Don’t Just Show Up

When planning your finances, you need to consider all the elements and situations that may impact the success of your plan. Will your children be attending college? What is your retirement age? Do you expect to switch careers in the near future? Are you planning on downsizing? Those are just a few questions to get you thinking as the smallest detail can make a significant difference.

The same process can be applied to preparing for a triathlon. You can’t just show up on race day without preparing and expect to have a stellar performance, especially when there are numerous details which can impact your triathlon performance. It takes time, research and practice in order to have a successful triathlon. Did you set your bike in a good location? Did you place your running shoes behind your biking gear? At the end of August, I wrote about several steps to prepare in the months and weeks preceding a triathlon event. I wanted to follow up with some pointers for the weekend of the race, especially some tips on mastering the transition.

blogtriathlonexpoEXPO DAY: Most Triathlons will have an Expo Day in the day preceding the race. At this event, you will pick up your race packet. The race packet will include your swim cap (the color of which will depend on the “race wave” in which you are assigned), your numbered race bib, stickers with your race number for your bike helmet and bike, your race chip and your race gift, which is usually an event shirt.

There will be a station to test your chip, which is important to do so that you know it is working for the race.

Also at the expo, there will be resident experts presenting on topics such as the course map and certain unique nuances of your race location. Lastly, but certainly not least, there will be shopping opportunities!!! Many vendors will be selling all kinds of merchandise related to swimming, biking or running usually at discounted prices.

TRANSITION AREA: If someone were to ask you what a triathlon was, most of us would describe the three sports — swimming, cycling and running — that make up the traditional triathlon and almost always occur in that order. And this would be correct, as far as it goes. But you’ll rarely see triathletes biking with their swimming caps or running in their bicycle cleats. Each triathlon has a special place called a transition area (and for the most part, there is only one such zone) where participants change gear and clothing and do anything else necessary before moving on to the next stage. Now, you might think this would be a good time to catch your breath, pop a candy bar or leisurely chat with the other athletes. If you’re doing the triathlon for fun or to just see if you can finish, then knock yourself out. In fact, first-time triathletes should be more concerned with getting familiar with the whole scene and enjoying the experience.

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But if you’re in it to win, the transition can easily make or break you — and the clock keeps on ticking. Moving between events in the most efficient way possible means you won’t have to make up that time on the bike or during the run, conserving energy for when you really need it.

According to statistics from the International Triathlon Union, the average time difference between the top two male triathletes in the first five events of 2010 was a narrow 6.6 seconds. For women, it was only 3.2 seconds. If you think for a moment about how long it takes to take a drink, put on some socks or eat a granola bar, you can begin to appreciate just how important the transition can be.

1. PREPARATION. The first element of any successful transition is preparation. Use a triathlon bag to stay organized and arrive early enough to set up properly. You will usually be able to set up your transition area (or at least your bike) the day of the Expo.

blogtransition2. LOCATION OF BIKE. In the transition area there will be literally hundreds of bike racks set up. Some races pre-assign a specific location to each athlete, but if allowed, choose a spot at the end of one of the racks. This will let you quickly locate your bike, give you more room to transition and help avoid destruction if the rack collapses from too much weight. If your bike does end up in the middle of a rack, carefully note the location so you won’t waste time searching for it later. I used to bring a large metallic balloon and tie it to the bike rack where I set up my transition area.

Hanging your bike by the front of the seat provides good stability and access. Place your helmet on your bike’s handlebars if it’s stable, with your sunglasses open and inside your helmet.

3. GEAR, TIRES & ODOMETER. Make sure your bike is in the right gear for starting the ride that the tires are properly inflated and wheels are aligned. If you have an odometer make sure the trip setting is reset to zero so you can track your bike race.

4. NUTRITION & WATER. Attach any nutrition packs to the bike with tape for easy access after you start the ride and make sure you have full water bottles in the water bottle holders.

5. TOWEL. Lay out a towel next to your bike with all the gear you’ll need for the entire race on it. Have separate sections of the towel for each leg of the race, with your biking gear in front.

6. SOCKS/SHOES. If you are wearing bike cleats make sure the Velcro is open and your socks are on top of your bike cleats. Place an extra water bottle here to rinse the dirt and grit off your feet after the swim so you don’t get blisters on the bike or run. Place your running shoes behind your biking gear and make sure your shoe laces are open, ready for easy access.

7. FINAL WALK THROUGH. Once you have set up your transition area, step back and take inventory of what you have to ensure that you have not forgotten a critical piece of equipment. It is also a good idea to take a dry run “walk through,” walking from the swim exit to your transition area to the bike entry area so that the day of the race the transitions can go smoothly. You will feel at least a bit disoriented when you exit the water and will want to locate your bike as quickly as possible in the sea of thousands of bikes. Upon feeling confident on your preparation, take it easy for the balance of the day, eat a great high carb meal and get a good night’s sleep.

As noted from the list above, from your helmet to your socks, each element needs to be planned out in order for your triathlon to be a success. I was able to accomplish my triathlon goal by planning each transition step carefully and thinking about everything that could possibly impact my performance. The same goes for planning your finances in the future. What are your retirement goals (needs, wishes, wants) and how are you going to reach them?

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