Tuesday, August 07, 2007

My $.02: Race Week Addendum

Okay, first, an addendum, inspired by some things T-Storm pointed out in his comment on the last $.02 post. I'm an idiot for forgetting a few really crucial points about Race Week.

You take your bike in to check-in on Saturday, the day before the race. You have all day to do it, but I suggest getting it over with early. Hopefully you'll have had a chance on Friday to ride your bike one last time - remember it's not a workout, it's just a final-adjustments ride. Make sure everything is as you expect it to be. Shifting is going okay, chain feels good, all is well. If you haven't yet, get your bike into a shop now for a once-over, and if you're riding on a two year old chain, now would be a good time to have the shop have a look and make sure it's in good shape. Don't do anything out of the ordinary with your bike the day before you check it in - a little lube on the chain and a quick once-over to feel good about it. I also suggest you check your brake pads - the IMWI course is a hilly one, and especially if it's at all slick, you could be riding your brakes a lot.

All of that said - Saturday morning, make sure your bike is in an easy gear to get out of transition; you won't be on it again until you pick it up after the swim on race day. The first thing you do on your bike, of course, is cruise down the helix, so keep that in mind as you find the gear you like, but you'll be braking the whole way down the helix, so you want to find that gear that lets you get organized and efficient as quickly as possible.

The reason I liked to get my bike in early was first, to clear my head of the one chore I had to do that day, and two, to get it out of my world. I got really obsessive about techincal issues on my bike - so that the week before I quickly learned how to, and purchased a small chain repair tool to have with me on the bike. I didn't want some stupid technical snafu to derail all my hard work, so I over-prepared. I don't necessarily suggest this - I went a little overboard. I had tires, tube, and CO2 strapped to my bike, and even more of the same in my special needs bag. This is something I personally need to get a grip on before '09, but you should be mindful of the things you'll want and need with you, and don't be afraid to pack some extra in your special needs bag if it gives you peace of mind.

You do not - I repeat you DO NOT - need to load your bike up with 4 cages and 2 Bento Boxes and 24 gels. The course is very well fortified, and you'll almost always have some left in your water or gatorade bottle when you exchange for a fresh one. The course is full of gels, gatorade, water, bananas, the works. The caveat to all of that is if you haven't been training with Gatorade Endurance formula, and instead have been using Perpetuem or Infinit or whatever - then you're on your own, and you probably have a plan worked out. Also, if it's insanely hot, you might want to manage a way to carry some extra fluids with you. But remember that any extra weight you carry has to come uphill with you. Stick to the nutrition plan you've devised, but trust the course to take care of gatorade, water, and gels. The double-edge of that sword is - don't suddenly pig out on bananas at every aid station unless you've been training by pigging out on bananas.

If you ride with socks, like I do, then I suggest a fresh pair in your special needs bag on the bike. Even if it's not raining, taking 2 minutes to put on a fresh pair can totally invigorate you. If it is raining...well last year, for the two minutes I was riding with fresh socks before they got soaked again, I have never known such luxury and it really boosted my spirits (small, simple things will mean the world during the race that is Ironman). Your special needs bag is also the place for any back-up technical gear (as I mentioned), and any special treats - I trained with a PB&J on (almost burnt) toast that I'd stop and eat at 56 miles, and so I had one packed up in my special needs bag. Besides the extra energy, it was a welcome break from the Gatorade and Clif Bars that otherwise fueled my ride. You might also put in some special motivators here at special needs - a picture of loved ones, or a trinket or token that means something to you, to remember your team that's cheering you on or inspire you in some way.

While your special needs bags will come with you race-day morning, you'll bring in your transition bags with you on Saturday, and you'll check those in the same time you do your bike. This means Friday, besides being your big carb meal, you should not make any major evening plans. Get back to your room with plenty of evening left to plug in your iPod or whatever your personal routine is, and enjoy getting your stuff organized, feeling like you have plenty of time. I spread everything out head to toe so I could see what I'd be wearing, down to my fuel belts, hats, socks, the works. You will have access to your transition bags race morning, so don't sweat it if you forget something or want to make a change after you've brought in your transition bags, but now is the time to get everything packed up and organized. Another note on over-packing; in '09, I will not be bringing a fuel belt or gels with me on the run, which I did and ultimately just ended up taking off and tossing to Amy in '06, because I got annoyed with its uselessness. The aid stations on the run are really awesome, and fortified with just about everything you could imagine, from fruit to fig newtons to sweets to chicken broth. No need cluttering up the airwaves with more stuff than you need to think about. The day is crazy enough already.

A tip to share for your transition bags - pack a small, easily foldable duffle bag in with one of them if you can, or bring it with you to toss in the bag on race-day morning. You'll appreciate being able to toss your stuff into it to take it home after the race, instead of having to haul 2 flimsy bags and a wetsuit around.

Okay, so - everything packed up and ready to go, head over in the morning and check in your stuff. Get it out of your hair. It's a little un-nerving to hand off your stuff, especially your bike if you're emotionally connected to it. Don't worry, you'll see it again soon, and you can always come back in the afternoon if you suddenly remembered something. But once you've dealt with the bike and bags, your day is yours to rest and mentally prepare - no tasks to do or deadlines left to meet. Ironman is 80% mental, and in my opinion even how you approach the task-managing of Ironman will affect your race; if you're last-minute with everything, or feeling un-nerved because you didn't give yourself enough time, I promise it will come back to you on the course. If you do your best to be well prepared, organized, and being proactive instead of reactive, even in terms of your race-week schedule, that will carry over with you during the race.

Okay - I'm off for a ride, but hopefully tonight I can get back to The Swim, if only because Erin is patiently waiting!


T-Storms said...

Wow! Great job with your details. Very informational. Didn't mean to indicate you were missing anything in your previous post. All your info is right on.

xt4 said...

No worries T-Storms, you were right on with your suggestion; I just totally blanked out on the bike and T-bags part, which is pretty important, I think! So thanks for sharing your thoughts!