Monday, January 30, 2012

The gear I use

       I’ve spent the 28 years I’ve been running trying out gear and figuring out what works best for me. I’ve said before that what I look for is what gets in the way the least. I do find new things pretty regularly, and new stuff emerges, but this is my rig for now:
ShoesMontrail Rogue Racers   I’ve been wearing lightweight shoes for many years now, though the Rogue Racers are the lightest I've worn as an every day shoe. From the day I first wore them on trails they have probably been my favorite shoe of all time, along with the Saucony Dixon in the early 80s.
Because I’ve always run trails, I have tried trail shoes throughout my years running. Until the past few years, though, “trail shoe” meant modified hiking boot, stiff, clunky, heavyweight shoes that hurt my feet. I used road shoes to run on trails because they suited my gait better. I found a pair of lightweight Nike trail shoes that I liked, until Nike reminded me of why I don’t like Nikes by abandoning the line. But with the minimalists trending hard right now, shoes companies have taken to diversifying their offerings. Last winter I spent an hour or so in a terrific running shop, Foot RX in Asheville, trying on some of the new lightweight shoes by La Sportiva, Brooks, Saucony, New Balance, and Montrail. 
This pair of  Rogue Racers have
about 150 miles on them.
The Rogue Racers just fit great, and I love the weight. Montrail did not cut down the heel-to-toe drop as much as some of the other brands, and the flexibility matched my needs. I don’t slip in them any more than in any other shoe I’ve worn on wet leaves in the fall, or in slick mud on horse trails. I’m on my third pair, and they are definitely my go-to shoe. They do seem to break down a little faster than other shoes I’ve worn. Because I know it’s good to alternate shoes, I also wear the Montrail Mountain Masochists occasionally, and am very excited for the Montrail Bajadas coming out soon.
Shirts: I bought my first high-tech (read: petroleum product) wicking shirts for backpacking trips in the early 80s. They were the old polypropylene that would grab onto body funk and never let go. I had to hold my nose pulling those things over my head after a while. But that kind of material has undergone a kind of revolution like shoes, and now there are all kinds of wicking materials in all kinds of styles. I don’t stick to a particular brand, but I like mock turtlenecks, baggy, with a zipper if possible, for both cool and cold weather. I have several short sleeves wicking shirts, and several I’ve cut the short sleeves off of. It gets hot down here, and the less material the better in the summer. Lately I’ve been buying my shirts at Goodwill. I layer wicking shirts for the weather as needed, sometimes three at a time, and won’t go back to cotton.
Shorts: I’m a short-shorts kind of guy, especially in the summer, preferring the split-leg style that allows for more freedom of movement. In cooler weather, I wear a longer short usually with pockets I can stuff with gels and my beloved Clif Shot Bloks. I’m still experimenting with adding pockets to the short-shorts for hot weather wear. I tried a pair of Brooks shorts with pockets, and my food kept falling out. Whatever the shorts, a coolmax brief is a must.
Socks: DeFeet Air-E-Ators. There is no other sock for me. I love the weight, I love the cool styles, I love matching my socks by theme. I love that they’re made up the road in Hickory, North Carolina. Though they’re marketed as cycling socks, I’ve never worn a more comfortable sock. I don’t have trouble with cold feet, so these are perfect year-round, at least here in South Carolina, even when it snows.  
Pants: When it’s below about 40 or so, with not much prospect of warming up, I wear long pants. My favorite style for long or fast runs is the classic SportHill stirrup pants. I don’t use the stirrup, and often end up pulling the pants to my knees like DIY capris. I’ve probably had twenty pairs in 28 years--they last a good while. Otherwise, I look for some kind of wicking material, lightweight pants.
The "D" hat, one of my favorites.
Hats: I wear a hat on almost every run. In the summer I wear a lightweight wicking type hat. My friends at have a great lightweight hat made by Headsweats. When it’s cool, I wear a regular cotton baseball hat, fitted of course. When it’s below forty or so, I wear a lightweight wicking beanie (the same kind I wear under my bike helmet). I found one by Pearl Izumi a few years ago that cinches with a toggle and cord at the top, so you can open and close it at will. It helps keep my body temperature regulated, and I’ve worn it down to eight or ten degrees.
Gloves: I pull my shirt sleeves over my hands--another reason I like baggy long-sleeve shirts. Generally after a mile or so my hands warm up enough to unwrap. 
Jacket: I prefer warm to dry, so I don’t wear a jacket for the rain or snow or cold because I sweat inside it. I sometimes wear a light fleece pullover when it’s really cold or wet. That said, I bought a high-vis yellow breathable windbreaker for my bike commute. I’ve worn it a few times running at night, and it’s fine for short runs. Longer runs I sweat too much in a shell like that. Either way I get wet.
Water: In the late 90s, I bought a Camelbak GoBe fanny pack. The bladder holds 50 ounces, and I like the feel much better than those belts that hold water bottles. I use it for very long runs when I know there’s no chance of re-filling my handheld bottle. Camelbak no longer makes the Gobe, but I’ve replaced the bladder twice, and the pack itself has held up very well. I use a Nathan handheld that I bought two or three years ago, and yes, it's a little worn out. I like it because the sling holds any kind of bicycle-type water bottle, and I’ve used a few different ones as they get pretty grungy after a while.
Food: When GUs first came out in the mid or late 90s, I knew right away they would change my running because I when I get hungry, I get irritated. I’ve carried various types since, and I can stomach them all. I don’t like the fruit flavored ones though, and stick to chocolate and coffee flavored ones that remind me of pudding. Clif makes a good one, GUs remain a favorite. In the last couple of years, though, I’ve gotten used to the Clif Shot Bloks. I like the gummy consistency, and often just let them dissolve in my mouth as I go. I also like that I can control the intake better than the one-shot gels. I tend to eat a block about every fifteen minutes after the first hour of a long run, which is why I like pocketed shorts.
 Tell me what I’ve left out, or what your favorite gear is.

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