Monday 23 March 2015

Double Hitter - The Dark and Mad March Hare 10k

Hello all,

A quick review of events 6 & 7 of 37, and what a mad weekend it was. I've been looking forward to the first event since I booked it and a little apprehensive. I have heard some mixed reviews of the event last year as it was a different course to the one this year and so I didn't know really what to expect.

So Event 6 was "The Dark" a 10 mile (ish) multi terrain night race. Set in the beautiful grounds of Lanhydrock House in Bodmin. These beautiful grounds are looked after by the National Trust. The event is one created by Mud Crew who have under their belts others like "Arc of Attrition 100 Miles", "R.A.T the Plague 64 miles" and " The Scrooge". All events very successful, and having been involved in them or know people who have been involved in them be it as a runner, volunteer or supporter I knew the standard of the events.

Knowing Lanhydrock as I do, I knew it wasn't going to be an easy course to start with and I definetly wasn't let down. After picking up fellow runners I made my way from Plymouth to Lanhydrock House just outside Bodmin, Cornwall and we arrived at registration in good time. Plenty of parking and with the sun still beaming down as it started to set, meant the weather was awesome. Registration was simple enough, seperated into Alphabetical Names I went to the right desk and picked up my mandatory bright orange Mud Crew Vest and Number. The vest was to be an outer layer to make the runners be seen more easily in the dark and the race number was good. It wasn't generically printed out and each one had the runners name on it which to me makes it a little special and a  nice touch. The small attention to details does it for me.

The Vest and Race Number

The sun went down pretty soon and so did the temperature as there was no cloud cover but the sky was covered in bright stars. 7pm came and all the runners soon left the warmth of the National Trust cafe and mustered on the start line. There was 6 members of my running club "The Plymouth Musketeers RC" there and we all gathered together chatting away as we awaited the safety brief. The brief was given and at 7.15pm as stated we were off!

Me with some of my various running friends (pic by Steve O'Shea)

Now I fully expected when I turned up to be running by myself pretty much for the all of it, but the 6 of us without really talking about it, decided to stay together. We headed down the route and soon we hit the mixed terrains of  tarmac, gravel, mud and grass. I don't think any of us were really planning on going all out, as one member already ran event earlier in the day and most of us had another first thing in the morning. As we headed around the course we started to hear some screams as someone was jumping out scaring and wasn't too long when we hit the first of the stonking great hills. Conserving energy we power walked the hills and ran the rest.

The course was two laps of 5 miles so we knew we would be hitting those hills once more for sure. What goes up must come down and we did so. Right the way down to a river! It wasn't just a simple river crossing, we actually went along the river in and some parts the water came up past our knees and the river bottom changed from gritty to bog mud. It took team work I can tell you to get us round helping each other and informing where the sudden drops came. One part was a deep pool which they had two divers mainly for safety and also to cause the runners havoc as they tried to get through it. It was cold and luckily knew our feet would soon warm up again once back running.

As we got past the water towards the end of the lap we had to get ourselves over the horse cross country obstacles. They weren't hard, but they were another thing to slow you down. Again we used team work so we stuck together and not leave anyone behind.

Compared to the start where there was stream of orange vest and headlamps burning brightly we were starting to see gaps between runners and groups of runners. We approached half way with a water station and plenty of jelly baby type sweets I see two friendly faces who were there supporting their club runners. I quick hug and I was off again for the second lap.

Just before it got dark!

Already knowing it would be pretty much the same, I tried not to think to much of hills. Soon enough we were making our way up and down them. Again we hit the water and as we were already used to it, but it didn't get any warmer! This time though they through a tunnel under a foot bridge in. Taller people had to crawl on hands and knees, but if you are a short arse like me then you could just get away with bending over without having to get fully wet.

The 6 of us still together, despite wee stops for some, we came towards the finish line and crossed the line together. 2 hours and 18 minutes later we finished 10 tough, dark, wet, muddy miles. The marshals were brilliant, and knowing what it is like to support and marshal in the cold I made sure I thanked every one each time I past them. Without them a lot of these events couldn't go on as they are volunteers. Andrew Ferguson and his crew did another great job. Those that did the year before I spoke to said this years was far better. The National Trust cafe were great as well, they stay open to cater for the cold wet runners and the supporters long into the night. Would I do it again? Yes but definitely with friends, it made it so much fun despite being tough. Well done Mud Crew!

I wore my X-Bionic Fennec top and Running shorts (under my leggings) and X-Socks marathon socks. Despite being wet, my body remained warm and even though I had grit in my shoes from the river no blisters appeared much to my surprise. X-Bionic can be proud that their kit is dealing with the various tests I put them through. I also wore 3 Buff's, one for my head, neck and wristband. It was definitely a 3 Buff occasion.

Event 7 Sunday morning was a local one called "Mad March Hare 10k" organised by Plymouth Round Table and only a few minutes down the road from my house. As my running club was paying for the entry fee it was rude not give it a go. I have never run the race before so this was a new one for me, I however have run pretty much the route before in some form so knew what it would be like. Having got to bed about Midnight after dropping everyone home from The Dark, dragging my self out of bed in the morning was going to be tough. I did drag myself out and only eating a banana, I wasn't exactly fueled ready for the race after the event the night before.

It was a 9am start and my fellow club runners who were running this event and not Tavistock Half turned up and we soon had a catch up. My plan was pretty simple, go out easy, enjoy the event and see how it goes. 9am O'clock came and off we went. Leaving the Speedcross circuit near Plympton at the start we turned left and headed towards Saltram Estate. The weather was glorious sunshine and despite being a little bit fresh at the start it soon warmed up. We headed along the estuary trail and followed around towards Saltram Hill. I was at a nice comfortable pace and chatting away with friends. One friend from the club had never run a race before this was her first. So I stuck with her and another from the club and encouraged them on. Soon enough we got to the top of the hill and turned back for last 5k to finish. The finish was where we started so mainly down hill on the way back.

Another finished!

Again the marshals were great, and plenty of support out along the way. The event was well organised and received a nice little medal at the end of it. I wore my X-Bionic Trick top and another pair of X-Bionic Running shorts along with X-Sock Sky Run socks. They were great in the warm weather, kept me comfortable and the legs weren't tired. I also wore my new sun glasses provided by Sunwise. The Canary Wharf glasses are brilliant, so light and they didn't steam up like some do. They don't slip off your nose either when sweaty. Despite running on pretty much empty, I was ok. Tired but ok. I finished in 1 hour dead well off my PB of 48 mins but it didn't matter, because again I enjoyed myself and helped others.

Sunwise Canary Wharf Black Sunglasses I wore provided by Sunwise

So that was Events 6 & 7 the next two will be up in Shropshire over Easter weekend!

Thank you for reading

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Silverstone Half Marathon review

Hello all,

I thought it was now time to review event number 5 of 37 this which I completed at the weekend. The Silverstone Half marathon was the chosen event in my build up in training towards the ultimate goal later on in the year. When I first heard of this half marathon I had two thoughts running through my head. Firstly, "YES! Another F1 track to run around". Being a F1 fan and having already had the privilege of running around Abu Dhabi F1 track, this was another one on my bucket list. Secondly, "I don't fancy running around a race track 4 times though". Now the second thought came from reading it had 4 laps. However all is not as it seems!

Now living down in Plymouth, Devon it is a fair bit of a trek to get to Silverstone. Luckily a lot of members from a running club I am a member of (Plymouth Musketeers) were going and some of us got a minibus organised by one of the other members to get us up there. This however meant we were leaving at 5am to get there in time before they closed the parking at 10.30am before the race started at 12pm. It was going to be a long day!

We soon made the journey and arrived at the circuit in good time, but what caught most of us out was the temperature there. It was frigging Baltic! This was supposed to be spring, it felt like a December day. We parked up and made our way after a little walk into the track's ground. With so many people there, the atmosphere was already building. Plenty of facilities, like burger vans, coffee vans, an Adidas Shop etc all set up. One of the race garages was sett up as a changing area, and others set up for the bag drops.

Arrival at the track (pic By Sharon Adams)
As others from the club arrived who travelled up seperately the night before, we soon all met up. All of us chatting about the race, how we are going to tackle it. Who was going for PB's and who was just out to enjoy it. I wasn't the only one out to just enjoy the race and wasn't PB chasing which was nice to know.

Not going for a PB on a pretty much flat course which has PB all over it? Yep my season this year, is definitely not about PB hunting. If it happens then so be it, but I'm not chasing them. Sometimes I've not enjoyed or appreciated an event in the past because I was too focused on my performance or trying to go balls out to get a PB. It's not until you go out to just enjoy the event and the atmosphere you start to learn how awesome most of them really are.

At 11.15am I get changed, and put my stuff in the already provided race bag. They sent through a race pack prior to the event. This included your number, timing chip, race bag, and race information magazine. So when I got there, there was no queuing for registration nor any real hassle.

Soon the announcement that the Wheelchair races was started with Dave "Weirwolf" Weir amongst those athletes. Not long after they called the runners to the start. They separated the runners starting positions to sub 2 hours and over 2 hours. Regardless of what time I was planning on doing it in I was going to go in the sub 2 hours as it will soon spread out quicker than being stuck at the back. I went around the 1.58 pace maker, as this was a good comfortable time for me and more than capable of. So finishing anywhere around that time either less or more would be fine and happy with.

On the start line waiting for "go, go, go!"
That was it, we were off! Not too long after the gun had gone, I was soon crossing the starting line. It was still reasonably busy but with such a wide track it wasn't long until gaps appeared and space was found and I started to settle down. Being a GP track it wasn't going to be hilly, but with the cold temperature and overcast skies, I prayed it wouldn't poor down and make things too uncomfortable.

The course had two different atmosphere's. The first was when you hit the spectators, they were awesome. The children holding their hands out for high fives, the adults clapping and cheering on all the strangers they have never met before. Having a 4 year old son who loves marshalling parkruns and other events I know how disappointed he gets when he sticks his hand out for high fives and some runners leave him hanging. Seeing a little girl no older than my son doing the same, I looked to see if the nearest runner would high five her back as she sat on her dad's shoulders. No the runners didn't and she looked so sad. I stopped turned around and went back and gave her that high five she wanted. It was my way of thanking her for coming out to support who ever she was supporting and for cheering everyone else on in the cold bleak day. Her face lit up and a little voice said "thank you". That there already made my race.

I made my way round the course, passing dj's entertaining supporters and the runners. The most unusual and unexpected thing to hear and see was a Bollywood style band singing and playing " We will rock you" by Queen. It made me chuckle but also made me think WTF!

I was now over half way and starting to think about picking my pace up a little to finish strong, until I caught up with a fellow club runner. "Alright Vic?" I asked as I started to pass him, "Starting to struggle Owain" came his reply. "No good Vic, I will keep ya company" I replied. It didn't matter how many times he told me to go on. I didn't leave him. One thing I learnt during my time running, is runners are just runners to each other, they are friends and family.

As the miles ticked, and with the weather not improving but not getting worse, we plodded on to the end. The track well marshalled but some time bland when there wasn't any supporters. I spent most of it taking in the course thinking about various F1 races that went on there. We came to the last mile and we suddenly were hit with quite a head wind, which I wasn't expecting at all.

Vic told me to go on again, and once more I declined staying with him as we crossed the line together. We both crossed the line in Sub 2hr 10 mins. Averaging sub 10 min/mile pace was a very nice and comfortable way to run this event.Vic was happy, I got him still under 2hrs 10 minutes so that pleased me too. Sometimes giving up your own time to help someone else is far more rewarding than a PB.

Now as I said in the beginning the course description says laps, which does put some people off but you actually don't do laps like it sound. You never repeat the same part of the course in teh same direction, some times you go back in reverse but you don't go round in actual laps (see pic). I also ran 13.32 miles not 13.1. A lot of people did this and found it strange but what you need to realise is that when they measure it, they measure the quickest racing line 13.1 miles. so if you don't follow that "line" going wide round the corners and around other runners you will add a little extra on.

My Garmin tracking of the course.

The kit I wore for this race was my X-Bionic Trick shirt, X-Bionic Running shorts and X-Socks Marathon socks. I chose my British Buff (had to as it was home to British GP), and used my Marvel Heroes Buff as a wristband. My X-Bionic kit was awesome in the cold, kept me warm enough without making me over sweat. Brilliant stuff! Unfortunately it wasn't sunny enough to wear my new Sunwise Canary Wharf glasses.

Now what did I get for my entry money? Great Value I'd say. For £20 you received a good race pack to start with, great facilities when you arrived, great support and marshaling at a well laid out course, brilliant bag drops. An awesome good bag, including a brilliant medal and t-shirt. I have paid more for far less in the past that's for sure.

The goody bag contents (pic by Sharon Lang)
After the race, I set off back to Plymouth for another long minibus drive. It didn't matter though because I had good company. One of the good reasons to join a running club!

Some of the Plymouth Musketeers RC after the race (pic by Sharon Adams)

Thank you for reading this blog, I've next got a double event hitter at the weekend coming.

I will leave you with the pic of my Silverstone Medal


Wednesday 4 March 2015

X-Bionic/X-Socks Support and Kit Review

Hello all,

  Well the time has come to blog about the awesome support that X-Bionic and X-Socks are giving me and the kit they have supplied me with. I've not reviewed any kit properly before, however I did carry out testing on a pair of shoes for a running mag, but I did not have to blog anything about it. Hopefully, I hope to do the justice the kit deserves.

  Last year, I created an event for myself as I couldn't find one to suit my needs. The event of 7 Ultras in 7 days was created and suitably named #YOLO7dayUltra we will only live once. This blog isn't about the event, so I won't go on too much about it. I approached a lot of companies for assistance in some form to help me perform and complete this event. This is where X-Bionic and X-Socks come in.

   After I had spoken to them regarding my event they sent me a couple pieces of kit to use for my training. I was over the moon, finally someone was willing to help me. The kit they provided me was a pair of Running Pants shorts and a Fennec Shirt short sleeved. I felt humbled and privileged to be provided with such kit. Obviously very happy to do as much PR via the means I had including social media to pay them back in return. This wasn't the end of their support, I kept them updated as my event calendar filled up for 2015 as not only did I plan on running 7 Ultra's in 7 Days but I will be now completing 37 events throughout 2015. From small parkruns and local events to big events of marathons, ultras including 24 hour events. They supplied me with even more kit including X-Socks. Additional kit an extra pair of Running Pants shorts, The Trick shirt short sleeved, Marathon X-Socks and Sky Run X-Socks. Overwhelmed by the support is an understatement I can tell you!

  Now on to the kit itself, firstly I'll start with the Running Pants shorts. I'm very particular about the tight fitting shorts I wear, so I wasn't too sure how these would suit me. My biggest hate is chaffing in the lower parts whilst on my long runs due to sweating. Now depending on the brand of shorts I vary between medium and large sizes, and I went with medium on these pairs. First impressions was they were a good looking pair of shorts, although I wasn't use to the type of material they made from compared to other brands of similar shorts.

   I wasn't sure how I would get on with them to be honest. I wasn't let down at all, the fit was good and because of the design I have never felt so comfortable like I do with these shorts. The good thing about them, is their design. They allow my lower regions breathe in hot conditions. I have conducted a fair few training runs now in the Middle East so they have been put through their paces in the heat. With temperatures at 32 degrees plus, I can safely tell you, I can't praise these shorts highly enough. They help my performance in both hot conditions from the Middle East to the lot colder conditions of the winter back here in the UK. Yes even through cold muddy conditions of the UK that I have run through they haven't yet failed to perform for me.

  The Partial Kompression still gave me the compression I like without the loss of cooling, the ISO Pads retained the body heat when needed especially during my cold runs but doesn't over heat me during the hot training runs I have carried out. Finally, the way the Two Step 3D-Bionicsphere System did exactly what it was designed to do, the grip and comfort it provided is something I found many other shorts lack in.

  The Fennec Top short sleeve was the first top I was given, is a top I wouldn't have even thought about really wearing in the past. I'm used to wearing technical t-shirts for training in, so I wasn't sure how I'd fair in this type of top.

  Now the Fennec Top was definitely a top that was needed whilst out in the Middle East. Obviously in the heat I was going to sweat and overheat a fair bit. Straight away with it's design, I automatically noticed how good it was. My body itself didn't notice the heat, the way the top removed most of the sweat whilst keeping some to cool the body was incredible! Again it was comfortable and the technology that was put into the top was noticeable by how it fitted to me. I'm not a racing whippet by any means but it didn't matter. What about in the cold like in the UK? Well it didn't fail me then, I have yet to fault this top in any weather. Especially when wet, it never let me down. As I run for clubs, I often where my top under a club vest or shirt of some sort. It is like a second skin underneath the club top and I even sometimes forget I am wearing it.

  The second top provided for me is The Trick Top short sleeved. Now I've not long received this top, so I've not yet put it through it's paces like the Fennec top above. If it's anything like the Fennec top, I doubt I will be disappointed. Some of the same technology has gone into The Trick as well new additions. For instance the Expansion Flex Zone at the shoulder joints allows unrestricted movement, this doesn't make the top ride up because the Stretch Ribs help the top stay in place and that allows the various technologies on the top to stay in place and do exactly what they were designed to do.

  I'm really looking forward to running more with this top as already its showing good signs of performance and compares very well with it's older brother the Fennec.

The Trick
  So if tops and shorts wasn't enough, socks were included. Now socks is a funny subject when it comes to running. Everyone seems to have their own opinions on socks and most will stick with what they know and very unlikely will move to a different brand or type of sock. Which is fair enough, up until now I pretty much stuck with a certain type of brand and type of sock because they served my purposes well.

  I wasn't sure how exactly these two different type of socks were going fair on my feet. The first type of X-Sock was the Marathon socks. A single layered sock unlike my usual socks, I feared I may possibly suffer from the dreaded blisters. Now both types of socks are good, but at this present time the Marathon socks are my favourite pair. They have stood up to distance, mud, water and a good hard pounding on various surfaces.They are comfortable fit snuggly to my feet without issues. Despite only being one layered it didn't seem to matter.

  The second pair are Sky Run socks. Again a good pair of socks that fit well on my feet and cause me no issues. I've yet to take them out on a long run but they have stood up to a fair battering on tarmac so far. They have made it through the wet ok but have yet to taste the muddy terrains I tend to run through.

  Both socks are good and there is little between them, I just for some reason prefer the Marathon ones, however my mind may change as my training progresses.

X-Socks Sky Run
X-Socks Marathon

  Again I am honoured to be given some great items to use in my training an events. Even if I wasn't given them, I know I would actually buy these and can't recommend them highly enough to people.

  So far, I have completed 4 out 37 events and I have some big ones ahead I can tell you. Some exciting times to be had and I know with the support of X-Bionic and X-Socks I will definitely demolish the 37 events and especially the 7 Ultras in 7 Days event #YOLO7dayUltra.

One of my muddy parkruns wearing The Trick

Thank you for reading and until next time!


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