As an IRONMAN coach, I've seen athletes face numerous challenges leading up to the race day, from physical exhaustion to mental hurdles. While rigorous training is undoubtedly essential for success, it's equally crucial to have a solid plan and a clear mindset for the big day. In this blog post, I'll be sharing some of my tried and tested IRONMAN race day tips to help you prepare for the ultimate endurance test. Whether you're a seasoned athlete or a first-timer, these tips will help you optimize your performance and make the most out of your IRONMAN experience.
Pre race ( The Morning of the race )
Eat a carb focused familiar and planned meal 2-4 hours before the race start. 2-4 grams of carbs/ kg is recommended while sipping on water with electrolytes
Get to Transition early to give yourself at least 30 min to set up your bike and gear for the race before heading down to the swim start.
When you get to transition, Make sure to inflate your tires, put your bike in the right gear to start the race and make sure all technology you are using is connected and working. If you have rim brakes, spin the wheels to make sure brakes are not rubbing.
Walk the transition from the swim exit to your bike to know the path you are going to take and to ensure you know where to find your bike amongst the sea of bikes.
Bring an extra pair of running shoes to walk to the swim start for the walk to be easier on the feet.
The colder the conditions , the longer the warm up and you may want to add in a pre race jog as you head to the start line. The warmer the conditions, conserve your energy and do mobility and stretching to keep your hr low and controlled
Know your estimated finish time on the swim and line up in the right corral to set off with a pace group you might be able to draft off of.
Don’t forget to defog your goggles. A dab of Baby shampoo in each goggle and then rinse it out with water does wonders.
Make sure to keep hydrating with water and electrolytes throughout the morning until you get into the water and take your final fuel about 15-20 min before the start of the race.
Take your time getting into the water and start the swim as relaxed as possible. Especially if you are a weak swimmer or new to doing an Ironman
If you are a stronger swimmer, expect the pace to be taken out pretty strong before settling down about 200-300 meters into the swim and before finding feet to draft off of.
Focus on one or two key focal points to stay present throughout the swim
The buoys are 100m apart so divide the swim into 38 x 100 meters and just focus on getting to that next buoy
Sight every 6-8 strokes or more if you don’t swim straight.
If you want to avoid the chaos around the buoys, swim wide around them.
If you Panic - float on your back, swim breaststroke or go to a kayak and hold on until you catch your breath and are ready to swim again.
Breathe - the more you can breathe the more oxygen you will get and the effort and distance of the swim will take less of a toll on you.
Try to get into a rhythm with your breathing and stroke rate and focus on rhythm vs effort or how far you still have to go.
Know where your bike is racked
Simplify your moves. Start thinking about them as you are exiting the water
Make sure your helmet is always buckled before you take your bike off the rack
If you are trying to minimize time in transition, put on your helmet and sunglasses and take in any fuel as you are running to your bike vs stationary in the changing tent
Start off easy and focus on bringing your heart rate d
own into your ideal heart rate window for the bike and hydrating and fueling to make up for the swim you just did
Keep your cadence up in the beginning to get blood flow from arms to legs before falling into your natural cadence range.
Make sure you are comfortable with changing gears and do so frequently to maximize speed and stay in the right cadence range while navigating the varying elevation
Stay to the right and pass left.
Stay in aero position as much as possible. The most aero part of the bike is you.
Stay on top of hydration and fuel from the very beginning. Once you get behind its hard to play catch up in an Ironman
Pour water over yourself if you feel yourself overheating
Prepare in advance for the aid stations and get into an easier gear before slowing down to take a water hand off. This will allow you to get back up to speed easier after the aid station.
Lighten up the effort the final few minutes of the bike to bring that heart rate down as you get ready for the run
Start Easy and stay relaxed as you focus on good form, posture and a light and quick cadence
Take advantage of the fueling sources on the course. Plan what you are going to take before
you get to an aid station
If it is hot, pour water on your head, and take ice and put it down your chest and shorts. Holding ice in your hands has also proven to be successful in keeping core temperature down
It is better to fuel little and often vs wait every 30-40 min to fuel, for multiple reasons
You can add in strategic walk breaks around aid stations to get in all the fueling and hydration you need and mentally break the marathon down into 1 mile segments. Just make the decision to pick up and run again once you are through the aid station
Utilize Special needs to pack extra socks, band aids, vaseline, chafe cream , sunscreen, any added and personal fuel you may want and Tylenol or Tums (if desperately needed)
In conclusion, the IRONMAN race day is an ultimate test of physical and mental endurance, but with the right preparation and mindset, it can also be a rewarding and life-changing experience. By following these tips, you can optimize your performance, stay focused, and overcome any obstacles that come your way. Remember, an IRONMAN race is not just about crossing the finish line; it's also about the journey and the lessons you learn along the way. So, stay committed, stay positive, and enjoy the ride. Good luck to all the athletes out there!