Bring me sunshine – Polaroid Blaze sunglasses review

One of the other good things about our holiday down South was that we saw some real, actual sunshine. Alright, so the wind broke our tent before we’d even got it up, but at least it wasn’t raining all the time. Whilst we’ve been lucky enough not to any floods (although some nearby villages have) it feels as if we’ve been living in constant drizzle/downpour for months. I even experienced actual joy at being able to put two loads of washing out to dry yesterday. This is not good.

Real actual Kent sunshine
(photo credits to Ginge)

Before our trip, I did manage one run wearing my new Polaroid sunglasses (it was during that all too brief two day heatwave back in May) but since then it’s been more flipper and snorkel weather round our way. Anyway, this seemed an ideal chance to give them more of a run out, so the sunglasses went into the bag (along with Miles and every single piece of kit that I could corral the night before we set off).

Polaroid Blaze

The first thing that I noticed about the sunglasses is how incredibly light they are. So much so that I keep having to rattle the case just to make sure that they’re in there. Lightness in the box translates into comfy on the face – most of the time I completely forgot that I was wearing them. There’s no movement or bounce when you run, they’re a nice snug fit and there’s no gap letting in sunlight at the bottom of the frame. I also like the blue tint that allows me to sit inside staring at the sky and maintaining blissful denial that it’s grey and miserable outside.

As a bit of an experiment, I gave them to Ginge to try on. The arms of the glasses have a bit of a springy stretch to them and even though they’re a good fit on me, they also accommodate the size of Ginge’s bonce (this is not to say that he has an abnormally large head, it’s just that I have quite a small one). Ginge declared them to be really comfy and better than his Oakley sunglasses in that they let in less daylight. Unfortunately he also declared them to be pink. The official description is “striking red hot flash mirror lenses” and they are in the women’s and the men’s sunglasses section of the Polaroid website, but he wasn’t convinced.

Technically they are excellent, looks-wise they’re maybe a little too dynamic for me. I feel that they should belong to someone who is lean and tanned and toned, powering their way along a rugged trail run whilst wearing the briefest of Lycra. To give you an idea of contrast, I am writing this with the sunglasses on my head whilst wearing an elasticated waistband, drinking a brew and wondering whether to eat half a red Bounty. I can dream can’t I?

In which I ride my wave of enthusiasm and then get all panicky

After all of the relaxation of the Conwy trip, we had a slightly faster paced break in New York (I know, NYC more lively than Conwy, who’d have thought?) and it left me full of enthusiasm and excitement for (a) Christmas and (b) doing stuff. I often get this after being away (or at work, after being on courses) and love the giddy energy that I have for new projects, until life gets in the way and everything drifts a bit. This time, I was reinvigorated about running after passing a Nike Women advert about not letting the weather beat you and stop you running (which I have since tried to find, but can’t – though this is the image on it).

That'll be me that will

“Yeah!” I thought “That’s the kind of runner I want to be”. Then I got back to the UK and it was cold and dark and raining and I didn’t run for 5 days.

Part of the reason that I didn’t run (aside from laziness and an aversion to the cold, dark and rain) is that my hip pain has come back a bit. I fully concede that this is my own fault for neglecting both my foam roller and therapeutic exercises. I tried to run on Saturday but it felt completely wrong, both physically and mentally, and I decided to devote Sunday to some serious rolling, leg waving and thera-banding instead.

On Monday I was faced with the choice of running early in the cold/dark/rain or running late in the cold/dark/rain. I opted for the early one (knowing I would be very short of time in the evening) and was rewarded with one of the worst night’s sleep that I’ve ever had. There is something soul destroying about still being awake at two in the morning, knowing that you can only have a maximum of three hours sleep before the alarm will sound for running. Needless to say, when the alarm did go off (after I had eventually drifted off only to be woken at three by the sound of hailstones the size of golfballs) I chose to ignore it and did some more hip therapy in the evening.

I finally ran this morning when I bounced out of bed at 5.30, was out of the door by 5.50, enjoyed my run, barely got rained on and managed a casual three miles (barely taking any notice of Miles) at under 10 minutes/mile, which I was incredibly pleased with. My pace has gone to pot since my hip started (back in June I was managing 9 minute miles) and that’s going to be one of the things that I inded to address over the next few weeks.

I am going to need some kind of focus because the wave of holiday enthusiasm also carried me to the realisation that if I want to do a spring half marathon, I will need to find one, enter it and train for it. I had a choice of three in the North West in March; Blackpool, Liverpool or Wilmslow. First to be discounted was Blackpool; I liked the 10k in Blackpool, but I’m not sure that I’d fancy doing twice the distance down the sea front in early March. The toss up between Liverpool or Wilmslow was put to Twitter, whereupon Twitter told me that they’re both good, flat, PB achieving races that I would definitely enjoy. From my own musing, I was concerned that I wouldn’t be posh enough for Wilmslow and that there wouldn’t be enough to occupy Ginge while I run round for a couple of hours, but I was still open to either of them.

Then I read the small print of Wilmslow’s information. My panic button had been triggered by the strapline “A race…not a run” on the bottom of the entry form and a bit more reading lead to the discovery that the course has a time limit of 2 hours 35 minutes. Now, I ran Folkestone in 2.33 with injury afflicted training and in stupidly hot conditions. I would hope (and expect) that I would finish under 2.30 next time. I was heartened by the confidence that other people have in my ability to run and enjoy this race. I was also intrigued by what happened to anyone still running after 2:35. Suggestions varied from disappointed head shaking by peers to being mown down by a combine harvester. Liverpool it is then.

Juneathon Day 12: Canal adventure #11 – Gathurst to Wigan

Today’s canal running took us back to bridge 46, the site of the very first adventure.

The start and finish - Bridge 46

It was raining then and it was raining today, the important difference being that the first run was in February and I’m lead to believe that we’re now in June. We’d always planned this to be a tea-time run and (for reasons that we’re not quite sure about) we stuck with that plan, despite the fact that it was lovely and dry this morning, merely drizzling this afternoon and generally peeing down by 5 o’clock. Despite the weather and the fact that he didn’t have to join me (“It’s not my bloody Juneathon…”), Ginge and I duly trekked off to Gathurst to run the towpath to Wigan Pier.

As it was a there and back again, we ran the first half only stopping for one photo. This is the home of Wigan Warriors RLFC and Wigan Athletic and used to be called the JJB Stadium before its owner, Dave Whelan, had a fit of modesty and changed it from the name of his company to his initials (I know it was because there was some changes within his business empire, but he still named the bloody company after himself). In our house, it is merely known as…

...The Pie-dome

There was a lot of puddle dodging and nervous edge running because while I don’t mind getting my feet wet, I prefer not to in the first few yards of a run. Despite this, the first half went pretty quickly and soon we were at the halfway point – Bridge 52.

Half-way - Bridge 52 - the most glamorous bridge we've seen so far

Historical detail on Lock 86

We passed the British Waterways offices (incidentally, BW have denied by tweet that they are involved in a topless calendar, but may consider it in the future. I bloody love Twitter) and the Wigan dry dock…

British Waterways

Well at least something was dry

…before stopping for photos at Wigan Pier.

Gazing out on t'pier

The Pier was made famous by two Georges – Orwell and Formby Sr – and is disappointing if you’re after candy floss and arcades. It was even disappointing to George Orwell, who travelled there in 1936 only to find that it had been sold for scrap (at a price of £34)  in 1929 .

Wigan feels pier pressure when compared with Blackpool

A replica pier was built in 1986 and the area is now being redeveloped as The Wigan Pier Quarter (not The Wigan Pie Quarter as I misread). It is cobbled and as such, a pain in the arse to run on in the rain.

Did I mention that it was raining?

One of the features of canal running is the differences between towpaths – they can be tarmac, unmade paths, cobbles, paved, grassy, meaning that you can end up with a variety of running surfaces on one run. This run took in cobbles, unmade paths, block paving (complete with decorative features)…

East, west, home's best.

…and water.

We were able to run round this on the way out...

By this time, my feet were soaked and I adopted an approach of running straight through anything that didn’t appear deep enough to drown me. On we splashed, taking in this beauty…

Pure Genius

…and what appeared to be an ancient monument to the Gods of Lego.

We've no idea what this is.

I completed the run with a splashtastic sprint finish to the bridge and am now on the look out for a new camera as mine appears to be a little waterlogged. I dried out ok so fingers crossed that it does too and there’s no lasting damage.

Miles run = 6.8
Canal miles completed = 3.4
Total canal miles = 67/127*
Bridges = 46-52

*Officially over halfway there! Which is a little scary as I’m sure I have less than 11 remaining stages planned for completion.

Canal Adventure #8 – Burnley to Salterforth and East Marton to Salterforth

When I set out to run all 127 and a quarter miles of the Leeds-Liverpool canal, it didn’t really occur to me that I would have to do some actual planning. God only knows how I thought that I would manage to balance the logistics of (a) not being able to run that far and (b) running in places that are far away, but it’s only this week that I’ve actually made A Plan to do the Here Be Dragons section of the run (i.e. Yorkshire).

And so, ladies and gentlemen, let me present the first of several camping and canal running expeditions as we venture across the Pennines.

Home from work, change clothes, pack car, drive a whole 50 minutes up the M65 to Salterforth, which is to be our home for the next 2 days. It’s grey and a bit breezy. We’ve not put the tent up for nearly twelve months, so it all becomes a bit haphazard. I fling tent parts around with wild abandon, while Ginge is methodical and organised with his conventional approach of putting the groundsheet  under the inner tent and using pegs to stop it flying away…. Once it’s up and everything’s inside, we nip to the shop to pick up things that we’ve forgotten (something of a tradition when we go away), come home, have tea and a glass of wine before settling down to our first night on the air mattress.

Home sweet home

SATURDAY – Burnley to Salterforth
One of the best sounds in the world is rain pitter pattering down on canvas. More specifically, one of the best sounds in the world is rain pitter pattering down on canvas when you’re warm and dry in the tent, possibly with a cup of tea and some flapjack. When you wake up to the tent leaning sideways in the wind and the rain and you realise that you have to go out and run an unknown distance along a canal because that’s the daft idea that you had back in February…let’s just say that it’s not quite as romantic.

I think the sturdiness of the bus shelter reflects the usual sort of weather round these parts

Once again, we were relying on public transport to maximise our mileage, this time catching the number 28 bus to Burnley whilst dressed in our running kit and clutching bottles of water and Powerade. Needless to say, we were the only people on the bus who had picked this look out of the wardrobe that morning.

Bridge 131 - the beginning

Last time we had visited Bridge 131, it had been a gloriously sunny day and I had spent much of the run complaining that I was too hot. There were to be no such complaints this week. Instead, I embraced the ridiculous plan and the fact that we were presented with the choice of run or, well, run. We had one-way bus tickets, a whole £2 to our name and we weren’t entirely certain how far away from home we were. Ah well. Off we went and were treated to a set of lovely mosaics…

These four were my favourites

…four different walks (plants, birds, bridges, locks) illustrated with tiles made by local schools…

This is a spider

…a warning for speed demons…

No worries there...

… and Foulridge Tunnel.

The Foulridge Tunnel

The Foulridge Tunnel is a mile long and is at the summit of the canal. There is no towpath through the tunnel – barges would have been pushed through by the crew lying on their backs and ‘legging’ the boat along the tunnel’s roof (until the advent of steam tugs). In 1912 a cow fell in the canal, swam through the tunnel, emerged the other end and was revived with some brandy at a local pub. The cow’s name was Buttercup.

Legally, all cows must be called Buttercup or Daisy. At a push, Ermintrude.

It turns out that the route was 9.75 miles and we were both ready for a shower (which was worth the £1 token) and a sausage butty when we saw Bridge 151 at the Anchor pub. The rest of the afternoon was spent pottering around the tent and enjoying a (several) very nice pint(s) back at the Anchor (Jennings Cumberland for me, Theakston’s Lightfoot for Ginge). The Anchor also does very good pub food and has stalactites in the cellar – what more can you ask for in a pub?

SUNDAY – East Marton to Salterforth
We awoke to the same sound as the previous day, only louder. Kit on, banana eaten, tent packed up to be off site by 11, in the car, windscreen wipers on… The previous day, Ginge and I had discussed whether he wants to run the entire length of the canal. So far he’s done all but a few miles with me and I think that it’s mad that he’ll end up running nearly but not quite all of it. He says that it’s my daft idea and he’s just there for moral support, safety and logistical reasons. Normally I would argue, but it was peeing down and I could either run a pointless 5 miles in a 10 mile there and back, or be dropped off and run 5 miles to meet Ginge running the other way. No contest. I was dropped off at Bridge 162, which wasn’t half as interesting as the double arched bridge, Bridge 161.

It's a bridge, but it's two bridges!





Bridge 151 again! A blessed relief. I looked like a drowned rat.

I can’t really describe this run without running the risk of sounding whingey. It rained non-stop, I was running into the wind and if I could have weaseled out of it, I probably would have done. Having said that, everyone that I passed (on foot or on boats) responded to my cheery if damp “Good mornings!” and I didn’t even consider punching the man who shouted “You must be keen!”. The route took me past an important milestone as it was the first time that I’d set foot into Yorkshire, although I was a bit disappointed that there was nothing to show where this was – these are two counties that don’t like to see a boundary unmarked – but it was somewhere between bridges 149  and 148.

Despite the weather, we had a fantastic time and I’m looking forward to the next weekend adventure that will take us past Skipton and even further into Yorkshire – it might even be part of Juneathon!

Garmin maps: Burnley to Salterforth and East Marton to Salterforth.

Miles run = 14.9
Canal miles completed = 14.9
Total canal miles = 58.6/127*
Bridges = 131 to 162

Day 8 – perky but old

Another quiet and uneventful morning run (4 miles) today – the most remarkable thing about was that I woke up feeling enthusiastic about going out. Possibly it was because I had a crap day at work lined up and running was the lesser of two evils, but I have a sneaky suspicion that I was just looking forward to it. Odd I know. And this was despite the fact that when I checked the weather last night, my running time fell somewhere between ‘light rain’ and ‘heavy rain’.

In the event, it was light rain. The sort that’s quite nice when you’re on your way home when it starts, but when you set off in it you can’t tell if it’s going to start belting down and if you chance it in a t-shirt you end up cold, drenched and miserable. Not wanting to chance it, I wore my jacket (whose waterproof-ness I tested the other week while shovelling gravel, doing the garden and going to the tip. I do recognise the fact that, having owned the jacket for over a year, I probably should have already tested it a few times in more conventional running situations. Like running. In the rain) and ended up warm, clammy and with Miami Vice stylee rolled up sleeves.

Even more disturbing than the enthusiasm and the Miami Vice sleeves is the thought that popped into my mind when I saw the rain – “well it’ll do the garden some good, that’s the main thing”. I am truly one step closer to middle age.