What should you put in an Ironman special needs bag

3 Sep

Now that Stuart has entered Ironman Copenhagen, I’ve already started to think ahead to the day itself (it’s only 11 months away!) Having done two large triathlons that required kit to be in bags, I know how important it is to plan ahead.

Many iron distance triathlons allow athletes to have a special needs bag available at an aid station on the bike and another one on the run. At Ironman races these are normally returned, but this isn’t possible at all iron-distance races, so if you choose to put something in a special needs bag, you must be sure it’s something that you can live without later. I surveyed people online to find out what they thought should be included in special needs bags.

© Jameson King

© Jameson King


  • Bike repair materials
    • extra tube
    • CO2 cartridge
    • old tyre
    • chain link
  • Nutrition
    • Nice food – this is going to depend on your personal preference. Some people suggested Nutella sachets!
    • extra salt
  • Clothing
    • socks
    • cheap sunglasses
    • toe warmers
  • Medical kit
    • vaseline
    • medical gloves (for applying sun cream/vaseline or bike repairs or if it’s raining hard)
    • sun cream
    • tums/rennies
    • imodium
    • ibuprofen
    • chamois cream
    • mouthwash
    • blister plasters


  • Nutrition
    • As above, anything that might appeal to you.
  • Clothing
    • headlamp
    • LS t-shirt
    • another clean shirt
    • socks
  • Medical kit
    • blister plasters
    • vaseline
    • face wipes
    • chapstick
    • imodium
    • sun cream
    • anti-insect spray
    • eye drops
  • Notes from your family to inspire you

Obviously, the more stuff you put into a special needs bag, the harder it is to find what you need and it may actually add to the stress you feel during your race… but if you lose something whilst out on course, the items in special needs may save your race.

One suggestion that someone made was to get a long pair of men’s tube socks, cut the toe off and to use them as disposable arm-warmers.

Do you have any recommendations? What would be in your special needs bag?


4 Responses to “What should you put in an Ironman special needs bag”

  1. rmarier2014 04/09/2015 at 12:53 am #

    I went with a lot less and still didn’t use most (but it was nice to have). Clothing depends on the weather. My day was warm (not hot) start to finish (low 60’s to mid 70’s), so I lived in my tri kit with cycling shorts overtop for the bike. I carried extra Gatorade since my tummy could not take Perform which they had on course last year. Headlamp for the SN run. Change of socks is fine, but I didn’t bother at SN. Sunscreen on the bike (didn’t need it on the run since I am slow and the sun was setting). Tube and CO2 for sure (tire seems a touch excessive). I had salted nut rolls everywhere but my stomach could not handle them. They told us that SN would not be returned, but they were.

    This is a friend or partner running? Will you be volunteering or spectating? When will you be taking your shot at the full?

    • tamsynsmith 13/09/2015 at 9:41 am #

      Yep – it’s my husband. He’s quite a way ahead of me in training as he’s a <3:15 marathoner and he was in a swim team until he was a teenager. I'll be spectating, but hope to be taking part in 2017. 2016 is going to be my year of cycling! 🙂

      • rmarier2014 13/09/2015 at 10:30 am #

        Sub 3:15 marathon? Wow! Has he qualified for Boston or London? A good marathon for me is <4:30! Remember, you do not need to be fast to complete an IM, you just need to be steady. Will you do the same IM?

      • tamsynsmith 14/09/2015 at 7:14 pm #

        I’m the same – 4:29 is my marathon PB, with most of the others being just over. Stu’s not 40 yet, so he’s not qualified for London as that requires <3:05. I think he'd like to do it, but when he just focusses on running, he always ends up broken. My hope is that he'll do Copenhagen and then be willing to be my greatest supporter the following year when I do an IM!

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