Ion8 Sports Water Bottle – No Leaks!

At last, a drinks bottle that doesn’t leak!! I had been complaining about constantly ending up with wet stuff in my bag (and even getting a wet back one day), after going through a series of water bottles that promised to be leak-free, only to find they clearly weren’t. Thankfully Cathy at JogBlog saw my plea for recommendations and forwarded me details of a bottle that looked like it would do the trick.

I was a bit cynical when I was sent the Ion8 Sports Water Bottle to test and carefully propped it upright in my kit bag, worrying that my books and notes might end up soggy by the end of my journey. The number of bottles I’ve been through is getting into double figures, as they work brilliantly for a few days, then start to leak everywhere without fail. I’ve tried pop-up tops, twisty tops, screw tops and flip tops and now have a cupboard full of them. This bottle is different though and uses a combination of a removable lid, with a button and a clasp, double locking!

Watertight

No leaks!

I’ve tested the bottle thoroughly, with a family holiday in Cornwall, so it’s been on trains, to the beach and upside down in my rucksack…and it really hasn’t leaked! After almost giving up on ever being fully hydrated on journeys, this is a revelation! It comes in three colours (I have the pink and feel like some sort of water-drinking professional when I get it out on the tube) and has a nice rubber grip. This is what the manufacturers have to say about the bottle:

‘When closed, hypoallergenic silicon seals the spout and vent completely, and keeping it sealed, clean and hygienic. The bottle can be opened with one hand by using its spring loaded flip top. To prevent accidental opening when carrying in a bag, ion8 has a lid lock. While many rigid bottles are painfully slow to drink from, the ion8 has a vented, smooth liquid flow, providing effortless hydration. There is no annoying screw top and no tough nozzle.

A wide opening also allows refilling without spillage, and is big enough for ice cubes or even chunks of fruit for a healthy, subtle hint of flavour.’

It’s also free from nasties:

‘Ion8 is made from BPA Free, phthalate free, non-toxic TRITAN by Eastman. Tritan® is highly resistant to odours, can be easily cleaned and is dishwasher safe.’

Ooh, I didn’t know that about the dishwasher, great (I was avoiding putting plastic bottles in the dishwasher, having melted one previously).

If you fancy having something reliable and nice to use, then I’d recommend the Ion8, I’m now a non-leaky believer 😉

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Time for a refreshing brew

Those of you who have been following my progress for some time, will know that I like to eat healthily alongside my training, but I do have one vice and that’s tea. I know! How very rock and roll! I was pleased then, to be sent some tea to try and, being a dedicated builder’s tea fan, I was intrigued by this lovely little box of Oolong Tea from In Nature Teas.

Oolong Tea

Oolong Tea

Every so often, in a moment of healthfulness, I splash out on a great big box of green tea, then quickly remember that I don’t really like it that much and it stays in the cupboard gathering dust. I was delighted then, when I tried the Oolong tea – which is somewhere between green tea and black tea in its levels of oxidation – to find that it was very light in flavour with no trace of the bitterness that I’ve been put off by before.

Leaves

Leaves

The box has some useful instructions inside, so you can get the most out of your tea, with plenty of facts to encourage you to keep drinking. I do enjoy the ritual of making a ‘proper’ cup of tea, the process itself seems relaxing and makes you take some time out for a few moments. I also like it because I get to use my pretty little teapot:

Pot

Pot

This particular tea is suggested for warmer months and I really did find it refreshing on the hotter days (remember them?), a more healthy alternative to my usual post-run cuppa. Oolong Tea apparently aids digestion, has anti-ageing properties (woo-hoo!) and is said to help slimming. I can’t vouch for these claims, but I’m sure it’s a good accompaniment to a healthy, balanced diet. I’m definitely enjoying the quiet moments admiring my teapot and feeling a moment of calm whilst listening to the radio. Sigh.

Add a slice of lemon

Add a slice of lemon

If you visit the In Nature Teas website, you will see that there are lots of different teas on offer and lots of information about the benefits of each tea.

Lidl Bananaman Triathlon Race Report

Who wouldn’t enjoy a race that involves this journey to the venue?

Happy cyclists!

Happy cyclists!

As we don’t have a car and I needed to transport my bike (and Hector was super keen to try out his new bike), we took all of our bikes on the train to Windsor and rode the two or so miles to Eton Dorney along the Thames Path. At the station we saw people dismantling their bikes to put into taxis…no need, just ride! And look at what greeted us on arrival!

The lake.

The lake.

I was a little taken aback at the vastness of the lake – with it being a purpose-built rowing lake, it’s loooooong. I took it all in, clocking the inflatable buoys and breaking it down into the little chunk that I would actually be tackling later on in the Lidl Bananaman Triathon. Phew. It is a stunning venue and the party was already in full swing, with little ones tearing around wearing medals picked up in the Scootathlon and older athletes already exiting the water for one of the earlier waves of the triathlon. Feeling relaxed and a little bit excited, I got myself a cuppa and headed over to registration where I was given everything I needed, promptly and with a big smile.

Registration

Registration

As the event was sponsored by Lidl, there were mountains of bananas, as much water/juice/crisps/cereal bars as you could ever need and a barbeque for competitiors and spectators, now how many events boast such hospitality?! With it being about 10.15, my support crew needed a pre-lunch lunch.

Hungry boys

Hungry boys

I paced up and down, checking out the swimmers, making sure the entry into the water wasn’t too scary and making sure I could see the bike out/run out points – not sure why, but the signs for these are often placed at ground level and, once transition is full of bikes and people darting about, it’s difficult to see where they are. Any chance these could be identified by a flag or something? After numerous nervous loo-visits (oh, how the tri-suit is the enemy of such pre-race nervousness!), I decided I should just get on with it and set up in transition. At this point I switched my Garmin on to get a signal and found that the battery was flat. After a minor hissy fit, I decided that it didn’t matter and I would embrace ‘going naked’, could be interesting!

Still relaxed!

Still relaxed!

Before long I was pulling on my wetsuit and heading to the water. Eek! Now, I’ve been very carefully preparing for my first open-water triathlon, with wetsuit-specific coached sessions and solo swims to build confidence, so I was totally thrown when given the option to go without a wetsuit – if the water reaches a certain temperature you have a choice. After much umming and ahhing I decided to stick with what I had planned – Edward pointed out that I had taken on this particular race as a practice/test event for future races and should use it to try out the wetsuit in the swim and transition. I’m so glad I did, the water didn’t feel that warm! I was in a women’s wave (complete with bright pink hats, oh yes) and we all bobbed about, acclimatising while the race organiser gave us a briefing then quickly sent us on our way with a loud parp of the horn. Cue lots of ‘Ooh, sorry!’ and ‘Oops!’ comments from my fellow swimmers, really! And I had heard horror stories about being kicked, ducked and having your goggles removed. How very civilised!

That's me, there!

That’s me, there!

Interestingly, I found this open-water swim easier in terms of managing panic than the pool tri in May, as there was nobody tapping at my heels, I could take some deep breaths, compose myself and do as much breast-stroke as I liked 🙂 And I did. Even after swimming front-crawl up and down the Serpentine Lido, I found myself bobbing along, head in the air. I did a few stretches of front-crawl as I grew more confident and off I went. I did it! I climbed up the ramp towards transition, whipped off my wetsuit like a pro and legged it to bike out. Yesssss!

The bike course was 21.2km, so four laps of a perfectly flat and lovely smooth road (it was pretty twisty and turny in places though and quite windy). The bike is always my favourite bit of a triathlon and I flew around, smiling all the way. Each time I reached the start area I was given a huge cheer by my crew and sent off into the next lap. After all my training sessions at the Olympic Velopark, I was swiftly pulling out my drinks bottle and taking a swig, unlike previous races where I’ve ended up dehydrated and turning green. Oh, what a difference a few swigs of electrolyte replacement makes.

Time to hang up my bike and pull on my running shoes, but not without banging my head on the bike rack first and shouting ‘B*ll*cks!’. Sorry. By this point it was hot and the run route was an out and back stretch fully exposed to the sun. I kept giving myself little pep talks: ‘Relax your shoulders. Light on your toes. Head tall. Arms lower.’ – this all really helped, especially at the point where I realised it wasn’t just an out and back, it was an out and back and out and back again. This is also where I appreciated my on-bike hydration and enjoyed a tri-run without crippling cramp. Carrying on the pep-talk, I soon turned to face the finish and picked up the pace towards the barbecue smoke and the giant Erdinger glass to give a little sprint through the arch and a very happy ending.

Thank you Hector for the photo!

Thank you Hector for the photo!

A few sweaty high-fives, a hug from a giant banana and I found myself holding a pint of ice-cold beer and a burger. Result! (I must point out that this was alcohol-free beer and bloody good it was too!). Hector punched in my race number to the machine that pumps out results and I could see how I had faired, competing somewhat blindly without the Garmin feedback…

The numbers

The numbers

I can’t really compare directly with my last triathlon because the swim distance is shorter and the bike slightly longer, but it’s a tri-PB for the bike and run (and check those transitions!), so I’m very pleased. Best of all was the fact that I could see that my training is paying off, I didn’t have cramp and I felt amazing afterwards as we cycled back towards Windsor. Thank you to Human Race for giving me a place – I’m already looking up future events at Eton Dorney and will be back next year to see if I can smash those times.

I AM RUNBOX (BIKEBOX?) Review

When I first read about the new I AM RUNBOX, I thought: ‘That would be perfect for a bike commute’, so decided to base my trying and testing not on running but riding. This is where Edward, my guest tester, comes in 🙂 Edward cycles to work every day (really, rain or shine – and even snow – he’d much rather cycle than stand on a stuffy train). To carry his clothes at the moment, he neatly irons and folds them, puts them in a plastic carrier bag and slides them into his pannier bag, where they promptly slip downwards and, over the course of his commute, get a bit crumpled and crushed by his butty box. Neat. It’s a good job he works in quite a relaxed environment 😉

The I AM RUNBOX arrived nicely packaged:

Shiny and new

Shiny and new

…and I quickly had a good look at the lovely instructional diagrams and information card:

Lines

Lines

Those of you who know me well know that I *love* a line drawing and actually collect (yes, really) instructional diagrams, so this kept me entertained for some time. Drool. As you can see here the RUNBOX includes a handy Folding Assistant:

Folding Facts

Folding Facts

If you’ve ever hung about in Gap for long enough, you might have seen staff members constructing those lovely angular stacks of clothing, using a similar rectangle of plastic, so I promptly indulged my inner Gap worker and got busy folding an already ironed shirt.

Following instructions

Following instructions

This means you fold your clothing to exactly the right size for the box, minimising crumpling and making it easier to pack.

Folding

Folding

Like so:

Ta-Daaaah!

Ta-Daaaah!

Wanting to make this test as close to normal as possible, Edward also managed to fit in his jeans (with bulky belt) and his iPad and they were all popped into the pannier bag ready for the ride:

Ready to go!

Ready to go!

So, did Edward look all neat and fancy when he got into his work clothes? Well yes, as neat and fancy as he can – the RUNBOX had kept his clothes in exactly the same position. They were protected from sandwich crush and any potential drink leakages by the water-resistant material. His iPad was given an extra layer of protection from any knocks and he has somewhere to put things that he doesn’t want going anywhere near his sweaty footie kit on the return journey home. I might be borrowing the RUNBOX for my swim sessions – sometimes I’ll go for a swim before travelling on somewhere else and it would be great to have somewhere to put my books, notes and stationery that will protect them from towel dampness. If you want to know more or have any questions, have a look at the I AM RUNBOX here.

Summer Breeze 10k Race Report

(Almost a week after the event, whoops!)

I was intrigued by the idea of running a race that starts at 4pm and it was a good job too, it took me ages to get to Wimbledon Common from SE London! The Summer Breeze Running Festival consists of a 10k, half-marathon and a crazy 12-hour, through-the-night relay (or solo, really!). As we arrived I glanced at the hardcore few who were sitting relaxing around their tents.

Sleep-run-relayers

Sleep-run-relayers

I had imagined, with it being such a long series of events, there might be more to it and had dragged Edward and Hector along for the ride. There were a couple of stalls, a yoga tent and some live music, but it was quite low-key – this was ok because Hector soon found a piece of cordon tape to jump over for about an hour, before he and Edward moved around the course to offer some support.

Hi-five!

Hi-five!

It was great getting a (low) hi-five early on, it really made me smile and pushed me to go a little faster…

Wimbledon Wombling

Wimbledon Wombling

The course is lovely, all trail and through the woods. It had been an overcast day, but the sun had come out good and proper just as the race started, but the trees offered shade, although it was humid and this made it hard work. The course was very well sign-posted, with arrows, km markers and little hi-viz markers on the ground every-so-often. The marshals were all very friendly and encouraging, with smiles and kind comments all round. I loved the variety on the course, with lots of tree roots to negotiate and some really tough hills. One hill was long, up and up and up and another seemed to loom out of nowhere as I turned a corner. It looked like a sand dune (and felt like it in the heat) so I gritted my teeth, part grin, part grimace and went for it. Puffing and panting for air, I scrambled down the other side and enjoyed the pull of gravity back into the shade of the trees. I soon started to see the front-runners from the half-marathon passing by in the opposite direction, looking strong, so gave a few nods and well dones. At this point, the humidity was getting to me so I grabbed a cup of water and took a little slurp – not something I normally do in a 10k. As the race neared the last few kilometres, it took some interesting twists and turns – at one point I wondered where everyone had gone, only to find they had taken a sharp left and then right! We were now in the field with the finish in sight 🙂 I saw the boys, Hector with his hand out for one last hi-five: “You’ll have to run with me! I’m not stopping!”. I could see a couple of women ahead of me and, out of nowhere, found it in me to give a sprint finish (no way!).

Bling shot

Bling shot

I was given a lovely medal, a t-shirt (hmmm, not sure about the colour though – men had blue, women had pink, but the *wrong* shade of pink, maybe something less pastel would be more suitable…please 😉 ), water, coconut water, a banana and a copy of Women’s Running magazine. Lovely! Once the results were out I had a look through and found that a small field leads to some pleasing stats: tenth woman (!) and third in age group. All the more reason to run smaller, challenging races!

Aldi Camping Gear

Yes, camping gear! Aldi never fail to amaze me with their range of random items nestling between the freezers and fresh fruit. We’re not usually so organised, but this year we have been prompted by some friends to get our summer holiday sorted early and have our little square of Dorset camp-site already cordoned off and some fine weather requested. You may remember our camping exploits of a couple of years ago, when our – not that very old – tent decided to leak. A lot. We had many a night spent holding tea-towels to the roof in an attempt to stop our bedding getting wet and spent a small fortune on waterproofing spray which did bugger all. Last year we’d had enough and went for a bit of ‘glamping’. It’s all very nice turning up to a ready-made bed and home-comforts such as a log-burner and a…kitchen and bathroom (yes!), but we do like to camp ‘proper’, so took receipt of a new and heavily waterproof tent the other week. It was perfect timing, then, to receive some camping gear to review and give our trip a little more comfort.

*For the sake of taking photos, I have used a small assistant, but the items are all adult size and generously proportioned ;)*

First of all is the self-inflating ground mat. We normally use our now quite old roll-up mats that are little more than a yoga mat, but this is really rather good. As it was new, it took a little while longer to inflate, but once it had, it went from this:

Flat

Flat

To this:

Comfy

Comfy

It’s pretty comfy and will certainly give you plenty of distance between you and the cold ground, so contributing to some night-time warmth.

My glamorous assistant also had a go in the sleeping bag (I say ‘had a go’, he did a great impression of a caterpillar up and down the hall and played a making-objects-disappear-then-reappear-through-the-hole-at-the-bottom game…). I also had a lie in the sleeping bag, because I stopped using a ‘mummy’ type sleeping bag a few years ago, finding them a little restrictive, but this one if very roomy and I felt quite able to spread out a bit in it.

Fake sleeping

Fake sleeping

There are some useful details that make it better than the mummy bags I’ve used previously: it’s big and the ‘hood’ area is wide and doesn’t pull your head down, there is a draw-string around your shoulders to pull it tighter for warmth, there is a little internal zip pocket for valuables and this nifty little foot-zip is great if you’re tall, or just want some space/air around your feet.

Toesies

Toesies

We also tried out a little light:

Bulbous

Bulbous

It’s just the right size to hang in the bedroom space, using the handy little clip and has different settings, including flashing. I did wonder for a while when this might come in useful and arrived at the verdict that it could be handy to find your tent when you pop to the loo in the dark 🙂 All of the items in the Aldi range are perfect for a family camping adventure and a great budget option for festival-goers, with tents costing as little as £19.99 for a hiking tent and £29.99 for a dome tent. A few of my friends are throwing themselves wholeheartedly into the 12/24 hour endurance relay events that are happening during the summer, so the items such as sleeping bags (£17.99), lights (£3.49) and inflatable mats (£13.99) are perfect for a one-off weekend away (in fact I’ve lent the sleeping bag to one such friend for this coming weekend!).

The next date for the camping range at Aldi is June 25th, so get down there with all your rugged, outdoorsy needs and stock up while you can. And they have nice chocolate too, for a campfire treat 😉

Aldi Specialbuys Cycle and Triathlon Gear

…is in store now!

I’ve been having some fun trying a few things out this week 🙂 Once again, Aldi comes up with a selection of super-bargain-priced gear to stock your sporty wardrobe, this time with a range of cycling and triathlon gear. On Friday I headed over to the Olympic Park to get my bike spinning around the road track that weaves around the outside of the Velodrome. Before I mounted my trusty steed, I slipped into a base-layer vest and some rather fetching bib-shorts. This was the first time I ventured into the world of the bib-short, so was pleased that they were way more comfortable – and possibly even flattering – than I had imagined. If you’ve never seen bib-shorts before they’re hidden away under a jersey, think Big Daddy and you’ve got the right idea.

70s Stylee

70s Stylee

These are particularly good because they have a little clasp that brings the ‘braces’ together in the mid-chest area, to keep them firmly in place (this a female-specific feature). Well, I’m definitely a convert now! The good thing is, they keep your midriff and lower back warm and there’s no chance of anything riding up and revealing more than you would like. The base-layer, whilst seeming a bit stiff and rustly at first, turned out to be nice and long and also kept me warm and cosy on what turned out to be a windy ride. I also rode in some nice little black gloves which, for me and my *tiny* hands, were perfect in an extra-small.

Next up on my race agenda is the Crystal Palace Triathlon, where I will be showing off my new triathlon suit. At £14.99, this is an incredible bargain, when you consider that you can often end up spending up to and over £100 for other brands – great if you’re embarking on lots of triathlons…and have the cash to throw around, which I don’t so this is a welcome option. There are some nice details such as an internal mesh bra in the women’s model and also leg grips to keep the shorts in place and some handy pockets for gels. I’m always surprised at the detail in the Aldi gear, when you consider what a bargain they are. This current range has items ranging from gloves at £3.49, base layers at £9.99, bib-shorts at £11.99 and even cycle shoes at £24.99. If you like the running gear, then you’ll find the cycling range a useful addition to your kit mountain drawer.