It’s Ultra-Trail Cape Town (UTCT) race week and you can feel the excitement building in the Mother City. The pros have arrived and final prep is being done. I’ve always said running is so much easier than mountain biking (my other sport) because all you need is a pair of trail shoes and your legs. But… it’s not always that easy. For your ultra distances, you need to be ultra prepared, obvs. Here’s exactly what you need to have on your person this weekend…
First up, what happens if you don’t have one of these items? Well, besides the fact that you might be stranded in a remote area with an injury preventing you from moving and you didn’t pack a space blanket so you might freeze to death? It sounds dramatic, but let’s face it, Cape Town weather can also be super dramatic. And Table Mountain is far from tame – she deserves your respect.
Freezing to death aside, you can receive penalty time. This means that if you are discovered without one of these items on your person, you will have time added to your overall finishing time. It’s just not worth leaving an item behind.
Item No. 1: Waterproof jacket
The truth is, you can get all kinds of weather on Table Mountain. A few years ago, when I was racing Table Mountain Challenge, it started off rainy, featured a little blizzard at the summit and then I ended up getting sunburnt in the afternoon. Your typical four-season day. You get what I’m saying… So a waterproof jacket is not a bad idea. In fact, it’s a really good one.
It is a bulky item, but not all jackets are created equal. I’ve been eyeballing this beaut by Salomon which is, in fact, the lightest shell they’ve made yet! Check it out…
Item No. 2: Buff/Beanie
Along with the rest of your body, you don’t want your noggin catching a chill. Noggin chill is actually quite serious – you can loose a lot of body heat through your head and neck being exposed, so even if you’re covered up in your waterproof jacket, it’s not enough.
You have options: a buff or a beanie. A buff can be extremely useful as it can be used for a variety of functions, including an arm sling. There are plenty of colours and designs to choose from. Here, some options from Sportsmans Warehouse…
Item No. 3: Running Pack
You’ve got all of these items to carry, but nowhere to put it. Say hello to the race pack. Not only the carrier of compulsory gear, but also your snacks, hydration… and did I mention snacks? These packs come with lots of useful pockets for bars, balls and whatever else tickles your fancy. You can choose between a bladder or bottles when it comes to the hydration aspect. Our digi editor and avid trail runner Gina Beretta swears by this one which she will be running with at UTCT this weekend.
Item No. 4: Long sleeve thermal/arm sleeve protectors
Arm protectors can protect your twigs from the sun as well as the cold. This can definitely be useful because in the same way it can get icy on Table Mountain, it can get pretty toasty. I actually tried out a pair of these Falke arm protectors for this year’s fitness awards, so I know how good they are. They’re super breathable so you don’t overheat in the sunshine. I’d definitely invest in a pair for UTCT.
Item No. 5: Survival blanket
I mean, the name is a bit of a giveaway, but this blanket is also a key item to pack for your survival. It’s small, light and easy to squeeze in – and when that icy wind is cutting deep into your skin, this bad boy might save your life.
Item No. 6: Whistle
I consider my shouting voice pretty loud, but when you’re stranded on top of the mountain, shouting for help might not be as effective as you’d imagine. Whistling? Loud, high-pitched and carrying. Basically guaranteed to get some sort of reaction. Most race packs have whistles built in, so check this out when buying one.
Item No. 7: Charged phone
Another no brainer, but there’s always that one guy. Add it to the list of things to be charged: headlamp, GPS watch and your phone. Make sure you add the emergency contact number for the race to your phone. This can be located on your race number. Along with this, download the LIVERUN app. You can use this in the case of an emergency to trigger your location so that Search and Rescue can find you.
Item No. 8: Headlamp/torch
Yep it’s summer and it is getting light early, but if you’re running the 100km this weekend, you’ll be starting at 4am! Definitely going to need a little light then… But that’s not all – you may have a goal finish time, but you can never really predict a race because anything can happen. You might end up finishing after dark on the day. The last 100km runners are expected back at 9pm and you’ll definitely need a headlamp by then.
Again, rather be safe than sorry. There’s nothing more disappointing than a headlamp dying on you when you really need it (I’ve been there, trust me on this one). Make sure you charge it fully the night before.
Item No. 9: Adhesive bandage
Touch wood nothing happens, but as I’ve said before – it’s unpredictable. Pack an adhesive bandage and a mini first aid kit. Yes, there will be first aiders en route, but let’s aim for being self-sufficient here.
FYI: If something does go wrong, let race officials know that you’re leaving the course. Failure to do so will result in you being banned from future events – not a vibe. If you’re worried at all about not following the right procedure in race etiquette, just chat to a race organiser or marshal. They’re all super helpful and lekker people.
Item No. 10: Food reserve
Who doesn’t love a good snack? I mean race snacks is one of the reasons why I run! Find what works for you when it comes to refuelling and pack loads of it. Rather get home with extras than run out on the trails.
Plus, you’ll be penalised if you do run out. You need to have a minimum of 250 calories of food reserve in your pack at all times. Make sure you pack more on top of this so you don’t need to cut into your reserves. Plan your snackage, pace your snackage and don’t leave your wrappers on the trail!
Item No. 11: Hydration
When it comes to hydration, you can’t rely on water alone. I turn to Tailwind for that extra kick and electrolytes. You need to carry a minimum of 1.5 litres and always have at least 300ml in reserve. Here’s my favourite Tailwind flavour…
Item No. 12: Personal cup
That’s right! It’s just like a vida e bring your own cup vibe. UTCT is also all about saving the environment! Bring a collapsable cup so you can grab some coke or water at the aid stations (you won’t be served otherwise). This one by Salomon collapses to a really small size and it also has a loop so that it can be clipped onto your pack for easy access.
Item No. 13: UTCT race number
Don’t be that guy! You need your number (mainly so you can get your pics afterwards). But seriously, your number is how the race organisers know who you are. Keep it visible at all times and facing the front. You can make use of a race-belt, or just pin it to your shirt.
See you on the start line!