Monday, 27 May 2013

Facebook - Bringing Surf Coast Runners together

Where I was heading - Near the end of the Juc cliffs
Ah, the power of Facebook. Two weeks ago I was going home to the Surf Coast for a family engagement. I was due for a longer run and I was keen to hit the trails. I was desperate for a run in the Dandys but it was never going to happen. What was a man to do?

A few months ago I had joined a Surf Coast Trail Runners group on Facebook and had been keeping in touch with the regular updates. A few days before we left for home I put on a post asking about a track from Torquay to the famous Bells Beach that I had walked years ago. Was it still there? Has anyone run it recently and was anyone keen for a run on a Sunday?

Well, as luck would have it a member of the group was planning to run it at 7:00 am on Sunday and I was more than welcome to run with him. Awesome! He was planning a 25km out and back trip for 50km, I’d do the 8km to Bells and back for 16km. So at 7:00am on a Sunday, I was meeting a complete stranger for a run at one of my favourite sections of beach in the world. The weather was perfect for running; clear skies and just a touch of wind.

About half way to Bells

We took off along the start of the new Surf Coast walk, a paved path that I now think goes all the way to Anglesea. We then ran along the cliff tops by Jan Juc SLSC, along the path past Birdies rock and followed the undulating trail to Bells. The track is all well made, not the single track I was hoping for.
The views were just brilliant. We ran beside Aussie scrub, up and down various steps, across the sand all while the section out had epic views of the rolling surf to our left.

Near Birdies Rock, on the way home. Ran along the beach below!
45 minutes later we had chatted our way over 8 perfect kms. I had really enjoyed the run, at a moderate to quick 5km to the min pace. We met another runner at Bells and the two of them took off as I made the return trip home. This time I stopped for happy snaps of the coast and trail. I also enjoyed a 2km stretch along Torquay and Jan Jun beaches.

If you’re ever in Torquay with time to enjoy a run, this one gets a big thumbs up from me.

Cheers and happy running,

The Fish

A brilliant running vest - Peal izumi Elite Barrier Vest

Stock Photo - Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier Vest
How did this fish end up with a Pearl izumi Elite Barrier vest?

Last week I spent a bit of time researching for the perfect running jacket. It had to be light weight and packable (into the CamelPak), water proof/ resistant and breathable. Is that too much to ask?

I looked at all the running brands and some mountain specialists as well. There are some great offerings that seem to tick all the boxes, but with a price tag that is very hard to swallow. I’m not in the place right now to spend $150 - $200 on a running jacket. Then I stumbled on the cycling range. Yes, cycling. Why not? Although the style and cut may be a little different to a runners jacket, they need to be light weight. They need to be water resistant and they also need to pack small. They consider small to be the back of a jersey pocket or seat pack. These should fit the bill I said. I then thought a little more on it and started looking at the vests. What do I really want when I am running? I want my core to be warm and dry. I can whack on some gloves when it gets really cold and I am prepared to sacrifice getting a little wet on my arms if I can keep my core warm and dry without over heating.

This fish doing an Elite Barrier Vest selfie
Enter the Peal izumi Elite Barrier Vest (follow the link for the specs). Scouring the reviews it sounded perfect. People are raving over it’s water resistance/proofness and the way it allows them to breathe. I placed an order with on Thursday morning and Friday lunch it arrived at work. Brilliant work Cellbikes.
Reflection on the Pearl izumi Elite Barrier Vest

The vest is amazing. The Pearl izumi Barrier fabric feels incredible. It feels feather light and soft. Yet it also feels strong. I’d call it a premium feel over all my other jackets. I went with the white for greater visibility. The silver branding and strips are reflective under light. I’d happily wear this anywhere. It has a decent sized pocket on the back that is kept secure with Velcro. The labelling by Pearl izumi rates it 4/5 for breathable and 3.5/5 for water resistance. The collar is lined with a softer material and it has mesh vests under the arms and across the middle of the back. To me this means it will keep my front and shoulders dry while still allowing for good breathability where it is needed. It also folds away really well and fits in my CamelPak with ease.

Putting it on, the Pearl izumi Elite Barrier vest is light. Very light. I ordered the smallest size, their small and it was a relaxed fit. If an extra small was available I might have taken it, but I can comfortably wear either a compression top or long sleeve technical shirt underneath it. For cold runs I plan to wear a long sleeve tech or compression top, when it’s wet I want to wear my Under Armour Heat Gear compression shirt. The idea behind this is that the Heat Gear dries incredibly quickly. 
My first run was leaving at dusk and into the night. I did a 14km night run wearing the Pearl izumi Elite Barrier vest, a long sleeve New Balance tech top and an inov-8 Wragg under my Black Wolf Storm spot head torch. I kept my legs warm in a pair of Skins A400 compression tights.  The ambient temperature was 7-9 degrees Celsius. To put this into perspective, before I left I had the shakes as I was getting changed.

As I settled into my rhythm I found the vest to be very comfortable. It was neither tight anywhere or did it feel loose at all. I was able to keep warm without feeling the pinch. As I continued my run I went through some warmer areas and some lower spots where there was a real cold patch. After about 10km my running partner needed a toilet break so this was a good chance to see how well the vest retained its heat. It did a great job. I deliberately kept my legs moving but I did not start to feel cold at all. The pocket in the back was easily accessed quite a few times as I checked the distance on my phone. While it’s exhilarating running in the middle of nowhere in the dark, you do need to track how far and long you've been running. Getting the phone in and out of the pocket was a breeze.

This morning during my tempo run the temperature was a rather cold 4-5 degrees Celsius. I went with the above Under Armour Heat Gear shirt and the Pearl izumi Elite Barrier Vest combo. It was one of those sessions where gloves were essential and my hands were pretty cold for nearly the entire duration of the run. In contrast, my core was kept nice and warm and I did not feel over heated at all. I also had to remove my hat at one point to relieve some head heat. 

I've also been able to run in the rain with the Pearl izumi Elite Barrier vest. On my Sunday trail run it was 7 degrees Celcius and a constant drizzle/shower/light rain for the first 30 minutes. I wore the vest with my Under Armour compression shirt and a pair of gloves (as in the self pict above.) I also had a hat to keep the rain off my face. While it was wet I felt that my core and shoulders were kept dry. At the end of the run I took off my jacket and found that I was indeed dry. YES! A jacket that keeps me dry and allows me to breathe! 

24/11/13 An update... On Sunday I did a 20km LSD run - HR at 150BPM and ticking over ar just under 5min/km pace. It decided to rain heavily. For a while I was kept nice and dry, but ultimately I ended up soaked through. In heavy rain, it was a fail. And I so wanted the jacket to work! In a positive spin, the rain stopped and I didn't feel too cold or wet so it allowed me to breathe nicely. 

If I have one gripe, it’s that I will need to shave before a morning run. Because the collar fits quite snugly around the neck, I was getting some irritation from my two day stubble. Still, unzip it half an inch and there’s no complaints. It also helped breathability and ventilation a tad.

So, for future cold runs the Pearl izumi Elite Barrier Vest gets a big thumbs up and will be always with me. Pearl izumi might have it listed under their bike section on the web, but it’s a great running vest. I may even be tempted to pick up the Elite Barrier Jacket if I can find one at the right price.

Friday, 10 May 2013

UltrAspire Atom MBS belt and MBS Ion Core bottle

Once again Barefootinc were called upon and they delivered. After the Geelong Half Marathon I had tossed up the idea of getting a hydration belt for my 10-15km runs where I may or may not need some water on the way.
My wife has also just joined a running club and the idea of being able to keep her bottle with her was really appealing. Enter the UltrAspire MBS Atom belt and the UltrAspire MBS Ion Core (hit the link for the UltrAspire online store)

The UltrAspire hydration belt system is a two piece hydration belt. Perfect for Barefootincs buy two products and get free shipping policy. Priced at $25AUS for the Small Atom belt and $45 for the Ion Core this is not a cheap system. After jumping on the phone, their friendly staff assured me I was buying a premium product and with the ‘fish’ discount I counted my coins and put my order in.

UltrAspire MBS Atom belt and Ion Core
Two mornings later the UltrAspire MBS Atom belt and the UltrAspire MBS Ion Core arrived on my doorstep. For any of my Australian readers this is the 3rd time that Barefootinc have had my purchases delivered within two days.
At first look this belt system is very impressive. The red and grey colouring looks sweet and the material certainly feels like a premium product.  The mesh is strong but light and airy. It is oh so soft as well. If you want a lightweight belt, these two are certainly that.

MBS Atom
I’ve been talking ‘two’ so far. As you can see in the pics, it is a two piece belt. The UltrAspire Atom is the belt core. In Australia, Barefootinc sell the Small, Medium and Large sized Atoms. With us both being very small people we ordered the small Atom. See UltrAspire for all the size details. 

It has a stretchy mesh pocket on the front for your keys, gels or phone. It will fit a smaller (well, smaller than the Galaxy 3 or larger i-phones) Samsung Galaxy 2 sized phone or a HTC Desire X, but anything larger may not fit.

MBS ION - Magnetic clips on bottle and Ion Core holder
The UltrAspire Ion is the connector piece and contains very small magnetic pocket (under the grey branding arrow) which may fit a compactable car key or small house key. More importantly it has a 280 ml (8oz) water bottle. The bottle holder is angled at about 45 degrees and is magnetised at the bottom. The matching magnet can be seen at the bottom of the bottle. Together they work in perfect harmony to keep the bottle from moving once it is in place. The bottle top is a twist top, small enough to drink from, big enough for our fingers to easily grip and twist to open. 

They join through the metal clip on the Atom into the double stitched material slip on the Ion. Once in place it’s not coming out. The leather tab on the Atom then feeds through the clip on the Ion and is secured with Velcro. On my wife there is a tiny bit of play around the waist, it fits me comfortably snug.
So, can you run with it? Yes, yes you can. 
For comfort and ease of use just wear it as is. The Atom pocket on the front and the Ion bottle at the back. Em got to run with it first. With a jacket or two layers she felt if fit perfectly. With just a technical running top it was a little loose. This however was not bad. She said after a couple of hundred meters it settled and didn’t move. On a warm morning she said the mesh was airy and could in fact feel the airflow through the mesh. It was much cooler than she expected. She has not drunk on the run, but at the drink stop it was such an easy task. Simply reach around for the bottle, twist the top and refreshing water. She found it very easy to just slip it back in to the holder behind her back, the magnetic tabs almost pull it down at the last second. She reported no spills or leaking over 14km.

I used it today during my warm up run to my hill sprints and cool down run back to work. Slipping it on is pretty easy. The leather tab is a tight fit through the clips, you feel as though you don’t want to bend it but it needs just a little squeeze to get through. This thing is not coming undone mid run. On a running shirt it fit perfectly. I was not quite at the end of the tether but I wouldn’t want to add any kgs.

I took off at a moderate pace and it soon settled. Once I was running I did need to tighten it a fraction and pull it down to fit correctly, but I think that is just me as a first time user. Once on it did not move. The mesh did indeed provide great airflow. My waist felt cool and comfortable. Drinking on the run was easy. The 45 degree angle of the bottle made it easy to locate and remove, and the twist top was easy to open. The shape of the bottle allowed me to drink from it in what felt like a fairly natural position. Twist it to close and then I was able to easily locate the bottle back into the holder on the run. Again no slippage or leakage.  The only sound I had was the sloshing of water. Nothing is going to stop that.

The challenge was going to be the hill sprints. I had found a very nice hill over about 150m and planned to go flat out as long as I could. Over the 6 reps the UltrAspire Atom and UltrAspire Ion MBS system did not move. By the end of the session I was glad to have a drink. On the jog back to work again I almost forgot it was there.

So, big thumbs up to the UltrAspire Atom and UltrAspire Ion MBS system. It looks a million dollars, feels the same and for me and the wife, it works a treat. Over the Autumn, Winter and into Spring seasons it will be my go to hydration system. Perhaps as we near Summer I will look to utilise the Core and connector system and further connect with the larger capacity MBS Synapse with the 565 ml bottle. 

Don't forget to plug in 'fish10' to get 10% off from the amazing team @

Monday, 6 May 2013

The 2013 Great Train Race results - How I went

Well, I talked the talk in my last post on the 'Great train race', so how did I go? (All my km time references come from the Garmin Forerunner 10 I wore and that I looked at post race). 

Sunday morning came and I was up and on. Coffee, breakfast, shower and in the car for the 25 minute trip to Belgrave and the starting line. 

I arrived in plenty of time, about an hour before race time. As soon as I arrived I got positive vibes. The town was buzzing. There were runners and their supporters everywhere. I had arranged to meet with some fellow Dandy Runners in front of the CFA, and before even reaching there I met Richard who was running for a friend. We had a good natter before I went up to the CFA. 

There ended up being 5 of us from the group and it was great to be able to chat and chill with some friends. We talked times and training and just generally laid back. It was really relaxing. 

About half an hour before race time the marshells started talking so left our gear at the transport truck and moved to our various seeded starts. Dave and I had both seeded in the second wave so we moved up to the start together. 

About 9:25 they took us to the start line and introduced the driver. He was welcomed with the customary boos and with a bit of verbal banter confirmed he was happy to let about 10 or 15 runners beat his train. It is such a relaxed way to start the race. 

9:30 and the race began. I joined the shuffle which quickly turned into a fast jog as we took off down the road. The field began to merge and I found my pace. The course started flat and rolled round the first sweeping bend into a subtle down hill section. About 1.5km in we went under the first bridge and main vantage point. The crowd here were very vocal and gave us an immediate boost. I had planned to run this in sub 4 min ks, but I happily ran at 3:59 into 4:35 for the 2nd km. The road rose and fell, more rising than falling and I got into the rhythm, passing a few and being passed by others. We followed the road for a another couple of km before hitting the first train crossing. Woo hoo went the train whistle, somewhere behind us. I could see the train and the flume of ash he was pumping out. Last time I ran this I never saw the train. This time it was game on! 

Woo hoo!, I was in front of him at this stage. This time I got the atmosphere. The train whistle blew again and a surge of adrenaline hit in. We all seemed to take off and before long we hit the 5km drink station and the first slog began. 

We took off up Alsops Road, and I was thankful for the gravel under my feet. The trailrocs were great, but gravel was their real home. This the first of the tough hill climbs. Race plan here was to plough on and manage my speed through my breathing. I stayed 3- 2 as long as I can and managed a pace of 5:09 before I had to go 2-1. It was a real calming effect. I felt strong and was picking off plenty of people as I maintained a steady pace up the hill. Out of nowhere was another whistle as he approached the station at Menzies Creek. I was still feeling great and as the hill flattened out and we turned up towards the crossing I was able to spot my family at their vantage point. Hopefully two little kids think their dad is faster than a puffing steam train! The climb was finished at just over 5:12 for the second km. I was waving them down and felt a wave of relief as I saw old man Billy resting at the station. Spurred on by this we turned onto the main road for a flatter km before the next long hill climb. 

I put in as much as I could while remaining comfortable and really enjoyed the 500m downhill stretch before the climb proper started. This was about 2km on the main road as it wound its way up the hill towards Emerald Station. This was the point of no return. Beat him to here and your in with a chance. I'd passed 9km and as I reached the crossing news was that Billy had steamed past a few minutes ago. Through this section I averaged 4:40, not quite the 4:20 - 4:30 I had told my self I could do, but still a very good pace. I'm becoming a runner.

Damn, Billy had passed, but still there is hope of catching him yet. At 10km I knew it was flat or down hill. It seems that everyone around me had also read my last post. I was hoping to blow them away with a burst of speed through here but they all took off as well! 

Last time I ran this I was feeling the pinch here, today I was able to actually run faster and try and gain some time. At 4:19 pace 11km came and went as we turned onto the path that leads towards the lake and our finish line. I upped the effort again and slipped into the 2-1 breathing as I headed for home. 2.3km to go and I knew I could push it hard. I heard a final whistle and saw the plume of smoke. Was I in with a chance still? I calculated that I had about 7-8 minutes to run. 

4:01 minutes later I hit 12km. Runners around me were either running hard and we were step for step or people were left behind. It was such a great feeling having the endurance to push it out and finish strong. 750m came and went. The 500m sign was there. My lungs were burning and I could feel my form faltering a little but I was close to home. 250m to go and you could hear the crowd cheering as each runner finished. The last section of the path involved a hairpin turn and it was 150m up the hill to the finish line. I ducked and weaved past a few more runners as I gave it all to the line. 

My heart sank as I saw Billy puffing away, but the clock just ticked over 58:00. I was stoked, that last km was run in 3:49. I found out the old man (All 97 years old!) had run it in 55:55, just over 2 minutes on me.

So I had wanted to run sub 55, but to run the 13.3 km in 57:57 was amazing. I felt strong the whole race through. All my little tweaks and play in training came to the party and I actually felt like a real runner. Averaging 4:30ish km times is no mean feat on this course. 

Did I mention that my first run was 1:06:18? I set a new PB by over 8 minutes. Imagine if I can come back and do it in 8 minutes better next time? I know it is possible...

So did I meet my goals? I did and I'm proud!

My time was not quite as fast as I thought, but I really, really enjoyed the run. I'll take that any day, any race.

I finished in 57:57 (what a cool time!), and came 448 out of 3,058 runners - top 14%. I wanted top 20% and I got it,  I give full respect to anyone who ran, male or female makes no odds. You race and you race me :) 

In my division I was 275 of 1,082 runners, top 26%. 

This race is also a fund raiser for the Puffing Billy railway, so by running today I'm helping keep something special alive. Old man, I'll be back. You won't get me at 3-zip. No you wont.