If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the past few months on the trails, it’s that running off the roads is a whole different beast than running on ’em. Aside from the obvious terrain and elevation challenges, it requires a new approach — from gear to strategy to fueling — to get from Point A to Point B, especially when we’re talking ultra-distances.
Because of that, I wanted to share an inside look at how I’m planning for my first ultra marathon — the Canyon Meadow 50K — at the end of the month. See below for what I’ll be wearing, eating, drinking and using to help me recover when all is said and done…and (fingers-crossed) run 🙂
– Feet First: The Brooks Cascadia 8 came highly recommended from several trail runner friends due to its traction and responsiveness, plus it was my favorite of all the brands and styles I tested at San Francisco Running Company. I like to buy my running shoes a half size up to allow for feet to swell, and I may add a Superfeet orthotic insole for a little extra support.
– Keeping Cool (& Chafe-Free): I love a trucker-type hat with breathable mesh and a wide brim to block the sun. And under my technical, sweat-wicking t-shirt, I’ll be wearing a Coeur Sports Checkmate Sports Bra, which has anti-chafe seams that are perfect for long race days. On the bottom, I’ll pair the Lululemon Groovy Run Short with CEP Progressive+ Calf Sleeves to promote circulation and protect lower legs, plus Balega Blister-Resist Trail Socks to try to keep my feet from getting too torn up.
– Accessories & Extras: Because I’ll be in and out of the sun, I’m slathering on Banana Boat Sport sunscreen and wearing Tifosi sunglasses, which adjust automatically when exposed to UV rays. Electronics-wise, I’m taking my Jaybird Bluebuds bluetooth headphones and am hoping for an early birthday present (hint hint, Hubby) — the Garmin Forerunner 910XT — to help me track mileage and stay on pace. I’ll also use the easy-on, easy-off Fuel Belt Race Number Belt and apply ample amounts of TriSlide to avoid hot spots.
One of the most essential items on the trails, though? A good hydration pack, which not only allows you to carry and consume water between aid stations, but also makes it easier to have other essentials — such as fuel, extra clothing, first aid items, etc. — at your fingertips throughout the race.
Focus on fit and function; you want something that’s comfortable, compact and efficient so you have everything you need without extra bulk. My favorite is the 2013 Trail Runner Magazine Gear of the Year Award-winning Ultimate Direction Jenny Women’s Ultra Vesta, which is made specifically for women with an adjustable fit.
No more water bladder slapping against your back here; the Ultra Vesta’s front strap-mounted holsters offer quick, immediate access to twin 10-ounce water bottles, which are concave against the body and positioned higher on the chest to keep from bouncing against…well, you know.
Besides all the pockets for my cell phone, gels, keys, etc. there’s also a main rear compartment that will accommodate a 70 oz. reservoir (sold separately) for longer treks. And, believe it or not, there’s even an ice axe loop, two trekking pole loops, plus reflective accents for low-light visibility, making this a virtual Swiss Army Knife of packs for all kinds of outings and conditions.
So what am I planning on putting in the pack while running? Well, hopefully not too much…I’m aiming for that delicate balance of being prepared between aid stations (which are usually very well-stocked) and not over-packing, which will fatigue me more quickly.
– Ward Off Hanger: What’s been working well in training runs is a mixture of PocketFuel for sustained energy, Salted Caramel Gu Energy Gel for a quick hit of sugar and Bonk Breaker energy bars for something more “food”-like. And, of course, Gin Gins Candies from The Ginger People and good ‘ole TUMS to help keep my stomach settled.
– Quench Thirst: I’ll fill my water bottles with Osmo Nutrition Active Hydration for the first leg, and I’m aiming to drink every 10 minutes or so throughout the day. Ideally, I’ll refill the bottles at each aid station, most likely with a mix with water and whatever electrolyte drink they’re providing on the course.
And although the first goal of the day is to cross that finish line in one piece, setting myself up to recover well comes in a close second. The body takes quite a beating over the course of 30-plus miles, so it’s key to remember a few things to aid with muscle repair and regeneration.
– Refuel and Rebuild: Immediately after finishing (while hitting up the post-race buffet!), I like to mix a packet of Vega Recovery Accelerator in a bottle of water. It’s an all-natural, plant-based recovery drink mix specifically developed to replenish energy and electrolytes, reduce inflammation, muscle and joint pain, support immune system and protein synthesis, and reduce recovery time. Then when I get home, I mix up a recovery smoothie made with Osmo Acute Recovery for Women, a banana, almond milk and ice for an extra boost of nutrition.
– Relax and Recover: Finally, one of my favorite post-race treats is a hot shower followed by an afternoon nap in compression gear, which helps reduce swelling and just plain feels good on tired legs. I’ll usually layer Coeur Zipper Tights with Vim & Vigr socks and elevate my legs to start the healing process and make it easier to get out of bed and maneuver around the next day.
What’s your favorite gear to get you through those long trail runs?