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When hobbies collide - the shorts project

I am struggling to find running shorts that fit and don't ride up and that I like.

I've tried a few different pairs of shorts now. I have a pair of Pearl Izumi shorts that I bought cheap in desperation, but they are too high waisted to be comfy. I have a pair of Adidas ones which are ok but ride up a bit. I have a pair of knee-length lycra capris that give me two rubbed spots on my bottom after surprisingly few miles, and a pair of Asics lycra shorts that give me rubbed patches after around 10 miles. The two pairs of Ron Hills I have both have serious issues for me.

I have run most of my races in my Harlot Houlihan shorts, which are actually designed for cycling. They have no seam in the crotch, just a stretchy panel. They do not look like 'proper' running shorts, which I like because otherwise people might assume I'm taking this seriously or that I might be quick or something. They aren't lycra. I don't like going out in skin tight clothes. I'm told it doesn't look too bad, but there's only so many times you can get called 'Camel toe' by a man carrying a brace of poached rabbits before you think better of it. (Turns out my limit is once. I tried not to let it ruin the run, but it wasn't exactly happy-making.)

The only problem with those shorts is that they are quite heavy material, so if we ever get any warm weather they are too hot. Plus I need more than one pair, and they are quite expensive. That's my problem with experimenting with new pairs too. Each new pair is a minimum of £20, often more, and it's not like you can take them for a run then take them back if they don't work.

So, I've been thinking: sewing is becoming another hobby of mine. So can I make my ideal pair of shorts? If I can, I can then make as many as I like. If I can work out what makes the shorts ride up, I should be able to engineer it out (and since not all shorts do it can't just be that my thighs rub and there's no hope).

I've chosen to start from a cheap pair of board shorts. I figure the material ought to be quick drying at the very least. I've started by trying to copy the shape of the Harlot shorts, and put a stretchy panel under the crotch and moved the crotch up a lot. The riding up seems to happen when the shorts move up my leg when I raise it and doesn't move down again after. Having a tighter crotch means the short leg can't move up so much, so shouldn't ruck so much. I'm going to do some further analysis on what makes my other shorts ruck up as well because I think there's something to do with the shape/give around the top. At the moment the stretchy panel is some fleece I had hanging around, but I may buy a metre of something more suitable once I've got something workable.

Shorts surgery
Not sure these will ever be perfect, as the shaped around the top with the elastic isn't quite perfect on me. But they'll be a good proof of concept at least!


Soft Star runamoc DASH

I may have mentioned before, but all my running is done in minimalist shoes. In fact, these days I don't wear any 'proper' shoes at all. They feel so heavy, let alone the whole toe-squishing thing. (For what it's worth, I'm an over-pronator who suffered from plantar do-whatsit. Not been a problem since I switched.) I found out about Soft Star Shoes online, and being a sucker for the small company thing - and the fact that they were rather cheaper than the Vivo Barefoot shoes I was looking at - I went with a couple of pairs of their Runamoc DASH.
Softstar shoes Runamoc DASH lite
These are my running shoes. They were the standard model when I ordered them, complete with an offer which made them even better value. I went with the 5mm trail soles in these. I haven't taken a photo of the other pair. They look pretty similar, except in smooth brown leather with red semi-circles and the 2mm smooth sole. If you've seen me recently, chances are I've been wearing them, because they are my day-to-day shoe.

They are extremely soft leather, nicely made. Clarkie thinks they look a bit weird, but they don't get a second look when I'm out and about n them. But they have not been without their trials!

First up there was the sizing. Being from the UK I don't have a 'usual' US shoe size, so I kind of had to guess a bit. Turns out my shoe size is between US shoe sizes. A 6.5 U would be perfect, but Soft Star don't make 'em. I decided to go down a size, and fretted until they arrived. As it turns out, the solid ones did feel really a bit tight. They seemed long enough, but the leather had no toe space so they felt a bit cramped. I emailed the elves. The response I got surprised me. Try leaving them with a damp towel in overnight, then bashing them on a broom handle to provide some give. Yeah. Anyway, I did it. It worked, provided I don't wear thick socks.

The running shoes seemed a little bigger, and I can actually fit a thicker sock than I could (comfortably) in my Vivo Evos. My problem with them was much more surprising: they gave me blisters! Thing is, they gave me blisters on the ball of my foot. There was nothing in the shoe that would rub there, it was just my foot on the shoe liner. Now, I can be stubborn, and I wanted these shoes to work, so I gave it a bit of thought. Eventually I decided that clearly my foot must be sliding in the shoe, which would explain the blister. But, if I was running with 'good barefoot form' (which I kind of hoped after 500+ trauma free miles in my Evos I might be) that shouldn't be happening. A process of deduction meant that I wasn't running with good form, and actually my experience on the ice and snow over the winter sort of bears that out. If I really concentrated I could run without slipping, but it wasn't my normal running style.

So, I've worked on it. And I've got it! I was pushing off, not lifting up. I have now done around 60 miles in them, and the blisters are a thing of the past. Interestingly, some other long term patches of rough skin on the ends of my toes seem to be healing too. So yeah, liking them! The only thing I'd change is the sole which now feels rather thick, but I can definitely live with that. For what it's worth, I think the difference between these and the Evos is that the Runamocs are less tightly held on, so my foot could move more in them than the Evos, hence the blisters from my poor form.
That's me wearing them at Brighton & Hove parkrun a couple of weeks ago. Fingers crossed for many more happy miles in them!



I've pretty much been wheezing off and on since I had that little chest infection before Christmas. I've been doing my best to ignore it and carry on regardless, but it's started to interfere with my running.

(Ok, so it's been interfering for a while, but I've started trying hill reps and they won't really let me ignore it!)

So I toddled off to the doctor this morning, and as suspected she's upped my asthma medication. I now have one of those brown ones. Levelling up is a good thing, right? Achievement unlocked?

Fingers crossed it'll get my excess phlegm levels back under control, and I'll be flying up those hills in no time. I'll keep you posted...


Brighton support crew

This weekend was the Brighton marathon, and no, I wasn't running it. I'm sure it's lovely, but for some reason it doesn't appeal. I think it's the long bit along the seafront. Bit exposed to the elements for my liking (and I've been along it in enough different weather conditions to know). 

That freed me up to do something that I've been the happy recipient of in quite a startling number of races now: supporting!

We made a banner, of course. We knew a couple of people running it so we mentioned them, and then went with our favourite "Go total stranger go!" - totally borrowed off a spectator at the Disney marathon, but it suits. We cycled on down to around 9.2 miles, which is at the top of the worst hill on the course and just after they've turned around to head back along the seafront. Conveniently it's also the closest point on the course to home. We unfurled our banner and in a way that is most unlike either of us we spent the next hour and a half shouting and cheering like loons. 

We saw a lot of people of all shapes, sizes, speeds and comfort levels. The further through the pack we got, the more smiles and waves we got. People with headphones missed us totally, even when we called their names. It was really fun, and I recommend everyone tries it. It makes a difference to the runners and it was great watching them smile at our sign. 

To the man who by 9.2 miles already had big blood stains on his tshirt - I really hope you got plasters at the next medical station. To the guy with the tiger on his back - your shoulders must be killing you today. And to the chap who works in the Bridge Cafe at Sussex Uni and was running as a Thunderbird - I'm sorry, I didn't recognise you without the beard. To everyone we saw - you all rocked. Hope you all made it!

I'm so going to be running another one. Eventually. After the PhD. Yeah. 


iPad cozy

Another project that finally got finished over the Easter weekend!

iPad case

I bought an iPad at Christmas. I have justified it by using it lots for work. I think best when I'm scribbling and that normally results in pages and pages of scrawl. I now do that using a stylus in Note Taker HD, and can save and tag my scrawls so that at least I can find them again later when I want to know why I did something! I also use Goodreader for my PDFs, have it synced to dropbox and Ravelry so I can now get hold of my papers or knitting patterns and don't need to print them out and lose them. It's working well. 

One side effect of that is that I no longer want to leave my 'notepad' at work overnight when I run home. That's fine - picked up a small Haglofs Ace - 5l capacity, and routing for a hydration pack. So that means my iPad is being bounced along right up against 1.5l of water. Didn't seem entirely sensible if I'm honest. So I made it a cozy and bought a drybag. The cozy protects (minimally) against bumps and rubbing, while the drybag protects from disaster.

The cozy was made from some more of that upholstry fabric haul - a slightly metallic orange this time. Lined with my normal cotton quilt batting, and then some lovely green patterned fabric from my stash. More accurately, from my mum's stash that I liberated. I put the E on it just to see if I could, really. Machine quilted, then just folded in half, stitched up the sides, added the binding (extra strength) and finally added the velcro this weekend.

Velcro not poppers or buttons? Yes. What I've found is that any lump or bump on a bag (e.g. the bolts on my panniers) will rub against what's moving around inside and cause friction marks at best and nasty gashes at worst. So I went with the velcro because it will be flat and flex. I don't think the iPad can move inside the bag, but the bag will move against whatever else is in with it (glasses case, wallet, inhaler...) so it just made more sense. The two sets of velcro are at 90 degrees to each other to allow me to be less precise, if I'm honest.

The set up has been working well without the velcro for a while now. Quick, useful, and fun! 

iPad case