Saturday, August 28, 2010

Leadville: The Gear Edition…and yes, The Buckle!

Very shortly before heading out to Leadville I came across something on the Ultralist that interested me greatly. Someone posted the question “Does anyone out there have a way of extending the battery life of your Garmin and iPod?” The first obvious answer was “I have multiple of each” and the GeekGrl and I have an AC adapter that can be plugged into the car and you can then plug in a laptop. That would be one way to do it but it’s bulky and you have to give up your device while it is recharging.

My main interest was in recording Garmin data as long as possible. One person on the Ultralist threw out an answer that immediately got my attention. He said he had used a pocket-sized USB charging device made by Duracell when he ran Hardrock last month and was able to keep his Garmin recording the whole time. Bingo, exactly what I was looking for! I am not a tech guy so I had never heard of such a thing…sorry if they have been on the market for 40 years, but I was excited. I ordered mine from Amazon and it arrived in plenty of time for me to give it a try. I used it at Leadville and it worked like a champ! Coupled with my Garmin 310XT I had plenty of battery life to get me through 27 and a half hours.

During the race I ran all the way from the start to Winfield and then back to Twin Lakes, so about 60 miles, on the battery life of my 310XT. When I got to Twin Lakes the Garmin was at 3% battery life left. I had planned on getting my Duracell USB charger at that time since night would be falling and I knew I would be doing a lot of hiking. I hooked the Duracell to my Garmin and it started re-charging and continued recording my data. Everything is plenty light enough and small enough that I just carried it in one hand while I held my Gerber flashlight in the other and I was wearing my Black Diamond Ion headlamp so I had plenty of light. By the time I reached Pipeline, about 12.5 miles down the road, my Garmin was fully recharged and I relinquished my Duracell to the GeekGrl for the remainder of the race.

As far as my lighting goes the Gerber Omnivore Flashlight is awesome. It throws out a ton of light, is lightweight, tough and miserly with battery life. The Black Diamond Ion is similarly awesome. I largely blame my DNF at Rocky Raccoon for having a poor headlamp. It may have been the batteries not delivering enough juice but for whatever reason the beam could barely penetrate the deep and sometimes foggy darkness of the East Texas pine forest at night and I was left to crouch and squint for hours on end until I could barely move. The Ion slices through the night like nobody’s business. Sometimes I wonder if I will ignite the trees with the beam.

Another important item of gear in any ultrarunners arsenal is the drop bag. I used to own a Kayak so the first time I did an ultra that required drop bags I had some transparent NRS Dry-stow Dry Bags laying around the house. They are awesome as drop bags because they are very durable, weather tight and easy to spot in the pile of other drop bags. I think if I were to do an ultra that was likely to have a lot of rain and humidity I might try and find some kind of drying agent to toss into the bottom of the bag and would be careful not to let rain fall into the bag but this bag would definitely be my choice.

For the crew vehicle of course I selected the perfect vehicle for the ultrarunning multisport enthusiast, the Honda Element. In the back of that bad boy I left one back seat to create seating for three and I laid out a 10-inch thick futon mattress complete with flannel sheets and a heavy down comforter. Behind the back seat I strapped in a clear plastic 4-drawer organizer. One drawer had my medical supplies, one had my extra nutrition, one had my day running clothes and one had my night running clothes. Of course I had to have some extra bags for extra cold weather gear and just lots of spare shirts and shoes just to be safe. I also had a mummy-style sleeping bag in case I needed rescue from hypothermia but it was only ever pressed into service as the GeekGrls ultrawarm hoodie.

Last but not least were the gear closest to me. The bottom half is the hardest to manage so that’s all I’ll cover. For underwear I use the Asics Transitive Seamless Brief. I have worn this on several shorter runs and two 100-mile runs and they work awesome. For shorts I wear Zoot 8-inch seam tri shorts. I like the compression and honestly a compression short is the only short I can wear that doesn’t chafe after maybe 6 to 8 miles. I have tried several compression options and the Zoot is the only one I have found so far that is also durable. I have big thighs so there is a lot of friction. Other shorts are ground to shreds in short order but my Zoots have withstood every 100-mile finish and attempt I have made as well as numerous other shorter runs and races. I bought two pair in a sale a few years back and I am still on pair number one.

The feet, of course, are the beginning and end of ultrarunning. I wear Injinji socks because they help keep my toes from blistering better than anything else. I tape most of my toes to protect the tips but even with toe tale and regular socks I still get blisters between my toes. My one complaint about the Injinjis is that they are not particularly durable for the cost. They always wear out right at the ball of the foot sometimes in as few as 10 wears. Sometimes they last much longer you just have to be ready for variable quality. I also used compression socks. These are difficult to deal with in an ultra because they are hard to get on and off and so you are far less likely to check your feet because you may be too weak or your legs may be too crampy to get the things back on. Even with help they take a lot of time and effort to put on. However, you can cut the feet off them and turn them into compression sleeves. These work great for less money though Zensah has put some lower cost product on the market since I first shopped for this item so I am likely to give them a try. I coupled my Injinjis with my compression “sleeves” and it was a perfect combination. My left calf muscle was threatening to go out on me by mile 42 and this combo held it strong all the way to the finish. Injinji has a pair of compression socks but I’m not a fan of burning money and that’s what I would be doing buying them. While I love Injinji I don’t trust their quality enough to part with $38 - $44 for a single pair that may last a couple years or just a month.

Finally, the shoes. I have worn and loved New Balance shoes for the past five years but New Balance doesn’t love me. All my favorites have been redesigned to the point that I just can’t wear them anymore. I have been hunting desperately for a new pair of trail shoes and finally settled on the Mizuno Wave Ascend 5. This shoe rules! The Ascend is relatively light weight, has a very aggressive tread, water drains from it like a sieve, it has a reasonably low profile and a nice roomy toe box. The closest I’ve come to a comparable shoe is the Asics trail shoe but the logo they sew to the side of the shoe always causes me blisters on the side of my feet so I can’t wear them.

I almost forgot, the best piece of equipment that made it all possible, something special my parents gave me, the feet that carried me through.

So here it is by popular demand, the Leadville buckle. This baby is so shiny you can see my reflection in it as I snap the picture.

Good god, enough Leadville already, I have other things to do!

Next up, Rio Del Largo…what was I thinking?!


  1. Thanks for sharing what gear you used, I'm always interested in what it takes to get through a race like this. I'll probably try some of this and see if it will get me through my 1st hundred.

  2. Thanks for the great gear ideas, I've been looking for something to use as drop bags and that charger thingy looks like something I'll get, too. Oh, and that medal is awesome!

  3. Buckle, I meant to type that buckle is awesome.

  4. nice!! Buckle!!
    dude I had the recharger, energizer, looks like a credit card, at OP50! I recharged my garmin the same way.. and got it at BestBuy, $20!
    glad your on with the game now!


  5. I have been a fan of the recharger for years now. Used it at all my IM's and it always works. One thing I noticed during my 50 is that if I change the garmin to the settings area (ie not actively displaying any information) then the battery last for a lot longer. I don't get to read anything out of it, but it still tracks everything and I don't really need my speed info on an ultra anyway.

    Nice buckle!

    Thanks for all the great info!

  6. Oooh! I do love gear! Thank you!

    You are allowed to post as much as you want about Leadville! Your fans will thank you!

    The buckle is even more impressive than it looked in their pic! LOVE the torn up feet picture. Those are some pretty hardcore feet there!

  7. Thanks for the gear review.

    That's a mighty fine buckle!