Special needs bags

I’ve never used a special needs bag in an Ironman. Was listening to Jan Frodeno saying he was concentrating at Hawi on his special needs, and it got me thinking. How does it actually work on the bike? Do you have to stop and find your bag and grab what you need from it and then get going again? Do they hand it to you on the go? And on the run - do they hand it to you or do you have to find it and grab what you need quickly and then throw the bag in the litter zone before you’re stuck with it until the next litter zone?

yes for both bike and run. complete waste of time unless you have some really special dietary needs.

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Depends on the race but usually you can shout your number ahead and it’s ready by the time you stop, or at the very least, you don’t have to find it yourself. can be handy in changeable conditions, especially if you are expecting a hot ride/early run and cold later on. You can grab arm warmers of whatever and depending what’s in there, you can swing by, empty the contents in your pockets for last lap of run.

I never need them but I always use use them. Because I have liquid nutrition on the bike in a concentrated ‘bomb’, in theory I only need water. However, I always put a bottle with an additional 50% of nutrition in a SN bag. This way, if I have a disaster with a dropped/split bottle on my first lap, I haven’t blown my whole race strategy. It’s just insurance. Also doesn’t hurt to throw an extra tube and CO2 in there.


I used one on the Bike in Austria last year. I wanted to use Tailwind on the bike so put a bottle, made up, in the special needs bag (I need three bottles of 750ml drink but can only carry 2). I think that they are tracking you to get a rough idea of when you might arrive. They also had spotters. Consequently as I pulled up there was someone with my bag. I wasn’t game to grab the bag and keep on cycling so stopped and got the bottle out. I can imagine that it cost no more than a minute.

I guess that you could have grabbed the bag on the move and decanted. What I don’t know is how long you have to do that before you need throw away the bag. I’m sure that you could ask this pre race.

Anyway it worked for me. I plan to go to Copenhagen in 2022 and will get both a bike and a run bag, both of which will have made up Tailwind in them.

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At Lanza the bike special needs is at the top of Mirador de Haria and they have spotters so the bag is ready to hand up as you go by. They use cloth musettes there and you always see some dicey moments where people are trying to empty their musettes on the switchback descent :open_mouth: .

I’ve only ever used my special needs bag for a spare tube and CO2 cartridge, which I intended to pick up if I punctured before that point. The Lanza special needs is about 90km into the ride and my one and only IM puncture came at about 140km.

If you’re going to use the bag for food or water bottles, bear in mind that it’s likely to be out in the direct sunlight for a long time before you get to it, so the contents might not be that appetising by the time you pick them up.

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In Oz, we used to freeze the SN bottle and it will be thawed by the time you need it, hopefully!

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The Pros like Frodeno are definitely getting a hand-up. I guess he’ll have specific nutrition in there, liquid or otherwise. No point in top pros having extra spares, as the neutral support should be close by; different for us though. Never used one myself.

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Only IM I ever did, I read somewhere about putting chicken soup and preztels in the special needs bag. “For the salt”. So I did that.

Big mistake. The pretzels were about as easy to eat as chipboard. And most the soup spilled down my face, trisuit and bike. Smelt like my gran’s flat for the next 5 hours.

Don’t do that.


Mrs FB tried TUC biscuits at IM France and had much a smilar experience! she also had marmite twiglets which she said were a little easier 'cept they were as sticky as fuck in the 40C heat!!

I guess the pros are probably handed the contents of their bags on the hoof, maybe only one bottle or something.

Tried a waffle thingy in the energy lab when I missed the gels. Nearly choked…! If I could go back I’d have had a special needs bag in the energy lab…

Yep I had de-salting issues in previous Ironman races. Tailwind with its electrolytes, plus electrolyte SiS gels, plus eating a little extra salt in the week before the race all helped.

Do basically the same as @Sparky