Sunday, 17 February 2013

What kit do you carry on the run?

I've always run with some form of bag with kit in it, mainly because I run alone away from people. So if I end up injured, out in the middle of nowhere, at night, in fowl weather I should be able to survive. It may sound a bit dramatic but it's quite easy to get hypothermia, even in the middle of summer.

Of course I don't go for a 3 miler carrying a 50lb pack, but at the very least I'll take a phone.

With an 85 miler planned for August in the south of England I've started running with something representative of the kit I might carry in the 24 hour race. Yes it's 7 months away, but it's important to get used to running with weight.

First off, the race is supported, with water and food stops every 10 miles (ish) and so my feeling is that I only need to carry enough food to get me to the next aid station, and I'll use the 1 and 1/2 litre bladder in the 12 Set. I'm not a great fan of gels, so I'll be carrying some real food instead. One thing I don't expect to get on the race is electrolytes so I'll need to carry them for the whole race, and have some way of taking them. I have some time to try some of the different products out there; I don't get on with Nuun, so I'm going to try good old Dioralyte.

Next on my list is protection. This is one area that can change right up to the start of the race depending on the weather forecast. But a waterproof jacket and lightweight sleeved top will always be in there; if I have to stop, changing out of my sweaty top and putting on the waterproof will keep me warm. There's scope for carrying waterproof trousers, a wind proof jacket, some spare socks, gloves and a beanie hat depending on how bad the weather will be.

Finally I'll need Body Glide, head torch, spare batteries, GPS, compass, route map, phone, sunglasses, sunblock, toilet paper, foot first aid kit.

There is another option. Rather than fill the 12 Set up I could sling a waterproof in my bum bag and carry a couple of hand bottles for hydration, but I'm not comfortable with that level of kit and my ability to complete the race.

Friday, 18 January 2013

The best bit of kit I've ever owned.

I've just bought a Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 12 Set through Castleberg Outdoors who are a cracking company that I'll definitely be using again even though they're not close enough to visit. That may actually be a good thing, for my wallet at least.

The design team has put so much thought into the vest, to a level I don't think I've seen before. I've bought the XL version of the 2013 model which explains the red you can see.

Unlike typical backpacks, this vest design is tensioned with the two chest straps, both of which can be completely removed, or configured as you see fit. There are also two shoulder straps to pull the pack close to your body once it's loaded.

On the left (as you look) there's a small pocket apparently for a mobile phone, but it'll take a small pack or two of Kendal Mint Cake. On the right is a removable zipped pouch that'll take a few gels, and there's a spare pouch included. The two other pouches can take water bottles or food; they're 6 cm  diameter and 15 cm deep, with another small pocket on the back of each. 

On the right there's basically a huge zipped mesh pocket that can easily be reached with the right hand. But there's also another open-topped pouch of the same size behind it. This will take a peaked hat, or a lightweight jacket.

There are two elasticated tension straps on the side of the main compartment. These attach to the pack before the zip, and so won't prevent you from bursting the zip if you over fill the main compartment.

On the left it's the same as the right, with the addition of a whistle.

The main compartment is split with a zip, so you basically have two compartments, one on top of the other, maybe for emergency warm kit in the bottom that you don't need to get to, and waterproofs in the top. But if the zip is undone, you can get to the whole compartment.

On the outside of the back is another mesh pocket covering the whole back, which will take a full set of waterproofs.

There are also loops down the right and left  side, and on the bottom so you can run some elastic between them all. I guess you could hold a helmet to the back of the pack using it.

Looking at the top, you can see the main compartment zip which allows access through the top.
Underneath that is another zipped pocket which is about 15x20cm.
Underneath that is another magnetically secured pouch which carries a foil blanket. 
Under that is access to the 1.5 litre bladder held inside an insulated pouch.
The elastic loop on the left is part of the pole securing system, which you can use whilst you're moving.

So why is this pack so awesome? Well, on a long unsupported run there will be kit you need when something goes wrong, which goes in the bottom of the main compartment. Things that you may need go in the top of the main compartment or black mesh pocket on the back. Kit that you need access to whilst moving can go in any of the other pockets or pouches; food in the right hand mesh pocket, gloves, buff, headtorch, batteries, compass in the left mesh pocket. GPS, gels, phone, bottles go on the front.

Buy one, you'll not regret it.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

How long does it take to change to minimalist running?

After about a year, I can finally, easily run ten miles of trails in these:

Vibram FiveFingers Spyridon LS
More importantly, the following day I'm able to run again, so I'm able to recover fairly quickly too with the help of some compression socks and a bit of massage.

The transition to minimalist or barefoot running takes time, a long time. I've been at it for a year, and even now I still us cushioned shoes in amongst my minimalist shoes, to mix it up a bit, and to be able to continue running without the hard workout that minimalist shoes give.

That hard workout has also meant that I've needed more rest, something that I'm finally embracing. Only in the last few months have I been happy to not run, even when I'm desperate to, the rest really is worth it. Hitting the trails fresh after an extra day off feels so much better than hitting the trails tired and hurting; something that I've done for years.

Interestingly, when I slip my XT Wings back on for a run, they really do feel odd, with their "massive" cushioned heels. But it's easier to run farther in them, the cushioning really does help with that... maybe I'll try some cushioned zero drop shoes in the future.

But I'm very much "into" the raw connection that minimalist shoes give, once you're used to it, and can get the miles in that keep you content, I see no reason to run in anything else.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Come and have a go if you think you're fast enough!

This is a great feature that Strava provides. They call it a segment, and essentially it's a route (or segment of a route) that you can pull out of one of your training logs. Not only can you see your performance on subsequent uses of the route, but others can find the segment and give it a blast too.

Actually, Strava is smart enough to do this automatically, so it's quite possible to be seen on the leaderboard with out actually trying.

Of course, you can make the segment private too if you don't want other people competing with you.

Monday, 31 December 2012

What to do when your training plan starts in 11 weeks?

I'm planning for a big run in August this year. The Trail Running Association organises The Ridgeway Challenge, 85 miles of The Ridgeway National Trail: "through ancient landscapes.  Over rolling, open downland to the west of the River Thames, and through secluded valleys and woods in The Chilterns to the east, following the same route used since prehistoric times by travellers, herdsmen and soldiers."

The 24 week training plan I'm going to use starts in the middle of March. That's 11 weeks away. So what do I do in the meantime?

As I see it, there are two options. Start the training plan now, but take a couple of weeks off before starting the plan properly in March. Or just do some lengthy base building.

I'm leaning towards the base building, getting used to running with some weight in a backpack, strength work, long hills, trying some different fuel options.

So, into the 24 week plan early, or base building. What would you do?

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Women need to show that they are worth watching

I just saw this short clip on Vimeo:

Finding Traction Trailer from Partnership Productions on Vimeo.

It's awesome, seriously, the running, the passion, the mentality.. "a 5 minute nap". Hard. As. Nails.

But, one of Nikki's comments is "Women need to take our place in professional sports, and we need to show that we are worth watching". They're not worth watching? When the UTMB is on, I follow one person, Lizzie Hawker.

Whilst we've all heard that men are stronger than women, most of us know that when runners go long it's about inner strength, and women have just as much of that as men.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Moving past the honeymoon

It's been a while since the revelation of minimalist running...

Everything you read about it suggests that you're likely to over do it and end up injured, and so from day one I took it easy. My mileage went from around 40 a week to 10, and that was REALLY hard to do. I don't run for competition, so the drop in mileage didn't compromise any race plans. I run for the pleasure, both physical and mental and losing that daily time out on the trail was hard. Although the different feeling of running the trails with a minimal shoe made it difficult to stop. Even now the feeling makes me grin.

I slowly built up my mileage back to 40 odd miles a week, and I think my longest run was about 15 miles. But it was ridiculously hard on my lower legs. I can chuckle now at my stupidity, at my inability to walk first thing in the morning and pain for most of the day. Of course it was only muscular pain so my legs would get used to it eventually; right? Wrong!

At the 500 mile point I simply had to take a month off because mileage was decreasing and the soreness wasn't going, oh and tendinitis was beginning to show itself again.

But now I'm back into it. Rather than repeating the last 500 miles as I'm prone to doing (run, injure, rest, run, injure, rest etc) I've bought my XT Wings back into the mix, and ensuring that I don't run with the same shoe 2 runs in a row (Vivo's, XT Wings, VFFs) seems to be really helping. Oh and resting. I'm no longer punishing myself if I don't run for a couple of days.

But I can't help myself if the weather is dire. You simply can't beat getting out in the cold wind and rain. The harder the better and all that.