Everyone has something to race for at Ironman 70.3 Durban, taking place in two weeks time. The overly-talented, super-fit few will no doubt aim for a slot at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships 2018, taking place in Port Elizabeth, while the rest of us just want to make sure we take home a beautiful medal – preferably with a Personal Best finish time. But whatever your goal, we all share one responsibility; we have to show up on race day. If you don’t, not only will you lose out on that medal, but all the time and money you’ve invested during training will be wasted. Okay, so you’ve trained hard and done a lot. But have you given any thought to what you shouldn’t do, especially in the last two weeks before race day?
You may be super fit, but remember, for months your body’s been travelling in mainly one direction: namely straight forward. Your muscles aren’t accustomed to sideways movements right now. So if you want to show off your touch rugby or soccer skills at some arbitrary corporate sports day, think again – you might very well end up paying a hefty price.
Big don’ts before race day
Ironman racing isn’t called a “steady state” activity for nothing. Jerky, sprinty, lateral movements are a sure-fire recipe for a pulled groin or hamstring. So playing sports like squash isn’t a very good idea right now. Also, stay away from anything that requires picking up heavy stuff. If you move house in the next two weeks, don’t try and save money – pay a transport company. Slipping a disk while carrying your fridge could kill your race day aspirations in a second. And, if your neighbour moves, fake injury or intoxication if you have to – but under no circumstances offer any help.
Getting stuck into DIY projects is also a bad idea. If you want to miss-step on a ladder or fall off a roof, do it in three weeks time, not the next two. Ironman training builds lean, endurance-orientated muscles. Those muscles want to build up gradually to race pace on race day, with the ability to maintain a sensible just-below lactic threshold pace. However, they need to be “cotton-wooled” right now, so look after your physical well-being as best you can.
Your body also needs special treatment on the inside. This means – if you haven’t done it already – that you need to start a good cleansing process right away. If you’ve allowed yourself chemical concoctions like diet cool drinks and other heavily processed, refined stuff, cut it all out and start drinking lots of water. Your body reaps no rewards from chemical, totally non-nutritional stuff. On race day you want a clean burning engine that executes the metabolic processes required for optimal energy as efficiently as possible. Another thing, under no circumstances, start a crash diet now to achieve race weight; it will only weaken you. As long as you eat right and enough, your endurance levels will remain optimal. Also, your choice of energy drink, gels and solid race foods should have been tested by now. Don’t let over-zealous salesmen talk you into trying new stuff at the expo!
As far as gear goes, it’s a clichéd saying, but the “don’t try anything new at this stage” statement holds true. Buyer’s bias will make you believe that a new saddle or pair of shoes is great, but a ten-kilometre test drive is too short a distance for anyone to make a balanced judgement call. So stick with what you know. The same goes for all the rest of your gear. For instance, be sure you’re familiar with your hydration system, how to drink from it and how to fill it up on the go. Unless it’s broken, changing a gear cable or other bike parts without a proper, long test ride afterwards is also a big no-no. The only thing that should be changed quite close to race day is tyre sealant, if you use it. That’s because old sealant might have solidified, rendering it useless.
Make sure you’re mentally prepared
On a mental level, it’s natural that uncertainties about what to use and what to do on race day will cause stress levels to rise, especially closer to race day. The “I know it all” athletes will bombard you with their all-or-nothing opinions. Remember, if that shoe, bike or nutrition brand they swear by made all the difference they proclaim, everybody would be using it. But that’s not the case. All champions use different shoes, bikes, nutrition or wetsuits – it’s called personal choice. Instead, focus on your fitness, which ultimately plays the defining role. Don’t get distracted by overly opinionated athletes that will only drain your energy with their alternative do-or-die ideas.
Another big tip: sleep lots. Learn from our flocky, feathery friends. Chickens go to bed early. Eight hours sleep, starting at ten is worth much more than the same amount, starting at midnight or later. Good tapering and enough sleep determine the quality of your condition on race day. Allow yourself that advantage unreservedly.
Another clichéd issue: don’t try and chase additional fitness in the last two weeks. You can’t get any fitter than you are now, you can only get more tired. Now is not the time to set any PB’s of any kind, over any distance, to gain more confidence – a pulled muscle is a much more likely outcome. An unrested body will reach fatigue sooner, and unrecovered muscles will lose form sooner on race day. Remember, it’s supposed to be a good race day, not the last episode of your own dismal “Survivor Durban” series.
Approach race day with calm and collected focus. Your strength will not be in how viciously you attack Ironman Durban 70.3, but in how evenly and rhythmically you let your hard earned fitness serve you on race day, while you apply pure mental grit and determination.
Keep the faith, believe in yourself, and have a wonderful Ironman Durban 70.3, hopefully with a swim leg this year!- (c) 2017 NavWorld