Welcome to the Blog of Karl Alexander - Ironman Triathlete, Road Racing Cyclist and Runner.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Ironman Transition

In the UK, both Ironman branded events require athletes to rack their equipment the day before the race, with the large numbers of participants and the early morning start to these events it makes perfect sense. However, over the short time I’ve been racing I see the same ‘rookie errors’ being made time and again, in this blog entry I’ll walk through my set-up for the race.

Once I have arrived at the race venue and have registered my attention turns to my equipment and packing my transition bags, at both UK events you are handed three coloured bags, blue, red and white.

The Blue bag is for your bike kit and mine always contains the following items: Helmet, Sunglasses, Cycling Shoes and an Energy Gel.

The Red bag is for your run kit and I have: Trainers, Sock, a Visor and an energy gel.

The White bag is for the clothing you require once you have finished the event, as a rule I pack short’s, a hoodie, casual trainers and a Recovery Shake to drink (see previous blog).

Once the bags are sorted, it’s time to assemble the bike and check it’s still in working order. During transportation to an event, sudden braking or cornering may have caused things in your vehicle to shift around and hit your bike. A hard knock to the rear derailleur hanger for example can cause problems with gear changes, so it’s best to identify any problems early and if necessary make use of the official bike mechanics at the event. Prior to the event, I will have cleaned, inspected and serviced my bike to minimise the potential for a mechanical problem.

At this stage, I don’t worry about tyre pressure or placing energy drinks onto the bike, this can wait until the following morning, there is little point in inflating your tyres up to 120psi to find that the weather on race day requires you to run a lower pressure or worse the air has expanded within the tyre and caused the inner tube to explode. The same is true of energy drinks. On nearly all self-mix energy drink powders it will say ‘Once prepared keep cool and consume within X hours.’ Yet time and again I see athletes putting their drink onto the bike the day before in direct sunshine for, in some cases up to 18 hours before the start.

On race morning, I always follow the same sequence with my bike. Inflate tyres to a pressure appropriate for the course and weather conditions, place my energy drinks onto the bike and then with an old cloth wipe and moisture from my drive train (chain, derailleur etc) and re-lubricate. Even if it hasn’t rained overnight there is usually enough moisture in the air for a light dew to settle on the bikes.

Many athletes choose to rack their bikes with the shoes already located into the pedals, and this is an excellent speed tip, if you can do it! My partner, Helen, has seen on numerous occasions athletes falling foul of this technique and either falling off or spending an age trying to get their feet into the shoes. If you are going to use this method then practice, practice and practice some more until it is second nature. I personally choose to put my cycling shoes on in T1 and running in them to the mount line before clipping in, and since I do this every time I ride, I can do it without a fuss and pass many athletes still fiddling with their shoes once I’m off.

However, at the end of the bike I remove my feet from the shoes and pedal last few metres with my feet on top of the shoes before dismounting, this allows me to run to transition barefoot and gives my legs a chance to adjust to running.

Once into T2 it’s socks on, trainers on and depending on the weather, visor on and off out onto the run course.

This is how I approach transition and it works, for me! At IMUK I had the 35th fastest T1 and 76th fastest T2 not world beating but not slow either, my fast, relaxed approach meant I was able to stay calm and focussed for the entire day.

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