Transitioning to the Race Position

 

Since returning from Kona in October, I haven't ridden my tri bike once.  All the training has been done on the road bike.  Normally in January I wouldn't be worried about this, because the race season is still a way off.  However, racing Ironman South Africa in April this year means that it's time to make the transition to the tri position pronto.   My mission for this weekend - get the bike prepped.  
There's a lot of debate about what ratio of road to tri riding is optimal, but there's not a definite answer.  In the past I've had a few niggles in the lumbar region of my spine, which isn't something I want to take any chances with.  Therefore if I'm able to ride the road bike instead of the tri bike, I will.  In the height of the summer the majority of training is on the tri bike, apart from the recovery rides.  
As you might have read from some of the posts from September, my Kona build was spent based around the south of France.  No way would a tri bike have been practical in that terrain, so all the cycling was on the road bike.  It would have been more specific race preparation to have spent a few weeks riding in flatter terrain on the tri bike.  On the other hand, the cycling was so enjoyable that I actually trained a little more than planned, which boosted the hours logged in the saddle. By the time race day came along, I'd spent no more than 7-8 hours on the race bike within the last 5 weeks.  The result was that I executed my best Ironman bike leg, but more importantly I held my race position throughout.  This was in contrast to every previous Ironman bike leg where my position had started to falter during the last few hours of the ride.  
What I took away from this was that it isn't absolutely necessary to spend 100% of the time in the race position when training.  The caveat was that I had already spent months in the Spring/Summer training on the race bike, so I was very accustomed to the position come race day.  Above all, my race position is comfortable and sustainable.  I've learnt from experience that there's no point in having an awesome position if you can only hold it for 2/3 of the race.  If you've got some early season races planned, now would be a good time to start to log some hours in your race position.  If your races aren't until mid-season, you can afford to enjoy a few more weeks on the road bike.  
It's important to do your key sessions in your race position, especially those specific to your race.  For Ironman that means doing your IM-HIM paced intervals on the race bike, allowing your body to adapt to the position it will be in on race day.  The long sessions in the race position will tell you whether your position is sustainable for the duration.  If you're faltering and feeling uncomfortable after a few hours, it's likely that some changes will need to be made.  
In the past I've had a lot of questions about my bike set up, so perhaps in a future post that's something I'll go into in a little more detail.  My race position seems to have evolved over the last few years, and has never stayed the same for more than a few months at a time.  No doubt there will be a few subtle changes over the course of this season, but for the most part things will be pretty much the same as before.  
Now, time to find the allen keys and start building.