FIRST THINGS FIRST – Get excited and begin visualising yourself crossing the Ironman finish line with your family and friends celebrating with you. Do this at least once a day, as it will motivate you when you hit any tough bits of the course.
The nerves generally begin to kick in on the Thursday before the big day, so it’s important to keep yourself focused and calm by having an anchor. I have two; “I have done the training and I am ready to be the best I can” and “I am going to have a fabulous day out with friends.”
If you are unfortunate enough to be carrying a running injury focus on what you can do – Swim and cycle at your best planned time and then relax accepting that you may have to speed walk a lot, if not all, of the run section. You will be pleasantly surprised at how well you will do.
THE THREE DAYS LEADING UP TO IRONMAN DAY
I use Thursday, Friday and Saturday to carb load while at the same time keeping active with very short but fast bursts in the sessions on one of the three disciplines.
For example – Thursday maybe a 32 min steady half marathon pace run with a one minute burst at 5 km pace on the 5th, 11th, 16th, 21st and 26th minute with a warm down and normal thorough stretch off. Friday is a good time to check out the bike and your bike legs with a 30 minute cycle. Again, with the odd short burst of speed for a couple of minutes and also making sure you warm down and stretch off properly. Saturday is a good time to have a dip in the open water race venue and rehearsing entering and exiting the water. If you’re not a confident swimmer you may want to do this on Thursday and/or Friday. REMEMBER WHENEVER YOU FEEL NERVOUS ANCHOR YOURSELF WITH A POSITIVE THOUGHT.
The swim seems to be the one that gets EVERYONE and not just you. The best advice I can give you if you are feeling nervous before entering the water is to say to yourself, “I am on a holiday swim with my friends.” Also, if anyone passes me I say to myself, “See you later on the bike.” The paradox here is that as you become more relaxed, you begin to swim smoother and faster.
SATURDAY RACKING UP AND DROPPING THE BAGS OFF
My kit, and to some extent my nutrition, for race day will be determined by the weather forecast. If the forecast is wet and cold then extra layers but if sunny and hot then few layers and plenty of fluids (sun cream is provided at T1 and T2).
I will spend time checking the bike over and if it’s going to be a warm Saturday and/or a warm night I will deflate my tyres, as the inner tube can expand and burst with the heat over night.
I will also check my bike kit drop off bag – helmet, socks, shoes, gloves, glasses. I might include emergency extras such as: water proof top if the weather’s unpredictable, winter gloves if it turns very cold.
Finally, I will usually spend time rehearsing where my bike is racked up from the T1 entry point.
SLEEP – First of all accept, unless you are very chilled out, that you will get very little sleep the night before. As long as you have had a couple of reasonable nights prior, it shouldn’t have a significant impact on you performance. If your lifestyle allows, try and set a pattern of going to bed early between 9.00 pm and 10 pm a week or two before the event.
Early rise – This will be dictated by how far you have to travel to the venue. I am fortunate, as I live half an hours drive from the start which allows me to get up at 3 am.
Once up, I will then eat my planned breakfast which will be a carb top up on the previous day’s carb loading. For me this will be – A pint of greens and alkaline before I go to the toilet, a bowl of porridge with a large banana and sultanas, two slices of white bread with peanut butter and a cup of coffee.
On with my tri kit and wet suit on up to my waist, hoody, old trainers and socks (these are good to wear if it’s wet and cold and you are kept waiting to get in the water). Also, I make sure I have my packed bike nutrition bag to load on my bike, two big bike bottles with my drinks and my Garmin watch. Finally, I have the clothes I will be wearing when I change at the finish line in the third drop off bag.
I usually order and share a taxi with two or three other friends who are competing. This lessens the stress, as you are dropped off without the hassle of parking. There’s a ten minute walk from the drop off which can bring on the nerves and need for the toilet. Once I am reunited with my bike at about 4.15 am I load my bike with the bottles and nutrition bag and inflate the tyres, if I have deflated them thee night before. I will be taking small sips of water throughout the morning.The time between arriving at your bike and the start seems to go by at the speed of light.
Then, it’s usually time for the toilet where I can also check the colour of my urine to see if I am hydrated enough.
At about 5:00 am I would eat a banana and have high 5 gel before getting in the usually long queue for the loo again (timing for the loo is everything to me).
Then the countdown announcements begin and competitors are asked to proceed to the start line for the open water at 5.30 am for their different waves. This is a good time to anchor yourself and to remind yourself that you have done all the hard work and you are going to have a great day with like minded friends.
Once in the open water do what you normally do when you are training. For example, I always like to swim a couple of short fast blast, scull and stretch the chest open, tread water and then I am ready to swim at my pace and not to over stretch myself by racing those ahead of me.
Remember, BIKE IS KING so, if your swim is your weakest discipline you will have fun passing others on your stronger disciplines.
Whatever you do, stick to YOUR RACE AND YOUR NUTRITION PLAN.
Once you’re out of the water remind yourself how lucky you are to be so fit and healthy. Then get on the bike and have one of the best days of your live doing what you love with the people you love, supporting you every mile of the course.
HAVE A WONDERFUL IRONMAN