Everyone on the start line has trained as hard and as often as possible given their circumstances to be here - race week.
They have focused their training for the past 12 to 16 weeks and before that they built a base platform for possibly another 20 weeks or so. It is fair to say a lot of blood sweat and tears has gone into getting to ironman week. Of course the above is nothing like what you have actually managed!
Unfortunately for many race week is where they destroy 20, 30, 40 weeks or more of hard work, simply by drinking too much water, changing their routine or walking around the awesome gadget zone of the expo for six hours.
Stick to these Do’s and Don’ts to navigate a safe race week.
DON'T start reading articles about triathlon or ironman training. Instead read over your training logs and feel good about the training and work you have done to be here – about to finish an ironman or your goal race.
DON'T focus all your thoughts and energy inward. Move you thoughts to those that helped you get to where you are – ready to toe the line at ironman. Too much inward focused attention is not helpful this week.
DON'T be stressed out by travel. Plan well and plan ahead so your travels are calm and relaxed. If you are traveling by air remain hydrated from start to finish. If traveling by car be sure to stop regularly and enjoy the sights. Air, land or sea the key is to plan, drink and keep moving around like a normal day. In the car pull off the freeway and drop into the local Olympic pool even for an 800m dip. Feel free to whack out 10 pushups and 10 body weight squats at the airline gate.
DON'T spend hours on end walking around the Expo and chatting with friends. By all means check out the expo, allocate 90 minutes and then go home and put your feet up. Do not buy anything for race day - your old gel bottle is fine, those socks with vents and extra spring are not better than your old socks, and that aero helmet will be 3 minutes quicker, just like the sales person said, but it will overheat your head, you will get heatstroke and walk the entire run leg.
DON'T get a massage in the two days before the race. Especially in a foreign town or by a brand new masseuse. By all means get two massages in the 14-4 days out time period. However, two days out just isn’t enough time to recover from even a good massage.
Likewise, DON'T over stretch. If you haven’t stretched for the past six months, please don’t start now. If you must stretch do a lighter version of your normal stretch routine. If you do not have a normal stretch routine – don’t start this week.
DON'T over-eat in the last few days before your race. Nervous energy, spare time, catching up with friends can all push you towards eating a little more than normal. Your muscles will store the same amount of glycogen from a normal sized chicken breast and salad grilled fish and veg as it will from a pile of past. Just eat a slightly simpler, plain-a version of your normal diet.
DON'T sleep with the air conditioner on. If you are in your own climate or you are acclimating it is important to let your body adapt. The best time for adaptation is at night.
DON'T spend more than an hour on any training session after the previous Sunday. If you are an uber-cyclist you may wish to push an easy 90 minute bike early in the week. However, chances are the uber-cyclist will know better and keep their biking short this week.
DON'T buy new gear! You have trained for months or years on the gear and kit you have and it has worked just fine. Stick with it for just one more day. The new aero bidden cage will malfunction on the first use. Super-duper go-fast compression socks that you have never used will give you the biggest blisters you have ever seen. Don't do it.
However, DO these things...
DO spend a little time visualising your race from start to finish or sections of the race. Close your eyes and walk yourself the various components of the race. Start with waking up feeling strong and fit, brushing your teeth, eating your exact breakfast, doing a little mobility on the lounge room floor. The more detail the better. As well as the positives you can use this time to walk yourself through a flat tyre, a penalty, cramp, etc and how you will deal with it exactly.
DO start hydration early. Intracellular hydration should start three weeks out. In the last week you should have slowly built up your ability to drink water and have your muscles take that on board. If you wait until two or three days before your race and then suddenly start drinking biddons of water you will simply be hydtrating your extracellular hydration. This means you will just start pissing more frequently.
DO remember the golden rule – “don’t stand if you can sit, don’t sit if you can lie down”. Every scerick of energy counts. Try and nap after lunch each day, if possible.
DO stick to your normal training routine for the first half of the week, albeit shorter and easier sessions. Your body likes routine. Stick to your normal training schedule as much as possible. If you swim Monday lunch and run in the afternoon then do that on race week. If you have a coffee before you ride stick with the same routine. The key is to simply take it easy. Swim a few laps hard but then have a rest or just get out of the pool. Ride up the hill or run but just make sure you don’t over do it. When you are done be sure to put your feet up. There is no need to anyone to swim, bike or run faster than race pace this week!
DO try and swim often, on the course if possible.
If you can manage it, DO try and schedule a massage early in the week. If you have access to Normatec Recovery boots get them on and relax. If need be try a little self massage – it works. Key is to make you’re your muscles remain as relaxed, hydrated and supple as possible.
DO register at the Expo early and then go home. Stay out of the sun during the heat of the day. If possible take a nap. In the afternoon or early evening you can go for another walk to get supplies. Planning is essential, create lists and make sure everything is done quickly and without fuss. Then have a nap.
DO put your stickers on you bike and get your transition bags ready days before if possible. Be sure to take with you two pairs of runners so you can pack your race runners and have a pair of runners to go for a little jog after you transition bags have been dropped off.
DO in the days before the race drive the bike course and ride the run course. Familiarisation with the course will be a positive on the day. There is a reason over 80% of ironmen do better on their home course than an international/away course.
DO cut out fibre rich foods after breakfast the day before the race. Fibre takes a long time to pass through the body, especially the good stuff. Do yourself a huge favour and drop the Fibre at least a day out from the race.
DO have a rest day. Everyone is a little different here but most people respond best to a complete rest (or easy swim) two days before the race. Then the day before the race you can swim and ride short – about 90 minutes in total in the morning and then in the afternoon go for a light jog including no more than 4x 800m -1k race pace efforts with a good rest in between.
DO make your last big proper meal a late lunch the day before. About 1.30pm schedule a good lunch, maybe somewhere nice with those close to you. I like this lunch (the last supper) to be a biggish well balanced meal. Eat with the loved ones that have helped you get to the start line. Have fun, relax and if you want, have a glass of wine and celebrate getting to the start line.
DO just eat a small, light, simple, pizza or a very plain meal the night before. Enjoy some calorie rich icecream and/or chocolate after dinner. There is no harm in having a little glass of wine with dinner.
DO keep the organised calm theme running on race morning - wake up early; eat a nutritious, low fibre, calorie dense breakfast; get to transition early; set up your bike; warm up if that’s what you do; and then most importantly go and find a quiet place to close your eyes and visualise you perfect race day.
Ironman or race week is a crazy week. It is the culmination of lots of hard work and sacrifice from not just you but those that support you as well.
Make a plan well in advance of the actual race week so that come those last few days you are calm relaxed and ready to race.