Race Day: Ironman Race Week

What can you do better to prepare for Ironman? Here are some tips and techniques to get through race week ready for the big day.

With Ironman New Zealand fast approaching in Taupo, the nerves of athletes are starting to get frayed. I’ve been there as an athlete six times and many more as a coach supporting his athletes.

A number of things go through the heads of athletes this week, especially when they arrive in Taupo and the ‘banter’ starts. Now Ironman banter isn’t like the banter of the Aussie cricket team. Ironman banter is more exaggerating the training that other athletes have done – “Yeah, I’ve been riding 180km every weekend since Christmas.”  This banter or exaggerating starts the demons in the head that start asking: have I done enough?

Now the situation of each athlete will be different. Strengths, weaknesses, injuries, time available for training, family commitments, work commitments, study commitments all combine to make a unique situation. You have put your faith and trust in your coach to develop your training plan based on your situation and need to continue to keep that faith and trust.

Ironman is a scary time, especially if it is your first time. Trust me you HAVE done the work and what other people have done isn’t going to impact YOUR event. You have your own goals and that is what your programme has been prepared towards.

The taper is the important part of your training to get right. It is easy to get caught up in the hype. If your programme calls for a 45min easy ride, don’t be tempted to go on a smash fest with some mates out to Reporoa and back. These sort of adventures will leave you tired and inhibit your performance on race day.

It is important to stay well rested, well hydrated, well nourished and smiling.  Make sure you have plenty of spending money in Taupo with you to pre-order your race photos.  Don’t spend up large in the merchandise store, because the day after the race they have similar items with Ironman Finisher on them (you will need your finishers medal to prove your are worthy enough to purchase them). Do have a look through the merchandise store.  They have some good gear and presents for your support team.

Aim to drink at least 3L of water (or sports drink) every day from now until race day to build up and ensure you are fully hydrated. I mix up an empty 3L juice container with my sports drink each night and top up a drink bottle from it through the day to ensure I get through the full 3L.  Try and focus on food high in carbohydrates but low on the Glycaemic Index (GI), avoiding high fat foods.  Meals that are based around rice, pasta, potatoes or kumura make good choices, especially if they use a vegetable based sauce (instead of a cheese based sauce).  Breads also are a good source of carbs. I usually have a loaf of fruit-bread to snack on, especially whilst driving to Taupo (it is almost a pre-race ritual for me now).

Make sure you leave plenty of time to register and rack your bike, as these often both have queues along with the race briefing. Take the time to pack your race bags. Lay your equipment out and follow a check list to make sure you don’t miss anything out.https://trainingtiltapp.blob.core.windows.net/qwikkiwi/QK-Race-Day-Triathlon-List.pdf  When packing to travel here is a list you might want to consider using:https://trainingtiltapp.blob.core.windows.net/qwikkiwi/QK-Triathlon-Travel-List.pdf

Some advice I give my athletes I have stolen from Jon Ackland (coach and author of a few books about training and racing) is the ‘Fifty Metre Rule’. The concept behind the 50m rule is to swim, bike or run as best as you can for the next 50m. If you do this 4520 times in a row, you will have the perfect race. The reality is that you are unlikely to remember on every one of the 4520 fifty metre segments of the race, but if you get the majority of them you will have a pretty damn good race. The other thing is not to interpret the ‘best as you can’ for as fast as you can. The idea is that you take steps or do things that will mean that you can be as effective or efficient as you can to ensure you set yourself up for later in the race. Some 50m segments you may be focusing on consuming food/fluid, some you might be focusing on hiding from the wind by being as aerodynamic as possible, some you may be focusing on a long and flowing swim stroke. Regardless of what you are focusing on, you need to be doing something to ensure it is your best effort.

The best piece of advice for first timers I believe is to soak up that atmosphere in the finishing chute as you will never run down the chute as a first timer again. The first time is the most thrilling, so make the most of it.  Who cares if a couple of people pass you. High five everyone, stop and give your loved ones a hug, do ‘the aeroplane’ and enjoy the experience and the crowd, this IS your 2 minutes in the lime light, soak it up.

If you would like further advice feel free to contact Coach Ray.

Coach Ray is the Head Coach & Director of Qwik Kiwi – Endurance Sports Consultant.

Coach Ray specialises in assisting first timers and recreational athletes to achieve their sporting goals. He can be contacted at www.qwik.kiwi, ray@qwikkiwi.com and 021 348 729. Make sure you sign up to his monthly informative newsletter.

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