Tuesday, 26 August 2014

OMM Aether Smock - first impressions

Standing on the start line in Sedburgh, the runner next to me turns  and says "so Tim- is that your new jacket? Make your mind up and spend your money? I look forward to the review".
Or words to that effect.

As an aside- and in reference to my previous blog, he also mentioned that he has a Pertex shield top, and true to form - or at least, true to what I've found, the hoods appear to be purely decorative, unless you have an inordinately large head.
We didn't have much more time to chat as someone said "go" and I quickly ran out of breath. 

So anyway, in order to make my decision I sat down with my thoughts and previews of all the jackets, the 3 that stood out were the Inov8, Haglofs and OMM. I trawled the net, found the OMM at a substantially knocked down price, and before I could think twice, I just bought it. Job done.
As much as I would have liked to play around with Ino8's bespoke fabric, or Haglofs Active shell smock, the OMM won out, perhaps mainly because I was so happy with the Cypher smock before it.

Now, you may think I'm a bit mental, spending £140 on a jacket, as another of my clubmates wisely pointed out, whats the point in spending more than £20 on a jacket when its not going to be waterproof after the first 3 outings (as their £100 jacket appeared to be) - especially if it is going to spend most of the time in your bag.

Well, hopefully this blog will spell out the reasons why I spent my cash on the Aether Smock.

The first thing I noticed about the Aether is that although it is made of eVent, the fabric feels a touch lighter than it's previous incarnation, and it appears to be an upgraded version of the fabric. On the scales (yes, on occasion I can be THAT much of a geek), it weighs in at just under 200g, it rolls up smaller than the Cypher does, and is lighter in the bumbag. Thats a good start for a new and improved jacket.
Cypher smock - size S - 239g

Aether smock - Size S - 186g
The first time out for this jacket was a race- Sedburgh hills. I know what they say about never using new gear on race day, but it had to be done. The old Cypher just isn't up to it anymore.

Cut to the same pattern
The Smock has very few seams on it, and is made with exactly the same pattern as the Cypher smock was. The main difference I noticed as I put it on, is the cord pulls on either side of the hood and on the waist cord. They are basically a lighter weight version of cord pull, but not one that I'm entirely au fait with. After a bit of playing about (and looking at it, as opposed to trying to feel what was going on), I got the hang of it. To be honest, its pretty simple. The Cord pull on the waist is also slightly offset, so it is no longer slap bang on the side of you as you wear the smock, but slightly forward - kind of in line with where you would expect a jeans pocket to be, instead of the side seam
The new hood toggles. Actually, pretty easy to use once you actually look at them and work it out. Not so easy when you're running along and haven't looked at the design...

The other major thing that I noticed (indeed, noticed when I tried one on in a shop) is the pocket inside the smock. As far as I'm concerned that is a step back, and the only thing that should stop you buying this jacket. Its a faff to get to when you're moving fast, and for stowing stuff on the move- empty gel wrappers etc, On the Cypher. the outside pocket was great - zip, stow and go.
The japanese have a word for this. Shi-nikui. or "difficult to use". It's in a fiddly place with a fiddly zip. What happened to the useful and usable outside pocket?
Now it is a bit more of a palavar - unzip, reach into you jacket with a soggy begloved hand, fish around for the pocket zip, try and undo it, stuff something into it, fiddle around for the zip, do it up, do up the jacket again, carry on.

Less efficient. It would be good to get OMM's feedback about that as to why they've put the pocket inside. It doesn't make it any more waterproof, and just aids ingress of water where you don't want it when having to access the pocket.

Gripe aside, the arms are still a decent length, and the wrist cuffs with thumb loops are still there- which is excellent. I'm not sure I'd buy a running waterproof without these now, they just seem like the right thing to have.

The hood is of an excellent design - 3 points of compression onto the head, and moves as you move your head. No turning to see what is going on and getting a lovely view of the inside of a damp piece of fabric. I'm not sure if the front compression elastics are going to flap around as I run in the wind and the damp, but that is yet to be seen. The rim is wired as well but not with as solid a wire as the Cypher was. I suppose it would be more appropriate to call it "reinforced" rather than "wired", although this isn't ultralight, is a good thing for long wet runs in the winter.
The inside of the zip at the top also has a bit of soft touch material on it, to prevent mouth/chin chafage as well, which is becoming more and more standard on jackets these days.
Mouth/chin non-abrasive patch

Bits of reflective stuff are on the arms and on the bottom - which is cut quite deep, so that it sits under the bumbag well, and doesn't ride up, and an all over sense of protectiveness completes this jacket nicely.

This is a light eVent shell. Yes, it is expensive, yes, I fully expect it to be weather resistant (not waterproof- only cars and pubs are truely waterproof) over the next couple of winters. It will be used in training, and will be used on a weekly basis, and will also be my racing jacket of choice. It will get a thorough testing and will go through a lot of abuse, and I sincerely hope that it copes as well as it's predecessor.
One thing is for certain. I trust this jacket to do the job a lot more than a £20 one from decathlon.

Yes, I would have loved to try out that Haglofs Active Shell, yes, I would have loved to have had a blast in the inov8 race shell, but my cash has been spent and the die has been cast. I'll write a bit more of a review once the Aether has been through a bit more rubbish weather.

Overall - The Aether Smock
Cut from the same pattern as the Cypher, with a more up to date version of the eVent fabric. It is lighter, has a couple of tweaks in terms of the elastic closures on the hood, but is not without its failings. The main one being the re-arranged pocket arrangement (as it were).
Have I made the right decision?

Not sure yet. I hope this new fabric will be up to the weather I'm going to wear it in, and I may (or may not) get used to the pocket. Had it been full price, it would have been a more difficult decision to buy. 

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Sedburgh Fell race 2014 - English Champs AL

Some people say this is just a massive traverse. Tell you what, if thats what it is, its a traverse with a shed load of ascent and descent in it. Crikey.
The drive up to Sedburgh was somewhat reminiscent of last year. Mid august. Rain hammering on the road and the car, Carl driving. Last year it cleared up quite a bit for the race, this year really didn't look promising.

Page 1 of the annotated map
I'd done a little bit of homework in terms of looking at times and route prep, but I hadn't been anywhere near the course since last year - so certainly no recceing was done. I did write a few more notes on my map this year though, and although I couldn't find a track that Nic Barber had done for the race (my normal target is his time from last year), I did find Wardy's strava track from last year, which was substantially faster than mine, so jotted down a few notes on his times at various points around the course.
Not that I looked at my map once during the race, but it was useful to plan where I was going to eat and drink in order to keep going and not stutter to an ignominious halt on the climb up to Calf as I did last time.

Fell legend Wendy Dodds Gives us a shoelace tying lesson   

All planned out, we got to Sedburgh and the hall where we registered and caught up with the other 2 Glossopdale Harriers doing the race, Chris and Caity. Wendy Dodds was also on hand, and gave a quick masterclass in shoelace tying for fell races ("I taught this to a 5 year old at Jura, so you should be able to follow it").

As we sat in the hall watching others come in and register, the rain lashed down outside and there was the usual clothes faff. Vest only? Lots of people wearing helly's. Vest+ helly? Too hot? Nip outside. No, definitely vest and helly. Start with waterproof on? Off? On? Hat? Gloves? Too much?
I didn't get outside until about 5 mins before the race started, by which time the rain was a little less severe, and managed a quick jog up and down the road before being called to the start. Not the greatest and most useful warm up in history, the first 30 mins was going to HURT no matter what I did.
From previous experience (Ennerdale), I tend to go off way too fast on these races and get nailed by large amounts of people from the middle to the very end. Today was a day for being a bit more conservative. Start easy, race easy, finish strong, and as the note on my map said - Don't You Dare Give Up.

We surged off the line, and I started to ease into the race, chatting a little with Stefan from Pennine, before watching him eke out a lead over me. Its the first couple of k, so I'm not too worried, its early days yet. Up onto the first climb, and there is the path through the bracken that gets really congested, skirt to the left and follow Nic around the blockage, and up the hill. It's another couple of minutes before Stefan - caught in the blockage - catches up and passes me. Keeping calm, I plod on, keeping my thoughts to myself, and thinking about the rest of the run, rather than the present. My thighs ache badly, and I can feel fatigue gnawing at the edge of my consciousness. Need to keep things real, and ensure I'm able to still run in 2 hours time.
Chris appears beside me. Am I going too slow? No. Keep to the plan. The climb steepens out and we walk, I pass him, wondering when he'll make the next pass on me. Up, into the wind and the cloud, keeping the jacket on at the beginning was a cunning plan, and we hit the top before turning left into the teeth of the wind, into the low cloud - so low I can barely see the runner in front of me. Follow the stud marks and see where they lead. Last years route is faded in my memory, but the wisps of recollection enable me to follow the paths to the right place and we drop out of the cloud, down to the water crossing at Ivy Crag and the vicious ascent to the Checkpoint at Castley Knotes.
First planned food. Chug down half a geobar even though I don't feel hungry. Take off the coat as I'm getting warm - but leaving it on one arm and wrapping it around my wrist. If I need to put it back on again in a hurry, I can.

It's a long climb to the top, and now I'm in Jura mode. Damage limitation- keep the legs moving and don't let anyone past. Climb to the top, and the descent down I make my mind up to catch up with the guy in front of me. I manage to close the gap by a fair amount, but he heaves away from me on the next modest up. Then we go into the single track traverse around Fell head, coming up to an hour into the race and I'm beginning to feel a bit better. So much better, in fact that I grab my second planned bite to eat, and catch up to 2 runners, and after what seems like an age, overtake them.
Me? Overtaking? on a Champs race? That hasn't happened before. Maybe going slow was a good thing.
Way ahead in the distance, I can see Nic, Wardy and Stefan in Pennine vests, all thrashing it out together. Too far to catch for the moment, but you can hope they might knacker each other out. I'm certainly not going any faster at the moment. A third into the race, if I try that now, I'm really going to suffer on the hard last third.
Page 2 of the annotated map

Next up is the double climb and traverse, through two saddles and down to Check 4 at the bottom of Hazel Gill. Stomping up the hill, the only thing going through my head was Pachabels Canon - Lynne has been practicing it a lot at home - and it suited my foot cadence. Up, towards the top, a long and torturous slog, only to thunder down again to the bottom, ready to do it all again, and then traverse. I think I may have gone too high on the second ascent, but at least I didn't end up getting slowed down by all the Gills on the side of Hazelgill Knott.
The jacket had come on, been taken off, the sun had come out, the rain had come in again, the wind was behind us, and with half the race gone it felt like we had had the gamut of seasons from spring to autumn - with a fleeting glance of summer int he middle. The jacket went on for the descent to Check 4, and with my first planned gel in my hand, it was probably going to stay on for the duration now.

The long climb up to the Calf. It's long. It's soul destroying, and it is not pleasant. On my map at this point was Don't you Dare Give Up, taken from a twitter feed.
That was what was going on in my head (alongside Pachabels canon). Every step of the way I ran. No walking. No Giving Up. One person passed me, I passed another. The temptation to stop and walk was there at all times, but no. Keep going. Keep running. Pass another? I honestly don't remember, but there was no walking. To the Calf, a dib, and beyond - time for gel 2. Last year I was really suffering even before this. That climb did for me, but now, no. More power.

A group of 4-5 of us formed, dissolved and re-formed, over Bram-rigg top, and then up to Calders. Into the cloud again, and a Horwich runner came alongside me - "are we meant to skirt left at somepoint around here?" "No idea mate", I reply.
We were, of course, and 4 of us climbed an extra 30m to the top, while a we were caught up by a Bingley runner, who shrewdly took the intelligent option - around the side.
Now following the Bridleway, pretty much to the end, the 5 of us switched places, overtook and re-overtook. I kept my place for a while, lost a place, and then regained on the climb - the never give up attitude taking me past 3 guys who ended up walking.

Chris's failed shoe - stopped him performing well
Do I need another gel? Not now, close to the end. I can see the final checkpoint, and the 2 runners ahead of me dib in and take a radically direct line straight south. Not the racing line at all - and probably deep in bracken at this time of year.
The Bingley runner and I dib and take the more trodden path off Winder. The hill gets steeper and steeper, my quads are burning, and my knees ache, the Bingley runner keeps a steady few yards ahead of me, and the hill gets slidy towards the bottom. We both slip and fall, and I just go with it - sliding down the slick slope, not quite catching the Bingley lad, but coming close, and then we hit the road and he stretches out.

I have nothing left. There is someone behind me, and it is all I can do to keep him away from me. What can I do? Concentrate on the guy in front. I glue myself to the Bingley runner, and stay with him to the end. 3 seconds in front of me - I just couldn't close the gap.
2:30:57. A good 10 mins up on last year, fantastic, and, in the end, about a minute behind Stefan.

So, what of the placings?
My computer printout says 47th. 47th? Thats top 50 - but there are always a few glitches, people missing dibbers etc. Have I done enough to hold onto that top 50, or are there more than 3 people ahead of me that have lost theirs?

Final results, out on the web a few hours later- 49th.
Woot. Championship points. Finally. Ok, only 2, but finally I have them.
Very Happy indeed.

At this point, I have to extend my thanks to Tom Brunt, Simon Bailey, Dan Chan and Stevie K for not running, as all 4 of them would undoubtably have beaten me, and I would have been out of the top 50.
Still, its all about turning up on the day.
Chris had a bit of a nightmare race, with his Inov8 x talon 212 ripping itself to shreds on the second descent. The rest of the race can't have been much fun with a shoe looking like that. Well done to Wardy and Stefan for also scoring Champs points this race- and congrats to Caity for coming in 2nd GDH, and (I think), 4th lady.

There will be a blog in the near future reflecting on the Champs races this year, and just how bloody hard it has been to get that elusive top 50 - but this time- the taking it easy plan- seems to have worked.


Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Waterproof top- options

I'm writing this mainly to make sure in my own mind that I've picked the right one to buy.
Since my OMM Cypher smock ended up being consigned to the metaphorical dustbin (I can still wear it, but it just isn't waterproof) I realised that I had to stop lusting after a Castelli cycling jacket, and focus on replacing something that is a staple of winter training.

As this is pretty wordy, if you want to skip the whole thing to get to the punchline, I've summarized it all at the bottom, feel free to jump on down there if you're short of time. 

I do like Waterproof smocks, as they have less zip area in which to let moisture in. Admittedly, when running, you do tend to build up a lot of moisture inside the jacket- even when it is a highly breathable one, it is still a really grim feeling to have that cold stripe of water ingressing through the zip onto your baselayer.
I shudder just thinking about it.
So the less zip there is to let that in, the better. Hence my penchent for smocks over full zippered coats.

At this time (2014) there is quite an array of smocks out there for the discerning fellrunner, going through a few different fabrics and also cost points. The best thing to do was to sit down, work out what I wanted, how much I didn't want to pay, and then cancel out the various options until I got down to the One.

Berghaus Mens Vapourlight Hyper Smock FireLooking at the ridiculously lightweight to begin with- the Berghaus Vapourlight Hypersmock- a top with a couple of superlatives thrown in there for good measure, looks amazing. At 110g for a Large, this has to be the lightest "waterproof" smock out there. It packs down to almost nothing, and you'd barely notice it in a bumbag. It apparently complies to all FRA regulations, has a hood with 2 point adjustableness, and an arm pocket (which you can't fit much in at all- maybe 3 jelly babies), and on sale at £90... well. That's really not a bad price for a racing jacket. If I was in the market for the bare minimum to race with, this would indeed be my choice. However, the fabric is ridiculously thin- it has to be to get the weight down so low, and although it is waterproof and windproof, I'm not sure how well it would cope after 5 hours of thrashing rain and wind in the middle of Bleaklow.
For racing, and bimbling about on 1-2 hours runs, this might be the ticket, but from experience, I know I'm going to need something a bit more meaty.

Next on my list are the relatively new Inov8 offerings. The Race Elite 150, and the Race Shell 220. Both made very much with the weight conscious runner in mind- the numbers being the amount of grams each weighs, and priced at £120 and £150 full retail- you can get them cheaper in various outlets, they are pretty much slap bang in the range of decent in terms of price.
Inov-8 Race Elite 150 Stormshell AW14 Blue/Lime
Inov8 Race Elite 150
I've seen a good few people around in the 150, and I have to say that they do look nice. (The waterproof... not always the person in it), however, having seen one upclose and personal in a shop, I was a little less than impressed at the build quality. Although it boasts "2.5layer waterproof fabric", it looks incredibly like a lightweight material which has been waterproof backed- like the pertex on my Montane H2O velo jacket- which ended up delaminating pretty quickly. In fact, it was so much like it that the odd one or 2 150s in the shop had ALREADY started delaminating on the hanger. What they would be like after prolonged abuse, let alone a couple of outings, was weighing on my mind.
So on the last outing of my OMM, in the wet, in the clag, I asked those people wearing one what it was like as a waterproof. As I suspected, amazingly light, but after a couple of outings, lost a lot of its waterproofness and also ended up being damp and chilly. Although it would past muster in a race, not something that would hold its own for hours on end on Bleaklow.

Inov-8 AW14 RaceShell 220 Black/Red
Inov8 Race Shell 220
The Race Shell 220 looks a little more robust, being made with a ptfe membrane with taped seams- basically something along the same lines as eVent, but without the brand name. It has thumb loops, always a good thing, and looks pretty sleek, while being able to roll away into its own pocket. I like this jacket, and haven't had a chance to look at it in the flesh, but from the specs, it certainly looks good. My one concern would be about the fabric. I may be a little bit of a snob in that I like to have a jacket made of a "named" fabric like eVent or Goretex... using a bespoke fabric is always a bit interesting, and here we have what appears to be an eVent like jacket - which would normally cost in the region of £200 for only £150 rrp.
Nice. I'd quite like to try one.

From one British Manufacturer to another one- Montane. A real favourite of the Mountain and ultrarunning community. Montane have a couple of offerings that I'm interested in, and even a Jacket (shock, horror), that looks good.
Montane AW14 Minimus Smock - Black
Montane Minimus Smock
The lighter weight of the Montane offerings is the Minimus Smock - the smock brother of the ever popular Minimus Jacket- which I know a lot of fellrunners really like. It's made of Pertex Shield+  which is basically a bit like the inov8 Race Elite- but with a brand name. Ripstop nylon with a microporous layer on it, but with quite astonishing numbers in terms of waterproofness and breathability. It isn't all about numbers though, and as I have shown my bias before, so I will show it again, and say that this kind of fabric, though good on races, ain't going to cut it on Bleaklow in December. Not only that, but I have reservations about the hood as well. Although it has 2 point adjustability and an elastic volume adjuster for the back, the last jacket I had that used this configuration was the Montane Spektr, which appeared to have been made for someone with a head about 3 times as large as mine. It also lacks a peak, which is a bit of an issue, but the main point is that I'm never buying a decent waterproof again that doesn't have 3point adjustability. My head is, surprisingly, just too small! Which is a shame, because I really like the idea of that massive front pocket. The cuffs and the bottom are both elasticated, with no adjustability, which is also annoying as on the smaller end of the market- these things tend to stay too big for me, unless the entire coat is too small. At £130, though, its not a bad price for a light smock with a decent amount of storage.

Montane AW14 Mens Aero eVent Pullover Tangerine
Montane Aero eVent smock
The second smock is the heavier weight Aero eVent smock - which as the name suggests, is made with eVent material- always a winner. As such is it a bit heavier (280g) and a bit more expensive (£240) than the pertex offerings. The design seems somewhat reminicent of the Spektr smock, and has some pretty cool features, like the offset zip, again the huge pocket in the front, a stiffened brim on the hood, but still, it is a 2 point adjustment, with an elasticated back bit. Fine if your head is bigger than mine, but no matter how "head hugging" the design, its a complete no go for me. I love the assymetric zip design and the rear vents, andm to a point, the adjustable wrist closures, but the hood is a real deal breaker. 

Montane AW14 Mens Further Faster Neoshell Jacket - Blue
Montane Further, Faster
The third Montane that I had an eye on was actually a Jacket- the Further Faster Jacket. Made with Neoshell- a Polartec material that is stretchy, as well as waterproof and breathable, I've seen a couple of mountain jackets made out of this stuff, but not really any running products. At first look, this is a long day out jacket - it has massive pockets, a 3 point adjustable hood (yay!) and is constructed of fabric that is going to stand up to a proper beating on the hill. The cuffs are adjustable, and so is the hem, which is always a good thing. However, at 425g, its nigh on twice as heavy as anything else I'm looking at, it isn't quite as streamlined as other jackets, and the packability really isn't there either. So although it would be a superb bit of gear for hill bashing in the winter, it unfortunately won't do for a race jacket as well... If I had £200 to spend on a winter jacket, and then more to spend on a race jacket, this would be up there. Unfortunately, I don't.

Haglofs Gram Comp Pullover Gale Blue
Haglofs Gram Pull
The usage of different fabrics continues with the Haglofs Gram Comp Pullover- using Active shell, the latest in a long line of Gore-tex product and is apparently the lightest and most breathable incarnation yet. Haglofs have used this to good effect with a great lightweight jacket - coming in at 215g. It has a 3 point adjustable hood- proof that you can do it even when going lightweight- please take note Montane, non-adjustable elasticated wrists and a simple napoleon pocket. Simple design. Lightweight. Good fabric - though needs to be treated quite carefully from what I have heard. This could well be a good choice- though at £250 rrp, it is up there with the eVent jackets in terms of price- but it is definitely up there in terms of a competitor to the Inov8 Raceshell. 

OMM AW14 Kamleika Race Smock 2 Black/Orange
OMM Kamleika
The final pair of jackets are from OMM, which brings the tally of British manufacturers on this list to 3, which is pretty good when you consider the state of the market a few years ago. The Kamleika Smock, made from Genalots fabric is a perennial favourite of a lot of fellrunners, and has had a bit of a redesign in the past year. Genalots is waterproof, breathable and stretchy. I reckon it feels a bit too much like being in a latex suit for comfort. Having worn a kamleika on the hill a few times, I have to say that it just wasn't for me. Not sure what it was, but I wasn't overly convinced about the material. Maybe I'm just a bit old school and don't like change, but whatever it is, those that like this jacket, love it, but not me. Nevertheless, it has a massive front zip (for a smock), thumbloops, a fully adjustable hood (yes, its a big thing for me), and all in 240grams.

Omm AW14 Aether Smock Black
OMM Aether Smock
The replacement for the Cypher smock is the Aether smock. Made from eVent, weighing in at 200g, and with a full on mountain hood, thumbloops and a chest pocket, this is pretty much the same as the Cypher, but in a different colour... and with the pocket on the inside of the jacket instead of the outside. Which confuses me slightly. If there was anything that was I am a little worried about getting wet, it wouldn't be in any jacket pocket, in or out. Now if I want to get to my compass or food, I have to open the jacket to get to the pocket, letting in the weather, which seems a little silly, but there you go. Still, as someone who has had and broken a Cypher, maybe staying with the same company is the best idea? At £240, it is pretty steep, though can be got on sale in a few places. I guess I just need to sit down, weigh up the differences, the pros and cons, and work out where to spend my cash.

Berghaus - 110g. £120. Crazy lightweight. Good for racing. Not good in winter.
Inov8 Race elite 150 - 150g, £120. Light, but delaminates and wets out fast
Inov8 Race shell 220 - 220g, £150. Solid fabric, decent hood, looks like a contender
Montane Minimus - 146g, £130. Pertex Shield+ 2 point hood. Good for races - not necessarily for winter
Montane Aero eVent - 280g, £240. eVent = great. 2 Point hood = deal breaker.
Montane Further Faster - 425g, £200. Neoshell looks fab, should be good for winter- but not in the bumbag
Haglofs gram Comp - 215g, £250. Activeshell. Light. Simple. 3 point hood adjustment. A contender
OMM Kamleika - 240g, £130. Genelots. Stretchy, light, personally, I don't like the feel of it.
OMM Aether - 200g, £240. eVent. Same as the Cypher, but lighter. Certainly a contender.

So there you have it. Just to see what deals I can get - as all these prices are pretty much full rrp.

Monday, 11 August 2014

The end of my OMM Cypher smock?

The old warhorse
How much value is good value for money?
How long can a waterproof actually be waterproof for?
At what point do you give up attempting to re-proof it, give in and splash out on a new one?

These are the questions I've been asking myself for the last couple of months, mostly in the rain, and mostly as my arms and head get wetter and wetter.

I've had my OMM cypher smock for a couple of years now. I wouldn't say it is old, but the model no longer seems to be made, it being replaced with the new and snazzy Aether smock- 40g lighter, and with an internal pocket (instead of external). Which seems a little odd to me. An internal pocket won't make it any more waterproof- it'll just make things more difficult to access, and enable rain and wind to get into the smock when you try and get your compass/food/camera etc. But that isn't the point of this post.

The Yellow Jacket, as it is affectionately known has held out remarkably well from some pretty tough conditions, being scraped down rocks, slid down hillsides, and generally abused as a waterproof in whatever the British weather could throw at it.

It has a couple of holes in it, (entirely my own fault), from barbed wire and various rocks, but it isn't that which is why I think this jacket is beginning to be on its way out.
The arms were wetting out pretty significantly on a run a couple of weeks ago, and I noticed that the fabric on the hood really isn't looking like it should do.
Have a quick look at the below pictures

Above is a bit of the delamination occuring on the cuff of one of the sleeves- just by the thumb loop.

 Above is the outside of the hood- the jacket has just been washed, and you can see what looks like dark patches through the yellow material. Thats basically what it looks like when it wets out - some of the rest of the fabric is still much more of a vibrant yellow, even when wet.

 This shot is a close up of the hood- interesting how the material around the taped edge still has that really really bright yellow, and the fabric on the body of the hood is much darker- like it is letting moisture through. (It isn't dirt, I promise you).

 This is the inside of the hood- which if you contrast it to the photo below- the inside of the jacket itself, you can see that the hood section is becoming a lot more translucent.
 The differences can be seen much more readily in the below photo- inside of the hood- translucent, inside of the jacket - not so.

I'd love to give some statistics about how much I've worn this jacket, but have no real idea. I bought it in August 2012 (THIS blog shows it in a much better condition), and suffice to say it has been used through 2 winters in the Peak district, has been in a rucksack or bumbag on pretty much every single run that I have done since then. Which is quite a lot.
2 Years of Hard service. I wonder if I can squeeze any more out of it.
What would be interesting would be to hear from either eVent, or OMM to see if this is what they expect to see from the fabric towards the end of it's life, or if this is simply something that can be resurrected back into full waterproofness again...

I suppose I'll just have to start looking over the options for a new one for winter.
Hands up, the usual suspects- OMM, Haglofs, Montane, Inov8, Berghaus.

But first... ah, happy memories. 

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Cracken Edge Fell Race 2014

Kinder in the evening light
Well this is a little beastie. I originally ran it in 2011, way back when apparently I didn't write up EVERY single race that I ran. Probably because I had no real idea of what was going on. So from this 2 year
enforced hiatus (volunteering at the olympics and then being in Switzerland this time last year), I have made my way back to the race. Last time I was beaten by John Hewitt. This time he isn't here, but I intend to go faster than the time he put down those years ago.

Cracken Edge is put on by Kinder Mountain Rescue Team, it is also meant to be the annual Peak District Mountain Rescue team race- where the team with the top 3 places get the much acclaimed Buzz Lightyear trophy. I helped win it in 2011, and last year Woodhead apparently came over en masse and got the honours. We few runners at Glossop MRT decided that it was time to have it back in our base. 

What a race.
What a horror show.
It's basically 10.5km of horrendously runnable terrain, with a couple of ups and downs. It is oh so nearly a trail race, but not quite.
Owing to the glorious nature of the evening, the race organisers deigned to let us run with no additional kit, so bumbags cast off, we warmed up around the beginning hill- chatting with other racers and trying to find something to blame for our impeding terrible performance.
The inevitable short speech from the organisers and with the toot of a horn we surged.

The opening slope of the race nigh-on defies description. Yes, ok, it is steep. It is concrete, and it is slippery. It also goes on for a flipping long time, and when you're at the front of a race, you really want to get it over and done with as soon as possible - but without completely destroying yourself for the rest of the 10km of the race. So we hoon up this steep, narrow, slippery concrete hill that twists right, and continues up for far
Coming out on a flat bit from the climb
longer than seems possible, jockeying for places, and somehow, I pop out at the top of the first part in somewhere around 6th place. Good? Not Good? Considering how far we still have to go, I'm fairly sure I won't hold onto this.
Ahead of me, the leaders are messing around with gates, and generally amusing themselves with a bit of route finding across a field - which gate exactly do we go through to get onto the right path? kind of thing, and we bustle through in series, and at this point, still on the first uphill section, I am still within touching distance of the leaders.

Up past the TV mast, and Stevie K is level with me, drawing past, and then down across the slightly marshy ground to the one major stile in the race and we both pass another runner, and get passed in turn by someone else. By the time we head over the stile, the start of the race is beginning to tell on me, and I feel myself lagging a bit, and by the time we hit the bridleway, Steve is pulling away, and 2 other Penniners are hot on my heels- Chris Leigh and Wardy. My lungs are beginning to burn, legs not entirely doing what they're meant to be doing... This is beginning to get tough.
 Up to the quarterway point, where the route joins itself to form the figure 8 (even if we don't exactly follow the way you draw it), and Chris works his way past me, muttering encouragement as he goes. My mind wants to go with him, my body resists and starts complaining, so I continue, with Wardy breathing down my neck.
Train of runners toward the tv mast
A sharp right and the first major downhill of the day. Stevie is a way ahead now, and Chris is picking up speed, its all I can do to keep it together now, as I head down the path toward the road, and the steep downhill to the halfway point, stretching out to try and get some distance between me and the shadow behind. I can hear other feet slapping against the tarmac as we zoom down the road - more people coming to get me, not a good thing with this amusing ascent coming up.

I get through the stile at the bottom of the road first, with some time to spare before the next person, but soon enough, as I'm suffering up the hill, there are 2 others behind me, who have the temerity to be chatting to one another as they climb. I mean... really! I couldn't speak if I wanted to right now, and as we go up Cracken Edge itself, along, up, along, up, along, up, along, up, and so on toward the quarries, I am passed by a succession of people.
A thought crosses my addled mind. I really need to get better at these second climbs... I did alright on the first one. Mid-race climbs. Need to get better.

As we come out before BigStone Wardy comes past and blasts his way to the top, breathing like a fighter jet, overtaking the 2 guys in front of me. I top out on wobbly legs, barely able to walk, let alone run, and they're already disappearing into the distance.
Keep it together. Keep running.
in toward the finish
Down through the grass, and the path to the crossing point, and I go through there, my 3/4 point before the slowest runners have got to it as their 1/4. Now along the Trog finale, I can hear breathing behind me, and there is still a good 2.5km to go. Down the hill, I try to keep distance away from the breathing, but as we come toward the bottom, the technical part, I feel a slight pull, the familiar twinge of a stitch, and so my pace slows, just a little, but enough, and at the bottom of the woods, I get rushed by 2 more runners.

The final km is through a sloping field or 2, through long grass, and I can see 4 people in front of me, tantalizingly close, within 30 seconds of me. But that is 30 seconds if they stop and I go as hard as I can. No way to catch them, I can hear another person, not far behind, and I'm not losing ANOTHER place.
Last field, turn right and hammer down a lush green meadow, ignoring the fact that I might not necessarily be able to stop at the bottom, I just go for it, apparently recording a quite astonishing 25kmph in the last 20 metres.

All I need to do it keep that up ALL the way around. That might work.
My watch reads 47:30- which would have beaten John Hewitt in 2011. It would have beaten Stevie K AND Wardy as well, but not this year. 5 Pennine vests in front of me, and I was 14th overall.
It looks like I might need to have a look at what I was doing back in April and May when I was beating
them, as whatever it was, I'm not doing it now.

Train. Race. Assess. Evolve.
Chewing the fat at the end of the race.

As for the Mountain rescue cup. I don't know what happened to that as it wasn't presented, or even
mentioned at prizegiving. As far as I can tell, with Me, Alasdair and Jules pretty much in the top 30, I can't imagine that we didn't win it. However, no mention was made, so who knows?