Friday, 10 October 2014

Review: Salomon S-Lab Hybrid Jacket

Kilian Jornet training in the Hybrid Jacket - Photo: Kilian Jornet
Running Jackets come in all types of designs but they tend to fall into one of three categories. Waterproof, windproof or insulating. Granted, some jackets fulfil more than one of these but they have at least one feature. The new Salomon S-Lab Hybrid Jacket has features of both waterproof and windproof jackets.

You can see Salomon athlete Kilian Jornet here training in the S-Lab Hybrid Jacket on the bike. Let me give you a quick run down on some of the features of the Jacket:

  • The front and outer of the sleeves are made from a stretchy waterproof fabric
  • Laser cut holes by the cuffs and under the arms provide additional breathability
  • Elasticated cuffs, elasticated hood headband
  • Elasticated waistband which the jacket can be rolled down into when worn
  • Windproof fabric on the rest of the jacket
  • Athletic fit (for swinging arms and the like)
Let me cut to the chase, the Salomon S-Lab Hybrid jacket is for the runner that has all the kit. Having only partial waterproof fabric, untaped seams and laser cut holes means it doesn't comply with FRA (fell running association) rules or race requirements where a waterproof jacket is required. Rules aside, the fit of the jacket is comfortable while running, your arms can swing around without tugging on the shoulders and the fact it rolls down into the elasticated waist belt is neat.

I did struggle to find the right conditions for it, I know that sounds like it makes no sense. The autumn here in North Yorkshire has brought us the initial wave of cold weather and rain. I only really felt comfortable in the Hybrid jacket when it was cold and misty/very light rain. In heavy rain water came through the laser cut holes in the sleeves and soaked my arms. the lack of a visor on a hood meant the rain also was straight in my eyes, also a bit annoying!

The elasticated band in the hood keeps it firmly on your head, this was good and comfy but made it awkward if you wanted to wear a buff/hat on your head too.

The S-Lab Hybrid jacket suits cold and drizzly type weather but not particularly tolerant of other conditions, so this might fill a gap if you have a waterproof and windproof already.

Personally, if it's a short run, I'd rather go without any jacket (maybe take a waterproof). As for longer runs, I'd take a fully taped waterproof, as the conditions where I run can change dramatically in a short period of time..... it does look good though.... ;)

Thanks for reading/watching!


Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Win a Pair of Salomon S-Lab Fellcross 3!

If you fancy winning a pair of the brand new Salomon S-Lab Fellcross 3, as worn by International Salomon athlete Ricky Lightfoot then you're in luck!

All you have to do is guess the weight of my pair with socks after a very muddy run in the Yorkshire Dales. To find out how to put in your entry and take a look at the muddy shoes simply click on the picture below or visit the Castleberg Outdoors Blog

Good luck!



(Full review coming soon...)

Monday, 28 July 2014

Review: Salomon S-Lab Advanced Skin M Belt Set

New for the Spring 2014 range of Salomon trail running kit was the S-Lab Advanced Skin M Belt Set. Waist belts have the tricky job of carrying a reasonable amount of kit, for example Fell Running Association (FRA) kit, without moving around much and remaining comfortable.

Running over technical terrain with a full belt pack is a good way to put it to the test. It's not uncommon for them to bounce around, rubbing on your waist or if you're really unlucky spilling kit all over the trail.

The S-Lab Advanced Skin M Belt is a development of the previous S-Lab waist belt. The increasing demand from runners to have a compact and comfortable way of carrying kit when on the trail has lead to belts like this one becoming well established.

Belt packs have been a big part of the Fell Running scene for a long time so the concept is nothing new. The Salomon take on it has several features which you notice quickly. First off the width of the belt all around the waist is much broader than normal packs which use thin webbing and a buckle.

I found this extra width gave two advantages - comfort being the most obvious one as it spreads the pressure and increasing stability. This is a big factor for me as I find a bouncing pack incredibly irritating and one reason why I previously had avoided waist belts.

There is a deceptively large amount of space in the pack, being constructed from elasticised materials means that there's plenty of give if you want to ram it to the brim but equally will hold small amounts of kit stable.

Access on the whole was really easy, to get stuff out with it still on and while running was pretty easy. The only time I found it difficult was when wearing thick winter gloves the small zippers were hard to hold while on the move.

You will have seen Salomon athletes using this waist belt as, like all S-Lab products, it's athlete designed. This encourages the fast and innovative progress in trail running kit design from the pointy end.

Included with the waist belt is a 500ml Soft flask, as testament to their popularity these awesome bottles have now been copied by every brand. With your 500ml of water, snacks and kit packed into this neat belt you can stretch your legs for those long runs without worry. They also make a great option for racing, there is absolutely no doubt that being lighter is a great way to be faster and especially for marathon distance these can be an ace solution.

At 130g this pack may be heavier than others on the market, but it more than makes up for it in space and comfort. If you're looking for a new pack it's well worth trying out the S-Lab Advanced Skin M Belt Set, especially if you love running in remote areas.

Happy Running!


Thursday, 3 April 2014

Race Report: Buttermere 10

Photo: High Terrain Events
The Salomon Buttermere 10 has got to be the most enjoyable race I've done in a long time. Surrounded by impressive peaks you almost feel like you're in the Alps or the Pyrenees. The course is testing and technical which is great fun, especially when combined with the fast pace of a 10 mile route.

This time round I'd made a effort to do things properly, watched what I ate and drank, did my research on the course and got good sleep before race day - not forgetting training! Not everything went to plan, I took a couple of falls over the two weeks leading up to the race which left me bloody-knee'd and bruised but otherwise no massive issues. It was about time I learnt from the lessons of races past, in stead of pretending to...

Kit wise I'd invested in a pair of Salomon Slab Sense Ultra Softground, a minimalist shoe with a fairly aggressive trail grip, similar to that of the SpeedCross. Two Salomon soft-flasks (237ml) and an Overstims gel to keep me going and that was pretty much it!… apart from compression… Light and fast was the plan, cary nothing that I wouldn't use, which sounds over the top on a short course, but it's as much about the "feeling" of freeness and lightness as is it about the actual grams.

Morning of race day I got out the tent to find the sky clearing (unusual for the wettest place in Britain) and made Ellie and I some porridge with the JetBoil. Looking at the time I wandered over to register only to find Joe and Stu from Nav4 who were doing medical cover for the race. I was an hour early, not on purpose but because I'd messed up when the clocks went forward… somehow… even now I have no idea what was going on! I caught up with Joe and Stu for a bit before enjoying a quick coffee - then time for warm up. I slowly trotted along past the start/finish area, meeting RD Ian on the way and covered the first loop of the race along the shore of Buttermere. On my way back to finish getting ready I saw James from Salomon for a quick geek off on kit.

Photo: SportSunday
There was a fair crowd at the start line, around 200 runners all eager to get out on the trails. I turned on Strava and my music ready for Ian to call the start… three… two… one… GO! Not one to hang around I put a bit of pace down and got in front over the bridge and through the first gate. The trail heads south east and is easy running, I knew I had to pace my self and it wasn't long before the first couple of runners slipped past. Every time I had an inner battle not to take up the chase and to hold my own, knowing what burning out too early would do. After a short distance a hairpin bend sends you back North on a higher path which quickly becomes loose and rocky, requiring concentration for foot placement.

Spectators lined the first ford, where there was an adjacent bridge but no-one in their right mind would cross it as too much time would be lost. The combination of wet shoes, loose wet rocks and mud meant core stability, foot placement and focus really paid off in terms of speed. My knowledge from recce'ing the course meant I already had a path in mind between the logs, rocks and bumps that lay in front.

As we reached the shoreline of Crummock Water the tree line opened up to grassy fields and the trail changed considerably. There were short stretches of crazy-paved path which were not quite flat and very slippery with longish sections of wet peaty ground in-between which, if you weren't careful you could easily loose a leg in! Reaching the northern end of the lake the tree cover returned, along with more stable ground. Now it became more of a root/stone dodging run with small bumps which weaved through the trees.

Buttermere 10 Route Map - Click to enlarge
Reaching a road crossing you then find the water stop where I saw Joe from Nav4 and dumped two cups of beautifully cold water over my head - this is more to refresh than cool down but it obviously does that too! From the water stop an easy trail inclines slowly to a footbridge from where you switchback towards the road where a steeper, but shorter ascent awaits.

From then in it was the home stretch, letting things loose on the down-hill and heading over the small shingle beach and fields to the finish line. This is the give it every last drop moment, the final km where you just have to push and hold on.

It was really pleasing to finally have things all settle into place and appreciate a good result from it - a big lesson into the importance of preparation in all areas, not just the easy ones! I would highly recommend the Buttermere 10 to runners of all capabilities because of the fun nature of the course and you know with a High Terrain Event it will be well organised by friendly staff.

Thanks to everyone that made the event what it is and I look forward to taking part next year.

Please take a moment to look at ABF The Soldiers' Charity to find out what they do to help our servicemen & women and their families. To make a donation by text: send "ARMY2" to 70004.
Thank you!

You can find all the kit I used and more at Castleberg Outdoors!

The Northern Shores of Crummock Water

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Mind Control with Jon Steele

Ultra running is often explained as being part physical and part mental, this combination of body and mind is the key to traveling long distances on foot with few or no breaks. To find information on the physical side and how to improve it is not a difficult task, there are books, websites and blogs full of fact and opinion on technique, training plans, stretches etc etc. The mental side is, if you'll excuse the pun, something of a grey area, with neuroscience being relatively modern there has been very little research into the minds capabilities in terms of endurance sports such as ultra running. Our main source of knowledge from this side tends to come from the experience of those who push themselves both physically and mentally to exceptional degrees. 

A marshal sweeps the course of the Hardmoors 30. Photo: Summit Fever Media

This leads me neatly on to my question and answer session on the topic with experienced ultra runner and Hardmoors Race Director Jon Steele who most recently was the winner and only finisher of The Hill Ultra, where competitors attempted to run up and down a hill in the Peak District on a 1.5mile course…. for 160miles.

1.As the winner and only finisher of The Hill Ultra, how would you sum it up in one sentence?

Mentally Brutal with bloody awful weather conditions, at the same time one of the most amazing times of my life, I will never forgot those 48 hours

2.From a mental point of view what was your experience on The Hill?

A complete fight, I had to use every tactic I have learnt from past exploits in other Ultras to quiten the voice in my head telling me to call it a day. I learnt to lie to that voice to subdue it! When I was last man standing this gave me a huge boost! I knew at that point I could not, not finish.

3.Next year you'll be crewing at The Hill, what advice have you got for those that want to take it on?

It eventually ends ;o) Bring plenty of clothing, waterproof/warm etc etc. Tons of socks and shoes. Condition the quads with plenty of leg exercises oh and bring an iPod ;o))

4.Now you've done The Hill, what big challenge awaits for you next - we've heard whispers of Spartathlon?!

If I get an entry then yes Sparta but I need to drop a stone and get some speed in my legs for that! I have the 148 mile Viking Way coming up in April, Lakeland 100 for the 4th time in July, 10 Peaks Extreme in June. If I dont get into Sparta then I feel I would like a go at a single stage 200 mile run wether it be a race or something I set up.

5. Would you ever do The Hill again?

Never say never. that is a good question, one I cant really answer

6.Do you actively train to improve your mental endurance?
No. not now. I feel I have that there and just need to train the body so it doesnt fall to bits

7.Do you think mental endurance something that you're born with or something you learn?

I think it comes down to stubbornness and a touch of arrogance (not in the way arrogance is usualy perceived) It also comes down to belief, so a bit of both really, I think possibly things that have happened in your life add to your mental endurance. You can definately learn to increase your mental endurance, wether you are born with it or not I am unsure, I think you learn it as you grow. Reading about people like Scott of the Antarctic, Shackleton etc as you are growing up definatley helps. Pure belief in yourself and a carefree attitude (whatever happens happens! Ill just carry on regardless) helps. Plus you have to really Want it too! I know how I work unsure if everbody else works in the the same way though? There are some very talented fast runners out there, who run on talent but when the chips come down and they have to really tap into something, they find they dont have it because they have never experienced it or trained for it! Mental endurance really starts when the physical body finishes.

8.It can be easy to go to a dark place when ultra running, what tactics would you recommend for getting back positive thinking?

Knowing from experience its going to get a lot better and I am getting the first low of many out of the way! I tell myself if I just do a few more miles to round it up to the next 10 miles then I can quit. I know I am lying but the dark voice believes it, but the dark voice doesnt really exist (or does it?) its all a bit of game play to confuse my already confused brain/body. Also the realisation that I know Im not going to quit and this is all part of the race, without really bad lows how are you going to really appreciate the highs :o)

9.What makes a race more mentally challenging?

Weather (if this had been on a lovely dry sunny weekend in June then a lot more people would of finished) terrain obviously. Lack of support. Also generally how you feel on the day. Repetition. Minimum light. Sleep deprivation.

10.Is there someone whose mental endurance inspires you?

Lots I guess and Im sure I will miss a few so I apologise Mike Cudhay - (Wild Trails to Far Horizons) Martin Stone, Mark Hartell are all guys I read about in the early years of my running and truly inspired me to push through the pain barrier. In more recent years Scott Jurek, Mark Cockbain, Neil Bryant, Jez Bragg are runners that stand out but there are so many more! People you see on tv, books I have read there are countless individuals but to give you one name Mike Cudhay in his total goal of completing the Penine Way in under 3 days and his various attempts!

11.There are hundreds of books on topics like "teach yourself mental endurance" - do you think they really work?

Ive never read one so cant really properly comment, but surely it has to come from you and to experience the dark places, to discover yourself, surely thats part of the fun? its what makes you! its an expedition within yourself.

12.Pain obviously has a huge impact on your mental state while out running, do you think pain-killers should be allowed during races?

Yes and no, I used to have problems with neuralgia from a mtb crash and a pretty bad jaw break etc. When I did my first couple of UTMB's after so many hours on my feet the neuralgia would start and I would take the prescription Codeine which would stop the pain but send me to sleep, pretty dangerous when you are on a steep mountain path. I take ibuprofen when my knees start to play up but this can be really bad for the kidneys etc during an ultra. For the hill I took nothing. So individual choice as long as people realise the consequences of what effect they can have on the body whilst running an ultra.

13.Your race series, The Hardmoors, next year will include a 160mile Ultra - mentally what should people expect for this impressive race?

A journey into themselves, mentally some big lows and some big highs. A bit of nav but nothing complicated will help keep their minds active. At the 50 mile point the 110 mile runners join the route so for some this will be a good thing mentally, others this will have the reverse effect! Its a tight time limit for the distance and overall ascent/terrain. Should be very interesting ;o)

As Race Director of the Hardmoors Trail and Ultra Series, Jon has used his ultra running knowledge and experience to make them the most successful and enjoyable events in the North York Moors National Park. Please take a look at the two videos below for a taster of the two series!

Thank you for reading, now leave your computer and go running!

Friday, 13 December 2013

"My gait was similar to that of a drunken spider" Race Report: High Peaks 40

I thought I'd do this race report slightly differently, as I took part in the High Peaks 40 with Ellie, Helena, Ed and Liam I thought it would be good to hear their point of view on the event. For all four of them it was their first ultra distance and a bit of an unknown quantity. I've also asked Charlie and Ian to write a short piece too - they provided an A1 - 5 Star Crew service for the duration of the event as well as much needed support pre and post race! (I'll add their contributions as they're sent in)


First and foremost I class myself as a climber, not a runner, no matter how hard Matt tries to convince me otherwise.  In the alcohol fuelled afterglow of Tough Guy January 2013, a team of us sat round a table in a pub, nursing our well earned drinks and basking in the warmth, when the conversation turned to what should we do next - the pain momentarily forgotten.  Matt pipes up and suggests an ultra - the 6 of us turned round to him, raised a group eyebrow, shrugged our shoulders and said 'ok' - we were feeling pretty invincible at that moment.  What length, was the next question, 30 miles was decided (by us oh so experienced ultra runners!!) as too short and not sufficiently over the 26.2 mark, so 40 mile seemed like a good and achievable goal.  I'm sure all the ultra runners out there are laughing heartily at us at this point!
The High Peaks 40 was chosen and with it being held in September, it was ages away - a good 8 months to turn us into ultra runners.  We weren't starting from scratch we all did a bit of running - Helena the most out of all us (bar Matt).  However somehow the day crept up on us with few of us being able to get a full day's training out of doors on our feet - everything seemed to get in the way - manky weather, family, holidays, work commitments, so come September 20th we were all packing our bags with a few injuries from last minute panicky training (me) and all of us a little unsure of exactly what we were getting ourselves into.
My feet were really bothering me - two weeks before the race I had managed to do something to the top of the outside of my left foot.  Some frantic googling didn't exactly calm my nerves.  I hadn't a clue what is was but it changed my mindset from getting round in under 9 hours or whatever ambitious target I had set for myself, to lets just see how far i can get, don't do anything silly or injure myself permanently.    My bag was jiggling with pain killers, biofreeze and ibuprofen gel.
We arrived at the start in Buxton and before long we were off.  After 400 yards down the course I turn around to the team and optimistically say 'Well this isn't too bad is it?!', Liam turns round to me and replies 'No, Ellie but we've only gone 400 yards', and everyone laughs (sniggers).   First checkpoint comes and gos - although as we pass through one of the marshals comments 'Ah so you must be the strollers then?!', as you can expect this dented our pride somewhat and gives us a much needed kick up the arse!
The course itself would have been beautiful and it is beautiful, Matt and I live close to Castleton part, however most of the race was spent under a thick drizzly cloud, which was a little disorientating and it was a bit of a shame for the other guys in the team, who didn't know the area as well.
I wasn't the only injured one. Ed has been suffering from an ITB injury, and this reared it's ugly head around the 20 mile mark just as we were coming down off Hollins Cross.  I don't know how he carried on! But he did.  What I haven't mentioned yet is our amazing support crew, made up of Charlie Bear and Ian (Helena's husband).  I don't think I could have finished it if wasn't for their support.  They would appear half way between checkpoints like hairy angels bearing coke and pies!
Everything started to ache an hurt a lot after 25 miles.  Our running had turned into shuffling, we were rattling like medicine bottles, and everything turned all a bit gloomy.
About this point we met up with a guy, who was running alone, as his wife (who was a super runner), had had to drop out due to injury.  To my excitement he turned out to be a climber so, thank you to whoever he was as he made about 3 miles much more bearable for me as we compared places around the world we had climbed, and the benefits of routes over bouldering, bouldering over routes, strength training etc.
Living with Matt I often see what state he gets into when he runs and when he really pushes himself and I have heard him talking about the highs and lows that you go through, but i have never experienced them myself until now.  There were points along the course, where I felt miserable, more miserable than I can ever remember feeling. If you had scraped me up and put in front a psychiatrist, they would probably have diagnosed manic depression and dosed me up, and then all of a sudden when I felt like calling it a day and curling up in a corner, the cloud would clear from my mind and I was like an energiser bunny. It was bizarre! This seemed to be a pattern, which kept repeating itself.  
I was not the only one to be feeling like this though to my relief, everybody else was going through similar feelings.
In our heads we had mentally broken the race down into sections. 10 miles/20 miles/30 miles then eek! The 30 mile point we were doing ok, not zooming but steady steady and then from 30 miles to 40 miles took us about 4 hours! I was all over the place, my only thought process was get to the tree, good - have passed tree, now get to the wall - good passed wall, and so on...
My gait was similar to that of a drunken spider, I had poles with me, and I had started out using them very efficiently and now they were just being used to keep me upright, slightly splayed out with me lurching behind.
7 miles to the end / 6 miles / 5 miles I was in a lot of pain now, each footstep felt like a battle, each stile felt like one of the 12 labours.  About 4 miles from the end was the hell hole, otherwise known as Deep Dale 2.  Luckily we reach that just before it got dark - in that twilight zone.  Attempting that in the dark would have been foolhardy and a recipe for disaster.  We slowly caterpillared down the steep side trying not to fall over the edge or slide on our bums all the way down.
2 miles form the end my feet were burning and I really struggled, I think I might have had a mini tantrum (only very tiny one!).
Reaching the finish line felt like a miracle - what makes the brain tell the body to carry on when you hurt so much? What i didn't realise was that my best friend Zoe was stood at the finish with her boyfriend! Never been so happy to see her - I collapsed on her like a very smelly deadweight.
We then went to the pub and lived happily ever after.
What's next then?!

Thank you to Matt for getting me through in one piece, even if I wasn't thinking very nice thoughts of him during the race - I'm sorry!


My perception of 40 miles has now changed. A 40 mile trip used to be a short hop, whether by car or train, it’s a bit less than an hour of travel. I’ve now reconsidered. It’s a bl**dy long way.

Having entered the race with an idea in the back of my head of aiming for a good time, my priorities shifted as the start grew nearer and I decided that finishing would be enough of a struggle. The slow pace that we shambled off the start line at may not have been a prize winning one (it took us one check point to be termed “the shufflers” by marshals) but it was one we felt we could maintain and by the time we’d covered 15 miles or so (I was rewarded with a large pork pie) a 9 hour finish seemed utterly manageable. Then the wheels fell off. Miles 17 - 19 down from Rushup Edge and over Mam Tor were sponsored by ibuprofen, freeze spray and manly growling as the tendons in the back of my knee began to burn intensely.

A quick self massage stop at Castleton as our fantastic support team of Charlie and Ian pulled out the foam rollers largely sorted the problem but pace was always going to be a little slower from there. At least the weather improved somewhat, sunshine replaced fog and friends ceased mocking me for carrying sunglasses as we carried on towards 30 miles all discovering (other than Matt of course – we found his weakness later in the day) an assortment of other aches and pains. Liberal application of Vaseline… never thought I’d say that but god I was pleased I’d left a large tub with Team Support. The last 10 miles were tough. It was flat, it was slow and it was getting later. By this point the tiredness was getting boring, the pain in my legs was a dull ache and we were still hours from the finish. With just over 3 miles to go we waved Team Support off for the last time before the finish with instructions to go for beer and with that lure at the end things felt a lot better to me. Deepdale was a nasty surprise, Helena and Liam wandering off course into the gathering darkness while talking to a large black bull (actually a water trough) was amusing, the couple from the last checkpoint overtaking and then guiding us into the finish a little humiliating, but finish we did. Liam’s predictions that the pub trip after would be a short and cheap one proved accurate – Matt managed one beer, Liam a mighty two, we toasted each other (a little) and our mighty support crew (also a little – too tired for big toasts) and hit the hay fast.

I learnt a few things about ultra marathon running: 1) Vaseline, don’t diss it, 2) I’m not cut out for it but have a weird craving to try again, 3) Walking poles are not just for cissys, 4) being thrashed by old men moving at a steady walk isn’t as embarrassing as you might expect and 5) sticking together as a group of friends and leaning on each other, can keep you going when you don’t think you can manage another step.


My first ultra, in fact, my first anything much over 18 miles and of all places in the Peak District. I suppose this was karma – I had suggested a little event called Tough Guy, 9 months before and, in return, Matt proposed an ultra as our next group challenge. But was it a fair exchange? 3 hours of freezing water, mud, ice, hail, more mud and pain in exchange for nearly 12 hours of hills, rain, beautiful views, blisters and cramp…. I think, on balance, it was.

The lack of body fat on show in the car park as we arrived was an indication of the physiological makeup of the ultra marathon folk at this event. ‘Older, wiser and leaner’ should have been emblazoned across their running kit as they set of at a cracking pace, leaving us novices behind. Many were soon out of sight and by the third check point it became clear we were the back markers and with my first bout of cramp setting in, I was in for a bumpy ride!

On reflection the pain didn’t really hit home till the post 20 mile mark. The long winding hill out of Castleton was the first really low point. What a difference it made to be cheered on by some happy tourists. That’s something else you don’t really think about before an ultra, but you don’t get the same support that you do in a half marathon or marathon for that matter. People just look at you as though you’re mad! However, nothing could have prepared me for the feeling of despondency at 28 miles when I realized how far we had to go and the legs were barely working. I was already fantasising about a hot bath, cup of tea and food. All my good intentions of carb loading before the event and doing a decent amount of training had been lost in the melee of work and young children, and this is where my I was found out! Miles 28-36 were all about mental toughness. Sheer bloody mindedness and a fantastic group of friends to pull each other round. Oh, and poles – thank you to my friend in the Cotswold Store in flat old Bury St Edmunds who advised me to not be bloody stupid, and get on and buy some! I’d almost worked out how to use them by mile 37!

Something strange happened in the last 4 miles – energy returned, hope returned, a feeling of pride and achievement began to creep in and when we finally crossed the line, in the dark, hours behind the leaders, lost, pale and a little bewildered….. it was a FANTASTIC feeling!

Thank you to Matt for helping us all get round. On to the next challenge…..