Challenge Races: Athletic Gear + Backpack Tips

I have been asked many times for advice on how to dress for challenge races and what to bring, so I figured why not share the info in a post. Enjoy Spartans, Tough Mudders, Trail Ragnarians and others!

CLOTHING:

Note: I am basing this on average race weather, not winter conditions.

  • Dress in sportswear that is made from quality fabrics, has some compression and is comfortable, BUT not so expensive that you will be upset if your clothes are torn up from obstacles and getting down and dirty on a race course.
  • Breathable, lightweight fabric is the best so that if you become soaked by water features or Mother Nature you will not be weighed down.
  • Coverage is a key factor often overlooked. If you are going through several water features or it’s raining I would stay away from long-sleeve tops, ankle-length leggings, and loose fabrics that could weigh you down or get caught on objects. To that same point, I wouldn’t recommend wearing tiny shorts that offer little to no protection. I have found that Capri leggings are the best length because they offer mid-range coverage and protect your knees during crawling maneuvers.

GLOVES:

Bring fitness gloves you can wear to help protect your hands and provide you with a good grip on the obstacles. Again, I wouldn’t recommend buying expensive ones because they may get torn up. When I reach water obstacles I typically remove my gloves and stash them in my waistband to try and keep them dry.

SNEAKERS:

The importance of your feet being comfortable is commonly taken for granted and can make a huge difference in your race experience. I strongly advise not waiting until race day to break in new sneakers. Your sneakers should have good tread and ankle support to handle slippery surfaces, wooded and rocky terrain, especially for races that last more than three hours. Wearing lightweight sneakers and tying them securely is also a benefit if they become wet or heavy covered in mud. I cannot tell you how many random sneaker casualties I see along race courses. Be prepared to have to spray down (or power-wash 😉) your sneakers at the end of a race. If they are old and/or destroyed at the end, many races offer you the option to throw your sneakers in a donation pile.

BACKPACK ESSENTIALS:

Note: I like items that aren’t bulky and serve multiple purposes.

  1. Emergency Phone Charger
  2. Phone – place in a waterproof pouch if you use it during a race, I usually leave my phone in my backpack for fear it will get broken
  3. Photo ID + Insurance Card + $20 Cash (in small bills) – place together inside a small ziplock baggie or a waterproof pouch
  4. Keys
  5. Sunglasses
  6. Hand Sanitizer Gel – can be used for your hands or first-aid
  7. Small Bar Soap – like the kind from a hotel
  8. Lip Sunscreen
  9. Body Sunscreen
  10. Bug Spray
  11. Q-Tips
  12. Nail Clippers – can double as scissors if needed
  13. Standard Garbage Bag – can be used for garbage or as a rain poncho
  14. Pack of Mini Tissues
  15. Small Travel First-Aid Kit
  16. Flashlight or Two Glow Sticks
  17. Spare Pair of Socks
  18. Spare Pair of Underwear
  19. Light Packable Jacket or Sweatshirt shout-out for GORE-TEX® SHAKEDRY™ Jackets – breathable, lightweight, waterproof and reflective, totally worth the money, #GOREWear
  20. Black Sharpie for writing your race number on the body part of your choice, filling out forms and more
  21. Duct Tape – rip and roll up a small section from a large role; useful for covering blisters, patching holes and more
  22. Water Bottle + Carabiner Clip
  23. Electrolyte Tablets #nuun tablets are great because they come in a small waterproof container (based on a lake incident I had) and they are versatile; you can pop a tablet in your water bottle or the mini paper cups of water
  24. Protein Bars
  25. Energy Gels
  26. Microfiber Towel – perfect for use at the end of a race on your body or to protect your car seat

Now go out and crush your race goals!!!!!

If you have any tips you would like to share, write them in the Comments section or send an email to galotgo@gmail.com and I will add them to this post.

Sneak Peek: 2018 Healthy Adventures

“When unforeseen obstacles arise, change your plans for how you will reach your goals, never give up on your goals or yourself.” – Gal on the Go

My healthy adventures schedule may appear tame now, but you never know what’s going to come up, and that’s part of the fun!  😉

DATE EVENT LOCATION
May 6 Race for Hope 5K
http://www.teambt.org/
Washington, DC
May 11 & 12 Ragnar Trail Relay
(Team: All the Good Names are Taken)
Zion, UT
June 2 Bay Bridge Paddle Annapolis, MD
September 22 SeaWheeze Vancouver, BC

 

Time Flies When You’re on the Go

In 2015, I set out to complete a Spartan Trifecta, but not just any Sprint, Super and Beast, I purposely chose the most difficult Spartan Races on the east coast. I started with the Virginia Super at Wintergreen, then tackled the Vermont Beast at Killington, and finished with the Boston Sprint at Fenway Park. I entered the obstacle races solo and had the honor of connecting with some incredible competitors, and meeting their supporters along the way. Everyone I met made my experiences memorable and fun!

In 2016, some unexpected injuries and surgeries got in my way, but I focused my energy on making a comeback in 2017 because life is too short for a pity party! I trained year-round approximately five times a week and pushed myself outside my comfort zone to try races of all kinds that I had never done before.

I’m not going to sugar coat it; 2017 was exhausting, but I had a blast! I owe the privilege of being able to participate in the events below because of the support from my friends, community, and local businesses like Westfields Dental and CorePower Yoga Fairfax. Thanks to all for the positive memories!

DATE EVENT LOCATION
May 7 40th Anniversary TD Five Boro Bike Tour New York City, NY
May 14 DC Bike Ride Washington, DC
June 17 Tough Mudder Full Whistler Olympic Park, Vancouver, BC
July 29 VA Momentum: SUPTri (paddle board, bike, run) Bridgewater, VA
August 27 Philly 10K Philadelphia, PA
September 9 13 Colonies Ride Washington, DC
September 16 2017 National Capital Region 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb Oxon Hill, MD
September 23 GlowDogGlow 5K Loudoun, VA
October – January Yoga Teacher Training School Fairfax, VA

 

Shifting Gears

 

Cycling has been a recreational passion of mine since I was a child. I vividly remember the day I got my training wheels off and I biked as fast as my little legs would peddle with a great sense of freedom! This past July, Nicole from the Fairfax County Department of Transportation reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in serving my community as a Fairfax County Bicycle Ambassador. I instantly said yes! … and then um, could you please tell me what I just agreed to? 😉 She explained to me that the Bicycle Ambassador position is for one year and entails:

  • teaching and promoting cycling safety to Fairfax County residents in a fun way
  • giving presentations upon request on a variety of bike topics (ex. Bike to Work Day) at local businesses and organizations
  • handing out materials and assisting residents with basic bike maintenance issues if needed at local events

Things quickly got rolling! I enthusiastically shifted gears into my new position and became certified in First Aid. In August, I took part in a fun photo shoot in which the images will be used in various bike safety print collateral and on the coming soon website bikefairfax bikesafe.bikesmart. On September 20, I completed the required Fairfax County Bicycle Ambassador Program Orientation course with two other representatives. They gave us official ambassador T-shirts donated by Ben & Jerry’s that we must wear to all county activities we work.

In October, I attended my first local outreach event at the Providence Community Center in Vienna. I had a great time handing out the informative and detailed Fairfax County Bike Maps, safety literature and bike lights. The kids there were open to learning and very excited about riding the trails with their parents. My next appearance will be on December 4 at an outreach event in Tysons. I cannot wait to share my bicycle safety knowledge and spread the word about current resources available to bike riders and the awesome new county bike services on the horizon!

I just found out that one of the photos they took of me made the cover of the Fairfax County Bicycle outreach brochure! It’s been a great experience serving as a Fairfax County Bicycle Ambassador and promoting the safety of a sport that has nostalgic meaning to me.

Until their new website is ready, check out Fairfax County’s current bicycle resources web page.

Stairway to Heaven

2017 National Capital Region 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb, Oxon Hill, Maryland
110 Flights of Stairs
320 Climbers
*This is not a timed race event; it is a way for firefighters and the community to honor and remember the 343 FDNY firefighters who selflessly gave their lives. We were kindly given commemorative in memoriam coins for our participation. 

My friend Sarah knew of an annual event where participants pay tribute to FDNY firefighters by climbing the equivalent of the 110 stories of the World Trade Center. She asked if I wanted to participate with her and a few of our other friends. Of course! My friends Sarah, Leslie, MaryKate and I gathered outside the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center to check in. There were badges scattered on the table of FDNY firemen who died on 9/11 during rescue efforts. Each of us selected a badge, clipped it to our shirts and climbed in their honor. I proudly wore the badge of…

 Jeffrey Palazzo, Age 33, FDNY Firefighter, Member of Rescue 5


 

This has been an eventful summer! My “race” schedule is starting to wind down, but I hope you will continue to be inspired by my healthy adventures and try new things.

Independent Ride

13 Colonies Ride (part of the 50 States Ride, 62 miles), Washington, DC
15 Miles
700 Cyclists (Sold Out)

I heard about this fun annual cycling event last year, but before I could sign up, it had sold out. It’s hosted by the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA), which I am proud to be a member. This year, I noted the registration timing of the event and entered The 13 Colonies portion before it sold out! The 13 Colonies is a 15-mile hilly ride through every Ward of the District and on every avenue named for the original 13 Colonies. Roads are open to traffic as usual and there are a lot of stops along the city blocks, which is probably why it’s an event rather than a race. The lunch pit stop took place under a tented area next to Eastern Market, located in the heart of the historic Capitol Hill neighborhood. The lively marketplace has been around since 1873 and features a variety of produce, handmade crafts and more. A bonus, there are also many delicious mom and pop restaurants and coffee shops in the neighborhood. It’s one of my favorite non-touristy places to wander around in DC.

FUN FACT: Can you name all 13 Colonies?
(Answer: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia) They are significant because these Colonies coming together formed the United States.

Street Cred

Philly 10K
4,500 Runners (Sold Out)
Bib #1221

My friend Tracy from high school, aka #somekindarunner, and I made plans to meet up at a halfway point over the summer and do a fun race together. Enter the Philly 10K, a 6.2-mile loop through South Philly and Center City along 76 city blocks. This annual race has been going on since 2014, hosted by a group of proud Philadelphians to celebrate the history and diversity of the city. The race entry fee includes a finisher T-shirt and keepsake, but no medal. The robust crowd was very friendly and the race was well organized. Even if medals aren’t involved in a race, I still try to do my best and use the opportunity to compete against myself and put my training efforts into practice. My end time was 1:05 with an average pace of 10:28. After the race, we enjoyed the street festival, headed to the hotel to clean up, and then went for a delicious meal before parting ways on our mini road trips back home!