Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Ultra Gear: The Outer Layer

As promised, I am going to focus the next few posts on the gear I use in running Ultra-Marathons, with specifics being centered around the 100 Mile and "+" distances. Now, this does not mean that I don't use the same gear in Ultra's of shorter distance, because chances are, all of the gear you are going to see over the next week or so, is gear that I typically use all the time.I will also answer some questions I've had from those of you who view the blog at the bottom as well so, read on and enjoy.

Today I'm going to focus on what clothing I wear during ultras and explain each piece of gear to an appropriate extent. It is simply amazing to look at ALL of the "stuff" you have once you lay it out on the floor for inspection. I can't believe it myself. However, I acknowledge to you openly that I actually do use each piece of equipment during every race. So without further adieu, I give to you the first set of gear in a photo. Please take a look at what you see. Followed by the photo is my "gear reviews/explanations" and feel free to go back and forth from the photo to the description or find a way more appropriate to your viewing pleasure. Sound good? Good... here we go.
Race Day Clothing

The Basic Essentials: Shirt and Shorts
My running shirt is made by the folks at They make quality technical fabric shirts that are customizable. On the front of my running shirt is the Team Sherpa Ultra-Running logo which I wear proudly along side my fellow runners for a cause. On the back is my own personal design which you'll see promptly at the next race I pass you in. ; ) Kidding of course. The folks at RB currently only make custom shirts in WHITE, which is NOT a bad thing. As we all know, the darker the color the more the heat of the sun is absorbed. That being said, not only does the technical fabric help wick moisture away from the body, it helps keep me dry, comfortable and COOL. My shorts are a pair of the Brooks Revelation Pacer Shorts. 86% polyester /14% spandex and features plenty of stretch to enhance fit and mobility, maintain the garment’s shape, and prevent cling; A built-in technical liner draws moisture away from the skin to keep you dry and cool. I currently own pairs in Orange and Black and hoping to get a hold of a new pair in red for this coming season. I LOVE these shorts.

The #1 Thing to Care For: YOUR FEET
The feet are oh so complicated an element to care for but I have done a great job in my running career. I've only had blisters of excessive discomfort once or twice and have never lost a toe nail. Before I get into the gear seen in the photo, let me just say something about the luck I've had with toe nails. The trick to toe nails is EASY. Buy shoes that FIT YOU PERFECTLY and KEEP YOUR TOENAILS CUT SHORT. Don't settle for a shoe because "It'll work." Your feet are what's going to get you across that finish line. CARE FOR THEM!

Socks(lower left - 2 Pairs)
On excessively wet course's I'll apply Vaseline liberally onto the entire surface of my feet in order to create a barrier between water and skin. I follow this up with the wearing of Injinji Toe Socks: Tetrasok Performance Series Mini-Crew. These socks are amazing because of their seamless design. The separation of the toes helps prevent friction which WILL cause blisters over the course of a long event. I then throw on a pair of Smartwool Adrenaline Light Mini-Crew socks. These socks keep my feet comfortable and warm. Made of 72% merino wool, they typically remain warm even when wet.

Gaiters(Lower Right Red/Black)
I then cover it all up with a pair of Dirty Girl Gaiters. Dirty Girls are specifically designed to keep mud, grime, dirt, pebbles and other trail debris out of your shoes. It is amazing how much time you'll end up losing if so much as a tiny little pine needle or pebble gets into your shoe. This small problem will cause you to develop a hot spot or blister and you may find yourself stopping to untie your shoes, empty it out, retie your shoes.. etc. What a waste! Its all about time management when reaching for your ultra-goals so seal em up with the Dirty Girls!

Shoes: The Pickiest Item (Bottom - 2 Pairs)
The pair on the left are a pair of Montrail Hardrocks. These shoes are amazingly sturdy and comfortable. IN fact I use them on both roads and trails. Designed for midfoot support and pronation control, the TPU plate protects the foot from rough terrain and provides support on the long run. I adopted this shoe as my running shoe in the Summer of 2007 and have stuck with them ever since... until...

I bought a pair of Inov-8 Roclite 305's. "Lightweight Trail and Ultra running shoe with high levels of comfort and excellent underfoot cushioning. The patent pending Fascia-band aids propulsion efficiency of the running cycle. Ideal for hard compact trails, training and long distances." I'm looking forward to giving the shoe a try-out at the McNaughton 150 Miler. Its never a bad idea to diversify for your feet and don't be afraid to switch the models. Think about it... how many different tires fit your car especially through the changing seasons?

Head Wear (Up Top)
You can lose up to 75% of your body heat through your head alone. Not only that, but your head is the most susceptible to sun burn, as is your face. There is no telling what kind of weather you will encounter over the course of 24+ hours, so you better show up prepared. Above in the photo are my favorite hats. (From L to R). My NUUN Headsweats Visor is part of my sponsorship with the company, but beyond that the visor does an incredible job of providing shade to my face, wicking sweat from my brow and allowing my head to "cool" on those hotter race days. My Long Trail visor is a great pre and post race wear as it keeps my morale high as I think of that frosty brew to come at the finish line. My Mountain Hardware Red Micro Dome Hat is great in cold weather. Remember, even when wet, Fleece doesn't get cold! Red is also the color of victory so have at it. A great item to have for cold morning starts. Lastly is my favorite. My The North Face Classic V Hat. This hat is made of quick drying nylon, however, on hot days is great to dunk in a river or stream to soak and then enjoying a nice cooling drip down the back of my neck. I've been wearing one of these hats on my adventures since 2004 now.

Odds and Ends
Around my neck I like to wear my Dreamchasers Outdoor Adventure Club LLC, Buff. Even though I'm not really a member of the club, these folks do amazing things and I'm proud to support their efforts. The Buff works in many functional ways which you can read about here. ON hot days the Buff is great around my neck to keep the sun off of my neck. I can wear it as a head band to absorb sweat and on cold days it not only keeps the wind off my neck, but I can raise it above my mouth and nose to breath into in an attempt to warm myself up. VEry versatile piece of clothing, Highly suggested! (That and it looks cool)

Moeben Sleeves
I was given two pairs of Moeben Sleeves from the creator herself and let me tell you how grateful I am. These things turn any short sleeve shirt into a long sleeve shirt. Perfect on cold morning or cool nights. In the morning you can slide them off when it warms up or slide them on at night as things start to cool down. Comfortable and versatile. A small pocket on the arm allows for a gel pack or other items (Pack of smokes?). They come fleece lined for super cool times, or UV Protection for super bright times. A MUST HAVE!

EMS Wind-Pro Gloves: Need I say more? Not Bulky, Fleece lined, wind resistant... warm.
Lastly you'll see my Jade Necklace. Sarah bought me the jade stone while on he trip to New Zealand and I made the necklace out of rope. I always like to be reminded of who inspires me and who I run for. This is just one small way.

The final photo today (above) is a photo of my extreme weather gear. Its pretty basic and these items serve as the an additional barrier against the elements. I can tell you that of the 13 Ultras I have completed, the weather has been PERFECT in only ONE. The above gear might not always be essential but it certainly helps.

Upper Body:
I wear an LL Bean Fleece Neckwarmer on those crazily cold days where the buff just isn't enough. Again, Fleece (when wet) doesn't get cold. This little piece of clothing has saved my sanity on many winter runs and winter training expeditions in the mountains.

EMS Techwick Midweight Longsleeve Underwear Crew Shirt. I wear this under my team sherpa shirt (sometimes with another techwhick long sleece top) to keep me warm on cold days. Non-itchy 95% polyester provides enhanced breathability and wicks moisture away from the skin so you stay dry and comfortable; 5% spandex gives fabric a snug stretchiness that enhances wickability. Real comfortable, real nice to have. I also have matching bottoms for cold days.

Mountain Hardwear Conduit Rain Jacket. This Jacket is fully waterproof, breathable, super-light and has a Conduit Silk Laminate. Even if it's not raining, this jacket offers premiere protection in windy conditions. Many runs in New Hampshires White Mountains on windy and cold summer days were made pleasurable by the protection of this jacket. One of my all time favorite buys!

Sierra Designs Microlight Pant. Not only are they rain pants but they serve the same purpose for protection from the wind as my Mountain Hardwear jacket. These pants are light and easy to roll up if I'm heading out on a long adventure through the mountains, they also work well on a rainy Ultra-Course. I always have them handy. The Sierra Designs Microlight Pant is water and wind resistant for those cool days and it easily packs away into its own pocket.

Mountain Hardwear Cornice Gloves: Waterproof Gore-Tex: I got the gloves for winter hiking and they work wonders when I'm having trouble warming my body up from the effects of dehydration or extremely cold temps. I rarely use them during a race but I HAVE. While its great that I have and often use my EMS gloves, these gloves are obviously more rugged and for extreme cases. You just never know and they are great to have. I love em.

My Nike Thermafit Fleece Pants. The design of the Nike pants have evolved over the years, I've owned the pair you see above since 1998. These things are warm at all times. I love wearing them over my running tights and shorts. One of the best things I ever bought, only thing is that if they get wet they get HEAVY. Regardless, they stay warm and unfortunately are coming to their final days. The one item you don't see above are my running tights. I have omitted them from the photos in the hopes that I will not need them for McNaughton in 2 weeks. I'm sick of the cold and refuse to acknowledge the use of this item. However, I run all winter in a pair of Sugoi Firewall Fleece Lined Running Tights.
Today's Question comes from John Izzo of Vermont. Thanks John!
"So when you did (training miles) 12,12,18 how much time did you take between these? When you do the 20 then next day 20 what kind of times do you do and is it highway or trail miles?"

Great Questions John. I ran the 12, 12, 18 on consecutive days. 12 on Trails on Thursday, 12 on Roads on Friday and 18 on Roads on Saturday. The road runs were not really enjoyable but are great for training your feet to be pounded and tired. These runs are run in consecutive days in order to train my body to run on "tired legs." Kind of like trying to turn over a tired engine.

Last week when I did the 20/20 it was the same idea. Run 20 on Monday on Roads and 20 on Tuesday on Trails. Get your body used to turning it over on tired legs, get your legs and feet comfortable with "relentless forward progression." My time for the road 20 was 2:58:58 (8:57 Miles) and the trail 20 ended up being 3:20 (10:00) miles. Time is not the factor in these runs, the distance and varied terrain is. I would have liked to have gotten a 20/30/20 in instead of what I did get... but this wil work just the same. Good Luck John in your training for the Pittsfield Peaks Ultra Challenge!

Next time I'll be bringing out the more technical gear that I used. Fanny packs, race vests, camelbacks, and handheld bottles. I'll even get into what I put into my bottles and talk about my nutritional plan.

To Advance to Part 2, Please Click Here.