View from the Lighthouse - Mat King

Here at Lands’ End, we’re lucky enough to have an incredibly talented bunch of colleagues; all with amazing experiences, opinions and journeys to share. So in a new, occasional series we thought we’d hand the blog over to them so they could share their stories with you. Here, Mat King tells us about the gruelling 69 mile Ultra Marathon he ran in memory of his mum.

‘The Wall’ Ultra Marathon 2014       

20 June 2014

“After six long months of training, five days a week, here I am. My final goal is within reach. I’m off to register for the race that will take me along Hadrian's Wall from Carlisle Castle to the Gateshead Millennium Bridge over a mixed-terrain route, incorporating both on and off-road sections. There are 69 miles to be conquered in one continuous journey – in less than 24 hours. I’m doing it for Cancer Research in memory of my beloved mum; sadly taken too soon, just 18 months ago.

Once checked into the hotel, I ensure I have everything I need for the next day: 1.5 litres of water, 500ml hydration fluid, 500ml electrolyte fluid, a mixture of 16 energy gels and bars, just to get me to the halfway point. Once there, I need to re-stock and do the same thing all over again for the second half. I check that I have remembered all the mandatory stuff too: first aid kit, head torch and reflective clothing for when darkness fall. I’m all set and ready to go and despite setting the alarm for 5.45am, I’m happy. Bring it on!

21 June 2014

Race day: I don’t sleep well but I feel more relaxed, looking forward to the day ahead. At breakfast I see a guy called Alan who I’d met in an event before. He competed in the Wilderness challenge in Scotland in 2011 for The Sailors Society the same year I competed in a team representing Lands’ End. Alan’s team came second that year and he was running this Ultra Marathon to raise money again for The Sailors Society; it was comforting to see a familiar face.

Alan Shand and me

At the start

We got to the start and it was already about 15° - it was clear that it was going to be very hot and sunny.  There were only around 445 of us running the marathon and suddenly it felt like a really small race. Looking around, I couldn’t help but wonder how many of us would actually finish; runners really do come in all shapes and sizes! And all at once, we were off; some competitors taking off really fast but I stuck to my plan of running on average 12/13 minute miles. The terrain dictated this: I ran on flats, jogged downhill and power walked up hills.

There were 13 checkpoints and pit stops altogether where my race chip was scanned. I reached the first one at 15 miles and felt good. I pressed on, passing four more and just over 7 and a half hours into the race, arrived at the fifth one: the historic fort of Vindolanda and the halfway point. This was my chance to change clothes, refuel and to top up water and food supplies. By this point I was still confident, fresh and enjoying the moment but it was a very weird feeling knowing that I had run 32 miles and still had 37 to go! 

As I set off for the next stage of the race, I had already climbed 600ft with another 200ft to go. We were like ants following each other up the hill getting smaller and smaller to those below. No chance of running here even if I’d wanted to. Once I got to the brow, I could see the pit stop in the distance but then nothing but green fields and hills. The terrain had changed from tarmac where we started and it was now uneven shale tracks. It was cruel on the ankles and feet. At the next pit stop I asked how far we had gone: the reply was 39 miles. This was the furthest I had ever run; yet I still had 30 more to go.

My mental challenge was beginning and I was in unknown territory. 17 miles on it was really testing and much hillier. I changed tactics to run and walk. The straights were now much longer so I ran for 10 minutes and walked for 5 on and off. The field had really thinned out and it was becoming a far lonelier race.

Finally, I was at the penultimate checkpoint. It was now a case of mental endurance rather than physical and it had started to get dark. I really wanted to be in civilisation before it was pitch black with just my head torch as a friend. I had two huge blisters on my right foot and my ankle was swelling from a minor toe-stubbing incident about a week before the race.  I changed tactic again and ran for 5 minutes and walked for 5 to the end as best I could.

At last, I could see the River Tyne and I thought the finish was just around the corner. I saw two passers by and asked them ‘How far to the bridge?’ The reply was about two miles. As I hit the quayside and bars, people had lined the streets to cheer us on, boosting my morale just when I needed it the most. The bridge was now ahead of me and I knew I was going to finish.  So 16 hours and 37 mins after I started, I ran over the Millennium Bridge to cross the line at HMS Calliope. It was one of the most emotional moments of my life; I was totally emotionally and physically spent with a swollen ankle and two blisters the size of 10p pieces. My adventure was over.

The finish

As I walked towards the stewards to receive my medal, I stopped, overwhelmed and choked.  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. All I could think was ‘I’ve done it’. I did it for you Mum.”

To donate, visit Mat's JustGiving page

August 01, 2014

ClassMate® backpacks

Our fabulous ClassMate® backpacks have been put to the test by the little people that matter most…the kids who will be carrying them throughout the school year. Our US colleagues hosted a sports day with a difference where the backpacks were put through their paces in events such as the tug-o-war, backpack throw, 3-legged race and the relay! Who came out on top? See for yourself…

 

Check out our Back to School Range for the Boys and the Girls!

July 25, 2014

Backpacks put to the ultimate test

Having waxed lyrical about the strength and durability of our Classmate® Backpacks, our US colleagues decided to put them to the test with some of the harshest critics they could find. Here, US writer Robert tells us about a Sports Day with a difference…

“One sticky afternoon a few weeks ago we took a busload of kids to Bethel Horizons, a gorgeous, 548-acre camp just a stone’s throw from our Dodgeville headquarters. There they put our ClassMate® Backpack (Boys) + (Girls) through some of the toughest (and funniest!) tests we could dream up.

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Creative Director Randy masterfully channeled his inner camp counsellor, dividing the kids into red and blue teams and keeping everything under control with a large bullhorn.

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First up was the Backpack Tug-of-War. We told all 13 kids to pull as hard as they could, and though the backpack did give in the end, one kid screamed, “We’re not faking, it’s really tough.” Trust me, they gave it their all to see just how much punishment the shoulder straps and reinforced seams could take.

tugwar

ClassMate® Backpack Next came the Backpack Throw. Randy demonstrated two possible throwing techniques: holding the grab-and-go handle and spinning the pack around like a hammer thrower at the Scottish Highland games, or throwing underarm after giving it a good swing. As it turned out, each kid had his or her own technique. Bags flew everywhere and our camera crew had a few close calls!

toss

The Three-Legged Race really put the ClassMate’s durable fabric and construction to the test and the packs passed beautifully, even with the kids stomping on the inside and tugging on the straps.

three-leg

Last came the Pack-and-Dash Relay, an event designed to push the pack’s carrying capacity to the limit and show what it fits. At each stop, the competitors had to unzip the backpack, load up books and folders, and zip it closed before passing it to their teammate. Just to make it a little more challenging, the course went uphill.

relay

folder

It’s no surprise we went through two boxes of ice lollies. The red team was joined briefly by a toad, which eventually hopped off into the woods. Later, a butterfly adopted one of the girls, returning to her hand after the three-legged race. In short, it was a perfect sports day, and in the end, we grown-ups lost track of which team came out on top; Team Red or Team Blue. Perhaps Team ClassMate® was the real champion.”

July 18, 2014

How We Build A Better Backpack

When it comes to choosing the perfect back-to-school kit for your kids, anything described as ‘tough’ and ‘durable’ must be at the top of every parent’s wish list. How many times have you bought something that you hoped would last at least until Christmas – only to find it’s worn out before the end of the first term!

As parents ourselves, we know a backpack has to take the strain of books, folders and daily playground scuffs – but be comfortable enough for kids to carry around too. That’s why we’re proud to say that we build and test our Classmate®Backpacks to make sure they’ll last for the long haul (with everything the school year can throw at them).

Blog

 ▪    Bar tacks at main stress points & shoulder strap attachments to ensure extra strength where it’s needed most

▪    All interior seams are bound for extra durability

▪    Densely padded shoulder straps for comfort on little shoulders

▪    Mesh liner on straps for breathability

▪    Reflective trim for safety when walking in the dark

▪    Chest strap for better weight distribution when carrying heavier loads

▪    Top handle for grab-and-go ease

▪    Webbing loop for lunch box attachment – let them go hands free!

▪    Mesh water bottle pockets with fabric base for durability

▪    Reverse-sewn zips preserve the zip teeth for long-lasting performance

▪    Both Medium and Large Classmate backpacks feature a tough 600-denier body & drag-proof, 1200-denier base fabric

 

Look out for next week’s blog post when our little recruits put the backpacks to the ultimate test…

July 04, 2014

You can’t beat a bbq!

With the promise of more scorching summer days to come, there’s never been a better time to dust off the bbq and show off your skills with the sausages and burgers.

Here at LE, we love a good barbie so have put together a few of our favourite tips for helping your bbq go with a bang. And we're even giving away one of our fabulous new bbq utensil sets to get you started - comment with your own bbq tip below to have a chance to WIN!

Top Tips

"If in doubt, cheat. No one will thank you for saddling them with summer food poisoning so if your culinary expertise is debatable, simply cook the sausages and burgers in the oven first then pop them on the bbq for a few minutes to give them that smoky taste. No one will know the difference!" Catherine, UK Copywriter

"Order twice as much alcohol as you think you will originally need. The only thing worse than burnt food is running out of booze…and let's face it, if the guests have drunk enough, no one will care about the burnt bangers anyway!" Mike, Footwear Merchant

 

“The self-lighting charcoal bags are a life-saver and so easy to use wherever you are. I’ve never yet been able to light one with the proper coals – it’s far too labour-intensive! I’d rather spend time enjoying the food than trying to light it” Lucie, UK Copywriter

 

‘I’m usually put in charge of the salad and the all-important jug of pimms so there’s no danger of me burning anything! If you have lots of guests coming over, it’s a good idea to assign different jobs so you don’t forget anything important.” Lui, Merchandiser

 

“For me, the accompaniments are as important as the meat so I always make sure there are potato salads, tomato salads and some couscous or pasta dishes to keep the guests going if there is a long wait for the cooked food” Barbara, Copy Support

 

“You don’t need to go to too much trouble with dessert as people tend to fill up on the burgers. We often put some chopped up fruit into serving dishes with a pot of icing sugar in the middle for dipping – it’s a real favourite with the kids and less messy than melted chocolate on a hot day.” Rebecca, Copy Support

 

“Always light the bbq at least an hour before you think you’re going to need it; it always takes far longer than you imagine for it to reach the correct temperature for cooking. Plus, stock up on paper plates and plastic cutlery – far better to throw everything away at the end than be left with a mountain of washing up.” Liz, UK Copywriter

 

Canvas

The Lands' End BBQ utensil set.

Winner chosen at random at 12.00pm on Friday 11th of July.

June 20, 2014

Swimsuits: Handle with Care

You’ve spent countless hours sifting through swimsuits, made trip after trip to the dressing room, analysed every inch in the mirror from every angle but you found it – your perfect swimsuit. With all that time (and money) invested who wouldn’t want it to last? Us too. And we’ll help you keep it looking great. Naturally you should follow the swimwear care instructions, but here are more useful tips that go beyond the ones on the label:

 • Quick rinse  
Rinse your swimsuit in cold water after each wear as soon as possible, in the poolside shower or sink to help remove excess salt, chlorine and sunscreen. (Yes, you should rinse it even if you were only wearing it to soak up the sun’s rays in the back garden. More on that in the next tip.)

• Oil-free zone  
Sunscreen is a must for your skin, but not your swimsuit. If possible, avoid getting lotions and oils on your swimsuit as the chemicals can damage and even stain it. As an added tip, apply any sunscreen and let it absorb before you put it on to prevent accidental splodges and splashes.

• Forgo the spin cycle  
Even on the gentle cycle, a washing machine can still be too rough on your swimsuit, especially for any padding, elastic or embellishments. It’s best to wash it by hand, the same day, in cold water with a mild soap, lightly massaging it to work out the chemicals and dirt.

• Gently squeeze  
To remove the excess water, do not wring your swimsuit because it can damage the fibres and make it lose its shape. Hanging can also stretch it out. For the best results, lightly squeeze out the water, lay your swimsuit flat in a towel, then roll up the towel to absorb the excess water. Unroll the towel and leave it flat to dry.

• Air dry  
The heat from dryers is too harsh on swimsuit fabrics. (The same goes for the sun, which can cause it to fade.) Find a shaded area to lay your swimsuit flat out on a towel to dry; and be sure it is completely dry before putting it away.

• Take a towel
  Sitting poolside, dipping your feet in the water, sipping a lovely cocktail. Now that’s relaxing. But be sure to tuck a towel underneath you to keep the rough concrete from causing unsightly snags on your seat!

Lands' End Swim Tee

With just a few simple steps, your swimsuit (and you) will look spectacular the whole summer and many seasons to come.

June 06, 2014

Everyone loves a good book…

Here at Lands End HQ, we love nothing more than getting to grips with a good book; so much so, that some of our more avid readers have formed their own book club. We asked three of the members to tell us a bit about their favourite books… and we’d also love to hear what your top pick for bedtime reading would be. Comment below to let us know!

 

“One of my favourite books we read was ‘Diary of a Nobody’, written in 1888.  In the best book club tradition it split the group completely (leading to lots of discussion).  It was funny, sad – and gave an insight into life of the lower middle classes; their frustrations and worries, how they entertained themselves, plus a little bit of social history. Amazingly, a letter posted at 9am in London was at its destination by 4pm the same day!  I read it for book club and one of our group was so enthusiastic and positive about the book that I kept it to read again.

Another of my top ten books would be ‘Requiem for a Wren’ by Neville Shute – it was my mum’s favourite book.  She was in the Wrens during WWII so I think a lot of the story, attitudes and settings she could identify with completely. I read it about 15 years ago (as a tribute to her, as I had suddenly remembered it) and loved it.  The characters have such integrity and the story is simple, but beautiful.  Neville Shute’s best known book is probably ‘A Town Like Alice’ (also brilliant, and we read that in Book Club a couple of years ago).”   
Christine Townsend

  The Diary of a Nobody

 “Some of the most captivating stories I’ve read are ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’, ‘The Cashmere Shawl’, ‘The Prince of Mist’ (quite scary!) and possibly my ultimate favourite which I have now read a couple of times or so is ‘The Shadow of the Wind' by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

As I recall when we first chose this book for book club, I didn’t read it immediately. I ordered it online and a massive hardback arrived, which was far too heavy to hold! A couple of months later my sister-in-law gave my husband a paperback copy, which I then decided to read. I was so cross with myself for not persevering with the hardback copy because I fell in love with the book, the story line, the characters and the author! Why hadn't I read it before?

It really is one of the most fantastical story lines I have ever read. Who would have thought that a story about a book found by a 10 year-old boy in a secret library full of long forgotten books kept secret and safe for years and years could be so exciting and such a thrill to read! This book had everything from the mundane workings of a bookshop keeper, to thrills and suspense, plus a little romance. It really is quite an enthralling story and I would challenge anyone to say otherwise. I loved the book so much that I have read the other two books in the series with just as much gusto: 'Angel's Game' and 'The Prisoner of Heaven'.”
Maria Miller

  A thousand splendid suns

 “I always have several books on the go and will read absolutely everything and anything – however I won’t lie about what I like and what I don’t when it comes to books.  If I think something is a waste of my eyesight everyone knows about it!

I read ‘Lord of the Rings’ just about every year without fail, from aged 10 or 11 until I had my family (and then I took huge delight in introducing a new generation to Frodo and Gandalf).  Currently I am ploughing through the Game of Thrones epic, but am getting very confused with what I see on TV and what I read in the book!

What I love most about the book club is the chance it gives me to read books I may not otherwise pick up.  For instance, I probably would never have chosen to read ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ and ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime’, but I am so glad that I did.

My favourite book club book was ‘Shadow of the Wind’ by Carlos Ruiz Zafon; a good weighty piece that introduced me to Zafon’s work and now I am a big fan of his. However, for something completely off my radar, ‘The Dean’s Watch’ by Elizabeth Goudge has stayed with me the most.  A very gentle, old-fashioned novel, set against a tranquil almost cloistered background, it was a huge step outside the norm for me.

Next month we are reading ‘Stoner’ by John Williams and ‘War Paint’ by Stephanie A Smith. I can’t wait to get started!”
Sarah Roads

Stoner

June 02, 2014

Carried Away with Colour: Where It All Began

On a relatively chilly day in January, just when winter was really settling in, I walked into Hudson Studios on West 15th Street in New York for our spring 2014 campaign shoot. With photographer Craig McDean and stylist Alex White behind the lens and the beautiful Lilly Donaldson in front of it, our Carried away with Colour campaign shoot was quite a whirlwind day. The prop stylist was ready with everything from rose petals and butterflies to parakeets and finches. Two crews were simultaneously working on two sets — shooting Lilly on one, the props on the other. The hair stylist and make-up artist each had an assistant and the stylist had two. In addition to the photography crews, there was a completely separate video crew filming the whole thing as the day progressed. Six looks and one stunning season later, our Carried Away with Colour campaign was born.

Take a peek behind the scenes.

 

By
Raina

May 30, 2014

The best things in life are free!

 

Struggling to find things to do with the children this weekend, we’ve got 15 things to do with the kids before their 12.

Become an adventurer

  • Climb a tree – make sure the branches are sturdy though before putting your full weight on them.  Our Iron Knee® Classic-fit Jeans are tough enough to put up with the rough and tumble of climbing trees.
  • Camp out– don’t forget your torch.
  • Build a den – top tip: lean sticks against a low tree branch to make a wig-wam.
  • Fly a kite – try and make your own kite out of a plastic bag, 2 bamboo canes and lots of string.

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  • Play conkers – make sure you chose the best conker by putting them in a bucket of water, winners always sink.

Become a discoverer

  • Hunt for treasure on the beach – the best treasure is always found around driftwood and large stones. Our kid’s totes are great for holding all your wonderful finds.
  • Bury someone in the sand – you might need a big spade for this one.

BurySomeoneInTheSand.jpg

  • Snail racing – hurry them along by dangling some tasty leaves in front of them.
  • Mud sliding – the stepper the hill the fast you will go.
  • Create a dam – make a dam in a stream, once you’re done it’s even more fun smashing it down.  

Become a ranger

  • Find fossils – get a bucket and a spade and see what you can find.
  • Feed a bird – why not try placing some bird seed in your hand and see if you can get a bird to eat it? But be warned you’ve got to stand very still.
  • Night walking – what animals are out and about at night? Draw the ones that you don’t normally see in daylight. Only use a torch when you really need to, otherwise the animals will run away. Make sure you don’t get lost in our glow in the dark graphic tees.

OwlsOfTheNight.jpg

  • Find and follow wild animals – you’ll need a sharp eye for this one.
  • Search for frogspawn – once you’ve found some frogspawn take pictures each day to see how it changes.   

May 22, 2014

3 Picnics to pack now!

It's Bank Holiday weekend (again!) so what better time to make the most of the great outdoors and the warm weather. For me, you can't beat eating al fresco so I shall be getting out and about with a picnic - a great main event and tasty supplement to other outdoor activities too. Our Canvas Picnic Basket is made from cotton canvas – tough as nails  – and more comfortable to carry than rattan or bamboo. An interior pocket stores an ice pack to keep your snacks and drinks cool, plus it has a wipe-clean insulated lining, full zip closure and easy carry handle. Personalise yours with initials or a fun phrase like 'Grub's up' and read on for some picnic-planning inspiration…

Picnic Basket

Idea 1: By the water with family and friends

Pack up your family and friends for a day by the lake or sea. There's nothing better than a few tasty treats to snack on whilst you're relaxing on a boat trip or stretching out on a sun lounger. This healthy combination is a serious step up from the typical poolside snacks of chips and warm beer. And if you’re paddling or playing beach volleyball all day, you’re going to need keep your energy levels up!

Local spot: Rutland Water

Picnic Checklist:

  • Sparkling water
  • Fruity couscous salad with almonds, sweet peppers, sultanas and artichokes
  • Grapes & melon cubes
  • Mini chicken and bacon tortilla wraps with lettuce and mint yoghurt
  • Homemade buttery shortbread or flapjacks – avoid anything chocolatey or this will melt in the sun!

Picnic by the water

Idea 2:  Date night at a concert

Al fresco dining doesn't need to be confined to the day: make the most of the lighter evenings and catch an outdoor concert or play with your loved-one for a romantic treat. A little vino and small snacks are the perfect accompaniment to music and this mix is both satisfying and sweet – don't forget your Lands' End Fleece Throw for snuggling up in when the temperature dips!

Local spot: Shakespeare at Tolethorpe Theatre in Stamford

Picnic Checklist:

  • Your favourite bottle of wine
  • Cheese board & crackers
  • Selection of cold meats
  • Olives, sunblush tomatoes and peppers stuffed with soft cheese
  • Baklava or similar sweet pastry dessert – bite size pieces are best

Date Night

Idea 3:  Bike ride for the kids

Between after-school clubs and weekend dance and football practice, it can be tough to find any unscheduled free time with the kids. But putting together their favourite foods (or even better, getting them to do it) can transform a simple walk in the woods or a bike ride to an event they’ll remember – and want to tell all their friends about at school the next day. Make sure you pack our Lands' End Picnic Blanket to ensure your little ones have something comfy to sit on.

Local spot: Fineshade Woods, Northamptonshire

Picnic Checklist:

  • Lemonade – homemade with real lemons of you can
  • Apple and peanut butter sandwiches (slice apple thinly for a satisfying crunch and alternative to peanut butter and banana)
  • Fun, fruity kebabs
  • Tuna pasta salad
  • Mini blueberry muffins

Bike Ride

May 01, 2014

Style Solutions: it's a wrap!

The humble scarf. Who would have thought such a simple piece could have so many possibilities? But this versatile outfitting accessory offers options galore:

Colour – use pattern and print to jazz up an otherwise plain outfit. Or break up a colourful combo with an elegant, plain scarf in a co-ordinating colour.

Fabric – think wool or cashmere if you want to add warmth; cotton and linen are lovely and lightweight for adding a subtle flourish in the warmer months.

How to wear it – Think there's only one way to wear a scarf? Think again! Check out our sixteen suggestions for pretty ways to instantly wrap up your style – without getting tied in knots!

Dramatic Drapes

The shrawl wrap

The dramatic drape

The pretzel knot

The double pretzel knot

The muffler tie

Wrapped Tight

The classic wrap

The double classic wrap

The uptight

The wrapped neck knot

The double wrap neck knot

Timeless Twists

The boho tie

The cowl

The euro knot

The infinity

The knotty necklace

The low knot