Thursday, 17 February 2011

Running with a sled?

This weekend I'm running in the Susitna 100. It's a 100 mile trail race in the Susitna Valley along the Yetna and Susitna rivers. The race has a list and a minimum weight limit of required gear for each participant to ensure that the racers have enough survival gear for up to 48 hours in the Alaskan winter. I struggle to stay outside for a day of skiing in the middle of winter so I'm happy for any advice to survive running for up to 48 hours!

There are only two real options to carry all this gear: drag a sled or carry a backpack. As almost all the running racers went with sleds in the last few years I'm taking that approach. I've tried running with a light pack and the weight in a pack would put tremendous pressure on my ankles (especially if there are poor conditions and lots of snow). So a sled it is. My marvel of a sled is a homemade device that I built. It is a child's sled from the supermarket combined with rope and PVC pipe from the hardware store and a custom fitted belt created from seat belt material. It runs smooth on thicker snow and fairly straight on almost all grades. Not perfect or professional, but it's going to do great.

I narrowed down the gear I want to take with me, taking out the most extreme expedition gear that I was contemplating, and right now I'm feeling ready to go. My list of gear includes the required gear, in red, and is separated into what I'm wearing, what I'll put in my hydration pack and what's going into the two stuff sacks on my sled.


list of gear (click to enlarge)

To keep it all together on the sled I have a 30l sack with food, clothing and gear that I want to be able to access easily during the race and a 60l sack with required gear and emergency clothing in case it gets really cold. Food for the race includes Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem, dates, dried apples and chocolate. Mmmm, chocolate!

All my food before repackaging

A little lighter and exactly what's going in the stuff sack

Along with the food will be my extra gloves, goggles, a spare water bottle and other warm clothing. This falls under the "needs to be quickly and easily accessed" gear of the sack and is determined by my fear of the cold and fast-freezing extremities.

All the non-food contents of my30l stuff sack

The 60l stuff sack contains the heavier required gear, emergency food and clothing I'm only planning to take out in a really cold and dire situation. This includes a tent, sleeping mat and sleeping bag from my friend Doug; more warm clothes; emergency food supplies; and a few other things to repair a broken sled. Things will not be looking good if I have to go into this bag...

Contents of my 60l stuff sack

Once everything is packed it goes onto the sled which is affectionately know as the "ninja turtle" because it looks like a turtle shell when I'm carrying it empty on my back! The gear weights 17.9 pounds which is about 2 pounds above the minimum, but I'm willing to pull a few extra warm layers to help me endure the longest period I will spend outside in Alaska.

Fully loaded and aerodynamic sled

I'm debating whether to take some bunny boots for the sections of the race where I might be walking in deep snow. I had planned to leave these behind, but four inches of snow overnight and the flurries I can see out my window are doing a good job of convincing me to put the extra weight on my sled. I'll do a final pack tomorrow morning before the race so there may be a few tweaks to the gear, but right now I think I've got exactly what I need.

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