An Ultra Runner Revealed (GEAR-Part II)

Like most endeavors (or hobby) there are always accessories or “gear” that can make life easier! I have to admit that Shane has totally turned me into a gear junky! So, of course, part of my interview for Anna consisted of Gear “must haves” for going the distance and then some – and she graciously provided some insight! 

Ultra marathon Gear

by Anna Boom, with no paid sponsorship (yet!)

Gear is a tricky part of running ultra marathons. There are many options out there to buy with each one touting it is a must have.

Some many choices!

I use a CamelBak hydration pack. The model I like has a hip belt too, so I can store snacks for quick access. There are other models that do not have the hip belt, which requires you to stop, take off the pack and dig for your food. Some runners like having a forced rest stop, maybe at an aid station or for a moment of reflection.

Why did I choose CamelBak? It was what the Exchange had on hand. I did not do any research into what was the best, just went and bought what fit. The model I have also has three different strap areas for a snug fit, which is essential. If your pack is flopping all over, it will chafe you very painfully and very quickly. So strap it down tight.

Even with a snug fit, the skin on my waist was irritated after the Mongolia Sunrise to Sunset 100Km ultra. There is almost no way around the fact that your skin is going to suffer a bit from being hot, sweaty and have a pack rubbing against it for hours and hours.

Having a hydration pack has allowed me to drink a lot more water than I ever have before. During a normal marathon, I don’t worry about bringing food or water and rely on the abundant aid stations. On the ultra though, you are going so much further and farther than before, that you must be self reliant. Having your own pack allows you to be prepared for any situation: stomach upset, first aid, money for the cab back home.

Nathan Pack (1)

Nathan Pack (2)

The other gear I have seen and am interested in include the Nathan pack that crosses in the front and has pockets for water bottles. The Nathan water bladder however is awkward with a ziplock type of opening on top. Two of my friends run with the Nathan pack, but changed out the bladder for the CamelBak one, which has the nice wide mouth opening and twist-on top. I would like to try the AmphiPod handheld bottles too but haven’t taken the time to purchase them yet.


For shorter runs, less than 2 hours, I use a Nathan waist pack with a water bottle. Once you begin training for ultras, your perception of long runs changes dramatically. My training partners, Andrea and Jannine and I laugh at ourselves when we think, oh it is only a short run today-just two hours!

During the long training runs, there are again many options for calories: gels, drinks, bars. Clif Bloks, Luna and Snicker Marathon bars (dark chocolate only as the other flavors have too much sugar) all agree with me so I pack two or three. I also have ginger candy packed as that settles any nausea right away.


An hour before all long runs, I eat a piece of whole grain toast with some butter, a handful of almonds and maybe a banana. Also, I’m a big fan of oatmeal. You have to find what works for your body though and it is only through trial and error. I have had many, many trials on trail. What works for me, may not work for you.

Mochi Balls

Some other foods out there: mochi (those rice cakes the Japanese eat), PB&J, pretzels with or without peanut butter inside, Clif bars, jelly beans. I do not follow any type of diet, except to eat as many whole foods as possible. I dislike the sugary gels, Power Bars but others enjoy them. After the IronMan Kona, I vowed never to eat another Clif bar or gel unless I was starving in the middle of the Sahara. Then I would consider it.

Whatever you try, remember that the body can only process around 200-250 calories per hour roughly. If you are pounding the calories with sugary replacement drinks and gels and bars, your stomach will be distressed and sloshing. Another tip I have read over and over is to not combine gels with anything but water. And, do not try anything new on race day but this goes for everything from food to gear. Stick with what you trained with and don’t save something new for race day. It would be horrible to have spent all the hours and energy training for a big ultra only to end it halfway through due to an upset stomach or blisters from new socks. Try, try, try everything and put it to the test before you take it out on race day.