Salomon S-Lab Advance Skin 12 REVIEW

For years I persisted with hydration pack after pack and for years I was left chaffed, frustrated and above all, massively out of pocket. My latest purchase, which I spent another £65 on was made because it alleged that it’s cutting edge technology promised to solve all of the common issues a runner might encounter on a 50+ mile race…throughout the last five frustrating and chaffing years I have been considering buying a Salomon S-Lab pack, the reason I hadn’t was simple, I thought it was too expensive and no pack could justify the cost (£150 on the Salomon website at the moment)

The result of this typical Scottish frugalness was a total spend of £265 on various different packs that just left me disappointed and sore.

For me 2016 was going to be my return to ultra running, I had run ultras every year but nothing that had truly challenged me or pushed me so with this in mind I signed up for the West Highland Way Race which is 96 miles across the entire route. I once again bought a pack I thought was better value than the Salomon one and found myself three months into 2016 again frustrated and let down. In April of this year I was fortunate enough to be given some kit from Salomon to trial and review, the kit included the S-Lab Adv 12 pack that I’d been lusting after for years!

As soon as the pack arrived I couldn’t wait to try it on, the instant difference between this and all other packs I have bought was the fit, it was so snug and wrapped itself around my body (I’m a 38″ chest and have a M/L size) I decided to trial it by running around my back garden for a few minutes, it felt good but I thought I should probably get out on the trail and give it a proper test.

I headed up the Pentland Hills in Edinburgh on a cicrular 16 mile route following the Pentland Skyline, the course has over 6,000ft of ascent so would test the pack for comfort and also convenience for hydration and eating.

One big benefit that this pack has over the other ones I’ve tried before is that the Soft Flasks are located on the front of the pack…see the image below…I have found that by having the flasks here it’s easy to access your water/energy drink without actually having to remove the bottles or break stride to take a drink, they are also very easy to refill and take in and out of the pouches they sit in.

 

My only issue with using Salomon’s Soft Flasks is that once you’ve taken a couple of drinks from them they slip into the pouch and can be fiddly to reach, once you get used to this it gets easier. Apart from this small issue it’s a good system that will ensure you remember to drink regularly on your long races/training runs. You can sometimes hear  water sloshing around but considering it’s on the front of your chest it’s still quieter than all my other packs. If you need extra water the pack does accommodate a bladder, while it doesn’t come with a bladder but does come with a bladder pouch that will help hold your bladder of choice inside and keep it cool which was a nice touch.

You can tell that the materials used to create the pack are of the highest quality, you can also definitely understand when you use it that Salomon has worked closely with top athletes to design the S-Lab range. The pack has very few seams and stitching to minimise chaffing and it is made of a very stretchy mesh material which moves with your body so you almost forget that it’s there.

The pack is available in three different sizes, the 3l, 5l and 12l. For me only the 12l pack would be big enough for the type of races that I do but it’s great to have different options and I reckon the 3l could be a great pack for a marathon distance, especially a road marathon so you don’t have to bother with aid stations as they can sometimes be crowded and an accident waiting to happen.

For the 12l pack that I have there is plenty of storage, on the 12l pack there are two zip closed pouches at the lower back of the pack that are easy to reach around and grab a gel or food from without stopping running or breaking stride. There is a larger area of the pack which again is closed by zip, it is surprisingly spacious for a pack that weights only 285g and I’ve been able to comfortably fit everything in this pack that I needed for a 42 mile training run (although I did have to pick up more water from a (fast) running stream in the Scottish Highlands)

One thing I noticed is that there are no waterproof places within the bag so if you plan to run with a gadget/phone you’d have better hope for dry weather and carry it or get a waterproof pouch for it because unless you don’t sweat the pack will get wet and so will the contents of the pack, I almost lost a phone and only a hairdryer (my Wife’s not mines!) saved it from dying all together.

When it comes to actually putting the pack on, I have already said that it’s a great fit and I think that a big part of this comes down to the fastening system at the front, there are plastic clips on either side of the back at regular spacings, there are four material straps at the front with their own clips, you clip the plastic parts together and pull the chords tight, it’s really easy to use but does require some practice, again I am so pleased that there is no chaffing or even movement with this fastening system.

SUMMING UP

After waiting so many years and wasting so much money on other packs it’s been wonderful to finally try out the Salomon S-Lab Adv 12 Set, I can safely say that I will now never buy another pack other than the S-Lab range because from my experience it’s just not worth it.

The West Highland Way Race is next week (18th June)  where i’ll really put the pack to the test and my own mind and body and it’s good to know that there’s at least one piece of kit I don’t have to worry about letting me down.

  • STRETCH FIT Ultra form fitting, stretch material with stretch sternum straps create a tight but comfortable fit that lets you breathe
  • LIGHTWEIGHT Lightweight materials and streamlined design keep weight down.
  • VERSATILITY Enables different hydration solutions, and works great for running, hiking, cycling, etc.
  • PRODUCT SPECIFICATIONS
  • WEIGHT500
  • PACK WEIGHT (LB OZ)11.64 oz
  • DIMENSIONS42 x 20 cm
  • PACK VOLUME (CI)732
  • PACK VOLUME (L)12
  • PACK WEIGHT (G)285

Sizing Chart (According to Salomon.com)

  • CM
  • IN
  • SIZE
  • 75-80
  • 29 7/8-31 1/2
  • XXS
  • 80-97
  • 31 1/2-38 1/4
  • XS/S
  • 97-109
  • 38 1/4-42 7/8
  • M/L
  • 109-120
  • 42 7/8-46 1/2
  • XL
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Ultramarathon Foods

I wrote this blog post a long time ago (2013) and have deciced to call is ‘Endurance Foods’ it was a brain dump of foods that i’ve used to get through ultramarathons over the last few years. What I find funny when reading this list now is that I don’t eat many of the foods here now, i have adapted my intake of food to one that is less random to a well planned and thought out nutrition goal for each race.

I’ll post another article explaining what I eat for long runs later this week but for the meantime here is my old list, do you have anything to add to this list or is there anything on here that doesn’t agree with your training/racing?

2013 Post – Ultramarathon Foods

I have been drawing up a list of everyday foods that I like to eat when running long distances.

There is quite a bit of information out there on this subject but I personally find it confusing and a little over the top for someone who just wants to enjoy their running and get to the finish in one piece.

I’ve gathered this from my own experiences and from feedback from other runners. It is in no way a list collated by experts just people who have experience of going long and eating what they like and need to keep on going.

There are some elite ultra-runners who prefer a plant powered diet and that seems to serve them well, people like Scott Jurek and Rich Roll also the Paleo Diet is said to work wonders for endurance and health.

Then there are people like Dean Karnazes who has been known to eat a large pizza during long runs, at the end of the day it’s whatever works for you.

All of these foods contain high volumes of carbs, sugar, fat and protein. Some of them contain all of these items and some of them have a balanced mix.

You can and probably should incorporate energy drinks/sodium tablets into training/racing but these can be overprice. It is possible to make your own drinks and take care of your electrolyte needs by mixing half orange juice, half water with a small amount of salt.

Getting energy from real food is always better, not that some of the items on this list can even claim to be whole foods or even natural.

Please feel free to add your favourites in the comments below and also note that these are in no particular order.

1. Jelly Babies

2. Muffins

3. Cookies

4. Haribo

5. Flapjacks

6. Rice Pudding

7. Yoghurt

8. Cereal Bar

9. Pop Tarts

10. Baked Potato

11. Jam Sandwich

12. Bananas

13. Macaroon Bars

14. Carrot Cake

15. Fig Rolls

16. Dried Fruit

17. Snack a Jacks

18. Jaffa Cakes

19. Swiss Roll

20. Hot Cross Buns

21. Tree Nuts

22. Potato Salad

23. Hot Dogs

24. Sausage Roll

25. Oranges

26. Baked Beans

27. Nectarines

28. Cous Cous

29. Porridge

30. Tea Cakes

31. Soreen or any Malt Loaf

32. Rice Crispie Squares

33. Salt and Vinegar Crisps (I don’t think flavour is important)

34. Cold Tuna Pasta (Whole-wheat is best)

35. Honey Sandwich (Brown Bread at least)

36. Nutella Sandwich

37. Granola Bar

38. Walnut Cake

39. Figs

40. Fresh Beetroot

41. Fresh Grapes

42. Fresh Blueberries

43. Pot Noodle

44. Custard

45. Turkish Delight

46. Chocolate

47. Watermelon

48. Beef Jerky

49. Lentil Soup (Or any other)

50. Skittles

and finally…the best of the lot

51. Peanut Butter and Jam Sandwich!

 

 

 

 

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The Devil O Highlands Ultra

The Devil o Highlands Footrace is a 42 mile Ultramarathon that takes place on the northern part of the West Highland Way from Tyndrum to Fort William. It is scenic and has over 7,000ft of ascent.

This was the first time I’ve ever run this part of the West Highland Way, the furthest north I had been on the route was to Tyndrum whilst running the Highland Fling. I have to be honest and say that when I left Edinburgh on Friday to head to Fort William I was feeling a little apprehensive about the race.

I felt that my preparations for this event had gone well, I had taken part in the Edinburgh Marathon in May and also completed a new event called Run100 an event that saw a small group of runners run from Inverness to the Skye Bridge. The terrain on Run100 was similar to the Devil O Highlands and I find that repeatedly running on tired legs is always good preparation for an ultra. I followed up Run100 by completing two long runs in the Pentland Hills following the Pentland Skyline route which over the course of 16 miles has over 6,000ft of ascent.

After checking into our hotel we headed out for dinner and then to bed for an early night, the bus that had been organised to take runners to the start line was due to leave at 4am so I didn’t want to risk missing it.

We arrived at Tyndrum and the Green Welly was already alive with excitement and the familiar buzz of runners just keen to get started. This is the part I dislike the most, waiting to start the race.

The Start

The Start

As soon as the race began I felt a sense of relief and normally I wouldn’t listen to any music whilst running but for an unknown reason I decided that today I would listen to my music for the duration of the run.

The first 6 miles were very runable, pleasant underfoot and the majority of this was flat. The first 6 miles to Bridge of Orchy would take just 51 minutes, I arrived at the 6 mile checkpoint feeling great and excited for the rest of the course.

I made it to Glencoe (mile 18) and I was feeling very hot, I had started with my OMM jacket on but after less than a mile I had to remove it, my top was drenched partly because of sweat but also because the Scottish weather was very damp and the air was wet with mist. I was delighted to see some familiar faces at the Glencoe checkpoint, Debbie Consani, Paul Giblin and Sharon Law. It was brilliant having some of the countries top ultra runners looking after us and their checkpoint was like a well oiled machine. Debbie stuffed by pack with my drop bag items and handed me a can of coke and simply said ‘you look like you need a can of coke’ (thanks Debbie!) I asked Sharon how far it was to the devils staircase and she said around 4 miles and that this was the best part of the course coming up but she also said that it was ‘a bit cheeky’…

I made a decision not to stop until I reached the bottom of the devils staircase then I would walk up it and take on some food/liquids. I had wanted to climb the devils staircase for years and finally I was getting my chance, the gift if reaching the top…a 6 mile downhill into Kinlochleven.

At the top of the Devils Staircase

At the top of the Devils Staircase

 

Upon reaching the top of the staircase I was met by two people dressed as devils, I couldn’t work out if I was hallucinating but I decided to give them a wave and a hug as I was excited for the 6 miles down into Kinlochleven (KLL), finally some downhill!

There’s a well known phrase, be careful what you wish for and it definitely applies here, as I began my descent into KLL it became apparent that the path was not the soft, pine cone laden, muddy trail that I had hoped for but instead it was a path filled with wet, slippy rocks. I’m sure most of them had the potential to be ankle breakers and I felt like I kicked every single stone on the way down, it’s still unclear whether two of my toenails are going to survive the week after taking a beating on this section.

The third checkpoint where runners could get their drop bags was at KLL (mile 28) I had been happy to reach this checkpoint in 4hr 40mins which was 20 minutes faster that I had estimated. Unfortunately Ferelith hadn’t managed to get to the checkpoint in time to see me pass through, when she arrive I had already been and gone 10 minutes before. Up until this point I was feeling very well, I walked for roughly half a mile whilst I ate the contents of the drop bag before arriving at the bottom of a hill. Now, this is where it wen’t a bit pear shaped for me, having never run the route and being honest never having done any research on it I hadn’t factored in a big muckle hill at this point, turns out this was the biggest ascent of the day at 1,000ft in height and it completely took it out of my legs.

I lost over 14 places on this climb and it’s really given me food for thought on what areas of my running i need to improve and work on, uphill is definitely a must but not just running, simply hillwalking regularly would help me with this part of the ultra racing so that’s what I intend to do for my future races.

I found the section from KLL to Lundavra really tough, probably the hardest part for me, to give you some perspective it took me almost 3hr 30mins to run the last 14 miles, with the undulating route I simply couldn’t get into a rhythm.

After 42.5 miles and 8hrs 08mins of running I made it to Fort William and the finish line, I was aiming for 7hr 30m but as it was my first time I chose to give myself a break at the end and vow to be back next year faster and wiser and possibly wearing a triple crown. That will depend on whether I am lucky enough to get into the West Highland Way Race.

Finished!

Finished!

Thank you to all who supporter and organised and to Ferelith for coming to support me.

Congratulations to Donnie and Caroline who took first places male and female.

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Day 6: Are we nearly there yet?

Maggie's Run 100

Are we nearly there yet? I feel so free and alive! Where is that bloody bridge???!!! Just some of the things we uttered on today’s final run.

After 5 days on the road we found ourselves on the home straight of our run across Scotland, well…as much as an 18 mile run can be considered a home straight!

The day started with an early rise followed by a short drive to the start point in Morvich. The opening 5 miles were along a road which thankfully had a small, narrow pavement. After the opening miles we took a sharp right and started making our way up a steep climb towards a lookout point. The hill would take our breath away but not as much as we were promised the views would that we would meet at the top. Sadly the weather had other ideas and we were met by mist…

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Day 4: Don’t Worry, Be Happy!

Maggie's Run 100

This morning, we all woke up feeling a little on the achy side! After a much needed breakfast, we set out on our daily run this time leaving straight from our hotel where we finished yesterday.

A field full of cows was our first point of interest – one wandered over to us intrigued at what we were doing but soon lost interest when she realised we clearly didn’t have any food!

We then climbed a steady hill which, when you have run c. 50 miles in previous days, you could definitely feel in the legs! We powered on through and soon we were high up with incredible views of the valley below.

Carrying on through Scotland’s beautiful native woodland, we followed the path round which led us to amazing views of Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhoin which we were to follow for the rest of the run. The loch is…

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Day Two: Crash, Bang, Wallop!

Follow our 100 mile running adventure across Scotland! http://Www.justgiving.com/teamrun100

Maggie's Run 100

After a hearty breakfast, the team were ready to depart the hotel at 9am. Daunted about the day ahead, there was a mixture of nerves and excitement on the bus as we headed back to where we finished the day before, Maggie’s Highlands. On arrival, we were papped by various photographers and fed quality streets by our fabulous host Andrew… Fraser was delighted to discover the last strawberry one!

Eventually we set off towards the Inverness Caledonian Thistle stadium and three miles later we were there. This was our chance to see the sea so we could truly do “coast to coast” and again have various photos taken.

We then set off in the direction of Skye and towards what can only be described as a pretty massive hill! One thing that became clear was how much hill training Joanna had been doing… she literally can sprint up them un-phased…

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24hr Treadmill Run Report

Looking back on this – no idea how I managed this!

www.runwithmark.com

It is now Wednesday 3rd August, I finished my 24hr treadmill run on Friday 29th July at 6pm.

I have mixed emotions about the event, as usual with ultra runs I found it to be….

Very hard, not that hard, mentally taxing, amazing, frustrating and inspiring – all at the same time.

Unless you have run ultras before it is hard to explain what goes through your head during a run of this distance.

I arrived at the Corinthinan Club on Wednesday morning for a photo call with Miss Scotland, we had a laugh with the treadmill and some jelly (Wobbly Williams being the charity) but at the back of my mind I knew what was about to happen, I knew the range of emotions I was about to go through and I felt ready.

My DNF at the West Highland Way race had really rocked my confidence, it had never happened…

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