One of the reasons I enjoy ultra-distance objectives is the amount of planning that goes into them. Accounting for all of the things that could go wrong on race day—from blisters to chafing to an upset stomach—and figuring out how to avoid such blunders adds an addictive dimension of challenge to running.
Last month, I raced a 50-mile race in the following gear, and despite the 90- to 100-degree heat, it was the best race of my life (and I’ve run a lot of horrible ones). It wasn’t quick or heroic, but it was unexpectedly pleasant and enjoyable, thanks in part to the well tuned gear and feeding system. Every decision was based on at least dozens, if not hundreds, of miles of testing and tweaking. On race day, everything worked out perfectly.
Momentum 2.0 Race Vest ($90) by Ultraspire
I’ve tried a lot of race vests, and this is the most breathable and ergonomic one I’ve ever tried. The lightweight mesh construction vanished on my chest, and the placement of two 550-milliliter water bottles on the backs of my hips made replenishing and drinking water a breeze. The Momentum 2.0 was also capable of swallowing gear. It held 14 gels, half a pound of gummy bears, half a box of Fig Newmans, TP and a plastic travel bag, my iPhone, and an additional water bottle (I utilised two drop sites at aid stations to refill).
Ryan Willms Reigning Champ X Shirt ($125) and Lined Running Short ($145)
You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on running gear to get started or succeed. Many of the runners who beat my time wore less expensive gear. I ran in these two items and highly recommend them since they are the most comfortable running shoes I have ever worn. Over dozens of kilometres of testing and racing, the incredibly elastic Italian nylon top remained astonishingly supple and did not chafe me. The shorts were equally as comfy, and the liner prevented chafing on my thighs. In the sweltering heat, both of them breathed unusually well.
Men’s Runderwear Running Briefs ($25)
These briefs provided an added layer of support, which I enjoyed. Despite being a second liner in a high-friction location, the great level of support does not come at the sacrifice of comfort or breathability. I have nothing but good things to say about these after more than 500 miles on them.
Spring Energy Gels (starting at $8 for a pair)
I have a finicky digestion but a bad track record with gastric distress during ultra races, yet I ate 23 Spring Energy Gels and didn’t get ill—or sick of them—during this race. Throughout my run, I ate something every 30 minutes, and while I did throw in a bag of gummy bears and some Fig Newman’s, they were the majority of my nourishment. I had so much fun eating them that I ate one as soon as I saw the finish line. Spring Energy’s actual ingredients (fruit, salt, and rice) in each pack worked with my stomach better than anything else I’ve tried in nearly a decade of endurance racing.
Gummy Bears from the Black Forest ($4)
I bought this huge bag of gummy bears on sale at my local Rite Aid and ate them during training and on race day to mix up my calorie intake. They’re tasty and always make me happy when I eat them. I stored them in a separate “happy pocket” and used them as a form of motivation to keep moving.
Strawberry Fig Newman’s ($4)
I wanted something chewable that wasn’t gummy or gooey. Fig Newman’s aren’t overly sweet, they’re easy to digest, and they’re portable.
Handheld Bottle with Ultimate Direction Clutch ($40)
I left an Ultimate Direction EDC bottle in a drop bag at a 31.6-mile aid station to ensure I wasn’t rationing water in the near-100-degree heat. While I soldiered on, I refilled my other two bottles and carried this one. This model is no longer available, but I recently tried the UD Clutch, which is pretty similar, and I really liked it.
Hoka Clifton 8 ($130) is a pair of running shoes designed by Hoka.
The Clifton 8 is a road shoe, but in a major race in southern Oregon, I can get away with a light, soft pair since our trails are remarkably well designed and maintained. I used them for both training and race day, and I had entire faith in their assistance. They were quite comfortable throughout, and I never rolled an ankle in them despite covering hundreds of miles in shoes.
Swiftwick Socks for Yosemite National Park ($20)
During my tenure as Outside’s Gear Guy, I’ve tested over 100 pairs of athletic socks. Fit, moisture wicking, blister prevention, and durability are all topics on which I have strong opinions. Swiftwicks are the greatest socks for preventing blisters over long distances. I chose this pair to run in since the six-inch cuff kept rocks out of my socks and the Yosemite pattern offered a splash of colour to my outfit.
Body Glide Balm is a ten-dollar tool that helps you glide into your day.
For this race, I utilised the same Body Glide stick that I’ve been using since 2013. I acquired it nearly ten years ago, wrote about its incredible staying power two years ago, and then used the same stick to lubricate my nipples and undercarriage for this race. I only required one application to run for over 13 hours with no chafing.
UPF 5-Panel Hat by Coal Provo ($32)
This fashionable UPF 50-plus hat has a lightweight and breathable polyester shell. This, along with a stretchy elastic and a toggle-tightening system, makes it the most comfortable running cap I’ve ever worn.
Watch: Garmin Forerunner 745 ($500)
I’m presently trying the Forerunner 945, which I adore, but I’ve worn the 745 for hundreds of kilometres and have complete faith in it. The latter is compact, comfortable on my wrist, and simple to operate. I put it on low power and was able to keep track of my distance, pace, and heart rate during the event. It also helped me stick to my 30-minute eating schedule.
This generic cotton bandana was a gift from a friend, and it was my secret weapon for staying cool in the triple-digit heat. At three different aid stations, volunteers filled it with ice, and I put it around my neck so that the ice dripped down my back while I ran.
Ziploc bag with toilet paper
This is the one piece of equipment I brought with me that I didn’t need. Taking a field poop, following LNT procedures, and disposing of TP in an aid station trash container are all mandatory.