Over the years, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to run many long ultras including multiple 100 and 200 milers (Western States 100, HURT 100, Pigtails Challenge 200 and Tahoe 200 among others)! Drop bags can be a life saver in long events and the right drop bag strategy can help shave a lot of important time out on the course! This article will give suggestions and examples of how you can maximize your drop bags, keep organized and move faster on race day!
Advance planning is critical for success in ultras! You spend so many long days out on the trails, training hard to go faster on race day! Why sacrifice that time and hard work with poor
execution? Think of your race prep and drop bag planning/packing as an essential part of the game and not an afterthought! It’s best to start your race plan up to two months in advance! Make detailed lists of everything you might need, when and where you’ll need it! After that, you will have plenty of time to fine tune your list and streamline as much as possible! Look at your list often and ask yourself if you really need everything on it! Make sure to limit your choices! You don’t want to waste time in an aid station, weighing the merits of the blue jacket over the green one! Instead, choose the green because it’s the only choice you’ve left yourself! You’ll be surprised at how little you need for a long race once you’ve done a couple without bringing the kitchen sink! It’s a great idea to volunteer at a race or two and see how runners organize their drops! Most of the time, it’s really easy to tell the experienced racers from the new folks from their drop bags alone! Watch successful runners, learn how they organize themselves for race day success and do the same for your event!
It’s best to treat drop bags as a luxury instead of a necessity! Drop bags can be misplaced, delivered to the wrong aid station or worse (I’ve had all of this happen at more than one event)! Once again, you’ve spent months preparing for a key event! Do you really want to trust all of that hard work to chance? If something is crucial to your race, make sure to either have control over it yourself or have someone (crew) that you can trust 100% to have what you need when and where you need it! Don’t get caught in the dark because the light you needed was in a drop bag that was lost on the way to the aid station! Take responsibility for your gear needs instead of trusting it to some well intentioned volunteer who may have never even run an ultra! Along with this, don’t leave anything valuable in your drop bags! Anything can happen! If you only leave backup items in your drop bag, you’ll be ready to quickly adapt if any issues arise!
Victory Sportdesign Sport Utility bags are the best choice to help Get In, Get Out and Get Moving! Besides being awesome drop bags, I find them very useful in day to day life and love them for traveling to races!
The BEAR II fits perfectly under airplane seats! VSD bags keep things dry, organized and the insulated bottle coolers can help send a nice cool treat to the middle of nowhere on a 100 degree day! A frozen candy bar may be a perfect pick me up on a tough day! If you freeze it beforehand, chances are that it will still be edible by the time you need it instead of a melted, gooey mess! I also like to freeze water bottles for extra ice! You can also send warm hot chocolate to a night time aid station! Of course, they work really well as finish line bags too! Having a nice cold beer at the finish is great!! The customizable panels are one of my favorite parts of Victory Sportdesign bags!! This is a great opportunity to have something that inspires you out on the course! My Ozzy Osbourne drop bag is pretty well known in the local circuit! Pictures of friends and loved ones may be a great pick me up! Inspirational quotes or a picture of the buckle from the event would work well to motivate too! Make sure to label your bag with your name and bib number and aid station so it can be found quickly (and delivered to the correct location)! I tape this in 3 locations on my bag, with both duct tape and sports tape (along with a card under the clear top flap window) just in case!
Different events will have specific challenges and drop bag needs! For instance, in the Marin Headlands, races aren’t allowed to hand out gels in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area! If you want them, it would be best to drop your own! Will your run go into the night? Maybe pack backup batteries and even backup lights! Here are examples from my drop bags from the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 miler and the Born to Run 96 hour races to compare:
Backups (salt tabs, hard candy, Vespa) extra hat/gloves/Moebens arm sleeves, 10 gels, premixed biker bottle of UCAN, backup light in Tennessee Valley bag!
What was used on race day:
Born to Run 96 hour:
-Backups (Gels, Vespa, batteries, salt tabs, hard candy, snacks), VSD Mountain Headwrap, raincoat (and/or garbage bag), sweatshirt, gloves, hat, tape, lube, eyedrops, mouthwash
What was used on race day:
A few gels, batteries, sweatshirt
I really hope these ideas help you succeed and execute well at your next event! Please feel free to find me on Facebook or contact me at Coachken@runningstupid.net with any questions or thoughts on how to use your Victory Sportdesign bag! I love talking about ultras, sharing ideas and helping folks achieve their dreams! You can also find cool interviews, race reports and more on the Running Stupid Podcast! It’s free in the iTunes store and can also be found at: