It’s so subjective. When is something uncomfortable and when does it become painful? I’m not going to answer that because I can’t. It’s too subjective.
But I do know that there are several tricks people use to push through pain so they can reach some goal. One trick that works for me may not work for you so I’m not about to offer advice. In episode 13 of the TriRiot webshow, I talk about pain. I also talk about it with two other age group triathletes.
This week’s Speed Tips starts off with advice on finding your bike. Many people have never seen a triathlon transition area, so let me describe one: Chaos. There are people running every direction in an area the size of a football field that is jamb packed with bikes. It can be a bit crazy, but if you forgot your bike’s location, it can be a nightmare.
I’m exaggerating a bit, because bikes are normally racked in numerical order corresponding to each athlete’s race number. However,I don’t want to slow down to look for my bike.
The obvious solution is to spend a little time getting to know the layout of the transition area. And that’s exactly what I do. I see a lot of other athletes doing it too. You can always tell who they are. They’re the ones slowly running from one end of transition to the other before the race with very concentrated looks on their faces.
Check back each day for the next 10 week days for a new Speed Tip.
Just like the socks I talked about in the last post and video, I don’t want to spend time putting on my bike shoes in the transition area. This is something a lot of athletes avoid by clipping their shoes on to the bike before starting the race. Some people just let the shoes dangle from the pedals. Mine would scrape the ground if I did that, so I tie the heel of each shoe to the bike frame with rubber bands.
The idea here is that I can slip my feet into the shoes as I’m riding. Then when I start pedalling, the rubber bands will break. I’ve been doing it this way for a long time and it’s worked pretty well.
The one time it didn’t work well was in the Chicago Triathlon of 2009. I had just started clipping the shoes and didn’t have enough practice. I ran the length of the transition area (it’s really really long in Chicago) with bare feet. That part was OK. I mounted the bike pretty well and slipped my left foot into the left shoe. That part was OK. Then I tried to slip my right foot into the right shoe, but my foot slipped off, the rubber band broke and the heel of the shoe flipped around hitting the ground. This almost caused me to wreck and I was to scared to try again, so I rode the remainder of that race with one foot clipped to the bike and the other foot unclipped.
That was just the sprint race. Later that morning I was in the International race. I didn’t clip the shoes for that race!
What I did, however, was practice at home. And it has definitely paid off.
In a triathlon transition, the two slowest activities are pulling off the wetsuit and putting on socks. I’ll talk about the wetsuit in a later blog post and video. Actually, sleeping is a pretty big time killer too. I know someone who dozed off in in an Ironman transition for about 45 minutes.
In this video, I only cover my rules for socks on the bike…I NEVER WEAR SOCKS on the bike. You can imagine how much time I save by not messing with socks.
My list of sock rules for the run is a bit longer and I’ll have a Speed Tip video about that later. But here’s my run sock rule list:
Never wear socks for 10k and shorter runs.
Carry socks on number belt for long course runs (13.1 mi.). Start out barefoot and change into socks at a rest stop. I do this because I’m going to stop anyway around mile 6 to stretch and refocus my mind.
For ultra course runs (26.2mi.), just skip the socks and shoes altogether. Just kidding. I slap on a pair of socks in transition and carry a pair with me on the number belt. I also have a pair of socks stashed away in my special needs bag at mile 13.1. Dry socks feel so good on wet, tired, sore feet.
My feet are kind of tough, so this works for me. It might not work so well for people with sensitive or blister prone feet.
Oh come on! How many ways can you rack a bike? Really?
I know it sounds simple, but in a typical transition area there are three different ways that bikes are commonly racked. For me, one of those methods is faster than the others. The first Speed Tip explains why I rack my bike the way I do. The type of bike rack I’m thinking of is a simple, horizontal metal tube on which bikes are hung. There are other types of racks, but that one is, by far, the most common.
This isn’t so much about triathlon or endurance sports or an active lifestyle. It’s more about my frustration as a body in front of the camera. I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY. TriRiot is scripted… sort of . When I’m talking like the guy who thinks he’s an expert but really isn’t, that’s scripted. Usually, the stuff outside the studio isn’t scripted.
When I’m driving in my car to work (40 minutes of quality windshield time), I talk to myself and the words just roll out like a hunchback doing somersaults. But, in front of the camera my mind goes blank and I sound like that attorney from the movie, “My Cousin Vinny.”
Here’s a YouTube clip of that scene in case you don’t remember him.
Yeah. Funny stuff. In fact, you might want to watch more of that than finish reading this blog post.
Forget I wrote that. Just keep reading.
It’s OK to Think. Just Don’t Overthink (for too long)
My point, if there’s one to be had here, is that I get in my own way. When I overthink things, I tend to lock up and perform poorly. The same goes for my racing and training. Just this morning I was swimming along in Banks Channel. It was a beautiful morning, my stroke felt good, the water was calm… it was a scene right out of a Halmark movie. About halfway through the swim, I started thinking about something I had heard the night before. It had to do with the importance of getting the leading arm stretched way out in front and becoming more hydrodynamic. I started thinking about my body position and trying to stretch out as much as possible. Right then my swim slowed to a crawl and I felt awkward. I couldn’t get out of that feeling and back into Halmark for the rest of the swim.
So here’s the real point: I’m not concerned, because I know it will work itself out and I’ll be better than before. Same with talking to the camera. It’s just how things work. We may be good at something, but to get better, we have to see ourselves differently which may cause a lot of frustration. And we have to keep practicing. Coming out the other side of that frustration is what is called growth. Believe me. I’m a doctor. (Don’t ask me for prescription drugs or tell me about your hemorrhoids, because I’m not THAT kind of doctor)
Before I explain about my Power Tap… what’s up with “up?” As in “acting up.” We all know what it means to “act up,” right? What’s the opposite? Acting down? Gotta love the English language, even when it defies common sense. But what’s common sense, really? Nevermind. This is not a philosophy lecture. Sorry.
So my Power Tap was acting strange last week. Power Tap is a brand of power meter on my bike. It measures how much energy I produce in watts or joules. It suddenly stopped displaying my watts the other day while I was spinning in my house.
I plan my workouts by that thing. It’s my coach when coach Sami isn’t hovering over me telling me what to do. I felt lost. I didn’t know what to do. How was I going to attain my target of 200 watts for 5 minutes if I had no measurement of watts?
I didn’t know what to do, so I just kept pedaling: aimlessly pedaling. For some time there was no focus in that workout and only the sound of the wheel spinning against the tension spindle. But, after a little while, my legs started to talk to me. It wasn’t obvious at first, because they speak a different language. After several attempts of trying to get my attention, I heard them say I was going to slow. Then my knees spoke up and said I was mashing the pedals, to which the feet agreed. My stomach was no help. It just kept asking for solid food. It was starting to get noisy with all that conversation. I realized that I had trained so much over the last eight years that my body knew what to do. All I had to do was listen to it.
I don’t know what kind of power I put out in that workout, but one thing is for sure. I felt like I had a great workout. Is it possible that we can listen to our bodies and know what to do rather than rely solely on numbers? I’ve always thought so, and this workout just reinforced that idea.
I have a video that touches this subject. It’s based on a Tweet that I read by the well-known triathlon coach, Brett Sutton. Click here for that video.
I can’t think of anyone who does. Don’t worry. I’m not going to go into a tirade about how everyone should practice their transitions as much as they train for the swim, bike and run.
I just want to be good at something and transition is my thing. Of the three main disciplines, swimming is usually my highest ranking. I usually start out each race by getting out of the water in 3rd or 4th place (w/in my age group). It all goes downhill from there. I’m working on the bike and run, but it will be a while before I get good enough to keep that ranking throughout a race. So in the meantime, I pride myself on having a fast transition.
But having a fast transition is not enough for me.
I want to share what I know with others in case someone out there is struggling to shave off a few seconds from their race times. It’s not like I’m feeding the homeless or giving a lot of money to charity. But it’s my way of giving back to a great sport that makes me feel like I can live without limits.
When it comes to triathlon, I’m really good at two things: T1 and T2 also known as transition. Actually I’m pretty darn good at the whole sport. I’m just not fast. If that makes sense to you then you’re as twisted as I am. 🙂
What I’m trying to say is that my transitions are really quite fast. I’m usually ranked in the top 5 for swim to bike and bike to run transitions. Because of that, I often get asked how I do it. For those who want to know how I get my transitions so fast, I am working on a series of videos called Speed Tips. I was going to call it Tri Tips but that’s also the name of a cut of beef and I don’t want to upset the Outback Steakhouse chefs who accidentally come to my site looking for recipes.
Anyway, the videos will be published on the TriRiot channel as very short tutorials (about 2 minutes). If you’re looking to improve your race time, sign up for the email newsletter to be sure that you get notified when new videos are published.
Each year during the summer, my friends and I swim in the channel that runs along the town of Wrightsville Beach. We do this about once or twice a week. Some years we swim more often and some years less. In addition to the channel, we usually swim a day each week at the YMCA.
This year, however, has been different. Ever since the big fire at the
Wilmington Family YMCA, I have only been swimming twice. Both times were in competition, which means my swim strength has suffered.
So I was really really glad to get into the open water this morning. There’s nothing quite like starting your day swimming in the open water with friends and watching the sun rise. Nick, Terry, DJ and I started out about 6:30am and finished around 7:00am. It was just what I needed. And we weren’t the only ones out there. Several groups were enjoying it as much as we were. Even Coach Sami had a group in the channel.
Even though humans are terrestrial beings, there’s something about swimming in the open water that is so natural and rejuvenating.