ORSM 08 – In Brief

Phew! Bryon, here. I just survived my first Outdoor Retailer show. It was 72 hours of go-go-go… and worth every minute and every full length run of the Salt Palace to make my next appointment. Needless to say I’m exhausted, so I’ll jump straight into the ORSMic details.

Below are the top product tweaks, top new products, a brief overview of areas iRunFar will be exploring in the future, as well as my top ORSM pet peeves. (The demise of two trail shoes is also noted at this post’s end.) Consider the product overviews to be samplings – iRunFar intends to carry full reviews of each of the named products.

Top Tweaks

While new products get the press, changes to trusted, trail-proven products can be where the story is. With that in mind, I’ll start be filling you in about sweet upgrades to some of my favorite products.

Clif Shot Blok Mountain Berry linear packageClif Shot Blok – Since it hit the market, Clif’s Shot Blok has been a hit among trail runners for its convenience and satisfying mouth feel. Clif pretty much nailed it with the Shot Blok and triggered an avalanche of “me too” products. Despite this love, runners consistently had one complaint about the Shot Blok – its packaging. The package was air-filled and bulky, which made it unnecessarily difficult to put in the small pockets found in shorts, bottle holders, and hydration packs. Well, come late fall, we’ll get access to the Shot Bloks in the Fastpak, a convenient linear package without all the extra air. I tried the Fastpak on the trail and it’s awesome! iRunFar will provide more details on a new Shot Blok flavor, the Fastpak, and a few tips for using the new Fastpak closer its November launch.

Nathan QuickDraw Plus – Check out the top runners’ hydration system at any ultramarathon and you’re bound to see the many Nathan QuickDraws. You’ll see the QuickDraw through the rest of the field, too. That means there’ll be a lot of people happy to see Nathan add a small elastic mesh pocket outside of the handheld sleeve’s gel pocket. It’s a simple solution to the annoyance of putting inevitably messy spent gel packets back in with unused gels. No more sticky gel packets in the main pocket = no more sticky hands.

New Products

At this year’s ORSM, there was one new trail product that, like a Skaggsian record, is impossible to ignore. Here’s what shattered the old norms.

Petzl Ultra – The Ultra blipped on the iRF radar screen a good while back and we mentioned it in our review of Petzl’s Tikka Plus, Zipka Plus, and E-lite. Well, the good folks at Petzl let me borrow the Ultra for an overnight run on an uber-gnarly section of the Wasatch 100 course. After the sunlight faded, I turned on the Ultra. There were cries of “That’s obscene!”, “I can just turn out my light now!”, and numerous things I just can’t write… and THEN i turned it up to the bright setting! The “low” setting was more than bright enough for climbing and flats, while the highest setting made running down neck-breaking descents like “The Plunge” and “The Dive” much more bearable.

While not quite rising to the level of category redefining, here are two more products that we think you’ll enjoy a few months from now.

END Footwear YMMV – On Friday, the kind folks from END Footwear were kind enough to provide me with a pair of their Spring 2009 Your Mileage May Very (YMMV) road shoe. Completely ignoring the rule about never trying something new on race day, I threw these slipper-like shoes on to race Trail Runner Magazine’s Uphill Challenge the following day. They were light enough that I didn’t embarrass myself during the Uphill Challenge… and that was a minor miracle. I look forward to logging some miles in the YMMV, ASAP. In addition, the black model looks pretty cool.

Montrail Mountain MasochistMontrail Mountain Masochist – The Mountain Masochist is another unreleased shoe that I’ve been fortunate enough to run in. You can think of the Mountain Masochist as a more stable version of Montrail’s Streak. It’s light weight and flexible, yet gives you a stable ride. As much as I love the Montrail Streak, most runners would be much better suited wearing the Mountain Masochist than the Streak for a 100 mile race. In fact, I’ve been begging the wear testing folks at Montrail to send my pair back so I can wear the Mountain Masochist at the Iroquois Trails 100 next month!

Future Info from ORSM ’08

I could spend an entire month typing up all I learned during my three days at the OR show. Thankfully for both you and me, I have better sense … and a day job that will keep me from doing that. Instead, over the next few months I will occasionally share with you what I learned at the OR show. My OR experience will lead to:

  • A number of shoe, apparel, lighting, hydration system, fuel/hydration product, and compression apparel reviews
  • An overview of trail shoe companies’ approaches to technology
  • More discussion of trail socks and sunglasses
  • Some coverage of the Uphill Challenge (mostly the Skaggs brothers showdown and my own impression of the UC)
  • Discussion of the design of women’s trail running gear

ORSM Pet Peeves

Companies whose booths you can’t enter at all unless you have an appointment. That pet peeve is closely followed by booths where the majority of the product line(s) is/are only displayed behind pitch tables. I can understand the latter at very small booths, but otherwise why not have one set of product readily accessible. If I can’t see your product, I can’t get excited about it. Over the weekend, if I saw something at a booth that I thought readers would find interesting, I would ask questions to individuals at the booth or, in a few cases, set up appointments.

I’ll never understand the reasoning behind the booth of one major shoe company that attracted many folks with some of the best free food of the show, but that did not have its product line readily accessible.

Questions

Of the above listed future topics, are there any that you’d like to hear about first?

P.S.

As I’m not
sure when else it might come up, I’ll report that the Montrail Highlander and its rumored successor, the Zulander, are coming out of Montrail’s line up. Same goes for the Vitesse. It will soon be no more.