Tuesday, February 26, 2013

UltrAspire ISomeric Race 20 oz Review

     My excitement for this company did not know limitations.  When I first saw their ad in UltraRunning magazine I desired their products because of the design expertise and elite ultra runner feedback.  When their products were released I could not justify paying a premium for the "new" en vogue brand when my standard equipment worked just fine.  Wanting to like this bottle is an understatement, but unfortunately it is not looking so promising.  The bottle itself functions as it should; a few quirks keep it from being the ideal "go to" bottle. 

Bottle Details (my comments)
Weight w/bottle
2013 - 120 g (per UltraSpire Website)
2012 - 111 g (per running warehouse)
-20 oz bottle, ergonomic angled bottle (works well, probably the best feature)
-leakproof, twist-open nozzle (questionable)
-wide-mouth opening (angle when filling or spillage)
-Crystalline Plasma Silicon oxide Coating (think of the specialized purist bottles…has a coating so it cleans easy)
-BPA Free (naturally)
-Polarity System magnet at bottom (not sure what this is but its there)

UltraSpire (left) - Ultimate Direction (right)

     During a few road runs and trail runs with this bottle and a few things stand out.  But first a little bit of background why the bottle was purchased.  A few months ago while training for the Headlands 100 I discovered Tailwind Nutrition.  Its an all-in-one fuel providing the caloric as well as the electrolyte needs during endurance events.  Two scoops in a 22-24 oz. bottle equates to 200 calories.  As long as I efficiently carry a bottle or two I can fuel and hydrate at the same time, reducing GI issues and improving performance.  The balancing between my preferred nutrition and the aid station food I can reduce the impact on my stomach and every runner can tell you…feet and stomach issues will take you out of a race in a heartbeat.
     The Isometric Race 20z is on sale for about 50% of what my normal bottle costs, the Ultimate Direction Handheld (Review).  My nutrition preferences dictate that I do not need the "pocket" that the other versions provide.  The UD bottle costs $ 22, the UltraSpire on sale for $13; and if I don't like the bottle I can use the strap and buy a UD bottle for $10, thus a wash.  Perfect excuse to test a new product and it makes mathematical sense.  It appears the Race Isometric is only changing color for 2013 (someone please tell me if I am wrong), so here we go.

     The bottle itself is unique and I really really want to like it.  I have a lot of running friends that are UltraSpire devotees but unfortunately this is not the product that will let me join that crew.  The bottle straps to your hand snug and the strap works for wiping sweat as advertised.  I like that the tie down is towards the mouth piece of the bottle.  When tightened it feels uniform and snug without any undue pressure points anywhere.  The angled design of the bottle make drinking on run easier.  There are no flow issues or uncomfortable amounts of water rushing at me which is pleasant and very welcome sign.  My issue is with the twist-open nozzle and the bottle design.
     Twist-Open Nozzle
     I needed to manually twist the nozzle for effective operation.  Maybe its just me, but I did attempt to twist the nozzle with my teeth; uncoordinated and awkwardness ensued.  When I was able to use my teeth to twist the nozzle the red mouth piece adjusted making me concerned it would fall off.  It did not, but no one wants to be concerned on the run.  Once I got the hang of it the bottle proved to be leak proof and work as promised; just not the one handed operation I wanted.  
     Bottle Design
     I get it. But it doesn't work.  The UD bottle that I am used to had a spot for the fingers and the palm.  Those two minor indentations on the bottle make it sit in hand effortlessly.  This bottle does not sit as easily, at least not for me.  Its two grooves probably intend an "ergonomic" feel but it does not feel the same.  It is comfortable, snug when you tighten the strap, but just not as easy as UD.
     Why is one hand operation important?
     Carrying two bottles (if that is your choice for the event) evens you out so you do not feel an awkward gait.  Now, this can be accomplished by switching the bottle every mile or every 10 minutes, but if you do that you still only have one bottle.  Two handhelds provide more nutrition and a cushion if you slip and fall.  So if you have two bottles but need the other hand to work the bottle or need to grasp awkwardly with your teeth…it is an issue. 

     The bottle works for a one bottle carrying runner.  Many races that is all you need and it functions well once you get the gist of it.  Mind you, on a trail with dirt on your hands twisting the nozzle means you will have some extra minerals in your system; generally not an issue for most but something to consider.  This bottle as it is will not be my workhorse or "go to" bottle, but never hurts to try new stuff.  If you are a strict road runner and only carry one bottle it will work for you, or do what I did, try it and swap out the bottle if thats a problem.  

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Training and Recovery

     2013 has started off decently for me with regards to training.  My consistency is up even though my mileage is not where I would like it to be.  I follow a few rules and adjust my training plan accordingly.

1. 3 weeks build, 1 week recover
2. If I did not get @ least 7 hours the night before I can only go zone 2
3. Train for the course

     I generally will not run more than 3 days in a row.  I think it is detrimental and promotes mileage as opposed to progress.  Recovery is probably the part of training that many of us get wrong.  You really do have to think of your body as a machine in order to do it right.  Tune ups, eating right, sleeping well and reducing your stressors all play a huge part in recovery.
     The first race on my schedule is the American River 50.  It is a road marathon followed by a trail marathon.  For me the key is going to be to hold back on the road and for that I have been really increasing my milage there.  I have been training for the last 3 miles (ridiculous hill) of AR50 by attacking the steepest sections of Griffith I can find and focusing on feeling good at the top rather than destroying my legs on the way up.
     Focusing on the recovery aspect of my training has also yielded some unexpected results.  My average pace has dwindled and I am running comfortably in the mid 8 minute range which before would have been a push.  A lot of it has to do with the fact that I know I need to get in the miles whenever I get a chance and it serves as more motivation to get outside and run.  The mantra "American River 50 won't train for itself" also serves as a quick roundhouse kick to the head when I feel like giving myself a break.