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!

Salomon XA Pro 3D Review

The Salomon XA Pro 3D is a trail running shoe rather than a fell shoe that I would normally wear.

However I do run on trails and wearing a more aggressive sole is sometimes overkill so with Salomon’s good reputation for their range of running shoes I was keen to put these to the test.

Salomon XA Pro 3D

green and clean

First impressions on opening the box were good, a nice bright green colour to contrast with the leaden winter skies!  The fit seemed fine, with my usual size 6.5 comparing similarly to other shoes and the asymmetrical laces ensured a snug fit.  One thing I did notice was that they felt very stable, almost as if they had a wider, flatter base than I was used to.  The Quicklace system is easy to tension but then a bit fiddly to tuck the end away.

I first wore them for a regular 8 mile training run over a mix of terrain including hard packed trail with some muddy sections and puddles, uneven stony trail and a wet, grassy uphill stretch.  The XA Pros felt comfortable straight away and gave a reassuring grip on all but the muddiest sections where a pair of Speedcross or Fellcross would have been more at home.  The protective rubber toe cap would be a good feature on looser, rockier trails where there is a risk of stubbing your toe.  The extremely breathable upper did let the water in but that’s an accepted hazard of British winter running – it will be ideal if we have another long hot summer!

One feature that I did really like is the flush tongue which means that mud and grit stays on the front of the shoe rather than getting in down behind the laces.  This makes cleaning the shoe easier than with a normal tongue.

Salomon XA Pro 3D

at home on hard packed trail

Satisfied with their performance on trail terrain I decided to try them out over more fell running type ground.  They performed reasonably well although I found it hard to contour on steep ground due to the stiff foot-bed and wide base whilst running downhill on wet grass was interesting!  This is a bit of an unfair criticism as they aren’t designed for this type of terrain.

They did however cope well with a dusting of wet snow that fell during my run.

Salomon XA Pro 3D

coping with a dusting of wet snow

I wasn’t keen on the Quicklace system, the laces were covered with gritty mud at the end and I had difficulty releasing the lace.  I prefer good old fashioned laces but I’m sure it’s something I would get used to and maybe isn’t as much of a problem in dry weather.

Salomon XA Pro 3D

a not so clean pair of heels

Overall I would say the Salomon XA Pro 3D is a good trail shoe for runners seeking style, breathability, stability and protection.  It is perfectly suited to some of the Peak District’s trails and I would use it as a training shoe for less technical, drier terrain. I would even consider wearing it for dry, summer fell races where an aggressive sole isn’t required.

Cotswold Outdoor stock the shoe along with other trail running essentials.

Baby Food for Distance Runners?

Do you use energy gels for your long distances runs and races?

I do but I tend to find them a little too sweet and sickly.  I use Science in Sport gels and like the fact that they can be taken without a drink making them easy to swallow; particularly important when racing as I don’t like chewing things when I’m breathing hard.  However, sometimes I would prefer something that gave me the energy but with a less sugary taste. Also some people find that gels have a tendency to upset their stomach – ever seen people disappearing into the bushes or diving behind a wall on a long race? Not ideal is it!

So, is there an alternative to energy gels?

One thing that I have found to work quite well is baby food!  Yes those little pouches of mushed up food that I always thought must taste disgusting.  Well a little bit of trial and error with the flavours has led me to one that is actually quite pleasant!

baby food for runners

baby food for runners!

I have tried several brands and prefer Ella’s Kitchen; I particularly like the mango, yoghurt and rice baby brekkie. The mix of fruit and yoghurt gives a tangy rather than sweet taste and the rice means that is slightly thicker than a SiS gel (which is designed to be taken without water) although they are still easy to swallow. It has no added sugar and the 100g pouch contains 112 kcal compared to 87 kcal in a 60ml gel.  They cost around £1, the same as a gel and the twist top means that you can reseal the pouch if you don’t want to swallow it all in one go.  This also prevents the remnants leaking out into your bag when you’ve finished it.

baby food for runners

baby food: 112 calories and 20g of carbohydrate

SiS gel

Gel: 87 calories and 22g of carbohydrate

I use baby food as fuel on long training runs and also on very long races such as the High Peak Marathon whilst on both the Paddy Buckley and Ramsay rounds I carried baby food pouches as an essential part of my nutrition strategy. There are other flavours and other brands, I suggest you check which has the most calories per 100g.

High Peak Marathon equipment

essentials for the High Peak Marathon include baby food pouches

I put the baby food to the test on a long run, you can see what I found in the video.  Before you go though, a quick word of warning – give the fish pie and mashed potato pouches a miss – YUK!!

 

Click the logo to see what else I do:

fell running guide

Blizzard Bags

Winter fell and trail running in remote areas can be hazardous.

Have you ever had to stop running whilst wearing only a thin base layer and waterproof top? If so you will have realised that it doesn’t take long to get cold.  Although you might not feel too cold whilst running, even in wet and windy weather, as soon as you stop exercising and thus producing heat you begin to cool down rapidly.

Descending White Side

remote running in bad weather

An enforced stop, a sprained ankle for example, can easily lead to the onset of hypothermia in such conditions.

One great piece of kit that I carry on remote runs is a Blizzard Survival Bag.  This is made of a highly thermally efficient material with a warmth to weight ratio exceeding even goose down.  What’s more it is durable and efficient even when wet.

Blizzard Bag

Blizzard Bag

The Active Range version weighs only 280 grams and is small enough to fit into a bumbag.  It comes vacuum packed for ease of transport and once opened unfolds into a full length sleeping bag.

Blizzard Survival Bag for running

lightweight and easy to carry

Blizzard Bag for runners

easily opens to sleeping bag size

It works by trapping a layer of air between two layers of thermally reflective material.  Once inside, the draw cord can be pulled tight around your head leaving a small breathing space and keeping you out of the wind and rain.  Any heat your body gives off is retained within the bag rather than being lost to the elements.

Sat in a Blizzard Bag

snug inside the bag

At a little over £20 Blizzard Bags are a really good investment.  It’s the first thing that goes into my bag when I’m off running or walking in remote areas.

Next time you’re out on a remote run think about what would happen if you or one of your group had to stop for a length of time.  What state would you be in by the time help arrived?  This bag might be the difference between an uncomfortable wait and something much more serious.

So get out there, run and enjoy the worst that the winter can throw at us, but stay safe.

 

Inov-8 Roclite

Inov-8 Roclite have been my shoe of choice this year.

I’ve used them for working, training and racing.  Unfortunately the rough gritstone, coarse heather and acidic peat of the Peak District have taken their toll and after 878 kilometres (I know thanks to SportTracks training software which calculated it!) the uppers have given up the ghost!

Inov-8 Roclite

oops!

Interestingly, compared to the uppers the sole has fared pretty well with quite a lot of tread remaining.

Inov-8 Roclite

there’s miles left in them lad!

The shoes have done me well and have had some great adventures:

steep running on boulders

Roclites doing what they were designed for

Inov-8 Roclite

getting wet

And have seen some stunning running conditions:

Inov-8 Roclite

blue sky running

Ennerdale fell race

struggling on Ennerdale fell race – me, not the shoes!

So I reckon that I’ve had my moneys worth out of them and whilst I’m always reluctant to throw my favourite bits of kit away, the good news is….

I’ve got a shiny new pair!

Inov-8 Roclite

ooh – new shoes!

For out and out bog and mud I wear Inov-8 Mudclaws but for mixed fell and trail running I don’t think you can beat Inov-8 Roclites.  So I’m off to hit the fells with my new shoes – it will be a shame to get them dirty!

LED Lenser SEO5 Review

So the clocks have changed and our trail and fell running is limited to daytime – we can’t possibly run off road in the dark can we?

Of course we can – fell running in the dark is great!  All we need is a decent head torch and a bit of common sense.  I’ve got a selection of head torches, the latest being LED Lenser’s new SEO5

So what do I look for in a running head torch?  Well: bright, light and comfortable would sum it up.  Years ago when I first tried fell running at night it was difficult to get a head torch that was bright enough without it being huge and cumbersome with a battery the size of a malt loaf!  With today’s technology bright and light is possible at the same time.

My first impression of the SEO5 was that it was only slightly bigger than my old Petzl Tikka – I just hoped it would be brighter.  On the scales it weighed in at 104g (nice to see that’s below the claimed 105g on the packaging)

LED Lenser SEO5

LED Lenser SEO5 on the scales

It is powered by 3x AAA batteries housed in the light unit itself so no separate battery pack on the back of the head.  The on / off / mode switch is a small button on the top of the torch.  The torch came pre assembled with headband (removable for washing) and batteries plus a spare set of batteries – all Duracell too rather than some cheap rubbish which was a nice touch.

After spending 5 minutes trying to decipher the not very well translated manual I gave up and resorted to pressing the button numerous times for different durations and figured out that you had the choice of:

Bright (180 lumens) Dim (20 lumens) or Flashing.  It is also possible to select a brightness anywhere between bright and dim.  There is also a separate red Led that gives steady or flashing option.  In steady white mode a turn of the housing around the lens allows you to alter the beam from a wide circle to a focussed point.

The headband is easily adjustable to allow for use over a hat and is just one single strap around the head (nothing over the top).   This gave a good snug fit and despite vigorous head shaking the torch stayed firmly in place, a reassuring sign as the prospect of it coming off and tumbling down the hill in pitch dark isn’t a good one!

SEO5 gives a snug fit

No separate battery pack means a comfortable fit

The light can be swivelled down on a ratchet through 8 positions if you need to look at things closer to hand; for example whilst map reading, and the ratchet is quite firm and it seems unlikely that the light will droop whilst on the run – a problem with some torches.

On test whilst night time fell running in the Peak District the torch performed really well giving ample brightness for the type of moorland and woodland terrain I was on.  I prefer to run on floodlight mode giving a wider pool of light but sometimes a focussed beam is needed to pick out distant objects such gates or walls.  The SEO5 on full power coped with this need, a simple twist allowing me to go from flood to spot and back again.

SEO5 is bright

Bright and light

If I was to be picky and find fault with the SEO5 it would be that the on off switch and focussing beam are tricky to operate with gloved hands (however this is the case with several torches) and it takes a while to remember the sequence of presses and holds required to switch between the modes (again no real difference to other torches and not really an issue once you get used to it)

I haven’t tested the claimed 7 hr battery life on full power (25 hrs on low) but unless the claim is very inaccurate the torch will have enough juice to last all but the longest night run. If I’m unsure how much life there is left in my standard batteries I prefer to use rechargeables and set off all charged up to avoid being caught out.

Tip: If you are taking spare batteries with the intention of changing them “in the field” make sure you take a secondary light such as a key fob light.  It will be almost impossible to find your spares, take the back off your torch, remove the old batteries, put the new ones in the right way round… all whilst in the wind and rain, with cold hands in the dark!

So whilst it might not be your chosen torch for an extended overnight winter outing such as the High Peak Marathon the LED Lenser SEO5 is perfectly suited to shorter night time fell and trail runs.  Bright, light and comfortable it is.

LED Lenser SEO

LED Lenser SEO

 If you would like to experience an off road night run contact me to arrange – I might even lend you the SEO5!

info@fellrunningguide.co.uk

Mammut MTR 201 Micro Jacket

The Mammut MTR 201 Micro Jacket is a very lightweight windproof top.

First off, I was really impressed by its weight – or lack of it – the small clocking up only 81 grams on the scales!

Mammut MTR 201

Mammut MTR 201 – very light!

The jacket features a full length zip with a small chest pocket, (a feature I really like for stowing compass, cut down map, gloves etc.)  The pocket has an internal hole for headphones (so that you can take your “multi media device” with you to the hills and listen to man made sounds rather than birdsong, the wind in the trees, the tinkling stream etc!) There are elastane mesh panels below each armpit to assist breathe-ability (I think these will be good whilst running but a compromise to the jacket’s wind proofing and thus not so good if using the jacket whilst standing around), a hem draw cord and something called finger gaiters in the cuffs (basically an extra bit of material that might, at a pinch, keep your fingers warm although I can’t see how these would do the job of a pair of gloves!)  It is DWR treated to make it shower as well as wind proof and time will tell how long lasting and effective this proves to be.  Reflective lettering and logo give a little bit of increased visibility at night.  The jacket easily fits into its own chest pocket for storage.

I tested it out whilst trail running on a breezy but sunny October day.   In action the jacket was very comfortable and whilst the close fit of the small wouldn’t allow it to be worn over bulky layers, as a running wind proof over a long sleeved base layer the fit was excellent.

Mine is a fetching bright green which matches the MTR 141 trail shoe although it should also be available in black.

MTR 201

MTR 201 – very green!

Overall I was very impressed with the jacket, it fits well (I usually find small men’s size to be a bit big!) and is ideal for wearing on a chilly day when you know it isn’t going to rain.  It looks good too – if you like green!

fell running guide

Injinji – Gloves for your Feet

The great thing about fell running is its simplicity.

No expensive kit is needed, there’s no need to keep updating to the latest design, it’s just a case of get dressed and go.  So there’s nothing much to consider when it comes to choosing a pair of socks, right?

Well that’s what I thought until I went to a talk by experienced Ultra Running athletes, sharing their knowledge with runners hoping to complete the Mammut Ultra Tour of the Peak District.  The fact is that during an ultra distance race your body has enough to deal with and so avoiding anything that could slow you down is crucial, things like blisters for example.

An ill fitting sock might not cause you too much trouble on a short run or race but what if you’re on the go for 10 hours or more?  That little ruck in your sock, that little bit of skin rubbing on skin is going to cause a problem.  That’s where Injinji toe socks come in.

Injinji toe socks

Injinji toe socks

What are they?

Injinjis are designed as left and right foot specific socks with each toe having its own little bit of sock – just like gloves but on your feet!  The anatomical shaping helps keep the toes correctly aligned and prevents them rubbing on each other.  Sweat is also removed from the toes and thus the chance of getting blisters is reduced.  The material is a mix of Coolmax, Nylon and Lycra giving a snug fit with increased reinforcement at the heel and toes where most of the wear is likely to occur.

What are they like to wear?

My first thought on seeing them was “they look odd!”  Having had thousands of pairs of socks I have got used to what they look like – and these look different, but that’s no reason not to wear them.  The main thing you notice is when putting them on.  After decades of putting socks on without thinking you have to actually concentrate on what you’re doing and line up each toe with its own compartment.  This was a little bit fiddly and certainly not something that you could do in the dark whilst still half asleep!

Injinji toe socks

Strange but comfortable

Having got them on they felt a little unusual around the toes although I soon got used to this.  I first tested them out with my usual fell shoes on a hard hill rep session in the Peak District.  My concern was that as there was more material in the toe box they might make the shoe too tight, but this wasn’t a problem and once my shoes were on I felt just as comfy as usual.  The run had me on my toes on the way up whilst the steep downhill sections was the sort of terrain that forces your feet to the front of your shoes.  The Injinjis were comfortable and supportive (although they didn’t make the hills any easier!)

Overall I liked the Injinji toe socks and will be using them for long days out fell and trail running in the Peak District where the real test will come – but it will take more than gloved feet to turn me into an Ultra runner!