Monday, September 30, 2013

Review UltraSpire UltraViz Spry: Safety focused, Versatile, Year Round Race Vest

I am a big fan of UltraSpire run vests and packs. This relatively new company has top notch, innovative design and materials and works closely and listens to top ultra runners such as Karl Meltzer, Krissy Moehl, and Luke Nelson.  They make a very wide variety of highly functional belts and packs of very lightweight durable materials. I have purchased their Spry and Alpha vests and found them to be a perfect balance of light weight, comfort, carry capacity when needed, and zero bounce when fully loaded. I also own and have reviewed their Quantum race belt here.

I met with UltraSpire at Outdoor Retailer and they were kind enough to send me their late 2013 UltraViz SpryVest.  They also sent me their 2014 Titan 2.0 pack which I will review shortly

I was particularly taken by the UltraViz vest as it meets multiple needs:
  • winter and year round visibility and reflectivity.
  • moderate carry capacity: phone, gels, small bladder or light shell.
  • no need to have separate winter reflective vests and summer race vests. All in one.

 Key Features:

  • reflective stripes and ANSI high visibility colors  for winter month safety, and really year round if roads are on your program.
  • 2 easy to reach  deep, stretch mesh pockets on the front. I have put 6 plus gels in a pocket. My smartphone, with room to spare, fits in one pocket or you can easily put an 8 oz soft flask with no jiggling in the second pocket, or gloves, hat, etc...
  • a small zippered mesh pocket on the shoulder for electrolyte tablets or your car keys.
  • 2 shoulder elastic loops for hydration hose or an LED blinker. 
  • Single, somewhat elastic sternum strap that is easy to adjust on the go. Metal slide in hook closure as with all UltraSpire belts and closures.
  • the back has a stretch mesh pocket, with solid magnetic closure for either an optional 1.0 liter UltraSpire bladder or a light shell, gloves, etc..
  • easy to reach adjustment straps on either side to fit over bulkier clothes.

  • UltraSpire UltraViz Run Vest- rear magnetic closure pocket, fits 1 liter hydration bladder

UltraViz Spry is very similar in cut to the conventional Spry.  UltraViz Spry is made of sweat proof mesh with a smaller, less textured pattern than the Spry. Unlike the conventional Spry with its drop in pocket on one side and zipper pocket with small mesh pocket on top on the other, the UltraViz has 2 flat stretch mesh pockets. Far more versatile setup in my view. Women runner friends with the Spry comment that sternum strap should be adjustable vertically.

Road Test:
I have taken a few runs with the vest with front pockets loaded. No bounce to speak of, a tiny bit of looseness and motion in the top part of the chest but also very important the vest is in no way constricting.  Pockets are very easy to reach with no toggles or zippers to deal with. By pulling up on the top of the vest, with a bit of loosening of the side straps, one is able to reach back into the rear pocket without taking off the pack.

Year round safety and moderate carry capacity.
Comfortable, easy to adjust with no belt pressure around the middle.
Quick, fumble free access to all pockets on the run.
OK it is high, high visibility. Might be a bit of light show on the trail but you can't be too visible on the road.

MSRP $55.  Available from UltraSpire

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

First Review adidas adizero adios Boost: Light, Boost Powered Racer/ Light Trainer

Earlier this year adidas launched the Energy Boost featuring a midsole made of TPU instead of the conventional EVA. The Runner's World Shoe Lab found in an article by Amby Burfoot:

   "Yet after poking, prodding, stomping upon, dissecting and inspecting (under a microscope) the new     “boost” midsole, Martyn confirmed what Adidas is claiming: the shoe has “industry leading” energy return (more on this soon), thin and lightweight but effective cushioning, tremendous resistance to heat and cold, and more durability (perhaps twice as much) as conventional EVA midsoles. "

I am now on my second pair of Energy Boost and have found the claims above to be largely true. With the exception of some curling up at the toe and normal outsole wear my first pair with 300 miles feels and looks like new. The Boost material really holds up far better than conventional EVA. My review of the Energy Boost is here.

This said the Energy Boost is really a trainer. In October adidas launched the adizero adios Boost a Boost midsole version of their popular adios racer.
adios Boost

adios Boost is a light, 7.8 oz  Men's 9 US,  6.6 oz Women's 8 US  cushioned racer/trainer with heel/toe drop of 23/13mm vs. 26/17 for the Energy Boost according to Running Warehouse. This is not a low drop shoe but certainly runs like one for me. They fit me true to my size 8.5 with a light sock.

The adios Boost is just starting to be available in the US. I got mine from Wiggle in the UK earlier in September. Wiggle is a great place to get products released in Europe before the US  for very close to what they will sell for in the US and with very reasonable and rapid shipping.

adios Boost (left) Energy Boost(right)
Unlike the Energy Boost with its stretchy soft shell "Techfit" material, the adios Boost has a conventional mesh.
The individual cells' weave is not particularly soft but as they are small and with entirely welded overlays in the toe box provide  a great combination of support and give.
The lacing goes far further towards the toe than in the Energy Boost.
The toe box is plenty wide for a racing shoe over the forefoot then somewhat pointy towards the toes. The tongue is thin mesh with minimal padding.

Midsole and Outsole:
The midsole is of course made of Boost. The construction is identical to the Energy except of course thinner at stack heights of 27.75/17.25mm vs, the Energy Boost with 31.5/21.5mm.

adios Boost Outsole
adios Boost Outsole
The outsole/midsole interface features the adidas Torsion System as on the Energy Boost, a web of thin, stiff  green plastic under the arch and extending in strips on the outer edges towards the toe. This system produces the snappy toe off and also helps stabilize the soft Boost material. It really works. In board are 2 glued on strips of small lugs: black outer sole covering tiny stiff pieces of plastic. Based on my first runs, these tinylugs help stabilize push off while giving good ground feel and providing more flexibility than solid strips of outsole would. Finally, a somewhat firmer than Boost material EVA torsion piece, ironically with the word "Boost" on it, is used in the heel for a firm yet cushioned heel landing and roll forward. The actual outsole is "Continental" rubber, as in Continental tires for claimed great slip free grip on all surfaces and long wear.

This is one stiff shoe with a very springy flex point as illustrated in the photo (right). I was working hard to push down and flex the shoe. Some may not like this approach but I find it highly responsive at speed. The Energy Boost has a similar stiff flex but the flex point is somewhat further back than the adios. I can say that with close to 300 miles on my Energy Boost they have remained consistently stiff and I would expect the adios Boost to perform in a similar fashion. There is no break in with these shoes. The first miles will feel exactly like the last all around: cushion via Boost and flex and stability via Torsion.

Ride and Runs:
I have done 5 runs for a total of about 30 miles in the adios including a very brisk 7.5 mile tempo that included flats and steep uphills and downhills. In a word "incredible" at speed, less fun for a jog.  The adios have a great combination of snappy response and a cushioning that only be described as soft when it needs to be and firm when it needs to be. By this I mean the initial landing is soft but stable and the push off is firm, very directed with no sloppy feeling  with great ground feel and responsive rebound from the combination of Boost and Torsion. My tempo at altitude was considerably faster than expected and the next day my legs were none the worse for wear. With a marathon in 2 weeks with 2500 feet of downhill I will be cautious and run the Energy Boost but for any other race adios Boost for me!
Update: Ran my first race in the adios boost, the traditional, low key Gosport Chowder Club Huffin' for the Stuffin' 5K here in coastal NH and finished 3d overall. They felt great super snappy and firm but unlike other racing flats not harsh and jarring. Legs fresh the after the race and next day.
Update 2/2014: I have now done 3 long races in the adios Boost: 15K, Half, followed by a 20 miler the week after All three races have been surprisingly fast for me including a 1:37.42 half in cold weather, my first half under 1:40 on a legit course since 2011. Even the 20 miler yesterday was painless and I ran today with minimal soreness. The adios truly disappear on the feet, are snappy, and without removing road feel have a unique combination of race flat fast feel, great cushion and no harshness.
Update 6/16/14: 3 races in the adios in the last few weeks. A 25K trail race on wet grass, some mud and dirt/gravel roads. Great upper support and pretty decent traction. Followed that with a 5K and 10K on the road. There is something about these shoes that keeps your stride in a groove. You can feel when tired things slipping and a slight adjustment keeps one tracking straight and smooth.

Light, cushioned, highly responsive racing machine for distances from 5K to Marathon.
Boost material really works at speed when combined with the stability of Torsion
Expected long life of midsole for consistent performance over time.

10 mm drop may put off some but I run in mostly 4-6mm shoes and didn't notice.
Toe box may feel narrow for some but after all this is a race shoe.
Stiff forefoot with highly directed push off, not particularly "natural" for some.
Price: Expected MSRP around $140.

Other reviews: Pete Larson at Runblogger reviews the adios boost and likes them a lot.
adios boost review at Believe in the Run. adios boost directly out of the box for a marathon!