After completing the Joshua Tree half marathon a few weeks ago, I’ve received a few questions about what type of running gear I used during the race.
Here’s my essential gear list for the night desert trail run.
Bandana Any style or color goes, from Ruby Riveter polkadot red to your favorite college team, as long as it’s a bandana. I went with gray because it’s practical, and I’m that boring; and a minimalist. It did a killer job keeping my sweaty hair out of my face and the sand and dust out of my sweaty hair.
Headlamp When running at night, a flashlight – preferably a headlamp to keep your hands free – is a must. In addition to having the use of your hands to pop chews or access your iPhone or if you need them both to break a minor trip or major fall, running with a flashlight has its drawbacks. Handheld flashlights also provide inconsistent light on the path in front of you unless you’re willing to run with one arm steadying the light in front of you, which seems like a balance killer the more tired you get.
The headlamp was easy to turn on, adjust brightness, direct the light where you wanted it in front of you, and go. I wore an aqua-colored Biolite 330, and wasn’t alone. More than half the women I ran with had the same headlamp in various colors. It was lightweight, rechargeable, bright, comfortable, and didn’t fail when needed. Highly recommended.
Buff As I mentioned in my last post, the dust on the course was deplorable. Coughing and hacking could be heard in the darkness throughout the entire course. The buff made it more bearable and I believe saved my lungs from an additional quarter cup of ingested sand.
Hydration vest A hydration vest allowed me to drink water whenever I wanted it. No need to wait every three or so miles for a drink.
It was comfortable, and I carried things I couldn’t without it, like an extra layer, my iPhone, and earbuds (for the last two miles). Plus, the vest was comfortable, which meant for me, I barely noticed it while running.
Outside of picking up a dust-covered orange slice, I didn’t have to stop at any of the aid stations for water or electrolyte drink. In shorter races, like a half marathon, I usually try to skip the aid stations and here are my reasons why.
First, being vegan, I never know if the electrolyte drink the race said they would have is actually being served. The last thing I want to do is ingest a drink with animal products in it. Gross.
Second, if it’s a drink or type of nutrition I don’t train with, I don’t want to risk getting a sick stomach from it. I aim to follow the oldest rule in racing: only eat (or wear) what you’ve trained with, don’t try anything new on race day.
Last, if there’s a racer that you’ve been frog hopping back and forth with, now is the time to lose him. I was so happy to leave “the grunter” in the dust at the third aid station. See ya later, bye.
Having a go-to hydration vest made all this possible.
Gu Energy chews (vegan) A few years ago, Gu Energy made their chews vegan. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for their drinks. I’ve tried a few different vegan options, and these chews, especially the watermelon flavor sit well with me. I took a couple around mile nine and felt great.
Body glide This is an essential when anything could rub against anything else for a period of time. When I’m in shorts, this goes on my thighs. When I have a hydration vest on, it goes on my collar bone, my triceps, and shoulders – anywhere the pack could touch my skin while I’m running. We’ve all gone without this and wished we hadn’t. Don’t let that be you.
Gaiters These were essential in keeping out the mounds of sand that hit the back of my legs while running. The ankle-deep sand was demoralizing. But it would have been worse had I not had these Salomon gaiters to keep out the mounds of sand tossed up behind me from falling into my shoes.
One complaint about these were they chaffed (should have added some body glide) my ankle where the sock had fallen down. They also didn’t keep all of the sand out. These seem more suited for big pebbles, not fine sand. Also, the band that wrapped under the shoe was almost shredded through after the race. Wasn’t expecting that. If I had to do it over again, I would try another brand or style of trail running gaiter.
Running shoes Of course you need running shoes. Some would argue you’d do better in trail shoes, but there was so much sand, I don’t think it would have mattered. I chose (and was happy I did) to run in my Brooks Adrenaline GTS 19 shoes. I wrapped the gaiters around them and they did great.
There you have my list of essential gear for running in the desert at night. If you have any other suggestions, I’d love to hear from you.