Next up on the endurance race calendar is Ironman Western Australia. As you all probably know, Busselton is home to Bindi HQ and we can’t help it, we are totally in love with this beautiful part of WA. But as IMWA race day grows nearer and triathletes are making final adjustments to their race plans and nutrition, we thought we’d talk about the elephant in the room – or in this case – the sharks in the water.
So many challenges
In 2017 the swim leg was aborted and hundreds of athletes had to exit the ocean via a panicky climb up ladders on the jetty when a shark was spotted 800m out from the beach.
The mass exodus of athletes from the ocean was a worrying sight to see, and the atmosphere of tension and confusion palpable as they huddled on the hot beach, awaiting instruction from the race directors.
When the cancellation of the swim was announced you could feel the atmosphere change as thousands of athletes realised the race they had trained for, planned for, and made sacrifices for, wasn’t going to happen the way they wanted.
For many, there was the feeling that, “well, this doesn’t count now,” and “it’s not a full IM distance, why just do the bike/run combo?” and, “how can you qualify for the IM World Champs when you haven’t completed the distance?”
This year I am also hearing a lot of conversations around to do with uncertainty around IMWA – will it even go ahead? Will athletes from other states be able to travel and compete? What happens with Kona spots in a reduced field, and if I get one will I be able to go?
So many questions, and so many variables! Hearing this ‘questioning’ mindset on a regular basis really got me thinking.
Preparing for the unexpected should absolutely be part of your race day planning.
You never know what race day will bring. The last few years are testament to that here in the south west of WA. We’ve had sharks and bush fires, with howling winds, torrential rain and choppy waters and the last few races have thrown up their fair share of challenges. That’s if they weren’t cancelled due to COVID.
So how do you cope?
Race day rarely goes to plan, we all know that for sure, and given most triathletes display tremendous amounts of resilience and strength throughout punishing training blocks, the best advice we can give is this…. make a plan. Make a race day plan, include a checklist of gear, and make your nutrition plan. Then think about what might go wrong!
Think about what could go wrong And how will you handle it?
Have you practiced changing a flat tyre so many times that you could do it without stress on race day?
Have you checked the course maps to see where all the aids stations are and what’s available in case you drop some nutrition?
Have you written down your nutrition plan and practiced it in training… a LOT?!
Have you planned your race-day pacing with your coach (yes that’s right, your coach not every other person in your training group who has their own opinion!) and talked about how to handle it if you aren’t feeling good?
The 15 Minute Check In
Ironman racing can be a long day. It’s easy to lose focus and let things get away from you like pacing and nutrition. Or you can start to focus on a niggle like a sore hip and soon enough it becomes all-consuming.
This is where the 15 Minute Check In can become extremely helpful. Every 15 minutes do a full body check – how am I feeling? Is my head OK (not fatiguing, getting negative or feeling a headache?). Are my arms, legs, chest all OK – feeling strong? Is my nutrition OK – am on track?
Use this 15 Minute Check to assess and reset yourself all day.
And on race day when things don’t go to plan
Just breathe. And remember, you planned for this.
If a challenge arises (yes nature and mechanicals, I’m talking to you), take a moment, refocus your goal and try to take it in your stride.
If the swim is cancelled, focus on not going out too hard in the bike and blowing up on the run.
If the bike leg is shortened, run your heart out. If you get a mechanical, think about the energy you are saving for that all-important run.
If you start cramping on the bike, look at the nutrition you have available and tweak your plan to suit.
Most of all race hard, race with pride and cross that line with a smile on your face! Ultimately, we are very lucky to even be able to compete in this sport.
Nutrition becomes a controllable on race day
Triathlon is an outdoor sport, and sometimes the elements hit back, along with other unforeseen challenges. We have discussed preparing your nutrition for race day as a ‘controllable’ in that it is something you can train your gut to handle, and you can practice it in training (read full blog here).
It’s time to go and achieve those goals!