Here are some ultrarunning gear insights of three-time Western States 100 winner Nikki Kimball.
When it comes to choosing a kit for her ninth running of the 100-mile Western States Endurance Run on June 28 from Squaw Valley, Calif., to Auburn, Calif., Nikki Kimball, 43 of Bozeman, Mont., likes to keep it casual, and confesses to not being very picky about gear. In fact, she suggested that some runners tend to get overly tied to their stuff because running is such a low-gear sport and there isn’t much to freak out about. “Successful ultra runners are not absolutely married to their gear,” Kimball says. “Its important to be flexible. Your crew may not make to a checkpoint or something can go differently than planned.”
After running more than 60 ultra-distance events and several “Fastest Known Time” trail records, Kimball has plenty of firsthand experience. But that’s not to say she doesn’t have favorites. Click through the gallery of photos to get some of her gear insights for race day.
Make A Checklist
Nikki Kimball’s checklists are as laid-back as her attitude, but they let her crew know what she needs, like this one from the 2013 Western States 100.
Hoka One One Conquest Shoes
The Conquest ($170, hokaoneone.com) isn’t a trail shoe (and surprisingly not all ultrarunners wear trail shoes in trail races like the Western States 100), but it is really comfortable and will be good for the conditions. "There is no snow on the course this year, so I don’t need to worry about having a burly outsole," she says. "I usually stay in the same shoes for an entire race. If I was going to change shoes at WSER, it would be at Michigan Bluff or Forestdale."
Neutrogena Sport Face Oil-Free Lotion Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 70+
"Spray sunscreen is the easiest out on the trail. My crew can just spray it on me when I come into an aid station," Kimball says. "But I used the Neutrogena Sport Face Oil-Free Lotion Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 70+ ($11, Neutrogena.com) when I ran the Marathon Des Sables in Morocco in April, and I didn’t so much as get a freckle. I also wear sunglasses; Robinson Flat is a good place to pick them up. I wear a cap too. I used to wear a hat with flaps for sun protection, but now just do a regular cap."
Petzl Nao Headlamp
The Petzl Nao ($175, petzl.com) isn’t heavy and has plenty of illumination. Plus, the beam spreads nicely and I can make it through WSER on one battery.
Sporti Waterproof Headphones
"I prefer to have a pacer, but if I don’t have one, I definitely listen to music," Kimball says. "These are swimming headphones [$14, swimoutlet.com] and stay put even when I get sweaty or if it rains. They are really comfortable, don’t slip and have a short cord that doesn’t get in the way."
Ultraspire Omega Pack
"When I first started running ultras, I relied on handheld bottles," Kimball says. "Now I use both handhelds and backpacks depending upon my needs. I like to change it up during the race to get the benefits of each. Packs are a clean and easy way to handle aid stations when you have a crew. I can drop my empty pack, pick up a stocked one and keep on going. In 2004, there were no packs that fit me. Now it seems that every brand has a pack to fit most bodies. The Ultraspire Omega ($145, ultraspire.com) is one I’ll use during Western States."
The North Face Stow-N-Go Bra
The North Face Stow-N-Go bra ($42, thenorthface.com) has an internal front pocket where gels and bars can be stashed on the run. "I also put ice in it when I get hot," Kimball says. "As for shirt, shorts or a skirt, I’m not that picky. I do wear socks, but prefer them to be very thin—no cushioning—so I don’t know they are there."