Packing for Races: 5 Accessories I Always Bring with me

After going to a few summer races without my own bottle of water or to winter races dressed as if I were about to hit the slopes on Grouse Mountain, I have learned a few things that I would like to share with you. 

Before packing up, I always check if my race will have:

- Changing rooms or washrooms other than a porter potty
- A bag check (and if they will bring your bag to the finish line if it is not a loop race)  
- Parking close to the start line
- Aid stations throughout the course (as well as where they are and what they will serve)  
- Food at the finish line (and what they will serve)
- Rain, wind, or sunshine 

When there are no changing room nor bag check, I would usually come dressed in stretchy long pants I could easily wrap around my waist after my warm up to then race in shorts and arm warmers (detachable long sleeves). I would also wear a comfortable running pouch instead of a bag. If they only serve water at the water stations, I would bring some electrolyte tabs to chew on in order to replenish the salts lost when sweating.   If there are no water stations or food I can easily digest, I would bring a fuel belt and some gels and snacks I know my belly tolerates.

My Summer Race Packing List Includes:

1. Shorts and a sleeveless top in synthetic fast-drying materials 
2. Another layer of clothes to wear before and after the race: because it is the summer does not mean that I will always feel warm, especially if it starts to get a bit windy and I am still covered in sweat from the race. If there is a bag check and changing rooms, I also bring a complete change of clothes and socks and some rain gear to be able to enjoy the post-race activities.
3. My favourite running shoes and socks: race day is never a good day to try new shoes or socks.  
4. A bottle of water or a fuel belt: I learned not to fill it with ice cubes as it makes me want to go to the washrooms). I usually use my fuel belt to sip on water every 15 minutes or so until the start of the race so as not to start thirsty and empty it just before the start so as to run light (if there are water stations throughout the race). I do not drink pure water, but add a pinch of salt and some lemon juice or electrolyte powder to also replenish the electrolytes lost by sweating.

5. A towel. To wipe off the sweat after the race.

My Winter Racing Essentials Include:

1. Multiple layers of clothes to keep you warm before and after the race
2. A waterproof and windproof jacket. I rarely wear the jacket when racing, but you will want it when warming up and just after the race.
3. A toque, ear warmers and a cold weather face mask (similar to a ski mask). You ears and throat will thank you. When the air is really cold and dry and it hurts to breathe in from the mouth, I sometimes even wear the face mask for the first few minutes of the race. Face masks add warmth and moisture to the air before it enters your mouth and lungs.

4. Lighter racing gear that you have tested in similar weather while running close to race pace. Even in the winter it is possible to race in just one layer of clothes without freezing (at least in British Columbia, it is).  So many times have I started a race dressed warmly to end up boiling and trying to take off my toque, top layers, etc. all while running. The picture below was taken in December, and I remember wishing I had left that jacket at the bag check and that I could just throw that toque in the bushes:
5. Thin gloves, arm sleeves and calf sleeves or high socks. I find them a lot more comfortable to wear than long tights and long sleeve shirts when racing. In the end, what matters the most is to keep your extremities warm.

What about you? What have you learned to always (or never) bring to a race? What do you do differently when packing for a race depending on the weather or length of the run?