Sunday, 29 December 2013

Festive Disorientation 2013

Dez in pre-race mode
So, last race of the year. As ever it is the rather fantastic Festive Disorientation, run by local Leg-End Dez. This year we started from the Grouse up on Chunal, so the route was going to be a bit on the Bleaklow side and a bit on the Chunal/Rowath/Coombs edge side. Some of it would be paths, and the rest of it would be open moorland.
But all in what is effectively our back garden.

Thinking about route options
Buoyed up somewhat by coming 2nd in the Glossopdale Fell Champs this year, I was eager to get out and run as well as I could. I say that now, but at 9am this morning, I was well and truely stuck into revision for next weeks exams and I was in 2 minds whether to do it or not.

From the Grouse it was a simple choice of Clockwise or Anti-Clock. A brief glance at the map showed that going anti-clock would have a long run down Turfpits, where as Clock would have a long run UP it.
GO!
Considering that I'm not as good going up hills, I thought that I might as well get the practice in, and when Dez told our lot to go, off I shot.

Caught up with the group of people that set off 2 mins in front of me, some of which seemed to be having a bit of trouble finding the first checkpoint. I made the decision to take the path around the hill instead of pounding over the hill on access land as it would make homing in on the Checkpoint a lot easier. Slightly longer than optimal, but I hit the point bang on and was off before
anyone else had seen where I had got to.


The next group, who set off 4 mins before me were now in sight, and I caught up with them as we crested the top of Coombs tor and hit the next checkpoint. I felt like I was flying. Really enjoying the run. The day was bright, a slight breeze, and we were about to tank off down the nab, which is a fabulous descent.
The next checkpoint wasn't in the most obvious place, but the route was already in my head.

One used and one non used map
Which is where I made the least optimal route choice of the day. I followed my nose, knowing exactly where I was going. Had I stopped to look at the map- (not so easy when pounding down a hill), I would have noticed another path, which would have taken about 700metres off my version. Ach, dammit. Nevermind.
The point was got easily enough, and I set off over to Derbyshire level via a small Blackberry picking cut that I know from helping Lynne with her inordinately large Blackberry harvesting projects.

As I came up to the turning up Turfpits I passed Ian and Paul, who had chosen to go Anti-clockwise, so they had just come down the longest descent of the day. I hung a right and began my ascent.
Never stop running, never stop grinding it out. Just keep going.
By now there were no more runners in front of me that I could think of, so only people that were chasing me. Turfpits is long and straight, so if anyone was in sight of me they would have had something to chase. Me.

Coming in to the end. Don't stop til the clock stops
The only option.
Don't stop.

Hit the top of the path, got the checkpoint, no rest though, straight on up the bog to the Pennine way, a right, straight to Mill Hill and then down to Harry Hut. The final part of the run coming up, and a glance to my right showed someone thrashing across the moor. Well. Definitely not first then, but if I increase the speed a little, maybe I can hold him off just until the end. A little bit of pride left.

Motoring down the hill to the gate, and just hit the top of the spot height perfectly. I took a line that I saw Andy Oliver take on an evening run a few weeks back, and surprised myself by hitting the path about 4 metres in front of another runner who had appeared out of nowhere. Another person to beat to the end.

Ian and Paul coming in at the end. 
Down the hill, over a stile and a final sprint up the road to the Grouse. A lung burner, thats for sure, but I managed to keep running for as much as the race as I could. Maybe the hills weren't quite as fast as I wanted them to be, but I didn't stop. Some progress then?
Now the worst part. Waiting for others to come in. As a handicap event, you're never quite sure until the other fast guys come in whether or not you've managed to pip them or not.

As it was, I had held on to 3rd, a minute behind Nic Barber (whose GPS track was a km shorter than mine), and 6 mins behind the guy who won. (who was from Calder Valley- but I can't remember his name).
So my first ever race in which I came in the top 3.
Brilliant.

Most difficult part of the day - choosing which alcoholic beverage to pick
That'll do for the end of the year.
Now back to the revision.

Thanks to Dez for a great race, and to the Grouse for putting on some fantastic grub for post race racees. Also Well Done to Lindsay for coming in 1st Female on the Short Score, and Beryl for winning the WV65.
Glossopdale Harriers results are up on our website

Thursday, 19 December 2013

2013's Gear of the Year

Before everyone gets stuck into the year reviews and stuff that they've done, and stuff they want to do next year because they haven't got around to doing it this year, along with familiar excuses, I thought I'd just do a quick run down of gear that I've found incredibly good to use in the hills this year, and if you don't have them, these are the gems that I'd certainly suggest looking at.

Gloves- Montane Extreme Mitts
Warm hands? While walking in the cold? I didn't think that was a possibility for me, but these mitts just keep doing the business. In the snow, in the rain, in crazy high winds, at night, where ever. These are the best Gloves I own.
Not only do they keep my hands warm, but if I take them off to do something fiddly, and freeze my fingers, they actually enable my hands to warm up again.
Soooo-perb.

Top - Mountain Equipment Ultratherm
I've raved about this before. I will do so again. Pertex outer (DWR- water resistant), fleece backed inner. Zip away helmet compatible and head compatible hood that has all the excellence that you'd expect from a ME hood (I reckon they are the best on the market). Stretchy under-arm panels. Its all I ever wanted from a Rab Vapourize and more. I run in it, I walk in it, it's getting battered, and I suspect will be even more battered by the end of next year. At least 4 other people have bought one because of that review, and they all have as big a smile as I do about it.

Shoes - Inov8 x-talon 212 - new style
Different widths on the 212's
Ok, so I haven't actually reviewed this one officially yet. Allegedly they are nearly exactly the same as the original model. I am really not so sure. The forefoot is definitely thinner by about a centimetre. To me, thats not an issue as it means I simply wear thinner socks and I still get the same slipper-like fit of the old shoes. If you have wider feet- you might encounter some problems with the new streamlined shape. (then again you might not).
Same confidence inspiring grip. Same gloriously comfortable fit. Crazy new colour scheme. Same expensive price.
Love these shoes, and if you ever find a pair in size 7 in a sale, tell me.

Waterproof trousers - Montane Superflys
Yes, yes, I haven't talked about or reviewed these either, mainly because they only get pulled on when I'm wearing trousers- which only ever really happens in town. No, they aren't as light as other waterproof trousers, but they are bombproof. They also have solid zips which zip up and down when you want them to and don't get stuck.
Was out in miserable heavy crap weather yesterday for 3 hours. The arcteryx jacket I was wearing let in water. The Montane Superfly pants - none. Best eVent trousers I've ever owned, and best carryable ones as well. (heavy duty bib-waterproof trousers would come under a different category).

Light - Silva runner
I thought this would be "just another light". It's a revelation of lightness in weight and lightness of lumens. Revolutionised my downhill running at night - on full beam mode its almost like cheating. Crazy expensive. Crazy light. Rechargable. Worth it for night training, night running, and generally lighting up the dark.

Rucksack - OMM Adventure Light 20
A shocking pose. But a great sack.
I got this for Christmas last year. I've used if for races, recces, holidays, commutes, walks, runs, on a bike, through all seasons. It is solid on the back, has pockets in the right places and compression elastic that has
enough clippy bits to make it stay on in the right places. Quite simply the best and most useful all round sack that I think I have ever owned - and I own a LOT of sacks. It's put the Jirishenca out of a job - which I really didn't expect!

Other notable things that ALWAYS seem to end up getting used.
OMM cypher smock - it gets taken pretty much everywhere that I run. Showing signs of age with a couple of holes here and there, but it is a great bit of kit. The hood is so good that it nigh on rivals an ME hood for construction and fit.

Inov8 caps: I own 3 of them. Despite my (apparently) remarkably small head, they do a great job of not getting blown off it.

Buffs- I go through these at a rate of knots. Ridiculously versatile. If you don't own one, go and buy at least 2.

Suunto Ambit. It's still going and goes out with me on every single run and walk.

Arctery'x Atom SV. A few years old. Still warm. Still water resistant. Still looks excellent despite being used on and off the hill for a remarkable number of occasions. It is probably my most used jacket.

There you go. Some of the best stuff out there at the moment. Just because its not on the list doesn't mean it isn't good- it may just mean I haven't got around to buying and using it yet. There looks to be some good stuff on the horizon for next year as well. Inov8, OMM, Haglofs, Montane and a number of other manufacturers all seem to have been pulling out the stops to bring out new gear.
More money to be spent... but will it be worth the spend? I think next year will be a year for really scrutinizing stuff before getting committing the cash.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Scarpa Charmoz - Destroyed (again?!)

I've had two pairs of Scarpa Charmoz. I needed a B2 boot for Ice climbing, knocking around in the UK, summer alpine trips, and, more recently, for bashing up local hills for Mountain rescue callouts.

The first pair got used in Ryukan for a week, teetering up a few low grade ice falls, and then during the next year I noticed that my right foot was getting wet- just on the toe area. Not so good. A pretty much brand new boot, that I really didn't wear very much, leaking already. I hadn't had a wet foot in a boot for years.
Disappointing.

The offending boots- let in as much water as Fell shoes.
So I sent them back, and the Mountain Boot Company- Scarpa's representative in the UK sent me another pair. Which was very nice of them.
To be honest, the new ones really haven't had all that much use either. If I'm out and about on the hill I tend to use fell shoes. My workhorse boots for MR are a pair of Scarpa ZG10's, with the Charmoz only really coming out when I need to have a C2 crampon on (really, not very often), or when the ZG10's aren't dry enough to wear on a shout.

I used them in the Alps for the summer- just a week of knocking around in Bettmeyeralp and Grindlewald, (during which time I mostly wore fell shoes, or a pair of sandals), they've been up on Kinder and Bleaklow a few times, and I recently noticed that my right foot was getting wet.
Nothing too alarming about that, as I was getting a wet left foot as well- I put it down to the fact that I probably sweat quite a lot in my boots.
Charmoz and ZG10s- which are battered, but watertight. 

Out in Wales in August, I was wandering around doing some nav practice, and ended up with a very wet foot. Could have been down to the bog trotting, but I was wearing gaiters... and someone else I was with was wearing a pair of Scarpa Cristallos - which apparently have the same Goretex inner as the Charmoz. Is it just me sweating a lot then?
Hmmm.

On Sunday I wore them for the first time in about 3 months for a recce up onto Kinder. My feet were fine, until I crossed a river, and the right foot, on the little toe, felt damp. Then cold. Then wet. The left foot was fine, and this continued all the way through the rest of the walk. Bummer. Left foot fine, Right foot cold and wet. Certainly not sweat, but from ingress of water.
That's the second pair of Charmoz that have been knackered. In the same place as well. Having spoken to a couple of others who have Cristallos, they don't seem to have had any problems at all - but the one other person that I know to have had Charmoz's has had leaking issues too. Same Goretex liner? Could it be something to do with the outer? I can't believe the problem is with how I walk. Can it?

I know all about keeping them clean, and making sure that dirt doesn't get ingrained into the goretex, especially under the laces and near the tongue folds, and correct care of the boots, so its not that. The fact that it's only one of the boots points to an issue with that particular goretex inner... can't believe its the same foot.
Disappointed.

Old School Scarpa. Still waterproof - but not a lot of grip. 
I know I'm out of warranty, but the Mountain Boot Company have asked me to send them back to see if they can shed any light on the matter. I don't hold much hope, but I don't think I'll be buying another pair of Charmoz again.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Gloves I've been wearing - 2013-14

Seeing as the glove page from a couple of years ago has been visited a fair few times in the past month, I looked through my glove drawer and thought that it could do with a little updating.

I still have a few of the gloves that I wore back then - though they are looking a little battered now, and not a whole load of new ones. I have, however, got rid of a few that just didn't work for me. (and lost a pair... they're probably at the bottom of a bag, or something).

What do I still own and use?

Mountain Equipment Mountain Stretch

Since it has got colder, the most regular gloves in use have been the Mountain Equipment Mountain Stretch gloves - fluffy on the inside, schoeller fabric on the outside, generally great to use, and perfect for me on a run. Walking-wise, just not warm enough for me. I don't produce enough heat at a lower level of activity to get any blood to my fingers, so they
basically freeze. I wore these gloves on the Full Tour of Pendle and didn't take them off the whole time. They're great if you run and get really cold hands.


But what if you walk and get really cold hands? Which is what happens on an MR callout. You need to have warm hands, be dexterous and not loose your gloves, which is quite a challenge.
I have to confess that I have gone from gloves to mitts. Not a "cool" thing to do, but it has saved my fingers many times, and I have a couple of pairs that go out with me on every callout. The advantage being that I have warm hands, and even when I take the mitt off to do things that require dexterity, and my hand gets freezing cold, as soon as the mitt goes on, the heat of my hand and fingers together heats up the space in the mitt and the whole hand heats up to a point where I don't need to worry about it any more.

So which mitts am I using?

Montane Extreme Mitts

These mitts are based on the original soft shell principle- a bit like the Mountain equipment gloves above, but in a mitt format. Water resistant- but certainly not waterproof - on the outside, and warm cosy fleece on the inside. The wrist is done up with a velcro strap that is long enough to strap the glove to your wrist should your hands actually get TOO hot and you need to take them off. (this actually happened to me the other day, I was astonished to be walking across Bleaklow with barehands - heat emenating from them like 60w lightbulbs - a completely new experience!
When your hands get too hot - the velcro volumiser can be used to strap the mitt to the back of your hand. Good when you need dexterity and don't want to lose the mitt.
These are my go-to mitts on a day to day basis on the hill. Comfortable, warm, not bad when wet, and if really necessary, there is plenty of space in the hand portion for a hand warmer as well.
Brilliant. Brilliant. Brilliant.


Montane Resolute mitts

Again, a montane mitt - with the same kind of inner - based on the softshell idea, but with an eVent shell that you can put over the top to be completely waterproof. (until the rain drips down your arm and into the hole
where your arm goes...) but yes, again, a warm, waterproof mitt, with 2 layers.
It is a bit of a faff getting them on and off as the outer layer has a habit of coming off separately to the inner layer, so I suppose its a bit like putting on 2 gloves at the same time, but for dry (ish) hands, that really isn't a problem.
I have also used the outer waterproof layer as a waterproof cover for some of my thinner gloves earlier in the year, which was quite successful. If it isn't cold, but I need gloves on, once they get wet they are worse than useless. Once I put on a hardshell outer, though, protection from the wind and the rain is there, and my hands stay toasty warm.
Much more expensive than the Extreme mitts, and made for worse conditions. For my money though, the Extremes see a lot more action.


Sealskinz Lobster mitts

Looking a bit the worse for wear now... 5 years on. 
Yes, I still have these. They are still brilliant, though I fear their insulative properties at the ends of the fingers are wearing out. The grip certainly is. I think this might be the final season for these beasts, but they have
served me very well. Once the weather gets colder they will be making more and more appearances until they just fall off my hands from overuse.
Once that happens, I will either buy another pair, or, I have spied some of the same kind of thing made by Craft. Whether or not they are as good is another matter, but I might try and get hold of a pair of them instead. They aren't primaloft filled... so may not be as warm.

Dynafit X4 Performance gloves

I bought these in Switzerland. Dynafit say that they are a summer glove - I think they are more of a changing season glove... One of those purchases where later you think... what? Proper bright lycra with an excellent
storm jacket thing in the wrist pouch. I've used these a couple of times, but not enough to give a decent verdict. This winter might prove too cold for them, but I suspect that when we get to spring they are going to come into their own.




Extremeties Sticky Thickies

Yup - being slowly eroded away...
My original sticky thickies have really started wearing out - so much so that I think that on some of the
The new sticky thickies
fingers there is more hand stitching by me than actual glove. I wear them all the time in summer when I'm running. (not because of the cold, but I'd rather trash a pair of gloves than the skin on my hands... it'd mean I wouldn't be able to work for a few weeks if I fell over - which I do more or less every time I run). So I bit the bullet and bought a new pair of Sticky Thickies. They are great. Slightly different grip pattern, and slightly tighter than the old pair - but I'd put that down to the old ones being stretched and worn out a ridiculous amount. Still great, but still not warm enough for me in the winter...  For me they are a summer, or at the most, a mild weather glove - if I'm out in them for any length of time at the moment, I might as well not be wearing anything on my hands in terms of
insulation.










Gloves I have got rid of

Rab Baltoro gloves- I just didn't find them warm enough. My fingers just froze in them as soon as we left the house.
Sealskinz Activity gloves - again, although they are ok, I don't need a glove that is waterproof and doesn't keep my hands warm. To me, pointless.
Sealzkinz Primaloft filled activity gloves - yes they have primaloft around the hand, but not really around the fingers - where I really feel the cold. Walking in them was like any other glove - my fingers just froze.
Rab Phantom Grip Gloves - I haven't intentionally got rid of these, I just can't find them anywhere.

MDOC Urban series Glossop Winter 2013

What better way to spend a Thursday evening than running around Glossop writing random numbers on a bit of paper and falling over in a load of mud?
Precisely.

Having done an MDOC event over in Rowath a couple of years ago, it was good to learn that they were bringing their Urban series to Glossop this winter. Hopefully with a home advantage, I might be quite good.
It didn't exactly go according to plan, though I had an excellent time. Which is half the battle really.

Lynne and I moseyed on down to the Smithy Fold Wetherspoons (event centre) to register and pick up our control cards. As with most urban events, the controls were things like lamp posts, fire hydrants, substations and post boxes, all of which have unique identifying numbers on them. The control card was a list of these features with some of the numbers written down, all we had to do was complete the numbers.

The day had already included an early morning run, and a speed session, so I wasn't expecting to be entirely competitive in terms of speed, but I wondered about my route finding, and had an idea in my head that I would probably end up just running around the areas I knew well, rather than taking a cunning and well thought out plan and executing it in good style.
This proved to be what happened.

Starting from Norfolk square, I got my map, took a fairly cursory look at it, got confused, and ran off in a panic to get a checkpoint - any checkpoint. Looking back at the map now, I realise it would have been much more cunning to go in a different direction, but it is always difficult to hold back that sense of "I MUST START RUNNING". And off I went.

Most of my nav was pretty good, and everything that I was aiming for I got. My handwriting, at speed, in the dark, with a pencil, on a scoresheet that I fell over on and ended up covered (and I mean, totally and utterly plastered) with mud, slightly let me down.

I ended up getting 30 checkpoints, which, if all of my answers had been a)legible and b)correct would have got me a score of 1170 and somewhere around 6th overall.
However.
My final score was 960, so a good few of the answers I put down were not, technically, correct. After the event I have sat down and looked at my route, making minor adjustments here and there, the main one at the end, which would have gained me an extra 20 points. This would have done nothing in my standings, and as a load of my answers were wrong anyway, its fairly academic.

The guys that came in the top 5 all had about 200 or 300 more points than I (would have) got, which is mind boggling. It is definitely a tactical thing, and I wonder if their tactic is just to ensure they hit every single high pointer on the entire map, and if they happen to get some other points on the way, so be it.

An excellent night out, including the rather spectacular spill I had over need Shire hill. Despite it being an urban event, I was wearing trail shoes, and was determined to get some muddy paths in. I did so, and ended up pretty much covered in mud. Well, it had to be done really.
A great event, with a good few lessons about navigating, intelligent route finding and thinking about how long I was sometimes running without actually dibbing a checkpoint... maybe that's a key as well....? (any tips Nic?)

Well done to Charlie for coming in the highest of the Glossopdalers, followed by Neil, Caity, then me, Lynne, John S and Lindsay. And well done to Lynne for getting the highest score on the handicap as well!
The Map is a tad muddy... sorry. and the order of Checks visited is on the right. 

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

WOATT 2

As Woatt 1 has been up for a couple of weeks now, I've had a suggestion for a second one. Rather than put up the route originally planned, I've gone with Nevs idea.

Its pretty simple.
Start at Glossop crossroads.
Visit Cock Hill trig, Higher shelf trig and Harry Hut trig as fast as you can. Get back to the crossroads and stop the clock.
In December, and if you know where it is, you can also take in the Glossopdale Goodie Box.
(If you don't know where it is, let me know and I'll send you the clue).

I haven't thought of a Road TT yet, and as only one person has done the first one, I might wait until some more people get out to put up some times before I write up another route.

If you want to take part, let me know if you have done either Woatt 1 or 2, the time taken, route taken, and maybe a GPS route.
Time isn't the most important thing here... if you send me a GPS trail with the correct points visited, and also your name written in the track somewhere... that gets you PROPER kudos.

Have fun out there.

7/12/13
Nev did this Woatt as a walk a couple of days ago, Anti-Clock, 11.63m and 2033ft ascent. No time as he was bimbling around eating chocolate. No GPS track either.

I went out and did this today, Clockwise, not visiting the goodie box- else it'll show up on the GPS track. It's crazy slippy on the bridges on Cockhill, and the slabs on the PW aren't much better.
Felt a bit slow and draggy. 21.8km, 615m ascent. 2 hours. (I kind of cheated and went from home rather than the crossroads, but it's close enough). GPS trail HERE

Inov8 Mudclaw 300 - review

Now thats YELLOW 
NOTE - I've now destroyed these shoes... the update is HERE

How many incarnations of the Mudclaw have we had? I have no idea, but have worn more than a few blisters and destroyed feet in the past. However, the new Yellow 300's and the Red 265's have burst onto the scene and look pretty damn good. They've been around for a year or so, and are very obvious on the race scene as there are so bright despite the best efforts of the mud and bog to diminish their insane brightness.

I tried to be co-ordinated
Having seen them about, I waited until my current 333's were on their last legs before going to Pete Blands to try a pair on, and get them on my feet. After running around Bleaklow one winter in Roclites, I went over to the Mudclaws simply for the grip in such muddy and slippy conditions. I have used the old white ones with the offset laces, which gave pretty much everyone who ever wore them HUGE blisters and cut up feet, then the 330's which I mangled into oblivion, and most recently the 333's which have been pretty good, though the uppers were the weak link in this shoe. (I don't appear to have published a blog on those yet... my apologies, I shall sort that out presently) This appears to have been fixed in the 300's.

First impression of the 300's (other than the incredible yellowness) is that the fore-foot seems a lot wider than any other mudclaw I have ever worn. I always take size 7 in inov8 and this is no exception, though there just seems to be more space. The nice thing about this shoe is that extra room in the toe box. It put me off to begin with simply because I hadn't got the
sock/shoe ratio quite right. Perhaps thats the most important point about getting fit right.
Soles looking pretty good
My first run in them was somewhat plagued by my feet slipping around within the shoe as I contoured, but up and downhill was fine. The grip was confidence inspiring, as ever.
I changed the sock configuration around for the races that I have been in, either wearing thicker socks, or doubling up with a thin pair and a thick pair, and bang, not a problem. No slippage inside the shoe, no problems, just good solid grip right the way around.

The soles are proper Mudclaw soles. Fantastic grip in the mud, on grass, and around all kinds of fell terrain. Not great on wet rock, (I'm still waiting for that scientific breakthrough!), and the compound feels very flexible when you run on harder surfaces- I wonder just how long the grip is going to last. Despite having worn them for just less than 150km, one of the studs is, I fear, starting to deteriorate and rip off. Hopefully this isn't the case, but I can't lie about what I see.
Slightly cracking stud, after 145km

I wouldn't say that I've *never* slipped while wearing these shoes - that would be downright lying. However, when I *do* slip, I have the absolute confidence that I will regain my balance and footing with these shoes, and that it is a momentary lapse, and probably on a surface that pretty much nothing will provide adherence to.

As with climbing shoes, the grippy rubber is always the bit you want, and the bit you pay for, but the problem is the grippier rubber always wears out the fastest. The concerning thing is that this might be happening with fell shoes now.

During the Sedburgh race I passed a couple of people who mentioned that they were really feeling the shoe under the ankle bones as they traversed around the hill. (I was in x-talons, so I couldn't comment on that), and on the odd occasion that I've been running over the hills and traversing, I can say that I sometimes feel that. The more I run in them, the less I feel it.

I suppose that's it really. The more you run in them, the more comfortable they get. However, the more you run in them, the faster they wear out.
Looking slightly less yellow
Dilemma! But there is a crossover stage where they are comfy as can be, AND have superb grip. As long as you can keep them in this sweet spot, the better they will be.

Yes, they are the best Mudclaws I have worn yet, the most comfortable and the least blister inducing. They are also the most solid around the toe box and toe crease that I have seen in the mudclaw range, with the rand giving confidence in the construction. This has so often been the weak point of inov8 shoes, and it appears to have been fixed on this model. (indeed, I have yet to see a pair of 300's with bust up toe
creases).
No, I haven't destroyed these yet, and I look forward to training and racing in them this winter.
300's being used to good effect descending at FTOP
Excellent grip. Good space for big socks. A proper winter bogtrotting shoe. If you're running on the moors this winter, ok they may be expensive, but seriously, I don't think there is a better shoe out there.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Gravy Pud 2013

The Gravy Pud race, run from the Bulls Head over in Tintwistle by local legend Andi Jones, is a fast paced trail race. Not quite gnarly enough to be a fell race, but certainly not a road race, so it attracts a fair amount of attention from all quarters of the running community.
gravypudracemap.jpg (1171×660)

Today was no exception, and there were a decent selection of fast runners out and about from Dark Peak, Sale and other well known speedier places. Perhaps it was a little misguided to do a Trigger recce with a fair amount of ascent yesterday? Nevermind.

The start/finish road is cobbled, and was really very slippy in x-talons. It looked slippy no matter what shoes you were wearing, so a bit of care was needed on the warm up, and the comings and goings around the area. A good number of runners turned out- nigh on 220 all told, I think, with a good contingent from Glossopdale- this being the final counter in the Fell champs.

This year had a fast start, with me tagging along quite a way behind the leaders, just about managing to keep pace with Chris - who also raced yesterday. He pulled away from me on the first climb, I made it back on the first (and only slightly gnarly descent), got over a stile in slightly less than slick style- picking up a bruise for my troubles, and then proceeded to get passed by as many people as I had just overtaken on the way down. I was reduced to walking on terrain where most people were still quite happily running.

Nothing in my legs, nothing at all. And that was pretty much the story for the rest of the run. Up a hill, lose another place, along a path, the guys in front of me just became smaller and smaller in front of me. No pace, no strength, and no steep downhills to slow other people down to let me catch them up.

I eventually trawled in 28th in just under 41 mins - Chris coming in about a minute and a half faster.
What a beast of a race. No let up - especially if you're already knackered.

As a final race of the year, its good to get completely trounced by a load of other people. It has certainly focussed my mind on what needs to be looked at, what can be improved, and where I need to think about getting faster.
For the moment, though, rest and recovery, something that I should have been doing yesterday!

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Full Tour of Pendle

Apologies. I have no photos. I was running a bit hard for that. There are some decent photos out there, there were enough photogs. When I have one, I'll stick it up.
Til then, have this instead.


My first Long tour of Pendle.
Another one on the Glossopdale Championships list, but as its getting toward the end of the year, not as well attended as the ones earlier on.
After a minor confusion in october of someone telling me the tour of Pendle was Full (it turns out that it was simply the Full tour of Pendle... I got my entry in pretty swiftly after that. A good thing too as it was actually full by about 3 weeks ago. Having never actually been to Pendle before, I thought I'd best do a fair bit of computer recceing, found a couple of GPS tracks from last year, which happened to be about the time I wanted to do it in, and worked out a race plan. Not something I've ever done before, and not actually something that helped DURING the race, but it is interesting looking at different splits at different stages of the race in comparison to how I hoped I would do.

Luckily the weather was calm and clear, if a tad cold, so the helly under the team vest was a good plan. As were the somewhat larger and warmer gloves that everyone else was sporting. I didn't take them off all race! (yes, I get very cold hands).

A race with 400 runners is always going to be a bit of a crazy start. I was about 8 rows back from the front, and could barely hear what the organiser was saying, so the guys further back must have been a bit startled when the race actually started! From talking with a good number of people that have done the race, the first climb is an "easy" one, and it is very easy to get carried away and blast your legs into the abyss before you actually start the race proper. I tried to keep a tab on how my legs were feeling, seeing a number of Pennine runners ahead. I knew I was in front of Julien, as he made a brief appearance by my side, before dropping back, obviously thinking that my pace was a little too hot for that early in the race. I hadn't seen Mark O since before the beginning. He was either so far ahead it wasn't worth chasing at this point, or had already crashed out. Unlikely. I suspected he was a long way head, even now.

1st descent, the legs were feeling it a bit, and I was concerned that I'd overcooked it. Ate some food- figuring that energy was going to be the main issue in the second half of the race. I held my own on the way down, and along, before going up the first of the steep hills. Conrad was already storming away up the hill ahead of me, the only person near me that I knew, and it wasn't until the Geronimo descent on the otherside that I caught up with, and overtook him, along with about 5 other people. The spectators at the bottom were fantastic, cheering on everyone with equal enthusiasm.

The long haul back up to the next checkpoint was interspersed with someone going over on an ankle, and someone else falling over in front of me twice, and all the people that I'd overtaken down hill, re-overtaking me again on the ups. On the steep up, I downed a gel, ready for the second half of the race. Another 3 big steep ups to do before the end, so getting something in was a necessity.

Again, despite losing places on the ascent, and looking over to the next top where the leaders were already forging ahead, I made up a decent amount of places on the steep and slippy descent, getting to almost within touching distance of the 2 pennine guys in front of me, Stefan and Dave Ward. However, I knew they would take out some more time on the up. I also had a sneaky look over to my right as I started the ascent, noticing that Julien was still behind, but not a whole lot of distance.
Would he catch me on the second to last, or the last climb? Nothing to do but just keep stomping up the hill, trying to keep a rhythm, and ignore the almost inevitable, of him blasting past at somepoint in the near future.

Near the top of the 3rd last climb, one of the photographers shouted "come on Jasmin!" Ah, Jasmin right behind me. That means Jules really can't be far behind either. Down another gel, dig in, and try and get some distance away on the descent.
Hammering down to Checkpoint 7 was fabulous. The speed and the freedom of thrashing down something that you don't need to think about, while others are floundering around is brilliant. Hit the bottom, and straight back up again.
Taking it in a series of 10 steps followed by another 10 steps, and so on, without break until I got to the top seemed to be the best way of dealing with it. Jasmin came past me just near the top as the hill flattened out, saying "come on, you can still beat me, you know". To which my response was "well... theoretically, yes. But physically? Im not so sure".

We ran shoulder to shoulder up the long and torturous incline before the stonking descent to the bottom of the last BIG up. As ever, enjoying the descent, I necked another gel, in preparation for the final few kilometres, pulled away a little, and at the bottom, managed to finally catch Stefan from Pennine, who promptly accelerated away from me up the ridiculously steep climb.
Jasmin caught me again half way up, and I just tried to tap out a steady rhythm, hoping against hope that I might be able to make it all back on the final descent.
Don't stop. Don't stop. Don't stop.

I bet Jules is right behind me. Don't look back either. Just pretend he's there, its as good as if he really is.

Funnily enough, just as I climbed the final stile, and started running to the trig, Jules was there. Apparently he was about 4 steps behind me, trying to be very quiet, and about to make a proper race of it. Just as he began to accelerate to overtake, he was struck down with cramp. I never even knew he was there.

Aha! The last descent. Photo from Racingsnakes.com
But I did have Stefan to chase, and ran him down by the time we passed the Trig point. Jasmin, and a group of 4 others were a good hundred metres away, and continued to be as we bashed across the moor. I couldn't close them, but no-one was closing on me. I prayed for a decent bit of steep downhill, and just before we hit the final checkpoint, there it was.
Fantastic. I overtook 2 of them there and then, and another as we passed the final checkpoint.

Should have checked how far it is from there to the end. Damn. Have I got enough in my legs? No idea. I checked my watch, and was comfortably under my target time of 2:45. Just another bloke and Jasmin in touching distance, and a couple of km to go...maybe?

They stretched out along the flat, I caught them on a downhill section, and managed to power past on the tarmac. Still a way to go, still flat, with people breathing down my neck, but as soon as it came to the final slope, I knew I had them. Stretching out, I strode home in 38th.
2:40:56.
Brillant. Happy with that.

Jasmin was 4 seconds behind me. Jules, 3 mins behind. Mark was about 13 mins in front. No wonder I never actually saw him for the entire race!

Thanks to the astonishing amount of marshals and supporters out on such a bitter day.

Friday, 22 November 2013

WOATTS 1

For those of you not doing Long Tour of Pendle tomorrow, the first of the WOATTS is going up.

The first one is just to get me/you used to the idea.
You can make it as long or as short as you like, and do it at anytime.

Offroad route
Start/finish is Glossop Turning circle, visit any 3 aircraft wrecks.
Thats it. Pretty easy if you want a short run, but if you want a longer run, think about the Sabres over at Kinder, the Liberator on the path up from Harry Hut, there is a crash site on Sykes Moor which is quite fun to find if you want a navigational challenge, there are also a couple up over by Bleaklow stones way, and a couple of obvious Meteor (the plane, not rock falling from the sky) wrecks on Black hill.

On Road route
A simple one.
Start/finish Leisure Centre in Glossop, touch the wall of 5 pubs with an animal in the name.
Let us know which pubs you have chosen. It could make for an interesting exercise in pub knowledge.
Note- the pubs have to be still in existence as pubs - you can't go saying that such-and-such was called "The Dogs Nose" back in the 1820s so therefore it counts... because it doesn't.

I won't be awarding points for pints drunk on the way around either.... this is meant to be training, not a pub crawl. (If you are a racing snake, and WANT to make it a pub crawl, feel free as I hope it will slow you down for next year).

26/11/13
First Woatter. Or, Watter, if you will.
Pubs round
Nev McGraw - Old Glossop Bulls head, Beehive, Hare and Hounds, Grey Mare, George and Dragon, Wrens nest. Approx 7.05 miles, in 63.31.
Word on the street is the road from Hare and Hounds to Charlesworth is "Dodgy As" during the day, and probably even worse at night. (as you'd expect, I hope) - it is Not Recommended.

Be careful out there, and don't do anything stupid. Its only running, you know.

27/11/13
I went out and did the 3 wrecks. Lancaster on James's Thorn, Skytrain in Ashton Clough and the B29. Dark. Thick as a bag. Got lost. Had to use a GPS to get back to the Trig point(!) I think I may be able to do it faster next time. Main aim- walking ascents.
11k 529m ascent, 1:11:08. GPS track is on Strava

30/11/13
2 Woatts today.
Anthony Walker - who did 3 wrecks, and then some, visiting the Skytrain, Lancaster, B29, Bolton Defiant, Blackburn Botha AND the Blenheim before heading off via Cockhill.
19.4km. 583m ascent, 2:14:21 GPS track Here

Me again - B29, Sabre, Liberator. But with a lot of faffing around on the North Edge of Kinder as well. Never visited that Sabre before, either.
28.7km. 1251m ascent. 3:06:00. GPS track Here (didn't exactly go from turning circle and back to it, but its close enough).

1/2/14
Rachel Walton went out on the Road WOATT for marathon training, passing White Hart in Mottram, the Harewood(?) Arms in Broadbottom, the George and Dragon and the Grey Mare in Charlesworth, Hare and Hounds in Simmondly, Beehive in Glossop, Bulls Head in Old Glossop, very nearly gave up and went for a pint in the Peels in Padfield even tho its not an animal, and the Bulls Head in Tintwistle. 14.5miles. 
Nicely done Rachel. 


Thursday, 21 November 2013

Hot Stones Massage - a new experience.

OK. I may be a little bit biased, but at least I'll mention it up front. I am the other half of Global Therapies, and this is not meant to be an advert - its an honest reflection of the treatment I just received.
Being a massage therapist, as well as a runner for a good number of years has enabled me to know the difference between a good massage and a bad one.

Lynne has been doing Hot Stones Massage alongside regular Sports Massage for the past year, and while I haven't been dismissive of it, I've just always had my legs pummelled and fixed.

I think I may have had a Revelation though.
Yeah, yeah, I know the photos and the cliches... its always women having Hot Stones massages. That is certainly the case of the majority of clientele that we see come through the door... but I think they're a couple of steps ahead of us blokes....

Basalt stone stack
Warmth to the bone. And a proper decent massage to boot. 
Since it has got a fair bit colder, Lynne has been doing a good few more Hot Stones massages and persuaded me to try it. Considering how cold I've been for the past couple of months through dropping weight - and body fat - I figured that I'd go for the warmth.

As a runner, I never really considered what you get with a Hot Stones Massage. Maybe lying down with Hot Stones being plonked on top of you? I suppose that as a therapist I should have taken more interest in it, but I have been a bit busy with needles and taping.

First things first. The warmth of the stones is fabulous - and its not just that they get plonk on you. Instead of using hands for massage, the stones themselves are used as the instruments. It is (or at least in Lynnes case), a full sports massage with Hot Stones as an added bonus.
Deep warmth, knots loosened out, it feels like liquid heat being shone through your body.
Perhaps that doesn't make sense as you read it, but seriously, that's what it feels like.

I don't know what other Hot Stones practitioners are like, but I know that Lynne knows what she is doing. If you need a Sports Massage - seriously, get it done with Hot Stones.
What a feeling.
Fuzzy warmth. Fixed up legs. A back that feels like new. And a nice hot cup of tea.
You can't beat that. I think I'm ready for the Long Tour of Pendle now.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Vaude Hogan

Yeah, yeah, I know. Reviewing old kit... however, this one is worth it, and there is a current incarnation to get out and buy.

I've had this tent for a long time.
I remember using it for the first time in anger on my Silver D of E award, so that must have been about 1995 or 6 or so, so it's pretty old.

The main reason for buying it was because I was intrigued by the picture in the Cotswold catalogue. The tent appeared to have an exo-skeleton, and hung from it. It was a 2 man tent, weighted about 2.5kg so I convinced my sister that it would be a great tent and we should buy it.
This was very much like the original image that intrigued me. A tent with an Exo-skeleton? Cool
We did, and I've certainly had the lions share of use since then.

It has been re-proofed, re-seam sealed and re-proofed again, and still it carries on going. Until August in Switzerland, when I picked it up by the centre pole, and it snapped in 2 places on 2 seperate poles. A week before I was due to use it on my ML assessment.
On the upside, at least it went bang on a campsite and not somewhere on a mountain while I was being assessed.
So. Why am I raving about this tent? What makes it good?

It pitches in about 2 mins flat. I timed myself once a couple of years ago and could get it from in its bag to getting in a fully erect tent in 1:56. I don't think I could do that now, but it really doesn't take long.

The pole is an up in 1 type thing, it attaches to the base in 3 places, and then the bungee cord goes over and attaches back onto the tent, creating the 'exo-skeleton' look, pegs at the sides, back and one on the front of the porch, and its up- inner and outer at the same time.
2 guy ropes on either side can be used, but aren't really necessary unless it's crazy windy.
There is enough space for 1 to live very comfortably, and 2 to live relatively comfortably, if you are neat.

I've used it for trekking, car camping and multiple day expeditions, it has seen me through storms where 3/4 of the other tents in the campsite have been blown away (hellloo Llanberis pass), its been used for incognito wild camping, and has had its share of frigid nights in the Peak district with frost on the inside of the inner....

I'm about 5'9 and of relatively slight build, but the guy I've shared this with most often is about 6'2 and built quite a bit larger than me. I wouldn't say its been massively roomy, but we managed to not completely destroy the tent by sleeping in it at the same time.

The Hogan doesn't seem to be around anymore, though the ultralight and Argon versions can still be found in various places.
The closest thing to the tent I originally bought is the Vaude Mark 2, which boasts a slightly bigger vestibule, tensioners which can actually be re-tensioned while INSIDE the tent (which is pretty cool), a wider section at
the "foot" end of the tent, which would have been the main improvement I would have suggested to the
Yup. Thats properly broke
original Hogan, it is 4 season, and weighs in at a pretty excellent 3kg.
Ok. not quite the 2.4 that I originally thought my Hogan was specced in at, but close enough to its actual 2.6kg to not really worry too much about it.

Would I buy another one?
If I was in the same place in 1995/6 then I would say yes, definitely, without a shadow of a doubt. Currently, if I wanted a tent that was to do exactly the same as the Hogan, the answer, again, would be definitely. The
only reason I am not going out and splashing the cash as I type this is because my list of needs has changed - in terms of the weight I am willing to carry, and in terms of the space I need.

As geekery goes, I am actually about to sit down and make a spreadsheet of all the tents that may or may not work, and then attempt to get hold of as many of them as I can to see which one best suits my needs... it may take a while, but we'll have to see how it works.

In the meantime, take it as read that the Vaude Hogan, now the Vaude Mark 2, is a fantastic bit of kit. If you need a decent, bombproof 4 season, 2 man tent that can be put up in a gale and lasts for a ridiculously long time, look no further. This is the one.


Oh- and just as a bit of an update, I sent the pole off to Vaude UK, and they replaced the 2 sections of snapped pole for £15 each. However, they ALSO said that there is a fair amount of corrosion on a few of the other sections, so just watch out when pitching it in the future... Well, its going to my sister next, so she might need to be careful....


Wednesday, 6 November 2013

SOL bivvy bag

Winter is coming. How do we know?
Its November. Pretty simple. 

Getting colder, getting grimmer out on the tops. 
If you're anything like me, you begrudge having to wear longs when running, even when the weather closes in. To be honest, I don't even like carrying a pair of waterproof trousers on most escapades in the hills, mainly because they are heavy and I KNOW that they aren't going to get used. 

However. What if it all goes pearshaped. What if it all goes belly up? 
Imagine being out there with a mate, or all alone, in proper rubbish weather in shorts and a waterproof top, a good few miles of dodgy terrain between where you are and anything remotely like "safety" and you go over on your ankle. 
Badly. 

Not an "ouch, that feels nasty", or an "I'll run it off". 
I'm talking about a full on snappingly horrendous dislocation. 
What then? 
I'm not worrying for the moment about getting off the hill. That is another issue. 
Lets assume for a moment that Mountain Rescue has been called, or that it will be called- at some point when you don't actually return home.
What I'm worrying about is surviving long enough to be rescued by said volunteers. If you're anything like me, you  tend to rely on output of body heat to keep warm, and having to stop soon chills you off.

Being out in the cold, the wet, the hypothermia inducing mingingness of the mountains and moors for an unspecified period of time (we might be talking hours and hours, probably in the dark) really isn't fun. Wearing just pertex, or eVent, or a Goretex top just isn't going to cut it in terms of keeping you non-hypothermic. 

So what to do? 
Old school heavy plastic survival bags were never particularly good. The main thing about them was that if you had ever attempted to stay overnight in one of them, you would do your damndest never to experience the misery again. So having one in your bag wasn't any more of a comfort than not having one. 

Space blankets were pretty good at keeping heat in, but tended to be very fragile, and if you ever sat on a hill trying to stop one being blown away, you'll know they are a nightmare when ripped. 

Blizzard bags were a fantastic addition to the family of survival bag-esque things. 
A double skinned, baffled bag with elastic round each panel to make it compress. Brilliant. But heavy. Especially for the weight, and space conscious fellrunner. 
It would fit in a big rucksack, but I find that if I have one of those, then I'd have a Bothy Bag instead. 

So the options used to go like this - 
  • Survival bag - too big, heavy, and actually nothing more than a plastic bag
  • Space Blanket - smaller, lighter and insulative, but pretty fragile, and not the best thing to have when its flapping around you in a gale (but better than nothing)
  • Blizzard bag - blimmin brilliant, but a but heavy and bulky for runners. 
No wonder we never really carried stuff like that. 
Enter the SOL bag. 
I've had one for a couple of years now. Think of it as a heavier duty space blanket, which is a bag, and can be re-stowed if you use it and don't want to buy another one. However, at about £12 each, they are a good buy. (It does depend on where you get one from)
It is ridiculously light and fits in a 2 litre bumbag with lots of space to spare for the normal goods and chattles that you take on a run. The SOL bag is a constant in any bag that I take with me on the hill, no matter the length of the run. A good insurance policy, should I need to protect myself from the elements in a worse case scenario. 

If you run, and you like to travel light in the hills, have a think about what might happen, worst case. Would you be ok? Would twelve quid and a few grams save you? 
If you're going to buy one item to enhance your kit this year, get one of these.  

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Shepherds Skyline 2013

Coming to the end of the year, there are still 3 more races in the Glossopdale championships. Well, 2 now that today is over.
Carl, Caity, Chris and I wended our way from Glossop and its environs up to Todmorden for this BM race. Not quite an up and back race, its more of an up, along, down, up and back race. Looking at results of years gone by, it generally had a pretty large field - and a pretty talented one at that. The route looked pretty muddy, and Mudclaws were definitely the order of the day.

The weather wasn't exactly pleasant as we approached the pub, but we had got there in plenty of time and managed to get a parking space close to the race registration and start. Having registered, we wandered back to the car, with the rain lashing down around us - not the most conducive climate to be warming up in.
However, knowing that was what let me down in a couple of races previously, I duly got my gear on, hat, gloves etc. and got out on the hill, being careful not to get tangled up in the kids races that were being run as a preliminary to the main fell race.

About 200metres after starting I went over on my left ankle, so not the best start to the day. I recced a fair way up the first climb/last descent, stretched out a bit and slowly, gingerly came back down. Thankfully not much damage was done, and I could run perfectly well on it as long as the foot was placed on the ground well.

Eventually, start time came around, and from no-where, Mark O turned up, and so did Andy Anastasi - so
at least Chris and I wouldn't be battling it out for 30 points, but rather, 29. Lined up at the start, the rain had finally abated somewhat, the sun even came out, but there was a bitter wind, and the ground was sodden. The pack of fell runners were spread out across the beginning of the path, but it was evident that when the race started we would all have to funnel onto the same track. No time to worry about that, as we set off.
I managed to keep a decent pace up the first hill. Mark was a little way in front of me, Chris was somewhere behind, but I just concentrated on breathing and running. Once on top the race had settled down a fair bit, though I was beginning to realise I might have set off just a little too ambitiously, and was really starting to feel tired. There was a decent amount of bog across the top, and although I managed to pass a couple of people, I also got passed as well.

There was a tailwind at this point, however, I knew we were coming back this way. Muddy, gloopy AND into the wind. No time to worry about that now.
It took a while to get across to the monument, where we plunged down into the valley. The profile of the race makes it look really vertiginous, but it wasn't really, it was a bit of a rocky descent, but nothing too bad. Then what should have been a fast blast along a track at the bottom, which turned into a hanging on for dear life run, trying not to get dropped by the guy in front of me- and then a hill that again looks crazily steep on the profile, but on any other day might have been runnable.

Unfortunately I had already burned most of my fuel up by now and the struggle was starting to tell. I caught up and overtook Noel from Pennine, but only because he had slowed up to put a jacket in his bag. It would be nice to say I then cruised up the hill, but it was more of a limping, rasping attempt at a run/walk rather than anything particularly graceful, or indeed powerful.
Hitting the path at the top, Noel came past me, and another guy as well, and the run back through the bog was pretty hard as well, considering the headwind.

Caitys prize
I was on my own on the way down the last descent, not quite able to attach myself onto a group of 4 20 seconds in front of me, and some way ahead of whoever was behind me.
That final descent went on for a long time. I was sure it was around the next corner, or over the next bit, but it went on and on. Staying strong, I finished in 49:34. About a minute and a half behind Mark, which is not quite as good as I wanted, but pretty good nevertheless.
Well done to Caity, who had a great run, coming in second lady, a minute or so behind Helen Fines.

There were a good number of photogs out there today, so I'm sure there will be a couple of photos of me with snot plastered across my face and mud splattered up my legs. I'll try and get one on here when I can find one.

Thanks to Todmorden Harriers for putting on the race, and to the marshals who stood around and about in fairly grim weather. A good day out.
And below is an attempt at embedding a Strava page onto the blog.

a tale of 3 pairs of x-talons

I got my first pair of x-talons last year.
I don't know what took me so long to get a pair, as they are amazingly comfortable. As it was, I wore them a lot, and my strava shoe log shows that, with nigh on 800km in them. As you might expect, after that kind of
abuse they have taken on the appearance of racing flats.

Battered but unbowed after about 800km
As they got down the grip, the time for opening my second pair came close, and it was at Sedbugh hills that I broke them out. They were used in precisely 2 races and one club run on Kinder, a total of 90km, when this happened.
Studs ripping off, on both feet.
I know this site is called "Tested to destruction" but I didn't expect that.
Not being an "expert", this seemed a little strange - having one pair of shoes that does the best part of 1000 km, wearing down gradually, and another, the same model, ripping itself to pieces after having done barely a 10th of that doesn't seem right.
Box fresh- but with shearing studs after all of 90km

So I called inov8. Well. I emailed them, detailing the above, with the lovely photos that you can see above, to which I was told, they aren't the people I need to talk to. As a consumer, I need to talk to the place I bought them from- as it is with them I have the "contract" with.

Fine.
Not inov8s problem.
So I called Ratrace, from where I had bought them, but no-one answered any of the phonelines that are advertised (during normal work hours on a generic day). So I emailed ratrace with the same email, and after about a week was told that I need to send my shoes back to them for inspection. Not a problem, they went in the post the next day. Registered.

A week went by. Nothing. Not even an email saying that they had received them. I called them, on the various numbers, finally getting through to someone on a line to do with races, who passed me on to someone else. It took a while, but it was confirmed that my shoes had indeed been received, and that they had been sent on to inov8, who had not got back to Ratrace.
So.
Some progress.

Another week went by. Still nothing. I called again, going through the same rigmarole of phones not being answered, until I finally got through on a random line, and then went through to someone else... No, still nothing from inov8, but it would be chased up.
Considering that I sent the shoes back the week before the Ian Hodgeson relays, and it wasn't until after the FRAs that I finally got an email saying that Inov8 would replace the shoes and which address would I like them sent to, I was a little frustrated.

(just checking the emails, I sent the first one to Ratrace on the 5th September, I took receipt of a new pair on the 1st November - and as a side note, during the same time period I also bought a pair of mudclaws from ratrace, who processed and sent the shoes within 24 hours, so buying stuff is fine....)

I got a new pair of x-talons today. Brand new, new colour, new design. Pretty cool, but it took a while.
New Shooooes. They might be getting used today, so expect a review quite soon. I have this suspicion that they are't QUITE the same in terms of sizing from my old ones. 

So what? I sent my shoes back, I got a new pair. Great.

Just thought I would highlight a couple of things.
Fantastic that Ratrace and Inov8 have such a high level of service in terms of recognising when a product has not performed to the level expected.

However, the somewhat lacklustre original response from inov8 was not ideal.
Nor was the difficulty I had in getting to speak with someone from Ratrace. If there is a phone number, I kind of expect at least one of them to be answered - or at least an answerphone.
The lack of recognition that my shoes had even arrived, let alone been sent on to inov8 was a bit concerning as well, and the overall time that it took for Inov8 to get back to Ratrace - a couple of weeks- seems a little long - though I accept inov8 is now a multinational company with MUCH more on its mind than sorting out a simple pair of shoes for yours truely...

All in all I'm pretty chuffed at the outcome, but wish there was more information sharing during the process. Customer service is one of those little things that is easy to get wrong, but then again, is so easy to get right as well.

Thankyou Ratrace and Inov8 for finally sorting it out.



Friday, 1 November 2013

FRA relays

Doesn't time fly.. I wrote this 2 weeks ago and didn't post it for one reason or another... still, better late than never....

This year the FRAs were held in Llanberis. Starting from a hard bed slate quarry, going up a hill that quickly turned to a muddy quagmire, and up onto the tops around Moel Elio. With 170 teams or so of 6 people per team made the event pretty busy.

The weather was of course an interesting part of the day, as it always is in Wales. Unlike last year, which was a crisp, cool day, with a fair bit of sun, Llanberis provided us with winds gusting from 17- 40mph, a lot of clag and a whole hosepipe full of rain.
Glossopdale entered 3 teams this year, A, B and ladies. Not too many last minute alterations occured this year, which is always nice. Despite transport issues that could have arisen from slightly lackadasical planning we all managed to get to the blowy quarry for the event. Bonus. We wouldn't have to suddenly draft in a random bystander to run one of the legs. (as may or may not have happened in previous years).

The start pen... waiting to start leg 3
A good number of team tents had been put up in the start/finish area, but the wind was causing havoc, blowing them around and in some cases destroying them completely. Luckily the Glossopdale Argos special was weighed down with enough rocks and bits of slate to mean that it got away without too much damage.

After a short period of waiting around, and a large amount of rain thrashing down on the assembled leg 1 runners in the starting pen, the Eryri main organiser stood up on the PA system and gave us all the rules and regs, before the runners were taken off down the hill for the start.
Between short, sharp showers they set off up the hill. Tarmac first, and then onto the slope that would pretty soon become a mud bath.
Not much for us to do in the pen, but wait.
The first runners came in from about 40 mins. Chris, from my team came in in good time, setting the leg 2 runners, Andy O and Alasdair off onto the hill. I was a little more concerned at this point about where Lynne was going to come in. I was ever so proud that she was running the relays. A year ago I don't think she would have contemplated it, and yet, here she was, off on leg one. (and the only person of any of our teams to have done a recce!) She came in to cheers at about 55 mins, which was fantastic, setting the ladies leg 2 runners off on their way.

In hindsight I perhaps should have warmed up a bit more than I did. Well. Maybe I should have actually warmed up at all. Considering that I was off out of the blocks with Julien, which is never easy on the best of days... yes, I should have put in a couple of laps before going off.
Lynne finishing leg 1

However, all too soon Andy and Alasdair were coming back in. We had lost time on a few of the teams, but gained on others. To be honest, I had no idea what kind of placing we were in, but I did know that the Pennine V40 team had gone out a few minutes before us, so if we could catch up or overtake them, that'd be grand. Especially as it was Grouse.
Jules and I grabbed the map and headed out on the navigation leg. The only leg that could not be recced, and a route that is blind. We were just behind the HBT ladies team, and with Julien saying "yes, we'll go out slow so that we have some firepower left for the end of the leg" and promptly set off with me huffing and puffing in his wake as we shot past the HBTers on the first hill.

To be entirely honest our navigation through the nav leg was essentially a grand fluke. We picked up a control, which wasn't the one we thought it was (running faster than we could map read... not a good idea), and then half way to the next control decided that we should have gone another way, but in fact went the first way anyway. Jules decided to take a "short cut" which, as ever, involved going up and over a hugely steep slope as everyone else contoured around it. My legs and lungs were finding it really hard to keep up on the steep ups, but I was running away from Julien on the downs and flats.
The next couple of controls were pretty ok, and then, after blasting down a massive path we fluked it again with another find of the control that we already thought that we had got... before hammering up a hill and overtaking as many teams had overtaken us with a few mistakes that we had made previously.
Jules and me finishing leg 3. Note the highly un-stealth jacket
The last checkpoints fell quickly, and with a couple of teams hard on our tails we got to the final stile to get off the hill. The final lunge downhill was a little slower than I anticipated. Underfoot was muddy, slippy and gloopy. I was fine in a pair of brand new mudclaws, chomping up the ground, but had to stop and wait for Jules a couple of times as he slipped around in his (admittedly also brand new) x-talons.
We kept in front of the other teams, and shot down the tarmac at the bottom as hard as we could, coming in to set Mark O off on the last leg. And what do we know - We were standing around at the end as Grouse came in. Didn't see him for the entire leg, but still managed to come in in front.

A few minutes after Mark had set off, the first team, Dark Peak, came in to finish the last leg. Superbly fast. All we could do now is wait, and count off the minutes.
Mercia were second, with Simon Bailey setting the fastest time on the course, but not able to overhaul the massive lead that DPFR had built up on an amazingly fast leg 3.

Glossop A came in finally in 26th, a bit down on last year, but that reflects the quality of the field, rather than the spirit of the runners- who really ran well. Last year we didn't get the last runner off until after the first 3 teams had finished... this time, at least we get Mark off before the first of the winners got in.
Glossop B had a fantastic run, coming in a few places up from last year in 46th.
The Glossopdale ladies had a fantastic race, not only because Caity managed to get around the 4th leg in the 3rd fastest time of the day- only 4 seconds behind Laura Jeska, (and subsequently another team who shall remain nameless tried to recruit her...as ever) but they came in about 15th. A fabulous effort.

So all in all, a good day out for the Blue and Orange vests. The weather may have created a bit of a rough day, but it was an excellent time, and I think we certainly gave more than a lot of other teams in terms of the cheering.