This is one of those lessons your parents always said you would learn the hard way. And trust me, I learned the hard way. You can’t really blame me, since I didn’t know what to expect. But I learned pretty fast what I should leave in the drawer on race day.
The hardest part about figuring out what to wear on race day is planning for all the elements. These “elements” include the course itself, obstacles and the weather. My race season starts in May/June (depending upon the final schedule) and usually goes through November. Since I do mostly all local races, I race during the summer and late fall. So yeah, it’s hot most of the time. Here are some simple observations I’ve made through my growing OCR running career.
Stay away from cotton—it will cause you to overheat quickly and absorbs all the mud, water and yucky sweat. Once you’re wet, you stay wet. It also feels really gross when the sun turns the water warm. Ew!
Wear moisture-wicking shirts—any type of moisture-wicking or polyester-type shirt will suffice. These shirts dry, rinse and clean fast! You don’t need to go out and spend loads of money on UnderArmour or any other high-end material. I wear a Sport-Tek shirt, and it’s great! I’m going on three years with the same shirt. It was definitely worth the $18.00. You can also go shirtless, but I’m not that confident.
Black is bad—no need for explanation here. You’ll fry in the sun.
Don’t wear new shoes the day of the race—this seems to be a common issue at each event. I’ve heard racers say they bought their shoes the morning of the event to wear that day. Um, hello you need to break those bad boys in first! No wonder your feet are cramping up.
Train in the shoes you plan to wear—I learned this lesson the hard way. I was doing a road race (yes, I do some of those too) in October 2013 when I injured some ligaments in my left knee. This is the same knee with my ACL and MCL injury. I pushed myself too hard in shoes I hadn’t really trained in leading up to the event. I went to physical therapy, and the doctor said this was the specific reason for my injury. Don’t just wear your race day shoes around the house. Take them outside, to the gym or even the mall. You might look goofy but at least you won’t end up like I did.
Sunscreen… use it! I hate sunscreen with a passion, but again after learning the hard way I don’t leave the house without it. Obviously, everyone knows the medical side effects of sunburns, but you also get some weird tan lines on your face, arms and legs.
Hats—I very rarely see many racers wear hats. They make your head hot and are lost easily. However, I do wear a boonie hat so my ears don’t burn. Keith wore one for just one race and decided it wasn’t for him. I have yet to make a final decision on this issue. When I do, I will let you know.
Wear comfortable shorts. Basketball shorts are meant for the court not the course. They will get in the way, especially when muddy and wet. It’s also an easy way to get caught on barbed wire. At one race I had to hold my shorts the entire time, or they would have fallen off. Talk about embarrassing! Yikes! Now I wear spandex-type UnderArmour shorts. They are really lightweight and comfortable.
Gloves are good—I’m personally a huge fan and advocate for gloves. I forgot to wear gloves for three races, and my hands got all cut up. For someone working in an office and writing blogs, it hurt that much more. These hands have not seen hard labor. I prefer weightlifting gloves. They add extra grip, drain easily and help you with the monkey bar obstacles. Gloves also keep your hands looking sharp!
Sunglasses are good too—I wear the cheapest sunglasses I have. There is a good chance they’ll end up broken or lost. These will protect your delicate eyes from being poked, scratched or even blinded. They also keep most bugs and mud out. No one has time for that!
Cold and rainy weather gear—hopefully it’s a warm day if you get stuck doing a race in the rain. If not, you are in for a true test of will. There is really no way to prep for this kind of weather. The more layers you wear, the colder you will be unfortunately. Don’t wear sweatshirts and sweatpants unless it’s before or after the race. You’ll end up abandoning them along the way. Then you’ll have nothing to wear afterwards, and you’ll still be cold. This is one of those times you will have to suck it up and deal. It’s the hardest non-race course obstacle you’ll complete. Trust me.
Socks are needed—in case you run out of your shoes, you’ll want socks. Sam, who ran the Tough Mudder with us, ran out of her shoes twice. Good thing she had socks on because it would have been painful. With all the rocks and other nasty stuff on the course you’ll be thankful for that little layer of cloth. Plus, who wants a blister the size of Texas on their heel?
Wear stuff you don’t care about—more than likely something will get torn or lost completely. I wouldn’t suggest wearing anything of any monetary or sentimental value. Plenty of retail stores sell all the above items at cheap prices.
I know this is written from a guy’s perspective on what to wear, but it’s pretty much the same for both sexes. Maybe I’ll have Cait or Angie write a short blog about gear tips for ladies. Race day gear is important, so please take it seriously. I’m sure no one wants to hold his or her shorts the entire race. You’ll just look funny.
Now that you have your gear, in the next mile I’ll cover what you should bring.