This page will be continually evolving as I research, test and acquire what I believe will be equipment best suited to ultra-distance obstacle races. All considerations relate to mileage, environment and my participation and performance in World’s Toughest Mudder 2012/13, Salomon Trail Racing Series 2013, Surf Coast Century 2013, Spartan Races and Tough Mudders (just to name a few 😉 )
I am already the proud owner of two awesome Macpac tents but with them finally showing some signs of wear and tear after 12+ years of solid use it was time to scope out a new one. After being well looked after by our local MacPac outlet staff, we opted for the Atlas for it’s roomier dome style versus some of the more tubular configurations like the Olympus. It has good storage space under the annex at each side and is higher than the Olympus, leaving me more room to move about inside. I’ll be lining the floor with a thickened space blanket and a Thermarest camp mattress (around 1″ thick), all underneath my favourite sleeping bag (not that I’ll be sleeping….we’ll call it a “resting bag” for now, shall we).
I also made very good use of my MacPac Equinox jacket. This thing is good enough for sub-Antarctic use and is a joy to wear. I never even needed my sleeping bag thanks to this wonderful piece of kit.
My tent interior will be lit with a MacPac battery powered fluorescent lamp so I can see my labelled containers that will contain nutrition mapped out by the hour/lap, first aid and injury management kit, heat packs, towels and backup items etc. Also, although it may sound a bit cliché, there will be a large, written race plan together with all manner of motivational guff like photos and text to remind me why I’m there.
After some extensive research and field testing (click to read), I could not go past Xcel.
I found the perfect combination with an Xcel Spring Suit (2mm: short arm/leg) with compression tights and 2XU thermal wear for day use and the Xcel Infiniti Drylock 5/4/3mm wetsuit with a fully integrated hood once the sun went down. Both watertight, flexible and warm. The video below gives a pretty good overview of the technology behind this exceptional piece of kit. They were both PERFECT and performed beautifully in very harsh conditions.
The only disappointment I found was that I was unable to buy the suit through a local surf shop as I had first hoped. The guys at RPS The Board Store were instrumental in allowing me to confidently test and size this suit before committing to a purchase. The only problem was that Xcel’s Australian distributor is Billabong Australia who did not stock the item and were not prepared to order one in…good to see they understand their customers. No wonder they’re in a financial hurt locker. A real shame…I badly wanted to give RPS the business. Give the suit image below to check out some of the technical specs on the Xcel website.
If you’re interested in buying one for yourself, I found the best deal on-line at Surfdome | The Lifestyle Store. Aside from the best price I could find anywhere, these guys actually ship out of the UK for free!! The same suit from most US-based sellers carried a postage of around AUD80. My suit arrived within a week or so which was pretty impressive. The subsequent night-beach-test went really well. I completed all manner of drills including dragging/carrying object, freestyle swim and general thrashing about…barely a drop penetrated that suit. General flexibility during land-based drills were also good.
MacPac generously provided me with multiple sets of Marino baseline thermal wear…including pants, long sleeve tops, boxers, beanie and socks. They also offered a considerable discount off any other gear I thought I might need….so I didn’t hesitate to grab my Equinox jacket and Luggernaut 90 gear bag. Beautiful kit.
I didn’t use the thermal wear during the actual race itself, but oh my God was it gold to put on when I finished!! It just felt so good and made me totally oblivious to the single-digit temperatures and wind outside.
Sorry guys and girls, but you just can’t go past 2XU. Founded and based in my own town Melbourne | Australia, their philosophy is simply to create products that will advance human performance. 2XU employs fabric and construction technology to take us beyond what we previously thought possible. 2XU is fast becoming the most technical performance sports brand on the planet. Worn by multiple world champions, endorsed by sports institutions the world over and praised by professional athletes from all disciplines, 2XU understands what is needed to be the best. Developed by athletes for athletes (and Tough Mudders!).
I was very fortunate to receive support from these guys. I was generously provided with recovery compression tights, thermal compression tights, elite compression top, recovery/elite compression socks, race socks and sub-zero gloves. Not a long list, but we’re talking some significant coin here…$1,200 worth of kit, thanks very much guys.
To take their support up a notch, their National Sales Manager (also a “Simon”), is an experienced ultra-distance runner and is serving as a fountain of advice and encouragement. He’s lent me a few awesome books for motivation. If you would like some perspective/reality check to see how incredible some people can be, I can recommend these for a read…
- Extreme Running (Kym McConnell & Dave Horsley)
- Fifty Marathons in Fifty Days (Dean Karnazes)
- Ultra Marathon Man (Dean Karnazes)
With such a strong race result, I featured in the 2XU blog, The Pulse, where I was not shy to shout praises for the quality and design of their gear….take a look here if you like. If you would like to read a little more about the science behind the 2XU compression wear just give the logo a click.
Moxie Gear Adventure Race Equipment. Awesome kit spawned from swags of pro-grade hurt, their design team has years of experience on the world adventure racing circuit and has applied this knowledge to create durable and light weight, race-specific gaiters for all terrain and weather. Moxie Gaiters are designed to protect shins through crowd favourites such as rope traverses/ascents, wall climbs PLUS keeping that annoying, blister loving grit out of your shoes. Win. Win. Their popular Shin Gaiter has padded panels over the shin, soft stretch fabric around the calf and comes in three sizes with ties for adjustments. The Ankle Gaiter also comes in two sizes and is designed to fit comfortably underneath the shin gaiter or simply on its own. Made to last and endorsed by some of Australia’s most freakish adventure/obstacle racing athletes.
Unlike rigid tape which many people find too stiff and restrictive for injury management and prevention of re-awakening dormant demons, Rocktape is stretchy and is quickly becoming the preferred tape used by practitioners and athletes.
Key benefits of using Rocktape
- Assists to decrease pain
- Assists to reduce swelling
- Allows full range of movement
- Hypoallergenic – no zinc oxide
- Water resistant – can be worn for up to 5 days
How does it work? When applied correctly, Rocktape’s unique elasticity causes the skin to form convolutions and wrinkle. This decompresses the tissue immediately below the skin. It is believed that this has three main effects:
- Fluid effect- improving blood and lymphatic flow in the taped area
- Mechanical effect- improving the slide and glide between tissue layers
- Neurological effect- altering the perception of pain and improving body awareness.
Key symptoms that Rocktape might assist:
- Muscle pain or cramping
- Joint pain
- Poor posture
- Inflammation or bruising
- Zinc oxide allergies
According to my gait analysis at Active Feet, I am fortunate enough to have strong biomechanics and was told I could pretty well choose any footwear I liked…provided the support was neutral and they had a sufficient drop to protect my achilles tendon and calves from the absolute beating they took at World’s Toughest Mudder 2012. Asics is famous for technical excellence and rigorous quality. They have been making shoes since 1949 and are the first choice for many of the world’s top athletes, boasting “a perfect performance requires a perfect fit”.
For me, the GEL-Fuji Sensor seems to be just that and will be my weapon of choice for the Salomon Trail Series and, all going well, the 100km Surf Coast Century. Whereas the GEL-DS Sky Speed 3 is brand new to their “Cushion” category and is more appropriate for a neutral runner taking on the inevitable pavement pounding that suburban training demands.
The GEL-Fuji Sensor will give me a 10mm drop and embodies everything the avid trail runner needs in an off road shoe. A lightweight and breathable reinforced mesh upper keeps the foot comfortable whilst a cushioned midsole achieves an outstanding ride. A new clutch counter system in the heel provides outstanding support and fit while the midsole caters for uneven terrain by employing individual pods that respond individually to localised pressure. Mmmm, nice. You like? Yes…you like.
Ever wondered about the GEL technology behind their footwear….take a look at this Discovery Channel doco….very cool….
Using a mobile device and having trouble watching this video? Click here.
Asics make fantastic apparel for runners too…here’s a quick look at some of their stuff I use if you’re interested…
I completed significant mileage in the popular Innov8 Talon 190’s. The grip on these things is insane. I was literally running up slopes that others were sliding backwards on. The only issue is that in races like World’s Toughest Mudder, they seem to be a one-race-only item with both left and right shoes splitting down the sides after about 80km of racing. Further to that, I would probably not take a minimalist shoe over that kind of distance again. I am sure they played a fairly significant role in the severe ankle and anterior tibialis inflammation after the 122km of WTM12. Make sure you’re already well acclimatised to minimalist shoes and give them a ton of testing.
For superior hands-free illumination in every situation, I’ve decided to put myself in the hands of the UnderWater Kinetics eLED 3AAA Vizion headlamp. Hit it, freeze it, dunk it—the Vizion will keep on working. Not only is it submersible to 10m, it’s built tough to withstand the most challenging environments and is specially engineered for colder weather. Energy conservation design transfers heat back into batteries for longer burn time and improved cold weather performance. The Vizion is lightweight, making it ideal for extended, comfortable use. All that and it looks pretty cool, too.
I’ve tested it already with the last 12km of a 52km hiking weekend spent in the dark. The Vizion was comfortable and effective. I have tested this baby pretty thoroughly…hiking 12km through a national park in pitch black for starters. Just give Day 1 and Day 2 a click to read more about our 55km weekend in some magic countryside.
This headlamp has also been exposed to cold sea water during a night test with plenty of time submerged…bulletproof.
FUEL BELT / HYDRATION
This has been harder than I thought. At first I was considering abandoning the idea of a personal hydration kit for fear of it becoming constantly entangled in obstacles and generally pissing me off. However, since we completed the 8-hour training gig, July Debris, the comfort of having fluid on demand is not to be underestimated. I also do not want to become dependant upon the unknown quantity of drink stations around the course. I will carry my 3.0L CamelBak MULE with the contents heavily laced with Hammer Perpetuem, an electrolyte and endurance fuel/CHO powder. I’m going to pimp this baby up a little though by having a Spibelt fuel belt (double pouch configuration) integrated into the Camelbak to keep it nice and stable. These fuel belts are slim, unobtrusive and flexible for carrying spare bits/pieces and gel squeezies. If you give either image a click, you’ll be taken to a short video review that should give you a good idea of what the product is all about.
Here’s a tip for you too…DON”T put your “worth their weight in gold” magnesium tablets and electrolyte capsules in an unprotected clip-seal bag in the SpiBelt. While originally a good idea, I did not figure on the inevitable damage caused by rolling around on the ground and dragging myself over countless obstacles. Needless to say, my essential supplements quickly became a disgusting, mangled paste that I had no choice but to continue to consume hourly. Gross. Disgusting. Next time, I’ll keep these in a small, hard shell clip box. Lesson learnt.
HEART RATE MONITOR & GPS
My favour belongs to the Suunto Ambit2 Sapphire HR. For those (like me) who feed off, and are motivated by training and performance data, this is the MUST HAVE of all wrist computers for anyone pursuing a passion in long-to-ultra distance obstacle and adventure racing. Navigation, speed, heart rate, altitude, weather conditions and extended features for running, biking and swimming. To further diversify these options, there are thousands of Suunto Apps available to add new functionalities to the watch. TOUGH AS NUTS in the glass fibre reinforced casing with a brushed steel bezel and a hardened sapphire crystal face, the battery life of up to 50 hours (dependent upon satellite refresh rates, back-lighting and apps) will have your Ambit2 ready for any adventure race you can throw at it.
The set-up was easy and intuitive. I have already selected my most common training and racing activities via the web-based data management site movescount.com. Not only does Movescount provide a fantastic platform for your data storage but also promotes a great sense of community by allowing users to collaborate in groups, attend training sessions and follow activities. Within each activity I can also customise my preferred metrics to fit into multiple screens for each activity.
As we all know only too well…the nature of obstacle/adventure racing demands a broad spectrum of training and application. Whether it’s strength, power, speed, endurance, accuracy or task-specific practice (spoken like a true CrossFit Trainer), the Suunto Ambit2 will have the activity covered. After only one return trip on the bike to work under its belt, the Ambit2 already picks up satellites within around 5-10 seconds and the heart-rate transmitter almost instantly. The other bonus is that I can stop worrying about running face first into a light-post while I’m trying to check data on the move in low light. The back light on the Ambit2 is bright enough to bring a commercial aircraft in for landing. Crisis averted.
Upgrades to the watch are made by software updates as they’re needed via methods not dissimilar to GoPro. This ensures the hardware is operating at maximum efficiency and remains responsive to user feedback and development requests.
Now to the juicy bits…the depth of the data generated by this thing is gob-smacking. Everything you can imagine (and some you couldn’t) are mapped, measured and compared. To give you a small example of the total summary, just about every metric below can be pushed into a graph or similar and viewed against previous sessions. Sick.