Sometimes motorway journeys can be the strangest of things. Today I saw a hearse, driving at 80mph on the M74 – unusual in itself, being that these black behemoths barely manage anything more than a crawl from day to day. However, to add to the sight, behind the hearse was an ambulance racing with blue lights on, clearly attending a callout but being held up by the hearse. Tucked in behind the ambulance, unbelievably drafting at a distance of about 4feet was a motorbiker (or organ donor as they’re also known), clearly keen to get a move on past the ambulance. The whole scene just seemed to be arse about tit and made me chuckle. Hope Mr Biker didn’t get 5ft closer to that ambulance, or worse, the hearse…
The summer edition of the UK Adventure Sports Magazine is out now with articles from some of my teammates and friends. Nick Gracie profiles the Original Mountain Marathon, Tom Gibbs talks about race strategy and Carrick Armer reports on the Bimbache AR World Series event. I reviewed one day AR packs around the 20 litre mark and was most impressed by the Terra Nova Laser 20, OMM Adventure Light 20 and Inov 8 Race Pro 18.
I’ll post up the extended reviews here when the magazine has been in publication a bit longer, as they had to be drastically shortened to fit tight space in the mag.
As soon as I heard about Explore Sweden I knew it was a race I had to do at some point. Race Director Mikael Nordstrom has a great reputation for organising exciting, adventurous and interesting courses with one of his last offerings, the 2006 AR World Championships, being hailed by great racers such as Ian Adamson as the greatest race course of all time. With this near guarantee of quality, we knew that travelling all the way to Sweden would at least give us a great race experience regardless of our performance.
Over the months leading up to the race we changed team members a few times and lost our main sponsor Aberdeen Asset Management. Thankfully we got a settled team together and some help from interim sponsor Helly Hansen, however, it was still a tough call for me to commit to such a huge race and financial commitment with current personal circumstances. However, the opportunity was too good to miss and my chances of getting away to major expedition races in the next 4 years look to be few and far between so this was a last chance to lay it all on the line.
It was everything it was billed to be and the only thing I could say it was lacking was technical mountain biking. We spent a long time on roads and gravel tracks but a tiny amount of time on technically challenging and fun mountain biking. This was made up for though by the awesome variety of activities we completed including some exposed mountaineering, whitewater rafting on a grade 4 river, white water kayaking on a grade 3 river, canadian canoeing on a grade 2 river and a lot of inline skating! I’ve written a full race report that will be published in either the UK Adventure Sports Magazine or Sleepmonsters, I’ll post it here too when I know.
The race went pretty well for us and my only personal problems were my feet blisters sustained on the 60km mountaineering section and a bit of overheating on the same section. I did fall asleep a bit dramatically and get a serious dose of the sleepmonsters on the long 270km bike leg. I was seeing all sorts of safari animals, though was lucid enough to tell teammate Bruce Duncan that I realised he probably couldn’t see them. Still, didn’t stop me ‘sprinting’ when he shouted that they were charging after us! We finished 8th in the end and were satisfied with this. We lost maybe 4 or 5 hours on the inline skating compared to the Scandinavian teams ahead of us, so potentially we could have been nearer the top 5, but for now it just gives us another discipline to work on and bring up to par with the rest.
It sure as hell was fun and I did what I went there to do – give it my all. It was hard work and very painful at times and 2 weeks later I’m still suffering with tendonitis and am on antibiotics for infected blisters and a haematoma I developed, but that’s what adventure racing is about for me – seeing how much I can push my body and mind through and this time it was pretty far!
I’ve just had to replace the suspension pivot bearings on my Giant Anthem frame and really had to have a good look around before I found any decent instructions. Thankfully LyNx on mtbr.com has put together a handy guide here
Also, here’s a useful Giant Anthem assembly guide
|Summary: Well priced kit with most essentials|
It seems a little strange reviewing something that I would hope to never use, a bit like an avalanche transceiver or the safety rope on an abseil. Inevitably though we will all need a first aid kit at some point and of course it is more often than not mandatory kit in an adventure race. Besides the obligation to carry it during a race it is common sense to carry one whenever out on the hills and Adventure Medical Kits are designed specifically for that purpose.
Adventure Medical Kits have been designed by an Emergency room doctor and active outdoorsman. They are used by some of the top AR teams in the world and come in a range of sizes for every length of race from sprint to expedition.
The Ultralight 0.7 (it’s weight in ounces) is designed as a bare minimum “ultra lightweight” first aid kit for 2 people for trips of up to 4 days. However, this could easily be stretched to fit use in a team expedition race and its light enough that it would be fine to carry on an Open 24 or Rat Race.
The kit is contained within two inner bags featuring a ‘leak proof, waterproof and airtight seal’, which I found did not always seal 100% without a lot of fiddling and I could not ever trust the seal to remain closed, despite claims to be tested and approved by the US Navy; I kept it inside another dry bag just in case.
With no standard first aid kit for adventure races, I had to tailor it for every race, adding and removing items as determined by rules and common sense. The current version in the shops seems to have an altered content list to the test kit so it is worth double checking the contents match your requirements. The U.S. version of this kit comes with ibuprofen, antihistamine, and antibiotics but not in the U.K. You will probably want to bolster the contents with some pain relief medication, more effective blister protection materials, and Loperamide as determined by your race’s mandatory kit list or your own sensibilities.
Most racers’ first aid kits are cobbled together from bits and pieces acquired over time, but if you are starting from scratch or want to be sure your adhesive dressings are still sticky and sterile when you need them, then it is worth checking out the AMK Ultralight range. They produce the 0.3 and 0.9 kits with less or more contents depending on your group size and trip length. The 0.9 kit has been popular with teams competing in Primal Quest, Raid Gauloises and Eco Challenges and contains a few extra items sure to be needed on an expedition race at some point.
The most important piece of medical kit you could have with you in a race is knowledge and Adventure Medical Kits acknowledge the necessity of sound advice by publishing a free ebook called ‘A Comprehensive Guide to Wilderness and Travel Medicine’ which you can download here: http://www.adventuremedicalkits.com/documents/Comprehenive%20Guide%20Wilderness.pdf
The AMK Ultralight and Waterproof 0.7 kit currently contains the following items:
2 Dressing, Gauze, Sterile, 3″ x 3″, Pkg./2
2 Dressing, Gauze, Sterile, 2″ x 2″, Pkg./2
3 Bandage, Butterfly Closure
1 Bandage, Conforming Gauze, 3″
4 Bandage, Adhesive, Fabric, 1″ x 3″
2 Dressing, Non-Adherent, Sterile, 3″ x 4″
3 Bandage, Adhesive, Fabric, Knuckle
1 Gloves, Nitrile (Pair), Hand Wipe
Blister / Burn
11 Moleskin, Pre-Cut & Shaped
1 Duct Tape, 2″ x 100″
Fracture / Sprain
1 Bandage, Elastic with Velcro, 2″
1 Splinter Picker/Tick Remover Forceps
3 Safety Pins
2 After Bite Wipe
2 Aloksak Waterproof Bag, 6.75″ X 6″
1 Tape, 1″ x 10 Yards
1 Tincture of Benzoin Topical Adhesive,
5 After Cuts & Scrapes Anaesthetic/Antiseptic Wipe
For more details please visit: http://www.adventuremedicalkits.com
|Summary: Comfortable and durable, about all you need in a sock|
As part of their Fast and Light range, Bridgedale’s X-Hale Trailhead sock is designed to be worn with lighter, more breathable footwear in warmer conditions and during high intensity activity. Essentially they are designed to be worn with lighter, lower height footwear like trail running shoes and for adventure racing type activities.
It can be hard to get too excited about socks; most people just find ones that work without giving blisters and swear by them. Getting geeky about bikes and kayaks seems to be acceptable but talking about socks in extreme detail can raise a few eyebrows!
Well, I’m going to have a go…I have been a long time fan of merino wool socks and have not used synthetic socks for years, so when these arrived I was sceptical that they would win me over, but reading the materials list I was surprised to see they contain 27% merino wool. Merino wool is great for keeping you warm when it is cool out, cool when it is warm out and has the supreme talent of being naturally anti-bacterial so does not allow bacteria to breed, hence merino fibres do not get smelly. Merino though is not that durable when it comes to high friction applications like socks, so the main construction is from a nylon and polypropylene mix with Lycra to give it all a nice snug fit.
The Trailhead has ‘T2’ dual cushioned thick loops in the heel and ball of the foot, the areas where you need it most, and has a thinner more ventilated layup in areas where you do not need the cushioning. After a year of near daily use the cushioned sections are not quite as sprightly as they used to be, but still do the job and are standing up far better than my other merino socks – the strength of the nylon gives them durability, though they do get a bit smellier than socks with a higher merino content.
I have used these for epic runs and expedition races and cannot really remember much in the way of blisters, so that is a tick in that box. They kept my feet mostly cool and they are still going strong after a hard year so double tick there. The price is maybe a little steep at £12 but you can find them cheaper if you shop around and bearing in mind the weaving technology involved in making them and the durability, then it is probably a fair price really.
For more details please visit: http://www.bridgedale.com
A mini update just to mention that my friend and teammate Bruce Duncan has setup his new blog now that he’s quit his job and gone into full time training. Have a look at bruceduncan.wordpress.com
A weekend in the Lakes can be a bruising and bloody affair at times!
A blast at Whinlatter Forest on Sunday in the glorious sunshine was a great experience until near the end of the lap. I’d been enjoying a fantastic ride with my dogs, doing a bit of yoga on the way and taking in the views until I smacked my foot with an almighty whack off a trailside rock and the pics below do the rest of the talking…