Thursday, August 4, 2011

Those last couple of weeks

An alternative title to this post was: The Pre-Ironman Freak Out

No, I'm not having one ... yet

Rather, I thought I'd take some time to speak about something that I witness all too often this time of year, starting about 4 weeks before Ironman Canada at the end of August.

It goes something like this:

[cue door to Speed Theory opening]
Me: "Hey [insert customer's name], how's your training coming?"

Customer: "Great, except I've started to notice [something, usually to do with their bike]that might just throw the last 8 months of training out the window..."

The reality is, whether you're on a 4 week, 3 week, 2 week, or 2 day taper, you have a lot more time on your hands now than you have in the past couple of months. You feel like you should be doing something, but because you don't have the focusing power (or perhaps mind-numbing power) of stupid-long workouts anymore, you're starting to think about things.

And that thinking can be dangerous


I remember when it was first explained to me when I started working at Speed Theory. Unlike most other races that we do, the iron-distance triathlon has a special mystique to it. And in the weeks leading up to the big event, athletes start to panic about the weirdest things.

Taken individually, these concerns all make perfectly logical sense ~ a saddle that's worked for months isn't comfortable anymore, a friend has offered to loan their deep-dish race wheels that I've never trained on, what does Powerbar Ironman Perform taste like compared to the [whatever] drink I've been training with.

It's when you talk to two or three people in the course of one day, all with tiny little problems, that you start to see the humour in it. And I must admit, once you've seen about a dozen, the Pre-Ironman Freak Out becomes rather hilarious.

Among this province's triathletes the beginning of August marks a special countdown. We invest hundreds of hours to our training, ignore our friends (unless our friends also perform the holy trinity of swim, bike, and run) and spend all of our pennies on various forms of, let's be honest, candy packaged to look athletic.

And then we worry that the fly that landed on our bike's top tube last week might somehow compromise the front derailleur cable and we'll be forced to climb up Richter Pass in our Big Ring!


I remember the night before my first Sprint triathlon when I was worrying about just such things (of course, I didn't know what a "top tube" was then). It surprises me now just how wise I was at the time when I made the decision to deal with any problem that I could deal with, and not worry about those problems that I couldn't solve

"What if I get a flat tire" I said to myself. "Well, I know how to change that, so it'll be okay."

"What if my chain falls off my bike" I asked myself. "I'll just have to stop and put it back on. My hands will get a little dirty, but so what."

"What if my chain breaks" I panicked. "Well, I don't know how to solve that one, so I guess I'll throw my bike off the nearest cliff and call it quits."

I'm not sure if there were cliffs at my first race, but I didn't break my chain so I guess I never needed to find out.

The moral of the story: if you're racing IMC at the end of the month, there are things that are in your control, and things that are not. The most important factor, though, is how you react to episodes that come your way in the next couple of weeks.

... and if you don't know how to change a flat tire, I suggest you learn quickly.


There are, however, lots of little things that every athlete needs to do in the next couple of weeks. You've trained your body for a long day, now it's time to make sure that all your gear is in order

Liquid's Top 10 Things to Do

1. Do call your Local Bike Shop and schedule a pre-race tune up. And make sure you ask what this tune involves, and point out anything specific that you've been noticing on your bike.

2. Do take the time to clean your bike. I mean with a toothbrush. It'll race faster, and also make the receiver of Point #1 a lot happier :)

3. Do take your race wheels with you to this tune up. Get a professional to install the rear wheel, because checking the rear derailleur limit screws is very, very important!

4. Do get new bar tape put on your bike. And think about getting it in an awesome colour, because there's nothing cooler than looking down at your aerobars and seeing bright, clean bar tape

5. Do stock up on your specific sports nutrition products. Buy what you need for race day, and set it aside. And don't complain to me if the GVRD has run out of [insert nutritional supplement] on the day you're driving up to Penticton

6. Do check your wetsuit for damage. Check all the seams and the condition of the threading. There are some great wetsuit repair centres in Vancouver, and if you run out of time, a little needle, thread, and glue goes a long way to stitching together seams that are ready to go

7. Do check your tires for excessive nicks, rocks, and glass. If you decide you want to change your tires, do it now, so that the wire or kevlar beads have some time to stretch on the rim. If you buy a new tire up in Penticton, it'll be very tough to get on, and even tougher to remove if you flat during the race

8. Do take the time to make a check list of training and race gear you need. Better than those ones you download. Make it specific to your needs. Here's a copy of mine from a couple of years ago
Ironman Checklist

9. Do have a plan for the next few weeks. Whether your coach gives it to you, or you make something up yourself, have a plan of how you're going to use your new-found time productively

10. Do remember to pack your bike shoes when you drive up to Penticton

Liquid's Top 10 Things Not to Do

1. Don't question your taper plan

2. Don't doubt your training or start comparing with other athletes. It doesn't matter what other athletes have done, or what their race plans are. You got yourself into this mess called Ironman, and you and only you are responsible for getting yourself out of it.

3. Don't go out and buy a carbon fiber ultralight disc wheel with tubular tires if you've never trained on one before. Yes it might make you faster. But it also might leave you in a ditch with a flat that you have no idea how to change.

4. Don't think that a flat tire will ruin your race. It's going to be a long day out there, and carrying an extra 50 grams for a tube and a CO2 canister won't make a lick of difference when you're climbing Yellow Lake. Be prepared for the worst, and hope you don't need it

5. Don't plan on relying on the Bike Barn's race support to come and bail you out. Chances are, they'll be a half hour away (at best). See Point 4

6. Don't forget to thank the people who have helped you get where you are. You know who they are

7. Don't feel embarrassed to ask questions about things you're unsure about. (as in ~ "If I'm planning on changing into bike shorts, do I need to wear anything under my wetsuit?" - the answer, yes) Somebody's been there before, and somebody's probably got a solution.

I'll even give an honest answer to those of you in the Male 25-29 Age Group.

8. Don't get cocky, but don't forget to be proud too

9. Don't you dare pass me on the run ...

10. But if you do, don't forget to smile.

~ liquid


  1. Hey Doug! In my line of work, I ALSO see a TON of Pre-Ironman Freak out! Gotta love that "mess called Ironman"
    GREAT POST Doug! Do you mind if we link it from the Moveo facebook page?

  2. as per facebook comment

    so to comment on this

    Richter Big Ring - what you are allowed to use the small ring?

    Flat Tire - My plan is always to have a big drink and gel before I change the flat - if you are going to be changing a tire may as well use the op to get some extra calories in

    Special Needs - Any spare bike tubes/c02 go to charity/local clubs so I always have a spare in there on top of the two tubes/3 c02

    Write Out a race plan with happy day and happiness "adjusted scnearios" my race plans for an Im normally go to about 3 pages with plans for flats, penalties, nutrition issues, dropped bottles, lost special needs bags, lost googles pre and during swim, sprint finish "preferred tactics", bike effort and run effort guidlines including when to go faster and when to dial back based on how I feel and any inputs (i.e. HR etc), T1 and T2 plans including an emergency bag for scenarios like blisters (always have a pair of socks in T2 and special needs even though I run sockless)

    Ok blog post reply is now over :) Happy racing to all at IMC - will be around cheering on