My Journey back to UTMB — equipment
This is the third blog post on my journey back to the UTMB. Each month I’ll be focusing on a specific aspect of how I’m preparing, as well as a look back at the previous months training. You can read the first blog here and the second one on building a training plan here.
February Training Recap
Urgh. This was not how February was supposed to go. After a really good January I had high hopes for this month. I planned to do lots of VO2max training, to really build the engine for the endurance work later in the year. It did not go to plan. I hurt my foot on the second day. I tried to rest it for a couple of days and come back…this did not work. I ended up having to take a whole week off. Then I got a horrendous cold, and then the UK had what seemed like two weeks of never ending storms. Mixed with a ridiculously busy work schedule and yeah, not ideal.
I ended up with a rather pitiful 72km and 1150m of accent. Now the distance was meant to be lower this month as I was (planning) to do a lot of shorter hard sessions. Unfortunately I only managed 5 total VO2max sessions. The sessions i did managed were pretty good quality. Here’s one below. Focus was 2 mins as hard as possible, with 2 mins easy recovery, repeated 4 times. Love (and hate) this session.
Edit — seems I forgot to include my garmin VO2max reading, which has gone from 52 to 53…so slight improvement despite the shit month?
I tried to make up for not running as much with some sessions on the indoor spin bike and some strength sessions (squats, lunges, core). These were fine, but nothing beats running to improve running, and they certainly aren’t as much fun.
What equipment will I be taking?
So this blog post is one for the running gear junkies as I’m going to lay out what equipment I’ll be using in August. Some things may change, but likely not much. In my first blog I talked about how having the right equipment, rather than the ‘best’ equipment for an ultra is such an important aspect. Find what works for you. So this is what I think is best for me.
There is quite an extensive list of mandatory kit (as you would hope there would be. It looks like this
- Running pack to carry mandatory kit throughout the race.
- Mobile phone (smartphone strongly recommended): Personal beaker 15 cl minimum (bottles or flasks with lids are not accepted)
- 2 working torches with
- Survival blanket & Whistle
- Self-adhering elastic bandage for bandaging or strapping (minimum 100 cm x 6 cm)
- Food reserve
- Jacket with hood for bad weather in the mountains. The jacket must be made of a waterproof* and breathable** membrane (eg. Outdry)
- Long-legged trousers or race leggings OR a combination of leggings and socks to cover the legs completely
- Cap or bandana or Buff®
- Additional warm second layer: a warm second layer top with long sleeves (excluding cotton)
- Warm and water-proof gloves
- Waterproof overpants
Let’s start at the top and work down
I pretty much always wear a cap for running as sunburn on this head is not a good thing. I’ve tried a lot of caps. Recently I’ve gone for specific running caps, as they are lighter and don’t retain sweat as much. I’m going with the Patagonia Duckbill Trucker Hat. I love it. It’s so light, and you can jam it into a pack and it just pops out back to shape.
I’m also planning to take a buff. It’s one of the fleece buffs, which can act as a warm hat or warm face covering, or heat retainer around the next. Fun fact, I acquired this buff while hitchhiking round France in about 2004. I traded a beer for it and have kept it ever since as its great!
I need to check if the buff passes as my warm hat according to the regs. It used to, but worth checking. Otherwise it’ll be a merino lined beanie.
Sunglasses. Obviously to look cool, but honestly the amount of eye strain if its a sunny day and you don’t have them is debilitating. I’ll be wearing these ShadyRays. Yes that is actually a brand. They are polarising, fairly light, durable and replaceable financially…..I have lost A LOT of sunglasses in races.
Suncream and vaseline will be needed if its a hot race. A salty face for hours upon hours is painful.
I used to run in the free technical t shirts you got from races. I sort of assumed they were all the same. They are not. I will be wearing a patagonia base layer. They are not cheap, but they are brilliant and also I just fucking love the ethos of Patagonia. CLothing has been artificially cheap for too long…..if something is cheap financially then it is costing somewhere, either environmentally or ethically. I have a few patagonia base layers now including the brilliant Airchaser which is so good for warm weather.
I’ll also be carrying a Mountain Equipment Switch Vest for warmth in the mountains. This is a lovely vest, which packs down small and provides a good amount of warmth, but is not TOO warm. You can still run in it when it’s cold.
I’ll have a long sleeved top as well. I got this as a gift. It’s not a brand I have ever really thought about, but I love this top. Nothing fancy about it, but it’s warm and comfy for running. It’s been my go to top over winter. Mentally this is a good thing.
I will also be taking these Montane Via arm sleeves. Yes, arm sleeves. These are a fairly new revelation to me. You can have them up or down in a second giving you a long sleeve to short sleeve base layer in seconds. I don’t know if these are good arms sleeves as they are the only ones I’ve ever tried, but once you’ve tried some I think you’re unlikely to go back.
Waterproof jackets is one to decide based on weather forecasts. I have this Montane Podium waterproof which is super lightweight and packs down so small. It’s a really good jacket, but not for really bad mountain weather over a sustained period of time. Oh also, it’s pretty much see through.
I also have a Berghaus StormCloud which is a bit more heavy duty while still being light. If the shit is really going to hit the fan I have a Mountain Equipment waterproof which is not that light comparatively, and is not really packable, but is bombproof for protection.
I’ll be taking some lightweight grippy gloves as general running gloves. Nothing worse than cold hands when running and I suffer from that a lot. I’ll also be taking some sealskin insulated mittens for emergencies or if the nights are cold. These are bloody brilliant gloves.
For shorts I’ll most likely be wearing these Flyte 2–1 running shorts. I certainly didn’t pay £80 for them. From what I can tell they look like they are inspired(!) by the Rockay 2–1 shorts which are about £80. They are comfy, and what I really love is the stuff pockets on your legs. These can take quite a bit of stuff you need to hand, so food, or phone, or gloves/buff you’ve taken off and don’t want to put into the pack at the minute. I’ve got some salomon 2–1 trail shorts, which are comfy but don’t have these stuff pockets.
For leggings, which are a requirement and a good idea in the mountains I’ll need to buy some new leggings I think. I very rarely wear them and so the only pair I have are some ronhill ones from about 15 years ago and the zips are broken. I think I’ll get some of the Alpkit ones. It looks like they have leg stuff pockets and we know how I like them.
For waterproof trousers I have these from decathlon. They have not let me down. They are light, not as light as some like the salomon bonatti but I don’t think that makes as much difference as some.
First socks, lots of them. There are few things in life better than fresh socks in the middle of a tough ultra. I have learned to always have spares with me and in drop bags. I like merino socks. There are all sorts of brands, rockay are good, but basically lightweight merino socks that fit.
I’ll also be taking some Alpkit lightweight gaiters. I very rarely use gaiters, but the hard trails of the alps get dust and stones everywhere including in your shoes, which over lots of miles hurt.
Shoes. Ah shoes. I’m still figuring this one out. I mainly wear Salomon Wildcross. I LOVE them. Such a good shoe, with a wide toe box, great grip and I can feel the ground……but this may be a problem. As i spend most of my running time on trails in England, most of it is soft and muddy. Only in the high lakes do I really get onto hard trails, and only then in summer. The wildcross have VERY minimal cushioning. And over long distances on hard trails this has the potential to wreck feet. I have ran long distance in them, 100 miles, but the trails were soft. They come in a range of colours, but all end up brown.
As alternatives I have some Salomon Ultra Trail Pro’s. These are nice shoes, with a good amount of cushioning. They are ok in terms of grip and have a reasonable toe box. So some positives and some negatives.
I plan on trying the Salomon Ultra Glides out over the next few months to see if they can land somewhere between the Ultra Pros and the Wildcross.
I’ll be using the Ultimate Direction AK3.0. Its a good pack with lots of space but also comfy. Not as comfy as the Salomon packs, but some good features including waterproof pockets and good stash pockets. It’s served me well and has a spot for both a bladder and bottles which is important for my hydration strategy (which I’ll talk about in another blog)
Alpkit qark. It’s great, rechargeable and also takes normal batteries. 580 lumens of blinding light.
Black Diamond distance Z poles. They aren’t the carbon ones which are more expensive and a little bit lighter, but they work well and can be opened with gloves on which I think is important.
There are some other odds and sods, and I’ll do a short kit check post before I set off with everything in, but that’s enough gear for one post (or one person now I’ve written it down)
So with February not quite going to plan, I’ll be using some of March to continue focusing on VO2Max sessions, with a few threshold sessions thrown in. I’ve got a trail marathon (ish) in the lakes on 18th March which will be a nice little bump in the training. It’s a loop of Ullswater ran by NAV4 who do some lovely low-key events which I highly recommend, although I hope they don’t get too popular! Looking forward to it.
Mainly I’m just hoping for a more consistent month of training with some slightly better weather and more hills.