Going ‘ultra lightweight’ or at least lightweight trekking

A couple of years ago, around 2017, I thought I would do some hiking/trekking here in France where I have now lived since 1984 ish

Sadly breaking an ankle with complications and also losing my hearing, both these problems put a halt to these ideas before they even started, except I had already started buy equipment

September 2019 I’m basically back to health again, the left ankle though is still iffish.
As to my hearing, well I’m totally deaf in the right ear, I’m now sporting with a cochlear implant, so I can understand people talking to me if close up and with no ambient or little sound except them.
I’m 60% deaf in the left ear. I can hear sounds with it, but am unable to understand and comprehend spoken words.
So, in other words, I’m operational again 🙂

I’d bought some equipment in 2017, basically, anything that struck me as good, a tent, a rucksack, sleeping bag, cooking stove, sleeping mat, etc. I had no idea about weights, just bought what looked good to me, To be honest, all was good stuff, just not ultralight or even light, as you will see while reading on, and maybe you are in the same boat as me.

About July of this year with all the equipment, I tried two different one-day hikes, well I was hoping for two days hikes but just didn’t make it….

Here is some of the equipment I had at the time and tried out :
Rucksack : Osprey AG65
Tent : Nemo Hornet 2P + Footprint
Sleeping mat : Thermarest Neo Air L + Down Pillow, Thermarest
Stove JetBoil Minimo
Sleeping Bag : Valandre swing 700
Water bag 3L
Spoon & Fork, Plastic, cup & plate
Frontal lamp Petzl
Sheath Knife
Pocket Tool Leatherman Ti
Food for three days, Dried lyophilise
Spare clothes
and loads of other stuff that I’ve already forgotten, in all over 15 kilos

The first hike 25 kms, managed to get the tent up in a field mode bivouac, but the next morning, had no water left, so no breakfast and after walking another 10 kms, and not finding any water on the way and with 15 kms to go still, I gave up and hitchhiked home, my thighs were killing me, I felt like I had just finished a marathon, like in 2015 when I actually ran one.

About a month later, My second hike, walked further than I expected to do, walking about 35 kms, to get to a campsite, so water this time OK, but the next morning blisters on my feet meant that I grabbed a taxi to go home as couldn’t walk

So after these two rather hopeless attempts I decided I’d better read up a little and learn, as obviously it wasn’t as easy as it seemed, and I wanted to do a trek that was about +220 kms long, or rather a choice of treks, as there were three here in France that looked fun, that seemed to be quite nice and suited to what I wanted to try, or at least in my mind.
Old man with boy’s ideas….

These are the three that interest me for the moment
GR107 Chemin des Bonhommes, Foix à Berga en Espagne
GR367 Chemins de Cathare, Port la Nouvelle à Foix
GR70 Le Stevenson

I started reading up on hiking/trekking, as usual for me the internet, especially Reddit, I came across several Reddit groups noticeably Ultralight, which I immediately jumped in the deep end and started asking question, after several suggestions and many critics (Reddit’s do tend to slag you), I understood that I was carrying far too much and most of it too heavy
I was asked several times to ‘fill in’ a LighterPack page on the web and post the results. Again after asking questions I found out what was this was as started using it. It’s a bit like an Excel sheet but on the web, where you note everything down, and I mean everything, even down to the toilet paper and especially the weight of each item.
Here is mine, it gets modified as I go along, though at this date 25/09/2019 it’s now mostly finished, at the start was completely different with all the above-mentioned items plus some…..

So now a couple of months later, middle of September 2019, almost a thousand euros less, don’t tell my wife, I have a decent and mostly ultralight setup, thanks to my Reddit questions, the answers, the suggestions, the critics and the slagging that I received (Nothing nasty, just goodish humoured slagging) all seems pretty dammed good to me.

Since the two previous attempts I have changed (just about everything ….) the rucksack to a slightly smaller one, an Osprey Exos 48, its one of the lightest around here in France, its half the weight of the AG68, a lighter sleeping pad/mattress, a lighter but less warm quilt instead of a sleeping bag. A Quilt basically only covers you, like your quilt at home, as the sleeping pad is meant to keep you warm underneath, a sleeping bag actually doesn’t keep you warm when compressed so the bottom part doesn’t do much at all, all technical stuff, that I didn’t even know about until a month ago, all of it lighter, more expensive and not so warm…..

When I say everything, probably the only lightweight product that I got right the first time around was the Nemo Hornet 2P tent, this weighs in at just about 1 kilo, it’s great for one person even though it says two. To be honest two would be a squeeze. All the critics are great for this tent, so phew don’t need to change that.

So here I am, ready to do my first trek.
I’ve decided, do try the GR107, Chemin des Bonhommes that starts from the town of Foix in France and crosses over to Berga in Spain, this is me all over, find something quite difficult, at maybe the wrong time of the year as its starting to get cold or wet or both with Autumn arriving and if I can do it all, I’ll be finishing in Spain where I don’t speak more than a handful (a very small handful of words)
This hike is 220 kms longs will take me over the Pyrenees with around 11000 m of ascent / and topping over 2000 m at its highest level, might have snow, probably rain and cold weather, all for which I’m not really equipped for, but it’s not winter yet either, and if it goes wrong, I can always hitchhike to a train station and run home with my tail between my knees

I have a plan B which is the GR367 again from Foix going to the town of Port-la-Nouvelle, both in France, this is called the Chemins de Cathares, again 220 kms long, main difference is it isn’t as high 1500 m max, so less chance of snow, but still can be rainy or cold

As both these treks start from the town of Foix, I will have to make the choice the 3rd day out at Comus when the paths split, so I shall decide then, depending on the weather in front of me

I have traced out both of these treks using BaseCamp from Garmin on my PC, adding sleeping points, where I think I can manage to get to in a day’s walking, learning from my previous two trips I have kept most of these at around 15 kms per day, especially as I have no idea how I’ll manage with all the up and down walking. and I still have a very iffish left ankle from breaking it last year

For sleeping I’d like to mix bivouac and camping, this is the old man trying to be like Mike Horn I suppose, I have added camping sites (when open, as many are closed at this time of the year) and some mountain refuges that I have never even seen in my life, let alone sleeping in one, so don’t know how that will go, also some gites, basically I need gites or camping sites, so that I can charge the batteries, Garmin, phones, frontal, ebook etc etc and maybe if the weather is too bad.

I get slagged every time on Reddit for my Garmin 64s, weighing in at 266 gms, (just use the phone, they all say, as I have one as well, but for me its too expensive, need to protect it, take care of it etc), the Garmin 64s is built for this and I love using when walking, it’s sturdy just hangs from my belt so that I can see at a glance where I am what’s around me, where I have planned to go, water points so that I can fill the CamelBak bag. Where I think I’ll sleep, or camping sites for example, so this though heavy I’m keeping.

I actually have to take two phones, my main phone a Pixel 3, big screen, this is used for mails, and chats as I mainly chat with everyone because I’m deaf and for its camera, as the camera is top-notch for a phone, so I’ll be using it mainly for that.
The second phone a shitty Apple SE (I hate Apple stuff), the only reason I have it is that it can stream telephone calls directly into my Implant Cochlear, which means I can understand some of the conversation, though not all of it and so in an emergency I can make a call. With the Android phone, making calls is more than just complicated

I said earlier not as warm :
Why not so warm_1: well the lighter sleeping mat ( Thermarest NeoAir UberLite) weighs 340 gms
In comparison against the first model that I bought (Thermarest Neo Air Xlite), that I still have at 460 gms
The Uberlight has an R-Value rating of 2 and the Xlite model rating is 3.5, this means that the insulating factor between you and the ground is less, but I’m not too worried, we haven’t had any freezing yet in France so the ground is not that cold, so hopefully that won’t be a problem
Also, the Uberlite packs less than half the size of the Neo Air as you can see in the photo

Uberlite is half the packed size

Why not so warm_2: Concerning the Quilt and the Sleeping bag, well that’s a little worrying as the ‘Vesper 20’ quilt has a comfort zone temp of 0°C but the ‘Valandre swing 700’ is -5°C so that’s a big difference if it’s cold, also while sleeping under a quilt there can be drafts from the sides as it doesn’t wrap under you
The problem is that the Valandre is it’s double the weight at 1017 gms and the packing size of the Vesper 550 gms, and double the size
In Reddit, they all suggest that you sleep in your clothes with a quilt if cold
I can sleep in a t-shirt OK, but trousers and jumper…. I’m not that willing, crazy or experienced as yet….

Again in the photo, you can see the difference in size.

Sleeping bag Vs Quilt, both in their stuff sacs

Other things that I changed were, for example, the cooking items, I had bought a Jetboil Stove, model Minimo, this worked fine for my previous two outings, heating water for the lyophilisé food which I find fun. Just heat water and add it to the packet. but I found out after that a Toaks 750ml Pot, (a titanium casserole) and a super dinky small stove Amicus with stealth lighter, which with a 200 gm gas canister and the stove fits neatly in the Toaks, weight : stove and pot 191 gms against 415 gms for the Jetboil and smaller as well, and just as easy to use and setup

The Toaks pan, a good third smaller, same countenance, and with everything stashed inside the pan

In the pan you can store the gas, the Amicus stove and even a Bic Mini lighter, that I don’t need for cooking, it’s just there in case, and the other photo where you can see everything fits in the pan just great

I changed my Pretzl frontal Reactik+ weighing 110 gms to a Nitecore-nu20-rechargeable only 52 gms, Just a good, basically only need it for reading in ‘bed’ and going to the loo in the middle of the night etc. Half the weight & size as can be seen in the photos.

I dropped loads of stuff thanks again to Reddit’s suggestions :
Sheath knife, (shame it was made for me, its a one only model),
Pocket Tool Leatherman Ti (changed it for a Swiss army knife S14),
Plate (I eat out of the packets or in the pot)
Torch & lamp (after all I’ve a frontal, so don’t need three light sources) Compass (got one on phone & the Garmin)
The Kindle I changed for an old Kobo Mini that I managed to find, second hand, half the weight and size of the Kindle

So that’s about all the changes. All the equipment weighs under 13 kilos which is still a lot and some will say still not Ultralight. But I have 5 days of lyophilisé food, breakfast, lunch & dinner, About 3.7 kilos with the food and 1 litre of water. Water is a concern, I have to plan carefully where there are water points and if none carry litres of water with me, but this means more kilos as well.

Hope this is a helpful post if you are trying to go trekking and need to be lighter, If you have any questions, please ask


Cochlear Implant operation

I’m now deaf and so am having a Cochlear Implant installed in my right ear

In November 2018 I went trail running as I often do.
While out running, I slipped / tripped and fell over. Feeling a weirdish pain I knew straight away that I had probably fractured something in my left ankle.

Later in the evening direction the local AE for a check up and a X-ray. As there wasn’t a specialist in the hospital that night, they just strapped my ankle and told me to come back the next day

Two days later I saw the specialist at the same hospital and he like the doctor the night before just strapped my ankle and suggested blood thinners as I wouldn’t be able to move the leg correctly for a couple of months.

I also went and saw my own doctor who after looking at the X-ray was certain that its wasn’t just a sprain but a fractured Maléole / Melleolus which they hadn’t even seen or suspected at the hospital, and so he suggested that I get an Scanner done.

This was Thursday, during Thursday night I started have some important Acouphenes / Tinnitus in the right ear and so the next day I rang the hospital to ask if the blood thinners have any side effects on my hearing, they said that they weren’t  / couldn’t answer question and told me to ring the 15 (emergency service) and ask the same question, which I did, They informed me that no. No side effects but told me that Saturday (the next day) there was a ORL (specialist for ears) would be on standby at my local hospital and that I should go and see her. (all the doctors then and later stated that the blood thinners had nothing to do with my loss, all I know is that when I started taking them the Acouphenes / Tinnitus started in the right ear and my hearing died on me. I don’t believe in coincidences, and I wasn’t taking any other treatments)

So Saturday at the AE , saw the doctor almost straight away, we realised that my right ear had already badly degraded as I was having a hard time understanding her

For info my left ear has been in bad shape for over three years now, it has about a 50% loss, and almost no comprehension at all to people speaking, so its my right ear that has been doing all the work for years now. I have now upgraded my hearing aid to a ReSound Enso 3D model for the left ear

Anyway the specialist asked me to come back Monday for a audiogram and more tests, no treatment was given

Monday back to the hospital this time with a friend as I couldn’t walk correctly with the leg strapped up and couldn’t understand what was being said to me, the problem was that in those last three days my hearing in the right ear had gone from normal to totally deaf, I could hear almost nothing at all, later an audiogram showed a loss of 90db, which is about 90%

They suggested that I have some scanners done, so scanner of my ear and at the same time for my ankle

My local hospital then said that were totally incapable of understanding of why or doing anything for me and asked me to go and see the hospital Salpetiere a Paris as it seemed already likely that I would need some special treatment or an implant cochlear and that they were the best in the region.

Direction Paris , with my wife, direction, the ORL (French for ears, throats etc) department, a little wait but to be honest it was quick, after seeing a specialist and was checked over they told me I would need to stay and so I was checked in to a hospital room, and started loads of checkups for the following seven days.

Basically during my stay, I had big doses of cortisone by intravenous everyday and injections directly in to my tympan / ear-drum (very uncomfortable), to try to bring back my hearing, also IRM and more Scanners etc etc

Sadly nothing worked, my hearing was totally shot in the right ear, and with the left ear unable to understand even though it could hear, life had suddenly become very complicated

Over the coming weeks I had tests done at Salpetiere and was finally given the Ok for an implant cochlear as nothing had worked to recuperate my hearing loss in the right ear, I was over 90db loss which is basically a 90% loss

After a week in hospital and a couple of weeks at home, with some visits between, I was finally was given a date for an operation to receive a Cochlear Implant, the date was set for the 18th of February 2019

As the operation was meant to be early in the morning, I was hospitalised the 17th evening, but arriving at the hospital I was told that the operation would be early afternoon rather than the morning.

The day came, no breakfast of course, so I waited patiently in my room until they came and got me just before 1 pm.
I walked with a nurse to the operating theatre, was introduced to the nurses, jumped up on the operating table and off I went to sleep

About three hours or more (the operation takes between two to three hours, though I have not learn’t how long it actually took) later I awoke in the salle de reveil / recovery room, not having a watch I had no idea of the time, extremely groggy they kept me there for several more hours and I was finally wheeled to my room around 7 pm if I remember rightly

My head hurt, and had a nice big headache, but was hungry and around an hour later I was able to eat dinner, oh yes !!!

You come out of the theatre with a bandage that’s is very tight around the head , but other that that no outward signs, but boy does your head hurt

After dinner I even walked around the ward a little, though was suffering from a slight dizziness

The night was uncomfortable, you cannot sleep on the side that you were operated on as it’s painful, even on your back isn’t top either, and of course you have a drip in your arm that always seems to get in the way

Managed to eat breakfast, though had a nice banging headache (which basically lasted for about two weeks). after breakfast they took of the bandage, what a relieve, and then I had a scanner to see if all was correct inside of my head and then around 11 am was able to leave the hospital , direction home by taxi

Arrived home to see my wife and sit down for a meal, this actually didn’t go down well, was more and more dizzy, and at the same time the stomach was playing up, this apparently is the after effects of the anaesthesia and especially when being operated on the ears

For the next two weeks I basically went from headache to headache, your head not only hurts but it’s all ‘stuffed’ up, like when when you git a sticking hangover, I only took paracetamols and I don’t like taking stronger stuff, the stomach also played up for well a over a week, and the dizziness was quite often, so basically for around two weeks you do nothing

A control visit at the hospital and to take of the plasters that were covering the wound, all is extremely clean and shown in photos. I was starting to feel more normal like after this time, though still stomach and dizziness were playing up

It’s switch on day, a two hour meeting at the hospital to fit and switch on the implant. The rendez-vous was at 4 pm and set for two hours. I didn’t know what to expect although and having read up a little. I knew that basically today’s meeting was to switch it on, and do a sort of special audiogram test, the following rendez-vous , once every month for almost a year would be to adjust the settings
The settings are a bit like an audiogram. You tell the Dr when you can first hear the bip and when the bip is comfortable without being too loud, and this for me was 22 times as the modal I have has 22 contacts

After the settings were finished now came the the moment to see what would happen, she switched on the implant.

I’ve read many reports from different people about this, most said that they could hear noises but could make out or understand voices. Well I was lucky, this maybe due to the fact that I had only lost my hearing 5 months ago, as straight away I could understand the Dr when she spoke to me

Now get me wrong, it wasn’t at all like a real normal voice, it was like a child who had just breathed some helium gas very childish, very tinny, but I could understand most things being said though I had to concentrate. Running the normal tests that’s I’ve been doing every week with my orthophoniste / speech therapist, showed us that there was a big improvement, when tested, words and phrases with her lips being hidden behind a sheet of paper, most I could understand, a week before it was basically I couldn’t understand anything, so a big improvement

The rendez-vous was finished for the day having taken just over two hours, the Dr said that the sounds should change as my ear or rather as my brain got used to the implant, but after three weeks, it isn’t really any different, voices are still really strange, even tiring after a while, but I can understand a lot more than before

I am now waiting the beginning of April for my first real réglages rather than just the on /off , and hopefully we’ll be able to get the voices to sound a little more real

I can still not understand the TV, Telephone,radio or music, even sitting at home quietly with just the Hi-Fi I cannot make out what song is playing, its a wait and see game for now

About a week later, I slowly started working out at the gym again, as I was allowed, though very slowly as I’ve not be doing any sport since breaking the ankle, and I’m 61 and five months and no sports takes it’s toll.

The right side of my head still hurts a little though I’ve stopped taking pain killers for about 10 / 15 days now.

Still not really able to sleep on the right side, it’s still quite tender and behind the ear its tender as well and the Nucleus 7 rubs against the skin ……

It’s design is rather ‘square’ behind the ear and not 100% comfortable, no where near as good as the ReSound Enso 3D that I wear in the left ear, although both are made by the same mother company, the ReSound is far better suited to being worn behind the ear

Saw my Osteopath today, Skull, Jaw and Cervicals all out of place, that’s probably due to the way you are manipulated on the operating table, so after having these all nicely put back in place I have already noticed less dizzy spells this morning though not all gone yet

So for the moment, I can hear and understand most of what is said to me in a one to one situation, at dinner party’s , restaurants, its very complicated. TV, Radio, Telephone is still a no no. The ear even after a month since the operation is still tender, and still have slight dizzy spells (basically when you turn your head, ex : I’m writing this on one screen while play on another screen)

Next step will be the first real settings to the implant, beginning April, I’m hoping that they will be able to get rid of the tininess in voices and make them sound more real, therefore making them easier to understand.
The first two weeks after the operation are horrible, but time makes it better

30 April 2019

I’ve now had two rendez-vous for adjustments, the robotic / tinniness / helium children’s voices is basically the same, sometimes making it a pain to listen to at the end of the day…

Basically listening and talking to people is only possible as a one to one basis, as soon as there are more than a few people I can’t understand what they are saying and more that a meter away is basically impossible as well

Television is still impossible, music as well, impossible to make out / understand the instruments and voices. I can play on my hi-fi a David Bowie song or U2 and not know which one it is.

I have and and can stream the TV directly into the implant bypassing the microphones, it’s better though still difficult to understand but when if my wife talks to me I have to turn it off, as both at the same time is impossible (TV streamer by Cochlear)

On the bright side is I am able to communicate, which makes my wife happy, it’s easier on her

When I say communicate , again this is on a one to one basis, speaking with the person in front or next to me, when there are many then it’s difficult, or when then is a lot of background noise, like in a restaurant, again its difficult

I’ve started most of my sports, biking, swimming, gym and crossfit. I don’t wear the implant for these, not really needing it, when someone talks to me, at the gym or crossfit for example either I plug myself in for a couple of seconds or I miss the conversation……

15 May 2019

I had now about 3 or 4 settings updates at the hospital, they don’t really change much, basically they just test the minimum level that you can hear and the maximum level that is comfortable for you

I seem to be lucky in the fact that I understood straight away from receiving the implant , certain personnel apparently takes months or even longer

Sounds or rather voices are still very ‘high’ , ‘tinny/robotic’ or like Tic and Tac the cartoon on the TV when my kids were young, or again like someone who has breathed helium gas. This is tiring in a way, you hear your own voice and think how stupid I must sound too others , though of course they hear you normally, and at the end of the day, sometimes its nice just to unplug myself and have some quiet.

5 Juin 2019

I made my first real telephone call today, to a bike shop in England as ordering a new bike …, Firstly I tried with just the implant, this was as I expected rather difficult, basically because of the lack of ‘bandwidth’ with the implant, there is not enough bass, and as always too tinny. Then I added my left ear ReSound hearing aid (as they can work together), now this was much better, as I get the ‘volume’, more ‘bandwidth’ making the telephone call far easier to understand, It’s not perfect but I was ably do talk and mostly understand. For info its the same when I stream the TV, though when I stream the TV I can’t hear / understand my wife. (Now is that good or bad ……)

Some photos

Heated gloves for biking


A couple of weeks ago, I went for a ride on my singlespeed, but I didn’t realise that it was quite cold and so after only an hour, I gave up and came home as hands and feet were like blocs of ice.

Talking to a friend after he said I’ve got a pair of heated gloves and they are just great, so I noted the model and where he bought them from and a week later went out a purchased a pair.

This weekend I decided to give them a go as I’d planned a 100 km ride on the singlespeed even though it was minus 4° outside and with a wind chill factor around the minus 8°, but it was a beautiful sunny day so I said to myself, ‘Lets go’

On my bike and nicely covered. All technical gears, Skins thermal base laser, with a Castelli Windproof top, Gore windproof full length bottoms, and two pairs of socks, Silk base layer and merinos winter socks and so on my hands the gloves

They are fairly thick, but nothing worse than some winter cycling gloves that I already own, you can feel the handlebars and brakes OK. Note that I only ride singlespeed on the road so no gear changes, but I don’t believe that would be a problem.

I switched on the gloves to level one of the three heat levels, and later switched from one to two, and even two to three, Not one moment were my hands cold, I even managed to switch them off for a little while to economise the batteries and I knew I wouldn’t have enough juice for the total ride.

After just over fours hours the batteries died on me, the last half hour or so they weren’t heating as much, but still enough so that my hands weren’t cold, and I arrived home not being cold, even my feet felt Okish, for info, the combination of silk and merinos works quite well, keeping my feet warm even though I still riding with a very old / thin pair of Sidi shoes

Anyway the gloves are good, they can feel a little clammy inside if your run the heat too high, but switching them off, stops that quite nicely, I didn’t close the zippers on the wrists, being too tight, but they are high and keep your wrists protected

The snot guard is too small, the battery you can feel the weight on the underside of your wrist, but apart from that I don’t have any real critics,

A good buy, well worth the 159€

Here’s a link to their web page http://www.racergloves.com/en/bike-gloves/1065-gants_velo__dwr_racer_gant_e_glove_2.html

Racer : E-Gloves 2

Heated gloves from Racer

I’m finally RETIRED

At last 2018 has arrived and I’m now officially retired, I’ve just turned 60 as I started working when I was 16 I’m allowed to retire at 60 (luckily I’m no longer in England as I would have had to wait another six years)

I’m actually still working two days as a week as a consultant (for a couple of months), as with age comes experience, so the cutoff from forty years of non stop work to nothing is too brutal.

Now have to get used to the fact that I have time on my hands, for the moment it’s not as easy as it sounds, need to organise my days and time.

It’s strange not needing to have to do a séance of crossfit at 6 o’clock after work, now I can do it a 10 in the morning or just after lunch, need time to get used to this, or that I can go biking when I want and not just Saturday or Sunday

For instance today I actually had lunch with my wife, (its Friday) I cannot remember the last time I had time to do that.

This year will be for me more time with my wife and kids, (even if they are grown up) more time for myself, I hopefully will add to my sports, trekking, I’ve just bought all the equipment, shoes, tent, sleeping bag, rucksack etc etc. got three long treks that I would like to do this year here in France average of 180 / 220 kms. Just need to get my left ankle repaired as I’ve a tendonitis that won’t go away)

Also since the end of last year I’ve added swimming to the list of sports that I do, the Dr and physiotherapists have been nagging me for yonks about doing certain sports less ‘brutal’ than the crossfit… so often Sundays I’m at the pool, only do between 1 & 2 kms and only breast stroke as I can’t get the breathing right for the crawl yet.

I’m still doing crossfit, though for the moment a little less than last year, basically because of shoulder problems and the damned ankle, I’ve taken out a yearly subscription to a gym club so that I can do ‘normal’ strength workouts (bodybuilding, sounds good doesn’t it) doing standard strength movements to keep my self in trim and sparing the ankle and shoulders, also their opening times are larger than the crossfit times

I’ve just signed up for the Roc d’Azur MTB in October this year , it’s down the south of France, I’ve done it at least twenty times, but the last couple of years stopped riding it, so it’s time to do it again, see old friends and grab some sun, Just need to get back on my mountain bike and train

So that’s the news for 2018, and while I’m still fairly fit, I’ll be :

Running trails
Ride mountain bikes
Ride singlespeed on the roads
Working out at gym

I’m glad that I’m retired, I really am 🙂

Trail running by night

In the dark….. ahhh….

me and frontale

Last month there was a local night run of 15km, but it was a night trail, and to be honest I wasn’t going to do it, having doubts about running at night especially in forested areas, I don’t like the dark, being a little scaredy cat, but a friend wanted to do it and pursuaded me to run it with him, I just needed to buy a headlamp (a frontale in French) so, as is my style, a couple of hours on the web, and I ordered a Petzl Reactik+, of course not the cheapest of models, I wanted POWER… I wanted to light up the forest ……300 lumens.

(Photo :25th of December, working of the Xmas pudding)

Petzl Reactik +

So now I’m equipped to run in the dark, I tried it as soon as it arrived and once fully charged, ran down the path in the field by the house, whow it’s like driving my car with headlights on, you can see almost everything for about 50 / 80m in front of you, at one time I stopped and turned it of, I could barely see my hand in front of my face, once back on could make out most details in front of me, but its a weird sensation, left and right is dark, turn your head to the right, you see the right but no longer in front of you, so strange.

Up came the Saturday for the night trail, over 150 runners, at first I was rather apprehensive but with people all around me the trail  was lit up like a Xmas tree and by the time there were fewer people around me, either because they were far in front or far behind I’d already gotten used to having just my own light lighting up the trail, at one moment I was deep in the forest on a singletrack that I know from biking, with no one in front or behind and finally not even scared, WHOW 🙂

1h25 mins later I’d run the race, even finished 2nd in my category, (I’m 58, 59 end of this month, December 2016) though that was just luck or maybe there were only two runners in my category (as said my wife)

Things that change in night running is the perspective, you have no real idea of your speed or the distance as your view is limited to a patch of light in front of you, a bit like running in a tunnel, you tend to place your feet / footing a little differently although the ground is lit up, it’s not daylight, and you easily miss things that may trip you up or over.

My Garmin Forerunner was a great help, giving me an idea of distant ran to be run.

Anyway I loved it :

So yesterday the first of December 2016 instead of going to the gym, I went for a solo night run. I started of on a large path in the middle of some fields, this being around 5km long (round trip) but when done I wanted more as my legs felt good, the  weather was cold being  minus 4°, but all felt great, so I ran on a very quiet country road for about 1km, this is not very wise as dressed mostly in black any car coming from behind wouldn’t see me, but I was lucky no cars during this stretch on the road, after this stretch I dived into the local forest, now this is where it’s really fun, in the middle of nowhere, your on your own, the only noises were birds taking of from the trees above me, but the imagination starts to work over time ….. every little noise had me looking all over the place. Been watching too many scary films…

The sensation of freedom, light only in front of you, your peripheral vision totally changed almost nonexistent, the sounds or rather lack of sounds, all this is something special,  I finished my run 10 kms in all, at just under 1 hour,


Update : I’ve now run quite a few night runs, either alone (photo, top of the page) or with friends, though I must admit it’s wiser to run with friends as you never know what can happen, and being alone in the middle of the forest with a twisted ankle or worse could be difficult to manage… .

Trail running

I’ve been trail running for just over a year now, I found that running on roads is to be honest boring / monotone to say the least

After the Paris Marathon in 2015, which I did just to redo a marathon, the last one being over 30 years ago. I wanted to keep running as for the moment I’ve seem to have lost interest in biking, be it MTB or my singlespeed and needed a soft cardio sport on top of working out at the gym or Crossfit.

Running on roads is for me monotone and to linear,  also tiring (in comparison of trail running for the same distance), probably due to the fact that I still don’t have the right shoes for road running. I’ve been using a pair of Merrel’s – Lantern Silver, a minimalist running shoe with a 0mm drop, No wonder my legs hurt during the Marathon training and the Paris Marathon ……


Merrel – Lantern Silver

Maybe if I change for some real road shoes I’ll think differently but doubt it….

So back to my trail running.  I tried a first trail run in September 2015, I’m lucky I’ve only 500m of road from my house and I can then dive in the forest. I ran a trail that I  had been doing regularly on my MTB for the last couple of years so knew it well. It can be anything from 5km to 15km depending on the turns I take.

The first time I only did around 7km, But I loved it, its like being on the mountain bike but running, you need to look and suss out the ground before you, otherwise, rabbit holes, fallen branches, tree roots are all there to make you trip over or fall.

One week later I did it again, this time it had been raining and on the last leg home, slipped on a muddy patch and hurt my calf trying to keep my balance, so once back home I logged onto the web, read several forums for a while, emailed a friend who I knew ran trails and a couple of hours later ordered my first pair of real trail shoes. A pair of Salomon LabSpeed’s expensive but the critics were good and I liked the look of them


Salomon LabSpeed

The shoes arrived a couple of days later so on my feet they went, and off I went again, Oh boy was this a change from minimalist shoes, I gained a 4mm drop, a sole that was more rigid and treads like on my winter MTB tyres, whow I was blown away,  a totaly different feel with the ground.

The shoes though far slimmer than my Merrels, felt good on the foot (though I would prefer just a little wider) they gripped the foot well in fact very well, their lacing technique (quicklace)  is great, far better than standard laces

One year later :

With these shoes I’ve done around 600 plus kms, I mostly run 10 to 15 kms on Sunday mornings and sometimes a quick 5km run before my personal coach (that sounds so snob) on Saturday morning,   the rest of my time is either at the gym or Crossfit box

A couple of months ago I had a hole that appeared on the top of the shoe where the foot bends, A quick mail to the website here in France where I bought them from and they were replaced immediately, Salomon have a two-year guarantee, so well done Salomon, I’ve got a brand new pair again.

Salomon Agile 7 Backpack – Hydration pack

I don’t think I’ve ever written a post on accessories for the sports that I do, I normally only write about my bikes or gadgets etc. This time as having some time on my hands I thought that I would try my hand or rather my keyboard on a Salomon hydration back pack that I’ve just bought,  the Agile 7.

I already have three different Camelbaks for my bike rides, from very small to quite large, but as I’m more into running or rather trail running these days and as sometimes the little water bottle that I carry is to small and can be a pain having it your hand of an hour or two I looked around and bought a Solomon Agile 7 back / hydration pack as I saw an articles in a magazine

IMG_20160531_104917I chose the Agile 7 as it’s the second smallest of several Agiles packs from Salomon. I received it this morning  and at the same time the water pack that fits in it, strangely  the hydration pack / reservoir is not sold with it and so needs to be purchased apart …

The pack is just one big space with a separating piece of nylon between the reservoir section and the storage space. What’s immediately oblivious and missing is a pocket or two to store smallish items such as a phone, GPS device or keys. To be honest who doesn’t walk / hike or run without one these days. (I do for two reasons, sometimes just to take some photos, though mostly to let my wife know that I running late (get the play with words ) or just plain lost and therefore late…..) so unless I can make one and pin it to the nylon center piece it means the my phone will just be lying at the bottom of the sac, not clever.

The placement for the reservoir pack is good, it holds 1.5L which for me is more than enough, I’m used to running with a 500 ml bottle which is ok for 10 km runs but not enough for longer runs, it’s the right width and length and with a piece of ribbon that attached to the top of the reservoir so that it will stay put at the top and not fall to the bottom of the pack, simple and clever


Fixing the hydration reservoir so that doesn’t ‘slip’ down




The storage space is large, far larger than I thought when ordering it, it can store easily a light weight wind stopper, head warmer and plenty of other odds and ends at the same time, as I said earlier just a shame its one biggish storage space, with no pockets for a phone, keys etc, they will all have to be bundled together, I’m used to Camelbaks for my bike rides, these always have a least one pocket, so this is a design let down from Salomon


section for the reservoir and inside storage section

On the outside, at both sides  there two  small mesh pockets that sit snugly on your hips. These could be useful to place food bars or gels, but they cannot be closed so not useful for anything valuable, and they are actually quite big (er did I say smallish mesh pockets …..) enough to place around several food bars or gels quite easily per pocket, or a neck warmer,  gloves… for quick access



You can see the two mesh side pockets

I haven’t yet had to time try the back pack while running, though I’ve already tried it on and ajusted it. It sits comfortably on my back, The shoulder straps can be adjusted to hug nicely and the chest strap offers four different height levels so that it fits perfectly over your chest, I’ve yet to see if it gets in the way of my heart monitor strap but I doubt it


Four clips for attaching the chest strap so it fits nicely height wise

Conclusions, OK I haven’t run with it yet, so no comment on its sitting on my back with a liter of water in while I’m running or biking, but I’ve been using CamelBaks for around 20 years now, so have a fairly good idea about them, its seems well made, its light , it has plenty of space, even too much if just for a 15 / 25 km run, basically you don’t need hundreds of bars or gels, just a phone, keys, and some water and a vest for the rain or  cold, I’m going to add an emergency blanket as you never know when you or someone may need one. I’m also going to start some home to work running so maybe the extra space will be useful to take a sandwich and such like.

My real gripe is just no special storage space, this wouldn’t have added any weight and it would have been real useful.

They do this backpack in several colours, I like this bright green useful if on a road and makes a nice change from black  or other boring colours. Oh it comes with a whistle, whoopi but I suppose it could be useful so I’ll leave it attached. There are several elastique straps for walking poles, but I’m not ready for this sport yet so cannot say if useful or not.

Salomon : Please think about a couple of pockets ideally zippable / closable (not sure those two words really exist…)  for a phone, wallet, keys for the house or car, key card for the hotel when I’m away, nothing fancy just plain useful and plain sense.

Update : Have run several  trails,  from 10km to 15km, the agile sits nicely on your back, it doesn’t move around, drinking from it is easy, like any Camelbak.  Each time I filled the reservoir with about 1 liter of water.
The side pockets are easy to get to while the pack is on your back, perfect for a food bar,  inside I had my phone, an emergency blanket and my light wind jacket that I’d stuffed inside after being to warm while running a while.

So a great back pack for running except for the phone lying at the bottom rather than being stored correctly

57 years old and doing Crossfit – They call me Papy.

Crossfit, why it’s so good….

I’m 57 years old, 58 in December 2015 and I’m the oldest guy in town, well okay at the Crossfit box where I’m a member. many call me Papy (granddad in French) as I’m the oldest guy there and I’m loving it.

For almost a year now I been doing Crossfit in a club (here’s where I’m so so lucky) that is underneath my offices on the ground floor.

Sometimes I wish I ‘d never gone there to try it, it’s just to good, far better than my local gym where I’ve been a member for the last three years, before I would work out there three or four times a week (now if it’s once or twice a week ….)

Crossfit is everything that you could wish for, and more, it works just about every muscle in your body and doesn’t just give you bigger muscles that gym workouts tend to do for you. For me it goes far beyond working out at a gym.

Don’t get me wrong I still like going to the gym when I feel the need to work out a particular part of my body, as I can do for instance a hour’s session on my chest or arms, that one doesn’t normally do in Crossfit session.

Its hard work, but so gratifying when at the end of the WOD (workout of the day) you finish, gasping for breath, moaning, ’cause you hurt all over, especially when doing burpees, tractions, wall balls, handstand push ups etc.

Working out often with another members, or as a couple or in a group, this is about comradeship working with other members from the same or opposite sex, stronger or weaker than you, with age differences that can be important. At the gym you tend to be on your own or just with a friend, even if you train with a friend or friends, it’s not quite the same.

Some WODs you do on your own, trying to better the others, heavier weights, faster…, or just to finish in a preset time, normally sessions are limited to about twelve persons, and even when you finished your WOD you encourage the others to finish, (or be encouraged) again comradeship, so rare these days. Its nice and you feel better when helping or being encouraged to finish a session.

Certain movements / exercises in Crossfit I’m unable to do correctly, weightlifting movements such as snatch and clean and jerks are more than difficult, my back and shoulders just not supple enough any more. Kipping and Butterflies (chin ups with a difference) elude me completely, but this is where Crossfit is better than most gyms, the coaches are always there to watch and correct your movements and all know that I’m weaker than others in certain areas and so they adapt some sessions for me (and others if need be).

So here am I, doing two or three sessions per week, Its keeping me fit, even at my age I can and sometimes beat some that are half my age. The other free days are spent at the gym, trail running or biking

So finally : DON’T try Crossfit…, (JOKE) otherwise you may never do anything else, it’s better than : gym, riding or running (I know, I still do some of all) as it’s a mix of everything and more still.

This is the link to my club, here in France where I live : http://crossfitcergy.com/

Please feel free to leave a reply, I welcome them


How to ruin your eyesight, your eye or eyes for the rest of your life

Refractive surgical eye treatment

In October 2012 I decided that I’d like to correct my Long-sightedness (hyperopia) by having refractive laser eye treatment, Unless I’ve got the term wrong ( I’ve been in France to long : presbytie ) Hyperopia means that I needed glasses to read a book, use the remote control or anything small and up close

This consisted of firstly have a battery of tests on both eyes, I think to see the form of the eye and the problems already installed, in my case Long-sightedness (hyperopia) so that they could correct the existing problem.

Then a couple of weeks later I went to the clinic for a 15 mins of laser treatment, this is painless and you just come away with a runny eye, no pain and  little discomfort

A couple of hours later I was even able to read a SMS from my wife asking if I was Ok, it was little blurry but before I would have needed to wear my reading glasses to read it.

Sadly the operation didn’t go to  well and I soon started have all the post operation side affects that can be found in various forums online :  here are a couple of site that explain the many problems, sadly I didn’t do any research before my operation  as was totaly unaware http://www.lasikcomplications.com/risks.htm or http://www.webmd.com/eye-health/overview-refractive-laser-eye-surgery?page=2 if only I seen these, I’m sure I wouldn’t have taken the risk.

I have all the unwanted side effects that are possible : for info this post is written 10 months after my operation

I have a lot of difficultly getting the eye to focus on anything,  one eye now being shorted sighted and the other long sighted (the correction is only done on one eye) they now seem to be constantly fighting each other.

The eye sees troubled and most of the times double, this is not stable sometimes it seems Ok but sadly this rarely lasts, again a known problem : Fluctuating vision

I have also the impression that I have a fly in my eye, in French it’s called a DPV (haven’t found what its called in English yet) which is due to dirty eye liquid getting stuck behind the eye while they operate on it, no way of correcting this by the way, this gives you the impression that you have a fly or gnat in the eye and you see a dark shape zooming around as I move the eye.

I now need glasses so that I can drive and ride my bike safely as everything is slightly blurred, especially at night, street lights and car headlamps all have halos, (like driving in the pouring rain) I now rarely drive at night as it’s just to tiring and even dangerous

The eye is always extremely tired and often I find myself closing it when need to look at something or someone, the TV, a signpost or someone in the distance for instance

My work suffers as its extremely tiring using a computer, at the end of the day my eyes feel like that they are going to explode.

I can effectively read without glasses except that I get very tired very quickly and  I now need good light to read in, as normal room lighting is often not bright enough to read by.

The doctor of course just says that the operation was a success,

I’ve gone from only needing glasses sometimes to read, to all of the time : when driving or riding my bikes, walking in town.

Of course I would now NOT suggest laser treatment to anyone, if it goes wrong it can screw you and your eye or eyes for life, with a dicky eye, that is painful and tired all the time, even 10 months after the operation, even writing this blog is a pain, computer screens are by the far  hardest and most tiring thing to deal with.

I’ve paid the price of being vain by not wanting to wear glasses.

PS I’m so used to reading, thinking in French that I forget my English, there are probably many mistakes please do not hesitate to correct me using the comments section, I will not take it badly.


Dieting : 18 months on and still going strong

I started my first diet blog around the month of July 2012 with the title : 2012 a bad year for biking. 2012 a great year for losing body fat and getting fitter


This was following changes from biking, biking and more biking to working out at the gym and still some biking

I then wrote another blog : 6 months later, 6 kilos less


We are now in the month of September 2013

This means that I’m about 18 months on since I decided to lose a little weight,

My weight is now fairly stable at the 75 kilos mark (was 82 kilos max January 2012), my body fat is around the 10% to 12% ( was 20%,), which means that I have lost more fat and gained more muscle, Note that 20% is  fairly normal for a guy of my height 1.77m & age 55

How : it’s quite easy, I am careful of what I eat, real foods, real cooking, little to none bought crap from the shops, better foods, ie : vegetables rather than pasta, potatoes, rice etc, whole bread and rice rather than white, porridge in the mornings rather than cereals, a little less booze, meat dishes with little or no sauce, nothing really difficult or complicated.

It’s sometime difficult to know what to eat and how much to consume so I’ve been using myfitnesspal for a while now, this is quite a good site and has a mobile version aplication, it really helps you keep an idea on the calories you consume, as sometimes when you check the amount of calories, fat, sugar, of certain foods it can be quite surprising.  http://www.myfitnesspal.com/fr/food/diary/minty95 here is a link showing you all that I eat,

I still do a lot of sport, the gym three to four times a week mostly working on keeping my muscles trim and in shape, and biking for the cardio / heart, once or twice a week, either on my singlespeed, road bike or my mountain bike.

All goes to show that with some will power anyone can lose weight and get fit, no stupid diets or fads, just clean and healthy eating.

Ok this means that you can rarely eat fatty foods, cakes, pies, chocolates, pizzas,  fizzy drinks, but the upside is that you feel so so much better not carrying those kilos and look so much better in nice fitting clothes rather having to hide under baggy clothes to hide all that fat.

I watch Secret Eaters on the TV and am astonished by the people on it who complain that they are fat but think that they eat correctly, while when you watch this program they are shoveling food into the mouths as is if the stomachs were just garbage bins or dumpster bin, no wonder they are fat and unhealthy.

Eat properly do some sport and shed those kilos, and you will feel and look so much better.