Monday, May 30, 2011

Triathlon Guide No. 1: What to take on race day (aka what not to forget)

Things have been quiet on the blogging front since the Frauenfeld Triathlon and to be honest I’ve been taking it way to easy, enjoying some of the finer things in life, like beer, pizza and cake…lot’s of cake, like this one…
and er, this one…
So, plenty of cake and only a paltry 5 hours training this week and 3 the week previous. All in all not really Ironman standard training numbers, especially seeing as I have the half Ironman distance Switzerland 70.30 in Rapperswil-Jona next weekend! 

However, this post wasn’t meant to be about training numbers and distances, I’m in desperate need of some organisation, and as the task is at hand I thought I would share with you the answers (or more specifically MY answers) to the question: what do I need to take with on race day.

As a wise man once said “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” and unlike some sports where you can simply turn up in your running shoes and forget every other piece of equipment you planned to take (gps watch, mp3 player, sunglasses, hat, water bottle etc…yes, I’ve done all of these things :- p) there are certain vital items in triathlon which can cause you so much trouble that they jeopardise you finishing the race. If you are a first timer then this may, hopefully, be very useful information I'm providing, any multiple finishers please look away now ;)

Firstly a disclaimer, I do not claim to be an expert and I definitely would not consider myself a veteran, the following information is from a very subjective point of view, and based on 2 plus years of triathlon experience, so please use it at your own risk ; – )

Let’s break it down. What type of triathlon is it, short, middle distance, long, Ironman? got an idea of the weather on the day of the race? are there changing facilities? is the swim indoors or in a lake or sea, questions like these are going to affect the decisions you make of what equipment and clothing you take.
My equipment for Ironman 70.3 Switzerland Rapperswil-Jona 2010

I’m not going to go into massive detail, because most of the items are self explanatory (if not leave a comment and I will gladly elaborate) and this blog post would become very tedious very quickly (if it hasn't already). Instead I will mention some of the items which I didn’t have around with me the first few times I raced and wished I had.
1. A big plastic container box

Imagine the scene, it’s a beautiful sunny day, you rack up in the transition, set out your running gear, bike shoes, towel to dry after the swim and you head out to the waters edge, the swim goes well and you're through transition 1 and out on the bike, then suddenly the skies begin to darken, crap, it’s now pissing down with rain, and after your 1/2/3/4/5/6 hours on the bike you get into transition 2, your shoes are soaked through, so is your towel, and not only that so are all your clean clothes and even though your bag is decent quality there is not one item which isn’t wet.

If you got all your things tucked up nicely in this plastic container, just pull out your dry running shoes, a fresh pair or socks, dry yourself down with a spare towel (makes sure you take one ;-)) and you’re on your way…knowing you have some dry fresh clothes to change into later.

Now, before you say, it’s only some rain and I’ll be ok, who needs to keep this stuff dry, I have seen people unable to continue after transition 2 due to the fact they were both freezing to death and not having any dry kit to change into. It can happen.

2. A floor pump
I was convinced I didn't need a floor pump, until I used one for the first time and realised it was almost impossible to get the correct pressure into my tires without one. Of course you can inflate the tires on the morning of a standard triathlon and head to the event, but what if something happens during the journey and you need to change the tubes?

3. Little bag of Inner tube replacement tools

Catching a flat during a race is the biggest pain in the ass, especially if you’re not prepared and have to free wheel it through the second lap while young children laugh at your misfortune (yep….don’t ask!)
Most cycle shops sell the items you can see above, first you have a small tool bag, it’s big enough to fit one inner tube (not shown above, obviously :- )), a set of tire levers (blue, red, one plastic bits), and a couple of c02 cartridges and an inflator bit (on the far right). If you are not one for changing a tire yourself you can find more information about using the levers here and use of the c02 cartridge here.

4. Small form factor hand pump

Ok, so, you got your little bag of tricks above, you get a flat, the c02 cartridge and inflator bit can be used to inflate your tire in super quick time..but you put the inflator and the cartridge together push on the tire value..and then…this happens (watch it all the way though)…

Now if Chrissie Wellington can make a mess of it anyone can, and even with another spare with you are you going to chance it? the c02 is going to give you the pressure in the tire that you arte looking for, but it’s risky, that’s why I would also take the smallest hand pump and strap it to your bike.


5. A Bike lock

yeah, it sounds stupid, and if I'm honest I don’t always take one to smaller one day events, but bikes get taken from Ironman events regularly, don't trust that the security at these events means your bike will not be take if you leave it in the transition area over night.

6. Lubrication…

I’m talking about lubrication for the race not for the evening after, ahem., this is a simple one, a body lubrication product is going to 1. stop chafing 2. make it a hell of a lot easier to get out of your wetsuit and 3. give a bit extra sun protection for the bike and run…..I’ve been using body glide..

I will spare you the details of some of the nasty rashes I have had when I forgot to use it, let’s just say it stung in some very personal areas for many a day after! It just works!

So there you go, and that’s just for starters, and if this has been of any help to you, I’ve placed my full inventory here, over the next week I'll be updating and adding a little bit more information to the spreadsheet as a reminder to why certain items are optional, if that sounds useful to you keep checking back!