Hey everyone, welcome to my blog. Here I will give race reports and updates on training. I will try to keep it as up to date as possible. You can also follow me on twitter @bauer_andrew for more frequent updates. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A New Style of Racing

This Saturday I will be taking part in my first of hopefully many Olympic distance ITU-style races. Most of you triathlon-savvy people know what this is, but for you that are not familiar with the wide world of triathlon (thanks to you for reading my blog by the way...it means a lot), ITU racing is a fast, exciting, and unpredictable experience.  I will explain...

Almost all triathlons in the age group division and all full and half-Ironman triathlons are non-drafting on the bike.  In any race, you can swim directly behind someone in the water, catching a draft and can run in a group like a road race to pace off each other.  Drafting in the water or on the run makes a difference in effort, and is almost impossible to enforce a non-drafting rule, but it isn't as substantial as drafting on the bike.  There are 2 main reasons age group races and Ironman races do not allow drafting.  Number 1 is safety.  In non-drafting races, athletes usually race on time-trial (TT) bikes, shown here, that are equipped with long aero-bars for positioning the body as aerodynamic as possible, and tough to maneuver.  Crashes are more likely to happen if a group of athletes on TT bikes are riding close to each other duking it out.  These races have anywhere from 300-3000 participants.  Reason number 2 is to promote individual efforts.  Imagine if 2 Ironman athletes got out of the water together and were equally strong on the bike.  The second guy could hypothetically follow the first guy's draft for 112 miles.  That just wouldn't be fair.  So drafting on the bike is illegal in most triathlons out there.

ITU-style racing is different.  ITU (International Triathlon Union) rules allow for drafting on the bike.  This changes the whole complexity of the race.  Biking in a group is much easier than biking by yourself.  Have you ever watched stages of the Tour de France where there is a breakaway of 2 or 3 riders five minutes ahead of the big peleton?  If you have, then you know that 9.5 times out of 10, those 2 or 3 guys are caught by the end of the race.  Because drafting on the bike is allowed, more emphasis is put on the swim and run.  If someone can get out of the water with the front group, he will have an easier time navigating the 40k bike course by drafting off of someone versus someone who finishes the swim 30 seconds or a minute back and has to ride by himself.

In this type of racing, more than non-draft racing, every second counts, making swim-bike and bike-run transitions more important.  If someone gets out of the water with the front group and takes 10 extra seconds putting their helmet on and grabbing their bike, by the time they are riding the group is gone.

I come from a running background, so my goal for this Saturday in Seattle is to swim as fast as I can for 1500 meters to finish close to the front of the 60-man field.  If I can make it into the front group, or the chase group with a chance to catch the front group, and conserve enough energy on the bike, it puts me in a position to take advantage of that running background and have a good result.  I also want to take away from this race the experience of draft-legal racing.  The more I do it, the more comfortable I become.

It will be an exciting day!  I'm really looking forward to experiencing a new style of racing.  Next week, I will have a race report up from Seattle.  Thanks for reading.

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