Friday, 28 December 2012

Tour de Helvellyn 2012

No-one said it would be easy, but everyone seemed to have fun and finished safely.  It’s now nearly a week since TdeH and I’ve just about finished clearing up and dealing with the various admin and correspondence .. albeit I didn’t do anything over Chrimbo. The feedback has been brilliant (thank you) and there are some very interesting blogs and photos out there in hyperspace and I feel like I’m struggling to catch up and may have missed the boat. Of all the stuff I’ve read this quote is one of my favourites:

‘I am no stranger to tough trail marathons in southern England, but this was a step up both in terms of the level of fitness shown by the other competitors and sheer grunt required.  It was a pleasure to get out on the fells with such great company and I will be back next year for sure’  
     Lost in espace – FRA Forum

Taken from the FRA forum its sums up excellently why we started TdeH three years ago, and we seem to have created a classic.  TdeH is unique; it’s the fell runners ultra, tough and uncompromising and we don’t pretend to nanny our runners who need that determined steel edge resolve to ‘tick this one off’.  Equally so, I don't think we are elitist!

When you are deeply involved in making sure 150+ people (runners and event volunteers) are safe and efficiently cared for, it is easy to forget there is a bit of a race going on.  However, its was very evident when Ed Catmur came steaming back through our Patterdale control, way ahead of any expected time, that there was a race on.  Last year’s ‘winner’, Kim Collison had set off last and was aiming to break his 2011 record, which was set in snowy conditions.  This year’s condition where snow free although very wet and windy, hence wind chill was a fear all day for everyone.  

If you read Kim’s blog he talks of fighting all the way to the line to break the six hour barrier by just seven seconds.  Ed was to be second in a time of 6:05.  TdeH isn't a mass-start and so apart from those two, there were some excellent times at the front end.  But those who know us well will know that we are just as much about the mid-packers and tail enders as the front end.  Certainly, our resources are directed to getting people around and I’m very pleased to report that 128 finished out of a total of 148 starters.  Two of those ‘DNF’ can be read about in James Thurlow’s poignant blog, which is well worth a read with regards to hypothermia and clothing for winter running.  And thanks to John Allen for looking after James so selflessly.

Gear and Clothing

Please permit me a few observations with regards to kit.  Many people struggled with wet and cold fingers which has the knock on effect that they struggled to eat (or navigate or look after themselves)  Gloves often become useless and can’t be got on and off easily, whereas mitts can be more easily managed and are warmer.   Whilst we were waiting at Patterdale, Stu Smith, Pyro and myself were discussing how people need to ‘winterise their gear’ and think through what actually will work after several hours of wet winter running when everything is saturated.  And … yes, nothing is waterproof after so many hours of wind and rain!     We try and keep the kit check as quick and simple as possible but it is very worrying that some people believe their lightweight gear is ‘waterproof’ and that compression tights will keep them warm all day!  

James’s blog also talks about not having enough additional gear to put on when he started to suffer… something for us all to learn there.

Overall, those who retired were generally due to injury or the impending onset of cold and wet, or the realization that they were going too slowly and would be out too long.   There is no shame in a ‘DNF’ if it has been done for the right reasons and I congratulate all those who took the right decision and retired at the right time.  There is always next year ….

New for 2012, we used Sportident entries and timing which gives you all accurate splits and full results in readiness for next year’s attempt.  I need to raise the issue that several people had not ‘dibbed’ at control numbers two and/or seven (Martindale Church and Birkside Gill) and used a nearby orienteering clipper instead.  Quite simply, these people were clearly looking in the wrong place as I had not placed any clippers instead of, or alongside SI boxes.  Please make sure you read the event information as all controls had SI boxes in place.   I am aware that there is a semi-permanent O-clipper at the back of Martindale Church but it is not at the site of our control and such people should be lucky they were recorded as mis-punched, and DNF!

The control information was clearly on the website before hand and re-iterated on the display maps before the start.  I decided not to issue everyone with a printed handout at registration as to the vast majority of people this is just a waste of paper and in the previous two years has not prevented one or two similar occurrences. 

TdeH 2013 Looking Ahead

Thanks to everyone for their input, help and feedback. At NAV4 Adventure we like to create simple tough and yet attainable events for competent runners.   After thee years, and bearing in mind the excellent feedback, I believe with have the event just about perfect.  The ‘accommodation options’ on offer seemed to work OK, although parking is an issue.

We don’t intend to change anything in a big way, certainly not the route and hope to keep the checkpoints exactly where… so you can all find them! We may think about having a few small prizes of a festive nature and a wee presentation, maybe. 


Once again the return trip over Askham Moor gave a few navigational problems especially around the Stone Circle know as ‘The Cockpit’  Having been flagged up as a potential issue in the event notes, if you struggles her then perhaps you should think about a navigation course?

We are having  NAV4  ‘Open Day’ alongside our January training day, so just turn up for a brew, and a chat and perhaps get a few pointers (no pun intended) with regard to your compass skills or gear selection.      

Come to our Open Day - say Hello - Have a Brew
We also have some excellent One-Day training days arranged for January and March, as well as a weekend course at PyB in North Wales in April.   

TdeH runners and their friends can currently get a 20% discount of our One-Day courses in January and March by using the discount code NAV420F …. but be quick as the numbers of discounted places are limited.

Ok, that’s it – I really need to stop now … and get some exercise myself!

See you soon; perhaps at our re-vamped  'Lakes Mountain 40' in April or at TdeH 2013.

Joe Faulkner

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Hope Adventure One

It’s Not All About Lumens!

Head torch technology has moved on rapidly over the past few years and there are a plethora of new models with some pushing out a huge amount of ‘Lumens’. Battery technology has also come on in leaps and bounds and so it’s good to have a bit of a think about what you really need and where you are coming from in terms of expectation. The marketers would like us to believe that the bigger the Lumen output the better the torch, with Lumen being the industry measurement for light output, although there doesn’t seem to be a consistency of testing.

Any review, or new purchase use requires a baseline from which to base opinion, and move forward. My standard ‘headtorch of choice’ for a huge range of activities over the past five or six years has been the Petzl Myo XP or RXP, which is probably the market leader for very good reasons.

Headtorches come in a variety of different formats; rechargeable batteries, remote (long lead) battery boxes, etc.  However, I’ve recently bought a Hope Adventure One as a future replacement for my trusty Myo, if only because I wanted to see what was new in the same sort of format, ie, a headtorch with self contained battery box, that takes standard AA cells.

Hope Adventure One
Anyone who is familiar with Hope bike parts will be aware of the high quality reputation that Hope quite rightly deserves.  Right from opening the box, the Hope oozes quality with everything neatly packaged in a foam box. The Hope ‘A1’ is actually a modular system, so it does come with a long extension lead for sac / belt / pocket mounting as well as bike helmet mounts and handlebar mounts.  I wasn’t really expecting these additional features but these are an added bonus and will become doubly useful over the next few winter months.  My primary reason for buying this particular Hope was the simple fact that it takes standard AA cells which for multi-day use away from charging facilities is essential.  Furthermore, the ability to whack in a new set of batteries when the current set fail is a basic safety feature for me.

Do We Need Remote Battery Packs?
I have more powerful lights which I use for Biking, both on and off road, but the bigger and heavier battery units require the use of the extension lead.  Having the battery inside a pocket or rucsac is always a bit of a faff and can be prone to lead snagging and damage. Historically ‘belt-packs’ were needed because of two reasons; batteries were too heavy to wear on your head or helmet, or needed keeping warm in cold weather in order to get a decent amount of light output and duration from a set of batteries.  Whilst some of this remains relevant, even the standard AA battery has increased in ‘umph’ over recent years and if you use Lithium batteries for winter then the need for a remote battery pack is largely irrelevant.

Back to the Hope Adventure One
It simply oozes quality!  With a chunky aluminium headset, quality elasticated head band, battery box, extension lead and rubber connectors the overall look and feeling is superb.  As mentioned you also get mounts for a bike helmet and handlebar for I’ll leave those for now, suffice to say the quality of those is excellent.
The Hope A1 takes 4x AA batteries, which is one more than the Petzl XP/RXP, and so offers more ‘capacity’ for output and duration.  The A1 gives three simple outputs from Low, Medium and High, plus a flashing strobe for the maverick biker or safety function. The ‘numbers game’ reads nicely with High setting offering 215 Lumens for around three hours, Medium giving seven hours and the Low setting offering twenty-four hours.  These figures are very reasonable and a step or two above that of my baseline Petzl Myo.  Light quality is good with crisp clear light and a nice beam pattern on all three levels which makes walking, running or biking a pleasure. 
Don’t forget that this model takes standard AA batteries so simply carrying and inserting fresh batteries extends the duration indefinitely and, of course, you can use rechargeable AA batteries if you wish.

Just one last little thing, well two really, about the Hope’s functionality.  You switch it on via a reassuringly chunky rubber button, and it comes on in Low setting.  This is better than starting with High and clicking through to Low as it preserves your night vision and that of your mates.  A further click moves up to Medium and a third click takes you to High.  A fourth click gives you flashing strobe, but a two second hold turns the Hope off at any time.  Simple.  Most the time I stick with one click and Low, or perhaps up to Medium ... with only curiosity or a technical descent or control search needing High output.

Having used the Hope A1 for a few weeks I have appreciated its simplicity as well as its quality. Little things matter so, as illustrated by the head band, all three elastics (two sides and one over the top) have an adjuster so that adjustment is quick and easy and the headset and battery box remain central.  The elastic itself is firm and feels secure. The front and rear plastic moulded brackets are nicely shaped and comfortable.  All leads and connectors are quality rubber and feel relatively ‘bombproof’. 

I’m a multi-sport athlete with a reputation for endurance events for my purposes this set up offers the ultimate in functionality.  I’ve previously completed multi-day Expedition Adventure Races with Petzl Myo XP and so with the Maximum output of The Hope A1 being increased from the Myo’ 140 Lumens max, this is sizeable step up.

The Future is Bright
I ordered this model without actually seeing it, so when it arrived with the modular format I was nicely surprised.  I’m looking forward to using it on a cycle helmet for some multi day adventures and will try the handlebar mount as well.

So, What did I learn?
After using The Hope for a few weeks I’ve become very accustomed to it and appreciate its simplicity, output and quality.  I’ve also realized how good a torch the Petzl Myo XP/RXP is and how familiar it was too me.  The Myo is also that little bit lighter and more compact than the Hope A1, so if it’s a matter of carrying weight in your sac the Myo wins on that front.  Ok, the RXP is ‘programmable’ and you can customise the output, (if you can manage it) and is made by lovely French ladies in France where as the Hope is made in Lancashire, or is it Yorkshire?
Both companies offer good customer service and warranty, with one being quicker than the other, maybe?

Decision Time
Ok, so I like the Hope Adventure One, and highly recommend it, but what else is new?  Well, the techno geeks out there are already raving about Petzl’s new ‘Nao’ which is a development of the Myo and offers ‘Reactive’ lighting – lighting which measures how much light you need and varies accordingly. Interestingly, Petzl’s marketing blurb highlights how this preserves battery life by powering down when not needed, (looking at a map, or running a well light trail, for instance) rather than just quoting the maximum output.  The reactive function can also be over ridden and you can blast away with up to 350 Lumens output but it runs off a specialist rechargeable battery that is not readily available as a spare, and puts it outside of the parameters of this test.   But, I’m looking forward to trying The Petzl Nao at some point in the future ...

For Reference:  Typical MRP's Hope £100, Myo RXP, £75, Nao £135....    Headtorch bought via Pete Bland Sports as a special order.