My second Ironman is only nine days away. The taper is in full effect and my workouts are short and sweet! I’m trying to stay rested and basically not do anything to hurt myself before the race. I do lots of things all season long to try and stay healthy and well (both physically and mentally), but leading up to a race as big as Ironman, there are a few more things to think about.
So here’s a list if 9 things that I will be doing over the next 9 days:
1. Study the Athlete Guide – Ironman publishes a race-specific guide for each event that they hold. The guide is full of very useful information, even for those of us that have done the race in the past. I’ve already downloaded the guide (which you can find here), printed it out and went through marking/highlighting things that I thought were important or that I didn’t know. This includes the maps of the swim, bike and run courses. If I’m not sure about a particular section of the course, I might head out and drive it. At some point in the next few days, I will go back through the guide and write down things that I want to remember on race day or as I pack up my gear bags (see item # 8 for more on this).
2. Make a Plan for Transitions and Aid Stations – I’ve done enough triathlons to be able to speed through T1 and T2 quickly…but this isn’t any ordinary race. There is no clipping your shoes on your bike. No laying out your shoes and hat for the run. For Ironman races, you can have nothing on the ground in transition. So it will be a little bit different transitioning from swim to bike and from bike to run. I will go over in my head (and maybe on paper) what all I need to do several times before race day. I will also think about what I want to do at the Aid Stations on the bike and run. As I approach the stations on the bike, what will I try to grab from the volunteers? On both the bike and run, what order do I want to get stuff? Where will I put it once I grab it? These things need to be thought out ahead of time. Aid Stations are a prime spot for wrecks on the bike, so I want to have a plan to get in and get out!
3. Spend Time With The Foam Roller – As my workouts get shorter and less intense, my muscles are starting to get some much needed R&R. Several times over the next nine days, I will work the foam roller on my legs and back, trying to hunt down tight spots. Two years ago before Ironman I had several deep tissue massages; this time around, I’ll find the trouble spots myself. As I move up and down my legs, if I feel a tender spot, I will hold it there for 20-30 seconds and then move on. Hopefully doing this every few days will break up adhesions and scar tissue and increase blood flow, promoting recovery and performance.
4. Be Very Conscious of What I Eat – Not that I’m not normally very particular about my diet, but in the days leading up to the race, it’s critical to keep your gut in good shape. I’ve already started to limit carbohydrates as my taper started at the beginning of this week. There’s no need to pack on extra pounds now. I will be sure not to introduce any new foods and will be careful to limit fiber in the two days before race day. I will increase carbohydrates slightly the days before the race, but I will not be “carb loading”. My diet has been about 70-75% fats and proteins for the last two months, so my body is decently efficient at using fat as a fuel. I don’t need to stuff myself with carbs the day before the race to ensure that I will have enough fuel to get through. I will also continue to take a Digestive Enzyme supplement and take a swig of Apple Cider Vinegar every night to help promote digestion.
5. Strict No Caffeine and No Sugar – Outside of some tea now and then, I don’t drink anything with caffeine in it. But during Ironman, I will take some liquid and gels that contain it. In order to maximize their effectiveness, I will abstain from caffeine for the two weeks leading up to a race. Studies have proven that caffeine is an effective (and legal) performance enhancer, but only when used the right way. Sugar is a drug – bottom line. I don’t eat much sugar during a normal week, but I might slip in something here or there…but not race week. I’m going to three kids birthday parties between now and the race, so resisting cake and ice cream is going to be difficult. The liquid fuel that I will drink on the bike and run contains Dextrose and Maltodextrine, which are sugars that will absorb quickly into my blood stream for energy. This will be a huge jolt to my system since it’s not used to having sugar as a fuel source. This stuff is not healthy, and other than race day and long training rides, I would not recommend consuming it!
6. Drink Adequate Amounts of Water – There’s not much worse than starting a long race in the hole. I want to be fully hydrated on race morning. So I will pay extra close attention to my water intake and make sure that I’m hydrated, but not over hydrated. If my urine gets clear, then I need to back off. If it’s dark yellow, I need to drink more. The color of lemonade is what I’m shooting for!
7. Get Info To Spectators – Most people that compete in an Ironman race will have family and friends that want to come out on the course to support them. Don’t just tell them to show up on the bike or run course and wait for hours hoping to see you. Rent a GPS Tracker from MyAthleteLive or give them maps and try to estimate a time range when you will be at certain places on the course. Tell them what you will be wearing and what your bike looks like – or better yet, send them a picture of you wearing your race gear so they can know what to look for. Spectators have just as long of a day as the people racing, don’t make their day any more difficult than it has to be!
8. Plan Out Your Gear Bags – Each person gets 5 gear bags.
- Morning Clothes bag – stuff that you want to wear at the swim start, but that you aren’t going to be swimming in (i.e. shoes, shirt, shorts, pre-race food, etc.)
- Bike Gear bag – everything for T1 (i.e. bike shoes, helmet, race bib number, maybe a change of clothes, etc.)
- Bike Special Needs bag – you will get this around the half-way point of the bike (i.e. more nutrition, a spare tube, CO2 cartridge, etc.)
- Run Gear bag – everything for T2 (i.e. running shoes, hat, socks, run nutrition, etc.)
- Run Special Needs bag – you will get this around the half-way point of the run (i.e. spare socks, more nutrition, petrolum jelly for blisters, etc.)
Think about all of these bags and what you will need. Write down a list now and then keep it handy so you can add more things as you think of them between now and race day.
9. Thank Your Support Crew – Family and friends have put up with your training and non-stop triathlon talk for 9-12 months now. The race is finally here and I’m sure they are just as thankful as you are that it will all be over soon. Take some time to individually thank those that have made sacrifices so that you could do this race. They are proud of you, but they will appreciate the gesture. Maybe once things have settled down, treat your significant other to a day out without the kids, or a nice dinner. Whatever it is, give them something special – they deserve it!