What to Put in a “Special Needs” bag for an Ironman


You’ve spent months training for race day – preparing your body for miles and miles of swimming, biking and running. You’ve survived your workouts, juggled your schedule, eaten well and kept your gear in pristine condition. You’ve seem to have it all figured out. Did you remember to plan for your special needs bag?

Yep, you read that right. You’re able to pack a special needs bag for the race. It’s optional, but is beneficial to have it filled with all the right things which you’ll be able to pick up halfway through both the bike and run legs of your race.

You’re in for a long day when you commit to an Ironman. However you’re allowed to pack these special needs bags to provide nutrition, extra clothing or medications to help you get through the race. Actually, you’ll get the empty bags at registration of your race. All you have to do is fill it.

You will be able to pack two special needs bags – one for your bike leg and one for your run leg. Packing these bags correctly will help you complete your race successfully. Be sure to get your bags prepared ahead of time, because you will turn in your bags either the day before the race or on race morning.

Here are some tips on what to pack in each bag:
• Medications such as pain reliever, Band-Aids of all sizes, sunscreen, eye drops, and topical pain relief. But don’t pack anything you haven’t tried during training. Remember, there will be medical tents available to help you if you need it so only pack what you think you’ll need.
• Some examples of things you might want to have “just in case” are: chapstick, extra socks, body lube, sunglasses, snacks, electrical tape, and maybe a picture of your hero or your favorite quote for inspiration. You don’t want to waste time rummaging through your bag to find what you need so don’t go overboard.
• Don’t forget about the things you may actually need to get through the race – extra canister of Co2, tube, or sealant, and an extra pair of dry shoes.
• Lastly, be sure to pack nutritional items such as a frozen bottle of hydration drink, protein bars, salty pretzels, or any other snack that calms your digestive system down.

When you’re training on long rides or runs, take some time to see how you’re feeling at the halfway point. If there something you feel you need or crave? Keep a log and use that to help you figure out what to pack in your bag.
Unfortunately, you don’t get your special needs bag back. So don’t put anything in the bag that you absolutely want back.

Remember, you don’t need to stop for anything in the bag, but stopping for one minute isn’t going to hurt your race. However, not stopping and getting dehydrated or missing valuable nutrition will.

Hopefully this helped shed a little light on special needs bags and how they work. Once you get your registration packets for a race you’ll understand the process even more. If you would like clarification ahead of time, contact us. We’d be happy to help you plan ahead!

Train Right, Tri Right
Coach MJ


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