Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ironman Lessons/Newbie Tips

Although I've been doing triathlons for the past couple years, racing an Ironman is an entirely different animal. With that said, I had a lot of questions going into Ironman Florida. To answer my questions and calm my fears, I consulted with fellow friends, bloggers, and coaches. Everyone helped me out tremendously!

Despite being able to figure some things out, the true lessons were ultimately learned on race day. Here is a comprehensive list of things that I have learned throughout my journey and on race day. Please share if you have any additional suggestions!

  • Register and do the packet pick up as early as possible to avoid the lines.
  • Stay out of the sun the day before the race.
  • Stay off your feet as much as possible the afternoon/evening before the race.
  • Nervousness is a waste of energy.
  • Do attend the athlete meeting..there may be some race specific details about the course/sketchy areas on the bike that will want to know about.
  • Fasten a ribbon to your special needs/transition bags. Volunteers will more quickly recognize your bag. (Not sure if this is totally legal but a ton of people at FL did it. Wish I did).
  • Explain how everything works to your race sherpa, family etc. Tell them what to expect on race day and what support you need from them. (Check out Scott's sherpa guide to Ironman racing).
  • If it's cold do plan to put on dry clothes in T1. You will thank yourself later. Also-consider adding compression sleeves for leg warmth.
  • Don't be afraid to direct volunteers in the the changing tent to help you dress yourself. At that point they have seen everything. Have no shame.
  • Put on your own sunscreen if you want it rubbed in. (Otherwise you will likely have white globs all over).
  • Do not eat too much fiber the day before/morning of the race.
  • Do NOT pre-tear gels. You will have on big mess in your special needs bags. (Not sure what I was thinking). But DO pre-tear cliff shots or chews. (especially if it's cold or you aren't super coordinated during the bike).
  • Need a hydration re-fill but don't want to trust the aid stations or titrate on the bike? Place replacement bottles in your special needs bike bag and throw your bottles before 56.6 miles.
  • Examine your nutrition products to see if they contain caffeine-there is a lot more caffeine in everything than you think.
  • Early in your training calculate your sodium needs and consider adding some type of salt supplement.
  • Place pepto and gasx in your special needs bags (compliments of Kim). You never know when you will need it.
  • Stick the nutrition plan. Develop a concise schedule as to when you will drink and eat.
  • The race will never be won in the swim.
  • Observe the buildings/landmarks on the horizon on the swim. This may assist with citing.
  • When citing during the swim do not attempt to breast stroke or stall. Get comfortable with swimming on people's feet.
  • While your swim may feel slow, you are likely going a lot faster than you think. Just think-you are drafting off of hundreds of other swimmers.
  • Wet suit strippers are the best! Use them!
  • Tune up your bike a couple weeks before. Don't wait until the last minute. If something needs to be fixed, ordered, or changed you are screwed if you wait until last minute.
  • If you are riding with race wheels-make sure you know how to change a flat on those as well.
  • Drive the bike/run course a few days before if possible.
  • Drafting will happen and you will likely get caught up in it at some point. Back down and get out of it- you will thank yourself later when you see that peleton in the penalty tent.
  • Don't forget your lube or hoo-ha cream. Glad I didn't.
  • Do wear socks in the marathon. Your feet will feel so much better.
  • If it's cold and you plan on finishing after the sun sets, DO place arm warmers or a shell in your special needs run bag. (Big mistake for me).
  • Keep your heart rate in check at the beginning of the marathon-this is one long race.
  • Although you may feel like crap at this point in the race, set small goals of how to finish the race (maybe walk a minute/run 5 etc.) This will help you make it through.
And last and most importantly, enjoy race day and reflect on what you have done to get there! Becoming and Ironman is more than race day, it's about the the journey. Think back to the long workouts, the un-godly early morning wake-ups, the never-ending 100 plus mile bike rides. When you cross that finish line, it will all be worth your sacrifices. And don't forget to thank those who made the journey possible. (Thank you Scott).


  1. This was great info, I am going to try iron distance next year, I am going to print this out and put in my iron folder. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. Awesome race Heidi and congrats once again. I'll have to disagree with you on the whole wetsuit stripper thing, but otherwise, excellent insight and it seems like you learned a lot. Now study up on Scott's Sherpa Guide so you can shepherd him along next year! Enjoy your well-earned recovery!

  3. Awesome list!! I just found myself shaking my head to everything that you pointed out!!

    So, do you want to do a marathon with me in Tallahassee in Feb? :)

  4. Well put - I think I agree with just about everything.

  5. Interesting... I was suggest registering as late as possible. Triathletes are so Type A (according to them lol) that they feel the need to do everything right. away. I was probably the last one to register & drop my bike off at Canada - I was the only one doing it too :)

  6. I *always* suggest, that is. Stupid computer.

  7. yah they are so type A... although we have to be a little type A to be a triathlete- I try hard NOT to be. hahahah

  8. Great information! Thanks so much for sharing! And congrats again Ms. Ironman!

  9. yes! great list! i put pepto and immodium in my bento box as well :) oh, and vaseline to protect the ole wooha.

  10. Awesome info, I am saving this for when I do my first IM in July!

  11. Great lessons learned. And I totally agree - you can get as much advice as possible before, but some lessons you have to learn yourself on race day. :) Being flexible and adaptable is key! :) So excited for Scott!

  12. Great list! This has been added to my list of links for next year.

  13. Great post!! Loved it!! You helped a lot of people with this post and I am SURE they appreciated it!! (oh and great tip on the ribbon! loving that one).