Coming up this Sunday - 20th July - the tenth anniversary Ironman UK in Bolton will be for many of you the biggest race of your season and the culmination of many months of training.
With that in mind, and to help you get the very most from your day, we asked the guys at thetrilife.com - official coaching partner to Ironman UK - for some advice on how to get the best from you Ironman UK experience. While the time for training may be limited with the event less than seven days away, there are still plenty of things you can do to improve your performance on Sunday.
To that end, Dr Liz Scott has put together for us 10 things to do the week before an Ironman.
10 things to do the week before an Ironman
Chances are you've put in a huge amount of physical training up until now, the week before your Ironman event. Here are 10 things you could do this week to help you reach your potential on race day and have a great time doing it!
- Plan the final 3 days carefully. Thinking ahead really will reduce your stress levels and make sure that you do what you need to do. Registering and swim start are the non-negotiables; build your plan around those two things, and make sure your partner/supporters are aware if you need their help during this period. Your plan should include post-race logistics as well – if you start to worry about these during the race, then you won't be concentrating.
- Go to bed earlier than usual. Decide what time you will go to bed during these last few days and stick to it. Make bedtime 30 minutes earlier than usual. There is no point in going to bed hours earlier than usual because your body will just not be ready, but an extra 30 mins will be beneficial. Do not worry if you do not sleep well on Saturday night – not many athletes do – if you have stuck to your bedtime plan this week this will not matter - you will be fine.
- Maintain a healthy diet this week. Eat foods that you are used to eating – this is not the time for experimenting. It is also a good idea to cut down on high fibre foods in the last two days. And of course, keep well hydrated during the last few days. There is very little evidence to support carbo-loading – remember you are reducing your training load during this period, so actually eating normally may be fine. You really don't want to put on half a kilo during your taper!
- Make time for you and your race plan. Every day if possible, but in particular on the day before your race, set aside time for yourself, away from family and friends, to look through your race plan and visualize every aspect of your race. Your race plan covers pacing, nutrition, what- ifs, and maybe some motivational mantras to get you through low-spots.
- Stick to your training plan. If you have a coach and have been given your training plan then stick to it. It is a common mistake for new Ironman athletes to try to reduce anxiety by training more! If you do not have a coach, then prepare a training plan for the final week on the basis that less is more – your sessions should be shorter (probably 30-60 mins) and include some above long distance race pace intervals but with plenty of rest in between. The aim is to keep your muscles ready for action without adding fatigue. Your body will adapt now to the load you've put in, but as the race gets closer, any new load will be counterproductive. Key purpose of training now is to burn off excess energy (help you sleep), generate feel-good endorphins (rejoice in your fitness), and to keep the machine ticking over smoothly.
- Review the course. If you can find time to review parts of the course that are unfamiliar to you and to take part in any organised swims, you will of course benefit. But there is a balance to be had here between being well prepared and overdoing it. Consider what you need to know to make you feel confident and just review those parts of the course. Don't get caught up with other athletes who may ‘egg you on' to go further or faster than you want to.
- More planning. Early this week start a list of everything that you need to take with you to the race. Write it down and keep the list on your bedside table. If you wake up in the night and think “I must remember to take sun screen”, then you can write it down. Some smart athletes go one step further and have three bags which they label red, blue and white. They then fill these bags with exactly what they want to have in their Ironman red, blue and white bags so that once registered they can simply transfer the contents. Avoid being that athlete we've often seen looking for some item or another that is lost in the back of the car!
- Register nice and early. Avoid the queues and get the admin done and out of the way as early as you can. Avoid rushing to beat the closure of the tent.
- Charge up any gadgets that need charging. Don't forget or leave it to the last minute. All the same, your race plan should include a ‘what-if' which covers anything which breaks down on the day. Do not over-rely on your gadgets – you should be prepared to race without them.
- Don't over-do the expo! Plan your time at the expo carefully. By all means enjoy browsing (and even buying) the kit and other offerings on display, but you do not want to spend all day on your feet (potentially in the sun) the day before your event. Set yourself a time, and then get back to somewhere that you can sit or lie down. Oh, and by the way, your kit should all be tried and tested long ago, so anything you buy at the expo is for another race, right?
These tips cover many of the topics that we discuss with athletes as we prepare them for Ironman either via coaching packages or via our popular race preparation camps.
Dr Liz Scott is a director of thetrilife.com and has coached athletes of many different levels of ability to success over all distances.