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Ultramarathon Kit Selection: Tried, Tested & Trusted

This Saturday, 7 November, Gareth Kilshaw is running from Liverpool to Leeds to raise money for the RNLI.

Gareth has been preparing for this 127-mile challenge for months. It will be the furthest he has ever run.

We’ve documented some of his preparations, his training, nutrition, strength & conditioning and recovery. In this post we look at the kit that Gareth has selected to make the journey with him.

Ultrarunners place huge demand on their kit. Buying decisions are researched, brands are favoured, and new innovations are hotly discussed in social forums and at events. 

Every runner will want to fully test a new item of kit before a race. Gareth Kilshaw is lucky, he has built up a selection of kit that he trusts over time and is often asked for advice by other runners.

Whilst this challenge has its demands, Gareth will be able to pack light: “I’ve no map, no compass and I wont need a large amount of food.”

He explains that he will be fitted with a RaceTracker, he’ll be in contact with his team and they will never be more than 15 minutes away.

In these socially distant times Kilshaw will be well supported – by a community of runners he loves – from their phone screens and laptops.

There are practical strategies to kit selection: Take only what you need. Be prepared. Test everything. Test it again. Invest in your kit. Know what works for you. Know the route and the checkpoints and pack accordingly.

Then there are the phycological strategies: lucky kit, favourite drinks/snacks, how often you change footware…

Below Gareth details his kit selection choices for this 127 mile challenge:

Trainers: Solomon Speedcross

They work for me. I don’t need anything else. I tried road shoes in training but they weren’t a better option because my feet are so accustom to the fit and grip of this shoe that I have trouble when I move away. I tend to have a few pairs that are race-ready and a few older ones for training. They are my shoe.

Socks: Injinji. Midweight Mini-Crew.

They’re like a glove. They are breathable and seamless. They work brilliant for me. I’ve never had a blister on any race or event when I’ve been in them. A few times when I have strayed, I’ve blistered. So now I stick to my Salomons and these socks.

Underwear (& cream): Under Armour: UA Tech Mesh 15 cm Boxerjock.

You’ve got to play around and find out what works for you. But its no good going out in your speedos, your cotton boxers or your tigerprints – like Nicola does!

It’s the comfort: the fit and how they feel when you are running – and not just when you set out, but deep into a race too.

Bepanthen: Nappy Care Ointment. Couldn’t be without it. Important to be proactive with it.

Shorts / Leggings: Pick your favourite brand. I’ll be in Salomon.

I tend to choose shorts over leggings. The exception is when I know we are going through long grasses and their might be ticks.

I like to go into legging at night – for the added warmth. If you’ve had them on all day you won’t get the advantage of it. It’s a bit like your mum used to say, don’t wear that coat inside – you won’t feel the benefit when you go out!

Base layers:

DAY = Absolute 360: Infrared Mock Neck

They are amazingly thin but they work really well and I have always used them for racing. I go for the higher neckline to keep my chest warm as I can suffer with chest infections so it is a priority for me.

NIGHT = Montane Primino 220 Zip Neck Baselayer

It is merino wool and quite a heavy knit and it also has a high collar. I like the feeling of getting into my night kit - getting a change and getting warm. I really try and layer my top correctly. My bottom half isn’t as bad. I can walk with wet feet for hours and it doesn’t seem to bother me.

Tech T-shirt: Solomon XA LS TEE

A lot of people wear shirts from race events they’ve loved. I totally get this – good memories and good vibes. Personally I avoid this for the bigger races, as those shirts tend not to be as good as the tech shirts from the ultra brands. Don’t get me wrong I love my event shirts, they are great talking points, but I tend to train in mine or wear them to the pub!

Mid layer: Montane Protium Fleece Hoodie

It is actually a new addition. I’ve been testing it on training runs and I am really impressed. Its hooded, breathable and works well. It’s perfect for extra warmth.

Waterproof: Montane Pac Plus

I’ve just gone to Montane from my Solomon. After 4 years and a couple of re-waterproofings it was time to change. No complaints. I got a lot of miles out of that coat. This one is great too. It is lightweight, waterproof, goes to 28,000. So far so good.

Night coat: Salomon Outline

I will make the call to change from a 190 grams coat to 360 grams at night it gives that warmth and that protection. At this stage I will probably have my mid-layer on too. Giving me a big shield of warmth.

Running Vest: Solomon Advance Skin. 12L

I’ve always used a Solomon vest. Two key reasons:

1) Comfort – you really can play around with the fit; and

2) The pockets are perfect. I can give everything a place. It is great.

I go for soft flasks rather than bladders; which are harder to fill at check-points. Again 2 reasons:

1) I run with Tailwind and Activeroot. You can’t really mix them… it wouldn’t be the best cocktail!

2) I’ve never been able to get past the cold first sip followed by body temp liquid when taking on fluids. It’s like the refreshing sip of cold beer, followed by a pint of warm beer!

Gareth prioritises how he packs his vest. From miles of training you get to know what works best. For everything you don’t need to stop for, there is a pocket.

Everything in the vest is in zip-locked bags and labelled up. Same with his crew supplies.

Hydration:

Tailwind: Cola flavour. Refreshing. Not overpowering. I also absolutely love this company. They wish me luck before my events!

Active Root: Love the taste of ginger and it is great for settling the stomach.

Again this is personal and requires trail and error. I find that I get on best when I use half the recommended measures for both.

I don’t tend to need salt tablets and I’m not too keen on electrolytes. I tend to look forward to a salty meal when I am finished; I love tomato soup and salted potatoes

Lighting

Headtorch : Petzl NAO

Always with spare batteries. When on more remote events I’ll have a second headtorch. That’s not necessary luggage here as my team will be no more than 15 mins away at any time.

Powerful handheld: IPSXP 1000 lumens bike torch

It is so handy. It is like a spotlight. Just what you need when you get into a field in the dead of night and you’re heading for a stile.

Waist light: UltrAspire 600 3.0

Although Nicola calls it my crotch-light, it is actually really handy… I gives a constant and broad light out in front of you. Coming into checkpoints I tend to turn my head torch off and it becomes really easy for our crew to see us coming!

Gloves: Buffalo Mitts

Waterproof gloves DO NOT EXIST! Don’t waist your money or your time trying to find them. Instead, spend the time finding gloves that work for you. I got some great advice: buffalo mittens. They don’t claim to be waterproof – and they’re not. But they keep your hands really warm – even when they get wet.  I have 2 pairs of them for events. If it is super cold I’ll have a really thin pair of wool gloves underneath.

Buff:  From my GB Ultra collection

Watch: Garmin Fenix 5

Just awesome. All I need and more.

Capturing the moments: Go-Pro Hero 8

But on this occasion, it is just my iPhone.

Safety & well being

Full charged iPhone plus a fully charged backup phone = Nokia 105 (2019) Pay As You Go.

GB RaceTracker = My team will know where I am at all times. They will know if I stop moving. This is a big help and allows me to go lighter on the kit I am carrying.

First aid kit: For this and events = Strong pain killers (for broken leg), Imodium, Paracetamol, Antiseptic wipes, Bandages, Bivvy bag, loo-kit.

Recovery: Recovery Cuffs

As you know, I’m a fan. When we were allowed to travel away for weekends, on our training trips, they’d be the first thing unpacked and in the freezer ready to go. Carole will have them ready for me in Leeds.

A good salty meal. A protein shake. A massage.

Cameron proscribed an “active recovery” – but I forgot to ask what active recovery was for 127-miles!

The post event recovery is so important. If you come away feeling good about the experience – chances are, you’ll be back. And we want our sport to grow. Obviously, this year has been terrible. We’ve REALLY missed the events - getting together and racing.

This challenge has been an important focus for me – and I am determined to do what I can for the RNLI.

Read more of Gareth Kilshaw's preparations:

Training Plan: How to prepare for 100 miles plus

Nutrition: The food that powers the efforts.

Crew: The best support you can get

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