Friday, March 08, 2013

More Tips For Offroad Xterra Triathlon

This is a follow up from my write up previously on Racing Your First Offroad Triathlon. I promised some more tips that can be used in the race - which probably apply to many other races (multisports) as well. This is based on my own limited experience racing and things I have improved over the years. Do ask me if you have more questions or if my explanation below is less than clear.
1. Be Organized At Transition
You might wonder why I choose to put this out as the first tip. Many first timer are often "lost in transition". They either over plan it or do not plan it at all. Either way it can be disastrous say if you forgot to take along certain things - like your race bib or something as simple as your sunnies.
An example. I play out my fantasies transition the day before race. Photo from my Desaru 116
It is important to lay out your gears properly. This is where being OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) helps. I typically will put my cycling items inside the shoe (socks, sunnies, fuel), hang my race number on my bike and helmet. So, the process flow will be - back from the swim. Drink the sports mix, keep my goggle (under the bottle). Take the race fuel (inside left shoe) put behind my pocket. reach into right shoe, take sunnies. Wear shoe. Stand up. Wear race belt(with numbers), wear helmet. Push bike out. I have this playing in my mind everytime.
Yes, OCD. But it works. Photo from my Desaru 116 last year
One most important point that many experienced racer missed is to put the bike at the correct gear. You will look silly (and possibly fall off the bike) if it is too low of a gear or too high of a gear. Something in the middle would work best.
2. Plan Your Nutrition
Sounds easy. Strap on some liquid food to the bike, throw some into your back pocket and you are ready to go. A lot of participants DNF (Did-Not-Finish) due to fuelling problem. Unless you are trained or has trained to utilise fat as your primary fuel, it is best that you plan your food and hydration before the race and play it in your mind. I usually start my nutrition early in the morning about 2hours before the race. This allow the food I take to very well go down well and start digesting and by the time I am in the racing groove, the energy will be powering me through with some top ups. I am usually the sports drink type of guy - it hydrates and feed at the same time. But I only reserves it for long race beyond Olympic distance or up to 7hours long. Anything lasting up to 3hours requires minimal nutritional demand. A good example of prolong race like the just concluded Hash Challenge, I was given the opportunity to try the Hammer Nutrition products. 
Hammer HEED. 3rd Item in my experimental nutritional plan
I prepared up to 5 different type for the 12hours race and I ended up only using 3 of the (5) items I planned. This is purely based on my own (outstanding) understanding of my body and knowing what I need and when I needed it. For race like Xterra where the route will be offroad and not all of us will be able to eat while on the go, perhaps stopping and taking the food will make more sense. Simply because as an age-grouper, the 2mins spent stopping will not add more burden of time compared to the Pros where they are racing for position (and likely to be able to eat-pedal-pee and comb their hair while pedalling). So, be realistic. It is OK to stop - just get out of the trail so others can pass safely.
3. Learn To Use Your Gears
You be surprised that many do not know what those thumb levers are for on their bike. Like I previously mentioned, it make more sense to shift through the gears and maintain a consistent cadence than to hammer on low gear (big chainring) going up hill or pedalling on-air coming downhill on high (granny) gears. Use common sense, if you can't cycle over it...PUSH. Nothing shy with pushing. Save the energy for the run, which will determine how you will finish the race. Always ensure the shifting is accurate by mean of proper maintainaince and remember not to use any pressure jet to spray off any gunk or mucks as it will foul up the sealed bearing of the bottom bracket and/or the hubs.
4. Go With The Flow
Mountain Biking and trail running is a dynamic sports. You do not move at the same speed over the same terrain. Changes in direction and terrain is normal and movement sideways and forward (in a very awkward position) are called for sometimes. You will NOT be in the same seating position riding in the trails. You will not be running in the same cadence as on the road. My tip for this is to keep moving and keep looking 10m ahead. Do not look down as by the time you see the obstacle at your feet, it's too late.

5. Get Acquainted With The Race Route
Usually, the organiser will allow a week before the race day for the participants to try out the route. It is normal for this to happen as it will allow the Pros and the stronger age-grouper to strategize during the actual day. You will be able to recognise area of potential concerns and perhaps even play it mentally where and how you will be eating, drinking and charging up the trails. You have one week before the race to try this - do it.
6. Learn To Fall
This is something I get so good at it that I can usually break my fall from bike and run with ease and minimal damage to myself or the bike. But of course, there are exceptions and those exceptions are when I learn to fall, the next time. The law of attraction says that you will go where your eyes see - so if you saw a rock while running and you do not make conscious effort to avoid it, you will hit the rock. 
Uncle Leong In The Monsoon drain. Yes, that was the safest part to fall
So, instead of looking where you want to fall, look at where you want to land. If you were to fall on the bike, do not break your fall using your hands, learn to roll over on your shoulder and if that fail, always tuck your chin into your chest and let the helmet (yes, no excuse, wear them when riding) to break the fall and absorb the impact. They are designed to break into pieces upon impact. If you fall/trip while running, try to do quick shuffle to regain balance and if that fail, break the fall by rolling over the shoulder. Apart from minimising injuries, you will also look really cool rolling like a Special Ops personnel. 
Battle Scars
Hope these tips help! Keep training and keep moving forward!

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