Spring time is here.

This is the season for insurance. Somehow it always happens. Somehow despite previous experience I always get caught out. No other season is like it. Summer is summer, it is hot and sunny and we know to put on lots of sunscreen when we go out. Winter is wet and cold and we accept this and layer up. Autumn is different too.

The weekend forecast looked good so I took out insurance. I put on sunscreen for our early morning ride. I hesitated with the windbreaker but put it on more as an afterthought as I stepped through the front door. I should have known. Cruising along the Red Road to Blouberg the double rainbow was a sure sign but I did not pay attention. It was pretty while it lasted. My partner has been pounding the power so I was happy to sit in and enjoy the cruise.

Minutes later the skies opened and not in the way I wanted. “Oh this won’t last” I thought.

My riding buddy kept pushing the pedals. It was time to put our heads down and pretend to be Dutch hardmen. Luckily he was wearing a bright coloured top and so I could see him. I could vaguely make out his back wheel too. My glasses were the only things keeping my eyes open from the spray from his back wheel. Stinging with sunscreen by this point. It was a fine balance of sitting outside the wind and getting soaked you see. I knew which one was worse so I sucked it up.

There was always the advantage that I did not need to drink at all. Just open my mouth.

At moments like this my shoulders ride up and I want to withdraw my head like a tortoise.  Luckily this did not last too long. He called the turn around saving me from begging.

As we entered the café filled  with warmduschers – all dry, having the big breakfast on the small ride we could hold our heads high in the knowledge.

Customer Complaint: “My waterproof jacket leaks”

(Spoiler Alert: check out the Notes below if you want to get to the meat of this article)

This week I got the below mail. I get them every year around this time and they always go along the same lines:

Hi

I bought an expensive waterproof jacket. I was told by x sales person that this was the best money could buy… I was convinced and spent a lot of money. Recently I tried the jacket in the rain and I got very wet…….

It is very hard for me to comment on these kind of issues especially if I have not seen the jacket concerned. However my response is something like this:

“Hi

 Thanks for the mail.

As I am sure you are aware it is incredibly difficult to assess these kinds of issues wrt waterproofing of garments irrespective of the model and materials used.

The issues (among others) that need to be considered is what treatment was used on the jacket, if it was ever washed, what garment was worn underneath the waterproof layer, if a pack was worn and what level of activity the wearer was taking part in.

The only real way to empirically test whether the jacket is in fact waterproof is to do a hydrostatic test which in itself will destroy the membrane.

However as a start I would suggest that you wash and treat the jacket with the appropriate Nikwax products to 1) remove any residual contaminants, 2) ensure that the DWR is adequate. 

Then you stand in a shower wearing the jacket. It helps to wear darker colour long sleeve cotton t shirt. This should pretty quickly show up if any moisture comes through.

If it does not then my assumption would be that one of the above factors are involved to create the sensation that the jacket leaks.

Please let me know what you find with the above and we can hopefully find a solution to this issue.

 Leo”

Notes:

  • Just because you spend heaps of cash on a Bugatti Veron does not mean you don’t have to check the oil regularly. Same with outdoor gear. Regular service and care will go a long way!
  • Never wash waterproof jackets in normal detergent. Only use approved detergents products as described here. I wash my waterproof jackets once a year (mostly before winter or before a big trip)
  • When wearing a waterproof decide first if it is actually necessary. Often when taking part in highly aerobic activities you will be more comfortable in a more breathable but only water repellent layer. Check out my thoughts here and here.
  • Always wear a wicking layer under your waterproof. A cotton t-shirt will not transport moisture away from your skin and allow the waterproofBREATHABLE garment to do its job.
  • Wearing a pack greatly reduces the air flow under your jacket and thus greatly reduces the effective breathability of the jacket.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes is credited with saying “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing but I prefer this reference.

PUFfer Preparation 301

I have had an interesting email conversation with a fellow trail runner on gear and how to best use it stretching over the last few weeks. This conversation and my presentation at SSISA prompted me to put expand on ideas here. My comments are aimed specifically at PUFfer runners but are universally applicable. Let me know your thoughts.

Basic Action Suit:

The extreme alpinist Mark Twight coined the term Action Suit for alpinism. It is equally applicable here with some adaptations. I encourage you to observe other sports closely and see what you can learn. (on Giro a few weeks ago the boys all got to the top of a snowy Col only to be handed a newspaper and surgical gloves….)

DSC00371I prefer to be on the cold side of things. Heat is your enemy. (the more you sweat into your clothing, the more you will get cold when you stop) This is something that you can train. A few years ago I went to climb Mt Rainier with a colleague. We walked up the lower snow slopes to get to the camp. I wore a base layer and a wind breaker and a Buff® on my head. I was super vigilant to keep cool. My colleague however wore a base layer and an insulated waterproof breathable jacket. He was sweating buckets and when we stopped to eat some snacks he was instantly cold. I just layered over the top of my kit and was comfortable.

PUFfer runners on the bus www.jacquesmarais.co.za

PUFfer runners on the bus http://www.jacquesmarais.co.za

When you get off the bus in Cape Point you want to be cold and even shivering. Anything more and you will overheat within a few minutes of running exertion.

For  legwear it is either shorts or tights – really your call. Tights can help with chafing and will dry quicker as they are closer to your skin. Shorts tend to have more pockets to put stuff and rubbish.

Stevie doing in race kit

Stevie doing in race kit

On my body I wear a light polyester t shirt. A short zip really helps to regulate heat.

I do most of my temperature regulation by wearing a Buff® at the start in a beanie. I will remove this and replace with a cap. A running cap is awesome in that it keeps the sun (and rain) out of your face. I need all the head coverage and it works well to scoop water from a stream later to cool you down. M like’s her running visors but then she has loads of hair.

 

 

Comfort layers: Warmth, Water, Wind

Warmth:

Staying warm is relies on many things. One of them is insulation from the elements. That is actually quite simple. You need to trap air next to your body. This trapped air acts as insulation and is heated by your body. The more effectively that air is trapped the better that garment will work.

This comes down to two factors: Fit and fabric.

You want a snug fit so that you can effectively trap air next to your skin.

The fabric of the garment also plays a huge role here. You have three choices. I am not going to go into each in detail. You can read all the marketing gumf on each manufacturers web site. The basics are:

Polyester great at moving moisture.

Polypro (great cold weather base layer),

Wool (great natural fibre) Merino Wool has the ability to hold a bit more moisture so that it does not feel damp so it feels drier. It also does not feel like a plastic bag next to your skin and does not stink! We distribute Icebreaker in South Africa so I am a fan.

Some races have a fleece layer as part of the required kit list. Personally I prefer carrying two base layers. The outer with a short zip to regulate warmth. These are more effective at trapping heat and as a result will keep me warmer. The First Ascent Derma Tec is super warm. In fact I can only wear it when I am stationary (evenings when camping) I have never exercised in it but I am pretty confident that it will stand up to anything you throw at it in SA.

We have seen a few triathletes migrate up to the trail scene and with them compression gear in the form of spandex and lycra. These items work fantastically well but are no good in offering warmth. Spandex just does not have the same insulation properties as polyester, polypro or wool. You have been warned!

Waterproof breathable:

Last week I was in a new running shop and I was told that customers want cheaper waterproofs. I was shown a jacket with no hood, not seam sealed and about a quarter of the price of anything else. You get what you pay for!

Personally my waterproof BREATHABLE jacket forms part of my emergency kit. I have never run in one. But when the chips are down and you are moving slow or not moving at all you want one and you want it now!

OK so what constitutes a waterproof BREATHABLE?

A decent jacket should be waterproof (obviously) but also allow moisture to pass through the membrane from the inside out. A plastic bag is fantastically waterproof but does not breathe! You can look at the claimed numbers by manufacturers all over the net. If a jacket breathes well enough it should not need pit vents.

One thing you want to be carefull of is when you put the jacket on you are pretty committed. If you later overheat (or produce too much moisture on the inside of your jacket) and you take it off then you will cool down massively. So when you are putting your waterproof breathable on you are making a big commitment.

Wind:

One of my best garments is my windproof. Each company makes one and they all work on the same principle.

I prefer something super light made from Pertex or similar. The fit is not as crucial as on a bike where you want a super snug fit.

Remember to treat it with Nikwax or similar in order to keep its DWR. In fact this layer will keep you comfortable in most conditions. This is due to the high breathability and the windproof fabric.

Emergency Gear:

I keep my emergency kit separate to my running gear. It contains:

Waterproof breathable jacket and base layer as a minimum;

Myprodol (I am in no way advocating using pain killers during a race. But when you have an accident you have two choices: either wait for a rescue, which will take hours or you can get yourself out of the worst of it),

latex gloves (I don’t plan to operate on anybody but to protect my fingers from the cold wind),

blister plasters,

space blanket (anybody who has finished Ironman and si wrapped in a space blanket will know how well it works),

whistle (Is more audible and distinctive than a shout and takes less effort to make a sound)

Nutrition and Hydration:

I like to keep Nutrition and Hydration as separate as possible.

What happens when you are low on nutrition but feeling bloated from drinking too much?

What happens when you want liquid but not nutrition?

Separating the two gives you more options.

Currently I am using 32Gi products as they suit my objectives and general nutrition right now. See my previous post here. Variety works for me. I don’t use gels early on as it blocks my stomach later. I would like to experiment with a concentrated mix of 32Gi going forward to see how that works. I regularly read what Allen Lim has to say. I find that eating solids definitely helps in keeping my stomach happy. It does clog up my throat a bit for hard running efforts though.

I put pure water into my hydration bladder or bottles.

I have both planned out before hand and my second knows exactly what to give me when. I have two bum bags that I swap at every check point and they have right hydration and nutrition pre packed.

In order to carry the above hydration and nutrition you have a couple of options:

Me wearing a bum bag only while other runners have their torso covered with back packs

Me wearing a bum bag only while other runners have their torso covered with back packs

Racing vests are very popular at the moment. They carry a lot of kit and are least restrictive on your running style but I do feel that they are pretty hot and prevent shedding heat.

If I can then I use a bum bag. This does put more weight on your hips and thus influences your centre of gravity more noticeably. But the advantage of staying cooler is huge. It is also super easy to refill bottles compared to a hydration bladder. Downside you can’t carry as much kit.

Please understand I am not claiming any of this to be the right or only way. It is working for me, right now. Let me know your thoughts.

Now go and enjoy the race!

Black Diamond Comp results!

The news you have all been waiting for:
When I was on the mountain between Kasteels Poort and Corridor Ravine in very heavy mist and a strong breeze things still seemed wide open. Ake was looking strong with John on his heals. Will was about 20 seconds behind but things still seemed wide open. By Constantia Nek Ake had 4min on Will….

The final result:
Ake Fagereng in a smashing 4:11

John Collins
Greg Goodal
So as far as the predictions go nobody predicted Ake in first (including Ake himself!) and Man Overboard and Mel predicted John in second. Man Overboard predicted 4:16:20 and Mel predicted 4:17.
Drum Roll!!

Well done Man Overboard. One BD Flash backpack is on it’s way to you! In fact drop me a mail on emailDOTleorustATgmailDOTcom with your contact details and we will take it from there.

Thanks to all who contributed. Watch this space for the next competition to be announced in the first week of August!