My very good friend Ben is doing his first Ironman next weekend at Rev3 Cedar Point. I wanted to come up with a list of advice to help him through the day so this morning I sat down and wrote up an email of my Top 10 Ironman Tips. After reading through it, I thought it might be helpful to someone else, so I decided to share it on my blog.
Of course take everything written with a grain of salt. I've only done 3 Ironmans which makes me largely inexperienced and "green". I know I still have a lot to learn. But nevertheless, what I've learned thus far:
10) When in doubt, eat. Cramping? Eat. Tired? Eat. Grumpy? Eat. Bored? Eat. :) The bike is your chance to take in the calories so DO NOT miss calories on the bike if you can help it. Once you get to the run, your stomach will probably be much less happy with you and it will be exponentially harder to get calories in with each passing mile of the marathon.
9) Speaking of nutrition, coke on the run is the nectar of the Gods. Once you start taking it at the aid stations, try not to stop because you might crash hard. I survived two marathons in Kona on coke alone. It can be done.
8) Ironman is a long training day. With catered food stops and people cheering for you. Especially for your first, don't "race" throughout the day but instead live in your own little world and execute YOUR race. If you want to race, save it for the last 10K of the marathon!
7) It's a LONNNNNG day, so don't fret over little things. Take your time through transition to THINK what you are doing. Go through aid stations slow enough to make sure you get what you need. Over the span of 10-11 hours, an extra few seconds doesn't hurt to make sure you get things done right.
6) You will inevitably have highs and lows. Ride the highs when you can but when the lows come, know that your race is FAR from over and you will eventually come around. I almost always feel awful around mile 80-90 of the bike. To think I still have 5 hours of racing left when I'm feeling that bad would be devastating! But you just have to remind yourself that a high is right around the corner! Break the race down into little pieces. No sense in thinking of mile 20 of the marathon when you are still on the bike.
5) Learn how to problem solve! I think those that do well in Ironman are those that can figure out best how to handle the adversity that will undoubtedly arise. Expect at least 2-3 things to go wrong and then use your problem solving skills to figure out how to manage those problems without panicking.
4) One more thing about nutrition - listen to what your body is telling you. If it's telling you NO MORE, take a break for a little bit and try later. If there is one thing I've learned it's that your body will NOT be forced to take something in if it doesn't want it. Be patient.
3) Be thankful throughout the day. Thankful that you are healthy enough to do this. Thankful that your family and friends support you. Thankful that you have the opportunity to even attempt, let alone finish such a feat. I think this type of perspective and outlook helps get you through the lows.
2) The last hour of an Ironman is really, really, really hard and painful. I say this not to scare you, but rather for you to know that this is how it's supposed to feel when that time comes. Remember, one foot in front of the other.
1) No matter the time on the clock, enjoy that finish line like you've never enjoyed it before! You'll never have another first. Live it up!! The rule is - there is no crying in Ironman UNTIL the finish line at which point you are allowed to cry tears of joy. :) Unlike any other race you've done, finishing Ironman is an accomplishment of rather epic proportions. I'm not trying to sound dramatic or corny, but after my first IM, I did feel like a bit of a different person. Ironman has the ability to take away the concept of limits.
That's all I've got. :) Perhaps I'll revisit this list after each IM I do and add on as I go!