Running is so perfectly simple – if it’s good weather, all you need are your shoes, t-shirt, shorts, socks & you are ready to step out the door!
Modern day runners might see their GPS watch or mobile phone as their next ‘must have’ item. But on the whole running has never needed to be a kit intensive sport. However should you decide to run longer distances, especially in the mountains, then the kit requirements become more extensive but essential.
Having lived in Chamonix for 11 years and run and hiked many trails and peaks, I have enough experiences that being over prepared is never a bad thing. Reaching a summit on a beautiful sunny day can very quickly and unexpectedly turn into a downpour. The wind and air temperatures on the cols and ridges can get very cold turning rain to snow and wind stoppers and waterproofs become life saving items.
I realised this when training for the ‘CCC’ UltraTrail du Mont Blanc (UTMB). 100km A 24-hour run through the French, Swiss & Italian Alps. With the benefit of living in Chamonix and having expert advise on tap I can share my tips and advise that will help me pack for the big day.
What you need to take and why?
I’m not concerned about taking the lightest possible wind-stopper, it doesn’t bother me if I haven’t got the latest and greatest lightweight carbon folding poles either. I just want to comfortably complete the course within the cut off time and enjoy the experience!
Although nice to have the super lightweight kit and save a few extra grams finishing for me is determined by whether my training has been enough & appropriate to the course.
So the UTMB CCC obligatory kit list which is required by everyone to carry is extremely relevant and made up of the following items:
· a cup
· mobile phone
· water container (min. 1 litre)
· two torches in good working condition with replacement batteries
· survival blanket
· adhesive elastic bandage
· food reserve
· jacket with hood made with a waterproof breathable membrane which will withstand the bad weather in the mountains
· long running trousers or leggings or a combination of leggings and long socks which cover the legs completely
· additional warm mid-layer top
· cap or bandana
· warm hat
· warm and waterproof gloves
· waterproof over-trousers
Bex’s Kit List
So we thought it would be useful to share my race day kit & clothing choices to help those preparing for a mountain trail event or ultra.
Ashmei merino carbon running jersey – Simply brilliant bit of kit. Wicks sweat and kept my temperature regulated. The top never rode up and there was no rubbing at all. It was the perfect thing to have next to my skin, no smell after 18 hours and the zip neck allowed me to cool down more when it warmed up and kept my neck warm when it cooled down.
Nike shorts – My favorite pair that I have run in at least 100 times and I thought would be great, however I think for future races I will only wear tight cycling-style shorts (of course without the padding!) due to the ease of other items being able to be worn over the top.
Ashmei merino trail socks – One pair, 24 hours and not a blister or even a hot-spot in sight. Brilliant!
Headsweats visor – Super comfortable, kept the sun and the sweat out of my eyes. And visors make you look like a trail runner… which is important!
Naked Runner sunglasses – Really light weight, the right level of darkness to the lenses and the most comfortable glasses I have ever owned – they never bounce on my nose! Well worth the money.
Scott T2 Kinabalu trail shoes – I had to choose between these and the inov-8 RocLite 315 which I really love running in. I wanted as much cushioning for the 20+ hours I would be on my feet and the Scott’s offered more than the inov-8s. In the race the Scotts were truly amazing: light, cushioned, grippy and just about roomy enough. A good choice for a race this long for most feet!
North Face Base Layer Light (long sleeve) - Necessary when the temperature dropped in the early hours, it was really comfortable giving me enough warmth for the early hours.
Adidas Supernova tights – I put these on earlier than I hoped because I had to change my shorts, due to chaffing from the short’s liner. They were great, but I probably wouldn’t have worn them if I had made a better shorts choice.
Compressports calf guards and thigh guards – The calf guards remained around my ankles until about 50km when my calves started aching. Once I pulled them up, they made my lower legs feel great. Essential kit as far as I am concerned. The quad guards went on at the start of the day and I kept them on all the way round. They seem to support my quads on the downhills, my hamstrings on the uphills and stop any rubbing between my thighs. Another essential bit of kit as far as I am concerned.
Montane gilet – This is a minimalist masterpiece. It is made from Pertex, so it crunches up super small (the size of a tangerine) and keeps the wind completely at bay. I wore this for the start of the race when it was a bit chilly and then later, once the sun went down and I was feeling cold again. One of my favourite items!
Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest Back Pack – It is brilliant thought out, with some great features. I like the fact that it will carry heaps of kit without swinging around. Whether it is full or empty, it fits like a glove. I do have an issue though which is that the finishing is poor – zip pulls have popped off and can’t be replaced. The bungee holding the water bottle on one side snapped.
Black Diamond Carbon Z-Poles - Not something I wore, but these were not in my pack very much. They are vital! Light, sturdy and easy to stow away thanks to the folding mechanism. I think that poles are essential in the mountains and this model ticks every box. The use of poles helps take the pressure off your legs and back, making very long races feel much more manageable. And the winner of the UTMB used poles, so they must be right!
Suunto Ambit – This is a new bit of kit and I totally love it. The level of accuracy and detail is like nothing I have ever had before and I love the accuracy of the altimeter. The watch is really, really easy to read and the backlight is superb, so it is great for running in the night. Best of all, is the battery life. I had this running for almost the entirely of the 24 hours and 20 minutes that I was running the CCC, with a little break in the middle because I was worried that I’d run the battery flat.
Inov-8 Race Elite 260 Thermoshell – Another great bit of kit. I took this to the CCC as my mid-layer. It is really light and compact, but when you take it out and pull it on, there is instant warmth and protection. I would never venture out into the mountains without this again. During the race, I didn’t need to use it, but I have on other occasions and knowing it was in my pack, was extremely reassuring.
Mountain Warehouse waterproof trousers – Really compact and lightweight and with taped seams, these trousers fitted the bill as far as the obligatory kit was concerned. But they are not breathable, so I’d never consider running in them. They were for emergency use only and thankfully we didn’t have reason to pull them out.
Norrøna jacket – It fits me perfectly, is really comfortable, has useful pockets and pit-vents and is extremely waterproof. It certainly is not the lightest jacket available, but from a cost vs. functionality point of view, it was the best I could get and is definitely small enough and light enough for me.
LED Lenser headtorch – this is the business. It is really bright and whilst it can feel as though there is a bit of a lump on the front of your head, that is easily off-set by the huge amount of light that it provides. In the pitch dark it was perfect & I can’t stress how important the torch needs to be for the night running sections. For both speed & safety.
TORQ Bars – Awesome! I carried a lot of nutrition products with me and I was happy I did. My main sources of fuel were TORQ bars and gels. I had 12 gels and 8 bars (I was basing that on one TORQ unit an hour for 20 hours which is only a third of what they recommend you take, but I couldn’t carry 60 bars/gels and as I would be operating at such a low intensity level, I would be OK just topping up glycogen levels with what I had). I also took ‘pate des fruits’ that are sold to kids in French supermarkets – they are essentially fruit juice and sugar in a jelly-like block. Delicious!
I intended to eat at the aid stations but tried to limit myself to as little fat as possible (that worked for most of the race!). I was eating white bread, a clear broth with pasta that I found at some aid stations, ham and salami. I did eat the odd piece of cheese as I was getting hungry after 18 hours of running! I also had a bowl of pasta with tomato sauce at Champex Lac about half way round.
Towards the end of the race, I had used all my TORQ gels and only had one bar left, as I was feeling a bit worse for wear I sat in the aid station and had three cups of black tea with sugar and three chocolate chip cookies. I felt strong and fabulous after that and whilst I know that was not ideal nutritionally, the psychological boost and the sugar really got me going again.
From a kit and nutrition perspective, that is my experience of the CCC. I think I had just the right amount of gear. The shorts were not perfect, but I know that I still need to learn and improve, there was bound to be one thing I wouldn’t get right. And everything else was really great.I recommend you write down exactly what you train or race with to make packing simple, especially when the pre event nerves kick in and your brain turns to mush!
I certainly won't be making many kit changes for this year…
For those reading this my advice would be to try and test everything! Don't over pack but don't skimp on kit especially if the forecast for an event is not perfect. Most events do check your bags and you wouldn't want to be disqualified for not having something to save a gram!
Test your kit in all weathers and at time of day that you are likely to need it in a race/event be it food, fluid, headtorch or clothing! Expensive doesn't mean it's the best but it's what works for you.
I now know that once my training is complete my kit is already tried and tested so I'm pretty much ready for the start line. Bon trails!