Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta – When I got serious about running and started doing long distances (more than 12 miles, let’s say), I needed something more than a handheld water bottle. Even though on my long city runs I’d never be too far from a water source, I wanted something I could sip from every couple of miles without having to find a water fountain at a grocery store or coffee shop.
For a long time I used a Nathan hip pack that holds two water bottles, one on each hip. But a friend saw a video of me running and watched the bouncing water bottles and suggested I could probably shave off some time if I lost the hip pack and, instead, relied on water and food at the aid stations set up during marathons.
That might be true. But I know my body rather well and know that I need to fuel and drink pretty regularly and I don’t want to be slowed down at an aid station.
So I decided to try the next best thing. I got a running vest.
The Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta was designed by Jenny Jurek–an ultra-marathoner, vegan and wife of the ultra-distance runner, Scott Jurek. The vest is specifically designed for women, taking into account our contour and smaller torso.
In the two marathons I’ve done (um, back to back!) using the vest, I found a number of benefits over the hip pack.
- I can store my Gu Gels in front pockets so they’re easy to access
- I have two options for carrying water. There are two bottles (which come with the vest) that slip into pouches in the front holsters or a bladder (I use my Osprey) that slips in the back of the bag
- Having the water against my back rather than bouncing on my hips is more comfortable and likely shaves a bit of time off my miles
- The vest has plenty of straps to tighten so that the back lays flat and doesn’t bounce when I run
The one thing I have found a bit irritating, literally, is that the right sternum strap rubs my neck if I’m not wearing clothing such as a jacket that comes part way up my neck. Unfortunately the strap rubs me to the point it hurts so I have to remember to wear a band-aid on my neck in this particular spot. I’ve tried adjusting the straps various ways but it still does rub.
I also learned after a few runs that I’m not a big fan of carrying the water bottles that come with the vest. These are small bottles that slip into the pouches located on each strap right around the chest area. They work OK (they’re high enough that you can sip from them while running) but they just seem awkward like I’m wearing water wings.
Overall, the Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta is a huge improvement over my bouncy hip belt and well worth the dough. You can find it on Amazon.
FuelBelt Helium Sprint Bottle – When I’m headed out for a shorter run (three to six miles), I can easily get away with running with something much smaller than the vest…like this hand held water bottle from FuelBelt.
While my larger Nathan hand held bottle has its place (it holds more liquid and it has a zippered pocket), the FuelBelt is ideal when the weather’s cooler and I won’t be in need of a lot of water.
What I love about the Helium Sprint bottle is the ergodynamic design. My hand fits perfectly around the curved bottle and the strap is quite padded, making it very comfortable around the top of my hand.
I do wish it was as simple as squeezing the bottle for the water to pour out. Instead, I have to pull up on the white cap, which opens the top and allows the liquid to escape. I can see how this is good because it means less leaking but it requires that I either pull (and then push) on it with my teeth or that my other hand is free to pull it out. I run with a flashlight in my other hand on early morning runs in the winter so logistically this is a bit difficult.
None the less, the FuelBelt wins big for me because of its very comfortable design.
Balega Hidden Comfort Socks – I know some people will argue the importance of choosing the right socks for running. But I’ve never been super picky.
Until I met Balega.
Their Hidden Comfort socks are definitely the most comfortable running socks I now own. Why? Well, first, they’re all around super soft. Though they are not Balega’s most cushioned sock, they are MY most cushioned sock. 🙂
The toe and the heel are reinforced (and softer) so it’s unlikely I’m going to get blisters in either place. But also, they have a special heel tab that prevents the heel from slipping into my shoe when I’m running. I can attest to the fact that my cheaper socks sometimes slip and scrunch up–not terribly but to a degree that I’m not comfortable with.
They come in ton of colors and styles for varying prices on Amazon.
HydraPak Bottle Bright – I was so happy when I discovered this water bottle cleaning product from HydraPak. It’s probably been around for ages but I just didn’t know it existed. It’s a must for runners as well as campers and, well, anyone who regularly uses a water bottle.
These are so easy to use…You simply drop Bottle Bright tablets into a water bottle or bladder and let these effervescent tablets sit and bubble for 15 – 20 minutes. While it’s sitting, it’s cleaning up stains, odors, dirt and dust from the container. It works wonders on the Osprey bladder I use in my Ultra Vesta.
The tablets do not contain chlorine and they are biodegradable and non-toxic.
Available on Amazon for under $10.
Score another one for HydraPak with this Tube Cleaning Brush. It’s the only way I can clean my water bladder tube. Both the mouthpiece and the tube easily get mucked up over a short period of time and this bottle brush makes cleaning super fast.
Also available on Amazon for under $10.
OOFOS Sandals – I ran my first ultra marathon recently. Somehow, even at four in the morning, I was smart enough to toss my never-before-worn OOFOS sandals into my post-run gear bag. I am SO glad I did.
After the 31-mile wet run, I was so happy to get out of my running shoes. But I was doubly happy after I put on the OOFOS sandals for the walk to the car and drive back home. These soft, cushion-y, comfy, foamy, supportive, absorbing–shall I go on–sandals were just the thing my feet needed after the long run. I actually continued to wear them long after I got home because I didn’t want to walk on anything other than this footbed. I even put on a pair of compression toe socks and walked to dinner for a post-race meal at a local restaurant in these.
I’ve read reviews where some people find the high arch to be uncomfortable but that is not the case for me. If you are a runner or have one in your life, these are a must!
Available on Amazon for under $45 (which is a steal given how comfy they are!).
A few quick book recommendations:
Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
This was the first book I ever read about running. At the time I couldn’t wrap my head around how a person could run not just a marathon but 100 miles or more. Whether you’re a runner or not, this is a fantastic read that includes information about the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico–well known for their long distance running–often barefoot or in sandals made of tire treads.
Finding Ultra by Rich Roll – Rich is a vegan athlete and recovering addict. This is his amazing story from overweight lawyer to ultra-athlete and wellness advocate. It’s a truly great story that should inspire us all that we can change at any time in our lives.
Running Man – An enthralling memoir from Charlie Engle. He’s a runner, recovering addict and white collar convict. But mostly he’s a badass runner and adventurer. If anything, he shows us that most anything is possible with determination. This book is funny and inspiring. Plus, he travels the world to run and that in itself is awesome.
Running Your First Ultra – If you’re looking for an instruction manual on how to run an ultra, here’s a great resource! I love that it’s written by a woman. This includes tips, personal stories and inspiration to kick your butt toward your first ultra, whether it’s 50K or a 100-miler.
Disclosure: Many items above were provided to me for free to review. Regardless, everything I have said in the post reflects my honest opinions.