Monday, 31 December 2018

Inov8 ArcticClaws

I've written about the Orocs in previous posts. They've been falling apart for a while now. Last year they were rescued by copious amounts of Shoo Gloo, but this year, far the worse for wear, they were consigned to non-running duties. (ie the bin). They had a good life - the Spine, icy running, and a good number of Mountain Rescue exercises and Callouts.
Time to replace them - but what with?

As I was scanning the pages, I came across last years Arctic Claws (thermal lined(!)) in the Black Friday sale on inov8s page.
Spikey shoes. With primaloft lining. At half price? What isn't to like about that? So I bought them.

What makes them good? - or at least better than the Orocs?


The Orocs were pretty decent in terms of studs. They had 9 studs at various strategic points on the sole - slightly recessed so that when you weren't on ice, they kind of recessed into the sole. The grip on mud was pretty decent with some big treads. However, the Arctic Claws appear to have upped the game on both sides of this. The sole tread is enormous. Huge cleats that grip onto pretty much anything that isn't ice. The mud and peat from the Dark Peak gets released from the tread pretty easily as you run, and there are MORE studs. 16 in all, I think.
They grip to almost anything. But more about that in a bit.

Arctic Claws on the left - Orocs on the right
The problem with the Orocs was that when you ran on hard surfaces, the recessed studs would recess into the sole... which meant that they would in fact, recess into your feet. Not so bad for short distances, but after a while they got pretty painful. The only way I found to get around that was to create a kind of hybrid footbed with a layer of plastic around the areas where the studs would push into my feet, which would give me a bit more time before the studs got unbearably painful.
Not so much (it seems) with the Arctic Claws. Inov8 have apparently put plastic layering into the sole around where the studs are to protect against this very thing. So far when running around the Peak (on soft AND hard ground) I have to say that it is a very different experience to running in Orocs. No push through from the spikes at all. Generally comfortable and grippy as you like.


As you might expect from a shoe with thermal lining, the toe box is pretty big. I would imagine that they are made with the thought that they are going to be used in the cold, so therefore, space for extra socks is a good idea. The racing version (arctic talon) has a smaller toe box, so if you're going for speed and have good circulation, these might be the better shoe. Personally I expect to be cold, having to wait for long periods of time while faffage happens, and do not have good circulation. The Claws enable me to have a pair of decent socks AND a pair of neoprene socks in them without my feet being compressed to the point that circulation reduces.

How are they going?

Well- I've had them since November, and no, we haven't had all that much snow since then, but I have used them a fair amount on rescue callouts. They give confidence in that they grip to everything. Mud, peat, dry stone, wet stone, river rocks, slimy rocks, everything you might come across on Bleaklow. The day they came into their own was a night search on Kinder just after the freezing rain at the beginning of December. There were patches of ice everywhere, and the rocks on the Northern edge were covered in a layer of sheet ice. Normally I'd have needed to get out a pair of Kahtoola Microspikes, or find another way - not in these. Steady and solid all the way.


yes, they are expensive, and not something that I'm going to be wearing for the entire year. Yes, they are a bit heavier than normal running shoes, mainly due to the carbide spikes in them. Yes, they really are a bit specialist in terms of use. That being said, the confidence in foot placement in the dark while fatigued carrying a heavy load is not to be sniffed at. I'm hoping that I get at least 3 winters of use out of these shoes, which means keeping them clean and generally clag free once they have been out. Inov8 have had their problems with long term wear and shoes falling apart - so I'll keep things updated in terms of how these fair. I would imagine a few of the dobs will fall out and the uppers might separate- but we shall see.  For the moment, though - I'm pretty damn happy.

The water in Majorca....

|A quick summary of our time in Majorca over Christmas 2018

Rapha500. 500km on a bike between Christmas eve and New Years eve. Doing it in the UK has always seemed like a bit of a masochistic pastime, so when it was suggested that we head to Majorca from the 24th to the 29th for a bit of biking - the whole thing seemed like quite a reasonable undertaking.
To be honest, I really didn't have all that much to do with the organisation of anything for this holiday, but thought that it might be nice to put together a quick blog for info about being in Majorca at this time of year, based on some of the stuff we managed to do (or not).

  • Weather - was generally pretty decent. No rain, but cool enough to need arm warmers and toe warmers on every ride. Don't forget your gilet or some kind of windproof.... the downhills go on and on and get pretty chilly. 
  • Accommodation - if you're going to get a cheap place, make sure it is within easy walking distance of a place that sells food that is open. We had a whole lot of fun wandering around the ghost town of Port Alcudia looking for somewhere that was open
  • Taxis - if you're in Alcudia or Pollenca at this time of year, you might find it fun looking for a taxi. We had to call one every time we needed one rather than finding a taxi rank. 
  • Amenities - the place we stayed reckoned it had a coffee machine and cooking facilities. What it meant was that there was a coffee machine, a kettle that fused itself at a temperature just below that at which water came out of the hot tap, 2 ceramic rings, a microwave, some spoons and a couple of forks. Take an Aeropress if you depend on coffee in the morning. 
  • Water - yes, despite everyone telling us to definitely not drink the tap water, we drank it all week with no ill effect. It didnt taste nice, but with some hydration tabs in it, it was fine. 
  • Although there aren't a huge amount of places open, there are enough. And there is always a Chinese Restaurant that is open. 
  • Take a powerlink and a decent pump. We didn't need either... the pump we were given I didnt really trust, and a powerlink would have been a good thing to have in the back pocket.
  • Slippers. Take slippers. The floor of the apartment was REALLY cold. 
  • a friend who took us to and from the airport at ridiculous times of the morning. 
Things I took which I really appreciated taking:
  • front and rear lights
  • Wahoo bolt - with routes downloaded from ridewithgps
  • castelli toe thingies
  • arm warmers
  • windproof
  • sunnies - with low light lenses. 
  • insulation layer
  • aeropress
  • knee warmers. (to be fair, I didnt take these as I don't tend to use them... but everyone else seemed to have them. 
where did we go?
  • Col de Soller (green and greasy on the south side)
  • Puig Major (harder from the Soller side than the Pollenca side)
  • Sa Colabra (like Snake, but much, much, much, much longer/prettier/quieter)
  • 3 monastaries route
  • Cap de Formentor


Sunday, 11 November 2018

Roaches 2018

This is a race I've been meaning to do for a very long time. It just kind of happens at the "wrong" end of the year for me to be enthusiastic about it. (What a rubbish excuse - don't let it stop you!). This year, though, having barely raced at all, and it being in the Glossopdale championships, it was about time I gave it a bit of a go. This is indeed a "proper" fell race with no pretensions of grandeur. 6 Quid for a 15 mile blast with 1k of ascent, free tea, and cake for a quid at the end. (and soup for 1.50 - you can't go wrong!).

Pinning on my number... nearly forgot my watch as well!

 The route is glorious, snaking it's way up from the village hall in Meerbrook, up past Rockhall cottage (or, the Don Whillans Memorial hut, if you prefer), up and through the Upper tier of the Roaches before scooting along to the Gradbach, to Shutlingsloe (the top... not the bottom), and then back.

Having not signed on to a race for quite a while it took a bit to get into the swing of things. Of course there was the obligatory kit faff of bumbag or race vest- opting eventually for the race vest on the premise that at 15 miles, I was certainly going to need some food, and it is easier to get food out of a vest than a bumbag, and also, considering the weather there was the chance that hat and gloves and potentially coat were going to be going on and off throughout the race.

It being 100 years since Armistice, there was a 2 minutes silence at the beginning of the race. By this time the persistent rain that had characterised the morning was abating, and the tops of the Roaches could be seen through the lifting cloud. The start was as you would expect. No countdown, just a "go", and we headed off down the road. A kilometre of the black stuff helped separate the field out a bit, with a fair few people going off a bit flipping fast. As we went down the track and up to the farm of "doom" I passed a guy in road shoes. While I admired his optimism, I was unsure as to whether he had quite realised what he was letting himself in for.

The farm of doom - infamous for the farmer filling his yard up with slurry especially for the race for various previous editions was unexpectedly and most pleasently surprisingly empty of slurry. It wasn't the only thing that concerned me about the race, but it was certainly something that had put me off the race in the past. Up we went, up to the Roaches road, and up onto the tops of the Roaches. Last time I was here... oooh, goodness knows. We ran under the Sloth, Black and Tans, Holly tree crack etc, and I busily tried to take my mind off the running by recalling various days out on dry rock here in the past.
Trying not to walk at all, I was slowly taking over a few places along the rock strewn path, and we made our way to the trig, with the slightly concerning tailwind that promised a fair old fight on the way back down the course on tired legs....

From the trig it was a dive down on the paving slabs, watching a couple of runners ahead of me really get into full flight - not a chance of catching them at this point, so I eased into the descent to the top of Sandbach woods where the decent became a delightfully technical nightmare of loam, mud, slippy rocks and tree roots. Bliss.
I motored along and caught up with them, overtaking through the trees and down to the river crossing where another overtake was effected.
A steep climb out of the stream to a gate- where the bottom 2 bars were out, presenting a fun conundrum. Over or through/under. We go over gates ALL the time, so I chose the latter. Onward and up a semi-runnable climb with someone trying to hold onto me, so I weaved around like an idiot. We hit the top and down the road together, then up another long bank which led to, glory of glory's a big slightly uphill field of Turks heads.
Me, StevieK, Mark Dav, AndyO and Nick Ham

Having struggled to break free from the 2 directly behind me, I lolloped off through the field taking whichever line I wanted in the general direction of the next gate, and it was not long before the close breathing behind me receded a fair amount. To boot, I also nearly caught up with the next couple of guys as well. Rough ground in the middle of a bit of a trail race? Brilliant, coming back will be fun too!

Left through a gate and down a bridleway, on the descent there was a sneaky little path you could take - and now the closest guys to me were a fair distance ahead - 3 of them... down and over a couple of stiles, through some fields. and a point where I wasn't exactly sure where I was going - but went down a descent that was very remenicent of the fabulous descent at WoodbankXC (with the minor issue that I was going to have to come back up again), down to the water stop and then the ascent to Shutlingsloe. The guys in front ecked out their lead from me on the tarmac hill prior to the turn up onto the hill proper. Voices were getting closer to me from behind, and we could all see the top runners just breaking into the downhill section.

I managed to get to the gate where uphill runners meet downhill just as the leader at that point - Si Harding - went through. I got through and started the ascent of the rest of Shutlingsloe, running as much of it as possible. No overtaking on the way up, and no lost places, but I took one back on the way down. Now it was a back to base along the same route.... but against the tide of all the runners behind us.

Lots of goodwill and mutual shouts of welldone etc as I ploughed down the road. I managed to keep hold of my place as I went up the Woodbank-esque slope, but lost the place as we went back up to the road to the guy I had passed down shutlingsloe.
No bother. I watched him gap me and make his way to the next guy up as we hove up the Bridleway, but then made some progress along to the gate. Then... turksheads.

We came out of the field with me ahead, and I continued to pull away down the slope and up the road, where I sucked down a gel in anticipation of the steep and slippy climb out of Sandbach.
Down the field, through the gate with no bottom - underneath again - of course - smacking my left radius as I did so causing my hand to go numb for the next 15 mins or so. Blasted down to the river, knowing that the guys behind me would be a lot more circumspect. I wanted as much space between me and them when I left the river, so went at it quite well.

Never look back - and off up through Sandbach wood. I ran it all, having being told I was in 10th place, so kept it up all the way up. My left hand was still numb and I tried putting on a mitt - it kind of went on, but the thumb bit didn't go in the right place, so I ran along with what looked like a badly deformed hand for a while til I could it it on right again...

Up to the flagstones to the tops and I couldn't stop now... up to the trig point, and it wasn't far to go - but with quite a lot of treacherous rocks on the floor, I could imagine going flying quite easily, especially in my fatigued state. It took a while to get a gel in, but finally I managed to, and fairly flew down the hill, down back past the Sloth and the rest of the upper tier, back down to the road, past the most enthusiastic marshal I've ever seen, and along the long and really quite tiring fields back to the farm, the road and, ultimately, the finish.

No-one overtook me at all, and I came in 2:16:00. 11th place. (so someone must have miscounted somewhere along the line) - so not quite top 10, but considering the next person up was about 2 mins up on me, that was not a gap I was about to be able to close down.

Thanks so much to all the marshals, the organisers and the good people who made the cakes, soup and tea.
What a great fell race. Old school. Hard on the legs, fair pricing, and good grub. A no nonsense proper race. Do it.
(Thanks to Nick Ham for the photos as well. I swear he'd go faster if he didn't take quite so many photos - but he does take good photos). 

Oh, crikey, and I need to say sorry to Ed Gamble for totally confusing him with someone else and commenting about Beams in our house. Sorry about that! (and thanks for pointing out the mistake in the OCT blog of 2017 as well - I meant Grasmere - not Ambleside).
Also - amazing to see Chris Jakeman again after all these years - last time we met I was still in Snow and Rock. Looking forward to see what he does with Raidlight.