Choice of gear can be a big factor in an ultra distance race. Making the wrong choice can cause untold amounts of pain and misery, and possibly end your race. Likewise not having some crucial piece of gear such as sun protection could end up being detrimental to your health. Here's a look at the what and why of #daznbone Spartathlon 2018 kit, from the ground up:
- shoes: will be Hoka One One throughout, starting off in a set of very well-cushioned Bondis and probably swapping to Speedgoat trail shoe for the rough mountain trail section. Hoka shoes have been a revelation the past few years giving great protection to knees especially.
- socks: always, always, always Injinji toe socks. These are super comfortable and brilliant for protecting against toe blisters when combined with very liberal dosing of 2Toms blister shield powder. I had to rush order a couple of extra pairs of Injinji trail socks from Keith Godden at ultramarathonrunningstore.com, thanks so much Keith!
- shorts: relatively untested but i'll be wearing a pair of Skinz shorts with a compression lycra inner liner and a light outer shell. Chafing is a potential huge issue in a long ultra and a lot of shorts on the market have an inner mesh liner which is just disastrous. Just a shame there were no more of the favoured CrewRoom shorts in the London runandbecome and so difficult to find online. A trusted pair that have survived ~2000 miles and infinity washes will be on backup though!
- top: British Spartathlon team running shirt.
- jacket: with heavy rain forecast it's likely a rain jacket will be required much earlier in the race than usual. North Face goretex with sealed seams as required by Centurion on their 100 mile races will do the job nicely.
- hat: Raidlight desert hat with detachable sun "curtain" is versatile and works well in different conditions. Might turn it backwards when times get hard more "Over the Top" than Rocky :)
- Watch is trusted Garmin Forerunner 630 so kindly given to me by Jeff and Jane a couple of years back. It's been through a lot but stood up very well. Battery life now down to around 8 hours so will pick-up a small handheld charger to give it a boost around mile 50. This year it'll be set in normal GPS mode so that it doesn't overmeasure the course and annoy Strava when in UltraTrac mode!
- Sunglasses are the new Red Ultra RD-025 just launched by fellow runner Billy Holden of topspecs.ie I was in need of a new pair of glasses and Billy kindly rushed these to me. I'm looking forward to continuing the battle testing for Billy's new product; they've already been put through the mill at various marathons and the Irish 24 hour championships with good feedback from runners.
Ultimate Direction waistbelt and handheld bottles. Ultimate Direction are the nuts. Their kit is comfortable, functional and lightweight - just the combination needed at Spartathlon where you can go as unencumbered as possible due to the frequency of the aid stations.
Osprey Viper backpack - depending on how things are going I may drop the UD kit and replace with a trusted Osrey backpack over the mountain and on Day Two where there is likely to be longer walking periods. This gives me the capacity to carry a bit more fuel and spend less time at checkpoints. With 74 of them it's all too easy to leak a minute or two at each one, adding on a lot of non-moving time which cannot be afforded if time is tight!! I hope to have a comfortable buffer on cutoffs this year but in this race it doesn't take much to go wrong for everything to be at risk.
Lenser LED head torch - lightweight, powerful beam and batteries last forever, so I never have to worry about losing light when I need it most.
Skin protection by Ultrasun - their sports gel is fantastic; lasts forever and is immune to water/sweat.
This year i'll be relying on three main sources of fuel:
Tailwind - easy mix combination of simple carbs, electrolytes and salt has become a go-to option for many ultra runners.
Peak Pinole ultra bites - made by good friends Dr Alex Littaye and James Ellis these little beauties pack an energy punch and are tasty to boot. They are made from the same crop that fuels the legendary Tarahumara tribe.
Food Zone Portables - my wonderful sister-in-law Jane has been cooking small batches from this great book by Dr Allen Lim and Biju Thomas and i'll be looking forward to a few tasty surprises at crew stations.
Finally the most important piece of kit - inspiration from home - good luck poster from the wee man, a beautiful card with an image of the Spartathlon elevation profile and “John the Penguin” who apparently wants to run Spartathlon with me. Let’s see if he can do it. Good luck to all runners and crew in this year’s race!