In only a few days thousands of fellow Scandinavians will start at Ironman Kalmar or Copenhagen. Some will do it for the first time and some will be repeat offenders that have caught the bug and that again want to test if they can go faster, stay focused and deal with all the things that will happen in an Ironman race. Quite a few people have contacted me with a lot of different questions for their race this upcoming weekend and as many of the questions are similar I thought I could share some experience that I have gained over the years – perhaps it will help someone to have a better preparation and race day.
My top 10 tips:
- Use lists. There are a lot of things to remember before the race and what to bring in your red/blue/white/green bag. Use one of the 100rds of lists on the internet to remember to bring your stuff but make sure to keep it to a minimum.
- Blue bag (Bike) – empty (helmet and glasses, race bib, shoes on the bike).
- Red bag – socks, running shoes, Vaseline (between toes and armpits), cap if you use one, a few Isostar Gels).
- Green bag – not needed.
- White bag – flip flops and a hoodie.
- Get your stuff ready early. Register as soon as possible and go back and get everything ready and check it in so you can relax and rest. There is nothing worse than having to get things fixed and serviced 15min before check is closes or trying to find some lubricants for your neck 10min before the swim-start.
- Stay out of the expo. I have done it and I am sure that most other people with +10 Ironman races have done it – waist time, energy and money and buy crap that you know that you will not have time to really test but still will use on race day…. Don’t.
- Try out your gear before race day. I don’t know how many times I have seen people drop their shoes, water bottles, repair kits and ride into barriers – just because they never take the time to learn what they will do on race day. If you are not used to riding with your shoes clipped in and put them on as you cycle – don’t try to learn it on race day (but make sure to practice it in every training session next season!), if you have a hydration system or repair kit that you typically don’t use in training – use it in a few of the last rides and ride hard over bumps to make sure that it stays in place even when you ride race wheels hard over the bumps.
- Sleep well – two nights before the race. I have never slept really well the actual night before the race as you always have to get up so early and I have a hard time to sleep at 8PM.... The most important night is actually two nights before the race and then you should make sure that you can have undisturbed sleep for at least 8-9 hours and not get stressed out to go and swim at 07:00 just to simulate race conditions.
- Plan your nutrition/hydration well. I switch to oatmeal porridge at lunch the day before race and have as much as I can that afternoon and a bit less in the evening and morning which keeps my stomach clam as a clam. During the race I try to get 250-300ckal/hr which is the right amount for someone my size (83kg) and I get that from 2-3 Isostar Gels + ½ bottle sports drink/hour. If it’s a warm day I try to drink 1,5 – 2 liters / hour. Keep in mind that 2% dehydration can reduce performance up to 20%. Don't go crazy at the aid stations as stomach problems often are due to over consumption rather than the opposite if you are putting in more than your body can handle then you will get sick - for sure!
- There is no perfect race! When Jan Frodeno broke the world record last year it’s easy to imagine that he had a perfect race. Well, he made the best of it but the truths is that he actually went of-course and almost crashed into a barrier on the bike. What he did however is something that is good to learn from – he got his stuff up on the road again and went full speed ahead. Things will happen, you might drop the chain, have a flat, even crash, throw up, get cramp, etc, etc. What is important is to look at those things as part of the race – they are challenges that happens to all. Your job is to overcome them and the faster you do the faster you can get back to being in the flow and feeling great.
"Get Back On It!" - Jan Frodeno out of the forrest again and back on the bike to break the world record.
- Don’t be so serious! If you are not making a living from racing and must make top ten as a pro to pay the mortgage – relax! You can do this for fun, what a treat!! There are many “high performers” in this sport who think that extreme sacrifice and suffering will make them faster – but when you meet the absolute best in the sport you quickly realize that part of the reason to their success is that they don’t see training as a sacrifice and are extremely good at taking it easy when they are not training.
- Expect nothing and don't let peer pressure affect YOUR race! Putting pressure on yourself for a certain finishing time is counterproductive. It is impossible to produce a result in the future if you don't feel good and perform in the moment. What will happen is: if you are going slower than your plan you will start beating yourself down for not making the plan, if you are going faster – you will slow down to avoid blowing up. All of this without really experiencing and listening to your body. When you listen to people who have broken world records and had the race of their life - you will never hear them say "I was afraid of being slow and I didn't want to let club mates, coaches and my mommy down" - but you will often hear: "I thought of nothing, I was in the moment and was unaware of what was happening around me". There is much more to learn mentally from Ironman than the physical challange - and you have the opportunity to practice for over 8 hours!
- Smile! Even when it hurts.
Have a great race and enjoy!!!