Hashtag01 Running Shirt Review

DSC_0003

Disclaimer:  I was provided a t-shirt free of charge in return for an honest review

A month or so ago I was browsing Twitter and saw a tweet from Hashtag01 asking for runners who would be happy to try a t-shirt in order for a review of the product.

I sent them a Direct Message and had a response from Ashley, it quickly became apparent that this is someone who cares deeply about the end user and that the range on offer is borne out of using stuff in real life, rather than as a product of a far removed focusgroup.

20170722_084527_35507845513_o

The brand is new, but clearly aim to provide something a little different in this age of fake friendliness and high cost boutique brands.  The clothing have well thought out details and are available in in a variety of colours for both Men and Women.  The clothing is supported by simple, motivating phrases which are familiar to anyone who indulges in regular exercise. “It doesn’t get easier, you just get quicker” may be cliche, but as a branding choice, I have to say I like it… engaging without tipping into the realms of cheesy high 5’s and screaming ‘You got this’ when the wearer clearly doesn’t.

A few days after our brief twitter conversation my new T’shirt dropped through the letterbox.

First Impressions
My initial reaction to the shirt was that the quality of the fabric is really high, it’s certainly thicker than I would normally choose for running but very, very soft.  I opted for a size small as I’m 177cm tall and weigh around 142lbs at present.  Trying the shirt on confirmed that the sizing is perfect for me, close fitting without feeling restrictive and has a length of sleeve and torso that is judged well for running in.

One of the design features I was impressed with is the lack of care label, instead of the normal monstrosities that grace sportswear and end up being a pain in the neck (literally) the Hashtag01 approach is to print the care instructions onto the garment, eliminating a potential irritation.

Getting out and about
I’ve held off reviewing the shirt for a few weeks, I wanted to get some good runs in to make sure that I was able to offer a true reflection of quality and functionality.  During these runs, I’ve endured hot humid weather and torrential rain, the full gambit of the UK Summer..

20170724_183730_35507864503_o

I prefer running off road, amidst the trees and mud I feel at home, the running is more engaging somehow and I feel stronger from the continually changing ground conditions. Trail running is tough, both on the body (stinging nettles and brambles provide reminders of each foray into the forest) and kit; most of my running gear have been caught by thorns and scagged at some point, but even though the t-shirt has seen a good amount of use, it remains pristine so far.

As I said, the t-shirt is thicker than I would normally choose, despite my reservations, it doesn’t reduce me to a sweating mess and appears to regulate heat well, even during the frankly bonkers weather we’ve been experiencing in the UK at present.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0701.
Product testing in British Summer

Final Thoughts
So, I guess the big question in all of this is “Would I recommend this shirt”.

The simple answer is ‘Yes’.

The longer answer involves some explanation.

I like the shirt, the colour is good and matches my other running kit. The garment as tested retails for £22.99 with no charge delivery for mainland UK. That’s pretty good for a decent shirt, affordable whilst not dipping so low as to sacrifice quality for price. Other things which I like about the brand / t-shirt is that it is UK owned, designed and manufactured (although their compression wear is currently manufactured overseas). Has a good brand identity and, above all, is owned by people you can talk to and that seem to care.

I have to admit that I don’t like the fact the inner colour is white, I assume this is because the printing is used rather than using dyed fabric, but to be honest, I’m being picky.. I mean who the hell really cares when you are wearing it?

I’m hoping to start seeing more of these guys and their kit, I really believe they deserve to become a well known and respected sports wear brand.

Check out their products here

Advertisements

Pivot Twentyfour12

The Twentyfour12 event is pretty much the only fixture that has a regular place in my calendar these days. In days gone by it was squeezed in between other races but as my family situation has changed, the easy going, family orientated vibe means it’s pretty much the sole survivor amongst the multi-day options.

The premise is simple, in teams or as a solo rider, you can take part in either the 12hr or 24hr event, with both races starting at midday on a Saturday, this makes for a busy, but strangely uncompetitive feel to the 12km loop.

We missed the last year, a poor showing in 2015 because of severe cramp brought about by riding a bike which was not my own left me feeling a little non-plussed.

The great thing about 24/12 is the family feel, to help with this they have a 12 minute and 24 minute (for under or over 8’s respectively) race Saturday morning before the flag drops on the adult version. This was pretty much the sole motivator for me when I signed up last year, seeing Callum and Finley riding leaves me with a pride shaped lump in my throat every time and they are always excited about their race.

I signed up, as normal, with Rex, both of us stating categorically that we would be there, but not competing, I was happy with this, no real training and a year with less than average mileage left me in no place to compete but I was happy to go along and take part, meeting up with some old mates along the way.

Back in the day, when Mountain Mayhem was the highlight of my year, I would spend the weeks leading up to the event checking and rechecking the weather forecast, until I realised that the weather would do whatever the hell it wanted irrespective of the number of page refreshes I did. Things got easier after I stopped worrying about the weather, but even I will admit that the torrential and unremitting rain caused me to rediscover old habits.

As a family we’ve been heading to such events for quite some years now and, over time have got the the art of making a home from home down to a fine art.

Four of us wrestled the worlds biggest tent and event shelter up in high winds and heavy rain and finally had a space of our own, that evening, whilst the kids settled to sleep, I made sure that Rex was in no illusions about my motivation for the coming day – have fun, do a few laps, but make sure the boys have fun. Luckily, our expectations still aligned and I settled into my sleeping bag to the sound of rain on the tent roof.

The boys race was at 9 o’clock and thankfully, the rain had called a temporary truce. Whilst Callum sped off alone, I spent 12 minutes chasing Finley around the course wishing I had faster legs. They both had a great time, Callum finishing 3rd and Finley 13th out of 30 odd kids.

With 12 o’clock rapidly approaching and the rain once again dampening spirits, we decided that our strategy was to ride blocks of laps, instead of the usual one on, one off. I opted to start and so, as the countdown reached zero, I found myself behind the Lycra clad racers and next to a bloke astride a single speed fatbike dressed in a sumo suit.

The circuit at Newnham Park is great, a long climb done on Tarmac ticks off most of the required height gain in the first few km and the track is largely weather resistant. There is a number of little single track sections linked by a mix of fire road and double track. I always find that although tired in the first half of the course, the fun refreshes both legs and mind as you cross the finish line ready to do it all again.

I opted to do four laps straight off, equating to something like 50k. Distance covered over increasingly muddy trails with heavier legs. My lack of race training became evident, but I enjoyed the ride and was half sorry to reach the end of my stint.

Rex was out in worsening weather (if that was possible) and, to be honest, had the worst of it. Large swathes of trail which were slick yet rideable during the first few hours of the event had degraded to slogs by the time his wheels rolled over them for the first time.

At around 6pm, we decided to join increasing numbers of riders and withdraw, we were there for fun and, as we had stated during the build up, this was for the kids not us.

At the end of 2015, I was left thinking ‘never again’. This time, I was left wanting more. To be honest, my bike was knackered and I don’t think it would have been able to do any more laps. But me, despite the fact my legs cramped as I crouched to get something out of my bag, I wanted more.

I’ve decided that next year I’ll be back, this time solo.. there may even be a new bike. So, training, focus and a strong desire to get on the 24/12 website the minute entries go live to book my spot for 2018.

My Road To Midnight begins…

Habit

I’m an EHS (Environmental Health and Safety) Manager by profession.  Being part of that industry means growing a thick skin and patiently explaining the same concepts and rules time and again.

Good safety is simple things done well and consistently.  An easy to understand concept, simple, yet difficult to implement in the real world where production deadlines, breakdowns and absence all vie for attention.

This year has been crazy, emotionally its more sine wave than rollercoaster and my self confessed resilience has been sorely tested.. possibly past breaking point on more than one occasion.

I have a new job, one which now, thanks to being a work from home role means that my 8 mile commute has reduced to a stroll across the lawn.  The most difficult aspect however has been the chronic presenteeism I’ve developed. My fear of being thought of as slacking has meant my early days sometimes saw my daily step counter fail to hit 4 figures.  Coupled with a lack of personal interaction with colleagues and my mood would dip darkly more often than not.

The upside to this however is my new office, a cabin which is just great to work in. 

The role, being global has involved lots of travl, before the calendar had rolled into June I’d spent time on 3 continents and, by rough estime travelled over 30,000 miles in the air and another 10 or so by road and rail.

Back to my starting point, consistency is the key to so many things, doing simple things frequently will move you a long way from a starting point.  A concept easy to describe yet harder to put into practice.  That’s my problem, between getting the job, travel and other stuff my consistency has been less than adequate. 

So, how do you maintain your plans and make consistency part of your life to ensure training isn’t the first casualty of life?

New Year

Happy New Year all..

Theres not been much here from me but that doesn’t mean nothing has happened. 

Only a couple of weeks after my last post I lost my Dad. He had suffered with Alzheimer’s for the last 6 years and the last 12 months or so had seen a noticeable deterioration in his health.

I had a call from the care home on a friday morning, he was entering the ‘end of life stage’ and was prescribed an autoinjector to help control the pain he was clearly in. He clung on til the Saturday evening. Watching my Dad fight for breath for 24 hours was a heartbreaking final blow from a disease I have come to hate.

His passing was more a relief than my Mums, only from the fact that he was no longer suffering.

The run up to a second Christmas was consumed with funeral arrangements. Dad died one year and two days after my Mum.. their funerals shared the same date.

Alongside the loss of my Dad I had got a new job, I certainly don’t make it easy for myself, but my new role will involve far more travelling but the bonus of working from home.

The concept of working from home is new to me and the first few days saw me glued to my chair, I now realise the disadvatage of no company during the day is offset by the freedom to run errands, or, just run.

Plenty going on then but little riding or running so far, I’m doing Wentood next month and 24/12 in July so there things to train for.

Let’s hope I can be more consistent this year

Nadal Nil Zilch

“No one wins at spin.. except spin”

Rex wrly commented as I dismounted, wobbly legged from the spin bike which had spent the previous 45 minutes torturing me.  it’s safe to say that 2016 has failed to meet the expectations I had for it.  With only a month of the year left it’s time to cut my losses and begin focusing on a solution during 2017.

At work I’ve talked a lot about the concept of compound performance.. a bastardised version of Team Skys Marginal Gains.

The premise is simple, improvements are best affected by doing simple, small things consistently. 

Cumulatively this will take you a long way from where you started.

That’s my new mantra.. the big gestures don’t work for me.. Ten 4 Ten, whilst raising a large amount of money for a brilliant cause has left me unable to exercise thanks to concern over my achilles.

Last night’s spin session was the first real training I’ve had from nearly three months. 

I know I’m unfit, but yesterday I took the first, small step.. now I need to take the second . 

Longevity 

I’m 40 next year.

With that depressing realisation comes an understanding that I need to start looking after myself a little better.

Take my approach  (or lack thereof) to a warm up and cool down routine. Until now I’ve been living off the work done as a younger chap in terms of flexibility and recovery.

The lack of stretching and core exercises is not an issue (so I convince myself) if I run or ride a few times a week.

The Ten4Ten though exposed this for the fallacy it is. Achilles pain and stiffness through my calves and pelvis has continued and grown in discomfort to the point where walking became painful.

I made an appointment with a local physio who diagnosed a tight pelvis that ‘hitched rather than rotated’ and an achilles that is just the right side of going bang.

Whilst her professional facade never slipped, I could tell that my responses to her questions over how I look after myself left her less than impressed.  Effectively being told that a man of my age should know better or had better learn unless he wanted to being seeing an awful lot more of her in the coming years was a good enough wake up call.

Whilst about as mechanically minded as a pebble, even I understand that preventative maintenance is far cheaper, quicker and effective than reactive. 

Lincoln said that given 6 hours to cut a tree down he’d spend 5 sharpening the axe. That makes sense to me..

So, what do you do in terms of preventative maintenance? How do you ensure you look after yourself today for a better tomorrow?

Ten 4 Ten – Looking Back

Alzheimers..

Ten 4 Ten starts and ends with Alzheimers.

Defined on the Wikipedia site as “..a chronic neurodegenerative disease that usually starts slowly and gets worse over time” it has been a part of my family since 2010.

2010 was when my Dad was diagnosed, although as a family we knew something wasn’t right for a few years before that.  The last time I remember my Dad being My Dad was in late 2008 at my Wedding, although even then he seemed somewhat quieter and a little distant.

For three years, up until 2013, Mum cared for Dad at home, sucking up the increasingly demanding behaviour and personality changes in the way that only a spouse of 40 years can.  We offered support, but I was working away during the week and we had one small child and another on the way.  That distance kept us from realising the toll looking after my Dad was taking on Mum though.  September of 2013 saw Mum admitted to hospital as the Cancer she had been clear of reappeared and ravaged her.  With no alternative and our immediate concern Mum, we managed to get Dad admitted to Respite Care.

Respite.  Let me take the chance to give you another dictionary definition; “a short period of rest or relief from something difficult or unpleasant”.

Physically maybe, psychologically however, it’s just another form of guilt to beat yourself up with.. especially as a family member telling white lies and in an assuring voice to a confused parent that it’s just a little trip.

I’m ashamed to admit it, but for many months after Dad was admitted I didn’t visit.. for a while this was explained by Mum being my priority.  A truth, but deep-down I was scared of visiting Dad.  Eventually it almost seemed like so much time had passed I couldn’t go in, a stranger not a Son to see my Dad.

We did visit though, shocked by the change that we saw, a shrunken, pocket sized version of the man known to me previously, those beautiful blue eyes I remember dulled and empty.

Each week I left the care home with tear filled eyes, cursing the cruelty of my Dad’s failing brain and spinning with hopelessness.

I lost my Mum in late 2015.. I was an unashamed Mum’s boy, our relationship strong and close, I adored her deeply, with her loss I felt the responsibility of my Dad pass to me, more than a legal document and a bank account.

As a relative of someone in care it is difficult to feel useful.. Whilst at home washing, cleaning and day trips are possible but as the disease grips tighter, mobility is lost and the care becomes more technical and trying to help would achieve nothing more than obstructing a true professional in their job.

My Dad has just had his 83rd birthday, he had not spoken for a long time, not recognised me for longer and has now lost all mobility. He had to be moved every two hours throughout the night to prevent bed sores, his water must be thickened to prevent him choking and has a diet of pureed food.. now, instead of cursing the cruelty of his brain, I hate his body for keeping him alive with no discernible quality of life.

Frustration, anger and despair are, generally internalised or shared with my wife, but this year I joined the Alzheimers Research UK Facebook group.  It’s easy to slip in overused phrases but I felt a relief at seeing others with similar experiences.  Whilst I didn’t post, I felt support through reading the messages of others.

Whilst on holiday, I noticed an advert that mentioned a campaign that Alzheimers Research UK was running.  It was called Running Down Dementia, the challenge was to run 100km over the summer of 2016 and raise £100 in the process.

I don’t usually go for charity stuff, I feel uneasy asking for sponsorship for something that I would normally do during training or would consider fun.

The Running Down Dementia idea wouldn’t go away though, I kept mulling it over, it was due to run until the end of October.. my Dads birthday was September.. 100km..

Doing 10km is not a challenge, I’ve raised that a few times this year,but 100km would be tough to train for in the time available, by the time I was fit enough to do, I’d probably revert to my normal thoughts of “How can I ask for sponsorship I will enjoy doing?”.

Ten4Ten.. the name came to mind during an early morning holiday run, the wild coastline of Cornwall seemed to inspire me.. over a few days the idea solidified and I spoke about it to Kate.  I decided to start running 10km every day for 10 consecutive days, beginning on my birthday.  Even during my half marathon days, I wouldn’t run 100km in such a short period of time.

This was something that would challenge me, I had done the 22 pushup challenge and had filmed a few of them, the natural progression of the the challenge was to take my Go-Pro along and film the runs, maybe talk about my experiences along the way.

The day before Dads birthday I set up a Justgiving webpage and announced my intensions on Facebook.

By the time I laced my trainers for the first time I had over £100 in sponsorship.  The first day was great, 10 km is a good distance and I had quite a few things I wanted to say.  After a few days I was starting to get into things and really enjoying the filming / editing process.  It took a fair amount of time due to my lack of practice, but it was still great as a learning opportunity

By the end of the week I was shuffling not running and my calves were screaming.  Finishing my final 10km I was lost for words, it had been emotionally as tough as physically, opening up about the experiences of the last few years was harder than I thought.

That said, it was a brilliant experience, the support I had from everyone was staggering, from friends, colleagues and strangers through the Facebook group.

To date, 10410 has raised over £700 and been featured in all of the local papers.. there are a few other things which have yet to come to fruition which I will talk about in a later post

There’s little else to say, that I haven’t already typed, better still, I’ve linked to the videos which articulate stuff probably better..