New Shoes

A few days ago I wrote about how my old pair of trail shoes were falling apart (read about it here). I therefore decided to book an appointment at the local running shop (socially distanced and I was the only customer).

Ian, the owner, brought out three pairs for me to try, including a revamped Saucony Peregrine with much tougher uppers. I tried them all with a short run on the treadmill and despite the Peregrine feeling good I went with the pair of Asics Trabuco Max. Plenty of cushioning and plenty of grip. They also don’t look too bad. They are the pair on the left in the photo below.

I also needed a new pair of road shoes. Most of my running is done wearing road shoes so I like to have two pairs on the go at once, and as my current pair of Brooks had reached 500km it was definitely time for a back up shoe. My older pair of Brooks had done over 800km and have been relegated to walks in the park.

Ian brought out a couple of pairs of Brooks, an Asics and some New Balance. The latest version of the Brooks Adrenaline had changed slightly and didn’t feel quite right, however the Brooks Glycerin felt really good. I definitely wasn’t sold on the Asics, which is funny because for ten years they were always my go to shoe. When I tried on the New Balance 860’s they felt brilliant and as you can see from the photo they came home with me. The colour isn’t ideal but I’m not too fussed about that. It is also the first time that I have ever run in New Balance.

I’ve not run in either shoe yet, but me and my lovely wife are planning a good ten mile trail run tomorrow so it will be interesting to see how the Asics manage.

Saucony Peregrine

My go to trail running shoes for the last few years has been the Saucony Peregrine. They fit my feet well, have good tread in the wet and mud, and they aren’t too bad on harder trails or small sections of road. Unfortunately the uppers don’t last very well. My last pair managed 410km, but my current pair have fallen apart at only 350km. I do only use them when I know my route will be tough. If I’m going to be running on a good trail I often just use road shoes, so any trail shoe that I use will take a hammering.

I know that the trails around Lancashire are tough going and therefore will be very hard on any trail or fell shoe. However, at £100+ a pair I think I’m going to have a look at something else.

I read some very good reviews about North Face Vectiv Trail shoes, although I’m not keen on white. I also heard some very good things from Inov-8, possibly the Terraultra G 270. We’ll see what my local running shop can manage, and maybe 350-400km for a trail shoe in Lancashire is about right.

I will never buy from Wiggle again

Over the years I’ve bought a lot of stuff from Wiggle, including a Colnago, shoes, nutrition, Garmins, etc, but I will never buy a single item from them ever again. Why?

Early March is my lovely wife’s birthday. I knew that she wanted a new Garmin. We’re both using the 920 multi-sport watch, both purchased separately, and both second hand. They are great watches and do nearly everything we could possibly want. Helen had done a whole load of research and decided that the Garmin Fenix 6 Pro was the watch she was going to save up for and treat herself to later in the year. I decided to surprise her by getting it for her birthday. Knowing that there are a lot of scams out there I opted to buy it from Wiggle, even though it was a little more expensive.

It arrived a few days later and I had a sneaky look before wrapping it up and hiding it. Helen was ecstatic when she opened it, and half an hour later we were out running. We uploaded our runs and then Helen went to synch it with Garmin Express. I was making coffee in the kitchen when Helen shouted that Garmin was saying that it was a Fenix 5. Sure enough in very small writing on the back of the watch it said Fenix 5. I immediately emailed Wiggle and didn’t receive a reply. So the following day I used their chat function to complain. They said that they would look into it, but if I wanted I could keep the watch and they would give me a £30 refund.

WTF? A Fenix 5 is approximately £150 cheaper than a Fenix 6 Pro. Are you serious? You send me a cheaper watch and then want to overcharge me for it. I wasn’t happy. To me it seemed obvious what had happened. Someone at Wiggle bought a Fenix 5 but swapped it for a Fenix 6, hence why the 5 was in the box for a 6. After a few more days Wiggle eventually agreed to take it back and give me a full refund. I then ordered the correct watch from our local running shop, who even matched the price Wiggle were selling it for. They also delivered it as their shop is still closed due to Covid restrictions. In hindsight I should have gone to The Runners Centre (website here) first. (Note, don’t be a moron and ask a local shop to price match after they have spent half an hour finding the right running shoes for you.)

Ian, the owner of our local running shop, added that the wrong watch would never have been put into the wrong box by Garmin. I wouldn’t have been so annoyed if Wiggle had replied sooner and apologised for their mistake, instead of dragging it out for almost two weeks. They could have offered to replace the watch with what I ordered, but a refund was the only option that I was given. I would even have accepted the Fenix 5 if they had offered to refund me the difference between the two watches. I would have then used the 5 and bought Helen a 6.

Anyway, that is why I will never use Wiggle again.

Hello Fresh

My lovely wife’s youngest son and his partner just moved into a new house and started to use Hello Fresh. They were positively raving about it, so we decided to go for a trial veggie box. Note, we’re not vegetarians, but for a variety of reasons we eat very little meat.

A little background about Hello Fresh first. Basically, each week you get a box of food delivered split into separate bags for each recipe, along with step by step instructions. You can chose to have as many meals as you want each week and go veggie, full meat and even add premium extras if desired. We had a look on Trust Pilot and there were some very mixed reviews. Despite that we went ahead and ordered our free trial box, which would normally be £40.

When it arrived we were both a little underwhelmed as it really didn’t look like £40 worth of food. Additionally, as it was a free box we didn’t get to chose what we had. I don’t like mushrooms and two of the five dishes included this abomination of a vegetable. More serious though, Helen is allergic to cannellini beans which was also in one of the recipes. If we signed up for a weekly delivery we would obviously be able to pick exactly which recipes we wanted. Two of the recipe cards were also missing, but we were able to print those off.

First night of cooking and I’ll admit I was quite excited. Helen was still at work so I was left to my own devices. I picked butternut squash curry.

The other side of the recipe card had simple step by step instructions, which were very easy to follow and 40 minutes after starting I had cooked an excellent meal. Not only did it look just like the picture it tasted amazing. The next evening I made grilled haloumi with lentils. Once again it was incredibly simple and the end result tasted even better than the previous evening. The portions are also fairly generous.

Last night and it was Helen’s turn to cook and she went with spicy cauliflower with courgette and beans. Again the meal was restaurant quality. The florets were coated in Panko breadcrumbs!

The step by step instructions do take a little getting used to, as they are very thorough. I’m used to winging it to a certain extent. Other pluses are the lack of food waste and not having to spend ages looking through recipe books trying to decide what to cook. Additionally you don’t need to go shopping as often. Drawback is the price. £40 for 5 meals is quite high. However we’ve been so blown away by the quality of the meals that we’ve produced we’re going to go with a 4 meal weekly box.

There are loads of other recipe boxes out there to try, so if you fancy the idea you don’t need to stick with Hello Fresh.

Adjustable Chest Light

Initial Thoughts

One of the best Christmas present that my amazing wife bought for me was an adjustable chest light for running. I like to run early in the morning, which obviously means running in the dark and therefore using some kind of illumination. I’ve always used a head torch, but these are not perfect. This morning was my first run with my new Gato Sports Chest light.

The first improvement on my old headtorch was the addition of a red light at the back. I never run on roads without pavements at night, but it is definitely safer to always make sure that you can be seen. Running with the chest light felt fine, almost as if it wasn’t there. It has different strengths so I used the most powerful along the canal and then the least powerful along the roads. The front light can also be adjusted for where you want the light to shine. One drawback, it was more tricky to look at my watch, but it is just different from what I’m used to. Also, I’m far less likely to shine the light directly into someone’s eyes, which is another bonus.

Long Term Thoughts

So I have now been using this piece of kit for over three weeks, and have used it almost everyday. My thoughts are that it is a very nice piece of kit, although the advertised battery life of 5 hours only applies when the light is on the lower setting. An improvement would be for you to be able to turn off the rear light if you don’t need it, so that the front light would last longer. Also, it isn’t particularly comfortable if you use if with a running vest carrying extra kit. However, these are minor quibbles and overall a very nice piece of kit and one that I hope to use for many years to come.

Brooks Adrenaline 21 – Shoe Review

New shoes are always exciting.

I’ve been using Brooks almost exclusively for many years, and the two years I’ve used the GTS series of shoes. The latest version of this shoe is now called the Adrenaline, and the 21 is the year. (I had the 19 and two pairs of the 20). This newer and slightly updated shoe apparently has a little more cushioning and a little more stability.

This review isn’t a long term one as I’ve only used them twice, both runs about 5km. Like most new shoes they feel a little stiff to begin with, but after a few more runs I’m sure they will soften up. Initially they feel a little heavier than my old shoes and a little more cumbersome. Time will tell.

One of my regular runs goes along a farm track which can be quite muddy. Not muddy enough for trail shoes, but your nice new road shoes will get a hefty coating of mud. Neither of my two runs have been along that track.

I like how my shoes look, all clean and new, so it might be a few weeks before I test them out down Grimshaw Lane.

Beard care products

When I first started to grow my beard a bit longer I never used to use any beard products, although there weren’t too many on the market at the time. I used to shampoo my beard after swimming, but that was about it. When I went to my first beard competition I was given a goody bag containing a couple of beard oils and balms. As my beard became more of a statement relations would give me beard care products for Christmas or Birthday, and then I received yet more goodies at the British Beard and Mustache Championships (BBMC) (read about it here). What I’m trying to say in a round-a-bout way is that I have very rarely bought stuff for my beard. The one exception was buying a taster pack of beard balm from Fine Fettle, which is great stuff.

Over the last couple of years I’ve been trying to look after my beard a little better, and because I didn’t go to the 2018 BBMC I’ve run out. I therefore have had to buy some care products for my beard. So, what do I use?

Firstly, the bad stuff. You can buy some cheap stuff at Boots. Don’t, it’s not very good. I’ve also found the stuff from Lush not to my liking either.

The good stuff! One of the free samples I had was from the Bedfordshire Beard Co. My wife really likes the smell, which is reminiscent of liquorice torpedoes.

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It’s quite firm so I only use it when my beard is wet, and I have to rub it between my palms for a while to get it soft enough to apply, but as I said earlier, my wife really likes the smell.

The name of my blog might suggest that I do triathlons, and swimming does make a mess of my beard. After a swim I have taken to using Braw Beard wash and oil.

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This stuff is good, especially the beard wash. After using it my beard is soft, manageable and feels great, and the oil keeps it soft all day. The oil has a delicate smell and isn’t overpowering, and the beard wash is so good that I only use it every couple of days. I always used to only use beard oil if my beard was dry and balm if it was wet, but Braw Beards suggest using their oil when the beard is wet. Conversely, Fine Fettle suggest using their balm when your beard is dry.

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This is a new flavour, but I really like it. Fine Fettle is very soft and a little bit sticky, very different from most balms, and it acts almost like a gel, holding the shape of your beard. I’ve tried using this when my beard is both wet and dry, and it works great either way.

These are the three brands that I currently use. They all help me to look after my beard and are of exceptional quality, although I’m always happy to try out free samples, hint, hint.

Garmin 800

It’s not really a product review, but I’ve just got myself a Garmin 800. I bought it off a friend from the City of Lancaster Tri Club, as he is upgrading. I’ve had a Garmin 500 for almost six years, and I’m very happy with it, and apart from the odd times when the screen freezes, I’ve not had any problems with it. So why did I buy an 800? Maps, that’s why. The 800 that I’ve bought comes pre-loaded with maps for the whole of Europe, perfect for touring or for when you’ve entered Skelmersdale and can’t find your way out.

This morning was my first ride with my new toy, a regular 12 mile loop up and over Littledale. First problem I encountered was the main screen didn’t have my preferred data displayed. I like distance, total ascent, speed, time and time of ride. A quick Google search and I was all set, after a brief moment getting confused with the instructions for the 810 and 820.

Next issue was that it wouldn’t fit where my 500 fits, as I have 15mm of fork steerer above the stem (I like the bars a bit higher for longer touring). Fortunately my new Garmin came with three mounts for in front of the bars, and once I’d found the 3mm allen key I was set. For a laugh I decided to use both Garmins and compare the results, although I did look a bit like DC Rainmaker when he’s doing multiple reviews.

Garmins

The ride was a bit wet and windy, and I had to adjust the 800 as I had lap distance instead of total distance on the front screen.

How did the two compare?

Distance and time were identical, as expected, but elevation was about 7.5% higher with the 800. The map screen worked fine as well. When I returned home I uploaded the 800 to Strava (here) – no double counting for me. Battery life, the 500 was at 95% and the 800 was at 86%, although I had messed around with the screens when I was out. Even so, the 800 will have a significantly shorter battery life, something that I will have to keep an eye on.

Overall I’m very happy with my new purchase and I’m looking forward to plotting some new routes in the future.

Product Review

In my first product review here I looked at Gloves, Overshoes and Tyres. In this review I will be looking at Wiggle nutrition.

Last year I was mostly using Etixx nutrition. COLT had managed to obtain a years supply for free, and I like free. All good things come to an end, so I’m back on the cheap stuff.

Hydro tabs (1)

First off, the hydro tabs. At £3 for a tube of 20, you can’t go wrong. I’m sure a qualified nutritionist could tell you the difference between these and other brands, although the ingredients on the back appears similar for all makes. They taste OK and provide the salts that I need when I sweat, which I do, copiously. I prefer the blackcurrant, although they are available in a variety of flavours. My only gripe, why is the top one always broken, and sometimes the second and third ones as well.

Hydro tabs (2)

The gels, once again are very reasonably priced from £7 for a box of 20. As with the hydro tabs they are available in a multitude of flavours. My favourites are lemon meringue or blackcurrant.

Gels

If you’ve ever read an article covering nutrition products, it will mainly focus on how they taste. It is very difficult to quantify how well they actually work, especially as this varies from person to person.

I once had a Powergel during a race and suffered really bad stomach cramps. Clif gels are too solid for me to use when running, although they are the best tasting gels I’ve ever tried. Etixx, OTE and Wiggle gels are all liquid enough that I can use them when out for a long run.

Again I could do with a nutritionist to explain the difference between gels; chemicals or the wrong type of sugar. I’m guessing that the cheaper gels contain more sugar, hence why when I gave one to my wife towards the end of a long ride, a few minutes later she shot off leaving me in her dust.

I’m not doing IMUK this year (read why here) or any long races, so nutrition isn’t a top priority at the moment. I can get by on cafe stops, cake and sausage butties. If I was doing a long distance race I would try out a few different brands, at a fast pace, to see what works best for me.

Finally, don’t try out new stuff during a race.

Product Review

My first product review, which I’m sure will be well received. Three products to look at;

Bontrager RXL Thermal Gloves, Endura Zipless Overshores, and Specialized Armadillo Tires.

First up, the gloves, and what a pair of gloves they are. Absolutely brilliant. Perfect for when the weather is cold, but not freezing, probably good down to 4 or 5 degrees. Incredibly comfortable, grippy and very bright, although they are available in black as well.20161218_154535

I’ve had mine for a few months and have used them almost every day, hence why they are a little mucky. They were also not expensive at only £15. Without doubt the best pair of – cold/but not freezing – pair of gloves that I own.

Overshoes are unfortunately a necessary evil in the winter. The zips had broken on my last pair, which had done me two winters, so it was time for some new ones. At The Edge Cycleworks in Lancaster they had the winter’s selection in, and the zipless pair caught my eye. The idea being that most returns that Endura get for overshoes are from broken zips.

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I wasn’t sure how easy they would be to get on and off, so one of the guys in the shop tried them on, and they seemed to be OK. When I went out for my first ride with them, this didn’t prove to be the case, especially with Shimano road cleats. There appears to be a knack to getting them on where you roll them half way inside out, although I have found it to still be a struggle. Once on, they perform as to be expected, keeping the worst of the cold and rain at bay, but after only a few rides I do have a small hole in one of them, so I’m not sure how long they will last.

Finally, some tires from Specialized. For many years now I have used Continetal GP 4000’s on my road bikes, but back in May I cycled over a bottle, and put a huge gash in my front tire. I had a big race coming up and my usual bike shop was closed due to flooding, so I went to ‘the other’ bike shop in Lancaster, as I didn’t want to wait a few days from buying online. They don’t sell Conti’s, so I bought a Specialized Armadillo. When I was checking my rear tire I noticed that there were loads of small cuts, so I decided to replace it, also with an Armadillo, that way the bike would be in symmetry. I wasn’t expecting much from them, but I was told that they would be good against punctures, and with a 300+ mile ride coming up I thought they might do alright. I’m not a speed merchant, so for me a tire that is grippy in the wet and puncture proof is exactly what I’m looking for. It also helps if the tire isn’t impossible to get on with cold hands.

It is now 6 months later, and the tires have done over 3,000 miles, and I haven’t had a single puncture, front or rear. Not only that, but they really do grip in the wet. A good test for a tire is a steep climb, on a smooth road surface, in the wet. I used to find that Conti Gatorskins would slip under those conditions, although they were seemingly bomb proof. Yesterday I was climbing up the steep side of the Trough of Bowland, in the wet, and not even the slightest slippage. I am genuinely sold on these tires.

But, I have got hold of a Bontrager AW3 Hard-case road tire.

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The AW3 is an all weather, low rolling resistant, puncture proof tire. I will be replacing the rear Armadillo soon, and this will go on, and it will be interesting to see how they compare, especially as it has received mixed reviews.

That is the end of my first product review, and if Colnago want to send me a C60 to review I will be more than happy, as well as being not in the slightest bit impartial.

More nonsense soon.