Anyone who knows me may be glad to hear this, but I am about to embark on a plan to quit smoking cigarettes. Forever. I have to do it to be in with a chance of winning that £500 in our little 10K run bet, or to ever be able to run further than to my local Londis (you can read more about the bet here).

Tut tut, I'm sure a lot of you dissapproving sporty-types will be quoffing into your mungbean salad about now. Well save it. Yes, smoking is stupid, trust me I know. I'm a smoker. My comedy lung capacity and the mahogany hue of my fingernails says so. But I'm not writing this for you (haven't you got some workout stats to go analyse, or something?) Not many of you howies fans do smoke, anyway. So I'm writing this for anyone that does, in the hope that it could nudge just one of them to get off their arse and do something, one day, soon.

We know smoking is disgusting, we know it's wrecking our health and we're all fully aware that if we carry on, it will probably be the death of us. But when you're addicted to nicotine, you go into ostrich-mode at the fear of never being able to smoke again – convincing yourself that you aren't slowly dieing on the inside and that your hacking cough is just a tiny tickley cough, caused by the ickle Marlboro pixies ballet dancing on your windpipe.

So, I've read the books and I've listened to the tapes and they can all be summed up in 100 words, rather than 100,000 – smoking is brainwashing. Remember your first cigarette and how utterly foul it tasted? Well, every single cigarette you ever smoked after that is exactly the same. They are clones, all made the same way, on a production line, using the same cocktail of rubbish and they all taste pretty much the same and are equally disgusting, should you happen to light them on fire. The pleasure you think you get from puffing on them and how you think you now enjoy the taste, is just your brain tricking you. It needs the nicotine that's in them and it will do all manner of Derren Brown-ery on your senses to get it. That includes habitually fooling you into thinking you like the taste of hot burning chemicals and that yellow teeth look cool. Knowing this, gives you an advantage over the bastard.

But you need some sort of emotional trigger, a wake-up call to pull your head out of the sand and realise that this drug owns you and you need to do something about it. My trigger was the bet and how my running has progressed so pathetically. It is also the fear of having to cough up £500 and possibly a lung in the process. You just need to find your trigger.

If you're like me, then it's probably fear stopping you from doing something. All I'll say is give it a go. Connect your brain back to your body, go for a long walk or something and just feel how unfit you are (probably). That alone could be your trigger to make some changes. Maybe then we could all be happy, healthy, lycra clad endorphine junkies, nodding at eachother across the park.

Or don't bother. Maybe you like smoking? Who am I to preach? My goodness, I've become one of those worthy plebs I dislike so much... Carry on.

Prof. Peter Davies

The Brenin jacket

  • Posted by alex
  • 6 March 2012


For the past few months we've been putting a prototype of a new howies jacket through it's paces.

The Brenin is our new lightweight biking jacket for Spring. Actually, it does a whole lot more than that. We've designed it to be windproof, breathable and packable. We've also added in stretch panels on the arms and torso – making it a perfect-fitting outer shell for either bike or run.

The tailored body panels are designed to stop wind and chill from getting in, while the stretch sections let body heat out and give you greater freedom of movement. The jacket's cuffs and drop-tail have subtle reflective detailing too, making you visible to motorists at night. And these flashes are located so they won't be covered up if you're wearing a backpack. It's even got a hydrophobic coating on the body, to help splashes roll off.

Not bad for a jacket weighing-in at only 200grams (that's about the same weight as a banana). In fact, it's so lightweight; you forget you're wearing it.

Beyond the bike, we've also taken this jacket over the hills on foot. We've run it over a hundred miles of trail, slogged out a few ultra-marathons, not to mention plenty of lunchbreaks. And it did the job every time... right to the finish.

Teamed up with one of our long-sleeved Merino base layers, the Brenin jacket has already become a howies staple for those staff members lucky enough to have snapped up one of the samples. For the rest of us, we'll just have to wait 'til we launch the finished product in March.

But don't just take our word for it:
"The new howies Brenin is a fantastically well designed lightweight jacket that packs as much style as it does performance out on the trails in the British weather." – BikeMagic

"It’s the first time we can really say… one style fits all! Star Buy - 96%" – CyclingShorts

The Brenin jacket is available to buy here

The Bet

  • Posted by pete
  • 22 February 2012

Last week, my workmates bet me (an unfit chump) the princely sum of £500 that I couldn't run a 10 kilometre race in under 70 minutes.

£500 I thought... "That's a lot of money, think of all the fags and booze you can buy with that".

Of course I naively said yes and took the bet, without really considering what I was letting myself in for. It wasn't until my first training run the other night that I realised exactly how pitifully out of shape I am. Or indeed exactly how far 10 kilometres is. And that I should probably start saving the £500 I'm going to have to cough up, when I fail.

The basis for my self-doubt is the fact that I've been a smoker for nearly half of my life. I'm also partial to a bit of beige food and I enjoy a drink. A lifestyle, I think you'll agree, not really conducive with a the sport of running.

Sure, I can skateboard for hours on end and I can do 20 miles on my bike without too much trouble, so I am active and I'm not overweight or anything. But I haven't run any kind of distance for a long time. Not since being made to do the dreaded cross-country in school. I hated it and I hated being forced into doing it. And that instilled a fear in me – a fear of running and a fear of failing at running, which lives with me to this day. So I never ran again.

But £500 is a good motivator. It's just the kick up the backside I needed to make some changes to my lifestyle. To quit smoking, eat healthier, to forget all the negative crap and just run.

So if you seen a thin, wheezy man trudging around the streets of West Wales, in what look like shoes of lead, don't be alarmed, It's just me... training for my 10K.

I'll be uploading my progress over the next few months, with stories, photos, disappointing stats and maybe a video or two. I welcome your comments, tips and mickey-taking. So please feel free to chip in. Thanks.

Ultra One

  • Posted by ruben
  • 25 January 2012

I ran my first ever ultra on Saturday - 34.3 miles of coastal trail around Anglesea, featuring several gruelling ascents of Holyhead mountain.

I finished almost last, but that's not the point. I finished an ultra. It was something I'd wanted to do since I first started running seriously a couple of years ago.

Back then, after a few 10k runs on local trails, I began to wonder what it would take to run a marathon. I thought I could do it, so with no training I set off to try. After 22 miles and 3 big hills, I collapsed completely, but the distance bug had taken a firm hold.

I went back to the drawing board, running shorter races and keeping the miles up between events. Less than a year after the first attempt, I ran my first marathon. Then another. I thought I was ready for longer distances, so I entered the Endurancelife CTS Anglesea ultra.

 

Work on the new howies website made training tough until the middle of November, but I managed to keep the miles up and by the time Christmas and New Year came round, I was feeling great. I thought I was in the best shape of my life.

Then, exactly a week before the run, I fell off my bike and landed heavily on my leg. A previous injury in my knee was reawakened and as the days passed with me limping around I began to worry. I thought about dropping out, but couldn't bring myself to do it.

On the trip up to the race with Chris (also running the ultra) and Alex (running his first trail half) I was subdued, and at dinner the night before I found myself massaging the damaged knee and mulling over what was to come. I knew this was bad, and that the doubts were probably more dangerous than the injury itself so I tried to put it all to the back of my mind.

 

 

Arriving at the start before daybreak we found the car park was a 10 minute walk from the event HQ at the Breakwater country park. And again, the pain from my knee started nagging at me. The howling wind and lashing rain didn't help, although thankfully both began to subside as the sun came up and we began to run.

The course started off with a short flat run to the foot of Holyhead mountain, before the first long climb began taking us around to the South Stack lighthouse. I was more than happy to walk the steep rock stairs, near vertical in some places. I knew we were coming back here later.

For the first few miles I was running with Chris, who had kept me company during my first trail marathon a couple of months before. I don't think I was great company this time as I was still struggling to control my negativity and I was actually quite relieved to see Chris head off up the road, running his own race. I was now alone, and I knew that was how it had to be.

 

I was soon beginning to feel much better and was enjoying the scenery as we passed Trearddur Bay. My thoughts were a lot more positive, although my knee was still giving me trouble. Shortly after the half way turn around on Rhoscolyn beach, it flared up and my leg cramped causing me to fall against a low wall. To my relief I was able to recover quickly and get back on my feet, although cramp (and the fear of cramp) plagued the rest of my run. Especially over the numerous stiles, which I now negotiated ver gingerly for fear of triggering another leg failure.

Heading back toward the finish line, I saw Holyhead mountain again in the distance. Knowing I would be having to climb the rock stairs around the mountain again before the finish and already approaching the furthest I had ever run I wasn't in a hurry to get there. I ran a steady pace, but making sure I could make the cut off point in time to be allowed back onto the mountain.

 

As we joined the half marathon course, I was quite glad to have the company of other runners again, as I had be plugging out the miles alone, save for odd fragments of conversation as I traded places with a couple of the other ultra runners. By chance I met up with Alex, who seemed to be having a great run in his half. He left me with one of his spare gels and carried on.

The miles all began to blur together and my mind wandered until I reached the foot of the mountain and the sharp ascent brought things back into focus. The sun was out, the views were amazing, and passing half marathon runners with their fresh legs on the climb gave me a massive boost. I passed nearly everyone I saw on the first climb, although my legs screamed at me to stop. Eventually I reached the summit and took a moment to enjoy the view before turning back down the mountain toward the marathon finish line.

 

I made the cut off more than 20 minutes before it closed. I knew this wasn't fast, but it meant I would now get to finish the ultra. I set off toward the mountain again, looking over my shoulder to check I wasn't last. Ray who runs the whole food shop in Cardigan and his friend were the next through the gate, about 500 yards behind me.

Seeing someone I knew behind me gave me another boost and I was determined to keep up a good pace as the climb began again. I was impressed that my legs seemed to have recovered from their earlier cramps and I was able to power my way back to the South Stack lighthouse checkpoint without stopping.

I ran into the checkpoint and headed straight back out again, not wanting to loose any more places before the finish. The course now took me back inland and I knew that another trip to the summit was coming. My legs were beginning to feel hollow and my mind was wandering. I was interested by the sensation, but refused to slow down.

Reaching the summit for the second time, I almost cried. I knew that gravity would do the rest. All I had to do was point my weary body int he right direction and not fall over. I plodded out the descent, drinking whatever was left in my bag and eating a bar. I realised I had too much food left, and should have been eating more. I was already planning my next ultra by the time I finished.

 

Chris and Alex were waiting for me at the finish line. I had to wait a few minutes to get my time. They'd turned the power off and had to restart the computer. As I waited, Ray and his friend came running home. I would later find out they were the only finishers behind me, although 9 runners dropped out.

I followed the others back to the car and was more than happy to let Chris drive home. I was done. I had run my first ultra.

 

We stopped at a little climbing cafe called Pete's Eats that Chris knew on the way back to Cardigan. The good coffee and baked potatoes seemed to serve as a fitting full stop to the run, and the reality of the achievement began to sink in.

There's such a difference between believing you can do something and knowing you can.

2011 - A year in pictures

  • Posted by alex
  • 20 December 2011

2011;
A year of lunchbreakouts.
A year of first Marathons.
A year of races.
A year of Microadventure.
And the year a World Champion raced for howies.

 

Chris Ultra

2012;
A year for riding harder.
A year for first Ultra's.
A year for (more) racing.
A year for adventure.
Then again, why wait until January...

13.1 Miles

  • Posted by alex
  • 4 August 2011

Categories:



A few of us have been talking about running the Cardiff half marathon today. Some of us have even got around to registering.

Keen to keep up the momentum, I hope to head out for a lunchtime run a couple of times a week in some loose form of 'training' for the 13.1 miles. I have yet to work out a plan on how I'll go from starting running on Monday to finishing what will be my 1st event, but I'm sure I'll get there.

A couple of us popped out to the lake for a run today. I'm still not quite keeping up with Ruben and the stills from the GoPro video might tell you why!

Today's 5km was shorter and easier than Monday's run but despite the slower pace and shorter distance, I was still edged out at the sprint finish. Come October, I hope I'll be able to give Ruben a run for his money... at lunchtime at least.

Lunch Breakout

  • Posted by alex
  • 1 August 2011

Believe it or not, it's summer out there.

Despite the rain and with the arrival of my new shoes, we decided it was time to hit the trail.


I'm new to running, so when given the choice, I optimistically opted for the 10km stairs route. I followed Ruben who set a punishing pace through the woods in a climb and fall over loose trail and slate, chasing the river. My new road shoes held despite the rain, it was simply my legs that couldn't keep up with the gate-hurdling Ruben.

My efforts eventually paid off, making it back to the office with a smile, and my shoes broken in.
Below is a short I've titled "Ruben kills Alex".

Note to self: Next time - Run harder. Run further. Keep up longer.

lunch breakout

  • Posted by ade
  • 8 July 2011

too much stress?

too many spreadsheets open?

too much on the to do list?

too many deadlines?

too long in conference calls?

too many people need too much of you?

too many posted post its?

two running shoes

one lunch break

to the woods

I Run

  • Posted by ruben
  • 13 June 2011

Categories:

This is the same guy from the bike lanes video that Alex posted last week.

The things he thinks while running are quite typical of my own experiences... I have a bad habit of doing really bad maths in my head while running races.

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