Friday, June 19, 2009

Ironman Tips

Voompah, voompah, voompah ding!
Noah...I want you to build an Arc.
Yeah, right. -Bill Cosby

Today is Friday, so that must mean rain. It rained even harder than Friday last week. I met Mike and Jeff for a 2 mi. Crystal Lake swim at 5:30, then Jeff and I did a short run, dodging the really big puddles, instead opting for the smaller ones. Like last week, what a great morning! Tomorrow I go on the season's longest ride, a bit over 50 mi., at a good effort, followed by a race-pace 3 and easy 3 run. I'm looking forward to the test. Then next weekend starts a string of four races in four weeks. Bring it on!

The sport of triathlon is great for many reasons, including the sharing of experiences and advice. While everyone has unique experiences, there's enough in common to benefit from others' ideas. In that spirit, here are some thought and pointers for Ironman.

First, I can't state strongly enough that these are my thoughts, and they may or may not work for others. I'm sure there will be items folks will disagree with.


- Before leaving home, create a list of all of the crap you will need and where you will need it. Write it down. It will relieve plenty of stress on race-eve. As long as everything is checked off the list, you're all set.
- Write on water bottles what goes in them and where they go- for example "Heed - Aerobottle" or "SE - Seat." You're not getting them back anyway.
- Plan each day you're there before race day, and leave lots of free time. You'll probably want to do all of the busy work ASAP and get it out of the way.
- Don't chat too much with other racers- they're just as nervous as you, which won't help.
- If you have young kids, make sure the last song you hear isn't the Barney theme song...the day is long enough.


- This is very person specific, and it's a big deal.
- I found it hard to carry my nutrition "practice" over to race day. It was hard to swallow all of the foods I had practiced in training.
- Try to stick to a plan, but be willing to abandon it if things don't go well. In my first IM, I couldn't swallow Powerbars or the turkey wrap I had prepared. I ended up eating a bunch of bananas, which actually slide down very easily.
- You need blood in your stomach to digest. However most of the blood will be in your legs. So go slow and gradual. Try setting a schedule where you take in "x" every "y" miles. Something like 1/2 of a Cliff Bar every 10 miles. If the water stops are at regular intervals, they can serve as good reminders.
- Try eating more "real" food earlier in the bike that takes longer to digest. Be creative- PB&J, turkey wrap, figs, who knows. Then in the last hour or two go to gels and/or carbo drinks so you can start the run in good shape.
- Put a variety of stuff in your bike special needs bag (and run for that matter).
- Personally, I've never thrown up due to exercise. However I've seen plenty of folks get sick who lived on gels/Gatorade all day. All of the manufactured calories just get to be too much.
- Remember electrolyte replacement tabs. It's a critical part. On the run, have them in a rubber change purse. And take them at regular intervals- on the bike perhaps one Lava Salt every 10 miles/water stop, and on the run one every three miles.
- If you haven't tried cola, practice with it. After miles 15 or so, that might be all that you can take down, it gives you quick energy, and I've heard it can settle upset stomachs.
- One of my favorite drinks is warm chicken broth. It tastes totally different than everything else you have taken in all day, and it's loaded with sodium.
- Bring some insulated water bottles for the bike. Load them with ice, then water, then the right amount of powder. The should be cool for a couple of hours. Remember you will put them on your bike about 45 minutes before the race starts, and may not get to them until 1-2 hours into the bike, or up to 4 hours later. Warm SE sucks.
- For IMLP, be ready for ANY weather and how that might affect your nutrition. Think about everything from 90 degrees and humid to 50 with a cold driving rain. If you're prepared, the nerves will go away.
- If you have a carbo powder drink, put two bottle's worth dry into a zip lock and tape it to the bottom of your seat or rear cage. I did this at IM Wisc, and sure enough, at about mile 2, I hit a bump and lost a water bottle with my carbo mix. [Btw, on the return, I saw about 50-100 bottles on the side of the road.] So 15 miles later, I stopped at a water stop, put the dry mix in an empty bottle, used their water, and I was off. I really don't think it weighs much, and doesn't affect your aero much. It's a nice insurance policy. You might also try a bit of duct tape to keep in one of the rear bottles. You won't need it for about 1 1/2 hours.


If you're a decent swimmer, like around 1 hour, get right up front for the start. IM Wisc had 2200 people on the line, and I had some minor bumping for a couple of hundred yards. It was far better than I feared.


Be steady, don't blow it early, remember you have a marathon to run. Really pay attention to your nutrition. Make sure you pee. Alternate types of fluids and solids. In T1, be sure you put sunscreen on your back between your shirt and shorts. It's a prime place for a burn. Also arms & shoulders. Body glide. Wear socks. Mentally, break it into 20 mile chunks to 60, then 10 mile chunks from there on. 100 to 112 is easy. It's the 70-100 that was rough for me.


The last third is the critical part. So take it easy early on. Eventually, you will likely hit "survival mode." Just figure out what works for you. Something like walking every water stop and the 50 yards before and after so you can take in your nutrition. Whatever it takes. Put on fresh socks and shorts. Reapply Bodyglide generously, especially in those certain spots.


You will experience incredible highs and lows, so be ready for it. Everything from "This sucks and I'm quitting the sport," to "I am Superman/woman!." Just keep your effort nice and even. The tight throat, quicker heart rate and lighter stride will hit somewhere around mile 24 Crossing the line will be one of the most incredible experiences of your life. You'll hear....



  1. thank you thank you thank you!!! I love your tips and will take them to heart. Great post for me :0)
    I can harly wait 'til mile 24-25-26...can. not. wait.

  2. Great list, all sorts of solid tips mixed in there - and all of them ever so true!

  3. How did you get bananas on the bike? Do they have them at stops?
    Good idea about the powder under the seat. I'll use that.
    Where did you have the chicken broth? In a bottle? And did you have it on the bike?
    Salt: is there a consequence for taking too much? Does it make you thirsty?
    Love this post! Thanks, Steve!

  4. They had bananas as water stops, cut in half. The chicken broth was at water stops on the run in cups. As for salt, talk with Jen, then practice it. I've used Lavasalt (stronger, so take less) and Endurolytes. Never made me thirsty. Be sure to swallow them before the capule disintgrates in your mouth- otherwise it tastes awful. Moderate intake according to weather.

  5. Good post...especially on the "making sure you pee" thing on the bike. I must have lost 10 minutes at one point for not taking the 2 minutes to stop at an aid station.

    On the Coke on the run I swear by it I did it for the first time at Ironman New Zealand and ran a then marathon PR.
    Also Motor tabs are a good thing to keep in the Bento Box if you lose a water bottle, they tend to be a little less messy than the zippy bags of powder.

  6. Though I don't expect to hear those words when I cross the finish line of either of my iron races, many of those tips sound very useful. I've never tried coke or chix broth before during a long workout and probably should before my races. Thanks!