An Ironman can be a very daunting race. Even though you still normally get nervous before other races, be it sprint, Olympic, or half Ironman distance races, you don’t tend to have the fear of the distance of the full Ironman which adds to your anxiety.
I clearly remember the final weeks and days leading up to my very first Ironman race, Ironman NZ, getting more and more worried about whether I would be able to make the distance. More than 15 Ironman races later I still question this every time. How on earth am I going to be able to run a marathon after riding hard for 180km, after swimming 3.8km? In training, I do a 5 hour ride and struggle through a 1 hour run off the bike, how am I supposed to try to run a 3 hour marathon after a 180km TT on race day?
Trust me, you can do it. It is amazing what your body can do if your mind is willing! Here are some tips which I hope will help:
- In training, focus on hours rather than distance. It is about 6 weeks from Ironman NZ now so you still have plenty of time. It is important to get some good long rides in but don’t feel that you have to cover 180km just because this is what you need to ride on the day. You will probably have some fatigue building up now from weeks and weeks of training and you will often feel flat in training. Don’t worry about trying to hit race pace out training, just do the time. On race day you will be fresh.
- Listen to your body. Don’t overdo it! The next 6 weeks are critical in your training. By now you have done a lot of volume and quite likely have a pretty big build up of fatigue. It is really important to manage this fatigue well from this point onwards so that you don’t risk digging yourself into a big whole which will result in a pretty flat feel on race day. You will also be trying to balance a lot of other things in your life, work, family and other commitments. Be honest with yourself. Let your training plan give you the flexibility to take an extra day off if you need it. You won’t loose any fitness from another rest day, instead you will probably gain more as it will mean the quality of your next training sessions is better.
- Taper time. Soon it will just be about fine tuning and freshening up. You will be really fit by now so probably feel like you can handle longer harder training, which is true. Don’t test yourself now! On more than one occasion, looking back, I think I have spoiled what could have been the perfect buildup because I have trained too much and too hard in the final weeks simply because I was fit and felt better than ever before. I could run faster times in track sessions, hold higher watts on the bike and wanted to test myself all the time to reassure myself that I was in my best ever shape. For me this has meant either injury or major fatigue in the final weeks before the race and resulted in a disappointing performance on race day. The disappointment of a poor result outweighs the satisfaction of producing good number and times in training! Don’t feel you have to test yourself in training. Test yourself on race day instead!
Relax and enjoy the final few weeks of training. Stay healthy and arrive on race day both mentally and physically fresh and ready to give it 100% . Ironman is a truly great experience but it is most satisfying when you can reflect on the race knowing that you couldn’t have done anything better in the last couple of weeks and on race day itself. Good luck, go hard!
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