Running

Running Toys

A while ago, the Ninja Turtle ran a night trail race in Nancy jangling with a whole lot of running gear, and as promised, here is a review on the bits and bobs she ran with. Please note the word “review” is used very loosely, for she has not been paid by anyone to write about any of it, so there is a high likelihood of her losing focus on each product, and talk about something else completely irrelevant instead.

So, the first thing about running at night – having a light is not only ideal, it is necessary. The organisers of the race did state in the rules that a light and whistle were mandatory, but they seem to have failed to enforce this rule strictly enough. The Ninja Turtle should know. She acted as a moving lighthouse for at least two runners who were stumbling along blindly – literally speaking – and frankly, she got quite miffed about it after a while, especially when one of them failed to say thank you, and just sped off ahead as soon as they reached the main roads.

If you're such a "badass runner" who's serious enough to run 32km of trails at nightl, don't be a cheapskate. It only costs 39,95€ to not have to depend on a slowpoke for light.

If you’re such a “badass runner” who’s serious enough to run 32km of trails at night, don’t be a cheapskate. It only costs 39,95€ to not have to depend on a slowpoke for light.

As the Ninja Turtle had no idea what she was looking for in the shop, she simply had to trust the sales guys on their judgement of the product. It meant nothing to her when they said this light has 6 hours of autonomy at 250 lumens, and she drew a few blank looks when she asked what that was in Watts.

To answer that question, a search on the internet produced the following equation: P( W ) = ΦV(lm) / η(lm/W), OR watts = lumens / (lumens per watt).

In other words, she still has no idea. Can you solve for x or y in an equation that says x = y/(y/x)?

Anyway, the light was not as uncomfortable as she initially feared. It’s noticeably there, in an unobtrusively way, and under those circumstances, its presence is more reassuring than annoying. Kind of like one’s shadow. The light has three settings – bright, brighter, brightest, and the red light at the back goes into blinker mode on higher settings. Does it make one feel like a car? Kind of. The only problem the Ninja Turtle had with this was how it pointed rather uselessly straight ahead, onto the back of the runner in front of her,  rather than down on the ground. She had to use one hand to tilt the light downwards so she could see where to put her feet.

Overall rating: 7/10 It’s light (as in, not heavy), it shines brightly and lasts 6 hours, which is longer than the average runner intends to run for in the dark. It’s not expensive, and charges on a USB cable. However, it doesn’t point downwards, and instead of one button for each setting, there’s one single button to turn on, and you have to pass through bright and brighter to get to brightest before you can switch it off. The second item the Ninja Turtle ran with was a brand new hydration pack. To be perfectly honest, it was sort of an impulse buy at the shop, but she rationalised it like this:

Whistle: 4,95€
Cheapest branded hydration pack: 19,95€
Decathlon’s brand hydration pack with built in whistle! : 14,95€

Sold.

A short distance trail hydration pack that holds up to 5L, and a detachable water bladder that holds 1L.

A short distance trail hydration pack that holds up to 5L, and a detachable water bladder that holds 1L.

It took Turtle a while to figure out the difference in capacity of the bag and the bladder. In the end, she realised that the bag was designed to hold other stuff too (think food, keys, spare socks, maps, compass, toilet paper, etc), not just water. Doh.

Rocking up to the starting line of a 12km trail race with one of these felt a little like overkill, until 2km into the run. The Ninja Turtle realised at that moment that it’s far better to have too much water than not enough, and on this race, there were no water/fuel stops for the 12km runners until the finish line.

Also, her usual hand-held bottle would have been a little too cumbersome on the trail, especially since she was already using one hand to redirect the running light. The biggest concern was bounce, and thankfully, this hydration pack did not bounce around at all. There’s a little clip in the front to hold it in place, and it fitted nicely and comfortably. The weight was unnoticeable… BUT.

Throughout the race, the Ninja Turtle found something rather annoying – the hydration pack makes a squeaky sound. Something, and she suspects it’s where the bladder clips onto the bag, keeps rubbing while she moves, and after an hour of squeakiness, it starts to get annoying. The other runners could also hear her approaching from about a mile away.

Overall rating: 7/10 Not carrying a hand-held bottle is quite revolutionary, suddenly, your hands are free during your run (to push off branches, to wipe sweat/snot off your face, to high-five young children in the neighbourhood, etc). It is light, it looks stylish, and it comes with a whistle! However, be prepared to squeak. The heart rate monitor will be touched upon on another post.

Do you carry water on your runs? What do you use?

Have you ever gone running at night before?

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Running

Night Running – Nancy Trail des Lumières

After being benched a couple of months by her physiotherapist for sciatica, the Ninja Turtle only managed to get back into something vaguely resembling a running routine in the beginning of September. She’s managed to increase her mileage safely and carefully without risking recurrence in the injury by 1) sticking to the 10% rule and 2) completing 95% of her runs at an easy pace. As such, she found herself eight weeks on, toeing the starting line once more.

This is not just any race, though. For the very first time, the Ninja Turtle decided to participate in a night race!

This is not just any race, though. For the very first time, the Ninja Turtle decided to participate in a night race!

As the Ninja Turtle made a very last minute decision to register for the 10th edition of the Trail des Lumières in Nancy, and given how she’s only restarted her training, she went for the shortest distance – the Trail des Loupiotes – a very feasible 12km. The more hardcore runners chose from the 20km or the 32km races.

Trail runners know the importance of looking out for trail markers, but especially so at night. The organisers scared us by announcing that some "conards" had removed the markers earlier that day, but they'd gone to re-mark the paths as visibly as possible, so all was good.

Trail runners know the importance of looking out for trail markers, but especially so at night. The organisers scared us by announcing that some “conards” had removed the markers earlier that day, but they’d gone to re-mark the paths as visibly as possible, so all was good.

The Ninja Turtle, getting geared up for the race. This race had the electronic trackers on anklets for the runners, which was a first for the NT.

The Ninja Turtle, getting geared up for the race. This race had the electronic trackers on anklets for the runners, which was a first for the NT.

The organisers staggered the departure for the various distances, and the 32km runners started off at 5.30pm (while the sun was still out and Nancy was basking in a gloriously warm 23C), the 20km runner at 6.00pm (when the sun started dipping in the sky) and the 12km runners at 6.30pm (when the Ninja Turtle knew she’d done the right thing to change out of her T-shirt and into her long-sleeved top). Dressing for night running isn’t at all like preparing for a day-time race, and getting all the kit ready takes three times as long.

The Ninja Turtle at the starting line dressed like a Christmas tree. For the first time, she is wearing a night light, a whistle, a hydration pack, and a heart rate monitor. Reviews on these to follow shortly.

The Ninja Turtle at the starting line dressed like a Christmas tree. For the first time, she is wearing a night light, a whistle, a hydration pack, and a heart rate monitor. Reviews on these to follow shortly.

As usual, GodzillaPin was very supportive, and managed to make his way to several points along the race course to take photos of the Turtle. It’s still a mystery why he doesn’t participate in these races himself.

The Ninja Turtle posing for the camera.

The Ninja Turtle posing for the camera.

The view of Nancy from the top of the hill which the runners - and GodzillaPin -  ascended.

The view of Nancy from the top of the hill which the runners – and GodzillaPin – ascended.

As night fell, the lights came on.

As night fell, the lights came on.

It is one thing to run in the dark. It is quite another to run in the dark on a forest trail. GodzillaPin’s photo, brilliant as it is, will never be able to capture the real experience of nighttime trail running. As the runners enter the forest, some unseen guiding hand sets them in single-file with no fuss or complain. Sure, it’s a race, but it’s also about the experience, having fun, and staying safe.

Most runners were very polite, and offered to yield the path for others to overtake, which was very often declined. Conversations began among strangers, and soon, some weird bond was developed as runners bunched into their little groups, chatting and running in camaraderie. Above all, in the darkness of the forest trail, not only did the runners have to contend with roots, rocks, and holes, the mud was unbelievable after a week of rain. Runners were calling out “root” or “careful it’s slippery here” or “hole ahead” and the message would be passed down the line like a game of broken telephone, except it wasn’t broken. Collisions happened, as did slips and falls, but on the trail, when this happens, the other runners tend to stop and check you’re OK.

Trail running is hard. In that short 12km, the Ninja Turtle found herself trying to unglue her shoes from mud that was as soft as chocolate mousse, climbing up slippery slopes with over 40% incline (thank goodness they were short distances), and wading in water as she crossed a stream at the 9th km. When she left the forest trail and re-entered civilisation through a park, she was momentarily lost as there were two possible options but no runners ahead in sight. She waited till other runners caught up, and together they hunted for a trail marker before setting off together. Her night light was reliable but it pointed straight ahead when she needed it to angle downwards so she could see where to put her foot. Her entire focus was on the run – constantly checking how she felt in her legs, feet, lungs, and heart, scanning the environment, gauging the distance between herself and other runners, and keeping her eyes peeled for trail markers.

In short, it looked NOTHING like her usual run, where she could mentally switch off and let her body just go through the motions.

It was also one of the most incredible experiences in her life.

Entertainment as the Ninja Turtle approached the finish line - a clown juggling with fire.

Entertainment as the Ninja Turtle approached the finish line – a clown juggling with fire.

This was the moment when the Ninja Turtle, while sucking on a post-run orange and feeling very pleased with herself, decided that she can finally call herself a true "runner".

Covered in mud, sweat and cheers… Trail runners are filthy animals, and that’s the way we like it! This was the moment when the Ninja Turtle, while sucking on a post-run orange and feeling very pleased with herself, decided that she can finally call herself a true “runner”.

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Arts and Culture, Travel

Bordeaux by Night

The following images belong to the Ninja Turtle, GodzillaPin and Sonic the Hedgehog. Feel free to borrow them for your amusement, but if you use it for commercial purposes, well… we can’t really stop you. Maybe just let us know in advance, that’d be cool.

Esplanade des Quinconces

Esplanade des Quinconces

Pont des Pierres

Pont des Pierres

Porte Cailhau

Porte Cailhau

Miroir d'Eau

Miroir d’Eau

Lanterns along the Port de la Lune (taken on the night of the supermoon)

Lanterns along the Port de la Lune (taken on the night of the supermoon)

Flèche Saint-Michel

Flèche Saint-Michel

Don't recall what this is called... readers who recognise, please help thanks!

Don’t recall what this is called… readers who recognise, please help thanks!

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