So, a brief summary of what we covered (in case you forget anything and for those who couldn't come along)...
Make a checklist and do not mark anything off that list until it is safely packed in your car. A nicely packed bag is no use to you if you leave it at home... Sorry Ciara!
To give you an example, here's a typical checklist I have for bringing to a race:
TI Membership Card <- very important - if you forget this, you'll have to buy a 1-day license or you won't be allowed to race! Make sure you have put your photo on the card and that it is laminated - they will check it.
Cycling shoes (if you are using them)
Gloves? For shorter races I wouldn't bother, but if it's a cold day and/or a longer race, you might want the option.
Saddle Bag w/ spare tubes - optional, depends on the distance of the race and what your goals are.
Pump - make sure your tyres are up before the race, and bring a small one with you if you want to prepare for a potential puncture situation.
Tri-suit (or whatever you plan to wear during the race - remember not to expose your torso (or privates of course!!) during the race).
Goggles - you may want tinted ones if it's a sunny day
Swimming Caps - you'll get 1 at registration but you'll want one you're comfortable with under that.
Garmin - personal choice - I like to review my activities afterwards
Heart-rate monitor - again, personal choice - if it's a longer race you might want to make sure your heart-rate doesn't get too high too early. Many people just leave it at home on race day - intentionally.
Race belt if you have one - you can get them
pretty cheap online
. Put your race number on it after you register.
Runners. I highly recommend some form of lock laces to make them easier to get on/off. You can pick these up for about €7.50 in somewhere like Base2Race or quite easily
Socks - as I said, personal choice. I use ankle socks pre-rolled so I can get them on quickly. If you're not doing socks, use plenty of talcum powder on your runners!!
Water - a bottle on my bike, a bottle for transition and another in the car for the way home.
Towel/feet matt for transition
Bodyglide and/or Vaseline for your neck, wrists, ankles and around the corresponding areas of your wetsuit.
Suntan lotion? If it's a hot day, the last thing you want to worry about it getting sunburn. I recommend P20 as it's waterproof (I go for Factor 50).
Nutrition - depends on the race. If it's an early start I'll make my breakfast and bring it with me. If it's a short race I'll probably just use a gel; this can be selotaped to the crossbar of the bike or just left in transition. For longer races you might want a banana and/or something more substantial too. You'll probably also want to bring some food for afterwards though most races have decent goodie-bags with snacks!
Yes, that's a very long list, so it's very easy to forget something and you do not want to be thrown off on race day because you forgot something. If you think you might need something, I say bring it anyway - if it fits in the car and you don't need it on race day, then no harm done. Better that than wishing you'd brought it along.
Go to registration (might be the night before, quite often it's the morning of) and bring your TI Membership card. You'll get your race numbers, timing chip (don't lose it!!) and goodie bag, maybe a t-shirt. Then get to transition.
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Put any race number stickers you've been given on your bike and helmet - how this is done can change from race to race so just follow the instructions or, failing that, just look at what everyone else is doing. When entering transition, you'll be expected to wear your helmet (to make sure it fits you properly) and your bike will be tested to make sure it's in working order. This is for your own safety. You'll also be expected to show your race number as non-participants are not allowed in the transition area. Then find a spot in transition; this will either be assigned by your race number or it's a first-come-first-served scenario. If you have a choice, I'd recommend trying to find a spot at (or near) the end of a rack so it's easy to find. You will not be allowed to mark your spot; if you draw your initial on the ground in talcum powder, for example, they will wash it off before race starts - yes, people have already tried it! So you want to set up somewhere you can easily find in a race, then count how many racks you are from either end.
Rack your bike. If you're pre-attaching your cycling shoes, do this now, otherwise leave them beside a towel/foot matt making sure to leave the shoes open so you can get your feet in easily. Lay out your runners and, if you're using socks, you might want to roll them up to make them easier to get on (but as with anything, practise this before race day). If you're not using socks, apply talcum powder to the shoes liberally. Lay out your race belt - it's a personal choice if you're going to wear this under your wetsuit or not. I tend not to bother in case it gets caught when my wetsuit is coming off. If you haven't already, put your timing chip on (left ankle unless you're told otherwise). Put out any water/food that you'll need. Now would also be a good time to lubricate inside the neck, wrists and ankles of your wetsuit.
Once you're set up you'll probably want to find a toilet (race nerves might mean people get very familiar with the bathroom so expect queues). Try to allow time for a brief warm-up too; the general rule is the shorter the race, the longer and harder the warm-up. For example, for a sprint you might want to go for a short run with a few intervals thrown in to get your heart-rate elevated so that you're not going from naught-to-sixty at the start of the race.
Most races have a bag-free policy so you might have to dump your bag with your excess clothes, etc. over to a bag-drop area.
As race time approaches, it's time to lubricate your own neck, wrists and ankles and get your wetsuit on. Make sure to put your wetsuit over your timing chip and your watch (if you're wearing one) as you don't want either to catch when you're taking it off. Try to leave the zip-cord somewhere accessible (like in the velcro at the top of your zip) so that you can easily take it off in the race. You may need someone's help putting it on - that's fine! You'll find people are generally quite willing to help. You'll want to leave this part until the last few minutes though - you don't want to overheat waiting for your wave to start.
A good time to get the wetsuit on is usually during race briefing - you should listen to what's being said as they'll go through all of the rules of the race and advice on the course for that day. But it's also a good indicator that the race is going to start soon. Listening to all of the rules can be very intimidating and you might start to get really nervous... This is normal - try to relax; the rules are pretty simple and chances are you're not going to be breaking them. Most of them are for your own safety.
Once your wetsuit is on, it's time for your swim hats and goggles. I'd advise you use a warm swim-hat you're familiar with first, then your goggles, then the swim-hat you've been provided by the race at registration. Having your goggles under that hat should help them stay on should you get an unexpected knock from another swimmer (it happens, usually not maliciously!). You're now ready for your race!
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The temptation will be to walk once your feet hit the ground. You'll be relieved that the swim is over! My advice is to keep swimming until your hands are brushing the ground - you'll be amazed how many people you pass out as swimming is far quicker than walking through water!
When you're out of the water, it's time to pull your wetsuit down to your waist - you do not want to wait until the wetsuit dries or this will be much harder. Hopefully your cord will be available - grab it, undo your velcro and pull down/up your zip using the cord. Next, I would take off my goggles and swim hats - the goggles might be fogged up and you'll want to see where you're going! If you're stumbling a bit, this is normal - keep steady but keep moving! A handy time-saver is when you're pulling your arms out of your wetsuit to let go of your hats and goggles - they should stay in the arm of the wetsuit, freeing up your hand. Get your wetsuit down to your waist (while moving forward) and run into the transition zone.
Once you've found your rack, it's time for the rest of the wetsuit to come off. Pull it down - the lubricant should help it fly off. If you're having trouble, the little-child-throwing-a-tantrum technique can work a charm - stamp your foot while standing on that same leg of your wetsuit with your other foot. If there's a box in your transition zone, put your wetsuit in it, if not just leave it draped over the bar or on the ground. Put on your helmet - this must be done before you touch your bike! Wearing sunglasses? Put them on now. If you're putting your cycling shoes on now, do so - but you might want to rinse your feet off in case you've picked up gravel along the way which can cause you discomfort and blisters. If you aren't wearing your race-belt, put it on now and have your race number pointing behind you for the bike. Once you're ready to go, unhook your bike, grab it by the stem of the handlebars and run towards the bike exit (it'll be clearly marked, just follow everyone else).
Run beyond the mount line and be nice to fellow racers - move over to the side of the road unless you're attempting
the flying squirrel bike-mount
! Then off you go on your cycle!
T2 - Coming off the Bike
Dismounting can be as simple as pulling over to the side of the road before the dismount line and getting off as normal. If you're feeling confident you can get your feet out of your cycling shoes before the dismount line to save yourself time later. If you're feeling very confident, you can then lift one leg over the bike, balance on the other pedal and, while still holding onto the handlebars, jump off just before the mount line (
This is the easier transition. Rack your bike first - this must be done before you take off you helmet. Once the helmet is off, it's time to get your runners on - so if you haven't taken off your cycling shoes yet, do this now. Turn your race belt to face forward, and you're off on the run!
That's it! If you have any questions, please ask them below. And for the best instruction video I've ever seen on setting up your transition area, please see the following:
Well done Michael, a very thorough run-through. As a relative newbie with one season and only six or seven races in total experience I would suggest any sort of thinking on race day is unwise. You will be cold, wet, exhausted or inexplicably stuck inside your wetsuit or possibly all of the above! Transition practice however stupid it might look or feel really is "money in the bank" come race day.
I am not sure how robust the "Heath Robinson" bike rack is but if nobody uses it then it will languish in the club storage. Maybe group together for some practice, Monday night swimming coming soon in Wicklow.
Again, thanks Michael for taking the initiative to organise this.
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