Special Needs Bag

When it comes to Special needs bags for Ironman Triathlons every race is different and race organizers often change what they allow for special need bags, and where you have to leave it and where it may be given to you. Last minute changes to publicized special needs bag procedure has been known to change so listen carefully at the Ironman race briefing.

Flooding and the special needs lorry breaking down can alter where and if your own food bag is given to you during the Ironman bike ride.

DO NOT rely on getting your race day special needs bag on race day!

From experience of finishing 29 Ironman events see some of my tips below. Practice makes perfect, all actions should be done often so that you are able to do them smoothly and are on automatic pilot. How many times do you practice emptying a bag and putting clothing and items needed? If NOT start now!

Mark your bag with the sticky label numbers (usually supplied) where you will be able to see it. This is often at the bottom. Why because when you pull up the draw strings the bag can end up like a pyramid. Sticking on a number in the middle can be almost impossible to READ & see when the bag is crumpled up and hanging up on a hook or on the floor.

Langkawai Ironman has bags laid out on the floor, Make sure the official Ironman helpers can see your number clearly. Switzerland Ironman has all your kit by your bike so you do not need bags for swim to bike and bike to run.

Ironman Lanzarote and UK Ironman have had the bags hanging up in a marquee in a numbered order. At the race briefing you will be told if you have to find your special needs bags or be given them by an official Ironman helper.

(a) Get them your self from a table (very unusual but has been an option)

(b) A spotter will call out your number as you approach to someone ahead who will pick it up and hand it to you. This is often on an up hill where you are going at your slowest or at a turn around. As you go by a spotter calls your number out and by the time you come back your bag is ready to be handed to you. Be prepared to get your bag yourself if you are with a lot of other cyclists out the helpers CANNOT keep up with the demand. Usually this is not a problem. Special needs bags are often given in the day before the race so perishable items like fresh milk cheese and meats are not advised to be placed in your bag.

As you will usually place your bag on a hook take a 360 degree visual of where everything is. A balloon or another coloured bag may not be there so ONLY rely on solid fixtures. What rack is it on and where i.e. - The first row and third section. Half way up.

TIP 1. Position number so you can read it. If possible MARK number on both sides of bag.

TIP 2.Make your bag stand out with ribbon or colour.

TIP 3 Spare clothing should the weather change. Be prepared you could lose your bag and anything valuable.

This all depends what you plan to do?

(a)Take things out. Pack correctly. Last thing you plan on putting on or running with FIRST. That way the first thing you want is at the top. Place sunglasses in helmet to protect them and so you automatically put them on before putting on your helmet. Place socks in shoes to remind you to put on socks. Many good age groupers change socks from bike to run.

(b). Empty back out upside down is another option, careful that small objects do not roll away as you will not be able to quickly chase them under some one else’s chair or worse get broken by another triathlete running by?

Heaviest things first light things last so when you open and turn upside down the heavy things force the light things out. That way you do not forget anything. Have food that you can stuff into your back pockets, careful after swimming you can cause tight back by rushing this action.

Make sure you do not tie up your bag so tightly with the draw strings for fear of your items falling out that you CANNOT undo it during the RACE! This is hard if the bags have to be hung on a hook as in Ironman UK. In this years Ironman 70.3 2008 the eventual winner Fraser cartmel was seen in T1 having a fight with his bag, even the volunteers could not get the bag open!Either learn a quick release knot or just pull the drawstring and forget the knot.

Do NOT is tempted to use a colorful string or ribbon to double secure everything unless you want to lose valuable time and pull a muscle trying to open the bag. Make sure it is placed in the right numbered place.


You will need a numbered bag for any thing you need to leave just before the swim -drinks bottle, body glide, light snack, plasters (band aid) towel, warm hat, gloves, shoes). This will be handed in close to the start and be returned to you at the finish.

This all depends on what you are allowed and NOT allowed at your bike and transition conditions.

(a) You are always quicker putting something on as you move rather than staying still unless you go the wrong way because you fail to concentrate. Putting on and zipping up clothing while moving is often the better option. Moving slowly from swim to bike starts to get the blood into the legs after the swim. Jogging steady rather than sprinting off the bike lets your legs get use the running you will soon be doing.

(b) Can you put your helmet on as you run from special needs bike bag to bike.

(c) Putting on cycling shoes is Ok for dry grass conditions, but can be slippery on concrete. If it is muddy your cleats can clog up with mud resulting in you not being able to click into your peddles.

(d) Putting sun cream on. Gillet if you have not already packed into a small ball onto your bike. Ideal the weather changes. Trust me the time lost stopping to put on a top can save lots of energy keeping warm THAT you should be using for moving forward. Some Ironman events require you take your bag from its place (hook etc) even if you have all your things by your bike. You may all be required to go in and out the tent in one direction for safety rather than bump into someone coming the other way. You can also have an official helper put on sun block, while you change into bike clothing in the marquee.

You are not normally allowed to have spare tyres etc in your special needs bags at many Ironman triathlons. ONLY food and drink. If you fail to pick it up, because you did not need it or they could not find it in time be prepared to stop. Use the aid station to spin your legs and stretch as you slow down.

TIP 1.
(a) Be prepared to pick it up yourself.
(b) Slow down to make sure you get your own bag
(c) Call out clearly your bib number to ensure you get your own special needs bag.

TIP 2.
(a) Have a treat for a feat a special food something to look forward to. Salty and sugar foods. A favourite drink to pick you up physically and mentally.

TIP 3.
(a) Check your special needs bag to make sure you have picked up the right one. You will be amazed what others may have packed in their bag. No too people have the same tastes.>BR?(b)Your sense of taste is often different during a long race compared to training so make sure you have a wide variety of things packed to satisfy what you may crave.

DO NOT rely on it being available as you arrive. Often spotters before the special needs station call out your race number Another reason to have your race numbers visible, if you see a spotter before a special needs station usually clearly sign posted call out your number at least twice so they can have your bag ready.

Cycling TOO fast even the world fastest man over 100m would probably not be able to run and pass a bag to you.

DO NOT TIE up your bag to tight otherwise you will (a) have to stop (b) spend the next 5 miles trying to undo it and get out your special needs. Experienced Ironman have been known to adapt the bags using a lace lock for quick empty tactics in T1 & T2. Consider taking a few moments to have sun block rubbed over exposed parts by the official Ironman volunteers.