Many ultramarathon races allow for drop bags. Typically this is either a single drop bag that you can access multiple times, or several drop bags you can access once. These drop bags are helpful, but add logistical complexity. Working out what you will need and when requires planning and foresight. A well prepared drop bag can supply vital resources, but a badly organized drop bag can burn your time as you rummage through assorted junk.
1 What to put in a drop bag
You need to think through the situations your may face and what you may need. Here are some ideas…
- Warmer/cooler clothing. The weather can change significantly in the course of an ultra, so having different clothing can be vital. Running in the Cold
- Waterproofs. If the weather turns inclement, a waterproof can be the difference between a successful race and a DNF. Running in the Rain
- Shoes. I think this is most useful for dealing with swollen feet. Having dry Shoes and socks can be nice, but in my experience your feet are wet again surprisingly quickly.
- Lights. Rather than carry a light for the whole race, putting one/two in a drop bag makes life easier. If you have multiple drop bags you need to plan carefully to make sure you have the light before nightfall. You also have to be very sure you don't leave the drop bag without your light! Having spare batteries in drop bags is also a good idea. Running in the Dark
- Food. Aid Stations should have everything you need, but a drop bag can provide some specific treat (Newman's Own Ginger O's for instance – a personal favorite) Fueling in an Ultra
- Music. If you only want to listen for music for some of the time, you can have a player in a drop bag. If the race is longer than your player's battery life, you can have extra players in your drop bags.
- Bags. Put everything into bags to keep them separated and dry. Putting colored duct tape onto the bags can make identification easy.
2 Multiple drop bags
In races where you have multiple drop bags you will only access once presents some added challenges. You may not have enough extra clothing to put something in each drop bag, so you need to plan more carefully. The same goes for other resources like lights or Shoes. Putting a label on the outside of each drop bag to remind you what is in each one helps. If there is something important, such as a light in the drop bag, make this really obvious and remember you may be mentally impaired at the point you use the bag. Treating yourself like you will be an idiot is a safe precaution.
Think through your race, visualizing what it will be like at the points when you have access to your drop bag(s). Imagine what it will be like if it is hotter than expected, colder, raining, etc.