Ironman Tactics For Survival
So you have decided to throw yourself into the hurt locker, aka the Ironman category at a Transmoto event. In the beginning, I had no idea which was the best way to attack this format of racing, as there had not been anyone in the past who specialised in this form of two-wheeled torture. But after my first few attempts (and feeling the pain of my mistakes), I learned fast … really fast! As the old saying goes, “If you are gonna be dumb, then you gotta be tough!”
I prefer to go for the smart and calculated approach, with less pain. So, here are some tips that may help first-timers – or even repeat offenders – get through the day with a little less stress and suffering…
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Like cramming for an end-of-year exam, you should do some research prior to the event so that it isn’t a massive shock to the system. You ought to look into the following elements:
- Weather conditions – If it’s dry, prepare several air filters. Or if it’s muddy, prepare lots of goggles and gloves. Plus prepare your bike accordingly.
- Duration of the race – whether it be six, eight or 12 hours, both you and your bike are going to fatigue and consume fuel differently. Trialling different scenarios before race day is highly recommended.
- Terrain – all of the Transmoto events have unique terrain and features, so set your bike up for the terrain it will face. For example, if you were attending the Nabiac 6-Hour, make sure you have your sand shoes on.
- Also, look at photos or videos from previous years to see how the tracks form up and break down throughout the event. Having a bike set up for super-fast and smooth tracks may be your worst enemy coming to a tight and technical track at the end of the day.
PLAN YOUR RACE
There is no sense going into any race on earth without a plan. Have a think about how your body will handle the abuse and be brutally honest with yourself (bearing in mind it’s usually tougher than you think it’ll be). My theory is that it pretty much comes down to the ‘hare and the tortoise’ analogy:
Hare: Go out guns blazing, but run the risk of fatigue or crashing before seeing the chequered flag.
Tortoise: Start off steady and make your way around all day without any risks, but always get to the finish.
I think the best plan is to mix a bit of hare with tortoise. I like to start off fast and lay some really good laps down while the track is the smoothest it’s going to be all day. I work out my speed in each section of the track and try to match that same speed safely all day. It’s not easy to do, but if I memorise what gears I am using in each sections at the beginning of the race and keep that up throughout the day, I know I will be somewhat close. By using this technique, I have been able to hold extremely consistent lap times from start to finish.
KNOW YOUR BODY & BIKE
It is extremely important that your bike and body is capable of working in unison for this endurance racing format. This will maximise efficiency, making your day much more enjoyable once the dust settles. Knowing both strengths and weaknesses is key too.
- Wear and tear happens on all machines and can be accelerated by poor conditions or rider error. To counteract any of these issues, I use the KTM lightweight tool kit that comes standard with every motorcycle. This is a great advantage over other manufacturers’ kits as I stash the compact tool kit on my bike – so that, if I break something that renders it unrideable, I can most likely fix it enough to get back to the pits and fix it properly and continue my race.
- Suspension set-up is crucial as it is the only thing keeping you and the bike planted on the ground. Trust me, you will want to have it dialled in for the conditions you will face.
- Knowing your bike’s fuel consumption is key, as you won’t want to be running out on the track and walking home. Alternatively, you won’t want to be making extra stops in the pits, wasting time that you could use jostling for positions on the track.
- If any part of your body is susceptible to blisters or chaffing, make sure you have them taped up or protected, as these areas will be your demise come the latter stages of the race. I tape my hands and use cycling shorts under my gear to keep the tender areas sheltered from the abuse.
- Know the fuel consumption for your body. Everyone is different from one another, so try and work out when your body will need to eat and drink prior. And keep on top of it, If you’re eating once you’re hungry or drinking once you’re thirsty, it will all be too late (check out this Peak Performance article about hydration and nutrition)
PIT STOP STRATEGIES
Pit stops are an important part of the race, and where time can be wasted unnecessarily. You and your pit crew will need to be organised and efficient to maximise usage of time. Invest in a pit board and have your pit crew communicate with you during the race with clear and concise messages. For example, “PIT NEXT LAP”, “PIT NOW”, “5-MIN LEAD”, “1-HR FINISH”. You won’t want too much information that will clutter your thoughts, but basic periodic information.
For example, if you’re likely to crash, consider what parts might you break (such as a clutch lever, brake lever or gear shifter, etc), and make sure you have these parts readily available in your pit area. That way, if a worst-case scenario happens, you can rectify the issue.
Identify every tool you need to work on your bike and place them on a table so if everything goes pear-shaped, you can easily grab what you need without having to rummage through the toolbox (wasting valuable time and energy).
I have laminated Pit Stop Forms that list on separate pages likely tasks and tools needed, plus the step-by-step process for my mechanic to follow and memorise for those frantic moments.
DON’T QUIT UNTIL THE FINISH
Always remember: no matter how tired and sore you are during the race, if you pull out for no good reason, I guarantee that the feeling of disappointment will haunt you much longer than the blisters and aching body parts will.
8-HOUR IRONMAN SEMINAR @ STROUD
Me and my partner, Lesley (from Peak Strength and Performance), will be conducting another Ironman Seminar at Stroud 8-Hour this weekend. So if you are attending the event, come along and have a listen on Saturday afternoon to what we have to say, and jump in on the Q&A section so that we can answer any of your burning questions.
If you’d like more detailed information about hydration and nutrition or a personalised program, contact Lesley Flanagan (B.ExSS. ASCA Level 1) on…