The Little Things
Swim, bike, run. In the world of triathlon, it may seem as if nothing besides mastering these three sports matters. Endless laps, seat time and miles will condition you to transform your health, cross the finish line and also impress your friends on Strava feed. However, when it comes to triathlon training, there exist aspects often overlooked that are crucial to executing a strong race. Training for your transitions, learning and practicing bike repair, implementing your hydration and nutrition plan during training, implementing a mental strategy during training, strength and conditioning, and preparing your special needs bags for race day. My fifth month of Ironman training brought bike repair practice and special needs bag preparation to mind as my swim, bike and run training miles keep rising.
Having had some days in the 60's along with days in the 20's this past month, going from indoor to outdoor called for more frequent "bike washes". Removing grit, dirt and road salt from the more sensitive areas on the bike and lubing the chain on Wednesdays and Sundays keeps the bike running smooth and without any unnecessary friction.
Consider scheduling a tube change session into your long ride once a month to simulate a flat and to experience putting your chain back on. The simulation, with practice, will decrease your flat changing time and will eliminate having to be dependent of the support and gear (SAG) vehicle. Simulating a flat can certainly be done indoors in a comfortable setting, but doing it outdoors will give you a more authentic experience closer to that of race day. If you don't know how to change a flat, view this video from the BegginnerTriathlete forum to get familiar with the process. If you have an REI store near you, they often hold bike repair classes for a very low cost. REI's classes allow you to bring your own bike to learn and practice several aspects of bike repair beyond changing a flat. Alternatively, your local friendly bike shop staff may be able to show you how to replace a tire if they're not too busy and have the extra staff.
Simulating a flat: Pull over somewhere SAFE during your ride, completely deflate your tire (front tire for beginners), yell some expletives to get in the mindset (optional), and get to it. Time yourself and log it. If you use a stopwatch/bike computer, mark it as a lap just before you come to a complete stop so you can easily refer back and measure progress after your ride. Safely and carefully pull your chain off, get it back on. Experience it. Keep your tube! It's still good to use as a backup. Ride on.
If this sounds like an awful way to spend your long ride on a Sunday morning with your riding buddies or solo, it is. It should be. Getting a flat on race day is exponentially worse when you have no idea what to do and you're sitting on the curb waiting for the SAG vehicle, kicking yourself. However, when a flat does happen, you'll be prepared and you'll be happily on your way in a few minutes.
Note: Practicing a rear-wheel flat simulation isn't difficult, it just involves a few extra steps. See this video to get familiar with the process.
Special Needs Bags
Two special needs bags are provided to triathletes racing the full 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run. One bag is available to the triathlete at the 56 mile marker of the bike and the second bag is available to the triathlete at the 13.1 mile marker of the run. Although the bike and run course's aid stations provide triathletes with gatorade, water and other nutritional items, triathletes can pack extra nutrition, tools, motivation, etc. in these special needs bags in case their onboard supplies run low, run out, or the aid stations don't offer exactly what they're in need of.
My Bike Special Needs:
- Every tool I already have onboard along with two extra bike tubes.
- Extra UCAN SuperStarch (liquid calories) in case something happens to the mix I have onboard.
- Picture of loved ones for motivation!
- Electrolyte/Salt Tabs
- Two frozen bottles of a high sodium drink. Considering chicken broth, seeking alternatives.
- Bandaids (blisters)
My Run Special Needs:
- Fresh socks (if it rains)
- Long sleeve T
- More bandaids (blisters)
- More pictures of loved ones for motivation!
- Electrolyte/Salt Tabs
- Lara Bar
When it comes down to it, my ideal race doesn't have me needing to reach for my special needs bags. If my hydration and nutrition plan are on point, my gear functions without any issues and my mental game is on point, a simple "thanks, but no thanks!" to the volunteer whose job it is to ask me if I want my special needs bag or not will be sufficient.
Heading into month 6, I'm eager to manage a few small injuries that have begun to surface in the past week. One injury (knee) coincidentally has me writing this blog post as opposed to being able to finish my 50 miler today. It's all part of the game and I'd rather train smart... so bring on the yoga!