Ironman Texas is a total of 21 weeks away and being a planner I am starting to think about how to race that day. It may seem early to be thinking about that but the reason I am thinking about it is because I train the way that I race. If I can eliminate as many surprises for that day as I can the more successful I will be. This is why I will be practicing my nutrition and hydration now so there are no GI issues later. Planning is what I do and then going out and executing that plan to the best of my ability lets me know if it was a successful day or not.
I have asked a few questions of myself like:
- Where do you position yourself for a swim you’ve never done before?
- How fast do you go on the bike?
- Do you eat in the first 3 hours and then all liquid in the last 3 hours of the bike assuming you maintain ~18mph?
- What type of strategy do you implore for the run portion of the marathon?
We’ve learned that a lot of fast people position themselves right on the buoy line. Many more people position themselves as far as possible away from these people, as far from the buoy line as they can get. As a consequence, the middle of the start line is often less crowded than you would expect.
Only Swim as Fast as Your Ability to Maintain Form
The net difference between you swimming “hard” and swimming “easy” is usually only about 2-4 minutes in an 11-17 hour day. It’s just not worth it to try to make something happen. Instead, focus on swimming as smoothly and efficiently as you know how. Swim with your best possible form and only swim fast enough as your ability to maintain your form.
Keep Your Head Inside the Box
Maintain your focus by keeping your head inside The Box of what you can control:
- In the Box: Head position, breathing, body rotation, catch, pull, etc. All of your form cues. These are things you CAN control, focus on these.
- Out of the Box: Any contact you experience, the pacing of other athletes, etc. Basically anything that takes your focus away your form.
Keep Head-Lift to a Minimum
We typically lift our heads to keep feet in sight as we draft (a little), or to sight on navigation buoys (a lot!). Every time you lift your head…you drop your feet/hips…and you compromise your form a bit. Here’s what to do.
It’s Not About Pace, It’s About Not Slowing Down
Instead, a great Ironman marathon is simply about not slowing down. If you look at the detailed results of any Ironman event, you’ll see that the splits for the majority of the field over the second half of the race are significantly slower than the first half. Usually a minute or more slower per mile.
Your goal when racing isn’t to find new speed, but to find a sustainable speed that you can hold across your entire day while the competition takes off too fast…and then blows up as you run steadily by.
Incorporate Walking as a Strategy, Not as Failure
If anyone tells you that they aren’t going to walk a single step in an Ironman they are either Criag Alexander (so fit!) or a total newbie (so unaware!). Based on our experience coaching thousands of Ironman finishers through Endurance Nation, we have learned that walking is actually an important part of your overall strategy.
We encourage our athletes to walk 30-45 steps at every single aid station, which is roughly once a mile.
Six Miles of Conservative Pacing Is the Key to a Strong Finish
In other words, if you want to have a great race, your job is to focus on slowing down over the first six miles. We recommend you aim for a target pace of approximately 30″ slower per mile for these first six miles. After that point, you can bump it up to your target run pace and go from there. Since 2008 thousands of Endurance Nation athletes have applied this 30 second per mile strategy to dozens of Ironman PR marathons. It works! Just give us three minutes (30 seconds x 6 miles) and we’ll make your day. Your last 10k will thank us for sure!
Have Three Physical Running Cues for Your Day
Instead of following a pace into a brick wall, identify three running form cues that will allow you to maintain good form and proper pace. My personal favorites are Chin Up to promote good posture; Elbows Back to keep my stride open and Loose Fingers to reduce tension in hands, arms, shoulders and the neck area.
Build A Repeatable Nutrition Schedule by Mile Marker
Having a food plan is better than not having one. Just because there’s a ton of free food on the course doesn’t mean that your body will be able to process it all. Instead of relying on a plan based on time (i.e., a gel every 30 minutes) build these into the existing support structure on the course.
Since aid stations on the run are located about every mile, use your calculator to do some fancy math. If you plan on running 8:00/miles and you need a gel around 30 minutes, then you are eating at miles 4, 8, 12, and so on. You can then fill in the other miles with water and sports drink.
Be Equal Parts Mentally and Physically Ready
While many Ironman competitors have hit the “wall” when running a stand alone marathon, that struggle pales in comparison to what happens at the end of the Ironman. With your body pushed beyond its limits, running on fumes of gels and sports drink, you have to find a way to will yourself to the finish line despite the pain and/or discomfort you are experiencing.
What Are Your Experiences With The Swim and Bike at the 140.6 Mile Race?
And KC is not just about sending me articles to get prepared for the race, she was also my secret santa. In addition to that she is one of the angels on my shoulder I have come to rely on during my racing. Check out the gift that she got me and just know that I have not wiped the smile from my face yet.