Runs and Reviews

Today I did my final (and first) long run before Paris in two weeks time. I decided to try out the new parkrun at Maidenhead so parked about 7 miles away. The idea was to run towards Maidenhead, over the river, double back for a while and the continue on, making it 10 miles to the parkrun and timing it perfectly so I didn’t have much recovery before it started. I’d then run the 7 miles back giving me a perfect 20 miles. This distance also gave me the opportunity to test out a few bits of kit I’d bought recently and see how they fared on a long run.

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As I’ve posted before I was selected for the shortlist to be an ashmei ambassador a few weeks ago. Sadly I didn’t get the gig but they did offer me a really good deal on their clothing so I picked up one of their t-shirts (or “running jersey”) at a decent price. Other than comfort the key quality of these shirts is that not only do they dry quickly, but they don’t smell. I have to admit I do tend to emit a very personal kind of end-of-run odour which is far from pleasant so I was interested to see what would happen. Unfortunately this week due to working long hours (for a change) I have only got out for 3 runs. One 6 mile hilly trail run on Monday, same on Friday and todays 20. I was told by Robert at ashmei that I shouldn’t wash it too often and that it could handle a few runs so I put it to the test. I wore the shirt on each run without washing it in between, just hanging it up to dry. Now I have no affiliation with ashmei – in fact quite the reverse as they rejected me! – so I can honestly say I was staggered after each run, not least the last one. There genuinely isn’t any nasty odour at all. I wouldn’t want to push it to another run but compared to my other t’s (admittedly mostly free technicals form races) it is a revelation.

That’s not to say it is perfect though; I am a medium and fairly short and even I would prefer a slightly longer cut. I’m sure there are taller people who might find it a bit short for them. Also I couldn’t, for love nor money, fit my headphones into the clip on the back of the shirt while I was wearing it. This might be because I was 13 miles into my run and a bit sweaty but I gave up after a while. Finally there is a zip pocket on the side of the shirt. I’m prepared to be shot down here but I cannot see the point of a pocket on one side. Anything substantial (you can probably just about get a phone or car key/gel in it) will bounce around pulling the shirt. I’ll be happy to get feedback that this isn’t the case but I would have preferred it to be at the small of the back, if at all.

The second item I trialled was my Scott Jurek Ultimate Direction Ultra Vest. I’d bought it at the beginning of the year thinking I’d get a lot of use out of it but, due to injury, this was only the second time I’d used it and the first over 12 miles.

What is immediately apparent when wearing it is that I probably have bought the wrong size. Again I bought a medium but – without lowering myself to national stereotypes – I think an American medium may be a touch larger than a British medium.

I had it pulled in as tight as possible on both of the straps and still got a little bit of a jiggle on. There may be other ways of tightening it that I haven’t found but if not there may be a bargain on eBay soon. It comes with two 560ml bottles. I’ve also got the 420ml collapsible body bottles but thought I’d need the extra fluid over comfort so used the larger ones. I needn’t have worried as they were pretty comfortable with no rubbing on the chest. I filled one with water and the other with Torq vanilla energy drink. I’m not into particularly sweet drinks so the vanilla flavour is just the job. It is also packed with carbs as well as electrolytes which helps me massively on a long run

There are plenty of pockets all over the vest and most are pretty easy to get to. Gels (I took two, both SIS lemon) can go in pockets around the bottles and phone, car keys etc can go wherever is comfortable. There are also two large pockets at the back to fit a bladder (with drawstrings to keep it tight), jacket etc

This really is an awesome vest and once I get the right fit it wont leave my back on any unsupported runs.

That’s enough free advertising. On to the important bit.

I started just outside Bourne End at about 7.15. I hoped to run 9 minute miles for the 10 miles there so expected (with a few stops for traffic, gasping for breath etc) to get to the parkrun for 8.50. The run itself was great, plenty of early action on the river with rowers, canoeists and canal boats taking my mind off things. Once over the river, after a mile or so switchback to give me the mileage, I ran through Cookham – at one point and very briefly keeping pace with a cantering horse and rider – and back to the river. The footpath then runs alongside the river for a couple of miles until Boulters Lock where it changed to pavement up to Maidenhead. The market was just setting up in the High Street with lots of fresh fruit, veg and enormous bagels to tempt me. I reached the entrance to the park where the parkrun is held at mile 9 instead of 10. Either me or mapmyrun had gone wrong. The only thing for it was to run laps of the rugby fields in front of the gathering runners who must have thought my pre-run preparations were a) pointless and b) ridiculously slow for a 5k event.

I finished the 10 miles at almost exactly 8.50, dumped my vest with the other luggage and set off on the parkrun. I expected to carry on the 9 minute mileing but there is something about a crowd of runners that won’t let me be sensible so I set off at around 8-8.15 mm and clung on. Its a really nice double loop course through Braywick Park and a pretty flat one too. I did a fairly respectable 25 minutes which was around 2 minutes faster that I wanted to. All that was left was the return 7 mile leg covering the same paths without the extra loop. I haven’t run that far since Abingdon Marathon last October so my legs felt a bit heavy for the last couple of miles but all in all it was a very pleasant way to spend a morning. And all before 10.30!

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