Gear Corner: Reviewing the Salomon XT Wings 10-3 Hydration Pack

While running, I’ve most often handled my hydration needs with a belt and large water bottle. I’ve had two different belts (from Running Room and the North Face) both with large bottles in a diagonal holster, both are fairly good products.

Some of the challenges I faced:
1.) Not enough liquid stored: Whether it was for longer efforts, or in hotter weather,or simply because all the colds I seemed to catch this off-season redirect any fluids towards snot/phlegm production – I seem to need more water than a bottle can provide.

2.) Pockets: So many running shorts and pants lack pockets, and though a running belt will usually have space for keys or a wallet, a gear-head like me always has storage needs that are hard to meet. I bring my Blackberry, sometimes an iPod, sometimes even an extra camera (for blogging or whatever). I also need my keys, my work security card when I’m doing lunchtime workouts… it’s always something.

3.) Dynamic motion: I speculated that the sloshing and jostling makes it uncomfortable going over rougher terrain during trail runs and/or Burbathlon. I’d prefer things to be as integrated into the normal shape of my body as possible; a bottle bulging out over my butt can feel unnatural.

After a little research, I selected a Salomon hydration pack; they seemed to get good reviews and I’m already a big fan of their shoes and cross-country ski gear. I selected the XT Wings because it’s more like a vest than a backpack (satisfying criteria #3). It had enough pockets to keep me happy, too.

I bought the Medium size as it was the only one the store had left, and I wanted to ensure a snug fit so that it would really wear more like a vest than a pack.  I bought a Camelbak reservoir to insert into it.

Installed properly, the reservoir hose goes up under the arm with the nozzle secured in the right-hand strap, near the top of the chest.  This makes for easy access; I like my nozzle as it’s sealed when not in use, to get it to open, all it takes is a little bite.  Water doesn’t taste the greatest coming out of the rubber reservoir, but that’s more of a Camelbak problem than a Salomon one.  There’s also the problem that the first sip (from the water in the hose) is cool and refreshing, while the next is warm and tepid (probably because it’s come from the bag being warmed by my back).

I’ve been able to make good use of the pockets storing my Blackberry, keys, camera (and even a tripod!).  That’s just using the front pockets.  If I used the large pouch on the back, I could have a waterproof shell, or goodness knows what else.

My only real beef with the XT Wings 10-3 is that the zipper doesn’t stay completely closed.  My chest seems to be bursting out.  Much as I like doing Superman impressions, I’d rather the darn thing stay closed.  It’s possible that the next size up would have been better, but like I said, I wanted a snug, functional fit.

I don’t regret the purchase, and I’ve gotten good use of it so far.  If I end up going longer (runs or rides) or expanding into more off-road/adventure type events, I’m sure I’ll like having it even more.

The Father’s Day Weekend

I just wanted to touch on what a fantastic weekend I had.  Training was a big part of that, but let me take care of some interesting incidentals.

While my wife took Shark Boy out kayaking, I walked around with the Lightning Kid dipping our feet into the water, when all of a sudden what should I see?  This:


The most huge snapping turtle you would dare imagine! It swam away from us and spent the afternoon poking its head out from under the dock.  Later that day, I got to do an open water swim, but believe you me, I gave that section of the dock a wide berth when getting into the water (I later read that snapping turtles are generally docile in the water, the snapping occurs when they’re confronted on land.  At any rate, he was gone by Sunday).

Here’s the swim (take my word for it, it was all in the water!):

I hadn’t done any training in about a month at least, and my technique was garbage.  Yet somehow I managed the second best time I’ve ever done at the distance of 1500m (a pace of around 2:20/100m).  How is this possible?  The only explanation I can come up with is my new TYR Hurricane Wetsuit that I won last year.  Even though I know I’m under-trained for the Muskoka 5150, this gives me a lot of confidence.

For Sunday, I was hoping to get a good training ride in.  Rain was threatening the whole day, but when opportunity knocked (a.k.a Shark Boy took a nap), I was out the door.  Then I had to come back because I forgot the key to unlock my bike from the bike rack.  Oops.

I selected a route that would take me along Highway 35 between Dwight and Dorset.  Here I found my fitness and endurance lacking.  I couldn’t believe how low my average speed was, but I did note that I got faster after the turn around; I had been climbing overall, and the downhills obviously added to the average speed.  In fact, it occured to me at the turn-around that I hadn’t paired my new Garmin with the bike’s cadence and speed sensors.  That data was missing but they paired with the watch fairly quickly and seamlessly (more review material coming soon).

Besides just getting out there and riding, it also gave me a chance to scout out and plan new riding routes.  The old road (South Portage – which has traditionally been part of the Muskoka triathlon) seems to have a lot of construction and unpaved patches.  I know what I’m going to do next time.

I didn’t quite manage a 40km ride like I would have liked, but it was enough to build from.  Next time will be better.  Also, since the day didn’t quite have enough activity (and because I was jealous of my wife), I took Shark Boy out in the kayak on Sunday.

It was a lot of fun, and I hope to make a tradition of it every time we’re up North.  It might even be good training for the Logs, Rocks and Steel if I get to do it.

Happy Father’s Day

It’s Father’s Day and only 5 weeks before my first triathlon of the season.  When I made my race calendar I committed to doing the Olympic Distance at the Inaugural Muskoka 5150.  While I never posted it in the blog, I had a loosely structured framework in mind that would allow me to be flexible enough to get to where I needed to be fitness-wise for the race.

I am nowhere close.  I won’t get upset: as they say, you can’t get upset at the results you got from the work you didn’t do (or something like that).  The usual thing to do is look at why you didn’t live up to your plan and figure out what excuses you were making or whatever kept you from making your commitments.  There is another point of possible failure though: maybe the plan wasn’t right for you and wasn’t really realistic.

It’s enough to make me want to throw in the towel on the whole season and say: “Next year I’m getting a coach, maybe online, with a daily plan that I have to stick to.”  There are so many resources and training methods out there – maybe a Master’s Swim Group, plus a Cycling Club etc. etc..

I’m not going to do that, though.  Why?  Because of my father (you didn’t think I was coming back around to Father’s Day did you?), that’s why.  I always wanted to be like my father.  He was an Olympic level rower at one point, and he always stayed in good shape with tennis, cycling, cross-country skiing and probably a bunch of other stuff I can’t think of at this hour.  He was a the kind of guy who could up and run 3 miles without getting sore the next day, in spite of not having run in several months.  A natural athlete – so strike one on my chances to be like him.

He handled so many household repairs and duties himself; taking as good care of his home as he did his body.  I already pay more people to do work for me than I’d strictly like, but I’m not giving up my passion and hobby to a professional.  During a time of extreme stress in exams, my father told me: “Your brain hasn’t failed you yet.”  So I’m going to keep doing things my way – DIY training is still the Iron Rogue way.

We lost my father to melanoma in 2000; and not a day goes by that I don’t miss him or think about him.  I doubt I’ll PR at any races this year, but Shark Boy tells me he loves me every day (in both English and German), and so does the Lightning Kid (with his eyes).  That’s worth more to me than any medal I could ever get.

And… not for nothing, but today I did a 1500m Open Water swim with about a 2:20/100m pace; that’s my second best pace for Olympic Distance Tri.

Getting Back Into Good Habits

It’s been so long… I really shouldn’t have let it get this far… I don’t know if there’s even a point anymore… I don’t even know how I’m going to get started again…

These are the kind of thoughts that run through your head when you’ve been absent from something you’ve been meaning to do regularly, and it’s the same whether we’re talking about exercise or writing a blog.  It’s almost worse in this case, since the blog is mostly about exercise and training.

I’ve had a long hiatus from both, and I don’t feel good about it.  I’m not going to dwell on why it happened, it’s in the past.  I was able to get back into exercising easier than back into blogging, but I think the key is the same in both cases, like Nike tells us: Just Do It.  Don’t overanalyze how to make your grand return, just start with something. 

Without further ado, let me tell you about my weekend workout.  A group of people from Jiu-Jitsu have commited to doing the Spartan Sprint and I’m one of them.   Having a group training day seemed appealing so it was scheduled for this past Sunday at High Park in Toronto.  The way we structured our workout was to do sets of 5 minute runs (each led by a different individual).  After the run, we did a Pyramid of Squats, Lunges and Pushups:

2 Squats | 2 Lunges (1 Left, 1 Right) | 2 Pushups
4 Squats | 4 Lunges (2 Left, 2 Right) | 4 Pushups
6 Squats | 6 Lunges (3 Left, 3 Right) | 6 Pushups
8 Squats | 8 Lunges (4 Left, 4 Right) | 8 Pushups
6 Squats | 6 Lunges (3 Left, 3 Right) | 6 Pushups
4 Squats | 4 Lunges (2 Left, 2 Right) | 4 Pushups
2 Squats | 2 Lunges (1 Left, 1 Right) | 2 Pushups

For my run, we did Burbathlon jumping over and on picnic tables and benches and ducking under railings and signs.  We also did some hill work and sprints.  Overall, we got very tired, very hot and very proud of ourselves.

 I brought the whole family along to High Park; Shark Boy played on the playground and the Lightning Kid had a nap.  On my last run I tried carrying Shark Boy along – he was game but once I wasn’t able to keep up with the group, I seemed to run out of steam.  We finished off the workout with some ab work (just because) and it turned into a lovely day… especially for ice cream.

Now that I’ve broken the seal on blog posts, hopefully I can get back into the full swing of things.