Sunday, March 22, 2015

Ashmei Trail Socks

Socks are an odd thing to review, they are important as they are the buffer between your foot and your shoe but largely they are invisible. You don't necessarily notice a good sock but you do a bad one. My sock of choice for the last 6 months or so has been an Inov8 trail sock. 

They are good socks, good elastic support and comfortable. The main issue is durability. Where the sock rubs on the shoe the fibres wear through leaving them threadbare in the exact spot that you need, er, thread. Look in my kit drawer and you can see the fibres that have worn loose. 

I've also been wearing some nike road socks that are again, decent socks, they are thin, polyester and quite durable. They offer little by way of cushioning and are more a liner.

Contrast with the Ashmei trail socks that I, along with a bunch of other wannabe ambassadors, were given as a gift for attending the ambassadors day. The first thing about these socks is that they look like a traditional running sock but someone like Hilly or Thorlos. Predominantly white with some coloured trim they sit just below the ankle but have a large cushioned tab at the back. 

Putting them on and you can feel the support through the arch of the foot and also the length of the foot. Elastic through the heel holding the sock firm. 

In the week since I was given them I decided to stress test them a bit by wearing them for 5 days worth of run commuting. A week where I also increased my mileage a bit. I wasn't washing them in between either. This was to test the durability and also the odor busting mix of merino wool and carbon. Marrying the natural wicking properties of merino with the thirst of carbon.

I ran 10 times over the 5 days and covered 38.9 miles. I was wearing an Adidas Boost shoe for all these runs. 

Remarkably after a week the socks did not smell. I don't have a particularly good sense of smell so managed to persuade Mrs. B to test them. Reluctantly she had a sniff, early in the week she said they smelled like damp wool, that was after I had just taken them off. Later in the week nothing really. Quite something considering. Consider that this is the sock, the clothes are made of the same/similar weave and so should perform the same. 

As for durability, well the integrity of the sock was maintained, they did not feel sloppy or loose at all during the week. The elastic keeping taught. They were a bit bobbly towards the end of the week, a inevitable (?) by product of using wool. They also showed some signs of rubbing on the big toe as you can see in the picture. There was no obvious wear and no signs of any weak spots.

These are very good socks, the fact that they don't smell means makes them ideal for someone like me that run commutes. I get through a lot of kit and sometimes at the end of the day to run home it can be quite nasty putting on the mornings gear. Not so with these socks. I really liked the oversized tab at the back of the socks, this made getting them really easy and at no time did it feel like pulling it would damage the sock. 

The best feature though, for me, was the elastic support given to the foot. From the heel through the length and then on the bridge of the foot this is a really supportive and secure sock. 

The longest run I did in these was around 7 miles, the shortest was 2.5, as I've already mentioned I wore my adidas boost trainers for all runs. 

While these were a gift the review is honest and unbiased. It is actually quite hard to review a sock as there's not a lot you can really say. These have clearly been thought out and designed to be functional. They are quite expensive but as a measure of how good they are I have subsequently ordered another pair. 

I would wear them with confidence on a long run and suggest that you could do so out of the box such is the performance of this item.

Top class socks!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Ashmei Ambassador Day - what a great day that was...

What a great morning!

Today was the Ashmei Ambassadors day, i started by preparing the car; blacking out the windows, putting on the diplomatic plates and some small flags that sit on the bonnet above the headlamps. I didn't but i did make the drive to Tring, it was a beautiful morning, bright and sunny and very cold. It was a couple of hours drive and it pretty much flew by. Arriving at Ashmei HQ was quietly impressive, large automatic metal gates with a large banner. They opened automatically, very bond. On site it was very relaxed and understated. Old farm buildings converted or otherwise. The Ashmei HQ was easy to find not least of all because the large Airstream caravan parked outside. 

It turned out that this was actually named Phoenix after the owner's son, Ashmei, incidentally, is an anagram of his daughters name. Simon met me at the entrance and showed me inside.

On walking into the HQ the energy was immediately apparent. To call it a buzz would be to do it an injustice. It was vibrant. Friendly and excited chatter, athletes all getting to know each other, drinking juice or water (where was the coffee?) and munching on fruit or croissants. There was also a large plate of Fererro Rocher (we were being quite spoiled). 

Registration was at the back of the room, stickers for your name, a disclaimer and a 'fun fact' later and it was socialising and networking. My mind went totally blank when asked for a fun fact - quite embarrassing really. I started talking to Julie Kummer of Like the Wind magazine and Freestak, it had been her husband Simon that had shown me in when i arrived. After a short chat i went and had my photo taken, the last piece of advice being to make sure i didn't have any croissant in my beard!

There was then an introduction by Simon and then a presentation by the Ashmei founder, Stuart Brooke. This was an impressive talk by a man who is clearly passionate about what he makes and why he makes it. Had there been a rail with clothing to buy at that moment i think everyone in that room would have been getting their cash out. The ethos, effort and thought that goes into each piece of clothing was beautifully articulated and made perfect sense. 

We were then all given a pair of the trail running Ashmei socks as a gift. Of course we all put them on, there's nothing quite like that fresh sock feeling and these didn't disappoint. Snug, supporting and soft all at once. Today's run wasn't really a session to test them properly but i am looking forward to wearing them on my next long run. 

There was time for a few questions and then we got changed ready to head out on a run or ride. This was to be an hour or so. The weather had turned a bit while we were inside and so it was actually pretty cold when we headed out. Short sleeves were a bit of a mistake. The route we ran was beautiful. We were in the countryside and on the trails within 5 minutes of leaving the HQ. Up towards the Ridgeway along to a beacon and then back around. There were some excellent vista's and on a sunnier day the view would have gone for miles. On our return leg we coincided with a local race. Cheering on the runners and making way for them to run through our large group when we encountered them. 

The run was great, views and terrain aside it was really great to be running with like minded people and getting to know them. I was running and chatting with a triathlete when i tumbled. Spectacularly. Crashing hard on my right shoulder. I was fine but it was embarrassing as the group stopped to help me and check i was ok. That would now be my fun fact "on an ambassadors selection day i face planted on the run". 

Back at the Ashmei HQ there was more grazing at the buffet table. Some final conversations with the other athletes and then a farewell from Simon. 

Nobody really wanted to leave or at least that was how it felt. This was a party that could have gone on and on. The environment was welcoming and familiar and the people there all shared the same passions. To be outdoors doing their sport whatever it might be. 

As i walked to the car I felt so incredibly motivated and energized. Like i wanted to run again and maybe the whole 70 miles home. When you spend the whole morning in an environment built around running with people that feel the same then i don't see how you cannot be touched by that. 

The reason we were all there was because we want to become brand ambassadors. If i were selected it would be truly awesome. To be associated with the people and Ashmei brand is exactly where i would want to be. There were, though 40-50 other people that all feel the same and who are all equally awesome, positive and motivated. I do not envy those making the choices and only hope that i feature in their thinking. If i don't then i genuinely wish whoever is selected well as hey were a great bunch of people and will do a fantastic job i am sure.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Ashmei Brand Ambassadors

Quite often you see competitions or give-away's advertised online. It will be something like "follow company x and RT this message for a chance to win _____", or "tell us in 120 characters why_____". I've entered a few of them and even won one once - Meridian Foods sent me a box full of nut products after a "follow and RT" type of competition. 

These type of things are random and from what I can see people enter them just to try and win. They might not be interested in the product but free stuff is free stuff! Contrast this with the invitation to submit an entry to be a Brand Ambassador and it's very different. I saw the advert on Facebook that Ashmei were looking for Brand Ambassadors. Clicked the link, completed the form and hit send. I never expected it to go any further. 

Imagine my surprise then when barely a week later I received an email invitation to an Ashmei Brand Ambassadors Day on 14th March at their HQ in Tring. 

To say I was excited was an understatement so I accepted the invitation. Actually the first thing I did was look up where Tring was as I'd never actually heard of it before, it's close enough so then I accepted the invitation. 

When you look at the Ashmei website and product set it is clear that they are a quality outfit. Everything oozes with that quality and style. Reading reviews of the products online and they are not merely for show, the products work, the quality of the presentation being matched by the products themselves. While it seems obvious to say you cannot have one without the other that's very clearly not always the case. 

This week I have been very excited as the day approaches, even finding myself saying yesterday that it was two more sleeps! They day is structured with arrivals and photo's between 10-1045. Then there's a presentation and Q&A before two groups head out for an hours run or bike ride. I liked how in the invitation it stressed that this was not a race! 

It would be completely beyond my imagination if I were to be selected as one of the four athletes they pick for the role of Brand Ambassador - I am going as I definitely want to be in the mix but more importantly as it will be an interesting and, for me, a unique experience. I will also get to meet like-minded motivated people passionate about their sport. That's what I think it is I can offer, I am so passionate about my running and what it gives to me that I try to share it. I have done, and continue to do, a bit of coaching and want to build on that. Not because I want it to be my job but because I want other people to get out of this sport what I and so many other people do. That sense of self-confidence, mental equilibrium and a fantastic feeling of well-being. 

I am sure I could offer something valuable in the role and would love to be a Brand Ambassador for Ashmei but if I don't make it I am sure it will have been a fantastic day.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

DNS - Did Not Start

I have missed out on quite a few races that I have entered due to
injury. The pattern would normally be...

Feel healthy -> Enter a couple of races -> Complete the first Race ->
breakdown -> Miss next race. Repeat to fade.

A year ago I made the decision that I would only enter a race once I
had finished the next one and was sure I was healthy and physically
able to do it. This didn't last long and towards the end of 2014 I had
entered the Thames Trot and then, for four weeks later, the Groundhog

Things were going against trend... I finished the #TT in good repair
and was looking forward to the Groundhog. Thinking being that with a
good 7-10 days of rest and small recovery type runs I could do a 25-30
mile week, have a weeks taper and with the residual strength from the
ultra training maybe even PB at marathon distance. It felt possible.

A week after the #TT I succumbed to a heavy cold <insert man flu gag
here> sore throat, bad cough. Even a couple days off work. Felt
rubbish, after about a week the cough went to be replaced by a
streaming nose. Through all of this the inevitable aches and pains
that come with a cold. I felt rubbish.

The irony here being that it all started 2 days after I had my flu jab
where I had boasted to the nurse that I had not had a cold in months
if not years!

I tried a couple of runs during that time when I was feeling ok and
while I was able to complete them it was possibly the worse thing to
have done, the improvement in well being being quickly returned to
rubbish in the space of a slow 5km.

This past week I felt like I had shaken off my cold. A few IPA's on
Saturday night seemingly doing the trick - medicinal you understand.
With Groundhog a week away, it's this Saturday, my plan was to do some
easy running this week and try for a long run of 8-10 miles to see how
it went. I ran this on Tuesday evening, quicker pace than I was
expecting I was just running on feel and felt ok. Afterwards I was
shattered and the following morning stiff as a board.

Waking up this morning I didn't feel great. Not as bad as before but
just an indicator that I have probably pushed to much too quickly and
that running a marathon on Saturday would be the wrong thing to do,
assuming it is even physically possible for me. It's a horrible
decision to make and not taken lightly but feels like the right thing
to do.