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Chariots of fire – my review of the Thule Chariot Lite

29 Aug Thule Chariot Cross bike trailer

It’s coming up to 1 year since Baby M was born and so I’m planning my return to work. In the past, I loved my daily cycle commute – it’s not a long ride, but it’s just long enough for me to feel like I’ve had some exercise and fresh air and for me to unwind. However, I was worried that this would have to change.

I’ve been looking at ways to share my daily ride with M and I thought it appropriate to share my research as it’s nearly Cycle to Work Day. I immediately discounted bike seats. I don’t think that front mounted bike seats are very good – it’s hard for the parent to see and I’ve never seen someone using them without their knees bowing out to the sides. Rear-mounted bike seats can completely alter your balance on the bike and leave your child exposed to the elements. Another option is a cargo bike/trike, such as Bakfiets or Christiania, however, they are prohibitively expensive, difficult to store and often heavy, which isn’t great when you have some tough hills to climb. This leaves me with a bike trailer being the best option.

Swedish company Thule has been around for a long time creating products for travel and outdoor activities. They are a market leader when it comes to cycle trailers, which they have been making for over 25 years. Recently, some of their most popular products have been redesigned and rereleased, so I was delighted to be given the opportunity to road test a Thule multisport trailer, the Thule Chariot Lite.

Thule Chariot LiteThule Chariot Lite stroller

Although I was interested in the Thule Chariot Lite primarily as a bike trailer, it easily transforms into a stroller. This is a massive advantage over many other trailers. I recently used a cheap bike trailer when on holiday. We were planning to cycle to a nearby tourist destination, but realised that when we got there we would have to carry M around. I hadn’t brought a sling with me, so that would have made the visit hard work. In the end, we decided not to cycle to the tourist destination; if we had had the Thule Chariot Lite, we wouldn’t have had to make that decision.

Thule Chariot Lite Thule Chariot Lite

It is also possible to use the Thule Chariot Lite as a city-jogger or a ski pulk if you choose to buy the conversion kits. This is a great idea. Having a baby is expensive and also requires space as they need lots of kit. Any way that you can pare that down is helpful. Before having M, I thought I had carefully researched running buggies, but I hadn’t realised that it would be possible to buy a bike trailer and running buggy in one. The RRP of the running buggy conversion kit is £110.

Thule Chariot Lite Jogger

As for the ski conversion kit, that’s not something that I would use in the UK, but I would imagine that it’s great for sporty people in Scandinavia or North America (or anywhere else where there is snow!)

Thule Chariot Lite Ski Pulk

There are plenty of other extras which can be purchased. My friend has an older Chariot Cougar 1 with a baby supporter. Her little boy always looks snug and comfortable, so it seems like a worthwhile extra. It can be used from 6-18 months and is a great idea if you have a little one who likes to snooze on the move.

 

Opening the box

Thule Chariot Lite folded

The first thing I wanted to know was how easy is it to put together? If the trailer were too fiddly too assemble then it might put me off using it. (I also needed to know how difficult it would be to attach it to either of my bikes or transfer it to my husband’s bike).

Assembling the Thule Chariot Lite

There were clear instructions about how to put the trailer together and even with the ‘help’ of an inquisitive 9 month old, it didn’t take me very long. I found that the blue buttons (that you can see in the image above) helped to make assembly really simple. They show you where you need to do something and the red/green indicators (that you can’t see in the photos) make it clear whether you’ve set it up correctly or not. It couldn’t be any easier!

A quick test in the lounge showed the straps needed to be adjusted!

It’s worth bearing in mind that you might need an insert depending on the age/size of your baby/child. Baby M is 10 months old and 10kg. She’s been sitting unaided since she was just over 3 months old and has been walking for 6 weeks, so she’s quite sturdy, but is still small (in comparison to a school-age child who could also use this product). The baby support (6-18 months) would be useful for her; for smaller babies there is a sling that can be used when using the trailer as a stroller.

 

Exploring further – what features are there?

Once I’d set the trailer up, I took a bit of time to explore it in more detail. The first thing I noticed was the stylish colour. I’m not sure what it’s official name is (I think it may be bluegrass), but it’s a lovely jade green colour, which is striking and (if you’re into gender stereotypes) suitable for a boy or a girl. More importantly for me, it doesn’t clash horribly with any of our bikes!

I was pleased to see that there is an adjustable handlebar. I’m just over average height for women and Stu is just below average height for men, so a non-adjustable handlebar wouldn’t be a deal-breaker for us, but it’s nice to have – especially if either of our mums has to use the trailer as a buggy as they are both quite petite.

Behind the child’s seat is a mesh area to encourage airflow. This is good for a couple of reasons: in summer, it will help to keep the trailer cool, also, if I were to use it as a running buggy then it makes it a lot easier to push without it inflating when running into a headwind!

There is also a large fabric and mesh pocket to store items in. This is good as babies come with lots of clutter, however it’s not quite big enough to put a week’s shopping in. I can easily fit my work bag in it as I’d like to use the trailer for commuting. (I usually use fixed panniers on my bike and am not whether I’ll still be able to use these if a trailer is attached). There are also two interior pockets that can hold up to 1kg – these will come in handy for M’s toys or snacks. When we went for a day trip to a local park, I put all of our stuff into a rucksack that I placed in the pocket, along with a picnic blanket and a spare pair of shoes for Stuart and there was still room left in the pocket.

Another feature that I hadn’t expected was suspension. This makes the ride much smoother for the passenger (and makes me much less worried about going over minor obstacles, such as small sticks and stones). Stuart followed me on his bike for most of my rides and he commented on how stable the trailer looked – he said it looked safer than other models that we have tried.

Thule Chariot Lite suspension

 

Is it safe to use?

Any trailer sold in the UK must meet certain safety standards, however, there are also some optional extras. Any bike trailer must have a safety harness. Cheaper models often have a 3 point belt with an additional lap belt. This trailer has a comfortable 5 point safety harness. This should be more comfortable for Baby M, if she falls asleep when I’m cycling.

One of the reasons that I wanted to have a trailer rather than a child seat on the back of my bike is because it features a roll cage, so in the unlikely event of the trailer turning over, the occupant would be protected. (This is in addition to wearing a helmet).

Something that can put some people off using a cycle trailer is the visibility as the trailer is quite low to the ground. For this reason, I wanted to make sure that the trailer is as noticeable as possible. It comes with an orange flag that is easily seen by car drivers and other road users. It also has reflectors on the front and back. I will be commuting in the dark at times, so will be investigating lights that are rechargeable and easy to attach. This will make me feel happier about using it in the dark. I may also add some spoke reflectors for visibility on the side.

There is also a wrist strap, which is useful when using the trailer in stroller mode (and essential if I use it as a running buggy). It is not as long as the wrist strap on my current running buggy, however, I think it is superior as it is sewn in place, rather than being secured via a knot. This means that I will not lose it.

The trailer has a sturdy foot brake. I found it very easy to use. The foot brake on my Out N About Nipper Sport has not lasted well – by the time it was 4 months old, I was having trouble with getting it to work, which is a known issue. I will be paying close attention to whether any similar issues develop with this trailer over the next few months.

Strolling with the Thule Chariot Lite

You can see the red foot brake on the right hand side of this photo

 

Protection from the elements

The trailer comes with an all-weather cover, which is important when you live in the UK! It also comes with an adjustable sunshade, which I’m really hoping that I get to try out! I’ve read suggestions that it’s possible to store the rain cover in a pocket on top, but I didn’t think it fitted well and was worried that it would fall out, so I put it in the rear pocket.

Many trailers are just shower-proof and the covers only go over part of them, but the front and top of this trailer are fully covered. The cover was a little fiddly to put on, but I am assuming that it will become easier with use and practice. I’ve seen a review where a sprinkler was been trained on various bike trailers – the Thule ones came top in terms of keeping the water out, which will be really important for me. If you’re choosing a trailer for leisure activities then if it’s raining hard, you can just cancel your ride, but as I’ll be commuting to work, I have to go whatever the weather.

Another advantage of this trailer is that it has a mesh screen which can help to keep insects and road debris out of the trailer (as well as keeping toys in!) When using the trailer as a stroller, I rolled up the mesh screen and tucked it under the flap at the top.

 

How easy to use and manoeuvrable is it?

I’ve already explained how easy it is to set up this trailer and to convert it between different activities, but how easy is it to use it in daily life? One of the frequent battles that I have with M is strapping her into her car seat, so it was essential for me that the safety harness was easy to do up and undo. It was a little fiddly to adjust it to the correct size before using the trailer for the first time, but after that, it was very easy to do up.

This trailer is one of the lightest ones available. It is lighter than the Chariot Cross, which gives it the edge when cycling uphill. This was important for me as I live in a valley, so every ride starts with a hill.

Thule Chariot Cross bike trailer

Helmets on and ready to roll!

My usual buggy is the Out’n’About Nipper Sport, which has a fixed front wheel, so I’m used to lifting it up to turn, therefore using the stroller kit on the Thule Chariot Lite seems unusual for me, as it turns very easily. For many people this is a bonus, but I think it’l take me a bit more practice!

When cycling, the trailer was barely noticeable at just over 11kg, which is exactly what I had hoped for.

At the park with the Chariot Lite

Quick conversion from trailer to stroller

The images above show the trailer attached to my cyclocross bike on a visit to the park. We were able to lock the bikes up and then quickly convert the trailer into a stroller to visit different areas of the park. The conversion took me less than five minutes and I was pleased to see that the two-hitch could be stowed on the side of the stroller (it’s the metal piece with an orange safety sticker on it).

Quality and value

This trailer feels sturdy and well-constructed. The fabric is really attractive and strong and the wheels roll well, so it’s easy to push (or pull).

The Chariot Lite can hold a child weighing up to 34kg, which is more than most British 7 year olds weigh, so how long you are able to use it for probably depends on your child’s height and willingness to be in the trailer.

Although this trailer and the conversion kits that can be purchased are expensive, I think it’s best to view it as an investment. A quick glance at eBay and other selling sites shows that previous Thule trailers hold their value well and can be resold easily as long as they have been looked after. My friend Laura has had her older model Thule Chariot for at least 3 years – it still looks immaculate and despite being used daily, she has had no technical issues.

The tyres seem tough and sturdy, but I think this is something that I won’t really be able to assess until I have used the trailer for several months and many rides. One thing that I will need to do is source some appropriate size inner tubes as I don’t know whether every cycle shop would stock them and I don’t want to find that I can’t commute because of a flat tyre.

 

My final thoughts:

I’ve used the Chariot Lite as a bike trailer and stroller frequently over the last few weeks. I was surprised by how easy it is to convert it between the two activities. It is light to push in stroller mode and changes direction very easily (perhaps a little too easily for someone who is only used to using a fixed-wheel running buggy). It is quite wide to use as a stroller, but its manoeuvrability has meant that I’ve been able to go into a number of tiny local shops and have not had a problem negotiating their aisles.

Baby M seems to have enjoyed being in the trailer. There is plenty of room for her toys to accompany her and unlike with a traditional buggy, she is less likely to lose anything that she drops. I think the position is less comfortable for her when she falls asleep in the stroller mode than with a traditional buggy as it is not possible to recline her seat. I think the seat may recline on the more expensive Chariot Cross model, which would be a point in its favour.

Snoozing in the Chariot Lite

Pros:

  • The trailer can be used for cycling or walking straight out of the box and for running or skiing if you buy a conversion kit.
  • The trailer folds up easily and is compact to transport or store.
  • The quality of this trailer is top notch. The fabric and stitching are good, it feels sturdy and yet is light.
  • The trailer is easy to assemble/use. The Thule VersaWing system makes it easy to swap between activities.
  • The trailer is rain-proof (which is essential if you’re using it for commuting, rather than leisure activities which can be postponed.)
  • This trailer has all of the safety features that I would hope for.
  • Thule trailers have a good resale value, so although the initial expenditure may seem like a lot, you can expect to recoup quite a lot if it is looked after.
  • The trailer has good suspension, which makes the ride comfortable for both parent and child.
  • Thule Click n’ Store makes for convenient on-board storage of strolling/jogging/cycling kit while changing between activities.
  • This product could be used from birth with the purchase of the newborn sling (however, this is intended for walking, not cycling – no-one recommends cycling with a young baby!)

 

Cons:

  • The RRP is £590, which is quite expensive (however, if you consider the cost of buying a buggy and bike trailer separately then it’s not so bad.)
  • If you’re using it as a buggy then you can’t see your child from behind.
  • The cargo compartment is on the outside, so your items may get wet.
  • The seat doesn’t recline or have any padding (you would need to purchase a Thule Chariot cross for these upgrades.)

 

Things to consider if choosing a Thule Chariot

  • How many children do you have/plan to have? The Thule Chariot Lite is currently only available as a single-child version in the UK.
  • If you are spending this much money, is it worth spending a few hundred more on the Chariot Cross? (This is an easier decision Stateside as the price differential isn’t so much!)

 

This trailer looks lovely, is comfortable for Baby M and is really easy to use. It is the ideal trailer for use as a daily commuter not least because it is so well waterproofed. On occasion, I would like a little more storage space, so may have to don a rucksack or use panniers. It’s disappointing that the two-child version is not available in the UK (but as a ‘one and done’ mum, that’s not a deal-breaker for me!)… I guess this may change if there is enough demand for it.

The Chariot Cross is £260 more (and £360 more for the double version). It has a number of additional features such as enhanced suspension and more cargo storage and it is more suitable for off-road adventures. I don’t do much off-road cycling, so that doesn’t worry me too much, but if it were my only running stroller, it would be important for me.

I would really like to try the jogging conversion kit, so that I can cycle to parkrun and then take part… or continue to enjoy lunchtime runs with M when I am at work. For this reason, I am considering selling the other trailers that I have to buy this extra. I think we would also benefit from having the head support so that the trailer is more comfortable for M to nap in.

Obviously, I’ve only used the trailer for a short period of time, so there may be some aspects that I’ve not explored fully yet. My friend, Laura, has been using an older Thule trailer for some time, so I asked her for her thoughts. She could not think of any drawbacks. Her trailer has been well-used and is well-loved. It is heavier than her buggy, but she finds steering it much easier, so she chooses to use it when running.

Overall, this trailer is perfect for my current needs. It should see me through cycle commuting until M is at primary school (and beyond) as well as being appropriate for short rides when she visits Grandma.

Have you used a bike trailer? What are your thoughts? Do you prefer to use a child-seat?

A review of SportArt Compression products

2 Mar

I’ve been trying out a range of exciting new products recently, including three items from SportART:

  • Compress socks
  • Calf guards
  • Insoles

SportART is a relatively new company set up by a pair of Ironman triathletes. The first product they developed was insoles. They came up with a technique to analyse human feet and develop ‘sports-anatomical insoles for different arch types’. These insolves are significantly cheaper custom-made insoles.

I put the insoles into an old pair of trainers that I have. I’m terrible at keeping records, so I’m not sure when I bought the shoes or how many miles I’ve done in them. (I don’t log into Strava often enough to make use of the tools here that can tell  me how many mild I’ve done in a particular pair of shoes).

I couldn’t feel the insoles after putting them into my shoes, but that was good as it showed me that they fitted. I had wondered whether I would need to cut them to fit my shoes, but they were perfect out of the box. I’ve only tried custom mounded insoles once before, when I first went to sweatshop. I only found out their price after having them added to shoes, and I had to turn them down as they were so expensive.

I rotate through using several pairs of trainers, so have been wearing the insoles for over a month now. They have reinvigorated an older pair of shoes and have provided my feet with good support on long training runs, so if you are struggling with foot pain or need greater support, you might want to try a pair.

SportART compression garments were developed by a CompresSport Developer. I’ve tried CompresSport calf guards before, so I was interested to be able to try out these products to see how they compare.

The socks are made of a soft, thick fabric, but they weren’t too difficult to put on. I had measured myself carefully, but as with all ‘knee-high’ running socks, they were slightly too long for me. I’m 5′ 5″ tall (1m 66cm) and believe that I woul need to have calves that are an inch/2cm+ taller for these not to turn over at the top.

The socks come in a choice of two colours: white or black. I tend to avoid white because of the challenges of keeping white clothes looking clean, but these have washed well and remained white.

The socks were comfortable to run in and provided a moderate level of compression, however, I found the toe box rather oddly-shaped so I had to adjust them on longer runs. (You can see where my toes are in the picture below – my little toes are not in the narrow toe panel).

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The final product that I tried  was a pair of compression calf guards (paired with black socks in the images above and below). This was my favourite product and one that I would strongly recommend and would buy in future. The fabric felt soft and smooth and gave a good level of compression.

Badger Farm CC6 2017

Have you tried any compression garments or specialist insoles? Which brands do you like? Have you tried any SportART products?

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Work less, run more

12 Feb

… that’s one of the slogans of a new brand on the fitness scene: Season’s Trail. It’s an online running brand that allows you to purchase complete coordinated running outfits (and we all know that I love to wear matching outfits!)

It’s a similar model to Fabletics, but has a couple of advantages:

  • for men and women are available
  • you do not have to sign up for a costly monthly subscription (this isn’t made clear in most adverts for Fabletics adverts… buying one cheap outfit signs you up to a monthly subscription that it’s hard to get out of. I love having new clothes, but there’s no way that I can justify buying a new running outfit each month).

Placing a complete order with Season’s Trail buys you four items of clothing:

  • tights
  • base layer (long or short-sleeved)
  • outer layer (jacket/zip top/hoodie)
  • sports bra (women) OR shorts (men)

The cost of this set is £100, which seems like good value for money, especially as there’s free next day delivery. I think this would particularly appeal to new runners, and anyone who’s time pressed or wants to treat themselves. It’s also possible to buy individual items of clothing and accessories.

At the moment, the items are available in a range of plain colours and a choice of styles, but some people may prefer more colourful/patterned items of clothing. However, the items are well-designed and are suitable for outdoor running, including trail running. It’s not a brand that’s focussed on gym-goers or yogis.

A really neat feature of the website is the outfit builder. You choose which version of each of the four items you want and can then view it on an online model. This allows you to decide which items coordinate best with each other.

The items that I chose were:

  • High support sports bra.
  • Ladies dark grey tights
  • Ladies grey long sleeve base layer
  • Ladies grey running hoodie

I was so excited when my kit arrived in a lovely branded box:

Seasons Trail box

It arrived not long before I was due to go out, so I immediately went and changed.

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My first trial of the clothing was a 5k buggy run followed by a buggy fit class and then a run home. It was a good test as I think I experienced all 4 seasons in that 2 hour slot. Although I got rained on a lot, I felt warm and comfortable and did not experience any chafing. The only problem that I had was that the sports bra was not supportive enough for me.

I then tried the outfit again (minus the sports bra) for a parkrun and a long run (17 miles). One problem that I often have with running tights is that they fall down – that did not happen with these tights, even on the long run. I didn’t wear the hoodie for the long run as the weather was too warm, but it was comfortable to put on when I had finished.

I thought I’d sum up my thoughts on each piece of clothing…

Season's Trail sports bra

Seasons Trail sports bra

Pros:

  • Attractive design
  • Option of padding or not
  • Coordinates well with other pieces
  • Mesh for ventilation/style

Cons:

  • Just not supportive enough for me to run in

I really wanted to like this crop top and think that I would probably have been able to run in it before having a baby, so it would probably work for flatter-chested ladies than me (or for people who are happy to wear it as a crop top over a bra). I think this is one of the biggest challenges that the company will need to tackle as getting the right sports bra is a very individual thing. I think I’d prefer shorts to a sports bra as I’m very choosy about what works for me.

Season's Trail dark grey tights

Pros:

  • Nice thick fabric, so they were supportive and not see through
  • Very comfortable waistband
  • Quite high rise (some might see this as a disadvantage, but it made them comfortable for long-distance running)

Cons:

  • A little long for me. (This wasn’t a real disadvantage – I’m short and so full-length tights are usually too long)
  • Would be better with some reflective bits for night-time running
  • There is a pocket, but it is open at the top, so I would be too nervous to put a key or £5 note in it, but it’s fine for an inhaler

Season's trail long sleeve grey base layer

Pros:

  • Lovely design – the stripes don’t really show in the images
  • The contrasting pink bits make it coordinate well with other pieces
  • Smooth flat seams make it comfortable to wear
  • Thumb holes make it suitable for winter wear

Cons:

  • No laundry instructions in English (I chucked it in on a 30 degree wash with other sports kit and it survived!)
  • There was a hole on thumb seam. This was a shame as the kit felt like it was good quality and well-made.

This was my favourite piece out of the four because it is really flattering on and very comfortable to wear. If it were available in other colours, I would definitely buy it again. (Jade green would appeal to me!)

Season's Trail grey running hoodie

Pros:

  • Lightweight but cosy
  • Thumb holes to keep hands warm
  • Two zip pockets each with a secure inner pocket for iPod, keys or money
  • Adjustable hood
  • Nice length
  • Coordinates well with other pieces
  • Reflective strips on the arms

I genuinely couldn’t find any disadvantages of this item of clothing.

Future plans for Season’s Trail include branching into clothing for hiking and cycling, which would be good.

If you like the sound of Season’s Trail, why not treat yourself. A 20% discount code is currently available: TRAILRUN

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Big round up

9 Jan

It feels like ages since I’ve had a chance to blog. Christmas was hectic and baby M takes up an awful lot of time (who knew it was possible to sit doing nothing but watch a baby for hours!)

On Christmas Eve, Stuart, M and I were in Cornwall. I had found out that there was a new parkrun at Trelissick, near to Feock, but the inclement weather conditions meant that it might be very challenging with a buggy, so we decided to try to alternative route at Penrose parkrun. We’ve only done it out on the coastal past previously, but it’s currently on a flat tarmac path, which seemed like a more sensible option for the buggy.

It was Stu’s turn to walk with the buggy, so I put on my festive SOAS cycling jersey and some shorts. I persuaded Stu to take his festive antlers with him. Initially he was undecided about wearing them, but when he saw that everyone else was in fancy dress, he put them on:

Christmas Eve at Penrose parkrun

The event was heaving in comparison with when we have visited previously – there were 335 runners, which was over 200 more than in most weeks. Unfortunately, this meant that it was a slow start. I was hoping that the relatively flat course would make it easy for me to beat my post baby PB of 28:15. The course was also far muddier than I had expected. It took me almost two minutes before I could start jogging and even then I had to weave around people.

I finally managed to get moving more quickly. I could hear the man in the inflatable turkey suit just behind me, so I tried to pick up the pace. The course is currently an out and back, with an incline up to the turn around point. As we hit the incline ‘turkey man’ passed me. I was able to overtake on the way back down, but it wasn’t long before he sped past me again – oh well, never mind. I was also keeping an eye out for Stu and M. They were doing very well and were ahead of quite a few others.

The return leg was much easier as the crowd had thinned out. I could see the finish, but it involved going around a muddy corner and across a patch of grass.

Christmas Eve parkrun 2016

It wasn’t a PBPB, but I felt quite pleased anyway. I was 53/147 female runners and 6/24 in my Age Group.

After I’d caught my breath, I jogged back to meet Stu and M. They managed to beat 24 other parkrunners, which is a great result as they walked the entire event.

Stu and I had hoped to get out and about a bit at Christmas, but Stu came down with a heavy cold and we had so many relatives to visit that it was nigh on impossible to fit in any running, although we did go on a long walk to buy pasties 🙂

By New Year’s Eve, we were back in Southampton, which meant that we were able to take part in Southampton parkrun. It was Stu’s turn to run, so I got to walk with M’s buggy. My friend, Caro, caught up with us partway around, so I had a lovely social walk, and also managed to get a walking PB 🙂

New Year's Eve parkrun

I then had a dilemma. New Year’s Day was an extra parkrun day, so I knew that I could do either Netley or Eastleigh parkrun at 9am before doing Southampton parkrun at 10:30am. However, my next parkrun was a (minor) milestone: #200. In the end, Stu, M and I went out for a party on New Year’s Eve and then decided to have a lie in, so that I was able to do my 200th run at Southampton.

At the start, I met up with my friend, Pete, who agreed to run with me. Pete’s a stronger runner, but he’d had a very late night, so didn’t want to push himself too much.

During the first lap, we saw our friend, Kirsty, so she stopped and chatted to use for a while before heading off – she was in the middle of a long run.

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My photographer friend, Paul was out on the course, so all of the photos from my 200th parkrun were taken by Paul A. Hammon 🙂

I had decided to wear my parkrun 100 t-shirt, but it was a mistake as it was far too hot to wear black!!! I was also wearing my Hoka One Ones – I like them a lot more than I thought I would!

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Stuart race walking with baby M.

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Pete and I had been chatting a lot during the first lap, but the second lap felt harder. I had said to Pete before the start that I wanted a PBPB of under 28 minutes, but I started to wonder whether it would be possible.

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I was so pleased when we crossed the line in a time of 27:54 – a PBPB!

parkrun 01 January 2017

I was 80/218 females and 19/47 in my age group.

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This weekend was also a busy weekend. On Saturday, I walked Southampton parkrun with M. It was a busy event with its second highest ever attendance of 884.

I decided to wear some new kit. I’ve been sent some fantastic compression socks and insoles by SportArt, so I’ll be blogging about them soon.

Sport Art compression socks

I also wore a top from Craft that I received just before Christmas:

Craft base layer

Again, I’ll be writing a review of it as soon as I have the opportunity.

I also took the opportunity to try out a new gadget – a phone holder for my buggy – so I decided to play Pokemon Go whilst walking. This meant that I didn’t set a new walking PB, but I wasn’t far off.

parkrun 7th January 2017

Yesterday, I took part in my first cross-country race of 2017. It was also my first race since having baby M. It was the 5th race in the CC6 series and I was looking forward to running with clubmates from Southampton Tri Club, although I was a little worried that I might struggle to complete 5 miles as I’ve not run that far for a very long time.

Badger Farm CC6 group photo

It was quite a busy race, so I tried not to start too close to the front. It was also rather damp and misty, but warmer than the photos suggest.

Start of Badger Farm CC6
Stuart had agreed to look after M, so I was able to borrow his STC vest. I need to buy my own soon! I was also trying out some compression calf guards from Sport Art – I’ll be blogging more about them later.

The course was different from in previous years, which were usually two laps. I much preferred the new route, but there were some long uphill stretches as well as some steep parts. I loved the downhills, but they tended to be very muddy and a lot of other runners were wearing inadequate shoes, which slowed them down.

Badger Farm CC6 2017

In this league, only 3 women are needed to score as a team, however all abilities are welcome. I assumed that I was one of the last runners for my team, and I was correct… however, I hadn’t realised that Claire was just behind me until she over took me in the final 500m. I finished in 57th place out of 80, so there’s definitely some work to be done on my running, but I was pleased to complete the distance and to see lots of friends from STC, Lordshill and various other running clubs.

Post CC6 Badger Farm

I’ve not talked about New Year’s Resolutions because I’ve not come up with anything solid this year… however, I’ve got some exciting plans afoot regarding my nutrition, so I’ll be sharing more about them in the coming weeks. I’m also still deciding on my A races for 2016 as I need to know how much free time I have for training and I want to be fair to Stuart.I may take part in some races as a pacer as I really enjoyed it last year.

I’m hoping to get back to swimming soon and went out on my first post baby bike ride recently, with my friend Kim. Later this week, I’m going to be going to a free fitness class: Buggy Mums. I’ve no idea what to expect, so I’ll be reporting back on it.

What have you been up to recently? Have you set yourself any big goals for 2017?

 

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Back on the team…

19 Dec

Training with a baby isn’t easy. I haven’t swum since I gave birth as I’m no longer a member of my University gym and I’m not currently a swimming member of Southampton Tri Club. I also haven’t been able to cycle as my turbo trainer isn’t set up (there’s currently no room for it). However, I have been running. Despite this, I’ve decided not to renew my membership with Lordshill Road Runners. I’ve run with the club for 5 years or so, but this year I’ve only trained with them twice and led coaching sessions for them, so I don’t think my membership fee is worth it. I may change my mind in 2017 and rejoin, but I’m more likely to track run with the tri club and do parkrun.

I am fortunate enough to have been selected as a member of Team SOAS again and will be rejoining some fantastic ladies. My friend, Abi, has also been selected this year, which is great.

Team SOAS 2017

We’ve already had some glimpses of the kit and there’s also a one-piece this year that Caroline Coble has been wearing:

Caroline Coble wearing SOAS one piece

I can’t wait for my 2017 kit to arrive and for me to wear it in a race 🙂

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Choosing a bike, parkrunning and some exciting post

8 Oct

Following the theft of our bikes in August, we’ve been busy improving our home’s security (along with 1001 other home improvements). We’ve had a burglar alarm installed, locks changed, additional locks installed, secure lock points fitted and various other improvements, so we’re moving in the direction of being able to get new bikes, which means it’s shopping time.

I was really happy with the bikes I had, but it’s not possible to replace like with like, so I’ve had a think about what would best suit my needs. I previously had an aluminium road bike that I used for touring and wet weather riding and a carbon road bike that I used for most of my cycling and triathlons. Some people have recommended getting a tribike, but I don’t have the bike handling skills, like riding in a group and am quite likely to do a reasonably hilly Ironman, so I’d rather have a good aero road bike.

As for my second bike, my Giant Defy was perfect for touring Japan, but with a baby on the way, I’m unlikely to do any multi-day cycling events in the near future, so I don’t have a need for a touring bike. However, I will still want to cycle in winter and I am determined to improve my bike handling skills. I was inspired by watching people do cyclocross training at Southampton Outdoor Sports Centre whilst I was at the running track and would really like to give it a go. The events are not very long (under an hour), so it should be possible to fit in some over the winter months. This means that I have decided to purchase a cyclocross bike as my second bike.

A limitation for my second bike is that I would like to purchase it through the Cycle to Work scheme, which means that it needs to cost under £1000. I looked at various options online and narrowed it down to four bikes:

  • Ridley X-Bow 20 disc
  • Giant TCX SLR 1
  • Colnago World Cup Disc
  • Focus 2016 Mares AX Disc 105
Giant TCX SLR 1 2016

Giant TCX SLR 1 2016

Stuart has also been researching bikes and has produced a shortlist, so we decided to take our shortlists to Vankru, our fantastic local Retul bike fitters. Although they can make (almost) any bike more comfortable, it definitely better to see Garth and Mark before buying something, so that they can advise which bike’s geometry would suit your build and flexibility best.

After having a good look at my data and the specs of the bikes that I was interested in, Mark advised against the Colnago as it’s quite an aggressive bike, however, the small in the Ridley or Giant or the XS in the Focus would be fine for me. I was also told to bear in mind that the Focus is slightly more aggressive. I asked whether Mark had any further recommendations based on my data (and price range), and so he suggested that I might want to look at a Cannondale CAADX. It was really good to get this feedback, and meant that I was able to rule out the Colnago.

This morning, I was able to fit in Southampton parkrun. I met up with Kim at the start and our friend Kate said that she’d join us for a social run as she’s racing the Royal Parks half marathon tomorrow. (Good luck, Kate!) We had a lovely social run, that I really enjoyed.

Finishing parkrun with Kate (and Kim)

Finishing parkrun with Kate (and Kim)

Considering we were chatting (and I’m 39 weeks pregnant), our finish times weren’t too bad either:

southampton-parkrun-8th-october-2016

Next Saturday is my due date, but maybe I’ll be able to squeeze in another parkrun before the big event!

After parkrun, Stu and I joined Tobie and Charlotte for some more bike chat. Charlotte ran a PB at parkrun, which was great and Tobie was saving his legs ahead of a cyclocross race tomorrow… which is precisely why Stu and I wanted to chat to him. Not only does Tobie know bikes inside and out as he runs Bike Guy (bicycle servicing), but he also rides and races a lot. So, we’d spoken to the experts about which bikes would fit us and had moved onto another expert who could advise on which bikes have fewer maintenance issues.

Of the four bikes that were left on my shortlist, Tobie advised against the Ridley as it had the lowest spec out of all of the bikes. Apparently, the Giant wheels may buckle under stress, but this is prefer to the Cannondale wheels, which are more likely to end up with broken spokes, which create further problems. Again, Tobie advised that the Focus is a purer cyclocross bike. So, my shortlist was down to the Focus and the Giant.

I’ve seen both of the bikes before, but thought it might help me to make my mind up if I viewed them again. unfortunately, neither bike is in stock in any local bike store. The guys at the Southampton Giant Store (formerly Wessex Cycle World) have always been really helpful, so I went there in the hope that they might be able to order in the Giant for me, but they said they haven’t been able to get any since about June.

I’ve thought about which of the bikes I prefer and the Giant is the one that appeals to me slightly more. Frustratingly, I’ve had a few battles with the online Cyclescheme vouchers, but I’m hoping that I’ll be able to order it online next week.

After our visit to the bike shop, Stuart and I went into town to have a look at bike shoes in Decathlon. I currently own two pairs (a lovely pair of Pearl Izumi Tri Flys that I wear for triathlons and a very cheap pair of Specialized shoes that I wear in winter)… but they both work with Speedplay pedals, which aren’t suitable for cyclocross. Aside from my failed visit to the velodrome, I’ve never used any other pedals, so asked Tobie and Charlotte for their advice. They recommended Shimano M520 pedals and Tobie said they were cheaper in Decathlon than anywhere else, so a pair somehow fell into my basket… I also ended up with a new pair of shoes:

btwin-mountain-bike-shoes

I spent quite a while choosing between these and a black pair of Shimano shoes. The Shimano shoes were slightly lighter, but I found the toe box quite wide (and I’m quite partial to turquoise!) So, I’ve got the shoes, now I just need the bike!

When I got home, I found that some exciting post had arrived – an Energy Snacks box of Sports Nutrition products.

Energy snacks img_7883

You can choose whether to sign up for a subscription to this service or just to order a one-off box. If you sign up for the mailing list, you’ll receive 10% off your first box.

For £21.99 the October box includes:

Energy

  • 32Gi – Sport Chews – Orange
  • 32Gi – Sport Gel – Raspberry
  • GU – Energy Gel – Chocolate Outrage
  • GU – Stroopwafel – Caramel Coffee
  • High5 – IsoGel X’treme – Tropical
  • Mule Bar – Energy Bar – Apple Strudel
  • PowerBar – PowerGel Shots – Cola
  • Sweet Peaks – Energy Sweets – Citrus
  • Tribe – Energy Bar – Cacao & Almond

Hydration

  • OTE – Hydro Tabs – Blackcurrant
  • Virtue – Energy Water – Lemon & Lime

Recovery

  • PowerBar – Recovery 2.0 – Raspberry Cooler

I’ve tried some of the products before (PowerBar cola PowerGel shots used to be my ‘go to’ for marathon training), but there are other products that I’ve never heard of or seen in the shops.

The items arrived in a lovely package, so it was really exciting to open it up, and it would make a great gift for a friend who has just signed up to train for a longer distance race, such as a half or full marathon. The only slight disappointment for me was that the Stroopwafel is Caramel Coffee flavoured – I love similar products, but cannot stand coffee, so I’ll have to get Stu to be the product tester for that item!

How’s your weekend been so far? Are you watching the Ironman World Championship?

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Do you want to be a SOAS Ambassador?

27 Sep

I’ve been a SOAS Ambassador since 2014, and have loved being on the team. The brand is led by strong female triathletes, who really know what women want from their kit (comfort AND style), and the other ambassadors (who are spread around the world) have some great stories. If you’d like to join us for 2017, why not apply? You have until the end of October to get your application in.

soas-ambassador-2017

If you’re male and want some of the action, then you could apply to join the first ever Hansym Racing Ambassador team.

hansym-ambassador

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Phoenix Fit UK elastic lace system giveaway winner announcement

24 Aug
colour choices
The winners of the Phoenix fit UK elastic laces giveaway on http://fatgirltoironman.co.uk were selected at random on Rafflecopter.
Congratulations to: 
1. Izzi Normanton
2. Ellie Wood
3. Franny Tran
The prize is a pair of Phoenix Fit UK elastic laces in the colour of the winner’s choice. Hopefully, the winners will love these laces as much as I do 🙂

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Some good news

14 Aug

Thanks to lots of sharing on social media, one of our bikes has been recovered 🙂 I went to Southampton Police Station this morning and identified my Giant Escape City W, which had been abandoned less than 5km from where it had been stolen. It still had its panniers attached and their usual contents (puncture repair kit, spare inner tube etc) inside. I am so grateful to everyone who shared information about our bikes on social media, but in particular Lisa. It was one of Lisa’s friends who saw a photo of my bike and identified it as one she’d seen.

Giant Escape City W

I am also very grateful to the ‘older gentleman’ who found my bike and contacted the police.

The bike was abandoned in an area that is not a through-road, so we are assuming that the thieves were not in a van and were trying to get away whilst riding/pushing the bikes. This gives me hope that they are still in the Southampton area. If you live in Hampshire and haven’t yet shared any of my posts, I’d be really grateful if you could. Here’s a link to the public Facebook album: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10157423984415651&type=1&l=6c193cbd3f

Also, someone has generously agreed to loan Stuart a gorgeous new bike (that is being held in a secure location until we travel to Denmark). We are incredibly grateful – more details about this beautiful bike will be shared later 🙂

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Are you feeling lucky? Phoenix Fit UK elastic laces review and giveaway

8 Aug

I’ve been lucky enough to have some Phoenix Fit UK elastic laces to try recently.

Phoenix fit UK elastic laces

Phoenix fit UK elastic laces

They come in a wide range of colours, but this pair especially appealed to me as they match my favourite trainers… which match my Team SOAS kit.

My favourite Brooks with elastic laces

I have tried various elastic lace systems in the past, but the first pair that I bought were very cheap and were so stretchy that my shoes kept slipping off. The next pair that I tried were OK for a while, but I found that if I ran for longer distances (over 10k), my feet started to swell and my shoes became too tight, so I’ve been searching for a perfect replacement for a little while.

There are lots of benefits to using Phoenix Fit UK elastic laces:

  • You never have to stop to tie your shoelaces. This is an essential time-saving element in triathlon as no-one wants to waste precious seconds in T2 (the bike to run transition), but it can also be the difference between getting a PB or not in a running race. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen someone have to stop during parkrun (or a race) to retie their laces… or worse yet, trying to struggle on with their laces untied, whilst I’m panicking that they’re going to trip and fall! This can also be a huge benefit if you have a child who hasn’t yet learnt to tie their shoe-laces or an elderly relative who struggles with fastening their shoes.
  • They’re really quick and easy to put into your shoes. I had put one pair in an ordinary pair of trainers, but I wanted to wear my blue/turquoise shoes for my aquathlon. I completely forgot to lace them before going to the event. Luckily, I was able to lace up both shoes in just a few minutes after I had arrived at the race venue.
  • They’re easy to adjust. Pressing the ergonomic lock button releases the laces, so you can easily make your shoes looser or tighter.
  • They’re really comfortable. As a runner who’s currently 7.5 months pregnant, I know what it’s like to have feet that swell at random. These laces are extremely comfortable and I know there’s no risk of getting hotspots and sore patches where my laces have been too tight.

This short video shoes just how easy Phoenix Fit UK elastic laces are to install:

My partner, Stu, is just a couple of weeks out from his first Ironman, so he has been looking for the perfect laces. He chose to add a pair of the laces in white to his Brooks shoes that he uses for distance running:

Close up of Phoenix fit UK elastic lace

Phoenix fit UK elastic laces in Stuart's shoes

Phoenix fit UK elastic laces in Stuart’s shoes

Since putting the laces into his shoes, Stuart has worn them for quite a few long (10 miles+) training runs. I managed to get a couple of pictures of Stu out running with those shoes on:

Stuart running 1

Stuart running 2

Stuart running

Stuart is a very different runner from me – he’s got good technique and can comfortably ‘jog’ a hilly marathon in under 3:25. I asked him what he thought of the laces, and this is how he responded:

“I think they give a more consistent tightness than standard elastic laces. I will definitely be wearing them for triathlons in future. They were quite easy to install, although I found putting the ends on quite fiddly… but that’s a one-off job, so it didn’t bother me”

Close up of Phoenix Fit UK elastic laces toggles

Close up of Phoenix Fit UK elastic laces toggles

So, what do you think? For me it’s free speed for my next triathlon 🙂

 

Giveaway

I’m hosting a Phoenix fit UK elastic laces giveaway, so please enter for a chance to get your hands on “the ultra tough elastic lace system.”

I have three pairs of laces to give away – the winners will be able to choose from the following colours (depending on availability).

colour choices

The giveaway runs from 12:00am on Monday August 8th 2016 to 12:00am on Monday August 22nd. Full terms and conditions are available at the link below:

Fat Girl to Ironman ‘Phoenix Fit UK Competition’ TERMS and CONDITIONS

No purchase necessary. Entrants muct be resident in United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The winner will be picked at random by Rafflecopter and announced on this blog by Wednesday August 24th.

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