My Ultra kit part 1

My kit bag can be a dangerous place to delve into, a dark cavern with a unique scent. But recently it’s had some lovely (and good smelling) new additions that I’ve found really, really useful when training for and racing Ultra distances. These distances and terrain are new to me, so I may be a bit late to the party with some of these things having been a track athlete all my life. But I thought I’d share my thoughts over a few blog posts about a few products I’ve been using.

Firstly, footwear.

A long time ago, in what feels like almost another life, I used to sell running shoes in a specialist running shop. ‘Easy Runner’ was probably one of the first shops in Bristol to be dedicated to stocking just running shoes, just for runners. And being surrounded by my passion was fun, payed the rent and got me great discounts. Which meant I had and tried nearly all the running kit I ever needed… except that is, for trail shoes.

So, realising just a couple of months before my first ultra that I was going to need footwear that would cope with both mud and road, I headed off to see the lovely people at ‘Up & Running’ Bristol, for their advice on what I should put on my feet for the special day, as I had no real personal experience of what was going to be best. Also, being an orthotic wearer always rules out a few shoes, but I finally found comfort in a brightly coloured pair of Salomon Fellraiser.

Once out of the shop, into some proper running and slightly skeptical about not having to ‘tie’ any laces due to the quick lacing system, I’ve found the shoes to be amazing, and left me wondering why I’ve never bought trail shoes before (ok, I still prefer spikes for mud, but they don’t work so well on the road!). These shoes have great grip on mud climbs, feel lightweight even after encountering numerous streams, and have comfort that lasts all day (my first ultra race went over 10 hours).

I love them, a lot. And to be honest, I didn’t think I was going to. Why? Well, because I’ve always liked things that are specialised, like my first running shop job. It knew what it was targeted at, and did it very well. Things that try to be a bit of this, and a bit of that, usually in my experience end up not being great at any of them. But the Fellraisers are different. Different because, however aggressive the grip is on the underneath of the shoe, somehow Salomon have made it still feel good on the road too, even after 10 hours of running. And in my book, that’s pretty damn impressive.

Ok so, I’ll be honest and say that I won’t be choosing these over my road shoes on my next 10 mile road training run, but if I had to, I know that it would all be ok, and honestly if I did choose them, I’d probably add on an extra few fun ‘muddy’ miles for the hell of it!

My Salomon Fellraiser, before. See Green Man Ultra for the after shot!

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Green Man Ultra

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MORE MUD and now a stream! I couldn’t believe it, less than 20 minutes in to a long days running and the lower half of me looked like I’d jumped into a lake of chocolate… if only it was chocolate, ummm chocolate!

So, the day had finally come to compete in my first Ultra Marathon. And when I say ‘compete’ I mean more like ‘survive’ the 46 miles, mostly through very wet muddy fields. But it was a nice day for it, and Bristol was looking pretty in the sunshine. Continue reading

‘we’ll just do half…’

And that was it. In a second I’d committed to race half the distance of my target 100 miles, as a ‘training’ run. You know, just to see what it was like.

How bad can it be? I thought. It’s 2 months away and I knew I would have to run something of an ultra distance before the big day, and mentally this was only half way, just half. And nowhere near what I was planning on putting my body through at the end of the summer… no problem.

But as the miles and the hours have started to add up, and the date for just running ‘half’, gets closer, it just seems that little bit more daunting.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m an experienced runner, but this is new territory. Plus previous to this I’d been out of proper action for some time. My body isn’t what it was ten years ago, and whilst my mind wants to do it, my muscles aren’t so keen to go training again quite so quickly.

So, I’m sitting here, breaking the race down mentally into four ‘easy’ sections, and planning my nutrition for race day, and just wondering how much more it’s going to hurt than the last 50 meters of a high class 800m…

In fact, I don’t think I really want to know.