Your first Ironman®, sprint tri, or any race can bring with it a lot of feelings of excitement, anxiety, nervousness, and countless other emotions.
While that’s all completely and 100% normal, it’s important to remember it can be enjoyable too!
Here are a few tips to make sure you get the most out of your first Ironman®.
1.) Prepare your body
I know, duh. But seriously, make sure that you have a good training plan for your Ironman®, and train properly.
This includes the obvious physical aspect of things (i.e. putting in the miles), but don’t forget about resting, stretching, nutrition and gear prep.
Prior to race day, you should go through a few “dry runs”, particularly of transition. How will you lay your gear out after the swim for the bike? After the bike for the run? Will you bring back-up gear in case something goes wrong like a flat tire (on that note do you know how to change a flat tire)?
You might feel like you’re over preparing and preparing for situations that could never possibly happen, but as someone who has had the sole of their shoe fall off on a treadmill 1mo after they bought those shoes… trust me, anything is possible.
2.) Prepare your mind
There are a few realities about a race with a 17 hour cutoff
- It’s long
- It’s hard
- You will spend the bulk of that time (bike) completely alone
- It’ll be worth it
Heading into the race, you’ll be excited, but you might not be ready for the “lows” that accompany a race this long.
You’ll get surges of adrenaline throughout the day that will put you in a fantastic state of mind, ready to tackle anything, but after hour 5 on the bike, when all your food and nutrition tastes bland, it’s hotter than you thought, you’re tired already, you might not be as peppy.
It’s a HUGE help to go into a race with a really strong “why”.
Why are you doing this? No really, why? It’s not because you want a medal, but it’s maybe to conquer a decade long fear, maybe it’s to prove your doubters wrong, maybe it’s to prove yourself right.
Whatever it is – wear it like a badge of honor, and create a mantra. When things get tough, just repeat it to yourself. One foot in front of the other is all you need to do, but if there’s a strong “why” behind your movement, it’ll make it that much easier to keep going when the going gets tough.
3.) Get lots of different flavor nutrition
You’re going to be eating and drinking your own nutrition (right?? you’re not just going to show up and eat whatever’s at the aid station, right??) that you’ve trained with.
One thing to consider is this full Ironman® race is a LOT longer of a day than any of even the longest workouts you did in training. So while you might thing that all you need is kiwi-strawberry GUs and lemon lime Nuun tabs, you’ll be surprised how quickly you get down right bored of those flavors.
When that happens, you’re less likely to look forward to eating (not good) and it makes getting enough calories harder than it should be.
Get 3-5 flavors for your gels, chews and food and another amount for your liquids. Mix it up, make it a surprise to your body what you eat when.
If nothing else, it’ll give you one more thing to think about as you pass the time on that 112 mile bike ride!
4.) Bring with you the “get to” attitude
You’ll spend an enormous amount of time during training saying things to yourself like “I have to go run today” or “I have to make my brick session” – and in most cases, those are true statements.
You do have to train in order to safely complete the race.
On race day though – remember that you get to do this.
By race day, you’ll posses a body capable of incredible things. You have given yourself the ability, and opportunity to stand at the starting line which is a monumental achievement in and of itself.
You didn’t have to sign up for Ironman®, you didn’t have to toe the start line, you didn’t have to take a year to train – but you get to.
5.) Have a plan (and be ok when it goes to hell)
Go into race day with a plan. How often will you eat? Change your socks? What will your pace be?
Have a plan, and stick to it – especially if that plan is created based on what worked well for you in training.
With that plan though, be prepared to throw it out the window if something goes wrong.
You might end up with GI issues, it might be super hot, cold, rainy, the race organizers may have lost your special needs bag, etc. etc.
Obviously it’s not ideal for any of that to happen, but it’s all possible, and you’ll need to adjust.
Maybe you’ll have a perfect day and everything will go according to plan, great! aren’t you glad you had one?
But even if everything goes sideways – you’ll always be able to adapt and overcome – just be prepared for the possibility that you might just have to do that.
You can find joy in anything if you look hard enough
A race like an Ironman® exists because we as human beings want to push the limits of our potential.
There’s a reason that something like ~1% of the worlds population has completed one of these races – they’re just hard.
It’s the old saying “if it were easy, everyone would do it”, and you most certainly signed up for a challenge.
While these races are meant to be hard & challenging, they’re also overwhelmingly possible.
Prepare your body, your mind, and your attitude, and you too, will be an Ironman®!