So I tried to get on the Speedgoat course today with mixed results.
In Texas, there wasn’t really ever any need for GPS or knowing a course because there aren’t that many options and whatever options there are don’t go far, so it’s not a big deal to get lost. After today, I realize that I need to up my navigation game. Which is to say, I need to get one.
Today I was using the Gaia app with a GPX file downloaded from a guy on Strava. I want to get familiar with it because that is the app we are supposed to use for Bigfoot 200. I used it last week navigating to Lone Peak and also managed to get off trail. I also supplemented the app with Google Maps and that helped.
Some of the things I came away with:
Study the course! This is probably obvious to everyone but me, but now I get it. I can’t always rely on your magical electronic map to get me where I want to go. I have to have some idea of where the hell I’m going. This is super important when I’m out on my own like today. If I get myself lost 10 miles up a mountain, it’s going to be a long night. Which leads to my next take away
When going somewhere unfamiliar and I plan on being out there for several hours, pack more calories than I think I need. I spent a lot of time just trying to figure out where I needed to go it added a couple hours to my time. Which means I’m burning precious calories. And if I get even loster, It’ll make thinking that much harder. You don’t want your stomach to be the cause of bad decisions.
I thought I might try some really nice olive oil and bread and salt or cheese next time. Food needs to be calorie dense, sturdy and portable. Also a small Ziploc for garbage would be helpful. I had a small can of tuna which needed a bag to keep my pack clean.
I brought a bunch of Endurolytes. Twice I’ve encountered guys suffering from heatstroke. They are small and light and could really help someone out. That and crystallized ginger and a first aid kit.
And it wasn’t an issue on this outing, but in the future, having the ability to filter stream water is important. In Texas, this was never a consideration for many reasons. But here, you simply can’t carry enough water for an intense all day outing, and you don’t necessarily need to since there are often flowing water sources. So I have to learn what all is involved in filtering water. It doesn’t seem too complicated. But we’ll see.
Snow baskets. I think that’s what they are called. Those are the wider discs that go on the bottom of trekking poles for the snow. Today my poles would just punch through the snow. Those attachments help spread the force and keep them from sinking so far in the snow. Along with that, two point trail gaiters don’t cut it in the snow. Several times the snow found its way into my shoes.
Glissading can be fun if you plan for it. I slipped and slid and got a cut on my backside. I was lucky it wasn’t worse. There is probably some technique for doing it properly. It also probably requires something to slide on. My chintzy shorts were of no protection whatsoever.
Looking forward to the next chance to run the course.
Seems silly to report on a 60K, but here I am. Four 9 mile loops. Boring and uneventful, this is more to get in the habit of writing a race report.
I have a goal of doing a race every month, and since there aren’t any other races this month, I signed up. Wish I had planned better since the price was an extra $20. I had run parts of the trails on two separate occasions for work a few months back, so I didn’t plan much. I knew it was going to be hot and muggy; I loaded up my big cooler with 3 coconut waters, 2 Arizona tea tall boys, 3 sparkling waters, 2 mama chia drinks, and a big chocolate milk, and a Budweiser tall boy. That was the extent of my planning.
It’s a night race. The day of the race, my schedule seemed like there was plenty of time to get stuff done and then drive two hours to the race. Being on time stresses me out, so next time I’ll get everything done the day before and leave earlier. As much as possible, it’s best to avoid mental stress before a race. Planning and preparation is key.
On the way up, there were ominous looking clouds and a few brief showers. Once again, I hadn’t checked the weather report. I was prepared for heat, but not for rain, and that had me worried. I got there about 1.5 hours before the start. The sky still looked like it might rain, but fortunately, it never did. I managed a 15 min cat nap right before the start.
Start of the race, I chatted with Julie a bit. Once the single track got going, I stayed with the group for a bit, thinking take it easy to start. But after a while, I would just jump past the parade leader. It annoys me that people don’t step aside to let others pass when they have a whole train behind them. I didn’t want someone else determining my pace this early in the race. Eventually the field spread out and I had my space.
Expected the humidity to be an issue, it wasn’t.
Breezed through aid stations without dilly dallying: filled up a bottle, grabbed a few snacks, and took off. Every thirty minutes or so, popped an Endurolyte. Last race I was taking two at a time, and the second one was tough to swallow. They have an unpleasant flavor when you put them in your mouth. But they kept my fingers from swelling like sausages, so I believe they did whatever it is they are supposed to do. (Balance electrolytes levels.)
Watermelon, orange slices and fig newtons were the majority of my fuel. Had various liquids including tailwind. Had a lifesaver candy which was nice for a while, and at the last aid stone on the final loop, has two pieces of gum. That was pretty huge. Kept my mouth from drying out. Funny, I remember how I used to rave about gum, but stopped chewing it. But since I was chewing for less than three miles, my jaws didn’t get tired. So gum may make it into my next race plan.
And the one time I don’t carry spare batteries. I heard a thump behind me. A lady had tripped. I stopped to make sure she was okay. Apparently it was her first night race and her headlamp was super dim. She said it was a piece of crap headlamp, but more likely the batteries just needed to be changed. Normally, I’d have some on me, but this time I didn’t.
I was kind bummed because I was moving well when I heard her fall. I really wanted to keep running, but that’s not cool. Now I was thinking I was going to have to run her into the next aid station. She followed me for a bit, I tried to light the way. But then she took off ahead of me and sped off. That was a relief.
The course at night is like a nightmare. It seems like you’re running in place, nothing seems to change much. Also because the course is so snaky, you’ll see people on an adjacent path and you can’t tell if they are ahead of you or behind you. Super annoying.
Keep thinking about how hard can I push myself? I never push real hard in races because I don’t want to empty the tank. But honestly I don’t know how much my tank holds. I do think that the box step ups I did for a few days helped. Or I want to believe they did. Def need to be doing more of those. Didn’t have any music, that didn’t bother me too much.
First loop went by quickly. Second loop felt good, thought I was probably running a bit too fast. Third loop was okay. Fourth loop wasn’t bad, but there was definitely more walking. Overall, was a decent race. Need to find a why or a goal.
weather report / bring everything and prepare for anything.
Endurolyte every 30 min
spare batteries, gum
socks: toe socks and darn tough hiking, Altra lone peaks.
The race definitely did not go as well as I had hoped.
My main issue was the inability to take in calories during the second half of the race. I also had some issues with feet because of my socks, but that wasn’t as big of a deal.
On race day, I felt slightly panicked about the rain since both my rain jackets were in my drop bags. All I had was my hot weather gear. I didn’t have any other clothes with me, if it rained, I would get cold quick. I remembered I had the race shirt, a half zip long sleeve. I took that and was glad I did, because I ended up using it.
I was so focused on having a plan in place and sticking to the plan, that it never even occurred to me that the weather might be different. The crazy thing is, I had checked the weather the days before and the day of the race, saw the rain forecast of 60%, but I still expected the weather to be hot. I think that’s called tunnel vision?
The first half of the race went well. We were fortunate to have plenty of cloud cover all day. I had expected Texas style heat for the first 30, and was happy to not have to deal with the heat. Surprisingly, the long climb out of the gate didn’t bother me that much. Could be fresh legs, but the climb into Jaws didn’t seem that bad either. There were definitely slow and tough sections, but mentally I was okay with it.
The cloud cover eventually turned into rain. It never seemed like it was raining that hard, but it was a constant drizzle for 50 miles. Somehow it created a mind boggling amount of mud. And worse, the mud was a greasy slippery slidy mud. The kind that could be fun if this was a mud fight, or you were sliding down it into a pool, but it not good for running. You could see on the ground the patches of parallel lines where someone foot had slid across the mud. Amazingly, I never fell once. That bit of luck I would attribute 100% to my poles.
The week before the race, Travis came into the store and we chatted about the race. He had run Bighorn twice before, finishing once and DNFing the other time. I asked him if he thought we needed poles, he said he didn’t think so. This surprised me, I planned to use them regardless. And I am super glad I did. I used them the whole race. The only point I didn’t want them was the last 5 miles.
I got to the halfway point 2 hours ahead of my planned time. When Rob told me that, I was stoked. I was feeling great considering the conditions. But what goes up, must come down.
As I sat there trying to eat, changing my shirt and getting into a sweater and a jacket, in the span of just a few minutes, I begin to shiver uncontrollably. I never felt terribly cold on the way up to Jaws, but I guess the rain and cold added up. They wrapped a blanket around me and stuffed my shirt with two big heated gel things to get my core temp up.
Know this future Bighorn runners: Jaws was nuts. There were so many people crammed into this tiny tent. People walking all over each other, crew tending to their runners, volunteers checking on runners, at one point, a dude’s butt was in my face as he changing socks or whatever he was doing. It is seriously tight quarters, so be warned. Everyone wanted a seat by the heaters, but there were very few seats to be had. Make sure you or your crew has a big warm blanket for you.
Here is where my race went south. I changed my shirt and and jacket, but I didn’t change my socks. There was so much mud and water crossings, it seemed pointless. But here’s the deal: as you wear the socks hour after hour, they sort of lose their shape and move around, which can cause blisters. If you change socks, those new socks will hold their shape for the first few hours and won’t (Or are less likely) to cause blisters. At the very least, I should have taken the clean socks in a plastic ziploc and changed them along the way. (Another mistake I made was not having two pairs of socks at the first and second aid stations, despite having had that on my pre race plan.)
You can never have enough socks during a 100 mile race in the rain and mud. Make sure that your socks are taller than your gaiters. Make sure to knock off as much mud from your gaiters when you change your socks – you don’t want dry mud falling into your new socks.
I don’t recall what I ate at Jaws. I asked Rob to grab a plate for me, but I ate very little of what was on the plate. I have learned that later in a race, my mouth gets dry and it’s hard to generate saliva, so everything is so dry I can’t eat it. I know now that I need to rely on more semi solid foods or maybe just do liquid nutrition entirely.
After I warmed up, Jake showed up. I gave him my seat and headed out. I knew I was lagging in calories, but I didn’t want to stop in the rain and mud. So I just kept running. At a certain point, it was maybe two hours I went without any major calories. I was shocked I was moving as well as I was, I thought (prayed) that maybe my body was using fat for fuel and everything would be okay so long as I stayed hydrated… Wishful thinking.
I got through the night in pretty good shape. I ran with a guy for a bit. I kept trying to drop him, but he clung on. Eventually, we started talking. He was a little spooked running alone at night. I passed a decent amount of people and felt good.
Then the bonk came.
And the hills showed up.
At one of the smaller aid stations, Jake and his pacer Cam caught up to me. I tried to run with them, but couldn’t keep up. Jake was running strong.
Later I caught up to Travis at Footbridge. He was debating dropping because he was having some knee pain and didn’t want to risk further injury because he wasn’t getting any traction with his Calderas. I told him not to quit, he didn’t want to be the only one in the group to DNF.
And then I teased him because he had two wooden sticks he was using for poles.
Maybe that was bad karma, as I left the aid station, I kept running straight down the road instead of making the turn across the bridge. Luckily, a runner that was coming to collect his drop bag told me I was going the wrong way. I was only half a mile out, but that was still demoralizing. I walked back to the aid station with him and thanked him for saving my ass.
Travis had taken off running pretty hard thinking I was ahead of him. He must’ve been totally bewildered that he never caught me.
The rest of the race was running a bit and then hiking a bunch. There were several uphill sections that seemed to go on just forever. At one aid station, the guy said, “It’s just one 300 foot climb and then it’s literally all downhill.” I honestly don’t know what a 300 foot climb looks like. But going up that hill, all I could think was either the guy was kidding, he thought it was 300 ft, maybe he meant 3000 ft, or I am about to die. We have nothing remotely close to that climb in Texas. It wasn’t technical, it was just loooooooong.
The second day of the race, the weather was absolutely gorgeous. When I could take my eyes off the trail and look around, it was beautiful. I regret not taking a camera or a phone to take photos. The smell of the flowers, the colors of the flowers, all the freaking trees everywhere, it was pretty amazing.
My watch died 10 miles or so from the finish. This was infuriating because I had no idea how close I was until I hit an aid station. During those miles, I asked literally a dozen people how far it was to the finish and not one of them knew. I was utterly surprised since most of them were 50 milers. How do they run without knowing how far they are?? But that’s my problem, not theirs.
Eventually, I hiked into the finish. Rob joined me on his bike about a mile out. I was so happy to finish, happy to be done. 32 hours 17 minutes. Far short of my goal of 28 hours, but maybe next time. Right now, all I can think of is working on my nutrition strategy so that this doesn’t happen again.
Some additional notes:
Know where packet pickup, start and finish is. Know how to get there.
Know how the shuttle works since the start and finish are different locations.
Always label your drop bags yourself. Big and clear: Name, bib #, AS
Make sure drop bags are waterproof.
Have snacks readily available and /or schedule time to eat when traveling. Especially for before and on race day. Consume massive calories day before.
Plastic bag to keep dirty/wet stuff separate from unused/ dry gear, Especially in drop bag.
Notecards w/ instructions to remind yourself of things to do, ie contacts, change socks
WATERPROOF BOOTS W/ GATORS, forgoing that, change socks even if it seems pointless. As time goes on, the socks move around and bunch. A fresh pair stays put longer.
Make sure start kit has everything you need, dont forget trail toes!
Short shorts are okay in cold, but not if it rains.
How to get calories late in the race: liquid calories.
Avoid getting coke or broth two aid stations in row. Skip one or two so that you dont burn out on it. Water down coke. Carry tums if stomach turns acidic.
Put tape on middle section of poles, they are cold at night.
Learn what poison ivy looks like.
Two Chargers for watch.
You can never have enough socks for 100 miles.
Socks need to be taller than gaiter!
How to deal w/mass dirt post race laundry.
Separate dirt (socks, gaiters) from sweaty.
A month ago, I was psyched about this challenge. But this past week, I didn’t run a single mile and I was dreading the event. I don’t know if it was fatigue, burnout, or just plain laziness, but I just didn’t want to run. And I sorta still feel that way, which is worrisome.
The night before, I prepped all my stuff. I read the final email and set my alarm for 5:30, which would give me an hour to have a decent breakfast. However I missed a small detail about the start time – I had put it on my calendar as 7am when it was actually a 6am start. So my alarm goes off at 5:30, I get out of bed at 5:40, and then I get a text from my buddy Dustin at 5:41: “I’m on my way… gps says 5:55.” I’m wondering why the hell would he get there so early. I reread the final email and see the 6am start time. FUCK!!
In semi-panic mode, I get dressed, grab my stuff, pack ice into my cooler, and get on the road. I drive as fast as I can, and arrive only 10 minutes late. I parked next to a truck, the guy getting out was like, “You’re late too?” My stomach had been churning on the drive. I ran behind some dumpsters and took a quick dump. That was a good start.
And then the “fun” began. Half mile uphill, then a half mile back down. Four hours and 20 minutes of that. But at least there were a lot of other runners there to share in the miser… fun. I had my ipod and was trying to untangle the headphones. It was way more difficult than it should have been. I finally got them untangled one I reached the top of the hill for the first time. I put the earbuds in and pressed the play button…. beep! beep! beep! The ipod was dead. I know I charged it, but I must have accidentally left it on and drained the battery. I laughed and wondered what else could wrong.
Halfway into the race, a light drizzle turned into a full on rain that lasted maybe 10 minutes. Although I was concerned about how it might affect the footing on the course, it was kind of refreshing.
The first three hours went by like clockwork, trudge uphill, and then coast down. My left foot developed an issue that made it hard to run downhill. I think what little arch I have in my foot collapsed inward more than usual, likely a result of not running the past week. It wasn’t painful, but I could tell that it was definitely not normal. I was concerned it was going to get worse, so I slowed down on the downhills.
I had one bright spot during the race. Running beside Tanya:
Me: I am so over this.
Tanya: Yeah, me too.
Me: I am so tired of running downhill!
The last hour was tough. Mentally, I was running on empty and I wanted to quit.
In retrospect, it seems silly that you want to quit running so bad. Those moments that you are in, you’re tired, your feet hurt, maybe you’re hungry, your head hurts, and all you can think about is stopping this nonsense. That’s all you can think about. But time passes and somehow you get through it, the clock stops, and you can finally stop running. Later you think, “That wasn’t so bad. I don’t know what I was complaining about.” You sort of forget the struggle. Four hours and 20 minutes is a drop in the bucket compared to most ultras, so I’m a little disappointed that my mental game suffered.
I’m glad I didn’t quit, despite the foot and mental issues. And especially glad that after the 24th lap, with 10 and a half minutes remaining in the race, I went out for one more. 10 and half minutes is plenty of time to get one lap done. I knew my future self would berate my weak willed past self if I would have stopped.
That gave me 25 laps, one shy of my goal of 26. Had I been on time, I’m sure I would have hit that goal. Driving home, I thought I should have done an extra mile after the race. Oh well.
Putting it in perspective: Be on time. Suffering is commensurate to the size of the race. Expect that suffering and accept it gratefully when it arrives.
I regret going into the race with that sort of attitude. I didn’t prepare as well and my performance suffered as a result. I didn’t have a terrible race, but I know it could have been better. Many small things added up to a frustrating race.
One of the bigger culprits was not getting enough sleep. The day before the race, I got up before 6 to go hiking with a coworker, went to work, and then drove 3 hours to San Angelo, finally getting to bed around 11. That is far from ideal. Sufficient sleep is vital for good performance mentally and physically. When I started the race, my legs felt heavy.
I wore my newish Ultimate Direction hydration pack. I’ve worn it a few times, but never raced in it. I think it still needs to be broken in. Maybe 10 miles in, I noticed my bottle was jamming my rib cage, making a very tender spot. After I finished the first loop, I put on my old Salomon pack and it just felt great. I also love the huge back pocket that I can reach into without having to unzip or zip. Basically, these little gear niggles should be worked out prior to a race, not during.
Coming into the second to last aid station, I found out that the course mileage was off by 5 miles. I was heading into the last aid station when I should have been finishing the loop. This threw me off mentally. What would happen now? Would we have to run a 75miler? I imagined several possible scenarios that could play out, finally resolving not to sweat it, Rob would figure something out. No way would he make us run an extra 13 miles. Like I tell myself all the time, just focus on the mile in front of you.
The sky had been overcast for the entire first loop. It seemed like it was going to be a perfect day for running. Thinking it would stay that way was wishful thinking. Wishful thinking that got me mildly sunburned and drained quite a bit of energy from me.
My old man hat and ice bandana have saved me on numerous sunny occasions. I had them in my bag at the start/ finish, but chose not to bring them with me as I foolishly thought it would be overcast all day. Katie offered sunscreen, which I declined. 2 huge mistakes, likely due to lack of sleep and fretting about the course mileage issue.
The clouds burned off and the sun was in full effect. There was very little shade on the course, it was extremely exposed. Every I looked, there was cactus, as if to remind me that I was in the desert. I used my buff as an ice bandana, and that worked okay. Proper ice bandana is way faster to fill and wear. There wasn’t much I could do about the sun. Whenever I saw shade, I stopped and took a short break.
Hydration and nutrition were okay. Shat once before the race, but still had enough for three more times during the first loop. Wore Calderas first loop, but switched into Lone Peaks for the last two loops. Forgot iPod on second loop, only had music for last loop.
I have never looked at my watch so many times during a race. It became incredibly frustrating near the end trying to figure out how much longer I would be running. I wanted to do 12 hours, and kept trying to calculate in my head if I could. Each time I did the calculations, my results changed. That was pretty demoralizing. And add to that the fact that we had to run a few extra miles because of the marking error, so I wasn’t entirely sure how close I was to the finish.
Leapfrogged with several runners, including Julie of course. Finally caught up to Dustin in the very last mile. He had been puking but was moving. I didn’t stop to talk or run wit him, I just ran past him. Finished in 12:58 for 5th. Dustin showed up two minutes later to finish in 13 hours on the nose for 6th and Julie came in at 13:01 for 7th. She won 100k last week and again this week. Amazing.
So while not a terrible race, it was a far cry from the planning and execution of the last race. What’s worse is that now I am behind in points (but I think just barely) for the Desert trail race series. The winner of the three race series gets $500. I’ve never won any money from running, and it would be awesome if I did. The last race is the Franklin Mountain 50K in November. It looks like if I want to win that money, I am going to have to train, plan, and race my ass off. So maybe being behind is a good thing, providing me the motivation to focus on the task ahead.
Right in the center, a cardinal. One day, I’ll get you!
Are these berries? Look like it.
Focus? We don’t need no stinking focus!
These guys are funny!
There’s a bug on there.
Saw few of these.
Always in pairs, so friendly!
Bet you ain’t never seen one of these.
Should have gotten closer shot.
These ants are terrifyingly huge.
Ran for three and a half hours on 50/50 trail and pavement. Recent rains have got the wildflowers all up in a tizzy! I’m trying to document as many different types of flowers as possible. These were all shot today on the same run. Nuts, right? There were so many flowers, it was ruining my running rhythm; I’d stop every few feet to take another picture.
Focusing on iPhone is a b!tch. It’s so hard to tell in the bright sunlight. Getting it to focus on the right thing is especially tricky. I preset the AF/AE lock and then try to frame the image, but often can’t find the right focal range. More practice, I guess!
The run was tough. When I started, there was some awesome cloud cover. Sadly, it burned off quickly and the humidity set in .
I ran in my Hoka Stinsons for the first time. As much as I want to like them, not the best initial impression. Definitely issues on uneven trail surfaces. Unfortunate, as the reason for buying them was to save my tootsies from the rocks at Bandera. Need more miles before rendering a final verdict, although I’m paranoid this will mean that I won’t be able to return them.
Also using Tailwind for the third time. Lemon something or other flavor. I’m not sold on the efficacy just yet. I bonked pretty good today. I left the house with only 400 calories, about half of what I should have had for a (planned) 15 mile run. After I consumed my bottle of Tailwind and two gels, I stopped at a gas station and bought a Gatorade and a Reeses peanut butter cup. I never do that. The Reese’s was righteous, and it helped a bit, but I was still dragging.
The weird thing is how tired I felt after only 10 miles or so. I thought to myself, “You think you’re tired now?? Wait till you’ve been up for 20 hours and you’re at mile 80. How the hell are you going to manage that?” Either I exhausted my glycogen yesterday, I didn’t consume enough calories during the week, or something, but this shouldn’t have been as hard as it was. Which reminds me, I want to start my running diary. That sounds so…
For the day, did a lot of walking and finished with 14, a mile short of goal.
We’ve had a good bit of sorely need rain the past few days. The other day I got caught in a downpour, and it was glorious. There’s just something about running in the rain that is so fun. Once you get over the fact that you’re soaked to the bone, it’s not so bad. The creek (or crick as some would say) beds are normally bone dry, but they were (alive with running water. The creek is not an active creek, more of a drainage creek, which is far less charming, but it’s nice to see it’s doing its thing.
Last night we got even more rain. I didn’t think about how that would affect my run to the gym until I saw the water. There were at least five spots where the path was flooded over. But it’s just water! I took off my shoes and socks and walked through. Putting my toe socks on five times was a bit of a chore.
The other day I saw a deer, which is not unusual. They are generally skittish and don’t stay still for pictures, but this one was in a clearing that allowed for a clear-ish shot. One day, I’ll get a good shot of a deer. Also saw a gathering of what looked like vultures at a watering hole. They all scampered off when I ran by except for one guy. That would have been a much better shot with his friends.
Today I saw a heron (?), a vibrant green snake that surprisingly didn’t slither away before I could take its picture, and a snail. Yes, a snail. Oh and I always see cardinals, but they are so fast – by the time I think to take out my camera – they’re gone. One day… I don’t know much about animals, but it’s cool to see them on the trail.
Ran through some drainage channels in the neighborhood behind my gym. This appears to be where the a bunch of seventh grade graffiti artists hang out. (It’s not very good graffiti.) I thought perhaps I should bring a can of spray paint and see if I can do any better.
Got to the gym sweaty and stinking to high heaven. Worked out for an hour and headed back out. By then it was noon and hot and HUMID. I was surprised I wasn’t more tired. I downed a citrus flavor Clif gel which was pretty good. It tasted like a Pop Ice, those colored frozen stick pop things. Great flavor for hot weather.
Took a shorter way home, and this time I didn’t bother to un-shoe myself through the flooded spots. Just plowed right through. The water was cool and felt great. So great in fact, I took a break and sat down waist deep in the creek. It was nowhere near as nice as sitting in the creek at the Grand Canyon, but it did the trick. And yeah, the water’s brown and filthy, but as a trail runner, so am I!
After using the Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 12 Set pack for several months now, I feel it’s time for a review. I bought it back in January(?) and I’ve worn it for 20 hours doing R2R2R, at the Treviso marathon, (I know that’s weird), Hell’s Hills 50 Miler, and dozens of multi hour training runs. It’s gotten to the point that I feel weird if I run without it. Bottom line: Ireally like the pack.
First and foremost: fit and comfort. For me, the pack fits beautifully. It’s like wearing a vest vs carrying a “backpack.” That is a huge difference. The vest style design eliminates the sore shoulders that result from a backpack style pack. At my last race, even after 9 hours, my shoulders felt fine. There is more surface area than most other packs, which means more pockets and places to stash things. This increased surface area helps distribute weight. The elastic material along the outer edge pulls the pack load closer to your body. This helps the pack stay put and keeps stuff from bouncing around. And one of the things I like best is there aren’t any loose strap ends flapping about.
It comes with two 16 oz soft flasks, but get this – IT DOES NOT COME WITH A BLADDER. (Yet it does come with an insulated sleeve for a bladder.) This really confused the heck out of me, why sell a hydration pack without a bladder?
So I bought a Camelbak 2L bladder. I filled it with water and tried to put it in the insulated sleeve… It wouldn’t fit. I believe the sleeve is made for a 1.5L bladder. Not the end of the world, just throw the bladder in the pack without the sleeve.
Then I ran into another snafu. Some official looking photos (not on the Salomon website) show the hydration tube running out the “tail” and under the vest. However this requires a bladder with a spigot that routes sideways rather than upwards. Again, not the end of the world, just route the tube over the shoulder.
It was at this point I wished the pack had come with “instructions” or a small guide. (There’s a small illustration for how to secure trekking poles, but that’s it. ) Or better yet, these details made clear on the website. That way I could have known to buy a 1.5L bladder with a sideways spigot.
I haven’t attempted to use the soft flasks because I think it would be more troublesome trying to reinsert a soft flask vs a hard bottle. That could be a mistaken assumption, but I’ve been using two 21 oz Camelbak bottles and that’s been great. It’s nice because I can have water, a liquid nutrition, and a sports drink. The only thing I need now is to find bottles that have the long straw so that I don’t have to remove the bottles…
There are pockets galore! It’s a little overwhelming at first what to do with them all, but eventually you’ll figure out your system. Most of the pockets are easy to get at. The zippered pocket on the side opens easily with one hand, but you need another hand to hold the bottom of the zipper to zip it up. No big deal. The big open rear pocket is tricky to get into without taking off the pack. And although it feels sketchy to have the rear pocket secured only by the tension of the elastic, I’ve yet to have anything fall out on during a run.
Lately I’ve been running during the hotter parts of day. The pack is constructed with mesh material and breathes well. However, sweat easily migrates through the mesh, so make sure whatever you carry in those pockets is sweat tolerant. If you carry your phone, you would be wise to keep it in a Ziploc baggie. The evaporated sweat also leaves a visible salt residue which is a visual reminder that the pack needs to be washed.
At $185, (WITHOUT a bladder) I cried when I bought this, however it has been worth every penny. REI recently started carrying the pack, so if you’re a member you’d get $18.50 back on your dividend.
Finally, the name is in desperate need of shortening or simplifying. Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 12 Set just does not roll off the tongue easily. Or at all. Someone asked me about the pack and I couldn’t remember the name. Maybe Salomon can work on the name for the next version.