2014 Review

Given that it’s now the start of February 2015, it’s technically getting a bit late for a ‘2014 Review’. Things keep getting in the way, not unlike the way they keep getting in the way of training, but I set out to write a review of 2014 and I am determined to complete it. After all, if I can’t even complete a review, what hope have I got of completing 2015’s planned event schedule.

My ‘2014 Review’ will be quite unlike many of the reviews that I have been reading online.

For one, my ‘2014 Review’ is actually going to go back as far as 2013, so we can get the whole picture, as my running spiralled into oblivion.

Further, my review is different because I didn’t run in any organised events, let alone any ultramarathons, and I ran fewer miles than I have since at least 2010 and, most likely, since 2007.

There were no big events, no (official) PBs, and no logging of mileage. I couldn’t even give an approximation of how many miles I ran.

Sounds a bit chaotic really but the truth of the matter is that I was ‘otherwise engaged’, ‘on sabbatical’, ‘out of office’ as far as running was concerned.

It’s a situation that, given the prominent role that running has played in my life these past few years, I would never have envisaged, and yet, 2014 was the first year since 2004 that I didn’t compete in an organised event.

Since late February 2013, it has all been about parenthood, attempting to master the role of ‘daddy’, a challenge that I have relished despite constantly feeling like I am making it up as I go along!

My last ultramarathon was the 2013 D33, just weeks after the birth of my son Harris. ‘Training’ had been severely impacted by preparations around the house for the impending birth, with practically the whole house decorated, including a kitchen that was finally finished just a couple of weeks before Harris’s arrival. I hope never again to repeat the chaos of those few months.

By the time the D33 came, in mid-March and just a couple of weeks after our new arrival, I had mustered ‘long run’ training, and I really do use that description in the loosest sense, of just 11 miles, 1/3 of the total distance that I expected to cover.

I did grind out a finish, along with a PW time, but admittedly not actually that much over my first ever D33 time!

It wasn’t pretty.

Understatement.

It hurt.

A lot.

Huge understatement!

I knew there was no chance of me making it to the 2014 D33 and was gutted to lose my place as one of the ever presents in this, the 5th year of the event.

So, we’ve established, 2014 wasn’t about the running.

It wasn’t, however, a complete write-off where fitness was concerned.

But we are not quite at the positive part, not just yet.

Following injury and my resulting failure to attain a 1/2 marathon PB at the Great Scottish Run in October 2013, a very visible failure thanks to my role as a PUMA PB Challenge Ambassador with PUMA and The Running Bug, I found my running mojo plummeted.

I was then unfortunate enough to catch something called Hand, Foot & Mouth from my son. Fortunately, he appeared to have a fairly mild reaction to this viral infection, something which, according to the NHS mostly affects young children.

I, on the other hand, did not. One of the symptoms is described as follows:

“A non-itchy red rash, made up of spots or small fluid-filled sacs (vesicles), which usually develops on the hands and feet, but may also occur on the knees, elbows, groin and buttocks; sometimes the rash can develop into painful blisters”

I ended up unable to walk thanks to painful blisters that covered the soles of my feet, amongst other areas, almost in their entirety. My feet were in a better condition at the end of 95 miles of apocalyptic weather on the West Highland Way than they were after just one single day of hand, foot and mouth.

It was a good few weeks before I could even walk, let alone run without pain, and the skin of my feet took months to properly heal.

My weight started to creep up, nullifying all the gains that I had made thanks to the nutrition element of the PUMA PB Challenge.

2014 started with illness. I was in the Cairngorms for the start of the year but was under the weather thanks to a bad chest infection. I made the most of my time there but I was most definitely held back by the severity of the infection.

Finally, around the middle of 2014, things took a positive turn on the health front. By this point, my weight was up around the 16 stone mark.

Following the opening of the new Aquatics Centre at Aberdeen Sports Village, I popped across for a swim, just to see what it was like. This made a change to my usual approach of working through lunch, eating a packed lunch at my desk.

My single visit turned into a daily pilgrimage to the pool. When I tired of swimming every day, I alternated between the gym and the pool, and this is pretty much how it has been since.

I started 2015 some 3 stone lighter than my 16 stone peak, still heavy by a lot of people’s standards but, certainly as far as I am concerned, the lightest that I have been since… well, since I can actually really remember. I was possibly lighter at some point back in my early 20s, but that’s a good while ago now and the memory isn’t ‘that’ good!

I’m not finished yet. Despite a plateau over the past few weeks, I am determined to lose more weight, hopefully in time for 2015’s planned events.

Losing weight does bring new ‘problems’. For one, I need to replace a large portion of my wardrobe as and when finances permit. That’s not such a big deal.

I also discovered that I am no longer impervious to the cold, resulting in the purchase this past weekend of a Rab Summit Jacket, a toasty warm down garment that should hopefully keep me much warmer.

The main issue is with regard to the impact on my running.

On the plus side, I’ve found myself able to run considerably faster than previously, notching up a massive PB at the 5k distance and taking over a minute off of my 10k PB, a time which itself was a fluke, much faster than my usual times, set way back in 2008!

On the negative side, my pacing has gone out of the window. I’m no longer ‘Mr. Single Speed’. I can now mix it up. Unfortunately, however, I usually do mix it up, each and every long run, and I have yet to find the optimal pace for completing runs over the 6 mile distance. That’s obviously something that needs to be resolved, ideally before the D33 in March.

I had, admittedly somewhat naively, hoped that muscle memory, coupled with the not insignificant weight loss, would see me easily smash all of the ultra PBs that I have set in the past.

The reality, as I found on one particularly bad 18 mile run the other week, was that I will need to a) find my optimal long run pace and b) train just as hard, if not harder, than I have in the past, to try and get anywhere near to the levels of ultra endurance that I had previously accrued over 3 solid years of ultra training and racing.

To add insult to injury, I actually struggled from the 3 mile mark on that 18 mile run. Still, I persisted, something that I obviously haven’t forgotten from my time running ultras and, further, an 18 mile run, albeit a bad one, is still 7 miles longer than any run I managed while training for the 2013 D33! As such, I can’t really complain.

So, that’s where things stand now. I am attempting to get enough running in, albeit mixed up with swimming, cycling and cross training. Gone are the days when I run simply to log miles and add to yearly mileage totals. I haven’t in fact, logged any of my mileage. I just have a rough idea of how things are building up.

With a bit of luck I will complete the D33 and the Highland Fling, the two events that I have signed up for at the time of writing. I’m also keen to do the Great Glen Ultra, a 72 mile run from Fort William to Inverness that I have never run before. It would, in fact, be my first BaM (Bill & Mike) event. Having cycled the route, from Inverness to Fort William, a good few years back, it’s a race that excites me, and especially with the prospect of running some of it on the new higher level path, with the improved views over Loch Ness.

Ideally, I would also like to round off the year with a return to The Speyside Way. Hopefully training, finance, and logistics, will allow that. As an ‘Elgin loon’, it’s almost like returning home, even though running, let alone running endurance events, was about the furthest thing from my mind in those first 18 years of my life when I lived in Elgin and Lhanbryde (located 4 miles out of Elgin, not in Wales, for those that don’t know the area).

There are elements of that Speyside Way Race route that are amongst my favourite trails outside of the Cairngorms and I can’t wait to run them again.

So, in summary, 2013/2014 didn’t have the best of starts health wise and running was always a secondary, if even that, part of my life in this time. However, 2014 was the year when I finally, after years of trying, turned a corner where my weight was concerned, something that will hopefully have an impact on my 2015 ultra schedule and for many, many years to come.

Altra Ambassador Application

I should possibly be keeping this quiet in the hope that it will aid my own application but it’s too good an opportunity to miss. Altra are looking for potential Ambassadors, to run in their shoes:

“Are you a dedicated runner, adventurer, ultramarathoner or triathlete who sees sport as a lifestyle, not just a hobby or an event?
If so, we invite you to apply for the 2015 Altra Athlete Ambassador program. We will be selecting about 50 total ambassadors for the coming year. These will fall into 3 categories – Road Running, Trail/Ultra Running and Triathlon.”

They are looking for athletes who are:

  • Authentic. Our ambassadors are the inspirational storytellers for our brand. That’s why our ambassadors will be highly motivated, enthusiastic self-starters who will validate Altra through their daily lives, sport, and community. Fast or slow, it doesn’t matter, athletes of all levels are encouraged to apply.
  • Passionate. Our ambassadors thrive in training and racing environments. They’re also passionate about Altra, and are excited to tell people about the benefits of our products. Social activity online and in person is important, as is loyalty to the brand and passion.
  • Involved. We’re looking for athletes who do more than seek to achieve their own PRs or goals – they’re active in the endurance sports community, whether through coaching, clubs, social media, blogs, forums and/or other outlets.

I’m a huge fan of the Altra Lone Peak 1.5, as my recent reviews both online and for Barefoot Running Magazine (Summer 2014 issue) will testify:

I have found it to be the perfect shoe for longer distances. Zero drop, with a spacious toe box and just enough cushioning to be comfortable but not so much as to detract too much from ground feel

More information: http://blog.altrazerodrop.com/application/

An Unintentional Holiday

Back on Friday 31st October, Leanne, Harris & myself set out, bound for Glasgow for a (slightly) long weekend. What followed will surely haunt me as one of the most stressful weeks of my life. Don’t get me wrong. There were some amazing aspects of that week. However, I still can’t believe just what has happened this week past and that, today, 10th November, we are still awaiting news.

So, what’s this all about?

Friday saw us arrive with Sandra & John, Leanne’s aunt & uncle, having had a pleasurable journey down from Ellon, with a stopover at Stirling Castle. Given that Harris is no fan of car journeys, especially long ones, we were off to a good start.

I had hoped to get at least some running in but, by late Thursday evening, I was starting to develop a sore throat and to feel like I was about to get hit (yet again) with a dose of flu. Any thoughts of running soon faded. Fortunately, by the beginning of the week, this had passed without actually coming to anything.

We had a great weekend, visiting, amongst others, Glasgow Transport Museum, Glasgow Green & Rouken Glen Country Park, which has to be the best park I have ever encountered.

Come Sunday we were all set for the long trip home when it all started – coming off of a busy bridge, onto an equally busy few lanes of traffic, our 4 year old Seat Alhambra inexplicably died.

Fearing for our safety in the face of traffic coming off the bridge and hurtling round the corner, most likely not expecting to come upon a stationary vehicle, we waited for the very first opportunity and abandoned our vehicle.

Fortunately, the Police were on the scene within minutes and came to our assistance. With the assistance of Leanne’s uncle John, who had been in a car in front, and aided by the Police, the dead Alhambra was moved to the side of the road.

At this point, I set off for Sandra and John’s house, carrying Harris who had, by now, fallen asleep in my arms. As you might expect, he’s not getting any lighter. By the time I got back to Sandra and John’s, my arms felt like they were about to fall off. The only consolation is that the walk home was relatively scenic, along the banks of the Clyde River, along part of the Clyde Stride Ultramarathon route.

By the time I arrived home, the AA had towed the car to Sandra and John’s house and were working on it. At this point, our main concern was that Harris had been asleep for approx. 1 hour and, as such, we had already lost some of our optimum travel time.

That seems almost laughable considering where things went next.

After a couple of hours the AA guy conceded defeat and, at this point, we were resigned to an extended stay.

The Seat Alhambra was towed to a Seat dealer which turned out to be Arnold Clark. As a non driver (hopefully rectify this soon), I can’t say that I have had much/any experience of them as a company but, at this point when telling the story, pretty much everyone I have told it to groans in a knowing fashion. And that’s before they even get to hear the ‘good bit’!

It started off on the Monday with a charge for diagnostics, approx. £90. This led to replacement of a part, which led to another set of diagnostics, which led to replacement of another part, and so on.

I won’t pretend to know anything about cars but the gist of it appears to be something along the lines of ‘catastrophic failure of the fuel system’ – in a 4 year old car!

Over the space of the next few days Leanne chased the garage who were far from forthcoming with their communication. The worst instance of this came when Leanne chased them to finally discover that they were ‘awaiting authorisation’ for some work.

Surely contacting us to ask for said authorisation would be the logical move?

So, to cut a long story short(ish), the Seat is still in Glasgow. After 9 days there we, however, are not!

By Friday, I was really starting to lose the plot thanks to the stress of constantly having to chase the garage for an update, the rising costs (garage bill nearing £1000 and incidental costs mounting all the time), and the lost holidays (7 working days between myself and Leanne), and, as a result, I took to Twitter to vent.

Stranded with (sick) toddler in Glasgow since Sunday. Grievances with going 2 be one heck of a blog post

I omitted to mention, by this point, Harris was suffering from diarrhoea. Great, just what anybody needed. As dictated by Sod’s law, this would be the one time where we actually did pack a weekends worth of close for a weekend away!

Within minutes of tweeting this I received a response from the Arnold Clark Help Team who, after getting some details, contacted Leanne to arrange some assistance.

They covered the costs of a hire car for the Saturday to get us, the buggy, our bags and IKEA purchases up the road to Ellon. Thanks to those responsible for arranging this. This action has gone a long way to considerably calming the tone of this blog post!

But, we are still without our car and, from the latest news, it’s looking bleak on that front. The garage, who have apparently never experienced this issue before, have sent some data to Seat. I’m hopeful of a quick fix/resolution but something tells me not to hold my breath!

Even when we do get the go ahead to come and collect the car – assuming we do – that in itself will prove problematic, with a toddler in the mix and childcare arrangements that pretty much necessitate that either myself or Leanne is around for Harris and don’t happen to be working (did I already mention our lost holiday days?).

Stress aside, we did actually have a great week. With the car and cost side of things hanging over us, it never really qualified as a ‘holiday’. However, we did at least try and make the most of it and, hopefully, weren’t too much of an imposition on our hosts, who ironically made it to Ellon before us as a result of long-standing arrangements!

Harris started the weekend not quite sure what to make of Cookie and Kismet, Sandra and John’s dogs. By the end of the week, he was stroking and feeding them like they were his own.

He also got to see a lot of the Greener side of Glasgow, from frequent trips to Glasgow Green, including a nightly walk there in the dark (it’s just across the road from where Sandra & John live), to bits of the Clyde Walkway and any number of parks, highlights of which have to be Rouken Glen Country Park and Kelvingrove Park.

Harris also experienced the underground for the first time. Actually, the very first time he was asleep. How he managed to sleep through the screeching is anyone’s guess! When he did actually experience it for the first time, he totally loved it. Who would have guessed!

Looking at the photographs from the past week, a few of which feature above, it shows that we really did experience a lot of what Glasgow has to offer. Not only that, we were (largely) blessed with good weather.

My Glasgow, back when I spent a year here in 1990/91 was all about clubbing and shopping. What a difference in comparison to this time around, with its (child-friendly) focus on parks, museums and long walks admiring the sights, sounds and architecture.

As this past week has shown, Glasgow’s an excellent place, with plenty to do and all within easy commuting distance.

Now, about that car!

50,000 Views

 

Wow, who would have thought it. My little running blog, started more as a personal reminder of my own running exploits than anything else, has now surpassed 50,000 views since I started recording stats back in mid 2012. Thanks to everyone who has stopped by. I hope you found what you were looking for.

2015 should hopefully see a return to ultra running for me again and there will no doubt be many more experiences to blog about. I’m not back to full ultra training yet but that’s not far off and I have high hopes that 2015 will be the year of the PB :o)

Columbia Gear

Back in mid 2013, I was sent a Columbia Omni Freeze t-shirt for review and was blown away at just how well it helped me maintain a desirable body temperature, from the extremes of keeping me cool while running on a treadmill in our sun house in 30°C+ temperatures, through to keeping me from freezing while being buffeted by winds at altitude while out on a trail run high in the Cairngorm mountains. It has been, without a doubt, one of the stand-out items of kit for me this past year. Further, as one of my most comfortable t-shirts, I have turned to it on a daily basis as well, not just when I require the technical aspects of the garment.

As such, I was delighted to be presented with the opportunity to review some 2014 Columbia kit, including the Zero Rules Short Sleeve Shirt,  Silver Ridge Convertible trousers (shorts/trousers), Insect Blocker Long Sleeve Shirt and Conspiracy II OutDry shoes.

Since I received the Columbia product last week, I have made a point of wearing each item as much as possible and have to admit to liking the versatility of being able to turn the Silver Ridge Convertible Trousers from trousers to shorts and back again, simply by zipping off the lower leg portion.

I will admit to being a shorts & t-shirt guy outside of work hours, regardless of the weather, to the extent that family and friends are genuinely shocked on the rare occasion when they see me in long trousers!

Unfortunately, when I am out and about, I appear to be the equivalent of a ‘happy meal’ for clegs, midges etc, and I also tend to react badly to any bites, turning red and blotchy and often requiring the use of antihistamines and creams to calm inflammation.

A few years back, a bite to my leg resulted in it swelling to the point where I had no choice but to elevate it for a week. This was bad enough. However, it was also 2 weeks before the 53 mile Highland Fling ultramarathon, hardly ideal race preparation! (I didn’t have the easiest of races but I did make it to the end)

On my most recent trip to the Cairngorms, I found that I appeared to be equally appealing to ticks, ‘helped’ no doubt by my tendency to seek out new routes on pathways that were often fairly overgrown.

As such, it makes sense for me to forego the shorts & t-shirt approach where necessary and to cover up a bit more. With approx. 3 weeks until I next return to the Cairngorms, I am already counting down the days and I am looking forward to putting my new Columbia gear through their paces. Full reviews to follow upon my return from the Cairngorms.

Product Details

Zero Rules Short Sleeve Shirt

£25, Available at Blacks

A super-cooling tech tee with stretch and sun protection, this soft and lightweight men’s shirt sports Columbia’s industry-leading cooling technology, which reacts with your sweat to lower the material’s temperature and keep you cool during dynamic aerobic activity in the heat.

Construction:

  • Omni-Freeze ZERO™ sweat-activated super cooling
  • Omni-Wick™
  • Omni-Shade™ UPF 30 sun protection
  • Modern Classic Fit
  • Comfort stretch
  • Antimicrobial treatment protects this product from bacteria growth

Fabric:

  • 100% polyester ZERO interlock

Silver Ridge Convertible Pant

£55, Available at Blacks

These durable, quick-wicking pants feature built-in sun protection and plentiful storage making them the perfect choice for active days in warm weather.

Construction:

  • Omni-Wick
  • Omni-Shade UPF 50 sun protection
  • Partial elastic at waist
  • Gusset detail
  • Pockets with hook and loop closure
  • Zip-closed security pocket
  • Mesh pocket bags

Fabric:

  • Omni-Shade Main Body
    100% nylon Silver Ridge ripstop
  • Omni-Wick Mesh Panels
    57% recycled polyester/43% polyester mesh

Insect Blocker Long Sleeve Shirt

£50, Available at Snow+Rock

This versatile button up features Insect Blocker™ technology to ward off bugs, UPF 30 wards off harsh UV rays, and Omni-Wick™ advanced evaporation keeps you cool and dry during dynamic activity.

Construction:

  • Insect Blocker
  • Omni-Wick technology actively breathes and pulls sweat away from your body to keep you dry and cool
  • Omni-Shade UPF 30 provides premium protection from the sun
  • Pocket with hook and loop closure
  • Mesh pocket bags
  • Rollup sleeves with tab holders
  • Sun protection collar
  • Vented

Fabric:

  • Omni-Wick, Omni-Shade 100% Insect Blocker nylon basketweave

Conspiracy II OutDry

£80, Available at Blacks

Superior traction meets waterproof-breathable construction for an ultra-lightweight shoe that will keep you nimble, comfortable and dry during all kinds of outdoor activities. The mesh upper is fortified with a protective rubber screen-print to maximise durability while the Fluidframe midsole provides ideal underfoot support for a lively, responsive ride.

Construction:

  • Upper
    • Protective rubber screenprint over mesh
    • OutDry waterproof, breathable construction
    • Synthetic toecap
  • Midsole
    • Techlite™ lightweight midsole, superior cushion, high energy return
    • FluidFrame™ multidensity underfoot support
  • Outsole
    • Omni-Grip™ high traction non-marking rubber
  • Weight: US size 9, ½ pair = 10.3 oz/294 g

Rothiemurchus Holiday, June 2014

We’ve been back from our Rothiemurchus holiday a few weeks and are already eagerly anticipating our next stay there at the beginning of August but here, finally, are some of the highlights of our week away.

We added a couple of days on to the beginning of the holiday with a stopover in Elgin, making the most of the sunny weather at the lovely Silver Sands Beach in Lossiemouth, before travelling through to Inverness and on to Urquhart Castle, Harris’s first visit to Loch Ness and the Castle.

From there, we headed on to Aviemore and on to our final destination in Rothiemurchus, where we met up with Leanne’s family.

Location wise, this has to be one of my favourites. Staying in the Spey Lodge, just off the B970 Aviemore to Insh road, our ‘back garden’ led straight on to some awesome forest trails – rocky and rooty, just the way I like it!

We soon had a swing and slackline set up in the ‘garden’, making the most of these throughout our stay. Harris in particular spent a lot of time on his woodland swing.

The main seating and dining area of the Spey Lodge, located in an almost circular element of the building, looked out over the forest, challenging the enormous projector/tv for attention of an evening. It’s certainly one of the best views I’ve had from accommodation before.

Approx 1/2 mile of trail took us out onto the main Rothiemurchus to Milton Cottage route, opening up a number of different walk/run options. Taking a right immediately took us out at Lochan Mor, also known as ‘the Lily Loch’, and a further 1/2 mile walk/run led to Milton Cottage, itself approx 1/2 mile from the entrance to Loch an Eilein. As you can imagine, Loch an Eilein became our ‘local’, hosting a number of runs and walks.

I’ve often wondered where some of the small trails that lead off from the main Loch an Eilein circular lead to and took the opportunity to explore, ending up off in the hills above the loch. On our final day, we walked to Loch an Eilein and followed the unmaintained path around Loch Gamhna. It’s arguably got a better view than Loch an Eilein and the path is mostly ok. It’s a shame that it isn’t maintained, to avoid those few occasions where you do find yourself ankle deep in mud lol!

By the end of the week, I had taken a number of new trails that, in turn, led on to old favourites, adding to my local trail knowledge and coming together nicely to form longer walk/run options.

We also did a number of our regular walks, including The Green Loch, Lochan Uaine, which we extended to include a visit to the Ryvoan Bothy, our regular circuit of Loch an Eilein, and Farleitter Crag and Uath Lochans.

For all the years we have been coming to the Cairngorms, I can’t recall having seen so much pollen pooled loch side before, adding a colourful yellow element to the photographs.

Having long admired the Duke of Gordon’s Monument (erected in 1840 in memory of the 5th Duke of Gordon), we finally ascended Torr Alvie, passing the amazing Waterloo Cairn en route. Definitely a walk we will be doing again and well worth it for a stunning view of the Cairngorms.

I’ve seen us spending 14 days in the Cairngorms and get 13 days of torrential rain so we were really lucky to have decent weather, occasionally very hot, with very little rain. Our final day saw us blessed with temperatures in the 20s, leading to a busy Loch Morlich that started to resemble the Mediterranean as people flocked to the ‘beach’!

Finally, if you are a fan of real ales, the Cairngorm Brewery, located in the Dalfaber Industrial Estate, is well worth a visit, to sample the lovely ales, to purchase supplies of your favourites, and to take the tour (2.30pm daily – book before going).

Counting down the days until our next visit – only 6 weeks to go :o)

Return Of The Mac’s Mojo

It’s been 21 days since my last post, hardly the scenario I expected when I put all that hard work into the www.pixelscotland.com revamp.

However, it’s not without good reason. For one, Harris has, as always, been keeping us busy, and also entertained. He has also taken to rising around 5am, something which tests even my penchant for early rises!  I’ve had to curtail the late nights just to keep up with him, with an obvious impact on the time available to me when I actually add to and develop this web site.

Secondly, I’ve been a man on a mission, finally getting around to all those jobs that I have put off for years. This weekend, for example, I managed to fit in a complete clear out of the garage, alongside playing dad and head chef at Mac HQ. I’ve finally cleared space to let me get my weights out and once again resume weight training.

As far as exercising is concerned, I have once again found my mojo, and it’s not just the running mojo! It all started with a swim in the newly opened Aberdeen Aquatics Centre, linked to the equally impressive Aberdeen Sports Village. What started out as a single swim is now a 4 times a week regular visit, slotted in to the day in place of taking lunch at my desk.

The overall impact has been huge and I would once again consider myself to be back ‘in training’, albeit still at a lesser rate than pre Harris days, and, of course, all done to fit in with his schedule. I’ve been mixing up swimming, walking, running, the spin bike, treadmill and cross trainer quite happily, with no actual plan, just taking what I feel like at the time, or what best fits the time available.

What’s more, in mixing it up quite so much, I haven’t found myself feeling like a ‘slave to the miles’, as I have done in the past when training specifically for ultras.

Even at this early stage of training, I am already formulating a full on ultra challenge that will see me tackle some of my favourite terrain, outwith an organised event and, with a bit of luck, in the company of a good friend. Hopefully more to follow on that front if things go according to plan.

I’ve also been busy on the review side of things, with a review of the Salomon Sky Tee for The Running Bug, and with reviews to follow of the Vivobarefoot Evo Pure, Vivobarefoot Trail Freak, Altra Lone Peak 1.5 and, finally, the long awaited The North Face FL Race Vest that I first spied on the backs of the likes of Jez Bragg and Sebastien Chaigneau a couple of years back.

In keeping with the minimal, zero drop, footwear approach, I have also been enjoying feeling slightly smarter than usual in a pair of Vivobarefoot Freud’s. Thanks to Vivobarefoot, I can now maintain my preference for minimalist footwear without having to wear out my trainers.

Finally, I’m feeling decidedly upbeat, despite being a Monday and back in the office, as I have only 4 more working days before we head back to The Cairngorms once again.

I can’t wait to get back on the trails and, this time around, we will be located in Rothiemurchus, close to Loch an Eilein, offering the best possible access to the numerous Cairngorm trails.

Expect loads more photographs, routes and reviews to follow, including a full review of the Croozer, a review of The North Face FL Race Vest, and, again if everything goes to plan, a review of a piece of kit that was recommended to enable me to cut back on the amount of water that I have to carry – a Sawyer Mini Filter.

“At just 65grams, and fitting in the palm of your hand, this is simply the best there is for Weight, Size and Performance. Drink directly as a straw, attach to Sawyer Squeeze Pouches, use inline, or attach to standard threaded bottles. The MINI uses the same exclusive 0.1 micron hollow fiber membrane filter used in our other filters. Although not quite as quick as the SP129 version, you will still be bowled over by the flowrate of this amazing little filter. The MINI comes with a 100,000 gallon (378,540 Litre) guarantee which is still the best rating there is ANYWHERE, and will last for anybody’s lifetime.

Simply fill up the pouch at a lake, stream or river, screw the filter directly onto the pouch and: 

  1. Squeeze the bag & filter water into your water bottle or container of choice
  2. Drink directly from the filter which has a built in cap for on/off functions
  3. Attach the filter onto most threaded water bottles including 2 litre bottles.”

[more information…]

Garmin Seeks 50 VIRB Cam Testers

I first saw that Garmin were looking for 50 testers for their new VIRB outdoors adventure cameras while I was in the Cairngorms last week. I have to admit to fancying one of these cameras so Garmin, if you read this, please do consider my own application :o)

It’s a straightforward process. Register your interest online and you will then receive an email confirming your registration. At this point you can respond to the email providing any additional information that might support your application.

Well, this outdoors loving dad would welcome the opportunity to test out one of these units and I’m already counting down the days to our next Cairngorm holiday in June! The ability to video Harris enjoying his Cairngorm surroundings would be great and something that we could look back on in future years.

It would also have been good to have along to record some of my ultra exploits over the past few years.

Fingers crossed :o)

Check out the gallery of photos from our last Cairngorm trip.

VIRB Specifications

  • True 1080p HD video recording with 16 MP CMOS image processor
  • 1.4” Chroma Display:
    • High-res;
    • Colour;
    • Easy setup, playback & adjustments
  • 2000mAh lithium-ion battery:
    • Lasts up to 3 hours;
    • Rechargeable;
    • Removable
  • Still image capture:
    • Photo Burst & Time Lapse
  • Rugged, durable, waterproof (IPX7)*
  • ANT+ wireless connectivity, for remote control via Garmin device
  • Free VIRB Edit desktop software

VIRB Elite also adds:

  • High-sensitivity GPS accelerometer & altimeter
  • Wi-Fi connectivity, for use with smartphone app

Details from http://sites.garmin.com/virb/

April Fools

It’s not often that I would even comment on an April Fools joke but, so far this morning, I have come across 2 particularly good ones.

Vivobarefoot managed to combine their April Fools with a (not so) subtle dig at conventional footwear:

“Recent research from the Central Research And Paleology Institute (CRAPI) has shown that physical adaptation is not over. Due to external environmental influences the human foot is changing; due to narrow shoes with cramped toe boxes and elevated heels.

The result: humans are set to loose the fifth meta-tarsal. The pinkie is on it’s way out. Through extreme negligence by the majority of humans this physical transformation is set to occur immediately. The phrase “use it or loose it” has never been more appropriate.

Put 4 fingers up to Evolution”

Meanwhile Arc’teryx announced a name change to the Archaeopteryx, citing global growth as the reason for the change:

“North Vancouver based outdoor apparel manufacturer Arc’teryx today announced it is rebranding.

Arc’teryx, or rather the brand formerly known as Arc’teryx, has undertaken a major rebranding effort in order to unburden the tongues of outdoor enthusiasts around the world. Effective today, the Company is switching from the condensed word, Arc’teryx to it’s easier to spell and pronounce root – Archaeopteryx.”

Harris Robert Mackintosh

It’s been an ultra event of a different sort for me these past few days and, for once, one where it’s not been me who has been in pain. Our first child, a son, was due to arrive on 20th February 2013 but decided not to make an appearance until today, the 28th. Leanne’s waters broke back on Saturday evening, with contractions starting the next day, making for an ‘ultra birth’ by the time baby actually arrived. Unlike most of my ultra events, I had the ‘easy’ part this time round – staying awake – and even that proved tough enough!

Welcome to our world Harris Robert Mackintosh,

  • Weight: 7 pounds 11.5 ounces
  • Born: 14:45 28th February 2013