The time grows near for the Comrades Marathon in South Africa. As it does, the fun and games of trying to plan just what to pack becomes more and more prominent. For those who have not run Comrades, or for those who are about to do so, here is my packing list from the USA to South Africa. Keep in mind this list isn’t for everyone, as you’re not going to want to do anything on race day that you didn’t train to do.
- Nathan Endurance Vest.
- One of the first bits of advice I got (and ignored) was that there is plenty of water on the Comrades course (which is true) and that there is no need to carry water. I am extremely glad I ignored the suggestion to not carry water, and this year I’m actually carrying more water than my first attempt. Why? Because the traffic jams in the first half of the course can cost you a considerable amount of time in the G/H groupings. Additionally, Comrades offers NO solid nutrition for the first 42.2km (26.2 miles). I like to continuously have nutrition (whether gu gel, banana, bar, etc) so as to maintain my electrolytes (although Comrades does provide an electrolyte drink, my stomach does not like it). So, this year, my vest is carrying supplies (bandaids, sun screen, snack bars, gu gels, pills, etc…) and water, and I’ll avoid wasting distance/energy during the first marathon. Finally, I’ve learned that, even in supported races, if there is something you must have – it is always best to carry it with you. Don’t rely on anyone but yourself over these long distances for aid! (That said, there is always someone willing to lend a hand during the race. Usually it ends up being me, but I like being the helping rather than the helped).
- Electrolyte Pills (Salt).
At some point my stomach doesn’t much like eating solid foods, so for me the ability to continue to take in salt/electrolytes is crucial. I use MetaSalt.
- Gu Gel (Roctane). During the first half of the race, these are my snacks! I usually carry about 24 packets, just in case I drop one (NEVER go back!). I usually end up with gu’s left over.
- Vitamins. My vitamins of choice are a multi-v from 1st Endurance.
- V02 Max Endurance. This is a supplement I take that seems to really help me. I’m sure it’s not for everyone, but I’ve noticed reduced recovery times and it does keep my legs going better than when I train without it (I normally do not train with the V02 max supplement, but in my personal “tests” it works. Whether it’s mental or not, it works for me.
- Running shorts. Lululemon makes a kick ass pair of running shorts, albeit expensive. That said, I do like to run with compression. So, I wear the compression under the lululemon, but that’s just personal preference.
- Compression shorts. The same shorts I run a triathlon are the ones I like to wear during Comrades – but they lack pockets. So, wearing the lululemon shorts over the top of compression seems the best way to go.
- Comrades 2012 T-Shirt. Fortunately, the t-shirt has the American flag, but I’m probably going to put another one on my Nathan Vest. Some might tease me about the Nathan vest, but I run with it everywhere – I trained with it – so I’m racing with it!
- Run Socks. NOT cotton socks. If you want to avoid blisters, you’ve got to get “Athletic” socks. I have a favorite pair, so I’m bring that one plus an extra. Just in case.
My PureCadence Brooks women’s size 12 shoes have 49 miles on them – a perfect amount to break in, but still fresh. Last thing you want to do is try running 89km on broken shoes!
- Extra Shoes – To donate at the expo.
- Disposable Sweatshirt. Something to keep warm at the early start.
- Snack Bars (Purefit/Element bars). This is for during the long, long flight to SA. I like having snacks with me because I eat every 2 hours, and the catered food on the flight just doesn’t work for me.
- Heart Rate Monitor (x2). I always carry two HR straps on my travels. I save my “comfort-fit” strap for race day, but always check it the night before. If it’s acting weird, I have my backup. I keep track of my heart to make sure I don’t push too hard too soon in all the excitement.
- GPS Watch (Garmin 910xt).
With an onboard altimeter, I’ll be interested in seeing the elevation the profile once I finish – And more importantly, I can post the course to the blog!
- GoPro HD Hero2.
This year I’m running with a camera strapped to my chest. Although the GoPro also shoots video, I’m going to set it up to automatically take pictures every 1 minute for 8 of the 11 hours, plus some video.
- Go Pro Chest Strap. So I don’t have to carry or think about it. It’s heavy, so I’m glad I trained with it.
- Go Pro additional battery. The batteries only last 4 hours, so I need an additional battery for the race.
- Chargers. For everything. Electric razor, gopro, Garmin, etc.
- Electrical adaptors. South Africa has different plugs than North America.
- Razor. To look smooth in the pub.
- Extra socks. For travel, post-race, etc.
- Jeans. Probably will not go out much, but if I’m going to hang with the North Americans Run Comrades group, I’ve got to have beer-drinking attire for the pub.
- T-Shirt or other casual shirt for the pub.
- Passport. You don’t get far without one.
- Known Traveler ID number. As a member of Global Entry/Nexus, this will expedite my time with Passport Control. Well worth the $100 (particularly since I fly international about 2-3x a month).
- Sun Screen. They didn’t have this at the aid stations in 2011, and I’m definitely one to easily burn. So, I’ll need to reapply as I run, and I’ve got a small little spray bottle I’m carrying in my handy vest.
- Band-aids. You never know when that blister will need help!
- Anti-Chafe Cream. Things rub, and over 11 hours of running, things chafe. Anti-chafe cream is not only handy at the start, but I also carry a very small anti-chafe with me during the run, just in case I encounter rashes in unexpected places.
- Toilet Paper/handkerchief. Actually can be used for a variety of purposes, like wiping the salt/sweat out of my eyes when I run – twice before (including Comrades 2011) the salty sweat ran into my eyes and even flushing my face with water didn’t help alleviate the stinging – but would have worked much better with something to wipe my face.
- Disposable Running Pants. My fiance’ despises one of my running pants, so I am taking those with me to the chilly start.
- FlipCam – For filming my pre and post race thoughts, to be edited into the final “2012 Comrades Video” – at least that’s the plan.
- Camera/Video Stand (gorilla!): Small little stand to hold the video camera at the hotels/airports.
- Antiperspirant. My favorite is Ax. Not the end of the world if I forget it, except for those sitting next to me.
This is optional for some people.
- New toothbrush. I don’t want dental issues in South Africa. Also, I always brush with bottled water, since my stomach is weak to bacteria, apparently.
- Toothpaste. I like my brand, and this tries to keep things as “normal” for my body as I can.
- Comb. I usually wear a hat, but I might need to look presentable at the pub.
- Hat. I burn very easy, so I make sure to have my own hat just in case I don’t like the “approved” hat. Since I don’t wear “big logo” hats, and I’m not near the front, they usually give you a pass. I’m plannning on bring two hats so I can decide on race day which one feels best.
- Comrades Time Chip. I bought one last year, and you can use the same chip year after year. So, I need to remember to bring mine, since I told them I would! However, if you don’t have one, you can always get one at the expo.
- FRS Powder/Chews. Started by the Livestrong folks, FRS is my “energy” drink of choice. This is to help with my jet lag and recovery and the Quercetin has shown some help with athletes, also. Plus, I just like the taste. I’m avoiding the stuff with caffeine, though, at least until/after race day.
Well, that’s it so far. I’m sure I’ve forgotten something. If I remember, I’ll add it! Of course, I wonder… what other items are people carrying? What is on other people’s “must have” lists?