Drop Bags for Ultra Running.
DROP BAGS (Ultra Running),
Thea has her first Ultra this coming weekend and we have been talking about drop bags lately so I wanted to share that with the rest of you.
I have been fortunate enough to race the Full 140.6 mile Ironman where Drop bags are not just an option but a requirement along with running many ultras where drop bags are almost always an option. This allows me to utilize the efficiencies gained from doing Triathlons and apply those to Ultra running and the minimalistic approach of Ultras back to Triathlons.
Before I get into the details about bags and what to carry I want to say that when it comes to Ultra Running your Drop bag should be one of the items you hope not to use during the race but at the same time contain things that will help you get to the end if you do need them. Running an Ultra is all about moving forward and minimizing down time as much as possible.
Let's start with the Bag itself. There are limitless options for bags, some companies even make bags just for this purpose. Sometimes a race will even provide a bag. But the reality is almost any bag you can fit your stuff into will work. Also remember that there is always a possibility that you won't get it back, it could get lost or damaged. A cheap draw string bag will work just fine and so will a plastic trash bag. Want to make it Waterproof, just line your drawstring bag with a cheap trash bag. There are a couple must have items for your bag, A Place to write your Name and Number on it and something to make it easy to identify. My preferred method is to get some Bright Crazy looking Duct Tape and place it all over my bag. The brighter the color the better. If you do need it and it happens to be in the back of a truck or in a pile at an aid station you can just call out to the volunteer that it's the One with the Pink Tape all over it. That is much easier to find then looking for numbers and names on bags that may all look similar especially in the Dark.
Contents of the bag, for me I like the less is more approach. Socks, extra shirt maybe long sleeve if the weather is expected to get cold, light weight shell if rain or cold wind is expected, extra nutrition or emergency nutrition items, extra anti-chaffing stuff (I carry some on me but you never know it could get dropped along the way), DUCT TAPE not an entire roll (fixes everything including blisters), possibly an extra pair of shoes depending on course layout. You can pack more or less, you don't have to carry it so you may think more is better than less and only time and experience will allow you to become comfortable with what you pack.
Arranging the bag. The better organized your bag is the faster you will be able to get what you need. Having a bag with a lot of pockets might seem like a good idea but I will tell you that in the middle of a race, after hours of running you don't want to be opening and closing 20 different pockets to find your chap-stick because you dropped yours in the porta potty. A better option is quart sized clear Ziploc baggies. Put all your like items in a bag, compress it down and close it. Place all the bags in the larger bag. When you need something you just dump the whole bag on the ground, grab the one that has your chap-stick, anti-chaffing cream and duct tape, get your chap-stick out and stuff all the little bags back into the large one close it up and be on your way. Another plus is dry-fit type running clothes compress down really nicely and take up much less room this way.
Lastly if you have a Crew/Pacer make sure they know what your bag looks like, what's in your bag, which location it will be at, and if you want it back when the races is over.