Support Crews: Transition Area

article027All the preparation and planning are the ‘grind’ aspects of seconding. The transition area is where it all happens, the adrenalin flows and your heart goes out to your team each time they come-in and leave transition.

When packing your vehicle, remember that what needs to come out first must be packed into the vehicle last.

First, get the bikes out of the way – assuming that the team isn’t riding them. Roll-out a big tarpaulin/ground sheet. This is to setup an area where the team can sit, change gear, eat, drink etc.

If you’ve got a big free standing tent, now’s the time to put it up. Use the other tarp for inside your big tent/shelter, if it doesn’t have its own groundsheet.

While you’re battling with poles, pegs, ropes and canvas, get a pot of water boiling on the Cadac if you don’t have any prepared, or need to fill up your thermos’.

Unload the racing trunks and a chair for each racer. “Seat” each person at a corner, giving them plenty of space and leave the centre of the tarp open (see adjacent diagram). Keep the layout of their chairs and gear exactly the same for each transition. Creatures-of-habit, they’ll go to the same place automatically each time.

After day 1, ask your team when they are planning on sleeping. In general, teams will push on during the day, not wanting to waste valuable daylight. Take it as a given that after day 1, they’ll probably sleep for an hour or three each night – and may want a hot meal. For night transitions setup pillows, mattresses and sleeping bags in the big shelter – keeping the “people order” identical each time. Put their crates at their feet so that they can rummage when they wake-up without having to go outside.

Next, get your kitchen organised. Put up the drink’s and snack’s table. Set out coffee, tea, hot choc, juice, sugar, teaspoons and mugs (you can get the milk out when they arrive).

Stash the water drum under the vehicle, out of the sun, where it is accessible but out of the way. The cooler boxes either get stashed with the water or end up being used as tables and chairs. Hang up a black garbage bag for trash.

Fill-up the empty coke bottles with water for filling bladders efficiently. Make the carbo liquids when they come in. They will tell you how diluted to make their mix.

Put loo paper and the first-aid kit on the front seat of the vehicle or any accessible place.

While you’re waiting for your team you can cook meals, prepare snacks and make sandwiches to add to your already prepared & labelled grab-bags. Toss these into the centre of the racing tarp so the team can pack their backpacks. You can easily see if anyone has forgotten to reload.

If their next leg is a cycle leg, check their bicycles, tighten brake cables (warn them about this!) & gear cables, lube chains and pump types. Make sure that their cycle gear is in their crate or next to their chair.

If they’re going in for kloofing, hang out their wetsuits. If they’re coming in from a water leg, have towels available and a spare crate for wet gear, which you can dry later. If their previous leg was on water, string up a washing line to dry their soaked clothes.

Get the next set of co-ordinates from the race officials (if the team didn’t receive the whole route at the briefing). Plot the coming PC and transition points – don’t draw in routes. Study the map and assess all the route alternatives – without drawing in the options.

Then, only once all this is done, can you wait, feed yourself and rest. It’s a perfect opportunity for meeting other seconds, laughing, swapping tales and just having a good time. Later in the race you can catch some shut-eye.

There is always a lot of excitement when teams start arriving. When your team arrives, usher them to their seats, take their backpacks to remove old food bags, add new food bags and fill bladders. Do not remove anything else.

The compulsory equipment must remain in their backpacks at all times. If you unpack these things, in all the excitement something could get left behind. Check with the racer before adding or removing clothing.

If they’re stopping for a meal, hand them a plate to start working on while they’re sitting down and getting their gear organised.

Once the navigator/s are ready, show them the next points and indicate the various route options. They will make the final decision.

Remember to question the team before they leave transition i.e. have you got batteries torches, warm clothing, food, water, maps, passport etc.

After the team has left to start their next leg and the clapping, cheering and well-wishing has finished, you’ll turn around to face a camp that looks like a tornado has passed over it. Don’t panic!

Collect up the trash and reverse your unpacking process. Make for the next transition and prepare to start all over again.

By the end of the event you’ll have a smoothly operating, streamlined production – and then it will be time to go back home.

Enjoy the experience!

Author: Lisa de Speville