Berghaus Voltage Jacket

Berghaus Voltage Jacket Review

Depending on what type of running I’m doing I use different waterproof jackets.  For fell races I go for as small and lightweight as possible and use the Montane Minimus smock. However for day to day use on navigation and guided running sessions or for more serious outings in the winter months I’m prepared to compromise: a little more weight and bulk from something that is a bit more robust.

There are plenty of jackets that fit into that category and one that I would recommend is the Berghaus Voltage

Berghaus Voltage waterproof

Made from Goretex Active fabric the jacket has a full length waterproof zip, two generous sized pockets, volume adjustable roll away hood, elasticated hem and elasticated cuffs with an additional velcro adjuster.  At 365g (Medium jacket) and a small pack size it shouldn’t pose too many problems packing into your running sack.

The 3 layer Goretex feels comfortable on the move yet sturdy enough that it won’t de-laminate when worn under a rucksack (a problem with some super-light jackets).  It also feels a bit more reassuring than more lightweight jackets: you feel like it will keep you dry!

If I could change one thing on the Voltage waterproof I would add an external chest pocket for map & compass etc that is easy to get at when wearing a rucksack or bum bag (the two side pockets are good but you need to be careful not to cover them up with your rucksack if you want access to them).  Other than that it looks a great jacket if you want something a little more durable and protective than a super-light race jacket.   See more of the jacket in my video review:

Alpkit Headtorch Review

What’s the best headtorch for trail running?

Well if you want to light up the whole hillside with hundreds of lumens you could shell out the best part of £150 on a Petzl Nao or the 550 lumen Silva Runner.  Even with these “serious” torches you’re not guaranteed that the batteries will last the overnight section of a 24 hour event, especially in winter.

But what if mega brightness isn’t the be all and end all and you want an affordable headtorch that will do for a few hours night running on easy trails?

Last year I used an Alpkit Gamma (88 lumens) and loaned it to clients for guided night runs on non technical trails.  I also used it as my back up torch when doing more serious overnight running (I even wore it as a waist torch to supplement my headtorch whilst doing the Paddy Buckley Round) and found it perfect for my winter coaching sessions.

Lightweight at 118g including batteries

Lightweight Gamma at 118g including batteries

The Gamma has an overhead strap and rear compartment taking 3 AAA batteries and weighs in at only 118g (including batteries).  As well as the main Cree light it has single white, red and green LEDs which are useful when map reading or when lower brightness is all that is needed (such as when coaching as I can use the single LED without blinding the runners!)

Alpkit Gamma rear LED

rear red LED on the Gamma

Now Alpkit have launched a new torch, the Viper.  Again powered by 3 AAAs but housed in the main unit rather than in a separate compartment the Viper does away with the overhead strap and weighs in at a slightly lighter 97g (including batteries)  It is also slightly brighter with a 100 lumen main beam and two lower powered LEDs giving a wide beam option.

Alpkit Viper head torch

Slightly lighter Viper

Both torches have a tilt mechanism on the main body which move with a sturdy “click” (unlike some more expensive torches) whilst one press of the single button allows you to cycle through different brightness levels and flashing modes. (the Gamma has a second button at the rear for the rear red light with a choice of steady or flashing).

On the run the Gamma was slightly more balanced due to the batteries being at the rear rather than in the head unit.  It was interesting that the Gamma gave a cooler, blueish light compared to the warmer orange of the Viper.  The extra lumens of the Viper gave a slightly greater range of beam.

Alpkit Gamma vs Viper

Gamma left vs Viper right

Battery life for both torches on full power is around 4 hours (constant use) before gradually dimming – not enough for a full night on the hill but fine for a couple of hours. (I prefer to use rechargeable batteries so that I can go out fully charged every run).

Whilst neither torch is bright enough for fast, technical night running they are perfectly adequate for straightforward trails and footpaths and make a great, affordable back up torch.  At only £15 and £12.50 respectively (including 3x AAA Duracell batteries!) the Gamma and the Viper offer fantastic value for money.

So if you’re thinking of spending a lot of money on a headtorch you might want to ask yourself if you need reactive lighting, 250+ lumens, USB rechargeable batteries etc. etc. Unless you’re running very technical trails this winter….

… you could buy an Alpkit headtorch and spend the rest of the money on a decent waterproof jacket!

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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!

 

Bounce Energy Balls

Add some Bounce to your bum-bag!

More food for thought in regards to fuelling your running.  I have recently discovered Bounce Energy Balls, another healthy way to get the carbohydrate and protein for energy and repair that fell running demands.  A good source of unsaturated fat they also contain a range of vitamins and minerals.

Bounce Energy Balls

Bounce Balls come in a range of colours!

The balls come in an interesting range of protein packed flavours each in an individual wrapper.  At 42g each they provide two or three decent sized mouthfuls of tasty snack, ideal for halfway round your long run or for instant refuelling as soon as you finish.

Bounce Balls

post run recovery

I use Spirulina powder in my diet which I mix with other foods to mask its rather unpalatable smell and powdery taste, so I was particularly interested in the Spirulina & Ginseng balls hoping that they would be more tasty than they sounded!  I wasn’t disappointed as although they look unusual they taste good.

Spirulina & Ginseng Bounce

Spirulina & Ginseng – looks odd, tastes good!

Bounce Balls are also gluten free, good news for runners with wheat intolerance.  Typical nutrition information for a single 42g ball (Cashew and Pecan) is:

Energy – 180 kcal
Protein – 4g
Carbohydrate – 22g (9g sugars)
Fat – 9g (1g saturated)
Sodium – 0.095g

So if you’re looking for some wholesome, tasty snacks to fuel your running – put some Bounce Balls in your bum-bag!

put some Bounce in your bum bag!

put some Bounce in your bum bag!

Mule Fuel

Mule Bar Review

Always on the look out for products to fuel my running and recovery I recently came across Mule Bar products.  Based in the UK (which I like) they produce a range of items including energy bars, protein bars and energy gels.  Using natural, healthy ingredients the Mule Bar range is intended to provide the intended nutrition whilst tasting good.

Mule Bar range

Mule Fuel

The energy bars come in a range of seven interesting flavours such as Pinacolada, Summer Pudding and Liquorice Allsports! and include some organic and Fairtrade versions.  I found these bars tasty and looked forward to my long runs so that I had a proper excuse to try them out.  Mule Bar also do their bit for the environment by using compostable wrappers and donating 1% to the planet

For recovery they produce a high protein bar in chocolate and date or chocolate and banana flavours, both of which are pleasant tasting and are great straight after a long run or hard training session.

Mule Bar gels again come in an interesting range of flavours, two of which are standard non caffeinated plus one containing 50mg of caffeine.  Then there is the daddy: the Cafe Cortado gel with a kicking 100mg of caffeine.  This caught me out somewhat as the strong coffee flavour, thick gel and high caffeine wasn’t really what I wanted a couple of hours into a mountain run on a hot day.  However I think that it would be ideal in other situations such as during the overnight low points on 24 hour rounds such as the Bob Graham or during the wee small hours on the High Peak Marathon.  As with many gels these are best taken with a small amount of liquid to wash them down and aid digestion.

Mule Bar energy gel

interesting flavours!

So if you’re after a tasty, ethical energy product in a range of interesting natural flavours and which is made by a Britain company then give Mule Bar a try.

Nourish Me Now

Recovery is an important aspect of training for anyone taking fell running seriously.

Races, hard training sessions and long runs all require proper nutrition to aid recovery. Whilst going for a pint is a sociable way of rounding off your race there is a better strategy! It is thought that consuming a 3:1 carbohydrate to protein mix within the first half hour after exercise is the optimum way of refuelling.

There are plenty of sports drinks on the market that will allow you to do this, I have recently discovered one that is a little bit different.

Nourish Me Now drink

interesting flavours

nourish me now ingredients

high protein and carbohydrate content

Nourish Me Now is a drink made with natural ingredients and interesting flavours (the blackcurrant, white tea and vanilla is particularly nice!) Unlike some other drinks it isn’t thick and doesn’t taste too sweet and so is quite refreshing and thirst quenching.

Another thing I like about Nourish Me Now is that it is made in Sheffield by a small business with a background in sport and who really believe in their product.

So after your next hard run why not try a proper recovery drink… before you go to the pub!

Safesport id Wristband

Don’t fall down a rabbit hole!

These words have become a bit of a joke and I hear them every time I leave the house to go fell running.  But joking aside fell running can be hazardous.  If I’m heading somewhere remote I take emergency kit with me which will hopefully allow me to get myself out of trouble.  But if something more serious happened and I was found unconscious or incoherent it would be good if the rescuer knew who I was, if I had any medical problems and who to contact other than the emergency services.

So I wear a Safesport id: a small rubber wristband that is engraved with my chosen emergency details.  They come in a choice of colours and you get 4 bands of different diameters to suit a wide range of wrist sizes – even my puny wrists!

Safesport id

Safesport id wristband

They cost about £15 and make a useful gift.

So next time you venture out alone running, walking or on yer bike will you have some emergency id on you?  There’s a lot of rabbit holes out there!

Running Free Review

Running Free, a new book from the author of Feet in the Clouds.

Running Free

Richard Askwith tells of his journey through different ages of running, from his early years as a time and outcome obsessed runner pounding the tarmac to what he is today, a rural runner motivated by the pursuit of happiness.  Turning his back on the modern world of corporate branded, packaged and regimented running he expresses what running now means to him.

At times poetic and humorous he describes his running adventures both abroad and in the countryside around his Northamptonshire home with his dog Nutmeg.  Where once running was about personal bests he now takes pleasure in nature: the sight of a Buzzard or the dew soaked grass on a dawn run.

He eloquently captures the essence of that most basic of human instincts which we all felt as children: running for pleasure, running free.

 If you enjoyed Feet in the Clouds then reading Running Free is a must.

 

Inov-8 Muclaw 300. One thousand km and still going!

This weekend I clocked up my one thousandth kilometre in my Inov-8 Mudclaw 300’s.

For a shoe that has to put up with the harshest of treatment; the acidic peat of the Peak District and the abrasive gritstone and rough heather moorland that’s some going!  Not to mention being left outside the back door on winter nights.

I use SportTracks software that automatically clocks the mileage (kilometre-age) so I know it’s an accurate count.

SportTracks software

SportTracks software keeps count

I’ve had them since October 2010 (again thanks to keeping a training diary with SportTracks) and remarkably the shoes have still got a good amount of tread left on them, particularly the heel studs which can be prone to coming off. Admittedly they’re not quite as yellow as they once were – but who wants bright yellow shoes! The only real sign of wear is in the heel cup.

Inov-8 Mudclaw 300

1000km and still going strong!

I do have a new pair put aside for racing but I reckon I’ll get a good few months more out of these as my winter training shoe and for running guide work.

Do I have a secret for getting such a good life span from my shoes?  Well warm soapy water works – and I suppose only being 8 stone helps too!