This post is rated Ironman.
Part III of III in the Race Day Preparation series:
The longer the distance, the more mental the focus becomes. Anyone can go out for an hour and race at a breakneck pace. With a minimal amount of training, most people can complete an Olympic distance triathlon. When it comes to long course triathlon, there is no disputing the fact that the best performances are a result of mental toughness. Half Ironman and Ironman distance racing is all about surviving the day and knowing when to exert and conserve energy. It is such a long day of racing that you must maintain control of your mental faculties. One of my favorite pieces of advice related to long distance racing is “no matter how you are feeling, IT WILL CHANGE!”
Nutrition can easily be the difference between a phenomenal race and a catastrophe. If you allow your body to get behind, you will never catch up. The longer you go, the harder it is for your body to digest and process the calories you feed it. If you are reading this post, you are not a beginner and therefore understand the value of proper nutrition. I won’t recommend any specific product but I will insist that you start your race properly fueled. I would recommend waking up between 3 and 4 hours before your wave start. Eat or drink a substantial breakfast of complex carbohydrates. Even more important than your breakfast, start hydrating early and remain hydrated often. Hydration is your secret weapon at this distance.
If you are racing Ironman, I am almost certain you will be starting in a mass with the entire field going at once. If you are racing 70.3 you will be starting in your age group wave (which will also be a large group.) The best advice I can give you here is “don’t panic!” You will be in the water for longer than you want to be, so start slow as you have a long day of racing ahead of you…
If I mentioned that fueling on the bike was important for an Olympic distance race, then I want to over-emphasis that point here. The bike is all about calories. You will not finish your run and have the race you plan on if you fail to take in the calories you need on the bike. Remember, your body cannot tolerate nutrition beyond a certain point. Ride your race but remember that your run is your recipe for success. If you are racing Ironman, make sure you put something in your special needs bag. Over the course of 112 miles, you will want something different from what has been served in the aid stations. Ride smooth, ride consistent and be very careful to avoid cracks and uneven surfaces in the road. A bike leg that finds you without a flat tire and with plenty of life in your legs is just about as good as it gets! Oh yeah, it might also be a good idea to learn how to urinate in motion!
By the time the run begins, you will have already been out on the course for multiple hours. You will learn very quickly if you have set yourself up for a strong finish. Take the first mile and simply get your legs underneath you. Make all the necessary adjustments to your kit, race belt, visor/hat, sunglasses, apply sunscreen/vaseline if needed and make sure you are comfortable. You do not want to interrupt your cadence later in the race to make adjustments that could have been made in the first mile. You’ve got a long way to go so do not think about the finish line. Take your race one mile marker at a time. Be sure to thank every volunteer you see. You are going to hurt, there is no way around it so you might as well divert our attention and give thanks early and often. With every mile marker you pass, your dream of Ironman grows. Remember to smile and do your very best to have fun.
AND WHEN YOU REACH THAT MOMENT AND THE FINISH LINE IS IN YOUR SIGHTS….you will soon hear those precious words that less than 1% of the entire world’s population will ever hear: “____________, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”
I congratulate you and want to congratulate your accomplishment and call you an Ironman!