Success in triathlon is all about successfully carrying out a set of well-orchestrated tasks, in a specific sequence. Whether you’re one of the professional elite, or whether you’re an enthusiastic age-grouper, it’s all the same. Flawless execution of a race plan is what we strive for.
Of course, flawless execution is only half the battle. Triathlon is as much about going through the physical actions, as it is about the mental discipline and preparation. Leading up to the race, I spent a fair amount of time, creating a race plan. Well, I can’t really call it a plan, because it It became more of an over-analytical checklist than anything, and landed as something of a race visualization guide. I wrote my checklist, choosing words which created a mental and emotional picture of each step in the process.
So, while my splits (except perhaps for my T1 and T2 times) don’t come close to world-class, my performance in Victoria was a near-flawless execution of my race plan. It was a successful race, in my books. By the numbers:
I don’t think I’d normally include a comment about the package pick-up as part of a race report, but in this case, I must. I felt that the organizers were more interested in making sure we all knew that the race was Ironman™-branded, than actually giving us useful information. Especially for those of us racing the short course events. The process of finding my race number, and making sure all the forms were filled out, was very disorganized. Upon arriving at the athlete registration tent, I was told, “Go there first, and then come back.” There was a small tent, crammed full of athletes trying to figure out their race numbers and which forms they needed to fill out. It was as much a melée as a mass swim start. Nevertheless, we were all able to figure it out. But it wasn’t a great first introduction to the race experience, and in all honesty, I wasn’t mentally prepared to deal with it. Fortunately (and I’m getting ahead of myself), the night’s sleep would help.
Once I had my race package, I went back to the car for my bike. This is where the execution of my race plan begins. This is the last chance I’ll have to make sure everything is in good shape before leaving my bike in the transition area overnight.
- Race number goes on the bike.
- Check that wheels are installed with quick-release levers at an appropriate tension.
- Check that brakes are well-aligned, and I didn’t forget to tighten the little screws on the brake pads.
- Get air in the tires.
- Take a quick spin to make sure everything is still in sound mechanical order.
- Make sure the gears shift smoothly and correctly.
- Choose an easy or appropriate gear for the start of the bike course (in this case, a short flat and a slight uphill grade).
After a successful test ride, I took my bike into the transition area. I’m familiar with transition areas, and how little space is normally available. I know to only bring the absolute necessities into transition. But, when I found my race number on the rack, I wasn’t quite prepared for this. What I found, was a clearance of at best 15cm to the bikes on either side of mine. Not to mention, those stupid short racks that simply don’t work with my 58cm tri bike frame. Fortunately, I hadn’t removed my rear bottle cages (as I have sometimes done in the past for a sprint distance), so I racked my bike off the rear of my saddle, so I’d be able to simply lift it out of the rack in T1.
I left transition, after trying to make sure that the adjacent bikes wouldn’t rub their icky metallic grossness on my carbon. But I couldn’t quite shake the worry about being able to get my bike out and back in to transition without trouble.
Hotel Check-In and Dinner
Once the logistics were taken care of at the race site, it was off to the hotel to relax and get some food in. We went to the hotel restaurant. At this point, it’s worth noting that the adage, Never try anything new on race day, should be extended out to at least one day before the race. This is all I will say about my pre-race dinner.
And then, after a suitable amount of time spent doing as little as possible, it was bedtime. I set my alarm for some ungodly hour, and turned out the lights.
Setting up transition always seems to take me longer than it should. But I think I’m getting the hang of it. When I got into transition, everything was like clockwork. I set down my backpack, and went through it like a checklist, starting with the bike.
- Aero bottle on handlebars.
- Elbow pads on aero bars.
- Bike shoes un-velcroed and clipped into pedals, with elastic bands.
- Spare tubes and repair kit in one of the rear bottle cages.
- CO2 and inflator attached to rear of bottle cages.
- Gel taped to top tube.
- Helmet ratchet loosened.
- Helmet placed beside front wheel.
- Sunglasses, with arms out, inside helmet.
- Garmin mounted to bike, in Auto Multisport mode.
Then the run:
- Race belt in hat
- Hat behind bike helmet
- Bodyglide rubbed on shoes (inside edge of heel)
- Shoes on top of hat
And finally, the swim:
- Anti-fog applied to goggles
- Swim cap and goggles in back pocket of tri top
- Post-swim gel in back pocket of tri top
Once all my stuff was in the right place, I visualized all of the critical stages of the race. I wasn’t really going through a checklist at this point; rather, drawing on my past race experiences. And yes, everything was where it needed to be for my race plan. My race day went perfectly. While I didn’t win (nor even come close), I executed on my plan almost flawlessly.