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Dressing for the Long Run, Preparing for an Ultramarathon

In advance of the upcoming Lookout Mountain 100k, Dee Martin, medical supervisor for the Rock/Creek Trail Series, has prepared a quick guide to dressing for an ultramarathon, with an emphasis on appropriate temperature regulation on cooler days. Please leave a comment and share your favorite clothing and gear choices with us!
Mountain Mist 50kIt’s that time of year again – brrrr! With the drop in temps and the beginning of autumn / winter ultra season comes the annual question, “what do I wear for the next race?” The temps in the Southeast can be all over the place through the winter. We’ve had 80 degree days (thank you, global warming) in late November / early December, temps can get into the teens & twenties at night (thank you, Mr. Frosty.)

Last year we saw a few cases of hypothermia set in during some long, cold, dark & rainy hours of racing. People came to run after many miles of training, yet had not packed the right clothes for the weather conditions!

This year let’s get ahead of the game. Try out different combinations as you train over the next several months on cold / rainy days & find out what works best for you! Then you can start putting your drop bag / race day gear kits together.
Here are some guidelines & tips to keep in mind:
The Heat / Chill Factors:
When you are running, you should dress for temperatures 15 to 20 degrees warmer than what the air temperature is. That is, if you’re running in full sun! When you are running under trees, dress for colder temps. And if it’s raining & / or windy, dress for colder temperatures still. Also, if you’re running at dusk or in the dark, you will need warmer layers.

For example…
If the temperature is 50 degrees, dress for 70 to 65 degrees if running in full sun.
If it’s raining, subtract 10 degrees.
If the wind is blowing at 10 mph, subtract 5 degrees more, & dress for that temp.

Wind Speed:
Cold wind increases heat loss in proportion to wind speed; i.e., wind chill factor. Remember that the wind speed is lessened while you are running through forested areas, and increases in exposed areas. Last year during the Lookout Mt. 100 K, there was a 15-degree drop in temperature at High Point from the previous aid station due to the wind coming across Lookout Valley!

Wind speed can be estimated while out in the elements-
If you feel the wind in your face the speed is at least 10 miles per hour
If small tree branches move or if snow & dust are raised, approximately 20 mph
If large tree branches move, 30 mph
If an entire tree bends, about, 40 mph

You can calculate the wind chill factor using the internet or this chart provided by NOAA:

wind chill chart










Drop Bag Kits:
If you are running an ultra, a drop bag can make a huge difference in your race – but what to pack & how? Remember to keep a simple organization system. When you are mid-race, you will want to find what you need quickly & easily. If you have a bunch of little items, consider using a tackle box, so you can see what you are looking for. You can use a zip-lock bag with labels inside for your first aid kit, extra socks, etc. Or consider using a camera bag with foam dividers.
Some items you may want to consider including in your kit:

Meds / First Aid
Aspirin / Tylenol / Ibuprophen
Tums / Rolaids / Pepto-bismol
Potassium / Electrolyte tablets
Antibiotic ointment
Foot powder / Body glide / Bag balm / Vaseline
Sunscreen / lip balm
Scissors / Pocket knife
Extra trail running shoes
Wicking running shirts
Running pants or tights
Rain pants
Rain Jacket
Gloves / Glove liners
Baby wipes / tissues
Headlamp / Flashlight
Extra bulbs / batteries
Your favorite snack!

Recommended Clothing:*
Layers of light, loose clothing will insulate the skin with trapped air. An outer garment that is windproof, allows moisture to escape, and provides rain protection is best. Wool and polyester fabrics retain some protective value when wet; cotton and goose down do not. Areas of the body that lose large amounts of heat (head, neck, legs, hands) should be covered.
My personal favorites include jackets such as the Houdini Jacket by Patagonia– at a breezy 4 oz, it is light & flexible on the run, sheds water but is super breathable.

The Patagonia Capilene Baselayer Silkweight line is my first choice for a cold weather base layer. It has the best wicking qualities I’ve ever experienced and also insulates very well.

The Mountain Hardwear Windstopper Micro Dome Beanie is another fine winter wind-repellant piece to consider. Lightweight enough to layer under a hood, it will stay on in high winds better than a brimmed cap.
*Disclaimer: Neither Debra Martin or Archer Physical Therapy, Inc. have a financial interest in any of the products mentioned in this article. Rock/Creek, obviously, does.
Debra Martin

About the author:
Debra (Dee) Martin, MSPT, CLT
Owner, Archer Physical Therapy
Specializing in the Endurance Athlete, Lymphedema and Swelling

Archer Physical Therapy offers unique assistance at many events in the TN & GA area through the Event Medical Coverage & Recovery Acceleration Program, developed by Debra Martin, MSPT, CLT. Debra has combined her 15 years of experience in treating wounds & athletic injuries throughout the rehabilitation process with cutting-edge research on medical care to meet the needs of endurance and adventure-sports athletes. She is not a psychologist, but recommends those who feel the need to sort gummi bears by color in their drop bag kit consider getting professional assistance. Check out the Archer Physical Therapy website for Race Day Tips and learn more about Preventing Injuries at
You may reach Archer Physical Therapy at 423-693-5490 or find out more on the web:

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