Training is only half the effort of setting yourself up for a successful race. It is equally important to make sure you are prepared logistically for your race in addition to being physically capable. I found that out the hard way in my first few races, and learned that if I didn’t have the right products and a place to put them that wasn’t a burden to get to mid-race, life was just going to flat out suck. Why make it harder on yourself? Don’t make endurance races any more painful than they have to be.
So where should you start when setting up your race day gear load? Every distance requires different gear. While personal preference plays a significant part, and every suggestion may not be ideal initially, it is important to understand the reasoning behind having these tools readily available along the course.
Here’s a peek into my race day load for an ultra, and gear suggestions for other popular distances as well:
Depending on your personal preferences, backpacks, fanny packs, or small waist belts are very helpful in adding additional places to stow gear besides the small pockets on your clothing.
- Ultras: backpacks or vests with significant storage space are key. Having a spare set of socks, a hat, and solid food for the road/trail ahead can be very helpful. Weather can change significantly over the course of 8-24 hours, so having layers and spares (especially for muddy trails during snow or rainy seasons) are absolutely necessary.
- Marathons: Backpacks are personal preference for this distance. I never run a race without my Lululemon pack, but that’s just me. A great option is a SPIbelt, it is small enough to not be burdensome, but big enough to hold your ID, phone, key, and even a gel, and is easily accessible and doesn’t involve the fuss of removing a pack to get to your gear, especially if you are looking to PR. If you are running a race without a crew or without a cheer squad, it’s great to be able to have a spot to keep your keys and phone handy, and avoid the gear check mayhem. Plus, SPIbelts are the only waist packs I have found that have minimal or no bounce at all. I almost forget it’s there during races!
- Half-marathons: SPIbelts are perfect for this distance. They add the extra pocket that you need for larger items, and allow you to use the storage in your tech apparel for supplements like gels and electrolyte mixes or pills.
- 10k/5k: Packs aren’t necessary for this distance, but if you feel more prepared with one, by all means run with one! I know I do. A great option that’s not a pack is the small handheld water bottles with packs attached, like the one from Amphipod. The neoprene grip is comfortable, dries quickly, and doesn’t chafe like some of the harsher materials on the CamelBak products. Plus, Lululemon has been making cute versions of this particular one, so yet another reason to love it.
See below for all gear recommendations in race distance descending order and links to shop!
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- Run from Work Pack, Lululemon $98
- Agile 12 Set Hydration Pack, Salomon $120
- Ultra LR Hydration Vest, CamelBak $110
- Hydraform Handheld Thermal Lite Bottle, Amphipod $21.95
Depending on the length of the race, having one to three gels handy is ideal. Some races do not provide these, and depending on diet restrictions, many of the popular ones are not always the best choice. Paleo friendly options include RxBar and Vega.
- Ultras: Gels will not suffice as the only supplement and food source for this race distance. I like to pack a paleo-friendly bar with me, RxBar, to eat at aid stations, that has protein and nutients that will fuel my energy for the long haul. VegaOne nutritional bars are also a great option, and for the most part, also paleo-friendly. They are small which takes away from the overall added bulk. Other great non-bar options to have are pretzels, almonds, or almond butter sandwiches, or just the almond butter single serve packs. Sometimes, the Vega Gels are not always enough for my energy needs. I prefer one or two (max!) of the Gu Roctane gels to give me a bigger boost on the second half of my ultras.
- Marathons:Vega’s Sport line has a great gel for endurance races. I personally use them for all my races as they are paleo friendly, and do not have the high sugar content that a lot of the popular brands have. I feel much better post race using Vega gels than others for this reason. No Gu sickness! Taking 2-3 per race is ideal for this length. Start with one before, one at the halfway point, and another around mile 20.
- Half-marathons: Vega Sport Endurance Gels are great for this too. One usually suffices about halfway in, but feel it out for yourself personally. If you are going to take two, try taking one before the race and one at the halfway mark.
- 10k/5k: Gels are necessary for this length, focus on adding electrolyte mix into your water source if you carry one, as that will be much more beneficial. Gels take a bit to process into your system to reap the benefits, so a shorter race won’t be long enough for you to notice a boost.
- Vega Sport Endurance Gel, Vega $23, 12 pack
- Roctane Ultra Endurance Gel, Gu $60, 24 pack
- Honey Stinger Energy Gel, Honey Stinger $33, 24 pack
Sodium Tablets/Electrolyte Mix
Sodium tablets are great for marathons and ultra marathons, and not necessarily needed for races shorter than that. Taken once every 30 minutes (approximately), these allow you to stay hydrated and keep valuable energy. Electrolyte mixes are great to drop into your water bladder or other race day water source for shorter races, or even longer ones. I use them instead of water in my water bladder. I swear by S! Caps by Succeed, but other great sugar free and paleo options are below!
- S! Caps, Succeed $14.50 per bottle (100 caps)
- Nuun Tablets, Nuun $22 (12 tablets)
- Vega Sport Hydrator, Vega $24 (30 pack)
Hot spots emerge on race day, especially if it’s one of the first times that you are running with added gear on your body. Having this handy can save you from pain mid-race. This is something to carry on you for ultras and marathons. Halves and below are optional.
- Body Glide Balm, Body Glide $6
Keeping spare headphones, a phone charger, extra GPS watch, and layers are always a good idea, especially for ultras. The longest lasting GPS I have found is my Garmin 910XT, which is fabulous, but only goes up to 20 hours of battery life. This works for most ultras but not for 100 milers or 24-48 hour races. The best headphones that actually stay put in the San Francisco wind and hot days on the trail are the Inspires by Yurbuds. Hands down! I keep a sweat band in my pack just in case it gets really hot and sweat becomes a problem. Lululemon has a great selection for every season.
- Inspire Headphones, Yurbuds $29.99
- Forerunner 910XT, Garmin $400
- Juice Pack Air, Morphie $99
- Bang Buster Headband, Lululemon $18
Please reach out to me if searching for the right product becomes too overwhelming, I would be happy to provide private styling consultation based on your diet restrictions/needs and body type!