Training season is in full swing! Even though races have been canceled all over the world, we wanted to know what it takes to train for one of the toughest races out there. We asked ultrarunner and Tailwind’s Athletes & Events Manager, Maggie Guterl, to share her Barkley Marathons gear list and how she trains year round.

The Barkley Marathons

First of all, what is The Barkley Marathons? If you haven’t heard of it simply Google it and enjoy that rabbit hole. 

What does it take to finish Barkley? I don’t have the answer. Few actually do. It’s a puzzle. This year, 2020, would have been my third attempt at cracking the puzzle. Did I have all the pieces? You never know until you are “Out There.” All 40 of us that were chosen to start will never know that answer this year. 

Two weeks prior to the race, the race director, Laz, had to pull the plug on the 2020 Barkley Marathons due to the escalating COVID-19 situation. It was the right call and one that was inevitable. With two weeks to go, I was in taper mode and all the training was done.

Juggling Work and Training

I have a full-time job with a company I love (Spoiler: It’s Tailwind!), so my training must fit around my job. During the months leading up to Barkley, sleep, although important, is a luxury. How do I do it? I keep my eyes on the prize and try to remember the “why”. I also make sure I have the right gear for every situation so there are no excuses not to get out the door.

The Gear to Get It Done

On a typical morning, I wake up and make some coffee. The night before, I lay out all the possible gear I would need so I don’t have to think. During the winter, my gear list for a typical morning run with the goal of some major vertical (elevation gain) would look something like this: 

  • Altra King MTs or Lone Peaks – Both these models have the best grip which is what you need for the steep, leafy, muddy terrain of Frozen Head State Park in TN. The King MTs have Vibram which is key on wet rocks. But there is no other shoe on the planet that I have put more miles in than the Lone Peaks. 
  • Kahtoola MicroSpikes – Durango is snow and ice most all winter and Hogsback (the steep small mountain where I do my hill repeats) is treacherous when slick and icy. I did more runs with them than without them.  Fun fact: I used mine into the month of July last year due to all the snowpack up high.
  • LEKI MicroTrail Pro trekking poles – You need to train with the gear you will use on race day. Barkley can be just as tiring for your arms as your legs (not to mention your mind). I have heard of people breaking poles at Barkley. It happens often. I have never heard of anyone being able to snap a LEKI pole. I trust these things with my life. 
  • Goodr sunglasses – My favs are the “Queen of Pain, Esq.” Colorado sees 300 days of sunshine.
  • Territory Run Co. tech hoodie and hat – It has thumb holes and I can put the hood up for downhill and take it off uphill when I am working hard. When I need to rally, I turn my hat backwards. ☺
  • ElevenPine Uprising Shorts – I call these my all-purpose shorts. Good for hanging out, Barkley adventures and recovery bike days. They are longer so they protect my legs better from the infamous Barkley saw-briers. And they are a “Courtney-Approved” length; they hover just above my knee. And the best part is the secure zippered-hip pockets perfect for keeping those precious book pages safe.
  • DryMax socks – I use the hiking socks for running because I prefer and need a thicker sock. Plus, they come in a knee-high version. Perfect for Barkley saw-brier protection. 
  • NATHAN VaporMag Race Vest – At Barkley, you must carry a pack to fit all the calories you will need for 10+ hours. For most training runs during the week, I would carry everything in my VaporMag. I can fit layers I would take off when I got too hot and two 12oz soft flasks I would fill with one scoop each of Endurance Fuel. In fact, back in the day I helped design this pack! 
  • Tailwind Endurance Fuel – I usually don’t eat breakfast because I head straight out to run. I will have some coffee but then I will take Tropical Buzz with me and sip that during the 2 to 2.5 hours as I climb up and down Hogsback (the steep little mountain I can see from my office window).  
  • Tailwind Rebuild Recovery – For consumption right after my run as I rush into the office. Vanilla is the best! I was always on time for work using this strategy. Mostly always on time (okay sometimes on time).

Train with Your Gear

Keeping a routine is the best way to make sure you are doing what you need to be doing consistently. When I traveled for work that was hard but knowing what gear I would need and having it on hand made it a lot easier for me to be prepared on the road. Just like nutrition, it takes a long time to get your gear dialed. I am thankful that I have found the things that work for me. 

With a whole year to prepare for next year’s Barkley (all the participants were rolled over to 2021), I should have a leg up on my training already.  And although my training won’t peak until next winter, I can be working on my weaknesses this summer and enjoying the mountains.

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