Sunday, 10 February 2013

Endurance Life Coastal Trail Series - South Devon

The South Devon leg of the Endurance Life Coastal Trail Series is, according to their website, where it all began.  It is for me too, since last year this was the first time I had entered a race.  I ran the 10k, actually 7.4 miles, and it was hard; but not too hard apparently since I felt compelled to enter increasingly longer races throughout the year.  Of course "race" is a misnomer since I never have any illusions about winning, but its good to have something to aim for.

Anyway this year I was running the 1/2 marathon.

After many weeks of heavy rain the news came that the car parking would be limited at Beesands and we were forced to park at Torcross, about a mile away.  This, combined with some poor route-finding on the way, meant we were running late.  Luckily everyone else was in the same boat and the start was delayed to accommodate us.

As with Dorset in December, there was no mass start and we filed across the line in twos and threes, dibbing our timer chips as we set off.  Stupidly I shot out like a startled pigeon and, unable to learn from lessons past, I was paying for my early pace by the end of the second mile.

The early part of the course was actually not too bad; a couple of long climbs separated by an inconvenient dash across a pebble beach and a fast open descent past the lighthouse at Start Point. After this the path winds up and down along the coast for a mile or so until our detour - landslides had necessitated a course change. Turning inland we ran deceptively easily along the side of a valley until being presented with a monster of a hill.  From here it got really muddy, I fell once rounding a corner on the side of the hill and watched another runner impressively go head over heels and continue almost without breaking stride!

Fields soon gave way to some fairly technical rock hopping as we returned to the coast path.  After another mile or so we turned inland again, climbed steeply and arrived at a checkpoint, and the turnaround.

By now we were about eight miles in and I had recovered from my earlier enthusiasm and felt into my stride.  The next few miles we partly retraced our steps before hitting the road for a little while.  As we turned back onto the trail I realised I recognised where we were from last year's 10k; this allowed me to increase my pace a little, confident I wasn't going to blow it before the end. As it was I still had some left for a little sprint finish which goes to show I wasn't trying hard enough!

Another well organised event from Endurance Life in the bag, there was little more to do than head to the pub for a quick pint and get on our way. On the way back to the car we followed the lead of some other runners and spent a few minutes up to our waists in the seas soaking our aching feet and washing the Devon mud from our legs.  

As we changed at the car, several marathon runners were still plodding past in various states of distress; maybe next year?

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Alpkit Gamma headtorch review

Long runs take up a lot of time.  With a young family it can be difficult to fit them in without some early starts.  During the winter that means getting out before the sun comes up.  This makes a headtorch essential.  I use the Alpkit Gamma.  At £15 it is one of the cheapest offerings available and, for a number of reasons, I think it makes a very good choice for a runner.

I’ve known about Alpkit for a while, I have one of their bouldering mats and a few other bits of kit.  I suspect for many though that Alpkit may well have slipped under the radar.  Their product range consists of camping, climbing and biking kit and is designed and produced by people with a love of the mountains and a desire to produce no nonsense gear that will stand up to the rigours of anything from an extreme expedition to a summer camping trip with the kids.  What really stands out though is that, for all its great quality, the cost is usually well below what you would expect elsewhere.  This appears to be achieved by a largely internet based sales and distribution model and short production runs which can sometimes mean a wait for some products to come into stock. Those in the know get on the mailing list and order early to avoid disappointment!

So on to the torch.  The Gamma has a single large LED and three smaller ones at the front, plus a red LED strip mounted to the rear on the battery pack.  The main LED is 1W and its output is stated as 88 Lumens.  This is more than adequate for lighting up the road or trail ahead.   In addition the front light can be angled which is useful for a variety of terrain.  I tend to point the light well ahead on the road and just in front of my feet when running off road.

The three small LEDs are white, red and green, respectively.  The white one is perfect for reading your book outside the tent.  The red is intended to allow night vision to be retained while giving some illumination and the green apparently aids map reading (green shows up the red contours whereas red makes them disappear).

A single button on the front controls all the functions for these lights; pressing and holding the button switches between the large and small LEDs, pressing repeatedly switches function.  For the large LED you get a choice of full power, low power and flashing; with the small LEDs you can select each colour in turn, plus there is a red flashing option.  The same button switches the torch off. 

At the back of the torch is the battery compartment, which takes two AAA batteries.  This leads me to my only real gripe with the Gamma.  Alpkit do not advise using anything other than Alkaline batteries.  This is apparently due to lithium batteries operating at a higher temperature which can damage the circuitry.

The torch is rated as water resistant and I’ve been out in some pretty awful weather and never had a problem with it on that count.
Finally, on the battery compartment is a red LED, which is operated by a button in the same way as the front unit; one click for a steady light, another for a flashing one. I tend to set this to flashing if I’m on the road just to let people know I’m there.  

That's it really.  A good bit of kit at an excellent price and equally at home camping, walking the dog or running trails in the early hours.