Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Getting grounded the Earth Runner way!

I got sent a beautiful pair of sandals and just had to show you guys!
Alpha from Earth Runners
These wonderfully crafted beasties are my new toys from Earth Runners! Have a read about these guys at the site here (click to go to Earth Runners) for a quick bio on them.

I have known about Earth Runners for a while now from people mentioning them in the sandal world and what really intrigued me was all the talk about "earthing". Now I need to do some research on this myself and I would advise you to do the same as from what I have found so far it is fascinating!
Rough idea so far is that we pick up a lot of interference from the technology around us and we should "ground" ourselves to...well kind of reset I guess and return to our natural voltage?!
Interesting idea eh?
The best way to ground yourself is to walk about outside barefoot for at least 15 minutes but as we all know this isn't always the easiest thing to do.
This is what got my attention from the designs of the guys at Earth Runners. They have incorporated copper plugs and thread into the sandal to allow the wearer to be grounded while protecting your feet at the same time! You can walk around all day continually grounding yourself.
copper thread running up the white mesh

In the picture opposite can see the white kind of mesh? Well that is where the copper thread runs. Connected to the copper plug at the bottom it runs up the front and connects to another copper piece on the top of the foot to assist with the grounding.
Pretty clever eh?!

In the picture below you can see the toe plug and then two plugs that go straight through the foot bed for a better connection. These two plugs also act as an anchor for two D ring style holes for the laces.

toe plug and two side plugs

Below you can see the last connector on this model that rests on the outside of the foot.
Just above it, the buckle.

The buckle is sturdy, holds the lace well and it is very quick to adjust. I also like the way that you can take the lace all the way out as on my Luna you couldn't do this and it sometimes made the adjustment a little tricky.

The first time I picked up the Alpha to be honest I wasn't sure about the sole choice. They felt almost too light and I was worried that the Birkenstock sole just wasn't going to cut it.
I was wrong, very wrong.
I was still slightly recovering from my first 50 mile Ultra marathon when I first got these so unfortunately as yet I haven't been able to run in them but BOY DO I WANT TO!!
I needed to go in to London but tendinitis in my foot was making my choice of footwear a little difficult as the top of my foot was hurting.
"hmm I wonder?..." I thought to myself as I buckled up my Alpha.
buckle and side foot plug
They felt great straight away and having only the one strap across my foot was perfect for my tendinitis! WIN! 
So off we went to London and already after only 5 minutes of being in them I was amazed at how secure they were and how much they actually felt like a shoe! Having the strap at the front of the ankle was really comforting but did take a little bit of time to get the right tension. I was forever making it slightly too tight, this however wasn't really a big deal as they were so quick to adjust.
The suede foot bed is so comfortable and I cant wait to see what it is like to run on. I am even more curios to see what happens when you get it wet as this is a big issue with sandals as it can cause you to slip around a lot.

I walked all around in these for 11 hours and my feet felt great! I did have to stop every now and then to adjust them but im sure that will stop once I have found the sweet spot!

I know this might sound a little hippie but I have to write it down here as I think it is a very important thing to add. The whole time I was walking around I felt calm. I understand that this in itself doesn't sound like a big deal but I have to try and explain the kind of calm that it was. Tranquillity, still, centred, are a few words that come to mind. Now this could have been because the sun was out, it could have well been just in my head or it could be down to actually being grounded. You know something? I want more!
If that's what being grounded  feels like, sign me up!
A few of you may be staring at the screen right now thinking I have lost my marbles, some may think its all rubbish. For those of you who decide to grab a pair will be very glad you did!

Head over and check them out on Kick Starter (click) and get grounded!!

I cant wait to get back to running next week to start putting some serious miles on these!

Watch for updates guys this is not the last you will see of the Earth Runners!

Peace peeps!


Xero shoe banner now added!

Hey guys and girls!

A little update for you...
I am most honored to say that I have been chosen by Xero Shoe to be an affiliate so please if you liked my review and wanted to give them a try please go through the banner and I will get a little piece of the pie!

I shall be posting a video soon of the tying I mentioned in the last post then more as I play around!

Have fun peeps and grab yourselves some Xero Shoes (through the banner of course! ;) )

Much love


Sunday, 26 May 2013

Tying method I have been messing with

Hey guys and girls thought I would just do a quick post on a tying method I have been playing with!

Using my wonderful Xero Shoes here as an example I shall do my best to give you a breakdown of how I ended up with this......

This method is nice and secure but is not adjustable so you have to make sure you get it right once or be prepared to stop and re tie! Not such a big deal unless you have made the "pretty" bit along the front like I have. ooops!

So here we go....

Start with your basic set up for tying as below...

(Based on your left foot) come up from between your toe and head down into the left hole...

Take the rope around and head under the top rope towards the heel...

Now down the hole on the inside of your foot...

Take the rope around and head under the top rope towards the top of your foot...

Well done! You have just completed your basic set up!

Most tying methods will start with this and then have the variations from it.

Right now we have our basic set up its time to move on to the method I have been messing around with....

Take the rope that is coming from the inside of your foot and head across the front of your foot towards the left hole...

Go under the heel strap around and back towards the heel.....

Off to the inside hole, under the heal strap then loop back and pass the long end of the rope through the loop and tie it off.
The only thing left to do now is to spiral the remaining rope around the strap that comes across your foot, tie it off and you are done!

I may do a follow up on this post with a short video as I understand that in writing those instructions might make your head spin!

Give it a go and let me know how you guys get on!

Have fun!


Friday, 24 May 2013

A GU review for you and you!

So I am now off for a couple of weeks resting up after my first Ultra which gives me a bit more time to catch up on reviews! YAY!

What better way to start than to review what helped fuel me through the North Downs Way 50?!

GU energy gel

I am pretty sure that most of you guys have either seen or tried them but they are well worth a mention here!

I was lucky enough to have some of these sent to me to review by the wonderful folks at GU Energy Labs UK,(click for the site) Thank again guys! Then luckier still to find that Centurion Running (click to check them out) was supplying GU as well!

This meant that I got to give them a good 50 mile test in one day and hopefully try lots of different ones too! WIN! :)

I would advise that if you have never used gels before to try them during your training and do not just grab them at an event just in case you do not get on with them. This can be said of any food/gel/electrolyte replacement etc....

I have tried GU on and off for ages so I know how my body responds to them, with the exception of Roctane which this was my first time trying it. I know, I know I just said don't do it but I was a long way into the 50 mile run and was curious!
I was interested in trying some of the other flavours for the first time but as it turned out I had picked up the ones I had tried already! Oh well!

At a very handy 100 calories a pack these are ideal for stashing away in a pocket for those long runs. Weighing in at a tiny 32 grams and coming in such a small packet makes these my gel of choice so far!
The 100 calories is ideal for me as that translates to an hour of fuel in a very small portion.
The small packet is a big deal for me as it allows me to carry hours and hours of "food" but not have to sacrifice space in my bag. Most of all it also keeps the weight down!
With other gels I have found that the packet can sometimes be so big that I cant stash them anywhere or I cant eat it all! When you are travelling for hours and hours the idea of trying to eat a massive gel becomes a pain for the following reasons...

1 - Its messy!
2 - What do you do with the massive sticky packet?! (no, you don't throw it on the trail!)
3 - After hours and hours of running I don't tend to crave anything too big as it just feels harder to process while on the move.

I want something quick, easy to swallow and hopefully tasty with the smallest amount of fuss involved!
I have tried other gels and found them either quite watery or just bland, with GU you most definitely wont find that! My favourites so far have to be the Chocolate Outrage and Espresso Love as they both have a great flavour and are even slightly chewy! Make sure you continue to sip at your water though as they are very very sticky.
A caution to the hungry! Open them with care as GU on you hands and arms isn't coming off for a while!
On the positive side however you will have very tasty fingers for the next few miles! WIN!

Lets get a little technical for a while shall we?
GU isn't just some bag of tasty sugar it is a lot more complicated than that.
Containing Sodium, Potassium, Protein, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Calcium you can already see that it is not just a pretty packet. GU is a serious bit of kit if you are planning something big.

Speaking of big, lets have a little look at Roctane!
During my race I reached into my pocket and pulled this little guy out. Don`t let the size of it fool you, it packs a mighty punch! I tried two different flavours on my way round. Blueberry Pomegranate and Vanilla Orange.
Roctane is pretty much the other gels bigger meaner brother!
Containing all of the above and a whole bunch more like caffeine, Leucine, Valine, Isoleucine, Histidine (they sound scary but they are Amino acids) and Ornithine Alpha-Ketaglutarate (that is meant to help reduce muscle trauma apparently!)

Taste wise I personally didn't enjoy the Blueberry Pomegranate as much as the others. I found it a little intense and just not to my taste.
The Vanilla Orange however was nice, strong flavour but good.
The main difference I found between the Roctane and the normal GU gels was the extra caffeine boost which was nice that late into the race.

I think in future I would keep a couple of these guys for that exact use. I am not too sure that I could eat these all the way round as the flavours are just a little harsh for my personal taste but I would definitely like to have a few hidden away for when the wheels start to go square!

I did also try out the GU Chomps but I think it is a much fairer test if I come back to them at a later date when I can use them just on their own.
Well I think that just about wraps it up for the moment until I can come back with some new flavour tests.

Please note that any of the advice on here is purely from my own experience and you should always do as much research as you can or consult a professional if you have any concerns or questions concerning any of the contents. Once again I would advise that if you have never used gels before to try them   before an event, actually this can be said of any food/gel/electrolyte replacement etc...

Till next time chums, run, read, rediscover, repeat!


Monday, 20 May 2013

My first Ultra - The North Downs Way 50

It was a bit of a chilly morning as the sun was still working out if it wanted to get up or not. We arrived and thankfully found a parking space not too far from the school where registration and the starting line was. Once inside two tables and a stage could been seen at the back of the hall. I made my way over for a kit check and to register, filled out my details on the back of my number and nervously made my way back outside for some air.
I had decided to wear my Montane jacket and trousers as there was still a little bite in the air. I was trying to get my bib number onto the leg of my trousers when we were called for the race briefing. With the briefing over we all made our way to the start and already I had a lot of interest in why I had chosen sandals.
Little bit of banter later I realised I hadn't turned my watch on and we only had 30 seconds to go!

Starting the NDW50
8 am. Watch error.
I started at the back choosing to trot along and talk to people to settle my nerves a little. 1.4 miles later my watch finally found me and I could see we were bouncing along at a nice 12m/m, wonderful!
3 miles in and Mr Sun had decided it was time to get up and burn away the morning haze. Things were hotting up.
Getting closer to the first aid station at 6.8 miles I really needed to get the extra layers off as it was going to be a beautiful but humid day.
Aid 1 - The guys I had been chatting with left me with a cheery "see you at the next hill!" I never did catch them again as my silky kit changing skills turned into some kind of circus performance costing me a lot of time. The long sleeve top got stuck on the watch, everything fell out of my neatly packed bag leaving me to fight with it like some stubborn deck chair that doesn't want to stay up. Finally I was changed into shorts and t shirt, my number re pinned on my leg again. "Right, now to just pull this elastic and hook that to....*TWANG!*" The hook came off of my bag! I ended up taking at least 5 to 10 minutes at that station and ran off with stuff still in my hands!
I think I was one from last at this point but I didn't care, I knew it was going to be a long day and all I had to do was not quit and I wouldn't be last!
Aid 2 came and went without a hitch and found that I was an hour ahead of the cut off which was very welcome news.
Aid 2 to 3 I knew would be tough but I didn't know just how tough. It is the only stretch that has a longer wait for aid. Every other point is around 6/7 miles between stations. This one was 11.5 and pretty much all up hill.
St Martha to Box hill has to be one of the toughest, soul sapping 11.5 miles I have ever done. You just climb and climb and climb then you find the stairs! Up and up and up and up it just seems to never end. Once you have finished one set of stairs you turn a corner and obviously go UP another draining hill before more stairs! On and on they go before ANOTHER set of stairs! I honestly thought we were going to find some glamorous gates when we eventually found the top with a bearded man holding a diversion sign saying "its not your time yet! That way for the North downs!"
Mercifully the stairs and the hills stopped briefly enough to gain some kind of composure before I got to the next aid station. 24 miles in and I could really see why people would drop out at this point. That section was tough but we are far from done yet and I think that can play on your mind.
Box hill to Reigate hill. 24 - 31 miles
I had been running by myself for hours when I looked at the pocket in my vest to find my bank card wasn't in it!!! I stopped and looked around but had to just bite my lip and keep running. No way was I going to find it, so angry at myself for not putting  it in a better pocket I pushed on hoping to find someone to keep me company for a bit.
I saw a lot of people enjoying this stunning trail but it took me a long time to find another numbered runner. I was however joined by a couple of people at different times who were out training for the other events and I owe them a little nod for the company. Thanks guys!
Reigate Hill!! Finally and quietly I could call myself an Ultra runner! 31 miles and I was greeted by my wonderful parents screaming and clapping as I came across the bridge and headed for the aid station. Reigate hill was the first aid station I volunteered at last year and it was a real turning point for me.
My dad grabbed me a coffee as I explained to the crew and my mum at how brutal the last bit was and that I wasn't sure I would even make it here on time. The crew were amazing and told me I was 40 minutes within the cut off. Re energized, I covered my feet in Vaseline and threw on my Toe Toe socks for a little more protection. My mum chucked a stick of butter in my coffee with a look of confusion but I said "I will explain later, thanks for the butter!" 
Off again on the road to Caterham!
Some of the views I came across were stunning! Beautiful hills, flowers and animals made me briefly I forget how far I had already come.
I met some wonderful people on a canal boat who were giving cake and jelly babies to the runners!!! You guys are amazing and made a tired runner very happy! Ran with another guy for a little while as he was training in the same direction then we parted ways and I headed for the next station.
I was met by wonderful crew once again at Caterham (38 miles) where I chowed down on everything in site and they even had a little bit of music on! By this point my Garmin had died so I had no idea of how I was doing. They told me I was still within 1 hour of the cut off so I had made up some ground somewhere! The next wonderful bit of news was the next station was 5 miles away!
The 5 miles to Botley hill felt really far and had some really tough sections but I gained a lot of ground and just tried to keep my mind on it being 5 miles and not getting close to 40!
Botley hill at last! (43 miles) Just 7 miles to go and I had 2 and a half hours to do it in!
The wonderful crew hooked me up with some water and food and off I went to try and get this done. I was getting tired but was pushed on by the thought of that finish line getting closer with every step. My feet at this point were a little tender to run on so I just picked my ground. If it was really really stony I just walked fast, softer ground I ran, hills I walked up and ran down. I pushed on and on hoping to see some indication of how far I had to go.
I had got into some kind of autopilot for the last maybe 2 miles and was pulling some ground back with some good consistent running, checking over my shoulder as I really didn't want to be the very last person and I knew maybe one person was behind me. I came up a gentle hill and came across the guy that I had been walking the stairs with at Box Hill!!!! I couldn't believe it! I asked if he was OK and he said "yeah, go on without me" and he told me we had done 46.5 miles. I thanked him and wished him luck for the rest of it then I took off with a little boost that I had actually caught someone! Sorry dude but it is a race after all! ;)
I started to find signposts for Knockholt Pound and it made me smile each time I read one. Every gate, I checked behind me, nope not with me yet! Push harder! Across the next field, still nothing. Keep the pressure on, not long to go! Field after field I pushed on waiting to see that big inflatable arch.
I went through a gate and I could hear shouting and see flashes of light from my left, I looked across the field and could see the finish line!!! Unfortunately the finish line was on the other side of the field and over a hedge and all of my markings were leading me away from the finish!
I headed around the top of the field and eventually came to a road, turned left and made my way down the hill. Past the pub and village green where the finish was last year, left up a little hill and I could see a man with a clipboard.
I turned left into a car park and was joined by a crew member who ran halfway up the hill with me towards the beautiful blue arch! He said to me "I shall let you get your glory!" turned around and ran back down. Thanks dude!
13 hours 11 minutes and 3 seconds after leaving that school in Farnham, I crossed the finish line to screams and cheers and had finally realised my dream of becoming an Ultra runner!

Thank you to everyone who came out to see me you guys are amazing!
Huge thank you to the crews you guys were a light in the dark and made the race what it was!
At last but not least....never underestimate the power of a jelly baby! ;)

Thanks for reading guys and below are a couple of pictures and my finish video!

Run, Read, Rediscover, Repeat


Mind your ears when you watch the videos my mum was a little happy!

                                                                           31 miles!
50 miles in sandals and my feet are still pretty happy!

Monday, 13 May 2013

The final count down!

Its been a long time coming but I am finally onto my final week before the North Down Way 50!
Its time to taper, relax, eat some good food and hydrate. Oh and PANIC!

Trying pretty hard not to freak out and just concentrate on the above...minus the panic!

This week is all about mental preparation as all the leg work is done (see what I did there? :D ) Just trying to get your head in the game can sometimes be harder than the training.
So how do you get focused?
Visualise the finish? Study the map? Tell yourself its as good as done? Read blogs like this one?

Well what ever works for you, do it! Your mind is the hardest muscle to train of them all, work on it just as hard as the rest of your body and you will be able to take on anything.

Right I am off now to read some race reports and get myself pumped up for Saturday!!!

Train that brain people!


Friday, 10 May 2013

Music is my medicine

So I am sitting here trying to put a play list together for my first 50 mile Ultra Marathon next Saturday *GULP* and it got me thinking...

I love music and I always have. It has been and continues to be a massive part of my life. I have been in a lot of bands as well as doing solo stuff for well over half of my life so you could say that its just sort of built in!

Now the more I have have spoken to people the more I have come to realise that for some, mixing running and music is like mixing science and religion! "just don't do it, you pick one or the other and that's that!"
Its crazy how passionate people have got over this subject, running and music that is, not science and religion! I am not stupid enough to touch on the later, I am however just stupid enough to wade in on the music and running part.

A lot of you will be starting out and applying for races to find "MP3 players strictly prohibited" slapped all over the entry form and then start to panic as all of your training was with music! Well this again divides opinions and I have to say I am not sure on which side of the fence I sit so here are some of the pro`s and con`s of running with music.

Music is great! It helps you bop along and takes your mind off of everything. If you get the right play list together with a good beat you can match you cadence to that and just zone out, taking your mind off of the distance and the pain! Distraction is the key, crank up the volume and off you go and go and go and go!

If you are like any music lover you like it loud, here is where the problem is for the race director. You will not be able to hear any instructions from marshals, police, traffic and other runners. Potentially causing a hazard for yourself and others around you. The other issue with having music all of the time is because it puts your mind so far away from you feet, if you haven't built up a solid foundation of good form it is very easy to loose it and this can lead to injuries.

"So what do I do then Mr fence sitter!?"

Well I am more of a "have your cake and eat it" kinda guy! Personally I think that you can use music as a tool during your training to benefit your racing. Music can be used to hone your cadence as I mentioned above. For me, I like drum and bass, it normally has a bpm (beats per minute) of around 160 to 180 which is spot on for cadence training. It keeps my stride fast and short and well....I like it! :)
I used music in training to speed up my footfall but deliberately kept the volume low so I could concentrate on my form and used the music more like a metronome to time my feet to. You could of course just use a metronome, programme it to 90 or 180 bpm and get your feet in time with the beeps but it is a little more hardcore on the mind and you may find the beeping may make you want to break it!
Once I had got used to the way it felt to run with a quicker and shorter stride I started trying to run without the music to see how I was doing. It takes a little while but I really feel that it helps hone your technique and helps you to concentrate and think about how you are running.
Now I tend to use music as more of a painkiller on longer runs, I have worked so hard on my cadence that it is now naturally a lot quicker. I find it helps take my mind away from the inevitable pain and also serves as a bit of a pick me up in those dark times when you just want to sit down with a nice cup of tea.
I still keep the volume down so I can concentrate, well unless there is a really good bit! ;)
I find that for me music definitely has its place in my running providing I keep it down a bit so I also know what's going on around me. I see so many runners nearly get taken out by cars or cyclists because they are not watching the road or paying attention on trails.....scary stuff!


I can and will only speak for myself but I think its simple. Keep it down, keep it safe.
Music is my training buddy, my guide, my painkiller, my light in the dark, my power.
But always remember running fans, "with great power..........."

Till next time you crazy cats!


Thursday, 2 May 2013

Milo the #MileofMice mouse!

My Mother is crafty.

I mean in a making lots of stuff kind of way not a sneaky spy. She makes loads and loads of different things from slippers to tiny little elephants.....no really, she made a tiny little knitted elephant!
She got involved in a wonderful idea to raise money for the Alzheimer`s Society and also break a world record at the same time.
The idea is to get people to knit 7600 mice and then join them nose to tail to try and make....you guessed it! A mile of mice! Knitters can be sponsored to make them and then once they are done they will be auctioned off to raise funds for the Alzheimer`s Society! Brilliant!

So I can see a lot of confused faces out there reading this post thinking "so why is this running guy talking about knitting?!" well as I mentioned my Mother is crafty...hmm maybe like a sneaky spy after all and gave me a knitted mouse with an idea in mind.
From now till October when the Mile of Mice will be measured I shall be taking my new running buddy with me to see how many miles we can clock up to try and raise money and awareness for the Alzheimer`s Society!
Without further ado I present to you.......Milo! (Thanks for the name Dad! Genius!)

Milo the Mile of Mice mouse!

If you would like to track Milo`s progress or get involved just look for us on Twitter #mileofmice
For a pattern to make your own mice and join in on the record click here! http://www.makeandcraft.com/knitted-mice-knitting-pattern/

Thanks for reading peeps!

Cardiosaurus and Milo