So if you've been paying attention, you cannot have helped to have noticed that Tough Guy is nearly upon us. The original OCR, designed and run by the fearless Mr Mouse.
Taking place on the last Sunday of every January (or as in the case of this year, the first Sunday of February: to those who have wondered, that is why it is constantly referred to as the the 32nd of January) Tough Guy is the race that everyone fears, with hypothermia a real threat, and broken bones a reality, everyone is doing everything they can to prepare both mentally and physically for this event.
One of the biggest discussions going on at the moment is what to wear (and before you ask, yes there are those who are crazy enough to do this event in fancy dress)
Whilst there are some very brave souls out there willing to take on this behemouth dressed like this, most of us are studiously planning out kit, down to the point at which we put on or take off items.
After much chat, research, planning, purchasing, and testing I think I have narrowed down my kit for the big day, and here I am to share it with you.
Today I tested what I plan to wear at the river Bollin near where I live, and aside from the ice cream head and tingly legs, I think i'm pretty happy. At 3'C with a bit of wind I was pretty comfortable (ok, my lips went blue at the end, but ssshhh, that's ok) a few additions which I will list at the end, and i'm ready to rock.
Kevin did try out his new GoPro and got all of our dunking on film, however this inexplicably disappeared...so it looks like we'll have to go again tomorrow to show you hold the kit holds up!
Whilst the idea of neoprene base layers have been bandied around, I have in fact, decided to forgo these. I did purchase a neoprene top earlier in the week, but after trying it on (and needing someone to literally pull it off me, I thought, maybe not the best idea!). I've thought a lot about what to wear on top, I have some water issues and tend to get very breathless as soon as I hit the water, so having an extra layer on the chest would help, but I also have chest issues, and something restrictive whilst running will do me no favours. Whether right or wrong, I decided against neoprene.
On my legs I wore winter sports compression base layer, from, of all places Aldi. And yes, they were great. I already have a pair of short compression shorts, and a long sleeve top from Aldi, which have seen me through several races.
On top of the base layers I wore my above mentioned Aldi long sleeved top (yes, the bright pink one!) and my warriors vest (although I will be running Tough Guy with RAW). On my legs I wore my trusty Skins compression tights. I can't really praise these enough. Whilst I have both 2XU and Skins full length tights, I will always choose to wear the skins. I find the fit amazing- I.e. i'm not hoicking them out of areas they shouldn't be 20 times a run- I also find the panelled construction means I can move so easily and comfortanbly, to put it simply, I love them. ( and I really hope they make it through Tough Guy in one piece!)
So, aside from my little body, I have extremities to keep warm too. The problem is keeping them warm, but also not too restricted and still useful.
On my head I wore my lovely inov-8 wrag, courtesy of Mudstacle, I also kept a little merino hat from Kathmandu tucked away until it came to the dunking time. Although I still got ice cream head, it seemed to keep me pretty warm, and despite it looking like I was wearing a weird wooly swimming cap, I liked it! (I honestly don't care what I look like as long as i'm warm!)
My hands were kept toasty thanks to my black O.P.S. gloves recently purchased from Obstacle Kit. These were great and the water that got in through the wrist actually warmed up and kept my hands warm until the end of my run. I will be adding some merino wool gloves under here to stop that bit of chill.
With slight padding on the shins my fear of bashing them on stray chunks of ice is slightly abated, plus I have the added benefit of my legs and toes being kept warm (if slightly heavier than usual!)
Finally, the most exciting bit. I have waited a long time for this due to the ban placed on me buying new trainers (which expired at christmas!). I am finally the proud owner of a pair of Inov-8s. The beautiful new X-talon 200s. I received these on Tuesday after they were released this week, and somehow managed to wait all week to try them out in the wet and cold!
What can I say? I got these in a size 6 after my feet have inexplicably grown and a bit of toe space (as I have learnt to my own pain) is always a good thing. Whilst heavier than the Reebok All-Terrain (of which I am very fond) they are also more supportive, which I know is a big deal to lots of people.
I had a go in them on the rop during the week, and was able to scale that mother like a pro. Rope climb, check.
First thing to say about these shoes is how comfortable they are. Seriously comfy. And bouncy...so bouncy! Despite wearing thick merino socks, they did not retain water too much. The grip was amazing, I didn't even slip running up a hill of cobble stones, and I kept grip when Kevin, in his all-terrains had a few stumbles. The only thing I am concerned about is how well they will stay on when in very sticky mud, as I can pull them off when fully laced and tied. However, I will take having my toes all in tact after a race and having a slightly less tight shoe!
Aside from adding a pair of Merino gloves, and of course, a toasty new Dry-robe for afters, i'm pretty happy with my kit set up for Tough Guy. Whilst I got cold when I submerged in the river, I very quickly warmed up (and the wind across those Cheshire plains can be pretty harsh!) I'm pretty sure nothing will stop the ice cream head at the lollipops, and i'm still going to lose my breathe when I dunk in water, but just remember: Just keep swimming, Just keep swimming.