Picture running 150 miles through the desert, wearing the same gear for a week, carrying a pack with all your food and supplies, in 120 degree weather. That’s a stage race. It’s like an ultramarathon on crack.
Think Marathon Des Sables and the Four Deserts Series-these multi-day events yield worldwide race entrants and involve massive training and preparation. There are ultras, and then there are stage races. These races will make the most elite and seasoned ultra runners have moments of doubt, claw the ground, and wimper in pain. They are typically comprised of six-stages over seven days. Four stages are marathon distance, one a 50-miler, and the last day shorter mileage and a ceremonial finish.
After running 5 marathons through Utah for MS Run the US in optimal conditions with TONS of support, I have major respect for stage race participants like Zandy Mangold.
Zandy, a professional photographer who took the images above, was originally hired to document the annual 4Desert Series for Racing the Planet in the Sahara, Gobi, Atacama deserts and Antarctica before he took the plunge as a race participant himself. And almost died. Undeterred, he went on two years later to become the top American in the 2012 Atacama Crossing.
Zandy hosted a “How To” Stage Racing workshop at Jack Rabbit Sports in NYC to discuss packing essentials, share his race photography, and share “war” stories. I was all ears.
Zandy’s 20 Race Stage Packing Tips:
- Every ounce counts. When you’re carrying gear on your back for 150+ miles-ounces matter.
- Don’t bring a tin cup or bowl. Cut one plastic water bottle. Tada! A cup and bowl without the extra lugging.
- Remove all packaging and place everything in ziplock bags.
- Put daily food rations (packing 2,000 calories per day is mandatory) with caloric markings on the outside. Divvy up protein powders, recovery gels, etc.
- Comfort is optional! Cut your sleeping mat in half or a third to save on space and weight.
- Cheetos are bomb stage race food. High in calories, carbs/salt, and easy to pack. (I run for chips and salty foods, so I perked up at this tip).
- You need a hat. Don’t mess with Papa SUN.
- Consider keeping compression gear on the whole time. As in, for 7 days straight, to minimize swelling.
- Get ready for speedos. International race participants letting lose after a long day of racing means speedos in the communal tents. Hello, manscape.
- Pack ear plugs. There will be a snorer and any rest you can get is key.
- His favorite headlamp is the Petzl Tikka Plus.
- Bring a spare pair of sunglasses. Zandy suffered from EYEBALL BURN. I know, what is that, even?? The sun doesn’t play.
- He ran across the Atacama Desert in one pair of socks. A second pair is a “luxury.” His rationale: when you’re gross, you’re gross. Save the space in your pack.
- OMM Sonic Smock is the best, most compact all weather layer.
- Mayonnaise packets are a hot commodity and may make you very popular. It’s all about the simple pleasures!
- You can’t use enough hand sanitizer. For real. Viruses, tummy bugs, and other nasty stuff passes like wildfire in these conditions. You’re surrounded by some dirty guys and gals, you feel me?
- Bring a mirror in case you get lost in the desert. Who knew? The reflection makes it possible for folks to find you.
- Pack safety pins. They can repair ripped clothes AND pop blisters.
- Clothes to sleep in? Not for Zandy! “For me the second outfit is a sleeping bag.” OH. KAY.
- Bring your big girl or big boy pants because this shit is not a joke.
SO, this is EPIC. Do I want in? I think you already know the answer, friends.
Check out Zandy Mangold’s site for awe inspiring nature and racing photography. This dude is rad, talented, and on my top 10 bad ass runner list.
ALL PHOTOS COPYRIGHT ZANDY MANGOLD (Crediting is cool. Stealing images is not.)