Life

My Ultramarathon Kit List

If you have a spare day, you could sit around a table with a bunch of ultramarathoners to talk about the best kit to use and you would still never reach any conclusions. The debate around shoes, hydration packs and jackets rages on in the forums and Facebook groups of the running world and won’t ever conclude, but it has been a while since I’ve talked about the ultramarathon kit that I’m using these days so I thought it was time to talk about my current favourites. I use a lot of the same stuff as I have for years, as it just WORKS, so here’s a top-to-bottom audit of what I like to wear when I’m going long.

Early disclaimer: all of this kit has been bought off my own dime and chosen on its own merit. No affiliate links or brand partnerships here, as per usual.

HEAD

buff headwear

 

I’m not a fan of caps or hats as I find they keep too much heat in, and peaked caps make me feel claustrophobic. I stick with what I’ve used for years and make a selection from my collection of Buffs. If the weather is dreadful I wear one folded around my ears and one around my neck as well – they really are excellent for plugging up gaps where cold air or rain can get in. I also have a polar buff which has a thick fleece section for sub-zero runs. You can get these at all outdoor shops and plenty of races give them away in goody bags

UPPER BODY

I don’t wear anything special on my upper body, and reply on my ever expanding collection of race t-shirts and vests to see my through my training weeks freshly. In winter, I usually layer up with a combination of vest, t-shirt, and long-sleeve top, with my favourite Pearl Izumi Aurora Thermal Top on top. This is a thick pullover with thermal fleece on the inside and a high neck to keep the wind out.

Pearl Izumi Thermal Top

RAIN JACKET

I have two jackets to choose from; a basic Ronhill showerproof thing which stuffs into a zipped elasticated pocket which can be worn around the waist or clipped onto a rucksack, or my more heavy duty Montane Minimus. This compacts down to a tiny pouch but offers much more resistance against the rain. These vary in price online up to £160 but I got mine for a deep discount at the ever reliable sportsshoes.com. It was this item that kept me mostly dry at the washout Glenmore 24 12 hour race, until it eventually gave up after hours of rain (unlike me!).

Glenmore 12 hour race

 

LOWER BODY

My preference is always to run in shorts or a skirt whenever I can, even if the weather is horrid. My favourite shorts for training in are Nike Rival 4″ shorts. I love the wide waist band and the fabric is really light so dries easily.

nike 10cm rival shorts

I had my reservations about running skirts at first as they seemed rather too stereotypically girly for how I usually like to look and feel whilst running, but when all things are considered they are supremely comfortable and you just cannot argue with that logic. I have two – I usually race in my my black Nike Set Point Tennis Skirt (seen above) as it goes with my club kit, but I also have a fushia/purple Nike Rival Stretch Woven Skirt which is very, very short and more suited to summer running.

Nike Set Point tennis skirtNike rival womens running skirt

nike rival fushia running skirt

In the worst of weather though, I will be persuaded to cover up and stick some running tights on. This winter I have been loving my latest purchase, a pair of Nike Legend 2.0 tights. I’m sorry that this is starting to sound like a Nike commercial, but they make really great products which not only survive ultras themselves, but the 100s of miles of training which go into getting to the start, which says a lot.

nike legend tight tiger

You may have noticed my rather ostentatious leg wear in a picture in last week’s training round-up. They may look a little ridiculous to some, but I love them. They are so comfortable and grip the leg lightly from top to bottom – no falling down whilst running and no baggy backside area. They have a high waist which grips well without the need for a drawstring, and the fabric is thick and soft. I’ve never really been a running tight fan, but these have me totally converted.

compressport calf guards

I’ve long been a fan of calf guards, especially Compressport. I switched to these from 2XU after trying them on at the Paris Marathon Expo and being impressed by their seamless comfort. I make no claims to any belief in the validity of the science claimed behind them, but my legs feel good in them during and after a run. I wear them inside out though, to avoid the big branding.

FEET

injinji toe socks

I started wearing Injinji toe socks last year after more horror between-toe blisters at the D33. I’ve not had any blisters like that since I started wearing them, so I will anxiously tread the start line this year in a pair and hope for the best. These are now the only socks I will run in.

hoka one one stinson evo

Shoes….the big one! Since my return from Texas I have been doing my long runs in my new Hoka One One Stinson Evos. You all know about my ongoing foot issues, especially in longer ultras, so going down the Hoka route was pretty much my last resort. I was reluctant to get on the bandwagon without trying other things first – minimal trail shoes, Altras etc. but since these were on sale and I had room in my suitcase, they were purchased. I’m very happy with them! I’ve ran on road and trail and found the comfort underfoot to be supreme. 28 miles on Sunday was pain-free in my feet which is remarkable, so maybe I’ve found the answer to my problems. Time will tell of course; if the same thing happens at the Highland Fling then I will be buying shares in the company. I really like the colours of mine as they are a lot more subtle than some of the other designs. It helps that none of the women’s shoes fit me so I am wearing a men’s UK10.5.

RUCKSACK

camelbak octane xct

I  still use the same Camelbak Octane XCT which I got 3 years ago. It’s now been discontinued, but a similar model is HERE. It serves all my needs and I especially like the side pockets which have very easy access. I know the style these days is for race vests with removable bottles on the front, but I am yet to find a designer which has made one designed for women with a larger chest. I know there are female-specific designs out there, but when anything is designed for women, it is automatically assumed that everyone is the same petite size, both in height and girth. Spoiler alert: we’re not. This one is totally adjustable and has never caused me any problems, so I will use it until it falls apart.

I think that’s just about it – that is my ultra kit from top to toe and what I’ll be wearing out on the trails this Spring. Did I miss anything? What do you think? I’m happy to answer any and all questions – except for suggestions for what you should wear! I got this list together by trial and error and figuring it out for myself, and you should do the same. If anything, it gives you a cracking excuse to buy lots of kit… :)

 

January Catch-up

…And then all of a sudden it was the end of January.

It feels a little daft to wish you a Happy New Year at this point in the month, so I will leave that sentiment aside and just get on with rounding up what I’ve been up to this year so far. It’s been an unusual start to the year compared to the last three; normally by this point in the year I’m about to hit 200 miles and am fully immersed in Spring training with my eyes firmly upon the ultras on the horizon. Instead, I spent the first week of the year working hard on University coursework which I submitted on the 8th, and then got on a plane to fly away on holiday to Texas for two weeks. Having returned last Friday I am just about over my jet lag (I swear it takes longer to clear as I get older!), and have stepped right into my Spring training plan. In the next few weeks I have a few posts planned about my preparations for the West Highland Way Race and intend to do a weekly round-up of each training week on the blog on a Sunday. For now, here’s some bits and pieces of interest which have happened in the last month!

1) Stonehaven Fireballs Ceremony

Stonehaven Fireballs 2015

Kynon and I, along with 38 other swingers, rung in 2015 by swinging our fireballs up and down Stonehaven High Street once again in front of a crowd of thousands. It was just as exhilarating as last year, but  I managed to keep going for over 20 minutes and covered the length of the High Street six times in total whilst hurling the 5kg fireball around my head. Having reviewed the actual distance, that’s just over a mile! It’s not surprising that I was in absolute agony for 4 days afterwards. I have no other pictures to share, but someone has made a great video of the event and shared it on Youtube; I show up around 3:20:

Credit: Stuart Burns

2) West Highland Way Race Podcast

 

West Highland Way Race Podcast

John Kynaston asked me if I would be willing to be one of the West Highland Way Race runners whose journey he follows on the WHW podcast from the start of the year until the Race in June. Of course I agreed, and he interviewed me for the first time just before I went away – you can listen to the podcast, which also features an interview with the mighty Paul Giblin, two time winner and current course record holder (destroyer) HERE.

3) Trepass Blog Awards

Trespass Best Running Blog Award

In December I learned that Red Wine Runner had been picked as one of the nominees for the Trespass Running Blog of the Year. I was pleased for the nomination, but with my new Digital Marketing head on, I thought it a bit strange that I had been included without any prior contact or permissions given. For those that don’t know, these awards are rarely anything more than a publicity exercise for the brands involved – hence me not mentioning it on the blog before now in line with my no brand affiliation policy. I didn’t expect anything more to come of it, however at the start of January I learned that apparently I had won. Hurrah! I think? However I have heard nothing from them since and have received nothing of the promised prizes. We shall see how this all pans out…

Thank you to those who voted – do please go on to your Facebook profile and check you are happy with the Voting App being given the permissions you granted it when you placed your vote. Having done a privacy clean up the other day I have realised I inadvertently gave it access to my Facebook contacts which is a total no-go in my book.

In a more positive light – getting such positive feedback about the blog lately has renewed my commitment to be a bit better at writing regularly, especially with such an exciting year on the horizon. Thank you!

4) Stonehaven Running Club Championships

 Stonehaven Running ClubStonehaven Running Club

Sadly I was unable to attend the awards ceilidh, but I recently received my trophy for coming 3rd in the 2014 SRC Female Championships. Also seen here is my medal for achieving the Silver Club Standard, which equates to 60% WAVA in three distances and a minimum of 5 races completed in 2014.

5) TEXAS!

If you know anything about me by now, you’ll know that alongside running, one of my biggest loves in life is Texas. I went to the University of Texas at Austin as part of my undergraduate degree, and 10 years after leaving I was glad to be able to return to visit for a second time, and this time with my husband. We stayed in Houston, San Antonio, Austin and Fredericksburg, met up with lots of friends, did lots of reminiscing, exploring and partying, and even did some running; here are some snaps of the highlights.

Chilly on the Riverwalk in San Antonio

Chilly on the Riverwalk in San Antonio

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Littlefield Fountain, University of Texas at Austin

University of Texas Tower

University of Texas Tower

Darryl K. Royal University of Texas Memorial Stadium

Darryl K. Royal University of Texas Memorial Stadium

Austin

Austin

Downtown Austin

Downtown Austin

Transcontinental friendships over a decade old now :)

Transcontinental friendships over a decade old now :)

Very tasty Tex-Mex food

Very tasty Tex-Mex food

Vegetarian food from a BBQ joint in Austin!

Vegetarian food from a BBQ joint in Austin!

Downtown Fredericksburg

Downtown Fredericksburg

Downtown Fredericksburg

Downtown Fredericksburg

A run around Enchanted Rock State Park

A run around Enchanted Rock State Park

Far too hot for these Scottish runners...

Far too hot for these Scottish runners…

texas 5

Climbing the rock

Climbing the rock

Good for hill reps...

Good for hill reps…

The view from the top was never-ending

The view from the top was never-ending

Happy days all around.

Happy days all around.

Running in to 2015...in my new Hokas!

Running in to 2015…in my new Hokas!

 

This weekend, weather permitting, I’m off to the first of two West Highland Way Race training weekends on the route. The weekend is from Balmaha going North and back. The forecast for snow is very bad unfortunately, but we’re keeping everything crossed we can attend.

More soon!

-Rwr

The RedWineRunner Review of 2014

As is customary come the end of the year, I find myself casting a glance back over the previous 12 months and reviewing what I have achieved. In 2014 an awful lot of stuff has gone under the bridge here at Red Wine Towers, but I feel replete in my achievements as the last hours of year year pass away. It’s been a tough one, but a good one…let’s take a look…

January

stonehaven fireballs

stonehaven fireballs

As the clock struck midnight, I commenced the year with 30 minutes of epic, fiery, cardio by swinging my fireball up and down Stonehaven High Street to ring in the New Year. As a member of the Stonehaven Fireballs Association, I’m looking forward to doing the same tonight, and also welcoming some friends from England who will be visiting to see the spectacle.

Throughout the rest of January I worked hard, and alongside the rollercoaster of wedding planning I was knocking out a lot of miles to prepare for my Spring season. I always know I’m plenty rested and ready for the new season when I look at my previous January training log and recoil in shock! A ‘black’ day indicates a double day where I did an hour of circuit training as well as a run.

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February

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I started February with a return to the Forfar Multi-Terrain Half Marathon; a great little race just down the road for those who love a grubby run around some fields at the start of the year. The weather was less harsh than in 2013, but I still returned to the finish with soaking, muddy shoes and a big grin. I was rewarded with a 7 minute course PB and NINE different types of soup to choose from to refuel.

Throughout the rest of February, Ultra training was never far from my mind. I wrote a post to shed some light on what I’d learned in two years of ultra running, for those who were thinking about giving it a shot or those who had started but were struggling – 5 Tips for Budding Ultramarathoners.

March

clachnaben

The beginning of March started with some great long runs with friends as I finished off my Ultra training for the D33 and the Fling. Kynon ran his first ultra at the D33 and I shaved a minute off my PB after the race was a bit tougher than I expected – RACE REPORT.

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Then, the next weekend, we got married!

small1 R

…and then spent the next two weeks recovering in the Maldives.

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April

Coming back to the UK and real life was a bit of a shock, especially when the first thing on the calendar was the Highland Fling. I loved all 53 miles just as much as last year, and finished comfortably with no injuries – RACE REPORT.

Hoka Highland Fling 2014

finish

May

After three weeks recovery from the Fling, in May I ran the Cateran Trail 55 mile race for the first time. I was very nervous about doing ‘back to back’ 50+ mile races, and found that fatigue came earlier than expected. It was a very tough day out, but another where mental toughness saw me to the finish.

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You just can’t beat a race which starts and finishes in a pub. I finished in 13 hours and 32 minutes – RACE REPORT.

June

What else of note in Scottish Running happens in June other than the West Highland Way Race?

Most of Team Sweep 2014with Marc and Scott

I was delighted to join the sweep team for the second year, for my fourth year of being involved in the race. After our usual leader Neil broke his ankle, I headed up this crack team of Stonehaven runners (plus un-pictured: Mike and Karen) to look after the back end of the race. Another weekend of big fun, big hills and big miles. What a privilege. RACE REPORT

July

The first weekend of July was what it had all been about that year so far – the Great Glen Ultra. 72 miles coast to coast from Fort William to Inverness. A 1am start and no support allowed. What an adventure!

with Ben Nevis in the background

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62miles_FRIMG_0409GGUfinish1Prizegiving

It was a real privilege to be amongst the first contingent of runners to complete this race. It is a fantastic addition to the Scottish Ultra calendar and the perfect step between 50 milers and the West Highland Way. RACE REPORT

The rest of July was all relaxing and fun races – including a jaunt to Braemar for the Heart of The Park challenge with Kynon.Photo - John Mill

August

11323.1

At the start of August I headed over to Lewis with Naomi and Rachel, to run the beautiful Callanish Stones Marathon with Jemma. It was a gorgeous but tough course, but the islanders threw a fantastic race with the best goody bag I’ve ever seen and a BYOB ceilidh at night. RACE REPORT

September

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September saw my first attempt at a fixed-time race at the Glenmore 12 hour race. The race weekend was wild – wild parties, wild running and wild weather. I’ve never run in rain like it and hailstones the size of peas really hurt on bare skin… I aimed for 60 miles of 4 mile laps, and fell a bit short with a whisker under 53. In the end I found the lapped format didn’t really suit the way I usually think about races; I’ll maybe give it another go in a few years. RACE REPORT

September was also the month where I left my job and went back to University to start an MSc in Digital Marketing. It’s been a tough change and I still haven’t really settled into my new lifestyle yet, but I love my course and it was definitely the right decision to make.

October

stonehaven running club at monymusk half marathon 2014Monymusk Half descent

In October I got to try the Monymusk Multi-Terrain Half Marathon for the first time. It is a very challenging course, with the first 7 miles being straight up hill! This was the last race in the Stonehaven Running Club championships – after this race it was announced that my points total had earned me 3rd place in the Championships, behind Vikki in 2nd and Rebecca in 1st. RACE REPORT

November

Carolann main - Metro Running CLub

In November at the Peterhead 10k I finally clinched that time which has evaded me for so long – the sub-50 minute 10k. Great speed has never come naturally to my ultra legs, so after a long season of long races I was really pleased to be able to get a good race out of them. RACE REPORT

Naomi_RedWineRunner

My very last race of the year was the recently re-capped Fraserburgh Half. It was wet and windy and a really rough day for running, but somehow I managed to pull a PB out of the bag and finish the year in style. RACE REPORT

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Miles ran: 1294
Races completed: 15
WAVA: 62.6%

So a lot has happened in 2014. It’s gone very quickly, especially the first half of the year due to the hurricane of the last months of wedding planning. I’m really pleased with my running, I was really pleased with the wedding, and I’m really pleased I had the guts to quit my job and explore something new. I’m also really pleased that it’s the start of a new year in just over 12 hours, because I’ve got a lot to be getting on with in 2015.

After starting the year swinging our fireballs, Kynon and I are heading to Texas for two weeks to see old friends in Houston and Austin, and spend a little time away exploring the rest of Texas. Not a conventional start to a year of running by my usual standards perhaps, but this is going to be a year like no other. I’m sure you already know what’s coming, but a couple of weeks ago I got an email accepting my application to the West Highland Way Race and informing me I was successful in the ballot. I’ve been a member of the WHWR family for the last 4 years, but now it’s my turn to pull up a seat at the table and earn my Goblet.

Of course there will still be the old favourites such as the D33 and the Highland Fling, but Kynon and I are also heading over to Berlin in September to do the Berlin Marathon which I’m very excited about. I hope to do some other new-to-me races such as the re-vamped Devil O’ The Highlands, Speyside Way and Glen Ogle 33.

So thanks for joining me on the ride this year and for your continued comments and support. I wish you all the happiest of New Years, wherever you may be, and many miles of healthy running in 2015.

See you on the trails,

Rwr

When Bloggers Lose Their Voice

Four years ago yesterday, I wrote my first post on RedWineRunner. You can hop back then and have a look if you like; but the content isn’t great, I rather cringingly refer to ‘the blogosphere’, fangirl over US Healthy Living Blogs, and post far too many badly shot selfies. Oh the heady heights of 2010… a lot has changed about blogging since then, and after a while I like to think that my content took somewhat of an upward swing on the quality trajectory, especially as I realised quite how much bullshit those Healthy Living Blogs were full of.

After a while, I realised that these bloggers didn’t just love the products they were talking about; they were actually being sent them for free! This was before the days of the FTC guidelines on disclosure were made law in the States (read about this on Social Media Explorer HERE, and read the in-depth .pdf if you want more) and I felt betrayed and tricked by these bloggers. I began to view them in a totally different light, and like many critical readers it wasn’t long until I found my way to Get Off My Internets, where I found that I wasn’t the only one giving Healthy Living Bloggers the major side-eye and found out how many of these bloggers were manipulating and lying to their audience.

Fast forward three years and right now, I’m still in a love hate relationship with the blogging world. After I got fed up with the constant product shilling on US running blogs, I found a load of smaller UK running blogs which were far more relatable. I loved how reading these newer blogs was the absolute opposite of the American blogging scene; they were the real alternative to corporate publications at the newsagents with real runners writing about real struggles and gains in their training and diet, with no adverts, product placements, or sponsoring.

Oh, but bloggers. My dear bloggers. Where have you gone? Another couple of years later and 50% of my Feedly at any given time is filled with sponsored posts from blogs that used to be personal and a delight to read. We have now reached absolute peak sponsored content and I cannot keep a lid on my annoyance about this any more.  If the majority of your posts are promoting products or sponsored content, then you’ve really lost the voice which drew your audience in in the first place. The whole point of your once-unique blog is being lost and blurred into an anonymous sea of advertorial vessels. I am unsubscribing and stopping reading left, right, and centre.

I have a folder in feedly entitled ‘uk running blogs’ and looking through the posts in the last few weeks, this is what is being pitched at me:

Nuun, Spogo, Nakd bars, Kinesiology tape, Oatmeal, Chia seeds, Coconut water, yogurt, fitbugs, hairbands, Unilite head lights, Nathan hi-viz gadgets, Juicers, Quorn cooking classes, Sweaty Betty, Concerts, Holidays, Broadband offers, Go Pros, Endless London overpriced boutique fitness classes, crackpot nutritional supplements, undisclosed free race entries, free race entries that are only disclosed right at the end of the 1000 word post telling you how great the race is, MORE free race entries, brand ambassadorships, sponsored advertorials, and of course the ubiquitous free trainers and tonnes of kit from brands that no-one’s heard of…but are sure to be #thenextbestthing. #runhappy #lightupyourrun #elevateyourrun #sweatpink #fitfluential #hashtagitoryoudontgetpaid?

To a certain extent, I don’t have a problem with the odd product review whether sponsored or not as it’s always interesting to see what’s new on the market, but when UK bloggers are carpet bombed with the same item at the same time it’s insufferable and I don’t read the posts. There’s also an issue with a lack of blogger integrity – if your blog is about running and fitness, why are you advertising something that is completely irrelevant to your topic? Everyone has a price I guess – I’ve turned down several paid product advertisements/giveaways because the product had nothing to do with running, fitness or a healthy lifestyle. But would I have done the same if I was totally broke? You’ve got to make your crust however you can, but you still owe it to yourself not to sell out your own ‘product’ for someone else’s benefit.

There’s also the issue of non-disclosure, or very veiled disclosure, which is totally boiling my blood at the moment. These days most bloggers are well aware that the requirements of the advertising standards agency means they must disclose clearly when a product has been provided to them for free, whether they have been compensated for the review, or whether the entire post has been sponsored. Keeping this clear upfront makes it nice and easy for me to decide whether I want to grumpily scroll past yet another review of Adidas trainers, but it becomes a real irritant when disclosure is hidden at the bottom of a post.

I refer to the CAP code:

2.3: Marketing communications must not falsely claim or imply that the marketer is acting as a consumer or for purposes outside its trade, business, craft or profession; marketing communications must make clear their commercial intent, if that is not obvious from the context.

If I’ve just read a glowing 1000 word review of a new race, or shoe and get to the bottom and see in tiny letters that the product/free entry was provided by ‘your friends at X’ then I’m going to disregard a lot of what I’ve just read, because hiding the disclosure like this is disingenuous. It is not uncommon for marketing team to encourage bloggers to hide disclosure or make it appear as if their product was not gifted, which devalues the whole product to me. Incidentally – they are not your friends; they are a team of marketing vultures hired on behalf of the company to make as much money for them as possible for as little money as possible.

This has been a hard post to decide to publish, because it’s a total hand grenade and I risk pissing off a lot of bloggers I interact with who might read it – but I know I’m not the only one who feels like this. This blog has sat in my drafts since September, but some gurning on twitter with some other disenfranchised bloggers yesterday made me think that it was worth posting after all. There is a time and a place for blogger/brand collaboration, but the saturation of the UK blog scene with product right now is just too much for me and I’m declaring that I’m out.

Why, to be a ‘good’ blogger these days, do we all have to be ambassadors for something? Or working ‘in partnership’ with brands? Or fill our pages with giveaways and freebies? If I want to read a magazine there are plenty out there and I yearn for when this trend wanes and we get back to talking about ourselves and our training constantly. Narcissistic perhaps, but ultimately more interesting.

The last time I did a review was over a year ago when Salomon, a brand I know and respect, offered me a pair of trail shoes to review when I was actually in the market for buying some new ones. I decided this fitted in with my blog integrity and I was happy to accept the product and publish a review. I haven’t accepted anything else since and recently updated my PR/media policy page to reflect this – I’m just not interested in partaking in this circus any more. I’ve built this blog up over 4 years of quality writing and talking about issues which relate to my readers. Under no circumstances do I wish to dilute this creation by changing the kind of content I create, so this is a public declaration that I’m out of the game. Redwinerunner.com is not up for sale.

I would LOVE to get some discussion going in the comments below – please leave me your thoughts if you have any as I know I’m going against the grain here. I’m also aware of the irony of the fact that I’m currently studying Digital Marketing and that my new chosen career area is responsible for all of this nonsense, however; the more I learn about the right way to market something, the more these slithery black-hat PR hacks piss me off…