Ultra Running & Reviews

Tag: ultra

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 . . .


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.


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!


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


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

ME-000133_Me-01028 NeptuneNautilus

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.


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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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


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


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 🙂


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


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!


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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