Flights are booked from Sydney to Alice Springs and Ayers Rock to Sydney, and my babysitter is locked in…(thanks Mum x). It’s 9 weeks to race date, The Track ultra marathon, 520 km in Outback Australia. Now I’ve got “just” me, my kit and food to organise. Here’s a little bit about where I am and how I’m going but this post is mostly about kit. I will write a post shortly about my nutrition plan when I’ve finished deciding exactly what to take. Please do send me an email or comment on the blog if you have any questions, ideas or suggestions.
Where am I?
I went out for my first run in 3 weeks this morning…a gentle coastal 7km that felt like I’m starting again! About a month ago I was getting some consistency in my training and making good progress but I’ve spent the last three weeks on antibiotics trying to shift a chest infection. Definitely not ideal with the race so close and The Track is the toughest multi-day event I’ve tackled yet. Those previous events have taught me that during The Track, I’ll have to run everyday, and mostly long days, on sore feet and tired legs. I expect that my shoulders and back will also suffer from carrying my kit. My preparation over the coming weeks will focus on time on my feet, recovery and long back-to-back runs, some carrying my bag and others without it. I’ll have to listen very carefully to my body to allow sufficient recovery, avoid over-training and possible injury.
Whilst I think my Big Red Run experiences in the desert over the last couple of years will allow me to get myself reasonably ready, I know the more preparation that is put in prior to the event, the more enjoyable the run will be. As well as training physically, I’ll be working hard on my mindset and mental approach….Being very positive about the run and the training time that I have managed to put in; visualising about what the run will be like, breaking it down into stages and seeing myself out there completing each day; reminding myself to enjoy the experience, the surroundings and the people that I’ll meet. I find that starting the mental work early puts me in the right frame of mind to not get overwhelmed by the task ahead both in terms of preparation and the event itself.
I received an email from the race director at canal-aventure yesterday outlining the mandatory kit required for The Track. As far as mandatory kit goes, it’s not overly prescriptive which I really like:
Knife (minimum blade of 3,5 cm)
Mirror (at least 6 cm of diameter)
Survival blanket (2,20 x 1,40 m)
Pocket torch or head torch with spare batteries and bulbs
Utensils to cook
Solid fuel tablets
Medical pocket for the first aid
Salt tablets or equivalent
2 bands of application
2 water bidons of 1 liter (or similar but with a total of 2 liters)
The Track is very different to my previous multi-stage races in that, like races such as Marathon Des Sables, you have to carry all of your own kit. That’s why I’m happy that the mandatory kit is minimal and the rest of the equipment that I choose to carry is very much up to me. My focus is going to be on going as light as possible which means I do expect to suffer a little discomfort maybe with the cold at night and wearing the same clothes for 10 days. (I’m sure we’ll all smell the same in the end!) This is what I’m planning to take at the moment. (It might change with weight considerations as I finalise my nutrition)
Since I started taking my trail and ultra running more seriously I’ve loved using my Salomon running 12l S-Lab vest. Unfortunately it’s not big enough for this event so I’ve been looking at what other use. There’s a massive range of possibilities out there but I’m going to use the Raidlight Ultra Olmo 20l vest. I’m happy that 20l will be large enough and I really like the idea of the vest fit. I’ll sacrifice the 4l front pouch that comes with the 20l desert pack as I’m used to using the side and mesh pockets.
Footwear and Gaiters
Choosing this clothing is difficult because I have no idea how cold it will be at night and I have to carry it regardless. The guidance from the race team is 5-10C but I know from experience that that can vary greatly. I’ll definitely take a buff with me because it’s so versatile…makes a great beanie if it’s cold, a mouth guard if it’s windy, a neck protector if the sun gets too much or an eye cover if you can’t sleep. I’ll take some open, light footwear like flip-flops to protect my feet from the prickly desert but allow them to dry out after the day’s efforts. Then either a light down jacket or a thin long-sleeve thermal top (Icebreaker 120 weight) that I can sleep in if it’s cold and will double up for warmth during the early mornings or the night of the long stage.
Again, this is a difficult area because the night-time temperatures in the desert are quite unpredictable and there’s a huge difference in weight and pack size of sleeping bags. As I said at the beginning, I’m focussing on weight and am prepared for some discomfort so I’m going to take a light sleeping bag with a comfort rating around the maximum night temperature I expect. I’m going to be using the Sea to Summit Spark SpII that weighs 280g and packs very small. I’ll couple this with my old 3/4 length Thermarest ultralite for added warmth and comfort at night and some additional padding in the back of my pack during the daytime.
Small folding knife
Firstaid kit/footcare kit
Esbit solid fuel blocks
Lifeventures Titanium pot
Gurney Goo (to stop chafing)
Black Diamond Storm headlamp with spare batteries
Tablet Wipes (just add water and they become a wet wipe)
Lava Salt Tablets