Monday, October 9, 2017

"How many ahead of me?" ... Top 5 Triathlon Race Tactics

If I were to call Mass start single sport races "Open battles" (brotherly rivalry),  "Rolling" start Triathlons are total "Guerilla warfare".

In Running and Cycling races, the entire field starts in the open, I go to the front and keep my rivals in sight; when the fireworks start, I know who attacked and how many broke away.

In triathlons however, how about a washing machine for a start! For those who haven't done one (Trust me you should!), let me describe the foggy view from my goggles: Lots of bubbles, swimmers everywhere, all in caps and goggles, they all look the same, I can't even tell who kicked me in the face (I will find you one day), let alone who's ahead and behind.

Race tactics get back on track once in T1:

1. Whose bike is not there?
Means they're ahead.
How far ahead is an unknown; what about competitors who started later in the roll or those you don't even know? Unknown too.

2. U-turns: I hate them (who doesn't!)
But tactically speaking, they're a great recon, you get to locate competition
Not all courses have them.

3. Race numbers and colors:
They identify Age Groups, part of my Race Plan is to memorize their range, I'd know that anyone in the 262 to 425 range is a brother
Cagy triathletes like to keep their rivals in the dark with these Anti-Kepo* strategies (I myself use some of them): Flip the BIB when you see them coming; Don't put it on in the bike leg; tattoo your forearm instead of your shoulder and triceps.

4. T2: Whose bike is already there? Refer to Tactic 1 for ➕/➖

5. Hire a snitch: I mean a "DS"
The most accurate tactic, your loving "Directeur Sportif", strategically positioned on the run course, disguised as a spectator, live-tracks the race both visually and on, reports the exact gaps back to you. He can even tell you how strong they're going.
Finding a race-savvy friend (yet not racing) who loves you enough to stand under the sun for a couple of hours just for you

Back to IRONMAN 70.3 Bintan, I'd normally look for my friend Alan's Canyon in T1/T2, one of the strongest triathletes I know, too bad we're in different AG's this year, Nikolai was already out. I passed a couple of dozen triathletes in the rolling 90km, 15 of them were in my AG (it turned out); Not being overtaken in the entire ride without cooking it was a good sign, my watts were still "in the Zone"; If my 11 Half distance races taught me anything, it's not panicking and sticking to race plan, it's a long race.

With a slightly different (but not less brutal) run course this year, a couple of U-turns were added here and there, we'd run a long section back and forth around the lake, so I could now bring #2 to play, I crossed the pros running like they had just started a stand-alone 21k on fresh legs. Alan cheered me out of his first U-turn; but still no sign of my AG range.

"How many ahead of me?" I asked a guy, "5 or 6" he said; not what I wanted to hear, then "4 or 5" a Metasport guy later shouted. Not what I wanted to hear either. I've been here before, missing podium by half a minute in Putrajaya 70.3, and a couple of minutes in Bintan last year. "Not again!" I thought, "4th is not what I came here for" which made me push harder, but it was also triggering negative thoughts about uncontrollable elements (competition I couldn't even see). So I decided to shut all that off, stop asking, save that energy to chase whoever is still in front. I even persuaded my lactate-loaded legs to "sprint" home with 1 mile to go: "whatever the outcome, there'll be no regrets if you give it all"

And that's exactly what I celebrated when my Fitness First peeps welcomed me at the finishline, it was a course PB. I couldn't wait to find out my ranking so I rushed to the Live results tent where I was handed a tiny printout, that read: "Category Pos: 2". My first Ironman podium.

(*): Kepo is Indonesian slang for "nosey"

I was handed a tiny printout, that read: Category Pos: 2
With fellow Jakarta Age Groupers Azlan (right) and Timo (center)

...And that's exactly what I celebrated
... and sticking to race plan