Thursday, November 13, 2014

Atlanta Ragnar Gear Purchases

Knowing that I'll be spending the next few months preparing for the Publix Georgia Marathon and the Ragnar Atlanta Trail Relay I've purchased some new lights.  My new headlamp cost $83 and my new blinky light cost $10 but, even before I finished charging my headlamp, my wife already informed me that I wasn't running alone at night.  I guess that's one decision that had already been made.

The Publix Georgia Marathon is scheduled for March 22nd.  It will only be my second attempt at the 26.2 mile distance, without it being preceded by 114.4 miles of swimming and cycling.  My first attempt was the Museum of Aviation Marathon in 2011.  You can read that race report here.  The Publix Marathon will be much more challenging.  I've heard it's a hilly course.  It will also be much more fun.  I expect a larger field of runners and spectators than I saw in the 2011 race on a secure military base.

My first Ragnar event is scheduled for April 10th and 11th, 2015, the Atlanta Ragnar Trail Relay race.  This is one of their trail races as opposed to the road Ragnars which are popular around the country.  I will be on an eight (8) man team - Running with Caesars.  The goal is for each member to run all three courses covering the total 120 miles in the shortest time possible.  The three courses are 1) the 3.8 mile Green Loop - River Trail, 2) the 4.6 mile Yellow Loop - Olympic Trail, and 3) the 6.7 miles Red Loop - Granite Slabs Trail.  3.8 + 4.6 + 6.7 = 15.1 miles per runner.  15.1 x 8 = 120.8 for the team.

Never one to pass up the opportunity to buy new gear, I've purchased a few items for this race.  My new gear can be divided into two categories, race stuff and non-race stuff.  My non-race stuff hopefully will in some way involve sleeping.  My race stuff will have to accommodate night running through singletrack trails and for that I'll need good lighting.  I already have a 60 lumen Petzl Tikka XP2 which I purchased in 2011.  During this race the XP2 will be a backup unit should me or someone else need it.  My primary light will use a new 7-215 lumen Petzl Tikka RXP.  In reactive mode the RXP adjusts automatically to the surrounding ambient light, dimming when it's bright and increasing in intensity when it's dark.  I've also purchased a Nathan Strobe Light, and two 7-watt 3-mode Cree LED 300 lumen mini flashlights with adjustable focus.  The strobelight will be worn somewhere on my back, probably on a race belt.  A back light is recommended equipment.  I didn't see it in the trail guide but my teammates recommended it.  The flashlight was also recommended by a teammate.  Used as a secondary light to the headlamp as it seems to add depth to the trail.

Nathan Strobelight and Petzl RXP Headlamp
Headlamp technical notice, charging cable, and strap
Headlamp front view
Removable/rechargeable headlamp battery and back of the headlamp
headlamp battery area
Headlamp top vent, USB charging port cover and on/off switch
headlamp bottom vent
The Petzl RXP (l) beside the Petzl XP2 (r)
The 2011 Petzl XP2 weighs-in at 85 grams
The larger Petzl RXP weighs-in 27 grams heavier than the XP2 at 112 grams 
The little Nathan Strobelight weighs-in at a mere 20 grams 
I've run a few times, short distances, with my new light and I noticed something interesting.  I've been watching trail running videos and one thing that I've heard mentioned is that I should keep my head up instead of tilting my head down to look at the ground.  The reasoning is that I'll have better air intake with my head up.  The light seems to help me gauge when my head is tilted and alerts me to the fact that I need to look up.  I also noticed that the RXP feels heavier than the XP2.  The RXPs headband is adjustable.  The headband makes for a snug fit.  The cloth backing on the band was comfortable enough on my short test runs.

The RXPs adjustable headband 
Headlamp and Strobelight 

The Petzl also has some software which is downloadable for free from their website.  The software allows for changing the setting on the headlamp, creating profiles, and most importantly, it lets you know when the battery is fully charged.  All of which is doable from the light itself without the software.

Petzl OS download screen
Petzl OS dashboard
As I've been running at night, on the road, I've noticed an inordinate number of flying insects that appear bent on colliding with my face.  This shouldn't be a problem in the winter but, nevertheless, I purchased a pair of Tifosi Vogel T-F720 sunglasses with a clear polarized lens.  They should help protect my eyes from any low lying limbs once I hit the trails as well as the bugs.  I've ridden my bike at night, on safe, well lit streets of course, and found that there is a huge amount of road junk that gets thrown up by the rider in front.  The clear lens on the Vogel's should help there as well.  This is my third pair of Tifosi Vogel sunglasses.  I also have a dark gray and amber pair.  The wrap-around lens has no frame so they're great for time trials.  The clear polarized lens do slightly reduce the light to the eyes but it's barely noticeable.

Tifosi Vogel sunglasses with clear polarized lens
For trail shoes, Susan and I drove to Roswell Road to check out the selection at Road Runner Sports. The first thing the salesperson asked was if I was a VIP customer.  That turned me off in an instant.  Who gives a crap?  I'm a runner in search of shoes.  Their on-line selection may be vast but the in story selection is limited.  I could have just as easily gone to Dick's Sporting Goods or Academy Sports. They didn't have anything in my size so I was in and out in about 90-seconds.

From RRS we drove to Big Peach Running Company in Decatur.  The salesperson was awesome.   Very knowledgeable and friendly.  I tried on several shoes but I needed a 1/2 size smaller so they would order a pair in the color I wanted.  The salesperson called my cell the next day to tell me that the color I ordered was discontinued.  I regrettably declined on a different color.  

The following day we went to New Sole Running Company in McDonough.  I called before deciding to make the short drive to the store.  They had several pairs of trail shoes in my size and I tried them all on.  I've never been a minimalist runner so I hesitated to buy something too drastic.  I decided on the "unisex" Inov-8 ROClite 268 shoes.  Weighing in at 9 1/4 ounces, the 268's weigh about the same as my New Balance 890 road racing shoes and far less than my bullet-proof Asics Cumulus 14 road training shoes.

Inov-8 ROClite 268
Inov-8 ROClite 268 wieigh-in
I decided on the 268s because they were about 2 ounces lighter than the 295s and substantial enough to serve me well on longer runs, I hope.  The 268s also have plenty of room in the toe box.  I chickened out from going the minimus route.

I bought a Garmin Foot Pod to check my cadence.  I've been reading that my cadence should be somewhere around 180 and that it should be higher when I'm climbing than when I'm descending.  On my Inov-8s, and most of my road running shoes, the foot pod will be worn snapped into my laces.  Only my Nike Pegasus 28+ shoes have a slot in the left shoe insole specifically for the pod, or a Nike equivalent.  I know the 28s are about 3 revisions old.  I believe there's a Pegasus 31 version for sale now.  The fact is that I never really took to the Nikes when I bought them.  Maybe I'll give them a second chance.

Garmin Foot Pod
A closer view of  the foot pod
The foot pod weighs-in at 9 grams
The foot pod on the Inov-8 268s
The foot pod in the insole of my Nike Pegasus 28+ road shoes
I've been told that our Ragnar team will have a tent that I'm welcome to use when I'm not busting my hump on the trails.  So, I don't need to buy a tent.  I do need to buy a sleeping bag.  Susan and I want to do some camping with the Chattahoochee Riverkeepers next year so new sleeping bags for both of us will be a wise purchase, as would some sleeping pads.

On-line reviews of sleeping bags on Amazon and REI run the gamut.  My needs are for a bag that will keep me warm and comfortable, the zipper won't break or bind, and isn't too heavy or expensive.  Some people say synthetic filled is the way to go and others recommend down filled.  I'm leaning toward two military issue sleeping bags.  While I think they're significantly heavier than other sleeping bags the fact that it's a system of several bags for use under different conditions is appealing. I'll probably purchase the 4 piece system with an outer and inner insulated bag, a Gortex shell, and a compression bag for storage.  I hope to have the sleeping bags soon.

Since the Ragnar is a three course per runner event I'm planning to treat it as if it were three separate races.  Why?  Because if it rains it will be a muddy, nasty mess,and if it doesn't rain I'll still be pretty sweaty and stinky.  I'll need to bring at least three pairs of everything including; shoes, socks, and shorts, and three shirts.  I doubt I'll need a hydration vest but trail specific running shoes are a must.   Apparently elastic laces are a no-no when running trails with the specter of shoe-sucking mud ever present.  Duly noted!  The Cree LED mini flashlight I purchased are back-ordered.

Thanks for reading.