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‘The Basics’ – Clothing

 

‘The Basics’ – a regular look at the simple elements which make running gear useful to the runner. Explanations for those who don’t yet know, along with some facts to cut through the marketing nonsense out there, of which there is plenty!

Part one was Midsoles

Part two was Outsoles

Today – it’s clothing.

There’s clothing and there’s clothing.

We’ll use the common T-Shirt, or ‘Tee’ as our example.

For running purposes, there are certain priorities:

  1. Moisture Management
  2. Temperature Regulation
  3. Bacteria Management
  4. Anti-Chafe
  5. Weather Resistance
  6. UV Protection
  7. Use within a layering system…

Let’s take a look at these criteria in some detail.

  1.   Moisture Management.

Your basic running Tee has a simple use, it covers your body.  While running it ought to also help you avoid too much sweat or overheating.  So it might be best to avoid one made from cotton, which gets very hot very quickly, as it doesn’t breathe all that well.  It also traps a great deal of moisture and refuses to ‘let go’.  Which means that you’ll have a hot, heavy, soggy tee shirt on for the bulk of you run.  Not good.

Above :Standard ‘Technical’ or ‘Tech’ t-shirt.

 

First then, make the shirt from a fabric/material which collects (wicks) moisture, but which also then helps to evaporate it and dry itself out if it can.

There are many shirts out there which describe themselves as ‘technical’ shirts, or made from ‘technical’ material, but this usually boils down to the fact that they are not cotton (organic) and are in fact synthetic, so man made and therefore (slightly more) ‘technical’.  This is to appeal to those who believe that a nylon, or polyester shirt will in some way enhance their performance over the cotton or woollen equivalent.

This is scratching the surface of what’s truly possible in a running shirt.  Yes – there’s value in avoiding the hot sticky cotton, but it goes further than that.

For example…

Materials such as ‘CoolMax’ feature highly sophisticated thread structures which enhance the wicking ability, mimicking, if not outdoing natural fibre’s ability to do the same.  Merino wool for example is one of the most impressive natural wicking materials known, with ability to draw moisture into its hollow strands.  But CoolMax has specially engineered threads that ae propeller shaped and actively draw moisture along the outside of the fibres, moving it away from your skin, while not trapping it within.  Mother nature versus man’s ingenuity and again, all so you can run efficiently.

Above: Simple, but very effective.

 

2. Temperature Management.

Above: Vents and Breathable panels tailored to fit areas of extreme warmth/blood flow.

 

Moisture Management virtually IS Temperature Regulation.  They’re very closely linked.  Just lick the back of your hand and feel how that feels…  Then gently blow on it while it’s wet… Colder?  Blow harder… Colder still?

If the shirt you wear features a fabric which is close-knit, no holes, very poor air circulation and you then go running in it, despite its ability to soak up sweat until wet through (wicked out), it will trap your heat and PREVENT heat from escaping.  It’ll become more trouble than it’s worth by virtue of its insulative effect – trapping heat and humidity inside the shirt.  So strategically placed holes and vents are a good way of providing escape for the heat, humidity and air which will continue to blow across your skin while the moisture is removed.

Prevention rather than just cure… to prevent heat building up, rather than trying to cool down at all cost.  The more heat can escape and air can circulate freely, while moisture is collected as soon as it is produced, the more you’ll feel free from bother and enjoy your run.

3. Bacteria Management.

Above: T-Shirt with ‘anti-bacterial agent’ applied once constructed/woven.

 

This gets a little compicated (as always).  But generally there are two ways of dealing with the build up of bacteria.

a) apply something which repels bacteria to the shirt once produced.  Effective until eventually washing off.

or

b) build that same something into the shirt during production, so it’s at work from the inside.  And doesn’t just wash off with time.

You get what you pay for.  And companies who apply treatments to their clothing after they’ve been woven together, don’t always use very friendly chemicals, so when they ‘wash off’ they enter the waterways.  That’s not very nice.

Above: Silver, woven/incorporated in the fibres it’s constructed from, reflecting heat from the sun, and/or preventing bacteria from populating the surface. Fewer smells or irritation/infection.

 

 

The alternative is to build in a level of resistance as you make the shirt.  To incorporate substances which actively repel bacteria inside the fibres, within the very construct of the shirt fabric, so that it stays, remains active and prolongs the health of the shirt and you – the end user.  Also reducing odour – maintaining friendships.

4. Anti-Chafe.

What it says on the tin.  Shirts ought to not scratch.  If the thread count is high enough, the fibres are smooth and arranged so not to trap hairs or pull at them and the moisture management is working to avoid build up of salt, then you shouldn’t get too irritated or rubbed in all the wrong areas.  There are finishing touches, such as bar-tacs and cross stitches at seams which help to flatten and soften the interior of the clothes, to ensure that you can stay in them for hours, even days and not get any lasting aggravation.

In addition to the materials and what’s applied if not built in, there’s the fit, which if tailored well enough to suit humans in motion, you shouldn’t get any rucking, wrinkling, riding or tension across any particular parts, which among other issues can be the cause of the dreaded ‘nipple rub’, which speaks for itself and leaves runners looking as if they’ve been shot twice during the run/event.  Not the best.

Above: ‘Body Mapped’ shirts with the right panels of breathable or wicking materials around areas of blood flow, heat loss or increased friction.

 

5. Weather Resistance.

Well, in a Tee there’s an argument for disregarding weather protection as such, but there are some considerations.  As mentioned, in extreme heat/sunlight, brighter shirts, or white ones can reflect heat away from the runner.  In Death Valley, where believe it or not, folk still race ultra distances in up to 50C heat, there are purpose made white jump suits that shield them from the rays.  In everyday terms, white is one thing, but that interwoven silver in the material keeps the external temperatures at bay.  Montane produce a Tee with Primaloft insulation in it, combined with Merino Wool, called ‘Primino’, which makes for a very warm T-Shirt when it comes to keeping warmth in instead of out, but that’s another story (further down).

6. UV Protection.

In an almost obvious sense, clothing gets between you and the sun*.  So to some extent or other protects against the potentially harmful rays given off, which might burn the skin if exposed for too long.  While a shirt might not cover you up entirely, it can be rated for how well it blocks or absorbs these harmful rays.  UPF (Utra Violet Protection Factor) built in to clothing benefits everyone (children/those of fair complexion especially) – as with sun cream, higher rating protect more/for longer.  Standard white cotton tee offers a rating of UPF 5.  Dense construction and treatments, along with Polyester/Nylon are all helpful ingredients in protecting us.  Surprisingly, Black is a good choice, as it absorbs all of the light/heat energy.  But there appear to be positives from all solutions, so keep an eye for the UPF rating when choosing your stuff.

Wet fabric is known to be less effective against the sun, except for Polyester, which is fortunate, since studies show it often improves when wet, perfect as it’s used as the wicking element in most active wear.

Care of your clothing can help.  Broken down, worn out and loose construction can begin to allow UV to penetrate your apparel.

*Use of protective cream is still highly recommended in combination with clothing, as no clothing is 100% safe.

7. Use in a layering system.

Finally, clothes work very well when in their ideal environment, but environments change.  We can create our own system for anticipating these changes and react accordingly if we’re armed with enough of the correct items for a quick alteration en route.  Lightweight wicking base layers offer the first line of defence, with mid-layers adding a second wicking layer along with ability to trap warm air between and create a barrier against any harsh cold or rain that might be coming at you from the outside.  Only when necessary might you apply an outer ‘shell’, of wind or waterproof nature, as these trap far more moisture and heat than practical/safe unless conditions are seriously bad, or you’ve slowed to a pace which no longer generates much heat from within.  If you’ve stopped, or at the end of a run, it’s advisable to add layers or to change into something dry, so to avoid the shock of your core releasing heat when your overall temperature drops too low in reaction to the end of exercise.

Above: The Grail!  A fully tricked out, breathable wicking anti-microbial shirt with body mapping and constructed from 100% recycled material. Saving the planet one shirt at a time!

 

Finally – but crucially, as we continue to look for ways in which to preserve resources and reduce the impact our manufacturing has on the world around us, it is increasingly vital to re-use and recycle the materials we’ve no longer use for.

Many clothing companies are these days making running apparel from recycled plastics in attempts to minimise the waste and pollution happening around our planet.  Names like Patagonia, RaidLight and inov-8 are introducing recycled and sustainable materials and providing all of the above features without contributing to any unnecessary waste/pollution.

Their efforts and those of similar brands will only double in time, with likely enforcement from governments and authorities.  To produce anything harmful in a time of environmental urgency will eventually (I assume) be outlawed.  what this means is for runners and active types, the clothing we select will by default, be produced without footprint, or as close to carbon neutral as possible and will eliminate the potential for disposal into our oceans, as plastic is already at an emergency level.

Worth thinking about as you debate the short term bargains versus value for money long term solutions.

Posted in Buzz, Environment, Going 'Green', Product News, Recycle, ReMade, Sustainability | Leave a comment

Screw this!

 

Saucony have taken a bold step and released trail shoes which openly invite the user to customise them…

By drilling holes in them, or screwing screws into the underside.

And before you dismiss the idea, think about the possibilities.

We all appreciate a good trail shoe.  Comfort over an outright fell shoe, but more responsive and protective than the softer road alternatives.  The studs you find on most trail shoes offer traction and if made of the correct rubber, a lot of grip as well.  But only to a point.  No one shoe will work on all surfaces.  In fact, most appear to be aimed at a very specific terrain, from wet grass and mud to hard packed dirt or rock.

So what about a shoe designed for year round use, on all kinds of surfaces, with potential to adapt to seasonal requirements….?

The Mad River trail shoe from Saucony is just that.  A fully customisable shoe which will tolerate the use of additional metal studs – screwed into its outsole.

I mean, it’s a fair shoe to begin with.

4mm off-set from heel to toe.

Reasonable depth of cushion, but nothing too excessive while headed for softer ground anyway.

Roomy toe box, secure midfoot, rather like the Peregrine.

Then there’s the clever way in which the Mad River allows for the runner to adapt the lacing to suit their foot.  the fit can be tailored via two rows of lace holes, some of them loops, some of them eyelets.

 

photo – courtesy of Gear Junkie

Wide feet, high arches, tendonitis, spurs, plantar fasciitis, whatever the issue, there’s likely a lacing configuration to make life easier and the Mad River accommodates this very well.

The interior of the shoe is constructed as a one piece sock, with integrated tongue to prevent debris from entering.  They’re also gaiter compatible, with a loop at the forefoot and midfoot ‘gaiter track’ to allow the stirrup to sit flat to your foot and avoid being stepped on/broken.

The outsole has plenty of counter-directional aggressive sticky rubber lugs to begin with, but  here’s the weird and wonderful part:

The same ‘mapped’ outsole (marked up with what to use and where), will also serve as a super fast-draining wet weather shoe for those running through puddles, or as we suspect, obstacle courses with frequent waist deep troughs of dirty water to contend with.

photo – courtesy of Gear Junkie

Simply drill (yes drill) the underside where it suggests and create your own drainage.

Running on ice?  Mad River excels.  Running on wet weather trails?  Mad River excels.  Obstacle course racing?  Mad River excels.

The only thing I’d be worried about is chancing wet limestone….

The jury’s out on the wet limestone….  I mean if banana skins and eels had babies….

Purchase Mad River here.

 

 

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Polar Ignite Review – completely plagiarised by Houghboy

In an unprecedented move, I’ve literally ripped off another review here, because I couldn’t say it any better.

So courtesy of Mr. Duncan Bell via T3.com, here is a review of the all new Polar Ignite, a watch which has me excited, since it looks great, features colour touch screen and state of the art wrist based heart rate, but most importantly, might actually last for the time it takes me to complete an ultra distance event!  Oh and the price is what you’d expect from something ‘entry level’, which I assure you, this ain’t.

If, like me, you fall in love with this watch, you can purchase one here.

Fitbit fitness bands AND Garmin running watches could both be burned to the ground by Polar Ignite

A hybrid of lifestyle activity tracker and hardcore fitness watch for under £200

Polar of Finland has generally tended to make hardcore running watches for hardcore runners – the Vantage range, for instance. These have been very much ‘Garmin rivals’, although I dare say Polar doesn’t put it like that. With Polar Ignite, however, it’s putting tanks on Fitbit’s lawn, adding advanced sleep tracking and ‘wellness’ features to its usual range of formidably powerful fitness and activity monitoring tools. It’s also quite keenly priced, at least compared to the flagship Vantage V watch, with prices starting at £174.50.

For more casual fitness and wellness seekers, Polar Ignite offers the usual step-counting and all-day heart monitoring, so you can reassure yourself that you are not dead or in a coma. Accurate step and calorie tracking is promised, and the battery is good for a solid 5 days.

There’s also Sleep Stages Plus (‘scientifically validated with third parties’, you’ll be glad to know). This means monitoring of the stages of your sleep (light, deep, REM) in a similar way and with similar depth to Fitbit’s market-leading zzzz-counting software. A ‘Sleep Score’ – again, similar to Fitbit – lets you know how successfully you have slept.

However, Ignite also has something potentially much more useful in the form of Nightly Recharge. This uses your Sleep Score and information gleaned from the daily tracking of your activity and workouts to offer ‘personalised tips to help adjust your daily plan, so you can continue to improve your sleep and recovery, and ultimately improve your performance and fitness.’

Well, it could be useful or it could be crap. But at least Polar is trying to offer insights beyond steps taken and hours of sleep and exercise achieved. The key to this analysis is heart-rate monitoring (in fact, tracking the intervals between beats), and Polar’s Precision Prime cardio tech is arguably the best wrist-based tracking in the business.

The same heart-rate tracking excellence means the Ignite should also be a great fitness watch. Over 100 sports and activities can be tracked, while Polar’s FitSpark offers a daily, personalised training guide based on your fitness level, training history, and Nightly Recharge score. Polar Ignite can suggest exercises and targets within broad cardio, strength training, and performance categories – you select the actual cardio workouts you want to do, so it’s not overly prescriptive.

A Vo2 Max estimate is also made from the wrist-based, optical heart tracking, although at present this is only for runners not cyclists or cross-fit enthusiasts. Polar calls this ‘Running Index’ and it’s a very simple and easily understood way to rate your running. Using your training and fitness data, Ignite can also serve up a Polar Running Program, offering personalised guidance on training for races from a 5K to a full marathon.

Again more in the lifestyle and wellness area, Serene is another new feature and yet again, a similar one to what you’ll find on recent Fitbits. It offers ‘guided breathing exercises’, with visual cues helping you breathe in an allegedly stress-relieving manner.

Finally, swimmers will be glad to know that the Ignite is not only waterproof to 50m; it also offer indoor and outdoor swim tracking with metrics including stroke rate and distance swum.

Posted in Product News, What's New | Leave a comment

Gritstone Fixtures: Round Five – Great Hucklow Fell Race

 

Coming up in the Gritstone Series next week, Sunday 7th July, 11:00am – is the Great Hucklow Fell Race.

Okay, so the first thing is, looking at the official web page, they almost don’t want you to get there!

Here’s the section on reaching the race on time…

“Registration, start and finish are all at Great Hucklow Primary School, Great Hucklow (SK 178 781 map). Registration will be open by 9.30am or so and closes at 10.30am. Registration is close to the race start, but for most will be a fair walk from car parking.

Bus – Travelling from Sheffield? The No 65 leaves Sheffield Interchange at 09:35 and arrives in Great Hucklow at 10:27, cutting it fine for registration. You’ll need to pass a few hours before the return journey though, leaving at 16:33.

Bike – a few people most years make a proper day’s exercise of it and cycle to the registration. The hilly 25km from Sheffield, say, will give you a good excuse for a slow race time.

Train – Great Hucklow is around 8km and a hill away from 4 stations (Hope or Grindleford are most accessible) on the Hope Valley line between Manchester and Sheffield. Only really useful if you bring a bike on the train, or fancy a long walk here and back.

Car – parking is limited and we are keen to keep the overall environmental impact of the event to a minimum, so please car share so far as possible. Follow signs and instructions for parking areas. Designated areas have limited space, so you may need to find road side or on street parking – please park considerately remembering that residents need access to driveways and that the village main road is a bus route.

There is no parking at the school, and competitor or spectator vehicles are not allowed up the school lane from the main road through the village; please allow time to find parking and walk for up to ten minutes”.

Grrrreat!

But I did this race back in 2012 and it was a blast.  Year on year it turns out to be one of everybody’s favourites.  So what’s the deal…?

Well, look at this relief graph of the terrain/climb on the course:

Now factor in the weather, with plenty of rain until recently (perhaps not enough), we’ve ended up with news like this about the conditions out on the race route…

So parts of the course will be wet to say the least.  And do recall that shortly after the first major hill, there’s a good downhill stretch through reeds and bog which will hardly bother one runner, but consume the next entirely if they don’t look where they’re going.  All good fun.  Type 2 fun* anyway.

Besides, it’s only £5 to enter on the day and no complicated online entry confusion.  You race or you don’t, according to how you feel on the day and your ability to reach the start (arguably the hardest part).

In years gone by, there was always a free slice of flapjack for all participants, but I’m not entirely sure that they still follow that tradition, as the race has moved around a little and changed hands during the last 7 years.  Still, one can hope…

Established in 2002, this is a real Fell Race, one for those who enjoy hills, but for a change, it starts with a brief downhill stretch, so you might just get into a rhythm before the hard work kicks in.  Sure, there’s a lot of climb, but there are also road sections, single tracks, mud paths, trods, grassy meadows, farmers field, wooded sections, stiles, bog and wetland.  It’s quite ‘featured’ you might say.  There are some pretty little areas to ignore as your heart and lungs try to escape through your face, but the highlight always seems to be Race HQ, where people tend to congregate for a change, thanks to the fair weather and civilised start time of 11:00am.

Once the race has come to a close, most people are keen to hang around (waiting for that bus a mere 4 hrs later) to swap stories and battle scars.

While I raced in 2012, having just entered into the world of Fell Racing that year, I recall mistaking this for a much shorter course and believed that it was almost over at around 4 miles, only to glance up to the horizon and see a queue of runners far off in the distance.  The eventual measurement appeared to be closer to 7 miles and I was ‘hanging’ by the end.

You’ll get wet.  You’ll get muddy.  You’ll get tired.  You’ll grin from ear to ear.  You’ll enjoy a very friendly atmosphere at Race HQ.  You’ll likely avoid cycling to/from the event.  You may get flapjack…

*Type 2 fun is when you enjoy looking back at what you just did, despite not necessarily enjoying it while it was happening.  (Type 1 of course is just fun all the way.  With Type 3 being no fun at all – ever).

Type 1 – Smiles

Type 2 – It’s gonna be worth it!

Type 3 –

Supported as ever by inov-8 All Terrain Running and Accelerate.

Posted in Buzz, Gritstone Series | Leave a comment

On Running Cloudstratus – first look…

 

You can have too much of a good thing……

….but sometimes – MORE is MORE!

 

Meet Cloudstratus.  The all new deep cushion, high miler from On.

These ‘double-decker’ shoes, at first glance take some getting used to, but boy are they equipped with some serious cushioning?!

But cushioning alone can be too much of a good thing, unless stable.  Which is why Swiss running engineers On have fashioned the Cloudstratus in such a way that it still remains structured enough for a responsive ride, strong push off and a feeling of comfort throughout what may, for many, prove to be longer runs than they previously imagined possible…

The genius, as ever, with these is in the ‘Clouds’ under foot.  The carefully crafted tubes provide a specific measure of collapse, while avoiding the point at which a runner might simply sink into their own footwear.  The shock absorption is at a premium, while the foot come to rest very comfortably upon a firm, responsive material which feels secure under-foot when you begin to push.  The difference here, with all On shoes following much the same pattern otherwise, is that with the secondary layer of Clouds, the runner can enjoy more of the same sensation, with increased protection from impact- without loss of return when propelling themself.

So the jury’s out, but the idea is sound enough.  The shoes are very nice indeed.   Oh, and it’s an 8mm drop from heel to toe, something are in On’s case, with the majority so far featuring 6mm or 7mm off-sets.  So if you’re used to having plenty of shoe under you.  If you like and get along with an 8mm heel to toe drop, then these puppies just might end up being your new favourite pair of trainers.

Can’t resist?  Purchase a pair here.  Ladies…. here.

Here, feast on some statistics…

 

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