It’s common to hear that transitions don’t count in Ironman because it’s such a long day. Well, I guess that’s correct if you think in terms of percentages but for many of us there are goals that can be missed by these margins. Are you gunning for a particular time goal, could you miss a cut off, aiming for a Kona slot or a podium place? For all these seconds can and do count.
In my time racing and following this sport I’ve seen examples of people missing bike cut offs and final cut offs by tiny margins. When I did Ironman Florida my sister pleaded with officials to allow a lady to continue who had missed the bike cut off by seconds. Years later she bumped in to her at Kona airport to discover she’d gone from cut-off misser to Kona qualifier!
I know of someone who got the last Kona slot after passing a guy in his age group in the finish chute. At Ironman New Zealand, a friend who has previously missed a Kona slot by six seconds twice (Yes you read that right only SIX seconds and on TWO occasions) this year passed three people in his age group in the final two kilometers and ended up getting the last roll down slot.
I’ll admit to a fascination with this sort of thing and regularly check peoples times in transition when they just make or just miss some common objective by seconds. With my friend that missed his Kona slot by six seconds I was very pleased to see that he’d had the quickest transitions of those around him.
Last year at Lanzarote I got the last Kona slot. I decided to check how I’d really managed to secure that slot. The next finisher in my age group was just under six minutes behind having taken five minutes longer than me across the two transitions. I could argue it was my transitions that got me to Kona.
Seconds do count in Ironman.
So what should you do?
There are many occasions of very long transition times. No need to worry about this if you’re comfortably in the middle of the back. At the extremes I would suggest you continue to view the transitions as a race. This doesn’t mean sprint through them (you don’t want to spike you’re heart rate) but it does mean move through them with a purpose. No matter where you are in the field this is one place where you can be competitive. No reason you can’t put your shoes on as quick or stuff your munchies in your pocket as fast as the pros. Several years a go I raced through T2 at Ironman Wisconsin to get the fastest T2 of everyone. Even now this brings a smile to my face.
Should you do a running dismount off the bike? Why not, it may only save you a few seconds but if you know how to do it then go for it. If you don’t then learn as it is far easier to learn than a running mount. The times I’ve seen someone miss a slot or a cut off by seconds I wonder whether a running dismount would have made the difference.
Race to the line. This is probably pretty obvious if you’re racing the clock for the cut off time. If you’re chasing a Kona slot it may not be quite so. Assume there’s someone in your age group ahead, assume they’re falling apart (many do) and keep pushing. Even if you’re supporters are telling you you’re comfortably in a slot, or comfortable out of a slot, maintain the thought they could be wrong – people do miscount and the tracker software has had a bug in it (in 2010 it was showing people that age up in the wrong category on one of the views).
Finally, go to the roll down ceremony. Firstly, it is one of the most exciting events of the weekend. People realizing their dreams are normally wonderful to watch and it is a great Ironman spectacle. Secondly, you just never know. If a slot rolls down beyond a certain point it can roll down a long way. Remember stay till the very end. At Ironman St George this year, right at the end a slot rolled out of an age group and in to M30-34 where it rolled down to 165th in age group who did a time of 16:14:11. I couldn’t help but take a look. The last regular slot went to a time of 9:55:43. The next guy in that age group was the next finisher only 16 seconds down. It looks like he was run down but I’m pleased to report his transitions were quicker. Having put in, who knows, how many hours of training he may look back and think perhaps hanging around for 10 minutes would have been a good idea.