Thursday, 1 March 2012

"The parks of London" 20 mile (32km) full gear test

Today was my first opportunity to go running with all my MDS gear and I was excited to be able to try it out.  I was also a little worried in case I didn't get along with some of it, as there isn't much time left now to find other alternatives.

I am calling my route "the parks of London" because I started off by running over Tooting Bec Common and then I went to Wimbledon Park, Wimbledon Common and then my final park for the day, Richmond Park.  All of the parks are nice but Richmond park is absolutely huge and you can easily do all your running in that park alone.  There are also lots of deer that live there, although I didn't see any today.  There must be a lot though because I saw a sign saying there will be a deer cull shortly.  Poor Bambis.

Beautiful views in Richmond Park

Sign notifying people of a deer cull taking place

I did 20 miles or 32km without any stops, and I averaged just over 10km per hour.  So the whole run took me a fraction under 3 hours and 10 minutes.  I was happy with that as I was carrying my pack with all of the food and survival items in it, plus the two 750ml bottles were full of water, so that is a total weight of 8.5kg (7kg for the pack plus 1.5kg for the water).

So in case you were wondering how I found all the new kit, here goes.  Clothing wise I found the Nike Tempo 2 in 1 shorts amazingly comfortable and I don't anticipate any problems with those at all.  I almost forgot that I wearing shorts at all - they are that comfortable.  They also stayed dry the whole time.  The RailRiders Ecomesh shirt is also very comfortable.  It is nice and loose fitting and despite getting wet it dried very quickly once I finished running, and even though it felt wet to the touch on the outside I didn't feel the wetness against my skin.  Unfortunately because of the British climate I was wearing a vest underneath the shirt, so I can't tell if it rubs anywhere yet, but for that I can always do a short run where I wont get cold or go to the gym and try it without anything underneath.  The Raidlight desert cap also stayed firmly in place throughout the run and I can't fault that.

Feet wise is not such a perfect story.  The gaiters stayed up well and I didn't really notice them, which is great, but my feet have now got a couple of nasty blisters from either the socks or the shoes or both.  Now I should add that a callus has been forming on the ball of my right foot for a while now, and I probably should try and remove that, as I had imagined that it could cause some blisters to form underneath.  Up until today I haven't really had many blisters that bothered me though.  It is also possible that the shoes being 1 size larger than normal (to allow for swelling in the MDS) caused the blisters.  I did notice however that the Injinji crew socks are slightly thinner than the ones I have been wearing so I will try my old socks in the new shoes and see if that feels better or worse.  My feet stayed dry, which is good, but after the run I checked the socks and there is already some bobbling.  I wouldn't really expect bobbling to happen after only one run and it remains to be seen if that continues or if it was just because the socks were brand new.  The PT03 desert shoes are much softer than the PT03 winter shoes, including the tongues, but my left shin is still getting sore where the tongue touches it.  I cannot really comment on whether that is going to be the case in future, because I already had a haematoma on my left shin from my 50km run last Sunday.  Whatever happens the desert shoes will cause less bruising than the winter shoes though, being that much softer.

The OMM pack feels more comfortable than my mountaineering one that I had been using before.  It is hard to make a true judgement because my back still has some sores on it from last Sunday, but today's run didn't make those sores worse so that is a good sign.  However, saying that I just found a new sore on my left hip.  I did do the waist strap very tight today though, as I didn't want the pack bouncing around on my preexisting back sores, so next time I will try loosening the waist strap ever so slightly and seeing if that helps prevent hip sores.  The back of the OMM pack is much shorter than my mountaineering one and I prefer the feel of that.  The Raidlight bottles in the shoulder straps didn't bounce too much, which is good, and I was able to drink from the bottles on the go, but I am not a huge fan of the valves.  If you leave the valves open the water splashes out, and if you close them it is quite hard to get them open again without having to use both hands.  Nevertheless being on the shoulder straps they are easily accessible and even if I have to use both hands to open the valve it is better than having to carry bottles in my hand or having to go into my pack to retrieve bottles or refill a bladder.

The Oakley eye jacket XLJ sunglasses felt pretty comfortable, although after the run I noticed the points where the frames slide over my ears are a little bit tender.  I didn't notice that during the run so it can't be that bad, and they stayed firmly in place, which is good.  Maybe after wearing them for a bit they will become even more comfortable and not cause any tenderness above my ears, but today was the first time trying them out.

My overall summary would be that I am pretty happy with my kit choices and think it will get me through the MDS just fine, although I need to find some solutions to prevent further blisters like today.  I really hope it is just the extra shoe size that caused the blisters, although it wouldn't be good if my feet don't swell and I end up getting friction blisters in the MDS because of it.  Based on what I have heard everyone's feet will swell to some extent though, so as long as my feet can make it through day one when they are not quite so swollen, the extra shoe size will be needed on subsequent days.  I maybe should also think about going the callus removed from my right foot.

By he way for all your attention seekers out there, I have a great way for you to get some extra attention. Go out running in London with long gaiters attached to your shoes.  You wouldn't believe the number of strange looks I got from people or the number of children telling their parents what strange boots that guy is wearing.  Anyone who is familiar with the MDS would know what they are though, and one woman stopped and asked me if I was doing the MDS and said her husband had done it last year.  Whilst I was running I felt fine, but once I stopped and was taking the train home I did feel a little embarrassed wearing them.  Since they are stitched to the shoes there is no way to take them off now though, and I need to get used to the shoes, so the folks of Zurich better get used to me running around the town with my gaiters on.  However, I am sure the folks of Zurich won't pay as much attention as the folks of London do.

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