If you’re doing an Ironman this year or thinking of doing an Ironman, then read this blog to avoid some of the pitfalls I made!
I was asked by a listener what I would do differently the next time I did an Ironman - yes there will be another one!
This year I'm training for the Braveheart Triathlon- 1.2 mile sea loch swim, a 56 mile road cycle, and a 13 mile hill run to the summit of Ben Nevis and back!
My 3-4 year goal is Norseman, an extreme triathlon based in Norway!
So here are….
1. Know how to change my bicycle tyre before 2 weeks to go
I trained for 6 months on my road bike without knowing how to change a tyre and learned how to do so just 2 weeks before Ironman Barcelona!
I put it off for so long because I find bike mechanics such a puzzle and learning it off Youtube was too difficult.
Luckily a very kind guy from Wyndy Milla showed me how a couple of weeks before race day and then I went home and practiced like crazy!
2. Know my sweat rate for training and Braveheart Tri
Until I met triathlete coach Mark Kleanthouse, founder of IronMate Coaching and competitor of over 1,000 worldwide events - including some seriously insane events, I had no idea about sweat rate and how important it was.
Did you know that a 2% drop in body weight from fluid loss can result in a 10% decline in your performance?
And dehydration during long training sessions, especially rides, can weaken your immune system and cause you to become sick.
By finding out your sweat rate, you will know how much you need to drink per hour during your training and race. This allows you to keep your performance and recovery levels maximised.
Once you know your sweat rate, it’s important to practice how much you need to drink for race day during your training, to see how much you can comfortable absorb at your race effort.
Also be aware of sodium loss through sweating, as you will need to replace this with electrolyte drinks and salty foods to prevent cramp.
During training and on race day, you don’t want to drink too much plain water as this can result in hyponatremia, which means you’ve diluted your the sodium levels in your body by too much.
If it wasn't for Mark’s knowledge here and a nutritionist called Sophie, I wouldn't have become an Ironman. Rest be sured I will be nailing this for my Braveheart Triathlon.
3. Calculate how many calories I need to eat every hour
By calculating how many calories you burn in an hour you can calculate how many calories you need to replace, as Mark explains in his blog here.
I prefer to get my calories from natural sources, but this is challenging when you’re going abroad for your race (and you have no kitchen due to renovations like me!) and as I left it too late, it wasn’t possible for me.
During my training, I ran into some trouble with my nutrition as I really dislike eating early in the morning, so I either fasted or didn’t enough before training sessions, and also during. I also didn’t eat enough glycogen or protein post-recovery as I’ve now found out.
This resulted in a weakened immune system and sickness.
For me, this is still my weaker area and the area I’m focusing on strengthening the most. Already I’ve noticed a vast improvement in my energy levels, performance and recovery - and if I don’t follow my nutrition guidelines, I notice a difference.
Remember, never try anything new on race day and always make sure your nutrition is tested and trusted by you!
Here’s an insight into Mark’s A-Z of Sport Nutrition and there’s so much on his site!
4. Order your kit months, not weeks, before your race
For about 6 months I trained in my cycling, running and swimming kit.
However, I didn't attach tri bars to my bike until a couple of days before my race, as the stories and experiences I had read in the Ironman Facebook groups scared me! So I put it off and put it off until I had no option!
So Ironman Barcelona was my first time using tri bars properly - not the smartest move!
I would like to stress here that tri bars are not scary and really great once you get to used to them.
Finding a tri suit that fitted and was comfortable was very difficult for me, as I have a large chest measurement and they tend to be made for women who are sticks.
I had tried to find a suit a couple of months before my race, but that task proved fruitless and became too demoralising.
So 2 weeks before my race it was now or never. I had to find a suit otherwise I wouldn’t be racing - Wiggle were my savior: free delivery and returns! Yay!!
I ordered at least 40 tops and bottoms and I found 1 pair of shorts and 2 tops that were perfect!
I wore a Castelli top for swimming and cycling (this could have been a man’s) and Zoot, as they didn’t have a built in bra (who uses these?! If you do and they give you enough support, I’m very envious!), were flattering, comfortable and looked pretty!
5. Practice taking snacks/drinks from people while cycling
Mark suggested this. It was something I had never thought of.
So a week or so before the race, my dad and I practiced on the road. I would cycle past him and take bottles and snacks from him!
This was really helpful, as I was confident when it came to race day that I could re-fuel without falling off.
6. Really understand what the morning of the Ironman entails
I knew roughly what to expect, I had racked my bike the evening before and walked through the swim to the transition area to my bike and then from my bike to transition area.
This meant that when it came to race day, I knew the quickest path to my bike and didn't become confused as to where I was going.
I wasn't 100% sure what else the morning entailed, apart from checking my bike, adding final touches such as my Garmin, changing into my wetsuit, dumping my street bag etc.
We were going to do everything as a group, but when we got there we all dispersed to do final checks and handle race nerves in different ways.
I was feeling slightly nervous at this point because it was passed the agreed time, no one was here, I didn’t know what to do and race time was approaching!
Luckily one of the guys was very tall and I spotted him in the crowd, so we put our wetsuits on together and headed to the water to warm up - I don’t think he realised how much this meant to me!
Again, I wasn't 100% sure what I should do for a warm up so relied on the others.
For the Braveheart Triathlon, I will have this down to a fine art and be independent. Just to take out a layer of worry and be more relaxed about the entire process.
7. Woman with a plan
I fastidiously worked out my pace for each leg based on my estimated pace and also the minimum pace I would have to do as to not miss the cut off times. So if the worst happened, I knew what I would have to do to become an Ironman!
I laminated and taped this to my handle bars, as this is the leg I was most concerned about regarding making cut off times and I places a copy in each transition bag and my run food pouch.
This helped me to really relax about race day, as I could see that my training had really paid off and that if all went to plan, I could walk the marathon and still finish!
8. Quicker Run Time
The run was my weakest element of the Ironman, so this time round I'm working on improving my core strength, endurance and speed, so my pace quickens
9. Practice transitions
I kind of did this and wish I had done it properly.
I visualised doing my transitions and had practiced during training, so I knew exactly what to do for each transition.
However, it was suggested to me to lay out my clothes in my bathroom for transition 1 (swim to bike) and transition 2 (bike to run) and practice running in out and changing.
I never practiced transitions in this way and wish I had because although I was super speedy in transition 1, I was not in transition 2 - as I also had to also change my sports bra.
I was in transition 2 for 20 MINUTES!!! If only I had practiced, maybe I could have shaved a juicy 10 minutes off my time!
10. Kit list for each bag and packing list
I love excel sheets, so I had a column for general packing and each kit bag: street, swim, run and bike.
As I packed my suitcase for going to Barcelona, I put a tick next to each item and as I packed my kit bags the day before the race, I put a tick next to each item and took a photo of the kit I would place in each bag.
This put my mind at ease, as I knew I had packed everything I needed and that I was 100% ready to race and become an Ironman!
I will be doing this again!