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Gear Crush: Racing in Merino Wool From Ibex

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Photograph courtesy Race Against Hate

Last weekend I ran the Ricky Byrdsong Race Against Hate 10K in Evanston, Illinois. Byrdsong was the former beloved coach of the Northwestern Wildcats basketball team who was killed in a shooting spree hate crime in 1999. The race was created by his wife, Sherialyn, to promote love and tolerance in the community. There’s a 5K, 10K, and mile-long kids race—and our family had participants in all three! It was hot, upwards of 90 degrees. The 10K course, which traces the edge of Lake Michigan, was sometimes in direct, blaring sunlight. Considering the heat and the distance, the race seemed like a good opportunity really test the mettle of merino wool in its most intimate form: a sports bra.

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A wool sweater bra. Sounds, um, great, right?

I tried out the seamless, body-mapping Ibex Balance Support Bra ($75). It’s no surprise that merino wool has been making a strong showing in outdoor layering these days. Sheep were on to something with their cozy, odor-resistant coats. It’s no wonder they have been getting shorn for centuries. When it’s cold, wool makes total sense.

But why would you want a wool bra, you wonder, in the heat of summer? The wool has actually gotten really soft (this is from someone who regularly breaks out in hives from sitting in the grass). Made with a hint of Spandex, the superfine knit really, well, hugs you into place. How can a sweater bra be supportive? I was skeptical, too. The cross-crossing straps and and hook-back closure actually end the bounce.

The bra was totally unnoticed under my orange racing shirt. It got soaked in sweat, then quickly dried and was totally comfortable (not clammy or stinky like some synthetics) while watching the zumba divas post-race show and munching on Whole Foods snacks among the 4,374 other racers who laced up to reduce racial hatred and promote love.