Sometimes the sports we love end up putting us in situations of discomfort. There are days where we are crazy enough to go skiing in below zero temperatures; or days when you force yourself to run in 90°F, 100% humidity, because the clock is counting down on that race you signed up for. Can anything ease the torture of the crazy things we do to ourselves? Of course! Get the gear that will aid to your comfort.
When it comes to running, I've always been a bit of a wimp. I don’t like running in the rain, wind, or cold. It takes me a least a mile before I get into my groove. If my tongue sticks to the top of my dry mouth, I want to thrash into a temper tantrum. Something as simple as a hair tie that won’t hold can ruin a whole run.
The first time I signed up for the The Race To The Top Of Vermont I knew I had put myself into a completely different ball game, that would require more than just my Altra Lone Peak 4.0 trail running shoes. Over the years there have been a lot of trials and tribulations on my path as an amateur mountain runner. But through my suffering I have discovered certain items to ease the pain, swear by, and never go without.
My absolute favorite running piece is Patagonia’s new Slope Runner Vest 4L. I know what your thinking - running vests are designed for ultra runners. Like people to run 100 mile races and stuff. I wholeheartedly disagree; the vest is designed for runners who want to carry the necessities for the planned adventure. Once upon a time a customer said, “You use a running vest for the Race To The Top of Vermont? That’s excessive.” Maybe it’s too much for him, but I feel like it's the perfect piece of equipment for me. And that’s what comfort is really about, what works for your personal needs. For me, the vest is the most comfortable way to carry water and fuel, my phone, wind breaking layers, or whatever. And because it’s a Patagonia product, if I abuse the vest to deterioration, I know I’m covered for repairs with the Ironclad Guarantee.
Another product line Patagonia updated this year is the Capilene Cool series, which includes different weights like my favorites the Daily and Lightweight. There are a lot of quick drying, wicking shirts in the fitness world, but the next-to-skin feel of these fabrics has made me a happy camper on many excursions. During the hottest, most humid days of summer the Cap Cool Lightweight felt as if I wasn’t wearing anything, and dried faster than any shirt I’ve ever owned. My go-to is the Cap Cool Daily; another great weight, but also UPF 50, so I can protect my sensitive skin from the sun - an important factor when exposed at the peak.
After my first few mountain runs I realized how quickly I cool down upon summiting. One co-worker suggested that I shouldn’t pause at the top for so long; but half the reason I mountain run is for those beautiful views. Having a super light weight, ultra breathable windbreaker, like the Patagonia Houdini has been a key piece of gear. I take it on every mountain run, even if I don’t think I’ll use it, and it never leaves my running bag - except to air out the sweat and stank. Mountain weather can sometimes be unpredictable, and could flip in an instant. I’d much rather be prepared than sorry when that happy little rain cloud on the peak decides to unleash fury.
I’ve also decided to invest in the Patagonia Happy Hike Studio Pant for the upcoming colder temperatures, and to be able to take my time absorbing the wondrous foliage. My favorite shorts are the Patagonia Strider Pro Shorts; they have a pretty short inseam, but I prefer to run in those instead of tights even as it gets colder. The Happy Hike Studio Pant is fairly easy to get over my trail shoes and shorts without looking ridiculous. Another great lightweight fabric that can be packed down to a storable size in my vest.
One part of my body that has always suffered from longer distances, and going uphill are my calves. Let me tell you, there is nothing like waking up screaming in the middle of the night from a charley horse. Compression socks have been the cure for my spazzy calves. They help bring more blood flow to the area, which aids with recovery. I wear them for every run; sometimes I even sleep in them. I also really like running in Merino wool to prevent blisters, almost a certainty when trodding downhill. The perfect combination of these things can be found in Darn Tough’s Vertex Over-The-Calf Ultra-Light sock. And when I need a little extra relief that the socks can’t provide I reach for Bag Balm’s CBD and Arnica Muscle and Joint Rub.
This coming Sunday (August, 25) is race day. Looks like it’s going to start out a little chilly, and slowly creep into the upper 60’s, but the sunshine will be abundant. If you signed up for the Race to the Top of Vermont you can be sure to see me in all the products I’ve mentioned above. I may look over prepared for a 4 mile race uphill, but I will have important pieces to keep me positive, and plenty of water to prevent hydration based panic attack. And that’s what it’s all about, keeping yourself happy in uncomfortable situations with the right gear. After all, no one said it would be easy to see the view from the top of the mountain.
- Allison Kozar,
Vermont Trailwear and Skirack
Click here to learn more about Allison.
Race to the Top of Vermont is organized the Catamount Trail Association.