So you’ve trained very hard for Ironman 70.3 East London, but if you do things wrong on race day, you can lose precious time – so much so that your hard earned fitness ends up wasted. So herewith some very valuable tips to finish your race without wasting time.
Saving time in the swim.
Let’s start at the start. Although very unlikely, timing chips have been known to get lost during the swim leg, and that means running to the technical tent for a new chip. This is a disaster you don’t want and you will certainly not make you goal time if this is the case. So, ditch those safety pins you want to use to secure your timing chip strap with. They get kicked off in a second. Your own swim kick can actually dislodge them. Fit the strap round your ankle and secure it by gently rolling two layers of insulation tape around it. A chip mounted this way will never come off.
You also don’t want to lose you goggles during the race, so, during your swim leg, put your goggles on first and then your cap. With the cap over the goggle straps, your goggles are much more secure. Also, don’t apply your anti-chafe cream and fiddle with your swim cap right after to get it on your head, this is a sure-fire way to lose it during the race. The anti-chafe cream makes the inside of your cap very slippery and fighting to keep a slippery swim cap on your head during the swim breaks your rhythm and costs you time. Give your hands a good “sand-wash” to clean it properly. Chrissie Wellington, 4 times Ironman world champion, mentions in her book that slippery, anti-chafe smeared hands also compromise a good swim-catch. How’s that for attention to detail?
The most important time saver during your swim is sighting of the marker buoys. Remember, each unnecessary 100 meters you swim add the best part of 2 minutes to your time if you’re an average age grouper. I have seen bikes belonging to far better swimmers than me still parked in T1 because they swam to Shanghai and back, all because of bad sighting. Train how to sight without treading water or losing speed. As hard-core sea swimmers know, you can only see the buoys when the swell lifts you within an open sighting line of the buoys. Try to feel when the swell lifts and sight only when the buoys are actually visible. Looking for buoys when you are down in the trough of the swell is a time waster, because you will seldom see the buoys from there. You will only be breaking your rhythm. As far as topographical markers go, visit the beach before race day and familiarise yourself with landmarks to help guide you when the buoys are out of sight. Harbour cranes and blocks of flats do just fine. Compromising your swim time because of bad sighting is a big let down.
Then, when you get out of the water, pull your arms out immediately. Once the water drained out, the wetsuit comes off with much more effort and it becomes a time wasting action. And don’t ask for fellow swimmers to pull down your zip or help in any way. Outside assistance is an immediate DQ. Run up to T1. Don’t walk. The 1 minute that you score equates to roughly 200m on your run.
Flying through Transition 1
Now let’s take a step back, to before the start of your race, more specifically, the time when you hung up your transition bags. The fastest way to get through transition is to know exactly where your bags are located. There are many flags, lamp posts, banners and other markers you can use to find your bag faster. Once you start running up and down the bag racks counting numbers to find your bag, you are throwing away valuable time. So get some markers that you’ll recognise when you hang up your bags, and re-check them on race day before the start.
The first thing to do during T1 is to run. Don’t walk. Unless you kicked like an Olympic sprint swimmer, your legs are fine for running. Next up, don’t towel down. Towelling down belongs on the tennis court, not the triathlon course. Get out of your wetsuit and go. Then put on your number, shoes helmet, sports glasses and run for your bike. All your nutrition should be on your bike. Fumbling to stuff gels and bars into wet back pockets that don’t want to open up only raise your anger levels. If you want gels in your back pockets, put them in before you swim. You won’t lose time when you do this but at least if you drift off to Shanghai, you’ll have sustenance for the journey, and it’s just another thing you won’t have to think of in T1.
Saving time on the bike.
If you are familiar with putting on your shoes while on the bike, do so, but be very sure you know how to do it very well. If you mess it up, it takes longer to correct the situation than simple putting on your shoes in T1 and running to your bike in them.
Personally, I cycle a 70.3 with three water bottles from the start, just to save my head from having to figure out when and where to take on water. I know it is heavy, but all three bottles have the exact nutritional mix that suits my needs and I can then just focus on the race. Stopping to take on water is a massive time waster. Practice how to fill up your aero bottle while riding.
One of the biggest potential time wasters during a race is not knowing how to fix a flat tire as quick as possible. If it happens, your aim should be to fix it in under three minutes, five minutes at worst. Set a time aside to practice that. Some people are so unfamiliar with it that they have to wait for tech support. That will add about 30 minutes to your race time.
The second biggest time waster on the bike is stopping for a toilet break. Once again I refer you to Chrissie Wellington’s book, where she explains beautifully how to do number 1 on the bike. You create some space between you and the other bikes not to become public enemy no.1, straighten your legs, and with a blissful smile, let it flow. Urine is 100% sterile. You’ll live afterwards. Slamming on brakes, getting behind a bush, getting back on your bike and back up to speed – that’s 3 minutes gone. You might just never again see your rivals.
Flying through T2
When you ride into T2, “push your bowels” and determine right away if you might have a lurking number 2. The crouched TT position often induces bloating and other bowel issues. Going for the portaloos now would be the best time. An uncomfortable run slows you down, and if a portaloo is unavailable at the “worst time”, you are in for a nasty time.
Once again, if you can run through T2, do so. Those 30 seconds or 1 minute you score, allows for an easier run to make your goal time.
Saving time on the run.
As hard as the run is, it has an element of calmness to it. Now the unnatural element of the sea swim (after all we are not fish) and the angst about potential mechanical shenanigans on the bike are out of the way and you can focus on the simplicity of just getting one foot in front of the other.
The only time waster can be walking, or slowing down unnecessarily. Lately, with the dawn of the run-walk strategy, many athletes incorporate short walks in their run. At this time it is best to stick to your game plan for the day, but if you need to walk, I suggest you do it when you take a cup of water, coke or other nutrition at a water table. You get two for the price of one: it makes for easy drinking and you give your legs that short breather.
Of course there are many other time saving tips you could add. Share them with your friends to make their race day easier. Have fun, and may you have wings like an eagle on race day. – (c) 2018 NavWorld