Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Isle of Wight

Running across 10 acre field
 Had a lovely time on the Island. The best photos seem to have mostly come from one early morning run. Just goes to show that is when the light is best.
Sunrise over St.Helens Harbour
 Some people call it Bembridge harbour, some people call it St.Helens harbour, in fact its the unsilted up remains of Brading haven, a Roman harbour.
Church of St.Helen
 The Church of St.Helen, now a sea mark for the haven. Traditionally it was a place where big ships came to shelter from storms. The still do, but I don't think its quite as spectacular as it used to be. Oil tankers etc aren't quite the same sight as I imagine tall ships and ships of the line to be. It is said that stones used to be taken from this church ruin to scour ships decks, and that is where the "holystoning the decks" comes from. St.Helens was also a place where the ships got their water from. They reckoned it stayed fresher for longer on long voyages. (Incidentally, I also heard this time that the water from the wells is fed by underground streams that make their way to the island from the Alps, and any water drawn is thousands of years old. Interesting).
The Frost on the bridge didn't quite come out

Trig point at about 30 metres above sea level

Spinnaker tower in Portsmouth. (no I wasn't running at this point, yes, I was on a boat)

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The Mother Land

Trail running is something that I really don't seem to be doing much of recently. I normally see a hill, or a bog, point in a direction and run until I feel like stopping. Trods are the main way of going around, and when they aren't there, its a beeline through the heather/bog/bracken.

However, I'm back on the Isle of Wight, where I grew up. There is pretty much no open country here, it is all footpaths and bridleways, and the most boggy it gets is going though marshland when you aren't quite in the right place. Yes, ok, its kind of like a bog, but it feels different...

I've been out for a couple of runs so far, I'm only here for a week and am not intending on running every single day. I know this island like the back of my hand, its not like there are places I haven't seen or places that I haven't been to. It is an absolute pleasure to run from my house to places that as a child I thought were so far away you NEEDED a car to get to. It is a delight to run along those paths that I used to walk along as a child, and it is fabulous to be back on the island without the island mentality.

The Island mentality?
Let me explain.
The Isle of Wight is 24 miles across. The furthest you can travel in a straight line when walking is 32 miles- ish without falling off the end, or having to go in a different direction. If you go somewhere in the car its almost a special occasion, and as for going to Newport- a full 25 mins in the car. Well, you'd better have a good reason for driving there, otherwise it can wait until there is another reason to go as well! Running 10miles? Well, you might as well have run to the ends of the earth and back.

I love running here, and I hate it. The hills are small, but they are LONG. You may not go above 200 metres above sea level, but when you do, you know you have climbed every step of the way FROM sea level. Sometimes even from below it. Running yesterday, the paths were, for the most part, rock hard, yet there are places where I was ankle deep in mud and the local "blue slipper" clay. Nice.

In terms of long distance trails, there are about 13 of them, including the Tennyson trail, the Worsley trial, the Bembridge trail etc. and the round the island trail, which follows the coastal footpath all the way around. You can swap and change which trails you go on, and there are a myriad of smaller random footpaths which take you to any number of small backwaters and delightful villages throughout the island.
For a long time this has been a place for walkers and cyclists to come. I don't think that runners, especially trail runners are all that common. I passed an old couple on a path yesterday, and instead of the general "good morning" or "good afternoon" greeting that you expect, they said "well done", which was a new one on me!
There is of course the annual Fell Championships, held over in Ventnor, but above and beyond that, there are hundreds of places to run and enjoy yourself across the island. Its virtually impossible to get lost, and if you do, there is a natural boundary of the coast to stop you from getting TOO lost.

This wasn't quite intended as a "COME TO THE ISLE OF WIGHT" type blog, but it seems to have ended up as such. Its a lovely place to be, and a lovely place to run. Come and explore it.

Its funny how you just don't take pictures of where you live. Looking on the computer, all I can find amongst photos of foreign places are pictures of Mum and Dad on sledges in the garden, and I don't think they'd thank me for putting those up here.
So I shall go and take a few, looking at the weather they might not be the best ever, but at least it might give a real representation of what it's like here.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Salomon 3/4 exo tights

Men in Capris? Whatever next?

No, not Capris. These are 3/4 length running tights. Long enough to keep your knees warm, and short enough to ensure the bottom of your tights don't end up muddy and soggy as you plunge calf deep into some icy bog of horror. I really like the idea and the practicality of this kind of tight, and would have more of them if more different manufacturers made them (and if shops stocked them...)
Using exo tights in the snow
Salomon have made running gear for ages, and have had a go with compression- the Exo series. The basic premise is that there is a tight, which is elastic and provides some form of compression, however, to increase this, they have bonded on a hectagon shaped web thing across the outside of the material.
Its pretty cool to look at, and has some great design opportunities.
The question is, what does it claim to do, and what does it actually do?

Salomon say that the entire Exo range is designed with active compression in mind (as opposed to static compression- think post race and travel compression). They provide stability, a better alignment for the body as it goes through the gait cycle of running (particularly on rough ground or up or downhill, reduces cramp and soreness, and staves off injury.
This is the exact blurb
Run easier : Better alignment of your body to run easier on uneven trails downhill & uphill.
Run longer : Reduce cramping, muscle soreness, saving energy & preventing injuries. +5% of muscle performance.
Recover better : Improve recovery time. +11% of active revovery.

Thats quite a list.
There is also an interesting video on the Salomon website which shows a the quadriceps of a runner in slow motion, jangling all over the place as he foot plants, showing the inefficiencies and wasted energy of the muscles, and then with the exo-tights on, the muscles are kept in much better alignment, and don't waste time flopping all over the place after each and every footstep.

I have no idea how they came up with those numbers, but I'm sure there is some kind of scientific basis for it, though I haven't seem how the tests were done etc.

On the 15 trigs
I have a pair, and have used them extensively for running and adventure racing, so much so that I think they may well be coming to the end of their useful life as compression gear, and may well just have to be used as modesty covering for when I'm out running(!)

First impressions of the tights are that they look pretty swish- with the webbing on the outside of the material. It seems to be bonded pretty well, and with the various claims to keep you going stronger for longer, well, thats in the back of your mind as well. Something that looks like this and feels like this might actually work. Its not relying on the stretchy/squeeziness of the fabric on its own, but rather on the rubber webbing around it.

The hexagonal compression webbing
Put them on, and they immediately feel that bit tighter and solid around the legs than other compression gear I have worn. All around the quads. The compressive pattern doesn't go down as far as the knee, but just encompasses the main bulk of the quads and hamstrings, which is the best place to have it really. There is no gradual compressive force, or specific place in which it compresses- like CW-X, but just an overall general feeling of being squeezed.

Does it make any difference?
Unfortunately I am not in possession of fancy technical measuring stuff like what Salomon has access to, so I can't give specific numbers to talk about. Which is kind of annoying. However, I have quite a lot of experience of wearing them. I used to use them a lot for adventure racing- 8 hours+ of running and cycling, I don't know if it was psycological, or if they actually worked specifically well, but they kept me going right the way through.
I never really used them for shorter efforts- less than 2 hours or so, but more if I was out for a long day. I don't generally experience cramps when I'm running, if I do, its only really when I stop and take my shoes off. In that it stops me from getting cramp when running, I suspect it might be more the Exo-tights in conjunction with correct nutrition and hydration.
The most recent proper long long run I did in them was the Dark Peak 15 trigs. Could I have got around without them? Maybe. Would I have been in a lot more pain than I was? Almost definitely. Would I have been more tired by the end? Not sure if I could have been more tired, to be honest, but I suspect the answer is yes.

Do they work?
I think anything with an amount of compression will work to a point. It makes you (sometimes subconsciously) think about where your muscles are as you run. It gives you the proprioceptive knowledge of how they are working and what they are doing. There is of course the psycological boost- as you are wearing compression gear, it MUST be making a difference, so you MUST be able to keep going further. To be honest, sometimes the psycological edge may be a small one, but that edge is STILL an edge.

Delamination of Compression
I have had my pair for quite a while and they are beginning to destroy themselves. This isn't a recent thing by any means. The exo-skeleton bit of the tight is slowly becoming unbonded from the rest of the tight, meaning that as time goes on it becomes less and less effective as a compression garment. It started about a year to 18 months after I bought them it began to un-bond. At first it was only on the outside of the leg, but soon enough the whole of the bit in front of the quads was beginning to go.
Now, in places, I can get my entire hand behind the webbing.

The good thing about this (always look at the positives!) is that I can tell that where the webbing has become unbonded, the tights DO feel a lot less compressive, so there is indeed something to be said for the technology behind the webbing.
However, the bad thing about this is obviously this makes the tights a whole lot less efficient, less useful, and generally, an expensive garment that is meant to do something, but doesn't. I've been wearing them in this condition for quite a while. Wierdly enough I can actually feel where it is supporting on my leg and where it isn't, so as a test, I suppose its been quite good.

One other thing is the size of the drawstring around the waist. Its tiny, a bit like a garotte. I've never really liked it, and after a couple of runs have found that it really has been digging in a lot as I've done it up too tight. Maybe self-replacement would be the answer, just never got around to it. From looking at the website, they appear to have changed this for a thicker string now. A change for the better.

My version with glute compression
New version
The new glute non-compression
The pair I own is slightly different to the model which is on the market today. The Exo-skeleton covers pretty much the entire tight from the glutes, right the way down the Hamstrings and also all over the quads. The current model appears to have dispensed with the glute area (interesting, as they should be used extensively in running, uphill, and downhill...) and also there is an area across the front of the quads which doesn't have it either. So there is a break of compression directly over a muscle. Interesting. I suspect this may be a triumph of form over function as there is quite a nice Salomon logo there instead.  Coincidentally, the area where the webbing isn't there on the current model is the area in which mine started to de-laminate to begin with. Maybe that happened with a lot of the previous tights, and Salomon just decided that as it wasn't working there, maybe a bit of logo-age would be for the best. 

They still get a lot of use, perhaps only because they are the only pair of 3/4 tights that I own, and that alone makes them very useful. it would be interesting to get hold of a brand new pair and compare them against the old ones, see how much more support they give, especially now they have taken the compression away from the Glutes, and across the middle of the quads-  and whether or not they actually make me feel less fatigued, but I haven't seen them in any shops around me for quite a while.

There are, of course, also the calf socks and the tops (which I suppose work a bit like Asics Inner Muscle range), but I haven't had the opportunity to try them out. If the 3/4 tights are anything to go by, they are good to begin with, but I suspect you get diminishing returns on them as they get older and the compression bonds start to un-weld.

Would I buy them again? Yes, I would, but I still think they need more compression webbing on the glutes, and over the Quads. It seems that the old version is closer to what I would buy than the new.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

White Peak Circuit

Julien, Andy and Brae on Thorpe Cloud
We'd been planning a great little run over in North Wales, away from the crowds, on hills that don't really seem to get mentioned all that much. It was going to be a brilliant day out, until MWIS said that cloud level was going to be pretty much sea level, and there would be 60mph winds.


Plan B was hurriedly arranged. Not wanting to faff around in low cloud on terrain we are already familiar with in the dark peak, we decided that a jaunt down to the White peak was a goer.
To my mind, the White peak is all rolling hills, dales, not all that exciting in terms of hill running.
Not entirely true, as it turns out.

After a minor amount of trouble finding the place and the carpark, (the shortcut you don't know is slower than the long way you do know...- but its more entertaining) we set out on our run.
Julien commented that statistically, on average, people do not stray further than 200metres from carparks in rural places. Off on the trail, that seemed to be borne out- but perhaps slightly further than 200 metres.
Thorpe Cloud

The main difference to normal running, for me, was the fact we were running along a path. Not a trod, not bashing across a heathery moorland, just running along a path. Covered in greasy limestone. Great. I hadn't thought about footwear before I left in the morning, and had just whacked on a pair of Mudclaws- which, as the name suggests, are really good on mud, not so good on limestone, so I spent a large part of the run hunting out muddy bits to run through. Julien, on the otherhand had a pair of very worn down x-talons- the older, stickier version- which seemed great on the stone, but like skates on the mud- and spent the time doing the complete opposite to me in terms of mud and stone.

View from the top of Thorpe Cloud into Dovetail
We ran up the first part, saw a hill- which was Thorpe Cloud, and Andy said we might as well go up it, get a bit of height in. So we did. And straight back down again, and on with the run.
Julien had planned it, about 20miles with 2 bailout options for 10 and 15 mile routes.

Brae was loving the river, taking as much opportunity to jump in and out as possible.
The limestone formations and caves were very grandiose, and rather remarkable, but the weather wasn't the greatest in which to stop and appreciate them for a long time.

About 8 miles in we saw a sheep swimming across the river, and stop on the otherside, not getting out. Slightly concerning. Watching it, it didn't move. Hmmm. We jogged up the stream a bit expecting it to turn around to get on, but it still didn't move. Damn. We forded the river and ran back down stream to find it. There it was. Not doing anything. Julien stayed back a bit, keeping Brae out of the way while Andy and I jumped down the bank, grabbed the sheep by the horns and dragged it up onto dryland.
I expected either resistance, or a bit of help from the sheep, but it was pretty much catatonic and we hauled it out like a dead weight. Once out, it gained the use of its legs, but it wasn't entirely compus mentis (as much as sheep can be) so we made sure it was away from the edge, and ran on.

There is a picture of the "rescue", but Julien hasn't sent it to me yet.

So have a picture of a natural arch instead
As we trundled on up and around the river it struck me that this was Trail running, as opposed to Fell running. Navigation was easier in terms of staying on one track, but more complicated in that you really can't make it up as much when you aren't quite sure what is going on.
Up on past the drop out points and round the top, going through fields, looking for stiles, and a minor map misreading, but we caught it early. Back down the Manifold valley, following the old railway line which was really rather fun. We also stopped off for a cuppa in a cafe. Well, y'know, we weren't looking to break any records, and on.

Thors cave
Copper mine
We had seen less and less people as we ran around, and there was no-one else around as we crossed the somewhat submerged stepping stones across the Manifold near Beeston tor, but coming back down into Dovedale, there were more and more people, eventually it got hard to keep up a pace because the trail was so clogged with humanity. I must have seen more people on this one run alone than in all my runs in the dark peak put together!
Lime kiln
Coming into the final couple of k we saw Thorpe Cloud... Well, it'd be rude not to go up it again.
Not quite running up it this time, but we overtook everyone else making their way up the slope. My legs were starting to cramp up with accumulated lactic acid, and I just couldn't keep up with Julien, but on the downhill it was grass, my shoes keeping me upright and well ahead all the way down, passing a family at the bottom who were amazed and annoyed that they had just come down the slope on their bums and we had just run down it in about a minute flat.
Beeston tor

At the bottom we came across andy who had decided to opt out of the final hill climb, sitting in the river, cooling off his legs. Having not run for a couple of weeks the distance was a bit of a shock to the system for him.
I was also beginning to get a migraine (still haven't worked out what the trigger is, but it might have been dehydration today) but a couple of asprin began to sort me out.
Andy. Practicing flyfishing. (cooling his legs down)

All in all an entertaining day out on the trails. It was nice to have an eminently runnable run all the way through, though there were more road sections than we would have liked- but you have to use them to link paths up. I can see the use for trail specific shoes- like the new Salomon sense (which I will link wo when I find the appropriate bit on the Salomon site to link to) and Inov8 terraflys. They would probably work well on that kind of terrain, paths and trails, but not so much where I tend to run, in the gnarly stuff. Still, I wouldn't mind being proved wrong.
Money in a tree. I imagine if you went around with a pair of pliers, you might come back with 20 quid or so

Great day out in a new place, we'll be planning more runs down there for definite. There appears to be a lot of scope for large amounts of height gain and loss, if you wish to, and a club run with an easy route through the valleys with a harder route over the hills would be quite a nice prospect to get a number of people out together.

Brae, cooling off
Andy and me. Rescuing a sheep.
Not much altitude, lots of height gain, runnable trails, delightful scenery, and once you get away from close vicinity to the carpark, really rather tranquil. And here is the track, in case you want to have a bash at it. (though there are a couple of places where we may have not gone in quite the right direction... and you don't have to do the sheep rescue detour if you don't have to).

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Game Changer?

Saw a press release a while back about the new Suunto Ambit watch. 
At that point I tried not to get too excited about it.

I have previously written a bit about GPS watches, mainly looking at Suunto and Garmin, and how if I want to get all the information on a run that I want to record, I have to take 2 watches, which is a bit silly really.  However, I have faithfully stuck with my Garmin 305 for a number of years, and although it's been repaired or replaced twice, I am rather fond of the old battler.
To be honest though, it wasn't long ago that I was bemoaning the fact to a number of acquaintances, (well, ok, it was Lynne) that there was no decent device which recorded Heart Rate, Height gain/loss in m/per min and GPS data. -Oh, and incidentally had a battery life of greater than 12 hours while it was doing those things, and, and the same time, could provide a barometric graph of the previous 24 hours. A combination of my Garmin 305 and Suunto Core, if you will.

If someone could come up with a device that could do all that, and if possible, make it small enough to attach to your wrist. Well. That manufacturer would have a game changing device on their hands.

Garmin appear to have gone very much towards the Triathalon market with the new 910XT with swimming stroke counts and all kinds of wonderful things to help calculate training advantages. They also claim battery life of "up to 20 hours".
This is not helpful.
Do they mean with GPS on or off? Ok, so triathalons don't tend to go on for 20 hours, but some races do. Is the watch going to run out of charge with an hour still to go? Garmin, give us ACTUAL numbers please. This one costs on the sharp end of £400. £390, actually.

And Suunto came along and flashed about something called the Ambit.
Oh Lordy.
Heart rate monitoring, GPS tracker (and navigation- though thats by the by), barometric altitude, compass, 15hours on training mode (short GPS tracking) and 50 hours on mountain mode (long GPS tracking), and 30 days battery life on normal watch mode, and it looks to be about the size of a normal watch, not some grotesquely large GPS reciever that Garmins seem to be. Its a watch that performs as a functional instrument, rather than a GPS masquerading as a watch. It isn't going to be released until April, and when it does, again, the guide price appears to say from £350. Which probably means that in reality, if you want one with a HR belt, again, it'll be the thick end of £400.

Bar the teeth grinding price (though I understand that this is a very special bit of kit), that is a pretty damn good list for a watch, and it seems almost perfect.
The one function that I absolutely love on my Core is the 24hour barometric history graph. The watch has a barometer. It also has enough pixels to show a graph- you can see that from the publicity shots where it shows altitude gain/loss. From the bumpf, it seems to say that it has a trend graph, so thats pointing in the right direction. I really really hope that it does. It would make it, at least for me, a complete and perfect instrument for training and running in the hills and mountains.

Game changer? I think so. 
Now all I need to do is save up for it to see if it actually does what it promises.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Berghaus Bladdered- review

All the bits and bobs. (camelbak not included)
This is a somewhat futile review, seeing as Berghaus no longer make this superb little bag, which is a shame, as it is a brilliant little pack. I've used it running, biking. climbing, racing and generally everywhere, and funnily enough only discovered it by accident. My sister was looking for a new small day pack, we went to an outdoors shop, not expecting to find anything and I ended up being so absorbed by this one, she bought it.

I had to buy one a few weeks later as well. If you can get hold of one, do so, they are excellent.

What makes it so good?
I wanted a small pack for running, biking and adventure racing. It had to be up to about 10 litres, have a bladder pocket, preferably some way of stowing a helmet, and, most importantly, some way in which to stop that bloody annoying bounce on your back as you run. The Bladdered does all of that.

The main pocket is quite spacious, and holds the bladder pocket as well. It can also be extended with a zipped accordian like expansion part. I rarely use it, but when I do, it has just enough space to get exactly what I need in there. Most recently, out on a run with thr bag about half full, I got too hot and had to stuff my Rab Vaporise into the top. Its quite bulky, and would NOT have gone in with out that extra 2 litres of expansion. Very handy indeed.

Main pocket. Ok, its showing a bit of Delam, but it still works.
The smaller pocket has a zipped pocket inside, and a key holder clip- very useful for bits that you really don't want to lose. On a race I generally kept a pen and puncture repair kit in there, as I knew exactly where they would be. There is also a lot of room in there for lots of food- bars, pitta, jelly, marzipan, you name it, lots of space.
Smaller, front pocket with a zipped pocket and a key clip (with stuff that came out of said pocket...)

There is a mesh pocket on the back of the pack, with an offset opening so that you can reach back with your right hand and get stuff out of it. This is really the only option for accessible storage on the go. You can get about 3 or 4 bars in there without fear of them falling out and feeding your fellow competitors. My main complaint  is the lack of on the go accessibility... but more of that later.

Helmet storage is provided by a stowaway mesh which clips over the back of the pack. Useful for short periods, but if you end up doing long races like this, with quite a lot of gear already in the pack, with the extension extended, you end up with a rucksack which is long, and protrudes out from your back, which is a little odd. However, when commuting and dropping into the pub, or wandering around town, or taking your bike on a train, it is a very very useful little bit of mesh.
Helmet compressor
When I used this for racing, my team mate used a North Face Hammerhead, and always had issues with helmet storage.
You can see with quite a bit of stuff, and a helmet makets the back quite long, rather than high.

Compression system stowed
The compression system, in my opinion is the best part of this bag. Its the best system I have ever come across, and I love it to pieces. The wings stash away so that you don't have to have it out all the time- which, when running with a light load, is fine. Put a bit more weight in, pull out the wings, and the bag attaches itself to your back like a limpet. Instead of the fins coming from the sides or the part of the bag which is closest to your back, enabling the whole mass of the bag to wibble around and about as you run, they come from the part of the pack that is furthest from your back, around the sides, actively compressing the whole damn lot onto your back. It physically prevents it from wallowing around from side to side and back and forth as you run. Once locked down, its like you don't have a bag on your back, it's like a part of you. This is not a strap to take weight off your shoulders and distribute it around your waist- on a bag this small it would be silly. This is to make it as squidged as possible to make running with it as pleasurable experience as not having a rucksack. And it works.
The compression system running from outside the back of the sack, not the bit closest to the body. Genius
Please can we have more of this type of construction in running rucksacks? Please?!

This bag is for carrying stuff from place to place. (That might sound like what a rucksack is made for, but bear with me). I love it as long as I can stop from time to time to replenish the mesh pocket with food from the main pocket. It is not a bag with which you can go for a long long time without stopping- this may well be a good thing, but you are limited to what you can store for on-the-go access.
Ideally I'd like to be able to get to more than just a bar as I'm running. some kind of zipped pocket or tighter mesh pocket would have been great.
There is no choice whether or not to use a bladder or drinks bottles- on this size of bag it isn't generally a choice that you get to make, but I have since seen a couple of  rucksacks like that around, it'd be nice to try one of them out.
Numbering up  with the Bladdered

As I mentioned at the beginning, this bag is no longer being made, which is a great great shame. I'm sure there are now better small bags on the market, but I haven't seen any that improve upon what this bag does, and considering that I bought this about 7 years ago, maybe I need to start thinking about making my own. 
Using the compression system to its fullest potential

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Ice Spikes on shoes

A footpath of icy death. Walk on it... or to the side?
As its still pretty ridiculously cold out at the moment, with quite a bit of freeze/thaw going on, this might be a bit pertinent to those of you who still want to go outside for amusement and recreation and still haven't quite worked out the best way of doing so when the ground is covered in sheet ice.

Low tech solution
This works for pavements that are covered in ice, black ice and general horribleness. Last year we lived in London and the area around where we lived was basically covered in a layer of about 3cms of glassy ice. There was no way you could get a grip on any of it without help.
The best way to deal with this is get a pair of old socks, and put them on outside of your shoes. Hey presto. Grip on ice. Works for walking, and for short distances. Your socks will also get trashed.

Walking on ice
Yaktrax were few and far between last year, no one was prepared for the ice and the waiting list for these in the shop was ridiculous. As soon as they came in, we were sold out. Craziness. They consist of a rubber skeleton which slips over the shoe, and has wire coils wrapped around the skeleton to enable the shoe to grip.
Yaktrax tread pattern
Great for walking, very good for walking over ice, but can occasionally slip on some of the more crazy slippy icy bits. Generally pretty damn good though. They are about £13, and for an extra fiver, you can get the "pro" version, which is basically exactly the same, but includes a velcro strap that goes over the top of the shoe to ensure that they stay on the shoe. Cheaper to use your own velcro strip, but there you go.

Issues with Yaktrax
The weak spot
Without the strap going over the top they do have a quite annoying tendency to ping off when you least expect it, and you end up spending all the time looking at your feet.
They are a nightmare to put on and take quite a while of scrabbling around on your knees.
If you run in them, or use them for prolonged periods of time, the rubber which you are treading on eventually wears through and they no longer retain shape.
However, they are great for occassional use, walking and generally getting about the place, especially in town. They can be used on the hill, but I'd prefer something a bit more gutsy.

Kahtoola Microspikes
Kahtoolas on water ice
A bit more expensive than Yaktrax (£45), but a lot more hard wearing. The rubber part goes over the top of the shoe and the metal part goes underneath. You don't have the worry that there is anything under the shoe that might give way because you stand on it funny, and the harness is very solid and secure- no concerns about them popping off your shoes mid stride at all. Also, because the rubber is a lot thicker and generally easier to handle, they are a lot easier to get on your shoes than the yaktrax.
Kahtoola tread pattern
The spikes protrude about 5mm, and are really quite chunky. I've used them on innumerable runs recently, pretty much from leaving the house to getting back in. Snow. Ice. Black ice. Nothing to worry about in any way shape or form. Ok, I'm not running at full pelt, but I don't tend to at night anyway. The great thing is, you don't need to worry about what you are running on, or what you are about to run on. The spikes seem to grip to anything, even the Pennine way, which, at the moment, is like an ice rink.
Spikes, and very secure attachments to the shoe
I can even run the last 500 metres on road back to my house without bothering to take them off. Its not totally comfortable, but I know that if I do happen to hit an icy patch on the road, I'm not going over.
These things just bite into anything
I really do love these things.
For racing, they may not be so practical, as you may need to take them off and put them back on again, however, for long days, and nights in the ice bound hills, I don't think you can get much better. Without these I would not have been out running the past few weeks. They are Brilliant. Actually. Brilliant.

Dobbed shoes
Oroc Studs
For racing, these are probably pretty damn good. Shoes with a grip, and with tungsten/carbide tipped studs that protrude as you run. Originally created (I think) by Icebug in sweden, a couple of companies have since used the same idea, most prominent in the UK being Inov8 with their Oroc range. I've never used a pair, and can't draw a direct comparison, but I have run with someone who was wearing a pair when I had my spikes on, and another friend just had a pair of normal fell shoes on. I was confident with every step, the guy with normal shoes on was all over the place, and the one with Orocs was relatively confident, but there were a few moments here and there where she was a bit less confident in her steps. Had I wanted to, I definitely could have gone faster, however, if we were racing, and I had to take the spikes off for a section, and then put them back on again, the time I made up in being more confident would have been eroded away by the fact she could just have run on through. So for racing, this kind of thing is probably better

Other things I've heard of but haven't managed to get hold of/use
Pogu spikes- much the same kind of thing as the Kahtoolas, but with an extra strap that goes over the top, a couple more spikes on the bottom, and a carry case. For the same price as the Kahtoolas, which isn't bad.

If you're out in the hills, or even just wandering around on the street- which is covered in ice, get something which stops you from falling over. If you're running, don't skimp, get something with some TEETH!

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Gloves I've been wearing this winter (2011-12)

Please note, this has been updated- and there is a new blog on Gloves I'm wearing this winter - Published December 2013. 

No idea if I have a form of Raynards syndrome or not, but I do tend to have ridiculously cold hands, as discussed in a previous post.

I know of a number of people, generally runners and walkers who are loathe to spend more than £20 on a pair of gloves. To be honest, I've been in a lot of situations where I would quite gladly have spent a bit more on a pair of gloves just to be able to feel my fingers and be able to function somewhere close to normal.
Not all of these gloves are horrendously expensive, but in some cases, I wouldn't buy them again.

Rab Phantom Grip Gloves

Phantom Grip Gloves
Along with all the gloves that I mentioned in that post, we also managed to get a few more(!) gloves at the beginning of the winter. As a slightly heavier version of my thinnies, I got a pair of Rab Phantom grip gloves, which are made with a "hardface" powerstretch material. A bit thicker, a bit warmer and a bit more wind resistant than normal powerstretch fleece.
Yes, they are a bit thicker, yes, they are a bit warmer, and yes they are a bit more waterproof, but once it gets cold, flipping heck, they get cold. I originally used them as running gloves when it got too cold for my current thinnies. However, there were times when the weather got just too thick and wet and claggy, and my hands got cold. They do have a great little clip on them so that you can clip them together when running which stops you losing a glove, perhaps the most annoying thing that can possibly happen. You either don't lose them at all, or you lose both. A much better way of doing things!

Mountain Equipment Mountain Stretch Gloves

Mountain Equipment Stretch Gloves
I also spied out a pair of Mountain Equipment Mountain Stretch gloves, with a very fleecy pile inner and a schoeller made Dry-lite outer fabric. Originally these were bought so that my hands would stay warm when I was walking. Out on a cold walk, my hands got cold. Very cold. must be something wrong with me. I put on some other gloves to warm me up. So far, not so good. That's a shame.
Once more, I tried them on an evening walk, and still, my hands stayed pretty cold. Not so good.
They went into a drawer and didn't come out for a month- during that time, I saw them again in a shop, and realised just how warm they felt. If I was out on skis or on the hill climbing, I would be expending a lot of energy, creating heat. In comparison, when I'm walking, I'm not generating a whole lot of heat, not creating heat means that there is nothing to insulate.
Out they came again, but for a run. Boom. Perfect. It would seem that I have a pretty good very cold weather glove, which works like a soft shell- the more heat you create in the hands through movement, the more the glove dries from the inside, outwards. Brilliant. Happy with that. But it doesn't keep my hands warm while walking.
The only minor issue with these gloves is that they do not attach together when you aren't wearing them. There is no clip to keep them together and the amount of times I've lost one of them in my gear drawer is approaching hilarious numbers. (Doesn't help that everything in there is black). Otherwise they are pretty damn good, as long as I keep moving fast.
I have also noticed that they are advertised as a waterproof glove. I'm not totally convinced about that, but I can say that as long as you are putting effort in, they dry from the inside out.
I used them in the ice and snow last night for a decent run, and my hands stayed at a tolerable temperature. I'm beginning to like them.

Rab Baltoro Gloves

Rab Baltoro Gloves
The last pair were a big pair of Rab Baltoro gloves with long gauntlets which seemed very thick and warm. I have used them on a few occasions, and generally they have been ok. They are billed as a glove to keep your hands warm in cold, dry situations, which is nice, but we don't often get those kind of conditions here in the Peak. On the  walks that I have used them on, I have to say, they haven't been amazingly warm. However, they haven't led to frozen hands. I just can't say that they are warm enough for me for to use as a pair of walking gloves. Still, they are big, thick, and have a clip on them so they can easily be clipped together. I hope to be able to use these a little more over the next couple of months, its just that they are a tad big to be used as "running" gloves as the Mountain Stretch gloves are, and maybe good with an inner glove, or if I'm moving a bit faster than walking pace and actually generating a decent amount of heat.

Arm warmers

Rapha Arm Warmers
With gloves on their own not really working to warm my hands, I thought that maybe it might be the fact that my arms are cold, and the blood going down through them to my hands and fingers was cold. If I could keep the blood going to my hands warm, then maybe my hands might end up warm.
Next plan was to try a pair of merino arm warmers, as used by road cyclists- and, to a point, they worked. In fact, they almost worked wonders. My hands stayed relatively warm in quite horrible weather, and I didn't have too much of an issue getting them on or taking them off. Now these are pretty much a staple of my hill walking clothing, the only minor problem being that the ones I have are bright white. Not the most bog friendly colour. Not an issue. They keep me warm! Yes, the ones in the picture are Rapha, a present from a friend. I would imagine any decent fleece lined arm warmer will do the same thing. If you get cold hands on the hill, get some.

Sealskinz Lobster Gloves

Sealskinz Lobster Mitts
However, the most used glove this winter for running has been the Sealskinz Lobster glove that I've had since commuting in London. If you know me, you know that I rant on about these... but I do so for a reason. They are fantastic.
Its not a glove, and its pretty easy to put on with 2 fingers in each "finger", relatively dexterous, but, with the primaloft lining, they keep my hands WARM. I use them walking, running, slow navigating, scrambling, everything. This is a pair of gloves that I can say, without a doubt, is worth every penny I spent on them. Yes, they were about £40, however, the benefit of actually being able to feel my fingers when running and biking, and also being able to undo my shoes at the end of it all is incalculable. Without doubt, if these end up giving up the ghost, I shall certainly be buying some more.
Primaloft. Secret weapon

They have the little clippy bit on them to attache them together. I use this feature as and when I get too hot (a hitherto unknown problem), I generally keep the left glove on, and clip the right glove to it, ensuring it doesn't get dropped, and that it is to hand (haha) as and when I need it. They are waterproof for a good number of hours, and when the water eventually does begin to ingress, (down the arm), they stay warm.
Yes, I do sweat in them, but the fact they are not a glove means that taking your hands out, and putting them back in again you don't mess up the lining and end up with the fingers tangled up in themselves. (very annoying)

Modelling the sealskinz at the end of the Trigger
If I had to throw out all my gloves except one pair, these are the ones I would keep.