Ironman Race Day Plan: 15 Tips For Success
The training has been completed. You swam, biked and ran, week in and week out to prepare your body for the task ahead. But how are you going to put it all together to complete the Ironman? We’ve put together this ultimate survival guide to help you!
Ironman Youghal, Barcelona, Nice, whatever your Ironman race may be, you’ll want to plan ahead and be prepared for anything that comes in your way. Paul here at Base2Race just recently completed his 7th Ironman in Santa Rosa. There’s no denying the fact that an Ironman is unlike any other endurance event in the world. It’s a massive undertaking for anyone, and the sheer length of the Ironman is going to take its toll on both your body and mind.
There is one thing that can separate you from the rest – a well-defined race-week plan, one that’s concise and well thought out, covering all angles, the build-up, the race and the aftermath. Here’s a few tips to help you build that race-week plan.
- Taper correctly
You’ve just put months of effort into training, long arduous hours over the weekend, early mornings, late nights. You need to ensure your body is prepped and rested for the race. Everyone is different, some people like to keep their volume high all the way to the race, some people like to increase the intensity and decrease the volume. One thing is for sure, something must change in your week leading up to it. You’ve added stress, thinking about the race, travelling to the race, picking up last minute essentials. Try to stay relaxed during race week and rest a little bit more. Your body and mind will thank you come race day. Remember you’ve prepared well.
- Loosen the muscles
Get a massage, focus more on some stretching and foam rolling. You need to prepare your muscles for the task ahead. Also, stretching and foam rolling can have added meditation and relaxation benefits. Allowing you to de-stress and eliminate any remaining fatigue.
- Race kit – What are you going to wear?!
Have you selected the right tri suit? Is it comfortable? Have you used it during training? This is important, you have 180km to ride in it. Answering these three questions can help you plan your race kit. What’s comfortable? What’s the easiest to put on in transition? What kit causes the least irritation?
- Mix up your race fuel plan
Some athletes with an iron gut can complete any endurance event using a singular fuel/energy supply, such as gels or highly concentrated carbohydrate/caffeine mix. However, most people can benefit from having a mix of fuel. Solids, such as energy bars, water with a mix of isotonic usually result in less stress on your stomach then heavily caffeinated and sugary gels/drinks.
- Rehearse your travel
Have you looked at road closures, nearby public transport, is the race offering transport from specific locations? How you’re going to get to where you need to be on race day is essential. Plan this way in advance.
- Create a what-if plan
Prepare for all eventualities, a what-if plan. Note down all your concerns, worries, stresses about the race, and create an action plan or work out what you can do to either avoid them or put in place to deal with them if they happen. It might seem like the wrong way to think leading in to a race, but it’s always good to be prepared.
- Get yourself prepared to rise at stupid o’clock
Ironman Youghal has a swim time start of 6.30 a.m. Work back from that time to figure out how early you need to rise in order to ensure everything is packed, fuel for the day ahead, let it digest and get to the race venue. That will give you a timeline and you’ll also know exactly what to do! Practice going to bed earlier than usual and waking a little earlier, it’ll really help come race day.
- Breakfast – be familiar
Everyone should know at this stage, stay simple, nothing fancy. Carbohydrate, low fibre breakfast. Something that you’re used to, something you know will work and not upset an already nervous stomach.
- Get your mental tool-kit at the ready
Having something prepared beforehand to get you through any pain, exhaustion or temper tantrums is a great help. Who are you doing this for? Are you doing it for yourself? A friend? A partner? Your family? Thinking of them through the tough times can be beneficial. Some people come up with mantras that they repeat, some people think of all the training they’ve done to prepare.
- Ready the essentials
Do you know what type of weather it’s going to be for your Ironman? A lot of the race is spent braving the elements, if it’s going to be hot and sunny, make sure you pack some suncream, and take on board your electrolytes and salts. If it’s due to be miserable, do you need an extra layer? Do you need gloves? A cycling jacket? These are all things to consider.
- Stay calm for your race start
Ironman usually begins with a rolling start, allowing you to start whenever and wherever you wish. Giving you enough time to ready your mind and body. Find some space, break down the swim into smaller chunks and stick to the pace!
- Drip feed your calories/Keep your fuel accessible
When you exit the water, and get onto your bike, start to eat as soon as you feel comfortable and settle into a rhythm. Just be mindful, always top up your energy reserves even when you don’t think you need to. Keep your fuel accessible by using specific pouches in your trisuit or fuel holders on your bike so they won’t fall out if you hit a speed bump.
- Keep your pace in check
We can’t stress the importance of pacing enough; it’s a vital ingredient for a successful race. It’s rare to hear of an athlete going too slow on the bike and even if you do your race can certainly be saved. The same, unfortunately, can’t be said if you go too fast. Emotions can often get the better of us, but don’t let this happen in your race. If it feels like you’re going too hard, you’re going far too hard. You can always increase the pace later on if you’ve started too conservatively, but if you’ve overextended yourself, things will get very ugly, very quickly. Start the marathon slowly, as you get into it you can pick it.
- Prepare to run while on the bike
How are you preparing to run while finishing off the last few miles of the bike? Spin your legs a little faster by using a slightly higher cadence 5-10 rpm. This will get your legs moving and hopefully decrease the jelly leg feeling when you first hop off the bike! You’ve got a whole marathon ahead.
- Be empowered by the crowds
Using the crowd to your advantage can really get you moving as you come to the latter stages of your Ironman. Get excited that people are out cheering for you! Use it to get you over that finish line.
Most of all, enjoy your experience, have fun and smile!