Running an ultra is more then just pulling on a pair of shorts, tying your shoes and hitting the trails. It's not rocket science to run an ultra (remember you already said goodbye to your brain:)). But there are a few things that will make life easier for you, your feet and other body parts. Use your imagination. Gear. So in case you haven't guessed it, a birthday suit isn't going to cut it. I know, sorry to break the news. One thing to ALWAYS remember. No matter the sport, never, for the love of god wear cotton! Nothing against cotton, but it is not the type of material you wear to sweat in. Period. End of story.
Top Gear ( feel like Top Gun writing that!). Guys, read on. Consider yourself lucky- wearing a bra is actually hard work. And a expense you don't have to worry about!
Bras. Women, wearing a bra is essential to running (this goes for ALL types of running). But maybe a little more critical in the longer distances. I'll do an article in the future dedicated to bras, but for now, here are 2 of my personal favorites. CW-X and Moving Comfort. You want a high impact bra, so buy wisely!
Shirts. By now you know to buy technical apparel - right? Good! Depending on the weather, you'll wear either long, short or sleeveless shirts. Personally I only wear sleeveless (I have the shoulders/arms of a rower) or long sleeves. One thing to remember, 30 or 35 degrees really isn't cold when you will be running a lot of miles. Your body heats up very quickly. Remember this! If you are in doubt, wear layers. For cold weather, check out Under Armour Cold Gear long sleeve shirts. They rock. A tip: arm warmers come in handy when wearing a sleeveless shirt. I really like these.
Shorts. Okay, here is a little secret. The whole world will know. But who really cares anyway? I don't wear underwear. Wearing shorts with liners means you don't need to! I can't imagine running a mile, let alone 50 miles or 100 miles with a wedgie. If you enjoy that feeling, knock yourself out! All I know is when you have to strip at about mile 60, you'll be REALLY glad you don't have to pull them off. I prefer either fitted shorts or mid quad shorts for running ultra's. Brooks Running has some awesome ones as does LuLuLemon, However, recently I have switched to CW-X Compression Shorts. I ran my last 6 races with them. They provide the support, protection and of course compression. Check them out.
Pants. Again, don't wear pants just because there is a chill in the air. For the truly cold days, I wear Under Armour Cold Gear pants (and shirts for that matter). They really do work. I have run in 5 degrees and have been warm. If it is really cold, double up. Wear a Cold Gear pant and a loser pant over top. I also love Mizuno special running gear. A few key layers make all the difference when running in the REAL cold weather.
Socks. My last 7 races (including 3 ultra's) I have fallen in love. With Mr. Compression. Caught ya didn't I? ;) I still swear by wearing Balega Socks. I put a pair of them on first, then pull on my knee high compression socks. Zensah makes calf sleeves, so that is another option. A lot of compression gear out there. Some of my favs: Under Armour, Trigger Point, InVigorators, and
Shoes. Call me a wimp, but I prefer to wear shoes. I'll be writing another article on barefoot & VFF running. Some ultra runners wear trail shoes, I have found up to this point in my running life that I run better in regular running shoes. There are excellent running trail shoes on the market. Montrail makes some top notch ones.
Transportation. So, how are you going to eat and drink while running for long periods of time? I have tested out a few gadgets. I used to wear a Nathan Fuel Belt, but switched to a hand held a few weeks before my 100 miler. I knew I didn't want to have that bouncing on me for 24 hours. I already was using a handheld in conjunction with my belt, so making the change was relatively easy. I use a 24oz Polar bottle from Hammer Nutrition. CamelBak Hydration Packs come in 30 oz. - 100 oz. They are a great option for long periods by yourself. Just be sure to try this option on a training run before race day. Extra pockets! I really like SpiBelt for carrying extra stuff (need a place for my BlackBerry!). I have the two pocket option. You can also attach your race number/bib to it.
Keep dry! Have things that can't get wet? Like a phone, pills, or food? I use ZipLoc bags. The sandwich size is perfect. I always keep a box handy.
First Aid. Prevent chafing before it starts. Slather Bag Balm or Vaseline on your feet (don't forget heels!), under your bra strap, under arms, back, little pinky (kidding) any place you feel you need it. Body Glide doesn't quite cut it for long distances. And besides, buying the little sticks can really add up. There are many ways to take deal with blisters. I have had great success with duct tape.
Let There be Light! For overnight runs you'll need flashlights and/or headlight. I really like my Black Diamond Spot LED Headlight. In fact, right now, REI has them on sale. Petzl (also from REI) has some great ones. Some are pricey- hey if you want to spend $400 bucks, be my guest! And get me one while you're at it, pretty please! Get one that you can remove the battery cover EASILY. Nothing worse then fumbling around in the dark trying to either open the cover or show someone how to do it. For flashlights, easy to carry, lightweight, and one with a strong beam are best.
Be Safe! Regardless of your sport, make sure you are safe. RoadID has a fantastic way to let someone know that you are okay if you had a mishap. Make sure you get one ASAP.
Other. I can't stand sweat in my eyes. In the heat, I wear a breathable cap. In the cold I wear a hat. Don't forget gloves either! I actually always carry a washcloth with me when I run (remember that whole I-can't-stand-sweat-in-my-eyes thing?). Not only does it keep my face dry, but it can also serve as a nice refresher if you happen upon a cold stream. Remember sunglasses, and of course a watch (Garmin or Timex are great ones). And ALWAYS have a sense of humor when running any distance!
These are a few (okay, a lot) of things that might make your next run or ultra a little more comfy.
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Photo by cogdogblog