Being a winter ultra, the mandatory kit list for this race is quite extensive. Unless something dramatic happens, either to me or to the weather, much of it will remain unused in my race pack.
Survival bag – no flappy gold blankets here, heavy duty bivvy bags only. It’s not unusual for someone to get injured or otherwise incapacitated during the event, and with stretches of the coast path being remote and difficult to access, staying warm if immobilised is key. I’m hoping I won’t need it!
Gloves – liner gloves and waterproof outers are both specified in the kit requirements. These were on my Christmas list, again acquired specifically for this race. They’re both from Decathlon, fairly cheap and cheerful, but they came recommended. The liners are a Merino wool blend and the outers are a mitten. If the forecast holds, I doubt I’ll need them, I don’t think it will be cold enough. We shall see.
Waterproof cap – in theory only needed if the jacket does not have a peaked hood. Mine does, but if it’s that wet, I like to have the extra peak area. A futile attempt to keep the worst of the rain off my specs.
Waterproof jacket – Montane Fleet in a discrete shade of orange, it will do the job nicely. I’ll probably wear it from the start for warmth, even if it’s not raining.
Waterproof trousers – Inov 8, supposedly pretty waterproof and stretchy to enable normal running. I doubt I’ll use them unless it’s really atrociously wet AND cold. I’ve only worn them once.
Leggings – these are thermal leggings, the only ones I have. I normally only wear them for running if it gets below freezing. Again, I doubt I’ll need them.
Buff – I’ll start with the Ring o’ Fire buff on my person, perhaps one other around a wrist.
Warm hat – standard beanie. I’ll have some spares with the crew, just in case.
Primary headtorch and spare battery – it’ll be dark for 4 or 5 hours of my race, maybe even 6 hours if I’m slower than expected. I’ll be using my LedLenser MH10, it’s very bright and good for at least 10 hours on a fully charged battery. I’ll be keeping the spare battery stashed away in my race pack – it’s very unlikely I’ll need it.
Backup headtorch and spare battery – I have a few spare headtorches but they are all USB charged, no swappable batteries. This one is a bit rubbish, bought specifically for this race for the princely sum of £12.50. It meets the requirements but I wouldn’t want to rely on it, particularly on that patch of coastline. I’ll have a better torch in the crew vehicle should it be needed.
Whistle – I do have one on my race vest but it’s a bit shit and wouldn’t alert anyone further than 10 paces away in an emergency. This one is a referee’s whistle, weighs almost nothing and is properly loud.
Base layer(s) – typical mandatory kit. I’ll use a lightweight Inov8 top for this purpose, carrying it in a dry bag along with other items I want to stay dry in the back of my pack. The kit instructions state two base layers, but one can be worn from the start. I’ll have spare clothes in the crew vehicle so I can add to this if it gets super chilly.
Drinks cup – another thing I’ll just stash in the vest and never use. I don’t plan to stop at the St Ives checkpoint as I’ll have crew support, so no cup needed.
Fluid carrying capacity – 1.5L required. I’ll have two 500ml softflasks in use, up front in the vest, and one stashed away empty in the back of the pack. I don’t expect to need it, I’ll be getting re-filled by crew at a maximum of 2hr intervals.
Red tail light – bought off Amazon for a few quid, I tested it out in the rain a week or two ago and it packed up after a couple of hours. Reading the small print it is only “weather resistant” which won’t cut the mustard on race day. It works fine now it has dried out, but I have sealed it inside a plastic bag and duck taped it to my vest. I am tempted to buy a spare, just in case.
Race pack – my trusty Decathlon vest. I would like more external storage for grub n stuff, but I know where everything is on this one, it doesn’t chafe and is plenty big enough for the Arc kit list.
Emergency nutrition. I missed this as I was laying the kit out for the photo, so that was close! I’ve since stashed a Kendal Mint Cake NRG bar in the pack.
There are three other items of mandatory kit specified. One is a mobile phone (I was using that to take the photo) and the others are provided by the race, a GPS tracker and a simplified map of the route. Right, that covers the mandatory kit. I think.
Start line kit – The weather forecast a few days out is 10 degrees and dry, with a breeze making it feel more like 5 or 6 degrees. Unless that changes dramatically between now and race day, I’ll be in my Decathlon trail shorts which have plenty of pockets, with my longest Runderwear underneath. I’m going to start in Drymax socks and Inov8 X-talon Ultra 260 V2 trail shoes. I wore them on my recce of the gnarliest section between Pendeen Watch and St Ives. With 8mm lugs, they did well on rock and are superb in mud, of which there will be plenty. They have some cushioning but I found I started to feel the many small rocks on the paths by the time I got through the rough parts. I’ll switch them out at St Ives, I think. I have some new gaiters to try as well, thinking of the likely muddy patches. I’ll wear a base layer from the start, possibly with a t-shirt over for an extra layer. With the waterproof over that should be plenty, or if it’s dry I’ll stick a mid-layer on instead. This will all be topped off with a hat of some kind, probably the orange cap, possibly a warmer hat if it’s very chilly. Lastly, I’ll be taking my trekking poles from the start. I may leave them with crew for the flat tarmac section from St Ives, but most likely I’ll carry them throughout. I don’t find them to be much of an encumbrance, I like the stability they give me on dodgy ground and I think they help with leg fatigue in the latter stages.
Crew support means I can throw the kitchen sink at kit to be stashed in the crewmobile…
Shoes – Once St Ives is reached, there’s a 10km section of road or tarmac followed by a sandy section before I hit the cliffs again. I can’t decide whether to switch to road shoes, or nice plush light trail shoes. I’m currently leaning the Asic Trabuco Max. Either way, I’ll do another quick shoe change on the North Cliffs into Inov8 TrailFly G300s. It’s a bit of a luxury to be able to change into dry shoes so I will take full advantage, even if they only stay dry for 10 minutes. The mental boost is worth the minute or two it will take.
Nutrition – Tailwind will form the foundation of my trail nosh for the day. I like it mixed strong, 4 scoops per 500ml, good for 2hrs or so. I’ll have another 5 flasks worth pre-mixed and sufficient powder for another 2 flasks which should be plenty. Tailwind claim it’ll be “all I need”, but unfortunately it is not. I’ll be treating the crew vehicle as a mobile aid station so I’ll be stocking it with things I know I like on an ultra. Sandwiches of various kinds, crisps, chocolate, gels, soup, jelly babies, malt loaf and bananas. If I’m lucky, Rach & Garry will be able to source a pasty and maybe some chips along the way too. I’ve said I don’t plan to linger at the St Ives checkpoint, but if they have something tasty that appeals there I may be tempted to scoff that too.
Hydration – I’ll start with 500ml of water up front and re-fill at each crew stop. I’ll have a flask of hot water available for soup and coffee if I feel like it. I’ll have some Coke too. I don’t drink it normally, but I’ll inevitably crave the Red Rescue at some point during the 12+ hours I’ll be out on the course.
Spare clothes – I may want to change tops if I get wet and I’ll certainly want to add a layer or two at St Ives as it’ll be getting dark. I think I’ll take a spare waterproof jacket, and some spare warm hats, more socks, more buffs.
Supplies – although the forecast is dry that may (probably will) change, it’ll probably be wet at least some of the time. Despite preventive measures I may get some chafing in certain….intimate crevices. I’ll have Sudacrem and Vaseline for soothing and re-lube purposes. I’ve been using Trench foot cream for a few weeks now on soggy long runs – it stops water getting into the skin on your feet, preventing maceration which can lead to blisters. I plan to clean and dry feet at St Ives, between sock changes, so I’ll be able to reapply. I’ll have some Rock Tape pre-cut and the rest of the roll and some scissors, in case of hot spots or the dreaded blister. Oddly the mandatory kit does not specify a first aid kit, but I’ll have one on me anyway, with some additional items with the crew.
This is my first experience being crewed, so we’ll see how well I’ve judged kit and supplies. I am a little worried I’ve over done it, which may result in some faffing and wasted time. We live and learn.
I’ll be back soon with a race report.