Sunday, February 06, 2011

What lots of people living in Jakarta don't realise is that beautiful green scenery, fresh air, unique wildlife of Java is what you can get just 45 minutes drive South of Jakarta.

If you wish to escape crowded Jakarta and smell smog free air, there are many great places out there to visit, exercise out in a fresh air (no fitness membership required!) or even do some trail running, something I've been passionate about for more than a year. It's so much different from running on a treadmill or in a city. It is highly rewarding experience (great feeling of freedom) but also challenging sport that could result in serious injury. It puts trail runners and their gear to the test. In this post, I'd like share some of my trail running gear experience and hope it will help beginner trail runners.

Running shoes

Most important trail running gear is the right pair of running shoes. It is essential to select running shoes which are specifically designed for trail running. These types of running shoes have soles with treads that give greater stability and can help to prevent shoe from slipping on surfaces such as wet grass, loose soil or wet stones. As I've myself experienced, wrong choice of shoes can quickly lead to running injury such as shin splints. Fortunately, softer surfaces on a trail run makes it comfortable to run longer and more often.

My latest choice of trail running shoes are Nike Zoom Structure Triax+ 13, which I favour because of good balance of cushioning, support and stability:

I strongly recommend it to anyone suffering from shin splints. If someone thinks I can get better shoes for trail run, do let me know, so I can test it and compare. I plan to test New Balance MT876 and MT101, but still can't find any shop around that sells it.

Heart Rate Monitor (HRM)

Nothing helped to improve my  running performance more than the Heart Rate Monitor (HRM). Considering its benefits, I regret that it took me so long to decide which one to buy. Eventually, I've bought Polar RS400sd (~$350), the second best HRM from Polar after RS800CX (~$500+).

I haven't bought the more expensive Polar RS800CX because I don't need the more advanced features it provides e.g. altimeter and barometer, cadence sensor (for cycling), support of GPS sensor and some other features for professional athletes that I wouldn't be able to use anyway. I always run trails with  Garmin high-sensitivity GPS anyway, so I still get GPS tracking and altitude information from each run, with greater level of details compared to Polar's G3 GPS sensor. The RS400sd still comes with foot pod which provides running distance, speed information when I just go for a short run and don't care about tracking or when I can't use GPS e.g. on a treadmill. Both RS400sd and RS800CX also come with fantastic ProTrainer 5 software.

Let me show you what this software can do. Here's recorded easy 9.7km trail run imported from Polar RS400sd HRM into ProTrainer 5 software:

Here's detailed graph from ProTrainer 5:

As you can see, I run only 1 minute in maximum intensity zone, which is fine as it should be less than 5 minutes on a typical run. I also run more than 37 minutes in hard intensity zone, little more than recommended and easy 31 minutes in moderate intensity zone. To make it perfect I should run more in zone 3 and less in zone 4.

Note: You can find more info about Polar sport zones here.

Now, compare the above training with the following 9.4km HHH run on hills around Jakarta:

That's good example of overtraining, with 26% of trail run (21 minutes!) in maximum intensity zone. It was mostly because of hot and humid weather that day and some major hills and simply I didn't wan to slow down. Here's detailed graph for this run:

When my HR reaches maximum intensity zone, my Polar watch beeps, so I know I should slow down.

Overall, Polar's HRM really helps me to make most of my trail run, it allows me to plan runs and track my progress (the running index is especially interesting).

I should also mention that RS400sd is all water resistant (watch, foot pod, transmitter) means you can even swim with it.


I'm quite nuts about logging trail runs to the point that I had recorded my every trail run ever (including number of hash house runs). My Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx GPS makes it all possible. There are so many things I like about this device. First of all it is really sensitive, so I don't lose signal even under dense tree canopy. Seconds, 60CSx is IPX7 waterproof, so it works perfectly fine even if I cross a river (note: it does not float, so have it tied to backpack or pouch around rivers). Another thing I like about it is that it uses regular 2 AA batteries. I use Sanyo Eneloop rechargeable batteries and  keep several backup batteries with me in a sealed plastic bag. I forgot to take backup batteries once and was low-bat, so I simply bought 2 AAs at a gas station on the way to a run site. It also has electronic compass and barometric altimeter and I also like the sun and moon information, so I can check how much time do I still have before it gets dark at the current location. Well, several times this info wouldn't help much, but I managed to get out of palm oil plantation/hills in a complete darkness with help of GPS.

One advice, do not save your tracks on the GPS itself unless you don't mind losing information such as speed, time, course etc. It is better to import active log, which will have all this extra information in the log. With all information, you can reply all run in Google Earth, which looks like this:

To see how this HHH run looks animated in Google Earth, you can download the Google Earth .KML file here.

I also strongly recommend to purchase carrying case, to protect GPS during run.


1 hour trail run in hot and humid tropical weather requires lots of water. Before I used to carry plastic bottles with me, but this was not convenient, so I got CamelBak hydration pack. It's probably the most comfortable way to carry water with you during trail run. The only thing I probably don't like about it is that pouch in front is not water proof (I think it should be), otherwise it's pretty much perfect.

I've also bought some cheap hydration backpack in a hiking store, but water from it would taste rubber eve after a month or so. I don't have such problem with CamelBak.


I use Nike Dri-fit shirt and Adidas ClimaCool shorts. The reason I use Adidas pants is because back pocket comes with zipper. I used Nike shorts and I've lost some stuff that I'd put in pockets without zippers. No such problem with Adidas ClimaCool. The shorts are also longer, so I get less scratches on my legs. I also use knee high NikeFIT Dry socks, so I don't get my legs cut up from bushes. I also keep backup pair of dry socks in hydration backpack.

Other items

The other items I always have with me that I think are pretty much a must on longer trail runs:
  • LED waterproof torch - I'm considering getting headlamp and use LED waterproof torch as a backup, but so far I always do fine with a little waterproof torch;
  • Mobile phone - can be useful to call for help, unfortunately in many locations where I run I don't get any signal. I'm considering getting satellite phone, or satellite pager;
  • Backup batteries
  • Medical stuff - betadine, mosquito repellent;
  • Money - getting dark? Find nearest road on GPS and ask for a ride;
  • Digital camera - something I started to take with me lately. Take picture, tag it on GPS;

In general, whatever electronic running gear you buy, better get a waterproof alternative. Otherwise, put it in a sealed plastic bag.

I'm looking forward to some gear related comments from other trail runners or fellow hashers.


satellite phone plans said...

Wow, this stuff rocks! I'll be coming back for more. Thanks.

Dominique said...

This blog is very nice and informative.Thanks for sharing these great informations related gears for runners

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