Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Light Shoes

It is time to talk running shoes, actually not road shoes but mountain shoes.

In the pursuit for the ultimate running shoe one factor is always uppermost in my mind ... weight! Oh, and also I am quite besotted with Salomon's quick lace system. This narrows the choice somewhat. To plug it: it allows you to quickly lace and unlace and even make a quick pit stop before you cover some extra difficult terrain e.g. overtighten briefly for a steep slippy mountain section.

So what are the choices?

XT wings version2: 385g non Gortex version (gortex will probably be over 400 grams). A positive improvement over XT wings version1. A tough all season shoe. Due to random Salomon sizing mine are slightly small and so are not long for this world now I have the Slab-3

Slab-3: The ultimate lightweight trail shoe. Well at 345 grams it's just slightly heavier than theSpeedcross 2 but with real tread that won't feel like you are running up a stony path barefoot.

SpeedCross 2: Well this is truly the ultimate lightweight shoe. Again random Solomon sizing caused me to need a shoe a full 1.5 UK sizes larger (11.5UK!!) than I might have expected. I tried using this shoe and indeed it's possible to run on grassy surfaces for distances up to 15Km with ease. But if you use this shoe on tarmac or on a stony path or for distances longer than 15Km you might be in for a painful surprise. The tread is grippy but very thin, there is practically no suspension, so be warned.

The Speedcross 2 is actually more waterproof than either of the XT Wings 2 or SLAB. In fact I used this shoe in the spring instead of snow shoes to run in soft snow up the odd mountain. It was great!

The Ortholite sole which is common to all 3 shoes. The little indentations on the left front are intentional. This is a new liner, once worn in you will notice the back edge curl up slightly.

The top view of the SLAB-3. The shoe upper membrane is not waterproof however the weave is less aerated than the XTwings-2 meaning that if you run in wet grass less water will enter your shoe. However step into a puddle or stream and your sock will immediately become waterlogged. If your trail is waterlogged the heavier Gortex XT Wings2 is the only safe option. (Note to Wiggle UK, perhaps if you sold this shoe I would have bought one!)

The undersole of the Slab-3 showing its modest tread. But it is still there as compared to the Speedcross2 which is a thin grooved rubber surface.

And so to summarise: Well the Slab-3 are still new to me but so far seem to be an excellent blend of light weight and decent suspension. I'm going to use them on the big run this coming Saturday :-)

What Car

I don't think you should every underestimate the thrill of the chase. From studying the menu in a fine restaurant, planning your drinking strategy for a marathon or in this case cruising around closed car showrooms window shopping for a new car.

In Switzerland car dealers don't feel the need to work late or stay open on Sundays, you know times when the working population (who can afford a car) might have some free time to visit.

Well what did we see?

A 5 year old Brabus Smart for only 16K CHF. They must think I was born yesterday.

Well this is certainly the car for me, though never in White of course. For only 140K CHF (84,4K GBP i.e. the cost of a brand new one in the UK) you can instead buy a 2 year old one in Switzerland. It's quite ridiculous

Although technically a hatchback the Audi R8 has a large engine where you might expect the boot to be. The only thing you'll be putting in there is (fried) eggs.

A 2009 Porsche Cayman S for a mere 90K CHF (54K GBP). Nice and curvy and it is a hatchback. While the mid engine position allows for 911 conquering handling and the taut body is a bit of a turn on, the hatch is none too useful. You might fit a travel case in the rear boot but certainly not a bicycle. And this model is sans PDK gearbox.

Oh yes, and in case there is anybody in the world who can help us, we are looking for

  • A new car for Marcus
  • 4 wheel drive
  • Dual Clutch Gearbox
  • Hatchback and folding rear seats (or at least long load area)
  • Enough space inside for a Bicycle or sturdy bicycle rack
  • Low height
  • Lightweight
  • Powerful engine, high revving much preferred
  • Airconditioning
  • GPS/Satnav
  • Preferably Alacantra not leather interior
  • Cruise Control
  • Must not look butt ugly
  • Not an import vehicle
Now , how difficult can that be!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Daily Run to Boudry Mountain

I've not yet figured out the most environmentally friendly way to get to work yet or how to combine it into my daily exercise regime. Normally I'd plan to run or cycle to work but the new job is much too far away.

So as a stopgap I've taken to arriving to work at 06.45 and spending at least an hour daily on a mountain run. This should make excellent training for all the Summer mountain races and hikes, and today I shot a few videos with my iPod Nano

First stop. My comedy Marsha meets Comedy Podcast finished so I had to pause and find something new to Listen to. I went for Look Away Now

Second Stop. Time for some nutrients in the form of a SIS GO Gel Today it is Orange flavour, my favourite.

It is so sad. I came across Mr Mole who had expired whilst crossing the mountain road. He looked so serene and it was yet so sad. Time to admit defeat, not enough time to get to the top of the mountain. Turn around and sprint back down to the car and then to work.

Last minute July 1st update: video diary

Monday, June 28, 2010

They think it's all over

Well it is quite possible that our neighbours cat knows more about football than I do, but in my humble opinion unless English goals count more than German ones we have just exited the World Cup 2010.

We missed the first 3 goals (2 to Germany and 1 to England) as we were busy cycling from Lausanne to visit Mark's world cup 2010 England victory extravaganza in not so nearby Buchillon this Sunday afternoon.

In fact even after running down from the Lac de Salanfe mountain, sprinting home in the car, and then jumping onto our bicycles we were still late. Still as we ascended Mark and George's stairs all we heard were cheers as the plucky brits put the ball into the back of the German net to make it a 2-2 equaliser. Then tradegy ... the goal was disallowed.

And then as they say it was all downhill from there. As the final minutes ticked down the score became 4 goal things to Germany, 1 goal to England. And then the final whistle blew and we knew it was all over.

To celebrate the outcome 4-1 to Germany, English players get naked on the pitch

Meanwhile Marcus and Mark break out the Chamagne to prematurely celebrate the English World cup victory of 2014

But the children are totally non plussed. Those iPads are distracting them away from the football

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Lac de Salanfe

Hat tip, big up and thanks to Ania for organising our Sunday morning excursion to Lac de Salanfe

We heard later that Ania had been up all night saving a SAP system from certain meltdown yet she found time to organise the trip for all of us. Tremendous!

The night before (Saturday) we had packed our rucksacks with all that we will be needing for the big race in one weeks time. For Marcus it came to 4.4Kg (including the marmalade sandwiches). Today we won't need this equipment but we're going to give it a road test to see how this new rucksack feels.

I am tremendously impressed by how well [redacted] and Kasia are still able to participate in hiking and other activities. Here [redacted] is carrying Cecile.

Meanwhile Marcus offered to take on a rucksack to weigh him down a little and slow him down. With this front load flopping about it was not longer possible to run up the mountain and we had to walk and be sociable, which is just as well.

Miriam seen here keeping Luigi hydrated. Of course dogs can't perspire so keeping them cool with water is tremendously important.

Lola became scared when asked to climb numerous metal stairs, so after all else failed she had to be carried up. 30Kg's of scared hound. Not easy!

Guillaume, Mariana and Miriam

Arrival at Lac de Salanfe

[redacted] coming up with Cecile

View from the Dam

Ah Paddington would have been proud. Marcus gets out his Marmalade sandwiches.

Agata contemplates the best route to run back down the mountain. Time is short, we have an English World cup game to watch.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Dont Speed

My long drive to work is made just a little more stressful each day by the 12Km section of roadwords. Until November 2010 the motorway will be transformed into a slow motion precision driving experiment for all motorists.

The speed limit is set to 80Km/hour and two ultra thin lanes have been created with a tough and threatening concrete barrier on the left. To add to the challenge a mobile speed camera is occasionally positioned somewhere en route and breaking the speed limit as the above sign indicates, can cause you to lose your license.

The number is quite daunting but the other day I found a remarkable fact: this is a shared number, all other roadworks in Vaud Canton and maybe even further away share this same number! What a con.

Still I would not recommend speeding, the lanes are to within a few centimetres of the width of a wide car as witnessed the other day as a VW Passat edged past with his rear left bumper dragging along the ground after a collision with the left concrete barrier


Friday, June 25, 2010

When new is old

Ah, in the kingdom of the blind, the one eyed man is king. In this context I am referring to the gratitude and amazement of some Swiss friends who rave about the game changing Passe Bene self scanning system introduced at Coop supermarkets

I have to break it to them gently that a similar system was introduced by Safeway about 10 years ago!

Here is the essence of the revolutionary Swiss way

  • You sign up and using your Coop loyalty card approach the front of the supermarket where there's an optical scanner
  • You scan your card and it unlocks a portable optical scanner as pictured above
  • You place this in the top of a shopping trolley and scan items as you shop
  • When you get to the special checkout you hand over the gadget and then pay the bill
The mainly clever bit is that you scan your shopping on the fly and put it directly into bags. At the checkout you don't need to put any shopping onto the conveyor and then into a bag. This saves all that stretching and back ache and you should finish a little quicker.

Since we are in Switzerland where everybody is 100% honest you have to wonder under what conditions they make you do a manual rescan. It does happen sometimes and it is most annoying. We have noticed that this happens when the amount you spend is different from the norm, and maybe the programming thinks you have accidentally not scanned something.

Overall we like the system, saving us time and easing the task of the checkout operator. A great example of a win-win situation.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Getting bigger in the bedroom




The evolution of bedroom surfing continues

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mountain Training

In less than 2 weeks Agata and I will be entering the longest running race of our lives. And we have been adventurous enough to make sure it's not on the flat. Yes, we thought we might enter the 2010 Verbier St-Bernard race. This is 61Km race with a 4000 metre change in altitude (up and down).

So this Saturday June 19th we thought we might try out at least the first part:

La Fouly to Col Fenetre du Grand-St-Bernard

The majority of the preparation time was spent packing the rucksack just like it's going to be on the day. The competition has some strict rules about what must be taken. I think I have it right when I say:

  • A rucksack
  • A fleece of at least 150grams and not just underwear
  • Long running trousers (if not on then packed)
  • Gloves
  • Waterproof jacket
  • An foil emergency blanket
  • Torch and spare batteries
  • Tape to act as a bandage
  • Recommended to take a mobile phone
  • At least 1 litre of water hydration
  • Isotonic is provided at the stops but you are not allowed to use it to fill your bladder, only water may be used. Bizzare!
  • Number must be visible outside all clothing at front at all times. Take a race belt!
  • They may check all these details at any stop

We eventually arrived at La Fouly at about 14.00 and as we set off barely jogging noticed the fog coming down and sets of walkers returning, not starting out!

As we ran upwards the temperature dropped sharply. Initially it was about 10 degrees C, then it fell and became foggy, then it fell still further and rain started. As we ascended further the rain turned to sleet and at this point the experiment was over!

We probably covered about 15Km on that day but the lessons are quite clear:

  • It is going to be tough!
  • If the weather is not sunny then really tough, perhaps too much for us
  • There are numerous streams. One can imagine if hundreds of runners are crossing then unless your shoes are waterproof you can't tip toe thru. I might need to invest in some gortex or waterproof mountain shoes.
  • Poles are allowed but if you plan to run most sections they might slow you down. Certainly you'd need a rucksack with pole holders to make life easier
  • My rucksack was pretty heavy with all the mandatory gear and the 1 litre of water. I think it's essential to take plenty of energy gels
  • The usual mantra applies: No speed heroics until you have covered at least 50% of the course i.e. after 30Km
  • We think that if it's a sunny day and we don't have any accidents then our time should be about 9 hours or less.

Agata voted

Due to the untimely death of the Polish President Lech Kaczynski an election for a new Polish president is due. We heard that Agata was not yet a candidate but could vote for one. The procedure is to goto Berne.

And so we thought it would be a splendid idea to keep the carbon emissions to a minimum, the exercise cells to a maximum and cycle the 90Km or so up from Lausanne this Sunday.

All was going splendidly in preparation, the weather forecast in the middle of last week was fine, but this Saturday the 19th it showed rain. Nevertheless this Sunday the 20th whilst not sunny there was no rain, at least when we set off, just a terrible Southerly wind.

After an hour of extreme wind chill we took shelter at a BP Wild Bean cafe. Despite Mr Obama's views BP provides the best facilities on this A1 route to Berne.

We reluctantly set off about 30 minutes later, back into that strong cold southerly wind. Armed with my waterproof and windproof jacket shown above I felt a lot warmer.

Several hours later this subsided but unfortunately it was replaced by light then medium strength rain. We just kept going. Agata was wearing her waterproof booties, I was not and with every revolution of the cranks my race shoes just got wetter.

Social comment: Our route was principally along the A1, a major road now totally eclipsed by the nearby Motorway. A string of desolate and abandoned petrol stations adorn the A1, presumably the reduction in motor traffic and resulting petrol sales having taken their toll. It reminds me of our memorably journey to Route 66 in America where we witnessed a similar transition. However on the A1 there is no rejuvination and it was all a little sad. Closed petrol stations were matched by derelict or empty factories and I got the feeling that this whole corridor was turning in on itself waiting for a magic restorative wand.

By early evening we arrived at Elfenstrasse, Berne where Agata proudly voted (as shown above). 5Km of cycling later ...

At last we get to Berne railway station. We are not cycling home, instead we'll get back to Lausanne by train and then cycle the 500m rise ;-( up to home.

After paying an astonishing 20 CHF for 2 bicycle train tickets we board. Our bicycles are not alone even at those prices! Note marcus 's Velotrac pak carrying bag just behind the headset. This velcro fastened bag has a special clear iPhone compartment on the top (which you can control with your fingers thru the clear waterproof plastic cover). Inside the lower zipable pocket there is enough room for my wallet, 2 or 3 energy gels, an iPhone charger and some hydration tables.

Before boarding Marcus ran into Migros's takeaway to stock up with the only meal of the day. And as you can see Marcus votes for roast chicken!

Not quite over: Though Agata voted, this may not be the end. To be a valid Polish presidential candidate you only have to get a few thousand proposing signatures. As a consequence there are currently 10 candidates to vote for. Unfortunately the victor needs a majority, and therefore it's highly likely the voting process will carry forward to a second round. So we may be summoned back to Berne. Oh no!

Marcus drank 1 coffee and a paltry 200ml of litre in 8 hours
Marcus ate 2 chicken legs, 2 Nestle Protein Bars and some SIS GO gels
We cycled 99Km
We stopped once at the excellent BP service station and numerous times to eat our prepared snacks

Sunday, June 20, 2010

RoadTest: Seat Ibiza SC BocaNegra

So it is test drive time once again. Today it is the Seat Ibiza SC BocaNegra (Black mouth- hence the black plastic front grille).

Although not available in 4Wheel drive we were interested because it comes complete with an Audi/VW style 7 speed DSG gearbox, a 180 BHP 1.4 litre petrol engine and a pretty bodyshell all weighing less than 1200 Kg and at a sensible price.

Our new grueling test that all our new potential cars must attempt. Can they accommodate Marcus's race carbon fibre bicycle in its soft DHB bike bag. It just fits in the TT and in the Ibiza it fits a little more easily. Still spookily close though, only a few cm's of space width and length wise.

This car had the almost 2K CHF extra racing brake package. The brakes were amazing but the clearance between the calipers and the wheel was ridiculously close. I expect choosing winter rims that actually fit would be somewhat tricky.

The doors were nice and plain with some aluminium detailing

The BocaNegra is the top of the line in the Ibiza world. As such it has some specially detailed cloth seats and some carbon radio, gearbox and instrument surrounds. It's quite nicely done. The steering is bonkers light in operation making parking super easy but whilst driving I wish it was heavier. If you look closely you will see the 7 speed DSG gearbox which works like a dream.

We just love hatchbacks. Good enough for Aston Martin, good enough for us.

Here is the 1.4 litre supercharged and turbocharged engine good for 180 BHP. Quite something. Their has been little to challenge my 1991 baby CRX which managed 160BHP from a 1.6 litre, as they say anything over 100 BHP per litre is good going. Must say though it does not rev like a racing engine. Also it does sound somewhat noisy whilst revving and the Salesman told me this was a feature.

Overall: This car did impress us. It's a good looking, lightweight coupe, with room for 4 people or 2 people and a large bicycle box. There is a full size spare, a powerful yet economical engine and the interior whilst not stylish is actually quite nice. The BocaNegra is the top of the line and as the same spec as the Ibiza Cupra but limits you to White or Red colours that we don't like. So we'd have to take the Cupra and add numerous option packs like the Xenon, Racing Brakes to get it to spec (losing the exclusive BocaNegra detailing like the seats). On the downside: the interior is not as beautifully styled as the Audi TT (but then what is, even a 911 falls short of a TT), the car is noisy to rev, and when all extras are added the price rises to about 35K CHF. Lastly the competition is coming in the form of the VW Polo GTi which of course uses the same Engine and 7 speed DSG transmission. It promises to be even more expensive, uglier outside but possibly more stylish on the inside.