Training Tool Review: Nathan Human Propulsion Labs ‘Speed 2’ Hydration Belt

I’ve always appreciated reviews on products that other athletes have used, as it gives you (generally) an objective and unbiased (well, in the case of sponsored athletes, maybe slightly biased,) idea of what to expect from said product. So, I thought other athletes (from elites to weekend warriors) might appreciate a review here and there, just an outline of my thoughts on some of the training tools I’ve been using lately. Bare with me here, this is my first review, so let’s get the ball rolling; today’s review is on the ‘Speed 2’ hydration belt, from Nathan Human Propulsion Laboratories (and no, I’m not biased because we just so HAPPEN to share the same name….)

The old Fuel Belt

Three years back, I was informed by my coach that it would be a good idea to purchase a hydration belt for training, and more importantly, for racing. Back then, with a tight budget, I opted for a two-bottle system by ‘Fuel Belt.’ It seemed to be everything I would need (two bottles was more than sufficient for me; as I live in a rather temperamental rainforest climate, for a run of less than 2hrs I usually do not even need water.) It was adjustable by two means (a velcro closure and adjustable buckle-straps,) also had a small gel/key pouch, and was fairly lightweight. I never really liked it, and rarely used it. I raced with it once, but the chafing it produced prevented me from ever wearing it again in a race.

Nathan Human Propulsion Laboratories ‘Speed 2’

Fast forward to today. About two months ago I purchased a Nathan ‘Speed 2’ hydration belt, as my training was ramping up for some 70.3 racing, and the temperature was increasing too. I was primarily using the belt for long runs, and longer brick running. I don’t intend to use the belt for racing, unless I visit somewhere with extreme temperatures; I’ve learned to utilize as much on-course hydration as possible. That being said, it is an extremely useful training aid, as I have experimented with different mixes and variations in the bottles to see their effect on my training, as well as on hotter days (I seem to have a knack for doing a lot of my running during the hottest parts of the day.) The ‘Speed 2’ is by far more comfortable than my previous belt; with just the one adjustment (by way of a velcro closure on the front,) it NEVER loosens off, so where I set it at the start of my run, by 30km’s in it hasn’t moved at all. I find the inner portion of the belt has a somewhat soft material, and without any vertical seams, it has yet to give me any chafing issues.

Now for the part that I like the most, what really used to bug me about my Fuel Belt: easy accessibility, both for removing the bottles, and replacing them back in to the belt. My old belt’s bottles came out decently easy enough, but it was a huge struggle trying to get them back in; you would see me dancing around while running, using both hands behind my back trying to get the bottle back in. What a pain, especially if you’re running tempo or intervals. The ‘Speed 2’ bottle holsters (I would almost refer to them as ‘cages,’) are a solid plastic design, and the bottles go in-and-out with ease, single handed (meaning NO MORE RUN DANCING!!) As much as I like dancing about, there’s no place for it while slogging out a long run (well, maybe a small victory dance at the end…..) The bottles stay very firmly in the holsters (I have had the bottles on my old belt fly out before,) and I haven’t noticed any bounce, no matter how full or empty the bottles are. Another small inconvenience some people may have noticed with their hydration bottles, is that annoyingly small amount of leakage that you get up and down your back; I didn’t have even a SINGLE drop come out of the bottles during any of my running with the belt. The human body excretes enough of a mess during a long run, you don’t need sticky electrolyte drink all over everything too!!

The rear pouch: the last small convenient part of the belt. I easily put my car keys, a few gel packets, and a small pack of tissues (those of you who run LONG know what the latter is for,) into the pouch, and it all stays nice and dry.

I’m sure there’s many places to grab one of these belts around the lower mainland, but I know you can get them at any of the three New Balance Vancouver stores (downtown Van, North Delta, or Langley.) I’m pretty sure there are also a ton of online options available too.

I hope some find this review helpful. Everything here is my own opinion, and I am sure there are other products out there that are similar to this one, but I haven’t used them. Enjoy, and Happy Training everyone!!!!

Cervelo P3C……. “White Lightning”

Doug and Bjoern hard at work!

An exciting development as of late is the fact that I’m now working with Jeremy Wilson and the Speed Theory Vancouver Store’s team. I am ecstatic to be working with them, and to also have received my new 2011 Cervelo P3C Dura-Ace, (affectionately named “White Lightning” by Doug and Bjoern,) only a few days ago. I went in to the shop on saturday, and Coach Bjoern, along with Doug Giles, worked late to put the final touches on it and perform a bike fit. The outcome? A sweeeeet ride, with some little ‘extra’ bits to make it that much sweeter. Let me explain:

The added ZIPP bars and cage

The bike comes with a deadly 3T carbon aero-bar set-up, but Bjoern decided to up the ante (a fair bit) by throwing a set of ZIPP Vuka aero extensions on it. They are super light, and integrate the dura-ace bar-end shift lever right into the bars; no extra weight on the end, just the small lever. As per Doug’s recommendation, I added a Profile Design arm rest bracket between the aero-bars, to hold one of my two new Arundel Dave-O bottle cages. Handy. Another little gem we’ve added, to improve my riding comfort and ability to potentially push a bit more power (plus, it looks wicked in white,) is the Cobbs V-Flow Plus saddle. Both things that will improve the overall comfort and ride.

Cobbs V-Flow Plus

So what do I think so far? I haven’t put any big hard rides on it yet (by the end of the weekend it will have seen it’s share of torturous sessions,) but for the riding I have done, it has exceeded my expectations. For one thing, the bike is lighter than my last ride was. Smooth comes to mind as well, I didn’t notice a whole lot of jarring transferring through the frame, even on rougher roads. The fit, well, that’s a whole ‘nother thing! It is completely different to my last bike, I’m able to relax a lot more throughout my upper body (instead of arching my back and crushing my diaphragm to find the best seating position.) This makes transferring power through the pedals much easier, and I would suspect over a longer, harder session, less fatigue (because I expend less energy trying to hold my body in unusual positions.)

“White Lightning”

 The look of the bike really helps it’s cause as well; the all-white scheme, complete with the bar tape, cable housings, and saddle, make it rather appealing to the eye. It’ll look pretty deadly once the race wheels go on as well, a thick carbon tubular wheel ALWAYS makes for a speedy looking rig.

I’m ecstatic to have the bike for the last two races of the season, 70.3 Pocono Mountains being in only 11 DAYS!! Miami 70.3 will be at the end of October, and both races I’m feeling extremely confident about, especially with my running and swimming, which haven’t seemed to pull through in the last few races. I’ve been having increasingly positive and confidence-boosting run sessions, and my swim seems to be much more consistent lately. Combine that with what I hope will be a hill crushing bike leg, and perhaps there will be some solid results to round out my season (also, both the next two races will help me accumulate points towards racing at the 70.3 World Championships in Vegas next year, my 2012 goal race.) I’ll be leaving everything out on course, and considering my past record of late season peaking, there might be a whole bunch left out there. (My first half-ironman in my first season I went 4:52; the end of October that year I went 4:22. Last year, after no half-iron training, I managed to suffer out a 4:13 in 70.3 Austin at the end of October.)

Bjoern ensuring the bike is okay to ride!!

With the depressing fall weather upon us, I hope everyone can find some sort of sunshine to keep them going through the next few dark, cold months. Happy training everyone, and for those of you still holding your nose to the grindstone, happy racing!!

The Re-Build to 70.3

Today was the Ironman 70.3 World Championships, and what a day it was! The inaugural race in Las Vegas, a far more hilly and windy course than Clearwater was, had some outstanding results. The Team Ossenbrink members that made it down had some outstanding results, with Rachel McBride coming 11th place in the women’s race. That’s 11th OVERALL!!! IN THE WORLD!!!! Considering she only found out two weeks ago that she was racing, she performed outstanding. Stephanie Ossenbrink also raced very well, and the rest of the team made waves in their respective age-groups.

I have to give props to Jeff Symonds of Penticton, a friend of mine who I’ve known since I started racing, for coming 3rd place in what was the ‘race of his life.’ Coach Bjoern said he was just flying out there, and he hunted down 7 guys on the run, almost catching Chris Lieto as well, but he just seemed to run out of real-estate. Only his second World Championship, and only his second season racing 70.3, I think Jeff has more in him. We’ll see a #1 in Vegas from him in the next few years.

As for me, there is some exciting news!! For the past year I have been working with John and Lynne at Pacific Multisport, and they have been so supportive, doing everything they can to help me out. I thank them for all their support. Now I have joined forces with Jeremy Wilson and the Speed Theory Vancouver team, where we already have a Cervelo P3C on it’s way, for me to finish off the season on a new race rig. There are few things that excite a triathlon geek (guilty) more than a brand new shiny bike, especially something as fancy as the P3C. It should be arriving in the next week, and I will be racing it at Pocono Mountains 70.3, as well as Miami 70.3. Speaking of the 70.3’s, my build into Pocono is going extremely well. The weather is definitely helping, the sun is a great motivator to get on the bike. I’ve been logging some solid volume lately, and the numbers are all going in the right direction. I’ve been running in a new pair of New Balance 1400 race flats, which I will do a review on shortly. Basically, they are an awesome new tool for my collection, and they will be used in the upcoming 70.3’s.

I hope everyone’s been out enjoying the sun, keep the heat coming!!! Happy training:)