“I Have a Race This Weekend…What Am I Going To Bring?”
By Ryan Dubey
So, you’ve put in your hours in the gym. You’ve logged your mind numbing miles on the road, trail and dreadmill. You’ve gotten your diet under control, sort of. Now, race week is upon you. What are you going to pack?
If you’re like me then, this will happen sometime after the kids go to bed the night before you leave. If you can actually have calm time at home and you are a planner, then you pack when you normally do. What are you going to bring? Let’s look at ways to make a decision:
Let’s look at the venue vs. your body
- What is the expected terrain? Is it hilly or flat? Wind predictions?
- It’s hilly so, you’ll get hot faster
- It’s so hilly, it will be colder at the top.
- What are the expected weather conditions? I know you’ve been looking at that 10-day forecast all week.
- If it’s below a temp that you feel comfortable at, wear more clothes
- If it’s “warm”, wear less.
It’s really helpful to note the temp when you do your training runs. This helps you
understand at what point you get cold. I find that I can tolerate a few degrees colder during races than training but remember, race directors like to get you wet.
- What is the length of the race?
- Also, what is your experience at this distance? How do you feel about your hydration given the terrain, temperature and distance? Do you need really need calories for your anticipated duration?
- Race distance: how does your body react over time?
I found that when I first started OCR that I would be fine for short distances but, I always got cold on longer races. There are two factors here. First, I wasn’t in as good of shape and many miles were…many miles and my body rejected that fact. Second, it took me a lot longer and after so much time without any real food, my body gave me a big FU and started shutting down. So, I needed to dress warmer for longer events. If you tend to over-heat the longer you go then, dress lighter than the temperature might suggest.
When it all comes down to it. If your hydration and energy stores aren’t up to it, the long sleeve vs. short sleeve debate doesn’t really matter apart from some comfort.
- Hydration: Do you want to have your own hydration source or can you get by with race supplied water?
When I first started racing, I always had my Camelbak. It was really nice to have a sip of water while climbing a seemingly endless hills. As I got a little better, I used the Camelbak as more of a comfort than something I really needed. I realized that I was finishing the race with a lot of water left over and I was refilling it less often. I did, however know that it was slowing me down. I had to remove the pack to clear the barbed wire crawl. Also, burpees sucked (you know, ever more) if I kept my pack on. Recently, there has been some water rationing going on at races so, refilling a pack may not always be an option. So, what you need to decide is do you need extra water or not. Obviously, higher temperature means you’ll want to drink more often but, in reality it’s not necessary if you are hydrated. Let me let you in on something I have figured out… Please don’t tell anyone. Here it goes… If you run at a pace of 12-15 min/ mile at a race, you will get to a water station every 30-45 mins. Yup, there you have it. I cracked the code. If you are around this pace you will never need to bring water. From my experience, I know that I can easily go 45 mins without water. I often do 60 mins on road runs as I never carry water on the road. This is doable because I’m am fully hydrated before I leave. Again, it’s important to understand what your body tolerates.
- Portable calories: Do you really need them?
So, how long is it going to take you? If you are doing a 5k, you had better leave those gels at home. Doing 5-8 miles, it depends on time again. Listen, I know shit happens and you twist your ankle and all of a sudden that two-hour race just turned into four and a half. Most of the time it’s OK to bring a gel pack or two. I usually stuff it into my waist band just in case. I wonder why nobody ever accepts my generosity to share with them? If you are doing an 8+ mile race, some form of nutrition is probably a good idea. Exercise physiology tells us to eat every 45 mins after the first 45-60 mins. I only do this if I plan on eating for the race. I don’t need to eat if I’m going for only two hours so I don’t start at 45 mins. I usually only eat if I’m going for more than 3 hrs. but, your mileage may vary. Have I mentioned that it’s important to understand your body? If I take a gel at 45min would it hurt? Not at all but, it’s entirely unnecessary. Long races will require something more than just a gel. The Killington Beast, for example, I will take 4-6 gels, 2-3 protein bars and a bag of nuts. I probably won’t consume it all but, this is one race that I don’t take chances on. Killington will mess you up!
What about other race supplies?
What do you typically use every time? Do you like to wear gloves? Do you need knee pads? What about braces or wraps? Do you rock the sunglasses? Are your tutu and fairy wings back from the cleaners? Make sure you don’t forget anything that you like to have.
Some things I used to, but no longer bring:
- Gloves; never liked them for any grip obstacle. I used to wear them for the crawls and the hoist. Now I never even bring them.
- Knee pads; my first ever race was a Tough Mudder and the fact that it was cold and I was wearing tights is the only thing that prevented me absolutely destroying my knees. The entire next year I wore knee pads for protection. I learned that it was technique that saves my knees not the pads so, they’re gone. They were never comfortable.
- Eye black; in lieu of sunglasses. It was worn off after the first mile or so. I lost the stick anyway.
- Camelbak; I didn’t even use it for the NJ Beast and I was fine this year. I will probably use it for Killington however.
One small pet peeve, please, don’t bring the Bluetooth speaker and blast your music. Really, nobody in your general vicinity likes your music. Those people are on the other side of the mountain and they can’t hear it from there. One caveat; you can play Rocky music. Who doesn’t need a little “Eye of the Tiger” when grinding up those hills?
OK, now we understand what you’ll need for the race. What about before and after?
- What time do you start? What will be the weather before and after your race?
- How long will you stay after?
- Support staff!
This should make you think about what goes in the backpack.
Do you start early in the morning? Does the weather report call for high winds after you finish? If so, you’ll want a long sleeve or sweatshirt. How long do you plan on hanging out after you finish? If you’re staying longer then you might want different shoes for example. I joke about support staff but, if you have a friend or spouse that is willing to hold your stuff while you race then by all means bring more stuff! All the planning in the world doesn’t trump options when it comes to après race wear. All this is with the assumption that your car is nowhere near the finish line. If you can easily get to your vehicle after the race, then you can bring more options. I can bring everything I need in my backpack so I can be self-sufficient.
Packing for your race
OK, so now you’ve though about where you’re going and the decisions based on the venue. What are you going to bring? First thing I suggest is make a simple checklist that has everything you would ever bring. I use an Android app called “Keep”. It’s very straightforward. You check the item and it moves to the bottom of the list crossed off. I generally have two categories of stuff. Stuff that stays in the car and stuff that I put in my backpack. My race shoes, race outfit and extra food, water and garbage bags in the car. I change into race attire in the parking lot before the trek to the festival area. I bring my backpack with extra clothes, water bottle, pre-race drink, garbage bags towel, etc. My basic list is below. I sometimes bring less but my generic list looks like this:
Baseball hat, Beet Elite / Fast fuel, Camelbak, Contact case, Crocs, Deodorant, First-aid kit, Garbage bags, Glasses, GPS watch, Honey Stinger Gel, Long sleeve top, Pants, Race shirt, Race shoes, Race shorts, Race socks, Race underwear, Release forms, Shorts, Soap, sweatband, Sweatshirt, Tights, Towels, T-shirt, Underwear, Bug spray, Extra water, Gatorade / ReGen BCAA, Protein bars, Snacks, Sneakers, Socks, Sunscreen.
I’ve become very good and packing my backpack. Before the race I may or may not have warm clothes that I shed. I drink my pre-race drink, sip some water and put my bag in check. After the race, when I shower, I have soap (I like the little hotel bars so I don’t have to bring it home) and garbage bags to put the dirty clothes in. I will either wear shorts or warm-up pants with a t-shirt. I bring a t-shirt because the finisher shirt always gets dirty before I put it on. I’ve learned to wear Crocs or flip-flops around the festivals because it’s
usually muddy and I want clean shoes for the drive home. I can pack my emptied Camelbak into a garbage bag and fit it in the backpack so I will only have the backpack to walk around with. I have clean sneakers, socks and most importantly a clean towel in the car for when I leave. Extra food and water, Gatorade and recovery drink is in the cooler.
You will need to adjust the list to suit your needs but, I’ve refined this over the last five years and I really am very happy with how it works out. Not on the list is wallet, keys and cell phone. Those are in the backpack as well.
Tips and Tricks
You can never have too many garbage bags. I usually have two in the pack and two in the car. Your stuff is dirty. The second towel in the car is also a great thing. Freeze gallon milk
jugs to keep your cooler cold and to have cold water when you’re done. Put a carabiner on your backpack to hang it near the showers so it doesn’t get wet and muddy. The minimum radius to eat without running into other racers (if you need some peace) is a 30-minute drive.
Good luck on your next event. Pack wisely and have fun.
Ryan Dubey is an Elite Masters racer in his 5th year of racing. He lives in CT with his wife and 3 boys. He is a brand ambassador for Honey Stinger and RSP Nutrition. He will be attending the 2016 OCR World Championships in Ontario Canada. See Ryan’s other contributions also posted to www.MedalAddict.com