Monday, October 17, 2011

Special Needs Bag?

One of the tools I believe is often misused at an Ironman event, is the Special Needs Bag, or sometimes called the "half-way bag". Problem with the name half-way bag, is that many times this bag doesn't come at half-way.

Why I believe it is misused is because when an athlete puts an important, and valuable piece of their race success in this bag, they put their race into the hands and responsibility of other people, likely which they do not even know.

We hear horror stories of lost special needs bags, but also sometimes given the wrong special needs bag. Though this is unlikely, as probably better than 90 % of special needs bag are delivered without issue, I had one athlete at Kona who was in the top 10 overall age-groupers when arriving at special needs. The volunteers could not find his bag, and as he stood on the side of the road, he watched many athletes he had worked so hard to be in front of, pass him. He estimates it was about 1 minute of time, which isn't much in the big picture, but this was a blow mentally.

This can be avoided with a different approach to special needs, and that is treating it as insurance only. What do I mean by insurance? Put a bottle in the bag in case you drop or lose one. Put a spare tube and CO2 cartridge, in case you flat and need another. Put some lubricant in a small baggie, or a sample size, in case you have some chaffing from your saddle, the salt water, etc, that you need to address or it will become quite painful.

If you can carry all your calories, or better utilize the aid stations, you'll be able to fly by special needs and pass a number of athletes who need to stop and gather their items. Mentally, you'll feel better, you'll be more in control of your race, and should something go wrong, you know you've got items waiting for you, and you can cash in that insurance policy.

Coach Vance

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