Archive May 2018

Nathan Vaporkrar 12L – His and Her Thoughts

Bunny did a fair bit of research looking specifically for a hydration vest that would work topless or semi-topless in her case.   She tried several and for reasons she’ll go into in a bit she landed on the Nathan Vaporkrar.

I like my Ultimate Direction FKT but I really like my Salomon Advanced Skin 12.

I recently ran my UD in a tank and ended up with a chafe line on my chest after only 15.5 miles.  Granted it was about 20 degrees past sweaty here in Oklahoma in May but still.  The UD has some bounce on me which contributed to  the chafing result.

Note: wearing the UD with sleeved shirt of any length or even a sleevless shirt that’s not a tank top I’ve never had a problem with chafing.  It does bounce on me more than the others.

But… I do like trying new things so when I had a chance between a sale, a coupon and a gift card from work to get a Nathan Vaporkrar for next to no out of pocket I decided to give it a try.

So… What do I think about it?  I’ll concur with Bunny that the material is soft, softer than the other vests I have and use.   The XL fits me, #clydesdalerunner, if barely.   I have about 2″ of strap left in the chest straps, 0″ in the side straps.  So I realistically have about 1″ to spare since that 2″ of strap is divided between two because of the V shape of the chest straps.

The upper chest pockets are better than the Salomon and the UD.   They expand well and my Pixel 2XL will fit in one with a case on it no less.  Not that I could carry one there as it bounces on my collar bone but it does fit.

The lower pockets for the water and gels are not as good as the Salomon, not even close.  About the same as the UD.   The reason I say this is I have a harder than normal time fitting my UD soft flasks in them than I do with the others.  The UD has a toggle string on theirs so you can adjust the fit precisely.  The Salomon is just stretching.

The lower outer pocket is really where the Salomon shines compared.   On the Nathan there’s enough room to fit about 3 eGels (my preferred gel based fuel).   The UD is about the same.  The Salomon’s are kangaroo pouches that are huge compared to the other two and stretch like crazy.

The chest attachment methods though go strongly to the Nathan, then the UD and trailing in distant last the Salomon.   I do not care for the fiddly tiny ass little clips that Salomon chose.  I’ve had them come undone on me while running if you don’t have them pulled tight.   The V straps and the large buckle of the Nathan is a welcome thing at all times and especially when you’re tired.

The Nathan 12 has no side pouches but due to the strap they have they’d have to route the straps like the Ultimate Direction FKT does where it runs through the pockets.  I’m not a fan of the UD side pockets but they’re somewhat functional.

The Salomon’s side pockets are better than both with the vertical zippers and I can easily fit my Pixel in one for easy access and all the gels I normally carry on the other side.   On the Salomon I use the front kangaroo pockets for trash and paper towels primarily.  My nose runs like a broken water hose when it’s cold out.

As we move to the back I give the nod to the Nathan for storage slighly over the Salomon and UD with one major exception.  The Salomon’s kangaroo pouches are far more usable in a general fashion than the Nathan’s as they’re accessed from the top.     The Nathan’s though hold a bottle in a easy to access way.  I found putting a frozen water bottle in there a decent way to get some heat relief.  It lasts about an hour currently before it’s all melted and still cool enough to be enjoyable.

I like the the big pouch layout of the Nathan the best, I like their bladder hanger better for sure than the Salomon.

Bladder, they all support a bladder but the Nathan is the only one of the three that comes with one.  The Salomon comes with two half liter soft bottles, long skinny ones that I don’t like and gave away.  I prefer my long neck UD soft bottles.   The UD came with two 20oz hard bottles when I bought it and I like them but the old style nipples they have wear out far quicker than I liked.

So which one? With one exception, but it’s a important one, and cost being equal I’d say go with the Salomon, then the Nathan Vaporkrar and then the UD although 2nd and 3rd are a tough call.

That exception though is if you’re going to be doing long runs with these vests against your skin then go with the Nathan.

But if one of them is a significant savings over the others then that likely moves them up in the ranking a fair bit because when you get right down to it none of them are head and shoulders above the others although for me the Salomon is the winner when it comes to storage by a fair bit.

The ‘two cents of a women’… 

As Trex said, in the months before our first marathon I spent countless hours researching hydration options that would fit my needs/preferences. I am still searching.

After watching online video reviews, promotional videos, and reading tons of articles from the best of the best, I narrowed my search to 6 packs. These being:

  • Nathan VaporKrar* Racing Vests 4L & 12L
  • Salomon Advanced Skin  5Set Pack and 12Set Packs
  • Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra 5 Set and 8 Set Packs

I borrowed a friends S-Lab Sens Ultra 8 set to wear on a run. I also wore Trex’s beloved Salomon & UD vests, which didn’t fit of course, but gave me an idea of storage and general ‘wearability’. I spent an entire afternoon at our local running store, Runners World, where I wore my sizes in all these vests and was able to test out stuffing these vests with gear, bottles, and nutrition.  In the end I bought the Krar 12L because,  as TRex has also found, it was wearable against my skin or over a tank top for the 95+ temperatures of our Oklahoma Springs and summers, and had enough storage for longer trail races.  The Salomons failed me miserably when I tried them on in my summer tank top. They both caused red marks in a few minutes where they rubbed on my shoulders and back. The material is just too rough. This was a huge disappointment as I really liked the storage options of these packs a bit over the Nathans. But I am all about comfort and slightly less about storage.

So why the Krar and not the “womens vest” designed by Stephanie Howe, the VaporHowe? Because I wanted a more subdued and gender neutral color and more important the sizing on the Krar (MM) I found fit a women with my curves better than the Howe. Sorry Stephanie, we just aren’t all built that narrow framed.

TRex pretty much covered all my likes and dislikes with these vests. After purchasing the Nathan I wore it for the first time, like a rookie, on our first Marathon, where it dumped cold rain on us. I have also worn it on our long trail races and runs in all temperatures (below freezing to sweltering heat), both with a bladder and without, usually with Trex’s reject Salomon skinny soft bottles, and I have not once had any chaffing or bouncing or annoying adjustment issues.  I personally carry an iPhone 7 (not the plus) and it fits in the lapel pockets without bouncing on my collar bone as it is considerably smaller than the dino-sized Pixel2 Trex carries. Just sayin.

But at the end of the day I have one major disappointment with this vest and most all of the other vests I researched. What’s that you ask?  I’ll tell you.

They are not designed to accommodate breasts. 

Now I am not sporting anything close to double letters in my size, but the simple fact is that regardless of how big/little mine are, I don’t like bottles over my boobs. They jut out from my chest and cause a visual distraction, as well as squish my girls even more than my sports bra’s do.

‘Just use a bladder or belt instead’ I am told. First I don’t need a bladder on shorter distances or supported races as it adds too much weight. I prefer a bottle to hold my electrolyte drink of choice and bottle for water sometimes combined with a bladder, plus room for my phone and gels. Most hydration belts still don’t fit all I carry on long races well.

When I wore the Salomons I put the bottles in the front kangaroo pouches and liked the location, but they bounced way too much since they weren’t designed for bottles.

Another problem is that vests not designed with the curves of breasts in mind, require tighter oddly angled strap adjustments which can cause pressure points. I have only found two vests on the market that sort of address my complaint, those being the UD Jenny Jurek Ultra Vesta, and the UltrAspire Astral Vest.  The Jenny, looked promising, but in the end I didn’t like body layer materials of Trex’s Scott Jurek UD, so I knew I wouldn’t want that one against my skin come this summer. Turns out I was right.  I do wear the Jurek hydration belt when I am not sporting my Nathan, but it lacks in storage, and bounces unless its tighten within an inch of its life. But the UD Jurek collection belt & vests do have some waterproof pockets, unlike the Nathan or Salomon, which is needed with all the water I am sweating in this heat!

And while I haven’t tried the UltraAspire which, like the Jenny, sort of solves the bottle placement problem, it looks kinda ridiculous and unnecessary how it curves the fabric around the breast. I know, given reviews and descriptions I’ve read, it won’t be as soft as the Nathan on my skin, and I also wanted a vest my DH could wear in the event he needed to, and frankly the UltraAspire would look simply ridiculous on a man. It also can’t compete in terms of storage for longer trail races.

So in the future, for my own edification, I will post my write-up/rant about what my ideal vest looks like. But for now I agree with TRex’s assessment of the Krar. And while it could use a curvy women’s touch, it’s soft and smooth like butter on my skin and that makes it a win.

Sacrifices & Rewards

Finally I have (unofficially) broken my 12-year-old Half Marathon PR. Today, thanks to the creative planning of my RH, we Raced The Dawn and I managed break my record by a whole 1:01 for a total finish time of 2:15:15. This was no easy task, and it surprised me just how difficult it ended up being given how confident I was in my abilities to break this record.

What made it so difficult you ask?  (You probably didn’t ask, but I will tell you anyways.)

For starters, in order to make this happen it required extra hydration over the last few days which resulted in numerous trips to the bathroom, including in the middle of the night; eating when it’s rush-hour at Luby’s (5pm); going to bed before 8pm; getting out of bed at the early/late hour of 2am; and leaving my house 45 minutes later, so T-Rex and I could meet at the half way point, stash a vehicle and water reroute, with just enough time to spare to start our “race” at 3:57am (PR time – Sun Rise time).  As previously mentioned in another post this was a re-run of The Golden Driller route, at which this year I failed to break my PR; and at which last year was cancelled on account of torrential rains, gale force winds, and considerable lightning in the area. This resulted in our not getting to run the half marathon we were trained and ready to run, and the decision to plunk down the premium last minute entry fees for the OKC Memorial race the following day, and we know how that race ended up now don’t we?

The official race conditions this year were near perfect for a PR, but it seems our re-run was not able to escape the ‘Curse of the Golden Driller’.  As we arrived at the park, much to our amusement, once again we were met with a torrential downpour, strong winds, and lightning. As we sat in the car watching the sheeting rains there was nothing to do but laugh and check the radar again. Luckily the worst of it passed quickly over us and we were left with steady light rains and winds with cloud-to-cloud lightning far enough away not to be of danger, and just enough time to make our official start time.

So into the rain we stepped, found our official start/finish segment of pavement, set our watches to the same race program we used three weeks ago, and then set off at our race pace.

The weather being what it was actually cooled the morning off enough so that overheating wasn’t as big of a problem as it threatened to be, but all the water on the trail eventually soaked our shoes completely, and by the end of the race I was weighed down, drenched in water from head to toes. My soaked clothes and shoes probably added a good 2lbs of dead weight. But the rain made nice sounds as we ran under the trees that canopy the trail in several areas, so there’s that at least.

It being as late/early as it was and pitch black thanks to the clouds, we discovered that the Riverparks trail lights don’t blaze all night. Luckily we had headlamps to light the trail and all the frogs that hopped in front of us.

And unlike a sponsored public race, and because of the ungodly hour of the morning, in the rain, there was no one else on the trails running but T-Rex and I, which has its pluses and its minuses. On the plus side, you don’t have to constantly bunny hop around other runners, forced to weave and dodge around them expending additional energies. Also there is something nice about the quiet of running in the middle of the night in the rain. Meditative. But on the minus side there were no cheering fans, or by-standers, no support, no one to catch up with, and lastly the lack of energy and enthusiasm that comes from the race high. Not that T-Rex wasn’t good company, quite the opposite, although we ran mostly without conversation on account of the harder pace and need to conserve oxygen, which felt scarcer thanks to all the moisture in the air.

Eventually I was given the direction to “go on without me,” and unlike last-time I did.  Right around mile 10 I broke away and hoofed it as fast as I could go at that point, which wasn’t nearly as fast as I had hoped for and squeaked into the finish with just a minute to spare. But my speed vs T-Rex’s gave me just enough time to grab my celebratory supplies, to setup some finish line tape, and open a confetti popper as he crossed the finish. Mission accomplished.

Many things are sacrificed in the pursuit of one’s personal best. Today that sacrifice was sleep, energy, wear-n-tear on the body, and time with family while I mostly lazed around the house in recovery from my run. I was completely deplete of the energy needed to do more energetic activities most of the day, stove up with some muscle knots in my back, and I couldn’t to do much with my family besides sit around and watch movies. Although I did take them to the pool hoping to help them burn off energy and give me a chance to soak in the hot tub, but the latter didn’t happen and I ended up in more pain than when I went in. Oh well, put some mom points on the board for sacrificing recovery for making happy memories with the kiddos, and hopefully this spasming pain in my back will go away with proper rest home treatments.

But, for me, the sacrifices made were worth the feeling of accomplishment that came with finally putting this PR win on the board. And because no race would be complete without bling, separately–unbeknownst to each other,  T-Rex and I both made, and had made, special awards and medals to make official our First Place Male and Female statuses of Race the Dawn, a RunSalty production.

Today turned out to be one our most memorable and fun events, and though T-Rex doesn’t know it yet, I am going to propose that we do this again next year, and turn this into a yearly event. Next year maybe our friends will join us as we try and beat the sunrise again and break the curse of the Golden Driller.


High Desert Drop Bags

We have need of a drop bag so I did some looking.  Our initial needs, a 50K out and back in Moab, the Dead Horse, dictate something simpler.  We just need bags to hold our basic preferred fuels, spare things just in case an internet meme threatens, and the like.  Yes it’s early to worry about it, yes that’s how I roll.

I found High Desert Drop Bags mentioned somewhere and went to take a look and liked what I saw.  They’re simple and functional, always a win in my book.  I ordered some of the Dirt Bags as those seemed to be about the right size for us.  And I like that they’re a small company in the U.S. which I try to support whenever I can.

TL;DR – Good bag, good value, recommended.

The order was shipped very quickly in spite of a screw up on my part although U.S.P.S sent me the shipping email 2 days after the bags showed up.  *eye roll*

With anticipation I opened the box and got pretty much what was described and expected.  This is a good thing.

It’s a simple pattern, a basic overlapped U bag.  The zipper is set an inch or so down from the top and has a nice contrasting black flap to protect it and it’ll help it shed splashed liquids which might soak through the zipper quickly.

The bags are comprised of what feels and looks like about a 400D pack cloth. That means it should be pretty dang durable and get years of use.

Being pack cloth (my assumption) they’ll be water resistant to some degree but not water proof.  Even cloth with a DWR coating can only do so much to shed water and these don’t feel like they have that. Bottom line sub pack in ziptops or tupperware in the drop bag.

Of special note is the use of Dunlap zippers which is one of the last if not the last American company to manufacture zippers.  I admire that.

The stitching and binding is very well done, better than I can do on my old go to 1942 Singer, I tend to wander a bit in my lines.  Most seams appear to be single stitched unless there’s another stitch line under the binding.   For something that will get as infrequent use as these (unless you’re running an ultra every weekend)  it should be more than sufficient. And the stitching is protected inside the bag due to the design and also protected from inner wear through the use of binding.

There is a grey rubberized fabric ‘tag’ that runs along most of one side.  This is, per the company, to attach a strip of duct tape with your name and bib number on it for the race your own.  Then you can either clean the tape off with a solvent or just peel it off and use a new piece for the next race.   An interesting design for sure.

There’s a single grab handle on the right side made of half inch nylon strapping.

All in all I believe for what they’re designed for they’re a good value if you need the basics, shoes, change of clothing, fuels, blister kit, spare bottle, headlamp, batteries etc at a drop point.

There are a few things to for me to call out which does NOT take away from the value of the bags –

As mentioned there is no organization in the bag, it’s not that type of bag.  You’ll have to jumble things in or sub pack in other containers.

The grab strap could be slightly longer in my opinion but I have big hands so that’s a common complaint for me and I’d like to see a second one on the opposite side to make it easier to hang the bag up so it hangs horizontally.  Running and ultrarunning gear in particular isn’t made for my size. (6-4, 240#)  It’s a fact of life I have to deal with.

Although it would increase the build time and the cost I wouldn’t mind seeing a clear window on one side or the other for the purpose of ID or vanity/inspiration type things.  Like a 5×8 photo of a T-Rex… Rawr!!!

And that’s it, that’s the only nits I can pick with the bags and I would and will most certainly order more as I need them for myself or to gift to other folks.

Ultimate Direction Comfort Band?

Found this image over on Motiv in a sneak peak article and color me interested in an Ultimate Direction Comfort Band.  Of course the article was posted 5 months ago and there’s not been much news of the belt anywhere in the world other than a twitter image.   From the miniscule data I’m inferring it might be released this fall sometime.

I’ve wanted to try a Naked Belt but unfortunately they don’t make them in my size, not even close.  It’s unlikely that UD will work toward the bigger end of the spectrum although my FKT vest does fit me.   I know longer distance #notarunners aka #yourun? such as myself are a very tiny market share but I would like to see companies give us a bit of love from time to time.

Race the Dawn – A RunSalty Production.

It’s been a busy last couple of months with a lot of races from 5K’s to back to back Halves.  One of those though was a special race, a try for my #firstrunningwife to break her personal best from several years ago in a half.

Sadly I wasn’t up to the challenge and in the end cost her about 2 minutes which kept her from PR’ing.

We’re going to try to re-run the route this coming Sunday (5/20/18) and get her a PR.  Given how I felt this morning in this heat (70+ temperatures) I’m pretty sure I’ll have to pace her until I can’t pace her any more and then she’ll have to fly on her own to see if she can break her PR.

I’m calling this race “Race the Dawn” as we’re going to start long before sun up and try to beat the sun up.   We’ll have her PR time + 2 minutes give or take before the sun should be peeking over the horizon.

If she crosses her finish line before the sun then she PR’d.  Pretty simple. If not then we’ll have to wait till fall by which time I’m sure she’ll beat it by a lot based on our training roadmap.

This particular race was all done on a running trail so we don’t have to worry about traffic and at 4 in the morning we don’t have to worry about about a mass of people getting in our way.

Water is a concern with the pace and the heat but we’ll do what we can to fix that.  We’ll have a resupply around mile 7 and I’ll have frozen towels as well for neck and head wrapping.

These were a big hit today after we ran a 25K in our ridiculously too soon heat.   Good thing the climate is stable and doesn’t shift. I bought a big pack of cheap hand towels from a big box store and soaked them in water and then threw them in the freezer last night.   Then into an ice chest to take to the trail today where they stayed super nice and cold and were awesome at dropping core temperature fast.