By: Patrick Reagan
Note: Photo Credit- Scott Owenby
Summer is here! The snow has melted in the mountains, the Southeastern United States is humid again, and the temperatures are skyrocketing all over the world. The summer months allow us to explore the places that are not accessible in the winter months, but with that advantage comes great responsibility. The warmer temperatures during the summer months demand ideal hydration and nutrition while on the run. In order to focus on deliberate nutrition/hydration practice, every runner needs proper carrying capacity that works well for their body’s needs and is cohesive with their local climate.
UltrAspire offers a wide range and selection of vests, belts, and handhelds that work well for me in hot and humid conditions in the Southeast US. Acquainting yourself with your vest, handhelds, and hydration belt while preparing for your next competition is an important part of the training process. Your running efficiency and economy can change when wearing a hydration apparatus; thus, the more time you spend wearing these items the better. Preparing with these items is much like picking a pair of shoes and breaking them in before an event that is important to you.
Before racing with a piece of gear, I recommend practicing for 100+ miles with that item. Like a pair of shoes or clothing, the user needs to spend time getting used to a piece of gear. This “break in” period is essential so that you know that an item works for you. Fabrics stretch and change when introduced to sweat. The user will adjust the vest/belt/handheld in training quite often until that item molds to their body. Over time, you will become used to running with the item. Over time your running economy adjusts and improves to think of these hydration apparatus as an extension of your body.
Finding the Right Pairing
There are many combinations of UltrAspire gear that can be applied to different racing scenarios. When considering the right combination of gear, the runner needs to ask a few questions:
-What are the mandatory gear requirements of my race?
-Can I fit the mandatory gear more comfortably in the Spry, Momentum, or Alpha?
-Could I possibly just use two handhelds or two handhelds and a belt?
-Do I feel more comfortable with carrying my fluids and nutrition in a vest, belt, or
-What combination of gear will be best if I need to carry a raincoat/rainpants/cold gear?
-What combination of gear will help me to minimize overheating and encourage
-If my arms get tired from carrying handhelds all day in a 100 mile race, what is my
alternative gear plan?
The questions above can be used as a checklist that applies directly to analyzing the right gear for your upcoming race. Just like training changes when doing a mountain race or a flat road ultramarathon/marathon, the specificity can also be applied when picking the gear that will allow you to have your best race.
Below are my favorite three combos of UltrAspire gear. Note, that if you will be competing in the dark, you may need to adjust these combos a bit to apply the Lumen 600 belt. You may also just want to stick with your standard headlamp setup, with either the Oculus 650 or Sidekick.
- 2 X Iso Versa 2.0 and Fitted Race Belt Combo with Sidekick Headlamp
-Carrying Capacity: 40oz (1200 mL) Fluid, 6-12 Gels, 0-4 Stroopwafels, GU Electrolyte and BCAA Tabs, 1 Small Tin of Squirrels Nut Butter. Option for a light compact shell jacket.
This is my favorite stripped down combo of gear that I will use for most hundred mile races that I see crew roughly every 15-20 miles. As long as I have access to aid stations every 6-10 miles, this is my favorite hot weather combo. My goal in hot weather races like Javelina Jundred or Western States is to have as little clothing and gear near my cooling centers. Not wearing a pack allows me to have an ice bandana and ice hat to apply cool liquid at these centers near the base of the neck and spine. For athletes that need a bit more fluid on these stretches between aid stations, see combo 2.
- 2 X Iso Pocket and Synaptic 2.0 with Sidekick Headlamp
-Carrying Capacity: 60oz (1750 mL) Fluid, 12-15 Gels, 0-4 GU Stroopwafels, GU Electrolyte and BCAA Tabs, 1 Small Tin of Squirrels Nut Butter. Option for a light compact shell jacket.
We have a step up in fluid carrying capacity with this recommendation. The Synaptic 2.0 is the most comfortable waist belt I’ve had the pleasure of wearing. There is no bounce and the ergonomics on the bottle placement allow for easy access to that extra fluid you may need between aid stations. On an extremely hot day at Western States or Javelina Jundred where there are long stretches without crew, I would recommend this setup. Pro Tip: for runners that prefer waist light to headlamp setups, the Lumen Clip 180 applies perfectly to the Synaptic 2.0 Momentum/Alpha with Synaptic 2.0 and Oculus 650.
-Carrying Capacity: 57-75 oz (1650-2200 mL) Fluid, 12-20 Gels, 0-6 GU Stroopwafels, GU Electrolyte and BCAA Tabs, 1 Small Tin of Squirrels Nut Butter. Rainjacket, rainpants, buff, spare battery, phone, etc.
Depending on your mandatory gear needs and the potential need for hiking poles, you may need more carrying capacity and your hands free for trekking up some big climbs. The Momentum has a unique setup, carrying the 37 oz (1100 mL) of fluid just lateral of the spine on both sides in the UltrAspire “soft/hard” bottles. You also have the option to add an additional 18.5 oz (550mL) bottle or soft flask in a pocket on the upper back. I find this setup to be perfect for minimizing bounce when descending and also quite comfortable when climbing. Having the bottles on your back instead of your chest leaves more room to powerhike comfortably. The Momentum should hold all your mandatory gear for events like UTMB/Hardrock/Leadville/etc while still keeping you cool during hot parts of the day with the UltrAspire Sweatproof webbing. The Oculus and a spare battery will get you through the night.
I hope the above guide gives you some insight into picking a gear setup that is right for you. When we get back to racing, you’ll be ready. Wishing you smooth training. Stay safe.