Lake District Trail Running – book review

Lake District Trail Running is a handily sized book detailing 20 off road runs in the Lake District National Park

The selected routes range from 5km to 17km in length and vary in difficulty in terms of type of terrain and amount of ascent. Each run includes a brief description of the route including distance, ascent, navigational difficulty and estimated time to complete whilst an altitude profile shows you where you will encounter the ups and downs. A more detailed description breaks each route down into legs with easy to follow directions which are clearly marked on the Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 map extracts.

Lake District Trail Running

Lake District Trail Running

The softback book is well set out with the shortest runs at the front, the longest at the back making it easy to flick through and find the one you fancy. It is useful for runners of all experience and ability and is ideal for anyone planning a trip to the Lakes who doesn’t want to plan their own route. Packed with colour photos it is interesting to read and makes a great addition to any trail or fell runner’s library. It is even small enough to stuff into your bumbag!

Lake District Trail Running by Helen Mort is published by Vertebrate Publishing and retails for £12.95

Also check out the sister publication Peak District Trail Running: 22 off-Road Routes for Trail & Fell Runners.

Peak District Trail Running

Peak District Trail Running

fell running guide

Montane VIA Fang 5 Review

Montane VIA Trail Series Fang 5 Backpack Review

Montane VIA Fang 5

Montane VIA Fang 5

I have used a Montane Jaws 10 running pack for a while now on long training runs, certain long races and for my day to day running work and so I was interested to see what changes had been made for the 2016 updated VIA Trail Series. Here I test the smaller Fang 5 pack.

Features:

The VIA Fang 5 pack comes in two sizes: S/M and M/L. I have the S/M which weighs 270g when empty. The most notable feature of the new Trail Series version is that it no longer uses rigid water bottles affixed to the shoulder straps, but opts for twin 500ml soft-flasks (supplied) instead – so no more sloshing! These are housed in pockets on the front straps of the pack, one of which is zipped, the other an open top stretch mesh. Above these are two smaller pockets, again one with a zip the other open topped stretch material. With the soft-flasks stashed in the lower pockets the upper ones are ideal for storing gels, compass, phone, car keys etc. The zipped pocket contains a small emergency whistle which can be removed if required.

Montane Fang 5 front view

pockets galore!

In addition to the four front pockets there are also two stretch pockets, one on either side of the pack above the hip. These are easily accessible whilst wearing the pack and are ideal for storing hat, gloves, food or a folded map section.

Montane Fang side pocket

accessible side pocket takes hat, gloves etc

Although the Fang 5 comes supplied with two soft-flasks there is also the option of using a bladder (not supplied). A large rear pocket with hanging loop will house a 1.5 litre bladder whilst loops on the right hand side of the pack retain and route the hose. If you choose not to use a bladder, this pocket can be used for additional storage but you’d need to pack it carefully as the mesh material offers little in the way of padding.

Montane Fang bladder pocket

large rear pocket takes a bladder (optional)

Low down on the back of the pack is a zipped, water resistant pocket that is large enough to carry a set of lightweight waterproofs. This ensures that the bulkiest items are carried low down and adds to the pack’s stability. An elasticated bungee cord allows the pack to be cinched down if required although I have never needed to use this. Two smaller bungee loops form an attachment point for carrying poles; not something I would use in fell running although the higher loop makes a handy attachment for a compass lanyard.

Montane Fang water resistant zipped pocket

water resistant zipped pocket and bungee cord

The pack is fastened using a wide, elasticated hook and loop belt at the waist and an elasticated chest strap that can be adjusted by clipping to any of four attachment points on the front straps.

Montane Fang chest strap

adjustable, elasticated chest strap and compass in top pocket

The elasticated waist belt allows the pack to be fastened snugly and because the belt stretches, along with slight elastication in the main chassis, the pack expands with your ribcage rather than feeling constrictive.

Montane Fang waist belt

elasticated hook and loop waist belt

On the top of each shoulder strap a small elasticated tab allows a rolled up map to be carried and forms a retaining point for the optional hose system.

Montane Fang map loop

map can be carried in shoulder loop

What I Like:

The Fang 5 is a very comfortable pack. I like the way the elasticated waist belt can be fastened tightly so that the pack fits snugly and doesn’t bounce around when running quickly or whilst descending. Despite the snug fit the Fang doesn’t feel constrictive, if you bend forwards to adopt a hands on knees approach to attack steep climbs the elastication in the pack adapts to your change of position rather than restricting your movement and breathing.

The amount of pockets and hydration options make it a really versatile pack. There is plenty of accessible storage from the hip and front pockets and using both soft-flasks gives you up to a litre of drink. Take just one soft-flask and you have another spare pocket or add a 1.5 litre bladder and you have enough fluid for a long run or race where replenishing water supplies is an issue.

What could be improved:

Very little. If I was being picky I would say that the hook and loop material sometimes snags on things such as other pieces of clothing and so I find it best to store the pack with the waist band fastened. The chest strap only fastens on the right hand side meaning you need to undo it with your left hand, whereas my older Jaws pack fastens on the left so it takes a little getting used to.

When would I use it:

The new Fang is ideal for long training runs or longer races when I want to carry more kit than I can comfortably fit in a bum bag. It would be a good choice for long days out or 24 hour attempts such as the Bob Graham Round. I used it on the Marsden to Edale “Trigger” race when the bad weather conditions meant that I wanted to carry more kit than on a normal race. The race required frequent use of map and compass which were easily accessible in the front pockets, much more so than with a bum bag.

Montane Fang in use

Using the Fang on the Trigger fell race

Verdict:

A comfortable, versatile pack with lots of storage options. I’ll use it a lot.

fell running guide

 

The Montane Spine Race Film

The Montane Spine Race is arguably Britain’s most brutal race.

Runners have 7 days to cover the entire 268 miles of the Pennine Way.. in the depths of winter.  This film by Summit Fever Media follows the 2015 event and gives an insight into how tough the race really is.

The Spine - Britain's most brutal race?

The Spine – Britain’s most brutal race?

The film follows a number of competitors on their adventure and captures their raw emotions; from despair at having to drop out due to injury, the sense of serenity at being alone in the bleak, wild landscape and the relief and elation on completing their epic journey through remote terrain in harsh, winter conditions.

Interviews with competitors, race organisers, medical and safety crew along with footage from the film crew and competitors (carrying Go Pro cameras) give a behind the scenes look at the logistics and planning as well as showing the extreme conditions that the runners encounter.  For some there is camaraderie as they assist and accompany each other.  For others there is isolation; alone, battling against the elements, their own emotions and sleep deprivation.

It might inspire you to do the race or it make you say “never”.  Either way it gives a fascinating look at the men and women who plan, organise and compete in arguably Britain’s most brutal race.

The Montane Spine Race Film is available as a DVD or a download from Summit Fever

logo best coaching

 

1000 Mile Socks

Socks are just socks aren’t they?  They keep your feet warm and stop your shoes from rubbing.

Well maybe that’s so for some socks but others are a little bit more technical.  Take the1000 mile Ultra Performance sock.  Not only do they have extra padding at the toe and heel where most impact occurs, and airflow channels on the top to help let your feet breathe, they are also made with Cupron copper fibre technology.

1000 mile socks

So, what’s that?  Basically, copper oxide is integrated into the fibres of the sock in order to combat bacteria and fungus and so keep your feet healthy and odour free!

1000 mile running socks

 

Is it a gimmick?  Well fell running comes with the inherent risk of damp or wet feet.  I spend a lot of time with feet that are moist at best, soaking and muddy at worst and no doubt in an ideal climate for bacteria to thrive!  Anything that can help keep my feet healthy is worth considering and at a tenner a pair they aren’t going to break the bank.

The 1000 milers are comfortable and easy to put on (unlike some other brands!)  They also have a clever little touch; the toe seam is a different colour for different sizes – great if you have similar pairs for different members of the family.  I’m not sure if I’ll actually get one thousand miles out of them and I doubt they’ll make me run any faster but at least I won’t have smelly feet!

 

Fell Running Guide

Snowline Snowspikes Review

I love fell and trail running in winter.

Cloudless, blue sky days with lying snow make running a joy.  But what about when the snow gets compacted and icy or melts and then refreezes over night; aren’t these conditions dangerous for running?  If just wearing your normal fell shoes then you will definitely need to slow down and alter your running style to avoid slipping.  There is also a higher chance of picking up an injury due to slipping, even if it isn’t due to a full on fall.

So in conditions like this I use a type of running crampon or micro-spike.  Snowline Snowspikes are Stainless Steel spikes which are attached by chains to an elastomer cradle which simply fits over your normal running shoe.

Snowline Snowspikes

Snowline Snowspikes

Snowline Snowspikes

12 Stainless Steel spikes give a reassuring grip

Snowline Snowspikes Light (there is a heavier version) weigh only 235 grams a pair (UK shoe size 4 – 7) and come with their own small travel pouch which means there’s no risk of the spikes piercing your bum bag whilst carrying them.

Snowspikes Light - 235g a pair

Snowspikes Light – 235g a pair

Snowline Snowspikes

handy travel pouch means no punctures to your bumbag!

They can be put on in seconds simply by stepping into them and pulling the stretchy elastomer over your shoe.  8 one centimetre spikes on the forefoot and 4 on the rear give a reassuring grip on icy ground and if you find that conditions underfoot improve they can be taken off in seconds.  They’re not just for trail and fell running either, they’re fantastic when the streets and pavements are covered in frozen snow.

This video shows how easy they are to put on:

We’ve been blessed by some fantastic winter running conditions in the Peak District over the last few days.  If we get any more icy weather this winter, don’t stop running because of the conditions underfoot, get a pair of Snowspikes and enjoy the snow!

winter running in the Peak District

winter running in the Peak District

It’s A Hill, Get Over It

Fell running is an increasingly popular sport, but have you ever wondered how it all began?

Steve Chilton’s excellent book, It’s A Hill, Get Over It gives a detailed history of the sport; from the early shepherds’ meetings in the 1800’s through to the rise of the Brownlee brothers and the possibility of Kilian Journet tackling the Bob Graham Round!  It describes the expansion of the fell race calendar including how some of today’s classic races came into being and also details the development of the Fell Runners Association.It's a hill, get over it

With chapters devoted to Ladies fell running, Joss Naylor, and the Bob Graham Round along with interviews with some of the greats of the sport past and present, It’s A Hill, Get Over It is a must read book for anyone interested in the sport of fell running.

It’s A Hill, Get Over It is available from Amazon and all good bookshops including Outside, Hathersage.

SplashMaps

SplashMaps Review

SplashMap neck

a map that keeps your neck warm!

Every so often I come across a product that I find really useful, different or interesting. SplashMaps are exactly that.  These lightweight fabric maps are washable, wearable and durable as well as being aesthetically pleasing.  Unlike paper maps they won’t turn to mush if they get wet and whereas laminated maps take up a lot of space these can simply be folded up and carried in a pocket or in your bumbag.

SplashMaps

SplashMaps – what a great idea!

They have a whole host of uses: you can wear them, wipe your nose on them (sacrilege!), clean your bike with them, use them as a table mat – or even use them as a map!  Based on Ordnance Survey and Open Street Map data they are accurate and come in a range of scales including 1:25,000 and 1:40,000 making them ideal for navigating.  You can even mark up your route and then wash it away when you’re done.

SplashMap

studying my SplashMap in the Peak District

The range currently includes the National Parks of Scotland, England and Wales, some areas in the south of England and some specialist events maps including one for the Bob Graham Round!  It is also possible to have one made to order with your chosen area and the title you want.

Bob Graham SplashMap

Bob Graham SplashMap

Novel and quirky they make a great present for trail runners, fell runners, mountain bikers, walkers or anyone who uses or is interested in maps.  So if you see me running around the fells with a map on my head, I’ve not gone mad – it’s a SplashMap!

Splashmap

is it a hat? no it’s a map!

Mule Bar Energy Products

Fell running over longer distances burns a lot of calories.

On long training runs where I’m happy to slow down or stop for a moment I prefer to eat something solid rather than take a gel.  There are plenty of energy bars on the market, some of which are quite pleasant but for the most part they cater for people with a sweet tooth.  So I was interested to see that Mule Bar had brought out an energy bar with a difference – containing Garam Masala and Cayenne Pepper!

Mule Bar Eastern Express

Eastern Express, spicy not sweet

Made in Great Britain, the Eastern Express energy bar contains a mix of natural ingredients including cashews, almonds, pistachios and various seeds, spiced up to give it a unique oriental flavour.  The 56g bar provides 265 calories all packed into a compostable wrapper – not that you should drop it on the hillside mind!

Eastern Express Mule Bar

not your average energy bar ingredients

Even though I knew the ingredients, psychologically my senses were expecting something sweet and it was odd to get a Bombay Mix type scent just before biting into it!  I’d say the taste is subtle rather than strong so it’s not going to blow your socks off if you don’t like hot spices.  It’s definitely worth a try as a change from overly sweet energy bars.

For me, consuming energy gels is a necessity rather than a pleasure.  I use them on long races where chewing and breathing whilst trying to continue running at a decent pace is likely to lead to inhaling more than just air!  I have also used them on endurance events such as the High Peak Marathon and the Paddy Buckley Round but to be honest the sickly sweet taste isn’t to my liking.  So I was keen to try a gel that might not leave me with that sticky, sweet after-taste.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that I actually liked the taste of Mule Bar’s Salted Caramel gel.  Made with natural, organic ingredients the sweetness is counteracted by the saltiness (must be those Pink Himalayan salt crystals!)

Mule Bar salted caramel gel

108 calories per 37g sachet

The gels are designed to be taken with water although they are not as thick as some other gels and to be honest I just consumed one on its own half way into a two and a half hour run with no ill effects.  The gel contains electrolyte too as well as carbohydrate so will be a bonus in hot weather or for runners who tend to sweat.

fell running with energy gel

putting it to the test on a long run

So if you’ve had enough of sickly sweet energy products on your long fell runs or races and fancy something a little different you might want to try Mule Bars’ interesting new lines.

Wild Running Review

Wild Running: “The ultimate guide to running the hills, dales and vales of Britain”

Wild Running book

Wild Running

Wild Running is the first running guidebook of its kind detailing some 150 routes ranging from Land’s End to as far north as Shetland.

Written by Jen and Sim Benson, two runners with a passion for the outdoors and a wealth of experience including ultra marathons and wilderness expeditions, the book is packed with beautiful photos, descriptions about each region and advice for those less familiar with running in wild places.

Each route listed gives information on length, ascent, terrain, difficulty and how easy it is to navigate.  A link to the Wild Running website www.wildrunning.net gives access to O.S. maps, route profiles and allows you to download detailed route directions and a GPX file of each run.

Informative and inspiring, the book is ideal for planning a day trip, a running holiday or simply flicking through as a coffee table book. Wild Running should be on every trail and fell runner’s bookshelf.

Firefly Electrostimulation

Fell running, particularly steeply uphill puts a great deal of stress on the lower leg muscles.

I frequently suffer from sore or tight calves, especially after racing and often need a couple of days recovery before I can run again comfortably.  Anything legal that can help speed recovery is worth investigating and so I was very interested to hear of the Firefly device. It’s a small battery powered device that you strap to your leg which delivers a light electric shock.

Firefly device

Firefly device

How does it work?

By neuromuscular electrostimulation!  Basically a small battery delivers an electric shock to a nerve which causes your lower leg muscles to contract, thus increasing blood flow.  This helps clear metabolic waste and reduces the dreaded DOMS – the delayed onset muscle soreness that we get the day after a hard run.

There is scientific evidence that the device actually works and several case studies attest to this.

The device is intended to be used immediately after exercise and has a peel off strip which allows you to stick it to your leg just below the knee.  You can also get a velcro strap that further holds the device in place.  Once fitted you can go about your normal routine including walking and driving.

Firefly attached to lower leg

Firefly attached to lower leg

What does it feel like?

Weird!  It’s a little bit like the shock you’d get from a gentle electric fence.  The device has 7 levels which allows you to alter the intensity of the stimulation which is delivered about once every second.  I played around with the settings and found that the effect ranged from a mild localised twitch to quite a pronounced twitch in the lower leg and foot.

The effect isn’t at all painful and not even unpleasant.  At first I was fascinated by the involuntary twitch and found that if I adopted different positions: legs bent, legs extended etc. I could vary the amount of twitch it produced.  After the first 20 minutes or so you forget the device is there and I even slept with it on overnight without it affecting my sleep.

Is it expensive?

The device costs £29 for a pack of two (the velcro straps cost more but it can be used without them).  It is designed as a disposable product although with a battery life of around 24 hours I actually used one 3 times.  So although it isn’t cheap if you plan on using it weekly it might be something that you occasionally use.  It works out cheaper than a sports massage and might be something that you use instead of.

Firefly neuromuscular stimulation

device with velcro strap

So the big question: Did it work?

I used the device on a number of occasions and only on one leg so that I could compare the results between a leg that had received the neuromuscular electrostimulation and one that hadn’t.  The first time was after an undulating 40 minute run.  I wore the device for around 5 hours immediately afterwards whilst I was mainly sitting on the settee.  The next day I couldn’t feel any noticeable difference whilst walking but if I pressed my calves one did seem to be a bit less tender than the other, however this wasn’t enough evidence to convince me!

The second trial was after a mammoth eight and a half hours in the Welsh mountains.  Again I wore the Firefly on only my left leg and this time kept it on overnight giving a good eight hours of stimulation.  The next day I was surprised that I didn’t have muscle soreness in either calf so again it was difficult to say if the device had worked.  However what I did notice was that when I ran again a couple of days later the stimulated leg’s calf muscles were less tight than those on the non stimulated leg.  Self massaging my calves afterwards it did feel like one was less tight than the other.  I was keen to get a second opinion and so I had someone else have a feel to compare the calf muscles on each leg and they confirmed that one was noticeably tighter.

My verdict

The Firefly is a very convenient way of recovering.  It takes seconds to put on and you can then carry on as normal for example driving home from a run or race.  I am still experimenting with the device, intending to use it after races to confirm if it really does reduce tightness in my calf muscles.  If it does I will be happy to purchase it again as I have had problems with calf and achilles injuries in the past which have been very hard to shift.

I have tried out several remedies such as compression socks and foam roller and there’s one thing I can confirm without doubt:  It might be electric shock treatment but it’s a lot less painful than a sports massage!