Saturday, January 26, 2013

Salomon XA Pro 3D Ultra 2 - Product Review

Let me save you the read.. Just buy this pair of gorgeous trail shoes my friends! :)

I had doubts actually when the shoes arrived through the post - I slipped my excited feet into it & it felt a bit narrow at the sides, I have heard about the Speedcross feeling bit narrow but didn't expect the XA Pro 3D to feel like that too - afterall I've used Shoefitr to check how it compares with my NB MT876 & it seemed it would almost be the same feel.. but the arch support felt intrusive & the fabric was too tight a wrap around my feet. But of course I also knew that new shoes need breaking into ~ I just didn't know how well the XA Pro3D would mould to my feet, and by the time I learn that it'd prob be too worn to be exchanged?

So yea, doubts. For about 2 days.

I wore them to work on Friday (it still felt a bit uncomfortable the entire day), but then with my usual running socks on this morning, I slipped it on & it actually felt... GOOD?? The fabric had stretched overnight! It fitted like a glove this morning & I couldn't wait to hit the trails!.. :)

Pavement. So usually I have to run 4k of pavement before I find trail, and while the shoe seemed chunky for a road shoe, it didn't really bother me. The few extra grams from the paddings + all that din trouble my legs, but I guess coz they were still fresh! - but having said that, they felt quite ok too on the return leg (when the legs were def tired..)

Gravel Dirt track. Anyway once I was in bush land, the XA Pro3D started slowly shining. The firm wrap from the heel cup, the arch & up to the toe width zones really made a difference getting stability on the track. Once again, it could be that the shoe is still new & in comparison the fabric from my old NB is already stretched. Going downhill fast was where the shoe shone brightest for me, the GRIP was outstanding & on occasions where i'd hesitate going any faster (for fear of slipping from loose pebbles) the shoe responded with assurance & never did slip once.. (I've lost shoe grip few times on the same downhill track with the old NB), also I feel once again the firm shoe fitting played a huge part in achieving this (in having very little room for slippage within the shoe). So was real happy with the performance.

The occasional big sharp rocks that protruded out, I still felt pinching at the toe area but certainly not enough to trouble.. I remember wincing in pain when the NB took on sharp rocks of the Grampians as I was going downhill. I hope Salomon's advertised 'long-lasting cushioning' is a kept promise.

Layers of cushioning, protection + a chasis heel cup.. 
Toe Cap. Not fully tested in the sense I didn't deliberate go kick a rock, but that toe guard/cap does look formidable doesn't it! Wonder how long can the black fabric seen here can last tho.. probably will get abrasion & torn quite easily.

Drawstring Lace System. Works a treat - semi-easy to adjust mid-way through the run, otherwise it's guaranteed to stay in place (vs. traditional lacing). And I do love the design of the lacing system. & how it slips into the pocket storage once you've tightened it down..

Comfort. I have a slightly smaller left feet. So I tightened the left shoe a bit more, a usual practice with my other shoes too. Half-way thru the run I had to loosen the drawstring as the arch area was starting to feel uncomfy.. felt better but the arch was still pushing a bit too much into the toes.. as a result, some discomfort now at the upper front arch zone (esp at side of foot). Pretty sure it's the moulding process in action, only time will tell. My right foot felt snug throughout the run & can't ask for more! However I do attribute 70% of the comfort to choice of socks - mine are thickish & wool-based to minimise abrasion on long runs..

Overall Performance? What can I say, like millions others who has bought it & given it a 5-star rating, I love it :) And very relieved that the shoes do feel much more comfy now vs 2 days ago. Sounds cornybut I actually didn't feel like taking them off after my run, but that was exactly how I felt... :D you'll fall in love with yours too & that's a guarantee.

VERDICT? BUY! Especially if you get it on discount (which I did!) :D Happy trail running folks!

Gorgeous looking shoe too don't u agree? :D

Updates 21/02/2013:

So.. I was running back in the tropical jungles over February & found that the XA Pro 3D had trouble wicking off quickly sweat/moisture from INSIDE the shoe (coz yes you will sweat a whole lot more in the tropics, humidity/heavier rains etc). Bit like the problems you read about wrt Gortex shoes. While the top part of the shoe is made of perfectly breathable quick-dry mesh.. it's the mud-guard & toe-guard protection that stops quick drainage. So while this is probably a common design approach to many off-trail shoes anyway, I find that my old NB MT876's design of incorporating the side-gauze (I think they call it Lightning Dry Liner) is the better shoe for very wet conditions, quick drainage etc. won't exactly stop wrinkly damp skin from forming but certainly would be far more comfortable for them toes. Just thought I share this finding.

Nearly forgot to add that the Toe-Guard works :) - this time it was properly tested too, plenty of sharp rocks where I ran, the guard knocked against a few of them while I was going downhill fast & tho the toes were all snugged up right behind the guard & they did feel the knock but barely felt the impact.. ! Good stuff..

Friday, January 25, 2013

Sneak Preview... :)

Ushering in the new.. :D afterall, Chinese New Year is soon upon us..

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Grampians + Great Ocean Road Trip - Day 4

Day 4 - Koroit - Wreck Beach - Melbourne

Woke up, missed breakfast, thanked the hotel lady for the lovely stay, took her advice not to book through agoda next time, bid farewell, SCREAMED along B100 at break-neck speed limit, we flew past 12 Apostles in less than 45mins or so.... :D

Won't be much sight-seeing today, destination was just a place called Wreck Beach. But honestly I was ready to give this place a miss because I wasn't too sure how to access it (due to limited research) - anyway we drove past this sign for 'Moonlight Head' and decided to check it out... only to be met with a fire truck & police car.. apparently an accident has taken place, Hilux vs Civic.. bashed into each other while negotiating the narrow lanes leading towards Moonlight Head.. ouch, lucky there were no casualties. Officer came to tell us to just wait for 15mins as the emergency team were already packing up... 

Terrible holiday for this family.. well the kids were still taking pics, dad wasn't much in the mood :P

While waiting I took out the phone & tomtom to check how far we were from Wreck Beach - convinced we've missed it by now.. TURNED OUT that Moonlight Head WAS the entrance towards Wreck Beach! haha pure luck i guess.. Overjoyed :)

SO as soon as the emergency units cleared, we set off - slowly as we were entering gravel roads, last thing u want is to get a puncture in the searing heat. Drove past a dead kangaroo & finally got ourselves to Wreck Beach. Few cars were already here..
Anchor from the Marie Gabrille.. slowly roasting in the echoes of time.. 
pretty cool huh
As I explored the beach, couldn't help thinking about the holiday that's about to end, & being by the ocean listening to the waves crashing there definitely was a certain melancholy that affected me too :).. I turned back & saw my wife making her way towards me & for that moment was just very happy she was there!

The crashing waves of Wreck beach reminding me not to take loved ones for granted..:) 
I was reminded of these words I saw on Day 1 again... being amongst the majestic nature seem to put me in these kinda mood!
A nice flight of stairs to climb as we left the beach... 
For the rest of the journey back towards Melbourne, we made minimal stops. Nonethelesss discovered how popular & touristy places llike Apollo Bay, Lorne etc were as we drove past.. beautiful camp sites too, but didn't really stop to explore. I guess our goodbyes were left at Wreck Beach & we were ready to wrap up the journey & just enjoy the rest of the holidays in Melbourne with our friends. Still a long way more to drive before reaching Melbourne..

One last scenic lookout stop along the great ocean road before our long drive back to Melbs.. 
So yea that's it folks, 4D3N of adventure in Dec, in a nutshell for me personally, it was just great to be travelling with the missus again.. the scenes would've been as impressive as it will always be, but to be able to share it with somebody it is always that much more special - I'm learning not to take that for granted. I just hope this will be the start of many more Ozzy adventures with her! :D

Thanks for reading & sharing our adventure folks :)
Just to close off.. quick takeaways from this road trip!

1) Both these places have loads to offer. Plan individual trips if u have the time.
2) The drives are long so make sure you are prepared. eg. know locations of petrol stations, stock up some food in the car, sleep well.. etc.
3) Kitchens can close as early as 5pm in the popular towns/places so make sure u grab dinner early if not self-catering.
4) Make sure your itineraries take into consideration sunrise + sunset times during the diff seasons.
5) Have fun while driving, stay safe, kill some bugs!

Thanks for reading folks. Happy adventures!

Grampians + Great Ocean Road Trip - Day 3

Day 3 - Warrnambool - Port Campbell - 12 Apostles (& back!)

An expected late start for us, but the glutton in us woke up & we managed to make it for breakfast at the hotel (cooked breakfast IS included despite what Agoda says if you're considering booking thru them).. they make lovely breakfast too btw. Did some quick snaps around the hotel that morning:

Breakfast area! lovely windows huh :)
Resident spidey!
Not sure what you call this.. a harpsichord of some kind??
Le main entrada
A fancy dining/lepak area.. 
Beautiful hang-out lounge.. too bad we didn't really have the time to berlepaks
Woof! owners were dog-lovers
Sherry & port FREE! :D

what you staring at

On the way towards Warrnambool, we drove past by Tower Hill reserve just outside the vicinity of Koroit town.. it's a park area that was formed due to volcanic eruption eons ago - but we didn't stop to explore coz we were off to explore Warrnambool instead..  it was still drizzling at this point & was worrying it'd be a day of bad weather.

Tower Hill Reserve lookout point

Warrnambool & Sites

Warrnambool was a far bigger town with all the necessary amenities, fast foods etc. We were both hunting for coffee that morning & sadly both the places we tried served terrible coffee..!! my long black was far too diluted & vonsy's flat white was well.. too flat. mm..

It was a terrible start but it didn't deter us from enjoying the town's offering.. good news was that the sun finally decided to come out & we really had no reason to be damp in spirit! even had time to do bit of modelling around town...

Hai Bin! :D
Hai Vons! :D
Vonsy finds a pickled pig
It wasn't until nearly lunch time when we left Warrnambool & started the slow long drive along B100 & the 12 Apostles.. what I did not expect & a clear sign of bad preparation was that there were actually SO MANY mini attractions along the way - starting with Logan's Beach just outside of Warrnambool (popular for whale watching):

Logan's Beach at Warrnambool.. 

We visited Bay of Islands,Worm Bay, Bay of Martyrs, Halladale Point, The Grotto, London Bridge, The Arch.. & it was funny coz these sites were only a few mins drive apart so we ended up start-stopping a lot n always bumping into the same group of tourists.... & quite honestly the coves & cliffs were starting to look the same after a while!

MINI DRAMA AT THE GROTTO. I was walking behind the lady in white seen in this pic towards the Grotto when suddenly out of the blue an elderly man fell onto the board-walk just a few metres in front of us (he must've gone off-track to take pictures etc) and was howling in pain... two of us rushed to him to make sure he was OK, his left knee was injured but no major drama in the end, many tourists had stopped after couple of minutes & helped him get ambulance service to the nearest town. I was just glad I didn't have to give mouth-2-mouth or anything like that.. 

The Grotto
One of the more impressive ones - they call this The Arch
Frying Nemo for dinner

Still paranoid bout meals, we decided to tapau our dinner from Port Campbell early (fish & chips again!). Anyway Port campbell was jam packed with tourists & we decided to quickly grab some food before all kitchen closed! the first restaurant's kitchen we visited was already closed (it was only 5pm) sorry i must sound like a glutton by now..  anyway the plan was to head to the apostles early, makan and hang until it was sunset time.. 

12 Apostles

It took just another 15mins of driving from Port campbell to reach the ever famous 12 Apostles... couple of tour-buses, a full car-park.. couple of thousands of tourists.. a real put-off of coz but whatcha gonna do eh?

Tourists & tourists.. 
Check out the scene.. more people than a shopping mall. No wonder all accommodation were fully booked..  this was the viewing point for the 12 Apostles. It was like a massive congregation of everyone we saw at the other sites too (eg. the guy in green in pic below is one of them!).. all having the same itinerary for the day - speed visit all other sites & adjourn to 12 apostles for sunset!

& more tourists.. 
2 stumps you can visit left of the viewing bay.. via Gibsons Steps.  
yay we made it.. one for the album :)
So after the initial round checking the apostles, we drove over to Gibson Steps, investigated the beach & waited (vonsy eventually went back to the car to wait), summer days = late sunset.. 

Vonsy & I & many others lingered by the beach off Gibsons steps for few hours spending time with the ocean
Nearly forgot about this shot - we found a lil fairy penguin washed up on the shore.. reminder of the wrath that comes with the beauty of the ocean..
It wasn't until 845pm the sun finally showed signs of tiredness & started glowing its evening rays...

Well.. with sunset over the 12 Apostles witnessed.. it was back to long slow drive back towards Koroit.. the evening sky dragged on for us until the very end (around 1015pm). Vonsy remarked that the glowing yellow sky against the vast & wide lands looked like the African Savannah.. And as we finally pulled back into Koroit, the big moon was up & marked the end of another crazy long day of exploration.. I was tired but satisfied. We spent the rest of the evening glued to the tele watching this Japanese movie about gangsters in a high school fighting each other & all.. funny way to end the day huh? :)

Anyway the next day would be our last day on this road trip, and we'd be driving along the Great Ocean all the way back to Melbourne with one last stop to make.. stay tuned.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Grampians + Great Ocean Road Trip - Day 2

Day 2 - Southern Grampians - Koroit (via Dunkeld)

The day started with a peek behind the curtains to see whether any roos were grazing in the open field located behind the lodge. And well, yea there was just the one some distance away, and a flighty blue bird dropped by to greet me too :)

Having missed dinner the night before, I made a vow not to miss any meals so we attacked breakfast at Halls Gap (Stony Creek) with a vengeance... the crowd was slowly gathering too. Day 2 involved more long drives & a bit more exercise with short hikes up to Mt William lookout & a slightly more elaborate one up Mt Abrupt at the very tip of southern grampian.. so def needed to fuel up & was certainly looking forward to the hikes. First stop - Mt William!

Mt William

Had intended to wake up in time for sunrise at Mt William but that was just one of my ambitious 'if-possible' scenarios :) I was happy to let it slip (& i'm sure the wife was too) only coz Reed's lookout blew my mind away the evening before & I was still recovering from that..

We saw a father pushing a pram up.. so yeaa kinda strenuous but really no biggie
yea.. we weren't exactly in a hurry. Took our time slowly snapping pictures along the way 
Good thing too coz otherwise we wouldn't be taking scenes like this!!
& this..!
& this!
So we eventually reached the top of the official lookout point.. and the scenery wasn't quite right. I had come to expect a vista like this as publicised by Grampians Tourism..

Copyright Grampians Tourism
I saw tourists just staying put at the lookout point - not sure whether they were hesitant or just unaware that greater sights were awaiting them beyond the faint trails & overgrown bushes.. (actually it was quite obvious there was a trail leading to the rocky edges).. so some gallivanting needed to be done..!

Off I went.. reopening the trails, love this shot by vonsy.. me vs wild!

Duly rewarded too :) eat your heart out Grampian Tourism! Here's our version! haha..I look like I have a gut in this shot.
Bitten by the adventure bug.. I wanted more. With this scene, I felt like I was merely recounting what others have discovered ages ago , and while that is fantastic too - I just wanted something different for us u know.. (& the wife can testify that) and that's why we ended up HERE.. hehe:

Our destination reached.. The Punch & Judy rocks as my wife calls them :D
Dragged vonsy along to explore the region.. you can see the entire region is full of shrubs & there is no trail leading to these rocks - pure shoving, pushing, getting scratched all the way to our destination.  
Evidence of just that few sissy scratches incurred.. :) man vs wild 
Well - while we were never really far from civilisation.. it was just fun taking this detour to see the rocks. Still brings a smile to my face thinking about how we tried to shortcut back to the main walking path when leaving the rocks & trying to only appear from the bushes when the 'coast was clear' .. (didn't want to shock nobody).. ah fun times with the missus. lovely memories.

Mt Abrupt

Back in the car after the morning adventure, next on the agenda was Mt Abrupt. It was a long drive south to the very tip of the grampians before reaching Mt Abrupt.. it was a lazy afternoon warm & all so I just took my time with the drive.

And accompanying me were the beautiful ranges along the drive...
Hiking Mt Abrupt I read online people would miss a junction heading straight instead of taking left - well, clearly there's been many visitors who read the same article & have since fortified this junction with several rocks & branches to ensure nobody ends up at Signal Peak (though it triggered my curiosity to check it out one day)

Vonsy is seen here taking the WRONG WAY
The lady & the mountain - Signal Peak in the bg
Evening sun in our eyes.. was definitely getting too warm
We decided to turn back at this point, it had been a tiring morning & a warm afternoon - I did a quick run for another 100m or so just to check out n it was just continued rocky trails all the way to the top with more or less the same bg scene. Didn't really want to exhaust ourselves entirely since we had a long way more n could already witness the scenic vista from where we were.. so we stopped at 2.8k instead of the full 3.3k to the top of Mt Abrupt, took in the view for few good moments & turned back - the rocky path down gave our trail shoes a good challenge too.. we went up pretty fast too .. up & down in around 2 hours? This path would make a beautiful technical trail run..  

U-turning at 2.8k mark.. 
Mt Abrupt (bg) & Mt Sturgeon (fg).. taken just outside of Dunkeld as we left the Grampians


Managed to finally pull into Koroit town at around 630pm - this was where we were gonna spend the next 2 nights - a church! :D given that all the seaside hotels/motels/inns/lodges were fully freaking booked & the only place I could find online was located in this small town 15mins away from Warrnambool.. it was certainly a first for me staying in a church, the owners did a great job turning it into a boutique hotel n I guess more importantly the wife was pleasantly surprised n impressed :)

St Patrick's Hotel located at Koroit, bizarre but beautiful
Dinner - feasted at this place called Izzy's... very nice fish & chips!
Vonsy modelling Koroit

Anyway, after a long day we took our time with dinner to wind down before heading back to the hotel to crash early. The next day we were gonna start our exploration of the Great Ocean Road & we definitely needed the rest!

CLICK HERE for Day 3!

My FB pictures HERE!