One of the highlights of the trail running year is fast approach with the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) scheduled to take place on the 29th August 2014...
Of all the ultra-races held across the world the UTMB is perhaps the best known and most talked about. Certainly, in the shop here at Castleberg Outdoors we hear many stories from people training towards the main 168km UTMB event or one of its 4 associated races held over the festival of running week in Chamonix.
To successfully complete the UTMB, individuals will need to push themselves above and beyond what they thought were their physical and psychological limits. Constantly In the shadow of Mont Blanc participants must negotiate not only the 168km distance but also 9600 metres of ascent, including seven summits above 2000m. Add to this the unpredictability of alpine weather and a guarantee of running through the night and this is challenge that requires extensive preparation and the correct equipment. Understandably for a race with such exposure, duration and potential risk the obligatory kit requirements are extensive, but what is the best way to carry all these requirements practically and comfortably? Also, due to the continual, long ascents and descents encountered in the UTMB the use of trekking poles is very common and highly encouraged, but why and what is the best way to use them?
From experience the Ultimate Direction packs have become a firm favourite with those undertaking the UTMB with the SJ Ultra Vest 2.0 and PB Adventure Vest 2.0 being the two most practical in terms of capacity to carry the required kit. The SJ Ultra Vest boasts a 7 litre capacity whilst the PB Adventure Vest can accommodate 11 litres, so depending on how much extra you decide to take there is a perfect size for you. Both packs have been designed in conjunction with top ultra-runners, the PB takes Peter Bakwins name and ideas, and the SJ was developed with Scott Jurek. The practical, user friendly design of the Ultimate Direction range makes it clear that they have been designed by people who actually use them!
Multiple pockets provide more storage options than you will probably ever need, but these means that you can personalise how you store your gear and make sure that what you need is right where you want it.
Dual water-bottles positioned on the front of the shoulder straps have become increasingly popular meaning fluid is readily available, easy to top up and can be used in addition to an internal bladder should you require more than the 2 x 591 ml carried on the front. Check out our full Ulitmate Direction range here.
On to trekking poles……when the profile of a race resembles the blade of a saw and the distance begins to extend trekking poles can be a huge advantage to keeping you moving forward with more comfort and speed. Primarily used for steep ascents and descents a set of strong, yet lightweight poles seems to be a must have for races such as the UTMB. Anyone has used poles will vouch for their value in providing extra stability on rough, uneven terrain as well as significantly reducing the stress on the hips, knees and ankles.
The favourite amongst our customers seems to be the Black Diamond Ultra Distance Carbon Z-poles which are collapsible for easy carriage when not in use, very lightweight and available in a range of lengths from 100-130cm to suit all heights. Other than weight, what else should you consider when choosing poles for an event such as the UTMB? Carbon fibre poles, as well as being lighter than aluminium are also stiffer which means that less vibration transfer through the pole to your hands and arms.
The material of the hand grip should also be considered as this will effect comfort and safety….you don’t want a hand to slip off a sweaty grip!
Finally, the length of poles you choose is crucial for them to be effective. To determine what length is most suitable for you stand with your elbows bent at 90 degrees and get someone to measure the height from your hands to the floor, this is the length of pole you require. However, also consider if you will predominately be using the poles for up or down. If they will be primarily used for uphill then choosing the shorter pole if you are between sizes may be more beneficial. Take a look at out full range of trekking poles here.