif Shot Bloks. If I can find those, cool, but I’m really not too worried about it, since Clif Shot Bloks are freaking great. How’s that for serendipity?

I’ve tried three flavors of Clif Shot Bloks: Tropical Punch, Cran-Razz, and Black Cherry. They all taste delicious, and not in a ‘maybe I can choke this down with a lot of water so I don’t keel over during my race’ way. More like a ‘somebody should probably hide these so I stop eating them’ way. These mostly organic chews have the texture of fresh gummy bears and a mildly sweet taste – no punch of sugar here. You’ll still feel like you’re eating candy, but you know, healthy mostly organic candy. With caffeine.

Each six-chew pack contains two 100-calorie servings. The packs aren’t re-sealable, so the two serving gimmick is probably just to calm the squawking of dieters or food regulators. Make no mistake: if you’re fueling up for a run, you probably shouldn’t be trying to cut calories. Calories are fuel. Cut sugar or fat (or don’t cut fat, if you’re into that Vespa stuff, you hardcore ultrarunner/paleo dieter, you), but certainly don’t look to cut calories when you’re after fuel.

The tea-derived caffeine concentration varies across the flavors of Clif Shot Bloks. Some varieties contain extra sodium and no caffeine. Here’s the breakdown of the flavors I’ve tried:

Black Cherry: 50 mg caffeine/serving (equivalent to ~1 cup of coffee), 70 mg sodium/serving, 20 mg potassium/serving (3 chews); 100 mg caffeine/package (equivalent to ~2 cups of coffee), 140 mg sodium/package, 40 mg potassium/package (6 chews)

Tropical Punch: 25 mg caffeine/serving (equivalent to ~0.5 cup of coffee), 70 mg sodium/serving, 20 mg potassium/serving (3 chews); 50 mg caffeine/package (equivalent to ~1 cup of coffee), 140 mg sodium/package, 40 mg potassium/package (6 chews)

Cran-Razz: 0 mg caffeine/serving, 70 mg sodium/serving, 20 mg potassium/serving (3 chews); 0 mg caffeine/package, 140 mg sodium/package, 40 mg potassium/package (6 chews)

Of these flavors, I’ve only had multiple boxes of the Black Cherry flavor, probably four or five boxes at this point. One box each of the Tropical Punch and the Cran-Razz. The Tropical Punch flavor tastes a lot like Gushers to me, a nostalgic plus and a far cry from the vaguely medicinal taste of a lot of other fruit punch flavored products out there. I tried it since I was seeking a lower caffeinated option that still contained some caffeine. I was thrilled with the taste, and really pleased that the chews aren’t blue! Despite the blue packaging, the chews are red, phew. They’re currently my favorite, with the Black Cherry a close second. Cran-Razz is tasty and tangy, but doesn’t really pack a caffeine punch.

How I Use Clif Shot Bloks:

Most week days I’ll wake up sometime between 3:00 am and 6:00 am to run. I like to have a snack, let my stomach settle, hydrate, read a book a bit, do some chin-ups and push-ups, and use the bathroom before I lace up. Clif Shot Bloks have become my go-to pre-run snack at that time since they help me shake off the morning cobwebs. I eat the whole package even if I’m only planning to run four miles. (I try to run no fewer than four miles. When it’s cold, if I’m going to bother taking the 15+ minutes necessary to bundle up, I’ve got to run for a while. Ditto with the treadmill — if I’m going to suffer, I might as well suffer a lot.)

During a weekend long run (10-20+ miles) I’ll carry two packs with me and eat them during the run for a boost of energy. The packages are easy to open while running, so it’s not necessary to stop, however I haven’t mastered the technique of opening only the top of the package and squeezing out one Shot Blok at a time that’s recommended on the box. Too advanced for me. As long as I can run with the product without dropping it everywhere while trying to open it, then I’m happy.

I don’t need to take a swig of water to wash down a Shot Blok – they easy to chew and don’t get stuck in my teeth since they aren’t overly sticky or too soft. Word to the wise: they are heat/cold sensitive in that they’ll firm up in the cold and they’ll get softer if carried close to the body during a run, but they have never once melted or lost their shape for me. I don’t really have the patience to suck on a Shot Blok until it dissolves, so if you like keeping a chew in your mouth for moisture during a run, these will last plenty long enough for you. It’s easy to run with the slim package in one hand if you don’t want to eat them quickly or risk putting the non-re-sealable package back in your pocket.

Two Caveats:

1. I’m not a coffee drinker and I’ve gone from being a daily soda drinker to an almost-never soda drinker, so the caffeine has a noticeable effect for me. When I first started with Black Cherry Clif Shot Bloks I noticed a diuretic effect from the caffeine. That’s gone away with time, but keep in mind your caffeine tolerance and overall caffeine intake when considering these.

2. Occasionally when I bite down on a Shot Blok I feel like I’ve bitten down on a piece of grit, sand, or a seed particle. I don’t know if this is some artifact from all of the natural goodness that goes in to Clif Shot Bloks, but biting down on something that makes a crunch sound when I’m expecting pure gummy texture is unnerving, not unlike finding a bit of shell in scrambled eggs or in a crabcake. Kind of ruins the experience. The funny thing is that I’ve never been able to isolate the gritty bit in my mouth, so it may be a piece of undissolved sugar that quickly dissolves once in my mouth. Smaller, slower bites seem to mitigate this occasional issue.

By the Numbers:

Black Cherry Clif Shot Bloks

Taste: 10/10

Texture: 9/10

Packaging: 7/10 (I’d love 3-piece packs or re-sealable packaging)

Energy Boost: 10/10 (Sometimes I feel like a Fast & Furious car with the nitro engaged – the boost can be a bit much for me if I do something stupid like eat a whole pack and follow it up with a Clif Bar that also contains caffeine, but it is as advertised, so I can’t in good faith dock any points here.)

Overall: 9/10

Tropical Punch Clif Shot Bloks

Taste: 10/10

Texture: 9/10

Packaging: 7/10

Energy Boost: 10/10 (half-caffeine is enough for me)

Overall: 9/10

Cran-Razz Clif Shot Bloks

Taste: 10/10

Texture: 9/10

Packaging: 7/10

Energy Boost: 6/10 (I prefer some caffeine)

Overall: 8/10

Sorry the Blog is in Ruins While I’m Traveling

I’m traveling in Europe for pleasure followed by business followed by more pleasure. An unfortunate consequence of all of my jet setting is that I’ve neglected my blog. Happily, I’ve got reliable in-room wifi at this hotel. And I’ve got access to a treadmill for safe running without getting lost, so I took my first run of the trip this morning inside the little hotel gym. Let me tell you, there’s nothing like free weights marked in kilograms instead of pounds and treadmill speed and distances covered given in kilometers instead of miles to confuse the heck out of me!

When I’m not so tired, you can look forward to a little travel log discussing my adventures in Rome and now Amsterdam, as well as a review of the Adidas Adios Boost since I finished 60+ miles on that shoe before I crossed the pond. Adidas is a favored brand in Europe, so that seems kind of timely. And oh yeah, a long overdue love fest about Clif Shot Bloks (so much for spoiler alerts).

I’ve got to be at my work site early in the morning, so ciao/afscheid/goodbye for now!