Red Wine Runner

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Review: Supplements and Snacks

Over the last couple of months I’ve been trying one or two supplements in exchange for my thoughts on them. Here’s a little round up of the products which I’ve been testing and how I got on with them.
***Disclosure: As usual; all opinions are quite clearly my own, and I received no other incentives to write about these products other than the samples themselves for consideration.***

Whey Box – The Most Convenient Whey

Whey Box is a service whereby one sets up a subscription, and a box of protein sachets are delivered to your door each month. I signed up to try this out and received a box of five flavours and a branded shaker in the mail.

whey box review

What they say:

  • Whey Box is primarily about convenience, with an easy to order service. Once you sign up, the protein shows up, and you can take the sachets everywhere with ease.
  • Each sachet is 30g and contains around 120kcal, 22g protein, 3g carbs, 2g fat.
  • A monthly subscription of 10 sachets costs £14.99 a month, 20 sachets costs £24.99

What I think:

  • I tried Chocolate, Mint Chocolate, Chocolate Orange, Cookies and Cream, and Gingerbread. The flavours are perfectly acceptable but nothing different from any other brand out there.
  • I tried one with water and it was chalky and unpleasant in texture; I tried the others with Oat milk and I much preferred it.
  • For me it feels like a fix to a problem which doesn’t exist; I have a tubs of my preferred protein supplements at home and a tub at work. If I choose to have a protein shake after a workout or for breakfast, then it’s right there to use. I have never found myself in a situation where I’ve not been able to ‘get my protein fix’ (their words) conveniently.
  • The pricing is ka-razy. A box of 10 contains 300g of product at £14.99, which works out at £49.96 per kilogram of product, or approximately £1.51 per 30g serving. I can buy a kilo of my preferred protein powder (PhD Nutrition Diet Whey) and have it delivered to my door for £16.95 from Amazon, which is roughly £0.51p per 30g serving. To me, that makes no financial sense whatsoever.

So it’s a no from me on this service; the products were perfectly tasty (gingerbread was my favourite) but I could not justify paying so much more for a service which ultimately, I don’t need.

 

Kind Bars – A new KIND of snack bar

Kind asked if they could send me a selection of their snack bars, and I said YES PLEASE. I received a box with one of each flavour to try, including some new ones which I haven’t seen in the shops yet.

Kind Bars

What they say:

  • KIND bars are a delicious, wholesome snack made quite simply from whole nuts and fruits, bound together in honey. Not only do their unique flavour combinations taste great, they’re also gluten-free, high in fibre, and contain no artificial flavours, colours or preservatives.
  • KIND bars have recently been released in the UK, but have been ‘One of the US most beloved snack bar ranges’ for some time.
  • There are two ranges: KIND Nuts & Spices, and KIND Fruit & Nut. Nuts & Spices bars are whole nuts flavoured with delicious spices. With about 1 tsp of sugar per bar, each has on average over 40% less sugar (per 100g) compared to similar snack bars. Fruit & Nut bars are all about simplicity. Just whole nuts and fruit bound together in honey.
  • KIND bars can be found in Whole Foods Markets (£1.49), Tesco stores (£1.29), Sainsbury’s (£1.25) and Waitrose (£1.29) nationwide

What I think:

  • I absolutely love these snacks and am really pleased you can get them in the UK now. I love how they are comprised of whole nuts, and eating them feels very substantial.
  • They are really calorie-dense, so great for taking out on the trail. You need to remember this when you feel like snacking at 3pm on a Thursday though, as they are heavy going in terms of natural fats.
  • The flavours are unique, and I love the ones with sea salt flakes in them – dark chocolate nuts and sea salt, caramel almond and sea salt, and maple glazed pecan and sea salt. YUM.

So it’s a resounding HELL YES for me on these, and I hope that I can purchase them by the box soon.

 

Red Kooga Natural Energy Release Tablets

I received so many emails from different people working on behalf of Red Kooga, that eventually I decided to take up their offer to sample the product just to see what it was all about. They sent me a 60 day supply of tablets, and I’ve taken two a day as instructed for the last two months.

red kooga ginseng

What they say:

  • Red Kooga Natural Energy Release Tablets help provide the mind and body with a bit more ‘oomph’ when slowing down isn’t an option. It is formulated with Panax Ginseng and Guarana herbs.
  • Panax ginseng is a herb used in the Orient for thousands of years to promote vitality and maintain mental alertness. Guarana herb helps provide a natural source of caffeine, providing a gentle way to help you feel sharp and mentally alert.
  • Red Kooga is a natural remedy product, the tablets can be taken as a great energy booster when working out or even just to keep up with the busyness of everyday life, acting as a great alternative to coffee, energy drinks or sugary treats.
  • Ginseng supplements are best taken for a 6-8 week period followed by a couple of weeks break to obtain the maximum benefit

What I think:

  • I was interested in trying this product because at this time of year I really struggle with energy levels as it gets darker, and remain entirely reliant on too much coffee to make me function as a normal human.
  • I took the product for 8 weeks and then took a break as instructed – I have noticed absolutely no difference in my mental alertness, or my general awakeness.
  • I took it morning and night for two weeks before I realised that technically it has caffeine in it (derived from guarana). If the pills are supposed to an alternative for coffee or energy drinks, the fact that I took them then happily fell asleep counteracts that claim quite solidly.
  • I like a side of science with my supplements. There is little research available to back up the claims which are made about the benefits of ginseng and how effective it might be.

I’ve never been a great fan of homeopathy as a reliable fix for problems, so I will admit to not expecting great things from this supplement, and not being surprised when I saw no results.  I was happy to experiment with the product though, as this is not something I would normally purchase. If you want to try it yourself, then you can get it for £7.99 a box from Boots. For the same money though, you can buy a bag of high quality coffee beans and perhaps wake up a little more quickly…

 

REVIEW: Helly Hansen Winter Training Collection

Helly Hansen Norviz Winter Training Collection 2015

At the start of October I received a press release from Scandinavian sportswear company, Helly Hansen, announcing the launch of their new ‘Norviz’ Winter Training Collection, which features hidden reflective fabric technology inspired by the Northern Lights. This interesting fabric intrigued me and I was keen to try it out, so requested some samples to review.

Helly Hansen Norviz Collection

Since arriving home from my holidays a month ago, I have been testing the W Aspire Jacket, and the W Aspire Norviz Tights in all weathers as I adjust to life back in Scotland in Winter. In addition to these items there is also a long sleeve top (pictured above) and a male range of the same items.

Helly Hansen W Aspire Jacket (RRP £90) Helly Hansen W Aspire Norviz Jacket

This beautiful jacket is whisper thin, yet provides superior protection against the wind and features ‘X-Cool’ quick dry fabric which quickly sheds light rain. I tested it in a variety of precipitations, and found it to be shower-proof, but definitely not waterproof. If you are out in ‘proper’ rain then this won’t keep you dry, but if you find yourself caught in a light shower whilst out and about then you will be well protected.

It is super light and compacts down to the size of a small fist, so easily packable in a rucksack for longer runs. A side pocket provides some room for storing essentials and the arm construction is articulated which provides a brilliant fit and easy movement.

In the dark under lights, the jacket takes on a silvery tone which is good for visability, and there is also reflective detailing on the zips and seams.

Despite not preferring kit in pink and typically ‘girly’ patterns, I found myself really liking this jacket’s design and found it very comfortable to wear. It doesn’t rustle when you run and you don’t even feel like you’re wearing it. My only negative comment is related to sleeve length – if you are a tall person you may wish to size up as I found the sleeves a bit short. I’m 5ft 10 and chose a size ‘S’ after referring to the sizing charts.

Helly Hansen W Aspire Norviz Tights (RRP £65)

Helly Hansen W Aspire Norviz Tight

These tights feature a female-specific cut, a sweat-proof back pocket, Norviz reflective fabric and an ergonomic fit achieved through body mapping technology. There is a drawstring at the waist and I would say that the tights are true to size. They don’t have a massive amount of stretch in them as they are cut to fit around the body rather than stretch to fit, so refer to the sizing charts carefully when selecting the correct size.

The Norviz reflective fabric is in panels on the back of the legs and lights up brightly when car lights shine upon it. There is also other reflective detailing on the tights, with zippers and logos in other places. Because I’m not a fashion photographer, I’ve been struggling to capture how the fabric lights up effectively; however this contrast shot below of the Pace Norviz LS top demonstrates it perfectly. The reflective fabric shines so brightly, and this feature remains hidden on the back of the tights in daylight, but comes to life after dark to keep you visible.

Helly Hansen Norviz Collection

Photo: gearjunkie.com

In general I’ve been very impressed with this kit, and wished I had been able to test the Long Sleeve top too as it’s the brightest piece in the collection! Before I could write this review however, I had to give the kit one last test and discover how it fared in the washing machine. Would the bright fabric survive a spin in the tub with the rest of my sports kit? After a muddy run I washed the tights on a 30C sports cycle as instructed and nervously took a picture using the flash on my phone. The pattern had faded slightly which is a bit of a shame, but it still remains after several washes. Bear this in mind when washing, as if you stick them in too hot a wash I suspect it may not end well!

Helly Hansen Norviz Collection 1

Closing thoughts

I’m really impressed with the fabric and will definitely follow any new releases next season closely. The pricing reflects the unique fabric technology, but if the items are beyond your budget they seem like the perfect kind of thing to put on your Christmas wishlist. You can purchase the range direct from Helly Hansen themselves or from several other online retailers. What I would love to see, as ever, is a move away from Black and Pink colour themes for women’s running kit. The Northern Lights are predominantly green and blue and this would have made a stunning, unique colour scheme for the range which would make it stand out even more.

Helly Hansen Norviz Collection 2

Thank you to Helly Hansen and ADPR for sending me the items to review. I received no additional payment, there are no affiliate links in the post, and as ever, all opinions are my own. Full disclosure policy HERE.

REVIEW: Salomon S-Lab Sense 4 Ultra shoes

 

Salomon S-Lab Sense 4 Ultra Reviewsalomon s-lab sense 4 ultra shoes

When Salomon got in touch earlier in the year asking if I would like to continue to be a part of their Insider programme and test some more shoes, I agreed and excitedly awaited a parcel in the post from France. Over the summer I’ve posted my thoughts on Instagram and Twitter, but I’ve decided to write up my conclusions in a full blog post as well.

The Salomon S-lab Sense 4 Ultra shoes are perhaps most recognisable as being frequently seen on the feet of such household names as Kilian Jornet, Anna Frost and Emelie Fosberg (if your household is an ultra household, that is). The striking red and white design is iconic of the Salomon brand, and I was really pleased to get to try a pair of these out as I’d seen them on so many of my running heroes’ feet.

salomon s-lab sense 4 ultra shoes review 1

The S-Lab Sense 4 Ultra is a unisex shoe and comes in two versions – one for soft ground (referred to as SG in the model name) and one for hard ground. The SGs are black and red, so as you can see I was trialing the hard ground model. With summer in Scotland being as it is, I did most of my miles in these in pretty soft muddy ground, but after around 100 miles in them I’m ready to share my thoughts.

salomon s-lab sense 4 ultra shoes review 2

The most noticeable thing about the shoes other than the colour scheme is how lightweight they are. The soles are solid and thick, but the dense material is very light giving a very free feeling on the feet. Unlike the Salomon Speedcross 3 (which I have previously trialed), the toe box is a lot wider. This made the shoes feel a lot more comfortable for me, which when your preference is for long, long, races, is obviously optimal. If you suffer from swelling of the feet during long runs then these will be a lot more accommodating than the Speedcross 3s.

The shoes have a thick rubber toe guard on the outside of the shoes which provides excellent protection against the inevitable kicking of rocks. The soles themselves are thick and dense, with almost a plastic-y feel – the grip is extremely sturdy and the deep lugs give impressive grip on loose, gravelly downhill terrain. There is also a very effective mesh upper which allows for good ventilation but keeps trail rubbish out, as well as the Salomon QuickLace tying system.

salomon s-lab sense 4 ultra shoes review 3

I found the dense and hard soles a bit uncomfortable at first, and the lack of any padding or cushioning provided a bit of a bumpy ride. Bearing in mind that I have been doing much of my long runs this year in Hoka Stinsons, that is hardly surprising though. I expect that anyone used to trail shoes with cushioning would find these a bit of a different experience, but those who prefer minimal shoes will be in their element. With a heel to toe drop of 4mm they will be a shock to those who are not used to a low heel drop, so transitioning carefully is recommended if this is new to you.

salomon s-lab sense 4 ultra shoes review 4

I really loved these shoes, but the solid sole and lack of cushioning just does not suit my annoyingly sensitive feet for long runs. I love wearing them for short blasts around the gravelly forest trails next to my house, but I wouldn’t be able to do an ultra in these Ultra shoes, sadly. They feel great on my feet and I love how close to the ground you feel whilst wearing them, but after about an hour the balls of my feet start burning and the bones start aching and it’s time to head for home.

Salomon S-lab Sense 4 Ultra Shoes Key Facts:

Designed for:
– Breathability
– Ultra Distance
– Lightweight
– Neutral Stability

Weight:
– 240g

Sizing:
– Only mens’ sizing used, women should subtract 1.5 sizes from their women’s size.
– I found them true to size and my usual trail shoe size was fine.

Cost:
– £145 (Salomon website)
– Savvy online shoppers will find them from as low as £75 elsewhere.

Disclaimer: I was sent these shoes by Salomon in exchange for sharing my thoughts on my social media channels. I decided to share these thoughts on my blog without prompting, and as always; they are my own. There are no affiliate links in this post. You can read my full PR and Media policy HERE

REVIEW: Salomon Speedcross 3 Trail Shoes

In my three years of running so far I have changed my mind on many subjects – examples such as my favourite distance, my preferred shorts and my tastes in fuel and gels come to mind. One thing that has always been certain is that I prefer running on trails to running on roads. You would then think that I would have found the perfect trail shoe, but this most elusive of creatures has until now evaded me.

In a market saturated with choice, the modern trail runner is bombarded with options. Do you go minimal and strip your footwear right back to the basics with Inov8s? Or do you indulge in the exact opposite and buy yourself a pair of Hokas? The problem is that this exercise in trial and error is an expensive one, and two different pairs of trail shoes later I am still not satisfied with what I own.

Inov8_Flyroc_310_Unisex_Running_Shoes1Three years down the line and I am still on the search for the perfect trail shoe. I currently own two pairs of Inov8s – one pair of sturdy and hefty Flyrocs (above), and one pair of lightweight and colourful Trailrocs (below). Neither are quite right; the Flyrocs have a thick hard sole and no cushioning which ruined my feet during 53 miles of the Fling, and the Trailrocs are too lightweight for anything technical and are far too minimal for any great distance for me.

in0v8sSome of my friends wear trail shoes all the time but I can’t bear to run on tarmac in either of the above shoes. I live very close to some amazing trails, hills and forests to tear about in, but I hate having to choose between taking the car or enduring 3 – 4 miles of tarmac in trail shoes before reaching more suitable terrain. The Inov8s are great for certain stuff but they are not a good all-round shoe and lately I’ve been spending more time in my road shoes, even when running on trails.salomon-speedcross-3-review-300x300A while ago I was contacted by Salomon who were keen to talk to runners about trail running this summer. They did a series of City Trail events around the country where runners could come along and be introduced to the joys of trail running and try out some new kit. Since I live in the back of beyond the nearest event to me was well over 100 miles away in Edinburgh, but Salomon kindly offered to send me some of their new shoes to test and review on the blog. Given my recent difficulties with finding the perfect trail shoe I jumped at the opportunity, and for the last three weeks I’ve been testing a pair of the Salomon Speedcross 3 from the S-LAB Collection.

20130923_190924I was really excited to unwrap the shoes, which came wrapped inside a box inside a box.

20130928_155051I left an even more excited Saskia to play with the boxes, and quickly got some sensible socks on so that I could check the fit.

20130923_191055I take a UK9 in my running shoes, which depending on the manufacturer can be a EU42 or a 43. Salomon sent a 43 and the fit for me is perfect ***SEE UPDATE ON SIZING AT BOTTOM, DECEMBER 2014***.

Here’s what Salomon have to say:

“S-LAB Collection – Designed with the world’s best trail runners. Lightweight minimal uppers for a superior fit, and the precision, protection and traction necessary to be a proven winner at the world’s toughest mountain and trail races. The Speedcross 3 W is an update to the iconic, lightweight, aggressive profile, trail racing shoe.”

The shoe is sturdy but light to lift. It has a thick rubber sole and sturdy instep cushioning with lots of padding around ankles, like a road shoe. The toe box is quite wide with plenty of wiggle room for the toes and the material on top is light and quick to dry.

20130926_182611The laces are pull-tie strings. This is a new thing for me and I was quite wary at first as they seem flimsy, but the grip is solid and you can tighten/loosen right down to the toes if required. The spare strings tuck neatly in the pocket in the tongue leaving everything tight – there is no room for twigs, leaves, or other trail miscellany to get wedged under the laces. Incidentally the strings are actually made of kevlar so they are really not going to snap easily, but if they do, you can get a replacement from Salomon.

20130926_18265120130926_182721

When I first pulled the shoes on they felt just like a familiar and comfortable road shoe which I found very promising. When I left my front door to head to the forest it felt just like a normal road shoe when I was running on the pavement; secure, but cushioned.

20130926_182634

As soon as I got to the trails however the shoe’s true purpose quickly shone through. As you can see from the image above, the grip is ferocious and the Speedcross’ sole is designed for traction on wet and slippery surfaces. As I changed from gravel to leaves and mud I felt complete control over my feet. The lugs on the sole face both forward and backwards so you can anchor your foot safely regardless of whether you’re heading up or down a hill.

20130926_182829

Winter is approaching and the snow will be here soon. With the D33, the Highland Fling and more to train for next Spring I am facing another tough winters running and I can’t wait to see how this shoe will perform in shoe and on ice.

20130926_182840

I know it’s only been a couple of weeks but this shoe and I are already getting on very well. We’ve had two more dates with the trails and I think it could be getting serious. I was actually considering an act of total lunacy and wearing them for the Kielder Trail Marathon last weekend since they’ve been so comfy, but I’ve not been out in them for more than an hour yet so that would have been a risky move. It does show the levels of confidence I have in the shoes though, and I am going to wear them for a trail 10k race I’m doing on Saturday.

So thank you, Salomon, for showing me that there is still a world of comfort to be had on the trails. These shoes have most definitely earned both mine, and Saskia’s, complete approval.

20130923_193732

The Speedcross 3 retails between £70ish and all the way up to £110 online depending on where you shop.

Disclosure: I was provided these shoes in exchange for my honest thoughts and review. As ever, all opinions are my own (and Saskia’s).

——

UPDATE: Randomly, of all the posts I’ve written in this blog, this post gets consistently the most hits every single month. A lot of people want to know about these shoes, it seems. So here’s a brief note on where I’m at with them now a year later: I still love them, but they are way too small in the toe-box for anything longer than 20 miles. I ran the 53 mile Highland Fling in them in 13.5 hours, and the 55 mile Cateran Trail ultra in 13 hours, and in both races my little toes were in absolute agony from being crushed in the toe-box as my feet swole up in the latter half, and I had huge blisters in between my toes. After the Cateran, I realised that the toes had actually worn holes in the Gore-Tex upper where they were desperate to get out… The mileage on the shoes at that point was about 250 miles.

So, if you are into long ultras I would absolutely recommend going up a size in these shoes. I will be buying a new pair shortly for next season but will likely purchase a pair of mens shoes as the toe-box is made wider.

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