As the summer fast approaches, many of us around the country are getting ready for a big goal, destination race, or simply for yet another long one. And as the newly “qualified” ultrarunning tribe, you wonder: what do I take with me to make sure I have enough to help me but not too much to distract me?
That that is the key challenge – “enough but not too much”. Back even when I started a dozen years ago the aid stations provided little besides water, soft drinks (some kind of combination of pop soda and Gatorade) and maybe a few cookies and chips if you’re lucky. And that was OK. The devices to carry fuel supply on/with you were also cumbersome and the fuel itself hadn’t become so tightly packed (and various). Yet, of course, folks ran, and ran well.
Now it is absolutely possible to go into a race up to 100 miles in distance and bring nothing beyond a water carrier (either a water bottle or a CamelBak). There is a full spread at the table! From all kind of pop drinks, electrolyte replacement drinks, sweet foods of M&Ms, PB&Js, and cookies (at least 3-4 kinds and even home-made), to nuts, various chips, boiled potatoes, grilled cheese sandwiches, soups of many names, and I am not even getting into a third of the list. Yet we keep dragging our own stuff and stuffing our own drop bags.
There are certainly reasons for that and a smartly organized drop bag can save your race. First of all, some of us have certain food intolerances or preferences tested out on training runs and other (sometimes a little shorter) races, and we’d like to have something that does not upset our stomachs, gives us perking lasting energy and lifts our spirits. Secondly, as we enter into races 50 miles and more and especially over mountainous terrain, that often means the time spent out there and the conditions (temperature, sun/rain/clouds, altitude) vary greatly, and we need to be prepared. If we’re talking some of more ragged 100km races and certainly 100 mile races, we absolutely surely hit the night time, what means warmer clothes and a light (whether a headlamp or a handheld). Also, for some races there are stretches of longer distances between aid stations where you need to carry more water than in other stretches at the same race, and you may want to pack an extra disposable water bottle for that.
So, let’s start with the bare minimal.
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