Arriving at the Alpha for Ultra Running Gear
A little over three years ago, shortly after I was first offered a spot as an athlete for Ultraspire, I was thinking about what the perfect running gear and hydration pack would be. I had all sorts of crazy ideas and thoughts on what the ideal pack would have. At first I kept most of my ideas to myself and diligently went to work testing the early prototypes that were sent out to the early testers. For me a very important part of the process of developing packs is the function and in most cases I think that appearance should come second to how well a product works. As I tested the early prototypes I made an honest effort to spend equal time in all of the running gear, packs, waist belts, and handhelds that were being developed. Over time I found myself gravitating to a certain couple of packs including the Surge and the Spry. Those two hydration packs, although quite different, fit really well, carried just the right amount of gear, and didn’t have too much extra. The next year and a half brought thousands of trail running miles in the mountains, the majority of which I was wearing either the Surge or the Spry.
Last July I started to think about what running gear I would carry for my last race of the season, the Wasatch 100
. I had my nutrition dialed, but found the Spry and the Surge lacking a few features that I really wanted for race day. After some pleading I convinced my amazing wife, Tanae, to using her sewing skills to help me alter the Spry. The alterations were not major changes, we removed the zippered pocket, and replaced it with a mesh pocket that matched the one already being used on the other shoulder strap. As custom with all of my Ultraspire running gear, we also shortened all of the straps to better suite my build. At 4:45 am the morning of the Wasatch 100 I put on my “Race Spry”, I didn’t take it off at all during the race. I used a collapsable bottle in the back that I could reach without taking the pack off, and two 8oz Ultraspire bottles in the front with my favorite First Endurance Slurry. I can honestly say that I had no trouble with the pack during the race, no sore spots, or even the slightest irritation from the pack.
Running Gear Revolutions
After the race I sent pictures to Bryce at Ultraspire to share my idea for an alteration, as well as a couple of other thoughts that I had during the race that could make the pack even better. In most situations I think the designer would say thanks and then go about working on their own projects, this is not the case working with Bryce and the crew at Ultraspire. A few weeks later I saw some drawings and a rough prototype of the Alpha Pack. It had all of my ideas incorporated in it, applied even better than I had imagined them. I was so excited about the concept that I had a really hard time waiting until the next round of production to see a usable sample of this running gear in real life.
During the Elite Immortal Retreat this spring the Alpha pack was a big hit. It became one of the most sought after packs as we divided up testing samples for the long run in Zion National Park. I was lucky enough to be able to get assigned one for our 36 mile run, and I was in love. I took the pack home from the retreat and went trail running for about a hundred more miles in a week or so while wearing the pack. I found a couple of minor fit issues that didn’t initially show up in the shorter runs and when I returned the pack, I also delivered the feedback.
Fast forward a month and a half and I was running in the Alpha again, this time I was running up Terak Peak near Marivelas, in the Philippines. I was there working with Bryce at the factory to put the final touches on a the Alpha and some other running gear. Bryce had tweaked the pattern ever so slightly and with the small adjustment the pack was working better than I could have imagined. It feels like an extension of your body, no bounce, slop, slipping, or pressure points. The carrying capacity of the pack is slightly larger than the Spry but it retains its airy lightness. All of the pockets on the pack are accessible while wearing the pack, and the extra volume makes it ideal for ultras or long mountain trail running. The fitted harness of the pack eliminates the need to trim straps or make any other adjustments to the pack with scissors! It has been incredible to be so closely involved in the evolution of the Spry to the Alpha. This pack is the culmination of very close work between several athletes and Bryce’s brilliant ability to transfer our ideas into reality. I am so excited to be able to start racing in this new running gear and hope you enjoy it as much as I do. UltrAspire Alpha will be available Spring 2013
Luke and Micah in the Philippines testing running gear