Monday, April 18, 2011

Watch and Learn

Having to spectate a race instead of doing it isn’t all bad.  Given that the Reservoir Tri yesterday was a relatively small event, I got to spend lots of time up close and personal with transition and watch how everyone from the winner to the newbies raced.  Of course just cheering wasn’t enough, I had to analyze and observe how everyone raced as well.

My good friends know what a stickler I am for speedy transitions and it was encouraging to see that I’m doing a lot of the right things there.  Transition is FREE TIME!  But there’s always more to learn and it’s good to watch the fast folks to see more about what they do!

Pre-race: Walk the transition area – KNOW where the swim-in, bike-out, etc are.  Know where the mount and dismount lines are.  I can’t tell you how many near-crashes (and 1 actual crash) I saw at the dismount line because people came around the corner and were “surprised” (despite the volunteers yelling).

Swim: With the water temp officially at 58 degrees, warmup was a must.  Getting to the race late and scrambling to organize a spot in transition took away a lot of time for people to get in and warm up before they cleared the start line.  The fastest folks out there took the entire available time to get a good long warmup in and get used to the cold water.  At the swim exit, the fastest people out of the water swam until their hands hit the boat ramp – standing up early and trying to walk out in deeper water is slower and more exhausting.

T1: Pulling off the wetsuit was the longest time expenditure – after that it was all about efficiency.  The fastest racers went without socks (I love doing this – I’m so glad I bought tri shoes for my bike!) so they just put their helmets on, grabbed their bike and ran for the exit.  I have not yet raced with my shoes clipped into my bike at transition BUT I’ve got “transition practice” on my schedule for my upcoming race week and you can bet I’ll be finding an empty parking lot to practice getting my feet into shoes while riding. 

I think the key for transition is Keep It Simple Stupid!  I saw one guy with 4 or 5 Whole Foods paper bags full of gear lining his transition spot, presumably each with something he needed to race.

Bike: For those who *didn’t* practice it in advance, I saw a few cyclists end up in a ditch alongside the road while weaving along trying to get into their shoes or drink in the first 100 yards of the bike course or strap their Garmins on their wrists or other such nonsense – don’t do crazy shit during the most crowded part of the bike course!  That goes double for the dismount line where everyone is slamming on their brakes all at once in a narrow corridor.

T2: Again, keep it simple.  The fastest folks dismounted without shoes (I started doing this last year and again – LOVE IT!) so that they could run to their transition spot faster.  Throw the bike on the rack, get the helmet off and do the bare minimum needed to get going again (put on running shoes).  Hats and race numbers can be grabbed and put on while running – don’t waste time doing that in transition.  Also, put quick laces on the running shoes or otherwise loosen them so feet can go in quickly – don’t waste transition time tying shoelaces like I saw some people do!

Run: Just run – duh!  Seriously though, knowing the course and the start, finish and any turns pays off here as much as anywhere – you’re tired and any extra distance will only wear you down more.  I definitely saw where practice running off the bike pays off – you can see it in the loose easy gait and stride of the runners who have worked on running off the bike versus those who aren’t accustomed to it.  Fast turnover was the signature feature of the day for the faster more efficient runners – keep those feet moving!

Finish: Don’t slow down!  I can’t tell you how many folks I saw passed in the finish chute because they let up at the end.  I try to tell myself “you have nothing else to do today” to give myself permission to smash my body at the end (even if by the end of a long race it looks like jogging to some LOL).  Walk it off, don’t let your muscles lock up right away.  If the water was cold, go back and stand in it to ice the legs.  Don’t wait till the athlete food line is a mile long and decide you’ll just grab something at home.  Pack ahead with your recovery items of choice (I like Ultragen or chocolate milk) so that you can get it in within the recommended time frame.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

PS – This morning’s track workout rocked – many miles at tough paces.  I more or less collapsed on the couch when I got home (and was promptly attacked by dogs trying to lick the salt off me) and have slept-walked my way through the rest of the day.  Is it bedtime yet?


Michelle Simmons said...

Good stuff! Fwiw, putting your feet in your shoes in a race is a lot harder than doing it in practice... Mostly bc in practice it's hard to simulate the frantic feeling of T1 and how hard your heart is going to be beating when you've just gotten out of the swim and onto the bike in a race... So just be prepared for that if you haven't done it before in a race situation. :)

Kris said...

I'm glad you were able to get some pointers from my transitions. ;)

Seriously tho, it's good to hear I'm doing some things right. And also to see where I *really* could improve and need to practice.

Mary M said...

This is one to bookmark and to come back for review. Sure glad you won't be able to watch mine this year... you'd smack me upside the head!

Anonymous said...

nice observations! Thanks for sharing this... makes me realize I've never actually watched (and learned from) a race. Good stuff.

Kiet said...

Molly, you are freakin oberservant, love your attention to detail. Don't forget the rubber bands on the cycling shoe so that you can do a cyclocross mount onto the bike. Next time, say hi and introduce yourself, catch ya at the races!