...these are a few of my favourite (ultra-running) things...
Hydration packs: If you're anything like me, you'll probably have a collection of backpacks and bottle belts. All with pros and cons, but your "perfect solution" hasn't been invented yet. The Nathan Trail Mix Bottle Belt is as close as I've got to my perfect solution. I've worn in on various training runs and races - including two 95-milers - and not have a bit of bother with it.
My latest "perfect solution" purchase is The North Face Women's Enduro Boa. Once you get over the initial shock of paying for it - retails at a healthy £85 - you will realise it's not your run-of-the-mill pack. I find it hard to find rucksacks to fit me (resulting in some serious abrasion) because I have narrow shoulders and zero boobage, but this fits like a glove and redistributes the weight just right. Plus the anti-slosh control (which essentially means there's internal wiring, controlled by a knob, which tightens the bladder) so no more annoying sound. The downside is the exterior storage pocket is made of mesh, so useless if it rains.
Waterproofs/windproofs: I've never been a fan of running jackets, but the man from Montane convinced me otherwise. As the title sponsor of the Montane Highland Fling, they sent me a box of goodies for being second lady. I know the Montane Featherlite range is highly rated among the hill running fraternity and now I know why. As the name suggest, it weighs next to nothing and takes up next to no space. Previously it was the rustle-factor that put me off waterproofs, but this is the same as a long sleeve - with added benefits
For the feet: I've dabbled with a few trail shoe brands over the years - including Brooks, Saucony and Asics - but I'm now a firm Inov-8 convert. Now I run in Roclite 275 GTX. They are lightweight (my old Asics Trabucos were like bricks) and provide good underfoot cushioning. The negatives are (in my opinion: the fabric tends to "burst" well before the end of the shoes shelf life; they ain't cheap; and I don't really see the need for Goretex (which adds to the expense) in trail running shoes. If it's wet, your feet will get wet anyway; And unlike bigger brands, don't change their products/colours often. Do you have any idea how troublesome it is to get gear to go with green shoes? Think pink and blue, Mr Inov-8 please.
I ordered Injinji socks from the US and few years ago, but thankfully you can now get them in the UK. I wear them on long runs and races and think they help a great deal. There's a little pocket for each toe, which eliminates skin on skin contact between your toes to prevent blisters from developing.
My latest little diamond of a find, was Flexitol Blistop. It was specifically designed to protect the feet from blisters and sprays on a like transparent second skin. After reading a review in Running Fitness, I used this for the first time on the West Highland Way Race. Anyone who was there (or has read my race report) will know how wet the conditions were. Sometimes it was like wading through rivers. My feet really only blister when they're wet. And in same spots over and over again. Well, I sprayed this very liberally (best to do it outside, as it's potent) and only got one small blister. I didn't get any on the Clyde Stride. When I say liberally, I mean the packaging says it provides 42 applications, but only TWO for me. It's worth it not to have problems with your feet during a race.
I may have fallen out of love with them a little bit earlier in the year, but I still rate lock laces for comfort and ease of changing shoes. Just don't wear them on a hilly run in the rain, as they allow wet feet too much movement. The result is very bashed toes. I'll stick with them in my road shoes in future.
I DO believe the hype about compression gear. I like Skins, 2XU and New Balance have a nice new range. I just wish someone would come out with something a little more girlie. Raidlight have got the right idea - their ladies range comes in nice girlie colours with lovely flower motifs. I know that sounds really lame, but it's quite boring when everything looks the same. Only problem is that even their smallest size tights are quite baggy. I like lots of support.
Love or loathe them, arm sleeves are the best things ever invented. Well, in my world they are. They're perfect for Spring and Autumn, when it's too cold not to start with sleeves and too warm to keep them on. Plus, you're not in and out of your rucksack on a long run, when the weather turns. I really like these sleeves by 1000 Mile as they've got the thumb holes. There's something quite strangely comforting about thumb holes, isn't there?
The gadgets: Although I love them, I don't have much luck with ipods. Actually, I think this I'm on my 6th or 7th. I doubt it will be my last, but so far it's the best. It's tiny, clips onto my waistband and has a multi-touch display and an inbuilt radio. I do like listening to the radio, especially in the morning.
My luck with Garmins, is not too dissimilar to that of the ipod. I've had a few Garmin Forerunner 205, but upgraded to the 310xt last year. It's fairly similar to the 205, but with a longer battery life - approx 18 hours, not the 20 hours it promotes. The best thing about this 310xt is it's ability to get a signal. Great for me, as a lot of my runs start in built up areas. Previously I could spend 10 minutes loitering on street corners outside my office. I was once propositioned on a dark winter's morning. How do think I paid for the upgrade? Just kidding :-)
Food on the go: I know this is very much a personal choice and what works for you might differ from run to run. I find it quite difficult to eat during races, but this is what works for me on runs. Wine gums are my sweet of choice just now. I used to opt for jelly babies, but went off them after a while. I'm also partial to a Midget Gems and Skittles. All of which are hard to eat on road runs and races, but great for a munch whilst stomping up a hill.
I also like gold old Scottish tablet. I tried it for a first time couple of years ago and thought it had magical powers. After I introduced the GM to wonder drug, she had to go one step further a discover Mrs Tilly Vanilla Fudge and Tablet. I kid you not, after 22 years of friendship, this is by far my favourite thing about the GM :-) Now we start most training runs with:..."just you, me and Mrs T".
When it comes to fluids, unfortunately I'm not a "could-murder-a-glass-of-water" kind of gal. Truth to be told, I rarely drink water. Ever. On runs I prefer sport drinks such as Lucozade or Powerade (whatever happens to be on offer when I do the shopping) and dilluting Ribena.
For a quick fix I like flat coke - sometimes with gas for a good burp :-) and for an even quicker fix, a Red Bull Shot. Looking back at this list, I feel suitable ashamed. What a load of rubbish. The funniest thing is going to do the shopping pre-race day and getting some really strange looks at the the supermarket checkout. Especially when you throw in a couple of Slimfast Shakes for emergencies.
My legs have threatened to cramp in a few races this year. All hot races. Zero Sport Hydration Salts are an anti cramp formula of electrolyte tabs and magnesium. They're tasteless, so you can pop thme in water or your sports drink.
From the medical cabinet...I have been regularly using (not just when needs must!) the same sports therapist for the last couple of years. He advocates pre-race deep tissue massages and applying Deep Heat prior to long runs and races. These days people smell me before they see me. And if, heaven forbid, you're in the same car as me, as you'll be breathing out of your eyes! For pain relief I like Nurofen Express. Gaviscon double action for indigestion, Sudocream to prevent skin abrasion and Resolve Extra for stomach issues (and hangovers!).
My nearest and dearest know I'm quite fanatical about suncream. I think it's stupid and childish knowingly let yourself get burnt. Especially when you know how much your skin can take. After spending 18 years in desert climates, my skin has had enough abuse for one lifetime. These days, I've been know to put protection on my skin when's raining...just in case. Let's be honest, in Scotland the weather is pretty changeable. Anyway, Banana Boat Sport is fabulous. It's non-sticky and sinks in within seconds, so there's no mess. It's also waterproof and lasts all day.
Last but not least, my other favourite ultra-running things are Mark Johnston's evil speed sessions and Nathalie Jones' nutritional plans. And, of course, the Ambassador of Deep Heat's (AKA Jan Mieszkowski) deep tissue massage.
Anyway, I've been meaning to write this blog report/list for ages, so here it is. If anyone has done something or would like to do something similar, please let me know as I would like post a link.