After The Black Death

A week has now passed since Webtogs team members Mike and Myself (Phil) took on The Black Death Run, a 10 mile cross-country run at Combe Sydenham, West Somerset (see my previous post for details). After a busy week of adding new Summer Rab products to Webtogs, I’ve finally got time for a quick write-up. Of course, if you’re more interested in the new Rab stuff, I don’t blame you one bit –  http://www.webtogs.co.uk/rab. But more on that next week.

Thankfully Mike, Myself, my girlfriend Eilis, and friend Yuno all completed the run… sort of. I say sort of because about 3/4 of the entire field managed to get lost, the result being that the ‘finishers’ ended up running anything between 6 and 14 miles on various loops through the forest. The cause it seems, was a rather amusing one, though not particularly funny on the day…

From left to right: Yuno, Phil, Eilis, Mike. The first 2 miles of uphill would rapidly wipe those smiles off our faces
What a rag-tag group. From left to right: Yuno, Phil, Eilis, Mike. The first 2 miles of uphill would rapidly wipe those smiles off our faces.

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Mike and Phil from Webtogs to take on The Black Death

One of the appealing-looking 'mud-chutes' on the route
One of the appealing-looking ‘mud-chutes’ on the route

A couple of weeks ago, perhaps foolishly, I decided to enter the aptly named Black Death Run: a 10-mile trail run at Combe Sydenham, West Somerset, with over 2800 ft of ascent. Foolish, because I’ve never actually participated in an organised running event before, let alone an off-road one with such intimidating vertical proportions. And foolish because as I write, it’s only just over two weeks away.

Should be a challenge!

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Escaping the Crowds in the Western Brecon Beacons

I was lucky enough to get up to the the Brecon Beacons last weekend, where I spent Friday night through to Sunday afternoon on a backpacking trip backpacking with a good Welsh friend of mine, Mr Dan Bryan. Two others were due to join us, but sadly had to pull out; something which they’ll no doubt be gutted about when they see the photos…

View from near Llanddeusant, looking up at the 'Carmarthenshire Fans'
View from near Llanddeusant, looking up at the Carmarthenshire Fans

Dan, being a local lad, picked out a route for us which roughly followed a stretch of the Beacons Way, a 152km national walking route, generally completed over 8 days. It starts near Abergavenny in the East, and ends at the village of Bethlehem in the far West of the National Park (que ‘hilarious’ geographically-themed jokes). Our chosen segment, which neither of us had explored so far, went from the Storey Arms Outdoor Education Centre to the village of Llanddeusant, and it proved to be the most scenic, varied and all-round enjoyable walk I’ve done in years (arguably ever, though I need to give that more thought)! It’s certainly one I’d recommend to anyone with a love of fine views, varied terrain, and importantly; piece and quiet. We must have passed about 10 people on the trail over the entire weekend, 80% of them on the Sunday afternoon when walking down towards civilization. On the same weekend in the Pen y Fan massif, we would have had hundreds for company.

To find out more about the Beacons Way, head to the Brecon Beacons Park Society website for a description of the route, maps of each leg, and highlights along the way. As I’ve said, the bits we did are days 5 & 6, from the Storey Arms to LLanddeusant: www.breconbeaconsparksociety.org/national-park/the-beacons-way/the-route-2

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Webtogs Road-Trip to the Brit-Brand Trio & Marmot!

Aptly-named snack of the week. Great value too.
Aptly-named snack of the week

I should probably start out by explaining that when I say ‘Brit brand trio’, I’m referring to Rab, Mountain Equipment and Montane. These three brands are the standard-bearers for the UK outdoor industry, and between them they account for over half of the products ranged on Webtogs.co.uk at any given time. It was these brands, along with another of our suppliers; US brand Marmot, that Webtogs MD Keith and I set out to visit last Sunday on a 5-day buying road-trip. I can report that it was epic thanks to the exciting new products on show… and the added bonus of getting to take the bike out on some awesome trails in the Lakes (Altura Trail, Whinlatter & The North Face Trail, Grizedale) and Peak District!

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Festive Montane Test! Further Faster Neo and Alpha Guide Jackets

As I posted before Christmas, I was lucky enough to get my hands on a pair of Montane test garments to try out over the festive break – the Montane Further Faster Neo Jacket (shell) and Alpha Gide Jacket (insulator). Sadly they have now been dispatched back to Montane HQ (wish I could have kept them), and I am left to report my thoughts and findings.

Dartmoor - the perfect place for a Montane test!
Dartmoor – the perfect place for a Montane test!

As always seems to be the case over Christmas, I was not able to be quite as active as I’d have liked… multiple food-based family gatherings and grandmother-courier duties getting in the way of my plans to test out the Montane pieces through the trinity of walking, cycling and climbing. I was, able to wear them day-to-dayday-to-day though, on a couple of short walks, and on one longer one on Dartmoor last Friday. I plumped for one of my old favorites, the ‘Widecombe Round’. It’s a varied, scenic route around the village of Widecombe-in-the-Moor, and even more so in the right conditions. Luckily conditions were just perfect for beautiful pictures on this occasion, so I’ve interspersed my Montane review with them to liven up any dry technical details!

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First truly frosty morning in South Somerset

To quote Game of Thrones, winter is coming (I couldn’t help myself, sorry). The proof was all around earlier today on what was undeniably a very cold and frost morning.

I did my usual run to work on the road bike, from Castle Cary Train Station, towards Bruton on Wyke Lane and then down to the Webtogs office in Wincanton via Shepton Montague. It’s a lovely route with few busy sections after the initial stretch on the A371, and I usually thoroughly enjoy it. I enjoyed it for the most part today too, except the part from about half way into the ride when my toes first went tingly, and then increasingly numb. They’re only just starting to return to normality as I write! I must invest in some overshoes…

Ride Summary on Strava

Regardless of my heading-towards-frostbitten toes, the visuals were enjoyable at least. I managed to take a couple photos on the ride, and one on the train from Taunton beforehand. That’s the end of the cycle-related waffle, enjoy the pictures! (more…)

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Mud, mud, glorious mud (nothing quite like it for cooling the blood)

BE SAFE: BE SEEN
BE SAFE: BE SEEN

I managed to complete a full mountain bike ride yesterday with bike intact and a full complement of body parts, which is something to celebrate. Despite threatening skies, near total darkness and lashings of mud, this week’s Bike Club was a big success. Fun was had by all (3 of us) on a varied 15 and a bit-mile route around the forested hills and valleys of the Stourhead Estate, taking in Stourhead house itself, a close-encounter with a deer, enjoyable downhills and tiring climbs. Feeling thoroughly buoyed by the experience, I intend to keep carrying the Webtogs Bike Night torch on through the cold, dark winter months! (more…)

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Keith Cycles The Velodyssey: French Atlantic Coastal Route

Our MD and long-running cycle touring enthusiast Keith spent his time off last summer cycling the a 800-mile cycle route along the Atlantic Coast. He encountered many revelations about kit, France and cycle touring in general along the way. Here he shares these revelations with us here on the Tog Blog…

 

I spent most of the winter thinking about what I was going to do for my summer cycle tour. I knew that I wanted to do a tour in France and that I wanted to feel like I had been on holiday, so after hours of research I settled on the Velodyssey.
The Velodyessy is a 1,200 kilometre bike ride from Brittany to the boarder of Spain. For ease of logistics I started from the airport at Biarritz and Cycled North. (more…)

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Quick ride up to King Alfred’s Tower – A coldie but a goodie

Just a quick post this morning. Continuing my ‘exploration’ of the South Somerset area – and Somerset in general, having only moved here from the distant land of Wales just three and a half weeks ago, I decided to go for a quick ride on the road bike up to renowned local landmark, King Alfred’s Tower last night. Obviously it was Thursday, and therefore Webtogs Bike Night – but as some of you will be aware, after my little mishap on our ride last Thursday, I was unable to join in with the mountain biking fun (I intend to fix my stricken mountain bike this weekend in time for next week). Anyway, to fill the time and get in some excercise after work I went for a road ride. I’d been told by Mike that the Alfred’s Tower/Kingsettle Hill climb was one of the toughest in the area, so I thought I’d give it a crack!

 

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