The Road is Always Long

My journey through the world of ultra marathons.

Ashmei Ambassador Day 2017

Big Day Ashmei

That was the twitter hashtag for the 2017 ashmei ambassador day (#bigdayashmei) and I had been one of the very lucky people to be invited down to their headquarters for a fun day of brand promotion and then self promotion!!  More on that later.  I started the day at 4:15am, awake long before my alarm was due to blare into my eardrums.  It was still dark outside and the birds were just starting up there morning singing.  I’d decided to cycle to the airport in an attempt to retain my fitness due to a little niggling foot injury.  It was an interesting 14 miles to the airport.  At that time of a Saturday morning the only evidence of civilization is taxis and a handful of ‘walks of shame’.  It give a glimpse of a post apocalyptic Edinburgh, in fact going through Niddrie and Craigmiller give you that at any time of the day or night!! The clubs and pubs were closed, the kebab houses were closed, even the 24 hour Tesco looked empty!  It was a superb ride, the roads were empty, all the traffic lights seemed to be in my favour and I made it to the airport in about 55 minutes, a lot less than I had anticipated.

The flight down was pretty uneventful, however, it was a huge plane, and full!!  A Boeing 767, seat configuration of 2-3-2 and about 35 rows, you do the maths!  It was a big beast and I wondered if the small Edinburgh runway had enough metres in it to get this colossal piece of steel off the ground when there was no prevailing westerly to charge into and give lift.  My uncertainty was answered when the Rolls Royce engines fired up and got us into the air in no time.  It was a beautiful morning in Edinburgh with the sun coming up over the snow capped Pentland hills.  It reminded me of the brilliant training runs I’ve had over the years in the Pentlands, Owain, @scottishrunner (ashmei ambassador extraordinaire and prolific blogger and tweeter) can testify to the beauty of running in the hills only a short hop from Edinburgh city centre.  It really is a fantastic place to live and run.  For such a small city there are trails and tracks all over, combining to make 100s of kms to explore or commute as I do.  I’m digressing a little here but a wee plug for this great city is alright, isn’t it?  We landed a little over the expected time and I headed straight for the car rental desk in the Sofotel Hotel.  There was a very, very long corridor to the car rental desk, all nice lighting giving a luxury feel to it.  However, they must have been pumping out air freshener into the corridor, as it stank like one of those awful car Magic Tree air fresheners.  I felt sick!!  I felt even sicker (is that a word) after the initial conversation at the car rental desk and I will just leave that story there for now. This is supposed to a happy, cheerful blog post.  Not raising the cortisol levels!!!  So in order to maintain my low levels of stress, you understand, keeping my blood below the boil point I’ll just refrain from going into any details.  Which is more to do with the impending litigation that is coming their way!!!!   By this time it is too late to go through the process of another car hire, it’s 9:15 and I am supposed to be in Aldbury in 15 minutes.  Black cab it is then!!!  £££££££££££££££££££££££££££££

Albury is in a beautiful part of the country just north of London.  It’s a small rural village about a half hour train journey from Euston station, close to Tring.  Tring is another small commuter town close by, but the train station at Tring has about 8 platforms and a massive park and ride car park.  The train station looks out of place, it might actually be bigger than Tring itself.

I arrive in Aldbury at 9:45, the Taxi driver booting it for me, and after much pound notes are exchanged, I find the ashmei HQ and arrive, fashionably late, but I do arrive, which at some point earlier, I had my reservations about.  Ashmei HQ is a converted stable, decorated modern inside with large bi-folding doors out into a courtyard.  Picturesque is the word that comes to mind.  The vintage Airstream  is parked outside.  The Airstream is the vehicle the company take to Expo’s and events, it is stylish, sleek and functional.  Exactly like the ethos of the company.

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Arriving late is never good, everyone else has already introduced themselves to everyone and made their new friendships.  However, I didn’t feel like an outsider here, everyone was very friendly, kindred spirits almost.  The other ambassador hopefuls were all just like me, passionate about their sport, willing to talk openly about themselves, their training, their gear and their aspirations.  I was like pig in sh*t.  Here I was, among about 20 other people who I genuinely felt I couldn’t bore with my inane running chat.  They wanted to hear my story, equally, I wanted to hear theirs.  I met some fantastic and charismatic people, be them ambassador hopefuls or already ambassadors or indeed the core ashmei team themselves.

It was fantastic to meet the team behind the ashmei brand, Stuart, Gary, Rob, Elliot, the girls and the 4 existing ambassadors helping out for the day were all very warm and welcoming.  The day started properly with Stuart, the company founder and owner, giving more details on the company history, his own background, what makes ashmei different to the others, the technology, the company ethos and mission.  I knew more than before, that I wanted to be part of this family.  I could see, in Stuart, the same passion in the ashmei products that I have for my sport.  What Stuart described was the reason I was here, he said that once you wear ashmei, it becomes your favourite, you wont wear anything else, you end up cherishing it.  I believe him.

Next up was Gary, the brand marketing guru.  Gary discussed the way ashmei like to be shown (look at this video ).  It epitomises the brand, performance, innovation, quality and style.  It’s it a fabulous piece of cinematography.  Gary didn’t make any claims about the video for himself, but I am sure he had a big hand in it’s production.  Gary showed us the old world media (newspapers, magazines etc) coverage the brand is now receiving, their recent very high rating in the GQ ‘must haves’ being of particular interest.  I can see that the online, or new world, marketing is where the company would like to explore and I can see that any ambassador would be central to that.  My own online presence can be sparse, more to do with time constraints, than having nothing to say.   I sometimes wonder how people manage to have such an big online presence, they must spend all day on the interwebs.   If I am to be lucky and selected as a brand ambassador, this will change.  I will make the time.  It’s not like I don’t enjoy it, making the video for the ambassador day (see here ) was a joy, a joy I never thought I would experience.  Completing that video and watching it through brought a real sense of achievement.  I am no Speilberg, but I can only improve and I know people who can help me with that.

Following Gary was Elliot, the lead designer.  What a job he has and I could feel his enthusiasm for ashmei.  After all, a lot of what I was wearing and looking at were, essentially, made by him.  That must be such a rush, to watch athletes perform at all levels in gear he has designed.  The clothing is designed athlete centric, they are manufactured around the athlete not a market demand.  ashmei bring products to the athlete, for the athlete, designed for the athlete, no extras, no gimmicks, no fuss.  Elliot showed us that right down to the miniscule details the decisions that are made in design and manufacturing are always done for the athlete first, the price point is of no concern until the very last step of bringing a product out.

It really was a fabulous insight into the company, I felt inspired and enthusiastic, at that point I knew what I wanted to do.  We were then given the bombshell that we were to give a 5 minute presentation on our journey, our story.  We’d heard the ashmei story, their journey, now it was over to us.  We would, in turn, be given a 5 minute slot in the Airstream to give our story in front of Stuart, Gary and an existing ambassador.

The group were split into cyclist and runners and while we headed out for a 10k run in the surrounding trails and hills, the cyclists would be giving their story in the airstream.  When we came back the cyclist would head out for a ride in the countryside while the runners gave their story.  The group was a real mix of people:  Young, not so young (me), tall, short (me again), triathletes, cyclists, runners (me yet again) and even a decathlete.  A decathlete who has Olympic aspirations, wow!!  Even though we were all essentially competing against each other, it didn’t feel like that and unlike a race where I want to win, I would gladly step aside to let any of the people I met win the ambassadorship.  All were worthy, all had their own story to tell and I wish them all the best of luck in the remainder of the process.

I haven’t mentioned Rob yet.  Rob is the head of sales.  My introduction to Rob was a little unusual.  When I arrived, I spoke to Lucy who, kind of, got me signed in and gave me a lovely pair of ashmei socks.  I then started chatting to a couple of other hopefuls and Rob leaned through and said, ‘Rob’ and shook my hand.  A little confused, I thought, how does he know my name, this is because I am late, they have all been talking about me, paranoia creeping in, but of course, DOH!, he was introducing himself.  What a div I can be sometimes.  Rob, Owain, Elliot and David lead the run from HQ and out onto the surrounding trails.  It was fabulous to be running again, my foot injury preventing me from doing much running these last few weeks.  David is an experienced ultra runner having completed some of the worlds toughest races.  It was good to chat with him, he has run a few races that are on my bucket list.  Chatting to Sam, Jo, Ed, Gemma, Sophie was easy and it turns out Sophie will be representing England at the Anglo Celtic Plate in Hull in May.  See ye there!  Rob wanted to hear what we were all about and made his way around all the runners in the group.  Then as Ed, Rob and I were running Ed asked Rob what his story was.  It resonated with me so much.  It’s not for me to tell it, but let’s just say we have a similar path to fitness and sport.  We arrive back to HQ after covering about 10k in the trails.  I miss the endorphine rush of running.  Hopefully not long before I get it coming every day again.

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Photo nicked from courtesy of Owain Williams @ScottishRunner

We enter the HQ building to be confronted by a sea of cake!!  Mostly homemade, all delicious, my cake value was taken off and I got stuck in, consuming close to my own body weight of Swedish home made apple and cinnamon slice!! Y – U – M!  I also indulge in a little retail therapy, well with such a big discount it would be rude not to….

The cyclist then head off for their ride and the runners are called, one by one, into the Airstream.  The guys who go first ease all our apprehensions. It’s just chat they say, nothing to worry about, but I hadn’t given it any thought while out on the run, too engrossed in chatting to the other runners.  Before long, and after yet more cake, it was my turn.  Owain was the original ambassador on the ‘panel’ but, quite rightly, stepped out and let David take his place when it was my turn.  It felt easy to talk to them, I generally am not one to blow my own trumpet, and I don’t think that is what they were looking for either.  However, I did mention the three thousand views of my application video J.  I am not sure that I got everything across well though, I felt a little nervous, and there were a few things that I wanted to say that I didn’t.  It’s like the job interview where you leave and immediately remember all the stuff you had in your head before you went in, but it slips to the back of your memory when you are there.  I think I did ok though, a little background on me, my aspirations for the future, my intensity of leaving no stone unturned when preparing for big races and my desire to test their fabulous kit in a Scottish Highland Winter and race over the world in it.

 

And then it was over. The day ended. I felt a little deflated when I left, I’d been on a high all day and now it was finished.  I had to leave sharp as I travelled back to Heathrow but train, underground and train.  Thanks again to Ed (see Ed’s work here) for taking me to Paddington.  It’s been a while since I have been in London and you forget quickly how to use the underground with any confidence and speed!  The flight home was uneventful and the ride back to the house was swift (downhill mostly).  I got home to a nice glass of wine and a debrief of the day to Lisa.

It was a wonderful day, having not experienced anything like it before, I’ll remember it.  And if I am not successful this year, there is always next year.  As for the clothing itself.  I amabsolutely sold.

#bigdayashmei

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Photo courtesy of ashmei

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