Your journey to being extraordinary is now in its final chapter – and what a journey it has been. You have trained hard, got up countless early mornings, sometimes trained twice a day, and sacrificed after-work cocktails, social events on weekends, and in many cases, even family get togethers! But in less than two weeks – when you cross that finish line in Port Elizabeth – you will realise that it was all worthwhile. There is no better feeling than crossing that line and hearing that you are now an IRONMAN. But before you can get there, some final preparation, especially on the mental side, still lies ahead.
Firstly, be EXCITED – be NERVOUS, but be CONFIDENT. No negative comments at all in the days leading up to the event.
CONFIDENCE IS KEY
One of my strengths when I raced competitively was that I was always confident in my ability and the training that I did.
• The most important thing now is to have CONFIDENCE in yourself. If anybody asks how you feel, say GREAT, and that you are READY.
• Do not listen to other athletes telling stories of how hard they have trained; be confident in what you have done to get to the start line.
• DO NOT have any negative thoughts or comments (like fear of the swim) – even if you do have these doubts.
• Make sure you drink plenty of water or energy drinks in the two days before the event and eat well – both protein and carbohydrates. You will need it, because 12 to 17 hours of racing is tough on the body.
• Eat a light breakfast on the morning of the race: Coffee/tea, toast/bread with honey/jam, or whatever works for you and what you have had in training.
THE BIG DAY
So onto the race. Think of triathlon as a delicious three-course meal, enjoying and savouring each course!
• Starter – 3.8km sea swim. Take it nice and easy, relax and finish with lots in reserve.
• Main course – 180km of cycling. Do this at a good strong effort, taking in lots of liquid and food, going quite hard but leaving space for desert!
• Dessert – 42km of running. Start slowly and build up to a comfortable pace, and enjoy the last few kays.
And like any good meal, there will be total satisfaction when you finish – because YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!
So onto each part of the race:
• Make sure you put Vaseline on your neck to stop your wetsuit chafing in the salt water. You can also use baby oil on your legs to help the wetsuit come off easily.
• Have an energy gel 15minutes before the start.
• Start on the left or right of the main swim pack, depending on which side you breathe (right breathing, start left).
• When the gun goes, WAIT! Count to 20 and then enter the water – do not get caught up in the ‘washing machine.’ Remember, you have 226km to go!
• Stay relaxed, take it easy – there is a long way to go. The two-lap course makes the swim seem easier.
After the swim, head straight into transition, but take it easy. Off with the wetsuit, put on sunscreen and Vaseline to prevent chafing. On with your cycling or triathlon shorts and top. Sunglasses, cycling gloves and socks are a must… and of course your helmet. Do not rush… take it easy.
• Start the ride in an easy gear and stay relaxed for the first 20-30km, then build up from there.
• Drink and eat (energy bars/gels, bananas, jelly baby sweets or whatever you have trained with). Stop at aid stations to fill up. Use the toilet if necessary.
• The three-lap bike course helps break up the 180km into smaller chunks. Ride the first lap relaxed, build up to a good pace in the second lap and then try to maintain for the final lap.
• In the last 10km of the ride, use a very easy gear, spin the legs and mentally prepare for the run.
Off with the cycling helmet and gloves and on with the running shoes. Put on more Vaseline and sunscreen. Run with a cap. Take some energy gels with you.
• Start EASY… your legs WILL feel tired and heavy, but stay relaxed and run slowly for the first 10km.
• Remember, it will get better. Use the confidence in your running ability to speed up. Enjoy passing tired and slowing athletes!
• Stay hydrated and take energy gels as needed.
• The three-lap course will allow you to enjoy the crowd and the support of friends and family – feed off this and keep your spirits up.
• Run as hard as you can in the last few kays!
Finally, enjoy the finish. It’s a fantastic feeling to cross that finish line! The last hour at the finish line, with the fireworks at midnight, is a fantastic way to end the day, so be there for the finish. It’s time to party!
YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!