Edinburgh to Ashmei HQ road trip
I couldn't make it down to Ashmei HQ last year so when I got the email this year telling me I was successful again, I had to make the journey.
I was asked to make my way to Aldbury for between 10am and 10:45am on Saturday morning. My first thought, that's a long way to drive, so I looked at other options. Could I get a train down and arrive on time? Could I fly down? Both options were possible but both were expensive. Back to plan A - Road trip!
Mandy said she would come along with me but she didn't fancy sleeping in the car. which was my original plan. She has a knack of finding the best deals on the internet for places to stay and worked her magic to find us a cheap Travelodge stay approx. two and a half hours away from Aldbury. Which meant a 5 hour journey on Friday and then an early start on Saturday morning.
Friday afternoon came and it was time to get on the road. Before I carry on, I will just warn you, there will be a number of photos in this blog!
The drive down
We left at 4pm from Edinburgh with a full tank of fuel, lots of music on our ipod and our directions, nothing could stop us or slow us down - except for lots of speed cameras, lots of road works down the A1 and some misty driving conditions! But apart from that, it was time to get driving.
The first stop was at Otterburn to grab a sandwich and a bottle of wine! The plan was to have a wee glass in the Travelodge and watch some rubbish on TV, try and make the most of the road trip. This plan was quickly shelved though as we headed for the border, the mist got pretty thick and even after the mist, our journey was slowed significantly by roadworks just outside Newcastle, 40mph average speed cameras also didnt help things along. But our spirits were high, singing along to our music and clocking up the miles.
We got a good 4 hours in to the journey before deciding we needed more than just the sandwich from Otterburn, something hot would be nice.
We pulled up at Scotch corner services and were treated to a lukewarm warm, freshly made Burger King.
British service stations need to do better than fast food places, there has to be better options for hot food on the road! Anyway, after the burger and fries we were back on the road.
10pm and we arrived at Blyth A1 Services Travelodge without any issues.
A bit of background about why I wanted to make this journey - I've been a fan of Ashmei kit for a number of years now, but the strange thing is, I've never actually seen or touched any Ashmei kit! Now, you might ask, how can I be a fan if I haven't ever got close to the product, and that is a really good question.
I guess it's like having a favourite luxury car that you would love to have but can't afford but you still follow the manufacturer on Twitter, you get excited when they announce a new model of that car, this is how I feel about Ashmei products. They are the very top end of sportswear, top quality fabrics, no expense spared to produce the high end final product.
If nothing else, I was looking to try on a jacket so that I knew what size to order from their online store.
Social media = free advertising
Ashmei had said to us that we should tweet using the hashtag #ashmeiambassadors which we all did. It was a great idea because it meant we got to know all the other potential ambassadors a bit before meeting each other in person, but at the same time our followers would become interesting in all the chat, which in turn advertises Ashmei even more. Good marketing!
The future is for manufacturers is online and Ashmei have grasped this concept with both hands. Social media is free, in most cases, and if you get a strong following then your followers do the hard work for you.
Ashmei use social media a lot, whether it's Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, they are there spreading the word and it works, they had hundreds of applicants for the ambassador day and that was via social media channels.
The Ambassador day
After a good sleep and a breakfast from Costa (porridge pot and coffee!) we were back on the road at 7:30am.
Maybe due to lack of sleep we missed a turn off on the way down to Ashmei but luckily we were able to use our phone's GPS to guide us back in the right direction and we arrived at Ashmei HQ at 10:30am.
The agenda for the day was:
- 10:00 Welcome refreshments with the ashmei team & photo shoot;
- 10:45 Welcome words, presentation of the Ambassador Programme & Q&A session with Stuart Brooke, ashmei founder;
- 11:30 1 hour run or ride from ashmei HQ on the Ashridge Estate.
- 13:00 Refreshments and goodbyes
Meeting all the other hopefuls was great, probably 30 of us in total had made the trip to Ashmei. All chatting about our running or cycling, the subject of many of my chats seemed to focus on distance Mandy and I had travelled to get there. Most people had only travelled a couple of hours that morning from their home.
There was one other person who had travelled down from Stirling, Rob, who had decided to do a down and back trip on his own. Driving down over night to arrive for 10 and then head straight back up the road after the run - now that is a good effort!
It was great chatting with him and no doubt we'll meet again on home soil.
The presentation from Stuart was really interesting. A bit of background about the company he setup and a quick background to the other ambassadors that Ashmei currently support.
Although Mandy wasn't part of the Ashmei programme, she was made to feel really welcome by the Ashmei team and was invited to stay to listen to the presentation.
After the presentation, Stuart took some questions from us all and you can tell why he wants to meet everyone, he is so passionate about the product and rightfully so.
Before we headed out he kindly gave us all a pair of socks, now this probably doesn't sound like a big deal but when one pair of socks costs £13, that's a pretty nice thing to do.
The socks are made from a Merino and carbon blend and were super comfy to wear. We all quickly changed out socks and footwear and headed out for a trail run through the estate, unless you brought your bike. The cyclists went out for a ride along the country roads.
Mandy had headed off 10 minutes before us and headed out for her own run.
The run was amazing and James, one of the other potential ambassadors, ran with his GoPro and has put a short video together which can be viewed on YouTube
I managed to chat with some others from the Ashmei team and also the other candidates and the thing that really hit me was, we were all there for one reason, to try and get on to team Ashmei but it didn't feel like a competition, everyone was enjoying the day and meeting likeminded people, chatting about their next big adventure and just having a laugh. I was really enjoying the scenery and just taking it all in. It was brilliant.
After about an hour, we all arrived back at Ashmei HQ, had a final chat with everyone, hoovered up the pastries which were put out for us and then said my good-byes. There was nothing more I could or can do, it's now a waiting game to see if I will be successful or not.
I went back to the car to find Mandy sitting waiting for me, but something didn't seem right, I asked how her run had went and to my surprise it had only lasted for 3 minutes. A couple of days before we travelled she pulled her calf muscle and unfortunately, when she headed out along the trails, it went again.
It was a real shame because I think she would have enjoyed the trails that we ran. She ended up having a long wait in the car as well which didn't help, if only she had had some merino and carbon kit to keep her body temperature regulated!
We headed up the road a bit, grabbed some lunch and then went back to the Travelodge for the night.
Drive back to Edinburgh
The next day was the final drive of the road trip, back up through all the roadworks, past all the speed cameras, over the border and back to Edinburgh.
It was pretty uneventful to be honest. We took our time back up the road, stopping for fuel for the car and our bodies and got home by 4pm on Sunday evening.
With a total of 775.4 miles covered it was well worth it and I'd do it again, even if I'm not successful in the process because meeting all those great people and running around the estate was fantastic! I would love to see the view on a clearer day.
An unexpected thing has come from the trip as well, Mandy has been so inspired by chatting to all the other candidates that she is going to start blogging on this site and she is also now on Twitter (@runbesidehim) and has taken to Instagram as well so that she can share her runs with others.
I'm really excited by this and can't wait to read her first blog!
Thank you and good luck
All that is left for me to say is a massive thank you to Ashmei for inviting me down to Aldbury to meet everyone. It was a fantastic experience. Of course I will be gutted if I'm not successful, as will anyone else I would imagine but I wish everyone the best of luck and whoever Ashmei choose, I'm sure they will have a fantastic time as an ambassador for a brilliant brand.
Others from the day have already blogged about their experience and you can find some of the blogs within the Articles section of this site, as I find more, I'll add them. If you were there on the day, please leave a comment below with your blog address.