Tough Mudder Training: Running

I hate running. It’s boring. It hurts. I’m slow. It’s time-consuming. I’d much rather do things like HHIIT or biking. Why am I bothering?

Tough Mudder demands it.

It is one week away from the toughest thing I’ve ever faced (bar facing the world on 3 hours sleep as a new dad). The ability to propel myself forward at a reasonable pace for more than 30 seconds is quite important or it. After all, it is basically a half marathon distance with horrendous obstacles in the way, so it isn’t all about strength and power.

I’ve done very well keeping up the training plan for HHIIT sessions and cycling, even clean eating has gone well, but the running has been the real test. I’ve probably done about 70% of the running I should have done and with the Tough Mudder just a week away I had only built myself up to 5 miles rather than the target of 8. Although, I was hit by a car on my bike so there was an understandable brief pause in training…

With that in mind, I set off tonight for a run that would reach the dizzying heights of 6.5 miles.

I grabbed my running gear, downed some water and was all set. Bar my phone. It was on 3% battery so no GPS tracking or podcast listening for me. My GPS app tells me how far I’ve done and what my pace is, while podcasts take my mind off of the run itself.

This is what happened:

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Not bad for a man who usually struggles to keep under 10 minute miles due to nearly cartilage-less knees – and with no stopping. Quite a difference. Turns out that taking nothing but my own thoughts and some semblance of an idea of where I am going is all I need to run almost-well.

It may not be the 8 miles I was hoping to have reached by this point, but with everything else I’ve done (extra cycling) and experienced (colliding with cars), as well as running a good time without stopping, I’m happy that I’m ready to be tortured next week…

I am taking part in the Tough Mudder South West on Saturday 21st September in an effort to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. If you would like to make a donation please visit my JustGiving page.

Spray Can Insulated Mug

Bristol is known for being great at many things. Graffiti is one of those things. Events celebrating the rebellious paint form such as Upfest or See No Evil spruce up the city’s otherwise boring walls with fantastic murals of colour, slogans and characters. Plus, we have Banksy.

It seems apt then that I Want One Of Those (or IWOOT as the Internet calls them) wanted to send this Bristolian something in the shape of a spray can: an insulated travel mug.

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The deign is very cool, looking very much like a spray can and sparking lots of “what is that?” comments when I start drinking out of its spray nozzle. It is certainly very different and stands out amongst a sea of functional Thermos flasks.

But while it looks really cool, that is where the positives end. It sadly doesn’t actually do its fundamental job of being an insulated travel mug very well.

My first test for it came in the form of a tea. Boiling hot water was poured, tea was stewed and I left if it for 90 minutes, anticipating the steaming tea I was promised by this spray can. It was cold. Not luke warm. Cold.

Granted it isn’t a Thermos flask and it is a novelty product but if I’d expect it to at least have some remaining heat if I were taking it with me on my travels.

So it fails on keeping liquid warm, but what about containing said liquids? This does that. Kind of.

The seal on the lid and the lid itself are not 100% leak-proof. The lid needs to be pushed down very hard to seal it correctly and the lid’s opening is quite loose, meaning it can easily be opened, especially when on the move. That’s bad news if you’ve put boiling water in it in the last 10 minutes, as it will soon be all over your hands, your mouth or, worse, your lap.

Overall, as you’d expect from all I Want One Of Those products, it is a cool present to get someone you don’t have any other ideas for. It is different, a good novelty and under a tenner. Tick. However, when you actually go to use it, that is where it lets you down. It does a job for whoever is buying it, but not for those receiving it as a gift.

The above products were sent to me for an independent review by IWOOT team. I was under no obligation to provide a positive review. You can read my review policy here.

LuLin Tea

There’s nothing more British than tea, right? Wrong. The Chinese pipped the British to the tea-introducing post by the small gap of around 3,500 years.

Therefore it would be rude of me not to take LuLin teas up on their offer to try some of their best brews.

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Hannah at LuLin sent me three of their teas to try; Posh Earl Grey loose leaf tea, as well as as the Ginseng Oolong and Lapsang Souchong tea “cubes”.

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I’m not exactly a tea connoisseur, preferring most brews as long as they’re hot and wet, but Earl Grey is the one I am most familiar with so I started there.

Loose leaf “posh” Earl Grey

Loose tea is ok. I don’t think it gives you much more than regular tea bags give you but this recipe stands out. Anything with blue bits in it (where blue bits are usually lacking) will do that. There are also orange bits. These ‘bits’ are really blue corn flowers and orange flowers which makes the tea lovely and light and flowery.

The flowers give the tea a lovely aroma which for me is the highlight. It makes you feel like you’re tucking into something a bit more than “just a cuppa” and the lightness means you can have one more, which is always a bonus as that’s just what I wanted.

Lapsang Souching

It is only in the past few years that I’ve started drinking things other than English Breakfast tea; peppermint, green, camomile, but I was yet to try a ‘Lady Orchid’ brew.

As I tried the tea I was taken aback by the savoury nature of the tea. It wasn’t sweet. It had a deep, musky, woody and smoky flavour instead which makes sense seeing as the tea has been given a treatment usually reserved for fish and meat; smoked over pine needles. I didn’t dislike it but I didn’t like it either. The closest I’ve come to describing it is smoky bacon crisps in a mug.

Ginseng Oolong

This was the tea I wasn’t looking forward to. Nothing against Mr Ginseng, I know it’s good for your health and all, but I’ve never liked it when I tried it before and it has an added hated ingredient of mine; liquorice grass.

Being the committed reviewer man I am I rolled up my sleeves and steeped that bad boy.

I was wrong. The liquorice grass isn’t there in the flavour of the tea, but slowly builds up in the aftertaste on your tongue and when you breath in (after tasting) there it is, subtly. It was nice and fresh so I happily had another cup. Of the two cubes it was easily my favourite.

Overall, LuLin make some lovely tea. The Earl Grey is the best I’ve had. I don’t think I’m converted to a savoury brew just yet, but I am liking something I didn’t in liquorice grass, so overall they are well worth a try.

The above products were sent to me for an independent review by LuLin Tea. I was under no obligation to provide a positive review. You can read my review policy here.

Bathtime Buddies

Bathtime is my thing. My wife spends all day with my 4 month old daughter, so when I come home from work it is my time to shine, bonding with her as I get her bathed and ready for bed.

Amelia and I love it. She splashes around, while I get to see her smile her little head off. However, as she develops, raspberries and stupid faces courtesy of her father just won’t cut it  anymore. She’ll need some bath toys, so the opportunity to review some was well timed.

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H&A’s Bathtime Buddies arrived and I had been sent four things:

Wash Buddy

A bright yellow duck that doubles as a wash sponge. Perfect. Amelia loved this. It was bright. It was soft. It was practical – which she didn’t care about but ticked a box for me! Saves bringing two things to bathtime. It was also very lightweight and textured, which was good for her little, slippery, grasping hands.

Mr Clock

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While this is a little old for Amelia at the moment, she liked the colours and I look forward to teaching her to tell the time with it. Each number can be popped out and they, along with Mr Clock himself, stick easily to wet surfaces and are nice and soft should a certain small person try to eat it, as happens with everything at the moment.

Bath crayons

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I’m not 100% sure why children need to draw in the bath (H&A say it’s for hand-eye coordination development), but the idea is interesting so I was looking forward to seeing what they would come out like. Scared that I’d stain my bath tub for life, I tried them on the tiles, which the packet stated was ok.

I had gotten the tiles wet to test out the stickiness of Mr Clock, so gave them a go in the same area. Sadly they didn’t seem to take to the wet area, preferring to only write on the dry tiles. This is somewhat problematic, what with bathtime being inherently, you know, wet.

Bath Tidy

Bathtime can be messy. Small people need a ridiculous amount of accessories and you quickly run out of bathside real estate, so a bath tidy is a must.

The Bathtime Buddies tidy hits the spot as it is neutral enough to suit any bathroom colour scheme, as well as being easy to bung in the wash, as it consists of just a net and two frogs heads. It also held up well to a stress test as I put around 6 full bottles of shower gel, shampoo and conditioner in it before it started to slide down the wall.
Overall, the great thing about the Bathtime Buddies range is the value. Mr Clock is just £1.25. My favourite of the range, the bath tidy, is a fantastic £2.00 – and they’re all easily available from major supermarkets.

I’ll be taking a trip to Wilko or Asda to see what else they’ve got as for a couple of quid you can’t go wrong (unless it’s things that only work on dry things in an environment of wet things…).

The Bathtime Buddies range was sent to me for an independent review by Rachel from Finn PR. I was under no obligation to provide a positive review. You can read my review policy here

Tomy Mattress Monitor

I’m a new dad. I’m also a geek (as my joy at my daughter’s Princess Leia hat demonstrates). Combine these two and you’ve got something special.

Before Amelia was born we bought a baby monitor. The Tomy Digital Plus TD350* to be exact. It is quite swish, with talkback, temperature display  vibrate mode and a remote controlled nightlight that cycles through the colour spectrum. Geeky dad heaven. However, it is the addition of something else that makes it more new-fangled and geeky; an integrated mattress monitor.

The Tomy Movement Sensor TSP500* is a panel that sits under a baby’s mattress and detects their breathing, with a base station that glows and clicks with every breath. If it doesn’t detect anything for 20 seconds an alarm goes off. We got a mattress monitor for Amelia after a recommendation from a friend about the peace of mind they give you, and with such a worrier for a wife, I jumped at the chance to placate her mind. We chose the Tomy TSP500 as it integrated with our existing setup.

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It’s a blessing. It’s also an absolute nightmare.

The overall concept of the sensor is fantastic, but there are a few flaws that make it hard work to like as a product.

The first problem is when you turn it on. You’ve just spent a fair chunk of your precious evening, missing the Grand Designs episode with the Irish castle you’ve been looking forward to for ages, to get your precious baby to sleep. You settle them into their cot. You turn on the mattress monitor. BEEEEEEEP goes the base station. BEEEEEEEEP goes the monitor handset. Yes. Cheers Tomy. I didn’t want to see Grand Designs anyway.

The second is the alarm. It is very sensitive. Granted it’s got quite a complex job to perform, but it’s the boy who cried wolf. Instead of a boy shouting “Wolf” there is an inanimate object tugging at your heart strings by suggesting your baby is in trouble. Our daughter can be quite a shallow breather, so the monitor doesn’t pick it up, and goes of. On average, it probably does that about 5 times a night. The villagers got annoyed and ignored the boy to his detriment, whereas I spring into action every time, only to find Amelia sleeping soundly when I get there.

For those who don’t have the TD350 monitor to plug it into, this is useless as you would have to be in the room to use it and it’ll only run on batteries. If you don’t have the Tomy TD350 monitor or one similar in the Tomy range, then I’d be tempted to say you should look at the Angelcare AC401* instead.

I sadly won’t be recommending this to anyone, but we will continue to use it every single day because as soon as you get that peace of mind, you can never live without it.

* Amazon Associate link

The Real Shaving Co: Part 1 – Scrub and Moisturiser

I got home from work yesterday, fed up with the snow and feeling a touch worn down, so it was nice to see a box of goodies from The Real Shaving Co waiting to perk me up as I got in.

I was sent 4 products to try; a face scrub, a moisturiser, a shaving cream and a shaving balm.

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I’d just shaved that morning and as my facial hair grows at the speed comparable to some owned by someone about to take their GCSEs, it was inevitability ironic that my first review for The Real Shaving Co would have to have nothing to do with shaving.

Eitherway, first up were the face scrub and moisturiser.

If I’m to choose anything to wash my face with, it’s a scrub. I like to give it some effort, feel it get rid of all the gunk and leave me fresh faced. Sadly, it struggled. While it did scrub, the bits that do the scrubbing seemed few and far between and I needed quite a large amount to feel that my face hadn’t been ignored in my washing routine. Once I had enough (about three times what I’d expect to use) it performed admirably, achieving the ‘fresh faced’ bit.

However, the SPF 15 moisturiser clawed it back. It was a rich cream that managed to avoid the major pit that many other male moisturisers fall into; leaving you feeling greasy. It jumped that obstacle left me feeling energised and ready to take on whatever the world wanted to throw at me, which turned out to be a teething baby girl refusing to go to sleep. I did note that it managed to soothe the dry patches under my eyes where I’ve been sleepily rubbing them since Amelia was born, something my other moisturisers, including a Boots No 7 one, have failed to do.

I’d happily buy the moisturiser again, but the face scrub isn’t something I’d pick over something else if the price was the same.

Now I’m just willing my face to push out some hair so I can test The Real Shaving Co’s real bread and butter; shaving products.

(I think I can also add beauty blogger to Tesco wine taster on my LinkedIn profile now…)