Monday, October 14, 2013

Some thoughts for 2014

With winter around the corner it is time to really think about the coming season and begin looking at signing up for races that tend to fill up early. My mind has been jumping back and forth on the Rideau Run FKT attempt and the option of holding off one more year for more trail specific training. What has tilted the balance to waiting until 2015 was the recent 112.8km completion of the Ottawa Self Transcendence 24 hour.

 Photo From Ottawa Self Transcendence Race

While I was happy with the distance a few issues popped up during the race that has me thinking a bit more work would make the Rideau attempt more probable of success and even more importantly that I can enjoy the run...ok how can you enjoy 320km in 60 hours is a valid question but the other side of the coin is trying this and failing and deciding I hate running because the attempt was just too painful.

So for now the plan for 2014 will be as follows

February - Winterman Half Marathon (dependent on date we pick for a trip to Cuba)
May - Courons Gatineau Half Marathon
May - Sulphur Springs Trail Ultra (50 miles)
July - Limberlost Ultra (56km)
August - Dirty Girls 48 hour
October - Mad Trapper (50km)

Along with these races in April or Early May I would like to do the Rideau Trail Smith Falls to Ottawa component (100+km) or the Veloroute des Draveurs trail from Maniwaki to Wakefield (100km). The Veloroute des Draveurs could make the perfect Birthday run!!

Finally in the late Fall I would like to run the Prescott Russel Rail Trail from Rigaud back to its terminus near Mer Bleu (100+km).

So that is where my thinking is right now.

Friday, October 4, 2013

2013 – A Year in Review

Who does a year end review before year end??? I do!! The reason is simple. I have completed all my running goals for 2013 and with only one race left, which will receive a separate post since it is a new race event, I wanted to get this retrospective done so I can finish up the year with a couple of product reviews (yes the UltrAspire Omega pack is one of them) and start looking at 2014 which right now will be a big year for me.

So 2013...How did it stack up? Since I am new to running I can’t say this was the best year ever since the nature of a newbie runner’s progression should mean that the first 3 to 5 years are positive progressions each year. But, that said, it was the best year so far. No earth shattering events or results but a good consistent progress through the year that I now look back on and feel shows I am in my element as an utra runner.

Running in 2013 started out with a New Year’s Resolution. My goal was to end the year with an average of 50km’s of running per week. That translates to a total of 2600km’s for the year. So far I am on pace and as long as I don’t suffer any injury from now to Christmas I will definitely meet that goal. My first race in 2013 was the Marathon Interior at the Dome in nearby Blackburn Hamlet on January 20th. I had high hopes when the race was announced that I could use this event to better my marathon PB of around 4:40. But three weeks leading up to the race I came down with a flu bug that put an end to any training during that period. So on race day, still getting over that flu I only managed a sub 5 hour finish time. Not a great performance but I was happy to have completed the race. 

In February and early March I had a great two weeks of running. No Ottawa was not under the influence of a warm spell...Joanne and I were in beautiful Cuba on Cayo Santa Maria where I could run to my heart’s content as Joanne had all that extra time to enjoy the beach. This time in Cuba also gave me a better perspective on the future Run Across Cuba (see and some thoughts on shoe choice and the backpack I would carry. Plus a couple of day trips to Trinidad on the West side of the Island and Santa Clara gave me a better appreciation for the road conditions I would be encountering...way more hills in that area than I expected. 

April was a prep month for the upcoming May Ottawa Marathon so many training miles were put in. I also decided to join Joanne on a 10km run for the Spring Fling Running Thing in Smith Falls instead of doing the half marathon at that event. The reason was twofold: first Joanne and I had not raced together in a while and we thought it would be fun and second, she was aiming for a sub 1 hour 10km and I thought I could pace her for the first half where she normally runs too conservatively and then let her go for a fast second half where she normally kicks my butt with her speed. In the end we finished together in 59:02. I think Joanne could have run a faster time on a better surface and in warmer conditions and without me slowing her down but that will be for a future race.

In April I also decided to do one of my non-race long runs. So for my birthday gift to myself I took the day off work, hoped on a bus to the West end of Ottawa and ran back home for a 50km fun run. This was a great day and a wonderful route with only one difficult spot where the roadway and traffic requires a heightened degree of attention not to get killed. As I write this I am thinking of repeating this run next week or in November. This time I would love to do that run in horrendous weather conditions something not unexpected in November when cold rainy days with a touch of snow and heavy wind could make for a real extreme weather run!!!! Yes I know I am nuts!

May roles around and the training seems on pace for two back to back events. With Ottawa Race weekend Marathon May 26 and the Kingston 6 hour Transcendence race 13 day later on June 8th I decided to use the Ottawa Marathon as a fast training run and put my eggs into the Kingston race. So my goal for Ottawa was sub 5 hours and I wanted to go out and enjoy myself. Plus Joanne and I chatted about her spending the morning on the course watching and since this was not an important race we decided (ok she decided and I agreed) that she would stay home to have a quiet morning by herself and do some gardening. This helped me as well since I did not feel a sense that I was keeping her waiting for me at a finish line so I could doddle along at an easy pace and enjoy the marathon atmosphere. 

 The race started out well with no problems though 39 or so km’s when on the last corner leading to the long finish straight my stomach turned. It was bad enough that I stepped off the course for a minute or two. As my stomach settled I walked a few metres and returned to a run. At this point in my head, and based on my watch, I was over my marathon PB by a couple of minutes so I was in no hurry. I even took my camera out as my stomach had returned to normal and took a video of the finish straight. My finish time was 4:42:51. I just missed my PB of 4:40:45 from 2011. If only I had known I was so close. But hindsight is 50/50 and I had to go with the knowledge that I ran as fast as I did two years earlier and felt much better at the finish line. So much so that a day later I went out for a n enjoyable pain free20km training run. 

With the marathon behind me I now spent 13 days concentrating on the Kingston 6 hour event. This was a special race since Joanne had also signed up and we agreed we would run the first few laps of the 800metre circuit around RMC in Kingston together.  I should point out that people who know me and specifically know of my running habit(s) also know that I like to run alone given the choice. One of my running friends calls me a lone wolf when it comes to running and he is right. I like the quiet and tranquility of running alone and feel that with others I need to be sociable. With Joanne I can have the benefit of her company, we can chat if we feel like it but we can also enter into our own little running cocoons, not needing to entertain each other. As the countdown hit three we kissed each other and proceeded to begin our 6 hour run. After a couple of laps Joanne slowed a bit and I sped up to see if I could hit my 50km goal. For the most part things were going well but around 4.5 or 5 hours I lost interest in the run. It wasn’t physical, I felt good and had no issues, I just didn’t see any point in continuing. At this point Joanne and I walk-ran the remaining hour together. At the end of the 6 hours I had hit 47.2km’s and Joanne had a fantastic 38.4km’s. While I felt a bit of a letdown we were able to celebrate her success of both the farthest she had run (her previous longest distance was 14km’s) and the longest she had run.  What was interesting with my result is that in 2012 I finished with 47.6km over the 6 hours which along with the May marathon time comparison was saying that at least I was consistent in time although in both cases had ended the race in a better physical state than I had in the previous event. 

Most of the remaining summer was quiet with nice runs in a variety of locations. I accomplished my second long run July 27 when I set out from my home in Orleans, crossed the Cumberland to Mason Ferry then ran back towards downtown Ottawa along route 148 with a stop at my parents home in Gatineau Quebec. In the end I finished the 71km run in under 11 hours and again while this was nearing my maximum run distance (81km’s in 2012) I felt good at the end and still had gas in the tank.

September and the Ottawa 24 hour Self Transcendence race were my next goal and the biggest for 2013. I had no pre planned goals other than to hit 100km’s. Anything beyond that would be great. The weeks leading up to the race were not the greatest in terms of a proper taper so I definitely should have been following a training plan to keep me on track. In fact not only was I not using a training plan for this race I wasn’t even consistent in my running. A little too organic even for me. Next time better planning. Anyway race day arrived and I set out at a gentle pace, hitting the 50km mark and then 50 miles on target for a possible 100 mile finish. However shortly after hitting the 50 miles and taking a break I found that my right knee would not fully bend making running impossible so for the final 9 hours of the race I was forced into a walk. In the end I finished with 112.8km’s which now that I can look at the race and training in total I feel was good for where I was but certainly can be improved upon. I also did discover that I will never again do an indoor 24 hour event. 12 hours is fine and if this type of race was held outdoors it would be ok, but indoors was just too mentally taxing to have any merit to do again. 

So now we are at the point where I am typing this blog looking ahead to the final few months of 2013 and what lies ahead in 2014. As I mentioned above, one more ultra race awaits, the 50km Mad Trapper Relentless event October 26. Along with a race report on this blog I will be submitting a report to the Beyond Marathon site, where I have posted race reports in the past. That race will officially end the 2013 season.

For 2014 I had posted a few months ago, a list of possible races. A few changes have occurred so here is an update. My first race in 2014 will likely be the Winterman half marathon Sunday February 16. There is always a chance I might bump this to a marathon distance but at this point 21.1km seems likely. After that the next event will be the first running of Courons Gatineau May 10. The plan is to run the half with Joanne at an enjoyable pace. Following that I still have not decided whether to go back to Kingston in June for the 6 hour Transcendence event or take part in the Limberlost Challenge 56km trail race in July. A few things need to come together to decide which race I will do including Joanne’s preference and if we can get work time off for the longer drive to Limberlost. After DNF’ing Limberlost in 2012 (dropped at 42km) I feel I need to redeem myself at race where i first ran an ultra in 2011.

Now August is where things get tricky for 2014. I have been toying with the idea of a FKT (Fastest known Time) attempt on the 320km Rideau Trail. I have already looked at pre run logistics and spoken with some people knowledgeable about the trail as well as run a few sections to get a taste of what the run might be like. It may be just nerves about the distance but I am wondering if I am ready to attempt something like this at the point in my running career where I have yet to complete a 100 mile race or spent any significant time running at night. So the alternative to a Rideau Trail attempt which would take place the long weekend of August 1 to 4 would be the 48 hours at Dirty Girls Ultra on August 8 to 10. This race would offer me a number of benefits including two night runs, the potential (I would consider it my minimum goal) of 100 miles over the 48 hours, more trail running experience (especially in the dark) and hydration and eating training for a long run. All this would then make the Rideau Trail attempt more palatable for 2015 and provide a bit more assurance that I could complete the FTK attempt. So this will be something to consider over the coming months.

Following the summer Joanne and I are planning a trip to Europe so may see if during our time there we can participate in at least one local event. Depending on the exact timing of that trip I may sign up for the 9runrun half marathon usually held mid October or some other road event in the late Fall which would round out the 2014 race calendar. 

I also would like to aim at completing a couple of self supported long runs as I did this year. Not having attempted the Gate to Gate 56km in Algonquin Park this year I would consider it for 2014 if we planned a camping trip to Algonquin. The Rigaud to Navan run on the Prescott-Russell trail at 100km would be one option. If I decide not to do the Rideau Trail FKT attempt then I might consider running the Smith Falls to Ottawa portion of the trail which would be in the neighbourhood of 150km’s and would offer a great planning tool for a full attempt. Finally I have also thought of the Haute Gatineau trail which follows the old train bed from Maniwaki to Low and clocks in around 75km’s and would be a good run for mid May ahead of bug season as a fun attainable goal. Extending the run to Wakefield would put the run close to 100km and make for a very nice, relatively straightforward long run.

As will any plan this one will be subject to change and modify and truly won’t be written in stone until the actual events have been completed. 2014 offers to be an exciting year with new goals and continued progress in my running adventure and lead nicely to the multi year plan of one day in the near future running the entire length of Cuba.

Stay tuned for more....Now dust of those shoes and get out for a walk or run.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Skechers GObionic Trail Shoe Review

I have come to believe that most runners likely take for granted their choice of footwear. They may be swayed by marketing campaigns or who on the professional circuit is wearing a particular brand and consider this as a primary reason for their purchase. But let’s look at shoes from another light. They are both the least important and most important of a runners kit. This dichotomy occurs because a runner is essentially a human being and nothing more. Equipment does not make a runner as say it does a cyclist. It is the bike that make the person a cyclist…or a tennis player, this requires one to play a game within a defined man made environment, the tennis court, using a racquet and ball. But for the runner, the simple plain and beautiful truth is that one could run with only the body he or she was given and nothing more. The simple act of running is purity in and of itself.   At the same time, shoes can be a very important tool in the runner’s arsenal, and the longer and farther one runs the more important the tools. So this is the dichotomy. We don’t need shoes to be runners but with the right shoe we will be happy runners.

You may now be wondering where I am going with this and thinking it is an odd way to review a shoe so let me wrap up the two concepts above as a lead up to the actual purpose of this post. Simply shoes need to be chosen based on how they feel on your feet and taking into consideration the use and environment you are going to run. That is it, plain and simple!!

Now for the Skechers GObionic Trail. This shoe, like an earlier review of the GOrun Ride fits like a comfortable glove right out of the box. There is no messing around here, no need to break in the shoe, or find the right shoe soc combo. You can put this shoe on and go for a run. Unlike my earlier complaint about laces on the Skechers road shoes, lacing on the GObionic Trail is dead on. No need to rip out the laces and change them or try and find a better lacing pattern.


Skechers GObionic Trail

As for the shoe design it is slipper like without any bulky added weight. It is simplicity in design and beauty in function. It goes straight to the heart of my opening of this review that it is a shoe meant to protect your feet and give you comfort. No marketing gimmicks or false promises are needed here.

But how does the shoe perform? This is ultimately the most important question for a review to answer. In coming to an answer I ran with the shoes over a number of weeks on a variety of terrain. Two particular runs stand out as a clear example as to the quality and performance characteristics of these shoes. So let me set each of the runs up for you first.

The first was a 20+km run in Banff National Park. The run was a simple up and down on Sulfur Mountain, 1000m of vertical gain in dry hot weather on three types of surfaces. The first 4km and last 4km were on asphalt or cement (road surface and sidewalk), 5 km was on hard pack soil with exposed rock surfaces and 5 km on crushed stone varying in size from pea gravel to sharp stone the size of golf balls. The days leading up to the run had been very dry in the area so there was no water or mud on trail for the entire run.

The second run was a bit under 20km and occurred in parc national du Mont-Orford in Quebec’s Cantons de l’Est region just south of Montreal. With around 500m of elevation gain this run was not as severe in climbing as the Banff run above but made up for it by offering a very wet and muddy trail. The region had seen a number of days of very heavy rainfall prior to the run and this was made more interesting as the trail had been recently rebuilt and many of the rocks used on the trail for staircases or infill were still placing themselves. This run was about 6km on fire road, 2km on pavement and the remainder on technical single track.

In general the shoes performed at or beyond expectations in both running situations. I was amazed at how adaptable the GObionic Trail was on the various surfaces especially in how comfortable the shoes felt on the pavement. The tread design and light weight of the shoe means that you won’t feel like a Clydesdale horse running on pavement. As well, and I think this will appeal to the environmentalist in all of us, the tread on these shoes are not so aggressive as to tear up the very ground we love to run on, but this doesn’t mean you are running on trails in racing flats either. On the uphill sections in Mont Orford with mud and rocks I never felt out of control and slipping occurred in spots where I would have thought no shoe would have done well. Generally these shoes aided my confidence in being able to place my foot where I wanted to and not worrying about ‘sticking’ to a surface.

The GObionic Trail was especially at home on the Sulfur Mountain climb and descent. While the sole thickness did translate in a few ouch moments when stepping on small sharp rocks on the downhill, this was only a bit of an inconvenience and I was soon adjusting my downhill technique to avoid the sharper rocks. This in turn led to a few “holy crap” moments when my speed and descent exceeded my cornering technique and I came a bit closer to the edge of the trail than I wanted. These shoes performed more like road shoes in terms of their lightness than a typical stiff trail shoe.

I should also mention that the Skechers GObionic Trail offers two offset or Heel to Toe drop options. With the insole in place the shoe has a 3mm drop. This can be changed by removing the insole resulting in a 0 drop. I kept the Skechers insole in place and found it to be a perfect running platform for my running style. The tongue, as in other Skechers products is gusseted which I suspect contributes to the slipper like feeling of the shoes. 

The removable inner sole brings the drop from 3mm to 0

In looking who this shoe would be for I can see it appealing to a number of different types of buyers. The first type, and probably the group least served by the running shoe industry, is the casual runner. Here I mean two types of casual runner. The first is someone who runs intermittently and on varied terrain although I would suggest that the majority of running should occur on trails or dirt roads (if this runner was running more often on roads or multi use pathways they may still be better served by a road shoe for the occasional foray onto a trail). As a single shoe owner the GObionic Trail would offer the most flexibility of use. The second casual runner is the person who is a regular road runner who wants to play on the trails from time to time and is looking to purchase a trail specific shoe. For this person the GObionic gives you a road like shoe in terms of responsiveness without the heavily lugged pattern of some trail shoes which would be overkill for the odd weekend run on gentle trails. It also offers flexibility in trail surface so can adapt too making a good shoe if only one trail shoe was in your immediate future.

A good lug design for a fast responsive shoe with adequate grip for most trail situations

The second group of runners who would be served by the Skechers GObionic Trail are the performance junkies who own a number of trail shoes suited for specific trail types. This shoe, as I mentioned above, is a more than capable star on the dry hard pack trail where speed is a factor. With this shoe you can go out and bomb through trails knowing that you are not wasting energy with a heavier wet weather shoe on a surface that is dry and not overly technical.

A small market group of runners who would also be perfect to consider the GObionic Trail are adventure or multi day stage race runners. This type of runner needs to cover large distance on a variety of terrain types with a shoe that offers comfort for the long running days but a degree of performance in terms of light weight without sacrificing cushioning and foot protection. A good example of the environment for this runner would be my plan on running the 320km Rideau Trail in Eastern Ontario which will occur on paved road and pathways, country roads, dirt roads and single track. Because I plan on running this trail with no support over a 60 hour period I do not have the flexibility to carry two or three shoes for the different surfaces I will be running on. The Skechers GObionic Trail offers a great compromise on all the surface types and will be the shoes I wear on this run (for more info please see 

The final group of runners I can see appreciating the GObionic are those runners who run on a variety of trail surfaces during a given run. For most of us we may start out from a parking lot consisting of gravel or pavement, run up a nice hard pack fire road or multi use trail onto a gnarly bit of root covered single track, across a wet area over some exposed rock outcrop, through a pine forest and back to our vehicle. This type of mixed landscape will be where the Skechers GObionic Trail really shines and shows its strength in comparison to other trail shoes.
In concluding this review I would like you to consider that the Skechers GObionic Trail is what a trail shoe is meant to be. No flash or gimmicks, no hype or hard sell, just a shoe to put on your feet and help you enjoy the very thing you want to do, that is run. But it does this with the required components of making the run more enjoyable with a design that is appropriate  to a wide range of trail runners looking for a shoe that is not so narrowly focused on one environment type nor so generic as to be of little use to high performance trail runners. In short the Skechers GObionic Trail should be a serious contender for your next trail running shoe purchase.

A special thanks to the folks at Skechers Canada for providing the Skechers GObionic for the test. Merci Laurent and Cris.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Future posts

Working on two reviews which I hope to post mid September. The first will be on the Skechers GObionic trail running shoe.   So far I am totally amazed!!! Another superb shoe from Skechers. The second test will be on the UltrAspire Omega running pack. Stay tuned. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Skechers GOrun Ride Shoe Review

I forgot to add this link....As one of the iRun Magazine Test Team members I was given the opportunity to try out the Skechers GOrun Ride running shoes. In a nutshell they are a great shoe and what I now wear for all my races and self supported road runs and for the vast majority of my training (I have a few other pairs of shoes that have low millage on them so use them on occasion...but once they are done I will be a 100% Skechers runner)

So here is a link to the iRun review I did a few months ago:

Just an update on the review...I have now put 1000km on the test pair and while the heal has wore a bit the shoe is still in good condition. I will retire these shoes at this point because I don't want the changes in the sole due to wear to effect my running form which has gone from a heal strike to a not consistent, but getting there, mid foot strike. This in turn has as far as I am concerned removed the pain from PF I have suffered with until a month after first running in these shoes.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

2014 Race Schedule

It may be too early in the year to begin planning races and self supported runs for 2014 but a few ideas have popped into my head so I thought I would blog this partial tentative schedule:
January - Marathon Interior
May - Gatineau Half Marathon
June - Kingston 6hr
July - Limberlost ultra
August - Dirty Girls 48hr
September - Rideau Trail 300km+ self supported

Limberlost and Kingston are the ones likely to be dropped if something else interesting is available for June and/or July. But the Dirty Girls race and Rideau run are the two biggies for 2014. 

Looking at this year what is left:
June - Kingston 6hr
September - Ottawa Transcendence 24hr
October - trail ultra at The Ark
Also will try to get in the Orleans - Cumberland - Masson - Gatineau - Ottawa (75 to 80 km)  self supported run in late July or August. 

So that is all for now. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Product Test – Soleus Fit 1.0 GPS Watch

With the advent of the portable heart rate monitor in the mid 70’s and the subsequent marketing of these devises as a tool for training professional athletes, it was not going to be long before products would be made available to the general public at a price point most consumers could afford. The same transition happened in the area of portable GPS devices. Some of the early Garmin and Timex GPS devices aimed at the running market had large receivers that strapped to the arm with a watch like device providing the data feedback. Today these devices are not much larger than a normal watch. The problem with most of these devices is the cost. It is easy to spend in the neighbourhood of $350 for a good quality brand name. Granted this usually also comes with a software that allows you to monitor and track your runs, in the case of the Garmin plotting the runs on google maps, as well as heart rate, elevation and other not always necessary information. But for many recreational runners these higher end GPS devises are a bit overkill and not to mention expensive. So what are the options?
Soleus Fit 1.0 (image from Soleus web site)

Well Soleos Running and specifically their Fit 1.0 GPS Watch is a good entry level GPS device or something for the casual runner who does not need or want all the bells and whistles found in higher end brands. I should be clear here that Soleos also does have a more advanced GPS watch in its line, namely the GPS 3.0, but at a $199 price tag it is still much less expensive than other devices with similar capabilities on the market. But let me get back to the Fit 1.0.

So the Fit 1.0 with its bargain basement $100 price tag still provides the basic information most runners will want minus heart rate capability. Pace, time running, total distance, a chronograph (stopwatch) and calorie counter are all standard features with this unit. The unit is also water resistant but should not be used, according to the instruction manual, for water sports.

Likes: The unit looks and feels like a normal watch and the band and unit are comfortable in everyday use. The body of the unit is a bit thinker than most watches but I wore it over a number of days at work with both long and short sleeve shirts and never felt any discomfort. No one will ask you about the watch unlike wearing a Garmin 305 to work which will definitely result in comments from colleagues!!  “Hey Peter I thought you were a Geographer...afraid of getting lost???”

I should be up front at this point on my overall view of watches - I am generally not a watch wearer....I hate anything around my wrist, yet the times I wore the Soleus to work or on two occasions on long flights, the unit did not feel much different from a normal watch that I also sometimes wear.

In comparison to my Garmin 305 which I use for running, the Soleus was actually more comfortable on my wrist and tended not to feel heavy or cause any annoying discomfort as the run progressed. The data face is also very easy to glance at and get the information and the light provides enough illumination in low light situations where you don’t have to look for a street light to see what time it is. I also was impressed with the battery capacity and its ability to withstand a couple of runs I did while in cold Prince Albert Saskatchewan where the temp at the time of the run was -20C (that’s without adding wind chill). My Garmin on the same run (I wore both for comparison) was obviously affected by the cold and battery drain was more pronounced on the Garmin than the Soleus.

Dislikes: Well not so much a dislike as a concern or caution for other users. The Unit seems to not be totally accurate in its distance measurements. On two different runs, one of 20km and one of 25km, the distance was approx 400m to 500m off from the same distance recorded on the Garmin. This would mean that if you plan to run 25km and are using the Soleus you should add another half kilometre to hit the distance. The other dislike is the inability with the Fit 1.0 to download the data. Not a big deal but if you want to keep track of your runs this would be a nice feature – please note*** the Soleus web site now indicates that this model can download data. A $25 cable would be required.

Finally the setup and turning on and off the GPS is not as intuitive as the Garmin, or maybe after three years of use it is just me!!! But I have to say now that I have used the Soleus Fit 1.0 a few times I know what buttons to push to get the required info. Practice makes perfect!!

The issue of charging and charge time is likely to be something many of you will want to know about.  I have not yet worn the Soleus in GPS mode for more than 3 hours so I cannot say with certainty what the battery life of the unit is in constant GPS mode. What I can tell you is that prior to writing this review I charged it up three weeks ago, used it for a 2.5 hour run in GPS mode and as of this writing still have a half battery charge. That is over 21 days and one run with a single charge. In comparison the Garmin will give you an average of 12 hours on GPS (I have not used the Garmin for longer than 12 hours and always in GPS mode since the watch/time function is very limited). Charging the Soleus is straight forward with a USB connection.  So Yes you have to charge the unit. But this is like any other GPS unit and with the Soleus very easy and straight forward.

Overall I would recommend the Soleus Fit 1.0 to any runner looking for an inexpensive GPS or as a backup GPS. The Soleus also offers an option for someone who wants the everyday use of a watch with the added GPS feature for the run at lunch or on the way home after work.  With a price range of $99 for the basic GPS unit to $199 for the fully loaded model the Soleus Running GPS watch is a good buy for any runner or endurance athlete.

For more information on the Soleus Fit 1.0 check out Soleus Running at

A special note of thanks to my good friends at La Foulee Sportive, in Gatineau, Quebec. They provided me with the watch at a greatly discounted price to which I was able to do this review. Merci  Martin and Alain for your support.

Just a preview on a few other upcoming reports..... 1)The Victory Drop Bag; 2)A Gel Taste Test; 3)Dates and Beef Jerky: A Running Food Option; and 4)Selecting a Running Store.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Product Review – Nathan VaporWrap

The quick version:
Great hydration pack…get one you will love it!!

The long version:
The Nathan VaporWrap is a new for 2013 gender specific hydration pack (the women’s version is called the VaporShape) from one of the leading running equipment manufacturers Nathan Sports ( It provides just enough carrying capacity for long single day runs without a lot of added empty space adding to its bulk. If you are like me you will feel no pack should look empty so will often carry more than needed. The smaller size of the Nathan VaporWrap allows you to take the required essentials and leave the kitchen sink at home.

Nathan VaporWrap and VaporShape
(photos from Nathan Web site

While a great product it is not without its faults. I came across two issues; one which can be corrected, the second which may be more problematic for some potential users. But first before I get to far let me give you some of the specs and then take you to a simple run through of the pack and how it performed on 4 test runs over the last couple of weeks.

A bit of a review warning: I am really into backpacks in the same way some people are into cars, motorcycles or shoes. When I walk into an outdoor store I will b-line it for the wall of packs and stand there like a kid in a candy store. There is something about the design beauty of a backpack that just turns my crank much to my wife’s dismay. She probably doesn’t mind my being interested in backpacks but my small collection has her wondering why I need another. So when I saw the Nathan advertisement in the March edition of Trail Runner magazine I knew I needed to add this pack to my collection. This review was an attempt at justifying the purchase. So let me get on with the review.

 As I mentioned above the VaporWrap is a gender specific pack so the information that follows deals specifically with the men’s version. The men’s version is Grey in colour, while the women’s version is white.  As well Nathan has sized these packs, an issue that I will discuss a bit further on in this review, into the S/M (small and medium) and L/XL (large and xlarge). Again here, this review relates to the L/XL size.  The VaporWrap weighs in at 771 grams (1.7 pounds) empty. The liquid capacity is listed at 2 litres but this could be adjusted by changing the bladder to a 1.5 litre or I would suspect based on the space available, moving up to a 3 litre bladder. Added to this the VaporWrap allows for the addition of two water bottles on the shoulder strap. So this at a minimum would be another 1 litre in total (warning - the larger the water bottles the more likely that the pack will ‘pull’ along the shoulders and change the fit for some runners. So test any added water bottles to see how they feel with the pack).

The Pack Components:
I had hoped to do a video here but my technical skills are wanting so will just stick to the written word. Hopefully I will get a video review up on this site for some future product test.

When you first look at the VaporWrap you will notice that the shoulder straps are different from most other packs as well there is no separate waist belt. This is because the VaporWrap is form fitting and does not have a one size fits all. On the upside it means the pack sits against your body with little to no movement. On the downside, and this is one of my concerns with the product, the pack you pick has to fit you body like a glove. So I was very lucky in ordering mine without first trying it on. I would not recommend someone does that unless you have a great relationship with the retail store you buy from. Try and find a retailer with the VaporWrap in stock and try it on to get the right size. For guys with larger shoulder/chest area I suspect you will find the XL too small for you.

The pack has three main pockets in the back, two hip pockets, one cell phone/camera/ipod/blackberry/etc zippered pocket (removable) on the right shoulder strap and another small zippered pocket on the left shoulder strap. Finally two water bottle holsters are on each shoulder strap (less the bottles at time of purchase). With a bit of testing and moving things around for optimum access the VaporWrap give you enough carrying capacity for a good long day run without having to leave anything essential behind.
Two of the pockets on the back are zippered and will easily hold a pair of running gloves, hat, wind/rain jacket, trail map, some added gels and anything else you may need for a day long run. The external bungee cord system allows you to tighten it all up to keep all the contents in as compact a space as possible. There is also room in the area next to the hydration bladder for added items if space becomes an issue. Just remember to fill up your bladder fist and place it in the pack before adding too many other items!!
The heart of the VaporWrap is of course the hydration characteristics. As I already identified the pack has two water bottle holsters. I really like water bottle holsters on a pack, even one with a bladder. The reason is simple, if you want to carry something different for hydration you have the option with the bottles. So normally I carry water in the bladder then on bottle with water and the other with an electrolyte drink. Another benefit with a bottle is on a hot day you can use the water bottle to get water on your head or face, something not always possible with a bladder. I would suggest that Nathan consider including water bottles with the VaporWrap though. I found not having water bottles come with the pack was like windshield wiper blades not coming with a new vehicle. Yes easy to go out and get your own but why not just have the bottles as part of the package.

Now on to my second problem with the Nathan VaporWrap…How could a company with so much experience in making quality hydration products for runners create such a crappy hydration bladder. After one run with the bladder that came with the pack I swapped it out for a Salomon bladder that has an insulated tube as well as a removable tube from the bladder. This should just be standard with any bladder these days.

Impressions while Running:
I used the VaporWrap on 4 runs, three on road surfaces and one trail run. Distances ranged from 14km for the trail run to a 50km run. Equally important was the amount of time the pack was on my shoulders. This ranged from a little over 2 hours to 6.5 hours for the 50km run. The pack performed flawlessly on all the runs with no noticeable bounce, no rubbing, no chaffing or discomfort during or after the run. In fact, and this is something I want to check more into, the shoulder strap design seemed to keep my shoulders back and prevented me from slouching toward the end of the 50km run. As a result I felt better and less stiff in my shoulders and upper back after the 50km run than I normally do with more traditional packs.

I tried accessing items from the various pockets while on the run as well. My comments here have to be taken with a grain of salt. Some runners may find accessing any of the pockets difficult while others who are flexible will have a lot less trouble. So again through trial and error you will learn which pockets are easier to reach and use those for the important items. The first item to access was of course the water bottles. They came out of the holster with one hand and I could easily return them into the holster with one hand while on the run. Next the zippered pocket for a phone or camera was also easy to access. I pulled out a camera from that pocket a couple of times on the trail run and the 50km run without any difficulty. The other shoulder strap pocket was also easy to access. The two hip pockets were a bit more difficult to get too but other runners may have a lot less problem accessing these pockets. The zippers were easy to open and close.
The final thing I noticed with the pack is that as it doesn’t use traditional shoulder and chest straps I did not find that things would loosen up after running especially on the trail run which contained a lot of technical single track. And last but not least the lack of a waist belt meant I didn’t feel constricted in my stomach area. This is something some of you, if you are like my, will appreciate especially if you have a bit more of a 24pack and not a six pack!!

So all in all I am very impressed with the Nathan VaporWrap. In Canada it retails between $159 and $179 depending on size and is well worth the money.The VaporWrap will make you feel a lot more free to go out and run longer distances without having to worry about water stops or changes in weather. And for trail runners the VaporWrap will give you peace of mind in being able to carry a bit of extra emergency provisions while not impacting on your form on technical runs.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Nathan Vapor Wrap

I will be providing a review in the coming weeks on the new Nathan Vapor Wrap. But I wanted to give you a heads up and recommend that if you are considering a hydration pack you definitely have to add the Nathan to your list to look at. So stay tuned.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Who knew others read this thing??

Wow, just had a question posed on one of the previous posts in this blog and am feeling upset with myself that I had considered just shutting this blog down to concentrate on the runningcuba blog. So since there may be some interest out there what I will do is use this blog to highlight products I have tested either for myself or as a product test for iRun (

So stay tuned for a report on the Soleus GPS Fit 1.0 watch, the new Nathan Vapor Wrap and the Skechers Gorun Ride running shoes (which I tested for iRun). As well I will continue to use this blog for more general ultra-running items.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A new blog

I have created a new blog. Please look me up at

Santa Clara 2013