With only 100 days to go until this year’s Braveheart, here are some helpful tips on the kit that you should consider for race day.
A wetsuit of course is needed, but make sure it fits properly. Many people have a wetsuit that is too big for them, creating spaces for water to sit and cool you down. Wetsuits work by having a very thin layer of water between the neoprene and skin that heats up and insulates you. But any areas where water gathers will counter act that effect dramatically and this is the main reason for people getting cold whilst open water swimming. In each year of the race the water has consistently been around 13/14 degrees; certainly not unbearable but far from balmy, so prepare accordingly. If you’re looking for extra layers, a neoprene skull cap is a great idea and neoprene shorts under your wetsuit also significantly increase your warmth.
By now you should have settled on your bike choice and be doing a good amount of your rides on it. If you’re using a road bike and provided you feel comfortable doing so, use tri bars as the course is pretty flat and fast with good surfaces. Think carefully about how you plan on fuelling yourself during the bike and in particular how you can best easily access nutrition. Back pockets on bike jerseys are a common form of nutrition transport, but they’re tight and often not the easiest to readily grab during a race. So consider a bike pouch that sits on your top tube or something similar.
The key part to this race, where several places will undoubtedly be lost and gained. This is all about he or she who slows down the least. Keep going forward and do whatever helps you do so. Use poles if you find they help and vary your position as you ascend to both stretch and work different body parts. Nutrition here is more vital than ever. It’s all too easy to push on, marvel at your surroundings and forget to take on board what you need. Steady grazing, however you do it, is the answer. The Red Burn at halfway is perfectly drinkable so consider that. Don’t underestimate how much and how often the weather can change. Particularly as you get to the summit, the weather on Ben Nevis has a habit of closing in and cooling down so prepare for that. Make sure you put extra kit on before you get properly cold. Buffs are a great idea, quick to put on and easily wrapped around your wrists when you don’t need them. Make sure your shoes are well run in before you race. Blisters are always best avoided.
If there’s one crucial bit of advice above any when it comes to race day kit, it’s to practise with what works best for you and stick to that. I’ve seen far too many price tags being cut off brand new pieces of kit on race day morning. Don’t do it!
By Sean Mcfarlane