It’s getting real. This morning as I sit in the airport in San Diego waiting to board my flight, the Ironman Coeur D’Alene website showed this on the official countdown:
After a year of anticipation, the day I’ve been spending the majority of my free time working toward is almost here. I’ve had plenty of time to research and think about how to race an Ironman. My race plan as I will share here has been in the works for a long time now. It comes from things I learned from reading triathlon books like Going Long and The Triathlete’s Training Bible, articles from Active.com, Competitor.com, Runners World and LAVA magazine, and of course, fellow age-groupers who have hashed out every detail of their personal journey’s to the ironman finish line via their own blogs.
Here they are:
1) Cross the finish line under 17 hours.
2) Have fun.
Yes, of course I have some general ideas of times I’d like to hit during this race, but I’m not going to share them here and put any added pressure on myself. In the end, I just want to finish. I’m not going to say I want to finish without getting a flat tire, throwing up, crapping my pants, getting black eye in the swim, injuring myself, spending 30 minutes in the warming tent after the 53 degree swim, or crashing my bike. I’m accepting all of those things as possibilities. I’ve mentally prepared myself for each of them to happen and I know what I’ll do if they do happen. The only thing I can control is my reaction, not the obstacles that come my way.
Eat a large bowl of cereal and almond milk with banana for breakfast and then head to the start by 5 a.m. Get transition area ready, apply sunscreen, lube and put on my wetsuit. Set my watch to multi-sport mode, give my parents my cell phone and a jacket in case I get cold on the run. 20 minutes before the start, take a Gu with half a bottle of water. Get down to the beach for the start with 15 minutes at least to spare and get in position.
Get to the far right of the beach and about mid-way back in the pack. If possible, go down to the lake and slash some water on my face (pros start at 6:20 so I’m not sure yet if this will be possible). Stay as calm as possible and try to envision myself having a smooth swim to calm my nerves.
When the gun goes off, stay calm and don’t push for space. Start my Garmin at the sound of the gun. I plan to start far to the right and to the back and I don’t care if I lose some time by starting farther from the first buoy. I plan to veer left as I swim and join up with the buoy line at a point that feels natural. I will try to find feet to draft off of and stay on those feet for as long as I feel beneficial. In the beginning, when the water is chaotic, I will keep my head down as much as possible to avoid getting hit in the face. If my goggles come off, I’ll just keep swimming. I plan to swim at a pace that is comfortable – not comfortably hard, just comfortable. A few minutes added to my swim time is worth the energy saved by not being frazzled. I will sight the landforms, not the buoys, and will sight often, as I tend to veer left when I swim in open water. I will focus on my form and remember to pull and lengthen my body with every stroke. When I’m reading the end of the swim, I will kick a bit more to get the blood flowing to my legs and prepare for the bike.
When I get out of the water, if I’m flustered and out of breath, I will walk to transition rather than run. Once in transition, I’ll grab my bag and head for a changing tent. If a volunteer doesn’t approach me, I will call for one. In transition, I’ll completely change out of my tri shorts and sports bra and into cycling shorts, a dry sports bra, and my jersey which is already stuffed with nutrition. I will spray myself with sunscreen before putting on my arm warmers. Then I’ll put on my socks, shoes, helmet, and sunglasses and get my bike and start riding.
For the first 20 minutes of the bike, I will drink water only. I will focus on getting my heart rate down. For the first 30 miles of the bike, I will ride only in zone 2 (under 150 for me), repeating to myself the phrase “stupid easy.” I won’t get upset when I get passed by literally a thousand other cyclists – this is my race and I don’t care about anyone’s by my own.
I will begin consuming food after 20 minutes, starting with my bottle of 400 calories of Carbopro and 1.5 tablets of Nuun (always chasing with water since this is concentrated), and my peanut butter Nutella banana sandwich. Starting at mile 30-60, I will get in my heart rate into low zone 2, mid-zone 2 on the climbs (my zone 2 is 150-170). I will continue to eat and drink, with the goal being to consume my entire CarboPro bottle and sandwich by mile 60/special needs. This will give me about 250 calories/hour.
If special needs is also near an aid station, I will stop and refill my cage water bottle with 400 calories of CarboPro and 1.5 Nuun tablets. If special needs is not by an aid station, I will only stop if I need something ( I plan to carry 400 extra calories with me on the bike so Special Needs will only be necessary if I drop something) and continue on to the next aid station, where I will get off my bike to refill my bottle. I will be refilling my water-only aero bottle without getting off, most likely at every other aid station, or as needed. I will drink to thirst, not on a certain schedule.
If it is very hot, I’ll start taking electrolyte tablets (Hammer Endurolytes) – 2 every hour. My nutrition plan does not include this, but I did practice with them a few times to make sure that they go down ok.
Between miles 60-90, I’ll keep my heart rate in Zone 2, allowing it to reach the upper limit (165-170) only on climbs. I’ll focus on eating my 3 Stinger Waffles (broken up and all together in a baggie in my bento box) and sipping my 2nd bottle of CarboPro/Nuun, followed always by water. If I realize that I’ll be on the bike for over seven and a half hours, I’ll take either a Gu (depending on how much longer I have) or I’ll stop and refill my water bottle and put my 2nd dose of CarboPro/Nuun in it and only sip that for the rest of the bike course. I will try to only have liquids for the last 30 minutes on the bike.
In transition 2, I will also be changing. I’ll be careful running off the bike since my legs will probably feel like jelly. I’ll grab my bag and head to the changing tent to get into my run outfit. After putting on my hat, a new pair of socks, and my shoes, I’ll grab my frozen (now unfrozen presumably) disposable water bottle with 1 Nuun tablet and head out.
The first thing I’ll do when I start running is celebrate the fact that I made it this far. I’ll slowly sip my water bottle with Nuun, but if it doesn’t taste good, I’ll toss it. I need to make sure that I’m not going out too fast. I will never allow myself to run under a 9 min/mile no matter how good I feel. According to Going Long, if you fuel and pace yourself correctly on the bike, you can run a marathon at about 20-40 seconds/mile slower than a recent open marathon. My recent marathon pace is 8:45, so I don’t plan to run much faster than 9:15, best case.
I plan to take 1 Gu every 40 minutes, which is the same strategy I use in marathons. However, I do plan to sip the Cocacola on the course. I don’t plan to drink the Ironman Perform drink available on the course, as I have never practiced with it. If it’s hot, I’ll continue to take 2 Endurolyte tablets per hour. If my stomach is behaving and I’m craving something salty, I’ll eat pretzels and other snacks on the run course, but only if I’m feeling good. I’ll listen to my body and not push it too hard.
I plan to walk quickly up the large hill that is on the run course rather than attempt to run up it and spike my heart rate. I plan to walk through aid stations but would like to run the majority of the marathon. However, I won’t be disappointed if I have to walk most of it. The odds are pretty high that I will have to walk, from what I’ve heard (or use the “Ironman Shuffle” technique).
If I get to a really low point in the race where I feel that I won’t be able to make it, I’ll think back to all the tough workouts that I was able o finish along the way. I’ll think to the final miles of the Surf City Marathon where my body screamed for me to quit, yet I still pushed on. I’ll think of my friends and family at home tracking me. I will never give up.
When I approach the finish line, I’ll make sure that I have my space. I’ll rejoice when I cross the finish line (I won’t be surprised if I cry) and take pride in knowing that I am an Ironman.