This week has been a horrible one – I’m battling to keep up with a lot of work and get the right amount of training in for Half Iron Man in January. It’s tough trying to balance friends, work, family, wedding planning and training in a 24 hour day. To be honest, Ive been feeling a little despondent about it all – particularly the fact that the race is in just over a months time and I dont quite think my training has been enough. Then, my fiance sent me and my training buddies (we are all IM virgins) a story he has written on his Iron Man experience in the past.
I took a few minutes to read this, and had tears rolling down my face. It’s beautiful, and inspirational and is making me (finally) just a little bit excited for my first 70.3.
If you are a first time participant, or a fully qualified Iron Man, take the time to read this too – I can guarantee it will touch you in some way or the other.
Ironman 70.3 and what to expect:
This is going to be one of those days, it is going to be the longest quickest day of your life.
You are going to be waking up, then crossing the finish line and then drinking tequila – well that is what it is going to feel like when you wake up the following morning.
What it will feel like on the day is completely different, it will feel like time is playing a joke on you and standing still or even going backwards, it will feel like you are going nowhere and yet the truth of the matter is that time is always ticking and it actually ticks pretty fast when you are racing.
The Build Up
The build up to the race is fun and nerve wracking, you will arrive in East London on the Friday morning to a city that has come to a stand still for 1 race – this is for you.
You will check into the hotel and all you will want to do is get out there and register, run, swim and check your bike because that is what everyone else is doing – or at least it looks that way, you will want to hit the beach and be busy with some activity – NO NO NO – DON’T DO ANY OF THIS!!!
What you should really do is take a 20min lie down and a little freshen up. Get into relax mode as quick as possible. Lie on the bed and do nothing – read a magazine or your book but just try to relax as quickly as possible.
Grab your wetsuit and your swim kit and head down to the swim venue, put on your wetsuit and go for a short swim, the water will be cold, walk in and out until you are confident to just run in and lose your breath, once in just play in the water and get used to the feeling of the sea, swim to the 1st Buoy and back and that is it. Play in the waves and have fun – splash water at your friend and act like a kid.
Get out and have a good look at what you just did, high 5 everyone and then head back to the hotel and have a shower, relax and do nothing. Find something to keep your mind busy with your legs up, a lap top with a series is perfect.
Around lunch time go to the expo, register and have a quick look around then go for lunch, again feet up and weight on the bum. Enjoy lunch and chill out – out of the sun. Watch everyone around you. Some of them will be 120kg’s and others will be 72kg ripped with every little muscle showing – WHO CARES! Do not panic that someone is in better shape, round is also a shape and it can roll down a hill faster than Mr. Ripped.
Head back to the room and once again relax. Do nothing but keep your mind busy, watch series on a lap top again (actually make sure you have a lot to watch)
Later that day go for a short run of 10 – 15minutes and go to bunkers hill if you want to see what this hill is all about. It will feel horrible but it will be good for you, you are getting blood back into the legs after the long drive. Don’t let it affect your head at all – Sunday will feel better!
Have a shower, get ready in comfortable clothes and go find an early dinner – East Londo is no fashion show at all!
Make sure you eat healthy and what you want and get to bed early – sleep for as long as possible.
On the Saturday morning wake up, have a coffee and something to eat (what you will eat for breakfast the day of the race) grab that wetsuit (haha ‘wet’ suit coz it will still be wet) and head out for another swim, same again – practice walking into the sea and getting going, then practice swimming out and do it again. Float in the sea and remember you are floating and this is easy – POSITIVE thoughts only!!!
Head back to the room and take your bike for a 10min spin just to check the gears and that everything is working then head back, shower and yes you guessed it – relax.
Today you do nothing but stay off those feet for as long as possible.
Pack your race packs (while sitting) and then relax, maybe even have a 20min snooze.
An early lunch is always good, eat what you want and enjoy it – I usually do pizza.
The time will come where you have to rack your bike and your bags. Go do this and remember this is no time to panic, they will tell you where to put your bike and where to put your bags, all you have to do is put them where they have told you and have a quick walk around transition, from where you run in from the sea to where you run out with your bike, then do the walk from when you run in with your bike to when you run out for the run. It is quick and easy and very smooth sailing. You do this at a BSG so do it again- make sure you know where you bags and bike are.
Head back to the room and relax, read a book, watch a series and get ready for an early dinner. Again eat what you want but try keeping it to what works for you but also healthy and balanced then back to the room and feet up for the rest of the night. Everything is done, don’t sit on your phone to much as people will make you nervous. You do not need nerves right now!
Get comfy and chill.
If you can’t sleep rather turn a light on and read or watch TV. Your good night for sleeping was last night – tonight is just there coz it has to be – don’t panic if you can’t sleep – another 3000 people are also awake.
Wake up and think positive – if the wind is blowing tell yourself it is blowing at your back, if it is raining say at least I will not over heat and if it is the perfect day just smile and know it is a perfect day. No matter what the conditions are – everyone else is out there with you in the same conditions.
Have breakfast straight away and then get dressed, grab what you need and head to the start, fill your lunch box with your food and put your bottles on the bike. Make sure your bags are still 100% and untie the knots in them or take the tape off of them. Head out and get the wetsuit on, relax and just enjoy the vibe.
3000 other people are also racing with you some faster and some slower, everyone is nervous and everyone is excited.
Kiss your loved ones good bye and tell them you will see them when you are a 70.3 IRONMAN finisher.
Find your start pen, stand at the back with a friend and talk about positive rides and runs, remember that day we ran a PB, or the day we had so much fun on the bike or trhe day we kept swimming we felt like Forest Gump for Water and when the gun goes off for your race, high 5 and walk into the sea just like you did the day before.
You have done the distance; it will not be an issue. Start at the back and walk in, get going slowly and stay calm. No one is there to drown you and no one is there to injure you. Everyone has the same goal – get out of the water in 1 piece. Have your goals set as buoy to buoy and remember there are only 4 of them and then you will be done.
Put your head down and swim. If you want to do breaststroke then do it but what you need to do in the water is make sure you are always going forwards, every stroke you take is a stroke closer to the finish of the swim. Don’t tell yourself that you still have to bike and run, that is a problem for later – FOCUS on swimming and staying calm! Pretend you are Nemo and just keep swimming, just keep swimming (see what I did there?)
When you hit the last buoy know that you are almost done, swim for shore and get excited coz there are 40 000 spectators waiting for you.
Stand up when you can and take your goggles off, keep your swim cap on and smile for the cameras and the spectators.
Walk out of the sea, find your legs and clap if you want – you have now completed the swim – remember to start taking your wetsuit off but also remain CALM.
Get your bag and head through to the tent, take out your shoes and your helmet and anything else you will need, someone will help you with your wetsuit and put sun block on you, pack all your stuff in the bag and relax. Do not rush transition, make sure you have everything but also keep in mind how long you have been there, everything can be done in 5 minutes or 15minutes, one way you get out quicker and the other you waste 10minutes. Walk out the tent, hand your bag in and get your bike, same rule applies – walk with your bike to the mount line, get on and smile (cameras) and the spectators. In fact smile all the time, those cameras are ninjas and they just pop out and take pictures.
DO NOT RIDE IN THE GUTTER – RIDE OUTSIDE OF THE YELLOW LINE!!!
Nothing is a rush here, the bike route is tough but you will be fine, 94.7 was further. Start slowly and get going, don’t get out of breath just yet. Drink water and eat a potato straight away enjoy the beach road – it is flat and there are spectators.
The highway is boring, try see who you are riding with and make up names for them all (big bum, nice bum and skid mark bum) , keep your head busy all the way out, you will see the road climbing in front of you and on the other side of the road you will see guys on their way back in, don’t let it bug you, when you are riding in you will still see guys riding out.
You have ridden further, you have ridden steeper hills and you have ridden in worse wind (if there is any) #youhaveriddenitallbefore – just keep going forwards and stick to your nutrition plan, eat and drink and stay calm.
My advice is when you are on the bike and you don’t know what to do – eat and drink!
If you get off the bike empty your run is going to be like running up Mt Everest pulling a whale behind you – even on the downhill!
There are water points, throw your old bottle away and get a new cold one.
At the turn around think what you have just done and remember that home is quicker. The route coming in is nice and fast, do not kill yourself as there is 1 big hill coming into the city, it is not long and it is not that steep but after 80km + of riding it feels big.
NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO – KEEP GOING FORWARDS.
Enjoy the beach road again and increase you cadence, even if you slow down a bit that is fine, get ready for the spectators and the cameras – you will also see guys already running – WHO CARES, you are almost on the run.
Get off your bike, straighten up, give it to a marshal in the transition area – they will rack it for you and head to T2.
Take your cycling shoes off straight away and walk in barefoot, walk to your bag, grab it and hit the tent – as soon as you go in look for someone / ask someone to help you – they will be more than willing.
Sit down on a chair and change your shoes (new socks will feel amazing if you are going to use socks) and try not to sit for too long though, someone will put sun block on your back and neck for you. Make sure you have everything and then drop your bag off and head out for the run.
NOW you have nothing or everything to lose – start too quickly and you will die, YES YOU WILL, take the 1st few KM’s easy, relax and realise you are in the crowds so do not think you need to show off. As you run away from the finish the crowds will get less and less, that is fine, it will be a good time to have a reality check. Ask yourself “am I tired’ the truth is yes you are but you are not shattered – tell yourself you are fine – on this run, all 21km of it you may and must lie to yourself, you are not tired and you are not sore, the person next to you is sore but you are NOT!!!
Soon enough you will hit bunkers hill, this is still your 1st lap, run and walk it do not let it beat you this time, there are crowds again so feed off of their energy, get to the top and be happy coz now you can run down it. Run back along that lonely stretch and make a friend with another athlete – everyone is doing the same thing and everyone is feeling the same. Just keep going forwards, you must try having a good 1st lap which does not mean a PB for 10km but an enjoyable 10km.
Run back into the crowds listen out for your name and love it. Get ready to turn around and do the last lap of your 1st 70.3 race ever. Run away from the crowds, the key word being run. When you get to that lonely spot look around for your friend, if they are still with you awesome, if not then make a new one!
Now bunkers hill – if it wants to beat you this time – let it, try running and walking but if you can’t just keep walking, when you get to the top you can run down it and have the last laugh – you beat it!!!
Look for a new friend and run through the lonely bit, at the last water point grab water wash your face, try freshen up and get ready for the crowds.
2km to go
You know you have done it and this is where the pain will set in, for some reason your head will tell your body it is done, that you are now finished but you are not. Keep going forwards and remember every step forwards is a step closer and by now you will hear the finish, you will hear the spectators and you will know you only have 12 minutes of your race left.
If possible try to let the gap between you and the person in front of you 100m big, you want to be on the carpet alone and you want amazing pictures – start smiling (crying is also allowed but not ugly crying only happy crying), clap and wave and just be happy. If you want to walk the carpet then do so, it will last longer and you can enjoy it more. That carpet is yours and all yours, the announcer will now tell you that “YOU ARE A 70.3 IRONMAN” cross the line, look back down the carpet and just smile.
You did it.
You are part of a new family – the IRONMAN 70.3 family. (bragging rights achieved)
You will feel shattered and you will feel tired – DO NOT GIVE IN!
Have a drink and have a tequila then have more and enjoy the time with everyone there, swop war stories and have another tequila, this is your new family – tomorrow it is all over so make sure you have fun.
You only do your 1st once – ENJOY IT AND CELEBRATE IT!
My Iron Man