As I prepare for my second full Ironman – Ironman Lake Tahoe on September 21, I’ve been thinking back to my first experience in at Ironman Lake Placid 2012 for better or worse. There’s certainly room for improvement this time around, but I did do a lot of research prior to my first Ironman and far exceeded my initial expectations for both training and race day. In this post, I’ll focus on some of the things I’ll do again, and some of the mistakes that I’ve learned from 18 months after my first Ironman.
DO: Race a half-Ironman in the months preceding your full
I’ve mentioned it in an earlier post – races are the new long run for me. A 70.3 2-3 months prior to your 140.6 doesn’t need to be a PR A-race. Instead, treat it as an opportunity to execute your Ironman fueling plan, race with the gear you haven’t yet tested, and pace like you would on the big day.
I took this very approach when I raced Wildflower Long Course 2.5 months before Ironman Lake Placid. My goals were aligned with what I set out to do at the full: get out of the water without expending too much energy, put in a 75% effort on the bike – my strongest leg, and if I had energy with 10k left in the run, push hard. I did just that and broke 6 hours for the first time – 5:58 thanks to a 6:45 mile 13.
DON’T: Train exclusively under unrepresentative conditions
If you’ve registered for a hilly bike ride, keep that in mind when you log excess flat miles. If your race features an ocean swim, get used to the rough water. Train in the heat, hit it hard in the rain – prepare yourself for the worst case scenarios. I acknowledge that hill training isn’t easy for those who live in flat areas. Although it may not be fun at the time, logging difficult sessions on the bike trainer or tacking on an extra spin class will pay dividends come race day.
DO: Research your course
Course maps and elevation profiles don’t tell the story of every course. Do research on your Ironman – odds are someone has taken video of the bike course and uploaded it to YouTube. Raymond Britt has written a series of books aimed at preparing triathletes (and runners) for their A-races, and I studied his book on Lake Placid inside and out leading up to IMLP 2012. It provides a full walkthrough of the course with mile-markers to prepare unknowing racers for their big day.
DON’T: Check in your nutrition before race day
I made this mistake at IMLP. Bike and gear check is mandatory on the day before the race, however you can access your bike and run gear bags on race morning (albeit early). I attempted to free up my race day agenda by filling my water bottles with bike fuel the night before the race, and had the pleasure of sipping warm sludge during my bike ride. Keep your bottles in the fridge the night before the race, write yourself a reminder if necessary, and don’t make the same mistake I did!
DO: Emphasize comfort – wear bike shorts
This is often a point of contention amongst Ironman triathletes. Purists and speed demons wouldn’t be caught dead in the changing tent. For me, it was a no brainer: a few extra minutes in transition was the difference between wearing triathlon shorts with a thin, borderline nonexistent layer of padding for a 112 mile ride versus my go-to bike outfit: padded shorts, my favorite jersey, and a fresh pair of compression socks. I changed again for the run, and enjoyed the marathon leg wearing my favorite running outfit.
I ultimately tacked on close to 20 minutes – I was very slow through transition, but I used the time as a mental reset. Volunteers bring you food, drinks, and your bags, and you can really focus on feeling good. This approach allowed me to better segment my day into three discrete events instead of a single overwhelming effort.
DO: Buy a finisher picture
We all know they’re overpriced, but after all of the cash you shelled out during training, will another $25 break the bank? Commemorate your hard work and leave all of your Facebook friends asking “when does training for next year’s event start?”.