Happy Race Week! In our previous lessons, we’ve covered general nutrition, workout nutrition and race day mental and physical prep. Now it’s time to focus on the final component of race preparation - and that’s your gear. Specifically, recommendations on what to wear and what you should bring with you.
I’m going to treat this lesson like a checklist. I’m going to go through the items and then talk a bit about them.
WHAT TO WEAR
Clothes: for the best race experience, AVOID COTTON. You will likely get wet, and cotton doesn’t dry easily. It will get heavy and you don’t want that when you’re going through obstacles. If there’s any sort of cold weather, cotton will get uncomfortable pretty quickly once it’s wet. Instead, choose synthetic fabrics. 100% polyester, moisture wicking, dry-fit items are best. This goes for your clothes all the way down to your socks.
If you expect cold weather or any significant weather changes, you may want to bring a backpack with layers. For example, for the Beast in Tahoe, where I anticipated a cold water swim, I wore a pair of tight shorts under a pair of compression leggings. On top, I had a short sleeve base layer and a tank top, and packed a long sleeve cold weather shirt, windbreaker, gloves and a beanie. I had ziploc freezer bags for the extra clothes and sealed them to keep them dry even if the backpack got wet. I anticipated stripping down to my shorts and a sports bra for the swim, and then putting dry clothes on after. They ended up closing the swim obstacle before I got there due to cold weather, but I did end up getting wet at a different obstacle. I ended up using all the layers that I brought by the end of the race. So layers are something to consider for a long race and a cold race.
Socks: I recommend wearing synthetic, thick knee high compression socks. It’s helpful to have long socks to prevent rope burns for the rope climb. The compression socks can also help reduce the likelihood of calf cramping. My favorite brand of socks for Spartan Race is Mudgear. Their socks are pricey, but perfect for obstacle racing, and a worthwhile investment. They’re thick and super tight, so no rocks or big chunks of dirt are getting in there.
Shoes: a good trail shoe is recommended for Spartan Race. You’ll be running hills, uneven terrain and possibly even through water and mud. You want a shoe that will grab the ground as much as possible and is less likely to slip in the mud. I personally use the Reebok All Terrain as it is a shoe designed specifically for Spartan Race. Not only is it a good trail shoe, but it is great in water. It’s designed to drain quickly and not get heavy. It also grabs on to rope really well. Other brands I see recommended include Inov-8 and Solomon.
Optional stuff: some people wear compression arm sleeves. I have worn them in a few races and like how they protect my arms from getting too cut up on obstacles like walls and barb wire. But on a warm day, it can get hot when you’re that covered up. So it really comes down to personal preference. I usually wear at least one to cover my FitBit and sometimes I just scrunch it down if I’m hot.
Some people also choose to wear gloves. I’m a big fan of my Madgrip gloves for certain obstacles like the Bucket Carry and pretty much anything where I have to grab a rope. But I don’t like them for monkey bars and multi-rigs. So I end up having to take them on and off quite a bit. Ultimately, you’ll learn whether or not you like them and when and where to put them on and take them off. I usually at least wear some sort of waist pack that I can stuff my gloves into when I’m not using them.
In the event of a long race or a race at a colder location or at elevation: I recommend getting a good quality small backpack that can also hold a hydration bladder. Bring layers in ziploc bags as I previously mentioned. Bring hand and foot warmers - those cheap $1 hand warmers saved me from hypothermia in Tahoe more than any expensive gear I brought. Also pack any race fuel you may need to get through a long race.
WHAT TO BRING
So that pretty much covers what to wear during a race. Now we’re going to talk about what to bring in your pre/post race backpack or bag.
There is always a bag check available at Spartan Race, so I usually bring a backpack to hold my phone and wallet, and that has stuff I may want or need before or after the race. Here is what I usually bring:
Change of clothes for after the race - something comfortable - clean bra and underpants, sweats and usually a pair of flip flops so my feet can be free after being in wet compression socks. You don’t necessarily need to bring a shirt because you’ll get your finisher’s shirt right after the race. I don’t always change clothes after a race, but I do love having the option.
Towel - the changing tents aren’t super private, so it’s nice to have a towel not just to wipe dirt and mud off your body, but to keep things modest when you’re changing (if that’s something that matters to you.) If you don’t end up changing clothes, you may want to use that towel to keep your car seat from getting gross when you drive home.
Trash bag - bring something to put your dirty race clothes in.
Cleansing wipe of some kind - if you want to feel a little less grody for the post race beer and drive home, a cleansing wipe may be helpful. I’m a big fan of Showerpill wipes - they clean you off and leave you smelling nice and fresh.
Pre/post race food - Spartan recommends that you get out there at least 90 minutes before your start time. So if you want to eat a little something before the race, you may want to bring it in your bag. After the race, they’ll give you a banana. But if you want something else right after the race, bring it in your bag.
Jacket or sweatshirt if it’s cold - stay warm and comfy both before and after the race if it’s that kind of day.
That’s pretty much what my race bag looks like, with small changes depending on the location and type of race.