Gelert Xtreme Lite 3/4 (self-inflating camp mat)

Height: 120 cmSelf-inflating Camping Mat
Width: 50 cm
Thickness: 4 cm
Weight: 520 g
£18 -20 (2009)

When I was preparing for my first camping cycle-tour, I took with me a foam roll-out sleeping mat, the sort you can pick up for £3 at Millets. OK it was bulky, but it weighed next to nothing and I had spent countless perfectly adequately comfortable nights camping in these mats, having used them since I was 10. However, I hadn’t properly comprehended 2 things:

1) You get really tired cycling 60+ miles a day and good sleep is essential for you to physically repair and psychologically refresh yourself. Do not underestimate the importance of sleep when you are pushing your body harder than usual.

2) The ground is strangely harder than then you were a teenager. No, really – it is.

After two really uncomfortable nights, I binned my old mat and bought the Gelert self- inflating mat from a shop in Aviemore. I am so glad I did, because it made the rest of my nights not just bearable but actually comfortable!
I bought the 3/4 length mat as I was trying to travel lightweight. I found that this was fine (it’s heavier than a foam mat, but smaller and the trade-off for comfort is very worth it). I used spare clothes to place under my lower legs to insulate them at night. I didn’t buy a Thermorest because they are disgracefully priced at over £60.
The mat packs away to 25 x 15 cm which is obviously much easier to carry than the rolled up foam mats. It came with a repair kit, 2 elastic straps and a wee nylon bag to put it in. The quality looks OK, but I haven’t used it enough to be able to say how durable it is. The twist valve never came loose and it is so easy to adjust the amount of air in the mat.

The down-side is it probably won’t last as long as a more top-of-the range mat and that it is also a little ‘slidey’ on the ground sheet of a tent compared to a foam mat. You also have to be more careful with it as using it on bare ground you could quite easily puncture the material.

But there is no way I’m going back to foam mats after having slept on this!


A change of name

I’ve changed to name of this blog due to realising that most of my posts thus far have relayed to running and not ( as I initially intended ) preparation for LEJOG 2010.
Sure, the running’s part of the prep work but the blog title “Land’s End – John O’Groats 2010” was a little restrictive and a bit misleading. Also it was dull.
I’m still going to be blogging my preparation for the big ride, and the fundraising that will go with it, but I wanted my blog to go beyond this. It’s hard having to write a brief and then fit the blog content around it; I’m just not that organised!

The Things People Say

…when I’m out running.

Due to being laid up with my now delightfully infected blister (a medic told me she’d only seen bigger blisters on house-fire victims…) I thought I’d list a few of the things I’ve had said/shouted to me recently, whilst I’ve been out running…purely for entertainment reasons.

* Why have you got a solar panel on your arm? (in reference to my iPod).

* That’s what you should be doing, that- lose a bit of weight ( said to heavily pregnant girlfriend pushing a buggy. He was swilling from a can of Carling. It was 10am).

* Run fat girl, run! (from giggly teenage girls smoking Lambert & Butler outside the chip shop).

* F*ck you! You’re a f*cking c***! (from cherubic-faced 7 year olds hitting a burnt out skate ramp with clubs. For fun).

* Oh well done you! Keep going! (lovely posh lady on canal tow path).

* Didn’t I just see you an hour ago?! (on my first 9 mile run. Felt so good to see the look of bewilderment on his face).

* Oh, just give up and walk! (said by saggy-faced woman dragging on a fag. Inexplicably down a remote country lane frequented by fly-tippers).

Blisters and Boinking (not bonking).

What I had planned for Sunday and what I actually acheived are very different. I was scheduled to run a 10-miler (my first), in hopefully around 1 hour 40. The weather was cool and dry and the route fairly forgiving. What actually happened was I couldn’t mentally get “in the zone”, I “boinked” after 4.5 painfully slow miles and I am now also host to multiple blisters, the daddy of them all being on my left arch and the size and shape of a Bernard Matthews’ Turkey Drumstick (Bootiful).

I can only guess at why I bottomed out after 45 minutes and the absolute best I could do for the remaining 6 miles was mostly walk, with a wee bit of half-arsed staggering thrown in to amuse the Sunday dog-walkers.

1) I just wasn’t physically ‘up to’ a long run today. ( kinda forgot I was suffering from a bug just 4 days ago).

2) wasn’t hydrated enough (drinking one pint of water beforehand was inadequate, seeing as I was parched when I got up).

3)I wasn’t mentally “up to it” either. ( For mystical reasons which evade my understanding, there are certain days in a month when all I really want to do is be indoors on a comfy sofa. I can’t get into the right frame of mind and really lack in stamina).

4) Half a bowl of bran flakes is not enough fuel to see me cover that distance.

5) I wore new shop-bought orthotics for the first time and although they worked wonders in that my left shin and ankle are pain free, it felt like someone was slowly burning a hole in my left foot. (Hence the behemothic blister).

Mustn’t grumble though; the pain and tenderness in my lower left leg has completely disappeared with the introduction of the orthotic. There has to be some compensation to pay for this I suppose (in addition to the heavy price tag of around £20) and that is that my foot feels like it’s been flayed. Tis only skin deep though – I would much rather I had an external problem than an internal one.

And as far as not completing my first 10 miler, I need only think back to May last year and my first venture out the house to embark on a ‘run’. 3 minutes in I was collapsed against a tree, making breathing noises like a telephone sex pest and convinced that my eyes had come loose in their sockets. I can’t expect every run to be better that the last.

Cycling proficiency

I never sat my “cycling proficiency test” at school (I think I was off that week), but even if I had I doubt it would have made much difference to how I cycle nowadays. Unfortunately, I find cycling on roads to be a real dilemma when it comes to rules and regs, overwhelmingly because I am very aware of my own vulnerability as a cyclist.
Having read this post from the BBC on women and cycling road accidents, I started paying more attention to the way I cycle on the road.
Chatting with a non-cyclist colleague recently, the comment was made that a lot of cyclists seemed really “arrogant” on the road. I knew what she meant, and explained that it’s probably because cyclists know that if there were to have a collision with a motorist then they are undoubtedly going to be worse off. What could be a ‘near miss’ (is that a ‘hit’ then… I digress) for a motorist could quite easily be a fatal accident to a cyclist. It’s every cyclist’s prerogative to ride like an bombastic egotist if that is going to reduce the risk of being killed or injured. It’s the cyclist’s defence, just as motorists have airbags, seatbelts and a metal cage to protect them. When you look at it like that, it’s not a good trade-off in terms of safety.

Now I’m not talking about those people on bike who charge on and off the kerb, jump red lights “because they can” and weave in an out of lane markers, pedalling with such furious abandon that they leave a string of (rightly) irate road-users in their path. No – those guys (sorry – never seen a girl ride like that), are eejits.

I suppose the way I ride to work is kinda “blokey” in style – I refuse to apologise for being on the road and I do everything I can to prevent motorists from overtaking me into on-coming traffic. Unfortunately, this approach often leads to dirty looks (and worse!) from the driver, even when what I’ve just done by riding another whole foot out from the kerb is save their Citroen Saxo from becoming permentantly enmeshed with a Rover 215. There’s gratitude for you. (Oh dear, this post is fast degenerating into a rant..soz). I usually comfort myself by muttering “Did you pay for someone to sit your test for you?!” into their exhaust fumes.

So I try to ride as confidently as possible, without taking unnecessary risks, in the hope that it will keep me alive (along with the abundance of reflective tape, hi-vis and flashing lights). But I’m still not clear-cut on a few issues. Is is acceptable to undertake stationary traffic at the lights? Is it safe? What about pavements when the road conditions are too risky? (There is a section on my home commute where I ride on the pavement at night. If there wasn’t any pavement there, I doubt I would commute at all – I don’t want to ride on a 60mph unlit road on a blind left-hand bend going up a very steep incline thanks). I’m a bit of a goody-goody when I’m behind the wheel – I tend to always obey the highway code and I rarely speed. Things just aren’t so simple on a bicycle. I’m not about to stick rigidly to the rules if it will compromise my safety. I reckon when you ride a bike, you have to revise your own highway code. The existing one just doesn’t work in reality.

22 days and counting…

Whoops.  I signed myself up for a half-marathon – 26th October, in Coventry.

Marathon shoes

The furthest I have ever run before is 8 miles, which I managed (miraculously) one week ago and didn’t die. (just).

So now I am slightly concerned that in 22 day’s time, I will find myself standing alongside 2000 ‘fit’ people with lean, beautiful leg muscles,  washboard stomachs, clad in hard-core runner’s vests and skimpy shorts and I will feel like I’ve gatecrashed a party consisting entirely of models from “Runner’s World” magazine. The reason for my confidence crisis is a vestige from my teenage years, when I was a member of an athletics club; in order to gain points in the league table, the coaches would enter me into events like “Senior Women’s 200m hurdles”  where I would gallop and limp around the track with all the grace of an elephant in leg calipers (I was off the day they “did hurdles” at school) and drag myself across the line as the other competitors looked on with expressions of concern and confusion.

There wasn’t a single athletics meeting I went to as a kid where I didn’t feel like dissolving into pure nervous energy; even PE lessons had my stomach churning for 2 hours before it started. Anything less than winning just wasn’t good enough for me; I put FAR to much pressure on myself to come first. I’ve had to learn to be happy with just taking part, after-all, run-walking for half an hour at 11-minute mile pace may not be the height of athletic achievement, but it’s a hell of a bigger achievement than sitting on the couch watching When Fat Pets Go Bad.

So this ‘race’ is going to be a HUGE learning-curve for me; learning to really run for myself, and not compare myself to others despite being surrounded by a crowd.  All I want is to get round the course without walking. Time and speed do not matter, just the distance.  Looks like I have a mantra there.

Weekly mileage – 26/09/09

Commute: 27 m

Bike@work: 24 m

Runs: 10 m

Total Joolz leg-powered travel : 61 m


Fairly quiet week, training-wise. Just a steady base of activity with nothing fancy added.