Editor's Note:Travis Rolph (above, left) is a badass. This is his second year participating in the grueling 2014 Grand to Grand Ultra endurance race. The seven-day foot race covers 170 miles in six stages and is unsupported except for water and shelter. That means the competitors carry everything they need, including food and a first aid kit, for the duration of the event. This is his personal, post-race hotwash of his gear's performance. In a race where every ounce and every stitch is the linchpin connecting months of pre-race preparation and race-day performance, I thought our readers would be interested in an ultra-endurance racer's loadout and impressions of his gear's performance following the event.
When racing with everything on your back every once of weight translates to decreased speed and fatigue. For a race of this type I like to break the preparation work into thirds: mental preparation, physical preparation and logistical preparation. The purpose of this AAR is to focus on the latter, race day logistics. I break logistics down further into nutrition, hydration, personal hygiene and comfort, both during load carriage and during periods of rest and recovery.
The race organizers set a minimum of 14,000 calories or basically 2000 calories per day of the race. My food for seven days came in at a total calorie count of 15,460 calories with a total weight of 9.5 lb. My plan was the following:
- Breakfast: oatmeal, blueberries, pecans, chia seeds and butter powder followed by a Ucan carbohydrate shake before the start of each stage.
- From start line to Checkpoint 1, I would have Cera Sport electrolyte mix in one of my two water bottles.
- CP 1 to CP 2 I would consume one packet of GU Rocktane.
- CP 2 to CP 3 I would consume a packet of Hammer Perpetuem in one of my water bottles.
- CP 3 to CP 4 I would consume a Pocket Fuel (hazelnut butter mixed with cocoa).
- CP 4 to the finish line would be water only.
- At each checkpoint I would take two S-Cap Electrolyte Tablets.
Within 5-10 minutes of finishing each stage I drank a Hammer Recoverite recovery shake. After conducting personal hygiene, preventive body maintenance (blister prep) and a rest period I ate dinner. Dinner consisted of pre-packaged de-hydrated meals from several different manufactures. The bulk of those I chose were gluten and dairy free, I wanted to have meals that my body could easily digest in its tired state. To combat the generally bland taste I added hot sauce and other condiments as needed.
The exception to the above regimen was Stage 3, the long stage. The long stage consisted of a 54-mile movement broken down into eight checkpoints. My fueling plan remained basically the same with two snack breaks planned for checkpoint 5 (minor snack of a packet of tuna and a Bison Bar) and checkpoint 6 (full hot rehydrated meal) and I added GU Chomps as an additional electrolyte replacement.
Grand to Grand 2014 Calorie Count
I only had two issues over the week with my meal plan: my breakfast meals after the long stage (stage 3) no longer tasted good. I had to force myself to eat them just for the calories. On the morning of stage 5 I ended up tossing it and going without the calories. I had planned on using Hammer Perpetuem drink mix from CP 3 to CP 4 each day. I found after stage 2 it started giving me an upset stomach so I quit using it. Additionally, I will probably add an instant soup mix per day for an extra hot evening meal.
EQUIPMENT WORN DURING THE STAGES:
Arc'teryx Sarix t-shirt: lite and airy, fast drying.
Arc'teryx Adan shorts: lite fast drying, articulated crotch for ease of movement.
Injinji toe socks: (5 pair), maintained toe separation cutting down friction, only one blister worth mentioning from a stream crossing stage 2.
Under Armor Heat Gear shorts: These kept chafing down to a minimum. I will probably take two pair next time and change half way through the week.
Salomon S Lab 3 shoes: These are lite and thin-soled race shoes. I felt the rocks during some of the gravel road sections and during one particularly long streambed section of the course. But, overall they worked out great.
Garmin 910xt GPS/watch: I like to know my current distance and the distance to the next CP.
OR Softshell gaiters: Soft sand was a major portion of this course including a long stint thru the Pink Coral Sand Dunes Park. These gaiters combined with the closed toe Solomon S-Lab Shoes kept my feet sand free.
EQUIPMENT WORN DURING THE REST PERIODS:
Arc'teryx Cerium LT Down Jacket: (8.6 oz.), excellent warmth to weight ratio.
Arc'teryx Phase Liner Gloves: I didn't need to wear these this year, but I won't leave them behind just in case.
Arc'teryx Motus long sleeve top: I wore this base layer top each night. It's a light, but warm, base layer.
Arc'teryx beanie: I wore this each evening and slept wearing it a couple nights.
Skins compression tights: I wore these at night for muscle recovery and to let my shorts dry.
Z Packs 30 degree sleeping bag:(14 oz.) This bag saves weight by not having a hood. I was good with that and used my Arc'teryx beanie to compensate. I am a warm sleeper so the rating kept me plenty warm.
Klymit Inertia X-Lite sleeping pad: (6.1 oz.) This is the half length version of the Klymit pad, its not the most comfortable sleeping pad, but it is light.
LOAD CARRIAGE AND MISC EQUIPMENT:
Mayflower RC Racing Ruck: This is the second design revision of my own racing pack design. It performed great. The next prototype (version number 3) race ruck will incorporate some minor changes to make it easier to access some of the more immediately needed items and will add some external attachment options. The chest pouch will see some ergonomic changes.
S&S Precision V-Lite: This was attached to the MRC Racing Ruck and served as a red blinker for safety. No issues with S&S V-Lite; S&S makes a quality product.
Trail Toes Blister kit: I used Trail Toes to lubricate between my toes and the bottoms of my feet as well as between my legs and I had no chafing issues. I had one blister but I will chalk that up to a stream crossing at mile 25 of a 26-mile day. Vince makes a solid product!
Emergency Bivy: I vacuum-sealed this and it worked perfect to keep it flat and out of the way.
Princeton Tech headlamps: Carried two with spare batteries No issues.
Raid Light water bottles: x2; 750ml size. No issues but I need to buy new ones these are starting to have a bad plastic taste.
Benchmade Model 530 folding knife: (2 oz) The lightest Benchmade you can get and it was personally engraved for be.
New Trent Charger (for the Garmin) No issues but I will probably try to find a lighter version for next time.
Misc: Spork, hygiene kit, medical kit, compass, safety whistle, sunblock stick, sunblock lip balm; no issues with any of these items.
Total weight of carried gear:
- 18.6 pounds with full water bottles
- 15.8 pounds without water
Thanks to my sponsors for equipping me for success!
Here's a video that gives you a taste of what the Grand to Grand is about: