Strava Update

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Raidlight Desert Pack 20+4 Review - First Impressions

Le Sac!
I took delivery of this little beauty just before christmas as mentioned in my last post, so I have been waiting for the festive period to return to normality so I could give it a little run out and see if all the shiny zips and abundance of pockets and other exciting bits and pieces really delivered what I was looking for in my pack for the MDS in a few months time.. It comes with the main ruck sack, front pack, 2 Raidlight bottles, and a "trail quiver"which is like a pouch that attaches diagonally over the sack.

A Bit About The Pack

So on to the technical info that the website gives.. To be fair there isnt alot of information about this pack and the details on the website are sketchy, so I bought this as a leap of faith really based on their great reputation for MDS kit..

The website states that with all the gear attached the weight is about 870g, frontpack being 100g and the sack on its own is 590g  and this is all I used this morning on my 15 mile trail run on the beautiful (if a little windy, muddy and wet!) cliff-paths of Jersey. Heres a bit more about whats included directly from the website:

Characteristics of Olmo Desert Pack 20+4
Straps Characteristics’
  • 2 strap’s bottle holders
  • 2 accessories holder ziped pockets on straps (gel, bar)
  • Mesh pocket on bottle holders (gel, bar..)
  • Comfortable chest strap

Front Pack Characteristics’
  • Large ziped pocket on one side
  • Mesh pocket on the other side
  • Compression System
  • Bottle Holder
  • Map holder
Back Characteristics
  • Large main compartment with mesh separate bladder’s compartment
  • Inside ziped pocket for documents or small accessories
  • Front mesh pocket with flap for easy acces
  • Side mesh elastic pocket for easy access
  • ziped pocket on the flap with key clip inside
  • 2 large mesh elastic pockets on the back
  • Compression system
Bottom Backpack Characteristic
  • 4 plastic buckle  to fix sleeping bag with 2 straps
Made for a bladder used
  • separate pocket for bladderwith bladder fixation
  • 2 tube exit (right and left)
  • NEW: Bladder compartment in the front pack. (in option)
Belt Caracteristic
  • Removable Front Belt
  • Belt included bib carrier and gel holder (can be used separatly)
Pole Holder / Flare Holder Caracteristics
      Trail Quiver included (can be used separatly)
  • Pole holder or flare holder  ( possibility of access without removing the backpack)

So lots of stuff going on on the pack and lots of storage and pockets. I am a bit of a Salomon Junkie as I think they just do running equipment so well, and in this pack Raidlight have really taken a leaf out of their book. This is the 3rd version of the Olmo just released in November so it appears they have put alot of thought into the details that people need on these types of races.

Initial Impressions

I was a bit concerned about it being white, as it ain't gonna stay clean with the trails here and the amount of falling over I seem to do! However I put it on this morning with about 2KG of weight in and put 2 bottles of water in the front bottle holders and was really pleasantly surprised at how stable it was, the bottles even when full stayed put and the pack felt nice on, lots of straps to adjust it to how I liked it and off we went!
Side View

Front View With Salomon Bottles

Rear View

Over the 15 miles the legs didn't feel so good, but the sack felt great to be honest, I didn't feel the sack got in the way and I didn't have to adjust it once I had found the sweet spot..
One thing I was a little concerned about was how waterproof the main compartment would be; However we got caught in a torrential hail storm for about 3 or 4 miles and the contents of the main compartment were relatively dry, which is encouraging, this bodes well for having gear in the bag and lugging it through sweaty days in the desert and it being dry ish at the end.. I did however have my Iphone stowed in one of the front pouches in aforementioned hail storm and this did not come out bone dry.. It is now drying out (fingers crossed its ok!)


I am pleased with the leap of faith I took, I know some people would say Raidlight can be flimsy and I can see this could be an issue with the pack, however weight is low on this and the pouches and pockets are great. I did try the front pack and it secure by 3 different points on each side and feels really stable, I haven't run with it yet but I think it will be fine..

The pack some might say is quite expensive, but to be fair with alot of the rucksacks you might consider for the MDS there are alot of add ons. Once you have purchased a front pack, bottle holders and bottles the price would be comparable I think. The Trail quiver is a nice touch for those who may use poles, I dont think I will use this myself however.. It is also mentioned that you are able to affix the sleeping bag to the bottom of the rucksack, I am struggling to see where, but I can be a bit dim sometimes so will keep persevering with that one..

I am also a little concerned by the size and how I will get a weeks worth of equipment and food in it.. I know that I will have to pack ruthlessly anyway, but now you actually see what 20 Litres looks like... Yikes!! But alot of people use the 20L and so I am sure I will be able to get beyond this..

As an aside I got a Raidlight Buff free with it, and also a really handy book on Multi Day stage racing which is written by two guys who have done the MDS and a few others and they provide some really useful tips and walk you through what to expect when taking on the MDS.

I would say if you haven't got your rucksack for the MDS yet it might be worth checking this out, I would like to say at this point that I purchased the rucksack myself and am in no way affiliated to Raidlight and my opinions are based purely on the testing I have done.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

No Turning Back....

I have just made the final instalment payment for the 2013 Marathon Des Sables...

So this means there is now no going back, I am signed up for the race in April next year and there is nothing I can do!! Time is galloping away now, in just over 3 (yes 3!) months I will be on the start line of the race, my knees knocking my heart palpitating and my legs raring to go in the "toughest footrace on earth"

After the Dorset Ultra I felt pretty decent, I took part in a track night at the local athletics club in Jersey on the Tuesday, felt too good in fact! It wasnt long after that that I picked up the dreaded tummy bug thats been going round Jersey, with a few xmas do's on the go over the last week the bug has been most inconvenient as I haven't been up to going out and letting off a bit of steam, but its all on the mend now and hope to get some decent mileage in over the following week..

So to equipment for the MDS...

Over the last few weeks my attention has switched to what equipment I will take with me to the desert, as vital a part of the prep for the race as the training itself, so I am now the proud owner of a very light very warm (i hope!) very expensive sleeping bag; the Raidlight Combi, which conveniently doubles as a puffa jacket for those chilly evenings in the desert.. It weighs just under 600 grams so am really pleased to have got this major bit of kit sorted..

So as it was xmas I have also treated myself to another major bit of kit, a new rucksack. Presenting the Raidlight Olmo 20L + 4L, a lovely looking bit of kit that I have just taken delivery of yesterday. Its new out in the last month and specifically designed for the MDS, it has a front pack, 2 bottles and lots of handy pockets and pouches which is ideal to me for a long race.. It is quite small however and I am a little concerned how I will fit in a weeks worth of food and other stuff, although I have been informed that I need to be ruthless when packing! I had a quick try of it today and it feels great on, I dont think it will move much much when running which is great, I will be trying it in the near future so hope that it is ideal for the job.. 

As far as other equipment it is all coming together, I am 99% certain on the shoes I will take, the sand gaiters I will use and the clothing I will wear for the week. Weight is the main consideration and I need to really ensure that I take the minimum of equipment and try and keep the pack weight down to 6.5kg (or as close as possible) Over the coming months I will be looking at and testing the various hydrated food options I can take with me as well as the other nutritional aspects. Again I am looking for highest calorific value against least weight whilst also being half decent tasting!! Could be quite a tough thing to satisfy these issues..

So it is now christmas time and training has dialled down slightly.. I am looking forward to getting back into it come new year, 3 months of hard training ahead in which intend to get used to back to back days, build strength and endurance and get used to heat and running with weight.. Phew! Makes me tired just thinking about it.. As far as the heat acclimation I am hoping to adopt a sauna training strategy. I will be building up time spent in the sauna and then introducing light exercise such as step ups to raise my core temp slowly..

Lots to do and lots to look forward to! Have a great xmas and an amazing new year.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Endurance Life CTS Dorset Trail Ultra Marathon Dec 2012

Its Official!

I'd forgotten how severe the hills on the beautiful Jurassic Coastline were to be honest.. This was the third time I have raced on this section of coast and as soon as I was stood at the base of the first climb, which incidentally was right at the start, the pain, lactic acid build up and "what am I doing here" - ness came flooding back from the previous races!

The Course Elevation Profile

Endurancelife always organise a good race, and the Ultra was well organised, I think 130 people started the race and by the looks of the results only 46 made the aggressive final checkpoint cutoff time of which I believe was 6 hours 15 mins. When you take into account the amount of climbing involved for the day (around 6000ft) to make the cutoff is no mean feat. The conditions were also super muddy with more than a few people spending quality time on their behinds and one guy I met even cutting his hand on barbed wire when falling.. 

The Hills Are Alive...

I was lucky in that I didnt actually fall, but as I was traipsing through the mud I was silently cursing the organisers, it was treacherous in parts with slippy sections right next to sheer cliff drops!! I also took a bit of a wrong turn in the first 10 or so miles which lost me a few places in the overall rankings but in a way was a good thing, I ended up running alone for a good 10 miles or so and stopped worrying about pace, position and all that, plugged my Ipod in and enjoyed the run! I think if anyone could have seen me running along singing along to Tina Turners "The Best" or air boxing to "The Eye of The Tiger" they might have questioned my sanity, although I guess not many sane people run 35 miles in those conditions for fun in the first place? Discuss.
Phil and Lee

It was a hard day, but it was sunny and the scenery as always was beautiful, it was great to go over with my friends Phil Taylor, Lee De St Croix and Peter Wright, the banter we had was amazing and we all did well. I was lucky enough to meet a few people who are taking part in the MDS next year, Joey,
Mark and Fred so this was definitely an added bonus for the day.

So.. I placed 11th overall in the end finishing the course in 6 hours 46, I was so pleased with this, and shows a real improvement as a result of my training over this year. The biggest thing for me was being able to climb some of these mountains/hills and then being able to run at the top, this meant I was sustaining a good overall pace during the race and didnt really start to feel tired in the legs until the last 6 miles or so, where you came back to the start line and have to go out and do another 6 mile loop of the initial course. This was tough psychologically as getting to the start/finish and keeping going is very counter intuitive! Once I had gone through I kept telling myself 6 miles to go, 6 miles to go and listened to my cheesy chart iPod playlist and soaked it up..

As far as things to take away from the day? I would say that cheesy chart music works better than thrash metal to keep the spirits high during those difficult times (particularly Katy Perry's Firework...!!), Hammer Perpetuem is an amazing energy source for long races (kept me going and supplied with energy for the duration), leg strength training definitely paid off for those hills, Salomon Exo calf guards were invaluable to keep the legs feeling fresh, and really strong Ibuprofen makes everything ok when all else fails.. :) Onwards and upwards now to 2013, maybe one more Ultra marathon before the MDS just to keep ticking over...

Thank You!!

Another high point this week was that I reached my £5000 target for Jersey Hospice Care. I am raising money for this amazing local charity as a dear friend of mine Natalie Moss spent time there this year before she sadly passed away and they were amazing to her and her family. I am running the MDS in memory of her as her grace and poise under such awful circumstances and her strength was amazing and so inspiring. I am humbled by the support of everyone who has donated either by attending the various events I and my good friends have organised or through my justgiving page, thanks so so much and I hope to raise more before I go to Morocco in April for this great cause.

So whats next? More training now in the lead up to christmas, interspersed with my works xmas do this Friday and various other social events, so a slight reduction in mileage I think for the next few weeks, then back into it at full pelt in January to get me to the Desert. Its just under 4 months til we fly to Morocco and face the biggest challenge I have ever faced. I found the James Cracknell documentary about the MDS on Youtube the other day, well worth a look to see what the race is about, click here