Keep it simple
|November 26, 2016||Posted by Melinda under Gear|
When I’ve vetted rides it is hard not to notice that the riders with the most simple tack set ups without a million things hanging off of them, their horse, and their saddle are the most relaxed riders who seem to be enjoying the ride the most.
It was part of some key 100 mile advice I got prior to my run from Jack M. Here it is in case you missed it in a previous post: “The biggest thing I see with first timers (and also one of the most difficult things to do): LIMIT YOUR GEAR!! You don’t need the blue and green coat along with 3 pairs of shoes, etc! If you only bring one jacket, you won’t spend time wondering if you chose the right one on the course! On top of that, you won’t waste time playing with all the crap you absolutely had to have!! I know that having all that gear is a safety net but walking the wire without a net will really help with your focus and execution!!”
And then this popped up in my reader: The Value of Minimalism.
Keeping it simple.
It feels like I wildly swing from one extreme to another. Being so prepared and having “just the right thing” even in the most unlikely of circumstance…Then bringing nothing and feeling free and focused on enjoying the trail without figuring out how to keep that one bag from rubbing the horse and banging into my knee.
Having done it both ways in running, riding, and in life here are my thoughts on the “stuff” we bring to all three. Less is sometimes more. I don’t have any definite answers of what you should or should not bring, and I don’t offer any lists to help you decide between the essentials and not….but I can offer you some of the things I’ve learned in my experience and offer some thoughts on how to figure it out.
- Having lots of stuff with me is a distraction. From keeping it from rubbing and bouncing, to considering weight, to having to bring yet another piece of gear to carry all the stuff I am bringing.
- The more stuff I have “just in case” the more work it is to keep it updated, not expired, and in good shape. This takes time away from actually running or riding.
- In most cases “something happens” and I could have handled it just as effectively without all the stuff.
- In rare cases “something happens” and nothing I brought really makes a difference.
- The more obstacles between me and getting out on the trails, the less likely it will happen.
- It’s OK to be uncomfortable.
- The more simple the system, the less failures it will have. Such as not having to stop and dismount in the middle of the trail to pick up yet something else that fell.
- Less stuff can make it easier to focus on the what is important in the sport – my relationship with the horse, the beautiful trails, perceived exertion, not missing ribbons, and biomechanics. My mental space is more clear when I’m running or riding using KISS. Consider that endurance sport is a mental sport, and mental energy is a finite resource.
- It’s not all or nothing. It’s OK to carry some emergency supplies. A jacket and a water filter. A phone and some ibuprofen. A hoofpick.
- Often times buying the right gear can eliminate carrying 2 or 3 other pieces of gear. Simplify your system whenever you can.
- Consider getting rid of gear that you have replaced with another piece of gear. Even if it’s just sitting there “not hurting anything”, it’s still gear that has to be maintained, thought of, worried about, and stored. You may be surprised how “freeing” it is to just keep the gear around that you use. Most gear that has been retired by virtue of getting another updated piece of gear can be easily replaced if it’s needed in the future. Consider the cost of replacement versus the “cost” of keeping it around.
Need some practical examples of what I’ve done?
- Limited my storage space on the saddle: Got rid of the cantle and pommel bags. Only use a flat velcro pouch that attached to my breast collar. Sometimes I add a boot bag.
- Find a hydration system that is minimum fuss and well-organized (ongoing search) and sell the ones that didn’t work out. Currently look at trying a Solomon Race Vest. Sold one of my Orange Mud packs and the Nathan is up for sale.
- Got rid of riding tights I don’t love.
- Got rid of ride/run t-shirts that aren’t perfect (I still have plenty!).
- Sold tack that hasn’t been used in years and is sitting there collecting dust “just in case”. Or running shorts that sit in the back of the closet and never get used because they are last resort because they just don’t make me feel *good*. Maybe designate ONE specific bin where “just in case” tack can live. Everything else gets sold or thrown away.
- Experimented with clothing layers – I figured out that a quality base layer often eliminates an outer layer and I stay comfortable with out doing the “jacket on and off dance”.
- Threw away gear that is well-used, served it’s purpose, and in reality no one else is going to want to use it because it’s kinda gross and used up. (old helmets come to mind – they have an expiration and when yours reaches it, please just throw it away and don’t put it on my kid).
- Stopped looking at used tack classifieds (or “here’s the cool stuff that is coming out” lists): unless there’s a specific piece of gear I have in mind *or* a specific problem I’m trying to solve. A good deal is so hard for me to resist and it’s how I ended up with WAY too much tack which I spent a lot of time trying to make sure it wasn’t getting ruined in containers and digging through stuff to find a particular object. Guess what? Since I minimized 5 years ago I’ve missed NOTHING. Except 2 saddles that I sold. One of which I bought back. The other I could buy again if I needed it and at least it’s not being ruined by weather and mice as it sits there.
- Separated out the things being kept for sentimental purposes. Display it somewhere else, but if I’m not going to use it I take it out of my “working” area. Minx’s bit is kept at home and displayed on my wall. It’s not kept with my other bits because I don’t intend on using it again.
- Give away old running shoes. I have a sister who is a similar size and she uses them for mowing the lawn, walking, and sometimes running if they are shoes that still have some miles left in them. I’ve also given pairs to friends that are doing the great shoe hunt and wanted to try a brand/model that I had that I didn’t like after putting 20ish miles on the shoes. Win all around! If I didn’t have those options I’d donate them to some program. But if they were seriously used? Trash ’em.
- Tried doing without it. I liked the security of a million buckets that I could theoretically put things in….but when I got rid of them *all* except 2 (one for each horse, and I chose my favorites) I loved not tripping over them in the tack room, finding mold in the bottoms, or keeping track of them even more.
- Added something to my trail kit only when there is a proven need. Like my miniature straw water filter. Twice I didn’t bring it and twice I really could have used it. Lesson learned. Twice in a race I misjudged when I would come into an aid station and didn’t have a light with me when I could have used it. Now I carry a small flashlight with me the whole time.
- Tried going out with nothing and see what happens. I’ve done 10 mile runs without carrying food and water and ran longer races just relying on the aid stations. I didn’t die and I learned useful things.
- Whenever I’m prepping for an event I try to simplify. I used my not-quite-as-good battery headlamp for my 100 instead of my nice rechargeable one because there was a LOT of darkness for a November 100 miler and switching out batteries on the fly was a lot simpler than coordinating headlamp swaps and recharges with the crew. It was FINE and completely adequate. I try really hard not to switch saddles or tack in the middle of endurance rides.
- Sometimes simple is a lot of work. More organization and planning goes into my prep when I’m making things as simple as possible for an event. I package my food differently so at a vet check or aid station I can just grab a pre-made container. I go over (and over and over) my gear thinking about all the possibilities and whether I’ve made the *best* single choice for the situation (a dry shirt and arm warmers instead of a jacket for the night at the 100). Evaluating *need* and throwing away stuff (like the millions of buckets and containers I accumulate) when it’s time to purge my tack room is a lot of mental work for me. The pay off is the mental calmness and focus I gain.
Taking the KISS philosophy seriously, simplifying my system, and getting rid of gear I don’t use has absolutely increased the joy I feel while on the trail. Consider *not* packing the kitchen sink next time you head out. Now I just need to remind myself of this every time I hit the trails.