UltraMarathon Drop Bag Tips

I RAN A 100K RACE!  Which is incredible, and hard, and a little bit traumatic if I’m being completely honest.  But it was an amazing experience, and I want to do a full race recap with all of the details later this week.  For now, I’ll share how the full week of preparing for the big race went, since it really did take the better of my week to get my life together.  From figuring out my fueling strategy to getting all of my ultramarathon drop bag packed and ready to go, getting ready for an ultramarathon is time consuming to say the least.

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All of my runs this week leading up to the race were single digit, road runs.  It kind of brought me back to marathon training, except a whole lot slower.  I went to CrossFit for the first half of the week, and then focused on the race prep Thursday and Friday.  I started checking the weather last week, and I was really hopeful that the predictions of cold and clear would hold up.  Fortunately, we only had a few sprinkles during the evening hours, and that made packing for the race a lot less complicated.  I started getting my laundry in order on Wednesday, knowing that I’d want to get packed as early as possible on Friday.

I ran out to Target on Thursday to make sure I had all of the snacks I was wanting to pack with me, and to pick up a few last minute items for our friends that were staying with us over the weekend. I knew that all day Friday I was going to be checking and rechecking all of the things, and I wasn’t wrong. I woke up, ran my shakeout run, and then got to work. My dad was picking up our son, so that my husband could crew me all day Saturday, so we decided to let him stay home from school, which meant that he was along for the ride for my Friday craziness. We started off the morning with a quick run to Einsteins for bagels and more coffee, and then one last trip to Target (because I never get everything I need the first time).

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We got home, had some more carbs for lunch, and then packed his bag for the weekend with grandpa.  I made sure our guest room was set up, and then my dad showed up to get the kiddo.  We chatted for a little bit about my race plans, and my son showed off all of his new Christmas gifts.  Once they left, I started organizing my stuff to pack my drop bags.  I made a list on Wednesday with my general race plans and predictions on when I would be hitting the two aid stations I wanted to have drop bags waiting for me.  But I still like to have all of my stuff laid out so I can see it before I start packing, because I’m a little intense about making sure I have absolutely everything.

Related Post: Trail Running Gear Essentials

Our friends got in later in the afternoon. My girlfriend Ashley was running the 100k as part of her training for the Brazos Bend 100 miler. I’m still so amazed that she’s running 100 miles, especially after experiencing how hard it was to run 62 miles. Both of our husbands were crewing us for the race, and it was fun to talk about where we planned to be and what we needed them to be prepared for. Henry made us some amazing carne asada fries, and then I made the oatmeal banana cookies that I like to eat for breakfast so they’d be ready to go. After dinner, we got all of the drop bags packed and loaded into the car, and we both tried to go to bed early.

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Shockingly, I didn’t sleep much.  Typical pre-race Andrea stuff.  We only live about an hour away from Bandera, so I was thankful that I got to “sleep” in my own bed for the few hours I did get.  My alarm went off at 4am (I was already awake), Ashely and I had some coffee, a few deep breaths, got dressed, grabbed our breakfasts, and then hit the road at 5am.  We pulled up just after 6am, which gave us the perfect amount of time to find the port-a-potties, get our bibs, see the elites take off, and then give the boys a kiss, and head out for our 62 mile adventure.  We started out at around 6:40 (they had a waved start because of COVID), and finished around 11:20.  It was a very long day, but I loved about 85% of it.  Stay tuned for the full race recap!


After running a decent number of ultramarathons, I think I’ve learned a few lessons (the hard way) about what needs to get packed in your ultramarathon drop bags.  Unfortunately, there isn’t really a recipe for what exactly needs to be packed, since every race is so different.  But here’s a few pointers and things to consider when you’re anxious trying to get your life together in the weeks before an ultramarathon.

  1. Lists – Before all the chaos of the day or two before you leave to go run all the miles, take some time to write down what you need to have.  In the last 48 hours before you head out, your brain will frantically try to make sure you aren’t forgetting anything.  But it most likely will in that state.  So don’t count on yourself to be cognizant enough to figure it all out at that point.  Take a look at the course maps, decide how many bags you’ll use, and write out what you want in each of them.  Packing will be infinitely simpler if you do this.
  2. Don’t Over Pack – I’m talking only about the number of bags here.  Because honestly, filling that sucker to the very top with everything under the sun that you *might* need is not an issue.  As long as you can get to all the stuff you’ll want.  But do you really need a full drop bag every 5-10 miles?  Probably not.  There’s aid stations, and while you don’t want to carry everything for the race on your back for the entire race, you’ve probably run plenty of twenty milers with all the gear you need.  Having more than 2-3 drop bags gets overwhelming and complicated, so my recommendation is to consider where you might need to change clothes, have bags for those locations, and put enough fuel in each to get you to the next.
  3. Know Your Course – Is it looped?  If so, you can probably plan to have a bigger bag that you’ll get stuff out of multiple times (this is my favorite part of a looped course, personally).  Are there sections that will take longer? You might want to have a bag waiting for you after those harder pushes.  Will you be running in the dark?  Try to estimate where you think you’ll be when the sun sets, and make sure there’s a headlamp in the bag before that section.
  4. Be Prepared for Weather – Weather is known for being unpredictable, but you should have some idea if there’s any chance of rain, snow, or soaring temps.  Use your bags to have changes of clothes strategically placed.  And make sure you have gear to help you deal with weather that is 10-15 degrees off predictions.  For my last 100k, the temps were projected to start out in the low thirties, getting up to mid 50’s, and then back down.  I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of starting out in shorts, but I also knew that running in leggings in 60 degree weather with any amount of sun would be pretty terrible.  So I planned to have a change of shorts, a short sleeve shirt, and then a thicker long sleeve for later in the evening.  The temps didn’t break above the high 40’s with lots of clouds, so I never needed the shorts, but I would have been so happy to have had them if it had gotten warmer.  Packing three different running outfits felt a little……extra, but I have zero regrets.
  5. Know the Essentials – What kind of clothes, shoes, and even fuel will vary from race to race based on the conditions.  Packing for a beach 50k is very different than packing for a trail 100k, but there are few items that are essential for almost any race.  Fuel – pretend like the aid stations won’t be there, and pack as much fuel as you need.  Sunscreen – even if it’s cloudy, you’re going to be outside for a very long time.  First aid – Stuff to get you through any accidents.  Think band-aids, antibacterial crème, any medications you need (like insulin or an inhaler), stomach helpers (like pepto tablets or Tums), and bug spray.

This Weeks Workouts

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Total Miles: 92.79
Total Workouts: 3
100k Training, Week 9
How the Runs Felt
I want to save the big details of my race for my full race recap, but honestly there aren’t many things that could have gone better. I felt pretty great for the majority of the race, and I didn’t fall apart at any point. All of the runs this week were short, slow, and on the roads. I wanted to sleep in as much as possible, and prevent any last minute trips on the trails. None of my runs felt hard, but I was starting to get a little anxious towards the end of the week, so I’m glad that I had a shakeout run scheduled for Friday morning. It went a long way to ease the pre-race nerves.

How the WODs Felt
I kept the weights fairly moderate and reasonable this week, since I knew I needed to keep my legs somewhat fresh. I felt a little sore after Monday’s back squats, but made to sure to spend a little extra time stretching through out the week. Tuesday’s work out was a lot of fun for me. Having to use my arms to get over a 42 inch box felt a lot like obstacle course racing. I definitely had a good time.

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What I’ve Been Listening To
I had so many podcasts that I was saving for the 100k race, and interestingly I didn’t listen to anything for the entire run.  I did listen to a few new episodes of Morbid, and I started the newest season of Hell and Gone.  This season, they’re investigating a woman who was picked up by a small police department outside of Malibu, was released in the middle of the night in a very remote area, and was later found dead in the wilderness nearby.  It sounds like the woman was experiencing some sort of mental health issue when she was arrested and released, and the circumstances around her death are incredibly suspicious.  So far it’s been pretty crazy, and I’m only 2 episodes in.

What Went Well
Finishing my 100k race was the absolute highlight of my week, and makes me feel like I am starting out 2021 with a huge win.

What Went Shitty
Absolutely nothing.  I was prepared for the race.  I tapered intelligently.  I stuck to my race strategy, and I felt great.

Plans to Improve Next Week
This next will be all about recovery.  I’ve shared that I was starting to feel pretty burnt out towards the end of this training block, which makes sense considering the fact that I’ve been training consistently since the very beginning of the summer.  I don’t know when I’ll start running again (just regular running for baseline fitness), but I’m going to listen to my body and pick it back up when I feel like it.

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