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Salomon S-Lab Adv 12 Set 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.

 

Soft Flasks
Soft Flask in pouches

 

 

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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Interview with Natural Hero

 

Mark CooperName: Mark Cooper

Hometown: Edinburgh

Sports: Running, cycling, rowing, anything outdoors really.

Achievements:

To me, my biggest achievement has to be completing my first ever 10k race back in 2007, I had just given up a 20 a day smoking habit nad this really proved to me that I could achieve great things with a strong mind. Despite this I am probably best known for other things. Such as, running 129.2 miles in 24 hours on a treadmill in July 2011 and running 50 marathons in 56 days from Amsterdam to Barcelona.

Cycling Lands End to John O Groats in 2009 – 11 days 1,000 miles. (However I intend to run it over a period of around 8 days for a new world record) Setting a course record for running Hadrian’s Wall – July 2010 100 miles in 16 hours 59 minutes. 5th in the Edinburgh Marathon Festival 5k (May 2011) 3rd Jog Scotland 5k run (June 2010) 6th in the Glasgow to Edinburgh Double Marathon (April 2011)

I also took part in a team event this year called the Trip to Remember where we cycled from Dublin to Arklow, rowed the Irish sea, which took 19 hours and then hiked 20 miles to the top of Snowdon all within 33 hours, non-stop.

Tips for the top:

If you want to run then you have to really learn to love it, it has to become part of your life. Otherwise it will be a real struggle and you will probably end up giving in. Remember to keep sight of why you started and enjoy if for what it is – being outdoors and going to new places. It is really important not too concerned with what other people are doing in a race, just remain focussed on your own training. Also take time to run without your watch, without a goal, just run for the love of it (not that easy in the beginning when you feel like your hearts is going to burst).

Where it hurts:

Shin splints and knees strains are pretty common for the runner, knee injuries and metatarsal tares and feet problems. The key is to build up your training slowly, don’t push yourself too fast. If I had a really serious injury I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t run. Really thinking about your posture and getting the right footwear can help to prevent the majority of injuries. I never followed any of the rules to running when I started, I went from running 30 miles a week to over 100 the week after, silly looking back but I survived and fortunately I have never had an injury that has stopped me from training.

Greatest thing about the great outdoors:

There are two main things that I love about running. The first is meeting new people at races and the opportunities to talk with people that I wouldn’t meet any other way. The second is that you miss so much if you’re in a car or even on a bike. When you’re running you get to see things differently, from a different angle. You can go into the woods or down a track and then your back to basics. It’s me, my running shoes and the trail – nothing else.

Who are your sporting heroes:

Sporting hero, I would have to say Kelly Holmes, she is a tough and amazing woman. Watching her win double gold was a moment I still remember and for a young person like I was then to see that is very inspiring. Mo Farah is also up there, watching him win double gold in London was incredible. Again we can only hope that people like Mo can inspire a young generation to get active and perhaps create the future Olympians but more than that just get the youth more into sport in general.

Outside of sport it would have to be my Dad – A lot of questions were asked of him when my Mother passed away and he answered every single one of them perfectly, raising me and my Brother to be polite, caring and ambitious.

How I use Natural Heroes:

I have used the ginger rub for recovery after an run on the West Highland Way and found it to be soothing with a nice warming sensation. Would recommend it over products like deep heat as these only irritate the skin to produce heat.

Website: http://www.runwithmark.com
Twitter: @runwithmark

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Make Your Goals Your Ultimate Motivation

Sticking To Your Running Goals: Make Your Goals Your Ultimate Motivation

One of the difficult facets of being in the pursuit of staying fit and healthy is religiously sticking to your fitness goals and objectives. In fact, most people get discouraged when they miss a single running session per week. While there are runners who are by and large opt to “stretch” their goals, in reality, some of these goals gradually become neglected.

In running, a clear-cut mechanism in meeting your expectation should always be kept. As running enthusiast Jeff Gaudette says, “the potential downside of having out-of-reach goals is that you train too hard, push your body before it’s ready, and lose motivation due to lack of progress.” If you want to set realistic and attainable running goals, here are a few tips for your perusal:

Start Small
Running long distances yet at a slow pace can help your heart as well as your lungs in building endurance. This will not only help work out your cardiovascular system but strengthen your muscles, connective tissues, and joints as well. However, there are other variables that you should take into consideration when partaking in such rigorous activities: your health is one of these variables. Always ask your physician as well as your health provider just in case you have a medical history that may affect your chosen exercise. You may want to click here to find out more.

Training
Training offered by professionals or signing up for a 5k race can do you good in the long run. In fact, even a simple casual walk or an easy run can be part of your running regime. Remember, training yourself before a marathon can boost your body’s resistance come the actual marathon day.

Reminders
According to Active, “if you are choosing to lose weight in order to be a better example to your child, write their name down where you can see it as you run. Think up a great phrase that inspires you and write it across your knuckles.” Also, constantly reminding yourself by motivational phrases such as “because I can” or “I’m doing this for…” can help you reach the finish line no matter how exhausted you are.

Progress
Even if you’re doing it just for fun, remember to track your progress to see if there are improvements, too. Do not stick to your usual running sessions—if you need to run a few more hours/miles, go for it.

Man Jogging on Open Road

 

 

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The Maggie’s to Maggie’s Challenge

centre_challenge

When a Friend of mines, Alan Kennedy (who just finished his first ever Ironman! Congrats) asked me to speak at his new cycling themed cafe in Glasgow on Great Western Road I of course said yes.

It was only after I said yes that a thought struck me, what am I going to talk about?

In the past i’ve always spoken about my previous runs, there have been a few but this time I wanted it to be different.

I’ve been the Community Fundraiser at Maggie’s Cancer Care for just over 12 months and in that time I’ve learnt so much and met so many incredible people. I want to focus on this when I do my talk at Surface+ Cafe but also since all my previous talks have had a running story to tell I need something new to talk about.

On that note, I’ve decided to undertake a Maggie’s to Maggie’s Challenge, we have had several people who have cycled between Maggie’s centres in the UK but I’m a runner so I’ll do this on foot.

The plan is to run between the following places…

Edinburgh to Glasgow to Dundee to Kirkcaldy to Edinburgh

The distance is roughly 225 miles and I’ll aim to do the challenge in 4 days meaning a distance of around 57 miles each day.

I’ve not run an ultra since April 2012 and my training has been up and down since then but that’s because I now have a job which I love and it keeps me busy.

There comes a time though when my love of running screams out to me and this is one of those times.

You can donate to my page by clicking HERE

BRING IT ON!

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Homemade Energy Bars

Back in April I decided to make my own energy bars for the Highland Fling Ultra.

They were amazing and since then I have been asked to share the recipe by a lot of people, so here it is.
Peanut Butter, honey, oat bars

Ingredients

Peanut Butter, runny honey, dried fruit (I used cranberries), oats, pumpkin seeds and hazelnuts.

Method

1. Pour as much peanut butter as you want into a bowl, make sure you know how much you have poured in.

2. Pour in half that amount of honey.

3. Heat in a microwave for 30 seconds or until the peanut butter is soft, it shouldn’t be bubbling just softer so you can mix it.

4. Mix both together and add your hazelnuts, dried fruit and oats. Amount isn’t important, just mess around until it’s a good consistency.

5. Someone said I should have added Chocolate chips, I wish I had so i’ll try that next time.

6. Lay the mixture out on a baking tray which is about at least an inch deep and stick it in the fridge.

7. Remove from fridge after about an hour and slice into portions

Enjoy! Simple and they taste amazing, they lasted well on my 10hr run, they didn’t melt and kept me fueled for the entire race.

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