Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Ok. So it’s a blatant Juneathon (exercise-and-blog-every-day) fail. Tooth infection and subsequent extraction put a halt on things for a while.

Weirdly, half my face still feels sore, painful, enlarged, etc. Not as painful as it was…. But I can’t quite smile properly and the tooth was removed on Wednesday morning :-/

I can live with it compared to how it was.

I’m at the doctor’s next week anyway, heaving recent received a text saying…

You’re getting old now. Please come in for an MOT

So if it’s still not right then, I’ll get it sorted.
I was down at the tennis courts again yesterday though and played a couple of sets while my son had coaching on the other court. Today, has been a heavy gardening day, though I’m currently taking a break, doing this, and watching Murray/Wawrinka on the telly-box.
I’ve just had a nice delivery, too.

Do you remember ‘BOUNTS’? I wrote a blog about it once. It’ll be out of date now, in the sense that it WAS amazing… But it was too amazing and collapsed under its own success. 

Let me explain…

You basically did tracked activity/sport/steps etc linked to your Garmin/fitbit/etc and you got points.

When you had enough, those points could be directly exchanged for actual monetary vouchers. I exchanged mine and got £15 sent to me a couple of years back. I guess (and this is purely a guess) they accessed these themselves through advertising revenue. 

I would have exchanged points again because I had loads of them but Bounts never had any stock to give anyone. People got upset. Personally, I didn’t. It was frustrating, yes, but it was all free. I’d not lost anything.

Except, some people had lost out. Bounts offered a premium service which did cost, but meant you earned points more quickly. Earning points quickly is kind of pointless though (pun intended) if those points can’t get you anything. 

In summary –

Bounts basically had too many people on their books, all with loads of points, all wanting to exchange them for vouchers that Bounts didn’t have.

So they changed their model. Some people, (though, I understand, not all) who paid premium, got a refund, and vouchers were no longer available. The company now offer an entry into various competitions to win prizes if you manage to complete the accompanying challenge – e.g. Run 20 miles over the month; do 10,000 steps every day for a fortnight; cycle 5 times in 30 days, etc.

To cut an already long story not a lot shorter, I won one of these competitions! 

I’d played tennis the required four times in May and along with a few other people* I won this funky tennis backpack!

…and his has this cool,  weird, dodgy-looking handle zippy thing attached to a zip pocket at the back so the racket fits in securely…. Err… Let me try and show you…

Well I think it’s quite a good, funky design feature anyway.

So… I’ve certainly not lost out by doing Bounts. I’m sorry if you have. Here’s a link anyway if you’re interested  >>BOUNTS<<

For balance. Also check out, Running Heroes (link included, but I think they might be entirely app-based now) – they also do challenge-based competition entries. I think I’ve won a pair of socks and a £20 voucher through them.

Incidentally, mentioning ‘balance’ reminded me, New Balance used to send me stuff for free to review on occasions but in my efforts to be honest in my reviews (I didn’t really think the last pair of shoes they sent me were great for running), I… Errr… Don’t really hear anything from them now**. Oooops.
*as in, other people also won a bag. I did not win other people as well as winning a bag.

**Maybe they found out only 3 people read this. That could be it, too.

Part 1 – packages

Spoiler: This post contains a full frontal photo of me in a rubber suit with my package clearly visible.

At the end of this month, I shall be racing a triathlon for the fist time in a long time. So long has it been, that on Wednesday last week, I thought it prudent to check that my triathlon suit has not drastically shrunk during its time in my drawer.

It has. A little. But I was able to squeeze myself in. Just. I hope it returns to its normal size in the next few weeks!

It has been even longer (about 3 years?) since I wore my open-water swimming wetsuit. I thought I’d perhaps try that on too. This took longer. It even required a break part way through – to cut my nails for fear of tearing the rubber in my efforts to wrench the obviously aged and stiffened material further on to my muscular, svelte frame. I can’t believe this suit has shrunk as much as it has!

After the leg/bum/tum workout that was the application of the lower half, I crouch down and manage to get one arm in, using the ‘slowly standing straight’ method of pulling the remainder of the wetsuit into approximate position. 

I figure, as long as I don’t need to breathe at all during the swim section of the triathlon, I shall be fine. 

Using a combination of yoga poses, near dislocation, and the sheer determination that only wetsuit wearers possess, I managed to actually put both arms in AND zip the zipper all the way up!

Yeah baby!

Woo hoo!

*Dingggg Dongggg* 

What??!

*Dingggg Dongggg*

!

An actual ding-dong. A someone-at-the-door ding-dong. A day before son’s birthday, might be a parcel, best not ignore it, sort of ding-dong.

I have no choice. I go and answer it. I try in vain to explain exactly why I’m wearing an overly tight-fitting rubber suit on one of the hottest days of the year so far as I collect the package – clearly seen in the photo below (I knew instantly that this would be a blog post  – and one that would require a photo with a caption!).image

I have decided that every day, between now and May 28th, I shall put on the tri-suit/wetsuit combo as a method of training. It ticks all the boxes:

Strength
Endurance
Flexibility

…and it’s quite motivational! :-/

Part 2 – pants

I was recently offered some more Chaffree underwear for free – I declined.

I have written before about Chaffree underwear. They asked me to. They sent me some free to try. I like them – a lot. If I didn’t, I would say. They work – if they didn’t, I would say.

Question – So why did I decline some free ones?

Answer – Because they’re worth buying! So I bought them.

In the interests of transparency, I have to declare at this point that having bought myself a further two pairs, Amanda, the Chaffree boss-lady, sent me an extra pair anyway.

So if you’re reading this and your thighs don’t chafe, then fine. No problem. Keep doing what you’re doing. It works…

… but if you do… seriously consider giving these a go. I wasn’t asked to write this. I want to. Because I love you. 

Not entirely true. 

I don’t reallyknow who you are. You could be anybody. I might know you. I might have met you. I might even love you, I suppose. Mum and dad occasionally read this blog. Hi Mum. Hi Dad. I love them. The rest of you… well… You’re lovely too I’m sure… But  the point is I did just want to write this as I wouldn’t want any of you to suffer unnecessarily with the pain that comes with chafing, especially when (but not limited to) running.

If you’re a blogger/runner/professional-underwear-reviewer then find them on Twitter (@chaffree) and get in touch with Amanda, as I know she’s always on the lookout for bloggers who write betterer than wot I do an’ that.

Part 3 – PBs

It’s been a little while since I got a 5k PB [ ‘personal best’ that is – for the benefit of my aging parents…and American people 😉 ]. Not since my little PB streak inspired by a new Garmin and a bit of weight loss before Christmas. But a couple of weeks ago, my son’s school hosted their annual 5k charity race and we both got PBs. He broke his by 4 minutes(!) to go sub-30 with 29:20, and I took about 30 seconds of mine to go sub-22  for the first time ever with a 21:45.

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In case you were wondering… that package in the wetsuit photo…it was some new running shorts that I won through completing a challenge with ‘Running Heroes (if you sign up, use referral code 6w7m for extra points!). It wasn’t a present for my son. I could have hidden and not answered the door and it wouldn’t have mattered.

Well that was an eventful weekend.

Warning: This is a long(ish) one.

I will get on to the review part of this post in just a second so please don’t get put off by the next paragraph – it’s not as depressing at it may at first sound. 

(I’ll include side headings in this post so you can skip to the bits you came here for if you like. I won’t take offence)

PERSONAL

So, a little personal news.  I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that my Grandmother (‘Granny’ to me) had had a stroke.  Up until that point she was living independently at her own home at the age of 92. She recovered partially from that stroke and she was able to see and talk to my dad and his brothers over the next few days… but while still in hospital she suffered another stroke and never regained consciousness, dying on Saturday morning. We will all miss her and her random Christmas presents (though, I have to admit they were actually disappointingly very appropriate just recently) but we are grateful for her full and active life.  

She didn’t even read my blog while she was here so I’m doubtful she’ll see this next bit now… but… ‘Goodbye Granny’.

TENNIS 

At the point I heard the news, I was dropping child 1 (aged 9) at his 10:00am tennis coaching. I parked up at the club and then helped out there for a couple of hours. I then was due to play in a match an hour later so after a quick lunch, I then served at my child for half an hour while he attempted to return them.

The mixed doubles match I was in started at 1pm and all seemed to be going well. Child 1 was in the clubhouse listening to the football match on the radio and… …and then I noticed play had stopped on the adjacent court. One of our men had got injured two games in and couldn’t continue. As it was so early in the match, our opponents graciously allowed a substitution to take place. Step up Child 1.

So after two hours of coaching that morning he then very much steps up to the mark and plays the ten remaining games of the first match… then 12 games in the second match and a further 12 in the third – helping his partner to win just enough games for our club to win overall. Nice one, son.

ASHBY 20 (pre-race)

So although nearly 5 hours of tennis is not normal preparation the day before a 20 mile road race, there was a part of me that was happy not to expect too much of myself at this event. I would try to run the whole way round, take it slow from the start, NOT run a half marathon PB by over five minutes and then slow massively in the final few miles (like last year!); I would enjoy it. Secretly, I would have loved a time below 3 hours but I accepted that this was unlikely as it would mean averaging 9 minute miles for the whole 20, and it’s officially ‘undulating’. Anything around 3:10:00 and I’d be happy.

My hard-working wife had decided to come along with with the kids too so they would drop me at race HQ and then camp out on the course somewhere to offer support…

NEW BALANCE LITE PACKABLE 

  
This was THE perfect jacket for the start line today. There was no rain but it was cold and it kept the wind chill right off while doing that thing where you hang around and decide whether you can really be bothered enough to queue for the portaloos. A much more stylish alternative to the 1980s Karate Kid bad man look courtesy of an adapted bin bag…
  
  
  
I wore it for the first 4 miles, packed it into its own pocket and carried it for the next two and then chucked it at my family when I passed them at mile 6. It was so light though that it flew over their heads and onto a random person’s drive. Sorry about that, random person. In a moment of instant payback though, I wasn’t looking where I was going and ran straight into a traffic cone. The pain in my toe thankfully only lasted for about a mile.

Now I think I’ve said, I like the jacket. It’s proper light, so portable and so functional BUT  there’s this thing…

…the zip.

 It works and everything…very smooth…well made, etc…

…but it’s on the wrong side isn’t it?

My other jackets…

   
    
   

…always with the moveable zippy bit on the left (as I look at it when wearing).

Then there’s the New Balance Lite Packable… zipper on the right.

  
This should not be a tricky thing for a moderately intelligent human being, you would think. But can my brain get around this?… no. It’s like one of those trick bikes that steers the wrong way at a fair. Have you seen them? No matter. They exist, and it’s like that. My brain just cannot do the switch. It has been the undoing of me…. or not, as the case may be.

Just thought – Do women’s jackets zip the other way? This is officially a men’s one… 

 
…see.

So there you go, anyway…

Summary = Great jacket. Weird brain-boggling zip.

Disclaimer: This is not the most important thing in the world.

ASHBY 20 REVIEW (cntd)

I’ve done plenty of 6 mile runs recently and some of them at faster than 9 minute miles so keeping this going to mile 10 seemed straight-forward.
When I got to half-marathon distance at just under the 2-hour mark, I partly thought, “Well done. That’s sticking to the pacing plan.” And another part of me thought, “mmm… I was here last year about 8 minutes earlier and still finished the whole race at 3 hours 4 mins”.

The plan then became to try and keep steady pace until mile 17 and then do maths.

At mile 17 I did maths. All I needed to do was a parkrun distance in 26 mins to break the 3-hour mark. This might be tough, but do-able!

Then something strange happened.

Something that has never happened before towards the end of a race.

I started overtaking people instead of getting overtaken.

That was a weird feeling.

My breathing got a bit strained and loud but I kept going to the end where I could see my lovely family waiting and cheering me on.
There was a little sprint finish which resulted in me just nipping over the line with 18 seconds to spare! I could have taken it easy! (I could have looked a darn sight better in the race-photos too – shocking!)

I even got a £5 spot prize when I picked up my goody bag, just like last year. And just like last year it went straight to the Rainbows charity pot at the cricket pavilion area where I received a decent sports massage.

I didn’t even get cramp. That’s a first too! I think I’m a fan of this pacing lark.
image

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My heart looks like it enjoyed it.

Many thanks to the organisers, volunteers, locals, supporters and other runners for making this an absolutely cracking event. It’s a perfect spring marathon build-up event…But I’m not doing a marathon this year, so I can also say it’s just a brilliant event in its own right. And instead of a medal at the end (which doesn’t keep you warm) you get a hoodie (which does).

  

This weekend it is the Ashby20 – a twenty mile road race against a Gorilla.

I’m not quite sure what the whole gorilla thing is about to be honest. I guess it’s just a little side show.

 

The Ashby20 – Because nobody lokes the last 6 miles of a marathon, anyway.

 
I did this race last year in preparation for my Huddersfield marathon because it too has a few hills. I can’t remember much about it actually – MY REVIEW IS LINKED HERE – so I might read it again myself before the weekend. Or I could just read part 2 of this post (but that’s some kind of weird existential stuff going on there as I won’t have written it until after I’ve done it). 

Mmmm… Now I have just read the initial review and I don’t think I’m in anywhere near the same kind of shape. Sunday could be interesting :-/

I would probably be even more interesting if I was playing in a competitive tennis match on Saturaday – tomorrow – the day before this twenty miler.

So… tomorrow, Saturday, the day before the Ashby20 I shall be playing in a competitive tennis match – approximately three hours in a league match at my local club :-/

This could have a couple of unexpected (though because I am identifying them, they are possibly a little bit expected) advantages:

1) I won’t set off like a mad thing like I normally do at the beginning of races.

2) I’ll have a fairly reasonable pre-prepared excuse for when it all goes a bit belly-up! Yay – that’s what it’s all about folks – “Go hard…or at least have a reasonable excuse lined up“.

Because of this hightened level of physical activity this weekend I’ve been eating super-healthily   ‘carb loading’ (and we all know that that basically means beer and doughnuts).  Sunday really could be very interesting.

It’s not that I haven’t done any training for this, by the way. I ran a lot of miles last week, I’ll have you know. I seemed to do a lot of 6 to 10 mile runs as part of a challenge to win a swanky new running watch. I completed the challenge but didn’t win the watch. 

My disappointment at this was lifted slightly when the lovely people behind the PR for New Balance sent me a snazzy Lite Packable Jacket to try. 

   
Here is the official New Balance link to the Lite Packable Jacket.

Now at no point does it explain why the word ‘lite‘ is used in place of ‘light‘ because it is proper light.

It has been constructed by sewing together the wings of ten thousand butterflies using the thread of a silkworm…and it weighs about the same… 99 grammes by my reckoning.

 That’s less the weight of the flour required by Delia Smith to make 2 large pancakes before even adding the milk and egg.  That’s right – I eat pancakes even after pancake day!

Not only that, it also folds neatly into itself so that you can have that special ‘crumpled’ look when you eventually want to wear it again… 

 
Seriously though, this is so packable and so light that I wouldn’t think twice about taking it with me on a long run and tucking it into a running belt.  It will definitely be coming with me to the Ashby20 on Sunday and while everyone else is there keeping warm at the start line in their black bin-liners with holes cut out for the head and neck like some kind of evil 1980s karate henchman, I shall be ready to strut my stuff on the catwalk of running style with my Lite (light) Packable offering. Oh yes.

Have a good weekend folks. I’ll (eventually) get round to part 2 some time soon after.

It’s been a while. I’ve been too busy eating cashew nuts, mince pies and chocolates… often at the same time.

So here’s a little catch up on various goings on…

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I received an email from the lovely people at New Balance, informing me that they had some new kit and had a few items for some lucky running folk to test.

This included the fantastic looking (though pricey!) winter running jacket (the Beacon) pictured below.

   
 
Unfortunately I was not one of the lucky runners to get to try this out for myself as I was too slow. They didn’t check up on my 5k PB or anything (I don’t think), I just mean that by the time I’d responded to the mailing they had all been snapped up.

I don’t know if the email responder was just feeling very Christmassy or what, but basically said (and I paraphrase here…), “Sorry we don’t have any jackets left for you to try. Here’s some trainers instead. Which would you like?”.

A couple of days later, these arrived for me. 

 
A pair of 1080 v5 running shoes. 

Well thank you very much 🙂 and Happy Christmas, New Balance PR people.

These retail at £110 on the New Balance website but I dare say they might be cheaper elsewhere (I hope that sentence hasn’t resulted in me being removed from their virtual Christmas card list).

I then noticed this post on Twitter from Laura at lazygirlrunning… 

 
She then asked… (and I responded)

 
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And if I’m to take her word for it… 
 

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So… How could I compete with that?!

Well… Like this… 
 

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…and this…

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A few days later, I decided to take them for a proper test run.

Now it just so happens that some days I start work late and finish early – to let me still do the school runs,  but the kids had finished school and my hard-working wife was also off work so I thought this would be an ideal opportunity to do a run commute to work.

It was a great idea. I allowed plenty of time, I took a lightweight bag and I hit the road. 12.7 miles later (this is why I don’t regularly run commute) I arrived at work in fine form and was set for the day.

The shoes were super comfy, cool, and roomy. I have quite wide feet and these come in a wide fitting so there wasn’t a hint of blistering despite this being their first proper run out (I’d worn them around the house for a few days just to look swanky, of course), and naturally they do look pretty swanky.

So running to work, all be it a fairly long way, was a great idea…

…running home on the other hand…

…well…

…I made it…

…but it was certainly no negative split!

Now, on the downside, I’ve found the 1080 v5 is great in the dry, including track (canal path) running but they feel  quite slippy on wet tarmac, I found.

Also, in scientific tests, they’re rubbish at cooking…

  
Despite this, they would be my shoe of choice at home currently for a long run as they are wonderfully cushioned and feel like they could really take some big mileage without problem.

They don’t, in themselves make me any stronger or fitter unfortunately, so that big mileage… well that’s up to me.

I’ve signed up for a twenty-miler and an open-water triathlon in 2016. I might also do the Wolf-Run that never quite materialised for my brother’s 40th birthday. Apart from that, there’s plenty of parkruns to be had. My 5k time was reducing nicely, in line with some necessary weight-loss. I ran a hard parkrun yesterday though and was about 90 seconds slower than my PB. Christmas nibbles are to blame for that…or more precisely…me eating lots of them.
I’ve decided against officially ‘doing Janathon‘ this year. You know, that ‘exercise every day in January, blog every day in January’ thing. I have been so useless at regular blogging, that I’d probably only manage one post a week at most. I might try for that, anyway. Good luck to you if you’re doing Janathon proper this year.

Best wishes for 2016.
Run well…even if you don’t run.

Recently I have become aware of a couple of sites that aim to reward runners for their physical activity.

The newest of these is Running Heroes which gives more points for longer, faster runs and will retrospectively give you points for your most recent eligible run (via whatever apps you choose to synch with it). So particularly worth considering it if you’ve just run an ultra-marathon!

I have signed up and am in the process of checking it out. I shall no doubt provide further feedback in the future, but for now there is the element of building up a points tally for redemption at some point in the future at no cost and without changing my current exercise habits.

If you do think of signing up, consider clicking THIS LINK (or the one at the end of the press release) for 25 bonus points.

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Press release follows: ————- ———– ———– ———– ———– ———– ———– ———–

Running Heroes is launching its UK version
Running Heroes is connecting brands to its community of engaged sportsmen by making their daily jogging fun thanks to rewards and challenges
Paris, the 5th of June 2015 – Founded early 2014 in France, Running Heroes (www.runningheroes.com) went live in the UK just a week ago with the ambition of encouraging people to run in order to stay fit and avoid health issues that is still today one of the first causes of death in the world. More than 1.500 runners already registered on the UK platform after just one week online.
Having built one of the largest running community in France with more than 140.000 members in just one year, Running Heroes launched the Australian version of its website early May and is online in the UK since the 5th of June 2015. More than 150 partners have already trusted Running Heroes in
France including companies such as Nike, Spotify, Uber or Birchbox. Their rewards offering includes of course running and sports brands but also a broad set of products and services like nutrition, boxes, fashion, cabs or online courses. Running Heroes was named a Cool Vendor by Gartner in April 2015, a distinction awarded to worldwide success stories like Dropbox, Evernote, Instagram or BlaBlaCar before.

The way Running Heroes reward runners follows simple steps:
1. Runners connect their running app / watch (Nike+, Runtastic, Garmin, Strava, Runkeeper, Polar, MapMyRun or Endomondo) on RunningHeroes.com using their Facebook, Gmail or personal email address and their apps IDs;
2. Each time they run, runners are allocated points depending on the distance, time and elevation of their session as well as their profile (women gets 20% more points for example);
3. With their points, they get access to exclusive discounts and gifts offered by RunningHeroes’s partners.
In addition to its international expansion in the UK and Australia, Running Heroes is launching new features to further engage its community:
• Running sessions, which enable runners to find people to run with and to set clear meeting date and place they will mark on their agenda;
• Community, which is a tool that allows runners to find a sparring partner around them with a comparable level and comparable habits in order to keep each other motivated and challenge themselves;
• The Forum connects our heroes so that they can exchange tips or share their experiences.
Besides, the Company is launching Cycling Heroes (www.cyclingheroes.com), its so-called equivalent in cycling following the same principles. The website will be launched at the same time in France, Australia and the UK.
Contacts
Boris Pourreau – Co-founder & CEO – + 33 (0)7 83 67 07 18 Quentin Auberger – UK Country Manager – +33 (0)7 83 67 07 18

———– ———– ———– ———– ———– ———– ———– ———– ———– ———–
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So there you have it. Check it out if you like. Don’t if you don’t.

If you do though, remember…Get 25 bonus points by signing up through this link!

Well, here we go again… an attempt to write a race review.  I always struggle to write reviews because everything is a blur.

On this occasion however, nothing is a blur. I wasn’t moving fast enough for anything to blur.
When people have asked me how I got on, I have told them my time and then felt compelled to inform them just how hilly it was. It was really very hilly!

It was my slowest ever marathon at 05:35:58

I know. But it was really very hilly.

   
   When I ran a similar time at London in 2005 I was very disappointed. I think if this had been a flat marathon, I would have also been disappointed and would be considering hanging up my marathon shoes.

  
But it wasn’t a flat marathon. It was really very hilly. This wasn’t a surprise – I wanted to do a tough marathon and I got that. I paced myself well over the first half (I thought) keeping things very steady and hitting the half-marathon distance at 02:15:00. At the recent Ashby 20 road race, I covered the 20 miles in 3 hours 5 minutes, passing the half marathon mark at 01:52:38

So slowing this up by over 20 minutes was a good thing, I thought. But those hills took more out of me than I knew. Not just the ups… but the downs too. They were too steep to run down. Every step was braking, (maybe breaking) and pounding the joints, and over-working my poor quadriceps.

   
   (The photos never convey steepness, do they? I’m taking a spirit level next time*) 

*as if there would be a ‘next time’!

Having done these hills once already, I had resigned myself to not actually ‘running’ at times and it was nice to have that ‘do I?/don’t I? run’ question completely removed from my psychology. There was no choice. At least the views were good…

  (That was actually taken at mile 14 of the two-lap course)
I passed mile 19 (and a nicely decked out ‘nutrition’ station) at approximately 3:45 and a sub-five hour marathon seemed likely…  

 

…but MAJOR cramps kicked in at mile 23 and I literally could not move for over 5 minutes each time it happened (as well as being in serious pain).  Things didn’t look so pretty now…

  
The clock kept ticking. I was walking now and every occasional attempt to resume running ultimately stopped me in my tracks as the cramping hit once more. I had experienced this during a Nottingham marathon that I hadn’t really trained for, and it is not fun. I had said after that one that I never wanted to run for over five hours again. I stand by that. I don’t.

On my first lap there had been a chap pressure washing the war memorial as we passed mile 12ish… I enjoyed a little refreshing shower at the time and took this photo looking back on it… 

 

The workman was no longer there by the second lap (unsurprisingly).  It would have felt even better at that point BUT was probably for the best as I was later informed it would have been a water/bleach mix anyway!

So… Yeah, a particularly slow final few miles but despite the slow time, I was pleased to complete it. 

  (Final straight)
And in terms of ‘placing’ this is likely to be my best marathon ever… 44th!

Ok… Only 86 had entered, and they didn’t all complete it…but still. Top 50 finisher 😊 !

  (Post-marathon nutrition)

This wasn’t a big marathon in terms of numbers and it very much had the feel of a local club-run event. 

Signage could have been a little better in places (mile 10 / mile 23 for example) where my lovely wife ran after a runner or two to redirect those who had missed a turning…. They don’t know how priviliged they are – my wife very rarely runs (though she did join me for the odd minute or two for support along the way – I am also very honoured).

Water stations only had bins right next to them, so if you wanted to appropriately dispose of your cup you couldn’t run and drink.

There was no goody bag to speak of at the end, but there was a technical T- shirt, and unfortunately my medal said ‘HALF marathon finisher’ on the ribbon (look carefully at the beer photo again). They did apologise for that – I don’t do it for the bling anyway.

I did do the full. I promise. I have a million strava segment PRs to prove it (and an equal number of ‘second best’ times for the repeat lap!).

It was very good value for money though. And very friendly.

Of course the people were great  – runners, marshals, supporters (particularly my my own personal support – the actual present one and my virtual ones – thank you), and in all it was a good day. I can say I enjoyed it. A few quid was also raised for my local charity.

So… Did I achieve my goals?  
Well…  three out of four ain’t bad!
Good luck to you if you are marathoning soon!  I might be back.

Ashby 20 review

Posted: March 25, 2015 in Marathon, Reviews, running
Tags: , ,

I’m not actually very good at straightforward race reviews. A few things usually end up happening: I start boring myself, it will follow no chronological order, and will have no point… but nonetheless I think it would be useful to do anyway for this twenty-miler before the memory of it fades and I miss my opportunity to reflect and learn any lessons.

A couple of other blog posts I have come across reviewing the same race, worth a read can be found HERE and HERE.

I entered the Ashby 20 a while back after considering it for about….oooo…all of 20 seconds. One of those ‘last twenty places remaining’ posts on social media spurred me into action I wasn’t even sure it was a twenty mile event at that point (I just hoped it wasn’t a 20 hour, endurance one!). But it was close enough to home to not disrupt family life too much and was perfect preparation for Huddersfield marathon.  I had thought , “If I can’t manage this one, I shall pull out of the marathon for sure”.

The day began beautifully. The sun was shining, I felt recovered from my midweek half marathon effort, and I could find all the running gubbins that I had failed to prepare the night before.

The journey was straightforward. I was on my own, but even with my less-than-perfect navigation skills, I didn’t get lost and grabbed a parking space right next to the finishing area. Desperate for the loo and sufficiently blind not to see the rows of portaloos over the other side of the cricket field, I walked through town to use the ones at the leisure centre. There, you see, important stuff… I totally rock at this review-writing malarkey!

Returning to the cricket field I had a bit of time to kill so I set up a justgiving fundraising page via my mobile phone, in preparation for next month’s marathon.  I then pootled over to the start gathering area where I placed myself with the 3 to 3.5 hour pace group. Here, I recognised a chap from Colwick parkrun… There is a photo somewhere of us crossing the finish line at a similar time…but I’m wearing a dressing gown And dark sunglasses… I’ll see if I can find it…

Yup… Here it is…



Anyway, we had a nice chat before we were led to the actual start point… and we were off!

It was essentially a two-lap course, running about a mile out of Ashby-de-la-Zouch doing two 9-mile loops, then hobbling back in to Ashby again.

Inevitably, I went out faster than intended. I know, I know… It just seemed so easy… I know!

However… Having managed to maintain sub-nine-minute miles fairly comfortably for 11 miles, I figured, “let’s see how long you can keep this going for then, shall we?” 

At least to cover the half marathon distance, I thought.

The original plan was to attempt to run a half-marathon in approximately 2 hours, which until my final training run last week, was pretty much as fast as I had ever done that distance. I would then inevitably slow down, but would attempt to cling on to ten-minute miles for the final seven.  This would give me a 3:10:00 finish time and was therefore my target.

This was not taking into account the undulating nature of the course, so I thought this was perhaps an ambitious target.

The course was indeed undulating and the first lap was significantly but perhaps unsurprisingly somewhat flatter than the second one :-/

Here are my splits (I don’t normally do this but, well, I am doing so today so you’ll just have to deal with it)…



I think it is fair to say that mentally as well as physically, I let things slide a little after the 13 mile point.

My total, chip time  =  3:04:19

Happy with that.

And a few more personal bests to add to the collection…
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Support was great, the whole way round. Fantastic organisation. Lovely weather. Regular drinks/sponges/’nutrition’ stations brimming with wonderful volunteers.
The only negative I can think of is – despite the wonderful pre-race information pack and well-signed placards after drinks stations saying, “no rubbish to be dropped past this point” some runners were obviously still just chucking their cups/gel packets/bottles/lids at the side of the road wherever they fancied. There was even a bin at every mile marker so there really was every effort made by the organisers but some selfish runners still somehow see it as their right to throw rubbish where they like and expect someone else to tidy up… Grrrrr!

Now… ‘Nutrition‘… 

There were a number of things on offer: Gels… Jelly Babies… Chocolate… Bananas…    But up til this race I had always done my long runs on just water (I’m still not Jesus though), convincing myself that I was training my body to use my fat stores for energy.

If this had truly happened, then I would not have run out of energy for a very long time, but as it was, I was suffering from about mile 15, I would say (the splits show I was slowing before this but that’s when I felt it), so I accepted a banana half… Then later – a few Jelly Babies… Then later still – a square of chocolate.  I didn’t have any gels (It’s easy to resist the gels – they’re disgusting!)
So I’m still not sure of a nutrition strategy for the marathon :-/

I think the mental boost gained was greater than the physical one and I was too mentally weak to resist at that stage.  I also got a good mental boost by playing ‘Chariots of Fire Theme‘ by Vangelis over my iPod for the final 0.5 miles (using its internal speaker, of course – no headphones allowed).  That felt good. 

http://youtu.be/CSav51fVlKU

My phone GPS actually measured my route as 20.4 miles … Here’s that last 0.4 miles pace…



8:02 minute mile pace! – I should have had that tune on loop since mile 15!

One final thing…

I won!

Well… Not the whole thing – obviously, but I got an ALDI sponsored ‘spot prize’ of £5 in an envelope after I crossed the line – presumably just for being brilliant 😉

This went straight to the Rainbows charity who were collecting donations in exchange for a post-race sports massage at the cricket pavilion.

Painful but great!

Which is a summary of the massage and the Ashby 20 itself.

Sounds like a great band name, right?
Maybe not.

Firstly some grammar…

I chafe. I am chafing. I chafed.
You chafe. You are chafing. You chafed.
We chafe. We are chafing. We chafed.
They chafe. They are chafing. They chafed.
He chafes. He is chafing. He chafed.
She chafes. She is chafing. She chafed.
It chafes. It is chafing. It chafed.

This, on the other hand, is a chiffchaff…

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It has nothing to do with chafing.

It does ‘chaff‘ however… and indeed ‘chiff‘s (though not necessarily in that order). It is a bird so named due to its call, that sounds a bit like ‘chiffchaff‘.

This post is just about chafing.
It has nothing to do with ‘chaffing’ at all. In fact, I’m not even sure ‘chaffing’ is a word other than my rather contrived use of it, above.
STOP PRESS – quick Google search…
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So. It is a word…BUT has nothing to do with chafing.
I am fed up with chuffing people referring to chafing as chuffing chaffing! Ok?
Good.
Shall we move on?

I run. I am a runner (It’s ok – I’m not doing the whole grammar thing again!).
And as a runner I have experienced some pretty nasty chafing in my time. It happens. It has happened sometimes when not even running.

Now, I’m not a huge size. That’s all relative, I know. So, yes, probably (definitely) I am officially overweight, and with a BMI of 32, I could do with losing a few pounds, but I genuinely don’t consider myself to be large.
I do admit however, that I have a rugby player’s thighs rather than svelte runner’s legs. You can barely pinch any fat on them (probably the training they get from carting the rest of me around), but they are big and solid. And they rub. Especially on a run. They rub. Especially on a long, sweaty, hot run. They rub.
If I was a caveman, I’d have been famous as the one who discovered fire by rubbing his upper thighs together.

I have experimented in the past with different types of running underwear… cotton / polycotton / Polyamide 82% Elastane 18% /tight / loose / existent / non-existent (sorry…yes), and up until last week I’d have advocated the tight, low-friction option. And there would be plenty of Vaseline.
Let’s face it though, nobody really likes using liberal amounts of Vaseline down there on a cold winter’s morning….well…they might…but I don’t.

Sweating and Chafing Reducing Underwear
Chaffree.com

I was sent some underwear by the above company and was politely informed that I was not required to actually model them myself on here (although if I did then the SUSTYM would have come in very handy).
After I recovered from my exhibitionist disappointment, I agreed simply to write a review instead. So here goes…

They work.

I have now run some long runs of 15 miles plus wearing the men’s boxers…obviously… I had not been sent by any of the women’s knickerboxers or briefs so I couldn’t wear them to test…and I probably wouldn’t have worn them, even if they had been sent, but my guess is that they would work too.

Here’s the long version of the benefits:

-Seamless & Stretchy
-Lightweight, quick drying and machine washable
-Keeps skin cool, dry and comfortable through high performance wicking fabric COOLMAX®
-Latex Free
-Anti Bacterial properties
-Gives relief from sweating and chafing
-Double stitching to strengthen seams
-No irritating labels
-Soft flexible fabric with a second skin feel for minimal movement.
-Sizes Small-3XL
-Short (5″) and Long Leg (7″) Lengths
-Available in 1 (individual) 3 or 5 pack

And here’s the short version:

They were supportive, cool, really comfortable, and prevented thigh fires.

Ha! That will have to be what they use on their ‘customer reviews’ section now.

Now, I don’t want to be all positive and not present a balanced review here, so here’s a couple of negatives:

1) How can a product have ‘double stitching to strengthen seams‘ AND be ‘seamless‘? Ok I’m being pedantic (very unlike me, I know). And to be fair, I know the point is that they certainly feel seamless. Flat. No harsh lines.

2) The company is called ‘Chaffree’ – not ‘Chafefree’.
After everything I said at the beginning, too. I guess I’ll just have to let that one go.

But ultimately, the point is that they work.
It’s true.
What more do you want?
They do the job… and they do it really well. They don’t roll over on the waist band. They keep their shape and they keep me running pain free…well at least pain free from chafing.

They aren’t cheap, at £17 for a single pair (although increased purchases result in decreased unit costs), but you pay for quality and I can honestly say that I will make sure that I have some of these boxers ready for any future long run, including my upcoming marathon.
They are definitely a part of my stock running kit now and I will not be going on another long run unless I’m wearing a pair of these beauties.

Disclaimer thingamy bit: I was sent three pairs of Chaffree boxer shorts free of charge in return for writing a review here, but was under no obligation to be nice about them. This post contains affiliate links.

Being an internationally famous running ambassador* has got to have its perks, and recently, after making a nuisance of myself and selling my soul to the marketing world a polite email request to the lovely people at gunghoco.com I was sent a fantastic pair of New Balance ‘Leadville 1210‘ trail shoes to review.

*when I was 12 I ran in a fun run during a French exchange trip to… well France… Obviously.

Now as much as I do not wish to shoot myself in the now beautifully adorned foot, I am intrigued by the practice of giving shoes away to lowly bloggers such as myself for review, especially since the last time it happened to me, my review could be summed up by “oooo look – they’re really, really blue!” …well…. They were!
(By the way, this new pair are really, really green!)

I am especially puzzled since a quick Internet search produces some really decent results with proper in-depth reviews from people who actually sound like they know what they are on about. So where is the sense in sending me a pair?

Maybe I appeal to a special, elite, discerning kind of runner…yes…that’s probably it :-/

I can only assume that these marketing people are very, very clever and know what they are doing (or perhaps had a load of size 11s from old stock that needed shifting, I don’t know) so rather than try to pretend that I’m a technological running boffin who has the authority to advise his vast readership on the merits and pitfalls of this shoe, I shall just tell you what I think in my usual ‘random thoughts and running shorts‘ kind of way.

Here goes…

The Leadville 1210 trail shoes are very green (at least, the green-colour ones I was sent are) and they are designed for running on trails.

(I think it’s all going well so far)

They are apparently quite lightweight at under 0.3kg but I’m not sure how accurate that is because when I weighed them, they showed up as being…ahem…over 93kg…

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Considering they were apparently designed based on the Leadville 100 ultra-distance event, I have confidence that these lighter-than-I’m-used-to trainers will be able to support my ample frame over the rather more moderate distances I aim at these days.

I am all too aware that if I wear a pair of Ray Ban sunglasses I do not suddenly become a qualified pilot.
If I buy a wetsuit I do not instantly become a great open-water swimmer.
If I go on X-factor, I do not instantly become an attention seeking media whore who has sold their soul to Simon Cowell

Well you get the idea. Basically – I know that a pair of new shoes won’t turn me into an amazing runner.

But for the 10 miles I did in them on their first outing (the day after they arrived), I was certainly a very happy runner 🙂

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Here’s my favourite ‘you-have-to-earn-it-to-sit-on-it’ bench which has featured before on this blog…
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There’s a heron in this one…just for some added interest…
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So, as you can see, not the most challenging of trail runs. Pretty flat. Not at all muddy.
But you know what? – these shoes still felt great. Sometimes trail shoes are so rugged that running on the harder, flatter surfaces actually becomes uncomfortable. Not so here.

Also, they have this little connecting bit of material between the tongue and the lace-hole area (what New Balance call ‘Debris Free’ construction) preventing bits of crud from entering the shoe at the front. Good idea. Doesn’t stop little stones getting in through the heel area unfortunately, but aside from wearing a dog’s flea collar around your ankles as you run I’m not sure what to do about that.

Warning: technical review bit coming up…

I really like the grips.
They jut out in one direction on the forefoot to get good push-off, and in the opposite direction on the heel, preventing (I anticipate) some downhill bum-sliding. Cool.

Spaced far enough apart to easily get rid of any mud post-run, I also don’t anticipate having to stand outside my front door banging the soles of my shoes together, announcing loudly that no guns have actually been fired in the area. Admit it – we’ve all done it (embarrassingly banged shoes together loudly….not fired guns).
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That last photo was taken three runs into their lifetime – still looking good 🙂

Technical review bit finished.

I jokingly suggested to Lizzie @ gunghoco.com that if the shoes made me half as speedy as her very efficient email responses, then I’d be laughing…

…well…I’m laughing.
I ran the nearby parkrun on Saturday wearing these shoes and got a five second PB!

Strictly speaking actually, my eight year old son had that time recorded as his own (even though he didn’t run at all) due to the fact that I have laminated a double-sided parkrun barcode so that I always have both of ours to hand. This works well until you are so shattered that you hand it in the wrong way up on a Saturday morning!

Poor little fella would have had to wait 7 years or so to break ‘his’ PB if it wasn’t for the lovely parkrun people adjusting this for us.

So… There we have it, a very non-boffin like shoe review from NotMuchOfaRunner…

Comfy.
Strong.
Rugged.
Well designed.
Supportive.
Has just the right amount of cushioning.
Bright.

Just like the Leadville 1210 in fact.

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