June 20, 2012

When Being an Automaton Rocks: Part II

The previous newsletter focused on how to get a handle on your race morning setup in order to save you time and energy during transition.  If you have a clear picture of what you need to do to set up your transitions you can deal with the little unknowns easily and with a minimum of added stress.  Part II of this process is nailing down the specifics of what you’re going to do to during transition to ensure T1 and T2 are as smooth and fast as possible.

Review the questions in the following sections, and answer each one as it relates to your upcoming race as completely as possible.  The remaining instructions are at the end of the article.

Swim to Bike

  1. How far is the swim exit to where your bike’s racked?  Remember there’s always some distance to walk or run once you finish the swim so be prepared.  If you don’t know just guess and be sure to verify exactly how far prior to the race if possible.  Note:  Check out the top five finishers in your age group to get a good idea how far or how long each transition is for the fastest folks in the race…that will give you a minimum starting point for your plan.
  2. How will you find you bike after the swim?  Spend a few minutes race morning getting your bike’s location locked in your mind.  Find landmarks, count the number of bike racks from the swim exit, whatever works for you.
  3. Do you have to bag your swim gear or can you just leave it on the ground?
  4. What’s your sequence for putting on your cycling gear?
  5. Will your cycling shoes be clipped in or do you plan to put them on and run with your bike to the starting area?  Or are you going to have your cycling shoes on your bike and put your feet in your shoes while riding?  If it’s the latter, is there a reasonable amount of flat, non-technical road to allow you to get into your shoes or do you do some climbing with your feet on top of the shoes?  Remember you’ll have lots of other racers buzzing around you while you’re doing this so don’t make race day the first time you try it.
  6. How far do you have to run from where your bike is racked to where you mount the bike?  Be sure to practice running with your bike before race morning… remember there will be other folks running around you, too.

Note:  The two best places to hold the bike when walking or running through transition is either by the seat or the where the handle bars are mounted to the frame…if you’re using an aero bottle the latter will give you more control.  

Bike to Run

  1. Are you going to leave your cycling shoes clipped on the bike as you go into T2 or are you’re going to take them off after you get off your bike?  If it’s the former know where you’re going to start getting out of your shoes coming into T2 so you don’t run out of road.  And be sure to practice this dismount many times in training!
  2. Will there be volunteers taking your bike as you come in or do you have to rack it yourself?
  3. What’s your sequence for putting on your run gear?
  4. Do you have to bag your bike gear or can you just leave it on the ground by your bike?

Other Considerations

  1. Is it a mass start or a wave start?  If it’s a wave start chances are it won’t be that crowded in the transition area.  But if it’s a mass start T1 in particular can be a madhouse.
  2. What’s the race distance?  Shorter races have different considerations than the long course races.  Little things like whether you’re going to wear socks can be important because what you can get away with in a 1.5-3 hour race is quite different than one lasting 10-14 hours or more.

Note:  Regardless of whether you’re going to wear socks or not always rub some lubricant (Vaseline, glide stick, etc.) on the seams inside your cycling and running shoes to reduce the chance of blistering.


Script It Out

Once you write down all your answers it’s time to create your transition script.  Just start free writing what will happen on race morning as you exit the water all the way through getting on your bike and riding cleanly away from transition.  Then repeat the same process for your bike to run transition.  Focus on putting in as much detail as possible so when you read it over you start to get a vivid picture of what you want to happen on race day.  Once you have the script, read through it a few times until you have it pretty well squared in your mind.  After that, you can play the mental picture over in your head… you don’t have to spend a lot of time visualizing, just 5-10 minutes a couple of times a week will do the trick.

If you don’t want to go through the process of writing all this down because it sounds like too much work then do this.  Go through each numbered item in this article and the previous article and write down an answer to each at least six to eight weeks before your next event.  Then review and update your answers at least once a week leading up to the event.  This less rigorous approach isn’t nearly as effective as writing a script but it will save you time and energy during transitions because it DOES give you tangible details for what must be done on race day.

Is it likely that your transitions will go precisely according to plan?  They might!  Even if something unexpected happens that’s okay.  Just stay focused, deal with it, and get back on plan.

If you take the time to visualize transitions, your chances of zipping through them goes up exponentially.  And more importantly the stress factor goes down, which will save you valuable energy you can use later in the race.

That’s it for this week.  Until next time train safe, stay healthy, and hope to see you at the races.


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