Sunday, December 29, 2013

20 Miles with a Camel [on my] Bak

Last Sunday afternoon, I did my second real long run with my newly gifted Camelbak Rogue (70 oz). I've done some shorter trail runs with it, but nothing really long, or with a specific pace goal in mind. I also hate carrying anything in my hands while running, and anything resembling a fanny pack is out, so this seemed like a good option. We live in a great place for trail runs, and there are decent options for long street runs too, but if want something that's not always going either up or down, you pretty much have to drive to it. All of my flatter route options within running distance involve running on a much busier, speedier road with no good exit strategy if things start to get scary, and honestly, I live on a flipping mountain: nothing is that flat up here.

The route is just over two miles out (mostly uphill), then a series of 2.7 mile loops until I have enough miles, at which point, I head back down those same two miles (mostly downhill now). The loops are about a third uphill (170 ft, give or take according to Garmin), a third rolling, and a third downhill. It's not the easiest route, but it's manageable, and I tell myself that I'll be glad to have the bonus hill training.
I love this chart, but man, it's a bit of pain to make it.

My training schedule called for an 18 miler two weeks ago, and a 20 miler last week. I normally find that I need water on anything longer than about 13 miles (and that's a stretch in warmer weather). First off, filling this thing up is no problem. At no point did I feel like I was in any danger of spilling. Judging by my ability to keep pace with the thing on my back, it does just fine on the run too. There was some initial, "Woah, I'm running with a thing on my back, and it's making a sloshing noise," type feeling, but after a mile or two, I was used to it. I was worried it would start to feel heavy as the run went on, but since I was technically lightening the load with every swig I took, it actually felt lighter as I went along. It was also nice to grind out a hill, drying out my mouth breathing heavily, and then take the edge off with a nice, cool shot of water no matter how far away I was from the nearest water fountain. Speaking of taking a drink, you have to bite the mouthpiece before drawing in order to do that, and even when I was tired, gasping for breath at the top of those hills, this wasn't a problem. Even on the 20 mile run, I wasn't close to running out of water either. Finally, if you are the sort of runner who likes to listen through your headphones on the run, the top zipper pouch worked well as an iPhone storage compartment (forget accessing it without taking off the pack though).

If I'm honest though, there are a couple of small nitpicks. My 140 pound frame doesn't exactly have the broadest of shoulders, and I have to cinch the chest strap pretty much all the way tight to keep from feeling like the straps are going to fall off. When it's cinched all the way, I don't get this sensation, but as I kept running, I felt the chest strap start to loosen, and I started catching myself tensing my shoulders to keep the shoulder straps in position. Concerning cargo space, there's plenty of it for a runner (certainly for a 20 mile run). Though not to the same degree as I dislike carrying things with my hands on a run, I dislike carrying things in my pockets. I found that I actually preferred carrying everything on my back instead. However, I ended up having to unhook the chest strap, unhook the drinking hose, and take the pack off of one shoulder when it came time to take a Gu. After fiddling with it some more, I found that the lower zipper pouch can be accessed without partially removing the pack, but it's still not as convenient as I would have liked. Finally, I found that I had to disconnect the drinking hose in order to take a drink. The angle required of my neck to accomplish this without disconnecting it just wasn't practical.
It's even UGA, I mean, "Racing" Red

All things considered, I'm glad to finally have one of these. I've heard of people shunning the aid stations and wearing them through marathons, but I think I'll stick to aid stations during races for now. I've never really had a problem with crowded aid stations anyway. I do intend to keep wearing it on long runs, and I certainly feel like I could have used it this previous summer. It a good piece of kit to have for when you need it, certainly preferable to dehydration.

Update (2014-01-05) - I've got some more quantifiable information concerning just how long I can go on a fill up since the original post. Granted, it's winter right now, so on a warmer run this might be a different story, but I can go 2+ hours on half a fill up. Given that the pack is rated for "2+ hours," I'm going to go ahead and say that Camelbak is sandbagging on this one. Also, running while wearing this thing makes me feel like I can run way farther than I'm actually planning to run. One passerby remarked that I look like I "just summited...something."

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