VJ Sport IROCK 3 Shoe Review loo

Robust, solid, great looking, aggressive outsole, Fitlock, good lacing, toe protection, red and black and the iRock 3 follows on from the iRock 2 with another winning shoe.

Quite simply, VJ Sport make the best outsole for trail and mountain running of any shoes I have used. They are what I compare all other shoes to, and still, several years on from testing the original iRock, no shoes have come close to giving the grip of a VJ.

The IRock was followed with the XTRM (review HERE) and then the MAXx (review HERE). Quite simply, when you line the iRock, XTRM and MAXx you have three shoes that cover all the needs from soft, sloppy and muddy trails to the harder, longer, more rocky trails of a longer trail and ultra-race. Be it fell running, skyrunning or ultra-trail, VJ have with the iRock, XTRM and the MAXx the perfect shoes for each terrain.

IROCK3

The IROCK 3 is a precision fit shoe with a narrow toe box. They are designed to hold and compress the foot so that there is no movement when running. Think of them as ballet shoes. You squeeze your feet in, benefit from the precision and hold when running and when done, you take your foot out and let it relax again. Of course, for some, they IROCK will just be too narrow. VJ list the fit as a 2. For comparison, the XTRM is a 2 maybe 3? and the MAXx a 4.

 14mm cushioning at the rear and 8mm at the front gives a 6mm drop.

The outsole (Superior Contact -kumipohja) is the hero of the shoe with 6mm lugs of super grippy butyl that works like a dream in wet or dry conditions.

Weighing 240g (UK8) the shoes are like Formula 1 cars for the trails and as such, they are not a shoe for everyday outings.

The upper is bullet proof with a mixture of DuPont Kevlar and Nylon and the other notable element of the VJ shoe, be that IROCK, XTRM or MAXx is the Fitlock which holds the foot like no other shoe. In addition there are overlays stitched on to add additional support.

Toe box is reinforced with a solid bumper. The heel area is minimally padded but fits like a glove and holds the foot secure.

Lacing is very secure, and the tongue is reinforced and made of a very durable and flexible material.

Solid build, aggressive outsole and great looks. This is a shoe for shorter outings, racing or training, when grip is paramount, especially in soft-ground and snow. It’s a favourite for orienteers, skyrunning and OCR.

IN USE

So, what is different from the IROCK 2?

Improved toe protection, lighter Fitlock system and improved laces. 

The IROCK3 is not a jack of all trades, this shoe has a specific purpose. 

I wrote about the IROCK 2 – “The easiest way to explain this is by looking at say, Formula 1. You wouldn’t go to Monaco Grand Prix and race in an MPV car, a saloon car or a bus, you’d have a very specific vehicle, low to the ground with incredible speed and awesome agility with incredible grip. The IROCK2 is the Formula 1 for fell and mountain running.” 

That stands true today and why VJ made the XTRM and MAXx to offer more comfort and less aggressive grip.

Road is not a friend of the IROCK, or should I say, the outsole. Too much road between trails will wear that soft rubber down quickly, so, it is best avoided as much as possible.

Needless to say, VJ’s hashtag of #bestgripontheplanet is not a lie. VJ really do offer the best grip and the IROCK is flawless in soft ground, on rocky trails and in the mountains. It makes no difference if wet or dry, they just grip like no other shoe. In mud, particularly soft mud, they dig in like football boots offering the best grip I have encountered.

Fit is precision. Once laced up and tightened. You feel the Fitlock hold the middle of the foot, add support to the arch and when switching direction on the trail, there are no question marks or doubts. The IROCK holds the foot rock solid.

At the front, the toe box is precision, but it is not super, super tight. I can happily run in the IROCK for multiple hours in comfort.

Feel for the ground is excellent and of course, the cushioning is relatively minimal keeping that all important contact with the surface so that one can respond to the terrain. Worth noting, this shoe is designed for soft ground, so, much of the cushioning can actually come from the ground that you are running on too.

In many respects, I am surprised the IROCK is 6mm drop. It works for me and I am happy, however, for a shoe designed to be fast and low, I am surprised it is not 4mm?

The fit is neutral and true to size. I am a EU44 and the IROCK is perfect in that size.

On the trail I feel the Fitlock and heel box working together holding the foot, be that in soft mud or running up rocks. The grip is superb.

Slabs of wet rock even covered in water do not make me question if the IROCK will be secure. I just run as normal and let the outsole do the work.

The combination of durability, fit, cushioning, precision and unmatched grip confirms what I said in 2017 about the IROCK 2, they are the best fell/ mountain and short distance skyrunning shoes out there!

Mud, rock, fell in wet or dry conditions, the IROCK 3 is the most complete mountain shoe I have used over shorter distances.

SUMMARY

VJ Sport have been making secret weapons for the orienteering world for many years, but now the secret is out. 

VJ are now seen at OCR races, Skyrunning, fell races and with the addition of the MAXx, we are even seeing them at ultra-trail.

If grip, foothold, precision and light weight are priorities for soft, muddy and wet ground, the IROCK 3 is for you!

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Episode 192 – Kim Collison

Episode 192 – Has a great an interview with Kim Collison on his Lakeland 24hr FKT
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NEWS
Following on from the last shows FKT list, here is an update on what has happened since…
 
* Franco Colle new FKT on Monte Rosa from Gressoney
* Nadir Maguet – Gran Paradiso FKT 2:02:32
* Erik Clavery GR10 9 days 9 hours and a few minutes
* Davide Magnini Ortles FKT 2:18:15
* Kim Collison 24h Lakes achieves 78 Peaks
* Sabrina Verjeee Wainwrights (wishes not to claim)
* Dylan Bowman Loowit Trail 5:11:49
* Josh Pulattie Oregon Coast Trail 12 days 10 hours 25 min
* Candice Burt Tahoe Rim Trail 2 days 12 hours 47 min
* John Kelly Pennine Way 2 days 16 hours 40 min
* Sarah Hansel (57:43) & Joey Campanelli (41:00) for Nolans 14
* Tom Hollins Dales Mountain 30 (130 miles, 30 summits) 41 hrs
*****
In other news…
Asif Amirat in the UK is creating a stir with his 100-marathons in 100-days. Many have been questioning his runs and becoming very vocal on social media. I have reached out to Asif for an interview. At first he was cooperative, however, after I asked several probing questions, he blocked me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
*****
RACES THAT WILL HAPPEN (tbc)
  • Montreux Trail Running Festival – Switzerland
  • Speedgoat 50k – USA
  • Fjallmaraton – Sweden
  • Rondane 100 – Norway
  • Pyrenees Stage Run – Spain (now postponed to 2021)
  • Marathon des Sables – Morocco
*****
INTERVIEW : KIM COLLISON
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SCOTT Supertrac RC 2 Shoe Review

Scott have progressed year-on-year with the development of their trail running shoes. Notably, the interaction and feedback of their elite/ sponsored athletes have been instrumental in fine tweaking the range of shoes. 

I have been fortunate to work with the brand as a photographer on multiple occasions, often photographing new shoes and apparel before they are released to the general public. It’s important to clarify here that when reviewing shoes/ apparel, I do so impartially.

I started using Scott in 2012, the original Kinabalu was a shoe I loved. Eight years on, the present day Kinabalu has little resemblance to the original, gladly, it has progressed and what was a good shoe years ago, is now, in my opinion, a top-quality trail shoe. Follow here for a review of the new Kinabalu Ultra RC which will be available in late July.

I first witnessed the Supertrac RC in 2016 and wrote a first impressions in November of that year, here.

The black and yellow look then was striking and now, 4-years on, it is still striking and as such, Scott athletes, Scott apparel and Scott shoes are easily identifiable on the trail. It was a smart move by the brand.

As great as the original RC was (is) it was not the perfect shoe for me. I had some issues with how low the lacing came and in the propulsive face, I would some minor irritation. I also found the shoe a little lifeless. The cushioning did not give me the bounce I had hoped for. Despite these points, the shoe was an incredible performer in mountain terrain providing grip, a responsive feel and the seamless upper were all winners! It was designed for skyrunning. 

When Scott asked me to test out the new Supertrac RC 2 I was excited. I was surprised, to be honest, that the new incarnation had been so long coming. I had great expectations and although hopeful that the look/ integrity of the original shoe had not been changed, I had hoped that I would feel a notable difference.

Out of the box, I was happy. Black and yellow and this new shoe looked like the Supertrac I know. It was a great start. Flipping the shoe over, the 6mm lugs of the original were there, but the arrangement was different with a noticeable gap in the midfoot. I also noticed that the toe box was wider. The upper had several bales hanging off it, ‘3XDRY’ and ‘coldblack,’ so, it was apparent that the shoe had had an overhaul.

As a note, the new Kinabalu Ultra RC is being released in July and this, along with the Supertrac RC 2 is significant. The two shoes are very similar, the exception coming with the outsole and a more breathable/ mesh upper on the Kinabalu. In simple terms, the Supertrac RC 2 is for mountain, mud and rough terrain. The Kinabalu Ultra RC is a trail shoe.

Supertrac RC 2 on the top and the Kinabalu Ultra RC below – the difference in upper is significant. But fit/ feel is very similar.

The Kinabalu Ultra RC on top is less aggressive.

THE SHOE

I use an EU44 (UK9.5) for all my test shoes and weirdly, the Supertrac RC 2 although an EU44 says UK9 inside? I was perplexed initially thinking that the shoe would be too small. It’s not. So, if purchasing, just be careful with sizing. I am not sure why there is a discrepancy between EU and UK size.

At 298g for an EU44, this is a lightweight, but not the lightest mountain shoe.

One of the great attributes of the original Supertrac was foothold and here in the Supertrac RC 2 that foothold is equaled and bettered. Surprisingly, there is still no sock-like fit but when you slide the shoe on, you don’t even think about it. The seamless upper, tongue and lacing configuration hold the foot wonderfully tight. So, on technical terrain, there are no worries of one’s foot moving inside the shoe.

Key changes come in the upper with SCHOELLER COLDBLACK® and 3XDRY® which provide more protection and comfort. I was initially worried that the upper looked unbreathable and therefore potentially making the shoe hot, not so. The SCHOELLER COLDBLACK® reduces heat buildup and increases wearing comfort. The 3XDRY® is water and stain resistant and from the inside, it absorbs and distributes moisture.

The heel area is padded, snug and importantly when climbing does not allow for any slipping.

Notably, the toe box is wider allowing a little more toe splay than the original shoe and this is welcome. Toe protection is adequate and what is immediately noticeable is how the outsole rises up placing one lug almost on the toes – perfect for climbing.

Cushioning is notable. I found the original Supertrac lacking life and bounce, not here in the version 2 with the AEROfoam+. The bounce is notable even without running. The drop is 5mm. 

Scott have always used eRide (rocker) to help with technique and cadence. In some models, it has been very noticeable. Here in the Supertrac RC 2 it is less noticeable, and the curvature is reduced.

The outsole has always been a selling point with ‘radial traction.’ The 6mm lugs fit the middle ground off aggressive, but not too aggressive and the lugs now have been spaced differently to help dispel mud and reduce clogging. Particularly noticeable in the middle of the outsole.

If you wanted a shoe just for mud, then a more aggressive outsole would be better. But the Supertrac RC 2 quite rightly wants to provide a great all-rounder that handles mud, technical terrain and can still be comfortable when cruising some single-track.

IN USE

This is Scott’s best shoe so far in my opinion. The changes they have made addressed all my minor niggles from the original Supertrac RC and they have packaged them in a version 2 that is magical to wear.

I have given mine a real battering and in the space of a couple of weeks managed to get well over 100km in them in the mountains of Norway. Mud, trail, rock, wet and dry, at all times the shoes were performing at the highest level.

From 3-hour faster runs to 7-hour+ adventures, at all times, the shoes were comfortable and secure.  

In the previous Supertrac RC, I would only use them for shorter/ faster outings, the v2 is so much more cushioned that even on continually hard and rocky terrain, I had all day comfort.

The outsole performed as expected offering secure grip on rocks both in the dry and wet. I had one issue of slipping continuously on a particular type of rock, however, it became clear that the green slime over it was an issue for any shoe and not just the Scott. Confirmed by a run friend who was in a pair of inov-8.

In mud, I was happy with the grip knowing only too well that if I got in continuous sloppy and deep mud that grip would be compromised a little due to the 6mm lugs. But, the new spacing of the lugs did the job of expelling mud. This was perfect in guaranteeing a more consistent grip for all the time.

When on technical and demanding trail, you need a shoe that holds the foot so you can be 100% sure. Many brands call this ‘precision’ and often one of the downsides of a precision shoe/ fit is that the toe box will be narrower. The Supertrac RC 2 has a wider toe box and it is noticeable. I was therefore worried that some of that firm hold and reassurance may be lost. No! The lacing and fit are so good, that you can adjust and tweak making sure that you have 100% security. Even the insole grips one’s sock.

I ran through a great deal of wet/ muddy and boggy ground and here is maybe one downside of the shoe. I felt drainage was compromised. I always wear Merino socks and so therefore had no issues with cold feet, even when running through a great deal of snow. However, I do feel water retention was more noticeable.

CONCLUSIONS

The Supertrac RC 2 is a great shoe and for anyone who loved the original Supertrac RC, I think now they will have an even bigger smile on their face.

For those who were tempted by the black and yellow shoes previously but decided that the toe box was too narrow, the cushioning compromised, or the feel was a little flat, you should now go back and check these out.

It’s rare I compare shoes to other brands and models, however, for those who have read my reviews, they will know that VJ Sport are my ‘go-to’ shoes for the mountains, be that the XTRM or MAXx models. Now, I firmly believe that Scott have a shoe that can compete. 

I have 98% of good things to say about the Scott Supertrac RC 2 and the only negative is the potential for retaining water… To clarify, it does not stay in the shoe, it does dissipate. It just dissipates slower than I would have liked.

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Scarpa SPIN Shoe Review

I have used Scarpa shoes and boots in the past and have always been impressed with the mountain pedigree the brand has. So, I was very welcome to receive the SPIN and the SPIN ULTRA for testing. 

The SPIN, in the words of Scarpa say, ‘… with more cushion and protection than the Atom, but a lighter, lower-profile design than the Neutron, the new Spin is the Goldilocks of our Alpine Running collection, for those who want both support and simplicity on rugged trails and craggy ridge lines.

I will discuss and write about the SPIN ULTRA at a later date.

The SPIN is noticeably light (252g for EU42) and flexible. From the first look one can immediately see that this is a race or fast training shoe designed for a mountain environment. For sure, it’s a trail shoe, but I would extend that to be a mountain/ alpine shoe. It has ‘skyrunning’ written all over it and certainly from initial outings it immediately felt like VK’s and SkyRace (sub 42km) terrain would sit perfectly in the SPIN list of ‘go to’ uses.

The upper is mesh and therefore very breathable, structure and support of the upper comes from welded PU overlay. One of the plus sides of this, as in other shoes using this method, there are no seams that can cause irritation or rubbing inside the shoe.

 The lacing is substantial with 5 sets of eyelets and the additional 6th eyelet should you wish to lace-lock. With a comfortable and padded auto fit tongue which extends slightly higher than other shoes I have tested, this is perfect for stopping any discomfort where the top of one’s foot joins the lower leg. There is a ‘lace-garage’ which is so obviously great, I have never understood why all run shoes do not use this method, or at least something similar.

 The heel is padded and plush and really holds the foot with comfort and security. Very noticeable when running or hiking uphill is the hold the shoe gives; it is very reassuring.

It has a ‘sock-like’ fit (SOCK-FITLW by Scarpa) which is just perfect as it provides a wonderful, secure and comfy hold of the foot.

The toe box is well shaped, allows for toe splay but the SPIN is more of a ‘precision’ shoe designed for technical trail and as such it has a narrower fit but not very narrow. Certainly, if you need or require a wide toe box, the SPIN is unlikely to be for you, but you should try it… It has a toe bumper which provides some protection from contact with rocks or debris.

With a 4mm drop one needs to be a more efficient runner. It’s a shoe with cushioning (24mm/20mm) but not excessively so, hence I see that is a shorter/ mid-distance shoe. The midsole is EVA and I would say is on the firmer side, but after several runs one can feel it soften without compromising the shoe. It has a rock-plate, and this works really well offering great protection via a H-EVA Plate.

 The outsole is Vibram which is known throughout the world. MegaGrip is extremely popular and although aggressive, it is not extremely aggressive. It can handle mud but not really sloppy stuff. Then again, very little shoes can do well at everything. If running in lots of mud, there would be better outsoles than this. But the MegaGrip is perfect for the SPIN intentions – mountains, ridges, trails, rocks in wet or dry conditions. The lugs are 4mm and quite spaced out. Grip is very good on a wide variety of surfaces, but it works best on rock, ridges, loose gravel and soft ground. You will see the the SPIN has cut outs in the sole and here you can clearly see the rock-plate. The cut aways help reduce weight and increase the flexibility of the shoe. This is noticeable, especially in the propulsive phase.

The SPIN comes with two foot beds. One minimalist and the other providing more cushioning and structure. This is a great idea! I personally used the more structured foot bed which secured the rear of my foot more. Switching between the foot bed really changes the feel of the shoe, so, if you prefer something more minimal. You will prefer the thinner of the two.

 Sizing is true to size, I use an EU44 and these fitted as expected.

IN USE

 The SPIN has great comfort and the sock-like fit is just perfect. The lacing system is superb at holding the foot and it is easy to adjust should you need. For example, I have a high instep, so I like to loosen my laces but not at the compromise of a secure foot hold. The addition of the the 6th eyelet allows for different lacing options; I didn’t need to lock lace as the foothold form the SPIN is so good. The lace garage is perfect for getting laces out of the way. One of the revelations is the heel area. It’s plush, extremely comfortable and is arguably the best hold I have had from any shoe. Climbing there is no movement or slipping. 

The upper is very breathable and my feet were comfy in either wet conditions or hot conditions. Drainage is good. The welded overlay is adequate and provides good stability. Toe bumper could be better, but it is a minor complaint.

On technical trail, foot roll is minimal, but the SPIN does have a wasp like (figure of 8) shape and so depending on your foot shape, you could have some roll? I had no roll at all. I got no issues with the SPIN rubbing my ankles, a problem I have had with other shoes on technical terrain, this is a real plus!

Cushioning is on the harder side and lacks life and bounce but that is compensated for with great flex, especially in the propulsive phase. Also, you have two foot bed options and the more padded/ supported option was a real boost for me. They are very comfortable shoes. 

The MegaGrip outsole works really well on a whole mix of terrain, wet or dry. But it works best on soft-ground, rocks and technical trail. Protection is very good but occasionally, you may find a stone getting in one of the gaps in the cutaways of the sole. It will not stay there, but if it is sharper, you may just feel it through the rock-plate.

CONCLUSION 

I have been using Scarpa for many years, the Charmoz a personal favourite. But I have never used a run shoe from the brand. The SPIN has been a revelation and certainly for runs up to 4-hours on technical/ mountainous routes, it’s a shoe I will use time and time again. The overall package is excellent combing lightweight, responsiveness, feel for the ground, cushioning, great comfort and excellent grip in most scenarios. It’s a shoe for faster training or racing in the mountains.  

Highlights come from excellent lacing, the sock-like fit, the shoes weight and the heel box.

There is little not to like in the SPIN. It is more of a precision shoe, but the fit is not as narrow as others, so, you would need to try them on to find out if they would work for you.

The only negative, for me, is the cushioning is a little hard and lacks a little life. It is a minor point and actually does not impair how the shoe performs, however, for some, it may influence how enjoyable the SPIN is to wear. 

Specs: 

  • 4mm drop
  • 252g for EU42
  • Upper Mesh w/ welded PU overlay
  • Insole H-EVA Plate
  • Midsole EVA-CM
  • Outsole Vibram Fixion/ MegaGrip
  • Cushioning 24mm/20mm
  • Sock like fit
  • Lace storage
  • Medium cushioning and protection
  • Choice of insoles

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Episode 187 – Ben Bardsley, Bob Crowley and Stephen Goldstein PHD

Episode 187Ben Bardsley talks about his 2500km journey on the Norge Pa Langs, Norway. We speak with new ITRA President, Bob Crowley and Stephen Goldstein PHD updates us on Covid-19.
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We have set up a Patreon page and we are offering some great benefits for Patrons… you can even join us on the show! This is the easiest way to support Talk Ultra and help us continue to create! 
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*****
00:10:54 BEN BARDSLEY 
*****
00:56:04 BOB CROWLEY – ITRA here
*****
01:39:00 STEPHEN GOLDSTEIN PHD
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Please listen to the INTERVIEWS – please follow the show
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TALK ULTRA podcast will be released as normal providing you long shows as it has always done with ideally two shows per month. The back catalogue will be released randomly via the INTERVIEWS and not chronologically.
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Please support Talk Ultra by becoming a Patron at www.patreon.com/talkultra and THANKS to all our Patrons who support us. Rand Haley and Simon Darmody get a mention on the show here for ‘Becoming 100k Runners’ with a high-tier Patronage.
I’m Ian Corless and she is Speedgoat Karl
Keep running
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the INTERVIEWS Season 1 – Episode 14 : Hal Koerner

Hal Koerner is a legend in the world of ultra-running who was one of the early pioneers of the sport. He has victories at Kettle Morraine 100, The Bear 100, Angeles Crest, Western States hardrock 100 and so many more…  He is the owner of a specialty running store, Rogue Valley Runners, located in the mountainous Southern Oregon town of Ashland. Hal featured in JB Benna’s feature-length documentary “Unbreakable: The Western States 100”. In 2014, he published  “Hal Koerner’s Field Guide to Ultrarunning” and was released by VeloPress. The book details training for an ultra marathon; from 50k to 100 miles.
.
Recorded in 2012.
Episode 0h 39m 59s
Talk Ultra back catalogue HERE
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Hosted on ANCHOR (HERE) the INTERVIEWS will also be available to listen on many other players, including SPOTIFY (HERE).
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Download links will be added in due course.
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Stitcher
*****
TALK ULTRA podcast will be released as normal providing you long shows as it has always done with ideally two shows per month. The back catalogue will be released randomly via the INTERVIEWS and not chronologically.
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RAB KAON Jacket Review

When it comes to mountains and outdoor terrain, UK brand RAB have been a ‘go-to’ for any outdoor enthusiast, whether that be for the Himalayas, mountaineering, trekking, climbing or a leisurely walk in the outdoors.

2020 will see RAB launch a series of new products under the heading of SKYLINE a range of products made up of ultra-lightweight clothing that does not compromise on protection. Intended for ‘fast and light’ days that blur the line between running and technical scrambling.

It’s a significant movement for the brand and as a firm RAB fan, the SKYLINE range has already gained my attention and no doubt, it will grab the attention of anyone who likes to move faster in the mountains.

I will be introducing element of the new SKYLINE range over the coming weeks, notably, the SONIC SHORT SLEEVE TEE, PACER JACKET, CHARGE JACKET and PHANTOM PULL ON.

Image ©RAB

But first, the KAON jacket. 

The new KAON jacket personifies and sets out the stall of the new direction and although it does not come under the SKYLINE banner, it certainly ticks all the boxes offering minimal insulation with low-weight and packing size. Balancing lightweight, warmth and protection, the KAON uses a combination of 800 fill Goose Down and Synthetic Status insulation. Concentrating on the core, the Kaon retains warmth where it is needed, while ‘Pertex Quantum Air’ allows complete freedom of movement under the arms.

The Kaon offers zoned insulation allowing a balance between warmth without compromising movement. It mixes down for the core and ‘Stratus’ synthetic fill on the shoulders, hood and cuffs. 

The down in the core is 800FP hydrophobic down (70g in the men’s and 65g for the women.) This is significant as down, while warmer and lighter, cannot get wet – it loses warmth! However, hydrophobic down is treated with a durable water repellent that allows for quicker drying and the ability to resist water for longer. In a nutshell, it makes the Kaon far more usable in a variety of situations.

The Stratus synthetic fill is significant as it allows the jacket to be more breathable, dry out faster and is 20% less absorbent to other rival insulation. Synthetic is effective at keeping one warm, even when wet, so, it is ideal for damp/ wet conditions. RAB have added this to key areas of stress, either from the weather or equipment or a combination of the two. For example, on the shoulders, synthetic insulation will be far more durable with pressure from rucksack straps. Also, when compressed, it retains warmth, unlike down which requires loft.

The Atmos outer shell will still allow for loft while reducing down leakage making a perfect combination of warmth v weight.

Under the arms and down the side of the torso, Pertex Quantum Air is used which allows heat to escape and therefore allowing for body temperature regulation, always a difficult balance when moving fast and light.

IN USE 

The KAON is a wonderful crossover jacket for mountain runs and alpinists who want to move fast and light but be prepared for any potential inclement conditions that the mountains can throw at you. 

On first look, it is a simple jacket with a full-length zip, hood (that will allow for a helmet), high collar for warmth, one chest pocket, no side pockets and the sides and under arms use a different more flexible and breathable fabric. It has stitch through construction that provides a small square look to the jacket which ensure the insulation stays put.

The fit is slightly tailored, RAB say ‘slim’ but it is not super tight. Movement is not compromised. The arms are a normal length with a simple elasticated cuff. The jacket length sits just below the waist and for me, covers my backside. When zipped up, the neck goes nice and high and sits just below the chin keeping out drafts. The hood fits perfectly and has no adjustment – as mentioned, you can wear a helmet if required.

Image ©RAB

Needless to say, it is very light (240g +/-) and packs small and comes with its own stuff sack.

It is available in 3 colours, ebony (blue), firecracker (red) and dark sulphur (yellow).

I normally wear medium and medium is perfect in the KAON, size options are XXS to XXL.

 Having used the jacket as we transitioned from Winter to Spring, I have found it perfect or everyday use. On chilly days I start with it on and then remove when my core is warm. It packs away small and fits in the side pocket of my Osprey Talon 11 pack (to provide an example.) On warmer days, I have added the KAON to my pack in the assurance that should the weather change, I have an excellent light layer that will work. In conjunction with a lightweight jacket, such as the PACER (here) – I have warmth and waterproof for well under 500g.

SUMMARY

The KAON is one of those essential kit items when going to the mountains. It’s size and weight make it a ‘mandatory’ item for me – there is no reason not to take it! Warm, lightweight and packs small = perfect.

RAB HERE

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the INTERVIEWS Season 1 – Episode 13 : Max King

Max King born February 24, 1980, is an American ultra-marathoner. He was the winner at the 2014 IAU 100 km World Championships and the 2011 World Mountain Running Championships. King earned the bronze medal at the 2016 NACAC Cross Country Championships / Pan American Cross Country Cup.
He has also won numerous national titles at various distances ranging from track to ultra marathon. He has also excelled at OCR becoming Warrior Dash World Champion. In addition, he has won multiple national runner of the year awards.
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First recorded in 2012.
Episode 0h 39m 59s
Talk Ultra back catalogue HERE
*****
Hosted on ANCHOR (HERE) the INTERVIEWS will also be available to listen on many other players, including SPOTIFY (HERE).
ANCHOR app on Apple HERE and Google HERE
Download links will be added in due course.
Apple Podcasts HERE
Breaker HERE
Castbox
Google Podcasts HERE
Overcast HERE
Pocket Casts  HERE
RadioPublic HERE
Spotify HERE
Stitcher
*****
TALK ULTRA podcast will be released as normal providing you long shows as it has always done with ideally two shows per month. The back catalogue will be released randomly via the INTERVIEWS and not chronologically.
*****

The Immediate Future of Racing post Covid-19

The loneliness of the long distance runner.

Life has been turned upside down. We currently struggle to know what day it is, what month we are in and we have so many questions about what the future holds.

One thing is for sure, at the moment, we have no answers, just many, many questions.

At some point, one day, restrictions will ease…

But, importantly, the day after will be no different. The virus will still be around. We will all still be susceptible to catching the virus, unless a vaccine is found.

Update Apr 29th – ‘Germany’s rate of COVID-19 infections grows after lockdown eased.’

‘Germany faces the prospect of having to restore stricter lockdown measures as its number and rate of coronavirus infections grew again.’

Article available Here

However, it seems to be a general consensus by the experts that a vaccine will not be available till 2021.

We are living in a time of so much insecurity – lives are being lost globally, people are losing work, children are at home and the world is an element of lockdown.

So, talking about racing and running seems a little insignificant and pointless in the context of the above, but I, and I know many of you are asking the question, when will racing return?

Firstly, the race calendar to August has been pretty much wiped out globally. Many races and RD’s accepted the situation, cancelled events and said, ‘we will see you in 2021!’ But, for every race that cancelled, another postponed to a date later in the year in the hope that restrictions would be eased and that the virus would be on the back foot. I get it, nobody wants to cancel an event.

But the postponement scenario has already created an issue with a plethora of races all now scheduled for September, October, November and December. Quite simply, the back end of the season will have more races than runners and we will see participants having to make a choice of which race they toe the line on.

But…

For me, this is the big but, I in all honesty do not see racing returning to ‘normal’ in 2020.

I hate to be pessimistic, but the global situation is so dire that the cessation from lockdown to normal is going to be months, not days or weeks.

Prof Chris Whitty said it was “wholly unrealistic” to expect life would suddenly return to normal soon. He said “in the long run” the ideal way out would be via a “highly effective vaccine” or drugs to treat the disease. But he warned that the chance of having those within the next calendar year was “incredibly small”. – Via BBC News

 

Read

Race cancellation and Covid-19 HERE

Covid-19 – A Guide HERE

Currently, many trails are closed.

THE SHORT-TERM FUTURE OF COVID-19 AND RACING

Firstly, we are going to be in a yoyo period with second and third phase infection as lockdowns are eased. This will create additional peaks and troughs. This in turn, may require governments to reapply and ease restrictions so as to prevent overload on health systems.

It will be a period of controlled herd immunity until a vaccine comes. Needless to say, the old, frail, sick and anyone in care homes will need to be protected.

Suppression measures will slowly be released, firstly with schools returning (this is already happening in Norway and soon Germany,) then retail outlets will open with measures to control how many people can be in a store and controls on social distancing. Restaurants may open with controlled measures such as the client must be seated, only hot food can be consumed, and tables must be spaced accordingly as per government and health specifications.

When one takes into consideration the above, this accounts for May, June and July and of course, in each country, the situation will be monitored. As more people move freely, the virus will spread. If the spread is too great, restrictions may be reimposed to slow the spread down and so on. So, it’s easy to see that planning August, September and beyond is not something one can do with any certainty or guarantee.

Just today, Val d’Aran by UTMB®, has been cancelled and will take place in 2021. Xavier Pocino, director, explained:

“Our priority is the health and safety of the participants as well as the population of the Val d’Aran. Given the current context, it is therefore preferable to postpone the race in order to guarantee the health and logistics of the event. We also wish to respect the dates of other races programmed for after the summer, to avoid a date clash and to allow our athletes to participate in those races, should they go ahead”.

Currently airlines are on a very restricted service, hotels are closed, restaurants are closed, and, in many places, lockdown really does not allow any travel at all. Some are allowed to exercise, from home, for 1-hour.

A picture is building that the transition from lockdown to free movement is more than likely a year away?

If travel is restricted, hotels are closed and restaurants remain unopened, quite simply, racing will be cancelled.

The short-term future of racing will be virtual, and already globally, we are seeing virtual incentives appearing. From simple scenarios of running for a daily specific time, such as 45-minutes. But also, multi-day challenges or even specific distance challenges such as 1000-miles are appearing. Take up has been impressive which only goes to show the desire for competition.

As restrictions ease, races and RD’s will need to be constantly communicating with authorities to ascertain what is and what is not possible. For example, Sweden started with a herd immunity approach in January, avoided lockdown, emphasized social distancing, protected the old and allowed group gatherings of up to 50 people. Whereas, in the UK, for example, in March it was locked down with only essential travel (shopping) and exercise (from home) with other family members allowed.

Nature is the boss.

WHAT MAY RACING LOOK LIKE INITIALLY?

It goes without saying here that maybe ALL races will be cancelled or postponed until the Covid-19 situation is under control or over.

However, there may be a transition phase. Just as children return to school, workers return to offices, runners returning to races may need to adapt.

We all seek isolation and love personal adventure, maybe in the months to come, this will take over from racing?

PRE-RACE

  • Initially, global travel will be reduced and no doubt under control or restrictions. So, maybe races will only allow regional athletes. For example, only French residents can run in French races.
  • Medical certificates may be required that go beyond the standard ECG/ health check with a requirement to include testing for Covid-19.
  • Race briefings, bib provision and all admin will be done electronically so as to reduce pre-race social interaction.
  • Covid-19 appears to have a 14-day ‘active’ period, therefore, 14-days from the race start it will be a requirement to have a medical check or even in extreme cases, runners may be required to go into 14-day isolation/ quarantine before a race start. Any symptoms, no race!
  • No pre-race gatherings.

It can be easy, sort of, to social distance on the trails.

THE RACE

  • Races may have reduced numbers and they will incorporate an element of social distancing to reduce risk. For example, staggered starts of say 10-runners starting at 10-minute intervals. Seeding could be worked out by asking runners to run a 5km time trial and then provide the time to the RD? Racing would obviously be based on chip time and therefore, the race could be more like a time trial.
  • Aid stations may be removed and therefore self-sufficiency/ autonomy will be required both from a food and water perspective. This by default would mean races could only be a certain distance in length. One other alternative could be un-manned aid stations and runners would need to provide sealed drop bags which they could access at specific points. If it was a 100-mile race, for example, 4 aid/ drop stations at 20/40/60 and 80-miles. Again, aid/ drop stations would have social distancing in place.
  • The need for a personal tracking device such as a Spot or Garmin InReach may be required to guarantee security for each participant.
  • Mandatory equipment would need to cover more eventualities. Maybe *face masks and *gloves would be a requirement? *Medical opinion varies on the effectiveness and use.
  • Race routes and courses may well be unmarked and therefore the need for a navigation or a navigation device using a provided GPX track could be a requirement.
  • Volunteer help may be reduced with ongoing implications.
  • Medical support/ safety could be compromised.
  • Extreme or dangerous courses would not be allowed to reduce the potential ongoing need for medical help due to accidents.
  • Finish areas would be isolated with minimal interaction.
  • A ‘finish and go’ scenario once the race is completed.

Parties and any post-race razzamatazz may be on hold for a while.

POST RACE

  • Post-race gatherings would be cancelled.
  • Awards and prizes would be done digitally, and any physical prices would be posted out.

CONCLUSION

The above are ideas and thought processes that have been bouncing around my head while in lockdown.

I actually wonder, faced with the above, how many would still want to race? Maybe all races will be cancelled until they can be run ‘as normal!’

Of course, I do think much of the above may well be fantasy or fiction, but I can see how some of the above could happen. Especially in regard to electronic communication, pre/post gatherings, social distancing and a reduction or change to how aid stations work.

Good friend, respected race director and runner, John Storkamp of Rock Steady Running (in the USA) kindly provided me with some of his thoughts:

“But I also believe that almost none of us want to get back at any cost, especially if it compromises safety.  Our own personal safety or the safety of the communities where our events are held. Once we can return, I for one also fear a diminished race experience with reminders of the virus at every turn, at least initially; i.e. no ritual of packet pickup, no festive pre-race gatherings, no mass starts where we all come together in the collective nervousness and prayer before the start, skeleton crew aid-stations filled with nervous workers exposed to every runner, no post race celebration with the telling of tales of the dragons we slayed out on the course that day.  Races have always provided us with an alternate reality, an escape for a day or two, from the stresses of daily life.  Any post-Covid races, again at least initially, will invite all of the fear of our current daily existence into what has always been one of our safest and most sacred spaces.”

Certainly, with the races I work on and communicate with, they are learning lessons now but are planning for 2021 races to be run as one would expect.

Solo running, time-trial events and FKT’s may prove popular.

*****

I asked on Twitter for some thoughts, here are the responses:

Sarah Canney – Local participants only? Pre and post race outside with masks?

Andrew Smith – I’m thinking there will be pretty much no racing this year and am just going for some personal challenges.  Hopeful next year might look different, but even then there will likely be changes – how much depends on what fundamental changes we will need to make day to day.

Mark Atkinson – Expect a fair few staggered start or time trial approaches with reduced numbers. Possibly smaller but more frequent aid points so if one is too busy you head to the next. I’m going to miss running shoulder to shoulder with a stranger through the night sharing life stories.

Dr Stacey Holloway – Maybe more FKT attempts than races and round attempts? We host a winter race in Jan, but even thinking we won’t be in 2021 and looking for maybe for Nov 2021 event and a Jan 2022 event and having its as some sort of series… not sure just ideas!

Melinda Coen – I’m expecting higher entry fees to help RDs survive  and also lower numbers, wave starts, less buffet aid at ultras and more “packaged foods”.

Via Talk Ultra Facebook page:

Yes, individual starts, unfortunately less a to b-races due to don’t want to gather people on buses. – Henrik

Proof of vaccinations required – Brian

I wonder whether some event organisers will run two or three events on the same day to stagger start times and space people out more. For example, could have a trail run, duathlon, triathlon and aquathlon. Bit of a logistical nightmare in some ways! – Ann

Reduced numbers. Staggered starts, volunteers in face masks and gloves, no more sponge bucket( that one makes me sad).
More crew or drop bags allowed to lessen need for a CP table/buffet. – Shane

Assisting injured runners may be a problem, especially on a trail. – Martin

Races will be cancelled either voluntarily by the organizers or from lack of participation.Some will go away because of financial problems. When trails are open people will do more FKT attempts and solo runs. – Ali

Self supported – no shared food at aid stations – Tim

Less corporate, More self-sufficient, longer distances between aid stations, more map reading or gps guidance less trail marking..all to the good then! – Kevin

 

What are your thoughts? Comment below.

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Initial comments re Covid-19, herd immunity and the implications were influenced by an audio interview from, ‘The Post’ with Johan Giesecke – Here

inov-8 Trail Talon 290 V2 Shoe Review

inov-8 TRAIL TALON 290 V2

TRAIL TALON 290 (8mm drop) is one of my favourite all-round trail shoes of all-time, the previous incarnations were always a ‘go-to’ for everyday running and when travelling, they were the perfect shoe to take as they managed to cover a multitude of uses, be that road, hard trail, rocks and yes, even some mud and very soft-ground.

The new version of TRAIL TALON, named TRAIL TALON 290 V2 is all that the previous incarnation was with a new upper.

The plus side from the off, is the new TRAIL TALON 290 V2 has that all important 8mm drop that is great for everyday use, not too low and too high. Therefore, it’s perfect for those longer days.

The outsole has 4mm lugs with a classic configuration, the TRAIL TALON 290 V2 is very much a dry trail/ mountain shoe that can handle a little sloppy stuff if required.

The TRAIL TALON 290 V2 is wide (fit 4 – Shoes with the higher numbers on our scale will suit athletes with a wider foot and those wanting that extra comfort in the toe box) and it has plenty of room and it allows the toes to move and splay just as in the previous model but not at the loss of a secure feel and reassurance when on more technical trail.

When running long your toes have room to move and should you be prone to swelling, the shoes have room for the foot to expand. This ‘standard fit’ is something that inov-8 have worked on and by contrast, some shoes in the inov-8 range can be purchased on ‘precision’ fit which offers a tighter and narrower toe box. The TRAIL TALON V2, when running on long, flat and consistent terrain excel with a plush ride, great return in the push-off phase and all-day comfort.

The 6mm POWER FOOTBED and TWO PIECE POWERFLOW midsole provide a cushioned ride with 1imm at the front and 19mm at the rear.  This only adds to the thoughts of inov-8 that the TRAIL TALON is a long-distance shoe, if going out for a long session or a day in the mountains, the Trail Talon 290 V2 would be ideal. Also, ideal if running a multi-day race like Marathon des Sables or similar. The higher drop allows more leeway and flexibility and I must add that the TRAIL TALON 290 V2 is a superb shoe to walk in. This is really important for those who are running long or doing multi-day races. Often, shoes are tested just running with no consideration of how the shoe transitions to a change of gait when walking. For me, the TRAIL TALON 290 is one of the best run shoes I have used when walking, the transition is seamless and comfortable no doubt attributable to the ADAPTERFIT met-cradle for better mid-foot comfort.

I am always wary of buzz words like ‘Powerflow’ and ‘Adapterfit’ as in real terms they can mean nothing. Breaking the words down, the TRAIL TALON 290 V2 has great cushioning and great mid-foot comfort.

When running, the feel of the shoe and the comfort level is high. In the 290 has a great ‘feel’ for the ground despite the extra comfort, really important for me, I never want to lose that connection with the surface I am running on.

As in the previous 290, the TRAIL TALON 290 V2 incorporates the unique on-the-shoe gaiter attachment so that should you require a Gaiter you can purchase the item separately and attach/ de-attach with ease.

The lacing system and a gusseted tongue are winners contributing to the great out-of-the-box comfort. I have been saying this for ages, but a gusseted tongue just makes sense; It helps hold the foot in place, it stops the tongue moving and sliding to the left or right as you run and maybe most importantly it adds an additional protection to stop debris entering the shoe.

The lacing is added ‘on to’ the shoe by what effectively is a folded plastic layer. This works so well as it allows the shoes to be laced tightly or loosely as required but it also allows the front to swell within the shoe.

Toe protection on the shoe is good but not ridiculous. The heel box is snug, cushioned, holds the foot well and caused no rubbing on long sessions, even when walking.

Grip is compromised on any muddy trails but then again, the TRAIL TALON 290 V2 is not intended for this type of terrain, you are much better looking at a Mudclaw or similar which is designed for specific off-road and muddy use.

The key change and hence the V2 title; the upper. It is lighter and more breathable without a compromise to durability. Recently, inov-8 have had some complaints re upper durability but here in the 290 V2 I have no complaints. I have put 150-miles in them on a mixture of terrain and the shoes are holding up really well, both the upper and outsole.

Finally, the TRAIL TALON 290 V2 is gladly very similar to the previous incarnation and for that I am very happy. Often a brand feels the need to tweak a shoe looking for constant improvement when in reality, what they had was already fine! Gladly here, the V2 has just an upper change and that works perfectly well.

This TRAIL TALON 290 V2 was a winner before and it still is. I would go as far to say, that it is inov-8’s best shoe. It is most certainly the best all-rounder and if you were looking for one pair of trail shoes to handle many scenarios, the 290 V2 is perfect.

Specs from inov-8 (web here)

  • Iconic inov-8 rubber outsoles with multi-directional claw-shaped 4mm studs, each with a wide contact area, allow the quick release of debris and provide unrivalled grip and stability over rocky terrain.
  • The two-piece POWERFLOW midsole, constructed from two compounds – one designed to optimize comfort and the other to maximize energy return – delivers 10% better shock absorption and 15% better energy return than standard midsoles. An inbuilt Dynamic Fascia Band (DFB) mimics the “Windlass Effect”, delivering a kick of energy with each step, helping you run faster more efficiently.
  • An 8mm drop offers comfort, while new highly durable lightweight upper materials offer breathability and protection. Built around the natural anatomic structure of the foot, the next generation ADAPTERFIT met-cradle adapts to the natural movement and swelling of the foot on longer runs.
  • An External Heel Cage (EHC) wraps around the rear of the shoe and provides support in the heel – aiding foot stability and helping maintain a better gait when fatigued.
  • The new upper features extended welded TPU overlays and a rubber toe bumper to protect the foot from sharp rocks and stones. On-the-shoe gaiter hooks allow you to attach an ALL TERRAIN GAITER for additional protection, keeping loose debris out of the shoe.

______

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