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I first purchased High 5 energy gels at the end of September. I am constantly looking for ways to improve my running and cycling and came across a deal on www.wiggle.co.uk. The deal was buy one box get another box free. A box consists of twenty sachets and costs £19.80 so the deal was too good to refuse. At the time of me writing this review a box of twenty energy gels are currently on sale at wiggle for £12.87.
I initially bought the gels for my commute to work to save a taking bottles of water. I would usually fill my water bottle and leave it on the kitchen top because I was in a rush. The gels I could just throw into my backpack that I used every day. As it has turned out I have to concentrate more on my running so the bike has been retired for the winter and I have been using the gels help me get through my training.
Simply put these gels are designed to be easily digestible so they can deliver instant carbohydrates to give you an energy boost during strenuous activity. They also contain electrolytes Sodium and Potassium. It is recommended that you consume three sachets per every sixty minutes of exercise. I don't stick to that recommendation as a rule because I mostly run at a steady pace but for harder, faster runs it is a good idea.
The gels can be bought in five different flavours. Banana blast, Green Apple, Citrus burst, juicy Orange and Summer Fruits/Berry. The boxes I bought were a mix of flavours and also included the flavour Mojito but as far as I can tell this flavour has been discontinued and I think i know why.
Using the gels is easy enough. They come in a sachet that is opened by twisting the top and tearing it off. I have now used forty of these gels and have only ever had a problem opening one of them having to use my teeth to rip it open. The biggest problem with these gels is that sometimes you tend to get the gels on your hands and if you're not wearing gloves they tend to be very sticky on your hands. Not a huge problem but it tends to bug me.
Once the top has been removed you simply squeeze the contents into your mouth. I expected that the gels would be really thick and difficult to consume but that couldn't be further from the truth. It is difficult to describe the consistency of the gel but I can say it is easy to swallow and does give you an instant boost. They taste good, except for the Banana and the Mojito flavour. The Apple, Orange, Summer Fruits and Citrus flavours are all very refreshing. I don't really like the Banana flavour but that is just a personal opinion. It isn't that bad I don't use them, same goes for the Mojito but Mojito is quite harsh and leaves an after taste that I don't like and that's why High 5 have probably stopped producing it.
As I wrote earlier it is recommended that you consume three sachets per hour. I usually just use one per hour and take a bottle of water with me. For longer runs up to three hours I usually take three. I consume one after fifty minutes and then every half hour. I only stick to this so that I don't have to keep buying more. As my training progresses and gets closer to my events I will use more and try to stick to recommendations.
After using the gels for the last three months I have had nothing but good experience. I have had runs wear my legs have been getting tired and started aching but consuming a gel gives you that little kick. It is mainly my calf muscles that start aching. After consuming a gel the pain eases very quickly because the gel digests so easily it is quick to deliver the ingredients you need for energy and hydration.
I have used the gels for two actual race events up to now. Firstly I used them for a tough mudder obstacle course that is twelve miles long. I used only two gels when I felt I needed and supplemented them with water and haribo sweets, idefinitely felt the benefit. The second event was a 10k Movember race. I used two gels. I finished the race in 51 minutes 35 seconds according to my official race time taken from the race chip. I felt the race had gone really well and know that the gels played there part. I had been injured a few weeks before and didn't expect to go that fast. In fact the only disappointment is that I didn't go quicker because when I finished there was definitely more left in the tank.
The gels are suitable for vegetarians and are made with real fruit juice. They do contain preservatives but no added sweeteners. These particular gels don't contain caffeine either which is a bit of a bonus to me. In my personal experience exercise and caffeine don't react well for me. Ever since I used Maxi muscle Thermobol tablets at the gym I tend to steer clear of caffeine.
What works for some people doesn't always work for other but from my personal experience I would recommend these gels for any form of exercise when you want to give yourself a boost in performance.
They are not overly expensive and depending on the level of strain you're putting your body under you don't have to stick to the recommendations for intake and make them last longer. If you can get them on special offer then that's a huge bonus.
In the past I have even handed a couple of the gels out to friends that were running with me and even they have always said they felt the benefit.
I bought some dhb cycling socks from www.wiggle.co.uk. For a pack of two pairs the cost was £8.99. I bought them because I wanted to see how different cycling socks were compared to my normal socks that I had been riding to work in. I figured that I could wear these to ride to work, change into a clean pair of socks for during the day and then change back into these for my ride home.
The dhb cycling socks can be bought in feet sizes ranging from size three up to a size twelve and can also be bought in a range of four different colours. Black and White, Blue and White, Red and White and then White with black stripes. I chose a size nine and a combination of the Black/White and Blue/White.
These cycling are much the same as what you would wear to go running in. They have the same features for allowing moisture away from the foot. In this instance dhb use a technology called COOLMAX fibres. This mesh like fibre starts just above the toes and goes up around the top of the foot and there is also some around the ankle.
"Your feet work really hard on a bike and are a major point of contact, so it's worth pampering them a bit. Cycling socks are designed to relieve the pressure points generated by pedalling and keep your skin dry by wicking moisture away. Blood flow is also important through your feet, so a cool, vented foot will allow this better than a hot clammy foot." Taken from wiggle.co.uk.
I have had these socks now for three months and have used them nearly every time I ride. The COOLMAX fibre does seem to do the job. I have been surprised how dry my feet are compared to wearing a normal pair of work socks. Even in the recent very hot weather my feet have been dry even if the socks have got a little more smelly from sweat than they normally would do.
The socks are made from 50% Polyester, 40% Cotton, 7% Polyamide(Nylon)3% and Elastane(Spandex). Cotton absorbs moisture so if they were 100% cotton the sweat would soak into the soak and your feet would be damp whilst riding. The polyester will pick that damp sweat up and "wick" it away from the skin, so both materials act together to keep your feet dry and it works a treat.
The socks are designed with a reinforced heel, reinforced toe box and arch supports. All three of these help the sock fit better onto your foot and help the sock retain its shape whilst your foot moves around. They do help keep the socks very comfortable and fitting snugly.
The toe box is designed to stop the toes wearing out on the socks after they have been constantly rubbing on the front of your cycling shoes and the reinforced heel also does the same job at the back of your foot, so these socks are designed to last. The arch support feels tight around the middle of your foot giving compression. I used to get pain in the bottom of my foot before I started using these socks but the compression helps keep the foot comfortable and I haven't had much pain in my foot whilst wearing them.
I have recently had a few rides where I have got very wet in the rain and the socks have been very dirty and wet when I got home. They clean really well and retain the colours, although the blue has faded a little which isn't really a bad thing as they were very bright when I first wore them and stood out a mile. If
I was to choose again I would just get two pairs of the black and white. They have retained there shape and when I wear them feel the same as when I first got them.
Up to now I have really got my moneys worth from these socks and wouldn't hesitate recommending them to anybody that asked my advice on what socks to buy for cycling. They have been a bargain at just £8,99 for two pairs.
Wiggle.co.uk allow customers to review their purchase and rate everything on a scale of five stars. The dhb cycling socks are rated at 4.6 out of five and every review is a positive comment. If you are starting out as a cyclist and don't want to go mad spending money on cycling clothing I would definitely try these out I doubt you would be disappointed.
For quite a while I have been trying to find an alternative way to warm up and warm down after going out for a run. Doing normal stretching has never quite worked for me. When I've used stretching to warm up I've still felt tightness in my muscles when running. I also suffer from Sciatica in my hip and it can cause pain in different parts of my body down my right side. I also wanted to find something to help relieve the pain of that during and after long runs.
Foam rollers are designed as a device to essentially give yourself a massage. They are to be used mainly on the legs but can also be used for your upper back and hips. Using the roller is designed to improve blood flow and supposed to help improve with your range of motion and effective make your muscles and joints looser. From what I have read in different articles foam rollers can also help with injury prevention and rehabilitation.
I have read about foam rollers quite a lot but never got around to buying one but recently decided to bite the bullet and buy one.
I searched different websites and there are lots of them out there. The prices range from around £10 right up to £70. I didn't want to buy one that was really cheap because I assume it wouldn't last two minutes so I bought one for £22 on the wiggle.co.uk website.
As always wiggle were quick to deliver and I really looked forward to trying the foam roller out on my aching muscles. I had rode to and from work the day my parcel arrived so would use it straight away as a warm down when I got home from work.
The foam roller I bought was the Rejuvenation professional foam roller. The roller is a black cylinder that is six inches in diameter and looks like it is made from polystyrene.
After taking the plastic wrapping off the roller I found that the label inside had instructions on how to use the roller on the back. The instructed how to roll the hamstrings, front of the thighs, calf muscles, hips and upper back.
I followed the instructions and found the roller to be very easy to use. The foam is very firm and takes my weight without squashing. I tried each exercise and felt some benefit straight away. I'm not saying that it is an instant solution but when I stood up for the first time my legs felt looser. I also found that I could stretch my back further. If I stood with my legs straight and bent down I could reach lower down towards my toes.
I have recently signed up to run the London Marathon and did an online fitness test to see what I needed to work on the most. The test came back with results advising I worked on my flexibility to help my ability to run. Using the foam roller seems to help with that in the short term. Hopefully it will work in the long term as well.
In the past month I have done two thirteen mile runs as part of my training. The first run I didn't have the foam roller. After the run I stretched but still found myself stiffening up after sitting down for a while. My Sciatica was causing me a lot of pain and it was difficult to even walk. It was a bit of a worry for me that I had only covered half the distance needed to complete a marathon and still be in so much pain. It was at this point I decided to give the foam roller a try.
The second run I used the roller to warm up. Admittedly I didn't notice a massive difference in my running, except for the fact that I felt no tightness in the hamstring area. I still had pain from my Sciatica at around five miles into the run but it was a bit more manageable than it had been in the past.
The biggest difference was when I got home and warmed down using the roller. I rolled the calf muscles, hamstrings, front of the thighs and my hips. It worked really well. I felt a lot looser and although I still experienced some pain from my Sciatica, it was nowhere near as bad as it was after my last run. So up to now it has helped and is doing the job I bought it to do.
As good as the roller is it can be quite painful to roll your muscles. At certain points you get an intense pain that is quite unbearable, these are the areas of muscle that you need to work on. It is recommended that you should work on the tender areas for around thirty to sixty seconds but I do find it difficult as it does hurt quite a lot. I have read that you should roll down to the area where the pain starts and roll down little by little each day until you have covered the full area. So it could take a few weeks until you are getting the maximum benefit from your roller, I'm not at that point yet but I am feeling some benefit already.
Since I have started using the roller I have been optimistic that it is making a difference in the way I exercise. The beauty of the roller is I feel better and I haven't even began to tap into the potential benefits it can have. Having read various blogs and watched youtube videos I have found there are even more exercises. In future I may be able to give myself a full all over body massage without spending a fortune on sessions with a physiotherapist, which is what I would probably have had to do.
Two warnings I do have are firstly do not try and roll your lower back. I tried before I read the warnings on the label and it advises you don't. When I did it I heard cracking in my back and thought it was doing some good. After a couple of hours my back was aching. It wasn't really painful but it wasn't right so I haven't done it since.
Also keep the roller away from small children. My two year old pinches it off me and tries to copy what I do. I now just use it when he isn't around. He rolls on his belly, which isn't so dangerous but I found him trying to sit on it and as he did it rolled out from under him. Luckily I was there and grabbed him but he could of easily fell backwards and smashed his head on something.
Up to now I have benefitted from using the foam roller and would recommend using one to anybody that works out, be it at home or in the gym. When it comes to running I want to explore anything that will give me any benefit and help shave even a few seconds of my personal bests and it has done that so I have no complaints.
Sat having a few beers at home in February 2013, I decided to go online and talk to my friend Mark. I didn't think that by the end of the night I would have been talked into signing up to participate in a tough mudder event but somehow I had been.
Tough mudder is the self proclaimed hardest event on the planet. Tough mudder has events that take place all over the world. The courses usually cover the distance of ten to twelve miles of mud and obstacles.
Before I start describing the event and how my day went I would like to mention the price. When I signed up I got a special price for singing up early. It still cost me £65 but as I had been thinking about taking part in a tough mudder for quite a few months I decided to take the plunge but I think that this may prove quite expensive for some. I signed up as an individual but there may be discount if you want to sign up as a team.
As time goes by and gets nearer the event the price goes up even more. So if you plan on taking part, get in early.
Bear in mind that you also have to pay £10 insurance and on the day it cost me £10 to park my car. If going as a group it is worth travelling together.
When registering you have a choice of days, Saturday or Sunday. I chose Saturday for the extra rest before going back to work the week after. There is also a choice of start times. If I remember rightly you can start as early as 0900 or as late as 1330. My friend and I chose 1100. I wanted to get a good night sleep and a decent breakfast inside me before taking part.
If you want to go along and spectate you also have to pay. If you pay online it's £10. If you want to pay to spectate on the day it is £20. My girlfriend came to watch me and we paid online but at this point I thought that it was getting a little expensive and in all honesty this a bit of a gripe I had with the event. With all the expense already incurred it doesn't take into account your travel money depending on how far away from the event you live.
Once registered you will receive a confirmation e-mail saying you have paid and providing a personal link, so you can ask people for sponsorship if you so wish. Tough mudders patron charity is Help for Heroes. I already had a charity in mind so set up my own just giving page. Some events ask you to collect a certain amount once you enter. Tough mudder didn't so I went my own way and collected money for a charity a bit more personal to myself.
WHERE WAS IT HELD?
As I live in Manchester it made sense to sign up for the event in the North West of England. It would be at a place called Cholmondley Estates. Cholmondley is between Wrexham and Crewe. One hour away from Manchester and Liverpool and one and a half hours from Birmingham
There are direction and maps on the tough mudder website but it was easy enough to find from where I travelled from. Once we found the estate you had to park on the grounds which was a large field. Hundreds of cars were already there but there was no delays in parking up. It was all very organised and signposted into different sections (I still had trouble finding my car afterwards).
On the tough mudder website there is a little test you can take to see if you are tough enough to take part. You fill a simple form with your details, name, age etc and then it asks things like what fears you have, how far can you run and how many push ups can you do. It really isn't that relevant. As an individual you should know in your own mind if you are capable of training for and completing the tough mudder.
The website offers three different training programs for beginners through to people that train often. I didn't use them. I decided to do my own thing which consisted of running, cycling and I used my David Haye box and tone DVD (which I reviewed earlier this year) using the circuit training sections, abs and core and strength and conditioning. If you look online there are plenty of alternative training programs available.
If you look at the pages on the website that describes each obstacle if tells you what exercise you can use that will best prepare for each one.
One rule tough mudder have is that it isn't a race. You should take part and take pride in the fact that you have completed it. So you should train depending on how well or fast you want to get around the course.
To put it another way. You don't have to train like you are Sylvester Stallone. I'd recommend running a couple of times a week and work up to running at least 10k comfortably and then a couple of nights of strength training. How hard can it be to train when I did all my upper body work in the comfort of my own living room but I had decided that I just wanted to get around the course without injuring myself. I wasn't going to go mental so I trained as much as I could balancing between training, work and spending time with my family.
One thing I would say is that I am a bit of a worrier. No matter how much I trained I worried that it still wouldn't be good enough but it was. I can definitely say that there were people taking part that were far more unfit than me and from what I seen they were all coping alright on the day.
Another rule of tough mudder is camaraderie. Everybody is there to help everybody else so if there is something you are struggling with, there will always be somebody to lend a hand and that is true. The team ethic of everybody taking part is there to see. You will not be left behind to struggle on your own.
OCTOBER 5TH 2013. EVENT DAY.
The week of the event left me really anxious. The weekend before I had gone onto the tough mudder website and made a list of the obstacles I would have to overcome in order to complete the event. Researching them left me with a feeling of dread. I was really worried I was going to fail. I had nothing to measure myself against. What if I wasn't strong enough. Only time would tell.
On event day there are only a few things you need to take with you. You need to print off and sign a injury/death waiver which you receive in an e-mail close to the event and an ID with a photograph on it.
Obviously you also need your kit to run in and some clean, dry clothes for the journey home afterwards. I also took some energy gels with me to eat whilst going around the course. You don't need to take any water or food. There are water stations and fruit stations around the course.
Like I said I was feeling anxious as I think most people would. I did feel better once I actually got to the event. After parking the car you walk to the event base camp. The base camp is where you start from and finish. There were food stalls, a bar, bag drop (which cost £3) and toilets and showers (if you could call them that).
At 10.45 we were asked to assemble at the start line. You get a little warm up and some motivational speeches from the organisers. Only problem was that the start line wasn't the start line as such. Your wave set off and before you reach the proper start line you have to climb over a seven foot fence. The easiest obstacle of the lot but as I went to jump up and hoist myself over it I mistimed my jump. My arms felt like jelly and I just about managed to get over. I don't know what would have happened to my confidence if I had failed at the first hurdle. My advice would be If you're a little nervous coming up to it, get somebody to give you a peg up and get it out of the way.
After getting over that fence you take the tough mudder pledge.
"AS A TOUGH MUDDER I PLEDGE THAT...............
I UNDERSTAND THAT TOUGH MUDDER IS NOT A RACE BUT A CHALLENGE.
I PUT TEAMWORK AND CAMARADERIE BEFORE MY COURSE TIME.
I DO NOT WHINE, KIDS WHINE.
I HELP MY FELLOW MUDDERS COMPLETE THE COURSE.
I OVERCOME ALL FEARS"
All of the pledge rings true. Apart from the whining you'll probably see some of that.
Once the pledge is taken. Away you go and theres no going back.
First I'll describe the course. I can't remember distances between obstacles. The course was around twelve miles long. It was sometimes good ground to run on but there was a lot of boggy mud that you had to get through. This might sound silly when I say that I found the amount of mud quite unnecessary. Yes I know it's a muddy challenge but at times it made it impossible to run for long stretches of the course. In my opinion it invited injuries and could have been cut down a little. Sometimes the mud alone was an obstacle in itself. Sometimes it added to the fun but at times it just got tedious.
The course is mainly flat. I don't remember having to run up or down many hills so you save most of your energy for the obstacles.
Now to the obstacles. The reason I want to describe my experience of the obstacles Is so that anybody thinking of taking part can see it from my point of view. When you consider I was dreading doing half of them they actually aren't that difficult once you are confronted by them. Everybody else is getting stuck in and that motivates you to do the same. Plus you can always go around them as I did with the hero walls. Eight foot fences that you have to climb over. I'll mention why I went around later on. I can't remember exactly how many obstacles there were but I'll do my best to describe as many as I can.
KISS OF MUD.
Simply crawl under barbed wire that is eight inches from the ground being careful not to snag yourself on the barbed wire. Water is being sprayed onto you making it muddy but this is an easy obstacle. All you have to do is get to the other side.
I wasn't really worried about this obstacle. They are two, eight foot fences but they don't stand straight up. They are angled towards you so you can't kick off the wall to boost yourself up. I got a boost over the first one from another participant then went back around to help him. He had already gone over and I ended up with two young ladies standing on my shoulders. Second fence my friend and I helped each other. Job done, easy enough.
Anybody that's heard of tough mudder will have heard about the arctic enema. This was an obstacle I was thinking of swerving. It's basically a large skip filled with water and ice. You jump in and then in the middle there is a board you have to duck under giving you no choice but to fully submerge under the freezing water.
If you believed the website you would think it was life or death going into the arctic enema. I admit that it was cold and it felt like an eternity trying to get under the board through to the other side but it wasn't as bad as I expected. This obstacle was around three miles in and the cold actually helped relax the muscles.
One word of advice I would have is once your through and out of the skip. Keep moving. If you stop the cold will soon take over and stiffen you up. Keep moving to keep warm.
Sixty foot long trenches filled with water and fencing panels lay down over the top of them. You have to go in head first on your back and pull yourself along the panels with just six inches of room between the water and your face.
I thought it would be difficult but it wasn't. The water helps take the weight of your body, you just have to concentrate on not swallowing the muddy water. Again it seems to go on forever but it's not an obstacle that will sap your strength, although you may feel a little confined.
HOLD YOUR WOOD.
Basically a half mile section of the course where you carry a log. The logs vary in size. I ended up with one that I thought was light but after walking a while it seemed to get heavier and heavier. If you think you'll struggle find a small one or carry one as a team. Either way this isn't going to make or break your day.
Exactly what it says it is, a trench. The trench is covered over and is dark but there was enough room to crawl on your hands and knees. I did seem to scrape my knees a lot going through here.
Again an easy obstacle or at least it was until we reached the trench exit. At the end was a bog that stunk of horse manure, even though organisers swore blind it was just mud. You have no option but to walk through the bog and at times it would be up to your waist. Very messy indeed.
This is a basic carry somebody for half a mile then they return the favour. I gave it a go but have to admit didn't get very far. I was slipping around in the mud whilst giving somebody a piggy back. A recipe for disaster if you ask me.
This is where things got a little serious. You have to crawl or slide underneath a wooden frame. On the floor is water and above are electric wires hanging down.
At first I did OK. I managed to zig-zag my way though the wires and not get zapped. Then , crack. I got hit on the shoulder and it felt like somebody had punched me. I took one more to the shoulder, one to the backside and a shock just underneath my rib-cage which was more painful than the rest.
The shocks were quite strong but I wouldn't call them unbearable. The sort of shock that hurts but you can't help but laugh. It must be amusing to watch. Up to now this was the hardest obstacle. I think if I had to do it a second time on the day the electric shocks would have played on my mind and I would of struggled to do it a second time. As I would do later on.
To complete this we had to walk down into a pond and there were barrels strewn across the pond underneath a bridge you simply had to duck down under the barrels and get underneath them full submerged under water.
At this point you are already muddy and wet so its an easy task. I used it as an opportunity to get a bit cleaner.
WALK THE PLANK
Another simple obstacle. Climb up the wooden frame to the platform that is fifteen foot above the water and when you get the instruction to jump, you jump.
As a child I hated the high diver and was worried I would freeze at the top but I didn't. Again that fact that everybody else is doing it motivates you to throw yourself off.
When I hit the water though it was quite a shock to the system. Much like the arctic enema get out as quickly as you can and keep moving to get warm.
Not long after walking the plank we came to the hero walls. The cold water had knocked the wind out of me so my friend and I decided to just go around them. I might add it was his idea. I just didn't protest all that much. Only one obstacle missed so not to worry.
An obstacle where you have to climb over or go under wide logs. It was essentially a climbing frame made of logs. Another obstacle not particularly difficult with plenty of help at hand but at this point I was starting to get a little tired.
As if we hadn't been through enough mud.
The messiest but funniest part of the course. Not a mile long as the title suggests. In fact nowhere near it but craters filled with sludge that goes up to your chest. Slide in, wade through and then slip and slide out so that you can slide in again.
Very messy but good fun. Before you go in make sure your shoes are on tight because if they come off you aren't finding them. Also watch your footing. I certainly didn't want to go all the way under. The mud was horrible and stuck to you so I would have hated to be covered head to toe in it.
This obstacle consisted of two tubes that you had to crawl through. Sounds easy enough but is was surprisingly difficult.
The first tube went downwards so that was easy but the second you had to crawl up it. There was nowhere to grip and you have to crawl on your elbows and knees. This put a lot of pressure on the abdominal muscles and I struggled quite a bit but the core strength training I had done was paying off.
I was glad near the end when a female volunteer reached down and gave me a helping hand to the top, it was hard work.
Basically, monkey bars over a pool of water. I had tried training at home doing pull ups to have a go at the these but even on the first bar I couldn't grip I had that much mud on my hands and went straight into the water. People did make it across but I don't know how.
I didn't use gloves but they might have been an advantage.
Lots of people were going straight into the water. It is a very hard obstacle to get across and requires a lot of upper body strength so do a lot of strength training if you want to give it a good go.
These were platforms across a stream. The idea is get momentum as you jump from each platform to the next and try to stay out of the water. Problem is how do you get momentum when the person in front has stopped and is stood on the platform rocking all over the show trying to keep their balance.
The idea is fun but the reality is that you need a clear run at it if you want to do it well. I tried to wait for a clear space but people kept on coming. In the end I went for it but only got a couple of platforms in before having to stop because of someone in front. Into the water again but it was only waist deep anyway.
From the name you can guess this is a big obstacle. Everest is a huge ramp that as you run up to it looks quite formidable. To be fair it actually is. By the time you reach it you will be cold and tired. Once it's your turn to run towards it your legs will feel like jelly.
It took me four attempts to get up and over the top. It all comes down to focus. My first three attempts I came close to getting up. You are relying on people already at the top to grab your hands and pull you up. Even once they grab you it is still a struggle and you have to use your own strength to pull yourself to the top.
What worried me about Everest was it seemed to be the first obstacle that you couldn't go around. I didn't see anybody ducking it. I think it was the ultimate test both physically and mentally and it nearly broke me. In my mind I was thinking what if I don't get over, I'll have come all this way for nothing and have to go home and tell everyone that asks that I failed.
The ramp was made of rubber but as you can imagine it was very wet. On my first three attempts I slipped at the vital moment where I needed to push myself up. I found it quite demoralising watching people getting up first time.
On my fourth attempt I managed to focus. Two fellow mudder at the top grabbed my hands and I managed to be able to hold onto the edge of the frame and then my body took over. There was no way I was going back down that ramp. I have never, and I literally mean never, felt so relieved and proud of myself. I had conquered Everest.
The final obstacle. Once through the finish line was right on the other side.
Basically a wooden frame around a pit of mud. Again electric wires hanging down ready to shock you. The experience of the electric eel was playing on my mind and I wanted to get through without touching any wires if I could.
That wasn't going to happen. I got half way through and was hit on the shoulder. I don't know where the second shock hit but it knocked me to the ground and into the mud. The third and fourth shock occurred because a wire stuck to mud on my hands. It shocked me on the hand and as I pulled away from it, the wire caught me on my calf muscle and gave me a right belt.
Then I was through and across the finish line a very happy man.
At the finish line you were awarded three things. Firstly a tough mudder headband that you can wear with pride. A t-shirt that were all handed out at separate tables so it was easy to get the right size and a refreshing pint of strongbow, the sponsors of the event. Believe it or not the Strongbow didn't go down particularly well. It was Lucozade I needed.
I have to admit that I had a really good day. If you are thinking of or have entered a tough mudder I would say don't worry about it. It will not be as bad as you think its going to be. I found it to be really enjoyable and I am trying to raise a team for next year to do it again.
Its an event worth doing just for bragging rights. It is hard and it was a draining experience but one I came away from with a sense of achievement and a lot of pride. Add to that I managed to raise £200 for my chosen charity.
FINISHING WITH A GRIPE
I was a little miffed at the facilities after finishing the course. After being knocked into the mud near the finish we had to walk to the showers to try and get cleaned up. The showers were just hose pipes hanging down with very little water pressure so it was hard to get clean and the last thing you want to do is be splashing yourself with cold water when all you want to do is get clean so you can change and warm yourself up.
Secondly there was a lack of changing area. I'm not exaggerating when I say men were literally stripping naked in front of everybody without a care in the world. Some people might not mind this but I found it a little odd when there are children that have been spectating walking around.
I had to go back to the car and somehow change there. Not an easy task when your clothes are sticking to you and you are trying unsuccessfully to not smear mud all over the car.
It just annoyed me a little that after such a gruelling event there wasn't somewhere warm to go and change. It didn't totally ruin what was a good day though and if I was asked, I would recommend to anybody to take on the challenge.
I hope if you are thinking of signing up this review could go some way to putting your mind at rest that as hard as it actually is to complete. You will complete. By yourself, or with some help from your fellow mudders.
Three months ago I purchased myself a new bicycle for commuting to work. Having my sons child seat attached to my mountain bike was making it harder to ride because of added weight. Plus I just like buying new stuff to play with and convinced myself that I absolutely needed a new bike.
I looked into every kind of different bike that is on the market today. A new mountain bike, road bikes hybrids and one day in Evans cycles one of the salesman pointed me in the direction of cyclocross bikes.
I have to admit that I hadn't heard much about cyclocross and was intrigued. Needless to say I made my decision and it was a cyclocross bike I would be buying. For my route to work this kind of bike was the perfect combination for terrain I would be travelling on.
WHAT IS CYCLOCROSS?
Cyclocross in general isn't commuting or going for a joy ride. It refers to a form of racing that takes place in Autumn and Winter when conditions get a bit muddy and wet. They are bikes designed for use as a cross between road cycling and off roading.
A cyclocross bicycle will look similar to any other road bike and I have to be honest they did to me until it was explained just what they were by the Evans salesman.
The two main differences between road bikes and cyclocross bikes are that firstly a cyclocross tyre's have knobbly bit on whereas a road bike has slick, smooth tyres. Also above the wheels there is more clearance between the wheel and the frame on a cyclocross bike.
Both of these design features are to allow a cyclocross bike to be used off road and generally take a little more abuse than a road bike would. The tyres are knobbly to help the wheels grip onto mud and dirt trails and the clearance between wheel and frame allows for the mud and dirt that builds up on the frame to do so without interfering with the wheel. Or the gap can allow for mud guards to be fitted.
My commute to work is a combination of tarmac roads and paths and trails through farmland and some pretty uneven roads that do not get any attention due to being of the beaten track. For this reason I chose to get myself a cyclocross bike. Now all I had to do was choose which one.
After a lot of research and deliberation I decided on buying the 2013 Giant TCX3. I used the experience of two avid cyclists that I work with mostly a website called bike radar that specialize in cycling and especially reviewing all different bikes.
I should also mention that having had my Giant mountain bike for going on four years and hardly having to maintain it I knew that Giant were a good, reliable brand.
Another selling point of the TCX3 was the price. Priced at £699.99 it is relatively cheap for a cyclocross bike (believe it or not). With cyclocross bikes higher end priced bikes are really for people who are going to be using them to race or mainly for some hardcore off roading but as I understand it the lower the price the more it is aimed towards commuters and pleasure riders.
One website describes the TCX3 as "Commute to work in the week and begin your Cyclocross career at the weekend. The Giant TCX 3 is a diverse and dependable beast that will be as at home on the tarmac as tearing up the local trails." I think this description sums it up perfectly.
The first time I actually viewed the bike in a shop was the day I bought it. I had actually set my sights on a specialized bike I had seen in Evans cycles but decided to take a trip to another shop, Ken Foster's cycle logic in Chorlton, Manchester. Ken Foster's are actually a selling agent for Giant bikes so I decided to see what they had in stock before committing to buying.
This is where I came across the TCX3 and fell in love with it straight away. The bike I bought was the display model. There was no more in stock and I wanted it there and then. As it was ex-display the salesman offered it me for £600. As it was the right frame size for me and had no visible marks on the frame I said thank you very much, paid and was soon on my way home giddy like a kid on Christmas morning whilst my girlfriend looked on perplexed trying to fathom just what was so exciting about buying a bike.
It was just how good the bike looked on first impression that pretty much sold it to me. The shiny silver frame with black Giant decals along the frame looked classy and the black handlebars, seat, seat post and wheel rims made it look tough. I immediately got the impression that this bike would be more than adequate to sustain the low level abuse I had planned for it.
The main feature on the bike that impressed me was the double brake system the TCX3 has. Most cyclocross bikes have the brake levers at the front of the curved handles but the TCX3 also has two normal brake levers on the straight part of the handlebars. This means that you can ride the TCX3 like you would a road bike or in a race, crouched down for aerodynamics or you can sit in a more upright position and ride as you would with any other straight handlebar bike.
Compared to my mountain bike the TCX3 weighed a lot less. Weight can make quite a difference so I was impressed with how little it weighed. The frame is manufactured using Giants, Aluxx technology which means that their frames are built to be Lightweight framesets featuring optimized strength-to-weight ratios. As light as it was I felt as though the frame and front forks were strong.
Other features on the TCX3 are that it has less gears than mountain or road bikes. My mountain bike has twenty seven gears whereas the TCX3 only has sixteen. I have actually enjoyed having less gears. The ratio on the gears is perfect and less gears means it is easier to find the right gear to ride in rather than shuffling up and down through the cogs. Sometimes less is more and I find it had made the TCX3 easier and more enjoyable to ride.
The crankset is the FSA Omega (34/50) crankset with press-fit bottom bracket and the front and back Derailleurs and gear shifters are the shimano 2300 gear set. I have always found shimano gear sets to be highly reliable and one of the best brands around when it comes to cycling so I was more than happy with the gear set.
The gear shifters were very new to me. I am used to have shifter under the handle bars that you used your thumbs to shift gears. The shifters on the TXC3 are different. There is one lever that sticks out sideways for shifting with your thumbs and the gears are changed in the other direction by using the front brake levers that double up as gears. Something I was very impressed with even if it did take a little getting used to.
The handlebar, stem, seat post and saddle are all Giants own sports and performance components. Made from lightweight alloy to add little weight to the overall bike weight. All coloured black.
One of the features that differ from a higher priced cyclocross bike is that the brakes are good old fashioned cantilever brakes. Higher priced bikes will more than likely come with hydraulic disc brakes like most modern mountain bikes now have as standard.
I would of liked a bike with disc brakes but the cantilever brakes aren't to detrimental to the riding experience. A couple of issues I do have with them is that when wet they screech when you apply them and the wheel judders as the rubber tries to grip the metal rim. They also take the colour off your wheel rims. Mine have taken the black off and my rims now show the silver alloy underneath the paint.
The wheel rims are the Giant S-R2. I don't know any technical details about what they are made from or just how tough they are supposed to be. What I do know is that on more than one occasion I have hit pot holes quite hard and the rims have stood up to the impact well. My front wheel took an especially hard knock when I had to go up a high kerb after a car didn't see me and I took emergency action. I initially thought the impact would at least of buckled my wheel but it looks fine.
My rear wheel does however seem to be slightly buckled and will need to be trued (straightened) when I put my bike in for the free service I got as part of buying the bike. I suspect this buckle happened when I got a puncture riding to work and had to carry on riding on the rim because I had nowhere safe to stop. With all the weight on the back wheel you have to expect some damage. Having said that it is hardly noticeable and doesn't affect the way the bike rides.
The tyres are the Giant P-RX2 700x32c w/ Deflect Anti-Puncture. The walls of the tyre are built to deflect any debris off the tyres. These didn't deflect the large metal pin that punctured my tyre and I had to walk two miles home. I tried to repair the puncture at the side of the road but it had gone straight through the other side of the inner tube meaning I needed to buy a new one.
It was a rather large piece of metal that punctured the tyre and I guess they can't deflect everything. It is the only puncture I have had up to now and I was worried that due to the size of the puncture I would also need a new tyre but up to now that hasn't been the case so they must have some strength to them.
A SMOOTH RIDE?
I was riding a mountain bike with slick tyres for use on roads, yet I was still finding it difficult to get to work and on average it was taking me around thirty eight to forty minutes to get to work.
Using the TCX3 I have knocked around five minutes of that time. It is far easier to ride than my mountain bike and a lot less work for the legs. I feel as if it has vastly improved my riding. My average speeds are quicker and at weekends I can go out and cover longer distances without killing myself.
At first it was difficult to get used to riding a far lighter bike than what I was used to. Especially in the wind. Sometimes the wind would hit you and you have to use your body weight to compensate when you shift to the side but once you get used to the weight of the bike you don't notice and controlling the bike becomes second nature.
Another difficulty the bike has is going around corners at speed. The forks don't turn that quickly and at first I ended up having to take a lot of corners wide. On my rides I don't take to busy roads so it isn't so much of a problem but if the road is busy you have to slow down considerably to make sure you don't swing out into the road and in front of an unsuspecting driver.
My general opinion is that I have really enjoyed my rides on the TCX3 whether they have been commutes to work or joyrides, just me and the road. The fact that it takes less effort to ride than my mountain bike makes it easily more enjoyable to ride. I used to find it laborious riding to work on my mountain bike but now I sometimes go to bed and can't wait to get going in the morning. Coming home is sometimes different but then I have been on my feet most of the day before riding home.
I have taken on quite a few different terrains and find that no matter where I'm riding the effort never changes. It's a simple matter of getting from A to B. On my mountain bike it was sometimes difficult to ride on grass and stone and would make my legs get tired very quickly compared to how I am riding now.
I don't think that I will be entering myself into any cyclocross racing. I honestly think that it is aimed more at the commuter market rather than the racing community and as I do a lot of riding on the road this makes it perfect for me and I am very glad I chose to buy this model.
The final advantage of buying a cyclocross bike is that if I ever decide that I just want to stick to road riding I can simply buy some road tyres (slicks) and I have myself a road bike.
I fully expect that this bike will last me for quite a long time to come as long as regularly have it serviced at the recommended every six months. I haven't had any problems apart from the puncture and slight buckle to the back wheel both of which are easily rectified. Up to now I have rode 412.1 miles without much incident and have enjoyed every single mile. Cyclocross is definitely fun.
Having bought my son a weeride child seat so he can join me on bike rides the next logical purchase would be a helmet for him to wear when we were out and about. I left the responsibility up to his grand parents to buy him one for Christmas and pointed them in the direction of the Specialized Small Fry Toddler 2013 Helmet.
I first came across the helmet in an Evans cycles store. What drew me to it was the name specialized. Specialized are a big name in cycling terms and it's a name I would trust to produce top quality products.
Most of the kids helmets I came across were quite plain but the design of this particular helmet were very bright and colourful, perfect for a toddler.
There are four different designs of this helmet that Evans sell and can be viewed on their website. First is sky blue with cats, a white colour with motorbikes and tools, for the little girls there is a pink helmet with different coloured butterflies and my personal favourite is bigfoot.
I asked my parents to buy him the big foot helmet. The top of the helmet is blue depicting a blue sky and at the front is a forest with a yeti sat on a rock eating a tree whilst behind him a bear looks on bemused and a hiker hides in the bushes. I found it quite a quirky scene and the best out of the four designs.
At first the price of £28.00 put me off a little but as somebody else offered to buy it I didn't have to worry too much but when you consider my own helmet only cost half that It is quite expensive for a toddler.
The helmet is designed to fit from 44cm to 52cm and weighs 268g which is very light and not putting any undue weight onto your child's head and neck.
My son was around sixteen months old when he first started wearing it, albeit with a hat on when it was cold and is just coming up to his second birthday. Up to now I have only made minor adjustment to the strap under his chin and there is still plenty of length left on the strap so it should last him at least until his third birthday (age recommended) before he needs another size helmet.
The helmet is fitted to the head using a dial fit system and a strap that clips under the chin just like an adults helmet would. The dial fit system is easy to use. Just place the helmet onto the head and turn the dial to tighten or loosen the helmet around the head. I'm sure your child will let you know if you make it too tight and you will definitely know if it is too loose. The helmet does come with an instruction manual that does explain the correct way to wear the helmet.
The chin strap is also simple to use. The straps come down so that your ears are in between and then meet in the middle under the ear to form one single strap. The single strap has a plastic clip that fastens under the chin. This can be tightened or loosened easy enough much the same as you would loosen the strap on a backpack. Sometimes in can be tricky to fasten the clip as children can be uncooperative sometimes and my son sometimes will not lift his chin and I worry I will trap his skin in the clip so I have to be a little careful with it.
For your child's protection and comfort there is also padding placed inside the helmet. It fastens around the front of the dial fit system to provide padding along the forehead and then runs along the top of the head. Extra padding is also supplied with the helmet in case you want to add some extra but I haven't had too.
Specialized have also added some other excellent design features including ventilation at the top of the helmet to allow heat to leave the head and cool air in. Three of the vents on the front of the helmet have a mesh in them. The mesh acts as a guard to keep insects and bugs out.
The helmet is also designed to have a peak at the front. This acts as an integrated sun visor and keeps the sun out of the eyes and off the face.
The helmet complies with one or more of the following safety standards for bicycle helmets: CPSC, SNELL B90C (toddler), CE and AS/NZS. Admittedly I don't know what tests are done to reach these standards but like I said earlier Specialized is a product I would trust and I'm sure that any product they produce is tested rigorously. I doubt they would want to stake their reputation on a toddlers helmet they produce or they wouldn't make them. I'm sure my child's head is more than safe in this helmet.
In my opinion it is worth paying that little extra for a product you can trust. In my experience some products trade on their name alone and produce inferior products at inflated prices. In the world of cycling you pretty much get what you pay for and I trust Specialize as a brand and would happily pay extra for the safety of my child.
I am now off to buy myself a new helmet. It just occurred to me as I was writing this review that my son has a better helmet than I do. Thanks for reading.
One of the problems that come with having a child is getting rid of smelly nappies. We have a changing table in the nursery so thought it would be convenient to have a bin next to it to dispose of all the nappies my son had used without having to throw them out one by one every time.
My girlfriend purchased the Angelcare Nappy Disposal System from amazon.co.uk so that we had a convenient and clean way to dispose of nappies quickly.
At the time of me writing this review the Angelcare Nappy Disposal System is priced at a mere £5.26 on amazon. I'm sure we paid more but that was a few months back.
The nappy bin to give it a simple name is made from white plastic. It stands at 55cm is 28cm wide and 21cm deep. It doesn't take up to much room and being all white will suit most rooms.
It only weighs around 499g. Not very heavy at all. My son takes great delight in pushing it over but it doesn't pose any danger of seriously hurting your child if they do go messing around near it.
It has a lid on the top through which you place the nappies and a button in the middle which you press to open up the bin.
HOW IT WORKS.
Firstly you will have to take the lid off the top of the bin in order to place a bag refill cassette into the bin. You have to pull the bag through the middle of the ring, push it through the jaws inside the lid, then open the bin up to tie a knot at the opening at the bottom of the bag. Simple enough.
Once you have the bag fitted you simply open up the lid and push the used nappy through the jaws and the jaws will close on the bag to theoretically seal it shut. The bags are described as multi layer. They do feel tough and wouldn't tear easily and the multi layer provides protection from any nasty odours.
Once the bin is getting full you simply open it up using the button on the front and inside there is a cutter. Pull the bag to where you want to cut it and slide it in between the blades and it cuts very easily. These blades are in no way exposed so it isn't possible to cut yourself on them.
Tie the open end closed and it is ready for the bin and then pull the bag through to the length you want it and tie that closed ready for the next batch of nappies.
You will at some point notice that after emptying the bin and starting a fresh bag that a red line will appear on the plastic bag that becomes visible when you lift the lift to place a nappy in. This red line means you are coming to the end of that cassette.
At £5.26 it is difficult to argue against the price of disposal system. It is incredibly cheap and it is a very helpful item to have in any nursery. Angelcare don't make their money from selling the actual bin itself (not at £5.26 anyway), but when they sell the refill cassettes.
You should receive a cassette free with your disposal system if you buy it brand new. The refills are also sold on mason but come in packs of three. At the moment they are priced at £11.69 for the three.
Angelcare state that each refill should last for one month each and take a capacity of one hundred nappies over the course of that month. They base that statistic on somebody using size two nappies.
That is maybe an accurate description but I do remember a period from my son being around six months old when we were using a refill around every two weeks. He is now coming up to two years old and we haven't had to buy many recently as they now seem to last longer presumably because he gets more use from the nappy now and we will be toilet training him soon so hopefully will have no more need for them at all.
Over the last two years I have spent around £100 buying refills. The £100 has bought twenty seven refills, plus the free one that we received with the bin itself so the description of one a month isn't to wide of the mark.
THE PROS AND CONS.
The pros are obvious. The bin provides a clean, convenient way of disposing of a number of nappies without carrying them to a bin in their own individual bags.
The bin can easily be used one handed so it is easy to place the nappy into the bin without leaving your child unattended if they are a changing table or anything they can potentially fall off.
Once the nappy is in the bin you never have to touch it again, you simply cut and tie the bag closed.
The complaints I have are that sometimes if your child has done a particular funky smelling poo then no matter how many layers that bag has, or how tight the jaws close you aren't containing that nasty whiff. It is better that you place the particular smelly nappy in the bin and change the bag straight away. We have walked into the nursery sometimes and there has been a foul smell coming from the bin.
The second complaint is that sometimes when you cut the bag it will be full of air. In order to tie it you have to let some of that air out. As you can imagine this leads to a gust of wind leaving the bag that smells that bad it could be used as a chemical weapon.
In my opinion everybody should have one of these disposal systems in their nursery. It is simple to use and doesn't take up too much room.
Being white means it should fit in with any colour scheme that you use to decorate your nursery.
To finish I would like to add that the two complaints are really just two very minor problems and when you look at them logically there really isn't anything angelcare can do about them. They really aren't complaints worth complaining about and I'm sure all other disposal systems have the exact same problems.
If somebody was to ask my opinion on which nappy bin to buy I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the angelcare nappy disposal system.
I have recently found that when I go out running my feet are getting blisters after I reach around 7km. I have a good comfortable pair of running shoes but that doesn't seem to be enough. I have been offered quite a few solutions to the problem but I came across the Nike anti blister lightweight quarter sock.
I used google to search for ideas on avoiding blisters and the anti blister socks came up in my search. So I used google to find the best price possible. Ultimately I bought my socks from e-bay. They were priced at £8.39 for two pairs, one white and one black. I bought four pairs at the overall cost of £18.77.
That may seem quite expensive for four pairs of socks but when you consider the nike website are selling them at £7 a pair, it was quite a good deal.
The first thing I noticed about the socks were that they felt very thin and it didn't fill me with confidence. I expected them to be thicker to fill out your shoe to stop your feet from sliding around whilst you run.
The nike website describes the socks. "offer ultimate comfort for any distance. Sweat-wicking fabric and mesh panels combine for maximum breathability, while a lightweight construction delivers a snug fit with less bulk".
I will use my black socks to write the review.
These socks are made from 99% nylon and 1% elastane. Nike have made these socks using their dri-fit technology. Dri fit is a high-performance, microfibre, polyester fabric. It is designed to allow sweat to move away from the skin and to the outside surface of the garment. Once the sweat is on the outside it evaporates.
I have had a few Nike sport garments over the years and have always been impressed with how comfortable Nike's dri-fit products are.
The sock are called the quarter sock because they are designed to cover your foot and cover your leg to just above the ankle.
As I said earlier some people might find the price of these socks expensive but they are very well manufactured. They fit very snugly around your foot. I bought a size covering sizes eight to eleven UK sizes. My feet are a size nine.
The foot of the sock has a heal sewn in. When you pull it onto your foot the material is very stretchy and can be pulled until your heal fits into the heal of the sock. The quality of the sock makes them feel comfortable. The fit tight on your feet, the heal stays in place and the ankle part is tight to your ankle and doesn't sag when you push your shoe on so you don't have to constantly keep pulling them up like some other socks I use.
When you have the socks in your hand they don't look big enough to wear but another design feature is that the material is ribbed around the ankle and under the sole of your foot. This ribbing is what allows the sock to stretch and allow it to stay tight to your foot.
The top of the socks are made from a mesh that allows your foot to breathe and allows the moisture through to the top of the sock (dri-fit). When I have been running I have noticed that my feet are dryer and a lot cooler than when I use my other running socks so dri-fit is doing its job well.
The main features are of course aimed at comfort but in order for these socks to work you have to wear them on the right feet. One sock is marked with an L and one with an R. At first I found it odd as I had never seen this before but once you have the socks on you know why.
There are grey markings along the in-step of your foot and along the top. The marking are sewn into the fabric but protrude slightly. I can only come to the conclusion that they protrude so they can grip slightly onto the inside of your shoe and prevent slipping.
A GOOD BUY?
I have been very happy with these socks up to now. I had my reservations at first but have found that anti blister socks are a must for anybody that likes to run if you have even the slightest problem with blisters.
I found that my feet were getting very hot and that's when the blisters would begin to occur. Since I've had these socks my feet still get hot but nowhere near the temperature they used to. I wouldn't say my feet are completely pain free but you have to take into consideration that I haven't allowed my feet to heal completely since using other socks and the weather has been very warm by Manchester standards recently.
When I get home and remove my socks, my feet are still dry which means that the dri-fit design is doing exactly what it is supposed to.
For the price you pay, you get a sock that is well designed and manufactured to the highest standards with runners in mind. They are worth every penny as blisters could potentially stop you running for a long time.
My conclusion is that I would recommend these socks (at e-bay prices) to anybody that likes to run and am glad I bought them.
The nike wool skully has been essential to me throughout the winter. When out running I find it important to keep as warm as possible and because a lot of body heat tends to leave through the top of your head a hat is needed.
I bought the Nike wool skully from Sports Direct. At the moment they are priced at £9.00. If you was to see the hat you wouldn't probably think that was quite expensive for what it is but I have found it to be great value and have used it constantly.
Although I think it is important to wear a hat whilst running in the winter I have found in the past that a normal beanie hat makes my head far too warm and sweaty. The Nike wool skully is thin and lightweight and that is what drawn me to it in the first place.
From the name you would probably assume the Nike wool skully is made from wool. It is actually 59% polyester and only 41% wool. It is designed using Nikes dri-fit fabric that is designed to draw any moisture away from your skin so that the hat doesn't become uncomfortable.
Since I have been wearing it I have been impressed with how dry it has kept my forehead. You only really notice how much you have been sweating once you take the hat off and it does get quite wet so the dri-fit fabric is doing its job well.
The design of the hat is very simple. It is coloured sequoia according to the sports direct website but I'm going to call it black. It comes with a reflective Nike swoosh on the front and a reflective strip on the back.
The hat is double layered on the part that sits on your forehead and around your ears and is then a single layer around the top of your head. The single layer is quite thin to allow a certain amount of heat out but I find that it keeps enough in to make your run as comfortable as possible.
The only negative I would say about the Nike wool skully is that it is quite tight on my head. I do have a pretty sizeable bonce in all fairness, so this might not be a problem for the majority of people and although I say it is a negative at least the hat doesn't move around on my head meaning I constantly have to adjust it. It stays in place so I can just concentrate on running.
For £9.00 you get a quality Nike product. As so many of Nike's product are of a good quality it is worth paying a bit more than paying less for an inferior hat. For your money you get a lightweight hat that is easily stored in your pocket if you want to take it off or a product that does the job it's supposed to if you wear it all the way through your run. At £9.00 I would definitely recommend it. It has helped me stay warm a lot last winter.
Just recently I was having a conversation at dinner time with a couple of work colleagues. My colleague was discussing his son who suffers from epilepsy. We were discussing how his son was combating the condition by having a gluten free diet and somehow the conversation turned to BPA in plastics.
BPA stands for Bisphenol A. BPA is a man-made carbon-based synthetic compound that is used in the production of plastics and epoxy resins. Some people have serious concerns about BPA's and its effect on the human body, especially in infants and young children. The EU, Canada and the USA have all banned BPA in the production of any baby bottles.
The reason that BPA is relevant to me is that I was recently using an old cordial bottle from home to fill with water everyday for me to drink at work. I had sometimes thought about the hygiene implications of constantly using the same bottle but BPA was something I didn't know much about and wasn't aware that the bottle I was using contained the chemical.
The following is taken from http://glogg.co.uk/content/about-glogg.html. It explains why you shouldn't refill plastic bottles over and over again better than I can.
Why not refill plastic drinks bottles?
Get something designed for the job. Don't even think about refilling that plastic drinks bottle! Plastics often contain a compound called Bisphenol A (BPA) which can leach in to your water with repeated use. Single-use bottles can harbour bacteria and other nasties. In addition, your Glogg will not leak like plastic bottles often do.
I also came across an article in mens health magazine that explains that BPA is linked to a lot of diseases i.e prostate cancer and diabetes. I have read a little about BPA and there is no real evidence to support those claims but it does enter the body in your water and this is particularly harmful if you are a man.
The article claims that BPA mimics the effect of the female sex hormone oestrogen. Too much of this in a man can mean he will get what mens health magazine call 'moobs', more commonly known as man boobs. BPA's are in a lot of tin cans and plastics bottles and it claims by eating more fresh food instead of tinned and use a glass bottle instead of a plastic one and this will cut the risk of growing 'moobs' by about 66%.
To be honest I very rarely take anything seriously that I read in mens health magazine but the idea of a chemical breaking down into my water each time refill it was enough for me to shop around for a permanent solution.
CLASSIC GLOGG 500ml STAINLESS STEEL BOTTLE WITH SPORTS LID.
After googling BPA free drinking bottles I came across the website http://www.glogg.co.uk/.
Glogg sell a range of stainless steel drinks bottles in different sizes. You can buy either a bottle from the classic range, the wide necked bottle range, coloured bottles or they have a kids range. There is also an accessories selection selling replacement tops or silicone sticks that can act as ice cubes.
I chose to buy the classic 500ml stainless steel bottle with a sports top.
I had a little shop around online and came across the glogg bottle on amazon. As I already had an account with amazon I bought the bottle through them from glogg themselves. The bottle cost £6.99 plus £3.99 post and packaging. The same as it would of cost on the glogg website anyway.
I was surprised how quickly the bottle arrived through the post. I ordered it Tuesday afternoon and it arrived the next day. Highly efficient service by glogg.
As you already know, the actual bottle body is made from stainless steel. The sports bottle cap is made from plastic. It screws into the neck of the bottle and has a seal inside to stop it from leaking, up to now this hasn't failed yet.
The cap is rounded at the top and clicks open to reveal the spout that you drink through. If you have used sports bottles before you will have seen the type of spout that pulls up and your drink comes out through a hole in the middle.
The bottle itself does look sleek and is smooth and being steel cold to the touch. I'll be honest I bought the bottle for its none BPA properties and not its looks but it is very neat and tidy. It is only 215mm tall, has a diameter of 66mm and weigh 140g.
My first impression of the bottle was that I didn't think it would hold as much water as advertised. I'm not going to measure the amount of water I put in it so I'll never know exactly how much it takes to fill it but I do know once filled in the morning my water usually lasts until dinner time which is usually from 7.30am to around 1pm.
The plus points of the bottle are that if you fill it with cold water it does keep it colder that bit longer than my plastic bottle ever did. Another plus point and the most important is that in my honest opinion the water from a stainless steel bottle does taste better than from the plastic ones which probably supports the claims that BPA does leach into your drinking water.
Another plus point is that because the bottle is made from stainless steel it is very tough and hardwearing. Good for walkers to keep in a rucksack or to use around the gym. I wouldn't particularly recommend it for runners or cyclists as the sports lid can be a little awkward to drink from.
I mention the sports lid last because it is the only part of the bottle I can criticise. The lid cover itself is well designed. It clips open and folds out of the way and doesn't annoy you when you try to take a drink.
The lid screws into the bottle and has a good tight fit. The seal inside prevents leakage so no problems there.
The problem comes with actually getting water through the spout. It pulls up from the lid body but not very far and it stifles the flow of water. At first I found it a major annoyance and thought I had wasted my money but I have got used to it. It just means that instead of guzzling my water down I now take more steady sips. Which I guess isn't such a bad thing.
Sometimes you can get a good flow if you hold the bottle at a particular angle but more often than not you end up sucking on the bottle to get your drink. If you think this would annoy you then I suggest buying the same bottle but with the carabiner top that is literally a screw of lid and you drink straight from the neck of the bottle.
If I'm honest I would rather have bought the carabiner topped bottle but I am happy with the sports lid. If I want to I can always buy a new lid if I want from glogg's accessories section.
I only spent around a half hour looking for drinks bottles but glogg was one of the cheapest I found and once I had ordered the bottle the service was excellent so I cannot fault them in any way.
For the full price of the £10.98 it cost me to buy the bottle I am sure I will get my moneys worth. It is tough and durable and very easy to clean. I will be using it five days in every week so its difficult to see how I will not easily get value for money.
I would certainly recommend glogg drinks bottles to anybody they are a good product that does exactly what it says at a good price and you can't ask for more than that.
I do a fair bit of walking and cycling so decided to buy a rucksack whilst visiting my nearest Go Outdoors store. I also wanted a rucksack that I can use later this year for a few long walks in the Peak District and some hill climbs up Mount Snowdon and Ben Nevis.
A friend of mine that is an experienced hill climber recommended I bought a rucksack that could hold at least twenty five litres of content. This is why I bought the Berghaus twenty four seven, twenty five litre rucksack.
You can buy this particular rucksack in two colours. Jet Black and Eclipse Blue. I chose to buy the black. It is currently priced at £35.00 or £31.50 using a Go Outdoors discount card. I was happy to pay this price, I have had Berghaus products in the past and have always found them to be top quality. It is quite an expensive brand but if you want a product that stands up to the weather and activity you are doing it is worth paying that extra.
My first impression of the rucksack was that it was exactly what I needed. It felt sturdy enough for some serious outdoor activities and was practical enough for me to use for my daily commute to work.
Up to now the rucksack has stood up well to the elements. On the outside of the bag there is a zip pocket that is very convenient for my phone. I have never noticed any water getting into the pocket or into the main compartment that usually contains quite a few items so I would say that the rucksack is waterproof like so many Berghaus products.
I have also used this rucksack when cycling to work and had water and dirt flick onto it off my wheels when the roads have been wet. It stood up to the water and once dry the dirt was easily brushed off it, leaving it quite clean.
Other features on the outside of the rucksack are two clips that are used to hold walking equipment. The clips open so you can hook them around walking poles. There are also two pouches for water bottles on either side of the rucksack.
The rucksack has a double zip that zip down to halfway meaning that you can open the rucksack quite wide. This helps if you need to put a coat inside it so you don't have to squash it in. You can fold it neatly and just drop the coat in nice and tidy.
On the inside there are a number of features. On the backside of the inner compartment there is a large pocket. I usually throw my wallet and anything else that I might need to find quickly in here, especially if I'm in a rush. At the moment I have some tools for my bike in it. At first I was a little worried that anything I threw in there might stick in my back but that hasn't been the case thankfully.
On the front side of the inner compartment there is a few pockets that are used as an organiser. There are two mesh pockets that I currently use to keep blister plasters in and then behind them a larger pocket that velcros shut, this would be ideal for a small first aid kit. There is also a clip for hooking keys onto, although I prefer to just throw them into the back pouch with my other stuff.
I have now been using the bag to commute to work for the last six months and have to say I have found it to be very comfortable when I have wore it. It hasn't caused me any problems. I have had other rucksacks in the past which I have found rubbed sometimes and were quite uncomfortable around the shoulders and the lower back. I have had no such problems, although I might add I have had a good weight in the rucksack but never filled it to capacity. I am though quite sure even when full it would be a good rucksack to wear.
Two features that add to the comfort of the rucksack are the straps and the the back of the rucksack that actually rests on your back is padded and features a flow system that allows the weight inside the rucksack to distribute evenly across your back and at the same time allow heat to travel upwards and disperse at the top of the rucksack.
I wouldn't say that the straps are completely padded but they are flexible and can be tightened by sliders at the bottom of each strap. I find the straps fit nicely around my shoulders and have never felt them digging in. They are very comfortable.
If you are wearing both straps over your shoulder there is also a strap that fastens across your chest to give the rucksack extra stability. Sometimes weight in the rucksack can cause it to sag off your shoulders and you find yourself continually adjusting yourself to get comfortable. This strap just pulls the rucksack a little tighter around your back and shoulders. The tension of it can be adjusted but it is also elasticated.
The back flow technology is quite simple. The pads on the back of the rucksack are either side of your back with a channel left down the middle. I found this did work well during the winter but now it is getting a little warmer it doesn't seem to work as well because my back has been getting quite warm. It is only a minor quibble I have and it could even be down to the coat I'm wearing at the moment. As it gets warmer I may only wear a t-shirt and find it works perfectly well again.
The dimensions of the rucksack are (approx): 50cm (H) x 29cm (W) x 28cm (D) and the weight when empty is just half a kilogram.
I would recommend the Berghaus twenty four seven rucksack to anybody that does a lot of walking and would even say it is very good as a normal backpack you can use in every day life. I probably wouldn't pay £35 if I just used it for carrying my dinner to work but using it for walking and cycling I do need to put quite a bit of other equipment into it as well.
Up to now this rucksack has provided great value for money to me and I can see it lasting me for some time yet. It still looks like the day I bought it apart from a couple of marks but I am still extremely happy with it and I am glad I chose to buy it.
Last year I started to go out running with my friend. Nothing to strenuous just a bit of recreation and a chance to get out on my own for an hour or so. The more I ran and the fitter I got, I began to push for faster times, always wanting to beat my personal best on whatever course I was doing at the time.
I find running to be really enjoyable and it has done me so much good over the past year, barring a few injuries here and there. As I enjoyed it so much and was getting better all the time I decided to enter a race. Something to look forward to and make good use of all the training I had been doing. I also figured that if I'm going to be out running anyway then I might as well do something where I can be sponsored and others can benefit from any money I would make.
It didn't take long for me to choose the BUPA Great Manchester run. A 10km road race staring in Manchester town centre, stretching out into Trafford Park and back again. As I live in Manchester it was ideal. I have seen it on television a few times and know quite a few people that had ran in it in the past. Everybody encouraged me to sign up for it.
THE GREAT SIGN UP.
I signed up on the 5th September 2012 for the BUPA Great Manchester run that would be held on the 26th May 2013. Plenty of time for me to get in shape and hopefully run a good time.
I signed up online through www.greatrun.org. I had to register myself on the site first and then choose which event I wanted to run. I should add that registering for an event is not free. For last years race it cost me £37, for 2014 the fee has gone up by £1.
Whilst registering you are given the opportunity to pick a time slot that you think is the time it will take you to complete the race. At the time I hadn't really ran a proper 10k before I played it safe and chose a time over the hour. You also get the chance to pick a charity that you can collect money for from sponsorship. I chose to run for McMillan cancer support.
The time you pick will dictate what wave of runners you will be placed in. There are five different waves which in theory should depend on your experience as a runner. There are orange, white, blue, green and pink. Theoretically the orange wave should be the best runners and pink is for people that will require some extra time to get around the course. On the day I was surprised that some people had placed themselves in categories above their expertise and experience level which in my opinion is quite selfish. I'll explain why later.
If you did put yourself in the wrong wave you can drop back into a different colour or if you have trained hard and improved your times you can move up a wave by e-mailing the organisers.
Once registered and signed up for the run you can log into your account and have access to four different training plans from beginner to more experienced runners. There is also a route planner so you can plot your runs on a map and save them to your account.
There is also a calendar where you can log your training runs. All the information you enter onto the calendar goes onto a progress graph that shows you how many minutes you have ran, what distance and average speeds and pace.
Something I always look for is advise about running from others, especially people that are more experienced than myself. Part of your account is an advice section that covers all aspects of training. Getting started, general training, nutrition and hydration and health and injuries. You can also search for different events and check out the most frequently asked questions in the advice section. Any advice is usually good advice so make sure you read it.
THE BIG BUILD UP.
Weeks and weeks went by without any kind of information about the run. As it was my first time I started to get a little anxious.
In the couple of months before the race information started to trickle through mainly by e-mail but it started to really sink in that I was taking part when I received a t-shirt through the post from McMillan cancer support with a thank you letter for supporting them, together with a fundraising pack.
You will receive plenty of e-mails from your chosen charity about the work they do and some helpful fund raising tips. I don't go any further than setting up a just giving page and sharing it on facebook and twitter but some people do come up with some original ideas.
Soon after receiving my race pack from McMillan I received an e-mail saying that my run pack was on its way from the great run organisers themselves.
This run pack consisted of my run number that was Green for the wave I was running in and my number 27275. It also contained a timing chip that you have to fasten to your shoe laces before you run in order to get an official time at the end of your run. There was also a 'on the day' guide which came in very handy indeed. It covered everything that happened on the day and contained important information like travelling into Manchester on the day, where to park, public transport links and what roads would be closed on the day of the run.
I now had everything I needed for the day and was beginning to really look forward to it.
My training had gone well but the 10k run I did on the Tuesday night before the run didn't do me any favours. I got a slight pull in my left calf muscle and as the day got closer I started to get nervous. I had been running some good times (good for me anyway) and I felt in good condition and well prepared but the pull had sewn some seeds of doubt in my mind.
The few days before the run I felt both nervous and excited at the same time. On the Saturday night before the run my feelings just turned to nerves. The pull on my leg was giving me thoughts of getting half way around and having to pull up. I had never ran in crowds or in front of crowds since I was at school. I didn't know how I would cope. I just wanted it to go well and all I could think of were negative thoughts.
I ate my meatballs and spaghetti for dinner the day before and couldn't get to sleep on the Saturday night thinking about the run. My girlfriend does race for life every year and she assured me that once I got running I would be fine. Something I've heard many times before and found it not to be true. I reasoned with myself that the hardest thing I have ever done is a speech at my friends wedding as his best man. That's the most nervous I've ever been. If I could get through that I could certainly do this.
THE BUPA GREAT MANCHESTER RUN.
The beauty of being in the green wave of runners was that I didn't have to get to Manchester to early. The day guide I got with my run pack advised that I got into Manchester at around 11.00am, so I did get to stay in bed a little longer in the morning.
The sun was shining and it was very warm. Not particularly ideal weather to be running in but at least I could get some sun to my pasty white legs. The sun shining made me feel a little happier and I just wanted to get started.
I jumped out of bed and had my usual bowl of fruit and fibre. My leg was still a little sore so I took an ibuprofen to try and stop any pain I might have felt during the run and then started to get ready. I tried not to drink too much water as I usually end up needed to answer a call of nature about 2km into a run and the last thing I wanted to do was stop during the run itself.
My girlfriend and son were coming to support me and we planned on leaving the house at around 10am. The plan was to drive to Eccles that is a town local to me and get the metrolink tram service from there into St Peters Square in Manchester.
Usually when I'm tense I get a little worked up and things start to go wrong. Luckily this wasn't the case. I had got everything I needed ready the day before and put it all in one place. So all I had to do was get dressed, attach my timing chip to my shoe and make sure I remembered my number.
On the reverse of your race number there is also a health questionnaire that must be filled in. Very important because who knows what could happen during the run.
We made It to Eccles in good time and I was surprised to see a lot of people having the same idea as me and using the metrolink. I don't like public transport when it is busy but knowing that a lot of the people on the tram were running like me made me feel a little easier about the situation. It felt good to be on my way to be part of something so big with so many different types of people.
My girlfriend and son got off a couple of stations before me so they could get a better vantage point to cheer me on the way out of Manchester and then as I came back in. I carried on my journey into Manchester and got off at St Peters Square which was luckily very near to where I needed to be. It was still about twenty minutes until the green wave would assemble so I ventured down to start line where the blue wave were already assembled and ready to go.
Whilst watching I attached my number onto my shirt with safety pins. It is important to wear your number as photos that are taken during the race are posted onto the great run website a few weeks afterwards. If you are in some of the pictures you can find them by typing in the race number and it will show different pictures you are in. These pictures can also be bought online but I don't know how much they cost as they haven't appeared on the site as of yet.
At this point I didn't feel too bad. My nerves had settled and the atmosphere around Manchester was fantastic. There was a real feel good factor about being there. I stood and watched the blue wave filter away and then walked to the assembly point for my wave. On my way to the assembly point it struck me how well organised the event was. There were plenty of signs and marshalls that you could ask for information. On the street up to the assembly point there were a row of portaloos. I decided to not leave anything to chance and make use of the facilities, I still had plenty of time.
The run itself started on Portland Street which is one of the main streets through Manchester Town Centre. The assembly point was on Princess Street and the route onto Portland Street was blocked by some temporary barriers. It wasn't long before these barriers were moved so I could get into my starting position.
At 11.35am all runners for the green wave were asked to make their way to the start line. There was literally thousands of people all going to the same spot. I had every intention of getting near the front as close to the start line as I could and I managed to do it. So I was quite happy with that. My theory was that the closer to the start line the better start I would get without others slowing me down.
At this point nerves began to kick in again. Our wave didn't start until 12.10pm so the half hour wait seemed like a very long time. The good thing was that everybody was chatting amongst themselves. Quite a few people were just like me and doing the run for the first time so had the same anxieties as me. One thing everybody had in common was they just wanted to get started.
In the ten minutes before our run began there was a group warm up. A man and woman named Roy and Christine were up on an access platform in the middle of the road where everybody could see them. The warm up consisted of a few stretches, nothing strenuous and it was quite amusing watching so many people all moving at the same time. After the warm up it was time to start the run itself.
Every wave was started by Fabrice Muamba. For anybody that doesn't know Fabrice Muambe is a former Arsenal and Bolton Wanderers footballer that almost died playing for Bolton away at Tottenham Hotspur in an FA cup tie in 2012. He suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch and his heart stopped for seventy eight minutes. Being a football fan I have a lot of admiration for him and planned on getting a high five on my way past the start line.
Muamba was also joined when starting waves by a different Great Britain athlete each time. For the green wave he was joined by Jonnie Peacock. Admittedly when his name was announced I had no idea who he was but have since found out that he is a paralympic 100 metres sprinter. At the age of five he contracted meningitis and had to have his right leg amputated below the knee. He won the gold medal at the 2012 summer Paralympics running 10.90 in the 100 metres, setting a new paralympic record in the process. Unbelievable that a man with one leg can run that fast and I was worried about a slight calf strain.
In the competitors information section of the on the day guide there is a paragraph that asks anybody planning on walking the course to go in the correct wave (pink) and to go to the back of the wave out of courtesy to people that are running. As the race started I was confident I was in a good group and would be able to get going at a good pace, I was wrong.
Due to the high volume of people you have to walk until you get to the official start line then break out into a run. Once you cross the line your timing chip activates so your are now being timed. My personal best for a 10k is 54.34. I wanted to aim higher and do less than 52 minutes but straight from the off you find yourself ducking and diving and unable to set yourself a good pace.
That isn't a criticism of other runners, some are running at their usual pace and at a level they are comfortable at. I should also have gone in the blue wave which was quicker but at the time I registered I didn't know my standard for a 10k.
Some runners do deserve criticism though. A pet hate of mine is people that are totally oblivious to their surroundings. This is one reason I never run with headphones on. It's hard enough getting past people without them stopping 300 yards into a 10k run to look for a specific song on their i-pod. This is what one lady did to me and it did annoy me. Walk when you get halfway but not when you have only just set off.
On the first kilometre I did come across quite a few people that were walking already and I found it odd that they were ahead of me at the start line when they must know there limitations. As I was in the green wave it didn't really bother me. It was the second slowest wave after all but I found out that quite a few people had put themselves in higher waves when they shouldn't have done. It seemed a regular occurrence throughout the run and I think I would have found it highly annoying if I was a more elite athlete and people were holding the line up walking soon after the start.
It's a minor criticism of the organisation of the run that anybody can sign up for any wave but in the end it didn't dampen my enjoyment of the day itself.
STEP BY STEP.
The first kilometre you pass the Bridgewater Hall and the G-Mex centre. The course at this point takes you out off Manchester City Centre and onto Great Jackson Street and out onto Chester Road leading up to Old Trafford.
Chester Road is a straight road out of Manchester and takes you up to Old Trafford the home of Manchester United. The stretch up to the football ground covers the first 4km off the run.
This stretch of the course is mainly uphill. Not very steep but it is a long stretch and it was very warm by this time and I found it really tough going. I was cheered on at the 2km marker by McMillan cancer supporters and at 3km my girlfriend and son were cheering me. I was also very happy to see my mum and dad had turned up as well and were shouting encouragement as I came towards them.
At 4km on Sir Matt Busby way the Bands on the run were playing. They were actually pretty good and were singing don't look back in anger by Oasis. One of my favourite bands so that went down well. A key feature of the atmosphere on the day was the different music around the city.
After passing Old Trafford the course took me left onto Wharfside Way heading into Trafford Park industrial estate. At 4.5km there was a water station where you could grap a drink. I was sweltering at the time but had took my own water. Most people were grabbing bottles having a quick swig then launching their bottles to the side of the road. The clean up operation afterwards must be unbelievable.
This rod is flat and felt so much easier to run than the incline up Chester Road. This stretch of course would take me up to 5km where the course turned rightdown towards Trafford Wharf Road.
There was another music stand here being manned by none other than Clint Boon. The Boon Army DJ stage. Currently a radio presenter for xfm but I remember more for being the keyboard player in the band the Inspiral Carpets which were a band I listened to a lot during the Madchester phase of the 1990's.
Trafford Wharf Road covered from 6km to 7km. You run past the Imperial War museum and across the canal into Salford Quays. Manchester radio station key 103 had a wall of sound along the roadside, described as a corridor of motivational music I don't actually remember paying particular attention to it. Halfway down I did pay attention to the showers that you ran through. At this point I really needed a shower and it was really quite refreshing to run through the sprinklers of cold water.
Once I hit 7km I thought I was over the worst and was in quite good shape to finish. The heat had made it a struggle but I had enough to get over the finish line and hopefully get a good time. At 7km the course took a short diversion and double back up towards Old Trafford and back onto the other side of Chester Road on the way towards The finsh line on Deansgate in the City centre.
Chester Road was easier this time. This stretch is more downhill. As I hit the 8km sign I saw my family again cheering me on and it spurred me on for one final push towards the finish. Along this stretch people were handing out jelly babies, which were actually very refreshing to eat whilst running but I don't think it really helped me much.
I carried on at the same pace until I hit 9km and then decided to go for it which was nearly a huge mistake.
As I hit 9km I sped up and was flying past quite a few runners in front. I was now really struggling but wanted to keep going. The crowds were larger here and it was an amazing feeling hearing people shouting to you to keep going. There was also more McMillan cancer supporters there cheering me home as well. I got about 100 metres from the finish line and was literally close to collapsing but the thought of stopping in front of everybody kept me running until the end.
After crossing the line one of the first things you have to do is remove your timing chip from your shoe. The two cables that are supplied with the chip snap very easily and you throw it into bin bags that marshalls are holding just past the finish line.
My official finishing time was 53.35. Not the 52 minutes or less I wanted but I was happy anyway. It was still my best ever 10km time and the conditions made running really difficult on such a hot day. This time was taken using the timing chip on my shoe and all results are available to view online using either your surname or your race number on the great run website.
As I walked away from the finish line you could collect a finisher pack. This contained a t-shirt, medal, some promotional foods and a bottle of powerade. There are also bottles of water available.
GLAD IT WAS OVER?
I have to admit that I found the run really difficult and I pretty much struggled around the course. During the run I wasn't enjoying it one bit but after finishing I felt proud and the fact I struggled made me feel that little bit prouder.
After all the 10km runs I have done I found this to be the most difficult. The hot conditions definitely didn't help and neither did the ducking and diving around various other people but I now have the experience of running along with thousands of other people and I am already looking forward to next years event.
During the run I blanked most things out and just concentrated on running but the thing that stands out above everything is the support and encouragement that everybody gave. The spectators were amazing and really help you along when you're struggling the most and even other runners offered encouragement. When some people started to waver towards the end and start walking, other runners would come up, give them a pat on the back and try to keep them going.
It was great to be part of something that thousands of people gave up their time and energy to do together. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend taking part to anybody whether you want to run or just walk around the course.
The Great Manchester Run supports some great cause and is an excellent way of raising much needed funds for charity.
For sure I will be back doing the run next year and I will be going for less than 50 minutes. I have a year to shave 4 minutes of my best time and I am confident I can do it. I can't wait.
I use my mountain bike a couple of days a week to travel to work. Problem is that when I bought the bike it had tyres specifically designed for off roading. Not too much of a shock it is a mountain bike after all.
The shock came when I actually tried to ride to work with these tyres on. To say it was a lot of effort was an understatement. I decided to buy some road tyres to make things easier on my legs. I didn't want to spend too much money as I had just spent £499 on the bike so I wanted something quite cheap.
Admittedly I didn't trawl the internet comparing prices I pretty much settled for the first ones I came across. They looked the part and weren't going to break the bank. At the time I bought two tyres for £16.99 each. I actually got a good deal because on the same website they are now £24.99.
The tyres were easy to fit and far less bulky then my off road tyres. I couldn't wait to get them fitted and get riding on them. I am ashamed to say that at first I fitted the tyres the wrong way around. I rode to work in the rain my first ride after fitting them and couldn't understand why the water off they tyres was flicking up at my face. You have to make sure they are fitted travelling in the right direction. The tyres have a really well designed tread pattern so that they can withstand riding in both dry and wet conditions. As water gathers in the tread it is thrown out of the side of the tyres to make sure your tyres grip the road. A very good design feature.
Once I had the tyre tread running in the right direction I found that the tyres did clear the water really well. I always had faith that the tyres were gripping and that they would withstand any amount of water. Heavy rain would cause drains to block and sometimes when riding on the road I would have no option but to go through the massive puddles at the side of the road. Never had a problem water. The tread always did it's job.
A second design feature of the tyres is a reflective strip around the side wall of the tyre. Described as offering excellent sideways visibility when riding in low light or dark conditions. I find it hard to criticise any feature that has your personal safety in mind but this feature does seem quite pointless.
The most important issue regarding bike tyres is are they going to withstand whatever is lying around in your path. Where I work the roads are very busy and are in fact filthy with debris from all kinds of vans and wagons. When it rained, which it seems to do a lot when I decide to ride to work, all the debris seems to swill to the side of the road. As I mentioned earlier big puddles would form at the side of the road making it impossible to see what you were riding over.
The panaracer crosstown tyre is advertised as puncture resistant. At the time of purchase I think I took that to mean they are puncture proof, what was I thinking? Not possible. Described as having a anti-puncture strip beneath the treads, helping to prevent punctures from sharp objects and roadside debris.
As it turned out I never got a puncture from a screw, nail, barbed wire or the hunting knife I once found at the side of the road. The tyre was doing its job. All through the winter I never had a problem. Money well spent indeed.
It was the summer that was my nemesis. At a time when I should have been enjoying my ride to and from work and soaking up the sun I had puncture after puncture. Like I said no nails or screws, no metal objects whatsoever. My biggest problems arose when bushes and trees had grown to big and needed to be pruned. These puncture resistant tyres could repel most things thrown at it but it couldn't seem to repel the thorns off the bushes.
Admittedly they never found there way through the main face of the tyre, it was always around the side of the tread. It's something I can't explain but it was a problem that needed solving. In the end I pin pointed exactly where I was picking up most punctures and managed to avoid that spot and haven't had any problems since.
In conclusion I have been very pleased with these tyres. They do make road riding on a mountain bike a lot easier and have been designed very well with all riding conditions in mind. I'm no expert on bike tyres and there may be better and cheaper alternatives out there but I'm sure if you were to purchase the panaracer crosstown tyre you will not be disappointed and will get plenty of use from them.
I needed a bicycle helmet for my rides to work but didn't want to spend a fortune. I first came across the Raleigh Infusion cycle helmet visiting a Go Outdoors shop in Warrington.
I chose the helmet firstly because of the price. The retail price is £19.99 but I used my discount card and got it for £9.99. For the price it looked a good helmet. Not the quality of the more expensive helmets but ideal for what I would need it for.
I would be using it for cycling to work by road on my mountain bike and wouldn't be doing any great speed so didn't really need the extra protection that a more expensive helmet would provide.
It is important to get the right size when choosing a helmet. You don't want it too small as it will not fit entirely around your head so it offers less protection. If you buy a helmet that is too big you run the risk of it slipping in front of your eyes whilst riding and it's obviously a good idea to be able to see where you are going.
The helmets come in two sizes. Medium and large. A medium helmet fits a head that is 54-58cm in diameter and the large fits from 58-62cm. The size is clearly marked on the box so if you have a fair idea of what size you want it's easy to find.
There are a few different colour schemes you can buy that is also marked on the box but you can see the helmet without opening the box anyway because of a cut out section. There were blue and silver, black and silver, purple and silver and carbon and silver. I chose the black and silver because the only other option in the size I wanted was blue and silver and the black didn't look as flash.
Upon inspection you can see why the helmet is quite cheap, weighing around 300g it is basically hard polystyrene with a plastic coating on top and a plastic peak around the front with a Raleigh emblem on it. It is made to the EN 1078 safety standard which does comply with European personal protective equipment standards for cyclists and users of skateboards and roller skates.
TAKEN FROM WIKIPEDIA.
EN 1078, entitled Helmets for pedal cyclists and for users of skateboards and roller skates, is a European standard published in 1997. It is the basis of the identical British Standard BS EN 1078:1997. Compliance with this standard is one way of complying with the requirements of the European Personal Protective Equipment Directive (PPE; 89/686/EEC).
EN 1078 specifies requirements and test methods for bicycle helmets, skateboard and roller skate helmets. It covers helmet construction including field of vision, shock absorbing properties, retention system properties including chin strap and fastening devices, as well as marking and information.
The standard's key features are:
Test anvils: Flat and kerbstone
Drop apparatus: Guided free fall
Impact velocity, energy or drop height flat anvil: 5.42-5.52 m/s
Impact energy criteria: < 250g
Roll-off test: Yes
Retention system strength: Force applied dynamically. Helmet supported on headform.
As cheap as the helmet is at least you have the piece of mind that is has been through rigorous testing procedures.
The helmet looks good enough but in my opinion it looks cheaper that others made by companies like specialized, cannondale and Giro but it's the first bike helmet I've ever had and I don't feel to embarrassed to wear it. The black plastic coating on top has silver stripes running from back to front. The helmet also incorporates air vent all along the top and mainly at the back of the head. They are designed to let air circulate around your head.
I'm not sure if the air vents work particularly well. My head does seem to get very sweaty and hot but I obviously cannot comment on just how hot my head would get if they were not there.
Another feature of the top of the helmet is a black plastic peak at the front. I really don't see any need for it other than aero-dynamics which in my opinion renders it useless. Any serious road cyclist doing fast speeds probably wouldn't buy a helmet this cheap and more expensive helmets don't seem to have a peak on the front anyway. I don't think it makes the helmet look any better and I have found it to be quite a hindrance to my vision. Sometimes if I am coming to a road crossing and I have to look behind me, over my shoulder, it can obscure your line of sight, stopping you from seeing further up the road.
The fitting of the helmet is very simple. A plastic ring fitted inside the helmet fits around the top of your head and is slackened and tightened by a disc on the back that can be turned either way. As you tighten the helmet the disc makes a ratchet clicking noise.
Around the fitting ring there are five pieces of padding. Three around the forehead area, one in the top of the helmet and one at the back of the head attached to the disc ratchet. These can be removed if you want to as they are fastened by Velcro. Up to now I have left them in but as it gets a bit warmer in Summer I may have to remove them as they tend to get a little sweaty.
The helmet has a chin strap that is simple and easy to adjust. Once you have tightened the ring around your head you can click the strap shut with the plastic clip. The straps fit around your ears in a V-shape. There is a plastic slider on each strap. They both have a dial on the side for open and closed. They are easy to slide up and down until the V feels comfortable around your ears, once you have done that you can pull the plastic clip under your chin tighter so it fastens snugly under your chin to keep the helmet on your head.
Up to now this helmet has been exactly what I expected for the price but I have now bought myself a road bike so may look a little more into buying a more expensive helmet.
I'm not convinced that it is designed for road cycling but more for the casual cyclist that is only covering a small distance.
In terms of safety, if I fell of my bike and banged my head I would fully expect it to take the impact and keep my head safe so I would recommend it to anybody that just wants to get out for a pleasure ride over the summer. I wouldn't recommend it to anybody doing serious road biking, downhill mountain biking or anything on a track.
Having booked a week off from work before Easter 2013 it was decided that as a family we should have a little break. We decided that we would go to North Wales but couldn't decide where we would stay.
Having never been to North Wales as an adult I don't really know the area all too well but we eventually decided to stay in Conwy. It has a castle after all, so it must be an interesting place.
We used the website www.cottages4you.co.uk. It seemed like the best site with the best selection of cottages to stay in. Unfortunately with it being Easter it was quite difficult to find anywhere that would be suitable for our specific dates. Rhos Cottage was one of the first cottages we looked at and it turned out to be our eventual choice.
£295 for four nights. A two bedroom cottage that sleeps five.
I always dread driving to places I don't know. I can never find where we need to be but luckily the expressway through Wales takes you pretty much right to the doorstep of every town. We found Conwy without a hitch and even stopped off at Llandudno on the way. We had to drive through the town centre to get to Rhos Cottage but it wasn't a million miles away.
There is a small driveway leading that you need to drive up past the other cottages in the row of six. The cottage is advertised as having room for two cars. Personally I disagree. I reversed our car (Seat Ibiza) into the small yard at the back of the cottage but once there a porch over the front door sticks out from the house making it difficult for another car to park there without encroaching on the neighbours driveway. We stayed for four nights and nobody parked next door but I'm not sure if that is always the case and I should add it only occurred to me on the third day that if somebody did park next door there was a good chance I wouldn't be able to get my car out.
The owners ask that you phone them 72 hours in advance of leaving and ask that you don't arrive before 3pm, hence our diversion to Llandudno. They give you the details of where the lockbox is around the back of the premises that contains the key and the code to open it when you eventually do arrive. We were only supplied with one key, not ideal if you lose one. The owners may live locally but I'm not sure. Who knows how long you would have to wait for a replacement if you lost it.
The house itself looks nice from outside and creates a good first impression but I have in the past been left very disappointed with some accommodation once inside. Luckily this wasn't the case with Rhos Cottage. Bearing in mind that we arrived in North Wales at the back end of the coldest March I can remember and we had been in Llandudno for three hours I was freezing and needed warming up. The description on the cottages4 you website said the cottage had electric heaters but I was surprised to walk in and find the cottage lovely and warm, a really welcome feeling. The cottage actually has central heating with a preset thermostat that can be adjusted to different times and temperatures.
As you walk through the front door there is no hallway as such. You have the stairs in front of you, living room to your left and the dining room and kitchen to your right. I first entered the living room. It was carpeted with a two seat leather settee and a single leather armchair. There is also a 32" television and a stereo/CD player. There was also a Sky TV box but it only supplied freeview (could take your own sky viewing card with you) and a DVD player.
The dining room had another two seat settee and a dining table with three seats. The floor is tiled which I don't usually like because I find rooms that are tiled to be cold but that wasn't the case. There is a cupboard in the corner but it has the property of the owners taking up all the space cleaning appliances. You go through the dining room and into the kitchen. The kitchen has everything you'll need. We decided to go self catering to try and save a few pennies so this kitchen was ideal. There is a washing machine, electric oven with gas hobs, kettle and microwave. Plenty of crockery and cutlery and lots of pots and pans and other utensils. There's also a good sized sink to wash up after yourself. Pretty much everything you would need for self catering.
As you get to the top of the stairs the main bedroom is on your left. It has a double bed which had a soft mattress that I found very comfortable but the duvet weighed a ton. This might have been because of the weather and might not be used all year around. There was a wardrobe that was more than adequate for a four night stay but I never hang anything up anyway so didn't use it. We had our son with us and forgot to take the night monitor with us so set up his travel cot in the main bedroom and there was still plenty of room to manoeuvre. Room also had a small television, again with freeview. The curtains were not blackout curtains so let in a bit of light but it didn't seem to bother any of us but I did have problems sleeping under the duvet because I would wake up absolutely boiling hot and have to get out from under the covers.
The second bedroom had a bunk bed. The bottom bunk was a double but not as big as the bed in the main bedrrom and a single bunk on top. There was a large wardrobe that's door didn't really close properly. Again a small television with freeview. Ideal for three children to share a room.
The bathroom had a couple of things I didn't like. Firstly the door. It didn't shut properly and would be held shut by a hook on the inside of the door. Secondly was the bath. It had a shower fixture but wasn't big enough to have a bath and didn't have any kind of shower screen making it difficult to shower without getting the floor soaked wet through. There was also a toilet and good sized sink with a mirror above it as well. The windows also had good blinds so you had privacy whilst bathing.
Something I should point out is that the doors and windows are not the most secure. In fact I would guess that even the most amateur of burglars could probably get into the house quite easily. The door has a Yale night latch that can be deadlocked from the inside but it's the windows that troubled me. They were wooden frames that were quite old and the window only locked shut by a latch that was just a manual hook. Some of these were loose and should have been In better condition. If they are loose you could probably force the window. When I looked around the house I found a couple of them hadn't been latched at all meaning that these windows could have been slid open by somebody form outside very easily. I also found some of them to be hard to latch.
It wasn't something I really worried about. I came to the conclusion that if somebody approached the cottage I would hear them walking on the gravel on the driveway and I have no reason to believe that Conwy is a hive of criminal activity but it is something to think about if you had children sleeping in the other bedroom.
WOULD I STAY THERE AGAIN.
I most definitely would. I'm not sure if £295 for four nights would fit most peoples budget (my girlfriend paid so didn't matter to me). Apart form the minor security issues and the issue with the bath I didn't have any other problems. The house was very clean and was like a home from home. We were supplied with pretty much everything we needed so you don't have to take too much gear with you.
The cottage also has fire alarms, fire extinguishers and carbon monoxide monitors, so it's good that the owners have taken the safety of their guests seriously.
The cottage itself is also an ideal base to set out from to visit different places around North Wales. You can see Conwy Castle from the front window and you can also see a subway that leads underneath train tracks and into Conwy Town Centre.
Situated two minutes away from the A55, North Wales Expressway you are ideally placed to visit where you want. We visited Anglesey (30 min drive), Llandudno (10 min drive) and Llanberis at the base of Mount Snowdon (30 min drive). I would also recommend that if you visit Llanberis take the scenic route through the Snowdonia National Park and stop of at Betws Y Coed on the way.
I have already mentioned the bath and the windows being a slight security issue but I would say is that these are things that could be easily rectified. It could be possible that these are issues the owners are aware of and will improve in future.
I also didn't like the amount of wires from all the various TV's, freeview boxes and stereos. Some were linked to extension cords. My son will always head towards anything wires he sees poking out from behind a settee or down the side of the bed so it was a slight problem I had keeping him away from them. Too many appliances In my opinion but I guess the owners are just trying to make your stay as good as possible by supplying the freeview and DVD/CD players.