Every Single Gram

Weight in an obsession whether we talk about cycling, trekking, walking or any form of racing.

Expeditions take on a whole new level, given the duration they cover and the huge weights that must be dragged or carried.

Polar explorer Ben Saunders takes us through the meticulous level required for their 4 month world first Antarctic expedition last year.

Advertisements

Every Single Gram

Weight in an obsession whether we talk about cycling, trekking, walking or any form of racing.

Expeditions take on a whole new level, given the duration they cover and the huge weights that must be dragged or carried.

Polar explorer Ben Saunders takes us through the meticulous level required for their 4 month world first Antarctic expedition last year.

Maverick Races – West Sussex

I feel the need – the need for speed!

The Maverick races set out to make the most of the British countryside, weaving trails across the South of England from Surrey to Dorset. Aimed at all abilities, 3 course lengths provide options and unlike many series out there, you can switch on the day of the race and even on the course if required.

Accommodating is a word fit to describe their way of doing things.


Now the race.

 The Original West Sussex Race was held at Cowdray Park, a magnificent estate nestled outside of Midhurst. This was my first time to the area, and once I had left the M25, the scenery was stunning. Rolling hills and tree lined B roads a plenty. Pulling in following signs and brightly coloured beach flags, I pulled up outside a large stately home, the setting for race HQ.

DSC_0252-01-2

After collecting my number and electing to run the long course, I slipped into a Zebra onsie (dressed up for a friend) and joined a couple hundred nervous runners under the start arch. A short and sweet brief followed, and with that we were off. Bounding down the first lane, surrounded by blossom coated trees, onto hard packed trails in felled forests.

IMG_20150418_090538-2

With a marked route, signs and orange tape provided ample navigation through the downs, allowing all participants to focus on the task in hand. Running. Through a combination of ploughed fields and bridleways, the route snaked its way to the first checkpoint. Draped in further flags, it was visible from far away, boosting spirits on a deceptively hot day (that could be the fleece lined zebra suit doing the talking). 2 enthusiastic volunteers manned the table, offering water, energy drinks, jelly beans and fruit. A brief swig and mouth full of sugary satisfaction and it was up the adjacent hill.

DSC_0249-01-2

This would be the harshest climb of the day, with all of the runners around me having to walk at some point to conserve their legs. At this point the heat was taking its toll and I lost 10 or so places. Topping out, rolling chalky bridleways, 10 feet wide lay ahead. Slow up, fast down.

These roads would narrow eventually, down twisting and loose descents, where I amongst others encountered horses and walkers. As I ran past I shouted “Don’t worry, you’re not seeing things” as people laughed or looked bemused.

The final check point lay on the edge of a village, single crewed by a lovely lady who was mightily impressed with my tail. What can I say, it’s something special.

Crossing fields and reentering the woodland, legs ran heavy with the dehydration running in a fleece costume in 15 degree heat brings. I doff my hat to all fancy dress runners running London this weekend, it isn’t easy.

Picking up the last 2km, relief hit runners around me, the heat had taken a greater toll then expected across the board and the promise of relaxing was so close. Running back up the same road we started on, surrounded my blossom, I smiled to the camera for one last time.

Crossing the line had lots of significance. Firstly I had achieved the goal of finishing, secondly I could cool down and take the suit off. But more importantly I had helped a friend in need.

11083740_10155506749540608_6938024665731078565_o

The Maverick Races were something I was unaware of until I saw an advert on Facebook and subsequently won a free entry via their page. What I now know is they put on a great event, in a truly stunning location and they are a really friendly bunch of people.

I whole-heartedly recommend you take a look and even give it ago. Remember, they are about all abilities taking part and you can change your mind on the day.

Check out my race video, spot the sweaty Zebra… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cA6fay8jnJ4

Maverick, you stud!

Inov8 Ultra 1

Bumbags, waist packs, call them what you will, have a strange existence in the UK. Our perceptions are of people stood in fields at car boot sales and pensioners on coach trips. However, they have long been the weapon of choice for storage for fell runners and those travelling fast and light.

Inov8’s Race Ultra™ 1 takes minimalism to a new level.

IMG_20150204_114254

Zips, secure pockets, exterior bungees and all things organisational are gone. This isn’t a waist pack for loading with kit for a winter race.

The weight is barely noticeable. 86g without bottles. Effectively the Ultra™ 1 is 86 grams of stretch mesh, buckles and straps.

_MG_4111

With around a kilo added when both 500ml bottles are brimmed, the weight distribution on the hips is precise. This is aided via V-compression straps on the front, which allow adjustments from both sides, providing a custom fit. Between the bottles and compressions straps, there is thin piece of foam on either side, adding comfort and stability. Much like the move to racing vests over traditional rucksacks, this follows the philosophy of creating storage that fits like clothing.

_MG_4109

Storage is provided by three pockets. 2 bottle pockets, with bungee loops for holding the bottles under the caps and a long narrow pocket on the back.

The long pocket sculpts to the body, with a close fit. There is no pocket closure, however this is not an issue given the stretch mesh will fight to return to its normal size. For those looking for something more secure, there is a key loop to attach your metal music makers (I hate running with keys!)

_MG_4100

The bottle pockets are snug with bottles, but these can also be used for gear storage. I’ve fitted in one side pocket 1 pair of Inov8 Racelite gloves, headband and windproof vest with room to spare. You could easily fit a Pertex rain jacket in on top of that.

In use, I often found I only take one 500ml bottle and combine this with a windproof, extremity cover and nutrition in the rear pocket. However, when racing, given many will list 1 litre of water as mandatory kit, this provides an alternate option to carrying bottles on your pack straps.

_MG_4101

The bottles, well there are plenty out there. From traditional cycle style to the ever more popular soft flask. The Inov8 bottles are relatively flat and curved to allow easier fitment on the hips. They work, nice in the hand, have a textured finish to aid grip and you never notice them when on the move.

_MG_4094

And that’s it really.

It’s a minimal piece of kit for those looking to go fast and light, or in conjunction with race vests such as Inov8’s Race Ultra™ 5, 10 or Vest.

I can see more brands adopting a stripped back version to their waist pack collections. Many have more substantial options, but I have yet to find alternatives to better it. Some may argue it needs more security, but Invo8 have an other ranges to suit.

Finding Inspiration

Inspiration is something we sooner or later talk about.

Wether it is an act of charity, a good deed, a celebrity defying great odds or a friend, we all find it in different places. But could it be said we look too hard, expect too much of others or sideline simple acts due to their relative insignificance.

Take running. A subject close to my heart.

Other than the London Marathon, all attention is focused on the elite figures chasing medals and records. This is all well and good, but much like football, as soon as a player makes a mistake in their personal lives, we criticise them for not being a perfect human being. Furthermore, it is hard for us to truly relate to them, given their lifestyle and care they must take in front of camera not to damage their own brand. And this is where lines have to be drawn.

Inspiring figures and role models are often two different things.

Sports men and women chase a career as a professional athlete to compete at the highest level, working in their passion and enjoying what comes with it. Yes, money and fame can motivate some. However, too much attention is given to every minute aspect of their life, especially their private lives.

And this is where annual events such as the London Marathon defy this societal practice. The headline are the elites, as we follow their race, watching every twist and turn, every meter lost and gained.

But, and this is a huge but, the majority of coverage is given to normal athletes, regular people who are doing extraordinary things. Whether they are dressed as a Rhino, skipping, running backwards, juggling or simply hoping to make it round in the cut off time, these are the TRUE inspirational people. The stories are wide and varied, the reasons are numerous, but collectively they are the same. Achieving, inspiring, raising awareness and fundraising quietly in the background, helping society.

They may only run this one race a year, may never again. Their time may be not so great on paper, their gait inefficient and body fat less than ideal, yet their passion and enthusiasm masks this.

And that is where inspiration is found. Hundreds of hours spent training, time spent fundraising, making costumes, money consumed on equipment. But they don’t care. What they care about it those they will help directly or indirectly. What matters is other people.

Let us not forget, you don’t need to look far for inspiration, provided you are open to letting your eyes find it.