IT’S IRONMAN WEEK
Diet mistakes to avoid, ironman hype, carboydrate loading, proper hydration, and best accomodation choices.
Finally, Ironman week has arrived and soon the results of all your hard work will be revealed. Never forget that just making it to the start line of the “big show” is a great accomplishment.
So now you are there and your Ironman triathlon is perhaps just a week away and your date with destiny has arrived.
What do you do now?
There’s lots going on and if this is your first Ironman it can be a pretty stressful time. As the big day gets closer there several things to consider.
Careful planning for Ironman week is instrumental when it comes to getting the most out of your Ironman Triathlon experience.
Where should you stay, what should you eat and drink, how much should you swim, bike, and run in that last week and what are some common mistakes to avoid.
These are all important considerations and often how your Ironman turns out can be determined by the preparations you make for those final days leading up to the race.
The best part is, all the major training is done and now(hopefully)you are well into taper mode and getting lots of rest as Ironman day looms before you.
If you reflect back to the moment you were Ironstruck you are probably a bit disbelieving and in awe of just how much you have achieved since that day and how remarkably far you have come.
Once you reach Ironman race week you will be one of the lucky few who has experienced the magic of being Ironstruck and taken it all the way.
You have heard the challenge of the Iron Gods and taken on that challenge and find yourself just days away from what arguably might be the most amazing and life-changing day of your life.
Maybe you couldn’t swim and have spent months working on a swim stroke that will get you through the 2.4 mile Ironman swim. Possibly the last time you were on a bike before you decided to become a triathlete was back in your pre-teen years.
Maybe you had to make some lifestyle changes for the better in order to take up the Ironman challenge.
Perhaps you quit smoking, lost weight, or gave up any number of bad habits that do not complement fitness or help your quest for Ironman immortality.
Chances are you dealt with injury, self-doubt, and any number of road-blocks that had to be dealt with and overcome in order for Ironman week to become a reality for you.
Often there are family issues to deal with and the road to the Ironman finish line does not come easily.
For many triathletes family time and social life are often wedged in between the next swim work-out or 80km Sunday bike training ride.
I have met many husbands and wives that have a pact with their better half that they can have this one year….this one shot……at an Ironman.
Now that the big day is so close it’s important to make the most of the opportunity.
AVOID THE IRONMAN TRIATHLON HYPE
The Ironman hype That surrounds Ironman week is one of the first things you will have to deal with at any Ironman.
It’s an exciting time and there will be lots going on and avoiding the hype and tempering the excitement will often help you conserve energy for the race itself.
You will want to be everywhere and get the most out of your Ironman journey, but it’s important to always consider race day itself and how everything you do in that final week will impact race day.
When you walk through the expo you will be tempted with the latest in triathlon technology, replacement drinks and food, and all sorts of triathlon gear from running shoes to swim goggles.
There will be some great products and if you buy something new save it for the next training season where you can try it out. Race week is not a good time to introduce anything new to your diet or to your equipment.
Too much sun from spending hours in the expo in the heat of the day leads to dehydration so pick your spots and perhaps visit the expo when it first opens in the morning when it is cooler.
WHAT TO EAT IRONMAN WEEK
There may be much confusion and temptation when it comes to deciding what to eat during Ironman week as your big event is only days away.
Chances are you dieted religiously through-out your training all year as you prepared for the big day and Triathlon diet mistakes can be harmful to your Ironman experience.
A venue or country might be foreign to many triathletes so careful thought must be given to food choices during race week.
Stick with the diet that got you through all your training and helped you get to the Ironman start line. If your power food was pasta and salad or rice and fish then stick with it.
If you have a Sunday race, Wednesday, Thursday. Friday, and Saturday are the days you should be carbo-loading for the race. Just make sure you concentrate on high quality complex carbohydrades like, pasta, whole wheat bread, brown rice, and any other favorites that you are used to eating.
It would be wise to eat your last big meal late afternoon(say around 4 p.m.) on the eve of the race in order to allow your body time to digest it properly and avoid any upset stomach problems on race morning.
I simply cannot stress this point about making the right food choices enough.
One year back in 1986 I trained for 10 months and spent a ton of money to fly to Ironman Hawaii and pay for accommodations for two weeks.
Two days before the race I was careless about what I ate at the Ironman pre-race dinner and developed stomach problems. Turns out I was allergic to the clams they had in the pasta sauce.
I was still sick on race morning and I tried as hard as I could to survive the swim but they pulled me out in sight of the finish line at over 2 miles into the swim and my race was over.
The information I am passing on to you comes from experience and should be taken seriously. Even almost 25 years later I think about that one easily avoidable mistake and what might have been.
Don’t let it happen to you.
HOW MUCH WATER SHOULD YOU DRINK IRONMAN WEEK?
The Wednesday before a Sunday Ironman is the best time to begin hydrating in earnest.
Drink through-out each day and if by Saturday your urine is clear and copious you are pretty much there. Your goal on race-day is to maintain that level of hydration you have reached in the days before the race.
“More is not better.”
Some people tend to over-do it when it comes to hydrating before and during an Ironman Triathlon. If you go through 3 or 4 water bottles each day leading up to the race you will most likely be fine.
For some people even that might be too much and possibly 2 or 3 bottles might work better. A lot depends on the individual.
For example a larger person or a person who tends to sweat a lot may require extra water during the week leading up to the race.
Sip them through-out the day and let your body assimilate the water slowly.
Keep in mind that you are not training and as a result will not be sweating as much so judge your water intake by how you feel. If you feel bloated you are probably taking in way too much fluid.
If you drink too much there is always the danger of flushing too many essential nutrients out of your system and creating another set of problems that could impact your race.
I believe the term for it is “hyponatremia.” I would recommend doing a Google search on the word and perhaps it might help you have a better understanding of proper hydration before and during an Ironman Triathlon.
WHAT ABOUT IRONMAN ACCOMMODATIONS?
Hopefully you have given some careful thought to your Ironman accommodations.
It’s important to pick just the right place to stay as your choice or Ironman accommodations may ultimately have quite an impact on how you perform when race day arrives.
Picking the right accommodations is an important aspect of Ironman week.
I can’t stress enough how important it can be to have the ability to prepare your own food during Ironman week.
You should do everything in your power to get yourself a kitchenette with full cooking facilities so you can prepare the food you are used to eating. If you have a kitchenette, your first trip should be to the super-market once you arrive at the Ironman venue.
When you are done unloading the groceries the contents of the refrigerator in your kitchenette should closely resemble what’s in your fridge at home.
The best place to be is about a 10-15 drive to the race start. That will keep you away from all the hype and will be far more relaxing, but yet will be close to everything you will need including getting to the start race morning
At the same time you will not have far to go after the race.
Be careful where you park on race morning. Learn the exact route the race takes through town so you can park in a spot that will not run into the race course when your race is done and you want to get back to your accommodation.
Some people have been trapped for hours as all the roads they are parked near are closed for the race.
HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU TRAIN IRONMAN WEEK?
The best advice I can give is don’t even think of it as training, because at this point your training is over.
All you should really be doing is short swims, bikes, and runs. Just enough to keep yourself sharp and loose.
Try out the swim course but there is nothing to be gained by swimming the entire thing. A smooth, relaxed 30 minutes swim(or even less) is all you really need.
It never fails when I go to Ironman Canada for the expo and book signings for my triathlon books that triathletes who are just days away from the Ironman starting gun are heading out on 80k or 90k bike rides in the heat of the day.
There is nothing to be gained by doing that. Energy is expended that you may never recover in time for race day and dehydration is a very big possibility. Three or four days before the race go on a 15k-20k bike early in the morning before the heat of mid-day.
This should just be an easy spin to make sure everything is working properly. Is your bike shifting properly? Are your brakes as good as they can be? Does you bike computer need a new battery?
Over the years I found that the key day for complete rest and a really good nights sleep
for a Sunday Ironman is Friday. Avoid any sort of training at all and get the best nights sleep you can.
Invariably the night before the race is a difficult time for some people to sleep, so that’s why concentrating on complete rest on Friday is important.
Early Saturday morning is a good time to go for a short swim or run just to prepare yourself for the next morning. Just 20 minutes or so is perfect. Do some short fast sprints (10 seconds or so) in the water or running, or both and then wait 90 seconds or so and repeat about 6 or 7 times. Just go a bit faster than your usual training pace.
I call them “pick-ups” and they will help relieve any pre-race anxiety and give your body one last wake-up call for Ironman day. Six-time Ironman Hawaii Wprld Champion Mark Allen is a big believer in doing these short, quick bursts the day before the race.
The rest of the day just sip on some water and maintain the optimum level of hydration you reached over the previous days and relax. It there is a pre-race meeting you should go and then call it a day and spend some time with your family and friends.
Getting the most out of Ironman race week is all about common sense. You have worked hard to get to this point and it will be a challenge to maintain control and relax in that last week, but if you plan ahead you will be fine.
Think of that final week as a time for rejuvenating your body and letting it reach it’s optimum readiness through rest, relaxation, and doing all the right thinks when it comes to hydrating and carbohydrate loading as you ease yourself toward race day.
If you plan things properly you “will” cross that Ironman finish line and have memories of an amazing accomplishment that will last you a life-time.
One of our main purposes at ironstruck.com is to do whatever we can to help triathletes of the world realize their triathlon goals and dreams.
Feel free to contact us any time if you have triathlon questions or concerns and we will be glad to help out any way we can.