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The TBN #42-Avoid These 7 Critical IRONMAN Rookie Mistakes

Updated: 17 minutes ago

Read time: 5min.

By Coach Yan Busset

Long Distance Triathlon Rookie Mistakes

We've already covered what could go wrong on race day in previous articles: 10 Things That Could Go Wrong on Race Day & How to Fix Them and The 5 Top Race Day Mistakes, but let’s dive deeper into what is specific to racing long distance triathlon.

Underestimating the Nutrition Side:

Train your gut in training > Don’t overdo it on race day. Long distance triathlons are swim/bike/run/eating competitions. The nutrition game has changed, and the latest studies show that with a multi-carb source strategy, you can increase the rate of carbs per hour the body can tolerate. It used to be 60-90g/h, but depending on your size, your tolerance, and the duration of your race, some good results have been achieved with +100g/h. So, test and keep track of what works for you during your long trainings. (More tips on this topic here: This Is How Nutrition & Fueling Can Unlock Your Performance)

Going Too Fast Too Soon:

The race starts after 30k on the run. Stepping up from shorter to long distance, the role of pacing is even more important. In short races, you could "get away with it" by pushing too hard on the bike or swim, and still be able to have a fairly good run. But in long distance, you need to resist the temptation to follow strong cyclists or make up lost time by pushing too hard. You need to know your race pace, which will allow you to have the best speed vs energy expenditure ratio. Endurance long distance races are energy management events: you start with a budget of energy to spend, and you can’t replenish fast enough. So instead of a short-term gratification of gaining a few minutes on the swim or bike, think wisely because when the tank is empty, you won’t be running anymore; it will be a long and slow walk, where you will lose way more. So learn with your coach what is the optimal race pace for you and stick to the plan. (More info on this topic here: Race Pacing: 5 Things I Wish I Knew As A Beginner)

Don’t Freak Out in Dark Moments > It Will Get Better:

You can be sure that at one point or several in the race, you will face a hard moment of doubt and energy drop, where you will question your ability to complete the race. It’s almost always the case, and regardless of the level, pro and amateur face these. But if you are mentally prepared for that, you will be able to overcome these race setbacks more easily. Because these are temporary, after a while, be it 5, 10, or 20 minutes, the light will come back, your body will work again, or the nagging pain will disappear, and you will be able to continue. So when faced with this, stay zen, regroup, take it a bit more easy, slow down, eat, drink, and it will get better. So, no panic.

Not Taking Electrolytes:

We talked about nutrition as key. But another important thing to monitor is your electrolyte consumption. You need to stay hydrated, but even more important than facing dehydration, the minerals intake will define if your body can work properly. Too little, and it’s one of the possible causes for cramps, and in extreme cases, in warm conditions, drinking too much without electrolyte intake can be more dangerous than too little (Hyponatremia).

Test Your Gear > No New Things on Race Day:

Small nagging details over short distance can become big issues over a LD (Long Distance). It’s always tempting when visiting the race expo to get yourself a brand new pair of shoes or a new trisuit, or to change your bike settings last minute for lack of confidence. But don’t do that. Choose only gear and setups you have tested and retested in training and that have proven to work for you over extensive hours of training. In short distances, a slight shaving in the chamois area or a pair of shoes not so comfy, and you can get away with it. But over hours of race, it can become so much uncomfortable, or painful that you can’t continue.

Recon the Race Route and the Position of Aid Stations:

It takes hours of practice to gain a few minutes on your swim, bike, or run speed. But it takes, in comparison, not so long to get to know the race course so that you won’t lose time wondering where the next swim buoy is or where is your bike at T2. You will save time and stress. Also, you will need a serious knowledge of the race course to adapt and anticipate your race fueling and pacing strategy and make sure you have the right gears, the right development, to stay in eco mode for the race.

Don’t Be the Lonely Rider:

On race day or during your preparation, you will greatly benefit from having some sidekick. Sure, finishing a challenge such as an Ironman triathlon or another cool long endurance event is something you do for your own achievement and personal development. But there are 3 types of help you can get that will be a game-changer in your journey, let’s go in a reverse chronological order. When passing the finish line, it’s priceless and a lifetime memory to have close by your loved ones, family, partner, kids, or friends that have been part of your journey. Don’t underestimate the power of showing by example and how transformative and inspiring your personal achievement can be to others. Give them a chance to be part of that special moment. Many finishers were once on the other side of the finish line as supporters and caught the bug this way. Also, during race day, logistically speaking, your life will be greatly improved and more practical, and less stressful if someone comes with you. Racing a long-distance triathlon is a big logistic, lots of gear, and extra hands are always useful. Also, pre-race nerves can be challenging for some, and if your "wing partner" can help you relax, it’s always a big plus. During your preparation, consistency is key, and having training partners, from a club or training group, when motivation is down, it will be easier to get the extra kick to go training. Also, for the planning and preparation, having a coach is the single best investment in your preparation: it will get a personalized training plan, accountability, expertise and experience, objective feedback, motivation and support, injury prevention, race strategy. When I created Tri Coaching Finland, I did it first selfishly: I didn’t find clubs in my area that offered the social side and the professionalism I needed to train. With Tri Coaching Finland, I built the all inclusive package I wish I could have as an triathlete. It’s hard to explain, and I don’t want to feel like bragging, but I am super proud of the amazing community of athletes I've built in Helsinki/Espoo and online. Many different levels of athletes but all have in common the will of building a better version of themselves, and all respect each other. We have this common daily struggle of putting the pieces of the "personal life/work/health/goals" puzzle together. In the training, we give our very best, and when we go to breakfast together after the morning sessions, there is a unique relaxed atmosphere where nobody cares about your level, background, job, experience, but respects each other as triathlon makes us like-minded. I am proud to have helped many athletes become finishers and achieve their dreams but also that I have been able to keep that atmosphere in the club over the years.



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