Posted by: pointlenana | July 4, 2015

Gear and Drop Bags – Western States Part 8

I was going to put this at the end of another post, but decided to pull it out separately.  Here’s what I used, and how I approached drop bags.


Altra Olympus shoes.  They worked well for half of UTMB last year.  They were a disaster in the mud at the Orcas Island 50k, but mud wasn’t an issue for this race.

Feetures Elite Ultra Light socks.  A brand new pair, which was risky, but the tried-and-true one looked a little worn so it was one risk or another.

Layer of TrailToes on my feet.  I had blister problems in long races until I started lubing my feet.

Dirty Girl gaiters.  The elites don’t seem to wear gaiters, but I find them helpful in keeping stuff out of my shoes.  In case you really want to know, I rocked the Giardia pattern.

Result:  100 miles.  Heat.  Lots of dust and grit.  Multiple shoe soakings.  0 blisters.

Thank you Seven Hills Running Shop for suggesting these.

Thank you Seven Hills Running Shop for suggesting these.


Nike Dri-Fit compression shorts + a good shower beforehand + BodyGlide in the crotch.  I saw another runner in them and he said they are hard to find now.  I got mine on closeout somewhere – glad I grabbed them, especially after the UTMB disaster last year.  No crotch fires since I got these.

Champion compression shirt + BodyGlide under armpits + nipple bandaids from start to Foresthill.  This is the only piece of Champion clothing I own, and I bought it shortly before the race just for the race.  I considered a cotton t-shirt, which is what Pam Smith wore when she won, but I was worried about chafing.  Loose tech fabric was going to wick sweat away but the evaporation would happen away from my body.  The idea here was to wick sweat but keep the evaporation close to me while avoiding chafing.

Team Seven Hills singlet by Pearl Izumi from Foresthill to finish.  Comfortable and a nice change at the 62 mile mark.  Seven Hills is an awesome store, owner Phil Kochik (who finished fifth at Western States in 2007 and won his age group) does a lot for the running community here, and I’m always happy to show their name when I’m running.

Ice bandana I borrowed from Bob (brand unknown):  Two layers of bandana with a slot to put ice into.  At each aid station I’d take it off, a volunteer would pour ice in, and I’d put it back on.  I wore the ice in front.  It didn’t work as well as I had hoped – the ice tended to stick out so there wasn’t a lot of contact between me in the ice.  But it did provide a steady drip of cool water down my front.  Sometimes I’d slide it left or right under my vest strap so there was more contact.  Then it actually felt cool.  Pam Reed’s tube sock with ice would have worked better.

White running hat I got somewhere: Worked as expected.  I put ice under it some, but not enough.

Sunscreen: I put a coat on first thing in the morning, and re-coated at Last Chance.  No sunburn.  The course has some shade, but not enough to keep someone like me from getting sunburned.

Result:  No chafing surprises in the post-race shower.  It was too humid for evaporative cooling to work well.  I didn’t have enough ice touching me.


Garmin 310x running watch + heart rate strap.  There are fancier watches and I’m always looking for an excuse to get something better.  But considering features, price and battery life, I still don’t think there is anything that’s better.  The battery lasted into the 18th hour.  I have to put BodyGlide under one spot on the HR strap.   Heart rate was critical info for me in the early miles.

Ultimate Directions AK vest w/ 2 bottles on the chest + with pieces of fleece sewn under water bottles.  I used their PB vest for UTMB and for a lot of training runs since then.  I love it.  I didn’t need that much vest for Western States though, the back pocket of the PB is waterproof whereas I needed something that would let melting ice drip onto my back, and the AK seemed to be the vest people use.  I did not like it in training runs – much more chest bruising than the PB vest and not quite enough pocket space.  I sewed some fleece on to provide a little padding under the bottles.  The vest ended up working well – just enough pocket space, and the fleece and/or things stuffed into the pockets raised the bottles enough that I got no bruising.  I put BodyGlide around my neck to prevent chafing from the vest’s neckline.  The fleece may have insulated me from the ice in the bottles (bad) or it may have kept my fluids cold for a bit longer (good).

Nathan handheld water bottle for dowsing myself, from Red Star Ridge to Foresthill.  I used an old handheld that is pretty worn out, so I could fill it at streams and not worry about contamination afterwards.  This worked well – I’d fill it with ice and water at the aid stations and refill at the creeks, and wet my hat, head, back, front, and armpits.

Ultimate Directions handheld bottle from Foresthill to the finish.  I left my chest bottles at Foresthill – I was worried my chest would be black and blue by then – and carried my water from there in the handheld.  These bottles work well.  It might have been smart to keep one chest bottle also and use it for liquid fuel.  It might have prevented my late race bonk.

Petzl Tikka XP2 headlamp:  This worked great for me at UTMB and again for Western States.  One set of batteries lasted most of the night.

Fenix E21 flashlight – I’ve used this for all 3 100 mile races that I’ve done.  Rugged, bright and reliable.  I had planned to use this in addition to the headlamp, but the headlamp was enough for most of the night.  When the headlamp batteries seemed to be dying, I switched to this for the rest of the night.


Perpetuum and Tailwind in my water bottles. Gu and vFuel gels.  Some solid food from aid stations.  Lots of the new Clif ultra baby food from aid stations.  More soft drinks as time went on.  I couldn’t stomach grilled cheeses at the aid stations – you know something isn’t right when grilled cheese doesn’t taste good.  All the non-real food worked fine.  I started with Perpetuum in a bottle, drank that on the way to Red Star Ridge, then swapped that bottle for a new one in my drop bag that had dry, just-add-water Perpetuum.  I did this again at Last Chance.  At Foresthill I swapped both chest bottles for a handheld filled with just-add-water caffeinated Tailwind.  I also used a pouch of Tailwind in another drop station but the pouch wouldn’t tear open, a volunteer had to cut it with his knife, and he said that he’d had to do that for a few other Tailwinds.  I didn’t try again after that, which was probably a mistake since I got behind on fueling around Last Chance and again later on the way to Auburn Lake Trails.  I did a caffeine fast for two weeks before the race, planned to consume about 200mg during the race mostly through drink mix and gels, and probably got close between drink mix, gels, and soft drinks.

Other Stuff

At the last minute advice of Pacer Bob, who said there weren’t portapotties at every aid station, I took a small bag with some tp.  Thankfully, I finished with what I took.  I also had small laminated cheat sheets of the course based on the WS profile – mileage, elevation profile, aid stations, ETA,  and where I had drop bags (the circles).  On the back I had a list of contents for the drop bags.  These were pretty helpful until I knew time probably wasn’t an issue.  They still would have been helpful, e.g. not getting surprised by the hills to Auburn Lake Trails, if I hadn’t left them (on purpose and/or to make a self-defeating statement of peeve) at Foresthill.

Really, this next section is up again???  And I won't be out of altitude for 3 hours?

Really, this next section is up again??? And I won’t be out of altitude for 3 hours?

Drop Bags

Some of the aid stations are hard to get to, and I didn’t want to force Janet, Wyatt and/or Bob to spend all of Saturday driving around in service to me.  At UTBM I had no crew and only one drop bag so it seemed reasonable to get by mostly on drop bags.

I had 5 drop bags.  All of them had spare socks, BodyGlide and Bandaids, which I never used, a couple of these had extra Tailwind pouches which I also didn’t use, and a couple had TrailToes (so I could relube my feet) which I also didn’t use.  At RedStar Ridge: a new bottle with Perpetuum, some gels, and my hot stuff – ice bandana, my dowsing handheld, and sunglasses (which I didn’t pick up).  At Last Chance:  new bottle with Perpetuum, some gels, a new pouch of Tailwind, sunscreen.  At Foresthill (I decided to have a drop bag there since I didn’t know the logistics of crew location vs. drop bags, plus it made me slightly more independent):  my night stuff – flashlight, headlamp, spare batteries, cheap watch for when my running watch battery ran out (I didn’t pick this up – not really needed), handheld with Tailwind to replace chest bottles, 7 Hills singlet, some gels.  At Rucky Chucky (I did not stop at this one): gels, warm hat, light jacket, spare batteries, spare flashlight, dry Hoka shoes.  At Auburn Lake Trails (I did not stop at this one): gels, spare batteries, spare headlamp.  For drop bags where there were things I definitely wanted (e.g. the ice bandana at Red Star Ridge), I put the “must grab” things inside a plastic bag inside the drop bag, and let the rest float.  This made it easier to quickly identify the things I needed.  Overall this approach to drop bags worked reasonably well and I’ll bet I spent less than 2 minutes for the whole race swapping stuff in/out of drop bags.


  1. Traiteur Rabat Regal; Traiteur de ronome au Maroc

    This is my expert

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