Well it’s over a week ago now and I’ve still yet to run again. Sore right foot which is due, I suspect, to the impact of over 127,000 steps on the Ridgeway, much of which is hard chalk. Otherwise I’m in good shape and keen to get out running again.
As is de rigueur for all runners anywhere near social media I took a pre-race kit shot. For those that follow after it might be useful to know what worked and what didn’t. So here’s a kit review of what I took along.
Below the knee
My normal road shoes are Asics Nimbus. My local shoe shop (Sole Obsession in Salisbury, an independent run by the wonderfully enthusiastic Simon) recommended the Asics Fuji Trabuco 4. I’ve worn these during a few trail races and clocked up over 300 miles in them so they’re well-worn in and I enjoy the extra bit of bounce the gel gives. I am a self-confessed Asics fan-boy but nothing else has ever worked for me.
Many run this race in road shoes but I didn’t want to take the chance. I heard one story of a runner on the day whose shoe was pierced by a sharp flint which went into his foot. Ouch! Glad I took something with a little more protection.
The shoes held up really well. I’m sure my sore right foot is unconnected to the shoes I used and is entirely down to the nature of the course. I’d have no hesitation in using these again on another ultra.
The socks I wore were only bought in the last month. For marathons I’ll normally just run in cheap runners socks but was keen to get something a bit more high performance so bought these Thorlos socks on the recommendation of Simon from Sole Obsession. Not cheap at £12 a pair but very comfortable indeed. I also applied Vaseline to my feet, reapplying once at 40K. This may not have been necessary for these socks but it was not a time to try something new. I had a spare pair in the bag but didn’t feel the need to use them.
The combination of these elements meant my feet were in good condition at the end of the race. Only a small blister on the front pad of my left foot which I attest to the awful last rutted section. No manky toenails in sight thankfully.
I also wore Compressport calf guards. As I had no cramping in my calves all race these seem to have done a job. I used to have issues around calf cramp in marathons but since wearing calf guards this has gone away. Also very useful in sections with nettles!
Around the waist
Underneath I wore Runderwear briefs. No chafing whatsoever even though it was a damp first half. I am a complete convert and can’t recommend them highly enough. On top of these were Ron Hill Stretch shorts which I like as they are not too tight. These never felt waterlogged at any point and didn’t rub.
Top and head
I wore an Asics running top and a Buff, err buff. Top, shorts and buff all came from Run and Become in London. I’ve worn a buff in a few races and training runs now and it is a really versatile bit of kit. Keeps you dry, keeps you cool, keeps you warm.
I had a pair of cheap plastic sunglasses I use on my bike and have run with before. These got a little use, not much, but still needed when it was bright.
I did have plasters which I was going to put over my nipples but in the end decided against it and just went with a dab of vaseline. No issues in that area at all, even with the damp weather. Possibly battle hardened by now!
My wet weather jacket is a fairly cheap affair from Decathlon but serves me well enough and is light. Only wore this on the last leg and it did the job well. I had this packed into the space that the bladder would normally sit in.
It took me an inordinate amount of time to decide what ultra vest to buy. So much choice out there and so many different opinions about what is good.
In the end I plumped for the Salomon SLAB Adv Skin 3 from The Ultra Marathon Running Store. I’ve worn this a lot in training and in a couple of marathons so I am used to running with it. It’s lightweight and carries all I need. I am a convert to the bottles on the front, having previously used a bladder. I find it balances the weight better. I hardly notice I’m wearing the vest after the first mile so can’t see me changing this anytime soon.
The soft flasks that come with the vest are adequate. Some people complain the bottles sink into the pockets as the empty but I found if you use the red loops by the pockets (I think these are meant for hiking poles) and put these over the neck of the flask, it can’t sink down. The opening is quite narrow which makes filling a bit messy and can be a pain to try to get off with wet hands. I have got some wider necked versions from tailwind but as I hadn’t run with them didn’t want to use them on the day. I will try them in future though.
I would consider getting an extension to the drinking tube, bending your neck down and bring the bottle up isn’t particularly hard but it would be so much easier with a longer tube.
I found I was refilling both flasks every 20K. I had one filled with tailwind and one with water.
I probably would prefer hard bottles but they’re not compatible with this vest.
The bits and pieces packed in the vest
On my very first ultra I used a cheap backpack and probably packed enough to last a week! I was a bit more conservative this time.
Drink and supplements
Apart from water I had 5 stickpacks of tailwind and I used all 5 during the race. One stickpack per 500ml of water. I much preferred drinking this to High 5. Although it is meant to be a one stop shop for all your needs I did eat along the way as well as using this.
I had no problem with drinking this at any time, never got sick of the taste, and it seemed to maintain my energy levels. I would use again and perhaps try a long run on just tailwind alone. I didn’t cramp up at any point and this may well be due to the amount of tailwind I got through. I should also mention that the customer service from tailwind is top notch.
I also carried 6 SaltStik capsules of which I had 4 or 5. Not sure if I needed them or not but better safe than sorry.
On all my long training run/walks I’ve taken Mini-Cheddars, Salt and Vinegar Hula Hoops and Haribo. I needn’t have bothered taking this as there was plenty of food available so in the end I carried it all the way around. Won’t pack food again on a fully supplied ultra.
I also carried two ziplock bags for taking some food from the CPs with me. Again, I didn’t use them but I think I’d still take one of these next time.
I had a small Hi Gear first aid kit from Go Outdoors to which I added Compeed plasters, Paracetamol and Imodium Instants. Didn’t use any of the kit but would take again as some people had a tumble. I did take two paracetamol in total to combat a bit of knee and foot pain and also very, very glad I had the Imodium Instants for the incident that occurred after CP8. I would carry all this again.
I also carried a small pack of wipes which I did need (see aforementioned “incident”!) and a space blanket (not used).
Potions and Lotions
I carried a small vaseline tub, which I used. I also had a small diffuser with sun cream in it – unnecessary as it turned out. Also had a hand sanitizer which did get a little use.
I would take all three again but also would probably add a small tube of sudocrem
I’d borrowed a Unilite PS-H8 headtorch for the run and it was epic. So much better than nearly all the other headtorches others were wearing. A must-have piece of kit.
I had my phone, a Samsung S5, and a pair of cheapish Phillips over the ear running headphones. I also had a small juice pack which got used. The headphones got a little use and would have had more were it not for the “incident”. I would take this all again.
I save this ’til last as I knew the battery on my Garmin Forerunner 220 wouldn’t last. I wore it purely to know the time and because I am used to it. I was carrying a second-hand 310xt which was meant to last. It didn’t.
You have to invest a fair wad of cash to get a watch that will last this long. I’m not sure I’d bother with the expense for just one or two races per year.
What would I change next time?
Very little. I’ve already mentioned that I wouldn’t take the food element but apart from that I think I had it about spot on.
Hope this has been helpful to anyone considering this or a similar run in the future.