Gear review Patagonia Houdini jacket

I purchased the Patagonia Houdini because I wanted a versatile weather resistant lightweight jacket for runs on days with suspect weather, and it needed to be light enough that when I put it in my hydration vest I would hardly know it was there. Patagonia market the jacket as providing

‘Proven protection from the elements, the featherweight nylon Houdini® Jacket is the go-to running shell for weather-resistant protection’

It is most definitely light and packable, it weighs in at around 100g and is smaller than my fist when packed into its own chest pocket. This means that it doesn’t only fit easily into my hydration vest but I have on shorter runs when hydration is unnecessary been able to fit it into the pocket on the back of my shorts. This versatility ensures that there is never any need to be without its protection because it is so packable. And the protection it provides is stout enough for all but the most driving rain. Its wind resistance and breathability are incredible for a material which feels no thicker than a Rizla. It has stood up to driving wind on Dartmoor and the South West coast path whilst protecting me like a shield, and allowing my sweat vapour to escape so that I don’t get wet from the inside out.

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Me running on the South West Coast path in the Houdini

This is not classified as a waterproof but it has a DWR coating which I have found withstands much of the rain I have encountered on runs, and to be honest when it is pouring outside or forecast I will draw for the Inov 8 AT/C Stormshell which is fully waterproof. It is about utilising your gear for what it is best at and this jackets strengths are definitely its versatility. It is not the most wind resistant or waterproof jacket on the market but it stands up admirably to both. It was also reasonably priced. I purchased mine for £65, and for the amount of wear it has received already it was paid for itself many times over.

Overall this jacket is one of my most utilised pieces of trail running kit. It really hits the sweet spot in weather resistance and weight which means it is always on my person or in my bag waiting to be worn if the weather turns. I highly recommend this jacket for anyone that wants an alternative to their seam sealed waterproof on days when that is just too much.

Features

The features of the Houdini are minimal to keep its weight down but it does have a hood, full zip, chest pocket and elasticated cuffs, which are really all you need to keep the weather out and to run hard.

  • 102gr/ men’s med
  • Full zip
  • Zipper chest pocket/ stuff pocket
  • One pull adjustable hood
  • Reflective logo’s front and back

Inov-8 Roclite 290 review

I am a fan of Inov-8’s line of trail running shoes. The first pair I owned were the X-Talon 212’s. I found them to have almost unbelievable traction and the weight and confidence made me want to run as fast as I could at all times. However I found the precision fit created hotspots when I ran over ten miles, and the 4mm drop wasn’t enough for me when I had to run on hard packed trails. I then purchased a pair of Race Ultra 290’s they provided less grip on the sloppy stuff but had a roomier toebox and 8mm drop. They were perfect for longer runs on the variable coast path and even performed admirably in the Brecon Beacons in the snow and mud in November. But there were limitations particularly the grip when it was wet and boggy. I was clearly finding out that no one shoe is perfect for every run and terrain and living in deepest darkest Devon, I will often encounter various different underfoot conditions on any one run.

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Me racing a hard hilly half marathon in them

This leads me to the new Roclite 290’s. I was on the lookout for a shoe in between the two previously mentioned. I wanted to be able to run long on multi terrain without the lack of comfort I had in the X-Talons on the harder stuff and without the slight lack of confidence on the slippery stuff in the Race Ultra’s. So I went to Runners Need in Exeter and tried a few different shoes on, had a good feel and once again settled on Inov-8 and the Roclites. They state that they are;

‘Designed for running quickly over multi terrains. Delivering a responsive ride and high levels of durability, its perfect for moving fast over everything from wet mountain rock to muddy grass, hard-packed trails and roads’

This eloquently summed up what I was looking for. Specification wise they boasted a standard fit, which is what I thought I required after using the X-Talon’s. A 4mm drop which coupled with 6mm lugs as opposed to 8, I  hoped that I wouldn’t find them quite so jarring on my gammy shins once the ground had dried out.

I have had the shoes since January and completed a range of runs. One in particular I thought exemplified their versatility and personified exactly the kind of running I had wanted them for. I ran 14 miles beginning in a village, I climbed up a country lane and from their entered the woods. This was standard woodland running, some really wet areas and I found myself charging through a puddle that came up to my knees. I exited this section of woodland ran down an old road before cutting through a boggy flood plain and entering the woods again. These were dryer hard packed trails which eventually took me to a beach, which I had to cross at low tide through water before running along the South West Coast Path and through a few more lanes to complete my loop. The Roclites performed magnificently throughout. I felt confident on the muddy descents, they drained fast after being fully submerged and were perfectly comfortable for the short road sections. As previously mentioned there is not a perfect one shoe fits all in trail running. The terrain dictates the shoe. But if you do lots of multi terrain running like I have just described then these are really worth considering. I also think that if you are new to trail running then this is a great place to start, and I wish I had these as my first pair of off road shoes.

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My happy face on the described run

These are currently my primary running shoe, unless I know I am going quite far, like the Endurance Life marathon then I will be using these, and that is only because I haven’t ran 25 plus miles in them yet. They are one of those pairs of shoes that makes you want to run more and run faster so kudos to Inov-8 for engineering such a brilliant shoe. Rather then getting into the technicality’s of how they achieve this I have included a picture below.

I highly recommend these shoes, they have performed fantastically on every run I have taken them on so far, are highly versatile and look fantastic.

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How the Roclite’s construction makes it the shoe it is

Pure Trail’s Deep River Trail race half marathon report

The race began at Piddledown common just off the drive way to Castle Drogo at the top of the steep Teign valley. The race would take us down to the river where we would then snake through the beautiful wooded hillside in a loop before returning to where the pain began. 7 of the 14 miles have positive ascent and 7 have more descent then ascent. This equated to around 2,400ft of elevation gain for the course. I actually enjoy a hill usually but the length and severity of what we were faced with really took the power from your legs, then your thighs got thrashed on the mad dash down. Unfortunately it takes twice as long to get up them, so the feeling of forever running up hill couldn’t be descended from.

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Elevation profile

I had this race scheduled months ago but due to the whole tree falling on my leg fiasco I cancelled as I didn’t think I would recover in time. However I managed to start running again, albeit gingerly 2 weeks ago so decided to reenter and run anyway with no expectations. Having said that I also felt good on the start line so thought I would try to hang onto whoever was in the lead for as long as possible. This turned out to be a great tactic until we reached the first hill and the eventual winner Lucy Mcalister stormed on, with two other men in toe and I  knew then that they were beyond me. After that realisation I just tried to concentrate on putting in some serious effort and to just assess how I felt. Where the tree landed on me is sore when I run and to a much greater extent when I race, it feels like someone has kneed me really hard in the side of my calf, but I don’t think it limits me much, that came purely from not being in the same class as Lucy and the others. IMG_20170319_173643_024

The whole Fingle woods area is truly stunning, and if you are going to suffer for a few hours blowing out of your arse running up and down hills it does soften the blow substantially when you are surrounded by such natural beauty. I finished in 6th place in 1:54 with the winner finishing 5 minutes ahead of second in 1:43. When considering the less then ideal build up to this race I was happy on reflection of my time. I found my major weakness to be speed. I kept overtaking the guy who finished 5th on the uphills and would always be overtaken on the down and unable to keep pace on the flatter fast sections. So I need to start to incorporate some speed work into my training if I want to compete at these events.

Me running up one of the never ending hills

It was a very well organised event. The registration was seamless and the marshals who are so integral to these events were encouraging and ensured I didn’t run down any wrong paths. And for those who like these things the medal was a bespoke little number that is one of the nicest  I have seen.

Kit used

Salomon skinpro 10

Inov 8 Roclite 290’s

North Face better then naked shorts

Drymax socks

Inov 8 tee

Buff

Clif shot bloks

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Medal

First week of marathon training

I completed and won the Endurance life CTS marathon on the 4th February, which was my first race over a half. I managed to do that without completing a dedicated marathon training plan. This was mainly because I suffered badly for months with shin splints so running 40 miles or so a week was impossible. I am hoping though that I can keep the debilitating injuries from the proverbial door and complete 15 solid weeks of training in the build up to the Pure trail Race the tide marathon on May 27th. I am going to use a plan from Advanced marathoning by Pfitzinger & Douglas as my Base. I selected their plan of up to 55 miles a week because I have never ran consistently high mileage weeks and that was as high as I imagined I’d be able to accomplish. I’m excited to see how my running will improve if I stick to a plan for 4 months, and after already completing a marathon I will be able to compare my performance and how I felt throughout the second race as opposed to the first.

So this week I ran 9 miles on Tuesday, this was ran at an aerobic pace and because most of it was on the South West Coast Path it had 1000ft of ascent. On Wednesday I hurt my foot at work spiking a tree. I didn’t think it was too bad but after Saturdays run I realised it hurt so much because it was swollen and covered in a massive bruise. I did however still run 3 miles on Wednesday and followed that with a tough run on Thursday. For Thursday’s workout I ran 9 miles, the first five were to be ran at a comfortable pace, which was handy because there was 1000ft of ascent  in those first few miles and the last 4 were faster around half marathon pace. Friday was a rest day before Saturdays slightly longer 13 miler. It was a real struggle on Saturday because of the pain in my foot, which I shouldn’t of ran on, but the route I chose was fairly flat and I was treated to some magnificent views and weather, which always helps when you are struggling. I was supposed to run another 6 miles to take my weekly total to 40 but after having actually inspected my injury I realised that was a ridiculous idea. I do  now have two non running days to try to heal but being a tree surgeon you don’t get much actual rest.

In conclusion I am happy to have managed 34 miles this week, especially considering the pain I was in for 25 of them, and apart from that physically I felt good on my runs and the idea of running around 40 – 55 miles a week for the next 15 weeks doesn’t seem so daunting. Hopefully a couple of days rest will sort me out and I can really crack on from Tuesday. I got 22 miles in the new Roclite 290’s this week as well and so far I am very impressed.

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Splits and route of Thursday nights run

INOV-8 AT/C Storm shell jacket review

 

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Picture of the jacket

If you are a dedicated runner in Britain then you will have to run in the rain, wind, snow and whatever else this islands gloriously unpredictable weather throws at you. This is even more applicable if you enjoy running the trails of the British uplands. I live near Dartmoor which is notorious for its bad weather and it experiences around double the average precipitation per month then other lowland areas of Devon. As I enjoy running on the moor, I felt that buying a fully waterproof lightweight jacket would be a sound investment. Many races also stipulate that a waterproof is carried regardless of the forecast or conditions and therefore a quality lightweight jacket is a necessity for anyone who wants to race longer distances. When you have the correct gear it also a real incentive to get out and train, no excuses then.

After researching different products and brands I decided to buy an INOV-8 AT/C storm shell jacket. I use INOV-8 shoes and have always found their products to be comfortable and made to a high standard. INOV-8’s website states that

‘This men’s lightweight, waterproof running jacket weighs just 150g and boasts 20,0000 B-1 breathability. The AT/C STORMSHELL HZ features taped seams, adjustable hood & half zip. It has Lycra bound cuffs with integrated thumb holes and includes a stuff sac’

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Me running on the South West coast path wearing the stormshell

So how have I found the jacket after running in the winter on Dartmoor and the South West coast path? Firstly I like the cut, I am 5ft’9 and bought a small, the arms are long enough to keep you fully covered and crucially the back is long enough so that it doesn’t ride up, which is something to check when buying lightweight clothing, that there is still enough of it to do its intended job. The thumb loops are a great feature when it is really hammering it down to keep you as sealed as possible and the wire in the hood ensures that when it is really blowing a gale and the rain is coming at you from all angles you can still see. Crucially the weight and size when in the sac means that it is great in any situation and not just running, it can be put in a bag and forgotten about until the heavens open, this means it really gets a lot of use and is perfect for many situations. I bought the jacket in red which to come might be a bit garish but I really like the look of the jacket, which as we all know still plays a part in gear choice. I have found it to be completely waterproof thanks to the taped seams and 2.5 layer waterproof fabric with 20,000 HH, it also hasn’t wetted out from sweat when I have been slogging up a hill or running fast, and the mid chest zip allows for more aeration if you are getting hot.

Conclusion

I am a big fan of this jacket. So far I have no complaints and can’t find a single negative. It is comfortable and crucially fully waterproof, with some well thought out design features and style. I would definitely recommend this product to anyone looking for a lightweight waterproof for running, racing, hiking or just about any outdoor activity.

Endurance life CTS South Devon 1st place marathon race report

Me running from Start point to East Portlemouth

https://www.strava.com/activities/854940751/embed/beaae169c13ace3f1fc8771ae89f9b0597d0be0c

Being from South Devon and wanting to try a marathon distance race, I thought this instalment of the coastal trail series would be ideal. Having not done a specific marathon training plan I thought I would take the safe option and race the first marathon of my life locally so if I blew up I only had to travel a few miles home. It also gave me the opportunity to run on trails I have many of my long runs on so I felt comfortable throughout the race.

The race started and finished in Beesands, a small fishing village. This meant that you could be dropped off, which I was or park in Chillington and use the free shuttle bus to and from the event. Endurance life’s website list the average marathon time as 04hrs, 59mins, and a total ascent of 3,526ft. However of the over 100 runners this year only the top 8 ran under the alleged average time, but this may have something to do with the fact my watch gave the ascent at over 4,600ft and after looking on Strava the ascent from other racers was anywhere between my 4,600ft to 5,200ft so significantly more uphills. So at 27.6 miles and over 4,600ft of ascent on the slippery rocks and mud of the beautiful South West coastal path it was a challenging event. However in my opinion the best way to overcome the pain of a run is to have a magnificent view to inspire you and this race certainly provided that.

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The marathon route

The course is extremely undulating and rated as 4 (severe) by Endurance life. I didn’t find I had to walk any of the hills which many runners did but they were certainly steep and as I approached mile 18 I could feel them leaching the strength from my legs. It was also at this stage of the race that my left knee which I have had issues with before (IT band) decided to really make itself known. I didn’t panic but took two Ibuprofen and at this stage I was in second place so my competitiveness drove me on. Eventually I caught Ben Francis who had been in front of me from the first checkpoint at mile 11 on the straight at Torcross at around 22 miles, this spurred me on and I managed to win in a time of 04hrs, 24. I was extremely happy to win and to run faster than my target time of 04hrs, 30 especially as there was over 1000ft more of ascent then I had anticipated. I was elated to hear at the medal ceremony that my close friend and frequent adventure buddy Oli Thorogood won the half in 01hr, 39.

The race was incredible and the views really do help you to push yourself through your preconceived limts, which are always further then you think. Endurance life put on a very efficient event and I would recommend them as an event organiser to anyone.

Gear used on the run

  • Salomon skin pro10 hydration system
  • Inov8 race ultra 290 trail shoes
  • Patagonia nine trails shorts
  • Injinji socks
  • Smart wool long sleeve top
  • Clif shot bloks

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