One of the most common questions asked regarding obstacle course racing is, “What do I wear?” It’s a perpetual question novice, and even more experienced, racers ask and one of the most critical things to determine while preparing for a race. Luckily, I have had years of trial and error and almost forty races to test out a lot of gear. I now know works and what doesn’t!
DO NOT WEAR COTTON! It’s a common rookie mistake that many first timers make. This is especially common when racing with a team, as everyone gets excited to make matching race t-shirts. However, cotton can cause more problems at the end of a race than it’s worth. Here’s why:
Cotton Holds Water – In any mud run or obstacle course race, you can be assured that there will be some sort of mud or water involved. Cotton is great at absorbing water, but the problem is it stays in the cotton. So by the end of the race, you will be carrying some extra weight through the finish line.
Cotton Looses Shape – Once cotton gets wet as stated above, it gets heavy. Then, it starts to loose it’s shape. So, that tank top maybe showing a little more than you anticipated at the end of the race as the weight of the water and gravity work together to create a “special look.”
Cotton Sags – Cotton, once wet and devoid of all shape, can start to sag. The cotton capris that were form fitting and cute at the start of the race become a nightmare halfway through. My first race I spent most of the racing pulling my pants up, as they sagged off my body. When climbing a rope, people might see a little more than they anticipated!
With that said, thankfully, you can avoid all the mistakes I made in the beginning by sticking to a few rules of clothing for race day:
Compression Gear – Learn to love compression gear. It will stay on your body as you climb, crawl and swim through the water and mud. As an added bonus, companies like CW-X develop gear that improves your circulation and support all your joints and muscles.
Less is More – Most of the top females race in nothing more than a pair of compression shorts and a sports bra in most races. They have all adopted the less is more mentality with clothing. Gloves are not needed, you can get over obstacles without them, the more you wear and carry, the more that will get muddy and weigh you down. If you are not into showing that much skin look for a tight fitting tank top or compression shirt.
Wicking Fabrics – Everything you wear should be a wicking fabric, from your shorts and top to your underwear and socks. Drymax socks make one of the best pairs of socks, as they wick away water from your feet after you run through a muddy pit.
Wear Dark Colors – Unleash Your Inner Ninja! Know that everything you wear will get dirty. Some of the mud I’ve encountered at races has stayed with my clothing after multiple washes. Black is not only a slimming color, but it also hides stains very well. So, when picking out your race outfit, go for the black or dark colors. You can accent your outfit with a great bright-colored Bondi Band, or other headband, to keep the hair out of your face. But, trust me—you want to keep the clothing to black. Besides, ninjas are fast!
That’s the dirt for this week! Look for us next week when we talk about my favorite topic—shoes! What you want and don’t want in an obstacle racing shoe and how to find out if your favorite shoe will make it through the race!