Review - Nathan X Trainer Plus

Thursday, May 31, 2007

I've been looking for a new waist pack for a month or so now to replace my aging and short on storage Ultimate Direction Groove. I tried The North Face Xenon 2 bottle pack. However, because of my relatively small waist (28''-29") the pack wrapped too far around and my elbows were always hitting the bottles. I don't know if the same would happen with other two bottle packs, but my guess is there's a good chance it would. Given that and the fact that I don't mind a handheld, I decided to seek out a single bottle pack with some extra storage for things like, carbo gels, salt pills, band-aids and the other little essentials I take on my long runs and the events I participate in. I came across the Nathan X Trainer Plus. Nathan has a good following and presence in the ultrarunning community so I threw some questions out to the Ultralist about it and looked for existing reviews or even multiple views of the product and came up empty. (Nathan, please put pictures of your products from different angles and more detailed product descriptions) From what I could tell by the limited information out there it seemed as if it was what I was looking for in a waist pack, so I went ahead and ordered one. Also, since I could not find a review or pictures other then the stock one from Nathan I decided I'd write my own review and post some pics to shed some light on this pack.

Part 1 - Design

The X Trainer Plus follows the standard Nathan colors of gray and yellow. The 22oz. water bottle is held horizontally and has a lip on both sides and is supposed to keep the bottle from sliding out. The X Trainer Plus includes 2 pockets, a pouch containing a 5 oz. flask, and a shock cord.

side view, pocket #1. The pocket pictured above can be found on the regular X Trainer as well. It's big enough to fit a small digital camera like a Olympia FE-210 (3.5" W x 2.5" H x 1.2" D), a normal sized men's wallet or a hand full of carbo gels. It could expand to be a bit larger, but would depend on what was in the flask pocket. If you kept the flask or anything hard in there, expansion is minimal. In addition, a key clip is located in this pocket.

- The rest of the features below are what separates The X Trainer Plus from the standard X Trainer as far as I can tell -

Top view, pocket #2. This is the largest pocket that spans almost the entire width of the pack (approx 8'') and has a depth of about 5'' in the deepest spot tapering down to 2'' in the corners, see the picture directly above. It will hold a good amount of small gear, but since the back of the pocket is the part of the pack that will be touching your back, flatter items will probably ride better and keep bounce down. Though given that the back is well padded, you could get away with stashing some bulging items in it. I was able to shove an Ultimate Direction 20oz. bottle (without the lid on) in it and zip it up. Obviously not a practical application, since the main bottle will not fit properly anymore, but I wanted to give an idea of size.

Front view, pocket #3. A 5oz. flask is included with this pack and can be filled with carbo gel if you happen to buy gel in the bulk bottles. Another thought would be to fill this with some sort powdered mix since the opening on the flask is pretty large and would be easy to fill and pour out. I don't buy gel in bulk and would usually have mixes at drop bag locations therefore I decided to see what else I could get in the pouch. It will expand a bit because of its' mesh panel down the front. There is also a cinch cord at the top of the pouch to hold the items in. I was able to get 5 Hammer Gels (1.25 oz each) into the pouch, so if you use GU (1 oz each) getting 6 in there should work. As you can see from the picture above, a hard drive based music player will fit as well as pushing the extra cord from your headphones to keep them from tangling. I use a Zune which is slightly bigger then an Ipod. It slid right in and the cinch cord was tightened to secure it in place. This pouch could accommodate cell phones ranging from small to large. One thing to note about this pocket is that it does not close completely. The cinch cord leaves about a 1'' round gap at the top, but given the angle it sits most items will not come spilling out very easily.

Front Bottom view, shock cord. A nice addition to the pack is the shock cord on the bottom. You could easily attach a super light shell, extra shirt, socks, arm warmers or whatever else you take off or put on (I'm thinking summer weight items here).

Part 2 - Performance

After really studying this waist pack and looking at what it had to offer, I was ready to put it to the test. I filled up the bottle, stufffed a few gels, threw my MP3 player in the pouch, and headed out the door. I warmed up with a short 1/4 mile walk with my wife. We then parted ways and I took to the paved trail. I ran a few steps and had to tighten the belt a little more. Within 2 minutes or so, I pulled the bottle out for a drink. It was not that easy to get back in place, but I managed to get it. A few minutes later and I noticed the pack was bouncing a lot. I reached back and the bottle was 1/2 way out. I pushed it back in, tightened up the belt again and continued my run. Once again the bouncing became noticeable and the bottle was coming out. After about a mile, I'd had enough. I turned around and headed home to get this thing off.

I would guess that the problems I had with this belt is the same issue I had with The North Face pack mentioned above, my waist The body of the pack takes up most of my back. Because of that, the area where the belt connects to the holster is right on the far outside part of my hip and creates a gap on each side where the belt it not touching my waist , thus causing bounce. I tried to wear the belt high, low and in the middle, but none of it seemed to work for me no matter how tight I got the belt.

Final thoughts

I was really wanting this to work out. I had high expectations for this belt, but unfortunately it did not work out for me. I don't know how it would fair on someone with a larger waist, but I assume that if the area where the belt attaches was on the person's back as opposed to the "corner" of the hip, bounce would be reduced. So my recommendation (for what it's worth) would be if you have a waist under 30'' you may want to look elsewhere then the Nathan X Trainer or X Trainer Plus, maybe the Nathan Elite 1 Plus since the bottle sits at an angle and allows the pack to conform better. At a minimum, if you can, double-check and make sure the belt fits tightly all the way around (no gaps). I could not find this item local so I bought on-line without trying on first. Oh well, on to the next piece of gear, which is the Nathan Speed 2 (I finished the run mentioned above wearing this one)

Posted by Travis at 8:33 PM 1 comments  

Just a quick laugh

Friday, May 25, 2007

I was watching The Office the other night and thought this was funny little piece about blogging...

 ..and if you are a fan of The Office, there actually is a blog for Creed that can be found here.


Posted by Travis at 9:03 PM 0 comments  

Gear recap and pics from IceAge 50

Sunday, May 20, 2007

I always like to hear what products people are using, so here is a quick gear recap of what I wore/used for Ice Age 50 mile trail run.

Shoes - Montrail Hardrocks

Socks - Smartwool UltraLight Mini Crew

Shorts - Race Ready LD

Shirt - North Face Flight Tank

Nike running cap

Perl Izumi Arm Warmers

Hydration/Nutrition - Ultimate Direction Access and Fast Draw Plus

Just Plain GU's




Start Line


Looks like I have my game face on


I always throw in a thumbs up


Closing in on the finish


Crossing the finish


Post race sit-down

Stupid Lawnmower... and Ice Age 50 Race Report

Sunday, May 13, 2007

My wife and I left the house around noon on Thursday. Packet pickup was at Old World Wisconsin. It was a very beautiful area with lots of tall pine trees. While there I saw Jason Dorgan, Jason had just finished running the entire 1000+ miles of the Ice Age trail. Not only was he walking around just fine.. he was going to be running the 50 on Saturday!!! We did not hang around very long since we had been in the car for 5 hours. We went and grabbed some food then headed to the hotel. I laid all my clothes out for the morning.  I had made up my drop bags at home with an extra pair of shoes and socks just in case, but forgot them on my kitchen counter.  Luckily I was able to buy some Perpetuem and some GU's at the packet pickup, so I remade my bags.  I also had a spare pair of socks in my backpack, so even though I would not have the option to change shoes, I did not think I was going to need to anyway.  It was more of a just in case.  I decided it was time hit the pillow and wait for that 4 am alarm. 

We got to the Start/Finish area and it was chilly out, in the 40's, which is perfect as far as I am concerned. I placed my drop bags in the appropriately labeled areas where I saw Julie .  I also met Dennis  We talked a bit then made our way to the start line.   We were all hoping to go under 10 hours for the day.  It was really exciting here.  Lots of great energy all balled up by 238 runners underneath the Start Banner (I'll post pics later).  The race started and we were off.  The ground was relatively flat so I went out a little harder then I should have for the first 9.  I was just moving on thinking "it's flat, you have to take advantage of the course when you can."  I was running with a good group of guys and just doing my thing.  I heard one of them say they were planning on a 8:40 finish.  Crap, I'm looking to break 10 and I'm crusing along with these guys looking to finish 1.5 hours sooner?!?!  I took it back a click as my calves were starting to hurt.  What was going on? I thinking;  "Why do my calves hurt so soon?"  "Was I recovered from McNaughton?" "It will go away."  Will this go away?" "Shit, what if this does not go away, can I push though this all day?" I hit the 9 mile mark at 1:26!  roughly 20 minutes faster then I had planned.  Oh well, besides my calves being really tight, I'm ok so keep going.

The first 9 of the race was mostly open field with grass, after that we hopped on the Ice Age trail.  The trail was really rocky.  I had to keep my eyes on the ground, which was unfortunate because the scenery was really great.  Lost of green trees, wild flowers and tall pine trees.  I was trying my best to stay hydrated but not to over-hydrate, which I failed at.  Around 17 miles, my stomach was sloshing around.  I needed to get this in check before my stomach started bothering me.  I took a few Endurolytes and cut my liquids back to sips until my stomach calmed down.  I met another runner and we shared some miles together.  We were talking back and forth for a while and he finally asked where I was from.  I told him and he said "Are you Travis Liles?"  I replied "yep, that's me."  It was Dave Cameron from the ultralist.  He had sent an email to the list on Friday and I replied.  What are the chances that we'd meet up?  I just chugged along until about the aid station at 26.2 miles.  I hit this mark at 4:40.  I compared that to my pace chart and was more than an hour ahead of the 12 hour cutoff.  Everything was going good.  Just keep moving forward at a pace I could sustain and I should be continually getting closer to  getting ahead of a 10 hour finish.

I hit the aid station at mile 33.9.  My calves were still killing me and so were the rest of my legs.  I think that because of my calves being the way they were, I was compensating in other places and was just causing everything to hurt.  The aid station has a Jimmy Buffet theme.  Music playing, inflatable parrots... I hated it.  Nothing towards the volunteers at the aid station, they were great!  I was just in a state of annoyed and this was really icing on my "negative attitude" cake.  I left the aid station and crossed the street.  After that was the big hill of the day.  It just kept going and going.  Ugh!!  Finally I got to the top and ran when I could.  There was a lot of sand and rocks out here on this part of the course.  I was feeling pretty crappy.  I'm sure that this was the longest damn 4.1 miles I have EVER run.  It just kept going and going.  I started to fall apart here.  My legs were trashed.  I did not give a damn about 10 hours. I knew I was on pace to hit it but though "I could walk and hit a 10:15 or so..." and  "I'm really just wanting to break 11 so I could put myself in the WS100 loto... I'll hit that easy, just cruise."  I had to shake this.  I just put my head down and kept putting one foot in front of the other.

The great thing was that this out and back section was pretty active.  A lot of people were coming back and always giving words of encouragement.  Though the single track was crowded with 2 people going opposite directions, it was way better then feeling like this and not seeing anyone.  The thing that kept me going was I was going to get to change socks at the aid station at 37 miles and that Lora was going to be out at the 40 mile aid station.  It was going to be good to see a familiar face.

I hit the 37 mile aid station and was really wishing I had a pair of shoes to change into, but I had to deal.  I grabbed my drop bag and my spare socks.  I took a seat on the picnic table and washed off my feet with some water.  Man did it feel good!!  I threw on my clean socks, put my shoes back on and headed back out to the next 3 mile section.  I would be back here in 6 miles, then I'd only have 7 miles to go.  This next 3 mile section was not too bad and went by pretty quick,  I actually made up some time here.  I hit the 40 mile aid station and saw Lora there.  Lora was the first person ever to comment on my blog.  She was full of positive things to say and was a real mental pick up for me.  We snapped a picture together and I was off.  THANK YOU Lora!!!!!  I turned around and headed back on the 3 mile section and saw Julie.  She yelled "GO TRAVIS" as we passed.  I also saw Dennis and we high-fived and exchanged some encouragement.  Back to the aid station.  I filled up only one water bottle before I went back on to the longest 4.1 miles on earth.  Luckily going back was easier then coming in.  My mental state was also much better.  I ran out of water right as I approached the Jimmy Buffet aid station.  This time I was so happy to hear that music playing because I knew that I only had 2.4 miles to finish.  They filled me up with ice water in both bottles and I was off.

I took my last GU and charged on.  My watch read 9:18.  I knew I was going to get 10 hours, but now it was "how far under 10 can I do this?"  It's funny how fast your mental state can change.  I picked it up when I could and just gave it my all.  I ran right through the last aid station and just yelled "Thanks for your help today, I just need to get done!"  They all clapped and cheered.  I ran a bit further and heard a beeping in the distance.  It was the timing mat at the finish line.  What a great sound, a beautiful, digital, chirp.  I could see my wife, Micaela, sitting there with the camera and cheering.  I crossed in 9:44:06.  Hells yea!!

Micaela asked me how I felt and I said my calves has hurt all day long.  She replied with "I bet it had to do with the self propelled thing going out of the mower."  Oh yea the mower!!! No wonder my calves hurt.  My house is on a slight incline so I spent about an hour plus pushing the mower fast to avoid the rain.  Basically I did a stair climber workout 36 hours before a trail race... HAHA suburb life :)

I got back to the finish line to watch some of the folks I know come across.  Dave Cameron ran a great race and crossed in 9:57:29.  I knew Julie was not far behind, so I grabbed some food and headed back to the finish line.  Here she came at 9:59, she did it, broke 10 hours!! Dennis was just behind her in 10:01:15.  Well done everyone!  It was a pleasure to share some trail with you.


pics to follow.  I left the camera at my parents house.

Leav'n it on the table

Monday, May 07, 2007

How about that new banner? I made it myself, can you tell? Or did a hire a 6 year old to do it? You'll never know...

Ice Age 50 is almost here. This will be my 2nd 50 miler. I'm pretty excited. To put it in technical terms, I am ultra, mega pumped. Looking at the times it seems like it is a faster course then McNaughton. Though there could just be more high caliber folks running it, especially when there are about 3 times as many signed up. I'm going to make the assumption that it is a faster course and try to throw down a good time. That is not a dig on anyone that has run McNaughton or Ice Age, just something I am going to use for my mental game.

I will be taking a bit more aggressive approach to this course. I've got a few 50k's and the one 50 mile under my belt, all with negative splits for my last lap (loop courses) so I've been holding back a bit. It is time to see what I am made of and quit holding back so much. If I blow up, so be it. I'm not going to walk away wondering what I could have done.

Until next time.

Posted by Travis at 5:10 PM 6 comments