Preparing For An Ironman Race, The Week Preceding


Hi folks,

As Chez Ollie during World War II, “He who fails to plan is planning to fail.” The ‘bulldog’ with the sharp wit also said, “Those who plan do better than those who do not plan, even though they rarely stick to their plan.” Boy, is this an important issue in endurance sports?

Packing for an Ironman race takes some careful organization.

After following a training plan for the previous year, the pressure mounts as you attempt to ensure that all essential gear is in the race bag. Finding the right bag is also helpful, and you can leave some gear there from season to season, such as a race belt, ankle strap, wet suit spray, and those little personal odds and ends that seem unimportant to others but make all the difference to your day. You will notice that there is a bright rectangle in the center of my bag. This is a laminated equipment list for triathlons, kindly provided by USAT with my annual registration.

USAT provides an excellent checklist that I attach to my gear bag.

This list is complete apart from a toilet roll (you never know what will happen), wisely suggested by one of my previous coaches, Dan Shugars. Having such a list will calm you down, and effectively prepare you for the race equipment-wise, as long as your bike is in good shape. Then I start to think about my mental plan, which can go haywire if you are not careful. The goal is to plan everything that you can, as decisions made late in the race are generally suboptimal, at best.

My race day plan, apart from hydration and nutrition, is as follows:

  1. Arrive at the start line uninjured.
  2. Swim: Find my spot in the water, use preselected landmarks to maintain a straight course, and push gently all the way staying high in the water.
  3. Quick transition one, as practiced.
  4. Bike: Easy out on the bike gradually picking up the pressure, but trying to maintain high cadence and a gentle dance with the pedals.
  5. Quick transition two, as practiced.
  6. Run: Easy out then negative split, but in reality success comes down to one thing at the end of the day: DON’T WALK, except when taking on food and water, and make that quick.
  7. Have fun for as long as I can.

I really like cooking out of the back of my truck, using local farm produce along the way. The kids are happy reading, but they do help a lot.

We travel up to Lake Placid over a period of four to five days, cooking our own food as we go. This leaves time to train, sleep a lot, see little towns, meet interesting people, and generally chill out. Being your own chef is also an excellent precaution, as races can be ruined by food poisoning. Furthermore, you get to eat exactly what you want. Lake Placid IM has become my regular annual summer vacation, and the kids say they still enjoy it, even though this is the fifth time for us! When we arrive, on the Tuesday before the race, it is interesting watching the little town of Lake Placid change as the triathletes arrive. I certainly enjoy feeling the tension mount and meeting old friends.

As this all sounds like a relaxing vacation, I would like to mention the toughest and the most important rule for the race that was given to me by one of my best coaches, Chris Haute. Chris looked me in the eye, in that serious way of his, and said, “Kevin, if you EVER feel comfortable AT ANY TIME during the race, you are going too slow.”

Looking at the swim course before the race can be intimidating.

-k Your Medical Mind


  1. Good luck.

  2. Good Luck Kevin! Get Diesel!

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.