Dear Coach Kris:
I have this little race thingy coming up. I'm told there's a 2.4 mile swim, a bike segment of 112 miles, and then a marathon, 26 miles 385 yards. I suppose one should have a plan for such as this.
My first time at this distance my plan was: finish. If you wonder whether you're going to hard, you probably are.
My second time my plan was: don't die in the frigid swim, bike too strong, and then run just fast enough to get a "13" in the finish time.
I am unimpressed with my planning ability.
So, how do I make a plan for this race, and what should it be? One lap swim, the home stretch of which is downhill with the current. Three lap bike. Three lap run. I hear it's hot, flat and windy.
Your most obedient and humble servant,
P.S. Does Tequila make an appropriate recovery beverage?
I hope the 13 in your finisher time was in the hour column not the seconds one. Here is a sure fire Ironman strategy that has work for many athletes of all abilities. It comes in a three stage format.
Swim solid, but not too hard. You can’t win the race in the swim, but you sure can tank your race. Stick to steady pace. Current does not matter, everyone has it, so it doesn’t give you a pass to lollygag it on the return.
Bike CONSERVATIVELY! Every Ironman race I have seen implode has been due to over doing it on the bike. Start off moderate and get settled in. Bike inside a box, don’t let others influence you. This is your race and your day, don’t blow it by chasing some guy who is going to blow up later. Eat and drink according to what you practiced in your training and goal for peeing at least two times. If you have gone too soft on the bike, prove it on the run.
Run according to your pacing plan you have been practicing. Start off easy and be sure to drink, drink, drink! Monitor your effort and shoot for consistency. If all this goes as planned, you will be set for a great finish.
Something goes wrong, whether it is you lost your salt tablets or blew two flats. Before you leave for your race, think about what can go wrong and plan that it will. Pack your special needs bags as if your life depended on it.
If your issue becomes more biological, think what has worked for you in the past. A good rule of thumb is when in doubt cut the simple sugars like Gatorade or gels. Drink lots of water, the more the better. If you throw up, don’t force it, back things down and try to reset your inner clock. Don’t try to over eat to make up for what you lost, just keep up with what your doing. On the run Coke can be your best friend or worst enemy. It can give you that added bit of energy you need on the run, but hit it too soon and get ready to ride the sugar roller coaster for 26.2 miles. Broth is great if they have it, but not all races do.
Everything is going wrong!
Wipe the tears and dig deep for what motivated you to get to where you are. Slow down and just walk it out. At the end of the day, only you and a very few tri geeks really give a crap about your time. The fact that you did it plain and simple is the big win. Don’t believe me? Ask any kid if their dad/mom does Ironman and they will brag all day about everything but your PR (they don’t care). Your co-workers think you're crazy, they don’t care, they are just amazed you are alive.
Plan ahead and your day will go better than planned. Stay calm and don’t panic. You don’t want to look like Norman Stadler in 2005 at Kona, swearing in German and blaming everyone but himself for not doing things the right way.