Review – Dryrobe Advance Short Sleeved

Dryrobe Advance in the wild

Dryrobe Advance in the wild

When you go wild swimming you will broadly find three main methods for getting changed:

  1. The fast strip and go (for the less shy amongst us)
  2. The towel wrap, fumble, stagger, flash, panic….. (For the more shy amongst us)
  3. The “I’ve bought my own portable changing room” Dryrobe users (for the “well-to-do” wild swimmer)

It turns out that each of the above have several sub categories, but you aren’t here for that. I shall focus on the Dryrobe element. For those that don’t know Dryrobe is a brand and there are a number of product options that they provide, from the basic “hands free towel” to the “Towel Dryrobe” to the “Dryrobe Advance.” The first is pretty much a towel that properly fastens around your waste, giving you privacy from the waist down, the second is effectively a long hooded poncho made from towelling with ample room to get changed underneath and the third is the top of the range waterproof on the outside, synthetic lamb’s wool and polyester lined portable changing solution (my words, not Dryrobe’s.)

I received my Dryrobe Advance a couple of weeks ago from Simply Swim and I must admit that I had not considered how big it would be. It really needs a dedicated place to hang in the house. On opening it though the first thing that struck me though was the build quality, it simply oozes it and does not feel like it was built down to a price. Here you can see it modelled by my ten year old son.

Dryrobe Advance

Dryrobe Advance

I’m 6′ and the Dryrobe Advance fits me just fine, with plenty of room inside. If I’m changing on a slope or somewhere that people can walk below I do have to be a little mindful of bending over though! It really is toasty warm and is just the ticket when exiting from the water shivering and numb, sheltering you instantly from any inclement conditions. If it was a really cold day to be honest I would be inclined to use my old towelling Dryrobe for the initial dry and change, so that I could then climb into my Dryrobe Advance after and sit there warming up and looking exceptionally smug in my black and red cocoon. For those of you that are smaller look at the sizing carefully, but generally you want something like this to be big so that you have room under it and it is long enough to give you some discretion.

On my initial wear the Dryrobe Advance did not do a great job of drying me, much like a new towel really. It gets better with use though and I would recommend it to anyone that can afford it. Personally I don’t just use my Dryrobe Advance after swimming. I have often used it in car parks both before and after events and training sessions (cycling, running, swimming and triathlon) to give me somewhere warm and sheltered to get changed without showing anyone anything that they really didn’t want to see in the first place…..

Conclusion and Summary

Pros

  • Warm and waterproof
  • Versatile (quite often you see people in them just using them to stay warm and dry!)
  • Well made
  • Durable

Cons

  • Large when storing or taking it somewhere compared to a normal towel

Unlike other websites I have not listed the price as a con. It is an expensive product, but then it’s made well and the people that own them love them. It is also the top of the range Dryrobe product, so you would not expect it to be cheap. If you cannot afford it then there are other options for the more budget conscious. Mine will certainly be used often and I know that whenever I finish an event, and I stumble back to my car, that pulling my Dryrobe Advance on will be a moment to savour.

Headline features:

  • Waterproof and Windproof Shell
  • One piece body construction with no shoulder seams
  • Really warm lining
  • Full length reversible zip
  • Fleece lined pockets (warm hands!!!)
  • Large internal pocket for keeping your spare undies in
  • Waterproof inside pocket for valuables
  • It does actually compress down really well, so consider getting a compression sack for when travelling with it

Notes:

  • I have no idea what¬†synthetic lamb’s wool is, but it’s definitely warm
  • The Dryrobe itself is extremely nickable (attractive to thieves!), so I’m not sure what use having an internal pocket for your valuables is, but I appreciate the sentiment. I guess it can keep your phone/keys/money dry while you get changed.
  • If in doubt then make sure you have a way of carrying your valuables while you swim, or bring a willing friend/relative to watch your stuff ūüôā

If you want some more information then this is the link directly to where I got mine from which includes the full specs and information: Simply Swim

Dryrobe Advance

The importance of running socks

Decent running socks are an important and much overlooked piece of equipment. Good socks will last a long time and help to prevent foot problems, bad socks will cause not only surface issues such as blisters but can cause worse problems too. For me a good sock must do two things. It must:

  1. Last a long time (provide good value!)
  2. Wick moisture effectively away from your skin

The wicking is particularly important because it helps your skin to stay dry. This massively reduces the chance of blisters and toenail problems. Soft damp toenails and wrinkled soggy skin are simply not desirable to any runner and the further you go the more important it is to keep them dry.

Some socks last a long time and don’t cost much money like the Quecha Kalenji Eliofeel. These are ¬£3.99 for two pairs from Decathlon and I Have a couple of pairs in my drawer that have done literally hundreds of short training runs. I wouldn’t use them for anything longer though because hot spots soon become apparent and the only thing they really do well is not wear out.

Some socks wick but do not last. The Karrimor Dri Max (£5 for two pairs) wick reasonably for about 20 miles of running, then they come apart.

So far I have found one sock that seems to do both, the Wigwam Trail Trax Pro (¬£13.99 from www.myracekit.com). It wicks beautifully and I have now run hundreds of miles in them with no obvious sign of wear. Last Saturday when I attempted my Ivybridge Everest for St Luke’s Hospice I destroyed a pair of the Dri Max socks in just a few miles and reverted to my Trail Trax Pros. The ground was so wet that my feet were sodden nearly the whole time. I changed socks three times and in 18 hours of moving forward I did not have a single foot problem. My only criticism of the Trail Trax Pro is that it is a touch warm in summer months, but they wick so well that doesn’t turn into an issue. Wigwam do have plenty of other socks in their range though, so I’m sure I can find a summer equivalent.

In addition to the list of things that a running sock should do there is something that a running sock, in my opinion, shouldn’t do. It should not interfere with the mechanics of your feet. I have tried, and binned, two pairs of expensive socks that did just that. They advertise the fact that they support your foot, however your foot is an incredibly complicated piece of equipment and it is practically impossible for something as simple as a cloth tube to provide any meaningful support, especially when it is mass produced and only comes in a few sizes.

The two socks, that caused me foot pain are:

The Compressport Socks went into a roadside bin 26 miles into an ultramarathon when they caused significant heel pain, and the X-Bionic socks went into a bin when they caused pain in my plantar fascia. I would never buy supportive socks again.

I hope that has helped you to choose a decent pair of running socks. People always seem surprised when I say that so far I have never had any significant issues with my feet, and the reasons I give are decent socks and appropriately fitting running shoes. The former is easy to advise on, but the latter is much more complicated as we are all so different. It took a lot of trial and error to settle on the Brooks Cascadia 10 as my go to trail shoe. Of course they’ll make a change when they bring out the Brooks Cascadia 11 and I’ll have to start the trial and error again!

If you have read this, but you still have foot issues and are convinced that your shoes and socks are the right ones then the book “Fixing Your Feet” by John Vonhof is an excellent read and a very handy reference. It has been regularly updated and you can get the latest version online for ¬£11.99.

A bit about pants – X-Bionic Summerlight

I don’t know about other ultra runners, but I have spent many hours tweaking and adjusting my kit to eliminate chaffing. I have been pretty successful so far and am down to one final problem. Pants!

energizer-summerlight-slip_tone-in-tone_men_vs

I normally run in your basic snug fitting trunks to hold everything in place, and at shorter distances they do ok. As soon as you step up the mileage though things get a bit more tricky. The issue I have most often is with the seam in the waistband. Even with nothing pushing on it, an abrasive seam will chomp through the skin of your lower back given enough miles and a bit of sweat. Even some running specific underwear has seams in stupid places.

A while ago I decided to bite the bullet and give X-Bionic undies a try. These were a little bit pricey but extremely technical and very well put together. Initially I stuck with the trunks theme and tried the Energizer Mk1 boxer shorts. These were great to start with, but¬†I did bump into a problem as I increased the mileage.¬†I suffered from, how can I put this? I think it’s best just to come out and say it…Chaffy B*llocks….There, I said it. I shall refer to it as CB from now on.

After this experience I put the undies in a drawer and left them for a while. Recently, forgetful of my past experience, I pulled them on for a long run and gave them another try. The CB recurred and the undies did not, unfortunately, return home with me. I contacted X-Bionic about my experience, and they were most helpful. We discussed the matter and I decided to give their briefs a try, in particular the X-Bionic Summerlight Slip.

When the briefs arrived I thought there had been a mistake. I opened the box and pulled out a pair of pants that looked like they would just about fit an action man figure. After waving them around for a minute, and showing them to my wife, I decided to try them on. I have refrained from putting up a picture of me wearing them. I do have some dignity, despite what some of my running costumes may suggest!

The briefs were extremely stretchy, and oh my goodness, so comfortable. I decided to wear them all day, including a training session to see how they felt. Now, it’s very hard not to get personal when describing how you find something as intimate as pants, but the best way I can describe them is as follows:

The X-Bionic Summerlight briefs are so comfortable it is like going commando, but with everything securely held in place. They are soft, stretchy and well made. The seam is in an extremely sensible place and the waistband settles nicely around your hips. They have an abundance of technical features that you can read about here on the X-Bionic website and a premium price to go with such a high quality product.

I have yet to do a long run in them, but I am certain that CB will not be an issue. I do have a long run scheduled at the weekend, so I will edit this if it does return! In the meantime I am going to save my pennies to buy another pair of X-Bionic Summerlight Slips. According to my wife, they are aesthetically pleasing too ūüėČ

A bit about Honey Stinger Waffles

You wont like them, so you’d better send yours to me. Don’t worry I’ll put them to good use and they don’t taste at all delicious….

Honey Stingers

You may gather that I like these quite a lot. They taste great, are¬†organic and¬†are also great energy food. If you ever find me collapsed at the side of an ultra marathon or cycle sportive with unfocused eyes, a distended belly and an empty backpack then it’s because I had to keep having just one more!

In the words of the manufacturer:

A thin layer of honey infused with natural strawberry flavor and sandwiched between two thin waffles. The subtle fruit taste of strawberry and honey will satisfy your taste buds and keep you going as an afternoon snack, during your favorite activity or go great with your cup of coffee or tea. Certified USDA organic.

Honey Stinger Waffles are almost always in my back pocket while running and cycling and these days I tend to use them instead of energy gels. They always seem to go down nicely, without the acid reflux that can follow a gel, and I haven’t yet got myself into such an exhausted state that a Honey Stinger wasn’t tempting. Those of you that know me will appreciate that it isn’t for a want of trying.

I do have a small criticism though and that is for the packaging. The snug foil wrappers are a little too tricky to get open. I can’t manage it on a bike without ending up in a hedge, so I unwrap them before riding and pop them into individual food bags. While running the packaging isn’t too bad unless you have freezing cold fingers or are 30 miles or more into an ultra marathon and are too weak and pathetic to be able to rip them open. ūüėČ

Anyway, I got mine from¬†probikekit.co.uk if you fancy giving them a try for yourself. I would try one of the other flavours, but the strawberry waffles are just too good and somehow they always end up in my basket first ūüôā

Clif Shot Gel Review

Clif Shot ChocolateMy latest box of goodies arrived in the form of chocolate flavoured Clif Shot Gels from www.probikekit.co.uk. I spend a lot of time either running or cycling quite a long way, so tend to survive off of real food quite a lot of the time. If I do find myself doing something shorter though, then I am happy to start using gels. Over the years I have tried many of the available options and a variety of disgusting flavours until I settled on the Clif shots. My criteria for choosing them came down to two pretty simple factors:

  1. I had to like the taste
  2. They had to have a great energy to pack size ratio

This straight away ruled out the isotonic gels which are essentially watered down, more palatable gels that are designed to be consumed without additional water. I think isotonic gels probably do have their place, but I haven’t found out what that is yet and I have tried. If you find yourself with a concentrated gel and no water then that is pretty bad planning. If you are cycling or running for long enough to need a gel then you are out for long enough to need to be carrying water too. In a race it should be easy enough to time gel intake with aid stations if running, but if cycling you should have a ready supply of water already on your bike anyway.

I seem to have ranted myself away from the point, so back to the Clif Shot Gels. I have used them in a variety of events for the last two or three years, from cycle sportives to marathons to Ironman racing. They have a little tag so the top stays attached to the packet when you tear it off (thumbs up!), but they are pretty thick when trying to suck them out of the packet. I have no personal issue with that and find the chocolate ones to be like eating slightly runny dark chocolate. They are incredibly moreish and the tastiest gel I have ever eaten, but then again I am also a big fan of chocolate. If I need a caffeine hit then I always have one of the Clif Double Expresso Shots to hand, as they taste pretty good too. The other thing I like about the chocolate flavour is that, while rich, it isn’t acidic. I haven’t tried the citrus flavour, but I find the Razz flavour awfully hard to choke down.

When it comes to Ironman and Half Ironman distance triathlon I squeezed 8 chocolate and 2 expresso Clif Shots into a 750ml bottle, added warm water and agitated it until they dissolved. This meant the bottle held around 3 hours worth of energy. I then marked the bottle off into measured sections and consumed it steadily throughout the race. This was an invaluable strategy as it allowed me to fuel well on the bike before heading into the run without fiddling with packets and it was really easy to measure the correct consumption.

If you fancy buying some yourself then here is where I just got mine from: Pro Bike Kit UK