“Don’t EXPECT success. PREPARE for it.”
So other than preparing for your first obstacle course race in the form of training and nutrition, the other way you’ll want to prepare is in the form of ‘whats in your OCR kit bag’.
When I did my very first OCR back in 2010, I was so ill prepared for it, I didn’t know what to put in my kit bag.
Actually I don’t even think I had ‘a kitbag’ to be honest, it was more of a carrier bag with a few bits and bobs in it, and trust me, walking around in wet freezing clothes after a race whilst waiting for your mate to finish because he’s the one with the car door key is not something you’ll want to be doing that often and is a one way ticket to hypothermia. << which isn’t pleasant by the way!
In the last few years and since then, Ive ran quite a few obstacle course races around the globe in various conditions and I’ve realised that the more prepared & organised you are, the easier you’ll make your life on race day.
Below Ive made a short checklist to help you think about what you should consider taking to your first obstacle race or mud run.
APPAREL: Clothing and What To Wear On Race Day
The time of the year (especially in the UK!) will determine clothing apparel, for example what you’d wear in the winter is going to be a lot different to what you’d typically wear in the summer.
The Biggest tip I can give you surrounding clothing apparel is to make sure it’s comfortable first & foremost.
It also needs to feel non-restrictive too so that you feel you can run in it.
For example, wearing ‘a wet suit’ at a very cold OCR will almost certainly keep you dry and warm but if you wear one then its highly likely that you’re going to over heat when you start to run and really won’t be a pleasant experience (been there done that!), so it’s important to find a happy medium with your apparel between keeping you warm (not over heating) and mobile (feeling light):
1. Compression Long Sleeve Top
A compression long sleeve top is useful to keep the cold out and its NOT cotton either.
Try to avoid cotton as a fabric at all costs as it will weigh you down more when it gets wet and it will keep you cold too because of the nature of the fabric.
Ive worn compression tops at winter OCR’s and summer ones too. Some people like to have a fitted size whilst others like to have an extra size up so its a slightly looser fit. I prefer mine slightly looser as I don’t like anything feeling like its constricting my breathing but thats just me. Have a little experiment in training and see which size you prefer.
You can get suitable long sleeve compression tops from brands like Under Armour, Nike DriFit, 2XU Core Compression & Adidas TECHFIT
2. Compression Calf Guards/Tights
Your legs and ankles are going to need some protection and we recommend that you keep your legs covered.
Calf guards or compression tights can help to increase circulation in the legs and in some studies have shown to help prevent the build up of lactic acid which can delay fatigue. On top of this calf guards can provide your legs with a bit of protection and can reduce the risk of getting cuts, bruises & scrapes on things like brambles, tree roots, obstacles etc.
Don’t go for the “padded leg sleeves” though as these will feel heavy when & muddy wet and are also likely to restrict your leg mobility as the race progresses. You want your legs to feel free and light when your running
You can get suitable compression calf guards and compression tights from brands like InoV8 Race Calf Guards, 2XU, Skins,
3. Inov8 Merino Mid Running Socks
Big fan of merino wool, especially for socks.
Merino wool tends to provide better thermoregulation than synthetic fabrics and is simply awesome for obstacle course racing. It dries very quickly and it takes moisture away from the skin which means you can regulate your body temperature more efficiently.
Not only that but Merino wool (unlike COTTON!) insulates when wet so once you’ve submerged your feet in water, it will continue to insulate and keep you warm. This means you’ll reduce the likelihood of getting freezing cold feet! which can be a bit of a distraction when you’re racing 🙂
If you do a google search for Merino mid running socks, then its definitely worth investing in a par it or two
4. Light weight Shorts (not cotton)
Again, this will be all down to personal preference and what you feel comfortable in.
Some like to wear compression shorts instead of the tights, others will wear some simple light weight running shorts, it matters not what the design is, just make sure they’re pretty light weight and once again, avoid cotton as your shorts will feel 3 times heavier when you’ve been through a few mud trenches and rivers!
You can get suitable lightweight shorts from brands like Nike DriFit, Skins, InoV8, Under Armour
5. Lightweight T-shirt (not cotton)
Unless you’re planning on going ‘bare chested’ – Arooooooo!!!! then you’ll want a light weight non-cotton t-shirt, and depending on what time of the year your OCR is, it can either go over your long sleeve compression top or to wear just as normal.
If you’re doing a VERY cold OCR e.g. in the middle of the winter, then I’d strongly recommend you wear a sleeveless neoprene vest to keep your core warm, followed by a long sleeve compression top and then a short sleeve lightweight t-shirt to go over the top .
Go for layers if you can, you can always take a layer off if you’re starting to overheat. If you’re doing your OCR in the summer months then the cold won’t be so much of an issue so you may be ok with just a light weight t-shirt or long sleeve compression top for your top half. Have a little experiment and see what works for you.
You can get suitable lightweight shirts from brands like Nike DriFit, Skins, InoV8, Under Armour. For your neoprene vests then I’ve used Oneills Ultraflex Neoprene (2mm thick) before for races like Winter Tough Guy and winter Nuts.
6. High Traction Trail Running Shoes
THE most important part of your apparel.
This will depend on what race you’ve booked up to, for example, if your race is going to be a pretty dry one, with no mud or water then regular trail shoes with a standard grip should be ok.
However if you’re booked in for an absolute mud bath with lots of hills, mud and water then you’ll want to consider a high traction trail running shoe to cope with that type of terrain. Also, check the forecast too in the build up to your race as a dry course can soon become a muddy course in a matter of days.
Whatever you decide, definitely definitely steer clear of normal running trainers. Don’t be “THAT MUPPET” thats slipping over every few minutes because they didn’t wear the right trainers.
Invest in a good pair, don’t cut corners, you’ll be glad you did.
For High Traction trail running shoes I recommend brands such as
Womens: Inov8 X-Talon 212
Mens: Salomon Speedcross GTX
Obstacle Course Racing Kitbag Accessories
These are items that I wouldn’t call ABSOLUTE essentials, but nonetheless I’ll still make sure I have them in my kitbag.
Items that you may not ever use but its nice to know that you have them in your bag should you need to call on them, just for assurance and peace of mind.
For example, I suffer with my back sometimes and whilst I would never advocate popping a load of pills to mask the symptoms, I still like to keep some remedies in my kit bag just incase I get an “episode”. I never do, but its just a reassurance thing.
7. First Aid Bands (e.g. plasters, ibuprofen, paracetamol, voltarol gel etc)
You may want to consider a first aid kit with things like plasters, ibuprofen in it etc. although if you have a serious injury then you’ll likely want to see the paramedics at the race for a proper diagnosis and advice on whether its advisable to go to the hospital etc. RELAX, you’ll be fine! 😉
Things like paracetamol and voltarol gel might be useful too.
A blanket will always come in handy for after the race and especially if you’re trying to warm up after a race.
Any type of blanket will do, don’t overthink it. I like to go with warm thick fuzzy ones 😉
9. Photo ID & event paper work
Most races will ask for some kind of photo ID for when you check in, a drivers licence should be ok and don’t forget to print off any event paper work that you need to. If you haven’t got a printer, ask someone very nicely if they can do it for you and I’m sure they will!
After you’ve raced its likely that you’ll be a bit dehydrated and will need to rehydrate.
If you have your own post workout recovery drink you use then great but just make sure you drink some water too. Most races will have regular water points too so you should be able to grab some on the way round too
11. Zinc Oxide Water proof tape
Not essential but I like to keep some of this in my kitbag.
Zinc oxide tape is water proof. Its great in the wet (eg it doesn’t lose its stickiness), and if you have a wound or some blisters that you want/need to protect then this tape will be ideal for this. The tape can be torn easily by hand too.
A few months back I wore some new shoes a week before a mud run, I absolutely shredded my achilles tendons and I got the worse blisters ever. On the day they still weren’t heeled, I put my OCR trainers on and it was unbearable, I couldn’t even walk in them let alone run!
I got chatting to a marshall and she very kindly let me borrow some of her zinc oxide tape and BOOM! it was like magic, I covered up my blisters and I could run again!
POST RACE ESSENTIALS
Post race is an important time and regardless of whether its winter or summer you’ll want to get out of your wet clothes and into dry ones as quickly as possible before you get really cold.
Hypothermia is not to be taken lightly and despite all the advice and warnings that races give out about it, it’s still quite common in OCR, especially in the very cold races so as soon as you’ve finished then get to your car or the changing areas and get changed quickly. Then, you can relax and celebrate/chat with everyone once you’re warming up.
Don’t stand around chatting in wet clothes as this is the time when you’ll get cold.
Pretty obvious this one, make sure you’ve got a couple of towels with you for the end of the race so you can dry off. Preferably some old ones that you don’t mind getting dirty.
13. Change of clothes
[IMPORTANT!] Don’t forget a completely dry set of clothes, e.g socks, pants, shorts/joggers, compression tights, tshirt, jumper. For summer OCRs you may not need so many layers on for post race but if you’re doing a super cold one then get wrapped afterwards that wind really does BITE! Either way, you’ll still need dry clothes to get into.
You may want to consider a DryRobe for post race too.
14. Gloves & Hat
^^ Again, you might not need these if you’re doing a warm weather OCR but if you’re doing a cold one then you’ll definitely need these for afterwards. Just pack them anyway. All you need is like a standard beanie or woolly hat, just to keep your head warm and some regular gloves to warm up those hands!
Gloves tend to divide ALOT of opinion in the ocr community. Should you wear gloves during a cold ocr or shouldn’t you?
The problem you have with standard neoprene gloves is that yes they will keep your hands warm but when you come to do an obstacle it will feel twice as hard trying to gain any grip or purchase with wet muddy gloves on, and then you have the added problem of losing time trying to get your gloves on and off which can also prove to be quite tough when things are wet & muddy
But that was until BLEGGMIT’s came along
Big fan of Bleggmits. They are fairly new to OCR but are an awesome design & concept.
They are designed to keep your hands warm in between obstacles & when you get to an obstacle you can just slip your hands out without taking the glove off and do the obstacle far more easier with dry hands
Bleggmits are great for very cold OCRS and for events where you need to keep your hands warm for long periods of time for events like Europe’s Toughest Mudder, & enduros where you’re gonna be out on your feet for a while
If you’re interested in a pair of Bleggmits then message me here and I’ll sort you out a pair
Don’t forget dry shoes for afterwards! Remember that the venue is likely to be very muddy too so even though you’ve just been in mud and water for the last couple of hours, if you don’t want to get your BEST indoor trainers muddy, then opt for an old pair and ones that you don’t mind getting a bit dirty.
Keep a bit of money on you for afterwards as you may want to get a drink or some food from the event village vendors. A tenner should cover it. Bring cash as some vendors may not have chip & pin.
17. Plastic Rubbish bag(s)
You don’t want to stench the car out on the journey home! Keep a few bin liners in your kit bag so that you can dump all your wet gear in there for afterwards. You may want to wash your OCR trail shoes off before you put them in a carrier bag.
The brand I recommend to clean your muddy footwear in the quickest time is “The Boot Buddy’. Ive never used one but Im definitely going to get one so that I d
18. Recovery Drink
Something to just help with the recovery process thats all. The best recovery drink I recommend post race is Lean Greens. Its full of nutrients, and theres no artificial sweeteners in there either. It will massively speed up your post race recovery. I take mine 30-60 minutes after a race. Alternatively when you get home, you could put it in your favourite smoothie.
Ok and thats it!
Thats what to put in your kitbag for your first obstacle course race. Before I go, here are some final points to consider:
- Pack your kitbag the night before so that you don’t have to do it in the morning
- Show up to the race a little earlier than usual and take for traffic
- Check the event website/FB page to see if they recommend any specific gear
- Don’t take it too seriously…Have some FUN!
^^ Remember, you’ve signed up to do this so, so whether you’re planning on running with a buddy, a group or solo, BE SURE to have some fun because when you have fun you’ll turn the pressure into pleasure.
Best of luck with your race and if you have any more questions on kit then DO let me know and I’ll answer them for you.
Go SMASH it!