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.
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.
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.
So I managed one week of marathon training before a tree got dropped on my leg and I strained my medial collateral ligament. I needed three weeks of rest before I could attempt to run again. This was a pretty disappointing setback, I have had problems with injuries before but after my 1st place in the Endurance life marathon I felt invigorated and determined to push on with my training. So on the 6th of March I finally put my shorts and trainers back on and headed out. I tried to be sensible so only did a 4 mile fairly flat route to gauge how my leg was feeling. And although where the tree hit me could be felt whilst running there was no pain and I felt good so this was a positive first run back. I then did another short 3.5 mi run on Thursday with the idea that if I still felt ok I would head out on Saturday and try my leg on a longer more challenging run.
The run was stunning, I ran through woodlands, over an estuary, crossed a beach and followed some of the SW coast path, it really was an example of all that is brilliant about trail running. And thankfully although my legs felt heavy and I wasn’t ‘flowing’ like I would have liked, there was minimal discomfort and I enjoyed myself. This is now hopefully the beginning of a period of quality training and most importantly being injury free. I will try to build upon this weeks modest mileage of 21 miles and keep my sights set on the Keswick Mountain Festival 50k in June.
My friend Oli and I are both passionate runners and both of the companies that we work for shut down over the Christmas period. We thought that as we had enforced holiday over this period we should use the time to head to warmer more mountainous climes to get in some quality runs before we began our training plans for our 2017 races. We had a quick think and I suggested Gran Canaria, primarily because I knew it would be warm and I assumed if Transgrancanaria was such a popular ultra, contested by some of the best runners in the world then there must be some epic running to be found.
We stayed in a town called Moya in the north of the island situated in the mountains. We organised an Airbnb and this was the perfect spot to be the base for our trip. We had to hire a car so travelling around the national park would be easier, and it also gave us more flexibility in our route choices. We did four runs whilst we were there and covered around 40 miles and 14,000ft of ascent. As previously stated on the blog I struggled for the last few months of 2016 with shin splints so didn’t enter the holiday at the fitness level I would have liked. I found every run we did challenging but not unmanageable, and really felt like I got some great training in. Living in Devon my experience of running lots of ascent is from Dartmoor and the South West coast path and although you can achieve lots of elevation, (such as the Endurance life marathon that came in at over 4,600ft) it is usually accumulated through lots of undulation. Gran Canaria though was a different beast. The run pictured below had over 2,000ft of ascent in the first two miles, there aren’t many places in the UK where you can replicate that. And we both won our first races of 2017 on the 4th of February so all that running up mountains must have done us some good.
We used the Gran Canaria tour and trail map, including the rambling roger routes to plan and navigate our runs. I would say that being used to OS maps I don’t think it is quite as accurate, and for one of our runs we planned to park near La Culata and follow a narrow ridge path marked on the map up to the highest point on the Island Pico de Las Nieves, but after climbing through sharp bushes and scrambling for 1000ft up the side of the mountain we had to concede there wasn’t a track there and aborted, got back to the car and parked on the other side of the mountain so that we could finally run up Pico de Las Nieves. I have to admit that although getting lost and having your legs scratched to pieces is never fun, when you are on holiday with no time constraints and the day stretched out in front of you to explore and run until your heart is content it is the most enjoyable way to get lost.
To all my non running friends and family, the idea of spending the money to go on holiday to run around in the mountains is absurd. But hopefully if you are reading this blog you too have a love for running and a keen sense of adventure. As a destination Gran Canaria was pretty perfect. The island has lots of opportunities for beautiful challenging runs and also has the infrastructure to make accessing them easy, because it is a popular holiday destination. If you stay away from the main hubs such as Las Palmas and Playa del ingles then you will be amongst the locals and be able to find some great places to replenish your energy of an evening such as Locanda el Roque, where the food and service was amazing and is the perfect antidote to a day running in the mountains.
Overall it was a really relaxed trip that incorporated the perfect amount of physically testing mountain running with the relaxation required to push yourself again on the next run and to also feel re energised for the new year back at work. For anyone wanting a running holiday in the sun during winter I would definitely recommend Gran Canaria and believe you will not be disappointed with the views, and the opportunity to push yourself up some great peaks.
Runs we did and would recommend
Agaete to Mount Tamadaba and back 15mi 4,500ft elevation
Cuevas Caidas up to Roque Nublo and back in a circular route 11mi 3,300ft elevation
Presa de Los Hornas reservoir to Pico de Las Nieves and back in a circular route 7mi 2,000ft ascent
San Pedro to Montana de las Presa and back circular route 10mi 5,000ft elevatio
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.
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.