The Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek Ultra Vest (SJUV) is the medium-sized hydration vest in the Ultimate Direction Signature Series. On a more minimal side of the scale is the Anton Krupicka Race Vest (AKRV) while on the other end of the scale, the 12 liter Peter Bakwin Adventure Vest (PBAV). The SJUV is not my first experience with a hydration vest, my first being the Nathan HPL020 (reviewed here) purchased back in 2008. Even though not used as much as I’d like to, the Nathan is still in great condition, but I’ve been entertaining a ridiculous thought recently that calls for greater specs than what the Nathan can support me. More importantly I purchased the SJUV with clear requirements on what I need in a pack given the kind of event. Popular brands like Salomon cost nearly twice more, and would be overkill for me.
What I need:
- Lightweight low profile fit
- Plenty of storage
- Ease of maintenance
Per the UD website, the SJUV weighs in at 7.5 oz (13 oz with bottles) and has a 9.2 liter storage space. The marketing blurb maintains that “the SJ has the best weight-to-capacity ratio of any hydration pack on the market.” And if you’re interested in what kinds of storage the vest has, see the specs below as provided by UD. To know which pocket is designed for what purpose, watch the short video where Scott Jurek himself explains the use of the product.
First impression I had of the vest was how light and compact it was. Ultimate Direction claims the UDSJ has the best weight to capacity ratio out there and holding it in my hands for the first time certainly gave me that impression. Weight may not be an issue on a short weekend trail outing but multiply that over hours and miles upon miles of climbing and running, every ounce saved is hopefully going to make the journey a little bit more bearable. At least you won’t feel like carrying a donkey on your shoulders, although I’ve a suspicion that after 12 hours on your feet, nothing much matters anymore!
The first outing I had with it was an 8K trail run which was part of the TNF workshop – my load-up was pretty minimal, consisting only of my iPhone, a lightweight low-bulk Nike jacket and the 2 bundled 20 oz (591 ml) UD bottles with kicker valves. I tested the included whistle (loud enough) and tucked it into the velcro’d shoulder pocket. The 2 bottles were 3/4 filled as it wasn’t going to be a long run. Here’s how the unique kicker valve works. Pull it up and bite to suck in the fluids, flick it to retract the teat. I found taking in fluids via the valve is a hit or miss, depending if you get the bite right. I withheld my verdict on the bottles after the run.
Whether you’re carrying a bladder or 2 bottles, I suppose there’s no escaping the sound of fluid sloshing sound.The good thing, however, was the absence of insecurity and bounce. My vest were lashed down and compacted by the extensive network of bungee cord and hooks. As a result the vest were like part of my t-shirt. I’ve never felt such a good fit before. There was no sideways sliding, nor up and down bouncing. I came away very happy. We were out on the trails for about 1.5 hours and the fluids on board were sufficient. For longer races, one will need to review the distances, weather conditions and terrain between the refueling stations. There may be a need to supplement the 2 bottles with a bladder. Or just rely on the 2-liter bladder, freeing the front pockets for supplies and a camera.
When the 2nd trail outing was planned, I got the trekking poles out to check how I could carry them along with more stuff. Some of the photos show Snickers and even a tube of Vitamin C solubles being stashed into the pockets merely to show what the pockets could or couldn’t handle. The best way is to take plenty of photos to show you, so that’s what I’m going to here.
If there’s one disappointment, both the pockets under the lat pockets are too small to hold a tube of electrolyte tablets – see 2 immediate photos below. No issues if you’re using S-Caps because you’ll be stashing the pills into a zip lock.
My trekking poles, while extensible and retractable like most others, aren’t the very compact nor foldable type. The plus side is that being fully carbon, they’re light. When fully retracted and secured using the Powerlock System, the Komperdell C3s are still pretty long and stick out like crazy. It took me awhile before finding a viable way of securing them. This setup will need some testing before embarking on a longer run of, say, 50 miler. Always test and train in the gear that you race in, the wise ones would say.
The next thing to do was to take the vest and poles out on the trail. Purposely started at 6am to get an hour of darkness and headlamp time – creepy at first but comforting to have the company of a fellow runner. Covering the terrain in the dark trail certainly takes some getting used to, and we spent more time walking and trekking than running. No face time in the dirt from tripping on roots thankfully.
The vest performed superbly and I’ve absolutely no complaints on the fitting. One of the very lightest and best fitting I’ve tried on. Just by comparing the SJUV’s weight against the Salomon XT Advanced Skin S-Lab 5 and you’ll appreciate the fact that you’ll be lugging less weight 60K into your race. The issues I had were more on the access to the side pockets and stowage of the poles. As you can see from the photo below, I screwed up the whole thing and ended up like a Ninja Turtle. Even so, because everything was compressed close to the body, the awkward positioning didn’t impede my running. We ended up with close to 2:30 of time on our feet in the trails, an awesome way to spend Sunday morning. No such issues if trekking poles aren’t part of your carry-on. Otherwise, do experiment.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a noob and am learning as I go along but here’s my take after 2 runs in the SJUV:
- Amazing fit for size S. No issues yet as mentioned in the Blue Ridge Runner’s review, but I’ll be looking out for issues.
- Truly lightweight even with 2 full bottles
- Expandable compartments
- Cuten fibers feel strong, lends some confidence in rough handling the vest
Could be better:
- The nozzle on the bottle’s kicker valve takes some getting used to. No big deal really.
- The finger loop on the bottle is unnecessary in my opinion.
- Shoulder pocket can’t really fit an iPhone much less a ruggedized point and shoot camera.
- Not too ideal if you’re packing poles.
- Not easy to stow and remove things from the small lateral pockets as they’re located more to the back than to the side. Needs practice.
Further experimentation is necessary of course. I’ll probably do a follow up post on how much the vest can carry. If you’re on the look out for hydration vests, there are many options out there in the market, with many really good ones from Salomon, Nathan (the 6.5L Vaporwrap looks darn good) and of course if you need a larger vest, check out the PBAV from Ultimate Direction.
I purchased the Scott Jurek Ultra Vest from The Ultramarathon Running Store (UMRS). I highly recommend them for their excellent service, very reasonable pricing and prompt delivery. They’re also expanding their range of products. If you want to check out the Signature Series, head on to the Ultimate Direction website.
If all you do are flipping through trail running mags, you’ll know that Montrail has been around for awhile, since 1993, in fact. They’re sponsor for the Western States 100 (http://www.wser.org/) and elite runners like Geoff Roes (course record holder of WS100, Moutain Masochist 50, Wasatch 100 among others), Dakota Jones, Max King and Sean Meissner. In 2006, the company was acquired by Columbia Sportswear and along with Mountain Hardwear, form a pretty strong alliance of outdoor and trail
The Montrail Rogue Racer (MRR) is hardly a new offering from the trail running footwear company. Released back in end 2010, I first spotted the MRR in the Gardens outlet of World of Outdoors (WoO) in early 2012 and was quite taken by the conventional look and lightweight of the model. Quite a departure from the Salomons then. Of course, Salomon has emerged as the hip brand and has introduced the versatile road-to-trail category. I’m a fan of the Skechers GOtrail which have plenty to offer for 2 hours in the trail but for something longer, I’m hoping the added midsole stackheight, but not too much, would give me more comfort.
I’ve only ever had 2 trail shoes, the GOtrail which is sill in service, and the Cascadia 4 (heavy and chunky) which I’ve donated. The MRR sits in between the 2. With a weight of 8.8oz and a heel stack of 18mm and front of 9mm, Montrail seems to have dialed into the sweet spot of trail shoes as far as I’m concerned. The upper has little overlays and wide mesh. The laces are of conventional type as are the lacing system. There are no lace garage to stash your laces, so ensure they’re double/triple knotted. The tongue unfortunately isn’t gussetted and debris may find a way into it. Small reflective strips on the front and back complete the upper package.
The MRR has a pretty flexible mid and outsole. There are flex grooves that run lengthwise and across as well. The outsole design is made up of clusters of 3 micro lugs which felt a little soft but surprisingly durable. The configuration of the lugs gave me a large measure of assurances during my outing in Kiara and FRIM. Montrail brands the rubber compound Gryptonite™ and I certainly am very happy with the traction provided. I went over sharp rocks, fallen and wet tree trunks, river stones, grass, packed earth, leaf covered tracks, sandy sections and tarmac and the MRR never slipped. You can see from the closeup of the outsole that the little lugs are pretty durable too, even after 20K of off road trekking and running.
Ventilation and drainage properties are excellent. While there are no drainage ports on the outsole, the shoe drained superbly within 10 minutes of running after being dunked in a running stream for 5 minutes. No blisters encountered so far.
A protective but thin Trail Shield covers some parts of the midsole. It’s not Kevlar nor TPU but unless you go over some treacherously sharp rocks, the MRR should be able to hold itself.
If there’s one thing the MRR could do better would be keeping out the sand and small pebbles. On both outings these pesky elements somehow managed to enter the shoe. The reason for this I suspect is due to the absence of a gusseted tongue.
With WoO selling them at RM230, the Rogue Racer is a pocket friendlier alternative which delivers on many counts to the RM350 (after discounts) and above Salomons while you explore your interests in trail running. It’s more than enough shoe for the casual trail runner at a price point that you can’t really complain. The Skechers GOtrail (check out a 3-way review here) is a more exciting shoe to me, allowing for some displays of nimble footwork . Word has it that something exciting may be on the way as well, so options are on the rise in the trail segment for sure.
- Overview of equipment and gear for trail running
- Training strategies to maximize potential
- Injury prevention tips
- Team running tips. Team running is gaining a major foothold in ultra racing worldwide. As the name suggests, teams of usually 4 will start and finish as one.
- Nutrition and hydration overview
Being so time-pressed, I’ve, last year, donated my hi-fi components of close to RM9,000 (no point keeping it and letting them rot) and my music consumption is now done through multiple channels i.e. in-car listening, portable music players (own collection or Spotify) or home streaming via Apple TV. Everything is all about “on-the-go”. Admittedly compressed audio formats are like pariahs to hi-end audio elites but I still love music enough to pay attention to good sound quality.
I’ve gone through many earbuds, over-the-ear cans over the years and have had several duds before as well. It’s noteworthy to mention that for all my pickiness, I still look for value-for-money purchases and think that RM600 is too much to pay for such accessories. The ones I have in my active use are Griffin (with built-in mic, balanced sound with a sweet midrange), Ultimate Ears (with built-in mic, decent midrange, a little bass centric, sweat/splash proof), Sony PMP (with built-in mic, bass heavy, sweat/splash proof), Bose (over the ear, similar qualities to the Griffin) headphones and most recently Yurbuds Inspire Duro.
What made me set out to look for yet another pair of earbuds was the problem with how nearly every bud I stick into my ears to drop out in the course of running. No matter which size of silicon tips I change to, one (usually left side) bud will inevitably slide off. Causes range from the movement or sweat, or simply because I’ve finicky ear canals. Getting to the end of a workout with both buds still lodged in ear is impossible. I don’t head out on my runs with my ears plugged, mind you, except that recently I’m hooked to a series of podcasts that I listen to during my runs at the KLCC park. I don’t listen to music when doing running for safety reasons.
So when I saw the bold claim that using the Twist & Lock process, Yurbuds are guaranteed to stay in your ears, I’ve to give them a try. It helps that the price isn’t prohibitive to start with. The buds come foam packed, complete with a spare pair of silicon tip of another size, a clip and a little brochure. Not forgetting a little storage bag to stow everything away. The Inspire Duro version is Ironman co-branded not that it’ll improve sound quality. The casing for the cables is made of tangle-free Kevlar fabric and so, should be durable. The cables are a little long, though. Yurbuds positioned their products as sports accessories so the Inspire Duro is geared to take sweat, sun and rain. To put the buds on, start from the back-pointing position and then twisting to the front. Like how this video demonstrates. It’s easier than it looks.
How did it stand up to the rigors of the real world?
One word: Awesome. The buds are not of the noise isolating variety to purposely allow some ambient sound into the ear for safety reasons. This is a good move as it’ll not block out the wearer’s situational awareness. I was able to listen to in-car conversation even while listening at moderate volume. The low-end is a little lacking as can be expected from such a setup. Therefore, the Inspire Duro isn’t something I’ll pull up when doing any serious listening.
However, out on a race course, the sound quality produced by the neodymium drivers was good enough. The fit was excellent and throughout the half marathon, the buds stayed in my ears like they weren’t even there. Even when I unloaded cups of water my head repeatedly on that blazing hot morning, they stayed in and kept pumping out the tunes. This has to be the best fitting buds for the active person out there. It’s not an audiophile-grade gear but it does its job well in a very light package.
The Yurbuds Inspire Duro retails for RM269 and along with the other models are available from Running Lab located at Tropicana City Mall.
The Climacool Revolution (I’ll call it CCR for short) hit the Malaysian shores just as the recent heat wave hit the country. Mornings and especially noons were scorchers. Lunch time temps have been between 32 – 35 Celcius and if you’re one of those who finds sweaty feet a problem, you just need to get a more breathable shoe. Short of drilling holes into the upper and midsole of your current pairs, the CCR employs plenty of vents. Without getting into the technical jargons, vent ports are found all-round with the use of highly breathable upper mesh, midsole “fins” and outsole drainage ports that let air in and out with each step you take. Even the colorway is a cool blue – maybe if you stare at it long enough, it’ll even give you the chills !
Weighing in at 10.6 oz (I don’t have the offset measurement), the CCR is just a tad heavier than a typical performance trainer. It has an admittedly odd look but doesn’t have the bulk of traditional shoes. From the outset, the shoe doesn’t give the impression that it’s suitable for high mileage running. And you would be correct because it’s not meant to do that. adidas has instead positioned the shoe as a casual/lifestyle trainer, which you can wear in the gym, short runs and walkabouts. It runs true to size, which surprises me since I’ve always found adidas to be a little on the narrow side.
On your feet, the shoe rides close to the ground like a performance trainer. The forefoot is flexible enough and though the midfoot to the heel section appears stiff with the presence of the plastic “fins”, the shoe didn’t feel stiff in my walkabouts to warrant a negative comment. In fact, they helped channel breeze and air into the shoe. My socks stayed completely dry after an entire day out.
If you’re a casual fitness enthusiast who does a little of everything and has a problem with hotspots, heat buildup and sweaty feet, you’d want to give the CCR a try.
Disclaimer: The adidas Climacool Revolution was a media sample provided by adidas Malaysia.
It’s almost ironical that in a year of little running pursuit, I finally had the opportunity to participate in the Bidor Half Marathon. Bidor is a small little town situated 1.5 hours from KL but unlike Radiator Springs (those who watches Pixar animation would know), Bidor sees a bit more life than the one off Route 66, in that it’s home to the famous (some say overrated) Herbal Duck Noodles, best Hong Kong Chee Cheong Fun in the country and a few other hawker-fare.
As such, it’s a popular stop for the traffic plying the North-South Highway. Thankfully, the small town charm hasn’t deserted it and after a year’s hiatus, the Half Marathon is back.
The plan was made early with Frank to make the trip up and the accommodation was promptly secured – the Grand Kampar Hotel located 30 minutes away in another small town further north was to be our home for a night. Kampar, a former bustling tin-mining town, is another charming spot in the Peninsula though nowadays it hosts more students of a local university than miners. I’ve stayed at the nice hotel some years ago when RunnersMalaysia helped a local community kicked start their fun run initiative.
The posse consisted of Roy, Cham, Frank and I. It would be a bit unusual as in our case, the driver was the woman. The drive up was smooth and we headed to the race pack collection at the community hall. Bidor is basically served by 2 main roads and thus the venue was easy to locate. The day was turning into a scorcher and by the time we were through with the haphazardly organized collection, we hunted for an eatery for a late lunch. Alas there was non to be found and we had to settle for Pun Chun. Only that we didn’t order the famous herbal duck noodles. Everyone unanimously agreed that the dish is overrated. The guys ordered mix rice which was great value but the womenfolk’s wantan noodles were poor.
The stomachs somewhat satiated, it was time to continue with the journey northward to Kampar, to check into the Grand Kampar Hotel. It wasn’t my first time there having stayed there with the family some years ago. The Family Suite was perfect for the 4 of us. The plan was to put in a short run around the scenic lake/mining pool but the weather was so hot, I hopped onto the treadmill instead for a 30-minute easy jog. The 6:00 pace was so pedestrian that I thought I could be a little aggressive on race day.
Once Francis was checked in, the group headed out to look for dinner and what else to eat but claypot chicken rice, a dish Kampar is famous for. By now, you’d have detected a trend about this trip – mostly about caloric intake. The hot weather called for something icy, so the group chilled out over dessert for awhile at a nearby cafe near the hotel. As the area is mostly populated with university students, I remarked that I suddenly felt very old. Back at the hotel, the usual pre-race rituals took place – every one slunk into their own corner laying out their gear. Then it was lights out for me at 10pm.
2 Samsung Galaxy Notes provided alarm services the next morning and my “breakfast” was a Clif Bar and bottled water, before the 30-minute drive to Bidor. At 6:20am, the area was already teeming with cars and runners. We were lucky to have found a car park close to the race start. Nothing is ever too far away in Bidor. Unknown to nearly everyone, I was testing out 2 pieces of gear that morning – Yurbuds Inspire Duro and the asics Hyperspeed 5. I’m usually not a fan of listening to music at the races but thought that the half would provide a tough test. However, I would caution against wearing new gear in a race.
7am and we, the half marathoners, were let off. The crowd was just nice and the narrow streets posed no problems. After a kilometer or so, we found ourselves heading out of the town and into the outskirts. The residents were out, observing us quietly. It’s done well to progress from a tiny community event to something a little more international. Some Caucasions and most certainly some Singaporeans were observed to be in the crowd. In this first section of the race, I found myself zeroed in on Uncle Fila (a familiar road racing vet) but he was slowly but surely putting pedal to the metal. My pace was sub 5:30 and felt very easy. The sun was already up and warming the countryside air. There were a few hints of what’s to come i.e. rolling hills in the 2nd part of the course. An early climb was easily tackled and I thoroughly enjoyed the brisk yet comfy pace. I fell into pacing with Wind Fong from the 3rd K up to around the 6th K and that gave me something to focus on. I was cautious not to follow him too closely as he’s a habit of taking off rather quickly. Needed to conserve for what’s to come.
One K after the 1st u-turn I was surprised to find myself running alone. The sun was getting warmer and warmer and the trees on both sides of the road would soon be unable to provide much shade. Exiting the 1st section of the course and heading into the waterfall section, runners found themselves having to squint into the sun. I rebuked myself for deciding against wearing the sunglasses. I duly got to the undulating and twisty sections and my pace began fluctuating – my legs were fine but the heat was slowly but surely getting to me. Having not raced a half marathon this late (Brooks started much earlier and therefore was over earlier too) for sometime, I was so not conditioned for running in the heat. Tried to refocus and successfully brought my pace back down for a few Ks until the final climb over a ramp which I walked up, sapped dry by the sun. With just 2Ks to go I caught back to Roy and Frank and we finished close together in 1:58.16.
What followed after the race was more eating before heading back to KL, to wrap up a nice road trip. A word of “Thanks!” go out from me to the organizers and volunteers of Bidor Runners for putting up this race. I hope they can start earlier – the route is nice and should be very pleasant to run when it’s cool and early. I’m grateful too to the many photographers who were present on course for capturing memories for us runners. They too, had to deal with the heat. I’m now more confident to be a little more aggressive in attacking the next 2 races i.e. Standard Chartered KL (Half) Marathon and the Gold Coast (Half) Marathon.
The Skechers GObionic (review here) was one of 2 of my favorite zero drop shoes (the other being the Brooks Pure Drift). But in terms of overall construction and fit, the GObionic has the edge. Roomy forefoot, superior flexibility, breathable, easy to slip on and off, it also has a high degree of road feel. But if you’re like me, someone who appreciates a little bit more TLC, you’ll love the GObionic Ride (GBR) even more. So what’s the difference?
It’s easy to separate both the shoes really. The models in the Performance Series with “Ride” affixed to the shoe names mean they’ve a bit more built-up than the original. For example, the GOrun 2 and the GOrun Ride are 2 different shoes, with the Ride having a deal more cushioning. Likewise the GBR has a hint of extra cushioning than the original GObionic.
The other difference is the drop. The GBR has a 4mm instead of zero, thus it’ll be more accessible to newcomers to minimalist/transitional shoes. I’ve worn such shoes long enough to no longer notice the 4mm of difference . All the good stuff that the brand excels at is still there: well construction upper, breathability, flexibility. The use of 3M Scotchguard for a degree of dirt and water repellent properties is retained.
With a bit more protection, cushioning and durability added, the weight naturally goes up a little, albeit the whole package remains under 7oz. The visual descriptions out of the way, let’s now go to the wear experience. I wear US9 for all my Skechers but the GBR feels like being a little roomier than usual. Ideally an 8.5 would fit better but the size mismatch is not as bad as one would think. The Compressport ProRacing socks work well with the GBR, thus I don’t wear any other socks with it. I also laced them up a little snug and found it nice that there’s no pressure exerted to the top of my feet.
My first run in the GBRs was a moderate-paced 15K. I appreciated the responsive cushioning the shoe provides. They’re by no means close to what, say, the Nike Lunaracer feels like nor should they be expected to. After a few sessions in the GBR, the Asics Hyperspeed 5 feels like a luxurious trainer! The GBR will still give you a firm road feel but it’s still not a shoe you’d want to, or can, heel strike in. With this baby, your cadence is going to be high (I recorded an average of 186 for my runs using the Polar S3 Stride Sensor) and you’ll be pottering along efficiently on your mid to forefoot. As a result, your lower legs are going to get a nice workout. If having the insole is too much for you, just remove it and get even closer to the original GObionic feel. The insole still slides around (just like the in case of the GOrun 2 – review) if you walk around sock less in the GBR but I’ve no such issues when running in them. Just glue them to the footbed if you find this irritating, but do note that you won’t be able to remove them after doing so.
Nick has run the marathon in the GObionic but I know I won’t be able to. However, having logged close to 30K, in the GObionic Ride I finally have a “road-feel shoe” that I can take on longer runs of up to 21K – on days when it calls for leg strengthening.
The Skechers GObionic Ride is already in-stores and are retailing for RM399 and RM369 for the men’s and women’s models respectively. The full range of color ways are expected in by mid-May.
Disclaimer: The pair of GObionic are review shoes kindly provided by Skechers Malaysia.