Ironman Special Needs Bags

This comes somewhat late in the season to be posting, but at the same time lots of local Ohio athletes will be heading to Ironman Louisville soon. After meeting with several of my athlete I figure there are others out there who have never done this before and start hearing about these “fancy bags” you have to fill up and drop off at different times. Well, here’s a really simple look at what the bags are and what you may or MAY NOT need in them.

Q: Where do I get these bags?

A: You will receive all bags at registration. The volunteer helping you register will ask you if you’ve done this before. If you’ve never done a FULL iron distance event let them talk you through it. You will get the following bags:

  • a GREEN Morning Clothes Bag
  • a BLUE Bike Gear Bag
  • a BLUE Bike Special Needs Bag
  • a RED Run Gear Bag
  • a RED Run Special Needs Bag
  • (colors may differ but for USA races these are typically standard)

You will also receive a sheet of stickers that will have YOUR race number. You will need these. All of these.

Q: So I’ve got these bags, what are they for?

A: Here’s a look at what I put in my bags and some suggestions for what you may put in them

  • BLUE Bike Gear Bag
    • Helmet
    • Shoes (unless your race allows you to leave on the bike and you can do a flying mount)
    • Sunglasses
    • Other items you may want to take – a small bottle of Osmo to take a swig of in transition, socks, nutrition that will be in your jersey, anything else you would want for the BIKE!
  • BLUE Bike Special Needs Bag – you will get this bag approximately 1/2 way through the bike
    • Any extra bottles of osmo or hydration drink you use
    • I usually put a treat that will excite me (i.e. box of nerds) at half way through the ride
    • Extra canister of Co2, tube, or sealant in case I’ve used up what I have on my bike
    • Nutrition for the second half
  • RED Run Gear Bag
    • Running shoes
    • Socks
    • Vaseline or anti blister aid for your feet
    • Body Glide
    • Race number if you didn’t put it on in the bike
    • Run nutrition/hydration if you are carrying it
    • visor/hat
  • RED Special Needs Bag – you will get near mile 13 on the run
    • Any extra nutrition you may need
    • Vaseline or anti chafe option (aid stations have Vaseline)
    • Osmo Preload if you use it

Q: So, great, I’m really confused now. I get what I should put in them but how do I get the bags on race day?

A: Ok, well here’s the scoop. Your transitions will be different than anything you’ve experienced so far. You’ll come out of the water and head to transition. The day before the race you will have dropped off your GEAR BAGS and you’ll know approximately what location they are in. THEY ARE IN NUMERICAL ORDER if that helps. I always yell my number out in the chance that a volunteer helps point it out or even pick up the bag FOR me! Bonus! Once you grab your gear bag head into the changing tent and you’re on your way.

The Special Needs bags are basically that – Special Needs – that you get halfway through the bike and the run (approximately check the race guide for exact locations). If you use hydration product that is not provided at the race you’re going to need to bring some. Always put a few extra nutrition and hydration options (that you’ve practiced with) in your bag. Don’t put a bunch of cr@p you don’t need in it!!! YOU WONT GET THESE BAGS BACK! Some people will tell you to put dry shoes in your run special needs. I am not a huge fan of that because if you’ve ever blistered putting on fresh socks and shoes may sound enticing but they’re going to hurt like a mother either way. Your choice though :) You do NOT need to stop for these bags if you do not need anything out of them. But remember stopping for 30 seconds to grab your extra bottles is not going to hurt you – what will hurt you is blowing off the special needs bag to catch the doofus in front of you and then dehydrating at mile 90.  Ouchies.


Q: Oh, ok, this – kinda – makes sense. When do I drop these bags off?

A: You’ll drop gear bags off the day before the race. Special needs get dropped off the morning of the race. MAKE SURE YOU PUT THEM IN THE RIGHT PLACE to get sent off. You WILL have access to your GEAR BAGS the morning of the race if you have any nutrition or hydration needs that need to be put in them. Just make sure you always confirm this with the athlete guide.

Q: What’s this Morning Clothes Bag?

A: Whoops, almost forgot! The morning of the race you’ll schlep your stuff down to the race start and you’ll probably have shoes, a hoody, some nutrition, probably your phone to document the nerves and ridiculousness you’ll see race morning (like Gumby, ahem). You will put everything you do not need into this bag and give to a volunteer who is a Gear Bag collector. They will make sure these bags get back to the ‘finish’ area. Sometimes this is where the food is located and sometimes its near transition. They will tell you where the bags will be located at the Athlete Meeting and in the Athlete Guide. I would recommend AGAINST putting your phone in there. That’s just me…


Hopefully this helped shed a little light on these bags and how they work. It is only intimidating because you’ve not experienced or seen them. Once you get your registration packet it will make plenty of sense. Good luck and race well!!!