Ironman is a huge undertaking. Most people spend an entire year committed to the goal. From the training to the equipment to the nutrition athletes are generally well prepared. What is astonishing is how poorly some people execute on race day. It’s not uncommon to hear stories of grandeur during training coupled with “I don’t know what happened on race day”. Over the years I have noticed several key mistakes that athletes tend to make.
Error #1- Pacing/effort spiking
I believe there are two specific mistakes people make when it comes to pacing. The first is going too hard at the beginning of the bike and the second is what I refer to as “effort spiking”. When you are rested and tapered and full of adrenaline it is incredibly easy to exceed an effort that you can sustain early on. Likewise, athletes are often very undisciplined with their effort when it comes to various external factors like hilly sections and many of them inevitably spend the day spiking their effort way too high periodically throughout the day.
Tools that measure effort, like heart monitors or power meters, are a great way to manage your intensity on race day and in the training leading up to the race. These tools give you clear indicators on effort and allow you to maintain a more consistent and even pace. Testing to establish critical values for you personally is a great way to hone in on the best effort for you.
Error #2- Overdoing nutritional requirements
It’s not uncommon for athletes to overdo their nutritional requirements on race day. Often athletes will panic and take in too much at once. The body can only handle so many calories or so much fluid at one time especially when it’s under aerobic stress.
A great nutrition strategy is to ingest small amounts frequently rather than taking large amounts infrequently. Drinking small amounts every five minutes and eating small amounts every fifteen minutes ensures a constant supply of carbohydrate and fluid that is easier for your body to digest. It’s important to know how much you should take in with each drink or mouth full to meet your overall requirements.
Error #3 – Mental combustion
It is easy to become overwhelmed by the magnitude of Ironman in the days leading up to the race. Obsessive mental rehearsal is one of the most common mistakes athletes make in the week leading up to the race. Too much time spent thinking about the race can leave you feeling mentally exhausted.
A great strategy is to focus on being as present and in the moment as you can in the days leading up to the race and during the race itself. This usually translates to more enjoyment and more focus when it matters. If you find your mind wandering do your best to bring it back to the present moment. Spending time in the past or the future is mentally taxing and somewhat unproductive.