What I learned in my first Ironman
Ok – last Ironman post for a while, I promise…
But I did want to get everything out while it is still fresh in my mind.
You will want to make a race plan.
I sat down and literally wrote out in pain staking detail what I was going to do for the race and shared it with my coach to read over two nights before the race. An excerpt is here:
This may all seem painfully detail oriented but it is because I hate the details. I love to just head out and assume that everything will be ok, but I have chosen two sports (triathlon and adventure racing) where preparation isn’t just necessary, it is the difference between winning and losing. So I wrote out four pages of notes, lists and declarations about my race and used it as a guidebook. I was able to have a calm race where I could just focus on the plan because I knew exactly what to do. I knew what I would be thinking about and when throughout the course. It was a script, I just needed to follow it.
Think through worst case scenarios
This may seem fatalistic but I thought through my fears of what would happen in the race:
What if I have a panic attack in the swim? I would take the time I needed to calm down and swim a distance from other swimmers.
What if I have a mechanical? I practised changing tires before the race to make sure I was as comfortable and speedy as possible and I got a bike tune up the week before I left. I checked the brakes and tires on race morning to ensure they were good to go.
What if I have stomach issues? I worked out details with my sports nutritionist and had an idea of what to do nutritionally if I had cramps, was light headed, etc.
You realise when you do this that even the uncontrollable have a solution and there is nothing to do but enjoy the race.
Stay out of the action before the race
We stayed in a quiet cottage 20 minutes out of town with a river, an open patio with day couches and forests. There were pancake breakfasts, CPR training, expos and tons of other activities in Lake Placid but it was amazing to be able to take a nap on the porch or read by the river in Wilmington without thousands of people around. I love being in the middle of the action and this forced me to have an actual taper so I was fresh and ready to go on race day.
Surround yourself with good people
Our crew was incredible. Everyone who was racing had positive energy, no one was frantic or nervous because they had all trained hard and no one was type A about their pre-race nutrition. We just sat around and ate some delicious carbs, took naps and played games. I would do another Ironman with them in a heart beat.
Size up your shoes
I wore the New Balance 1400s with some custom marathoning inserts and they were perfect other than the fact I should have worn a size 8.5. I am still paying dearly with black toenails. My feet were swollen when I got off the bike and slamming toes into the toe box down a hill was not ideal.
You will feel hung over after racing
Why did no one tell me that you actually feel like the morning after a bender when you cross the finish line? It’s a real thing and I did force some food down, but I sought out some shade and just chilled for a while until I felt ready to eat a big meal again. I celebrated with the perfect hang over food of a greasy double cheese burger, salty french fries and a chocolate milk so I guess it was perfect.
Those are the main ones I learned in this experience. It is always a thrilling, humbling thing to go out of your element and try something new. I will totally be back for the Ironman distance but for now, I am turning my focus back to speed for the world championships in August, bush speed and smooth coasteering for Adventure Racing Nationals in September and improving my swimming for a team swim/run event this fall. I love triathlon. But I also love mountain biking, road cycling, swimming, running, kayaking and Muay Thai and yoga. I love constantly changing up what I am doing – it keeps me humble, learning new skills and from burning out in one event.
This week, I am still recovering hard. My biggest workouts are hot yoga and Starbucks and a cruisy road ride with friends that ends with a bakery. Wishing you all a wonderful weekend, no matter where your training takes you!