The one thing that is true across all sports is that the gear is awesome. Buying new gear, for whatever sport you enjoy, is like all the Christmases and birthdays you have ever had rolled into one glorious moment. NEW GEAR! The sheer awesomeness of the soon to be released V-neck version of your favorite compression shirt elicits a feeling of euphoria that rival the most vivid childhood memories. Gear is something that we all love, especially when it’s being acquired as you start a sport for the first time. Our gear allows us to look how we want to be seen. Gear allows us to outwardly show what our inner self wants the world to see about us and how awesome knee high compression socks look when jumping a row of burning logs.
Be warned fellow newbie. The depth of choices you will come across as you select your obstacle running gear will be daunting. It will be fun, I promise, but don’t be fooled – You will have to make some hard choices.
As I was selecting my new gear for my training and eventual first obstacle course race, my major hang up was compression socks. I had questions that needed answers. The main questions I had were: What are they? Do I need them? Do they really go all the way to my knee? Can I really wear these and not be laughed at?
To seasoned obstacle racer, these questions seem to be no-brainers. However, to a newbie they were a source of concern. As I searched for the answer to the compression sock conundrum, I realized that as I was looking for compression sock information (There is a lot out there), I was forming new questions about gear I hadn’t even considered – like: shoe type, short length, compression tops, GoPro cameras, and thigh chafing. The more I searched for the answers to my existing gear related questions more questions kept popping up.
I eventually found the information I was looking for and made some fun, but hard, choices on what gear to purchase. After the race, I was happy with my decisions and aware of some bad ones I had made. Here is a little list of things that this newbie would like to share with other newbies about some of the recommended gear for obstacle racing.
The information below is taken from the advice and opinions of obstacle racers much more experienced than me as well as some things I wish someone would have told me before my 1st race. So, with that being said, here is some practical advice for newbies and the gear they should look into.
Matt “The Bear” Novakovich (NAME DROP) was nice enough to offer his professional insight for this list. At the top of his list were all-terrain running shoes. Novakovich recommends the Reebok All –Terrain Super. The added traction of an all–terrain running shoe provides the added grip you will need while running on off road terrain and climbing up muddy hills. Your standard issue road running shoes will not do near the job as these specifically designed shoes will.
The most important aspect of the off road/all-terrain shoe to me was the shoe’s ability to not hold water. Trust me your shoes will be wet, if not soaked. If your shoe can get rid of the water inside them as you run it is worth its weight in gold.
Novakovich noted that leather gloves provide good protection for your hands when wetness isn’t an issue. Added grip on hoists and rope climbs is a welcomed advantage later in the race.
A Dry Bag
“Bear” also noted the importance of a place to put your wet running gear after a race. This tip is something I wish I would have thought of before my first race. You will be soaked and muddy- your clothes will need a place to go after the race. Finding a spare trash bag while at the race may prove to be more difficult that you would imagine. Just take a trash bag from home and avoid the potential nightmare of naked driving or explaining why your car seats need to be replaced.
Compression style tops and bottoms – Rose Wetzell-Sinnett (NAME DROP) rated compression clothing high on her newbie must have list. Compression tops and bottoms are highly prized for their drying time and lack of weight.
Baby wipes are something that I was not expecting. After the race there may be some chafing that may need some attention. Baby wipes are the tool for the job. They are also good at removing debris where the wash off hoses missed.
Arm Sleeves (or a long sleeve top) provide a bit of warmth for the races in the colder half of the year as well as serving as a barrier for your elbows during the crawls under the wire. After my 1st 100 yd mud crawl, my elbows wanted some sort of covering.
Compression socks were consistently mentioned by seasoned vets of the sport when I asked what a newbie should have in the way of gear. Compression socks not only facilitate better circulation in your legs, but provide some shielding for your lower legs as you throw them over the tops of walls. They also make it harder for small pebbles to get into your new all-terrain running shoes.
Light Weight Shorts with No Pockets
Pockets hold mud and water. You don’t want that. There is really no need to be carrying anything as you run, therefore no need for pockets.
Bonus Newbie Gear Tip: No cotton anything!
This applies to any article of clothing you can imagine. Cotton holds water and its heavy- two bad things in this sport.
I hope this helps you newbies decide on what new gear you will choose for your first OCR event. One thing I found the most impressive at these events is the all-inclusive vibe of everyone there- from beginners to the elite. When you are at an event and you see a piece of gear that you are unsure of, just ask. I guarantee the person you ask will be more than helpful and polite. That is one aspect of this sport’s participants that I find the most reassuring of the fact I have chosen my new sport well – and the gear is awesome.