Everyone likes a freebie, yes? And everyone likes Shotbloks, yes? Yes?
You do, great. Then head to the bottom paragraph to find out how you could get some freebies.
You don’t? Oh – I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like those little jelly cubes of goodness.
You’ve never tried them? Well now here’s your chance.
I have used Shot Bloks on many long runs and each of my marathons. They are like eating those little pre-dissolved cubes of jelly (or was that just a “growing up in the 70s” thing? ), but 3 of them give you basically the same energy boost as an energy gel. You have to have some water to help them down, but they also contain the salts you’ll have been sweating out so they have everything you need. On a personal note, I’ve found that picking them out of your teeth for the next few miles is a fine way to pass the time on a long run.
I can really recommend Shot Bloks, so you may be wondering why I’ve got two packets to give away instead of just scoffing them myself? Well I ordered a selection of flavours from Up and Running, and by mistake they sent me these Black Cherry flavour ones. I hate anything cherry flavoured with a passion (but I love cherries -weird, huh?) so they kindly sent me some other flavours and said I could give these away.
The Black Cherry variety also has caffeine in then, so they are ideal for a boost towards the end of a race when you may be flagging.
To enter this giveaway, please leave a comment after this post telling me if you’ve tried Shot Bloks before, what you thought of them and what’s your favorite method of fueling on long runs. Winner will be selected at random on 1st September 2015 from people who’ve left a comment by 23:59 on 31st August 2015.
Everyone loves a bargain, and everyone loves new running gear. (Well, most runners love new running gear. ) So, if that describes you, get yourself down to Lidl!
I popped down there yesterday when I heard they were having one of their regular promotions of running gear. I love their running socks and have been buying them over the last few years whenever they have them in. I stockpiled two pairs yesterday – well at £1.99 a pair it would be a shame not to.
Whilst I was there, I couldn’t resist also buying this cool running vest.
It was sold as size 10/12, so as a standard size 12 I was worried it would be too tight but at £2.99 I thought it was worth a try. It turned out to be nicely snug meaning it didn’t rub under my arms as I ran tonight. The material it is made from is fairly thin, but in the current warm weather that’s not a problem. It is also a really groovy pattern (and not pink), which pleases me greatly!
Lidl also have capri trousers in various jazzy patterns, and of course they have men’s running gear as well as women’s.
I have received no payment or freebies for writing this review, I am simply happy to recommend good, inexpensive kit.
I was recently sent a Buff from the lovely people at Kitshack. This was sent to me free of charge, in return for an honest review. Now I’m nothing if not honest, so here goes. I have actually had this Buff for a few weeks now, because I wanted to make sure I gave it a really thorough test.
I do already have a Buff, so I’m no stranger to these interesting garments. I bought it when we went skiing in Canada, and it was a cosy godsend. It was easy to wear under my helmet, up covering most of my face, or simply as a neck warmer. I was intrigued to see how a summer version would work.
The buff I was sent was a High UV protection buff, which is basically a tube of lightweight, stretchy, seamfree “Coolmax® Extreme” fabric which Kitshack says is has “superior wicking performance and at least 95% UV protection”. They come in a huge variety of colours and patterns, and also come in adults’ and kids’ sizes.
Once you’ve picked your Buff, you have to decide how to wear it. Headband, wristband, beanie, dangling down the back, twisted up on top – there are pictures, instructions and even a video to show you how to wear it.
With our recent spell of warm weather I didn’t want to cover any more of my head than necessary as I tend to best up very quickly when running. However I need something to keep under control the bits of hair that are too short to be held in by my pony tail. So a Buff Headband it was.
I have always had problems wearing hairbands, because I have a very low hairline at the back so most hair bands pull my hair up and out. It turns out that the Buff did exactly the same, so I could only wear it with my hair pulled up into a high ponytail.
I tried various ways of folding my Buff. One was too tight, squeezed my head and eventually popped off. One was very wide, which helped keep my glasses on and ear buds in but was also very warm. Beanie style made me look like a crazy loon! Folded into 6 seemed to work the best, until it also popped of the bank of my head during parkrun.
So what did I think of my Buff? Well, sad to say, as a summer running accessory I don’t think it’s for me. As I thought, my head doesn’t seem to be the right shape for a Buff. I found it constricting and hot to wear now that the weather has warmed up. However, I see lots of runners wearing Buffs in the summer so it’s obviously not a universal problem. I think for me it will be invaluable in the cooler months when I can wear it as a headband or beanie until I have warmed up.
I was lucky enough to speak to Kate Giles recently as her company Crewroom are pleased to launch not one, but two new ranges of running (and sport) gear. They are covering all bases, with ranges aimed at urban landscapes and also more natural settings; featuring bold colours and more subtle tones; suitable for city running, night running, trail running, paddle boarding, yoga, and even for a pint at the pub. This is what Crewroom say about the ranges, but I wanted to test this out for myself.
The new ranges are called Elements and Laser. Elements has a breezy natural feel. The fabrics are soft and supple, feel like cotton but are actually fully technical so they are easy to wear and move in. Laser has a more urban look to it, apparently targetting ‘city runners’. It has bold colours with hi-viz reflective panels.
VX Sprint Vest
Part of the Laser range, this vest says ‘racer’, and Sprint is a very appropriate name for it.
They Say “Made with our flagship fabric, Vapour-X, this vest is a true performance garment with some flattering design features and discreet reflective branding to keep you safe and seen. Super light and amazingly comfortable, you’ll hardly notice your wearing it on those long runs through the city.”
Black and Tabby Says this felt very lightweight when I first picked it up, and if I didn’t know better I might have thought it was a cheap garment. However as soon as I started running on a hot and humid evening I was very appreciative of the lightness to this vest. It made my sports bra feel too heavy! It is cut fairly high at the front which means I wasn’t worried about getting the front of my chest sunburnt, and the armholes were cut to reveal quite a lot of shoulder. On the plus side this made for a cooler run, on the negative side I did feel like I ought to start doing some shoulder exercises if I was going to show them off in this vest. The Vapour-X logo on the front hem feels large, plasticky and clunky and I wonder why they put it here?”.
“I’m not used to wearing a vest when running, which probably explains why I felt a little exposed wearing it. However it was light, cool and comfortable to wear and it will definitely be worn again”.
Update – I wore the vest again on another hot and humid run, and loved it. Light, comfortable, airy- what more can you ask for! The only thing I don’t like is that logo on the front hem.
Laser Trail Shorts
The shorts are proper short runing shorts, with a split side seam (just for the bottom few centimetres) and a brilliant flash of colour down the side seam. They have a good sized zipped pocket on the back, and a smaller ‘key’ pocket inside.
They Say “Like it’s Refresher predecessor we’ve kept this product light with a focus on comfort. We’ve used a lightweight stretch microfibre shell and our signature Vapour-X lining which reduces chafing and helps keep the garment fresh and dry. Other nifty features include a rear media pocket and an internal key pocket with a key-tie to stop annoying jangling!”
Black and Tabby Says “I liked how these shorts felt when I picked them up (light and not rustly) and loved that they had a liner (aka “integral knickers”) which I have always found to be more comfortable than running ‘commando’ or with my own underwear. Pulling them on and looking down they looked quite baggy around my tummy which I felt self concious about. When I looked at myself in a mirror though they looked fine. (Mental note – don’t look down!)
These shorts are short, there’s no getting away from it. The split sides put me in mind of a proper speedy racer and I had this image (on the left) in my mind as I ran. This was actually no bad thing, as it meant I felt I had to push hard all through my run, even when (especially when) overtaking a dog walker up a hill.
I think I’ll need to wear these shorts a few more times to feel really comfortable in them. At the moment if I was doing a 5K race I’d grab these like a shot as only then would I manage the speed these shorts deserve”
Update I wore these shorts again today on another hot and humid run, and I didn’t even notice the bagginess I did on first wearing. I also didn’t notice the split sides. However, like the Sprint Vest, I did notice how light, cool and comfortable they were to run in. I also forgot to mention the splash of colour down the sides which I really like – not too in-yer-face but just enough to brighten what could be prettty plain shorts.
My son took this photo of me running in them, and it has been universally agreed they make me look very sporty and smart. Miracle shorts then!
Elemental Fjord Short
These shorts were recommened by Jordanna, Crewroom’s lead designer, who said “they are amazingly comfortable and flattering with an extra wide waistband which feels really supportive when running.”
She kindly took note of my “I don’t like pink!” request, and sent me a pair in a lovely “Blueberry/Lime” colourway which turned out to be a bluey-gray with a pale lime highlights (not as bright and hi-viz as I’d have thought).
They say “Lightweight shorts made from fabric with four-way stretch for extra comfort and manoeuvrability. Nice little features include the rear zip pocket to secure your phone, card or keys and two side pockets. The wide elasticated waistband is a beautiful feature and gives a very flattering finish. Along with the breathable and wicking fabric, these really are a fully functional pair of performance running shorts.”
Kate Giles, founder and CEO of Crewroom said “when you handle the Elements fabric, it feels like cotton, it has that softness. You know you’ll be able to train in it for a long time.” Kate prefers to wear this is this very hot weather, but knows that some people do prefer the more technical feel of the Laser range. She believes Elements is fine to wear to train in, and then wear down to the pub.
Black and Tabby says “When I unpacked these shorts I wasn’t sure that they were a technical fabric because they felt so soft and stretchy. I also wasn’t sure about the wide waistband – was it going to dig into me as I ran? As I have no waist (I sadly go straight up and down) I do have problems with belts and waistbands riding up as I run.
Despite these misgivings I put these shorts on and shot out for a short run before I went away on holiday. After initially fidgetting with the waistband I was impressed to find it was comfortable. If you’ve ever run in any shorts or trousers where the waistband has slipped below a vaguely wobbly tummy you’ll know how unsettling this feeling is. These shorts don’t do that. Even with my phone in the back pocket they felt secure without being constricting, and despite my lack of waist they didn’t ride up and give me a ‘wedgie’, so they scored highly for that. As I ran they simply felt cool and comfortable.
Like the Laser trail shorts, these are short. I could see the line where my usual shorts finish (not a tan line – more like a windburn line I think), but they were so comfortable to run in I didn’t care. They are a more casual styling than the Laser Trail shorts, and combined with the fabric I could see myself wearing these on hot days to do things other than running in. In fact I took them on my recent holiday hoping it would be hot enough to wear them on days out as well as having some running kit with me ‘just in case’, but it wasn’t to be.”
It’s obvious I love these shorts. I’ve worn them for another two short runs and they’ve performed brilliantly both times. The only negative I can find for them is that, unlike the Laser Trail shorts, they don’t have an integral lining so you either need to be brave enough to run ‘commando’ or you need to find the perfect running knickers to go underneath (something I’ve yet to do). I guess this is so that you can wear them for activities other than sport but that would have made them my 100% perfect pair of shorts. As it is they’ll have to have a score of 99% I look pretty happy with them though!
Please Note – I received no payment for writing this review, but I did receive the shorts and vest for testing purposes. All views and comments are my own.
Living in a fairly rural part of the country as I do, I end up doing a fair bit of online shopping, and so the various courier drivers are getting to know me quite well. I was still surprised though, when I opened the door to collect a packet from UPS to see the driver giving me a very big smile and a wave as he left. “How very friendly!” I thought. Then I noticed the package was marked as ‘Lingerie’, and the sender was “Panache Lingerie”, which explained everything. If he’d been imagining delicate little lacey nothings, however, he’d have been disappointed when he saw the package’s contents.
When I learnt that Panache were looking for people to review their new sports bra I instantly applied, as I love getting new gear. I was also keen to try a sports bra that wasn’t of the compression ‘squash everything down’ type. Being a smaller chested lady my sports bras have always resembled a cut off vest as much as anything. The Panache Sports Bra is designed for ladies much more ‘ample’ than myself (it goes up to cup size H) and as such is a very different beast. I initially thought it wouldn’t fit me, but I was advised if I went down a band size I could go up a cup size, so this is what I did.
The first thing to say about this bra is how fantastically bright and colourful it is. The second is how beautifully padded it is. The straps especially are wide and soft and didn’t cut into my shoulders at all. The underband is also wide which means it doesn’t ride up or wrinkle. I had been worried about how the wires in an underwired sports bra would feel, but I am happy to report I couldn’t feel them at all. I fastened the bra on its loosest setting, and as advised it was a great fit. Come the summer when everything expands it might feel a bit tight, but in January it feels great.
I wore it whilst I did a workout DVD (hello Jillian Michaels and her 30 day shred!) which involves jumping jacks and other leaping up and down exercises, as well as bending up and down whilst lifting weights exercises. I am happy to report the bra felt great throughout, didn’t move or shift, held everything in place it was supposed to and sadly it didn’t manage to distract me from the workout (I could have done with some!)
Whilst the Panache Sports bra, and their entire range, seems to be aimed at the larger busted woman, I am very pleased to say it is still appropriate and downright comfortable for us women at the other end of the bra-size-spectrum. In fact I just have one problem with this bra. I looked at the washing instructions to see it said “wash similar colours together” and realised I don’t have anything in my wardrobe in similar colours to this bra!
Picture the scene. Wimbledon 2011, World class tennis is being played, the sun is shining, the strawberries are over priced and I’m lucky enough to be there. I’m handed a plastic glass full of Pimms and ice, which I’d never tried before, but which looked delicious. I take a cautious sip. I’m not immediately bowled over by the taste. I gently swill it round my mouth and make little lip smacking ‘tasty’ noises and try to decide if I like it or not. I take another sip and repeat. Another sip, more lip smacking, more deliberation. Finally I reach the bottom of the glass and decide that, all things considered (not least that I’ve drunk every drop and am now starting on the fruit), I did enjoy it.
Fast forward two and a half years, to find me stressed having not run since the Running Show 10K 10 days ago, surounded by builders’ noise and dust. On an impulse I decided to run away from the chaos for just half an hour. I also decided it would be a great time to road test the bag of goodies I brought home from the Running Show.
I grabbed my new Ron Hill long sleeved top which I’d bought for half price at the Running Show. Although I have several (cough cough) long sleeve tops already, I was drawn to this one because it had useful pockets on the back, like on a cycling jersey. It also had a very special zip neck. With all zip up tops (and jackets and gilets) I’ve had before, as soon as I undo the zip I find the edges of the collar really annoying and flappy. I end up having to tuck the edges in to stop the flapping, which isn’t attractive. This top though, has curved edges at the top of the collar, so I’m hopeful it won’t flap.
I love new socks, and had been delighted to find a pair in my Goody Bag from the ‘Write This Run’ conference. I read another attendee’s blog (Lucy Lemon) who said that having tried on her socks she ‘may never take them off again’ so I had high expectations that they were going to be comfy.
With size 6 (and a bit) feet I was hoping the medium size would be big enough, and they did fit very nicely. They were padded nicely around the tops, heels and toes which was looking good for keeping my feet warm on a cold Autumn day. They did come quite a long way up over my ankles which might bother the sort of people who love ‘anklet’ socks (you know, the sort that disappear inside your shoes as you’re running and you have to stop and retrieve them), but was fine for me.
I also pulled out the packet of Bonders which I’d found in my Goodie bag from the Write This Run conference. Reading the instructions these little pieces of Velcro are designed to hold your laces down so they don’t come undone whilst you’re running.
I laced my shoes up, then looked at the Bonders. They sound like a good idea, but by the time I’d knotted my laces I didn’t have long enough ‘loops’ to be able to use the Bonders to strap them down to my shoe. Then I realised that if I did have long enough loops, I would probably just tie my laces in a double knot anyway.
Instead of my faithful waist pouch I popped my phone into the zipped pocket of my top. As I set off, I could feel it jiggling and bouncing slightly, and just as I thought it was going to be too annoying to leave there, I was distracted by something, and then forgot all about it.
I only remembered it was there when I had to stop to answer my phone and it was easier to extract than having to rumage under layers of clothing. I found the other pockets very useful for stuffing in some litter I found on a pristine footpath (the Wombles would be proud of me.) As the weather gets colder I can see these pockets being great for discarding gloves, hats, ear warmers etc as I warm up.
The small hill after a mile and a half was enough for me to need to undo the zip a little and let some fresh air in. Amazingly, this resulted in no annoying flappage, even when I undid the zip to about halfway, The zip is long (undoing it fully would reveal most of my sports bra) so there is plenty of ventilation if I need it. And don’t mind flashing my underwear.
Talking of underwear, after about a mile I had suddenly become aware of the underside of my socks. The socks have lovely thick sections under the ball of the foot and the heel, and a tighter thinner section around the innerstep. I could suddenly feel the edge of one of these sections. I have had this with other socks so I suspect I get this when my feet are cold, and sure enough after another mile the feeling disappeared. For the rest of my run my feet were lovely and toasty until I hit ‘that puddle’ at 5 miles. As I felt the cold puddle soaking into my socks, my thoughts turned to what was waiting for me at home. Not the builders with their associated dust and noise, but a sachet of ‘Apres’ Chocmalt hot recovery drink.
I usually have a hot chocolate when I get back from a run so I was intrigued to see what chocolate and malt tasted like, and to see if I felt better after a ‘proper’ recovery drink. Squelching around the kitchen I mixed the powder with hot water, and took a sip. I swilled it round my mouth and made little lip smacking ‘tasty’ noises to try to decide if I liked it or not. I took another sip, unsure whether I like it or not. Suddenly I am back at Wimbledon again, sipping and tasting. The Chocmalt isn’t as sweet as hot chocolate, but this means I didn’t feel so guilty about drinking it. It would also appeal to people who aren’t used to such sweet drinks. It feels very satisfying to drink and would be wonderful to have after a cold, wet trail race. Like the Pimms two and a half years ago, I reached the bottom of the cup still smacking my lips, and decided I did like it. Yum!
Ron Hill Top – I loved this top. Great fit, thoughtful design around the neck, and useful pockets. Its on the top of my pile of running clothes, ready to be put straight back on. I *think* this top is a ‘Ron Hill Ladies Trail Long Sleeve Zip Tee’, but mine didn’t have the labels on. Ron Hill’s website is here, and their stuff is available from all good sporting outlets. And some bad ones. Probably.
Balega Socks – Again, I loved these socks. Tight enough not to rub my feet, but not constricting. Long enough so I don’t get that cold gap between tights and socks. These are my new favourite socks, which means they will soon be a sad grey ‘mud stained’ colour. Company website is here, but I’m sure they’re available from all good sports retailers.
Bonders – Just didn’t work for me,and I can’t see how they’re better than double knotting your laces. Available from www.4Distance.co.uk if they’re your sort of thing.
Après Hot Recovery Drink – Much tastier than I thought it would be, but at £1.99 a sachet a little expensive for everyday use. I will buy some to take to races, with a flask of hot water and a mug, to enjoy before the drive home. Check them out here.
Please Note – with the exception of the Ron Hill top, which I paid for myself, the other products were all given free of charge, and I have received no payment for this review.
Notes on the B&T Star rating
3 Stars = How have I lived my life up to this point without this?
2 Stars = Pretty good, but I’m hard to impress.
1 Star = Not for me. Someone else maybe, but not me.
No Stars = What were they thinking of?
So July 2013 has finally remembered its meant to be the SUMMER! Someone’s flicked the thermostat up to HOT!!! The cats are lying in strange places around the garden (either flaked out on warm patio slabs, or hiding under shady bushes), the garden is blooming (although the lawn is starting to look a little brown and crispy in places), and British people are getting used to not taking a cardigan and waterproof jacket with them every day ‘just in case’.
One problem with the heat is that running suddenly becomes much harder work. What was meant to be an easy 3 mile run, becomes a sweat-soaked struggle with a sky high heart rate. Apparently after 14 days your body starts to acclimatise to the heat, so the trick is to struggle through the next two weeks and hope your body feels happier in the heat after that.
So, to help you though those 14 days, I give you the Black and Tabby Guide to Hot Runnings.
1. Be prepared to sweat.
Its your body’s mechanism to help cool itself down. Its perfectly natural. It doesn’t mean its pretty though. Make sure you’re wearing running kit that’s really comfortable. If you occasionally get a little bit of chafing somewhere, then make sure you use something like Bodyglide, or good ol’ fashioned Vaseline in the appropriate area.
If you’re self-concious of sweat marks on your clothes, then don’t wear clothes that are going to show them. I have a new running t-shirt, in a gorgeous plum colour that I bought to reward myself for a good Marathon this year. I’ve worn it lots because its light, fits well and is loose rather than clingy. Unfortunately it also shows any sweaty places, no matter how strange.
I give you exhibit A. Tummy sweat marks.
Also be aware you may sweat in places you didn’t know you could. As well as the strange tummy sweat marks, I discovered only this week that on a hot run I end up with sweat dripping from my elbows. Who knew, eh?
2. Sun cream
Make sure you apply an appropriate sun cream before you set out. Give it time to soak in to your skin, and make sure it can cope with sweat. Yesterday I picked up the wrong bottle, and covered one arm in a quite expensive sun cream especially for your face. (I bought it last year, but stopped using it when I realised it just made my face extra shiny). The other arm had my usual sun cream on (bargain, half price own brand from Superdrug, non-animal tested, good for the whole family).
After a hot 40 minute fast-ish run, I discovered that only did I have sweat dripping off my elbows again, but the arm with the expensive ‘face’ sun cream also had sun cream dripping off. I could see the track of white cream from the crease of my elbow, down to my elbow, and then down to my wrist.
There are sun creams that specifically say they are sweat proof so it might be worth trying one of those. I’ve never used one, but am happy to hear any reports of good brands that won’t leave me with white tracks on my arms.
3. Head and Eyes
Obviously if the sun is strong then you need to protect your eyes from the UV rays as well as make it more comfortable to see where you’re going. Sunglasses are good, obviously wrap-around styles are going to protect more of your eyes than the latest fashion glasses, but as long as they’re comfortable to run in and have proper UV filters they’ll be good.
An alternative to sunglasses that I’m only using for the first time this year is a running cap. Previously shunned as looking ‘too geeky’, I decided to give one a try earlier this year. (I was in Decathalon and it was a bargain, let’s be honest). I have discovered that my cap keeps my face shaded so I don’t have to wear sun glasses as well, which is good as my best running sunglasses tend to pinch behind my ears after about 45 minutes). I guess keeping the sun from the top of my head is probably a good thing, although I do find my head gets pretty hot under there. I presume the next step would be a triathalon-style visor, but I don’t think even I’m ready for that level of geekiness yet!
As you puff and pant along in the hot weather, you may well find yourself feeling thirstier than usual. Hardly surprising – think of all that sweat your body has made (I refer you back to Exhibit A above). I used to just take water with me, but I noticed I was getting headaches after long / hard / hot runs. I tried drinking more water, thinking I was dehydrated, but that didn’t help at all. It was only by chance I read somewhere that I could be losing too much salt, and I would be better off drinking an electrolyte drink, which contains the right balance of salts and water for my body.
I dislike any sugary sports drinks, so I was very pleased to stumble upon High 5 Zero tablets. They were in my goodie bag after the Bristol Half last year so I decided to try them. They just dissolve in 750ml of water and are good to go. I find the taste mild and pleasant, not sweet and sticky at all, and easy to drink. My favourite flavour is the Pink Grapefruit, which is strange because I don’t actually like grapefruit. they have zero calories so are great to take on runs where I don’t need any extra calories. As an added bonus, my post-run-headaches have disappeared as well!
Obviously everyone has their own tastes, likes and dislikes, and there are many different brands of sports drink, electrolyte drinks, powders and gels, so get out there and start tasting!
Even following all of my own advice, this was how I looked after my 40 minute slog in the sun yesterday.
I think that may be it – I have used up all my words of wisdom. My final thought – if you can train through this hot weather, think how fast you’ll be at your Autumn race. And dream of how wonderful that first run in the rain will feel!
If I’ve missed anything out, or if you have any top tips for keeping comfortable when running in the heat, please add your comments below.