Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Top 10 Mistakes at Ironman Wisconsin

1) Going Too Hard - Madison is alive and the race is a very exciting and loud venue.  Being a virtual "home game" for so many athletes, it is often too exciting to resist listening to your RPE, heart rate monitor or power meter.  For some, it starts in the swim.  For others, their highest heart rates are on the run to T1.  Think a bit folks.  Going anaerobic on the run to change and get to your bike isn't where you'll win the race.  The only reason I did "well" at this race in 2005, was because I paced myself properly.  This is primarily true on the bike.  Walk just one mile... and you gave all that effort back.

2) Bad Drinking Strategy - So many people arrive dehydrated let alone finish... well, at all.  In Wisconsin, you gotta "pee by Verona".  I know, not the same as "pee by Hawi" but the concept remains the same.  If you haven't been drinking enough (but not too much) then your marathon may be a nice long walk.

3) Bad Fueling Strategy - Eating too much.  Eating too little.  Eating odd foods near or during the race.  Make a mistake and you are a resident of Bonk City.  Many coaches are starting to add training while fasting to people.  This will help (mentally) get through those hard times, but you'll still be needing fuel.  Start taking on fuel at the very first aid station on the bike. My athletes have a plan for each aid station (or general plan) and adjust as conditions warrent them.  Make sure you can handle Pepsi or Coke (or Sams Club Cola) and run.  This should be experiemented with on long runs as well as chicken soup. 

4) Making Last Minute Changes to ANYTHING Before Race Day - I have a friend who would order new shoes, saddle and aerobars and change them the week before the race at every Ironman.  Then he'd ask me why he "just didn't feel right" on race day.  No changes a minimum of three weeks out.  (I prefer six.)

5) Race Week / Taper Over Training - 21 days out and under... you can only screw up all your work.  Rest.  Relax.  Sleep.  Save it for the marathon junior.  Stay away from athletes who are freaking out.  Only a short visit to the expo - 2 hours MAX.  Get away.  Get off your feet.  Get relaxed.

6) No Run Plan - You have to plan to run the marathon - not just survive it.  This starts with your fitness, but extends to your plan to actually execute on race day.  My athletes have individual pacing strategies (depending on their ability and experience).  Make sure you have a plan that works for your current level of fitness - AND - have a contingency (read: back up or "if the worst should happen") plan.  Hey, you can always walk or walk/run.

7) No Race Strategy - This has to do with every part of your experience; hotel or condo?  Restaurant or cook for yourself?  What time will you get up on race day?  What tires will you use?  Wetsuit?  Race kit?  Shoes?  Socks?  Aero-helmet or regular helmet?  Wisconsin can be hot or cold.  I have my athletes prepare for both mentally and physically.  Better to drag some extra clothing along and be warm before the race than be cold (or catch a cold).  You'd also be smart to prepare for high heat.  In 2005, this race was 96 F and high humidity.  In 2006, it was 43 F and raining.  Be ready for anything.  Be prepared.  This planning starts when you enter the race.

8) No Ability to Adjust and Move On - The military calls is the OODA process.  I've never had a long or ultra distance race go entirely my way.  How will you react when you get a flat tire?  How about a second flat?  Mentally, be ready to adjust.  It's the person who can shrug off whatever comes their way who will be a) a finisher b) successful in reaching their goals.  In my IM persona record I had - 1) two flat tires (nails/tacks on the course by an angry local), severe stomach cramping which had me stopping at port-a-johns six times and included roughly and 11 minute T2.  This combined with 95 F heat made the day interesting.  Hey... it's Ironman.  If it was easy we'd call it something else.  Mental toughness training starts on day one.

9) Not Warming Up Properly - Yes, even in an Ironman you need to warm up.  I'm amazed that so many people do not warm up.  Swing the arms.  Take a short jog.  Stretch.  Plyometric jumps.  Get the blood pumping.

10) Over or Under Training - Overtrain and your torn down.  Undertrain and you'll be hitting the wall early.  If you must do one, undertrain.  I'm amazed at how many people overtrain and aren't healthy on race day.  Their drive to race won't let them listen to their body.  Likewise, I'm amazed at people who think that doing several 3-4 hour bike rides but "doing them hard" will be the right training for an event that will be longer than 10 hours for 95% of the athletes. Getting to the starting line healthy is the goal.  Many athletes will not be 100% healthy when the cannon goes off.

Coach Bob Mitera is an associate coach with Triathlon Academy.  His athletes have finished hundreds of races all over the world.  He prides himself on his athletes balancing their life, work, training schedules while achieving great results.  Bob currently coaches athletes who have lost more than 50% of their body weight as well as professional triathletes.

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