So you made the decision to race an ironman and you have been training hard for 20 weeks or so. Now it's race day and you are waiting nervously at the start of the swim for the horn to blow. Here are a few things to keep in mind throughout the race and to practice in training to minimize surprises when you finally get out there:
1. During the swim, go as hard as you can for at least 400 meters so that you get a decent position to swim the remaining 3.5 kilometers. There is nothing worse than being stuck in the middle of the pack for the first couple kilometers because by the time you finally get in a rhythm the race is basically over.
2. Look up every 20 strokes or so. Do not trust that the person in front of you is swimming a straight line.
3. Wear bike clothes under your wetsuit and clip your shoes to your bike pedals. This will save you a couple of minutes in transition and will allow you to concentrate on more important things like putting on sunscreen and making sure you have sunglasses and nutrition.
4. Do not draft! If you are caught drafting there is a hefty initial penalty, and if you do it again you are out. Make sure when you go for a pass you do it swiftly and never remain in another rider's slipstream. If it's too close to tell then it's better to back off; you are not going to save any time drafting for a few seconds but you definitely will lose time if you get caught.
5. Make sure to hydrate and take in calories and salt throughout the race. The need to hydrate is obvious, but many athletes often forget that they need sodium as well. Most collapses at the end of a race are from muscle cramps caused by a lack of sodium. So before you compete make sure you have been supplementing with salt in your training rides and that you have plenty on race day.
6. Do not unlatch your helmet at any point during the ride. If you are caught with your helmet undone at any point on the bike leg it's an automatic disqualification.
7. During the run you may want to walk through every other aid station so that you get a chance to thoroughly hydrate and take a few gels. You are almost done so the last thing you want to do is run out of energy to burn.
Finishing an ironman will probably be one of the greatest achievements of your life. Visualize the race as much as possible in training and come up with a strategy for every situation you can imagine. With hard work and determination there is no doubt that you will complete the race, and you will likely catch the triathlon bug in the process.
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