Tips of the Trade - Ironman
Training tips that come from experience of doing
these races of the years.
anyone is considering expanding their horizons and getting into doing an
Ironman distance or ½ Ironman distance race, there are many tips and tricks
that can help in having a pleasant experience and will also help in
fulfilling their goals of finishing or setting a PR. I will list some of
the tips that come from experience of doing these races of the years. Most
of these tips come from learning the hard way, so maybe I can save some
people a little trouble.
Ironman races are not in your backyard so travel is going to be a
necessity. Loading up all your gear and bike and stuffing it into a box
that seemingly was built to only hold a tricycle is often a hefty task and
can get overwhelming. Just the simple dismantling of the bike alone to get
it in the travel case is often an obstacle for many. Not something you want
to add to your stress level before a race. However, there are ways around
doing it all yourself. Most people do not know that it is possible to take
your bike to a local bike shop and have them package it for you and ship it
to the race site as well. Most likely, if you contact the race director,
you can get the listing of the host hotel and they will have a bike shop
on-site that will not only receive it but put it together for a small fee
for the mechanics. This is a hassle free way to go people. Not only do you
get your bike put together by a trained professional they make sure it is
tuned up and everything is working properly. The only thing you have to
worry about is getting it there on time in advance of the race. UPS is a
good way of tracking your bike if you’re flying or traveling around in the
continental united states. If you travel to Canada you may want to change
to a different carrier simply because UPS Canada does not have insurance and
if anything happens to your bike you are SOL in more ways than one.
Usually by race time most people will know all their nutritional needs for
the day and will have a plan going into it of what they will eat and drink.
Typically, I like to have a very light breakfast on race day, maybe a piece
of dry toast and an apple or banana and some orange juice. This only to get
you rolling nothing heavy that will sit in your stomach and make you hit the
port-o-potty so many times you will break the hinge of the door.
T1/T2/Special Needs Bags
Ironman races will have a bag system for each transition. You load up a T1
bag with “swim to bike” stuff and load up a T2 bag with “bike to run”
stuff. There is a “special needs” bag that you can put anything you want to
eat at the midpoint of the bike ride. I typically do not use the special
needs bag for nutrition simply because I don’t want to stop for it.
However, it can be used as a race saver. I simply put some extra CO2
canisters and an old training tire and some tubes in it just in case I may
need more than what I can carry with me. This can be a race saver. Usually
after the race these items get donated depending if I feel like going to
find my numbered bag in a pile of 1800 others. In my transition bags I
like to put fresh clothes in each bag for the sake of having dry ones.
Fresh socks coming off of the bike is a god sent.
A wetsuit swim can be described as a spectacle of seals slashing around in
the surf. Most people do not realize that a wetsuit can chaff you in MANY
undesirable locations on your body. These chaffs can irritate and burn all
day. Bodyglide is a stick form roll on that you apply directly to you skin
to prevent such chaffing. I can’t preach enough about this stuff - it
really helps. Typical locations to apply it are around the lower leg to
help you get out of your wetsuit when time comes for peeling it. On the
back of the neck is a spot known as the “wetsuit kiss”. Apply large amounts
here because the collar of the wetsuit will rub your neck completely raw if
you let it. Under arms and the crotch are others that need it just as
important as the back of the neck for the same reasons. Saltwater swims are
more abrasive than lake swims so apply as much as possible for salt water
When you are coming out of the water and are in T1, I suggest you let the
volunteers put sunblock on you. They do it very fast and let me tell you if
you do not YOU WILL BURN! This can cause your core temperature to go up and
headaches and stomach problems can be attributed to sunburn. It is a small
thing to have that may save your day.
A good nutritional system on the bike is using the “super fuel” system.
Take one or two water bottles and super concentrate it with salt tablets and
mix so when getting a “hand up” the only thing needed is water. Poor the
water into the front aero bottle and mix in a small ratio of “super fuel” to
make a drink until the next “hand up”. This is handy in that if you get
caught in between aide stations in a dehydrated state you have a highly
concentrated mix that can help you out fast if you need it. This also keeps
you away from having to drink something provided by the race that you are
unfamiliar with and may upset your stomach.
Timing when you drink and eat can help you not get under or over hydrated.
You will need to train very carefully to figure this one out. Race day you
can use your timer on your watch so it repetitively counts down a certain
amount of time and the alarm goes off and automatically starts counting
again to the next alarm. I use a 15 minute count down. This allows me to
drink every 15 minutes on the bike and I can divide it up into 5 minute
intervals on the run. You will need to find out your timeframe during your
training for proper nutrition.
likely when you get to the marathon you start to feel the day getting to be
very long and this is the most critical time to focus on getting to the
finish line. The days workout starts to compound and it might be time to
give yourself a treat. On the marathon the volunteers in the aid stations
will have two very important items. DRINK THE COKE! Straight shot of solid
carbs and tastes heavenly also because most likely you have been drinking
Gatorade until your blue in the face. The volunteers will also offer warm
chicken broth. TAKE SOME CHICKEN BROTH! It is heavenly as well. I am not
a chicken broth eater at all but when I am on the last 4 miles of Ironman I
am a chicken broth eating fool. The salty taste is something a little
different as well and will give you a boost to the finish line.
Glow Sticks or Reflective Tape
If you have a great day and you have dealt with all your inner demons and
get to the finish line you may have picked up or been given some reflective
tape or glow stick due to it possibly being dark when you finish. A quick
tip is to ditch the glow stick and reflective tape somewhere before you get
to the finish line. It is amazing how that stuff can ruin a finish line
photograph. That stuff lights up like a star when the photographer snaps
your finish line photo. You will get you photo and all you will see is a
star burst with legs.
hope these tips get you to the finish line someday. These are all tips
developed from bad experiences and can help the first time Ironman look like
a seasoned veteran and may save you some time as well. Because when you
cross the finish line the flash of the camera is when the life of an Ironman
4 Time Ironman Finisher
Triathlete for 16 years