Never try anything for the first time at a race.

Nutrition, socks, shoes, anti-chafe, hydration… heck even your morning routine should be the same… right?

While it is definitely a smart idea, I usually do the opposite.

First Time Best/Worst Time

The only way to tell if the fire is hot would be to jump into it – Someone stupid

Yet another spot where I've been a hypocrite in my writing would be when I stressed never to try anything new during a race in 7 Weeks to a 10k, and it's a rule I break nearly every race, no matter the distance. Why not order a new hydration vest from Amazon that ships the day I leave for a 50-miler? Breaking in two pair of Spira road shoes during a 35 mile ultra and marathon in back-to-back weeks? Sure! I almost always use a brand new pair of socks for races, but at least they are mostly from brands I trust.

While I absolutely have paid the gut-bomb price for drinking a sports drink that I hadn't tested, for the most part I've been A-OK with “building the plane mid-flight” by testing stuff on the run.

I've rarely ever had a big issue with jumping into the fire with new gear, if it works as anticipated and I don't have to think about it at all it's a win. Occasionally, I will be blown away by the performance of a product and the entire time I'm running I mentally craft the product review with flowery superlatives… that I forget once my endorphins abate. During the 24 Hour Terrain Relay, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to test the following gear:

Tried & true stuff I used:

Drywear Apparel Race Top, Icebug Oribi, NEW XRacewear Shorts, Mudgear 1/4 Crew socks

Trail Toes: Secret Weapon for First Timin'

Blisters suck. Trail Toes = no blisters. Trail Toes good.

I'm sorry Vince, I just don't talk about Trail Toes anywhere near enough for how great of a product it is. Maybe I'm trying to keep a secret weapon for myself, but either way I'm a buttwad. – Brett

Trail Toes Phenomenal Ultra Extreme Anti-Friction Foot & Body Cream has been a staple of every run over 10 miles since I met Vince back in 2014, and I've never – ever – blistered in any areas I've applied Trail Toes. Speaking of “areas” to apply this wonder product, you can (and should) apply it liberally anywhere on your body that could potentially rub over time: pits, nips, butt, you name it. So, when I say “hey, I'm cool and can wear new socks/shoes/shirts/shorts with no chafing… it's all about the Trail Toes, and not my “nips of steel.”

trailtoes.com

Drywear Apparel Top(s)

There are very few times had that I had a “holy shit” moment with gear when it far exceeded my expectations, and the first time I tested the Transpor top from Drywear (known as Hammer Strength Apparel at the time) I was simply astounded. Prior to 20+ miles on the bike in 100º temps under the AZ sun, I had no doubt I'd be overheating and shirtless before I was halfway done, boy was I wrong. Even under searing desert heat, once I started to sweat even the littlest bit, the Transpor material immediately felt cool. Fast forward to a couple weeks ago, I was in the middle of a 10+ mile trail run, and decided to go shirtless to catch some sun. A few miles in, my UD Ultra Vest started chafing a bit, so I put on my Drywear top, and instantly felt 10 degrees cooler. Really.

During Terrain Relay, I wore the DW top during daylight, and switched to the new Hybrid Compression long sleeve top we're testing for added warmth & comfort overnight. I'm geeked to keep testing versions of the hybrid top, and I honestly feel it could be the #1 racing/training shirt in OCR – providing compression & protection over the entire arm from wrist to shoulder and a light torso panel to wick sweat without heavy compression so you can breathe easier than an upper-body compression sausage casing!

drywearapparel.com

Icebug Oribi & DTS3 Shoes

Heading into Terrain Relay, I wasn't sure the exact conditions, so I brought every pair of Icebugs I have, Zeal3, Acceleritas5, Oribi, and DTS3 to figure out what would work best. Each model has its own benefit:

  • Oribi: Light, great traction & rock plate for nastier trails. Small amount of cushioning for ground feel.
    • Best for all-around trail/road racing; can take trail, obstacle, & mud abuse, drains OK and light/nimble enough for road racing too
  • Acceleritas5: Extremely flexible, tremendous grip, no padding & breathable upper.
    • Best for mud & obstacles for narrow-footed athletes who like zero-drop minimal & flexible shoes for mud & obstacles. Deep tread not suitable for road running, too much tread for “groomed” trails.
  • Zeal3: Light, great grip, no padding, incredible stability, rock plate in midfoot for traction on any surface.
    • Best for longer OCRs or technical trail runs requiring grip on any surface coupled with lateral stability from their wrap-around midsole. Somewhat wider in the forefoot than the Accel5, too stiff for road running or groomed trails.
  • DTS3: Very cushioned, breathable upper, some stability, low profile tread for on/off road conditions.
    • Best for all-around running for athletes requiring cushioning & stability. Ventilated upper breathes well and stretches for a snug, comfortable fit. (NOTE: Best to go up 1/2 size when ordering) DTS3 are more than capable on all but the gnarliest or muddiest of trails while also perfect for cushioned runs on groomed trails or roads.

I started out the first 9.6 miles running in Oribi, including one trip through the mud & water after an unfortunate trip through a penalty lap, and was pretty happy with ho w quickly the upper shed mud quickly and drained well. After my 3rd lap, I changed to the DTS3 for the remaining 27 or so miles, as the Speed course was extremely runnable with medium tread, and the cushioning of the DTS3 was rather fantastic.

Icebug Shoes (10% off w/code MRG10)

TomTom Adventurer Watch

The more I wear the TomTom Adventurer (original review), the more it becomes a piece of gear that I don't even think about; it goes on when I wake up, earbuds go in when I run, and both things end up getting charged overnight. Yes, I know it has a sleep tracking feature, but it's just too big for me to get comfortable wearing it overnight.

I was most impressed with the battery life, lasting the entire 24 hours / 35 miles while tracking me via GPS. For the first few laps I would pause it in-between running segments, then I logged each lap individually. Both ways worked fine, and it was a fun distraction to scroll through the climb, steps, compass, and other screens out on the trail.

One area I was a little surprised with was the durability; the Adventurer has a little bit of a plastic look & feel as compared to my TomTom Multisport GPS which has taken a ton of abuse over the last couple years. After knocking the Adventurer around on rigs, walls, and three crawls per lap, it doesn't have a scratch on it!

I'm a big fan of this watch, and look forward to many more adventures with it, and after being a TomTom customer for a while I know there will be some great updates to the software – and I'm hoping they will offer different watch faces so it always doesn't feel like a sport-only watch.

TomTom Adventurer

Tailwind Nutrition

According to many of my Facebook friends (and teammates *cough* Margaret), I'm stuck it the stone ages when it comes to hydration products because I'd never tried Tailwind Nutrition before. So, not only did I try Tailwind, it was the only hydration product I used for 24 hours – aside from an early morning coffee.

As a guy who gets gut-bombs from too much sugar or turned off from too much of any particular taste, Tailwind was perfect – I never made that “ew” face no matter how much I chugged in-betwwen laps, and was amazed how quickly and completely it dissolved each time I filled up.

At 200 calories, Tailwind Nutrition lived up to its motto: “All you need all day. Really.” as I took it to heart with (6) servings over the course of about 22 hours. While I should've taken in more calories – my TomTom report post-race showed I burned about 1500 more calories than I took in – TW's energy was continuous and smooth, I never crashed or had the jitters like some rapid-release gels, but most importantly I never bonked. The taste was pleasant, and I rotated through different samples I had without checking the labels for flavor with no issue at all. I've used Hammer Perpetuem in the past, but I really dislike the taste and I feel I've found a much better alternative.

Tailwind Nutrition

Stuff I Refuse to Race Without

I've been wearing XRacewear shorts & tops for over 3 years, and the newest Breez tops and new design shorts are the absolute bomb! Updated materials, better craftsmanship, improved lining and inseam, along with a brand-new zipper pocket makes the new XRacewear lineup entirely new aside from the patented bib protector. Look for the new 2017 line coming soon!

XRacewear (Save 10% w/code MRG10)

I go into detail about my profound appreciation for dryrobe in the article Why Every OCR Athlete Needs a Dryrobe, and that covers all the bases about this indispensable piece of gear.

dryrobe

I wear Mudgear socks every single day, so it's not a big surprise that they are all I wear during training and racing and the go-to socks for 24 hours of Terrain Relay. I wore MG compression socks for the first 4 or so hours before switching to 1/4 crew for the remainder of the event. Honestly, I only changed out because they were a bit muddy, otherwise I would've worn the compression socks the entire time.

Mudgear (Save 10% w/code MRG10)