Testing Gear for 100 Mile Ultramarathon – Exp 1

If you don’t learn from your mistakes, there’s no sense making them. – Laurence J. Peter.

I really am trying to make sure I do everything right this time.  At least everything more right than last time.  Probably my biggest downfall that caused my DNF at Rocky Raccoon was my ignorance concerning my footwear and foot care.  I am one of those runners who just strap on my running shoes and hit the road.  And then I deal with any foot issues after the fact.

In that case, the foot issues flared up about 40 miles into a 100 mile run.  Thanks to a monsoon and some sandy, muddy trails there was no after the fact because I had to quit.  Actually the after the fact consisted of repairing my shredded feet which took several weeks.

This time will be different.  I am going to experiment with shoes, socks, foot care and just about everything else I can.  And I will try to document things for my personal reference and for my crew.  I don’t want to repeat my mistakes especially on race day.

Yesterday was Experiment #1.

GEAR: My gear of choice to put through the paces will be a brand new pair of Brooks Cascadia 7 shoes (straight out of the box), Injinji Lightweight socks with a coating of Vaseline, and some Under Armor heat gear underwear.  The rest of the clothing is the usual whatever I can grab that doesn’t match and drives Christine nuts!

Brand New Out of the Box!

NUTRITION: I am going to be eating bananas and fig newtons, drinking weak HEED and water, and taking a S-Cap every hour.  I am also going to eat a ginger chew each hour to see if it keeps my stomach settled.  My goal here is to get most of my calories from solid food and keep my hydration separate.  I will use week HEED just to add a little flavor every now and then.

TEST ENVIRONMENT: I will be heading to Highland Road Park to run about 22 miles on the cross country course.  Because of the recent construction out there, it should have lots of mud and rough areas to test my gear.  As an added bonus, this is what the weather looks like:

Well, isn’t that special.  Reminiscent of the first 12-15 miles of Rocky Raccoon this year!  By the way, up until now this is all pre-run info.  The results will be posted below.

THE RESULTS (or The Carnage): 

Okay, well I got more than I bargained for with regards to weather and terrain.  It rained for the entire 22 miles/3 hours and 35 minutes.  And some of it was sideways.  About 50% of the terrain was either ankle deep standing water, mid-calf running water (stream crossings!), or shoe sucking mud.  It was a challenge mentally and physically.

GEAR: So how did the gear do?  The Brooks Cascadia/Injinji Sock/Vaseline combo held up very well.  Especially considering they were waterlogged from 2 minutes in.  The Brooks were comfortable from the start with no pressure points are hard spots.  I did have to stop and tie them tighter after about 9 miles, but I usually start with my shoes too loose.  There were a few times when my foot felt unstable, but that was probably due to my running pancake flat roads and now being on uneven terrain.

When I took my shoes off, they were full of dirt/mud (no gaiters) and I saw one big white blister on my right foot.  But that blister was an old one caused by a random seam in my Mizuno Wave Riders and it was big and white because it had been water logged for almost 4 hours!

The socks are not throwing down a gang sign!

Wait a second.  Hold on.  I just got an email from the Brooks Legal Department saying that the blister falls under the Pre-Existing Condition clause and they will not be responsible for any difficulties or DNF’s caused by said blister from now until the end of time.  Thanks guys.

The other gear I tried was a pair of Under Armour Heat Gear Briefs.  Basically tight underwear that you can run in.  My problem is that with the 8-10 pairs of running shorts I own,  every one is a different brand.  And some do not like me nor my under carriage very much especially during runs of 8 miles or more.

I was a little concerned about the UA briefs because of the internal seams they had.  They screamed out to me “testicular defoliation” which would cause me to scream out in the shower during the chafing test.  But they passed!  The only issue I had with them was the tag in the back was huge and rubbed my back raw.

NUTRITION: The entire time I carried a bottle with watered down HEED in it.  It was enough flavor to not be repulsive and seemed to work well.  After each loop (about 30 minutes) I would eat something solid.  The first 2 stops I ate half a banana with no issues.  From then on, I switched to Fig Newtons after each loop.  Every other loop (1 hour) I would take a S-Cap and eat a ginger chew.  Everything seemed to work well.

That is until the last loop.  I took my S-Cap but skipped the ginger chew.  I only had 3.5 miles to go, so it was no big deal.  I had been on a steady diet of Fig Newtons and with about 1.5 miles to go I was forced to do a stomach reboot.  It came out of nowhere quickly!

I can easily rule out the banana because it had been long processed.  By then, my HEED mixture was about 10% HEED/90% water, so that should be okay.  That leaves the Fig Newtons and the S-Caps.  I have used S-Caps for a long time and I can’t tie any specific stomach issues to them.  It looks like Fig Newtons will be moved to the “questionable” column for the time being.

All in all, I was pleased with all of my gear and the experiment.  Next weekend, I will have to try a few more things!

Question for all of you?   Do you have foot/blister problems and what did you do to fix them?

BONUS:  I didn’t expect this to be part of the experiment, but it did.  One of the difficult parts about the Rocky Raccoon race is the number of loops you run.  The race is made up of 5 x 20 mile loops.  For the first 3 loops, you are on your own and for the last 2 loops you can have a pacer.  I have heard that the 4th loop is the worst because you are tired, it is dark, and it is not the last loop.  That is where the pacer has to work extra hard to earn their money (beer, wine, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.)

When I was on my 6th loop out of 7 today, I was feeling like crap.  Mentally things sucked.  I had been in the rain for almost 3 hours with no reprieve and I still had more to go.  And then the rain picked up and started blowing sideways.  And that’s when I thought of the 4th loop issue for RR and it hit home.  This was a similar situation.

So I gritted my teeth, put on my best “Jump Up and Bite My Ass” smirk on my face, and kept running.  Yep, I am looking forward to that loop 4 in February.

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