Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Transition Workshop

Unless you've got them mastered, transitions are the easiest way to strip 30 seconds to a minute off your race time.

Sure you say, but I don't want to focus time on transitions and whats 30 seconds  over a 2-3 hour race. Well, just put into perspective how much work you would need to put in the pool to strip 30 seconds off your 1500m pace. That would take month at the least if your a beginner, a year if your a stellar swimmer. There is a reason my old coach from McGill Annie used to make us practice transitions monthly if not more during the summer. Not always the most exciting practice, but definitely essential and it really payed off. 

Following these simple tips, you can strip that time off your transitions in under an hour of practice. These may seem obvious and I'm sure you've all heard them before if you've raced triathlons, however, it never hurts to repeat it.

I wrote this over a few days, so if there are some things that I've missed, leave a comment and I'll make the correction.

Step 1, Keep it Simple
This is the single most important thing to remember for a successful transition.

In my transition all I have on the ground are.
-Running Shoes
-Race Belt
-Sometimes Hat

I see so many transitions filled with Fuel belts, extra gels, water bottles, talcum powder for your feet, extra towel, water bucket, extra shirt, shorts, WAY TOO MUCH! Not only will too much stuff confuse you during a transition, but space is often EXTREMELY limited. As you'll see from my photos, it can be cramped, and this was even a generous spot.

I understand the need for a fuel belt if your running a poorly organized marathon with aid stations every 5 km, but for most every race I've ever done, there have been plenty water or Gatoraide.

Try and find a race suit that will accommodate you for all three events, changing is just throwing away time.

Don't get me wrong, I bring power gels and gatoraide on the bike, but I already have them  taped to my bike so I don't need to think about them during the race. Taping gels to your aerobars is what I find easiest. 

Now that you have slimmed down your transition as much as possible, its time to set up.

Step 2, Layout in Order
Place everything on a bright towel that is easily recognized from a distance in order of use. I put my glasses in my helmet and helmet on aerobars so when I exit the water, I throw on my glasses then put on my helmet (Note: If you are going to do this, make sure to place them in the direction so that you don't have to spin them to get them on. 10 seconds later I have both on, I grab my bike and run out of transition. Its as easy as that.

Bike-Run transition is a little trickier, but use the same premise, I put on socks, so I have them on my shoes, result being I can't put my shoes on without moving my socks. Then I have my shoes resting over my hat (if I'm using it) and race belt. These two last things can be put on while moving. 

If you don't have triathlon bike shoes, then you will need to have them on the ground beside your bike. If this is the case, place them in front of your running shoes so that they are most accessible, two reasons for this, you will be using them first and most people during bike dismount can get their feet out of their shoes while on the bike.

You want your swim-bike transition to be the easiest, because you are typically more lightheaded when you exit the water than getting off the bike.

Step 3, Bike Shoes Mount
If you are fortunate enough to have Tri shoes for your bike, the you should have them already clipped in, straps open and in a proper gear before you begin the race. You will need small elastics to strap the shoes to the frame so that when you run they don't fly all over the place and for ease of departure. Personally I find the small black hair elastics, or those that come with vegetables (asparagus, broccoli) to be the best for this, because they aren't very long and snap easily when you apply a little pressure. 

I like having my right shoe forward since I run with my bike on my right, but this is all personal preference. 

Notice small elastics on the back of my shoes.

Most races I have gone to have required it due to space limitations, but even if not I recommend racking your bike by the seat. The reason for this is because if you rack it by the handle bars, as you pull your bike out, the back wheel will spin backwards and move your pedals snapping the elastics.

Step 4, Sighting Your Spot 
One of the most annoying mistakes you can make is getting lost during the race in transition. Sadly I've done this a few times. During the race you come running in, and go straight passed your bike. This is why its really important to RUN throught the transition before the race. Running because things take on a different perspective when your going fast. This goes for the whole transition, finding your bike is great but running the wrong way once you have it is also not good.

I use a really big bright towel that I put under my bike and shoes, this is helpful for two reasons, first being you can spot it from far away, and the second, it can be used to brush your feet quickly as your putting your shoes on. You don't have to pick up the towel to do this, just a quick wipe.

Step 5, Stay relaxed
Racing through transition at full speed will save time, but when your sock is bunched up and gives you blisters 3km into the race, it really won't turn up being worth it. Keep in mind that 5 seconds wasted to make sure things are on track is worth it. I know this goes against everything I've been saying above, but believe me, if your relaxed and thinking clearly you'll probably go even faster.

Step 6, Never Sit Down
I have yet to this day see a fast transition done by someone who sits down. It just isn't done. If you need to sit, its because your not comfortable enough in transition yet. 

I googled slow transition and this is the image I found, looks like she is ready for a picnic or something. Titled Kelly Phares-Zook: Lost in Transition

Rumor has it there was a TV and Tea just outside of the framing of the photo.
Step 7, Speed Laces
Elastic laces are the greatest thing since sliced bread. I won't go into them here much, but if your at the point were cutting off little bits of time is important, I highly recommend getting them. They keep your shoes tight, and never come undone since they are usually locked in. (Note: Some people on their first few times using speed laces get blisters because they apply pressure in different spots than normal laces. Practice with them once or twice first).

Step 8, Getting Out Of Your Wetsuit
Big problem people have (leading cause of sitting down after shoes). The easiest way to get out of a wetsuit is to do so immediately. Don't wait till you get to your bike, start taking it off while your still standing ankle deep in the water. The water that has filled the wetsuit acts like a lubricant to remove the suit, and every second spend not getting it off your arms and torso makes it just that much harder since the water is pouring out the ankles. Quick suggestion though, don't take off your bathing cap and goggles first, this makes arms really hard to get out, simply pop your goggles to your forehead. That should seem like a given, but I've made this mistake twice this summer. Sure a bare head makes for better race photos, but does make transitions trickier. 

Oils of some type (ex Bodyglide) will help you get out of your wetsuit, but be weary, because if you get oil on your hands, could make for a slippery bike ride. Also you want to avoid petroleum based lubricants such as vaseline because over time this will chew up the suit. If you are among the unfortunate who finds it REALLY hard to get out of your wetsuit, I have known people who cut the calfs up, making the suit simply 3-4 inches shorter, the ankle holes are much bigger and easier to get out. Lauren Groves does this, however, with the price I paid for my suit I'm reluctant to actually cut into it.

Thats it. Those are my keys to transition. Using these techniques, excluding the time it takes to get to your bike (Variable due to the race), transitions shouldn't take more than 30 seconds. 

Good luck in your last races of the summer.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I'll be back soon I promise

Sorry for being M.I.A. for so long, I've been catching up at work and socializing. Its disgusting I know.

But keep an eye out, there will be a few new post up in the near future.

Quick small victory I will talk about, I did my 2X5.75km loop practice last night.

first lap 24:23 (4:14/km) and second time after 90 seconds rest 24:40 (4:17/km), felt good and was 10 seconds faster per lap than 2 month ago when I did the same workout, but I don't know how long I will be able to hold that pace. 21k no problem, 42, yikes


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Rhymes with Honk

Km 13 – Riding up the hill towards prospect point, I start to laugh with Facundo that my legs are still stiff from last nights Seymore adventure and that I need to loosen up for the rest of my ride. The weather is perfect and my spirits are high.


An uneventful trip out towards Horseshoe bay where Kevin surges up a few hills, but I am content with sitting on his wheel and just following, realizing that this is going to be a long day in the saddle, pacing my effort is going to be my key to success.


My growing impatience with taking it easy starts to wear on me. I accelerate out of a long sweeping descent arriving at the marina before the final 2km climb up to our turnaround. Deciding to keep the sustained effort up the hill I plod along, Facundo catapults himself by with ease and I try and respond. Kevin who was riding a fair bit behind after the descent slowly climbs his way back to me and passes. I’m thinking to myself Kevin is having a good day. We have a fairly quick first hour on the bike, however, due to city and park traffic it still takes an hour and ten minutes to get to Horseshoe bay, 34km of my day finished.


The plan to the day was survival, to do this nutrition was a must, I have packed with me a plethora of  energy foods, Cliff bars, Powergels and a handful of chocolate chip peanut butter cookies Lilia made me. While waiting for the guys to take a nature break is mow down on some food.


Riding back from Horseshoe bay is always fun, it’s a net downhill, and although there are two long accents, they are followed by really long gradual descents where you can carry some great speed.


Riding between the two, I plan poorly for a climb and am in a heavy gear. I always forget about this climb. Kevin passes me and I joke about my stupidity. I give them some distance figuring I will simply make it up over the next few km. A fellow cyclist passes me on the flat and I click onto his wheel with the hope he will pull me back to my friends. Man both Facundo and Kevin are riding strong today. After about 5km they still have 15-20 seconds on me and I can’t close it down. I finally catch up as we reach the town at a light. Gulping down water I fiddle with my speedometer – 45km, I hope they don’t try and up the pace, I’m struggling. Last nights ride is beginning to take its toll.


Passing under the Lions Gate bridge I have my first Powergel, Vanilla YUM, I’m leading out until Lonsdale, where once again they pull away on a steady hill, taking advantage of congestion on the road I’m able to make up ground once more. I’m regretting my 90k Seymore ride last night.


I am stealing time whenever I can, noticing that Kevin and Facundo are sitting up and chatting behind me, I don’t waste the effort, head down, constant motion, I pull 200 then 500 meters ahead of them, not hard just, trying to bank time for when they start to motor. This may not have been to my advantage. The two close in on me fairly quickly once they start up again.


Determined not to slow them down I  jump between them and aggressively draft off Facundo, not letting this Argentinean motor pull away from me. Realizing that he has a train following him, he decides this is a good time to open up, 41kph, 43kph, 45kph, our speed keeps creeping up on the flat. Never ceasing,  riding steady 4% inclines at 38-40kph. Its taking all my effort just to hold on. Usually we do pulls like this for 1-3km. I keep on eye on the speedometer, 4km, he’s still holding strong, he must let up soon, arriving on Dollarton Road, we hit a rough patch of pavement, his speed is steady, mine slows drastically, my spinning isn’t sufficient to hold the power, I think to myself how difficult it must be for the pros when they hit the cobbled sections during the Paris-Roubaix. I apply the same strategy to my modest ride, heaving gearing low cadence over rough patches for better stability and power transfer. I crawl back to the Argentineans wheel, my eyes focused on only one thing, maintaining that 3-4 inches between wheels so as to not have to expend any more energy than required. 7km, he still hasn’t let up, staring down at his wheel in a trance, I should watching the road, BAM pothole, that one hurt a little bit, but no accident, this wakes me up a little. I look back at my wheel, Kevin is also holding on, looking strong but later confessing that he agrees the Argentinean bastard is a monster for putting us through such paces. Kevin has staying power, 1 hour, 4 hours, 6 hours, he hold steady, more than I can say for myself.


We reach the end of the big hill on Dollarton, I’ve survived, its downhill to Deep Cove. The Argentinean Monster takes off, and I decide to sit up and initiate conversation with Kevin, offering an excuse for myself to slow down. Getting to Deep Cove my legs are spent. I’ve finished both water bottles and eat my second Cliff Bar, no more cookies left, those I finished early. A very lengthy bathroom break to recover, I refill my bottles. For anyone interested, there is a culture center in Deep Cove, has a great public bathroom, not concern of sneaking into Starbucks or restaurants.


68km – I’ve realized my long ride isn’t going to happen, 180km is unlikely, and getting home is going to be a struggle. I confess at the cost of my ego to the guys that I can no longer hold the pace we came out in (the devastation, my pride, oh God!).


Kevin and Facundo are leading me home, they’re helping me on my way. I no longer have to refer to them by nicknames, that Argentinean bastard is once more Facundo. The ride back is uneventful. Not all to much talking on my behalf, Kevin and Facundo ride ahead of me breaking the wind (hehehe, but really now, I was drafting well).


Passing through Stanley Park I decide that since I am not riding the Richmond loop, that maybe I will go for a run instead. Derek was eager to exercise today, writing an essay has that effect on people, so I agreed compromised the ride for a run. This probably wasn’t the best idea. I’m now passing through Vancouver and I’m fading fast, sucking back Power gels so close to home, I’ve never done this before. But this time wasn’t for pleasure, it was necessity, without them I was going to bonk hard. Facundo turns off at his house and Kevin rides back with me up Dunbar. I’m at 97km. Almost there.

Riding up Dunbar I am holding a measly 12kph, my normal pace is to big gear it up at 25-30kph. This hurts. I crawl back to my place and consume as much sugars and fats as I can. Lilia, I ate 11 of your cookies, delicious!


20-minute recuperation and I was feeling good. I know I had avoided catastrophy. I hop back on my bike and ride out to meet Derek at UBC. This was going to be an epic brick workout.


Now before I describe my run, WHAT WAS I THINKING? GOING FOR A RUN WITH A GOOD RUNNER ON FRESH LEGS. I’m an idiot.


The run was really good actually, it was 1:30 PM and the sun was at its strongest, running into the woods we take refuge from the sun. I’m feeling good, we are holding a steady pace. And roughly 45 minutes and 10k later we arrive back at Dereks. Day complete. I stumble back onto my bike and make my way home to spend the rest of the day eating and Napping.


Thanks for reading.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

300km in 24 Hours.

In a strategy I have used many times over the years, I am going to try foolishly and "Bank" training tomorrow.

On Wednesday morning I am leaving for my cottage in Nova Scotia, and sadly, have decided not to bring my bike. 

As a result of this decision I need to get the most out of my bike training before I leave, when I get back I will only have 2 weeks until the Vancouver triathlon to find my biking legs again.

The training I have proposed isn't actually all that adventuresome. The 300km started today with a 90k ride up Mt Seymore, I took it fairly easy because I was a little apprehensive about my rides tomorrow. Tomorrows ride will be a loop of the North Shore with Kevin, Facundo, and Derek, upon completion, if I have any takers, they will accompany me for a loops around Richmond. 

At this point I plan on doing mainly all flat riding, so unless the others really want to ride Seymore or Cypress, it should be a fairly easy day, despite the distance.

If I get this done it will be A) My longest ride ever (Previous 165k), and B) my most intense two days coming it at just under 300km.

For a very rough idea of the route I've mapped it out here which has mileage, or you can get a general ideal just by looking at the picture. (Notice it says 185km, well thats because I wasn't following the road very accurately, I'll have a more exact number tomorrow.

I in my infinite wisdom tonight didn't think about what this task I was taking on would mean, and the realization that I may want to carb load prior to a 6-7 hour training day never crossed my mind. So there I was at 10PM preparing pasta which I just finished eating. Lets hope that cuts it!

Anyways, this was a pretty crummy post, I apologize for that, writing about predictions and such is never all that exciting for a training day.

The difficulty won't be the distance as much as I think it will be the speed.

Nike came out with this commercial not too sure how long ago. I don't have a TV so its new to me. I just think its amazing

Also, if you enjoyed that, you can go to the Nike Website and check out the names of all the athletes that are seen along with a little blurb about each of them. Steve Prefontaine, Lance Armstrong, and John McEnroe what more can you need!

When I am out there tomorrow hurting and wanting to cut the route short (fortunately/unfortunately this is an option quite frequently on my ride) I will just think about this commercial and motivate myself to push harder and keep on going.

Wish me luck!