Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Gear, Gear, Gear

As we get closer to the event, I find that my mind keeps turning to the gear I will need for the event and for camping.

For anyone else who is also thinking about this, the first two resources I would point you to are
I hope by now that you have shoes.  Shoes are to me the most important piece of gear for this event.  I love my shoes because they kept me blister free even in the pouring rain last year, and I am still trying to find a replacement for them as that model has been discontinued and these will be too worn to use on this year's event.  I could write a whole post on shoes, but for now I'm going to leave it as, get fitted at a real running store.  Walk in them.  If they don't work for you, get something else.  Remember they should be comfortable from minute one of wearing them.  There is no "breaking them in".  Anything that bugs you now, is going to bug you way more on mile 17 and probably cause injury or blisters by mile 57.  Spend time, spend money.  Get good shoes.  Socks are important too.  You don't want regular cotton ones, but the moisture wicking kind.

November in San Diego was cold by this thin-blooded Southern CA-girl's standards.  If you are from parts of the country where you get real snow in your cities during the winter, you have my permission to laugh at me now, and you will probably find it a nice warm change of pace if you're coming to join us in San Diego.  Last year at night it was probablhy in the low 40's or so. During the day it was probably never much warmer than about 70 (and on the two days it rained, definitely seemed colder). While walking, the cold was not a problem and I saw lots of people walking in shorts. I was quite comfy in long workout pants, short sleeved shirt and a sport jacket which I could remove when I got warm.  I wore a hat and sunglasses as well.  The rain of course also meant that I had a rain poncho on day 2 & 3 and gloves for the beginning of the day when my hands were still cold.  I'm hoping for no rain this year.  A lot of the walking is also near the coastline, stunningly beautiful, but it means there was often a lot of wind.

The best way to know what will work best for you for gear you will carry on you, is to try it out on training walks.  I'm providing links here to items I have found that I liked using last year.  I am not paid to endorse any of these items, just including them because they worked for me.  However, everyone is different and what works for me may not work for you, so keep trying things out during your training until you find what you like.

For hydration, there are lots of options.  I do not like to carry anything in my hands while walking, so having something to hold my water/sports drink was important for me.  The three main things I saw people with were
  1. Waist packs:  they come in lots of different types and if this is what you want you just need to shop around until you find one that is comfy and easy for you to use.
  2. Hydratation back pack:  Lots of people love these.  I decided that since they like you to drink both water and sports drink during the walk, that if I had this, I'd still need to carry a second water bottle for the gatorade, so I opted not to go this route.  Some folks just alternate water at this stop, then the sports drink at the next.
  3. Regular back pack or cinch back pack.  I tried this during training last year and the biggest downfall for me was it was hard to get at my waterbottles on the go.  I'd have to stop to open them up and that would have gotten annoying during the walk.
I wore a waist pack that I found at target that is like this:
I replaced the water bottles that came with this waist pack with these rubbermaid water bottles.
I really liked how easy they are to drink from on the go, and they have a nice wide opening that made it easy to refill on the event.

I also carried a lightweight cinch bag kind of like this:

Because I knew we were getting rain, I mostly wanted more mobile storage for some of the extra things I carried, and on Day 3 I tossed my crocs (which weigh almost nothing) in there to change into as soon as the closing ceremony was over.
 I saw lots of people who had very minimal gear on them as they walked. I probably carried more than I needed, but I used most of it, so I was OK doing it.  A few things that I think are a must that you probably should find a way to carry with you as you walk are
  • sunscreen
  • lip balm with SPF
  • body glide or equivlent (I think mine is band-aid brand because that's what the store I went to had)
  • ibuprofin and any other medications you may need
  • blister care supplies
  • any feminine products you may need
  • tissues (I'm a cryer!)
  • driver's license and medical insurance card
  • a little cash
  • rain poncho
Even if rain is not forcasted, having a disposible rain poncho is not a bad idea as you can use it at lunch to sit on even if you don't use it for anything else!

I have trouble drinking too much of any drink with lots of sugar in it, so I also carried my own packets of the low-calorie version of powdered Gatorade and added it to one of my two bottles every time I refilled it.

Not everyone stays in camp, plenty go to hotels in the evening.  Whatever you choose to do is fine.  I actually surprised myself that I really enjoyed staying in camp, and I am not someone who has ever been a real camping type.  You should read up in both of the guides I posted above for more comprehensive info on what you will need for camping.  I'll briefly mention some of the things I used or brought that stood out as being very useful to me.

I had a sleeping bag rated down to 30F and was perfectly comfy in it. I used a self-inflating camp pad underneath it and slept pretty well.  I debated back and forth between this and an inflatable matress and decided that this was easier.  I didn't need to bring the pump or worry that if it did get a hole in it that I'd be sleeping on the ground and I also didn't have to worry that the matress would take up more than my share of the tent.  Earplugs were a must for me for sleeping.  Without them, the wind would have kept me up all night that first night and the rain the second night.  Plus, not everyone goes to sleep at the same time, so there can be lots of noise around the area.  Your tent mate may snore or the folks in the tent near you may!!  I was excited that I found pink earplugs!  I also had a headlamp flashlight that I picked up at Target.  This made lighting my way when walking around camp after dark easy, and it was perfect for that middle of the night trip to the porta potties (remember, there are no lights in the porta potties).  I liked that I didn't have to worry about dropping it in there and it kept me hands free.  And trust me, if you've hydrated well, odds are you will have to make a middle of the night trip to the porta potties.

I had flip flops that I wore when I showered and crocs that I wore with comfy socks in the camp at the end of the day. Once I'd showered, I changed into thermals with sweats and a comfy sweatshirt to go to dinner and to hang out in the camp main street and dining tent.

I highly recommend purchasing the towel service during your online check-in so you don't have to deal with wet towels after showering.

A reminder that you have to fit all your gear into a single bag and it has to be 35 lbs or less. Last year I had a large black duffle that I used and I took pink multi-colored yarn and just wrapped that around the handle multiple times to be able to quickly pick it out. I'm going to see if I can pare things down a little more this year, and am hoping to be able to use a slightly smaller wheeled duffle I own instead.  Wheels would have been nice last year, but it should be OK even if I use the same duffle this year.

My bottom line is to remind you that the more you plan ahead for your gear, the better off you'll be.  Train with what you plan to use on the event, so you can work out any issues ahead of time and replace anything that isn't working for you!

I'm getting excited about November!

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