Where to Stash Stuff
At the time I started competing in IronMan events in 2001, bikes designed for triathlons were still in their formative years of development. Some had been tested in wind tunnels, quite a few had aero tubing and we did have aerobars. But at that point in time, no thought had been given about what we needed to carry with us for anything much more than a Sprint event. As a result, unless you relied 100% on nutrition and hydration from the aide stations, your beautiful aero bike was no longer aero.
This bugged me to no end (I have an undergrad degree in aeronautical engineering), and I made and used some eye-catching add on to my Softride beam bike. My tubular spare was stuffed down the beam, after I had carefully reamed out all the internal burs and removed the construction bladder. I taped spare CO2 cartridges to the beam and modified a mount for my Never Reach Bottle to carry spare tools. I quickly learned that many pockets in my clothing were essential, leading me to DeSoto products which I have used ever since. I was also an early Fuel Belt user. By 2009 I had a Cervelo P3, still do. The beam was gone, but now my tubular resided in a modified Arundel Water Bottle (cut open on the top and taped over once the tire was inside) on the down tube. A CO2/Sealant was taped to my top tube. I had several ideas for making storage products going through my head that year when I saw my first Trek Speed Concept sitting outside Lava Java. Finally someone, along with many others were addressing the problem of ‘Stashing Stuff’. Great as these new bikes are they still can’t carry everything you need and not everyone, me included, have opened their piggy bank to buy one. So here are my thoughts about how to carry all that stuff, on the bike, and run.
As mentioned above I have used a Never Reach bottle (a permanent aero shaped bottle that is mounted behind the saddle). It carries over 50 oz of fluid when stuffed full. It is a great product but over time I found lighter ways to carry what I needed. 74 oz of fluid (I also had a bottle between the aero bars) is over 5 lbs. That may not sound like much to some but how many of you are looking for that bike that is 1-2 lbs lighter than your current one? In one of his blogs, Joe Friel, noted the following: 1kg (2.2 lbs) loss of weight (bike and/or body) allows you to climb a 1000m hill with a 10% grade about 3.5 sec faster than when heavier at the same power output. Another way of looking at this is that 1kg is about 3w on a climb (so 1lb is roughly 1.5w). So I have gotten fussy about the weight I carry, and that has transferred over to my run stuff as well. I think it is very important to test out the sports drinks and fuel given out at aide stations before the race (in training). If you can use what’s offered 100% that is great, even partial use can help the weight carry problem and is a savior if your stuff of choice is somehow lost, you happen to have a bottle ejection and/or loose your Special Needs Bag in an IM.
What and How Much
I’m OK with what is handed out in most races, but I don’t think it is always the best choice. For the past two years I have been using Scratch Labs sports drink and this year have been making my own rice cakes (Feed Zone recipes from Thomas Lim). The picture to the left shows a Denver Rice Cake mix, essentially a Denver Omelet mix with rice, yum. I also carry supplements in pill form.
Packaging any home made food presents problems. My solution is simple, small zip lock bags. They are a bit bigger than energy bars, but they do go in my DeSoto Tri Suit pockets.
Two rice cakes are in the back pocket in my DeSoto tri suit. Gels go in the pockets on the thigh. I also put one or two in my Bento Box but the main content of that is my supplements. I use very small zip lock bags for the supplements. See picture. I get them from Hobby Lobby in the jewelry section. I would guess any hobby store like that would have them; they are less than 2 inches. I like this better than the Salt Stick, it does not hold enough and getting the pills out of the small bags is easy. Rip off the top with your teeth and squeeze the pills out into your mouth.
These days I carry just two fluid containers. An X-Labs Torpedo up front between the aero bars and a standard single bottle cage behind the saddle. Both are full at the start of the race, but obviously that is not enough for an IM. I also carry Scratch Powder in a slightly bigger version of the pill bags, in my Bento Box. Once I work thru the premixed Scratch I start picking up water at the aide stations. Prior to arriving at one, I get out a zip lock bag with powder and dump it into the Torpedo Bottle. Leaving the top open (I do not use the top that lets you jam a bottle into a split piece of plastic because I loose too much water), I pour the water into and on top of the powder. Then let it shake a bit before drinking, if the road is smooth you might need to blow into the straw to mix. You can’t rip the powder bags open with your teeth; it would go all over the place. To make opening the bag easier cut a notch out of the flap above the zip so you can separate the two halves.
Tools and Spares
Tubes or Spare Tubular
If you carry most of your nutrition and fluids on the bike then there is not much room left for a tube and certainly none for a tubular. My tubular goes in the Arundel bottle. Tubes could probably be folded up real tight and put either under the saddle and or on the mount for the rear water bottle.
Keeping weight to a minimum I go with four sizes of small Allen Keys, 2mm (needed for the Tri Rig brakes I use), 3, 4, and 5 for other critical bolts that might need adjustment. I have had my saddle get loose, seat post self adjust down and my aerobars slip (all mistakes that should not have happed, but it does, so I carry tools). These along with my CO2 cartridge go in my custom made water bottle bracket but can also be simply taped to the bracket (some brackets from X-Lab come designed to carry stuff).
I also carry a CO2/Sealant canister. It tapes easily with electricians tape to the top tube. I have made a carbon fiber holder, looks good but no better than the tape except it can be reused. Notice also the custom made mounting for the Bento Box, which also brings the bike up to integrated standards. If you are getting the idea that I obsess about keeping the bike clean go back to the into, I do. Special Needs Bag
The Special Needs bag for the bike holds enough Scratch for the second part of the bike along with a couple of rice cakes and back up supplements (I find I can carry all I need for supplements in my pockets for the entire ride). Up to now I have had two bottle of pre-mixed drink in the bag. I am going to just go with one in the future to save some time picking things up.
What and How Much
Solid food does not work for me and many others on the run. Gels do work and I carry 4 for the early part of the run. I also start out with some pre-mixed Scratch and enough powder to get me thru at least half of the run. I also have supplements with me for the first half.
Mixed Sports drink is in two of four 7oz fuel belt bottles, powder is in the other two. The rest of the Scratch I need is again in zip long bags, but sized for the 7 oz bottles. Supplements are in two small pouches on my belt. Gels, again, go in my pockets.
I don’t carry enough gels for even half the run. When I run out of the first 4, I take a gel every other aide station, I start picking up gels at one aide station and consume it just before arriving at the next, followed by water. When not having a gel, I drink some Scratch.
One tablet that I carry worth mentioning is a Glucose tablet. I have 4 on the bike and at the start of the run. Glucose tablets can be absorbed by just letting them dissolve in the mouth. So if the digestive system gives you trouble they can, for a while, keep you going until you can get things to settle down and return to other nutrition. Thus, it is good for an emergency. It is also brain food; the only fuel the brain uses is glucose (if you are not eating raw glucose the digestive system converts other sugars). So when approaching the point when your mind starts to fail you on the run, try sucking on a Glucose tablet as it will wake it back up. More than once this has saved the day for me, allowing me to focus on taking the next step all the way to the finish.
Special Needs Bag
Much the same as on the bike. I put in there what I need for the last half of the run with some extra spares including serious drugs like Ibuprofen. I never take painkillers before things start hurting. I want to know what is hurting, but will take something when up against it.
Never try anything new on race day ‚Äì it goes without saying. Even though I have followed the same routine many times in races, I still will practice on my long rides and runs what I will do on race day. Making your own solid food will seem for some too much work on top of already a lot of time committed to this sport. If you have ever had any issues with what you do eat, try it. My first IM was a near disaster because by the time I was finishing the bike I was already getting tired of all the sweet stuff I was eating. Now with all the variety of rice cakes recipes from the Feed Zone books, you can truly have real meals as you spend your day pursuing your crazy goal.
Coach Simon recognizes that winning does not have to mean being the first. It’s great for the lucky ones, but winning can simply mean finishing. Simon is a 12 time Ironman World Championship Finisher!