Altra Olympus 2.5 Trail Running Shoes
I won a pair of Altra running shoes of my choice at the Bloggers’ Forum held at the Running Awards.
The gift in no way affects what I say about the shoes, if I didn’t like them I would say so, but I love them - although I have one very sight criticism. More about that later.
Naturally I looked at the trail range of shoes and thought hard about which pair to get. I also asked for runners’ views on the Ultrarunning Community Facebook page. There were some very positive responses with the Lone Peak a clear favourite. I eventually went for the Olympus 2.5 as it has more cushioning than the Lone Peak. If I run from my house I have about a mile of tarmac before I get off-road and of course have the same amount on the way back so that cushioning is good. Also, as we enter into the summer the trails should be a little firmer.
The shoes look a bit weird as they have a big toe box, that is a good thing – no more pinched toes and black nails for me. They are zero drop, which is new for me, but it seems to work well. The first time out my legs were a bit sore, but after a few runs everything is okay now and my back, which is a problem, is not so stiff after runs as it used to get. I think that is because of the altered posture and running style due to the zero drop.
The shoes are very light and the extra room in the toe box means that you soon forget you are wearing them. I was running with happy feet. There is enough protection around the toe box for when you catch a rock. I thought that with the wider front this would happen more than usual, but that hasn’t been the case. The grip is good, although I haven’t tried them out in extremely muddy conditions. The Vibram sole gives good grip on the rocks which is a lot better than my previous shoes. In the winter I might switch to the King MT 1.5 as these have more grip although less cushioning. The mesh on the uppers means that the shoes drain well once you have been through water and they dry out quickly once you are home, so they are ready for another outing the next day.
The one niggle is that the laces are a little short and tying a double knot is a struggle.
So, to summarize – very comfortable, good grip and good for your toes. I am going to buy a pair of Lone Peak when I take on the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon again in October 2018.
I have been wearing these running shoes when I am not running because I love them so much, something I have never done with other brands.
The shoes are available from independent running shops. There is a store locator on the Altra website.
Unilite SPORT-H1 Head Torch
I was sent this headtorch a little while ago, unfortunately I have been injured and not running, however I am now back fit again so was able to take it out for a spin to see what it was like. I was running the 10k course of the Endurancelife Exmoor event as a final check before the competitors set off. This meant an early start in the dark so a great opportunity to try out the new headtorch. It was raining hard and the first section was through woods before heading out onto the coastal path. Being able to see well was going to be important so I had my normal headtorch in my pocket in case the H1 wasn't up to the job. I needn't have bothered with the back-up; the Unilite SPORT H1 is a great headtorch. Its 175 lumen beam provided a good light to see by, the light was bright so that I could see the hazards I might trip over and the beam lit up the route a long way ahead, so I could easily see the markings along the course.
The SPORT-H1 operates from a single AA battery, which is good news if you travel a lot, AAA batteries are not available in many countries, but you can almost always find AA batteries. The battery case is easy to open so it is a simple job to change the battery. Its IPX6 weatherproof rating meant the very wet conditions I was running in did not adversely affect the headtorch. The headband is easy to adjust, and its silicone lining helps to hold the torch in a firm position when in use, so you do not need to have the band too tight.
The light also has several different light options: high, medium and low white light, SOS white (hopefully I will never use that) high red and strobe red. The button is nice and big, so it is easy to turn the headtorch on or adjust the function even when wearing thick waterproof gloves. On high intensity one battery will last 5.5 hours.
I liked this torch, it’s not featherlight (but light enough), robust, uncomplicated and inexpensive. It is a torch I will use. Available in yellow green, blue and pink. The one downside is the amount of plastic in the fancy packaging. More information about the SPORT-H1 on the company website. Follow them on Twitter; they often run competitions to win headtorches.
Point Blank - natural energy drink
I first tried Point Blank during the Shine Walk, a marathon walk through London to raise money for Cancer Research UK. I was given it by Miranda Markham of Action PR, one of the people I was walking with. Point Blank is a client of the agency. Walking a marathon is tougher than running one, it takes a long time. Walking one at night after you have completed a full Tough Mudder that day is even tougher and I was feeling a bit tired at mile 20. The Point Blank perked me up and I finished feeling strong and awake.
A week or so later Miranda kindly sent me a case of Point Blank to try. I was intrigued by the blurb on the bottle. 'Natural energy, no sugar, no fat, 1 calorie'. When I looked at the nutritional information there were more zeros than a list of the UKs Eurovision scores. The product doesn't contain any energy; the energy comes from your body as the result of the caffeine in Point Blank - 65mg per 100ml. I won't go into the science behind the effects of caffeine - there is plenty of published research.
The product works for me, although the weight is a problem. I will only use it in races where I can leave it in a drop bag or have a second who can hand it to me when needed. I imagine it would be great for sports where the weight isn't an issue, cycling, kayaking and perhaps hiking. I am keeping a few bottles in my car for when I feel tired driving, although if I am very tired I will stop for a sleep. Better to arrive late in the morning than in the morgue. You need to experiment to find out how caffeine works best for you.
I like the taste (much better than those awful gels), but sought out the opinion of an expert, Emma Sabin of Sabins Coffee. Her opinion "Good coffee, but not great coffee". Sabins is a small batch roaster, Emma sources coffee from small producers and her husband lovingly roasts them to perfection. Currently (November 2017) they have a great coffee from Myanmar, but only have two sacks of it. Obviously Point Blank need to source coffee where there will be a regular supply (not just two sacks) so a "Good" from Emma is probably as good as they can get.
Aquapure Traveller from Pure Hydration
The great thing about this water filter is that as it is totally mechanical with no chemicals the water is available straight away - just squeeze the bottle and drink. The filter removes all the nasty stuff, including heavy metals, leaving just pure water. I have used these filters for quite a few years on long runs when I know I'll find a water source and on wild camping trips and have never suffered any stomach upsets. I normally try and find water that is relatively clean as this prolongs the life of the filter, but on occasions I've had to get water from puddles full of sheep's droppings or very unpleasant looking cattle troughs. I'm still here to tell the tale.
My only criticism is that the flow through the filter can be variable. Some I have bought just require a gentle squeeze of the bottle while others have required quite a strong squeeze. The filters are fail safe; when they stop working you cannot get any water through them. Buy from Amazon.
Before I tried Runderwear briefs I used to just wear normal pants, except on desert races when I used X-Bionic moisture management underwear. Now having tried a pair of Runderwear briefs I have bought more. They are very comfortable to wear and do not chafe due to the 360-degree seamless construction and flatlock edging. The technical fabric wicks moisture away and micro-perforations assist airflow. They work so well that I now use them in desert races (they are lighter than x-bionic). Previously, when running in cold weather, my bum would be cold once I got home and showered. This doesn't happen when wearing Runderwear. I know some people don't wear any underwear beneath lycra tights, or similar items, which can be embarrassing if you need medical attention which requires removing the tights. Give Runderwear a try to save embarrassment. Available from good independent sports shops. Or direct from the company.