Monday, October 27, 2014

Strollin' with Baby

South Table Mountain above apartment, with views towards Green mountain (left) and Mt. Morrison (right), and my baby boy (foreground)
I've got a new running partner.
He's perfect.
He's kind enough to go my speed -- he doesn't go too slow, and although he's always just a bit ahead, and makes me work a bit harder than I would solo, he never takes off out of sight.  He's always willing to trust my route selection and come along, rarely whining or complaining.  And although I like dogs and they make great running partners, too, he never snags my snacks while I'm not looking, or chases skunks.  The true environmentalist, he even packs out his own waste!

He's just under 3 months old.

I'm now able to go running outside with my boy thanks to a very generous and thoughtful gift of a jogging stroller from our awesome friends in the Fort Collins Trail Runners.
You guys are all awesome!  You saved us from this:


Seriously, this was an incredible gesture for our little family.  We've already got it great, with a beautiful happy, healthy baby making us smile with his goofy laughs and giggles.  It's also been a mad, emotional and financial scramble for several months, going from 0-to-baby in no time, but NO complaints, knowing how hard and nerve-wracking it can be for anyone going through the difficult uncertainties of adoption or pregnancy.  We've already had incredibly generous support from family and friends, with plenty of new and used clothes and toys and other basics to get us started.  While Mama J has been focused on getting his nursery ready -- tipping from a delicate emotional point of not having any time before he was born to bringing him home -- I've been wondering, how do I get him outside, comfortably and enjoyably, to appreciate the vibrant sights, sounds, and smells of his wonderful world?

So while I might not have been as excited by the comprehensive 'Must-have' list provided by Baby Registry services (how did babies survive just a few decades ago?), the main long-term indulgence I hoped for was a nice running stroller.
Our friends came through, just in time for one of the best stretches of October weather in Colorado since we've lived here, with the BOB Sport Utility stroller.

So far, it's been fantastic.  I guess this is a short review.
Clear Creek Trail, Golden
BOB Sport Utility Stroller
One of the main questions for a parent runner is, "Which stroller?"  There are several options, and I knew BOB makes some great ones.  Among those, you have the "Ironman" version, which is high-quality but built for (racing) pavement.  I definitely leaned towards the off-road versions, which have 16-inch pneumatic tires and shocks to be able to go over moderately rough terrain and bumps.
The last debate was the Sport Utility, which has a fixed-front wheel (with all 3 wheels being 16" diameter), vs. Revolution, which has a smaller front wheel that rotates side-to-side ("yaw"), but is more expensive, and lacks a handbrake.  The consensus I found is that the Sport Utility Stroller really is more of a hiking and running stroller -- several trail runners I spoke with recommended this model -- whereas the Revolution might be slightly easier to maneuver through malls and more for jogging.

So we registered for the the Sport Utility Stroller and it's been a great choice.  I've needed and used the handbrake on steeper downhills already.  In addition to preferring the cushioning of the larger front wheel, I've patched a tire already (not bad, as I went through patchy weeds in goathead season) and bought some replacement tubes from a local bike store, and it would be more troublesome to have to keep or bring 2 different tire sizes.  As for turning a fixed front wheel: you wouldn't want it to be able to turn on any sort of bumpy terrain, as every rock would knock it sideways, but on flat areas it's an easy shift-of-weight backward, and then a quick pivot on the rear tires.  With practice (i.e., one run), you can do this at-speed.

I do understand that there's an even more expensive version of the Revolution with a handbrake (or maybe it can be added), and there might be more adjustment on the handlebar height.  If the latter is important, it might be worth checking out.
Otherwise, from what I can tell, based on the first hundred miles:  BOB Sport Utility Stroller FTW.

Last up is colour, and you can choose any colour you long as it's a Denver Broncos colour!
So, orange or blue.  Both are sharp looking.  I went with orange because I thought it would be easier to see.  Safety first!

Running with an Infant
But wait, there's more!  Young infants cannot stabilized their own heads yet.  They're most secure when still in their car seat, which may have additional cushioned neck support in it.  Luckily, most decent jogging strollers have adapters for car seats, so that you can click a rear-facing carseat into the stroller.  In the case of BOB, you can get adapters for different car seat brands.  Confusingly, BOB carseats are made by Britax, which means you need a Britax adapter to mount the carseat to a BOB stroller, making the "adapter" sound like a misnomer when you have both items being BOB brand.  In truth, the "adapter" is actually a mounting bracket that supports the carseat.  But still, extra $$$.

The other question is about jogging with infants at all, especially on bumpy surfaces.  Like all parenting issues, their are strong opinions and occasionally contentious debate.  There are numerous anecdotes of people running with weeks-old babies that turn out just fine, and no known population evidence otherwise.  Some have a misguided fear of "shaken baby syndrome" (SBS) but the terribly violent jerking of SBS (generally forward-to-backward) is vastly different than anything encountered in a reasonable stroller ride.  Millions of kids deal have dealt regularly with bumpy transport.  And, ironically, we're very accepting as a society of the incredible risk of simply driving on the roads each day, yet people question anything outside of average behaviour.

Using a stroller for running, and on trails, then, is mostly common sense.  Even with nice shocks, you can't fly over bumpy or rutted trails.  And with the carseat adapter, the center of gravity is higher, so you also do have to be a bit more careful as it rocks side to side and you have a smaller baby.  So on most rocky stuff, I'm at or near a walk, and the best trails are still relatively flat dirt, gravel, or paved trails.  Still, the cushioning of a nice running stroller is much better than a basic stroller with small, hard wheels.

The overall verdict of running with a baby so far?  Luckily, babies are not shy about letting you know how they feel.  My son will mostly sleep, quite peacefully, and occasionally look around or at me.  It's obvious to tell the difference between when he's displeased or content, so it's obvious to know to slow down for anything really bumpy or rocky, and otherwise he's quite happy to be outside.  He'll occasionally fuss when trying to fall asleep, no different than being in a car, and a pacifier usually fixes that as he falls right back asleep.  If he's awake, and when we're done, I'll talk to him and make sure he smiles.  Which he always does -- he's a pretty happy guy anyway.

One last data point: since we started longer runs, up to 1-2 hours if I time it with naps, he slept through the night for the first time ever!  And did so 4 of the next 6 nights in a row (waking up once the other 2 nights), and has not had any of the random 'witching hour' fussy times in the afternoon in the last week.  Could be a complete developmental coincidence, but just sayin'...


  1. Good to see you on Sat. (briefly). Glad you are getting out with the little one, hearing about it sure brings back a lot of fond memories.

  2. Good to see you too, Chris, but wish we would have realized it! Thanks for the kind words, any good advice?
    BTW, I ran past 2 sets of bighorns, twice, with a digital camera AND a Gopro. I only got some crappy video and pictures. YOU got a fantastic shot on a cell phone! Goes to show how much talent, patience, experience, and a good eye is important in photography!

  3. Mike! Hope all is well with you and the family! This is super inspiring, you getting out on the trails with the boy in the BOB. We have some friends who just gave us there Sports Utility and I'm going to have to do my best to convince Elise that using it now with our little girl, she just turned 8 weeks, is going to cause no ill effects! So would you say that using it on the valley trails would be fine?

  4. Hi Josh, thanks! Glad to hear you're doing well, are you off Facebook? (Not a bad idea when time is precious).
    I took Jamison on some of the Valley trails, it wasn't too bumpy but it was frequently narrow, and I worried about getting in the way of mt. bikers, though the one's I saw were chill and often gave us a thumbs-up. In spots where it is bumpy, though, we slow to a walk, especially because the carseat is top-heavy. There's lots of back-and-forth on the internet about what's safe or good for babies, but I went off of some friends' experience and mostly just watching Baby J to see that he's comfortable. You'll be the best judge of how your daughter is doing!
    Honestly, double-tracks and dirt roads are the most fun, IMHO, since they're wider for us to get through and less worry about blocking other people around blind corners. In FoCO, would think Pineridge, the first part of Coyote Ridge, lower Bobcat Ridge, Arapahoe Bend, Horsetooth service road, Towers -- BUT it is easy to be going faster than the front brake can handle downhills! Still, most of our running, then, has been on multi-user paths and gravel next to the pavement -- easy and comfortable to do with that stroller vs. a basic stroller with hard wheels...if I were in FoCo I'd probably go along the edges of Poudre and Spring Creek trails, especially this time of year. Have fun and hope to see and meet you all soon!

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