Shuffling Along . . . . .

2017 What went wrong?

by on Jan.25, 2017, under Blog, Race Reports

During the run-up to The Spine 2017 everything went perfectly. The training went smoothly, no injuries during my pre-race training.  I lost 14lbs in weight compared to last year & entered the race at 150lbs, the lightest weight I’ve ever been for The Spine.

I packed all my gear the week before, a first for me. My stuff is usually not packed until the night before the race. I even managed to get a hotel room in Edale for the night before the race, which meant I didn’t have to drive all the way home after the race brief then drive back again for the race in the morning.

All my food packed into resupply bags & labels for each checkpoint written on each bag. This was had to be the perfect Spine race!

It’s difficult to analyse what the catalyst was for my DNF but I think things were a little to perfect before the race. I tend to work better in chaos.

This time there was none of that. It seemed to be lots of little things conspiring to put me off track. I was expecting the usual Spine weather of cold -C temps & frozen ground. We got rain +6C temps and loads of water & mud. I  had over dressed for these conditions & being unsupported meant I couldn’t just change my clothes to more suitable gear.

The decision to set off slow was made before the start & I knew I would get stronger as the race unfolded. The only problem with this strategy, if I make a couple of bad moves and I’d be right up against the cut off times.

The journey to CP1 at Hebden Bridge went well with little need to worry about cut offs. My navigation on this section was spot on, as it should be by now!

The problems started during the trek from  Hebden to CP1.5 at Malham Tarn. The fog came down & I made a couple of bad navigation decisions due to lack of visibility over the stones at the top of the steps. By the time I reached 1.5 I only had 20 minutes spare before the CP closed! A quick brew & kit re arranged & I was out the door, heading for CP2.

At about 100 miles I started to realise the time had become very tight & doing a few calculations it became apparent I wasn’t going to make it. I had 15 miles to go from Horton in Ribblesdale & needed to do it at 3 mph. This would seem a slow pace but when your carrying a 20lbs pack and have only had a 1 hour sleep over the past two days, it’s a big ask. I ran the first 5 miles as fast as I could, no stopping. I would need to maintain this for another 10 miles. After another 5 miles and reaching a hill which went on almost to CP2 I decided enough was enough & called it a day at 110 miles.

I tried to ring in but had no phone signal, exhausted, tired and wet through with sweat, my only options were to either walk to CP2 over high ground or look at my map and find a pub nearby & maybe get a room for the night.

 It made more sense to get down out of the cold & make my way to the Station Inn near the famous Ribblehead viaduct about 5 miles away. Luckily they had a room spare & I booked myself in for a night & full English breakfast.

After a couple of pints I hit the sack. On waking the next morning I set off for the train station across the road to start my journey home. I never use public transport so assumed that it was just a matter of hopping on a train home. I was on a train platform & we have a train station in my home town so what could possibly go wrong?

Reading the timetable I soon realised that the next train was at least two hours away! It also didn’t go to my home town, I’d have to get a train to the bus station then get another train, than another bus! Oh bugger.

Just as this started to sink in I looked down the platform to see someone walking towards me, it was only Dunc Bruce. We met the day before on the Spine & he’d ended up in the same boat as me.

After a quick discussion we agreed to go back to the safety of The Station pub, they did some great ales & a nice line in pork pies. I rang my other half who said she couldn’t pick me up until the children finished school. Oh what a shame I would be stuck in this pub until 11pm. So after being in the pub for 16 hours I made a few new friends that night & started planning my next Spine race in 2018 . . . . .

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Follow the Spine Race, it’ll be BRUTAL!

by on Jan.12, 2017, under Blog

If you get bored & want to follow me on my way from Edale to Scotland I’ll be in The Spine race starting on Sunday 15th January 2017.
Race number 38
Website http://thespinerace.com/
Live tracking http://live.thespinerace.com/spinerace17/

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The Spine Race 2016 (The head, atop The Spine. . . .)

by on Jan.06, 2017, under Race Reports

Last years Spine Race was a tough one for me & I don’t  just mean the physical side. Although the physical side of the journey from Byrness & the Cheviot Hills to the finish line in Kirk Yetholm, just over the Scottish Border was challenging enough.

Image result for spine race 2016

It’s been said before in many other blogs about The Spine race, you need to run your own race & not get bogged down (pardon the pun) with other people’s problems & hangups. However that’s just what I did in 2016. I ran with people in the middle of the race who ended up sapping my mental & physical energy.

This year I’ve promised myself that as soon as someone starts to annoy me or need too much help, it’ll be time to go it alone. Sometimes it’s hard to leave someone when they start to falter & you start to form a bond. You can feel obliged to stay with people who can drain your confidence & lower your moral.

The problem for me is I’m not very good with people, I spend most of my time on my own & like my own company. Sometimes finding it hard to understand what other people are thinking. That’s the main reason I missed the warning signs, the little things most people would probably have noticed.

The Spine isn’t like any other race, you don’t go home & have a nice hot bath after running 100 miles with no sleep & feel great in the morning. On The Spine you get almost no sleep & what you do get is mostly in a very noisy environment. It’s like a pressure cooker, everything is just about THE RACE! The rest of the world outside ceases to exist & it’s just you and your own thoughts most of the time. Sometimes even for someone like me it’s nice to talk to another racer, maybe share a laugh. Break up the monotony of a race that you know will last the best part of a week. A week on your feet in some of the worst weather this country has to offer. Maybe share some of the navigation between you, make the miles pass a little faster.

On The Spine 2015 I teamed up with Alan Rumbles & Colin Searl for the last section & it worked very well. The miles seemed to fly by with the constant banter. All I remember was the laughter and banter flowing freely between us all. Nobody took offence or sulked about any comments or went off in a huff. Hence why I called that blog post “a brutal walk to the shops” If your head is in the right place anything is possible. The pain seems to go away.

Suppose what I’m trying to put across here is be careful who you team up with! Notice the signs & move on, run your own race. Have confidence in your own ability & if you do team up, when it starts going awry do your own thing.
Image result for spine race 2016

On a lighter note, my training this year has gone very well. I’ve tried some new (to me) techniques in my lead up to this years race. More gym based workouts, 10 miles a day on the treadmill plus loads of body weight exercises. I’m also the lightest I’ve ever been. Taking more care in what I eat & sticking to my goals. I’ll be going into the race at about 150lbs which for me is light.

I never eat processed food (apart from on The Spine). So it’s all been game meat, Trout, fruit, veg, dairy, all the good stuff. The things I enjoy eating. Anyway that’s enough for now. I don’t advertise my posts on here, it’s just a personal record for me to look back on & see how or if what I do affects my race.

Happy running & see you in Kirk Yetholm!

 

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The Spine Race 2015 (A brutal walk to the shops)

by on Mar.26, 2015, under Race Reports

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A few thoughts on The Spine Race 2014-2015 

I’m not going to write another review or report about The Spine Race. It’s been done to death by better story tellers than me. What I do want to do is a blog post which will help me remember the reason this years race (2015) seemed easy compared to last year. A way for me to remember what was different so I don’t make the same mistakes again. If it helps anyone along the way, well that’s good to.

The Spine 2014 & my mindset going into the race

I thought it would be just like any other long multi-day ultra event. You know the way it goes. You show up, run as fast as you can carrying as little as possible & slog it out to the end. That was my main mistake, The Spine is a different animal as far as other races go, I can’t compare it to any other race. You can’t just batter it into submission, it will fight back. Last year I had a terrible time on The Spine race, suffering the runs (the bad kind) for the first 18 hours then falling coming off a mountain in the dark & getting concussion. This caused me to slow down and eventually get hypothermia.

The Spine 2015 

I needed to finish this one, it was my main race of the year. The Pennine Way & I would share our 50th birthday in 2015, which made it even more special for me this year. It’s the oldest National trail and the hardest to complete.

What I needed this time was a new strategy. The main thing I did differently this year was go with the flow. No trying to change things outside my control. No expectations for things going how I want them. No expecting anything & if good things happened then great! If they didn’t happen, get on with it & don’t look back. It’s not the type of race to dwell on bad stuff, bad stuff will happen. If you fall into a bog or fall on your ass don’t let it spoil your day, move on.

Good stuff will happen to, like a great sky or the sun shinning or a fantastic view. You’ll probably laugh lots (I did) & meet some fantastic & inspirational people. You’ll all have something in common, the goal of finishing the race & getting to the end in as good a shape as possible.

 

The important stuff . . .

Sleep

The idea this year was not to have a strategy but to go with the flow. I managed to make it to a checkpoint before I fell asleep almost every time. If I managed to sit down anywhere for longer than 5 minutes I would try to have a cat nap. I had one hour of sleep over the first three days! Split roughly into 20 minutes at each checkpoint. This was mainly due to not being able to get any sleep at the checkpoints & being hyper when I could have slept.

I don’t sleep much at home though so it wasn’t a big deal. The section before the Tan Hill Inn I got really tired. The pub had closed when we arrived in the early hours of the morning & once inside the front porch I sat down for a quick rest before taking on one of the boggiest sections just after the Tan Hill. Don’t remember a lot about the next section through the bog but I remember not being able to keep my eyes open in the pub porch. My eyes just kept closing & I couldn’t stop myself falling asleep. As soon as we got outside I started falling asleep whilst running which I have had before but not for as long as this phase lasted. By the time I’d got my head back together the bog was behind me & I don’t remember how I got through it. This was good, the worst bit of the race was over & my mind refocused on the goal.

Food

Most of the food I took with me was still in my drop bag when I got home. I ate anything that would fit in my mouth from anywhere I could get it. We had some good food at the checkpoints but mainly porridge & toast. I had some good food in a couple of pubs on the course & also in the guest house at Forest View Walkers InnThe owners Joyce & Colin made us feel really welcome & even let us have a quick nap on the sofas with our dirty gear on. We later found out that they had donated the food we had for nothing!

The good stuff for me far outweighed the bad. The worst parts for me happened in the last 10-20 miles. On the last section from hut 2 to the finish I fell on my ass about 20 times or more. The ground was ice on top of grass & you couldn’t tell which bits were ice & which bits were grass. Especially looking at it through tired eyes and the light of a head torch. A few days earlier my snow spikes fell to pieces which didn’t help.

I fell & landed on my elbow & it went numb from my elbow down to the tips of my fingers. My first thought was maybe it had snapped on the fall. This happened just before Allan Rumbles, Colin Searle & myself all shook hands & agreed we had been on one hell of a journey & we had shared some great laughs along the way. This made me forget about the pain in my arm & we set off for the finish about a mile away. The finish was like nothing I had felt before, not the feeling of having completed a great race but the end of a journey. Somehow a bit of an anti climax. I’m missing the race already & can’t wait for next year!

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Colin Searle & Myself at the finish

 

Gear that helped me get to the finish . . . 

I’ll probably do separate reviews on this kit at some point but for now this is just a list of the stuff I think helped get me to the finish.

Hilly Socks 

30061I used the Merino Wool Off-Road for alternate sections which keep you warm & wick away the water fast. The thinking here is that you will get wet feet wearing trainers so it’s better to plan for this by wearing a fast draining sock. At the end of the race I had no blisters, so this stuff works for me. It may not work for you, but it’s worth a try. If you are doing The Spine for the first time I would recommend doing at least two sections with full gear before the race itself. Just to make sure all your kit is good & wont fall to pieces.

hi-000412_h00013_trail_peak_compressionHilly Off-road compression socks for every other section. I wore these with my boots to give my feet a rest & stop blisters or trench foot. The extra compression also stopped some of the swelling which happens when on your feet 23 hours a day.

Buff Headwear

Polar Buff Always used these as they’re great multi function items. Attached to a couple of carabiners on the shoulder straps of my pack. They dry fast & keep the draught out.

Flag UK/Navy

La Sportiva Bushido Trainers

These were great on mud, snow & wet rocks. I live on the edge of the west Pennine Moors & it’s about the same terrain as The Spine (we even have the slabs), the mud we get around here destroys Salomon shoes in a matter of days but these had 200 miles on them when I wore them on The Spine. They were still good at the end of the race.

Scarpa Terra GTX

Terra GTX Men's Walking Boots

Used the Scarpa’s on every other section to give my feet a rest from the wet. They do keep feet dry but on The Spine water tends to go over the top of the boots it’s that deep. Obviously if your wading through rivers you will get wet feet but they keep most of the water out, most of the time.

Montane eVent Air Jacket

1366706358-94568400

I used this for the first couple of days when running & it kept me warm & dry. It’s very breathable & managed to flow enough air to keep me from getting sweaty. It did however wear out in certain places, it has worn right through. Not what I expected from a £240 jacket!

Mountain Equipment Kongur Jacket

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A great GORE-TEX Pro jacket which proved it’s worth in the snow & high winds later in the race when the pace slowed. Not very breathable but if your moving slow & need warmth more than breath-ability you can’t beat a full-on mountain jacket.

2016

Well it’s taken me a long time to do this blog post. I’ve just found out I’m in The Spine 2016! Really looking forwards to doing it all again & hopefully a bit faster this time. Although not to fast as to make it miserable, I do like to take it all in and enjoy the journey. Finishing this beast is enough, I’m not going for any records.

Happy Running! . . . . . .

 

 

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Salomon Sense Mantra £93.95

by on Aug.14, 2013, under Kit Reviews

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box fresh, they look good. I like the colour scheme

I fancied a change from my usual Brooks shoes & thought I’d give the new Salomon Sense Mantra a go. They look great with the Salomon fancy colour scheme. The shoes arrived in plenty of time before my race (28 days) I ran in them leading up to my race on the NDW100, mainly off-road. The only bit of road I ran on was the first 100 yards to the moors from my front door.

The first thing that strikes you about these shoes is how low they are. At the back I could feel the pull on my Achilles tendon from the low profile but after the first 10-20 miles this eased off. They do take a bit of getting used to and they also need wearing in. I wouldn’t risk wearing these shoes straight from the box on race day, which I do with my Brooks shoes.

I do a lot of training in the mountains of the Lake District & found the Mantra’s a really stable shoe on loose stones & rocks. Looking at the sole I didn’t expect much of the grip but I was wrong. The only time I had a problem with grip was in the wet muddy conditions on the moors around home.

grip well on dry stones & gravel

grip well on dry stones & gravel

Another neat thing about these shoes is the lacing system which folds away neatly into a small pocket. Salomon have used this lace system for a while & it works well.

Salomon laceing system

Salomon lacing system

When I first looked at the Mantra’s before putting them on I thought the inner sock liner which goes down the side of your foot would curl up when the shoe got wet but I never had any problems with this when wearing the shoe.

toe protectors

toe protectors

They have a nice toe protector on the front made from rubber which seems to do a good job of keeping your foot from being hurt when you kick the inevitable stone or root out on the trail. On the theme of protection they have a rock plate in the sole of the shoe which protects from things puncturing your feet from the ground. This is a good idea for a trail shoe, sometimes a sharp stick or rock can cut your foot.

nice design & minimal sole

nice design & minimal sole

Another thing which struck me about the Mantra’s is how light they are. For a shoe with so many features they are pretty light.

So the perfect shoe then, which I’ll be using from now on? Well not quite, about 4 days before my NDW100 race I went for a 20 mile run and they holed in both shoes. On the inside of the shoe just where they bend from the big toe. Holes big enough to let in stones & mud. Thinking about it I should have taken some pictures of the holes & posted them to see if anyone else has had this problem. However I was in a hurry to get new ones before the race & forgot. If these do the same I’ll add an update to the review.

It’s not like I’d done any massive miles in them either, they were 24 days old. Only done around 250-350 miles! They were worn with Dirty Girl gaiters which stops most of the stones & mud from getting inside. Luckily I got them from SportShoes.com who managed to replace the shoes before my race.

Under the same conditions my normal choice of Brooks shoes last around 400-500 miles and cost around £50. So if you don’t mind paying twice as much for shoes that last half as long then maybe these are the shoes for you.

You may also need to try them on before you buy if you have broad feet. They are a bit narrow, so broad footed runners may find them uncomfortable.

What’s good?

nice colour

good design

neat lacing system

excellent grip on dry rocks

What’s bad?

expensive at £93.95 for 24 days!

What’s ugly? 

fell to pieces in 300 miles

Verdict?

4/5

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Hilly Socks MONOSKIN £11.99

by on Jul.30, 2013, under Kit Reviews

Hilly Monoskin Socks

Hilly Monoskin Socks

I’ve worn Hilly socks for about 6 years now on every one of my ultra runs, ranging from shorter 30 miler’s up to 450 miles. I mainly wear the Monoskin in black as I do lots of off-road running on the trails around my home & in the Lake District. I don’t usually wear white as it gets very muddy at times & white is just to impractical for me. I’ve tried other socks over the past 10 years since I started ultra running but some wear out in a single run. If you’re paying £10 per pair they need to last at least 12 months which the Hilly socks do. I’ve even got a few pairs with over 1,000 off-road miles in than & no holes. To me socks are one of the most important parts of my kit. I need to be able to rely on them not to give me blisters or hole during a race. They also need to dry fast during off-road runs as having wet feet for too long can play havoc with your feet. 

What’s good?

last a long time

dry fast

no blisters

very comfy

What’s bad?

can’t think of anything, maybe could be a little cheaper?

What’s ugly? 

nothing!

Verdict?

5/5 Recommended

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Buff® Headwear from £13.00

by on Jul.20, 2013, under Kit Reviews

 

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Loads of styles & colours

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They also do a very nice T-shirt

Buff® Headwear

If I had to pick one piece of kit which I always take on a run or even when out walking it’s a Buff. They come in loads of different types & lots of colours. My favourites are the Headband Buff to keep the sweat out of my eyes & the Reflective Buff for my night runs. I also use the Visor Buff which is great for keeping the sun out of my eyes & fits in a pocket when not needed, much better than a cap.

On longer events I use a carabiner attached to my backpack & loop one through it to dry while I wear the other one. A good way to keep my head from getting sun burned if I’m going to be out all day. They can also be washed and dried in a dryer, I’m not sure if you’re supposed to dry them in the machine but I’ve been machine drying mine for a couple of years and they still look new.

What’s good?

versatile

dry fast

look good

smaller than a cap

light weight

What’s bad?

price

What’s ugly? 

nothing!

Verdict?

5/5 Recommended

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UltrAspire KINETIC £94.99

by on Apr.28, 2013, under Kit Reviews

lots of useful pockets

I’ve used this pack for a few months now and have gotten used to where everything is. It seemed to take me ages to remember where all the pockets are on a pack after using my old CamelBak® for so long. Anyway the UltrAspire does have some great features but unfortunately some bad design to.

pack without bottles

First of all lets look at the good points. This pack has a pocket for everything, two even have magnets which snap shut after use. These are the small front pocket which UltrAspire suggest is good for electrolytes.

electrolyte pocket with self-closing magnet

 The second one is the large rear pocket which I use for my head torch & my coat. It’s quite easy to get stuff out of this rear pocket even whilst running. It also has a small drain hole at the bottom, it’s not big enough to lose stuff from though.

rear pocket has a self-closing magnet to

The only problem with this rear pocket is the magnetic bits go rusty & can stain light clothes. This may just be me using it in all the rain recently, but is that not what it’s made for?

notice rust on the metal self close parts

I do like all the front pockets though, after years of struggling to reach the side pockets on my old CamelBak® the UltrAspire is better in this respect. I also like the open rear of the pack which is much cooler than my old pack. The UltrAspire does have material where you need it though, around the kidney area which can make you feel cold if it’s not covered.  I do like the packs weight, very light. Which is good for carrying so much stuff. I get my hat, coat, head torch, gloves, food & other bits & bobs to fit in just fine.

This is a good pocket to put a phone in, just remember to put it inside a ziplock bag though. The pocket is not waterproof.

Why don’t manufacturers put a waterproof pocket on these packs? Most people today carry an expensive smart phone so why no waterproof pocket? A phone is a compulsory carry on most races.

mould grows inside the handles

Now the not so good bits, first up the bottles. After just a few runs mould started to grow inside the finger loops on the plastic bottles. I realise you can get tablets to sterilize the bottles but it’s a bit of a faff when you run sometimes twice a day. Other bottles don’t do this so why can’t UltrAspire sort this out?

This isn’t the only problem with these bottles though. On my first run with this pack I squeezed the bottle to make sure it was shut & the lid came flying off! See the video above. Maybe you’re not supposed to check them like this but it’s something I’ve done for years. I wasn’t a happy bunny having lost all my water 5 miles into a 30 mile training run on a hot day. Never trusted them since & have replaced both of them with some excellent CamelBak® Better Bottle Tritan 750ml. They fit into the bottle holders & the handles make them easier to get out. They cost around £14 each but worth every penny.

Camelbak Better Bottle Tritan 750ml Water Bottle

£14 each but worth every penny

UltraAspire pack with CamelBak® Better Bottle Tritan 750ml

A pack costing £94.99 should come with decent bottles, it would be better to add £10-£20 to the price of the pack than supply a sub standard bottle in my view. Why do the bottles have a magnet in the bottom? Spend the money on decent bottles & keep the magnets!

nice buckle, shame about the fit

The nice shiny alloy buckle on the front of the pack which holds the pack close to your body as you run is another annoying part of this pack. Why spend time making a nice anodised alloy buckle and then spoil it by making it the wrong size? As you can see in the picture above the strap across your chest slips right through the hole & constantly needs adjusting. My son Alex also has this pack and we both have trouble with this buckle coming lose. He tied a knot in his & I have a clip holding mine together.

So the UltrAspire KINETIC really is a bit of a mixed bag (pun intended). On the one hand it has some nice features but on the other most of them are poorly implemented. I like the magnetic closing pockets, but not the rust. I like the bottle placement but not the bottles. I like the anodised alloy buckles but not the loose fit of them on the straps. All these faults would be semi acceptable on a cheap pack but at this price, the best part of £100? I don’t think so, maybe the next one will address these problems and make this the pack it should have been in the first place given a little more thought.

As you’ve probably worked out I have no affiliation with UltrAspire and I didn’t get paid to write this review. Some may think it’s a little harsh, but it’s an honest opinion. I think the most annoying thing about the UltrAspire is the fact it could have been the perfect pack, could have been.

The good?

almost a great pack

bottle access

The bad?

very poor, cheap bottles included

badly fitting front buckle

rusty self-closing magnets on the pockets

The ugly?

it could have been perfect

Verdict

2/5

Happy Running 🙂

 

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MyTinySun Head 1000 Pro Head-torch £253.96

by on Apr.27, 2013, under Kit Reviews

MyTinySun HEAD 1000 PRO 1000 lumens!

It’s taken me long time to write this review as I like to give my honest opinion on everything I test and feel this just isn’t possible after just a quick run. I’ve used this light in runs over 100 miles and in all conditions from -10 temperatures, wind, snow, rain & just about everything in between. I’ve charged it loads of times and given it the usual abuse most of my kit gets in hard use. Up to now its stood up to it all very well, this is partly due to the sturdy box it comes in which is handy for drop bags as it stops the light getting battered around in your bag travelling to and from events.

high quality German built with stainless screws and hardened non-reflective glass

what you get in the box

what you get in the box

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nice strong box for storing the light

If like me you’d never heard of MyTinySun they’re handmade in Germany by a small company with a strong reputation for building very high quality lights. As soon as I opened the box I noticed the way this thing is made, it’s not like most mass-produced head torches on the market. The main components of the light are aircraft quality aluminum. The slight downside to this is that the full light with battery weighs in at 301g which is about double what my old Petzl Myo RXP weighed. This is however not the full story as the actual headlight can be separated from the battery by a wire, this means the battery can be placed in a pocket leaving the headlight which only weighs 197g. This is about the same weight as the Petzl Myo with 3 AA batteries.

Go-Pro mount right side showing thumbwheel adjuster

Go-Pro mount right side showing thumbwheel adjuster

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total weight of head torch with battery 301g

The light comes supplied with a 70cm extension cable, I use this wire to put the battery in the pocket of my UltrAspire KINETIC backpack which it fits perfectly, it’s smaller than the battery pack on the Petzl. The battery can also be fitted to the back of the light in the conventional way. The battery is made by another German company and uses the Open Light Systems battery, 7.2V 2.9Ah. Giving a full power maximum run time of 1hr 53min.  At  220 lumens run time is 13 hr 55 mins. Other sizes are available for the light including a 5.8Ah battery which gives a maximum run time of 3 hrs 47 min at max power of 960 lumens & 27 hrs 50 min at 220 lumens. These really are excellent run times for such a bright light. I recently did a race over 100 miles with a friend using a new Petzl Nao & his light went out after 3-4 hours in the sub-zero temperatures. The MyTinySun lasted all night on low, about 220 lumens which is brighter than most head torches on full.

battery fits in a pocket

Battery type/capacity/power/weight/dimensions: Li-ion 18650 2S / 1P / 2.9Ah / 7.2V

The light has  2 main modes of operation – Simple (very easy to use) this has 3 light levels and Expert, with 6 modes and too many light levels to go into here as it would take up the rest of the review! (for the professional user). Also SOS mode, 2-level emergency light and a 4-level battery indicator, using the illuminated switch on the side of the light. This changes colour to show battery condition, going from green to red depending on battery level. The light can be either used as a simple turn on and go or completely customized to meet the needs for any event & run time. It even comes with a full set of Go-Pro mounts for mounting to a bike helmet etc.

a full set of Go-Pro mounts as used on the headlight are included in the price

The MyTinySun also comes with 3 different lenses which are interchangeable for different beam patterns. These are the one on the light when it comes which is a great general purpose (long throw) lens. Then you have one which is good for narrow trails where you don’t need the long throw and just need a narrow tube of light & a wide dispersed beam which is ideal for walking where you don’t need the throw and just want a broad pool of light. This is also ideal for around camp and general use.

17°, 31° and elliptical lenses included

One thing worth noting is the light doesn’t come with a tool for removing the lenses. These can be bought for around £2 from Halfords. I’ve tried all the lenses and they all work well, most will find the lens which comes fitted as standard will be right for the majority of running. It’s always nice to have the choice though.

This tool made by Rolson is handy for changing the lenses, I picked one up from Halfords for about £2

The headband and the weight can hardly be felt in use. I forgot I had it on once & left a checkpoint wearing it when I should have taken it off! The headband is much wider than on the usual headlights so it spreads the weight better. It also has lots of adjustment, I find most headtorches have to be fully extended to fit my large head. The problem with this is I end up with the battery box sticking in my head. I managed to fit this one no problem with lots of room to spare.

the extra wide & comfortable head strap compared to a Petzl

The head strap also has some rubberised lines embossed onto it which stop it slipping around. Also a good thing if like me you sweat a lot. I sometimes wear a hat at night & it stops the light from moving around. The headband is big enough to wear a hat underneath.

rubber embossed onto the headband to stop it moving around

The light is adjustable via a large thumbwheel on this side which is easy to adjust even wearing thick gloves. If you have a Go-Pro camera this will be familiar to you. It’s well made and locks the light in place securely once tight. It never moved once in place, even when I hit my head on a low tree branch.

large thumbwheel can be used with cold, gloved hands

Another useful feature is the light built into the on/off switch which gives the battery status and you can have it slow flashing. This is useful for finding it in your drop bag at night. This feature can be turned off to conserve battery if need be.

status on/off button showing low battery

The battery on the MyTinySun is smaller than the Petzl & easily slips into a pocket. It’s no big deal to carry two of these if you need to but with the light on 220 lumens (low setting) you should never need to. I found myself using this setting most of the time. The quality of the lens is so good it’s plenty enough to run with. You can always switch to 960 lumens for technical bits where a lot more light is needed. The Open Light Systems battery, 7.2V 2.9Ah contains 2 18650 batteries which are much more powerful than a standard AA battery & give very good run times as a result.

battery box on Petzl Myo compared to MyTinySun HEAD 1000 PRO

All the fittings are really good quality & most are readily available from Maplins if you ever need to repair the light. Something which can’t be said of the majority of things these days. The light does come with a very comprehensive 2 year warranty though and is upgradable if a new LED comes out. The light comes with the latest Cree LED XM-L U2 & the software inside the light is upgradable, so if an update becomes available you can add it to your light. An option is also available to add even more features to the light including automatic activation when it goes dark and SOS if it detects a jolt from a fall!

fitting from 70cm extension cable lead to head torch battery

As you can probably tell I’m impressed with this light, very impressed. So what’s the catch? Well the not inconsiderable cost of £253.96 at first seems like a lot to spend on a headtorch but if like me you’ve tried most of the ones on the market & just want the best light money can buy then look no further. This is your light, it’s the best light currently available bar none. I tried it next to the Petzl Myo RXP & you couldn’t see the Petzl’s beam even with the Head 1000 on low (220 lumens)   The last few events with this light I’ve been asked “where did you get that light from?” It’s that bright it drowns out the other head torches. I’ll try to get some pictures posted of the light from it, as soon as I get some time.

runtimes for the Head 1000 Pro

light modes

 

As for the backup with this light once you’ve splashed the cash? Just give the guys at Magicshine UK a call and Chris & Bonita will be happy to help. They also compete in endurance events so know what we need from the kit we use. This should be the last light you ever buy. I have no affiliation with MyTinySun or Magicshine & I’m not being paid to write this review. Just a customer who appreciates great products and service. Please mention this website if you call 🙂

http://www.magicshineuk.co.uk/

makes my old Petzl look like a toy

 

What’s In The Box?

  • Head 1000 Pro LED lamp using Cree XM-L U2 Cree LED
  • Remote control unit
  • 3 O rings and advanced helmet mount and head bands for all uses
  • Open Light Systems battery, 7.2V 2.9Ah
  • Additional 2 lenses to achieve bespoke beam pattern of your choice
  • Velcro tape to mount the battery
  • Velcro cable ties to fix the cables and connectors
  • Rubber strips to prevent the battery scratching your bike frame
  • MyTinySun Head 1000 Pro UK charger (Euro charger for Euro customers)
  • Advanced helmet mount
  • Advanced head band
  • 70cm extension cable
  • GoPro spare parts grab bag to allow complete versatility of mounting options.
  • GoPro helmet mount
  • 2 year warranty

What’s good?

2 year warranty

build quality

features

after sales service

it’s upgradable via software & hardware

it’s the best light on the market (2013)

What’s bad?

you’ll need a tool to change the lenses (£2 from Halfords)

What’s ugly? 

let me think. . . . . .  . nothing!

Verdict?

5/5 Recommended

If you have any questions or comments about this light please post them below & I’ll do my best to answer them.

Happy Running : )

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Suunto Ambit HR £399.00 (tested to destruction)

by on Aug.29, 2012, under Kit Reviews

 

Like most people I like gadgets & when the new Suunto Ambit came out I was at the front of the queue. I’d been looking at ways to extend the battery life on my Garmin 310XT which lasted around 20 hours with everything turned off, apart from the mileage.

The blurb on the new Suunto suggested 50 hours battery life! This is in fact only partly true as you still need to change the polling time the watch updated the GPS position from every second to every 60 seconds. This can make the watch inaccurate if you do a lot of right angle turns as I found on the Viking Way ultra which had a lot of running around the borders of fields. The Suunto assumes your running in a straight line and just cuts all the corners off.

I’m not going to go into every feature on the watch as it’s all been covered elsewhere & better than I could do so I’ll just tell you about the problems I’ve found in using the watch over a couple of thousand miles of running in all-weather & wearing it every day. Yes you can wear it every day which makes it much better in my mind than a Garmin as it looks good enough to wear out & about without making you look too much of a running geek. It even has a clever sleep mode which it goes into when it’s left without being moved for a while.

I got the black version which looks to me a little more discreet than the silver one. After a couple of uneventful weeks of using the Ambit I went for a long run on one of the hottest days of the year & noticed the display had begun to bleed from black to gray around the edges. It’s still doing this a couple of months later so needs to be returned to Suunto for a repair.

The second problem happened 50 miles into the Ridgeway 85 ultra when I stopped at a checkpoint and the watch strap fell to pieces. If it had happened a few miles earlier I would have lost the watch. The metal post which goes through the clasp has two screws & one of them came loose and dropped off. Not something you expect from a watch costing £400! I had to resort to using my trusty Garmin 310XT which has (touch wood) never let me down.

This problem could possibly be solved by a couple of drops of super glue on the small screws but should you have to on a watch at this price? I contacted Suunto about the screen problem & they told me to send it back to them & they would repair it. I would then have to wait with no watch for my next couple of events for the watch to be sent back through the post.

If they don’t have a permanent solution to this problem I wouldn’t be able to trust this strap again, it’s only a matter of time before it works loose again & it wont take a normal strap because of the GPS sensor being in the way.

So to sum up, good watch spoiled by lack of development.

UPDATE 1

On the NDW100 it had a breakdown and lost all my runs, it read 147 miles at 82! Sent it back again this morning and it wont be back for another two weeks, my next race (Ridgeway 85) is only 10 days away. So not happy with Suunto.

UPDATE 2

Suunto have just sent me this email description of the work on my watch, which is on its way back from Finland again. . . .

Service Description:

“Dear customer,

Your device has been replaced with a service unit that we have attached your original strap to. This service unit will come with a 3 month service warranty, which applies if the original devices warranty has expired.”

UPDATE 3

Just got back from completing the Brecon Beacons Ultra & as I plugged the Ambit in to download my race I noticed a line of dots missing from the display. I went  the Sunnto site to fill in another service request only to find after filling in the serial number in the online form, the watch I got as a replacement after the last fault was out of warranty! Luckily I have the original receipt of purchase. The watch is still within the 2 year warranty period. Lets see what happens this time. . . .

UPDATE 4

I received an email from Suunto which stated they were going to replace the watch & put a new watch on my old strap as the old one (see above) wasn’t repairable due to the screen fault. When I received the watch from Finland the strap had a screw missing and the buttons on the sides of the watch were sticking. I emailed Suunto again and they said send it back to them again! It’s with them again as I write this, lets see what they do with it this time. . . .

20131206_131432

this is how I received the Ambit back from the Suunto repair center in Finland

UPDATE 5

Suunto decided they couldn’t fix the watch & sent me a new Ambit 2 which is brilliant with no faults so far. Until that is, you try to upload your run data to a Windows 7 64-bit computer when the software falls over & crashes. This is a very well-known fault with the Suunto Moveslink2 software & they (Suunto) don’t seem to be able to fix that either, this is the reply they sent me after 5 different fixes they suggested didn’t work & the last fix left my computer flashing up a fault code every time I started it.

email from Suunto customer support . . . . .

—————————-

Thank you for contacting Suunto Customer Support.

Please accept our apologies for the late reply. 

If the troubleshooting steps do not work we would suggest waiting for a new release of the Moveslink2 application which we hope will solve the issue. 

It should be released in just a few months. 

Should you have any other questions please do not hesitate to contact us.

—————————-

So there you have it, that’s Suunto’s idea of customer support & product development. If the watch doesn’t work when you buy it, just wait a few months until they decide to bring out a fix!

Whats Good?

everyday wearable

good battery life (see above)

comfortable HRM strap

good software (Movescount)

Whats bad?

latest software version 2.5.6. crashed the watch during a race & lost my run data & all my earlier run logs. It wont even tell the time now. On its way back to Finland again, update to follow. . .

strap falls apart

display bleeds colour

display on replacement Ambit lost a full line of dots

recovery feature no good for ultra runners (60 hours recovery for a 22 mile run!)

What’s ugly?

having to send the watch back to Suunto to be repaired several times

under developed for a £400 watch, I have a Seiko divers watch & it’s never let me down in 30 years. A watch billed as the greatest adventurers watch shouldn’t fall apart in a couple of months.

Verdict?

1/5

 

 

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