A Proving Ground for 2015 Astral
By Bryce Thatcher
As a father, I am extremely lucky and blessed. It is the happiest of dads who finds himself not only enjoying one of his favorite activities in the most beautiful of surroundings, but also gets to share the trail and the adventure with his children. It is the strangest of feelings to realize that they have completely surpassed you in skill, talent and ability!
This past weekend was super special for me. My daughter Hannah “Nanny Goat”, my son, Joshua, and I all participated in the Speedgoat 50K near Salt Lake City, Utah. It was my son Joshua’s (now 16) third time, my second time and Hannah’s first time running the infamous course produced and designed by Karl Meltzer, who’s record of ultras surpasses any other individual’s in history, and who has no equal as the most winning ultra runner of all time. I am proud that he is an UltrAspire Elite Immortal, who inspires, tests, trains and races in UltrAspire gear.
This year’s Speedgoat 50k was Hannah’s first competitive race since being a standout runner in High School. She definitely chose a hard one for a come back. I am proud to say that we all finished strong and stoked, and immediately began planning our next adventure together. Besides Joshua and Hannah “Nanny Goat” my youngest child, Matthew (13) ran a large portion of the race. He switched between running with his sister and then with me. He now insists: “Dad, I am training for next year, I know I can do it”. And I believe he can. All in all, he ran about 20 non-stop miles over the toughest parts of the course.
I could really go on and on about the awesome feelings I have in seeing my children grow up and love the same activities I do. We have had so many great experiences together but the Speedgoat has been a memorable pinnacle. Maybe some day I will write more about what we can do as parents to encourage our children to adopt a healthy and active lifestyle that they both live and love.
For now, I would like to point out that technically running the Speedgoat 50k was not just fun and games but also business for me. Yes, just another day at the office! I have been designing packs and hydration/endurance systems for nearly 30 years now. And every time I go out on an adventure, I am testing, designing, working and reworking in the field and in my head new ways of doing things. Even though I am very interested in training techniques for personal reasons, I focus most of my conscious thought on product development and design for endurance athletes. The goal of which is not only to solve the problems I face, but all those encountered by other athletes as well.
So, while I enjoy participating I also soak in everything around me. What type of products are other runners carrying, what is the trail talk? Complaints, compliments, frustrations—particularly about the products they are using in their quest for adventure. My goal has always been, and I guess will always be, to make our lives as endurance athletes better and easier and to enable us to continue to improve. Whether we are in the top twenty or the back forty our needs and wants may differ, but we share a common desire to push the envelope beyond current limits as individuals and overall in the sport.
The Speedgoat is an awesome testing ground. This year, I was wearing a prototype 2015 UltrAspire Zygos, an extremely lightweight pack, especially compared to its astonishing 14-liter capacity, with fit similar to the award winning UltrAspire Alpha. Even though I was not carrying 14 liters of gear the compression system works so well that it carried well even after the pack was nearly empty. The most outstanding feature; however, in light of the Speedgoat 50k’s 11,000’+ vertical climb all above approximately 8000’; is the new MAX 02 Sternum System (patent pending).
Before I developed this system, especially at altitude, I always struggled feeling that I was wearing a “straight Jacket”, especially when breathing super hard or nearing my max heart rate. The MAX 02 Sternum uses a simple “shock cord” with great stretch and rebound. In other words, it creates enough tension to hold the pack super stable and solid, even when barreling down a technical downhill but the perfect amount of allowance not to restrict your breathing. This works when the pack is empty to being heavily weighted. In my mind it is so revolutionary that when an athlete is looking for maximum performance without restriction this is the only system that can deliver.
The MAX O2 Sternum is a standard feature on other 2015 products as well including the Alpha 2.0 and the new truly women’s specific vest, the Astral. Hannah “Nanny Goat” wore the Astral in the Speedgoat 50k. She wore it only over a sports bra and despite record high temperatures it—and she–came through with beautiful flying colors looking feminine AND strong!
In a race like Speedgoat with good aid stations where packs are taken off and on to refill reservoirs and/or food supplies, adjusting and readjusting packs can be tedious, futzy and time consuming. But, another huge plus associated with the MAX O2 system that Nanny Goat and I both recognized was that we were able to adjust our packs just once at the beginning of the race and then did not have to readjust or touch it again except to take off our pack with twho hooks for refills. Super simple, super fast without restriction to your breathing is what helps describe this new system.
The ASTRAL has another very distinctive feature. I may be challenged by others, but I can truly say that this is the absolute FIRST truly Women’s specific harness called the CURVE Harness. When I was designing for both Ultimate Direction and Nathan we made some great packs so called “designed” for women. In fact those companies still do, but when it has come to “women’s specific”, a change of colors, simple narrowing of shoulder straps, shorter cut length along with a quicker curve back to the pack were all that was really ever done.
The reality is that these measures did not, and do not, address a woman’s true form, enable freedom of her unique features or allow for a variety of shapes. From small breasts to large, all race vests “for women” have been designed to go right over the top of the sensitive tissue, or the front is opened up so far that pockets fall to the side. Granted this has worked alright for many ELITE athletes, but it has not worked for all shapes and sizes, and almost any woman wearing these has still been buried in a vest. There is a wide variety of Women Athletes who compete—the shape of fitness is not de-facto minimal and women as a whole deserve more freedom and consideration. I feel we have addressed these issues with UltrAspire’s introduction of the ASTRAL.
Well, I am off to “work” this morning running a few miles on the “gauntlet”. Stay tuned with another update from Speedgoat. My son Joshua, and my friend and fellow UltrAspire Elite Immortal, Luke Nelson, both carried the New ISO Race Handheld with the new MADE IN THE USA bottle. Both came away from the race with rave reviews of this new product. Also available for Spring 2015.
Keep on running your way!