What’s in your bag for race day?
One of the key aspects sports psychologists underline in any sport is athletes should focus on ‘controlling the controllables’. Only worry about what you can control and don’t waste energy or mind-space on the things that you can’t. What you’re able to pack, and how you pack your race day bag, is a huge part of making sure your day goes smoothly. Pack well and you’ll be controlling your entire world… give or take.
Yeah, race day prep is a personal thing but being ill-prepared can impact your performance because you’ve forgotten something vital. Some racers bring two bags, some bring one, some look like they are set for a weekend mini-break in the Himalayas, some have a 7-11 plastic bag and are ready to go; each to their own.
Due to my penchant for OCD and packing precisely, someone asked what I do, so here’s a look at what’s in my bag.
Let’s be clear… this isn’t law and it’s not exclusive to Stormy Dragons. Everyone wants to pack differently, but here’s what I’ve fine-tuned over eight years of competing, home and abroad, local and international. It works for me and it might help you.
Heads-up, this is not about food, which we’ll cover in another blog. So, first things first…
Any bag will do, but the right bag will make your day so much easier. Dry bags are great, but most are cumbersome and difficult to access as they are generally tall and narrow. Pack a towel at the bottom and you have to pull everything out to get at it, squishing your bananas on the way.
Best bag I – and a number of paddlers I know – have come across is the small ‘Base Camp’ duffel bag from The North Face. Hard wearing, lots of straps to carry as a holdall or backpack, splashproof and, most importantly, one huge zip that opens the whole thing up like a can of sardines. You can reach everything, easily, keeping your bananas pristine.
The North Face kit isn’t cheap, so if you know anyone going to Thailand of Vietnam, the rip-off ones are available in the street markets for about HK$150. Bargain.
Sit on this
A 3×3 raceday tent usually has no seating, so pack your own. Favourite in HK is the Helinox from Australia. Not cheap, but light, comfy and they fit in your bag. eBay has some similar versions of the Helinox and are worth a try. Those big air bags work, but take up a lot of space and are a lot harder to fill than YouTube videos suggest.
Use at least factor 50. I pack a spray-on because it’s quick and convenient.
Waterproof phone case
LifeProof do good ones and if you want belt and braces, a zipply sandwich bag also helps protect from light splashes.
Your valuables ‘bag’
Box, mini wet-bag, pouch, whatever. Something small but spacious enough to take your phone, cash, Octopus and credit cards on a race day. I use a micro Peli-Case to hold my essentials. Easy to see, pack and pop into the team valuables bag. For race day, leave your faux-snake skin wallet and bring only the essentials – it’s much less to carry around.
A book, magazine, iPad or Kindle
Race days are often described as ‘99% boredom followed by 1% absolute mayhem’. For that 99% boredom you need a book, podcast, movie, box-set to keep yourself out of trouble, KFC and the local bar.
Big enough to wrap around you and change under. You can get change towels to protect your modesty.
An empty plastic bag
To put your wet kit in at the end of the day. I always bring two, because someone on the team will forget. Usually Woody.
Spray on deodorant
You will smell at the end of a race day and this is a small act of kindness towards your team. You can get those tiny travel ones which are perfect to reduce the bulk in your kit bag. Please use them. If you don’t, Holly and Emma will suggest you do.
By meds, I mean, a bag of useful stuff. I carry sun screen, Panadol, spray on plaster, alcohol/hand wipes, tape for blisters, caffeine tablets, shit tickets (aka. toilet paper), Body Glide, electrolyte tablets, nasal strips, Tiger Balm and an itch stick for mozzie bites.
My terminology for a small bag of useful stuff. A Sharpie, regular pen, luggage hooks (to hang your bag off the floor as space is limited or it starts raining), a spork, corkscrew and penknife.
A small bag of good stuff to keep you going when the day is long. Use sparingly. I include protein bars, GU gels and chews, malt loaf (97% carbs), dark chocolate (over 80% cocoa), Haribo/TicTacs and chocolate orange (emergency uplift for back-to-back races).
There is usually someone at the team tent, always, but on the rare chance the tent is unattended then these cheap luggage locks are useful, light and easy to use.
Not every race is near a 7-11 or Wellcome. At Stanley the shopping queue is crazy. I chill 2-litres of water the night before and am grateful it’s only heavy on the way to the race; it will all be gone by the time I head home. I also pack electrolyte tablets, two small coconut water cartons and a sports drink, like Lucozade.
DO NOT bring plastic water bottles – Stormy Dragons is a plastic free team and more races are going plastic free.
Cash and your Octopus
Don’t forget to charge up your Octopus card. Most races are in remote places and don’t have a 7-11 to boost it, so be prepared.
Essential. Don’t forget to pack what you need to actually race. Paddle wax, gloves, seat pad, paddle grip tape… the list goes on and this varies from paddler to paddler.
I always pack a coat hanger and a dry t-shirt. I really don’t enjoy sitting around in a wet shirt all day, so straight after the race I take the race shirt off, dry, pop it on a hanger and wear something dry. It’s a small, but effective, home comfort. What’s your race day home comfort?
If you bring nothing else…
Bring your race shirt, your paddle and your hunger for victory.
So, what have we missed? What’s in your bag? Send us your suggestions on what you ‘must have’ in your kit bag.