Eat often. Pace yourself. Don’t be a Knuckle Head.
Ironman is hard, but it’s also so simple.Getting to the finish line only requires these three simple rules:
1) Eat often.
Though every individual is different as far as how much and what kind, every athlete needs calories, and lots of them. This was a hard one for me to learn; not only did I need to deprogram years of associating calories with weight gain, but I also needed to teach myself to eat even when I wasn’t hungry. It’s much easier to top off the tank at regular intervals than it is to fill an almost-empty one.
2) Pace yourself.
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of race day. It’s easy to believe the voice in your head that says I can totally run six-minute miles! And it’s really, really easy to forget at some point in an Ironman, things are going to suck. “It’s not a question of if, but when,” a friend once told me.
Though you can’t entirely keep the struggle at bay, you do have some control over when and how it appears. Showing restraint early on is hard, but it also means the suck will more likely come in a slow, manageable trickle. If you don’t pace yourself because you’re overconfident, banking time early on, or trying to avoid getting overtaken on the bike you’ll be hit with a tsunami of suck at the most inconvenient time.
3) Don’t be a Knuckle head
The toughest days of training are the ones that yield the biggest lessons. Race day can and does throw everything at you, from two-foot swells in the swim to flat tires on the bike to relentless heat on the run.
If you haven’t encountered those things before, you’re liable to panic, and panicking leads to dumb decisions that can cost you time, energy, or the ability to finish the race.
But if you deliberately seek out those experiences in training, you’re less likely to make dumb decisions on race day. While everyone else is freaking out, you can proceed in calm, rational fashion you’ve seen it before and survived. No big deal.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve yet to master this one.
Remember that during the race, just like during the several months of training you have endured, your body will question your sanity and give you hundreds of reasons to quit.
Prepare your mind to have an answer for every question your body asks.
Never forget why you are doing this.
Eat often. Pace yourself. And don’t be a knuckle head. Do those 3 things, and you will cross that finish line.