Review: BioSkin Q-Baby Patella Tendon Strap

A few weeks ago, a rep from BioSkin contacted me about writing a review in exchange for some gear and I jumped at the opportunity: I’m always looking for new tools to help build my strength & improve my running. Plus I love sharing info with you guys – it can be hard to weed through the endless stream of running-related products out there and I rely heavily on runner reviews of products before I buy, so now’s my chance to give back with a review of my own!

After offering to send me a pair of compression calf sleeves, I asked the rep if I might be able to try out one of their knee braces instead. I explained that ever since my knee surgery, I’ve dealt with recurring knee injuries; most recently the patellar tendonitis flare up last summer that caused me to drop from the full marathon to the half in October.

The rep was super helpful and offered their Q-Baby Patella Tendon Strap. After my injury last summer I picked up a similar (albeit much cheaper) little tendon strap from the local running store and found it to be immensely helpful. Until it gave me a rash while running and stretched out to the point of being unusable after a week. I had high hopes for this BioSkin brace, and I’ll spoil the surprise for you right now by saying I was not disappointed!

IMG_5348The brace arrived much quicker than expected, along with a handful of snack samples and a fun ladies cut t-shirt too. This made me laugh – in the rep’s initial email, he actually said “I see that you like to take the occasional running selfie, so how about we give you a shirt, too?” I was super impressed – the man had done his homework!

IMG_5345 IMG_5346aThe next morning I decided to test this baby (literally, the Q-Baby – what a cute name for a brace) in some pretty harsh conditions: by 9am it was already 80 degrees and rising, at about 75% humidity. Because the sun was so hot, I opted to run under the shade of Holmdel Park, which worked out great: I was able to really put myself – and the brace! – to the test with hills, uneven trails, and lots of other knee-crushing fun. If it could survive an hour or more of sweat and challenging terrain, it could probably survive anything I’m capable of.


I was a little intimidated at first by the setup of the brace – it’s comprised of two parts that all velcro together – but the instructions were super easy to follow and I got it right on the first try. The design and quality stood out immediately: because the strap narrows down in the back, you don’t get the itchy discomfort of leftover velcro rubbing on your skin with every step, and the second part of the brace served as reinforcement to the first compressive strap. This means that even if the initial brace with the compressive pad stretched out like my old cheapie brace did (which the Q-Baby did not, more on that later), the second strap that wraps around it will still be there to hold the pad against the tendon and ease your pain.


After a few hops and laps around the yard without any brace slippage or pain (hooray!), I hopped in the car, picked up my running buddy, Kevin, and we headed to the trails. Once we warmed up and started to pick up the pace, the sweat started to drip pretty much everywhere. It was one of those humid days where your legs instantly get a sheen of sweat as soon as you step outside, but that did nothing to move this brace. In the first mile we trekked over rocky hills and a cute little bridge and I absolutely forgot about the brace on my knee. No pain in the patella, no uncomfortable rubbing from the brace, nothing!

IMG_5401At mile one we made a bathroom stop, and that was the only time I adjusted the brace all day. It wasn’t slipping, but I tightened it more for reassurance than anything, because we were ready to attack the next 4 miles with intensity. We’d coast down hills in one mile then double back to see if we could keep pace on the way back up, and breathlessly fought each rolling hill. It was hard work, especially in that heat, but we had a blast!

IMG_5390From the moment we started until the very last steps, my knee felt great. In humidity it tends to act up, but the brace was like a little security blanket that kept it happy and allowed me to really push myself. I was even able to shift my weight and experiment with different ways of tackling the hills, like focusing on using my glutes on one, then using my hamstrings on another. I was able to use my legs in ways that I’d been previously afraid to because of my tendonitis, thanks to this brace!

IMG_5395When we finished our 5 miles in 1:15, I expected the strap to be stretched out and basically unusable (just like my old cheapie brace). But even after more than an hour of bending, sweating, and running, I was shocked to find that with the exception of some streaks of sunblock, it’s still in perfect shape and ready to rock again. I can’t wait to take it out on another run and see what else I’m capable of!

Have you tried BioSkin before? Are you digging any other compression/braces to ease your aching joints? Share your opinions in the comments!

Disclosure: BioSkin provided me a free sample in exchange for my honest review. Receiving product did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.

Time to Rebuild

So I finished my last half marathon of the spring racing season! Hooray!


Now that the celebratory peanut butter pie has been eaten, the Tiger Balm has soaked in, and the muscles have recovered, the inevitable question that follows the end of every race is now on my mind: What’s Next?

Well, if I’m being honest with myself – and honest with you, dear reader – I don’t know! I mean sure, I know I’m going to race again eventually, but right now I have zero races lined up in the calendar. Even for next fall.

I briefly considered the Jersey Girl Triathlon this August, but I haven’t pulled the trigger on that yet. I’ve only incorporated swimming into my cross-training plan about a half dozen times so far, and after 25 minutes and about 200 yards I’m physically unable to walk myself from the locker room to the car without my legs shaking and giving out on me. Just the thought of having to add biking and running after a workout like that makes me weak in the knees. I’d have to do some serious training to prepare for an event like that. And I just Googled “beginner triathlon training plan” and the first result that came up is a 93-page PDF. NINETY-THREE PAGES, YOU GUYS. Can anyone point me in the direction of a training plan that isn’t like a book of stereo instructions?


OK so maybe I need to set my sights a little lower. I’m sure I’ll do some local 5K’s that I’ve always done, and I’m searching the local running club calendars for 10K’s as well. I certainly don’t want to lose the running endurance that I’ve built up these past few months, and having some slightly shorter than half distance races on the horizon could keep me moving. Do any of my local Jersey peeps have recommendations on 10K’s in the next month or two?

Lastly, I’m searching for a new fall Half Marathon to call my own. I could easily sign up once again for the Atlantic City Half Marathon and see if the third time is the charm – after all, it’s where I set my current half PR! But the fall race season is so rich and exciting, that I wonder if I’m limiting myself by just setting my sights on that one bigger race when there are so many other great events going on in September and October. Does anyone in my area have any local half plans or dream races you’d like to do in the fall?

One thing I AM sure of, however, is that I’m going to be focusing very heavily on rebuilding my strength up with weights and cross training. After the little spurts I could fit in while training for my races these past few months, I felt an immense improvement in the running workouts that followed. But just like everything else, life gets in the way and excuses get made and the time I could spend working out was spent on getting mileage in, not strengthening everything else. As a result, I notice the weakness creeping in, even with little tasks like carrying the grocery bags into the house.

funny-gif-weight-liftingNo more!

Today I kicked off this new rebuilding phase by doing something called “3 Times 3 At 3”. It’s entirely made up and in no way scientific, but it’s random and fun and sounds just easy enough to stick with for a while. Here’s how it works: at 3PM every day, I go down to my office gym and do three sets of three exercises for :45 each, with :15 of rest between them. Sounds easy, right? Well. 10 minutes of push-ups, side crunches, and squats later, I’m kind of dying.


Alright, I’m not dying – I’m fine, I just have a fun case of jelly arms from the absolute and complete lack of work I’ve done on my upper body in the last month or so. My abs and legs feel great and strong and ready for more, which is great.

But the whole thing was just what I needed to jump back into a post-race fitness routine and beat the “What do I do now Blues”! Now I’m nice and warmed up for the cardio I’ve still got planned after I get done with work, and I’m excited to build it up into 4 Times 4 or more. Cheers to rebuilding and growing stronger with each passing day!

Race Recap: Asbury Park Half Marathon

This weekend I ran my first half marathon since tearing my ACL in mile 12 of my last one back in October 2012. And it couldn’t have been a better day if I had scripted it!!

My day started out with a bit of anxiety: after 18 months of no running/racing in major races, I had some serious stress dreams about getting to the start. So when 5:30 rolled around I woke up ready but not necessarily rested. I did my usual pre-run routine (coffee, peanut butter bread, half banana, bathroom), and once I slapped some eyebrows on (gotta look good for the race photographer!), I taped up my knees and got dressed, sticking with the tank and shorts & throwing my running rain jacket on at the last minute.

After a quick 25-30 minute drive, we got to the boardwalk and easily found parking – a huge bonus in my book! I was so nervous & couldn’t stop talking in circles – poor Mike kept talking me down, and finally he gave me a look that said he was considering using the KT tape from my knees to cover my mouth, and I kept my insecurities to myself. Bless his heart.


Fig. 1: a terrified runner

We milled around at the start, waiting in the semi-ridiculous port-a-potty line and acclimating to the cold wet weather, when the sun broke through the clouds, causing a huge burst of applause from the crowd. That’s when I called an audible, took the jacket off, and lined up for the start.


Fig. 2: terrified runner, faking optimism

The gun went off and after the usual jostling at the start, we were on our way! As I crossed the timing pad, “Born to Run” blared from a nearby radio station tent and I couldn’t help but smile. Asbury Park, Bruce Springsteen, the Jersey Shore, the gritty boardwalk, the finish at the Stone Pony: this race was made for me! I own this! It’s funny how one song can turn your mood around entirely 🙂

So, with my confidence soaring, I settled into a nice easy, conservative 11:30-12:00 min/mile pace and smiled the whole first 2 miles, listening to other runners near me at the back of the pack chatting happily and joking about how they only had “5 more hours to go!” These were my people!

We passed hungover hipsters watching us from the doorways of diners, couples walking their dogs, people getting coffee – it was a gorgeous spring Saturday morning and I felt like I could go forever. We did a nice slow loop around the lake and back along the boardwalk where we got a nice boost from the crowd that still lingered there – and I even got to snag an extra good luck kiss from Mike!


Fig. 3: Happy runner 🙂

Miles 3-5.5 went one way out and miles 5.5-7 passed us in the other direction. It was motivating to pass the faster runners and snag some high-fives to power through. I stopped at the water station at 5.5 for a stretch and some water, then took some almonds and peanut butter M&M’s for energy (gels cramp my stomach) a bit later at 1:07. But I realized too late – I had no water! I mis-timed my stop and found myself jogging with a dry mouth full of paste (that tasted like smoked almonds and chocolate, ugh). I asked a nearby course volunteer where the next water station was and while she didn’t know, she magically reached into her pocket and pulled out a tiny bottle of water for me! I heard angels and saw the skies open up above her, and thanked her about 20 times as I jogged away, recharged.

The last 3rd of the race was along the boardwalk the entire way, and as we ran back past the start/finish area I found Mike one last time and smiled, for the camera, but I knew the rest of this race was going to be tough.


powering through

I felt a little bit of fatigue, and looked forward to my planned walk breaks at Mile 10. Just after I passed Mike though, a tiny figure in a neon pink sweatshirt came out of the crowd right before the Casino pier and ran straight for me, screaming, “Jess! Yeah Jess GO!” – it was my friend Tina! I had totally forgotten that she was coming! I was grateful for the chance to stop and hug her, but she (being a seasoned runner with 7 [SEVEN!!] marathons under her belt) knew that if I stopped I wouldn’t start again. So she kept pace with me for about 50 yards, “You’re doing great! How are you feeling? How’s your knee? Can I get you anything at the finish?” I kept running. All I could get out was fragments: “I’m great! 5 and a half to go, knee is awesome, thanks but I’m good!” She trailed off just as I went through the abandoned pier, “Alright, we’ll be there at the finish, you’ve got this!!” I gave her a thumbs up and once I was inside the pier, I found myself sobbing.

I was so overwhelmed with the whole experience – I was running with my new ACL, on track to beat my old time, and here was this friend I completely didn’t expect and needed just at the right moment. I mean come on, no one understands a runner better than another runner. I heard my goofy sobs echoing around the empty pier – then realized that she was probably still only a few yards behind me, dummy, pull yourself together and run your ass off!

So run I did, and started to melt down around 10.5. The boardwalk was an unforgiving surface to run on, and my thin compression socks offered little in the way of cushioning. At every step I could feel every bump and nail in the boards under my feet. My good knee throbbed with every step, but as long as I alternated between jogging and walking, I was good.

I kept an eye on my watch, with my time to beat at 2:56; That was when I crossed the finish line after tearing my ACL in the AC Half. Even if I made it in at 2:55 I would call it a win. So when I passed mile 12 and saw 2:40 on the clock, I panicked. If I walked it at 15 mins/mile, I wouldn’t make it. I’d have to push. So I did.

And just as I came over the last bridge at mile 12.85, there was another friend – Bill. I pointed at him as I jogged towards him, as he stood there smiling at me, waiting to run me in. I had nothing left to give at this point; even speaking was impossible. I felt so bad – I couldn’t answer any of his questions, or even explain to him that I was so close to my time goal because I couldn’t breathe enough to say it!

And honestly, I hadn’t even said my goal out loud, ever. Saying it felt too real. If I came in after 2:56 I couldn’t bear the thought of having to hear everyone tell me, “Well you still did great!”.

So I speed walked, I jogged, and there was Tina and her boyfriend Joe, again at mile 13. This time she snapped a pic of me:


I was laughing, yes – but I think hallucinating too.

I just had to make it up to the boardwalk and sprint the last .1 to finish. I said screw it and just RAN – I’m not even sure of that final pace – but when I could make out the numbers on the finish clock and saw 2:53, I burst into tears. I simply couldn’t hold the emotion in any longer, and crossed that finish line at 2:53:44, sobbing and wheezing.

When I cleared the finishers chute, I found Mike and could only make out the words “I beat my time!” before dissolving into full-on sobs. I hadn’t even told him about my goal, and I didn’t even have the oxygen to do so now! But he knew.

Tina and Bill joined us, for hugs and photos and chatting – it was amazing.


Triumphant Runner 🙂

I felt like I was vibrating. I still do! It was an amazing experience and I enjoyed every moment of it. I left it all on the course and wouldn’t have done it any other way. This race was more than just a race, it proved to me that I could see something through to the end successfully. I guess when it comes to half marathons, my third time was really the charm 😉

The only negative things I can say had to do with the finish and expo/t-shirt pickup situation. When we all parted ways, I realized that I needed water, and maybe a banana or something. I was shaking and my legs were near giving out. But all they had available on the boardwalk near the finish were plastic cups of water – if I wanted anything else I had to walk about a half mile back into town off the boardwalk to the “expo” in a school gymnasium (where they were also giving out race t-shirts). Now, I’d just run 13.27 miles. That unpaved field I had to cross to get to the expo may as well have been made of lava and filled with crocodiles. I still remember standing at the corner, looking at the expo sign in the distance and asking Mike for a piggy-back ride because I couldn’t fathom walking that far!

But even with that, I’d give the Asbury Park Runapalooza about a B+. The expo was cute, the tech shirts are fun orange long sleeve shirts, and I even got a free leg massage after the race! This is definitely a race I can see myself returning to year after year!


How about you? Did you race this weekend? I want to hear all about it!

I did it!

I promise a full race recap later, but I just couldn’t let another hour go by without sharing the great news:


I finished my first post-ACL surgery Half Marathon this weekend, AND I came away with a shiny new PR!!

I was able to shave a little over 3 minutes off my time, but more importantly, I crossed the finish line with both legs fully intact (and full-on ugly-cry face).

More to come later!




ACL Surgery Part 2: Post Surgery Adventures

So if you’re following my surgery story, when we last left off I had just been knocked out.

The next thing I remember was hearing the chatter of the two nurses in the recovery room and the beeping of my heart monitor. I heard them talking about the tattoo on the back of my neck. One loved it, while the other one thought tattoos were tacky. I remember thinking “Wake up and fight her!” What can I say: even drugged I want to defend my body ink.

I tried to open my eyes but can’t, and the heart monitor started beeping quickly; too quickly. I heard their voices: “It’s OK, just try to sleep sweetie!” OK, I thought. But soon I heard a new voice – my doctor’s. I panicked – I should be awake for this! This is probably important stuff! I tried to open my eyes but couldn’t. Again, the monitor beeps sped up, and I got anxious.

I later learned that my body was still under the effects of general anesthesia at that point, while my brain had woken up before my body could move. Fan-tastic! But, as my husband and father told me, the anesthesiologist simply knocked me back out for 3 hours to keep me from trying too hard to wake up (thus elevating my heart rate), and my loving husband and father decided to pass that time at the McDonald’s across the street. That’s love.

When I finally came out of it, I remember worrying that I’d be nauseous. You see, I’m equipped with quite possibly the most sensitive inner ear of any human ever. I can’t even check my Facebook in a moving car without needing a barf bag and a Dramamine. Thankfully, I was pretty OK as long as my head stayed stable.

When the nurses sat me up, I slowly came to and found I was in a big dark recovery room with a TV in front of me. The doctor came back in to show me a sheet filled with pictures of the inside of my knee as he explained what they meant. I was in and out: “80% torn”, “meniscus was fine”, “lots of little tears”, “patella graft”… “smurf hotel”? The one thing I was certain of was that the pictures looked like bloody sushi, and my gag reflex was alive and kicking.

The nurses jumped to action before the inevitable happened (bless them) by shoving an alcohol pad under my nose. What the pan-fried hell? They explained that the alcohol cuts the nausea and I was baffled. How? Was it a placebo? Science? Black magic?? All I know was that it WORKED. So I stole a handful of them and clutched them like Willy Wonka’s Golden Tickets.

They called my dad and husband in to help me – slowly – get dressed, into the wheelchair, and stretched out across the backseat of my husband’s Saturn Ion. Once I was home, hubby propped me up on the couch. The ultimate indignity came when he handed me a cowbell leftover from the race I tore my ACL in. “Ring it if you need me!” he said happily. Sure. I’ll jangle a cowbell that was last used to cheer me across the finish line of the race that put me in this position. Somewhere Alanis Morissette sensed a disturbance in the ironic force.

So we strapped me into my CPM (continuous passive motion) machine and cranked it up to 30 degrees flexion per the doctor’s orders. At this point I was feeling pretty damn awesome! I had a full ACL construction 6 hours earlier and I was already bending at 30 degrees? Who’s a rockstar?

Well, not me. Because after a few more hours, the anesthesia started to wear off and PURE FIRE shot through my body. I had to sleep on the couch for the first 48 hours because I couldn’t lift my leg into bed, but sleep became a mocking, distant memory. Two hours into my first night, I woke with shooting pains that ran from my left butt-cheek and down to the bottom of my foot – my leg was tired of being held at that angle for the past 12 hours, and the nerves were revolting as they woke up.

So I cried. Good lord, did I cry. I cried like a baby, that night, and the next day, and the day after that. It was true anguish. I still remember sobbing after a making it to the bathroom on my own the first day I was home alone, three days after surgery. What a production!

I had to disconnect my leg from the ice machine, unstrap from the CPM, manually move my dead leg off the side of the bed, maneuver into the crutches, and inch the 15 feet to the bathroom. Every movement meant searing pain. Bending at the waist forced a wave of pressure down my leg, while standing flooded my knee with fluid, making it feel like my kneecap would pop off. When I finally made it back to the bed, I couldn’t even muster the energy to lift my leg back into the CPM machine in bed.

Instead, I sat at the edge of the bed and sobbed fat, hot tears, openly and loudly, for almost a full 15 minutes. I rested my hands against the wall opposite me and let my head hang down – I never wanted to run again if it meant I might damage my ACL and have to go through this again. I could find no comfortable position in this world, and I never would, ever again.

But I did. Time and Oxy became my two best friends – each day I felt tiny, almost imperceptible improvements, but they added up. Plus the wild, vivid dreams I had on the Oxy kept me entertained too! No lie, I spent a whole night on the Hogwarts Express trying to find my trunk while my friends Ron and Harry chased me with a big orange cat. It was truly sublime.

As I got more sleep each night, I felt better. I worked up to 110 degrees flexion in 7 days, and physical therapy was around the corner. The point is, it did get better. Even though I had those dark moments where I felt like it would never heal, it did. I learned the true meaning of things like determination, stubbornness, and hard work – and physical therapy taught me even more.

Stay tuned for my next post on rehab and recovery!

In the meantime, do you have a surgery story of your own? Share in the comments!