Monday, 30 January 2012

Rab Vaporize stretch top- Review

Lynne wearing the top on a snowy day
Rab Vapour-rise has been around for quite a while in various guises. The basic thought of it is much the same as other "proper" softshells, not actually "waterproof", but rather water resistant, and focusing a lot more on the breathability of the garment.
Like other tops of the same ilk, there is no membrane as a barrier to water coming in, but also, that means there is no barrier to water attempting to escape. There is a Pertex Equilibrium outer layer, and depending on which jacket you buy, a varying amount of wicking microfleece material on the inside.

I've wanted one of these for ages now, and never got around to buying one as I couldn't justify the price for something that might not be as good as I hoped it would be. Trying on a number of types of the Vapour-Rise family in shops, it became apparent that the Vapour-Rise jacket, the general all purpose one was going to be too thick to run in (which was the primary reason for getting one). Also, the wrist closure was big and bulky, and I found it really cumbersome around my wrists. If that got wet, I could imagine it taking an age to dry. The cuffs would probably fit around most of my gloves though.
Rab Stretch Vapour-Rise

The Vapour-Rise Light jackets (which are at time of writing on sale) just didn't seem to fit me properly. Long in the wrong places, and just generally uncomfortable.
The Stretch Jacket though, thats the one which I tried on in the shop and fell in love with. A smock, with a single pocket, no hood, power-stretch fleece across the back and down the sides and no adjustable cuffs- just thumb loops. Brilliant. The Small was snug, but the powerstretch panels across the shoulders and back made it fit perfectly.

The long and short of it is that I eventually got around to buying one. The idea being that it is a winter running top which would breathe well, so I didn't need to wear anything else unless it got really nasty out- and then a small windproof or waterproof top would do fine. An all day top that once on, wouldn't need to be taken off, even if it got warmer, but could be used as a mid layer should it become necessary.

I've now owned a Vapour-Rise stretch top for about 3 months, and have used it quite a bit.
I can happily say that it is an almost unqualified success. The first major outing was in Wales with a couple of friends. We ran for about 6 hours in snow, sleet, rain, driving wind and general clag. The other guys had to stop and put on/take off various layers throughout the day. I stayed in the same top, until it got REALLY nasty, and then put on a Gore-tex top layer. No faffing around. Excellent.

Chest pocket opening
The chest pocket is very useful for keeping a small camera in- close to hand so I can take shots as I am running, the vent zip opens from the top and the bottom, giving a number of venting options, you can wear it with a wicking baselayer, or on its own and it breathes fantastically.

There is also an elastic neck closure (in lieu of a hood, I suppose), which I have never actually got around to using in anger. If the weather got bad enough to start needing to use it, I think that I'd already have another layer on top. That being said, I have used it in rain and clag, and for the first 30-40 mins the DWR layer on the pertex has been excellent, keeping the worst of the wet out. I found that as long as I was doing enough work in order to keep pushing sweat out from inside the jacket, I stayed relatively dry. Once the weather really came in though, it was time to put on a proper waterproof layer.

Neck closure
size of chest pocket
I have only twice been too hot in the top, once when the air was so still it just wasn't taking any heat away from me, and I felt like a heat sink. My answer was to wear it on its own, stuffing the baselayer I had into the bumbag. The other was yesterday, in the snow. I had a merino base layer on as well, and was running a bit faster than normal as I was keeping up with a couple of other people (and it was the day after a race), however, despite being warm, and sweating quite a lot, I was never actually uncomfortable.

All the black bits are powerstretch
Yes. This jacket really does breathe. After being out yesterday and running quite hard, I noticed that the outer pertex was pretty wet- not from any kind of precipitation, but rather from my sweat. However, the inner fleece was dry. Completely dry. The fleece to pertex wicking action was working brilliantly. I must have been steaming quite a bit by the end of the run.
On a couple of occasions I have lent this jacket to Lynne. Once on the snow run with the Harriers and once on a race- incidentally, also in the snow. She loves it and is thinking about buying one as well. The point of saying this is that when she runs in it, you can see steam rolling out of the shoulders and generally venting heat, something that you can sometimes see with other jackets, but certainly not to the extent that you see with this one. 

There is only one thing that I would change about this jacket. The thumb loops. The seem to be made with small fairies in mind. Getting my thumb through the loop is minorly problematic in the first place, and keeping them there means a numb thumb in about 5-10 mins. A small issue, but an issue nevertheless.

Thumbloops. Not quite big enough
One point to be aware of is the bulk of the jacket if you aren't intending on wearing it all day. I suspect that if you went out with a day pack, that wouldn't be so much of a problem, but trying to stuff it down to get into a small rucksac is hard, and a bumbag- impossible. If you are going to wear this outside, I'd suggest having it as an all day top rather than a "put in the bag and see if you need it" kind of top.
As it has a pertex outer, its worth noting that if you do like to really crank your rucksac down on your back, it may end up bobbling- I've only just noticed it on mine, but there are a couple of places where rucksac straps have started to bobble up the outer.

Breathable. Not Windproof
This is a note- not a criticism- this top is NOT windproof. Don't buy it and expect it to keep you warm if the wind is whipping around you on top of a hill. It is very breathable, and lets heat and water vapour escape. On the photo to the left you can see the sun through the material, thats a thin later of fleece, and a pertex outer.You may feel warm as you walk/run but if you stop, the wind will go through the black stretch panels. In order to stop this from happening get a windproof top- the Montane featherlite is great as it just goes over the top, and provides and extra windproof barrier.
However, should you do that, you WILL end up a sweaty mess if you start running again.

Added chunky zip pull
I like to have a solid zipper which I can grab on with a pair of gloves, so I slightly modified the main zip with a lump of Sugru. You probably don't need it, but I like it.

I haven't used this top in the warm yet, and I suspect it will be just a bit too warm for running in the summer, walking may be ok though. From late autumn through to late spring , I think this is a brilliant top for general all purpose running- especially on cold, frosty days, long easy days, or long days in cold hills.
If I was putting a lot of effort into running, like all out efforts in shorter races (less than 20k), or hard hill training, I think it would probably be a bit too warm unless the weather was really, really ridiculous.

Lynne wearing my top. Again.
I love this jacket. It has become the staple item that I wear on runs this winter. I know others will find it too hot, some may find it too cold, but I love the warmth, coupled with crazy amounts of breathability that it offers. I imagine that I won't be using it much to race in, but for the next few months, on long days out either on a challenge, or just for a bimble, this will be my layer of choice. I can't wait to try it in really nasty weather with an eVent top, that should be good.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Kinder Trial Race Report

The only picture of me
The long and short of it is, good race, snowy, did some really good navving, and then screwed it up by not following the cardinal rule of nav events. Don't follow someone else.

It was snowing quite a lot last night, big floaty flakes, and the hills were whiting over quite nicely. There was a minor concern that we wouldn't get to the race, but had it been that bad, we could have just run over to Hayfield anyway.
The girls are off
As it was, the day dawned beautifully clear, and the roads were fine, soon enough we were at Hayfield scout hut getting out dibber tags, and engaging in general pre-race banter. Although it was cold, I knew I was going to warm up soon enough as we left, so opted to wear a thermal, arm warmers, gloves and shorts, unfortunately it just wasn't bad enough weather to break out the new spektr smock. Ah well, its time will surely come!

This being Lynne's second race, and first one of the year, she wangled her way to getting a couple of partners from the club and went around as a gaggle of glossopdalers, which was nice, they went off early, and went the other way around from me, so I saw them once, about halfway around the course.
I decided that I'd take a camera round, as it was such a gorgeous day, it would be a shame to let it go to waste. Because of this decision I figured that I wasn't exactly going to be competitive in my time, but at least I could make up for it with a decent bit of navigation.

Ian on the way up to Mount Famine
Time for the off, and after looking at the map and pondering it for a while, I decided that I was going to to head around anti-clockwise. The route up Mount Famine, Dimpus Clough is bad enough when you've done a short race, at the end of a long race, in the snow, would be a killer. I caught up with a Pennine runner, and we tag teamed up to the first check point, and then up to the top of Mount Famine. A quick discussion about whether to contour round to hit the next before going into the clough was had, and I had pretty much already decided that a down and up approach was the best.

Down the hill, half running, half sliding, we faffed for a fair while looking for the right clough, but staying relatively high. There were a load of runners who were doing the same thing, but had been sucked down into the bottom of the clough. After a bit of investigation, we headed up the hill, he went to look at another clough, and I continued up the same one, and got the flag. Whistling at him, I carried on. The next part was a slog uphill, and then, a delightful bash across some fields, staying well ahead of the runners that I had unintentionally guided into that previous checkpoint. I took a stonkingly good line, hit the check point, and then following a single line of footprints, instead of the majority which had gone off in what I thought wasn't the best direction, I came up around the corner of Swines Back and dropped into the clough with the next Check point. Fantastic.

Just then, a load of runners came storming down the hill, so I stopped for a moment to take a few pictures,  and carried on. This was obviously the area where I was going to be passing people in the opposite direction, Chris went past, then Charlie, then John Hewitt (who shouted at me for taking photos when I should have been getting on with the more serious task of running), Dave Hogg, Sikobe, Lynne, Alison, Beccy, Carl and Beryl. I had also caught up with Sue who was going in the same direction as me.
SBRT with Sue descending behind him
SBRT was also there, and we took a moment for a bit of mutual photo taking.
Down into the next clough and clipped the checkpoint, stopped to take a picture of Ian of DarkPeak. It was at this point that Julien caught me up and overtook. Ah well, I'm not going all out today, and anyway, its a delightful day to be out in the hills.

Carl and Beryl
Carrying onto the next checkpoint, a racer was stopping to have some jelly babies and very generously offered one to me, which was very nice (thankyou Mr Springfield Strider!) and on through some pretty gnarly terrain around Cluther rocks down to hit the next checkpoint.
Clip and away, and down, and whats this? Julien coming back up towards me?! He had missed the checkpoint by a distance and was doubling back. Ah well, he had started 20 mins after me and was 20 mins up on me anyway. Not a problem. So then on up towards Sandy Heys with this horrible climb that seemed to go on for quite a while. I consoled myself that it wasn't going up Mount Famine. To the top, clip, and Julien comes past again, I'm not entirely sure how to get to the next one, so I tag along behind him.
At this point I was well aware that I was breaking the 1st absolute rule of not following someone else on a nav event, however, it was a nice day, he knows this hill like the back of his hand, and, yes, he went pretty much straight to the point.

Fantastic, now to the next one, he set off down the hill like a rocket, and I was in close pursuit, deciding to take pictures of him descending. So caught up in the brilliant fun of running downhill fast with a friend, taking photos, and just enjoying the day out I didn't look at the map.
We got to the bottom, and surged up the other side of the valley, following Jude, who we had just caught up with. At the top of the valley, Julien turned around. We've missed a checkpoint.
D'oh. That'll teach me to follow anyone blindly every again. I was running faster than I could map read, and I wasn't concentrating. Now we were 3km from home with a 2km round trip to get a Checkpoint that we missed.

The fateful photos!
All the time that I had built up with good choices and intelligent navigation blown away by following another person. Ah well. Entirely my fault, caught up in the moment.
So back to the Checkpoint watching others that I had passed, pass me, damn.

Then the run back down the hill, and up to White cabin, I was getting tired and the line just didn't appear under my feet for ages. It felt like it took a long long time to get up there, and as the cabin came into sight, Julien was shooting off into the distance, with 4 runners that I should have been in front of.
Clip the paper, and off down the hill. I was a little unsure of the path as I'd never been along it before, but it was a wide scar through snow covered fields. I no longer cared about the puddles with ice in them, splashing though them with complete disregard for the water in my shoes.
Down, down down into Hayfield, overtaking 2 or 3 people on the way back in.
I finished in 2:43 ish, no idea, but probably well down the pecking order.
I'd be disappointed, but, I had such a cracking day out, it really doesn't matter!

Glossopdale also won a fair amount of prizes as well, despite his various detours, Julien won V50, Susan, Jude and Beryl all won their respective age catagories as well.
Well done Lynne!
Lynne came in and had quite amazing leg cramps, which surprised her quite a lot. At least she now knows what they feel like!
Now at home, sipping a Rescue Ale, courtesy of IDP and Woodhead mountain rescue, writing my blog so that Beryl doesn't get disappointed when she see me down the pub later on today!
Taking the camera around was a vrilliant success, and I might end up taking around an SLR if I can work out how to carry it without breaking it.

As a bit of amusement, here is my track in garmin, have a butchers and see where you thing we may have gone slightly wrong

I have only one slight disappointment about the day. Nick Barber didn't wear his flat cap for the duration of the race. Next time maybe?
A terribly cheesy photo of baba

Friday, 27 January 2012

Finally! Montane Spektr Smock- Preview

Well. I have finally got around to deciding about a running jacket with a membrane. I was debating whether I should go for the OMM Cypher, Rab Demand or Montane Spektr smock.

Spektr smock next to a normal Mars and Snack size Snickers
All 3 of them are made with eVent fabric, and are various ridiculously light weights, down to about 210g for the Montane. The OMM and the Rab seem like excellent jackets, and I would have loved to do a comparison piece on them vs each other and the Montane. However, blagging one of each jacket was not really an option, in fact blagging just one of them was beyond me, so I resorted to buying one instead. (Actually, I got it as a belated birthday present, but its much of a muchness).

So, I decided not to go for the Rab or the OMM as there already seem to be a few reviews out there of fairly active oudoorsy type people, also, as jackets they are of fairly generic design, and the radical nature of the Spektr Smock has been beckoning me for quite some time.
No pockets, no hood peak, no cuff adjusters, no excess material to flap around, and, most obviously and excitingly, no zip.

I know this is a first generation kind of thing, and its a bit of a gimmik. I suspect that it might not be the best type of closure in the world, and that it may well have been a better jacket with a zip instead of the "tornado roll" closure, however, its interesting, its new, and it has to be tried. Hence why I decided on the jacket.
Tornado closure when open

Velcro from the tornado closure system closed
And the whole thing totally closed up
Also, every other review I ever seem to see of the Spektr smock is done by a walker who wants an Ultralight top and goes on to complain about the sizing of the jacket.
Yes, you CAN use it in that capacity, but it is designed for fast moving, running, climbing, and generally highly active people who need a lightweight "waterproof" layer that doesn't flap around like 10 yards of sail cloth.
No adjustment on the cuffs
The medium fits me perfectly (though to be fair, I am normally a small in most other jackets), and I cannot wait to try it out in some murky, gnarly weather.

Taping in the hood, and the velcro cap retainer
I would have gone out today, but am racing tomorrow, so I'm kind of hoping for horrible weather then as well.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Training effect

I'm not talking about numbers necessarily, I hope they will come later in the form of good times in races, but just the feeling of running on the hills.
Its something that I have noticed over the last couple of outings in the hills, just trying to get faster, and I have to say its a great feeling. No longer am I just kind of plodding along, nor am I just "running" without any real thought behind what I do.

I suppose in the past what I have done is just put one foot in front of the other and just kind of gone along with it, which seems to work pretty well. That style of running has done me well for quite a while. I suppose the change has really come from the work that is being put in at Strength and Performance, an "underground" gym where I treat athletes, and also have the privilege to train.

Sean and I have been working on a few things to help my running and climbing, as well as general fitness. A few goals were set by me at the beginning, based on some adequecies set by Dan John for pretty much any runner. I'm not quite at the adequacies yet, but I am working on them, along with some other interesting movements. This, accompanied by running, and also a lot of intelligent recovery has led me to how I felt this morning on a quick run.

As I mentioned, in the past, running has been pretty much a one foot in front of the other- kind of thing for me, and in the long runs, it was more of a plod along and make sure I was eating enough food and taking on enough water. After looking at a couple of videos of some very decent runners hooning their way around the hills (Killian, Lloyd etc), I noticed that they looked, for the most part, pretty effortless. I suppose being 170cm and only about 58kg does tend to help with that, but thats another story.

What I am getting at is that as I was running today, I could actually feel power going through my legs and transferring into the ground. It wasn't a passive running action, but actually my muscles(all of them, including ones I didn't really know I had) were engaging at the same time to provide me with some fantastic forward locomotion. All without me really thinking about it. Unconsciously focussing muscle and fascia to power me forward, and feel like I was being powered by someone elses legs. A pretty amazing feeling.

I have to admit, it didn't last for all that long, and a bit of endurance will need to be built up, but the feeling of bouncy floatiness was quite something else.
While it cannot be attributed specifically to more running, more training, more time in the gym or more recovery, I suspect it is a combination of all of them, melded together with a fair amount of work.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Trigger- First race of the Year

Awakening at 5:50am for a race isn't something I had done for a very long time, however, it was a reality. A beautifully clear sky, frost and ice on the car awaited us. Breakfast and coffee, and a while to wake up properly, and we were on our way to Marsden. We went via 3 pick up points for fellow racers that we were ferrying to the start.
Although there was ice on the road, there was a lot of grit too, so no issues in getting there.
We were pretty much the first people to the race centre, and Ian from Woodhead Mountain Rescue (and DarkPeak) was there in full kit check capacity, making sure that everyone had the required kit.
A quick shuffle through, picked up the race number and sat down to chill out (quite literally) and wait.
Soon enough, people were arriving in droves. There were 200 entries, and it was over subscribed, to make up for any droppoutage.
Prep, note the lack of long legs on shorts. oops.

Waiting for the start was cold, and the water in my Camelbak tube froze while I left it on the floor. Schoolboy error! Thankfully, Lynne had some hot water in a flask in the car, so I used a cup of that to defrost the offending bit. Thank goodness. That might have caused a few problems! There was good banter at the start, a large number of Glossopdalers had entered and were standing around getting cold. I was very very glad that I had my down jacket on, which was about to be thrown into the car. One minor issue was that I had decided I'd wear shorts. Seemed sensible. But the vast majority of the competitors were wearing long tights. I hadn't even brought a pair to change into had I wanted to, and it was freezing. (-5 by someones reckoning). I had a Helly hansen top on, and a pair of merino arm warmers under that. The combination, along with the sealskinz lobster gloves should keep me warm all along the race. Very soon we were called together for a short speech before a very non-ceremonial 3-2-1.... go.
Waving at the off

Off we went into the sunrise. Beautifully clear, blue sky above us, not a breath of wind, and a couple of miles of running ahead of us. I've never raced this kind of distance before- but I have run it, so I thought I'd just focus on surviving rather than going all out, settling into a relaxed pace I saw the leaders hammering off into the distance. I was quite high up in the field, but not hooning away in any shape or form. Up the road, onto a wide track, and Matt from Glossop was a few steps ahead, so I sped up to have a chat as we ran alongside Butterly reservoir. Still cold, and very, very still, the surface was mirror-like, and you could see a very thin crust of ice that had formed in a zigzag shape across the middle. The sun was coming up over the hill, and I was very glad for my peaked cap that I had decided to wear- pretty much at the last minute, with a lot of the people around me being dazzled by the sun so low in the sky.

As we started climbing slightly I decided to let Matt get on with it and drop back slightly- his pace was a little faster than mine uphill, and I didn't want to hold him back, or burn out this early in the race. Toddling along at my own pace holding my own with a few others, we passed a bevy of deer up in a farm to our left, and then a flock of sheep, just lined up across the dam at Wessenden reservoir.
We carried on up, a massive line of runners, perhaps spread out over a kilometre or so by now, the path carried on up the hill, and then, all of a sudden, runners were splitting from the path and hacking out across bog. Everyone was doing it, and as I hadn't reccied this bit I thought, no harm in following them, and tagged along at the back. Over a boggy stream, up a hill our first real taste of off road running- very hard and icy, over a couple of stiles, and down a hill. Hey presto. We're at Isle of Skye road.
Credit- Rich Asquith - Flaming Photography
That was fast. Excellent. Eat half a Geo-bar, (there is no sense in carrying food that I'm not eating), and after all, a long run is really just an extended food management exercise, I thought I'd just carry on at that pace.

Across the road, with a fantastic cloud inversion across to the East, we travelled down into a slight valley, and then up the hill, which always promised to be a bit of a slog. The paving slabs underfoot were generally ok, but in places where water had trickled across them over night, were a bit treacherous. Very very slippy ice and black ice was in evidence, and you had to be a bit careful with your foot placement. I nearly slipped once, but held it together quite happily. Up the hill, walking, then running, then walking, then running, a skein of about 50 geese winged its way overhead, honking quite merrily, which was a fantastic sight to see on such a clear day. Up and up, as we crested the rise, the wind was howling up from the South, with quite a chill in the air, clothing management, and the Buff came off my wrist and on my head, under the cap, covering my ears. Mmm. Thats warmer. At one point we had to cross a stream, careful managment of foot placement should see me across it happily enough. Down to the rock by the waters edge, a launch, on which my foot skidded quite spectacularly, and a rather ungainly step into the middle of the cold cold water. Nice. According to the photo that was taken by Rich Asquith a little later on, a cut on my leg... no idea that was there. (Go to his website Flaming Photography for some excellent images of the race)

I was still in no-mans land. The faster runners way off ahead, the slower-faster runners a about 200 yards ahead, and the faster-slower runners behind, but my cold, wet foot was warming up with every step.
Coming up to the first trig, Black Hill, we passed the Woodhead Mountain Rescue contingent who were marking off our numbers as we came through, and I was finally on ground that I vaguely knew, and the first downhill section of the race. Excellent, I'll make up a bit of time here.
At this point, I was behind a couple of people who were running together, but quickly dispatched them. But the ground was not nice to run on. It should have been a bit boggy, quite squishy, and easy to run on. Not a bit of it. It had iced over, the ground was rock solid, tufts of grass were sticking up which were also iced solid, unstable ground was frozen and unforgiving, and at speed, it would have been pretty vicious ankle spraining territory. Not quite the downhill flying section I was anticipating.
Ah well, keep it together, and just keep going downhill. I was gaining on a few people, and without really trying, took a few quite easily. Jumping across ditches was interesting, because you couldn't trust that the ground was going to be forgiving and easy to land on. It was like concrete.
Except the bits with a thin crust of ice which you went through to get another cold shoe of water, and cut your shins on the ice.

The ground steepened as we surged down toward Crowden Littlebrook, and I was finally catching up with Matt and his little group of runners. Ian Winterburn was taking some wild lines across the bog, and when I saw there was a curve in the path ahead, I decided I'd just bee-line it across. Great idea. Well executed, and then a fall, a roll and get up, in front of about 8 runners- getting up just in time to see the ground radically steepen below me down toward Littlebrook, and a gaggle of Mountain Rescue Guys who were waiting for people like me to come crashing down the hill.
But I stood up, carried on running, looked down the steepness and assessed where the best line for getting down the clough and up the other side, and, to be honest, it looked best and most straight forward to follow the fall line.
Bang, straight down, across the river, up again and onto the path, in the process passing all 8 people. Saying "Hi" to the MRT guys in as nonchalant style as possible, trying to make it seem as if the whole thing was planned, I gained the path, fixed my eyes on the runner ahead, and plodded. I fully expecting the horde of people I had just thundered past to gain on me and overtake at any moment.
Nope. Not a bit of it.

Carried on, caught up with the next runner- which was Dan, who I did the 15 trigs with mid last year. We carried on, and still, no-one was catching us up. Ah well, quite a good little line there then.

Along the path, and then a descent into Crowden, we were eventually getting caught, down and a dodgy road crossing, passed another gaggle of MRT members and then along the reservoir to the dam, and then up and onto Bleaklow- the 2nd climb of the day.
I knew there were helicopters buzzing around, working on the "Moors for Future" project, ferrying large sacks of moss and heather and other stuff up onto the moors. I had heard there was a Huey up there, and didn't really believe it, but as we approached there was that trademark deep "choka-choka-choka" that you hear on films like Platoon and Apocalypse Now. Flipping heck. There's a Huey up there!

I was with Dan, Andy and Matt, all Glossopdalers, and John Doyle from Pennine, as we headed up across the road and up the slopes, it was just like a club run. To the right were people clay-pigeon shooting, up above us were low flying helicopters, it was certainly like no other fellrace I have ever run.
Ian W was at it again with his various "short-cuts" which inevitably brought him out at the same place as us, at exactly the same time.
Up and then, really, up. A scramble up a semi-dry waterfall/stream bed, straight up, clinging onto heather and rocks, and all too soon, it was over, and on to the top, along Lawrence Edge up to Wildboar clough.
By the end of the scramble I had no one around me, with everyone taking different lines up, so I set off in pursuit of John- not very fast pursuit, I must hasten to add, but I was pursuing.

Coming up to Snake Summit
To be honest, I was shuffling a bit by now, but keeping moving. Heading up through Wildboar clough it was icy as a freezer. Underfoot was horrible, and I nearly twisted my ankles numerous times. I heard footsteps behind me, figuring it was Andy, Dan or Matt, I carried on and figured they'd pass me at some point in the very near future. The Huey continued to thunder overhead, at times seeming to be just a couple of hundred metres off the deck, may be closer. Those things are LOUD!

We trudged up the clough, which seemed to take an age, and then a massive leap over the stream at the end and up, over the stile.
At this point, I realised the guy behind me wasn't a familiar one, we had a quick conversation about lines up and onto Bleaklow, so I told him to follow me up and over, there was a pretty good line, so we carried on.
The line up to the Pennine Way was fine, nothing out of the ordinary occurred, no-one over took us, and really, we didn't see anyone until we got up to Bleaklow Head, a turn about and over to Wain stones.

On my last recce, in the midst of fairly average Bleaklow weather I ended up going far too far in the wrong direction, completely missed my point, gave up and got myself off the hill for dinner time. Nothing like that today. It was clear as a bell, and as we passed the MRT guys at Wain stones I looked out for the trod going across to Herne Stones, and then onward to the Trig point. I missed it completely. However, no problem at all, as the bogs we were crossing, normally leg sucking monstrosities, were iced over and solid underfoot. By this time Craig (yes, we had introduced ourselves by now, and exchanged life stories) and I could see a couple of people who were ahead, and appeared to have taken the correct line, however, by bashing across the bog in a straight line, we caught up to them as we passed Herne stones, and had over taken them by the time we had got to the Trig point. - It was Dark Peaker John Boyle (not to be confused with John Doyle who I mentioned earlier... I ALWAYS get them the wrong way around, sorry guys). At the trig point Craig and I turned South East and powered down the hill toward the waterfall in Crooked clough.
Again, the ground, rough and hard, ankle snapping stuff, but we got off ok. Up onto the trod, and then a bust across the moor onto the Pennine way. I completely stuffed the line up and broke up too early, but again, the frozen ground came to the rescue, and we hit the Path early with no problems at all. We were discussing lines across to Kinder now, and Craig was saying his friends told him the best line, without doubt, was straight down the flagstones and up onto Kinder. Fine, if he wanted to go that way, not a problem, I was going straight over Featherbed Moss. He asked if he could go with, and as he asked so nicely, I said yes.

Away over Featherbed Moss
An easy pace down toward the Snake Pass where Lynne was waiting with a camera and water if I needed it, which I didn't, MRT members were also there, and we got across the road without incident, through the gate, hang a left, and up the Landy track. Skirting Featherbed Moss we resorted to walking at points, as we saw John Doyle ahead of us- we reccied the same route a couple of weeks before. Over the "crest" and now we could see the line of the ascent up to Kinder. But not before a hellish descent over groughs and through heather to get to the bottom of Ashop Clough. I swear it took half a lifetime to get through that lot- it certainly didn't seem that far when I reccied it the other day, but to be fair, that was just a bob over the hill as opposed to having run 15 miles beforehand.

The climb up Kinder was horrible. Nothing like Bleaklow, which was more of a scramble, this was just a long, hard, horrible slog that seemed to go on forever. Getting tired now, and eating the last of my "normal" food, only "emergency" type food left- but I had a bit of it left. We eventually broke onto the top and stumbled up the ramp clough to the trig, I wasn't quite finished, but was at the beginnings of struggling.
Past the MRT guys at the trig, showing our numbers for the last time before the end, turn down, across what would normally be bog, but now frozen ground, and onto the edge path, from there nearly to the Downfall, and then up the river, which was frozen solid.
If there is one thing that you don't want to do without spikes on your shoes, its on a frozen river. We worked our way up and past Kinder Gates, and eventually, it had to happen, one of us went over HARD. It wasn't me. Craig was on the floor on the ice in a fair amount of pain. Stop. Make sure he is ok, help him up, check he can walk/run, help him along, and we were back going.
The line across Kinder wasn't ideal, it certainly wasn't as good as the one I hit on another recce the week before, but again the solid ground made it fine. By this time, Craig and I had been joined by another runner, who piggy backed us across the plateau.
It was testing and hard, but we got across, at which point, I was sugar-crashing quite interestingly. I stuffed down a Snickers and sucked up the last of my water. When I filled the bladder in the morning I was hoping that I would run out just before I hit the last descent. Seems like I got the balance pretty much right, but the guy who piggy backed across behind us was flying down the clough to Grindslow Knoll. Dammit. I was getting cold, hands, which were warm all the way through the run were beginning to chill, the biting wind cutting across the moor. However, not too far to go, I didn't need to put on a waterproof yet, and anyway, the end was nearly in sight. I'd get there ok.

As I was coming to the Knoll, who should pop out from the West... Ian Winterburn! He must have had an AMAZING line across Kinder, either that, or he was just better at rough ground at the end of a long race than me. I trailed behind all three of them (Craig was ahead by this point), and I dragged myself to the end of the Knoll, and threw myself down the hill. Too tired to work out any intelligent line, I pretty much kept to the path all the way down, overtaking Ian, but being left behing by the other two.
Argh. Tired, painful legs, not quite working properly, hammering down a hill at the end of a race... there was an amazing line which I completely missed, but nevermind, just focus on the end.

Through the gate, and John Hewitt was there shouting at me to get a move on and catch the 2 guys in front, one of whom had just fallen over in the field. Great, I thrash into the field, theoretically, great running terrain and within 10 paces, I'm over and sliding down on my side, up again, and a few more steps, exactly the same, over on my side. Nightmare. The grass is icy and slick as the river back at the top. Be more careful- a few more running steps, and a third time, I hit the ground, hard.

Right. Speed has to be the key. Up and run faster. All I can hear is John in the distance shouting at me to "GET UP" and something about being a lazy swine, lying around on the floor at the end of a race- but I might have imagined that. Running down the grass, I can see the other 2 in the distance, catchable? I don't know. They disappear down the path, and I plunge down there after them. But not fast enough.
The end
By the time I get to the end of the path and onto the final run in on the tarmac, they have gone. Ah well, keep up the speed, and down the road, dodging cars and jeeps, and 100 yards before the end, I finally catch up with Craig.
I don't know if he felt guilty that I lead him to the end all the way across from Bleaklow and let me finish before him, or if he was genuinely knackered and couldn't stop me from getting past. Probably the the former, to be honest.

So I came in 23rd. Pretty tired, but quite happy with the result. And about a minute later I remembered to stop my garmin. Official time, 3:59:12 for 35km, with (allegedly) 1,165m elevation (learnt not to trust Garmin so much on the height gain...) That's not bad.
Remembering to switch off

The food (chilli and a load of cake) at the end was most welcome, along with the happy smiley faces, the excellent organisation and the help from Woodhead Mountain Rescue.

Julien came in 6th in about 3:30, and first V50, and the Glossopdale ladies team came in 2nd team place. A pretty good result, it has to be said! The winner was Oli Johnsone from Dark Peak in 3:13
Excellent event, and a classic in the making.

Real food
Post race laughs
Julien getting V50, going in for a snog with Nicky
Ian, and the Woodhead Rescue Ale

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Trigger Point "The Grid" foam roller First Impressions

I'm a big fan of foam rollers for myofascial release and have been using them for a good while now. I have looked at how useful they can be for ITB syndrome in another blog for Global Therapies which you can find here.

Having used various things as foam rollers in the past, from Lemonade Bottles to Beer Bottles, squidgy rollers, hard rollers and a mixture inbetween, which feel like hard rollers, but end up being very soft and quite ineffectual, my eye was caught by the Trigger Point "grid".
In most advertisements it is presented as a luridly coloured hollow tube with various nobbles and lines, making it seem part technical gym equipment, and part small childs toy.
At £40+ a throw, unless you have a fair amount of wedge to chuck about, its quite an investment, especially if you aren't entirely sure what you are getting for your money.

My Grid arrived today, in somewhat of a smaller box than I was expecting. The rollers I have been used to using are generally about 45 to 60cm long. This box certainly wasn't that long, maybe 35, 40cm at a push. Interesting. Have I been sent the wrong thing?
Scissors out, and a quick work was made of the sellotape, nope, looks like I have been sent the right thing, its just a little shorter than I was expecting. No harm there, just a mis-conception on my part.
And, its quite a circumspect Black, with an inner of lurid green. Not that colour really enters into whether the apparatus works well or not, its simply a bit less "kids toy" and a bit more "gym tool". (with a hint of fun on the inside)...

As you can see from the photos, its quite a bit shorter than the other rollers I have, measuring in at approx 35cm, it is the same width as the harder Black roller, and can quite easily fit a 2 litre lemonade bottle inside it.
The outer foam is about as squidgy as the white (less dense) roller that I have already, but with the hard plastic core being as solid and as unyielding as a drainpipe- hence creating the trademark "soft with a hard feel" feeling from Trigger point. I noticed this with their TP ball, and still have no idea how they do it, but with the Grid, its a little more self evident.

I wasted no time in jumping on the roller to see what it felt like. It didn't take much time to get used to the diminished size of the roller, seeing as its the same size as the lemonade bottles I used to use. The longer rollers just seem like a bit of a luxury anyway.
Immediate impressions, its not as hard (or as cold) as a fully pressurised Lemonade bottle, nor does it feel quite as hard (though it does have some solidity) as the Black polystyrene foam roller. It certainly isn't quite as soft and forgiving as the closed cell white roller.
Squidginess of the Grid
Squidginess of my White roller
Squidgyness of my Black roller
So after a very cursory roll out on it, in comparison to the other rollers I own, it does seem to have its own little niche. What I am intrigued to know, and intend to work out over the coming weeks and months is whether it does everything that the different rollers do- in other words, can I use it like the soft roller for when I'm feeling particularly beaten up and just need some gentle treatment, but still use it for more significant myofascial sessions which come close to a Soft Tissue Therapy session? Or does it occupy its own place within a wider tool range, or is it simply an expensive version of something that I already own?

If nothing else, the box it came in makes quite a nice cat nest for a medium sized cat.