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Training Tips #7 - Taking a Hand-Up on the Bike

One thing all triathletes should know is how to take a hand-up from an aid station.
Let's start with the bike: For sprint and some olympic races, we can carry enough fluids and fuel with us, but for the longer races, we will often need to rely on the fluids and sometimes nutrition from aid stations. Or maybe the temperatures are too warm and you went through your two bottles already and need more to stay hydrated. There are plenty of what-if scenarios, so the best thing is to be comfortable taking that bottle from a race volunteer.

You should know ahead of time from the race meeting, race packet, or other info about where the aid stations are going to be. Once you get to the aid station (and you'll probably see it up ahead) you should do the following:

1) Toss any bottle that you want to replace. Make sure you do this within the confines of the aid station area, really just prior to the hand-off zone to avoid a penalty for equipment abandonment. Of course, if you have an open bottle cage, you won't need to toss a bottle.
2) Slow down to a rate much slower than you think you need to. 10mph might seem slow when you ride, but to a stationary volunteer that can be pretty fast!
3) Make it clear what you want to the volunteer. Aid station volunteers will likely be yelling what they have in their hand. Yell what you want, make eye contact/point to the person you are going to take the bottle from. Remember, aid station volunteers are just that - volunteers. This may be the first time they've done this, so the more clear you can make what you want, the better experience to be had by all.
4) Take the bottle. If you are going slow enough, it should be a nice smooth exchange. If you miss, go on to the next volunteer. Last year a pro triathlete got injured when a water exchange didn't go well; the volunteer apparently didn't let go of the bottle and took down the athlete. So if you think you aren't going to get the bottle safely, let go and try at the next volunteer.
5) Again, toss any bottles you don't need. If you are using the bottle to fill your aerodrink bottle, remember to toss the empty bottle at the end of the aid station.

If you are passing through an aid station and don't need anything, stay to the left to let those slowing down get their fluids safely. Aid stations are a congestion point so exercise caution when going through.

If you still don't feel comfortable taking a hand-up while you are on your bike, there is nothing wrong with going off to the side of the road at the edge of the aid station, stopping, getting the bottle that you need, and then heading on your way. It is much better that you stop for 30 seconds to get some fluids than to keep riding and not take in enough. Just be careful of the moving athletes if you do need to stop - pull off to the side out of the way.

As staying hydrated and fueled in your race is extremely important, it's a good idea to know how to get fluid from an aid station. All you need is a friend and an extra water bottle to practice this skill! If you have any questions or comments regarding these tips, please visit my website at http://neoendurancesports.com. Happy hydrating!

Coach Nicole is the founder and head coach for NEO Endurance Sports & Fitness, a Colorado-based endurance sport coaching company. She is a USAT Level 1 Certified Coach and also coaches triathlon for Team In Training. Please visit http://neoendurancesports.com to learn more about how Coach Nicole can help you with your race day skills.

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