Monday, June 3, 2013

10 Non-Racing "Ironman Race Day" Suggestions

I don't consider myself an expert, far from it.  I have however, finished an Ironman and I learned a thing or two during the journey.  I will leave all the technical stuff to you and your coach.  I'd like to share with you some things that I know helped me have a more enjoyable and a successful experience.

You will have unexpected surprises during the course (all 140.6 miles of it) of the day.  If you're not prepared to respond to these, you will be caught with your proverbial pants down and your day will not be one you'll want to remember.  One of your goals for the day, as was mine, should be for this experience to be one that you will never forget.  I know I will always remember mine.

So, without further to do, here are 10 things that I hope will make your day more memorable (remember that my experience was in Louisville, so not everything here will apply to your venue):

1).  Wear Flip Flops while waiting for the swim to start.  Throw them in the trash before getting in the water.  I bought several pair for $3 each at Old Navy. Wear them several times before race day to make sure you don't get blisters.  Rub a bit of anti-chaffing between the toes to prevent any last minute blistering surprises.

2).  If you live within driving distance of the venue, go ride the entire Bike course before race day. If you do this, there will be no surprises.  Run as much of the actual course as well and swim as much of the course as you can.

3).  In salt water swims, they will have a place where you can rinse off the salt water from your body.  Louisville does not have this.  Bring a dedicated water bottle on your bike just to rinse off after the swim.  Do this after you get settled into the course.  Toss the empty bottle at the first water stop.

4).  Special needs bag for the Bike.  Put something in it to eat that you really and truly like.  I put boiled red skin potatoes and a frozen Snickers bar.  A friend of mine put in two frozen cheese burgers. Did eat the potatoes, not the candy bar.  Also put in the bag a pair of socks and a spare inner tube and CO2 cartridge.  On the run, I put another pair of socks and a couple of Honey Stingers.  Did not use either.

5).  Organize your transition bags and special needs bag at home, on the floor, in a space that will not be disturbed for a couple of weeks.  You will think of "stuff" to add as the days go by.  Add them at that point.  Later you may remove them if you come to the conclusion that you will NOT need them.  The day before you leave, go over each once again, when satisfied, put them each in its own individual plastic bag, and label it.  When you register, they will give you your race day bags.  We received three transition bags and two special needs bags.  Transfer your gear here at the hotel as soon as possible.  DO NOT leave this until later.

6).  You will not be allowed to leave anything by your bike once you check it in.  Make sure your tires are not inflated to 100% of race day pressure.  Depending on the weather, you may find that the tires explode over night (due to the heat),  You will have to start your morning repairing tires.  Inflate to about 85% of max pressure.  Top it off in the morning and give your loved ones the tire pump.  If you choose not to bring a pump, arrive earlier so you have time to borrow someone else's.

7).  Work on a Nutrition back up plan.  Mine went array about four weeks before IM and I had to start from scratch.  Luckily it all worked out but the stress this added could have been avoided had I had a back up plan.  Create a Nutrition Log and document everything you eat and how it makes you feel.  Document how the training rides go and make adjustments as you move along.  You will find that documentation will save the day.

8).  Imagine anything and everything that could go wrong.  After all, its only 140.6 miles so what could possibly go wrong, right?  Things like:  What do I do if my swim goggles get knocked off?  What do I do if I get leg cramps in the swim? (this happened to me), on the bike?  on the run?  What should I do if I get pains in my bones?, Joints?, etc. What if I have a panic attack? What if I get sick to my stomach? etc... Once you have all these things identified, create a plan.  If anything does happen, you will be prepared.  Fear of the unexpected comes from not having a plan to address it.  Plan ahead.

9). The Ironman course is a lonely place.  Yes, you're racing with a couple thousand people, but each triathlete has his or her own agenda.  There's little conversation, obviously in the swim, but also on the bike.  You get a chance to be more social on the run.  This will come in handy after mile 18.  Believe me!

10).   Slow your run pace way down as you approach the finish line so that you will be the only one in the chute.  All eyes will be on you.  High-five anyone and everyone around.  This is YOUR time!  (Thanks Charlene for this suggestion).  I still replay this in my head, over and over again.

Bonus).  When things get tough, and they will... remember why you started this!

Do you have any tips you'd like to share with us?  Leave a comment below.