In the thirteenth week of her training our Online News Ed Rhalou sorts her kit out.
To mark the mighty week 13 of my training for the Hoka Highland Fling, my plan stipulated 80 minutes easy, 80 minutes long pace, some strength and conditioning work and then two back-to-back long runs. I am delighted to say I managed to squeeze out two 15 milers on consecutive days without too much trouble and I’m starting to feel like a bona fide ultra runner.
For the first 15 miler I skipped along the canal in the sunshine without a care in the world. The following day was marginally more challenging, with a trail run from Guildford to Box Hill in the rain. Thankfully I was escorted by my friend Ed who kept me laughing all the way and didn’t object when I wimped out and trundled slowly up the hillier sections. But regardless of the speed, we still covered the miles and now I feel ready for anything.
With less than three weeks to go until the big day, my main concern right now is kit. I have enough to worry about on race day, so it’s important I get my gear right in advance. You can read all the reviews, swot up on ultra blogs and sweat indecisively over kit for a lifetime and still not get it right. The most important thing I have learned on my travels is that everyone is different. One woman’s dream rucksack is another woman’s chafing tortoise shell from hell. The only way to get the kit that’s right for you, is to test it out and follow your instincts. After 13 weeks of trial and error, the following is what I plan to don on the big day.
I always wear my lucky sequin visor on race day to bring a splash of disco to the trails. My sparkly hat has seen me through marathons in Istanbul, Palma, Brighton and Scotland, so I’d be mad not to bring its lucky charms to the Highland Fling. I picked it up a few years ago in Primark for about a quid and it has served me well. Look out for my sparkly head bobbing along the West Highland Way. I will also be carrying a mini disco ball, to remind myself that having fun is the most important part of the day. I gave my good friendSusie Chan one and she’s currently killing it in the Marathon des Sables, so the disco powers definitely bring luck to race day.
To be honest the vest I wear depends entirely on what’s at the top of my washing pile come race day, but I always opt for a cotton racer back. I know most runners opt for technical fabric these days, but I prefer good old cotton on my top half. I’m sure wicking fabric would be snazzier, but I find cotton comfortable and for me that’s the most important thing.
I am currently in love with my CW-X Insulator Web Top, which I plan to wear over my vest. Made from WarmStretch™ fabric, the top insulates and wicks away moisture simultaneously, so it’s perfect for running in the changeable Scottish climate. It also features a support web across the upper back, which is apparently good for posture and balance. To be honest my main motivation for wearing it is because it looks snazzy and makes me feel like a ninja warrior. CW-X also do a killer pair of Insulator Stabilyx™ Tights, but I’m still not entirely sure what I’ll be wearing on my legs on the big day.
Ooh la la you want to know about my bra? If you’re really interested in what I wear under there, I am a die hard fan of Shock Absorber’s Ultimate Run Bra. I’m particularly fond of the bright purple one, because it provides magical purple power. It also straps all the necessary stuff in and has seen me through many a race without punching myself in the face.
As I said, I am undecided on the legs section; it rather depends on what’s happening in the sky on race day. But I am a big fan of most running tights and shorts by LuluLemon. They’re shockingly expensive but really comfortable and flattering.
I have two jackets to choose from on race day depending on how torrential the weather is. My bright greenPatagonia women’s torrentshell stretch rain jacket will come in handy if it buckets it down all day long. It also goes rather well with my red hair, which is vital for all Scottish running adventures. I also recently got my hands on an Inov-8 Race elite race shell HZ which is now the main contender. Not only is it waterproof and breathable, but weighing only 150g it fits snugly into my rucksack should the weather Gods be on my side. The Race shell also happens to be my favourite colour, and as every good ultra runner knows, wearing your favourite colour definitely makes you run faster; it’s a fact.
After much experimentation, I have settled on the Vapor Shadow race vest by Nathan Sports. It is incredibly comfortable and comes with a plethora of accessible pockets, so I can get to my sweeties easily without having to take it off. The Vapor Shadow also includes a useful Camelbak, (which I had to force myself to get used to wearing around London) and it comes in a brilliant bright purple colour (to match my bra).
Is the argument for compression gear a fallacy or the key to happy running? Who knows, but lately I have grown to like the feeling of having my legs strapped firmly in place. I found compression socks too hot, but calf guards seem to do the trick. It might be the placebo affect, but since ultra running is mostly mind over matter, I’m happy to convince myself they’re doing wonders to my running form. My favourites are 2XU as they stay in place without getting too hot and after a while I hardly notice I’m wearing them.
I suspect I inherited my indestructible feet from my late grandmother, who was a competitive sprinter. I can wear pretty much anything on my feet and I rarely get blisters. However, I’m a big fan of Balega socks. I think I was given a pair once and now I rely on them to see me through most races. They’re nice and soft and do the job.
I spent time obsessing over footwear a few weeks ago and the jury is still out. Do I wear trail shoes I’m not entirely convinced about, or road shoes that fit like a dream but probably won’t fare that well in the Scottish mud? Cast your votes! Tweet me @Rhalou