It is officially race week! And as predicted there are some wild emotions going on. It’s kind of hard to put into words even though this is the third time. But I am going to try and give you an inside look at my IronMan race week mental, physical and emotional preparation.
Am I nervous? Yes.
Am I excited? Yes.
Am I confident about the race? Yes.
Do I feel comfortable going into the race? No.
For me being comfortable is it not always a good thing. After all and Iron Man isn’t a comfortable adventure. But, I said I feel confident. What I mean is that I am confident that I will put my best foot forward on race day. I’m confident that I trained hard and intentionally. And I am confident that I will get to that finish line.
In the past week I have had a lot of questions about how I am feeling, the race and training, I thought it would be fun to touch on some reoccurring topics and answer those questions. Especially, the ones I have heard more than once.
“What are your IronMan race week mental, physical, and emotional preparations?”
I am an early packer. That’s a big mental preparation for me. I give it a lot of heart and soul. I lay it out multiple times. I try stuff on. I pack and repack. It’s almost like training for me.
The more familiar I am with what I have the more confident I get. And this helps take up some of my free time from the drop in actual training hours during the tapper weeks.
Physical is really psychological. What do I need to do to feel good. For me that’s a lot of moderate intensity and short time workouts. Everything is 30-45 minutes with mobility snd stretching. Enough that I feel my body working, but not over working. That recovery is easy and I don’t make backward progress this close to the race.
To clarify, backward progress would be causing fatigue or injury this close to a race by over working.The workouts are really mentally comforting, there are not physiological adaptations to earn this week.
I meditate and take hot baths to keep my mind and self busy. It helps prepare my body for the race, but at this point much more of my mind.
Nutritionally has the biggest change I think. No alcohol, no cheese and the coffee is dropping. Why?
Alcohol is a toxin. So that will inhibit my recovery goals now and performance goals on race day.
Cheese and coffee both have a dramatic affect on me. Eliminating them to help ease the stress my digestion is under before and during the race.
And finally sleep. I try to sleep as much as possible I get into bed early or go by myself and meditate and stretch before bed because my mind tends to wander at this point.
I visualize a successful race and that generally settles my roaming mind so that I can tall asleep.
How do you get game day ready? How do you not psych yourself out?
I felt like these questions went with my race week mental, physical and emotional preparation. Everything I have don’t in training is what has physically prepared me. I have been working on my mental game during training, but I find those results don’t show until race day. No matter who you are.
Outside of obsessive packing, eating, stretching and sleeping there is nothing left to get game day ready. But there is always the opportunity to psych yourself out. My focus has to stay on me succeeding – at the race and at my goals. I have to make that the priority this week and do things that support it. And perhaps more importantly DON’T do things that won’t support my goals.
“Do you feel like you have to have a clean house, checked-off to-do list, and everything wrapped up before leaving?”
This question was clearly asked by someone who knows me well. 1000% I need to have all my t’s crossed and my i’s dotted.
I know that it is difficult for me to relax when I am anticipating the race. My mind generally starts to wonder and think of the million other things I could do instead of relaxing.
To help with this I try 2 approaches. 1 – get as much shit done ahead of time and schedule the other things. So anything I don’t do, but I want to do I set a date for it. That helps me “be at peace” with it not being done and keeps it from being a distraction.
2 – I continuously preach to myself “live in the moment”. Enjoy the fact that this rest is mandated. Enjoy how freaking hard you’ve worked for this rest. Trust that this moment now will pay dividends on race day. Remember that these are memories too. And, perhaps most important is the concept that being busy and getting things done isn’t a measure of success or self value. Embracing that allows me to live in the moment and allow race day to be my success story.
Side Note – you know I’m writing this article with excitement to cross it off my list before I leave!
“Do you have any IronMan pre-race rituals?”
I don’t have anything crazy. ?I have a clear plan I follow that I don’t like to deviate from, perhaps that is part of a ritual But I would say my visualization is the most ritualistic activity that I do. It has been going on throughout training, but this week and race day is my main focus.
I really enjoy getting to the venue and being able to put landmarks in my head and make the visualization more realistic. I’ll be running the course and transitions through my head continuously race morning.
What are you most excited for during the race? What are you looking forward to after the race?
There is nothing like the anticipation and anxiety I feel standing in line for the swim. Nerves are jumping out of my throat, my body wants to attack the challenge and my mind is trying to hold everything together. It sounds wild and it is.But that feeling is incredible.
I am excited to see how these legs do on the run. I have made it a big goal to run the entire marathon – something I haven’t accomplished before. And I am hoping my nutritional changes will get me there.
And if you have been following my training then you know that I did not train in a traditional manner, so I am damn excited to see what I can do.
I am hoping, with tightly crossed fingers, not feel like death. I have this crappy memory of the hell I was in after finishing IronMan Chattanooga and all I care about is not feeling that way. Oh, and a shower. Nothing compares to a shower after the race.
Race day goals?
Big goal is to live in the moment and soak it all in. Not always easy for me. But having a baby has made me much better at it.
I will run the entire marathon.
12 hour finish. Anywhere in the 12s would make me happy. For reference my best was Madison 2016 at 13:06.
What do you think about during the race?
It is different for each leg of the race.
Swim – I am filled with positivity because the day has started. My thoughts are uplifting and full of hope. I generally settle all my nerves in the swim because I try to set a tempo for the day.
Bike – loop 1 I am practicing patience so I am very invested in my technique, my nutrition and my plan. Loop 2 I give myself more freedom to attack the bike which allows my mind to wander. My thoughts aren’t as positive, more challenging. I am trying to mentally inspire myself to do more and be more. And of course the constant thought of crossing that finish line enters into my head 1,352 times.
Run – this is the hardest for me mentally.I let my mind go to absolutely anything to help distract myself. I consistently do mental checks on my running form and go back to my random thoughts. Overall, this is this time is filled with inspiring (for me) negative self-talk.
Don’t come at me over this. I know it is not the “ideal” mentality and that it isn’t “healthy” for everyone. Which is why I am not recommending you or anyone use negative self-talk. I am simply being honest. The things I tell myself aren’t out of hate, they serve as reminders for what is on the line. And that in return gets my ass moving.
How do you troubleshoot during the race if something isn’t going right/you aren’t on pace/you get a blister/you all of a sudden have to poop?
This one made me laugh. There is literally nothing you can do. Those bumps are going to be in the road. You can try to prepare for them, but ultimately you are just triaging what comes up.
Something isn’t going to go right. That’s the nature of this type of a race. It is far too long for everything to go right. In Chattanooga I miscounted ALL of the swim buoys. So I thought I should be hitting the final buoy and I was just hitting half way. That was a mind bend. Yes, I have learned from that and I triple check all course information. And in Madison my chain fell off my bike after Barlow and I had to chase Jo back down to keep our goal of finishing together.
You aren’t on pace. The answer no one wants to hear is that they fucked up. If you aren’t on pace something happened. It could be in your control or it could be out of your control. Most of the time it is in your control – training preparations, food/hydration, rest, sleep, realistic goals. And I am not bashing other people. I know this from personal experience. Endurance racing is humbling at every level.
Blister/Urge to Poop. Good news is that there are a lot of port-a-johns on the course. So you should be safe to get into one. Now if it is digestive distress going on and mother nature can’t wait you may poop yourself. While I have been close, it has never happened.
What I tell myself in those close calls is … you aren’t first and you won’t be the last. There is no point in dwelling on it now. You have to focus on the race. Clean yourself up at the next port-a-john.
And for blisters and other incidents they have stuff at aid stations that can be of help. But most athletes carry things they know they might need like bandaids because they got blisters a lot in training. Others put it all in their special needs bags. Those are bags that are available to athletes ONLY halfway through the bike and halfway through the run.
People put crazy shit in there. Cans of soup, brand new shoes and emergency items like band aids.
How do you reach deep to get that extra burst when you think you can’t do it anymore?
Mental. Mental. Mental.
I have never been on the wire in a race. Meaning I haven’t been so close to a cut off time that I had to keep going or I wouldn’t make it. That is good and bad. Good because that means I am racing strong. Bad because it means it is easy to just slow down.
I have focused this training cycle on the mantra “you don’t get to do that mile again”. Essentially, I don’t want to look back at any part of the race and think could I have or should I have done that differently.
If I choose to slow down on the bike, it should be because I am over working and it isn’t sustainable. Because I will never be able to do that mile over or “make-up” for the slow down. This is a race leaving it all on the course is what I am here to do.
How do you feel when you cross the finish line? What do you do to recover immediately after?
Crossing the finish line is more than euphoric. It is also a little sad for me. I am elated to be done and to have become an IronMan again. But it is also over. I love the discipline required to train for an IronMan – it brings out the best in me. So the celebration is always bitter sweet. Until I pick that next race 🙂
I hope I have a better answer for you guys on recovery after the race. In the past I have been wrecked. Madison took its tool on my digestion and my knees. I couldn’t even stand up off the curb they hurt so bad. Chattanooga I was incredibly dehydrated (heat and digestion issues) I was in the dumps for two days following the race. The only consistency between the two races is that I wanted to hug Mike (and cry) and take a shower.
As I said before, I hope to have a much different race experience this time and that means a much different post-race experience. Stay tuned!
If you made it to the end here, they you either are a good friend of mine (I love you) or you are really interested in IronMan. Either way, welcome to my little IM racing community 🙂 Comment or connect with me on Instagram!