I definitely put more hours into choosing kit for the UTMB than I did into running the thing so it’s only right that I acknowledge those bits of kit that made my life a bit easier.
1. The biggest life-saver had to be my Black Diamond ultra distance poles. They were a big help on the ascents, they saved my mustard approximately 900 times on muddy, slippy descents and they barely left my hands for the whole race. I have to say that there were a lot of pole users at the UTMB who, let’s just say, needed to work on their etiquette. Moves like ‘looking at watch’ and ‘reaching into side of pack’, usually so innocuous, can become lethal manoeuvres to the person behind you when you have poles in your hand.
2. Laminated copies of the course profile and planned splits were amazing. My friends Julie and Bill did these for me, I put them on the front of my pack and they were incredibly useful for knowing what was coming and whether I was on track. I didn’t have to mess about with bits of soggy paper and they were right in front of me at all times. They also thoughfully included a laminated photo of my dog and motivational statements such as this beauty, which I debated at times.
3. My Berghaus Vapour Storm jacket. It rained for the first 5 hours of the race and this jacket was great. It kept me completely dry (I was glad I put it on right at the start of the rain), it was really breathable and it was a good tailored fit (therefore no annoying swooshiness). It did a great job of keeping the cold and wind out on the ascents (this was particularly helpful when I was cold on that second night) and I would trust it in any conditions. I’d never scrimp on a jacket for mountain races and this is definitely the best one I’ve found.
4. On the same theme my Berghaus hypertherm was a brilliantly versatile bit of kit. It was perfect for when I was a bit chilly at night but didn’t quite need a waterproof, it was great for when I stopped at checkpoints and suddenly got cold and it’s just so light and packs up so small that it will always be in my pack. It’s also reversible, so you wear it on one side when you need to keep the cold and wind out, then the other way round it breathes when you’re going for it up a hill. Absolutely perfect for a race like this.
5. I made a late decision to buy some compression shorts at the expo (yeah, I know). The brand was BV Sport (Booster Veines) and I don’t know if it was psychological but my quads held up really well and I’d definitely wear them again in a race like this. Plus long compression shorts, twinned with compression socks is a really good Euro trail runner look.
6. Lastly my LED Lenser SE07R head torch was obviously invaluable. With the adjustable settings (power saving and full power) I could save the batteries on the ascents and then make sure every rock and tree root was very well lit on the downhills. The lens part, which allows you to zoom the beam in on things, or make the light wider to illuminate the whole path was really useful, particularly with those second night hallucinations.
The one piece of kit I wished I’d had was an altimeter. It would have been good to know how far up some of the ascents I was. But maybe it wouldn’t.