In 2010 we were in Kona for the Ironman World Championships. I was competing in the race of my dreams and anxious to turn in a solid performance. I had trained as best as I could with a busy work schedule, and expected a time of around 11 hours--not good, but not shabby for a difficult, hot race.
What I didn't count on was the wear and tear the long race would have on me. I had trained for over 200 miles on numerous rides, I had run marathons as part of training, and swimming up to 10,000 yards in a workout was doable. So I wasn't concerned about finishing and I glossed over some details.
The details that got me weren't nutrition or fitness, but a tiny miscalculation with respect to my cycling shoes. I had done all of my riding in socks. On race day, I had lathered my shoes in Glide but it just wasn't enough. By the end of the bike ride, I knew my feet were blistered. I toughed it out through the first, most scenic part of the race. It's hard not to because, along 'Ali drive, fans line the roads.
But then you turn a corner and head out to the lonely lava fiels just outside of Kona. I started walking and couldn't get back to running again. It was pure irony: I was utterly elated to be there, but I didn't want to finish the race in the dark and there was no avoiding it. I hobbled along, watching the other suffering athletes go by with glow sticks.
After the race, I knew that I had made one of the hallmark mistakes. I hadn't trained properly for the race. It's not enough to just train long. It's also important to train like you plan to race; and to train smart!
Doing the race again, here is what I would suggest:
- Wear the same shoes, clothing that you will race in.
- Train in going from salty water (if applicable) to your bike.
- Even for a long race, don't relax in transition. Stay alert and aggressive because transitions can make or break your triathlon.
- Try to maintain nutrition that you planned, but don't freak out if you are off. Just make sure you stay hydrated and have enough calories. But it's a race--not a science class. It's okay if you are off your plan slightly.
- If you drop your nutrition, stop and retrieve it. Saving time is great, but you risk serious injury if you allow yourself to become depleted just to save a few seconds.
- Take advantage of physical therapy, especially a physical therapist who is certified in Active Release Techniques (ART) | Ironman, to help you recover, even from long workouts (not just races!) Do not fall for immitations, just go to the ART website.
- Don't let injuries nag you and impede your training. It is worth the time to see a physical therapist.
- Put yourself and your support crew in a position to have fun.
- On race day, let the details take care of themselves. Tell yourself that you are ready, and go out and execute your race plan!
Just this past week, we printed up a racing singlet for one of our sponsored athletes, Trevor Albert. We got a really high end singlet but due to time restraints we applied vinyl lettering to it with the RosePT logo. But the lettering turned out be irritating to Trevor's skin because it was too thick.
Solution? Don't run in this singlet. I couldn't subject another althlete to my own frustrations with little things. It was an expensive decision, but I'm convinced it was the correct decision. In a long race, details like this matter.
We are now redesigning our race singlets for our athletes with screen printing. But the goal for us is never to just advertise to people. Our approach is to let our quality therapy speak for itself--the logo gear is just for fun! So if you see us out there, smile, waive, and know we are having fun while challenging ourselves to reach for higher goals.