New Inov-8 Bags & Apparel

There’s an abundance of new gear from Inov-8 arriving in time for the start of the 2015 season, including new ISPO award winning 5 and 10 litre vest packs and a waterproof jacket and pants combination that, whilst perhaps not aesthetically to everyone’s taste, offers functionality at a price that doesn’t break the bank.

“Designed to meet all strict mandatory race day kit requirements, ultra and mountain runners will be able run lighter and faster with the Race Ultra Shell. Weighing just 125g, it boasts superb levels of protection, while its super-stretchy fabric guarantees unrestricted body movement when running. Race numbers pinned on tees/singlets underneath remain visible at all times through shell’s transparent material.”

Inov-8 RACE ULTRA 5 Vest/Pack

“Evolution of the award-winning race ultra™ vest. The Race Ultra 5 vest has been specifically designed to carry five litres of kit while maintaining a close-to-the-body fit that ensures stability and zero bounce when running over even the longest of distances. Available in two sizes (S/M and M/L), the vest has two simple-to-use adjustable clip straps at the front. It boasts a total of eight pockets. The rear can hold up to five litres of kit, while an extra zip allows access to a separate reservoir compartment. Comes supplied with 2x 500ml soft flasks with 30cm tubes.”

Features

  • Large weather resistant zipped pocket to rear
  • Separate reservoir zipped pocket
  • Two 500ml softflask with 12″ / 30cm tube
  • Two large side mesh pockets
  • Two large zipped mesh pockets to front double as bottle holders
  • Two large mesh pockets to front top
  • Two smaller stretch mesh pockets to front top
  • Whistle
  • Rear bungee compression
  • Pole loops to rear
  • Two sizes

Specifications

Volume Capacity

  • 5L / 305 cubic inches

Fluid Capacity

  • 1L in 2 x 500mL soft flasks with straw/tube (included)
  • 2L in bladder (not included)

Weight

  • S/M: 250g / 8.8oz
  • M/L: 255g / 9oz

Back Length

  • S/M: 30cm / 11.8in.
  • M/L: 36cm / 14.2in.

Sizing at chest (Unisex)

  • S/M: 31 – 38in. / 78 – 97cm
  • M/L: 38 – 44in. / 87 – 112cm
  • Note: Measure wearing the clothes you intend to wear

Materials & Design

  • Nylon / Polyester / Spandex

Included

  • 2x 500mL soft flasks with tube/straw

Inov-8 RACE ULTRA 10 Vest/Pack

“Evolution of the award-winning race ultra™ vest. The Race Ultra 10 vest has been specifically designed to carry ten litres of kit while maintaining a close-to-the-body fit that ensures stability and zero bounce when running over even the longest of distances. Available in two sizes (S/M and M/L), the vest has two simple-to-use adjustable clip straps at the front. It boasts a total of eight pockets. The rear can hold up to ten litres of kit, while an extra zip allows access to a separate reservoir compartment. Comes supplied with 2x 500ml soft flasks with 30cm tubes.

The Race Ultra 10 was voted best in the performance accessories category by a panel of expert judges and named a 2015/2016 ISPO AWARD GOLD WINNER.”

Features

  • Large weather resistant zipped pocket to rear
  • Separate reservoir zipped pocket
  • Two 500ml softflask with 12″ / 30cm tube
  • Two large side mesh pockets
  • Two large zipped mesh pockets to front double as bottle holders
  • Two large mesh pockets to front top
  • Two smaller stretch mesh pockets to front top
  • Whistle
  • Rear bungee compression
  • Pole loops to rear
  • Two sizes

Specifications

Volume Capacity

  • 10L / 610 cubic inches

Fluid Capacity

  • 1L in 2 x 500mL soft flasks with straw/tube (included)
  • 2L in bladder (not included)

Weight

  • S/M: 260g / 9.2oz
  • M/L: 265g / 9.4oz

Back Length

  • S/M: 30cm / 11.8in.
  • M/L: 36cm / 14.2in.

Sizing at chest (Unisex)

  • S/M: 31 – 38in. / 78 – 97cm
  • M/L: 38 – 44in. / 87 – 112cm
  • Note: Measure wearing the clothes you intend to wear

Materials & Design

  • Nylon / Polyester / Spandex

Included

  • 2x 500mL soft flasks with tube/straw

Inov-8 RACE ULTRA SHELL Waterproof Jacket

“Inov-8’s lightest ever waterproof running jacket, weighing just 125g. Designed to meet all strict mandatory race day kit requirements, mountain and ultra athletes will be able to race as light and fast as possible. This shell is fully transparent, so race numbers worn underneath remain visible at all times. Its super-stretchy fabric guarantees unrestricted body movement when running and packs away into its own hood pocket, ensuring it is small and easy to carry. Breathable, the Race Ultra Shell keeps you dry and protected in the wettest of conditions. Unisex.”

“If you’re an out and out racer and every gram counts, this ridiculuously lightweight waterproof is for you. It won’t handle day to day heavy use but, packing into its own hood, it’ll deliver just enough protection to get you off the hill, home or, with taped seems, past a pre-race kit check. It’s see-though so you can wear it over your number” (Trail Running Magazine)

Features

  • 2.5-layer waterproof fabric with 10,000 HH and 10,000 B-1 breathability
  • Taped seams
  • Packs away into hood – small and easy to carry
  • Fully Transparent fabric – race number visibility at all times
  • 4-way stretch fabric – allows unrestricted body movement whilst running
  • Deep centre front YKK Aquaguard zip with internal storm flap and dual locking zip heads
  • Thumb loop
  • Elasticated cuffs and hem
  • Multi-angle reflective detailing

Specifications

Weight

  • 125g / 4.5oz

Materials

  • 56% PU / 44% Polyester Soft Tricot breathable fabric (2.5 Layer)

Sizing at chest (Unisex)

  • XS: 36in. / 92cm
  • Small: 38in. / 97cm
  • Medium: 40in. / 102cm
  • Large: 42in. / 107cm
  • XL: 44in. / 112cm
  • Note: Measure wearing the clothes you intend to wear

Inov-8 RACE ULTRA PANT Waterproof Trousers

“Inov-8’s lightest ever waterproof running trouser, weighing just 95g. Designed to meet all strict mandatory race day kit requirements, mountain and ultra athletes will be able to race as light and fast as possible. These trousers are fully transparent and instantly stretchable to fit over shoes. Its super-stretchy fabric guarantees unrestricted body movement when running and and can be quickly compressed into its own integrated pocket/stuffsack. Features taped seams and lycra-bound hems. Breathable, the Race Ultra Pant keeps you dry and protected in the wettest of conditions. Unisex.”

“Designed with the same racing philosophy as their Race Ultra Shell jacket, these will mainly live in your pack to pass kit checks. They weigh practically nothing and pack down impressively small. Their fit is good over tights, they deliver a surprising amount of protection but won’t take much abuse. Ultimate weight and space-saving choice” (Trail Running Magazine)

Features

  • 2.5-layer waterproof fabric with 10,000 HH and 10,000 B-1 breathability
  • Taped seams
  • Packs away into integrated pocket/stuffsack – small and easy to carry
  • Fully Transparent fabric
  • 4-way stretch fabric – allows unrestricted body movement whilst running
  • Lycra bound hem
  • Elasticated front, flat back and waist band
  • Ergonomic fit
  • Multi-angle reflective detailing

Specifications

Weight

  • 95g / 3.5oz

Materials

  • 56% PU / 44% Polyester Soft Tricot breathable fabric (2.5 Layer)

Sizing at waist (Unisex)

  • XS: 28in. / 71cm
  • Small: 30in. / 76cm
  • Medium: 32in. / 81cm
  • Large: 34in. / 86cm
  • XL: 36in. / 91cm
  • Note: Measure wearing the clothes you intend to wear

Available from www.ultramarathonrunningstore.com

The Altra Lone Peak Neoshell – ‘Better Than Waterproof’

I’ve all but worn off the tread of my Altra Lone Peak 1.5 (Altra Lone Peak 1.5 Review) which have been by far my favourite trail shoe for at least 5 years, if not my all-time favourite. I get a decent number of shoes to test so the fact that the Altras have seen quite so much use is testament to the quality of the shoe.

As far as I am concerned, it offers the perfect balance of cushioning, zero drop and a spacious toe box, offering what is essentially the perfect ‘minimalist’ shoe for long distance running.

As such, I was interested to see the information about one of Altra’s latest releases – the Altra Lone Peak Neoshell, which is described as being ‘better than waterproof’.

“Altra Running introduces the Lone Peak Neoshell – the ‘better than waterproof’ version of its award-winning Lone Peak trail shoe – at the 2015 ISPO international sport, performance and outdoor industry trade show in Munich. The new shoe has better dryness, breathability, flexibility, comfort and toe room than traditional waterproof trail shoes on the market.

The only negative is that we have to wait until August 2015 before the Lone Peak Neoshell is available!

Specifications

  • The FootShape™ toe box allows your toes to relax and spread out naturally for more comfort and stability in uphill and downhill trail conditions
  • Sandwiched StoneGuard™ technology offers protection from rocks and other trail debris
  • Sticky rubber TrailClaw™ outsole combines unique uphill and downhill lug traction for a wide range of trail condition
  • GaiterTrap™ and full compatibility with Altra Trail Gaiters
  • Stack height: 26 mm on a Zero Drop™ platform
  • Weight: 11.5 ounces/326 grams, one of the lightest trail shoes with technical protection for wet, muddy or snowy conditions
  • Altra is the only running shoe company with a full line of gender-specific footwear created with completely unique lasts, or patterns, for every shoe in each gender, to accommodate natural differences in foot anatomy

2014 Review

Given that it’s now the start of February 2015, it’s technically getting a bit late for a ‘2014 Review’. Things keep getting in the way, not unlike the way they keep getting in the way of training, but I set out to write a review of 2014 and I am determined to complete it. After all, if I can’t even complete a review, what hope have I got of completing 2015’s planned event schedule.

My ‘2014 Review’ will be quite unlike many of the reviews that I have been reading online.

For one, my ‘2014 Review’ is actually going to go back as far as 2013, so we can get the whole picture, as my running spiralled into oblivion.

Further, my review is different because I didn’t run in any organised events, let alone any ultramarathons, and I ran fewer miles than I have since at least 2010 and, most likely, since 2007.

There were no big events, no (official) PBs, and no logging of mileage. I couldn’t even give an approximation of how many miles I ran.

Sounds a bit chaotic really but the truth of the matter is that I was ‘otherwise engaged’, ‘on sabbatical’, ‘out of office’ as far as running was concerned.

It’s a situation that, given the prominent role that running has played in my life these past few years, I would never have envisaged, and yet, 2014 was the first year since 2004 that I didn’t compete in an organised event.

Since late February 2013, it has all been about parenthood, attempting to master the role of ‘daddy’, a challenge that I have relished despite constantly feeling like I am making it up as I go along!

My last ultramarathon was the 2013 D33, just weeks after the birth of my son Harris. ‘Training’ had been severely impacted by preparations around the house for the impending birth, with practically the whole house decorated, including a kitchen that was finally finished just a couple of weeks before Harris’s arrival. I hope never again to repeat the chaos of those few months.

By the time the D33 came, in mid-March and just a couple of weeks after our new arrival, I had mustered ‘long run’ training, and I really do use that description in the loosest sense, of just 11 miles, 1/3 of the total distance that I expected to cover.

I did grind out a finish, along with a PW time, but admittedly not actually that much over my first ever D33 time!

It wasn’t pretty.

Understatement.

It hurt.

A lot.

Huge understatement!

I knew there was no chance of me making it to the 2014 D33 and was gutted to lose my place as one of the ever presents in this, the 5th year of the event.

So, we’ve established, 2014 wasn’t about the running.

It wasn’t, however, a complete write-off where fitness was concerned.

But we are not quite at the positive part, not just yet.

Following injury and my resulting failure to attain a 1/2 marathon PB at the Great Scottish Run in October 2013, a very visible failure thanks to my role as a PUMA PB Challenge Ambassador with PUMA and The Running Bug, I found my running mojo plummeted.

I was then unfortunate enough to catch something called Hand, Foot & Mouth from my son. Fortunately, he appeared to have a fairly mild reaction to this viral infection, something which, according to the NHS mostly affects young children.

I, on the other hand, did not. One of the symptoms is described as follows:

“A non-itchy red rash, made up of spots or small fluid-filled sacs (vesicles), which usually develops on the hands and feet, but may also occur on the knees, elbows, groin and buttocks; sometimes the rash can develop into painful blisters”

I ended up unable to walk thanks to painful blisters that covered the soles of my feet, amongst other areas, almost in their entirety. My feet were in a better condition at the end of 95 miles of apocalyptic weather on the West Highland Way than they were after just one single day of hand, foot and mouth.

It was a good few weeks before I could even walk, let alone run without pain, and the skin of my feet took months to properly heal.

My weight started to creep up, nullifying all the gains that I had made thanks to the nutrition element of the PUMA PB Challenge.

2014 started with illness. I was in the Cairngorms for the start of the year but was under the weather thanks to a bad chest infection. I made the most of my time there but I was most definitely held back by the severity of the infection.

Finally, around the middle of 2014, things took a positive turn on the health front. By this point, my weight was up around the 16 stone mark.

Following the opening of the new Aquatics Centre at Aberdeen Sports Village, I popped across for a swim, just to see what it was like. This made a change to my usual approach of working through lunch, eating a packed lunch at my desk.

My single visit turned into a daily pilgrimage to the pool. When I tired of swimming every day, I alternated between the gym and the pool, and this is pretty much how it has been since.

I started 2015 some 3 stone lighter than my 16 stone peak, still heavy by a lot of people’s standards but, certainly as far as I am concerned, the lightest that I have been since… well, since I can actually really remember. I was possibly lighter at some point back in my early 20s, but that’s a good while ago now and the memory isn’t ‘that’ good!

I’m not finished yet. Despite a plateau over the past few weeks, I am determined to lose more weight, hopefully in time for 2015’s planned events.

Losing weight does bring new ‘problems’. For one, I need to replace a large portion of my wardrobe as and when finances permit. That’s not such a big deal.

I also discovered that I am no longer impervious to the cold, resulting in the purchase this past weekend of a Rab Summit Jacket, a toasty warm down garment that should hopefully keep me much warmer.

The main issue is with regard to the impact on my running.

On the plus side, I’ve found myself able to run considerably faster than previously, notching up a massive PB at the 5k distance and taking over a minute off of my 10k PB, a time which itself was a fluke, much faster than my usual times, set way back in 2008!

On the negative side, my pacing has gone out of the window. I’m no longer ‘Mr. Single Speed’. I can now mix it up. Unfortunately, however, I usually do mix it up, each and every long run, and I have yet to find the optimal pace for completing runs over the 6 mile distance. That’s obviously something that needs to be resolved, ideally before the D33 in March.

I had, admittedly somewhat naively, hoped that muscle memory, coupled with the not insignificant weight loss, would see me easily smash all of the ultra PBs that I have set in the past.

The reality, as I found on one particularly bad 18 mile run the other week, was that I will need to a) find my optimal long run pace and b) train just as hard, if not harder, than I have in the past, to try and get anywhere near to the levels of ultra endurance that I had previously accrued over 3 solid years of ultra training and racing.

To add insult to injury, I actually struggled from the 3 mile mark on that 18 mile run. Still, I persisted, something that I obviously haven’t forgotten from my time running ultras and, further, an 18 mile run, albeit a bad one, is still 7 miles longer than any run I managed while training for the 2013 D33! As such, I can’t really complain.

So, that’s where things stand now. I am attempting to get enough running in, albeit mixed up with swimming, cycling and cross training. Gone are the days when I run simply to log miles and add to yearly mileage totals. I haven’t in fact, logged any of my mileage. I just have a rough idea of how things are building up.

With a bit of luck I will complete the D33 and the Highland Fling, the two events that I have signed up for at the time of writing. I’m also keen to do the Great Glen Ultra, a 72 mile run from Fort William to Inverness that I have never run before. It would, in fact, be my first BaM (Bill & Mike) event. Having cycled the route, from Inverness to Fort William, a good few years back, it’s a race that excites me, and especially with the prospect of running some of it on the new higher level path, with the improved views over Loch Ness.

Ideally, I would also like to round off the year with a return to The Speyside Way. Hopefully training, finance, and logistics, will allow that. As an ‘Elgin loon’, it’s almost like returning home, even though running, let alone running endurance events, was about the furthest thing from my mind in those first 18 years of my life when I lived in Elgin and Lhanbryde (located 4 miles out of Elgin, not in Wales, for those that don’t know the area).

There are elements of that Speyside Way Race route that are amongst my favourite trails outside of the Cairngorms and I can’t wait to run them again.

So, in summary, 2013/2014 didn’t have the best of starts health wise and running was always a secondary, if even that, part of my life in this time. However, 2014 was the year when I finally, after years of trying, turned a corner where my weight was concerned, something that will hopefully have an impact on my 2015 ultra schedule and for many, many years to come.

The North Face Spring Summer Range 2015 & The Ultra MT

I wasn’t sure what, if anything, to expect from The North Face in terms of new trail friendly product given the news that they would no longer be the headline sponsor for UTMB. However, having now had a peek at the new The North Face Spring Summer range 2015, it appears that it’s full steam ahead, with, dare I say it, some sexy looking product!

What’s more, my UK size 8 feet, also happened to be the right size to fit into a pair of the pre-production Ultra MT trail shoes which The North Face kindly supplied me with. I’ve been testing those out for the last couple of weeks now. More on that below.

Unfortunately, both the Men’s Storm Stow Jacket and Better Than Naked Long Haul Short were only available in size M and, even with recent weight loss and the best of intentions, there was little hope of shoe-horning my XL frame into those garments. But hey, can’t win them all!

The TNF Ultra MT – A First Look

I really liked the The North Face Ultra Guide, running a 33 mile ultra in them after just a couple of test runs, and continued to use them until the soles started to wear through. (TNF Ultra Guide review)

As such, I was really looking forward to the prospect of getting to test out the new TNF Ultra MT.

I have to say that the brochure just doesn’t do them justice. Again, I find myself resorting to use of the word ‘sexy’. Unboxing the TNF Ultra MT for the first time, I was impressed with the striking orange and black colour-scheme and the overall aesthetics of the shoe, and then there’s ‘that’ sole – the ‘gnarly’ new Vibram® Megagrip outsole.

Unlike the Ultra Guide, there’s no way the Ultra MT is ever going to be described as ‘retro’. There was also something else that struck me about the shoe and, it would appear, I was not alone…

The website running.competitor.com describes the Ultra MT as follows:

“The Ultra MT is the most technical trail shoe yet from The North Face. (And, yes, it was modelled off the Salomon Speedcross 3.) With a knobby array of sticky rubber Vibram outsole lugs and a water resistant upper, this shoe is built to run on gnarly terrain in the worst weather. 18mm/10mm heel-toe offset.”

(Sneak Peek: 17 New Summer/Fall 2015 Running Shoes )

Aesthetically and functionally, the latest offering from The North Face certainly invites comparisons with some of the offerings from Salomon, but then, considering the reputation and range that Salomon offer, this must surely be a good thing.

I’m going to leave a full review until I have had long enough to really test out the Ultra MT but first impressions are positive. I will say that I found the toebox on my right foot (my fractionally larger foot) slightly tight, and they are most definitely less roomy than the Ultra Guide. However, once running, this wasn’t something that I noticed. It will be interesting to see if that impacts at all on longer runs.

The fit is most likely a result of the new bodymapping layer system on the upper, intended to enhance support and, from initial tests, the shoes certainly are responsive.

My inaugural run in the Ultra MT was in the Quarrelwoods on the outskirts of Elgin, an often muddy, potentially technical trail at the best of times. On the day in question I was caught in a snow storm as well so it really was a baptism of fire as far as the Ultra MTs were concerned but they performed well as I charged around one of my favourite forest destinations.

Watch this space for a full review of the Ultra MT in due course.

The North Face Spring Summer Range 2015

The following information is taken from the TNF Spring Summer 2015 Performance Brochure.

Men’s Storm Stow Jacket

More daylight during summer means running longer, which is why you should be prepared if the weather changes. This ultralight jacket is fully waterproof and windproof, but also packs incredibly small, so you can keep it on hand for any emergency. When the trail takes you further, there is no better protection to carry with you.

Men’s Better Than Naked Long Haul Short

Stay comfortable on longer runs with a wider comfort-fit waistband, stitch-free design on critical seams, and maximum storage capacity for big days.

Ultra MT

No matter what terrain you’re on, the Ultra MT will keep you running along the toughest trails. Thanks to the new Vibram® Megagrip outsole, unrivalled traction will keep you close to the ground. You’ll also have the benefit of enhanced upper support as well as breathable Ultra Airmesh over the quarter. The innovation continues underfoot, where precise stability and protection ensures a better performance with every step.

  • Upper: A bodymapping layer system on the upper enhances support on the medial side, protecting the toe area
  • Bottom: 8mm drop between heel and forefoot ensures control on uneven surfaces and supports midfoot striking when needed / Overlasted midsole increases stability of the upper/bottom connection / ESS in the forefoot secures an impact distribution on the forefoot / Vibram Megagrip full length trail specific outsole.
  • Men’s Sizes: Approx weight pair: 580g (based on men’s 9)
  • Womens’s Sizes: Approx weight pair: 480g (based on women’s 7)