Today we are happy to have guest blogger Toby Baum as our guest columnist. Toby will be writing for us on a regular basis, so look for his future columns. Toby is the creator of the website ironmandad.com. Toby is an Ironman and USAT level 1 coach, and loves the sport. Read more about his story here.
In the world of triathlons, athletes are looking for any advantage possible. People will spend thousands of dollars on a set of aerodynamics wheels, an aerodynamic helmet, a new saddle, or a variety of other equipment all of which is purportedly going to make them faster. While I will grant that being more aerodynamic will make someone faster (simply because a lower coefficient of drag, measured in grams, is faster), I often debate whether it makes them better and more prepared to run as best they can off the bike. Because, to me, that’s always the game: setting up yourself to have the best run that you possibly can. Having a phenomenally fast bike split and following that with an extremely pedestrian “run” will rarely result in a podium, Vegas or Kona slot, or any noteworthy accomplishment. In many years of racing, my best races were those in which I had my best runs.
So, unless you have an unlimited budget and can try any gadget or you have unlimited time for training, where can you get faster??? Often, the easiest and more over-looked are the transitions. There’s a reason the pros sprint as fast as possible from the water to their bikes and from their bikes to their running shoes. The differences in their finishing times can literally be seconds. Look at these results:
10 seconds in 2010 and TWO seconds in 2009. Do you think that Chris Lieto would have liked to have saved three seconds in 2009??? I am guessing yes. (Of course, I am also guessing he was moving as fast as possible at EVERY moment in that race.)
For the rest of us (e.g., normal, human age-groupers), we may not need to save two seconds, but if you are pursuing a podium, a Vegas or Kona slot, or some time goal, transitions are a great and easy place to save some time. While I could cover a multitude of topics about saving time in transition, for now, I want to focus exclusively on a somewhat advanced maneuver: the flying mount and dismount.
The flying mount/dismount, as the name suggests, is leaving T1 and entering T2 at speed. You are literally running with your bike, leap onto it after exiting T1, and you are off. Likewise, entering T2, you approach the entrance at speed, leap off your bike, and sprint to your transition area. Sounds pretty simply right??? It actually is and I will teach you when to do it, how to do it, and how do it right.
Before we get to the how part, let’s analyze when you should or should not do a flying mount/dismount because it is not something that should be or needs to be done at every race. The obvious races are when you are pursuing any specific objective, such as a podium, Vegas or Kona slot, or time goal.
On the other hand, at races where it is not allowed or you don’t have that goal, skip it. If the minute or so you will save doesn’t matter, than don’t risk it. I see people crash feebly trying to do this when they shouldn’t. Likewise, scout out the exit to T1. Is it hilly? Is there a sharp turn? How wide is the exit? Consider all of these kinds of logistical factors when deciding. (I fell over at my first race simply because there was a short incline immediately after the exit. Pretty pathetic and embarrassing. However, still took 3rd in my age group, so not too much harm done.)
Know the dismount area
Also, walk the bike dismount area before race day to preview the area. Is it also narrow? Any turns? Any bumps, inclines, etc.? Will you land on rocks, grass, carpet, or something else? Long before you get to the dismount line on your bike, see where you plan on dismounting. (For instance, at Ironman Arizona, there’s a decently long chute that both descends AND “S’s” back and forth leading to the dismount line. My first time there, I nearly flew through the dismount line because I had failed to scout it. Don’t be me.)
The big takeaway here is that just because you CAN do a flying mount/dismount doesn’t mean you always SHOULD. That’s the when, here’s the how…
First, you will need the proper equipment (other than stuff you should already have, like you know, your bike):
- rubber bands (very important note here: Rubber bands are very often cheaper than aero wheels.)
Did you get that whole list? I’ll take a moment here so you can write this down: rubber bands.
Ok, now, simply follow the video to learn how to use rubber bands to hold your shoes in place on your bike. Ideally, you want your shoes horizontal and relatively stationary. Don’t worry about the bands as they will break when you start pedaling and, if they don’t, you can just reach down to break them. One note, if you remove your bike from the transition rack and roll the back wheel backward, this will often cause the crank to spin backward, thus moving your shoes. Be aware of this potential as moving or moved shoes is generally a bad thing.
Once you have your shoes properly attached, start practicing. While not complicated, there is a bit of acquired skill involved in the flying mount. Get comfortable with doing this as doing it during a race, under pressure, is always more challenging. Practice will make perfect so you can avoid being one of “those people” who takes out a dozen riders.
The video will explain most of the things to consider for the mount and dismount but here’s some of the important ones:
- where to hold the bike
- when to switch your hands
- when to leap
- when to remove feet from shoes
- when to swing your leg over the bike
- how to stand
- where to leave your hands
In truth, the actual moves are pretty simple. The tough part is simply getting comfortable doing it and knowing the right times to do it.
The ONE thing (other than the other things covered in this post and video) that you must always do is adhere to the mount/dismount rules. USAT rules require that each athlete take at least ONE step (1) AFTER the mount line and (2) BEFORE the dismount line. That means, you cannot mount your bike prior to reaching the actual mount line as well as dismount your bike after crossing the dismount line. This rule exists solely to prevent people from riding their bikes in the transition area. That, my friends, is a big no-no, rather dangerous cause, you know, there’s people in there, and frankly just lame. So, don’t be lame. When doing a flying mount and dismount, preview the area as discussed so you know exactly where the mount and dismount lines are. I will almost always take a single step beyond the mount line before leaping onto my bike and, likewise, put my left foot on the ground immediately prior to the dismount line to comply with USAT rules. Not only would everyone have a good reason to mock eternally you for riding your bike in the transition area, but you run the risk of being disqualified; both equally undesirable circumstances. Don’t be “that guy”; play by the rules.
If anything is unclear or you have follow-up questions, please just ask away. I am happy to help! Otherwise, thanks for reading!
Here’s a little more information about Toby. If you want to learn more, check out his site www.ironmandad.com.