At the end of April I ran The Fellsman. Organised by Keighley Scouts, The Fellsman is a 61 mile tour of the Yorkshire Dales. I wouldn’t call myself an ‘ultra runner’ and before this my only runs in the ultra category were the BG and a 30 mile training run. I have done plenty of 20 – 23 mile runs which have been the core of my preparation. Races like the Fellsman are really interesting for me as the buyer at Facewest because I get to see lots of dedicated people in one place and have a really good scout of what people are wearing and using. I never fail to see something I like or a little trick I didn’t know, so I thought I would share a few of them with you.
First off is Silicone Bottles. I first used one of these while skimo racing in France in March. Salomon have been using them for a while and suddenly they are everywhere. My favourite use so far is for holding multiple gels. Put all your gels in one and then tape it to your pack strap. Not only can you grab a gel in about 3 strides but there are also no wrappers to be accidentally dropped on the course and no fumbling with tired cold hands. A larger bottle is also good for water as it can be folded into a pocket more easily than a rigid one when empty. The Marmot Kompressor Flask has a slightly stiffer top than the smaller flasks making it easy to fill by dipping.
We have a particularly good value double pack from Ron Hill here.
Next up are Chest Pouches and Vest Packs. I have dallied with chest packs before but found that they bounced too much and didn’t get on with them. Over time they have gradually got smaller and better shaped and I used the inov8 chest pouch for the first time at The Fellsman. The pouch is actually 4 small storage spaces which is a much better idea than one large one. I didn’t use it to increase my carrying capacity but to keep little things and food at hand whilst on an ultra to try and minimise slowing or stopping. There is still a little bounce but you soon don’t notice it other than on really fast downhills. The chest pouch clips to most inov8 packs but it wouldn’t be hard to sort it out with any pack with a bit of sewing. The only modification I made was to add a quick release buckle to one of the upper straps so I can remove my pack without having to lift the pouch over my head or undo the little fiddly invo8 clip which is high up on the strap.
An obvious progression from the Pack and Chest Pouch is the Race Vest, and these are now springing up everywhere. Again Salomon were leading the way but inov8 have the Race Ultra Vest for the very minimalist and Ultimate Direction have their signature series. I was actually surprised by the weight of the UD packs as there were a little heavier than expected but when you see the work that has gone into the features then you understand why. It is possible to go too lightweight at the expense of function (crap hoods on light jackets being a bugbear of mine) and UD are very wary of this.
I went for the largest UD vest which is the PB Adventure Vest at 11 Litres. It fits really well and completely eliminates the bounce that you find with packs and separate chest packs. The UD Kicker Bottles are really neat too but I end up using silicone bottles in their place some of the time just to reduce the sloshing around. My only slight disappointment is that I don’t think it’s 11 Litres. Well either that or the inov8 Race Elite 10 isn’t 10 litres, because I couldn’t get all my mountain marathon stuff which goes into the race Elite 10 into the PB Adventure Vest. A bit of a shame as I wanted to try it at the LAMM this coming weekend to see how much energy you save by eliminating the bounce. At the Fellsman I used the inov8 pack and chest pack but it was nowhere near full so the UD vest would have been fine. UD also make a nice range of accessories, along the same lines as Raidlight.
Next up Debris Gaiters. Nothing too technical here, just little bits of stretchy fabric that stop little stones, twigs and bits of rubbish getting into your shoes. They also stop your laces from coming undone. I cannot tell you how much more comfortable my feet are when I use these over when I don’t. Well worth it.
My last quest is for the best way to carry my trekking poles (BD Ultra Distance) when I need my hands free. Raidlight make a Pole Quiver but you need to collapse your poles first which is a waste of time so am looking at a bungy shoulder strap of some sort. Just trying to work out the best way of attaching the strap to the poles and what to do with it when I am using the poles. Watch this space…