Sunday, September 15, 2019

Report: Heart of England Forest Marathon 2019

On Saturday September 14th part of Run Alcester, namely Marcus, Agata, Tuula, Becky and Mark assembled at Henley in Arden school to begin the Heart of England Forest Marathon 2019.

As you can see booking office was a pretty low key affair :-)

Trees not Medals

Don't hesitate to click to zoom, but essentially for every entrant 2 trees are planted.  10 for us total, and yes we did Carshare.   There are no medals and no timing chips, the modest race entry fees goes towards this conservation effort.

There were quite a few checkpoints according to the map but we were not prepared for how comprehensive they were.  So 4 of us turned up in full trail running rucksack gear stuffed full with food and bladders and fluids.  We would find they were not needed!

Our brave team, we are all Run Alcester members.  Hint: If you live in this area you should come and join us!

 The walk to the start was quite casual and this is inline with our ethos for the day and indeed that of the race.   You could actually walk this marathon distance   (starting an hour earlier) but we would be running it casually

A Running Experiment
Marcus and Agata have often said quietly and politely that we should now be at a level of fitness enough to complete a daily marathon.  But most importantly to do so without tearing our feet to shreds, or exhausting us for the next day.   We would test this today

 Full team at the start

Let's Go and Stop

 Ordinarily in Swiss mountain trail races, Marcus is known to grumble loudly at congestion of people stopping runners from actually running.

But today we are taking things easily, so the big jam within the first 5 minutes, to get past one (of what would be many) kissing gates, was taken with just a smile.

Food and Stops

I've tried my best to capture the spirit of the event.  It was in general, slow paced running in beautiful English countryside.  Oh, and it was sunny (upto 20 degrees C) and dry, something that is not as frequent as I would like.

Other major pluses were evident in that we did not have to negotiate i.e cross many / multiple prickly hedgerows, something that England  (and for example unknown in Switzerland) is absolutely full of

Kissing gates and styles were a major pain in the arse.  But considering that we were not racing we took it in our stride. 

We spent our hours just running with each other, chatting, smiling and soaking up the delightful countryside.

I hope this is evident this from our happy faces.

 So many stops equipped with delicious food.  I wish we had known and we would not have brought all those food items with us.

The Stats
What these gentle stats show Marcus, is that with an average Heart rate on the day of just 103 bpm, it was time to head our post race for a celebration cream tea.   And with the 2000+ calories spent, I am still calorie negative for the day.  Wonderful.

Really All Good?

So it is a few hours post run now.  And yes Marcus' and Agata's bits are still in 100% fine condition.  Not tired.  No aches. No Pains. No blisters.  Feet as above in A1 condition. We quietly appreciate that our lives and fitness levels have now reached a decent level.  Took dedication, but we are at last there.

Take it away Woolfy

Saturday, September 14, 2019

NEC Bicycle Show 2019

Agata, Pierre and Marcus simply love cycling, oh and also bicycles and the technology that helps us cycle quicker and monitor our rides.

Our mission as we trotted around the 2019 NEC Bicycle show was simply to enjoy ourselves, show restraint, and not instantly empty our bank accounts.

I made a few visual notes as we gawped and walked around

 Darling Ribble

Ribble have developed and blossomed in the 20 years or so that we have used them.  Above all they still have fantastically low prices, a bicycle configurator, and in 2019 some very fancy products.

For Marcus, any ultra lightweight componentry has to pass the "I can easily clean it test" These clavic brakes fail miserably. (Choose these instead)

These fancy components are on the show bike which is actually holding this sub 6kg masterpiece with only balloons.  But I don't think this kit is specifiable on their wonderful configurator.

More eye watering bikes from Ribble.  Note the From ... pricing

 Ribble are now aggressively pushing e-bikes.   If I was 20 years older and very wealthy I'd have at least one in my bicycle stable

Marcus spoke to the man who mused he was adding an extra balloon as this had to better support the 5.x Kg bicycle for a few days running!

 I don't like Mavic wheels these days but the Ribble stand was positively overflowing with them.  I do admit these Tour De France celebration wheels are rather beautiful, though I'd have to employ a servant to clean them.


 Have a promotion for 530 and 830 units where you get a 50 GBP cashback.  My 530 is great but had this promotion been available months back for me I'd have gone for the 830 because the 530 interface  (maybe on purpose) is a total and utter disaster.    With 50 GBP back the show prices are very very good.

I tried to get Agata to go for the 830 but she was not convinced.

Limar Helmets

 Like cars, helmets just keep getting heavier and so this 180 gram size Medium Limar helment is now the worlds lightest.  I nearly went for it, but Limar is a pretty entry level brand.  Numerous visits to other stands like Kask or Giro reveal more expensive 200 gram helmets.  So nothing was bought.  More research required.  Quality sub 200 gram helmet.  From whom?


 A whole set of well crafted but unconnected headlights and tail lights.  I think they are not getting it.  Lights these days are connected to each other and to a Head Unit. Usually via ANT+.   Lezyne has none of this technology.   Come on Lezyne.

Wattbike Atom

Agata and Pierre spent so long at the Wattbike stand looking at the more compact Atom (vs the Pro)  that I thought they might have got a job there.   It is certainly a beautiful product and it has computer control of the resistance, so you can set the Watts desired and then it changes resistance to match your cadence so your Power output is constant or as per the course you are following.

In England most serious cyclists, excluding Marcus and Agata seem to have a Wattbike.  We are still thinking about it.
Money and space are two issues!


 We did not attend but there are several


 I am a big Deda fan and must spe up a RHM Rapid Hand Movement handlebar soon


 As an ex multiple Condor owner I always like to look at their stand.  For me I'd probably go Ribble these days to create my perfect bike, but for hand-built and service of course Condor would be superior.

 Anti theft skewers.  If I had some spare cash to experiment with I would have bought some


Saw some nice conversions.  The issue is that at over 60K GBP this is an expensive, though compact and practical way to travel with bicycles on roadtrips.     We know people who can do custom conversions in the UK, so contact us instead should you want to spend considerably less!


 Had light products that are configured via a Smartphone app and talk to each other, principally turning on and off together.  They don't talk to any Garmin head-unit and the target audience is more the occasional cyclist.  To me not sure they have the right strategy.

SRAM AXS 12 Speed

 As a blissfully happy SRAM, 11 Speed eTap user you might think my criticism of AXS 12 speed is merely envy.  But no, really I don't think anybody needs 12 speed even in a one-by (i.e. no front mech) setup.   I think 11 speeds should have been where we stopped the gear war evolution.  But apparently not. 

 No time to check them out but if I did I would cross check them against Brompton Electric.

Crank Brothers

 Agata's venture to Time pedals is thankfully ending.  She is going back to Crank Brothers which I have always thought looked very cute.  Of course I'd be even happier if she joined me in the Speedplay gang (with me), but Eggbeaters are her preference.


Knog had a monster 2000 lumen light but at the expense of something so large I actually thought it might be a joke.  But I think I found this link, so no, it is real.

A Great Day
Marcus, Agata and Pierre have a thoroughly good time.   We spent small and smiled large.  We did walk out with a few cycling goodies that will be reviewed and tested shortly.  But we always remember: all this kit is only a means to the end of actually getting on our bicycles and cycling for real.