New Record Player

Me and my lovely wife are of that generation when the only way to listen to music at home was with a record player. I am purposefully ignoring cassette tapes as they were only used to ‘borrow’ music from friends. Anyway, over the years we’ve both lost many of our treasured albums. Either they’ve been stolen, given away, sold, lost or taken to charity shops, plus, neither of us own a record player. The end result is that our smaller record collection remained in the attic, until this last week.

It was my 52nd birthday and my amazing wife bought me (us) a record player. She also purchased a stylish record cabinet from etsy. To celebrate our new device we’ve been playing old favourites that we’ve not heard for years. Mainly Saxon for me, and Genesis or Rush for Helen. Also, the mighty Iron Maiden have a new album out, which I bought as a limited 3 disc special edition.

The record player is brilliant and the cabinet looks perfect in our front room. Senjutsu is also a magnificent album, although it will take a few listens to fully appreciate it.

Garmin 945

After a few teething troubles with my new Garmin (I’m now on my third in less than 6 months), I’ve now had 4 months without a single problem (previous issues can be read here).

First off this isn’t going to be a huge DC Rainmaker style review. Instead it is a few of my musings from having a ‘smart’ watch. I’ve used Garmin products for almost 10 years, and always plugged them into my laptop to upload to Strava. I know my old Garmin 920 had wifi and could upload to the Garmin App, but I never set this up. Anyway, that was the first big difference for me with the 945. The second big difference was wearing it all the time, including when asleep. The third difference is the battery life, which in GPS mode, judging by the battery use at the Backyard Ultra I did, will last over 24 hours.

I will be honest I don’t now how I managed without it. Sleep score, stress, body battery, steps, etc are just a few of the health and activity stats that it measures. I can also download training plans and it has maps for following routes. How can all of this be squeezed into such a small package.

I might write about some of the functions in the future, but for now I am loving my Garmin 945 and hopefully it will last as long as my Garmin 500.

Dhb Shorts – Product Review

Back in March I vowed never to buy anything from Wiggle (read about why here). That lasted 6 months, which isn’t too bad seeing as they are pretty much the only online retailer in the UK. The local bike shop has stopped selling clothing as they can’t compete with Wiggle, so when I needed some new bib shorts I bought a pair of Wiggle’s own brand, dhb.

As you can see that are nothing fancy, just a regular pair of cheap bib shorts for cycling. I went out for a 100km ride this week and while they weren’t as comfortable as Castelli, they weren’t too bad.

I also wanted a pair of running shorts. I have a pair of dhb triathlon shorts which are very comfortable, but I wanted a pair without the cycling insert, which I could easily obtain from Wiggle.

Once again nothing fancy. I did however use them for the Backyard Ultra Race, and while they are quite figure hugging shall we say, they were easily the most comfortable shorts that I’ve ever run in. You can read about my ultra here.

I will probably purchase stuff from Wiggle once again in the future, but like Amazon, they will definitely be a place of last resort.

Garmin Troubles

Back in March I wrote about how Wiggle had let us down with a new Garmin (read about it here). Once my lovely and amazing wife realised how jealous I was of her Garmin Fenix 6, she promptly went and bought me something equivalent, a Garmin 945. Apart from battery life there is hardly anything between the two watches, and I will hopefully get around to reviewing many of the features of my new watch. However, it wasn’t all plain sailing.

The first swim with my new watch killed it. Blank screen and total failure. It had to go back. Garmin didn’t send me a new one as a replacement, instead it was a refurbished one. I wasn’t completely satisfied but when I complained I was pretty much told ‘tough’. Less than a week into owning this replacement watch it was obvious that there was a serious problem with the battery. One of the selling points of these new Garmin smart watches is the long battery life. Mine was suffering from severe battery drain. I would have to charge it every day, even when I was hardly using it. Garmin agreed to replace it.

Garmin sent me details of how to return it, and UPS lost it. Eventually it turned up at Garmin HQ, and a new 945 was dispatched; brand new not refurbished. This one I am pleased to say is working fine and despite me thinking that I would never need all of the extra functions from a smart watch, I absolutely love it. As I said earlier, indepth product review and function analysis will follow.

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.