Friday, January 29, 2016

The king is dead long live the king... (Deuter running pack)

I was on holiday in the Alps in the summer of 2013, a brilliant, truly beautiful holiday. While there I bought a running pack, a Salomon Trail 20. It has served me well accompanying me on my run commutes on an almost daily basis over the last two and a half years - probably getting on for 2,800 miles. This week I had to say goodbye to it. Its demise was actually a little sad, a bit like Achilles and his heel, it was the smallest of ailments that meant its retirement. The clip that fastens the chest strap broke. Not even fully, just on one edge. By using it upside down, the clip not the bag, it still held (I don't really understand why - probably physics or something). It was fragile thought and without it the bag wasn't really usable.

I tried to buy a spare but that's not feasible. I also looked at whether I could replace the clips with any other clip, again due to the design not feasible. So the bag has been retired.

In it's place I bought something completely different - a running pack by Deuter. Specifically a Deuter Race EXP Air Rucksack in green.


​It's quite a different pack to the Salomon one. Much more structured and rigid. The back has an air flow system. There is a rigid frame on the​ back that curves the pack away from the back. This allows air flow and means that your back should get less sweaty and uncomfortable. The straps are also very different and made of a webbing material that feels very strong. Padding at the base of the pack that fits the lumbar region and the usual waist and chest strap make this pack very secure and comfortable.

One thing that is a little issue for me, although not enough to stop me buying it, is the lack of pockets or pouches on the straps or waist belt. Having easily accessible pockets would complete this bag. I used just such a pocket on my Salomon pack for my phone and my keys - so that I could access them without taking the bag off. I have solved this by wearing my flip belt with the pack. Not ideal but a good enough work around.

The main compartment of the bag is plenty big enough for commuting and can be expanded slightly with a zip that goes all the way round expanding the capacity. I generally carry food (sandwiches & fruit) with then clean underwear and a shirt. This all fits without the need to expand the pack. There is room to spare.  There is a small pocket on the back, in the picture it is the area with the writing on it, that is big enough for small personal items. I carry my wallet in here.

There are then two further 'pockets' that contain in turn a net that clips over the back of the bag and is for carrying a cycle helmet or waterproofs or anything with a bit of bulk that you don't want to put in the bag itself. At the very bottom the final pocket contains a waterproof cover that fits the bag perfectly. There is additional storage with two mesh pockets on either side.

I have used this bag for a few commutes running around 25 miles or so in total and the longest run has been 5.5 miles. It's great, comfortable, doesn't move too much and feels secure. It feels different to the Salomon with the straps across the shoulders feeling quite stiff - I am hoping that they soften up quickly with use. The lack of a pocket on the straps is a draw back but one I can live with. It's a much more technical bag than the Salomon - the king is dead long live the king...

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Diabetes & a Multi Stage Ultramarathon

I have type 1 diabetes and have had for 14-15 years now. I am 45.

I run a lot as you can probably tell from this blog and I have run marathons and ultra marathons as events and also self supported. In April I will be part of a team that is attempting to run, over a period of 4 days, the distance of 136 miles from London to Cheltenham. It breaks down as...

Stage 1 - Westminster to Slough - 28 miles
Stage 2 - Slough to Reading - 34.5 miles
Stage 3 - Reading to Swindon - 43.3 miles
Stage 4 - Swindon to Cheltenham - 30.7 miles

My question is, on the face of it pretty simple, I have type 1 diabetes and while I can get into shape for this (and there's an element of running into shape as you do an event like this) I am concerned on the mpact this will have on my blood sugars. Currenyly I use Novorapid and Levemir. I am not concerned about the waking hours as I can manage this as I normally do, basically I can eat pretty much anything during the effort and not have to worry about insulin. It is overnight and what my blood sugar should be before I go to bed and what I should do for my levemir dose. Currently I split my levemir in two with 3 units at 8:30am and 3 units at 8:30pm. When I have raced long or done long training runs I have had to go to bed with a blood sugar of 10-12 to prevent waking up hypo. This will be the same but with a cumulative effect over 4 days.

Can anyone point me at a resource I can refer to or someone or some organisation I can perhaps talk to? Post on the comments here or contact me via twitter...

Keep on running...

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Buff Headgear for the runner...

I have a big head and I am bald. Both are facts that I am comfortable with. There's not a lot I can do about the size of my head and that I am bald is one of those things. Despite the spam and pop-ups I see online I don't think of it as a condition that needs treating it is just one of those things. Truth be told I wish I had lost my hair earlier in life as it is so much easier than it ever was having hair.

All of which rambling means that I like to wear a hat. I have a large collection of winter hats; flat caps, deer-stalkers, bobble-hats and beanies. I also have running hats for various conditions, caps for summer to keep the sun off, caps for winter that are water repellent and beanies and skull caps.

The latest beanie I have is a Buff, specifically a Microfiber & Polar Hat Flat Brush Multi. It's a double layer hat with microfiber on the outer and a really soft fleece lining. It's designed, according to the blurb, for low intensity winter wear and lists things like climbing, trekking, ski-ing and something called boulder. The hat is functional at -/+10C.

I don't ski, I don't hike or trek and I'm still not clear what boulder is other than a smooth rock but I do run and I run when it's cold. Despite the very mild weather ("mild" has to be the word of the UK winter so far) it has been windy and when you go up the hills around Cheltenham it is incredibly windy. While they are not high (around 950-1,000ft) they are exposed. It has also been pretty wet here lately, a less than comfortable mix of wind and rain.

So what about the hat? It's just a hat right? Well yes I guess it is; and much like reviewing socks or gloves it's difficult to comment on them expansively. You wear them for a purpose but you don't really want to notice them. They make you more comfortable but don't necessarily increase performance. No-one ever ran fast because of their hat (unless maybe they were stealing it and being chased down the road).

I wear a hat as I hate having a cold head, I like the hat to feel like it's not there - if I can feel it then it's not working.

I have worn this hat on three runs now of varying intensity and duration but all in similar conditions; wet, windy and, that word again, "mild". Although the wind does have a chill effect making it feel around half of the 9/10C that we have been having of late.

When the hat arrived I did give it a sideways glance as the design is er... eye-catching. I have a big head, did I mention that?, and so drawing more attention to it seemed unnecessary. Much like having a moustache underline a large nose. I tried it on and it felt quite tight, not uncomfortably so but enough that I noticed it.


(the lumps in my ears are Sony Bluetooth headphones - a review of them will follow!)

The first run I wore it on was up at Leckhampton Hill, a lovely hill with exposed areas, a steep climb and lovely wooded trails. The only shame is that it is not bigger. The rain was coming down and the wind howling through the trees. I was pretty wrapped up as was running with my dog which meant that I was running a little slower than normal. Something akin to low intensity.

The hat did it's job, I was toasty and it provided some waterproof protection too. What I really liked about it was that whereas it had felt tight initially it now fitted. It had expanded a little and softened up. The closest thing I can think of like this is when you put on a pair of jeans from the washing machine and they feel like cardboard. A few minutes in though and they feel like the old friend you remember.

The fit was particularly noticeable when I wore the hat the following day without washing it. Putting it on it felt super-comfortable. This has also happened with another Buff that I was given for Christmas, the Merino wool one from the mix and match range. When I put it on initially it felt too tight and too small, after a couple of wears it is now the comfiest hat I have and I wear it all the time on my walks to work and the like. In short it has quickly become an old friend.

The running hat also did not smell, it is treated with some antibacterial treatment, so did not need washing. I have since worn it again on a longer more intense run, 7:15 pace for an hour, and the hat felt fine. The right mix of breathable and protection. I didn't overheat and at no time felt like taking it off.  With the weather due to turn cold in the coming days and be more seasonal at closer to 0C I am looking forward to having the hat to wear as I resume my running after a soft tissue injury picked up on Leckhampton Hill running with my dog.

I'd recommend this hat, it's breathable, warm and protected against wind and the wet that I used it in. The fit is great and it wears in very quickly. The price point is consistent with other hats of this type. The colour way will not suit everyone as it is pretty bold but that never became an issue after the initial sideways glance. As someone who runs, pretty exclusively, in black a bit of colour is welcome!

Note: this hat was provided to me to review by Buff.