Lost in Transition

Ironman Coeur d’Alene is now less than five weeks away and as much as I try to avoid it, I’ve gotten a little obsessive about the upcoming race.

A friend of mine posed the question if one could just do Ironman for fun. And, unless you are independently wealthy, I think the answer is no. I think if you are going to do a race for ‘fun,’ it really means that you are doing the race on a whim. For the average Ironman racer, you have to sign up close to a year and then in order to get yourself to the finish line in under 17 hours, you have to put in some training. Even if you are in the back of the pack, I think you are racing for more than just fun, whether it is reaching for a PR or to prove that you can do it. Racing Ironman can get extremely personal and there are some incredible stories out there.

So, indulge me for a bit and let me obsess. Going over my 13th place finish last year, I’ve looked at all the numbers over and over so I am very familiar with what it will take to reach the goals I have for myself this year. It’s funny, because the transitions give me the most anxiety of all.

I’m a bit of a dawdler and I’m clumsy.  These are not character traits you want as a triathlete as they have always made my transition times have always been slow. Even as I’ve edited my process down to the bare minimum, I’m still as fast as molasses.

Last year, I raced Ironman to finish and to do the best I could. I was surprised I finished so well in my age group which was just icing on the cake. My transition approach was to be quick, but to take action needed to stay comfortable throughout the day. That meant using the porty-potty, reapplying sunscreen, wiping the crusted sweat off my face, putting on clean socks and powdering my toes to avoid blisters. TICK. TOCK.

My recent realization is that had I simplified my transitions, I would have actually been 12th!! That’s right. In a race that is hours and hours long, I lost a placing to my poky transition process.

I will not let that happen this year! Any clever suggestions to make this process faster for me are more than welcome and appreciated. (An all-day, sweatproof, waterproof, lanolin-free sunscreen??) I kind of wish Kevin didn’t have a zoom lens for his camera, because its not going to to be pretty and I will not be racing to look good in photos. When I cut out the creature comforts, I might look like a 3-year old toddler after a long day—ratty hair, caked snot under my nostrils, a sports drink mustache in the corners and on the upper lip of my mouth, and temples crusted with sweated-out salt mixed with dirt. Hot. It’s amazing that I’m not single, right? Ironman is definitely not a hygienic sport.

But no matter what happens on race day, I guarantee I will have a giant grin on my face when I cross that finish line and hopefully hear my name followed by ‘YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!’

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Lost in Transition

  1. I agree with your analysis of Ironman not being exactly for fun. I have done local half-iron distance races purely for fun (say registration is $195-250 or so, it’s still quite a lot of dollars, but no other associated expenses re: travel/lodging), but the full-Iron seems to take over the imagination in a more profound way. I am a slow but serious amateur triathlete!

    I have never really worked on faster transitions, I’m usually not worried about losing a few extra minutes – but I think that they are worth really PRACTICING – you can keep all the bits of the routine that you are wedded to but speed them up by doing them over and over again. If you are blister-prone, it may be that the powder is worth it, but I am just going to put bodyglide on my feet at the start of the day and hope for the best. Won’t plan on changing socks in T2, though I’ll have a pair in run special needs, I think. Also, I hate to say it- but make sure you pee while you’re still swimming!!!

    • carlsincharge says:

      I am hoping to practice transitions more when I start tapering, that and flat tire changing! I am also trying out some different products as well. Hopefully I can avoid last year’s big snafu of rushing to put on sunscreen, then getting it into my eyes or trusting the wetsuit strippers and having my enormous Garmin watch get caught for a couple minutes on the sleeve. I probably also won’t be able to stop shaking from the adrenaline from when I get out of the water. It is hard to put on shoes when you are having an internal bodyquake. I can’t decide if I should wear socks on the bike and leave them on for the run or go sockless and put them on in T2. I’m afraid of my toes getting too cold on the bike. See, all sorts of anxiety. Oh, and I also hate to say it, but I plan on peeing a lot in my wetsuit while swimming, just like I did last year. I try not to think about others doing it, but that is definitely incentive to not take in too much lake water!

      • I vote for sockless on the bike and good running socks in T2.

        I also definitely favor the simplicity notion for transitions. As I have done more half-IM races I have definitely pared things down in a useful way. (Though the last one I did, I was asking 2 fast guys who had finished their run already, “What am I forgetting?” And they pointed out that I should move my ankle strap up above the sock as it already had noticeably chafed! And then suggested, very nicely, that I might also tie my running shoes before setting off!…) Gotta sit down and really think this through – but I think I am wearing a belt with a good pouch for the run and will have it entirely prepacked with what’s needed there, ditto nutrition on bike. Only thing I really must make sure I do not lose track of is the asthma inhaler, which I think I will zip into the pocket in the bike jersey, and another one in the run belt so that I do not end up without one…

      • carlsincharge says:

        I practiced on my 3-hour Sunday ride without socks. My feet were fine, but it was still too cold to not wear shoe covers. It was only 57 degrees and that is too cold for tri-specific shoes without any covers! Actually, we have only had 1 whole day this year where the temperature high reached 70. I’m envious of your heat training! It looks like I might be able to eliminate socks for T1. I am going over my transitions with my coach this weekend so I hope that helps eliminate some anxiety. I will carry a fuel belt with liquid calories and shot blocks that will be full and I can just grab it and go.. I am also learning how to change a tubular tire! Last year, I got soooo lucky. I made it through the ride fine, but when I pulled my bike out of transition after the race was over, my back tire was completely flat. I rode clinchers last year, and I could have changed it, but my new wheels are a mystery to me.

  2. danieljtomko says:

    On the Ironman for fun thing, I see what you mean, but also disagree. To put that much time, energy, money, etc into anything, it’s got to be fun, right? For some definition of fun anyway. And come on, Ironman really IS fun. It’s the only sport I know of that nearly anyone can do (if they put in the effort) and then participate on a big stage with screaming fans. Not to mention that swimming, cycling, and running are all just a blast.

    On faster transitions: My recommendation is to have as little in the bags as possible. In the chaos of the change tents, so many things can go wrong and it’s not worth the risk. If you can, leave all of your nutrition, etc on your bike. If the weather is decent, the only stuff you NEED in your T1 bag is your helmet, sunglasses, race number and bike shoes. (Don’t get me started about not allowing shoes to be left on your bike.) If the weather is bad, you might have a jacket or extra jersey in the bag, but anything else is extra and will slow you down. Put your helmet and glasses on, stuff your swim gear in, and run barefoot to your bike. Put the shoes on there so you don’t have to run in them (dangerous at CdA on those basketball courts).

    In your T2 bag, all you need are shoes and socks. Optionally, leave an extra race number there in case the first one is lost. Keep it simple! Leave your shoes on your bike as you approach the dismount line. Take your helmet off as you run toward the bags. There really isn’t much else to do, right?

    If you do need to leave some extra stuff in your bags that will go in your pockets, try rubber banding things together. Make sure that it’s only one thing to grab. If it’s important do what you can to make sure it won’t be left to chance. 🙂 Just my .02.

    -Daniel (who’s first IM was completely derailed by a mistake in T1)

  3. carlsincharge says:

    Don’t get me wrong. I think Ironman is fun! The whole thing is a bit surreal and wonderful all at the same time and I find a lot of enjoyment in it. I participate in triathlon because I think it IS fun, but I don’t think you really enter an Ironman ‘FOR fun.’ There is a separation there for me.

    I know I need to make it more simple. I haven’t mastered the shoes-stay-on-bike dismount but have fallen a few times practicing. Again, clu-tzz-eee. I’m hoping to have mastered this by August, but I don’t know if I should risk running with bloody hands and knees for a few extra seconds. I already leave bike nutrition on my bike. And, T2 was my potty stop last year. I tried to pee on my bike as a game-time decision, believe me, it was an honest effort, but I just couldn’t do it.

    I love the rubber band idea! I’m trying to think what I carry that I would need that for. I find that I breeze through aid stations much faster if I have a fuel belt on, so that will be in my T2 bag and already packed with all my necessary nutrition. I just grabbed that last year and put it on while moving out of transition.

    Best of luck at Honu next weekend! I can’t believe it is already here!!

  4. Jessi says:

    Since I was the friend who posted the status about doing an IM for fun, allow me to elaborate. 🙂
    I used to be very serious about triathlons. Every race I entered was A BIG DEAL (to me). I wanted to do really well and go as fast as I possibly could. To be honest, it was draining and stressful and eventually I burned out.
    Then I had a baby.
    Now I’m back to training, and planning on doing a couple of long bike “events” (not races, just rides). And I’m really EXCITED about these rides – there’s no pressure, it’s just for fun. Which made think, could I do an IM with the same mindset? The goal for the day would be to enjoy being active, enjoy new scenery, and set a good example for my baby girl.

    I think I could build the swim fitness relatively quickly, particularly if I don’t care how fast I go. I will already have the bike fitness. I just need to build my run – and I know from experience that you don’t need to log big miles to complete the IM run. (I was injured before my last IM and did minimal running going into it).
    It won’t be fast and it won’t be pretty, but I think it could be done.

    All that said, I still really don’t know. IMs, by their very nature, aren’t exactly fun. They are painful. You need to have some pretty compelling reasons to dig deep and finish the damn thing. Hence my question on Facebook: is it really possible to do one just for fun?

    • carlsincharge says:

      Haha. You caught me using your post as a blog idea. I thought it was a really good question and thought quite a bit about it. Even if you were doing an Ironman at a slower pace, I just can’t imagine Ironman not being a big deal. It is such a long day that takes so much energy and planning to get ready. I think you can have different goals, like being a good example for your amazingly beautiful daughter, but I think that even serves a greater purpose that just ‘fun.’ I know motherhood has inspired a lot of friends to get active if they weren’t before to be good examples. I’d love to see you do another one! Oh, and come back to bike racing.

      I am also REALLY happy to hear that you were able to do little run training and still were okay. I think my longest ‘run’ so far has been 5 miles since my injury. I keep thinking I’ll be okay, but I think deep down I know its going to hurt. A lot.

  5. Jessi says:

    p.s. Ways to have a faster transition: pee on the bike. Practice it if you must! I found it easiest to do going downhill, when I wasn’t pedaling, and I had to stand up while doing it.

    Also, practice your transitions so much that the thought of practicing transitions one more time makes you want to pull your hair out. And then do it again. 🙂 Time yourself.

    • carlsincharge says:

      I definitely tried to pee on my bike last year and just couldn’t do it. I tried several times—coasting on downhills and hovering—making sure I had already emptied the water bottle on my down tube. I will dedicate this weekend to practicing transitions and tire changing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s