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 ūüėČ) 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¬ģ SHAKEDRY‚ĄĘ 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‚ÄĮTablets #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‚ÄĮBars
  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.

Bonded by Mud

Tough Mudder Full, Whistler Olympic Park
12+ Miles
19 Obstacles
12,300 Participants From Around the World
Bib #374707

I eagerly entered the corral at the starting line. The MC gave the crowd a pep talk about how the mentality of Tough Mudder isn’t how fast you can cross the finish line, but rather about pushing yourself and accomplishing something extraordinary. “It’s not about medals,” he said, “it’s about camaraderie.” That’s why IF you complete a Tough Mudder challenge, you receive a coveted finisher headband and T-shirt, not a medal.

I was at the Tough Mudder solo, but I hoped to come across a kind comrade or two for help at obstacles I physically couldn’t do by myself. I never expected it to happen at the second obstacle! The Hero Carry requires a teammate to carry you for a set distance; switch and then have you carry them. A guy with a wild mohawk said he didn’t have a partner. He instantly scooped me up in his arms and carried me, then at the switching point, we linked arms to the end of the obstacle. As we ran to the next obstacle, he introduced himself as Randy. It turned out that he was doing the Tough Mudder as part of a trio with his best friends Trevor and Kelsey. Our teamwork continued and by the third obstacle, Kelsey turned to me and said, “welcome to our team!” That’s how I ended up being adopted as the fourth member of their group.

I was sweating from the physical exertion, but oddly, I also had goosebumps and my teeth were chattering. I’m not sure why I was surprised that a challenge I was doing on Whistler Mountain in Canada was cold!?! It was a mental trip seeing snow on the ground at various points of the course. As Kelsey and I rounded one of the corners Randy pelted us with a snowball!

When we approached¬†the first water obstacle Kelsey advised me to take off my shirt so I would have something fairly dry to put back¬†on. I thought it’s a short sleeve shirt, it can’t possibly make a difference, but I took her advice. She said “hand your shirt to him” and pointed to a man on the side. I was like OOOK, here’s my shirt stranger. We successfully completed the obstacle, got our shirts, and put them back on (it did in fact help and make a difference). Kelsey said, “Oh, by the way, that’s my dad.” I said, “well, this is the most interesting way I have ever met someone’s parent!” Her parents were along the course at certain points as spectators to support her.

The temperature became cooler as time passed and the frigid water obstacles proved to be the most challenging I had ever faced. Unfortunately, I failed three of the water obstacles, which bummed me out. They didn’t count against me in the challenge, but I was very disappointed in myself. I never trudged through so much mud in my life. During one of the stretches of running, I came across a sneaker casualty. Apparently, someone had lost their sneaker in the mud and kept going! There’s definitely a reason why the word mud is part of the name. I ripped my leggings and collected several brush burns and bruises. Randy positively referred to them as our “accomplishment tattoos”.

In Spartan races, it’s a tradition to jump over a fire pit of flames as the last obstacle. Equally scary, Tough Mudder tradition ends with maneuvering through live electrical wires over water pits. It’s called Electroshock Therapy. I proudly made it to the end and earned a coveted orange finisher headband and shirt. Kelsey’s parents were there to congratulate us. Her mom came to my rescue and handed Kelsey a foil-like wrap to put around me. I never thought a thin silver sheet could feel so warm. I looked like a giant baked potato, but I didn’t care.

Just like the MC said, the challenge was indeed about camaraderie. I am grateful that I made three new friends who literally lent me a hand several times along the way, and cheered me on as one of their own. Thank you, Kelsey, Randy and Trevor!   

The Tough Mudder Full was my second big healthy comeback goal for 2017 and my first Tough Mudder event ever. My aim was to finish the challenge in under four hours. I am proud to share that my trio and I completed it in a little over 3 hours and I am now an official Tough Mudder Legionnaire!

The third big healthy comeback goal I set for the year is six weeks away. I hope you will continue to follow my adventures as I attempt my first triathlon, the VA Momentum SUPTri in Bridgewater, VA, on July 29! 

Since the age of eight, I have continuously been presented with challenges in which I needed to be fearless to overcome. That’s how I came up with the theme of living a fearless life for my adventure blog. Each time I felt like I couldn’t make it through yet another life test, I learned that I am stronger than I thought, especially with the loyal support of others.

THANK YOU to my family, friends, community and business sponsors OrthoVirginia, Westfields Dental and Flyte Fitness for continuing to believe in me!

OrthoVirginiaWestfields Dental