This is the third in the series of Chris Russell Tips for the Cactus Rose 50 and 100 miler. These tips can and do apply for Ultras in general. They are presented here for your information and enjoyment . – T
The question of what to pack in one’s drop bags is always a source of consternation for any ultra runner but it is magnified by the minimalistic nature of Cactus Rose. Joe provides water and perhaps a little bit of food at Equestrian and the Lodge but Cactus does not have the full service aid stations as other ultras. Therefore packing the drop bags takes on an even greater importance.
Using the Q&A; format I will discuss what type of items to consider/include in a drop bag and considerations for Cactus. I am definitely not the expert on drop bag items so if anyone has any additional thoughts please include.
Using the Q&A; format:
Ok Mr Cactus Rose what should I have in my drop bag?
I like to put my drop bag items into one of 3 categories. These categories include nutrition, medical, and gear/clothing. Thinking about these categories helps ensure I don’t overlook anything.
So what type of nutrition should I have?
Obviously you want to pack any drink mixes, gels, food that you will use during the race. Remember that if you have a drop bag at the Lodge and Equestrian (which you should) you will be hitting it every 10 miles so you need to plan accordingly. The bulk of your nutrition will be in your Equestrian drop bag because you hit it twice as frequently. Additionally if you use electrolyte tablets I like to put some in both the Lodge and Equestrian drop bags.
Should I pack much solid food?
I always think it is a good idea to pack solid food for CR. Early in race I try to rely on drink mixes and gels but I have always gotten hungry at the end of loop 1 and usually eat some spaghetti o’s. Same thing for loop 2. Additionally I like to pack some comfort food (this is very important for 100 milers). There is always a point where I can’t stomach gels anymore. So it is important that I have something that I know I can almost always stomach no matter what. For me it is usually string cheese. It doesn’t taste sugary and goes down easy. Also has protein. I will say I usually overpack in the food arena but I never know what I will be in the mood for.
So how much nutrition should I take with me from one drop bag to the next?
I try to calculate how many calories I need to get to my next drop bag and then plan accordingly. With my size I need 300-400 calories per hour. If I calculate it will take me 2.5 hours to get to next drop bag that means I need around 800-900 calories. My drink mix has 400 calories so I will carry 5 gels. I usually prepackage the gels and other nutrition in Ziploc bags and order them accordingly based on when I will be hitting that drop bag in race race. That way all I have to do is grab the Ziploc bag. This works well for first 50 miles; however, as my stomach goes south later in race I then start grabbing my comfort food. The biggest thing is don’t get behind nutrition early.
All this nutrition talk is stressing me out, so let’s talk medical! What happens if a cougar attacks me?
Well hopefully there won’t be any cougars. Medical to me includes things like Body Glide/Desitin (for chaffing), blister kit, ginger chews, nausea stuff, Excedrin etc. Honestly this is the area I am weakest on because my feet rarely blister. Desitin and nausea stuff is a must because chaffing and puking can really ruin a race. Prefer Excedrin over Ibuprofen because of the effect Ibuprofen can have on the kidneys. I definitely welcome thoughts on what constitutes a good blister kit.
Why would I need to pack gear/clothing? Aren’t I already carrying stuff I need?
True but the temperature dcan change by as much as 40 degrees at Cactus which really impacts the 100 milers. It can get cold at night and by that time you aren’t moving real fast so an extra shirt or light jacket can make all the difference. Additionally, sometimes it is nice to change into fresh dry clothes and can positively affect one’s attitude. I usually have some extra clothes in both drop bags.
Should I pack extra shoes/socks?
While my feet don’t blister they are very sensitive. I usually pack an extra pair of socks/shoes at the Equestrian drop bag. Sometimes changing into a different pair of shoes with different wear points can give the feet some needed relief.
Any other gear I should pack?
Spare batteries and headlamps/handhelds (especially if doing the 100 mile race). Some of the headlamps go through batteries fast (especially Diamond Spot) so I like to have batteries in both drop bags. You may also want to pack a hydration pack or additional hydration gear because it can get hot during the day and you will go through water at a faster rate (I will have a separate tip on hydration in near future). Also if you ever have knee issues then some type of knee support may be useful. The year I dropped I developed knee issues at mile 15 but didn’t pack any knee support. If I had packed knee support I may have finished race. Also it is always a good idea to pack extra TP and hand sanitizer. Never know if it is going to be one of those days.
Where should I pack my headlamps?
Obviously this depends on where you think you’ll be when it gets dark. For the 50 milers it should be easy. You’ll start off wearing a headlamp. You can then drop it off at Equestrian at mile 15. Chances are you will never need it again. If you do then you can always pick it up at mile 45 (Equestrian). For 100 miles it is a bit tricky. The last 2 years it didn’t get dark on me until around mile 60 so I picked up headlamp/handheld at mile 55 (Equestrian). However my first year it got dark on me at mile 53; consequently, it is always a good idea to have some type of light at the Lodge (mile 50) in case it looks like it is getting dark on you before you get back to Equestrian at mile 55.
Any other considerations?
If you drop your bags off Friday critters have been known to get into them. Some of them are very good at opening ice chests. I usually put a big rock (these are easy to find at Bandera) on top of my ice chest where all my food is.
As I said, I’m sure I have missed some things so please add your thoughts so the less experienced ultra runners can benefit.