Run the Wild Times

Exploring places... not running races.

2016 Spring Issue - No.9

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Welcome to Run the Wild's Spring newsletter! 
Spring finally appears to be around the corner although it's still pretty cold and wet out there at the moment! In this issue we look at techniques used for running with poles, review the latest high powered head torches, show you how to buy Run the Wild branded hoodies and buffs as well as continue our series on map reading. We hope you enjoy our latest articles!

The Team @ Run the Wild

How to use running poles on steep terrain

Emily Geldard

As soon as you get into trail running, you’ll notice there is a now a bewildering range of colourful, technical and exciting kit to buy. Running poles are just one of these products, but it may not be clear if you actually need them. Here, Emily, local qualified guide and experienced trail runner based in the Chamonix-Mont-Blanc valley, dispels the myths and looks at the techniques employed whilst running with poles.

Overall, you are going to need running poles if you are running up and down long steep hills, plus poles will increase your stability on rocky terrain - therefore, it makes sense that poles are very popular in the Alps!

STABILITY: Poles will also help immensely with any technical downhill, stream crossings or jumping down big drops by aiding balance and protecting your knees. The rougher the terrain, the more useful poles will be.

PROPULSION UPHILL: Although many people first think of poles being useful when running downhill, they are probably of most benefit on the uphill. Here, they can save you energy by distributing the workload across the body, which provides some exercise for the arms and takes strain off your legs. Holding poles may also encourage you to keep a more upright position, which is better for your posture and optimises breathing.

This may not be as straightforward as it seems! Here are a few tips:

- Although some people might use one pole when hiking, you definitely need two in order to be in balance whilst running.

- Nowadays poles are usually left and right handed, which makes them fit the shape of your hand more comfortably.

- Straps are really useful, especially on the long steep uphills where you end up walking for a long time.  During this ‘power-hiking’ phase of trail running, you can save energy by just resting your hands in the straps. By not gripping the pole with your hands, your arms will be more relaxed and you won’t get so tired. Have a look at this picture to check the right way to hold put your hand through the loop. Make sure you put it in the loop from underneath and from the top as shown in the picture (right).

- Take your hands out for technical downhills in case you trip over. This will reduce the likelihood of injury - to your hands in particular - as you can just drop the pole rather than getting stuck in it if you fall.

- If you have poles that vary in size, it may be worth changing the length if you are going up or downhill for a long time: You might find it easier to have them about 10 cm shorter when going uphill.

- If you’re running with others, leave at least a couple of metres between you and the person in front to avoid being stabbed! This can be an issue in races when there is a big field of competitors battling it out along a narrow single-track path. If the person in front somehow manages to hit you, it’s fair to say it’s your fault for being too close, rather than their fault for not getting far enough ahead of you!

- Flat sections: If you have fold-able poles, it’s worth attaching them to your pack for long flat sections. Otherwise, it’s best to grip the middle of the pole and run along holding them horizontally, one in each hand. Once you find the balance point along the pole, so the same weight is in front of and behind your hand, they won’t seem to weigh very much.

Tripping over the poles: This could happen when the terrain is particularly rough or, even more likely, when you’re tired! There isn't much you can do to stop this apart from staying focused and paying attention. Also, take your hands out of the wrist loops over sections where you’re likely to trip in order to limit the potential damage.

Blisters on hands: This is likely to happen if you suddenly start using the poles regularly or if you do a long run with them. Therefore, building up gradually will give your skin time to toughen up. If you don’t have this option, it would be a good idea to wear thin fingerless gloves to protect your hands.

Eating and drinking on the go: I manage to hold both poles within one hand and still be able to use those fingers to help the other hand open packets etc. Like everything, it gets easier with practice!

Overall, lightweight is best, but generally they are a lot more expensive. The lightest are made of carbon, aluminium is a little bit heavier but is also stronger. I use Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking Poles which are only 290g for the pair at 120 cm long. Like mine, most running poles are fold-able, as you often want to pack them into your back-pack for travel or for long flattish stretches of running. In terms of length, some poles can be adjusted, but these will be heavier. When you’re holding the right length pole, your forearm and upper arm should be at right-angles - ie. the line from your hand to elbow should be horizontal. If you ski, it will be the same as your ski poles.

Overall, it’s best to just try any poles to get used to the idea first of all.  Over time you’ll become fully accustomed to them - and might wonder how you coped without them before!

Written by Emily Geldard, Run the Wild Guide, IML and Ultrarunner


Grab yourself some genuine Run the Wild gear!

Now available to purchase: morfs (neck tubes) as well as high quality hoodies with our logo and motif "Exploring places... not running races", for sale on our website. Order today and get free P&P! Click here for more info


Comparing high powered head torches - they are not all equal!

Run the Wild has been a big fan of Suprabeam torches for a few years now. In this exert of a review of their new torch, the V4pro rechargeable, we look at the stats of popular high powered torches on the market and how they compare with particular focus on how bright these head torches really are and whether you get value for your money. 
In my last review, I looked at what lumens were and why they were important, so I'm going to pick up from that level. Take a look here if you want to catch up as I'll be building on that knowledge. 

Light output is a big deal, it's why we choose the higher lumens. And high lumens are no good, unless there is enough battery to continue to pump them out over a reasonable period of time. It may not be a huge surprise to know that, on most head torches' light output will steadily decay from switching it on, until it finally fades and dies, this is known as a classic or typical output. But what may surprise you, is how quickly this can happen and also how misleading it is when comparing torches, as not all are alike. For example, when I switch a standard 500lm battery powered head torch on, at first I get 500lm, 20 minutes later it's 400lm and in another 20 minutes it's only 300lm, and so on. However, Suprabeam as well as Petzl have developed constant light output technology. This is good news for us users, as it means that we get the lumens advertised for longer. It's not used by many manufacturers, since it requires more expensive technology both from the LED, battery and how they function together, but the result, is a much more valuable output to the user. Let's have a look at this visually:

Constant output as demonstrated by Suprabeam vs Typical output:

That really is a big difference. So, constant output pushes power through the head torch retaining brightness for as long as possible. However, a lot of torches give stats which are actually based on classic output, which makes you think you might get the advertised output for a long period of time - wrong! So it's worth double checking the technical spec that goes with a head torch before you buy. Otherwise, you'll have a head torch that provides the lumens advertised, only lasting for seconds. Suprabeam provide all this info on their website here.

Now, even with constant light output technology, there is still some decay, and that is due to 3 factors; the LED setup and the size and type of the battery. Petzl tackle these issues by using many LEDs - leading to a bigger torch and also by using bigger, heavier, more expensive batteries (replacements cost over £100). On the other hand, Suprabeam is focused on high power with lightweight, so use just one power-LED, which has to be limited to prevent it getting too hot, as well as using lightweight batteries (additional ones cost just £30) but the whole setup is much smaller, neater, lighter and less expensive. One thing is for certain, rechargeable batteries are much more efficient at being able to produce constant output, whereas alkaline batteries classically decay. Having said that, Suprabeam still have optimised their performance, so that some constant output is still achieved, albeit in a much reduced manner on non-rechargeable products. So this is why, on output at least, rechargeable is best and constant output is the holy grail.

Now to make things more complicated, when these tests are normally undertaken, they are run from start to finish, and so the head torch is not turned off and then back on again. In reality, if you are using a standard head torch you will probably have a few on/off sequences, before it's used up. The good news is for non-rechargeable battery users, generally alkaline batteries do put some extra juice out, if they are allowed to settle again when they are off, hence banging the remote control to get those last few bits of power, tends to work. So it's not all bad news!

The other thing you need to look at, is how long the torch will run at it's boost level, highest level and also lowest level. Suprabeam holds up well in clearly identifying these characteristics, but again I suggest you look carefully when comparing products.

There are a couple of other features to be aware of in the head torch arena, Silva head torches have an "intelligent light" technology, which puts out a spotlight as well as a less bright but wider flood pattern for peripheral light. Petzl is infamous for their reactive light technology and has a good following in the Nao which was updated back in 2014.

Let's have a look at how the high powered head torches compare in the following table. I have only included head torches that have an output of at least 300lm and give information on measurable runtime, so with the reactive light, the Nao from Petzl as well as their standard torch, the Myo, there are 2 runtimes, one for the maximum advertised lumens which decay classically and the other for the constant output, which is achieved on the high setting (not max) so the comparison is fair. If the company has not mentioned anywhere in their technical details, constant light output, then I'm assuming (rightly) it's not technology used in the head torch, often also indicated by the overambitious runtimes!

Comparison table:

What's the verdict based on the tech data?

Well, apart from Suprabeam and Petzl, the rest are still using standard outputs which often means the power is fading rapidly, often to less than 20% of the advertised level after 1hr! So a torch advertised at 1000lm falls within minutes to 200lm, and as shown in the example below, the runtime of 50hrs also becomes relatively meaningless.

Example of standard decay (black line):

Why is this so important? I mean, we have been using standard runtimes for years?! Well it's because the amount of lumens advertised is going up, so are the prices, so make sure you are getting what you pay for, on lower lumen torches this is not so much of a concern but then they cost <£20. Thankfully at least Suprabeam and Petzl are setting a good example.

If you'd like to read the rest of the review with the test results of the V4pro rechargeable please click here.


Written by Simon James, Run the Wild Founder

Geographically Challenged? Part IV

Using natural clues to find North

Welcome to Part IV of this series. So far we have looked at what you can see in front of you as well as how that relates to a map and just as importantly vice-versa. We also covered the steep subject of contours and last time how to work out north from a compass.

North, as we looked at last time, is pretty much a universal reference for working out direction. What happens though if you don't have a compass? Or, like Bear Grylls you keep waking up in random places not knowing where you are or which direction to head home (like most Friday nights!!). Well there are many clues that can be used to work out where we are. It just requires us to spend a little time learning how to identify features that we may normally not even notice, let alone know how to interpret. This could mean that you won't have to rely so much on the compass or GPS, as they are often a lot quicker, more reliable and at the very least provide you with something to entertain friends with during a rainy hike. It's a sad fact that most people have lost touch with their environment almost completely, skills which our ancestors regularly used in the app called "the world", but for us feels unfamiliar. Which is why when we are back in the outdoors, our lack of familiarity and essential skills quickly highlight our weaknesses.

First off, take a look at the picture of the tree above. What do you see? Part of being able to identify and interpret clues from our natural environment is the enhancement of our observational skills.

So what did you see? Well there is the tree of course, but did you observe the time of year? The time of day? What direction the photographer was facing? What the local weather normally is? I'll come back to the answers to those questions later on, but if this is all new to you then rest assured all that information is available to interpret from the photo.

Often when most people hear of natural navigation, the idea springs to mind of hunting around for the mossy sides of trees or slimy northern side of rocks. Well that's only one small aspect and fortunately for us there is much more to it than that. So what are the key clues to look for? Well here are just a few for you to learn:

TREE SHAPES: The shape of exposed isolated trees (not in a wood setting) give testament to their environmental factors. The amount and direction of sunlight, the quality of the soil, the prevailing winds, storm force winds, recent disturbance such as avalanche or rock fall, aspect and slope angle all have an effect on how a tree grows. The most obvious is the "tick shape - ✔", this is the combined shape made by visually connecting the branches from one side of the tree with the other. In the picture above the right hand side has steeper angled branches which are longer, and the left has shallower angled, shorter denser branches producing many more leaves to catch the sunshine. This will be the combination of how much sunshine is influencing the growth of the tree in this direction and the direction the prevailing winds blow. In the UK the prevailing winds are usually south-westerlies. In the northern hemisphere trees will have their most abundant growth towards the south and then their least amount of growth to the north. Don't caught out by trees affected by more localised conditions, like in the shadow of another tree, building, rocky outcrop etc, or whether wind direction is affected by the surrounding topography such as a gulley.

PLANTS: Many other plants other than trees will be affected by sunlight and also wind direction and orientate themselves accordingly. Obviously plants that like to retain moisture will locate themselves on the less sunny side of an aspect. Hence, moss is seen more often on northerly aspects, but bear in mind it is humidity that drives this so the direction rain is blown in is an important factor. Lichens and mosses can be great clues to direction, moss is normally more green in shaded areas and darker brown in sunnier spots. Some plants will track the sun throughout the day, literally pointing towards the sun, this is called heliotropism. Both leaves and flowers can exhibit this behaviour, but not all plants do. The ones to watch out for are daisies, marigolds, young sunflowers and poppies and of course the leaves of trees.

SHADOWS: The sun rises in the east and sets in the west, although these are not strictly accurate and vary throughout the year it is a good enough approximation to work out which way you are looking. So the sun at midday will be due south of your position in the northern hemisphere. It will also be at this time of day that the shadow cast by an object will be its shortest. So referring back to the picture above, you will notice that the shadows cast are pretty much directly under the wooden fence, so this must've been taken around midday. If you want to get more accurate on your direction and time of day from the sun then place a stick in the ground. Mark when the shadow is at its shortest, and also at the start and end of the day when it's at its longest. As a general rule the sun changes the direction of the shadow cast by 15 degrees per hour. From this you can mark out points of direction and time.

STARS: No natural navigational guide would be complete without some reference to the stars. Since working out your direction should not be limited to daytime only! Often people think this is far more complicated than it actually is. Stars are much more accurate in regards to working out direction than the sun or moon since they move uniformly from our earthly perspective. The star you want to find is the Pole Star (Polaris). If you were to stand at the north pole and look directly up it would be right there. As you move further south to the equator it appears lower in the sky but still directly over the north pole. So if you find the Pole Star then you can work out which way is north. The trick is to find it. It certainly is not the brightest star in the sky as some people wrongfully assume. There are 2 relatively easy ways. The first is to find The Big Dipper (Ursa Major) constellation or basically the one that looks like a giant frying pan. From the 2 stars that make the lip of the frying pan, trace along an imaginary line through these 2 stars for about 5x the distance between them, this should lead you directly to Polaris. The second, is slightly more difficult. You need to locate Cassiopeia which looks like a "W". Imagine rotating it anticlockwise by 90 degrees on the left hand V and doubling the total length of the constellation. This too should lead you to Polaris. With a little practise this becomes quite easy.

MOON: Easy one this, visualise a line being drawn which sits on top and joins the two horns of a crescent moon, the line will always point to roughly south in the northern hemisphere.

ANTHILLS: Not the first thing most people think of when wanting to work out which way is north! Ants though being cold blooded like all insects like a bit of warmth. So they build their nests orientated to the first rays of the sun in the east and also the hottest rays, the south, hence, ant hills generally are elongated south-east and built mainly on southern or eastern facing slopes.

ASPECT: We will often build our homes on southern aspects, just like the ant example. Aspect can have a significant impact on the temperature of the area, since northerly aspects are normally in shade they can be cooler and more moist. If this is observed in drier, sunnier climates plants grow more abundantly on northern aspects, but often in Europe the opposite is the case with farmers choosing the sunnier warmer southern aspects to grow crops. In hill and mountain ranges southern slope aspects are generally less steep and this is mainly due to periods of past glaciation where northern aspects were much more heavily glaciated leading to steeper mountain and hill sides.

Armed with some new tools, let's go back to the picture. With the clues available it's possible to estimate that the photographer was facing north-west, the time of year was autumn and that there hadn't been much in the way of strong winds recently given the amount of leaves on the ground evenly spread beneath the tree, the time of day was around midday given the shortness of the shadows and the houses in the far distance were built on a south-east facing slope to make the most of the morning sun.

So next time you are out on a trail run or indeed just in the countryside see whether you can spot any directional clues, but don't be surprised if not everyone is excited about your new discovery, but then again they would if they were lost! Next newsletter we will be back again looking at the compass and also getting to grips with GPS devices.

Trip dates available for 2016

We still have space on our Intro to the Alps trip in June

New for 2017!

New dates already available for running the TMB in 2017

"A perfect introduction to running in the Alps that left us all wanting to come back for more" Annie, Sept 2015

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Our trusted partners are Cotswold Outdoor, Merrell (shoes), Injinji (socks), Aarn (packs), Suprabeam (torches) and GU (nutrition). We have secured discounts with our partners so if you partake in a holiday with us you will also benefit. Kit is important and it's often a costly investment that is there to look after you.

You'll also get plenty of gear advice on any one of our trips from packs to poles. If in doubt about what to buy before a trip please get in touch. We are partners with Reebok Sports Club who are on hand to provide any gym based training tips, and also PND Consulting for all things nutritional!


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"Exploring places... not running races."


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