The OMM – Elite Kit Choice

The OMM is a two day navigation event that requires paired runners to carry all of their equipment including kit for an overnight camp.

The OMM (Original Mountain Marathon) takes place in October, when weather conditions in the UK can be bad, and visits remote upland terrain. Thus competitors are faced with a conundrum:
To go fast and light, carrying as little kit as the rules allow and thus skimping on comfort or..
Take a bigger pack and more comfortable kit but at the expense of having to carry the extra weight around the hills for two days.

A glance at runners’ pack sizes on the start line clearly shows those who have opted for a decent sized tent, roll mat and warm sleeping bag whilst others seem to have hardly brought any kit at all (and are facing the prospect of a cold and uncomfortable night ahead!)

My partner Spyke and I entered the Elite class with the intention of being competitive and so opted for the minimalist approach (what’s one night of discomfort between friends?) aiming to limit the amount of weight carried as far as reasonably possible.

The weather forecast for the event was for bitterly cold northerly winds with possible snow showers which had some bearing on my kit choice. Here is a breakdown of the equipment I carried with some explanations of my choices.

photo of Mountain Marathon kit

Mountain Marathon kit

Mandatory Kit (each competitor must wear or carry the following):

Taped waterproof jacket with hood
I used the latest version of the OMM Kamleika smock. Not the absolute lightest of waterproof jackets but more robust than some very lightweight options and likely to keep me a little warmer if the weather was as cold as forecast. I ended up wearing the jacket continuously whilst running and taking it off to use as a pillow overnight.

Taped waterproof trousers
Again I chose OMM Kamleikas for the above reasons although mine are an earlier model. They stayed in my pack during the day but I rolled them with the jacket as a pillow at night.

Clothing suitable for mountain running and walking
I wore a long sleeved merino wool cycling top. It was quite thick and whilst I have lighter base layers I felt that I needed something a bit more substantial given the forecast. It had quite a deep zip that I could undo to regulate heat.
I chose a pair of Ashmei 2 in 1 shorts with a long merino wool inner. These really help keep my glutes, hamstrings and quad muscles warm and so are more comfortable than a pair of tights. These combined with knee length CEP calf sleeves meant that only my knees were exposed to the elements. I chose calf sleeves over knee length socks because they stay fairly dry allowing me to keep them on at camp whilst swapping my wet socks for a dry pair. The calf guards also gave some protection to the lower legs when running through deep vegetation (we encountered heather, bracken and gorse on both days).

Spare base layer top
This was an old Helly Hansen and was the lightest base layer I had. I put it on over my merino top as soon as we reached camp.

Spare full leg cover
This was a pair of Asics tights and again these went on over the top of my shorts as soon as we got to camp.

Warm layer top
I chose my OMM Rotor Smock. This primaloft top has really good warmth to weight properties, retains its insulating properties when damp and packs down very small. I put it on as soon as we reached camp and slept in it.

Hat, Gloves & Socks
On my head I wore a simple windproof beanie with a buff round my neck which I pulled up over my nose and mouth when the wind was coldest on day one. I wore a pair of Rooster Sailing liner gloves and carried a pair of Goretex Extremities Tuff Bag mitts in case the weather got very cold and wet (I didn’t actually need these but they stayed easily accessible in the jacket pocket of my waterproof jacket).
Socks were a pair of 1000 mile trail socks with a spare pair of lightweight Salomon socks for the overnight camp. I put the wet ones back on to run in on day 2 – nice!

Footwear designed for trail and fell use
I used the trusted Inov-8 Mudclaw 300s for the maximum grip possible, particularly useful for the steep grassy downhills but generally good on all off road terrain.

Head torch capable of giving useable light for a minimum of 12 hours
This was a tiny Petzl E+Lite. I would have struggled to run or do much meaningful navigation with it but I figured that if we weren’t back at camp by nightfall then we wouldn’t be running anyway.

Whistle & Compass
Whistle was an integral part of the strap on my pack. Compass was a Silva Race Plate Zoom chosen for its fast settling needle. It doesn’t have bearings marked on the dial which takes some getting used to and means that you can’t set a pre taken bearing.

Map (as supplied)
Harveys 1:40,000 handed out at the start of each day.

Insulated Sleeping system
This was the OMM Mountain Raid 1.6 sleeping bag. The Primaloft fill means that it is still effective when wet so is a good choice for bad weather. My concern was that at only 450g it wouldn’t be warm enough. My sleeping mat was just a small piece of foam carpet underlay to which I’d stuck a layer of bubble-wrap. It only weighed 55g and was just long enough for me to fit hips and shoulders on it if lying in the foetal position. We also used our emergency survival bags as additional ground insulation and protection from the damp sides of the tent. This worked to some extent but they rustled at the slightest movement and mine wouldn’t repack into its bag in the morning and had to just be stuffed into by pack.

photo of improvised Mountain Marathon camping mat

don’t expect to get much kip on this!

First aid equipment
A few basic bits from a standard first aid kit plus 6 sheets of toilet roll and four paracetamols.

Pen/pencil and paper capable of being used in wet conditions
This was one sheet of Rite in the Rain waterproof paper and a stubby Ikea pencil. I also carried a permanent marker in my pack hip pocket in case I wanted to mark anything on the map (not used).
The First Aid kit, notepaper and pen plus head torch were carried in a tiny dry bag.

Survival bag (not a sheet)
I used an Adventure Medical Kits emergency bivvy. This is a really useful bit of kit to have with you for remote runs.

Rucksack
This was my Inov-8 Race Elite 20. (no longer available) It is a very lightweight pack with zipped hip pockets for access to food and was just about big enough to fit everything in.

photo of Inov-8 Race Elite 20L pack

Inov-8 Race Elite 20L packed and ready to go

Emergency rations
This was basically the extra food that I didn’t eat on the hill. For each day I carried 3 packets of Clif Shot Bloks, 3 Nakd bars (or Aldi equivalent) and a couple of gels. I had a packet of Shot Bloks, a Nakd bar and a gel left at the end. I find the Shot Bloks very easy to consume even when I’ve got a dry mouth. They are a lot more expensive than Jelly Babies but I find these way too sickly and can’t stomach them.

Water carrying capability
This was simply a 1 pint milk carton cut down to make a cup which I clipped to the waist belt of my pack. I didn’t take a soft-flask because 1; my pack didn’t have the pockets to carry one and 2; I wanted to keep my hands dry when refilling from streams and this is virtually impossible with a soft-flask. The plan was not to carry any water at all whilst running but to drink from natural sources as we came across them. This just about worked as the weather had been dry in the lead up to the event and some of the upland streams shown on the map weren’t flowing sufficiently to drink from. Day 2 was warmer and I did slurp from a couple of sources that I would normally have avoided but fingers crossed I haven’t suffered any ill effects! The home made cup system worked really well apart from occasionally rattling around on my waist belt buckle which annoyed me!
Water was available on the overnight camp and Spyke carried an empty 1.5 litre bladder that we filled and used for cooking and brewing up.

photo of improvised cup for mountain runner

milk carton for for a cup

Spare warm kit and insulated sleeping bag must be waterproofed (i.e. in a drybag)
As the forecast didn’t indicate heavy rain I chose to put my sleeping bag, spare base layer and leggings in a plastic bag sealed with tape. My Rotor Smock went into another smaller plastic bag, again sealed with tape. I planned to use these bags over my dry socks once in camp but other than getting up to the loo, once in the tent I just stayed there rather than wandering round camp. Had the forecast been for heavy rain I would have probably chosen proper dry bags for a better seal on the second day (it was difficult to get the used tape to reseal).

photo of improvised dry bags for clothing

sleeping bag, base layers and warm top in plastic bags

Mandatory Kit, each team must carry the following at all times:

Cooking equipment including stove with sufficient fuel for duration of the race, plus some spare for emergency use, left at the end of the event.
I carried a titanium gas stove (weighing 48g although some are now even lighter) with a 100g gas canister (200g when full) which nested inside a titanium Alpkit Mytimug 650ml. The Mytimug was used for boiling water and I used it as my bowl for breakfast. I used a simple Fire Steel as a lighter and took a small plastic spoon.
It would have been possible to save weight here as alcohol stoves or hexamine type fuel would have been lighter.  Although a gas canister is heavier it is simple to operate, clean, adjustable and there is no danger of spilling it. I wanted to be able to get the stove going as quickly as possible with minimum faff when cold and knackered at the end of day 1. We  used 60g of fuel. The Fire Steel (28g) was preferred to a lighter as it still works even when wet.

Food for 36 hours for two people
We took 2 x dehydrated chicken curry meals (600 kcal each) plus some dried couscous for the evening meal, a couple of handfuls of salted peanuts, some porridge for breakfast and 6 tea bags (we only used 3). No pudding, no hip flask, no luxuries!

Tent with sewn in groundsheet
This was Spyke’s Laser Photon, only really designed for one person so it was a bit of a squeeze! Weight with tiny titanium pegs was around 650g. Spyke carried the tent, I carried the stove and food.

The final weight of my pack was just less than 4kg but this was before the overnight food was added.

photo showing Mountain Marathon pack weight

final pack weight (without overnight food)

Overall thoughts / what would I change?

My main concern prior to the event was that I would be freezing overnight. I hadn’t used the sleeping bag before and so wasn’t sure how warm it would be. My plan was to wear every item of clothing I had with me, including waterproofs in order to stay warm overnight. Although temperatures fell below zero overnight (I know because my shoes started to freeze!) I managed without the waterproofs, just wearing 3 layers plus hat and buff (which I pulled up over my face and nose whilst trying to sleep). Luckily I had stayed dry during the day so I didn’t need to take any wet layers off or lie in damp clothing. I wasn’t warm by any means but I managed not to lie there shivering all night. However, with two people in a tiny tent you have to expect a long uncomfortable night with little sleep! I’m only 5 foot 3 and don’t take up much space which makes things a little more bearable – for my tent mate at least!

My sleeping mat was minimalist and not particularly comfortable but it was the size of the tent that prevented me from getting comfy rather than anything else. I think I could add an extra layer of bubble-wrap to make it a luxury edition!

Kit worn on the hill was fine. Day 1 was very cold at times with strong winds and a few snow showers but all zipped up and moving I never felt cold. Had the snow showers continued I’d have put on my Goretex mitts so although I didn’t use them they were worth taking. Day 2 was warmer although not enough to take off the jacket when in the cold wind so it was a case of zip up on the tops and unzip in the lee and on the climbs. Towards the end of the day I could have done with taking the jacket off as I was getting too warm but I didn’t want to waste any time.

I found using a compass without bearing markings to be odd. It also meant that we couldn’t check each other’s bearings. In hindsight I’d have been better with the Silva 360 Jet instead.

I was also unsure about how much food to take to eat on the hill as in the past I’ve overestimated. I think I just about got it right in terms of quantity with a bit left over at the end counting as emergency food. I struggled on day 1 and probably didn’t eat enough and in hindsight should have taken more gels or some baby food sachets that are easier to eat when your mouth is dry.

Camp food was just enough. I struggled to eat the porridge and even resorted to adding a chocolate gel to it to make it more palatable. It didn’t work! Oh and we took too many tea bags!

photo of OMM Elite vets

worth the weight! (Veterans Category)

More details of the OMM here https://theomm.com/

Note, the article contains affiliate links, you don’t pay any more if you order via them but I get a small commission.

fell running guide logo

DIY Ice Studs for Running Shoes

Running in snow and ice is difficult and it can also be hard to know what shoes to wear.

In soft snow I find that my usual trail or fell shoe with a decent tread works well enough. On paths where the snow has been well trodden and compacted down and then frozen hard or where snow has started to melt and then refrozen again then I’ll opt for Microspikes which give excellent traction.

photo of runner wearing Microspikes

Microspikes are great for very icy conditions

But what about mixed conditions; say where there hasn’t been any snow but very cold temperatures have resulted in icy patches? Here you can find yourself running fairly quickly on firm ground with a good grip only to be suddenly confronted with a patch of treacherous ice. In this case Microspikes would be overkill for the majority of the run and yet you wouldn’t want to be stopping to put them on just for a few metres of frozen ground. For these conditions you need a shoe that can deal both types of terrain. Some running shoes have tungsten spikes built into the tread – the Inov-8 Oroc is a good example. These type of shoes with the tungsten “dobs” have been widely used by orienteers as they give good grip on wet roots often found in forests.

photo of runner on ice

caution, grip needed!

I’ve got a huge collection of shoes and couldn’t really justify buying another pair so I had a think about improvising and making my own studded shoe for the winter conditions!

You will need:

One pair of trail shoes that you don’t mind experimenting with! – I chose a pair of Mammut shoes that I rarely wear.

One pack of 3/8″ Slotted, Hex sheet metal screws. You could use different types, I chose the slotted head as I thought they would give more grip. Obviously they need to be short enough that they don’t protrude through the sole and stick into your foot! (I couldn’t find any from UK suppliers so had to get them from the US via Amazon, they only cost about £8 for a pack of 100 including shipping.

One screwdriver with 1/4″ hex drive adapter.

photo of DIY ice studs

DIY kit

photo of 3/8 inch slotted hex screws

3/8 inch slotted hex screws

I simply screwed the screws into the shoe at various points around the out-sole on both the heel and forefoot. In all I attached 12 studs on each shoe which probably took less than half an hour. The screws don’t really damage the shoes so I knew there was nothing lost if the experiment didn’t work.

photo of trail shoe with DIY ice studs

DIY ice studs!

Testing:

This winter has been prolonged so has given me a good opportunity to test them out. The first run was on the hard packed trails of the Longshaw Estate in the Peak District followed by some rock hopping on snow covered gritstone boulders. I was really pleased with the grip they afforded on the rocks, although I did slide a couple of times on the snow covered grass.

photo of runner on rocks

grip testing

I then wore them for a road run (shock horror – I thought you were a fell runner!?) when the snow was so heavy that a drive out to the Peak District was impossible. There was hardly any traffic on the roads due to the conditions which allowed me to run in the tyre tracks rather than in the deeper snow. The studs gave a really good grip where they contacted the tarmac (and a satisfying sound!) and it was amusing to see people watching me run fairly confidently as they slithered along the pavements. The real test came in the park where the tarmac path rises very steeply in places; there was just enough of the path showing to let the studs bite and grip to allow me to continue running rather than slipping. By the end of the run I felt fairly confident running at a decent pace on snowy tarmac.

photo of runner in show

good traction on snowy tarmac

I can’t say that I’ve hammered down any hills whilst wearing them, I’ve kept to a fairly well controlled pace. A few times, especially when jumping the rocks, I’ve wondered if I’d lost any studs but so far so good, three runs and almost three hours of running and they are all still there.

Overall I’m quite pleased with the results. The screws probably won’t last as well as shoes that have an inbuilt stud and I can envisage having to replace a few but for half an hours work and less than a tenner spent I think they’re pretty effective.

Inov-8 X-Talon 230 Review

The Inov-8 X-Talon 230 is the latest addition to the brand’s renowned range of fell running shoes.

I know lots of fell runners who choose X-Talons as their preferred race shoe; the aggressive grip, precise fit and light weight making them ideal for fast running over loose and wet terrain. I’ve had several pairs of X-Talon 212 in their various guises and use them for both racing and winter training –  so what’s different about the new X-Talon 230?

photo of Inov-8 X-Talon 230

Inov-8 X-Talon 230

Features:

The 230 model now features a different rubber compound on the sole with Sticky Grip rubber designed to give a better grip than on previous X-Talons. (Note this is not the Graphene rubber due to be released later this year). The sole unit is visually identical to that on the 212 with the familiar pattern of 8mm aggressive lugs but the sole now also contains a rock plate that gives underfoot protection from sharp stones, a handy feature if racing down loose rocky paths. The shoe uses the Powerflow+ midsole which is designed to give better shock absorption and energy return than on previous models.

photo of Inov-8 X-Talon soles

soles L – R 230, 225, 212, 212

The 230’s have a 6mm heel to toe drop as indicated by the two arrows on the heel unit, the same as the 212 version and come with Inov-8’s new width rating of 1 (1 being the tightest, 5 the widest) which replaces the previous “precision” and “standard” width measurements of the toe box.

photo of X-Talon 230 upper

heel and toes: 6mm drop

The uppers are water resistant with an all round rand and toe bumper offering good protection to the foot. They are also designed to accommodate the Inov-8 Gaiter which is useful for preventing the ingress of snow or small stones (e.g. if scree running).

Inov-8 X-Talon 230

protective rand for feet and toes

As the name suggests the 230’s are slightly heavier than the previous X-Talons which range from 190 to 225 grams, however this is still very light compared to many fell shoes.

On Test:

I’ve had the 230’s for a few weeks now and have had chance to test them in some pretty horrible winter conditions including snow, mud and on wet gritstone. My first thought on hearing about the rock plate was that they would have a rigid sole and although they aren’t as flexible as the 212 model they certainly aren’t stiff. They seem to have a little less twisting flexibility but front to back flexibility is still good. The uppers felt a little stiff at first and it seemed like the shoes needed a few wet runs to “bed in”.

photo showing Inov-8 X-Talon 230 flexibility

still flexible even with the rock plate

What I do find difficult to judge when testing shoes is grip; is it possible to gauge if the new Sticky Grip rubber is better than the previous version? Obviously it would be easier to compare different tread patterns in mud but what about identical tread patterns on wet rock? that’s a bit more subjective. So I decided to conduct a not so scientific test – running with different models on each foot!

photo comparing grip on Inov-8 X-Talon 230 vs 212

scientific comparison!

Whilst running I couldn’t tell for certain if one shoe offered better traction than the other so I tried a spot of easy “bouldering” on a wet slab of rock where I attempted to use first one foot then the other on the same “hold”. Other testing included hopping up and down on either foot on the same area of sloping rock. The bouldering test definitely felt like one shoe offered more grip.

photo of Inov-8 X-Talon 230 vs 212

comparing grip on steep wet rock

I tried left and right foot with both shoes in order to eliminate any imbalance in my balance / coordination etc. The result – the 230’s definitely felt stickier! However during the testing they still felt slippy on wet rock with green lichen so don’t buy these thinking that they will grip on ANY wet rock. Smooth wet limestone would still be a challenge for any shoe!

photo of runner wearing Inov-8 X-Talon 230

testing on greasy rock

See how I tested them in the video:

Verdict:

I don’t see the Inov-8 X-Talon 230 as a replacement for the existing X-Talon 212 which is still available. They offer a little more protection and thus are a little heavier and a little stiffer so might not be the shoe for the runner seeking a very light, low and responsive fell racing shoe. If that is you then the stripped down, speedy little brother the new X-Talon 210 is probably for you.

However if you want a lightweight shoe with excellent grip and some underfoot protection that is suitable for both training and racing then check out the X-Talon 230.

See link to Inov-8 website for more information about the new Inov-8 X-Talon 230

Inov-8 X Claw 275. 500 mile Review

My Inov-8 X Claw 275 fell shoes have just clocked up 500 miles – how are they doing?

Whilst it’s good to review kit straight out of the box it’s also really useful (probably more useful) to know how it stands up to the wear and tear of everyday use. I usually expect to get at least 500 miles out of a pair of fell shoes depending on the type of shoe and the type of terrain that I use them for. So how have the X Claws stood up?

SportTracks gear info

warning – no life remaining!

My training diary warned me last week that after almost exactly a year the shoes had reached the end of their expected life, the picture of the shiny new shoes reminding me of how they used to look! The X Claws were my go to training shoe last winter and into spring and I have just started to wear them again after their summer break. They were also my race shoe for tough winter races such as the Trigger and the High Peak Marathon and I wore them for several recces of both races. As such they spent much of the time soaking wet and covered in acidic, peaty mud and having to cope with the rough gritstone and abrasive heather of the Peak District uplands.

river crossing on the Trigger race

wet shoes on the Trigger race

I also wore them whilst supporting on the Charlie Ramsay Round in Scotland which included a couple of rough, scree sections which are always tough on shoes.

As might be expected the harsh conditions have taken their toll and it is the uppers on the X Claws that have suffered the most. The outer layer of the upper has worn away in places, particularly on the instep, revealing a softer material beneath. This has led to the shoes becoming much less water resistant.

X Claw shoe damage

abrasion to outer layer

In order to eke out a bit more mileage I applied some Shoe Goo to the worst affected areas!

Shoe Goo on running shoes

not so new now!

The rest of the uppers including the stitching have stood up pretty well with just a small area of wear on one heel cup. Although there has been some wear on the studs there is still plenty of life left in them. I tend not to wear out the studs on my shoes, a benefit of being light and in this case due to the fact that most of the miles covered have been on soft ground.

photo of X Claw heel cup

only slight wear on the heel cup

photo of X Claw tread wear

still plenty of tread left

Summing up:

The X Claws have lasted pretty well considering the harsh conditions in which they’ve been used. I have had shoes that have done more mileage before showing similar wear and tear, but they haven’t been used in the same type of terrain. They have been almost constantly wet and muddy and to be honest I haven’t always washed them after use – does anyone? The shoes aren’t totally knackered just yet and I reckon I will get another couple of month’s wear out of them although I’ll probably relegate them to training rather than racing.

photo of runner crossing stream

tough life being a fell shoe!

See Inov-8 website for more details of the Inov-8 X Claw 275

Inov-8 Get a Grip Competition

News of a great competition from Inov-8 which will give seven lucky runners a 5 day, all expenses paid trip to the Lake District. As team “Get a Grip” the winners will have the chance to learn tips from Inov-8’s top runners, test out new kit and take part in the classic Skiddaw fell race.

It sounds like a fantastic way to spend the week!

win a week with Inov-8

win a week with Inov-8

Full details of the competition here – https://www.inov-8.com/getagrip

Good Luck!

 

High Peak Marathon – what kit and why.

The High Peak Marathon is a 42 mile fell race done in teams of four, overnight, in winter and covers some of the boggiest, pathless and most remote parts of the Peak District. In addition to the usual personal kit required for a long, winter fell race there is a certain amount of mandatory kit that must be carried by each team.

Deciding on the what items of kit to use can take almost as long as running the race itself.. “10 litre pack or squeeze it in to the 5? Two thin base layers or a thick one? Start in a windproof or waterproof? Thick leggings or thin? and will I really need all that food?”

This is what I wore, carried and ate on this year’s event with some reflections on whether it was the right choice or not.

High Peak Marathon team

all the gear…. (photo Jen Scotney)

Pack

My pack was always going to be a Montane but I couldn’t decide between the old style Jaws 10 litre with rigid bottles or the new Via series Fang 5 litre with soft flasks. After much packing, unpacking and repacking I opted for the Fang. With more pockets than the old Jaws the Fang actually takes almost as much kit despite its smaller size. It was important that I had easy access to certain things whilst on the run and it was this that finally swayed my choice.

My compass needed to be close to hand so went in the top front mesh pocket with its lanyard attached to the pack so that I wouldn’t lose or break it in the inevitable event of a trip or tumble. It was easy to reach when needed and also importantly easy to put away again when not required rather than constantly running with it in my hand. Maps likewise needed to be close to hand but not needed until the Bleaklow section. These easily fitted into the lower front zipped pocket. The lower front mesh pocket held a 500ml soft flask with a straw which allowed me to drink on the move rather than have to take out the flask and faff around trying to put it back in the pocket. Also in this pocket was a small ziplock bag with 2 electrolyte tablets for refills at the two food stations. The smaller, top front zipped pocket had three gels. One side mesh pocket held my Shot Bloks whilst the other had my GoreTex overmitts in and I used to stash my gloves when my hands got too hot and at the food stations.

The main rear compartment contained kit that I was less likely to need i.e. my waterproof trousers, group shelter and emergency primaloft smock whilst the smaller rear zipped pocket held my personal survival bag.

Montane Fang backpack

Montane Fang and what went in to it

Waterproofs

It had been raining for most of the day and was still doing so an hour before we started. It was also forecast for more rain overnight so even though it was dry at the start I set off wearing my waterproof jacket, the OMM Kamleika Smock. I do have lighter, more compact waterproof jackets such as the Montane Minimus and Alpkit Gravitas but I feel the Kamleika is a little bit more robust and likely to withstand being worn underneath a pack. I also carried Kamleika waterproof trousers which weren’t needed.

Clothes

I chose a thin merino wool short sleeved tee shirt under a thicker, long sleeved merino wool cycling top. I specifically chose the top for its rear pockets in which I carried some food and also the zip which would allow me to cool off if it got too warm. My leggings were a cheap pair of medium thickness tights. I have thicker and thinner pairs but these seemed just right. I wore a buff around my neck – really versatile to pull up over your face if the weather gets nasty and a windproof beanie as a hat. In my pack I carried an OMM Rotor Smock Primaloft top as an extra, emergency layer. This was compressed down and carried in a dry bag and wasn’t used.

cycling top with rear pockets for food

cycling top with rear pockets for food

Socks

I chose knee length compression socks which offer great protection against the cold, and to some extent against the knee deep immersion into the peat bogs that was to come. Over these I wore 3mm neoprene socks made by Rooster Sailing. I have recently converted to these from Sealskinz.

Shoes

Extreme grip over such boggy terrain was essential so the first thought was to wear Inov-8 Mudclaws. However I’ve also got a pair of Inov-8 X-Claw 275s which offer almost the same grip as the Mudclaw but have a bit more room and a bit more cushioning. This made them the ideal choice to accommodate the 3mm neoprene socks and the long sections of flag stones.

photo of Inov-8 X-Claw 275

Inov-8 X-Claw 275 for a mix of grip and cushioning

Gloves

I wore a pair of Rooster Sailing liner gloves and carried a pair of Tuff Bags Goretex mitts.

Rooster Sailing liner gloves

Rooster Sailing liner gloves

Torch

My main torch was a Petzl Nao, programmed to give 8 hours light on reactive mode. I also carried a second torch, a LED Lenser SEO 7R worn around my waist (I’m thin!) I do this in foggy conditions as it illuminates the ground much better than a head torch as the light source is closer to the ground and you don’t get the bounce back effect off the fog. It saves carrying a hand torch, leaving your hands free to do important things like hold the map and compass.

head torch on waist

err Dave, it’s meant to go on your head!

Map & Compass

I used laminated sections of the 1:25,000 map (printed from Anquet software) with checkpoints and route notes annotated on them and a Silva Ranger compass.

Watch

I wore a Suunto Core watch with altimeter. This is a non GPS watch so there was no way of using it to aid navigation other than by knowing our altitude and time running. I calibrated the altimeter at Edale and also checked it against a known height at Swain’s Head. I knew how long we should run past Swain’s Head before turning south and also at what elevation to exit Far Black Clough.

Suunto Core showing altitude

Suunto Core showing altitude

Emergency Kit

I carried an Adventure Medical Kits / SOL emergency bag as my personal kit and a 4 person group shelter as the team emergency kit. Other members carried a Blizzard Bag and small first aid kit. I also carried 3 spare AAA batteries, some Ibuprofen tablets and a few sheets of toilet roll – none of which were needed thankfully!

Adventure Medical Kit emergency blanket

Adventure Medical Kits emergency blanket (personal kit)

Food

I took 2 packets of Clif Shot Bloks, (already opened and put into a ziplock bag as they are a pain to open) 3 Clif Shot gels (including one double espresso which I ate just as we got to Kinder to give me a caffeine boost for the last leg) and 2 Ella’s Kitchen baby food sachets (the Mango Baby Brekkie ones taste much nicer than gels and contain over 100 calories per 100g). I also ate 1 slice of malt loaf at Moscar feed station (actually it took me until the heather climb after Cutthroat Bridge to get it down!) and half a ham sandwich at Snake feed station (which was delicious and left me regretting not having picked up the other half all the way to Mill Hill!)

I started with 250ml of electrolyte drink and refilled 500ml at both Moscar and Snake. I also gulped a cup of juice at each feed station and had a few quick sips of tea at Snake.

Cliff Shot Bloks, gels and baby food

Baby food, Clif Shot Bloks and gels (double espresso for the wee small hours)

What worked and what didn’t

The pack was definitely the right choice. Four front pockets plus two accessible side pockets meant that I could reach everything that I wanted and stow any kit that I didn’t need in my hands. It didn’t bounce and always felt comfortable. Being able to drink whilst still running without really breaking stride was really beneficial.

Getting the clothing right is always the trickiest thing for me. We were aiming for a fast time so I didn’t want to be faffing around putting layers on and off and thus slowing down. The forecast was for more rain and I expected to feel quite cold on the high, exposed section to Swain’s Head when the pace would be slow. However the clothing you need for that section isn’t what you need for the immediate steep climb up to Hollin’s Cross and inevitably I felt I had too many layer on early on in the race! In hindsight I would have skipped the short sleeved tee shirt and been warm enough with just one base layer. Although it never rained save for a few spots I think wearing a waterproof from the start was ok, however a full zip rather than smock would have been better. This would have allowed me to unzip it fully on the climbs to vent more heat. We encountered lying snow on Derwent Edge and Kinder and my feet were wet for most of the night, however the neoprene socks worked fine and my feet never felt cold. Likewise, my hands were fine, I took the liner gloves off for a time early on and the Goretex mitts were never needed. The X-Claws were definitely a good choice; loads of grip on the sloppy stuff but no discomfort on the flag stones (although hats off to team mate Marcus who coped with the conditions in his Hokas!)

I was a bit disappointed with the Petzl Nao. I had fully charged the (fairly new) battery and programmed the reactive setting to give 8 hours power, however crossing Bleaklow I got the dreaded “flash, flash” warning and a couple of minutes later the Nao dimmed to emergency mode. It had only lasted 6 hours (not bad in itself but still 2 hours short of what the computer software had told me to expect!) Thankfully it was approaching dawn and I also had my second torch. The waist torch definitely helped over the foggy sections as it meant I didn’t need to carry a hand torch so still had hands free for the map and compass.

Of the food I took I ate everything apart from half a packet of Shot Bloks and one gel; I was looking forward to the stew at the end though! I did feel thirsty at some points but not enough to warrant taking a second soft flask.

So nothing major that I’d change, maybe just a few tweaks for next time – but then the weather might be completely different next year.

High Peak Marathon team (photo Jen Scotney)

9 hours later! (photo Jen Scotney)

 

Inov-8 AT/C Softshell Pro FZ windproof

Inov-8 AT/C SOFTSHELL PRO FZ Review

Windproof running jackets are usually very thin and lightweight and offer little thermal protection to the wearer. The Inov-8 AT/C Softshell Pro FZ is different.

It is made with a mix of materials; Pertex Quantum® which is the type of fabric you expect to find in a windproof and Pertex Equilibrium® which is a stretchy softshell fabric. These materials are zoned so as to give both protection from the wind and offer more warmth than in a traditional windproof. It is designed for cold, windy days when you need more protection from the cold than your regular windproof allows.

Inov-8 AT/C Softshell Pro FZ windproof

Inov-8 AT/C Softshell Pro FZ windproof

First Impressions

“I’d wear that every day!”  Rather than being a shapeless windproof the Softshell Pro FZ has a tailored look and it wouldn’t look out of place if you wore it down the pub. The 4 way stretch  softshell allows a nice snug fit without feeling restrictive. The jacket feels more substantial than a flimsy windproof and my size XS (well done Inov-8 on catering for us small folk!) weighed just over 300g.

Inov-8 AT/C Softshell Pro FZ on scales

304g for the extra small jacket

Features

The full zip (FZ) makes the jacket easy to get on and off. Two zipped waist pockets allow easy access to map, compass, gloves etc and a drawcord hem allows the jacket to be tightened at the bottom. There is also a small internal hole that allows you to route a cable from each pocket to inside the jacket. This means that you can carry a battery in your pocket and run the cable of your head torch up the inside of the jacket. (oh and you could do the same with your phone and listen to music if you weren’t a fell runner!)

photo of Inov-8 AT/C Softshell Pro FZ features

nice features: hem draw-cord, 2 pockets & internal cable routing

One of the things I like most about the jacket is the hood. Often jackets have a hood but no way of tightening it which means that in very windy conditions it flaps around at best or even blows down. No such problems here as the hood has a rear volume adjuster and two elasticated tensioners at the front allowing it to be fastened down nice and tight. This also lets you twist your head and still see where you are going.

inov-8 AT/C Softshell Pro FZ hood

adjusting the hood

AT/C Softshell Pro FZ hood

a hood that stays put!

When not required the hood can be rolled back and kept in position by a small press-stud to prevent it flapping around.

photo of AT/C Softshell Pro FZ hood

hood rolled and secured

The cuffs can be extended to cover the back of the hands and held in place with a thumb loop. This results in a tight fit which is great for keeping draughts out of your sleeves but if you wear a watch you’ll need to put it on over the jacket if you want to look at it!

photo of Inov-8 AT/C Softshell Pro FZ cuffs

extendable cuffs

On Test

I’ve been wearing the AT/C Softshell Pro FZ for a few months and in a range of conditions including cold, cloudy winter days and crisp, frosty winter mornings. I’ve worn it with the hood up and down and in both still and windy conditions.

Runner wearing Inov-8 AT/C Softshell Pro FZ

on test on a cold winter day

Runner wearing Inov-8 AT/C Softshell Pro FZ

and on a frosty morning

The Pertex® material wicks moisture away even when running fast and the close fitting, stretchy material gives an athletic fit that hugs the body and doesn’t billow in the wind unlike some windproof jackets. The softshell material certainly adds a bit of warmth, so much so that one morning after early fog had burned off I felt a bit too warm.

What would I use it for?

The softshell is not designed as a super-lightweight windproof, it is intended as a more substantial running jacket to be worn in colder, windy conditions. It is great for winter days when you know that you want added protection from the cold. It would also be good for longer runs when you might not be moving particularly fast and thus not generating as much heat, for example on something like a Bob Graham round. It is also ideal for cold days out in the mountains and will work well under a waterproof as an additional mid layer. It is also good for wearing pre or post race and will even look good worn as a casual jacket.

Verdict

The Inov-8 AT/C Softshell Pro FZ is an ideal jacket for cold, dry winter days or for mountain running in cold, windy conditions. It is comfortable and well designed with useful features. It looks good too and it almost seems a shame to wear it for running – I’d happily be seen wearing it to the pub!

More details about the jacket can be found on the Inov-8 website

Inov-8 AT/C Softshell Pro FZ windproof

ideal for a cold winter morning


fell running guide

Inov-8 X Claw 275 Review

Inov-8 have introduced a new model to their range of fell shoes; the X-Claw 275

The aggressively soled Mudclaws and X-Talons in their various guises are already well established favourites amongst fell runners; you only need to look down whilst at the start line of any fell race to see that Inov-8s tend to be the shoe of choice. So this being the case you might ask where does the new X-Claw fit in and is there any real need for it alongside its siblings?

photo of Inov-8 X-Claw 275

Inov-8 X-Claw 275

X-Claw 275 – Features

At first glance you might think that the X-Claw is a new model of Mudclaw. Although not identical the sole unit certainly shares the same aggressive look with triangular 8mm lugs whilst the upper has the durable water resistant material, rand and toe bumper that Mudclaw users will be familiar with. It requires a closer look to spot the differences.

Looking at the outsole of the  X-Claw you notice a change in the stud pattern compared to the Mudclaw (a design that it shares with the new X-Talon 225) It still uses the “Dual C” mix of hard and sticky rubbers aiming to give both friction and durability .

 Mudclaw 300, X-Talon 225 and X-Claw 275 compared

get a grip! Mudclaw 300, X-Talon 225 and X-Claw 275 compared

The X-Claw has an 8mm drop (compared to the Mudclaw’s 6mm) with a midsole that is said to give better shock absorption and energy return. A significant feature is that the X-Claw 275 comes in “Standard” fit whereas the X-Talon and Mudclaw are both “Precision” fit. This means that the shoe is wider in the toe box. This may come as welcome news to runners with wide feet who like the grip of the other models but find the precision fit too tight. Likewise, runners doing particularly long distances might prefer the extra cushioning and toe splay that the X-Claw allows. Looking at the X-Claw and Mudclaw together you notice that the shape of the heel cup is slightly different with the heel tab being ever so slightly higher on the X-Claw.

inov-8 X-Claw & Mudclaw

heel to heel X-Claw (L) Mudclaw (R)

inov-8 X-Claw & Mudclaw

and again Mudclaw (L) X-Claw (R)

X-Claw 275 – Tested

Anyway, enough of the technical stats – what are they actually like to wear? Although I’ve had the X-Claws for a while and been keen to give them a blast it’s only recently after a bit of wet weather that I’ve had the chance to try them in the conditions that they are designed for! I wear either X-Talons or Mudclaw 300’s for racing depending on the distance and type of terrain, and Mudclaws for winter training on the fells so I had a good idea of how I wanted them to feel.

First on they felt comfortable, I’m a 6.5 in almost all shoes and the six and a half were fine (and well done to Inov-8 for going back to making men’s shoes starting in a 6 – saves me having to get the women’s model!) Being used to the precision fit of the Mudclaws and X-Talons I wondered if the standard fit might feel a bit sloppy but it didn’t. I noticed that it wasn’t as tight but I didn’t feel that my foot was moving around inside the shoe. I was pretty confident that the grip was going to be positive even on the wet and muddy stuff, and so it proved as I was able to run quickly through thick mud, hopping over the biggest puddles and landing without slipping.

fast running on muddy terrain

fast running on muddy terrain

Running on mixed terrain the X-Claws gripped excellently on the gritstone boulders (as expected) but also coped well with thick muddy ground and damp fallen leaves.

running through mud

dealing with the deep stuff

On downhill sections of soft ground they allowed me to run fast with confidence and they were reassuringly grippy on steep wet grass. All this hints that they would make a good race shoe despite not being as snug as my usual choices.

Inov-8 X-Claw 275

race pace descent on soft ground

running downhill

reassuringly grippy on steep, damp grass

My only concern is with the heel tab; I’ve had achilles problems in the past and my old yellow Mudclaws used to aggravate it. However I’ve been using them for 3 weeks now without a problem so hopefully it won’t be an issue.

What are they good for?

The design of the new X-Claw 275 makes them suitable for longer training or racing over rough, muddy and boggy terrain. That makes them good for most of the year! They will particularly suit runners with wider feet who find the precision fit models too tight. I think that anyone attempting one of the big rounds i.e. Bob Graham, Paddy Buckley or Charlie Ramsay rounds would find the X-Claws to be an ideal shoe.

Personally I will be using them as my autumn / winter / spring training shoe on everything apart from hard packed trails whilst saving the X-Talons and Mudclaws for race days.

See Inov-8 website for more details of The Inov-8 X-Claw 275

fell running guide

 

Inov-8 Trail Talon 275 Review

The British Summer gives a small window of opportunity for running on dry, hard packed trails.

Most of the year I tend to wear a shoe with an aggressive tread to cope with the underfoot conditions of the moors and mountains where I work, train and race. But what about a shoe for those few months when the sun shines and the trails dry out? Step forward the Inov-8 Trail Talon 275.

Inov-8 Trail Talon 275

Inov-8 Trail Talon 275

Trail Talon 275- Features

The Trail Talon is designed for hard packed trails. Lightweight (my size 6.5 tipped the scales at 272g) and comfortable it is ideal for long days out. Inov-8’s “Standard Fit” gives plenty of room in the toe box suiting runners with wider feet. This, along with the 6mm cushioning should mean that your feet don’t hurt after a long run even if your legs do! An 8mm drop – 2 arrows for those familiar with Inov-8’s system – gives a good compromise of responsiveness and protection (runners who prefer a lower, more responsive feel can opt instead for the Trail Talon 250 with its 4mm drop). Despite being at its best as a dry weather shoe the 4mm lugs give enough grip to cope with the odd muddy patch that hasn’t dried out.

Trail Talon 275

the ideal shoe for hard packed trails

For trail runners whose preferred terrain is dry footpaths and hard packed trails the Trail Talon is a great choice. It also comes into its own as an Ultra Distance training and racing shoe whilst for those lucky enough to be running or racing in Europe this summer, covering long distances on hard, dry ground then the Trail Talon would be a hard shoe to beat. (It will be interesting to see if many runners choose it for races such as the UTMB)

Verdict

The Trail Talon 275 is an ideal shoe for running long distances on hard packed terrain, giving a balance of comfort, cushioning and grip. It’s the sort of shoe to wear on those long, dry, dusty trails – long live the British Summer!

fell running guide

 

 

Inov-8 Roclite fell shoes

Inov-8 Roclite 1000 mile review

My Inov-8 Roclites have just done 1000 miles.

I’ve had the shoes for exactly a year and have used them as a bit of a workhorse, being my favourite training and work shoe.  They are the 282 model in a women’s size 6.5 (My old Roclite 285’s were discontinued and the 295’s didn’t come any smaller than size 7 in men’s – hence the choice)  They are the shoe I used for the majority of last winter’s training and for most of this year’s training on fell terrain.  I also used them for when my training required a shoe that could cope with both fell and trail running terrain.  They aren’t my only shoe, I used other models for racing and for training on purely trail terrain and once they got tatty I had to use something newer when working with clients!

The conditions that they’ve been used in are mainly those typical of the northern Peak District, i.e. wet, acidic soils, abrasive gritstone and rough heather.  It’s quite a testing environment, so how have the shoes fared after a year and a thousand miles of use?

Trail running in the Peak District in Inov-8 Roclites

Trail running in the Peak District in Inov-8 Roclites

Uppers

I usually find that it is the upper part of the shoe that fails before the sole.  Wet, acidic conditions, rough gritstone and coarse heather all eventually take their toll.  The Roclites have stood up pretty well, there are some small holes in the mesh and damage to the rand but they haven’t been holed completely.  I have been tempted to patch these up with shoe goo but I wanted to get to the magical 1000 miles before doing so!  The shoes have also retained their fit, i.e. they don’t feel loose or sloppy and I haven’t found that I need to lace them any tighter than I ever did.

damage to the mesh and rand on Inov-8 Roclite

damage to the mesh and rand

Inov-8 Roclite, damage to the rand

damage to the rand

Heel Cup

Another area that wears is the heel tab, due to repetitive putting on and taking off of the shoe.  Again although the Roclites show some wear here it is less than might be expected after such prolonged use.

Inov-8 Roclite heel tab wear

signs of wear on the heel tab

Sole

I have found that the Roclite’s sole stands up very well to wear and tear.  Even after 1000 miles mine still have a good amount of tread left on them.

Inov-8 Roclite tread pattern

plenty of tread left!

Overall Appearance

To be honest they’ve seen better days but it doesn’t take long for a fell running shoe to go from looking pristine to well used, especially when using it in wet, winter conditions.

Inov-8 Roclite fell shoes

Inov-8 Roclite, one careful owner!

So, what to get next?  Well I really rate the Roclite, they are a great all rounder and if I could only have one pair of shoes I’d choose these.  Their versatility means that I can pack them for holidays knowing that they will cope with the conditions.  From running on Icelandic snow to sunny French mountains and wet English fells, they haven’t let me down.

trail running in Iceland

from Icelandic snow

trail running in France

to French hill reps

mountain running

from European sun

Trail running photograph

to wet English days

So it would make sense to go with another pair of Inov-8 Roclites seeing as these have served me well.  I still have the problem that the men’s 295 and 280 start in a size 7 which is too big for me so might have to go for a women’s model which come in a 6.5.

But I might just eke a few more miles out of these whilst I decide!

fell running guide