This post is part four in the training series for those participants in this year’s March for the Fallen event.
We are about 4 weeks out from the event and Dave Babulak is helping educate March for the Fallen participants with tips/pointers each week leading up to the event.
Dave’s knowledge package will include the following:
- Training Rules
- Workout Plans
- Footwear and Footcare
- Secret Weapons
- On the March nutrition
Here is Dave’s fourth installment in the series: Uniform/Gear
Bottom line up front (BLUF): We aren’t planning to be among the top three finishers so you can wear whatever you want and use whatever gear you think will help you. Here are some tips that might help.
Prime Directive: No cotton. Don’t get me wrong, cotton is awesome. As my 8th grade world history teacher put it:
The cotton gin was a big deal because before cotton people had to wear wool. You see folks, burlap underwear – that’s not cool.
However, it’s 2017. Synthetics have better breathability, cause fewer friction problems, wick moisture better and perform better if it rains so skip the cotton.
We’ll start at the top and work our way down:
The course is mostly open so prepare for nine hours in the sun. I suggest a hat. I’m wearing a baseball style cap but one that covers your ears and neck is a smarter choice. Please, please someone make my day.
It will likely be warm to hot so a single layer, short sleeve, synthetic fiber shirt is a good choice. Even with synthetics, some people still have problems with chaffing. If this is you, tape your nipples. No, I am not linking to a picture of a runner with blood all over their shirt. Somewhat tempting, but no.
Avoid cotton (burlap optional). I am a big fan of compression shorts over underwear. Muscles work better under compression and friction is greatly reduced.
I wear lightweight hiking pants; Wes likes shorts. Pants might be slightly hotter but I don’t have to worry about sunburn on my legs or bug bites. If you opt for shorts, don’t forget to protect your legs. Either way, I recommend an option with some kind of drawstring or belt. Clothing that fits at the start might fit differently after 8 hours of marching.
Covered last time.
Hip belt, hip belt, hip belt. A dense 35lb load can fit in a small pack but small packs are not designed to carry significant weight for long distances. The biggest difference between a daypack and a larger pack is the hip pad. When carrying a load at least 70% of the weight should be on the hips. Thus, the hip belt matters. A larger pack, designed for heavy loads, can always be compressed down and will outperform a daypack with a minimal hip belt. If your future also involves hauling Elk meat, Wes has your solution.
Pro Tip: If you are on the fence about carrying a heavy pack, consider finding a buddy and sharing a pack. Alternate every hour or every 5 miles. Enhance your experience without killing yourself.
Team Tip: Once you figure out your load and tighten down your straps, fold up the excess strap and use electrical tape to secure it. Or go fancy. Dangling straps are just sloppy. Don’t be sloppy.
Since there are no rules, if the heavy pack isn’t for you, feel free to carry a small daypack with a water bladder, rain jacket, sunscreen, and keys. Or carry nothing – up to you.
We obviously didn’t use hiking poles in the Army and I always thought they were for old Germans in the Alps. However, on a trip to Joshua Tree my cross-country running, Eagle Scout nephew showed me the error of my ways. I bought a pair on our way out of the park. Poles allow me to put my upper body to work instead of just dragging the extra weight around. They help a ton uphill and save joints downhill.
Not many people will be using poles on the MFTF. A few will and some will use one or a walking stick. I used two last year; Wes still thinks he’s in the Marines so he doesn’t use any. I am also 47 and weigh 225. I’ve done hikes with zero, one and two poles this year and I’m planning to bring my poles and I’ll probably use them on at least some sections this year.
If you are considering poles, make sure you train with them.
Pro tip: cork handles.
Requirement: Get rubber/plastic tips. We want to respect the course – metal tips on concrete and blacktop are a no go. Even on the tank trails, rubber tips are better for the course. Make sure your tips are compatible with your poles.
In-pack bladders are a convenient way to carry and drink liquid, but for a long time I found them too hard to keep clean and just a general pain. I didn’t use one on last year’s MFTF. The newest ones solve the cleaning problem by being completely invertible and they won me over. The biggest downside is there’s no good way to keep track of how much liquid you’ve consumed. I’ve learned how often and how much I need to drink so they work well for me, but this is an issue to consider. I prefer carrying two 1.5-liter bags over a single 2 or 3-liter bag. I put water in one and GU Brew in the other.
Word of warning: GU Brew will discolor the bag, but who cares. More on hydration in an upcoming post.
Bring, Use, Carry. Sunscreen, bug spray, sunglasses, sweat rag – I just carry a handkerchief in my pocket. Have a plan for everything you intend to carry, particularly if you are not carrying a pack. Keys in front pocket might be a good plan for an hour. Is it a good plan for nine hours?
Your motivation for the week.
PS: You are on reading this for the following reasons:
- You’re probably insane.
- You are already signed up for the 2017 March for the Fallen (“MFTF”).
- You’ve said you are going to sign up. (pro-tip: sign up now!)
- You’ve said you would never do it in a million years, but I decided I’d guilt trip you into doing the event anyway. (pro-tip: sign up now!)