Open Letter from ASICS to Step Up Training

ASICS #WANTITMORE

ASICS #WANTITMORE

True sport performance brand, ASICS aims to deliver its most provocative and inspiring brand campaign yet with ‘WANT IT MORE,’ a direct call for all sport enthusiasts to step up their training efforts and realize ever-greater achievement. Focusing on how far athletes across all sports — and of all ages — will go to reach their goal, the campaign is designed to support ASICS’ global strategy to expand its footprint beyond running and reach a wider, younger audience.

Importantly, the campaign also paves the way for new product launches across multiple categories including Running and a new Training collection. Both will feature technological advancements from ASICS Institute of Sport Science, delivering improved performance, style and comfort.

The worldwide campaign was filmed on location in South Africa, further strengthing and showcasing South Africa as a world-class sporting destination and training location.

Launching today the ‘WANT IT MORE’ campaign kicks off with an open letter inviting the community of sport enthusiasts to come together through their shared dedication to achieve a goal at #wantitmore. This fully integrated campaign will be published across media platforms, including out of home, sponsored-events, multimedia, and major social media channels.

From March 1st and throughout 2016, the ‘WANT IT MORE’ digital platform will keep pace with the annual sporting calendar, and inspire the community to stay motivated during workouts via two key components:

ASICS #WANTITMORE

ASICS #WANTITMORE

Fitter in :15 Campaign – Focusing on the hard work of training, the Fitter in :15 campaign will kick off on March 1 with a community-building effort featuring a collection of fifteen-second training optimization films that reveal different ways to take your workout to the next level. With tips and challenges from ASICS elite roster of sponsored athletes, experts, coaches and training influencers, these films will live on the ASICS Instagram account, offering a feed of useful content.

Train-offs – Emphasizing the competitive spirit in sport, the campaign will also feature ’train-offs’, short films in which athletes – from pros to influencers to everyday athletes –demonstrate how hard and far they can train, and then challenge each other to train-offs all posted to #wantitmore. As the year progresses, ASICS will shift from sponsored-athlete train-offs toward challenging the world to try and ’out-train’ its elite athletes.

 

‘WANT IT MORE’ taps into the heart and soul of the ASICS brand, encouraging athletes of all ages and abilities to push themselves to their limits in order to better their best. For over 60 years, the company has remained committed to youth and hope through sport by driving technological innovation that supports athletes’ tireless pursuit of continuous improvement.

“With this campaign, ASICS aims to inspire and motivate sportsmen and women to reach their goals,” said Sarah Mundy, Marketing Manager, ASICS South Africa. “We know success in sport comes from the human pursuit to take performance to a whole new level. Through this effort, ASICS celebrates the passion that connects professionals with everyday warriors, and shares that spirit across the world”.

For more information:

 

ASICS South Africa Twitter: www.twitter.com/ASICS_ZA

ASICS South Africa Instagram: www.instagram/com/ASICS_ZA

 

Altra Running ONE 2.5 Review

#EmbraceTheSpace

#EmbraceTheSpace

Altra Running ONE 2.5 Road Shoe

There is a lot one can do with 12 hours. You could perform a living donor liver transplant surgery, slow cook a Pork Belly stew to mouth watering perfection, or even fly from Cape Town to Paris to watch Zlatan Ibrahimovic score a wonder goal in the Champions League. All amazing things but up until a few weeks ago very few people thought you could run over 100 miles in that same time. Yet that is exactly what Zach Bitter did at the Desert Solstice 24 Hour race in the US on 19 December, setting a new world record for 12 hours with a distance of 101.66 miles. Simply Sensational. That’s averaging a mile every 7 minutes and the shoes he did it in? You guessed it… the Altra Running ONE 2.5 road shoe.

Altra Running is making some serious waves in the running industry with their lightweight, no frills, no fuss running shoes. Simple yet wildly brilliant. Not only are Altra’s trail and road shoes setting records and winning awards all over the world but the company as a whole is making massive leaps in the running industry. As of 2016 Altra Running will be the exclusive foot-wear sponsor of the infamous Western States Endurance Run. This is a remarkable achievement, especially for such a young company that has only been manufacturing shoes for a few years now. Their shoes are good, really good and the running community is starting to recognise that fact.

Flying High with #ZeroLimits

Flying High with #ZeroLimits

A few months back we reviewed the Altra Superior 2.0 trail shoe and found it to be a game changer, lacking a few good qualities but as a whole… A solid game changer. In this review we will be looking to see if the ONE 2.5 will have the same effect on the road running shoe industry.

Outsole
In terms of what you can see, the outsole is pretty simple. Just your standard rubber outsole to give you the grip you need. In terms of what you can’t see, i.e. the technology behind the outsole there is plenty going on. Instead of just giving you a piece of rubber to grip the surface as you run Altra have developed what they call their ‘Foot Pod Technology” which works incredibly well with the midsole and the runners foot to give the shoe flexion exactly where your foot needs it. This is the first shoe we have come across where the outsole has been developed so closely with the midsole in mind that it is almost impossible to separate the two. The patterns in both fit together very well to map the bones and tendons of the runners foot, this gives the sensation that you aren’t even running in shoes at all.

A shoe designed with the runners foot in mind

A shoe designed with the runners foot in mind

Midsole

There is no doubt about it, this shoe is built for speed! A lot of speed and according to Altra, “without sacrificing the comfort needed to maintain that speed through the finish line”. A 23mm stack height ensures there is optimum comfort, giving you enough cushioning to hit distances like Zach Bitter did in his 12hour record. The midsole features Altra Runnings signature Zero Drop foot-bed meaning the heel and toe’s are flat on the foot bed, this encourages are more natural forefoot running form. This does make it a shoe for a specific type of runner so if you haven’t run in a Zero Drop shoe before and are looking to make the switch it is a process that should be taken carefully to avoid injury.

Altra will be the official shoe sponsor at the 2016 Western States Endurance Run

Altra will be the official shoe sponsor at the 2016 Western States Endurance Run

Running in Zero Drop shoes has many benefits. One of the disadvantages we have found in the past is that a zero drop shoe can feel a bit “sluggish” because you don’t have the elevated heel-to-toe drop. Shoes with a 4mm or 8mm drop give you some momentum through the transition phase as your foot strikes the ground, zero drop shoes encourage a forefoot strike which can make them feel sluggish at first. We found the ONE 2.5 transitioned brilliantly into the next phase after the foot hit the tar, this is because of Altra’s A-Bound Technology which according to Altra “reduces ground impact and adds a spring to each step.” We found this to be true and worked incredibly well with the InnerFlex grooves built into the midsole, completely removing that sluggish feeling out of the foot transition phase.

Zero Drop. Zero Limits.

Zero Drop. Zero Limits.

Upper

After running quite extensively in the ONE 2.5 we are pretty convinced that the ONE 2.5 is Altra’s most comfortable shoe they have produced to date. The no stitch overlays and quick dry Air-Mesh make for a very comfortable, sock-like feel inside the shoe. Very rarely are light weight racing shoes this comfortable, because of this fact it is a great shoe across all distances from 10km to 100miles. The ONE 2.5 features Altra’s signature Foot-Shape Toe Box which if used with a sock like Injinji gives you a massive amount of room inside the shoe for your little piggies to play all the way to the market. Your toes can naturally spread out and relax more instead of being cramped and unable to move inside the shoe. This coupled with an effective forefoot strike will increase your stability as you run.

Breaking Limits. Setting Records.

Breaking Limits. Setting Records.

The Upper has been completely redesigned from the previous version and it is very noticeable. The Upper dries faster and wicks sweat more effectively keeping friction in the shoe to a minimum. We find this is a major factor in the shoes comfort. The Upper also fits better over the arch and top of the foot. The wider toe box gives your forefoot lots of room while the rest of the upper keeps your foot from moving too much in the shoe.


All in all we found the Altra ONE 2.5 to be absolutely fantastic! Lightweight, comfortable, and very fast. The ONE 2.5 is a solid option if you have been running in Zero Drop shoes on the trail. If it is good for Zach Bitter we are pretty sure it is good for us!

The Altra ONE 2.5 is available from the RUN Specialist Store in Cape Town. 7 – 11 Bree Street. The shoe retails for around R1599.00Snapseed (1)

 

Saucony Peregrine 5 Review

Ain't she a Georgia peach!

Ain’t she a Georgia peach!

Saucony Peregrine 5 Trail Running shoe

Normally I like to start these reviews with a nice little build up, a story of sorts to whet the appetite for what’s to come. Today though I am going to hit out of the gates with some good old fashioned honesty. It might come as a surprise but before receiving these particular Peregrine 5’s I had never run in a pair of Saucony’s. Not in the last 5 years I have been trail running, or the 7 years of triathlon and road running before that, or even all the years of running cross country in school and for the life of me after testing these shoe’s the past month, I cannot figure out why. The main reason I guess has always been that I couldn’t quite get past the fact that a pair of shoe’s can sell for the same amount of money as the shoe’s that the greatest trail, ultra and sky runner that ever lived in the history of anything and everything running uses. A shoe that is arguably the most tested and developed shoe in the history of shoe manufacturing.

The Salomon Sense Ultra 5.

Having your shoes retail at the same price as what many consider to be the best trail running shoe in the world (simply because the best trail runner in the world, Kilian Jornet, runs in them) is like training in the same gym as Manny Pacquiao and occasionally slapping him when he isn’t looking. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, you just need to be able to back it up if he wants to go toe-to-toe with you! I am not sure whether or not Saucony meant to slap the “big boys” on purpose but let’s see how the Peregrine 5 would stack up in a Title fight.

Let's get ready to rumble!

Let’s get ready to rumble!

The thing that separates boxers like Pacquiao from the rest can be attributed to a number of things but for me it is, without a doubt, attention to detail. Some people call it Marginal Gains. Sky Pro Cycling have proven how successful it can be to focus on improving just 1% over a number of areas instead of trying to get 20% improvements over a few areas, especially with Chris Froome’s absolutely dominating performances. From the moment that I took the Peregrine 5 out the box that is what struck me most, attention to detail. Not just in the functional aspects of the shoe but also in the aesthetic aspects, Saucony have realised that even placebos are marginal gains if they have the desired effect of improving performance.

Pacquiao has spent hours in the gym and in the ring perfecting his boxing skills and fitness, this is Saucony’s Fifth version of the Peregrine. Have they perfected their skills enough to challenge for the title or do they still need more bag work? Let’s see what’s cooking…

Outsole

Grip much?

Grip much?

A trail running shoes grip could be linked to a boxer’s power. Without power you aren’t going to do much damage to your opponent. It is the same in running, without grip in your shoes you aren’t going to do much damage, to the competition or the Strava segments you’re chasing. When it comes to grip the Peregrine 5 are punching way above their weight. For such a light-weight shoe the amount of grip you will have at your disposal is phenomenal, regardless of the terrain. Rocky outcrops, technical single tracks and dusty roads will not be an issue for this shoe. We found the Peregrine 5 to be an out and out racer, if you are looking to log 1000km’s in training for a goal race don’t be surprised if the shoes don’t make it to the start line.

These are built fast and light, perfect for Sky Running. The lugs are flexible, so flexible we thought they would be torn off in the first run. I was happy to finish my first run in the shoes, the Matroosberg Sky Marathon Challenge, on some insanely rugged and technical terrain with all the lugs intact. The multi-directional 5mm deep lugs make for very good grip. Saucony went with their XT-900 rubber for the OutSole in the Peregrine 5 which makes for a very durable and flexible lower layer of the shoe. Having logged around 200km’s in just under 3 weeks across varied terrain I have been very satisfied with how the shoe is lasting. At the current rate of wear we estimate this particular shoe should be good for 650-700km’s which if compared to other shoes we have tested is a lot for a lightweight racing trail shoe.

#FindYourStrong

#FindYourStrong

MidsoleThe Midsole is made up completely of Saucony’s PowerGrid foam, I could go into the science of the PowerGrid technology but I am just going to mention my experience of it as I feel it will explain it better. There is only one other shoe that I have experienced the midsole distributing pressure throughout the whole sole so well that you can literally feel it as you run, and it was a road shoe. This is the first trail shoe I have come across where you can literally feel the midsole distributing the force coming from the ground as you run. The Grid technology really does absorb the impact and evenly distributes it throughout the midsole. This also means there is very little ‘foot slippage’ inside the shoe as your feet are centered well by the foam and upper.

The stack height is spot on for a lightweight racer. A height of 21.5mm at the heel and 17.5mm at the forefoot. Giving you a heel-to-toe drop of 4mm. Although the shoe might not feel like it rolls out of transition as nicely as a 8mm drop would, it does encourage fore-foot running which will keep you well balanced, especially on the technical stuff.

A Nylon Mesh rockplate has replaced the more rigid hard plates from previous Peregrines, this has been a brilliant improvement to Peregrine 5 for us. The midsole is still incredibly flexible even with the plate, yet it still offers the under-foot protection that most runners don’t want to go without.

All in all we found the midsole to be very responsive, as firm as you would like without sacrificing the much-needed flexibility.

PowerGrid MidSole at it's best!

PowerGrid MidSole at it’s best!

UpperI have a problem, you see I have very flat and wide feet. So finding shoes that fit and give me enough space in the toe box is always a struggle. Thankfully that has not been my struggle with the Peregrine 5. The seamless FlexFilm Upper really fits like a glove, without cramping up my toes. The Tongue is attached to the sides of the Upper which effectively keeps trail debris out of the shoe and the shoe is fully compatible with Trail Gaiters if you really need to keep stuff out. The design and colour schemes of the Upper has also been a great aspect of the shoe for me. I read online that a few people had issues with the heel counter causing blisters but I didn’t experience that. My very first run in the shoe was a 3hour plus Sky Run with no blisters and I haven’t had one yet. Although having said that, this could be because I only run in Injinji

Run Anywhere!

Run Anywhere!

Earlier on I spoke about attention to detail and the Upper is where we see the most attention to detail, even if it is just aesthetic. The top of the tongue features a rad Mountain graphic with the words “Run Anywhere” and the Heel Counter features a reflective Falcon graphic that is lit up at night by car lights etc. Saucony have realised runners enjoy the little things, even if it just looks cool and doesn’t necessarily make you run faster.

Flying High

Flying High

The Upper breathes incredibly well, almost too well actually. If you plan on running in winter in this shoe you might need some warm socks. This also means though that the shoe drains very quickly if you need to run through water, and helps keep you cool on the hot days.  A solidly rubberised toe cap effectively protects all the little piggy’s as they enjoy the trails and not the market.

Conclusion:

For us Saucony have a legitimate title fight on their hands. If the Peregrine 5 was a young gun picking a fight with Pacquiao, Pac Man would seriously need to pull up his socks and get to work. The Peregrine 5 means business on every single front, there is no messing around with this shoe. I fear this review could come across too “glowing” but it is not our ethos to say lots of nice things about shoes to keep the brands happy so they can send us more stuff to review. If there is something wrong with the shoe we will say it, but honestly we have struggled to find anything wrong with this shoe. They are the real deal, across any terrain. The Peregrine 5 is like a punch-drunk pugilist who eats, sleeps, drinks, and breathes to break records and crush the opposition. I might not have convinced you but they sure have convinced me, these shoes are worth every cent and the big boys better pull up their socks if they want to keep their Titles. There is a new challenger for the “Best Trail Shoe in the World” title.

Punchdrunk kid!

Punchdrunk kid!

K-Way Men’s Reiko Moisture Manager Review

K-Way Men’s Reiko Moisture Manager Review

Moisture Management at it's best

Moisture Management at it’s best

Trail Running, or any outdoor activities for that matter, where you are at the mercy of the elements can be both an exhilirating experience and a terrifying one. The reality is the weather in the mountains can change so fast you will still be waiting for your GPS signal to register when sunshine turns to blazing rain. Especially if you live in Cape Town. Some days you just want to get out there to clear your head and relieve the stress from a busy day at the office. The last thing you feel like doing is lugging your pack with 2 different layers ‘in case’ the weather changed. I mean for once you would just like to run free of things weighing you down, soak up the peace and quiet on your favourite trail, and go home leaving the thunderstorm on the mountain and not in your head.

Enter the K-Way Reiko Moisture Manager.

There are many ‘Base Layers’ on the market, but what makes a good quality base layer so effective is its ability to wick sweat of the body and to dry itself really fast. Its purpose is to keep you warm even in a cold wind. An effective Base Layer acts as an insulator when it is still wet, keeping the cold air out and the warm air in. We found the Reiko Moisture Manager does all this, incredibly well.

Mens_Reiko4

Where I experienced this the most was on a humid and hot day in Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch. In the bottom of the valley it was hot and humid but once I climbed up Swartboskloof to around 1000m ASL there was a very nippy wind blowing with speradic cloud cover. Naturally I sweated on the climb up leaving the Reiko Shirt quite damp at the top. Normally, in this situation, I would take out my wind breaker to stop that cold chill hitting my chest as I traversed along the top of Swartboskloof. This time, though, it was not necessary. I have run this route many times in similar conditions in the past and every time I have needed a wind breaker. The Reiko had kept me dry and within 20mins of running along the summit the shirt was dry, having kept me warm and insulated all along. I finished the run without once taking my top layer out of the pack. The Reiko Moisture Manager achieves this with its Hydrophilic Fabric. This basically means it absorbs the moisture into the fabric and then instead of it ‘pooling’ in certain sections the moisture is drawn across the fabric for quick evaporation.

The shirt is very lightweight at 190grams (Medium) and is made up of 92% Polyester Cationic and 8% Spandex. It fits really comfortably and the fabric itself is so soft you will feel like you are running in Huggies 3ply covered in Aloe Vera and Shea Butter.

This top has very quickly become my go-to base- and mid layer, meaning I am now carrying one less layer and the decreased weight has equaled increased fun.

Shop the K-Way Moisture Manager s/s Crew online at Cape Union Mart.

Mens_Reiko1

PUMA FAAS 500v2 Trail Shoe review

#ForeverFaster

Caution Endurance Event in Progress

Caution Endurance Event in Progress

PUMA have come along way since the days of the NightFox and the TrailFox trail shoes, so far in fact that it is almost hard to believe that those shoes and the shoe we are reviewing today come from the same stable. Not to say that the previous models were bad. Rather it is a testament to how technology and science behind manufacturing, state of the art, performance gear has advanced. As trail running popularity is growing in leaps and bounds (excuse the pun) all the major shoe manufacturer’s are keeping their fans happy with gear purpose built for smashing through the toughest of terrains. Some go a more balanced route like the PUMA FAAS 300v2 Trail Shoe which we reviewed a few months back and some go all out manic!

We are happy to report that PUMA have not neglected the most hardcore of the trail running community. Those that shun the idea of having to put time on the road, those of us who are offended by single shot skinny latte’s. Those of us who would rather have a double shot full cream cortado put some extra hairs on our chest. You get balanced and then you get crazy, and that is how we would describe the Faas 500v2 TR… certifiably nuts!! I mean just look at them…

Aggression personified in a shoe!

Aggression personified in a shoe!

Now before we get ahead of ourselves we are not saying that PUMA have nailed it and can now sit back, rest on their laurels while the other brands try to catch up. No, not at at all. They have come a long way since the TrailFox released in 2006 but they still have a ways to go, but more on that later. Lets dig into the specs and see what makes this shoe tick before we make any suggestions on improvements.

OutSole:

Right off the bat you can see these shoes mean business. Just look at that grip. If we had to liken these shoes to an animal it would hands down be a Velociraptor. If the unfortunate humans who became dinosaur food in Jurassic Park were wearing these shoes while running through the jungles we think they might have had a bit more screen time. With the claw like talons protruding from the bottom of the outsole there is plenty of grip, and confidence to go with it. We were almost too nervous to run easy in these shoes for fear of them slapping us and telling us to get a move on! As we see in pretty much every PUMA running shoe the Faas 500v2 TR features the brilliant ‘EverGrip’ technology which according to PUMA is ‘Abrasion-resistant’. If by ‘Abrasion-resistant’ they mean that the shoe doesn’t wear very fast then yes, I would say it is very ‘Abrasion-Resistant.’ I was happy to see that the lugs on the outsole did not crack or break off after some pretty long (7 hours plus on one instance at UTCT) and technical runs. Value for money will always be a major factor when purchasing a new pair of shoes and for us these shoes score brilliantly in durability. Think DuraCell Bunny. Multi-Direction lugs give you plenty grip on the up hills, through the technical singletrack and also provide some breaking force on the down hills.

Claw-like outsole.

Claw-like outsole.

MidSole:

The Faas 500v2 TR has a slightly more plush ride than the Fass 300v2 TR we mentioned earlier. With a stack height of 22mm at the forefoot and 26mm at the heel and a 4mm footbed there is plenty of cushioning without completely taking away any feedback you might want to get from the trail. A 4mm heel-to-toe drop encourages a midfoot strike which we like a lot. Even though you get some extra cushioning you won’t sacrifice on the weight. The shoes still weight in around the 340g mark. As the name suggests the Faas 500v2 TR features PUMA’s lightweight and versatile Faas foam midsole. The midsole is built to provide a more gradual transition from heel to midfoot by slowing down the rate of pronation. This is done by some ‘release grooves’ in the midsole. These grooves give a little more flex to the midsole by dispersing the force generated from running evenly throughout the midsole. While we found this worked fantastically well on hard pack or more ‘flatter’ surfaces unfortunately it did add a bit of instability on the super technical terrain. We found there was a little too much lateral movement at times causing the ankle to roll slightly to the outside of the shoe. Nothing major, but just enough to be aware of it. In terms of cushioning the midsole felt exactly like a Faas midsole, consistent in that it was comfy and smooth as the Faas foam is.

Plenty of grip to open the taps with confidence.

Plenty of grip to open the taps with confidence.

Upper:

This is where version 2 has received the most upgrades from the first version of the Faas 500 TR. The Upper has been upgraded with PUMA’s WeaveMesh technology. This provides the midfoot with a lot more support and really does make the shoe feel snug and fit well. One thing we notice with more ‘cushioned, higher mileage’ shoes is that they can feel cumbersome and a bit sluggish but the Faas 500v2 TR does very well to still give you a spring in your step. The WeaveMesh plays a big part in this. The Gaiter-compatibility and the Gusseted tongue will keep debris and unwanted irritations like little stones etc. out of the shoe, a welcome advantage when running for hours on end. PUMA were one of the first major brands to feature Ortholite’s EcoOrthoLite technology in their shoes. The technology has proved to be very popular and the Faas 500v2 TR features a sockliner made of that same technology. The benefits of this include advanced breathability, moisture control, and anti-microbial properties. All of these aid in preventing chaffing. Another great advantage for those long runs.

We also found that the heel cup and tongue of the shoe came up nice and high on the ankle which provide great support on the technical stuff. Even though the release grooves in the midsole let the shoe down a bit the added support on the ankle more than made up for it. Having said that if you prefer more movement around the ankle this shoe might not work for you.

The Upper as a whole looks incredibly solid. We have yet to see any tears or breakages in the mesh after a good few long runs in some dense terrain.

EcoOrthoLite Technology in the sock liner.

EcoOrthoLite Technology in the sock liner.

What would we improve?

So earlier I said that PUMA have come a long way since the TrailFox but that we still feel they have a little way to go before they have an industry changer on their hands (in the trail shoe department). As great as this shoe is we still believe there is something missing. You see I unfortunately blame Puma for this. I blame them because of a little shoe called the PUMA IGNITE. The IGNITE midsole has ruined the Faas midsole (and almost any other midsole for that matter) for me, the one piece IGNITE foam is so insanely comfortable and responsive the Faas foam feels like a stack of A4 pieces of paper stuck on top of each other with Pritt glue. Don’t get me wrong, the Faas midsole is comfortable! It has worked for PUMA for years! I have an 8 hour trail run in the blistering rain at the 2015 Ultra Trail Cape Town with no blisters or sore feet to prove it. The Faas midsole is fantastic, but stacked against the IGNITE midsole it doesn’t even come close.

We hope a day will come when PUMA start bringing out trail shoes with the IGNITE midsole as a feature, for us that would be a game changer! On that day Trail Runners perception of PUMA as a trail running shoe will literally change forever. Unfortunately that probably won’t be a reality for a good year or two, maybe even 3. So we will just have to be happy with the Faas foam for now, till our dreams of an IGNITE Trail are realised.

Grip for days.

Grip for days.

New Balance MT910v2 Running Shoe review

New Balance MT910v2 Running Shoe

New Balance MT910v2 Running Shoe

New Balance MT910v2 Running Shoe

Have you ever heard the expression don’t bring a knife to a gun fight? Well that pretty much sums up my early years as a kid. I had a pretty rough time in Primary School. It was a decent private school with all the luxuries that came with it but when it came to the playground it didn’t matter what car your daddy drove. It was survival of the fittest, the strongest and the meanest. Since my genes decided to bloom later on in life I somehow always managed to be separated from the herd. An easy prey for the stalking wolves of the concrete playground.

Now why am I telling you this? It sure isn’t so that you feel sorry for me. I don’t regret those early days, they toughened me up, taught me a lot about preparation and survival. I learnt early on that to win a fight you needed to be, either, A: Stronger and Faster or B: Have a bigger stick. Take world wars for example, the country with the biggest weapons and baddest armies usually come out tops. Add Nuclear Warfare to the equation and you have a slam dunk. In World War 2 Japan was giving America and the allies all kinds of hell on various fronts. Refusing to give up they fought with honour and ferocity.

That is until. Hiroshima.

After the US dropped the atom bomb “Little Boy” on Hiroshima Japanese authourites must have realised they were fighting a losing battle, America had a bigger gun.

Fighting smart with what you have might help you win the battle, but having a bigger stick can win you the war. When it comes to a maximal cushioned trail shoe purpose built for Ultra’s that is what New Balance have in the new MT910v2 trail shoe. A bigger stick. This shoe has been phenomenal for me. I have run in many New Balance shoes over the years. With the MT910v2 it is so blatantly obvious why their RevLite technology has put New Balance on the map and won many battles for them in the past. So lets get down to what makes this shoe tick.

Out Sole:

The New Balance MT910v2 features a HHR rubber outsole with aggressively shaped lugs throughout the base of the shoe. As I said earlier I have run in many a pair of New Balance and these are without a doubt the best outsole New Balance has ever produced. The grip is insane, granted you don’t get much feedback as the shoe is highly cushioned but it is a grip you can trust. The rubber is sticky in the wet and smooth in the dry. Since the shoe is made for Ultra’s and for varying terrain the shoe performs best in slightly wet to dry hard pack conditions. It isn’t an out and out mud shoe with deep lugs but it will offer stability and a sense of confidence on a wide variety of terrains. Even on the tar and hard pack it performs brilliantly.

HHR rubber outsole

HHR rubber outsole

MidSole:

I mentioned the Revlite tecnology earlier which in this shoe, is simply outstanding. It has the perfect amount of stiffness for stability yet at the same time offers a very comfortable ride for those insanely long runs. Revlite offers a 30% reduction in weight compared to other New Balance foams without sacrificing on comfortability and stability. One great feature of the midsole is the addition of an full EVA “strobel board”. A strobel board is a sheet of EVA that is glued to the midsole and then the Upper is stiched to the material. It does make the midsole less flexible but adds a massive amount of stability to the shoe. The MT910v2 has a relatively low heel-to-toe drop of 8mm which will put less strain on the calf muscles over the long haul, although to be honest I would have preferred a 4mm drop it will appeal to a wider market of runners. Add a Rock Stop® to all this and you have one of the best Ultra running midsoles on the market.

Upper:

Sublime design

Sublime design

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that this shoe is oh so nice to look at! It is simply stunning. The nuclear orange contrast with the black midsole is enough to frighten even the hardest of enemies. The full synthetic mesh upper is breathable and tough. I was glad to find it standing up against possible scuffs and scratches from branches or rocks on the trail. The Toe Protect feature in the front of the shoe is a welcome addition as well, adding to the confidence needed to go in guns blazing when you need to. The shoe has also been designed to keep stuff out, the tongue is secured to the edges of the upper ensuring small stones etc don’t get into the shoe and a thick gusseted heel arch also keeps dirt out at the back. New Balance really have gone to town to ensure that this shoe will be the least of your concerns in an Ultra distance race.

Full Synthetic Mesh Upper

Full Synthetic Mesh Upper

Conclusion:

As Ultra running is becoming more and more popular we are seeing battles raging for the top spot. Runners are looking for well constructed and practical products that can get them through the distance. No Ultra runner is looking to bring a knife to a gun fight. Preparation and a big stick will ensure victory. With the MT910v2 New Balance haven’t just won the battle, they might have just won the war.

#Alwaysinbeta

#Alwaysinbeta

Spec Sheet

Spec Sheet

Altra Running Superior 2 review

Enjoying the Grey and Green contrast

Enjoying the Grey and Green contrast

The Times They Are a-Changin’ – a review of the new Altra Running Superior 2 Trail Shoe

In 1964 Bob Dylan released a song titled “The Times They Are a-Changing”. It is said that he was inspired by Irish and Scottish ballads and it was his intention to attempt to inspire a hunger for change through the song. In 2005 it was ranked #59 on Rolling Stone’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of all Time.” The song became heavily influential in causing society to seek change where change was necessary and has been covered by many artists after Dylan wrote it.

When I think about the running shoe industry the song that comes to mind is this one, and boy the times sure are a-changing! For the first time in a long time shoe manufacturers are actually listening to their customers requests and feedback. They are finding what works through extensive testing with their Pro athlete’s out in the field as well as through the consumers who actually buy and use their products. The days when the companies set the trends, in terms of shoe function, are gone. The new era of the informed consumer seeking specific specifications has dawned. We as runners, have essentially changed the running industry. I think Bob Dylan would be proud.

A few years ago a book called, “Born to Run”, came out and people went ballistic for minimalism and barefoot running. Although you still get the die-hard fans (myself being one of them) the demand dried up quite quickly as the masses went straight into running barefoot without the proper coaching and transitioning, resulting in injuries and ironically a backlash in the industry to the other side of the spectrum.. Maximalist shoes (Think Hoka One One). I am not for or against any size of cushioning but one thing I am a huge fan of is the low heel-to-toe drop. The best thing that the barefoot running craze did for the running industry was show people how important a minimal (0mm-4mm) heel-to-toe drop is.

Altra's award winning Superior 2.0

Altra’s award winning Superior 2

I first came across Altra Running on the net when it was still only available in America, to me it seemed like the perfect balance. Some shoes with minimal cushioning, some with maximal but thankfully everyone one of them with 0mm heel-to-toe drop. How the company started making the shoes in the first place could have been a music video for Bob Dylan’s song. Runners used to bring their shoes to Altra Running founder, Golden Harper, who began cutting up and melting down runners shoes to decrease the amount of drop between the heel and toe. It became more and popular as customers were seeing results that eventually Altra Running was born. Altra has carved a serious niche for itself in a fiercely competitive industry

So how does the shoe that has continued to inspire change, like Dylan’s song, perform on the trials.

The view :)

The view :)

One word. Fantastic.

OutSole:

Let me start with the negatives so we can get to the good stuff, as fantastic as these shoes are I unfortunately have an issue with one aspect. I am sorry to say but in the wet this shoe is a hazard. It really has poor grip in the wet, and by wet I mean running in the rain over wet and slippery rocks. In the shoes defense no shoe is going to give you complete stability on the very wet and rocky surfaces but unfortunately I found these to be a little too slippery for my liking. It’s not all bad though because in the dry they are phenomenal. If Formula 1 teams have different tread for different conditions then these would be Ferrari’s dry tyres. There are a lot of different factors that have made this shoe one of my favourite dry ground, semi-technical shoe. The TrailClaw™ outsole features canted lugs which, in the dry, provide you with fantastic grip regardless of the terrain. The low stack height gives you a low ground feel and the zero drop platform all come together in an incredible way. All 3 factors really do make for a fast and agile ride on a dry trail.

Photo: Chris Walley

Photo: Chris Walley

MidSole:

As I mentioned earlier the shoe has a low stack height which is great for confidence. This gives you more of a feel of what’s going on underneath your feet giving you the confidence to push the pace. The stack height is 21mm all round which in my opinion is still minimal. The shoes come with a removable rock plate for really technical terrain, this works very well in releasing some of the pressure from below. There are grid-like grooves in the midsole which allow your feet to flex freely. There is very little rigid feedback from the shoe. This also inspires a more ‘natural’ and agile feel to your run. The shoe for me feels like it has more than 21mm of cushioning as it is more comfortable compared to other shoe’s I have run in with a similar stack height. Altra uses what they call “A-bound” technology in their midsole, which according to them helps recycle the energy and return it to the running gait. Reducing the impact of hard surfaces and adding a spring to the step. I found this to be true, especially on tar or hard pack running. In fact this shoe for me has been brilliant on the tar.

Photo Cred: Altra Running

Photo Cred: Altra Running

Upper:

The Upper has been very well constructed. As far as I have run in the shoes I have not seen the Upper coming loose from the sole or tearing in any places. My favourite feature of the Upper is the wide toe box, there is nothing worse than cramped toes in a tiny toe box so Altra have made sure this is not the case in the Superior 2. Use with a pair of INJINJI toes socks and all your little piggies will have as much space as they need. There are no stitching overlays inside the shoe the which adds to the comfort and the Superior 2 breathes incredibly well. Not only do your toes have space but the breathability of the shoe keeps them fresh. The shoes do ride a half size bigger according to Altra (I went a full size bigger) so if you are buying these online I suggest trying on a pair at a local running shop first. The grey and green contrast really give the shoes a ‘classy’ feel for me.

Conclusion:

All in all these really are an award-winning shoe, very comfortable, and have all the right features to keep the performance levels up there with the best. They unfortunately aren’t great on large wet rocks but if you looking for a fast and comfortable dry weather shoe you won’t go wrong with these. The terrain I found these shoes to perform at their absolute best was desert / dune / beach running. The wide surface area of the outsole gives you a massive advantage on the soft sand, this along with the Gator Trap behind the heel and the high breathability make this the absolute perfect shoe for a Desert Race.

Beach Running Bliss in the Superior 2.0

Beach Running Bliss in the Superior 2.0

Technical Specs

  • The Men’s Superior 2 runs 1/2 size short.
  • Weight: 8.7 oz
  • Cushioning: Light
  • Ideal Uses: Trail Running, Hiking, Fastpacking, Trail Racing
  • Designed to Improve: Running Form, Toe Splay, Stability, Traction, Comfort, Trail Protection
  • Platform: Zero Drop™ Platform, FootShape™ Toe Box
  • Stack Height: 21 mm
  • Midsole: Dual Layer EVA with A-Bound™ Top Layer
  • Outsole: Sticky Rubber TrailClaw™
  • Insole: 5 mm Contour Footbed with Removable StoneGuard™ Rock Protection
  • Upper: Quick-Dry Trail Mesh, Minimal Seams
  • Other Features: Trail Rudder, GaiterTrap™ Technology

Basic Principles of Endurance Training

Most people think that speed wins races in running, but I am not so sure this true. For me it is Endurance that wins races, or gets you to the finish line. Without a solid base of Endurance that is built up over hours and hours of training a runner would not be able to realise their full potential and speed. Even 100m sprinters have need of endurance.

So what are some of the basic principles of endurance training that one would need to build their training program on? In this article we will look at some of the basic principles of Endurance and why they are important. You will only get so good by going out and smashing a hard run, if you implement some of the principles you will discover hidden potential in you running that you never knew existed.

Before training our Endurance levels we need to understand the different energy systems that enable us to use that hard earned Endurance. Each energy system is different and directly effects a runner’s endurance. If Endurance is the engine, the energy systems are the fuel that run the engine. Utilising each energy system effectively will mean the runner is able to draw the most out of their endurance training that they possibly can. Even the best Endurance Training programs will mean little return without even a basic understanding of what energy is required at what level and how to train those energy systems in conjunction with the endurance training.

So what are our bodies Energy Systems?

Energy Systems

The energy systems, as the name implies is all about the production of energy in your working muscles. As your muscles fire at various points through training and racing energy is required to sustain them. This could be in a 10second sprint or a 24hour endurance run. For the body generate the energy you require there needs to be a combination of fuel, a spark and oxygen (the same as a combustion engine). Each energy system is evaluated according to their fuel and oxygen requirements. A fast effort will require a higher level of fuel in a shorter time period. The bodies ability to generate the fuel supply to satisfy the energy requirements in this system is different to that of a slower but longer effort, where the fuel is needed over a long period of time at a consistent supply to fuel the effort.

These are the two major energy systems that have to be addressed during your training. They are your aerobic and your anaerobic energy systems. The goal event and desired result in that event will determine what percentage of your program will be devoted to which. Aerobic energy systems will give you the fuel for the long haul and your anaerobic energy system gives you the gas for the shorter, faster efforts. Regardless of the runners goal event they will require training in both these systems to fully realise their endurance and speed potential.

Aerobic Energy System

Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.

Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.

This is the foundation of any effort over 30 seconds and refers to your bodies ability to absorb and use oxygen to produce energy. The key to this energy system is Oxygen. The better your body is at absorbing and using oxygen, the higher the intensity will be which you can use while remaining in the aerobic energy system. A measure of aerobic fitness is your VO2 Max which refers to the maximum amount of oxygen that your body can utilise during exercise. Although VO2 Max is generally a product of your genetics and cannot really be trained a great deal (so the ability to absorb oxygen is pretty fixed), the ability to use that oxygen is highly trainable.

When you develop your aerobic system you can get more oxygenated blood to your working muscles. You also develop the ability for your body to use that oxygen that has been transported to your working muscles to generate energy. The more oxygen you get to your muscles the more your muscles are able to fire for longer at a consistent strength and pace.

Typically the way you develop your aerobic capacity is by fairly low intensity training. This is different for everyone and you need to determine where the crossover point is between your aerobic and anaerobic systems. This crossover point, or anaerobic threshold (AT) is important to know for two reason. Firstly because your aerobic training needs to be at an intensity lower than this point to get the desired training effect and secondly because this is the intensity that you should aim for as your race pace during competition. Any event over a few hours is best raced at the pace of where you remain at your aerobic threshold, going into anaerobic for too long will eventually cause you to ‘hit the wall’. As we will see a little further on the anaerobic system isn’t as sustainable as your aerobic system. AT is highly trainable and needs to be evaluated at least once a month during the training year as it changes as you build your aerobic capacity.

The power behind the aerobic system is the fact that your body can use stored fat as fuel. This enables the body to run for hours as our fat stores are massively greater than our carbohydrate stores. Training and racing at an aerobic level means there is enough oxygen available to burn fat as fuel, saving the much need carbohydrates for the faster, more anaerobic efforts during a race or training session. It therefore also holds true that as you increase your aerobic capacity you should also be able to use fat as fuel at higher intensities. This is wonderful news for the endurance athlete because as mentioned earlier our fat stores far outweigh our carbohydrate stores (which generally only last around 90mins before needing to be replenished), effectively burning fat as fuel means the duration of the effort is increased greatly.

Anaerobic Energy System

A hard anaerobic effort is always fun :)

A hard anaerobic effort is always fun :)

This is the all out sprint effort energy system. It does not require oxygen to generate energy, but lasts for a very short period of time. Typically it only lasts for all out efforts of 30 seconds or less. It requires a fuel that is very easy to burn and therefore primarily uses carbohydrates (Glycogen) stored in muscles and your liver as fuel. As mentioned earlier it only has a limited supply so if an endurance athlete goes out too hard early on and depletes their carb stores they will have to replenish on the go with gels and energy bars. This is very ineffective because at this point while replenishing energy levels on the go it is very difficult to keep your energy levels at a stable level. You will dip low and then rocket high as the simple sugars are converted to energy, only to be dropped down again as your body uses up the fuel. This from a mental perspective can be very damaging and make an already tough event even tougher. At this level of effort your body isn’t able to convert energy fast enough to maintain the pace of the effort which only contributes to up-and-down energy loss mentioned earlier. Training your anaerobic energy system helps you get comfortable at this level of effort. It will be almost impossible to race an endurance event at this level for the entire time. There will be times on the route where you will go anaerobic to get up a sharp but short climb for example but ultimately you want to remain within your aerobic threshold for as much of the event as possible.

What this means then is in order to get faster over the long haul a runner needs to increase the intensity he / she is able to maintain at an aerobic level. This is the key to running well and running fast, speed work can only make you fast for so long. Having an aerobic base that can power a jet engine is the secret to running fast. So now that we understand a little more about the energy systems how would one look at structuring their program to train these systems and increase their endurance capacity?

Below we look at a broad outline on how a program could be structured, we don’t go into much depth on individual sessions this is purely how to structure it for the long term.

Periodisation

The first and most basic principle is that of periodisation, or splitting your training before an event up into parts or periods. You do this to allow your body time to adapt to the training load in preparation for an event. Periodisation allows for a gradual increase in the load in order to prevent injuries and build an endurance foundation. Once this has been done you can look to add intensity to your training regime. High intensity training too early on or ‘too much mileage too soon’ will ruin the consistency of your training through injury and over-training. Periodising your program helps you see which ‘blocks’ you are in and keeps you focused on the specific goals for each block.

Seasons

The first part of Periodisation is dividing your year into periods or phases lasting anything from 4-8 weeks. Each of these seasons / phases have a specific purpose. In coaching we typically like to break the training year up into:

  1. Adaptation Phase (also known as Pre-Season) – This phase is very much focused on technique and getting your body used to training after an off season layoff. Training is not only sports specific and could include quite general training such as Cycling, Boxing, Stand Up Paddle Boarding or Crossfit.
  2. Base Phase (or Pre-Competitative Season) – This phase is sometimes broken into a Base 1 and Base 2 but in essence it is the phase to build aerobic capacity, to build the capillary system and mitochondria in muscles and start working on strength (not speed). A note on strength, this is to strengthen your muscles, tendons and ligaments for increases in distance and intensity.
  3. Speed Phase (or Competitive Season) – In the speed phase the intensity of the workouts increase to the your anticipated (or goal) race pace or greater. As with most things in life when you take on the one side you have to give on another. So when you increase intensity you have to decrease duration / distance. Sessions will be mostly interval based and you can anticipate this being a taxing phase.
  4. Recovery Phase (or Off-season) – Once you have completed your competition season it is always a good idea to take some time off. During this time you can still remain active but give your body and mind a break from a structured training routine. Do activities that are not related to those which you have spent a whole season training for. You will start the next season mentally refreshed and physically revived.

The actual duration of each phase and the specific workouts during each phase will be determined by the actual goal that you have. You would need to evaluate the requirements of the goal to determine what you need to do to reach it. If your race is 1 hour long your base phase is going to look very different (and will be much shorter) than it would if your race was a 7 hour race.

The start of the training year (Adaptation phase) will be determined by the date of the event that you are wanting to peak for. Start with the date (or dates) and work phases back from there.

Micro-cycles (also known as Mesocycles)

Once you have planned the big blocks, you need to split these further into smaller parts, known as micro-cycles. These cycles are also aimed at allowing your body adaptation time. You will typically work in 3 or 4 week cycles. Which works best for you should be evaluated based on your current fitness levels and the event that you are training for. A 3 week cycle generally works best when you require more recovery, such as when you are in the Speed Phase or if you are just starting training from a long layoff. Or even in the Adaptation Phase. A 4 week cycle works best when you require a cumulative training effect such as when you are in Base Phase and training for a long distance event where intensity isn’t very high.

A 3 week cycle would look something like this:

  1. Maintenance Week – Maintain load (intensity or distance) at a manageable level.
  2. Overload Week – Increase load (intensity or distance) to stress your body and cause adaptation.
  3. Recovery Week – Decrease load (intensity or distance) to below manageable level to allow your body to complete the adaptation that was triggered by the overload week.

A 4 week cycle would just include a second Maintenance Week before the Overload Week with a slight increase in load (intensity or distance) but still at a manageable level.

In conclusion, Periodisation is a structured breakdown of your training year into seasons where specific goals can be set and managed. The seasons are then broken down further into micro-cycles. This allows for a controlled increase in load which improves the chances of a consistent and sustainable training load. It also ensures that all the required energy systems are effectively trained enabling you to maximise. Keeping an indepth log of all your training is a great way of staying motivated as well as seeing where you are at with regards to your goals.

Set your training up for the long run, not just short term gains.

Set your training up for the long run, not just short term gains.

 

Camelbak Circuit Hydration Pack Review

Introduction

They say that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles power was in their shells, they were the original heros of the half-shell. Fearless. Agile. Able to overcome any obstacle and defeat any foe. I remember, as a young boy, pretending I was Leonardo with swords drawn running around the garden fighting off Shredder and his evil villains. Granted it was all in my imagination but I fully believed it was real, even if my ‘swords’ were just sticks and my ‘mask’ an old cut up blue shirt. I felt free, invincible, courageous, able to tackle any adventure. Never did I expect to feel like that way again, that was at least until I put on the Camelbak Circuit Hydration pack. All of a sudden those images and memories from my childhood came rushing back in like a flood and it suddenly hit me, I finally had my ‘half-shell’. Instead of running around the garden defeating Shredder and his posse I was now running over mountains defeating rock monsters and roaring winds, imagination still alive and kicking :)

Perfect positioning for a lightweight pack

Perfect positioning for a lightweight pack

As Trail Runners we are often frowned upon by our cousins of the tar with our back packs bulging with food and water bottles, trucker caps, buffs pulled over our faces, waterproof jackets and bearded faces. This reminds me of one particular morning in early winter a few years back where a few of us set out from Fish Hoek beach to run the Old Fishermans Trail to Hout Bay. It was a chilly morning and the weather on top of the mountain was looking wet and windy. While running the tar section to the trail head we passed some road runners out on their morning jog, them in their flimsy vests and 2 inch Split Polly Shorts, and us? We were kitted out head to toe for the usual gnarley winter mountain weather. I remember them chuckling to themselves as they passed us but what our cousins of the tar failed to realise is that support is a critical part of being a successful trail runner. Unfortunately most people starting out in Trail Running also take this for granted and a scary experience while venturing out unprepared can ruin the beauty and purity of running in the mountains. (If you missed it we discussed why the mountain is so unforgiving here and why it will chew you up six ways to Sunday if you are not prepared.)

One of the key ways of being prepared is ensuring you have adequate kit, water and fueling with you to safely complete whatever route you are attempting to do, this is where hydration packs come in. They make it massively convenient for you to carry your water, energy food, cell phone, extra kit or anything else you might want to take with you. Unfortunately they can be also quite cumbersome and uncomfortable at times, which really ruins the fun factor. It is horribly frustrating  being smacked from behind by your Llama Bars while trying to run and your phone is jabbing you in the ribs, yes Llama Bars give a could kick but they shouldn’t have to literally kick you. This has taught me that you can also be over-prepared (although this is a whole let better than being under-prepared). It is this reason why I am so thoroughly enjoying my new half-shell, the Camelbak Circuit. It has just enough space to ensure you are safe in most situations yet at the same time you are limited in packing space to ensure you remain light weight and agile. There is no doubt about it, this pack is a lightweight, race your face off, hydration and fuel when you need it kind of pack. It does not mess around. It is so comfortable and snug fitting at times you will forgot you are even wearing a pack, don’t get me wrong I have a few niggles but we will get to those a little later.

Camelbak Circuit Review

The pack sits perfectly between the shoulder blades, high up on the back and completely out of the way of your elbows as you run. This for me is one of the reasons why the pack is so comfortable. You will struggle to have it weigh in over 2.5kg fully loaded and I found that having it sit so high up put a lot less pressure on my lower back than other packs I use that sit lower down on the back. What this does for stability and confidence on the trail is massive, not once did I feel the pack throw me off balance as I shifted sharply on the trail. Where I went, the pack went. The Hydration Pack is so snug it literally feels as a part of you as your shoes do (provided they fit properly).

Many packs have a ‘ventilation’ pad at the point where the pack makes contact with your back, often you don’t really feel the difference but with the Circuit it is very obvious early on that you have a lot more breathing room than normal. I always find it so ironic when the pack that is meant to keep you hydrated causes you to sweat more because it doesn’t breathe well enough which causes overheating and dehydration. This is not the case with the Circuit. As you can see from the image below, the vents are large and numerous which aids in keeping you cool. Especially if you have ice in the pack, it really helps to keep you cool through the vents on really hot days.

Effective Breathability

Effective Breathability

So what about packing space and access to it all out on the trail? Call me crazy but the one thing that makes me feel like an Ultra Runner is having bottles on the front of my pack, I don’t know why but I feel badass when I run on the trail with bottles nestled nicely on my chest, there when I need them, looking cool when I don’t. The Camelbak Circuit has space for not one, but two bottles in the front of the pack, that is if the 1.5L reservoir is not enough for you. This enables you to comfortably carry 2.5 liters out on the trail (I found 500ml bottles fitted best, 750ml felt a bit top heavy for me). If you only need one extra bottle you have an extra pocket to store a buff, energy bars, gels or even a rain jacket.

The reservoir has a wide opening for easy cleaning and also features hanging clips which speed up drying after use, there is nothing worse than your reservoir going gunky cause it stays wet in your cupboard, thankfully the developers at Camelbak thought of this.

Depending on the distance and duration you are heading out for you will need to be creative in how you pack your kit to maximise it’s effectiveness. For example, this last Saturday I was out running with the pack for about 7 hours on Table Mountain. Water is scarce up there at the moment but I opted to leave the bottles at home so I could carry my TNF Verto Storm jacket in one of the mesh pockets and enough food to last 7 hours in the other. I only needed to refill the bladder once and found it really easy to do with the reservoir still in the pack. The opening is very large and the pack clips nicely behind the opening making it quick and easy to refill.

If you need to carry less food, there is a smaller envelope type pocket which fits about 2 or 3 bars and a gel giving you the space in front for the extra bottle. Each person is different and their nutrition requirements out running are different so you will need to find what works for you.

Ample space for extra bottle

Ample space for extra bottle

There is also a great, sweat proof, pocket with a zip on the front of the pack which is perfect for your keys, card, phone or anything else you don’t want to lose out on the trail. It is small though, an iPhone 5s fits perfectly in there but if you have a larger phone you are going to struggle to get it in there. If you are fortunate to have a waterproof storm jacket that folds up into it’s pocket the mesh pockets on the pack are perfectly sized for holding your extra layer should the weather make a turn for the worse.

TNF Verto Storm jacket sitting 'purty' :)

TNF Verto Storm jacket sitting ‘purty’ :)

This is Camelbak’s lightest pack available, a mere 270g (pack only) yet what surprised me the most about it is that it is not only for a short run. This pack can go the distance, a massive distance, if you are clever with how you pack and have a good refueling strategy. So if you are needing a lightweight pack that will enable you to stay nimble and agile but has the features to cover proper distances then I would suggest looking at getting this pack. I am interested to see how far one can go with this pack, I intend to test that out at the 80km Puffer in August.

Right so as I mentioned earlier I have one or two niggle with this pack, nothing major but issues that for me would make a great pack even better if adjusted. First one is very small but the dual sternum straps which are very comfy and keep the pack fitting snug have no clips or loops for the slack that is left in the strap after pulling it tight. This means that they ‘flap’ around a lot as you run. This probably won’t bother most people but it bothers me, it’s not that fun being tapped on your chest by a lose strap for hours on end. That being said it is an easy fix, I just used some elastic hair bands to secure them down.

The other issue, and it could be because the pack is still relatively new, but it is a little too difficult for my taste to get the PureFlow tube out of the clips when you need a drink. Like I said it could be because it is new and hopefully the clips will loosen over time but running along technical rocky sections tugging at the pipe with both hands while watching where you are going can be risky. As a temporary fix I just looped the pipe through the chest straps which works really well.

BBTR4All in all I really do rate this as one of the better packs I have run in, light, fast, comfortable, and great looking. Camelbak have been making packs ever since I can remember. My first memory of them is as a boy, my dad had an early generation Camelbak Classic that we used on our missions together in the mountains, must have been about 15 years ago. It was a great pack then and I am happy to see that they are still one of the worlds best masters of hydration.

If the Turtles’ power was in their shells, then a runners power and strength is directly effected by their Support / Hydration pack. It is well said that Ultra running is basically an eating and drinking contest with some exercise thrown in the mix. That being said any decent trail run is essentially an eating and drinking contest. The technical terrain and radical elevations that you are covering is so taxing on the body you burn through calories faster than Michelangelo burns through 6 large Pepperoni Pizza’s. If you don’t hydrate, you die. Thankfully the Camelbak Hydration Pack, has your back!

Key Features:

  • External fill
  • Sweat-proof phone pocket
  • Stretch overflow storage
  • Reflectivity
  • Fits 30″-46″ chest.

Designed to Carry:

  • Water bottle
  • Extra layer
  • Nutrition
  • Phone
  • Keys

 Specifications:

  • Hydration Capacity: 50 oz / 1.5L
  • Total Capacity: 1.5L Reservoir
  • Total Weight: 9.5 oz / 270g (pack only)
  • Dimensions: 17 x 13.5 x 2 in
  • Torso Length: 30 cm
  • Back Panel: Air mesh
  • Harness: Fixed harness with cargo pockets and dual slider™ sternum strap. Fits 30″—46″ chest.
  • Fabric: 70D reverse chain nylon.

Check out this video to see the pack in action: VIDEO

If you don’t already follow us on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter head on over and follow / like our pages to keep up to date with all that is going on at BBTR.

Thank you to Cape Cycle Systems for sending us the pack.

Stay classy fans of BBTR!

Exercise Intensity – How Hard Should I Go?

I often get questioned (and sometimes challenged) by athletes about exercise intensity. Competitive athletes generally feel they should always “go hard” as this will make them faster. So that begs the question, “how hard is hard enough” and “when am I going too hard”?

I am afraid there is no simple answer to these questions. The reason for this is that it depends on where you are in your training cycle and, you guessed it, what your goal is and your current fitness level and physiology! So to understand how hard you should go (your exercise intensity) in any training session you need to understand:

  • Your overall goal
  • Your current fitness level
  • You physiology
  • Where you are in your training cycle (Base 1, Base2, Speed)?
  • What is the specific session / workout goal?

A word on your physiology. Do not compare your heart rate figures with other athletes. Having a low resting heart rate is some indication of fitness but does not mean you will perform better in races. The numbers in terms of max HR (MHR) or anaerobic threshold (AT) etc that we use are tools to help you train at the correct intensity. They are not bragging rights in your training group!

If you are training in a group exercise intensity can be a two edged sword. On the one hand group training is a fantastic tool to ensure that you push and reach the workout intensity that is required. On the other hand it often leads to an athletes competitive instinct taking over and cause them to push too hard. An example of this would be where the required workout is a “long slow distance” endurance workout. Often these are performed in a group because the boredom that can sometimes set in with hours of running alone, which can also be a little overwhelming. As the workout progresses the group often start picking up pace until some of the slower members are actually not training at the correct intensity any more! This should be avoided as it prevents the athlete from achieving the correct load for the workout, as well as benefiting from the adaptation that would have followed.

So, how does one prevent this from happening?

How hard is too hard?

How hard is too hard?

Measure Exercise Intensity

Most important is to have a measure of exercise intensity. This measure can either be objective or subjective.

The objective measure is using a heart rate monitor. Once you have calculated your “zones” you can use your heart rate monitor (HRM) to ensure that you stay within the upper and lower limits of the zone required. This is a very good way to ensure that workouts are performed at the correct exercise intensity but it does sometimes take the “fun” out of training.

A subjective measure is using a method known as rate of perceived exertion (RPE). This method relies on how you “feel” to determine how hard you are going. It requires you to rate your exertion on a scale of easy to very, very hard. I have found this is a very difficult measure for most people other than seasoned athletes. Once you have trained with a heart rate monitor for some time and you know what different zones feel like you can use RPE effectively when you do not feel like using your HRM, but not before.

Know Your Zones

There are a lot of resource available on heart rate zone training. Go and do a search online and you will find a lot of information, some good and some not so good. Here is some high level information but I encourage you to do some more research.

Start by knowing what your zones are. Your zones will be a percentage of either your maximum heart rate (MHR), your VO2 Max or your anaerobic threshold. Don’t get too bogged down by the different methods to determine your zones. Look at the following and select a method.

Max Heart Rate (MHR)

As the name suggests, this method uses the number of beats per minute that your heart would beat during an all out effort as your upper limit. There is a simple (but quite inaccurate method to determine your max, MHR = 220 – your age. I say inaccurate because it assumes a very general fitness level and physiology. A better method is to test it. It is however quite hard to get yourself to 100% HR. If you are just starting HR training and need some kind of guidance the simple MHR calculation method could be good enough, but I do suggest that that you do some testing to determine a more accurate method as soon as possible.

Anaerobic Threshold (AT)

This is in my opinion a better method to use. AT is the HR that you will be able to maintain during racing and it is highly trainable (more so than max HR). If you periodically test your AT and train at a percentage of AT I think you will get the most out of your training. The method to determine your AT using a field test is also fairly simple and all you will need is a HR monitor that has a stopwatch. Do a 15-20 min warmup at a very easy pace. Then do a 30 min time trial at the fastest pace that you can maintain for the entire duration. Rather start a bit slower and go faster than to go very fast and then be forced to slow down toward the end. Use the average HR for the last 20 min of the time trial as your AT. A more complicated method to determine your AT (but that has been disputed of late) is the Canconi method.

VO2 Max

This is an indication of your aerobic capacity and measures the volume of oxygen your body can absorb. The higher the VO2 the more oxygen you can absorb and send to your working muscles and the better your capacity to perform in endurance sport. It is however mostly determined by genetics and is not very trainable (it is to some extent possible to improve when just starting out training, but not really for trained athletes). Testing also requires a laboratory and in my opinion is a bit too complex to work with for the average athlete.

Calculate Your Zones

Once you have determined the upper limit of your training using one of the methods above, you can work out your zones. You do this by using the percentage (mentioned below) of your upper limit (determined above). So for instance if I choose to use MHR simple method to determine my upper limit and I am 30 years old, I would use 220-30 = 190 as my max HR and then use the percentages below to define the zone as a percentage of 190.

  1. Zone 1 – Very low intensity (active recovery). Usually <60% of your max HR / <70% of your AT / very, very light to very light on the RPE scale.
  2. Zone 2 – Aerobic conditioning. Usually between 60%-75% of your max HR / 70%-90% of your AT / fairly light to somewhat hard on the RPE scale.
  3. Zone 3 – Anaerobic threshold conditioning (including Tempo training). Usually between 75% – 90% of your max HR / 90%-100% of your AT / hard to very hard on the RPE scale.
  4. Zone 4 – Pure power and speed work. Usually at 90%+ of max HR / 101%+ of AT / Very, very hard on the RPE scale.

So How Hard is Hard Enough?

As I mentioned earlier your plan would largely dictate when you use which zones (exercise intensities). You would for instance use mostly Zone 2, with some Zone 3 in Base1 training. You need to therefore make sure that you have a plan to know when to use which zones. The question about what is the correct exercise intensity is determined by:

  1. Your goal and where you are in your training cycle – Your plan is based on your goal and will determine which zone you should train in. Where you are in the training cycle on your plan will more specifically determine the Zone you are training in.
  2. Your fitness level and physiology – If you do some field testing to determine your MHR or AT you will be working at a percentage of the intensity that was determined by your current fitness level and your physiology.

It is worth spending the time to determine your zones. You will make sure that you reach the intended outcome every time you go and train. You will also make sure you don’t overdo things and get injured or sick because you just went too hard, too soon.

The key is consistency!

The key is consistency!

Originally posted at SUPRACETRAINING.COM