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Handle a Point-to-Point Triathlon Like a Pro

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Your handy guide to tackling the logistics of a point-to-point race like a pro.

Your friends and family might prefer to see you traversing the same old loops over and over again, but a point-to-point race can be more of an adventure, says pro Paul Ambrose,  who’s toed the line at his fair share of split courses—including the infamous, short-lived Ironman NYC. The flip side: “They’re a logistical challenge the day before,” he says, so you must think ahead. Here’s what to consider:

Leave Enough Time. Point-to-point races aren’t a “collect your packet, pop your bike in transition, and go to dinner” situation. They’re more like check in, drop your bike in T1, drive 56 miles (or 25, in some cases) in traffic to drop your run stuff in T2, then drive that same distance back to your hotel, if you’re staying near the start. So budget an hour or two (or three) extra into your usual pre-race prep time. Save your hustle for the race.

Know The Weather. A lot can change between when you set up T2 and when you get there ready to run—think ahead to make sure your stuff stays put, and dry. “I’ve seen athletes duct tape their towel down and place their shoes on top of it and clip their race belts on the bike rack,” says Pumpkinman race director Cedric Keppler of BBSC Triathlon. Of course, a plastic bag for your running shoes is key if there’s even a chance of rain.

Pack Extras. Since your run shoes will be in T2, bring an extra pair to warm up in before the race, says Ambrose. Similarly, if you tend to bring extra nutrition that you might have on the bike, or might save for the run, pack doubles so that stuff isn’t in T1 when you want it in T2.

Think About The Finish. Yes, visualize your PR-shattering victory. But also take a good look beforehand at what happens at the end of the race. Knowing the post-race procedures can help you make a smart choice about whether to stay closer to the start or to the nish. Ask yourself:

• How do you get back to your car? If you don’t like the idea of letting someone load your race rig onto a truck with everyone else’s while you board a bus back to T1, then you might want lodging closer to T2, where you can walk “home.”

• How do you deal with lines? Some athletes just aren’t all that good at enjoying the rest and camaraderie that happens when you’re waiting for transit back to T1. If that’s an understatement for you, stay near T2.

• How do you deal with early morning? You’re a triathlete, so a pre-dawn wakeup call is nothing new. But staying at T2 can mean setting your alarm at “yikes” o’clock. Driving dozens of miles to the start does give you plenty of time to digest your coffee, but doesn’t do total sleep hours any favors.

With point-to-point races, as with everything in triathlon, a little planning can score you a much happier race day. And that’s a win no matter what your time ends up being.

Pack It In. If there’s one thing athletes tend to forget, it’s to pack up their wetsuit, goggles, towel, and swim cap into the T1 bag that gets transported to the finish, says Keppler. If you love it, pack it up. (While Pumpkinman can have a pretty robust lost and found sometimes, he says, “I’ve never seen an item go missing.”)

Point to Point… To Point to Point to Point… To Summit

City to Summit
This run-bike-run duathlon winds its way from Edinburgh, Scotland to England’s highest peak, Ben Nevis.
July 28-29,

The grandaddy of all point-to-points, this Iron-distance event begins in frigid Icelandic waters before climbing over 17,000 feet to the finish line roughly 140 miles away. August 4,

Survival of The Shawangunks
Held in upstate New York, this eight-stage triathlon is a little more adventure race than regular tri. Bike, run, swim, run, swim, run, swim, run. September 9,