Tuesday 17 May 2022

#064 Ranger Ultras - Footwear and kit survey - PB270 Pennine Bridleway Trail Challenge

The inaugural PB270 Pennine Bridleway Trail Challenge is complete and we're delighted with how it went. There's been lots of great positive feedback, support and interest, for which we're hugely grateful.

The pioneering year 1 athletes enjoyed the challenges of the trail as well as the checkpoints, safety, hospitality and other infrastructure we put in place. Our take-away points from their feedback was that it was just the right amount of support and safety cover, but never too intrusive to diminish the sense of journeying and adventure. Also that the menu and selection of meals was very tasty.

The food selection was something I took a lot of time to get right. I wanted to offer something fulfilling and nutritious, whilst fresh and different in style. The East African rice and beans (mwali na maharage) was a nod to where the inspiration for Ranger Expeditions & Ultras all began, back in Tanzania twelve year ago. Next year, I've plans to upgrade the checkpoint coffee from instant americano to the proper stuff. 

Both athletes and the Ranger Ultras Safety Team (RUSTies) commented that the PB270 is certainly an achievable proposition. But the results show that it is a real challenge and definitely no 'gimme' or  foregone conclusion. With the generous timings it is an inclusive race for participants with walk-jog strategies as well as extremely runnable trails for athletes going for a place. The scenery is varied, with plenty of countryside and open moorland. 

When setting out our stall for the PB270, we aimed to offer an original, long distance trail running event on the iconic Pennine Bridleway. Striking a sustainable balance between quality, value and low key impact upon the environment and communities. We also wanted the finish to be worthy of athletes achievement with a celebration in a lovely venue accompanied by a hot meal and bed to rest.

In the current economic climate, where many hard-working folks leisure budget is being eaten away by ever increasing domestic bills, it seems even more timely that we should offer multi-day trail running which doesn't cost thousands of pounds to enter. 

It's these combination of factors which has guided us to set the 2023 entry at a maximum of 40 participants. With this number I'm confident, as a team, we can roll out the same level of quality, service and experience to each runner. While team members equally enjoy the camaraderie and a fulfilling time with fellow RUSTies. 

Si-Entries to the 2023 edition are now open...
We look forward to welcoming you to a great second edition of PB270 trail running.


In the media...
These excellent reports and podcasts featured the 2022 PB270...

Run Ultra - Editor Katie Allen, has collated reviews and thoughts from athletes (including the winner Bobby Cullen) and members of the Ranger Ultras' Safety Team (RUSTies) in the following feature A Race Of Many Firsts...


Martin Slack (3rd place finisher) interview with Kev Robinson from Running Your Stories...


The Survey

We asked 2022 PB270 starters to share their thoughts behind kit selection and in retrospect what they might do differently next time. I've collated the answers from both DNF as well as finishers. Naturally, choice of kit, clothing and footwear is subjective and personal. Ideally, any item should be tried and tested in similar circumstances (eg prolonged wear, weather, terrain) before it is considered fit for purpose. The intention here is to help future PB270 participants develop their own race finishing strategies. 

For context: The weather during the 2022 PB270 was dry. Temperature ranged from warm during the day to cold at night. The trail is predominantly well defined with consolidated surfaces. Grassy sections were dry. Very little bog or muddy sections. Questionnaire respondents 1) 2) & 3) were finishers, 4) 5) 6) & 7) DNF. 

What shoe / sock combo did you use on the PB270?
Will you use these again in 2023? Or, if not will you be changing to something different?

1) Two pairs of Scott's, changed to larger half way. Socks, a mixture of Injiji merino and Bridgedale. I had waterproof socks with me but did not use them. I'd go with the same again next time.
2) Karrimoor trail shoes, anti-blister socks which I'd recommend.
3) I bought Scott Supetrac 3 as I'd imagined hard bridleway surface. I intended to use them for the whole PB race. At Hebden I decided to change to a pair of Inov8 road shoes for a change. They got quite wet in the fields after Gisburn but were otherwise good for the purpose. I changed back to the Scotts for the last leg. I'd wear then again next year.
4) Hoka Speedgoat / Mafeate with Injiji liner and med weight trail socks. This suited me on the harder Pennine Bridleway trail. If the weather was too warm, I'd not wear anything over he Injiji to reduce sweating.
5) Inov8 Rocklites with Injiji ultra socks and vaseline on feet. Never had a blister of foot issues.
6) Topo Ultraventure 2 with long Injiji and twin skin socks. Maybe slight overkill but feet were fine.
7) Inov8 Terra Ultra G270 with Injiji socks. I'll be using these again in 2023.

Which did you use on the PB270?
Will you be changing this?

1) Ultimate Direction 30 litre, very happy with it.
2) Montane Trailblazer 18. My side pockets were not easily accessible without taking the pack off. I'd recommend at least a 20 litre backpack. 
3) OMM 25 litre. I'll stick with this in 2023. Good for the job.
4) Montane Via 20 lite. Good size and comfortable. I'd wear this again.
5) OMM Classic 25 litre. Will probably use again.
6) Geko 20. But too much weight on my dodgy shoulder I plan on using Raidlight with a waist strap next year. Wish I had a larger waist pack with water carrier and front carrier for charging, holding map, easy eating etc
7) Salomon XA25. I'll use this again next year.

Did you bivvy out? How did this go for you in terms of kit choice and warmth?
If you didn't bivvy out did you wish you had done?

1) Two bivvies. First, 1 hour, shoes off, sleeping bag + bivvy bag, slept well. Second, 45 mins, shoes on, bivvy bag + extra clothes + mat. Cold on waking, but moving within 5 mins.
2) I took a basic Mountain Warehouse bivvy which worked well for the time of year and weight considerations.
3) I quite often sleep out on the course. My original intention was to get in and out of Hebden then bivvy for a sleep cycle around Gorple reservoir. But I was quite exhausted and decided to sleep for 1.5 hours at CP2. I slept for 15 mins not long after the Cam Road, just wearing my trousers and coat.
4) I never bivvy out unless it is an emergency
5) Didn't bivvy out but would have done if make it past CP2
6) Had a nap in Alpkit Hunka. Previously used in combo with 2 season sleeping bag and Alpkit mat, it was quite cool. I'm thinking that a bivvy at the end of the Cam Road (Pennine Bridleway - ed.) might be cold.
7) Didn't bivvy out. I didn't feel the need to and it's more comfortable in the checkpoints.

What items of kit worked well for you?
And what items didn't?
Do you wish you had carried/brought more, or less?
If you were to change your strategy what would you do and why?

1) Generally very happy with choices. Macadamia nut mix, nice for days 1 and 2, but made mouth sore on day 3. Good points: Garmin Fenix 6 Pro watch, shoes, rucksack, lightweight poles. I had a transition checklist at checkpoints, that worked really well.
2) Haglofs insulated jacket was pretty lightweight, which was necessary given the size of my pack! I should have taken a baseball cap (for the sun - ed.) as well as winter cap and gloves. Also mittens for when my hands were swollen. Extreme cold gloves were overkill for the time of year. Having headtorches which were both battery based would have been a better choice. Not getting dragged into other runners strategies is hard not to do. I should have set off slower at the start. Given more time, I would have reccied more of the course.
3) Shoe change was psychological. In the cold high winds with full sun, I wore full length tights, shorts, base layer and a warm layer. Which also helped not getting too sun burned (hood up). It was very odd weather. This would not have worked if there was not the cold high wind. I had everything I needed to keep warm. I should have kept on top of my water intake, but was ok. I could have used streams. Conditions were such that I carried too much food, greater than the 2000 calories.
4) All my kit worked well and unlike the Spine I didn't feel my pack was heavy. GPS unit fastened to my shoulder strap and reading glasses around my neck. But this didn't work well as too much to get tangled. I believe GPS watches are much easier to use, but I'm not spending 6 or 7 hundred quid on a watch. My strategy was simply to finish, so I'm determined to have another go.
5) Inov8 mid layer and shorts. Comfy not issues. Montane Fleet jacket at night kept the wind out and warm. Black Diamond poles, highly recommended for those hills. I was happy with my kit, but will explore ways to lighten the load. I need to change my strategy to adapt to fueling on the run for a multi-dayer. If sunny, taking breaks in the shade to cool off and hydrate. At checkpoint, organise packs in drop bag into socks, food, batteries etc to change. Checklist, to charge phone & watch on arrival, before food & drink. Check weather forecast, sort clothes, change footwear and freshen up before the next stage. Hopefully this will keep me focused and ensure a smooth transition. In preparation, probably recce more of the course, although I do like an adventure into the unknown. Oh and request a stair lift is installed for the gentle hill up from CP2 
6) North Ridge merino top and technical tee, with Montane Icarus and Montane Goretex jackets. Perfect for warmth as far as I got. Grateful for Montane ladies running gloves at night. I did need all the water I was carrying as few water sources or shops open when I was passing. Safety team water and snacks were very helpful. Followed the kit list almost exactly, adding sun cream which was perfect.
7) Mandatory kit was spot on for the cold nights and warm days. Using long sleeves and trousers avoided sunburn, taking extra care with the sun (despite sometimes feeling a bit hot) and at night didn't have to change to warmer clothes. Carrying poles sometimes felt like extra weight which wasn't really needed most of the route. I was carrying Montane Icarus and a down jacket which I never used both at the same time, but did so as thinking about safety in case I had to stop for a long period of time. Next time I'd change my strategy to sleep less at Checkpoint 2, where I had my first sleep (7 hours felt a bit of a waste of time). 


Several useful themes come out of the survey: Centering upon how a little preparation buys a lot of time during the race: Having kit within the drop bag sorted into different stuff sacks to transfer into the race pack at each checkpoint. A crib sheet for efficient transitions. Testing kit in advance. And some selective course reccies. Speaking of which, we have published some reccie notes to help future participants. We intend to add more, so that the whole course has a written up recce resource...

Pennine Bridleway, walkers alternative route around Glossop (avoiding roads)

Pennine Bridleway, CP2 Hebden Bridge to Wycoller

Regarding kit choice, a race pack of 20 litres or more is required. And also, Injiji socks are very popular.

A big thanks to all respondents for sharing their race experience with us. I'm sure this will be an excellent starting resource for future PB270 runners. For folks who didn't make the finish this time, all the team look forward to seeing you again and have the pleasure of celebrating a much earned and deserved finisher's PB270 eco-coaster medal.

Ranger Ultras' offer an selection of trail running events which are excellent preparation for the PB270 and several include sections of the Pennine Bridleway which give the two-for-one bonus of entering a race and reccying at the same time. Do check out our webpage for more details.


Happy trails 
Stu Westfield
Ranger Ultras, Race Organiser

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