Racing in an Ironman gives its participants invaluable insight into the event. But there's one perspective they won't get: that of a volunteer or spectator.
Here are some lessons gleaned by volunteers and spectators that might help you in your next long-distance triathlon.
Mike Vas, who volunteered at Ironman Arizona paddling a kayak, offers this advice:
- If a kayaker is pointing in a direction you're not swimming, adjust your course.
- If a kayaker is yelling/talking to you he is likely giving you important and/or useful information. It might be worthwhile to pick your head up so you can hear what's being said.
The Bike Mount
Standing at the bike mount line and watching athletes start their 112 mile ride, a few things are clear. Some are even obvious triathlon 101-type lessons.
- Know where the mount line is and don't try to get on your bike until then. I actually saw a pro who had no idea. He mounted his bike, realized his mistake, got off, and then remounted.
- Have your bike gearing in an easy gear and in the small chain ring. The only exception might be a downhill start. Many triathletes struggled just to get started and fought to clip in, turn the cranks, change gears—all under the stress of the race and knowing all those people behind you are coming to mount their bikes too.
- Run (or walk) your bike well past the mount line to a clear spot and then get on. Avoid all of that mass congestion at the line.
- Just a suggestion: learn the cyclocross running mount (and dismount) technique.
The Bike Course
Out on the bike course a volunteer at one of the aid stations noticed a few things that might help you as you ride through.
- Make sure you practice taking bottle hand offs before race day. Get a family member or friend to hand bottles to you.
- Know the order of items available at the stations. Often the volunteers are asked to keep it in the same order at every aid station to make it easier for you. If it starts with water and then energy drink with electrolytes, gel, and bananas, then you should know this so you're prepared.