If you have a a big race coming up do you have a plan? Here are some the things I talk through with athletes I coach in the weeks before their Ironman or main race of the season.

Admin: Think of the things you need to do in preparation for your race. Put together a time line of when all these things need to be done working backwards from race day and put them in your diary. E.g. getting your bike serviced, hiring a bike box, dropping your bike off at the shipping company (often 10 days before your race), buying enough gels/cliff bars etc. to keep you supplied, travel and race day insurance, etc.

Puncture Practice: Can you change a tube in under 5 minutes?

Packing: Hopefully you’ll have a kit list from a previous race – but if not make one and save it on your computer. Print it out and physically tick the items off. This saves any unnecessary and irrational stress when you empty your bag again to check you packed an item that you already packed.

Bags: When you’re packing at home find 3 bags for your swim, bike, and run bags as you will at the race and pack you’re kit in these bags at home.

Clothes: Decide exactly what you will wear for each section and write a list of what you need, including hats, visors, sun glasses etc.  Do not try out any new clothes or kit in race week.

Bike: Get your bike serviced before you go by a skilled and experienced mechanic who you trust. If you had to take your bike apart to go in a bike box its a good idea to get a quick check done by a mechanic at the expo.

Goal Setting: Set yourself a range of goals.  The A Race if you’re on fire, B Race, average, C Race if it’s all gone to shit, e.g. you get sick, there’s a thunder storm and you crash, or it’s the hottest day of the universe. Set goals for the swim, bike and run legs as well as an overall finish time.

Giving yourself a range makes it a bit easier to pace parts of your race, and also helps you to adjust your strategy according to the conditions on the day. It also helps to trick the brain into staying positive rather than throwing in the towel when you can’t hit your A Goal.

Transition Times: Don’t forget to factor in transition times to your plan. Check last year’s results for a rough idea of how long transition is.

Predictions: Look at last year’s results to see how fast or slow the race is as well as the results of any friends who have been at that race. This starts to give you some clues and ideas about your own possible times.

Best Bike Split: If you have a power meter then using is a great tool for the bike leg.

Speed and Pace: Work out a range of average speeds and paces based on your A to C goals as well as the times for lap splits based on these speeds. This will help to pace yourself during the race and to know if you;re going too fast, too slow etc.

Process Goals: Set yourself some process goals for each section of the race. Focussing on what you need to do in the moment during the race is the best way to help you reach your outcome goals (your time). This could be thinking about your arm drive on the run (hips to lips), focussing on breathing in the swim, or a particular range of watts on the bike.

Garmin: Switch the bluetooth off so that it saves the battery. Work out what fields you’d like to see during the race and set these fields up before you race. Consider if you want things in kilometres or miles, and if you want the auto lap feature on etc.

Data: It’s useful to work through what data will help you with this pacing during the race. I like to look at my averages for each 5mile split on the bike, and each mile on the run. I have the overall race average available to me if I need it, but I find it too depressing to look at constantly.

Weather: Check the weather forecast and information about the climate and average conditions for that location and choose clothes accordingly.

Bike Check: If you’ve travelled and you bike has been packed up, or shipped then make sure to ride your bike before race day to check that everything’s in working order.

Special Needs Bag: Check the locations of the special needs bags and think about if there’s anything that might help to have in it. If a race ran out of water or gels previously, or doesn’t have what you want on the event feed stations then you could put some spares in your special needs bag. Other things that might help supplies to help with injury, chafing, sunburn, or clothes (especially socks) if the weather is wet or getting cold if it’s dark.

Pre-Race Food: Decide what sort of thing you’d like to have for dinner the night before you race, in advance of race day. As well as what sort of time you’d like to have it. This just helps to stop you getting distracted by other things especially if you’re in another country with a group of other athletes.

Race Day Morning: Write a list in advance of what you need to do in transition and on race day morning, take a pen and tick things off. E.g. putting bottles on you bike, food, gearing, computer, shoes, helmet etc. This helps to make sure you don’t forget anything and ticking it off stops the irrational panic in case you’ve forgotten something.

Pre-race breakfast: Hopefully you will have tested this out before your main race. But decide exactly what you will eat for your race day breakfast, what time you’ll eat it and that you have all the ingredients available. Everyone is different, and it’s very personal but a useful guideline to be aware of is that it takes 3 hours for you to digest food.

Transition: Walk through transition so that your body and your brain know where your bike is as well as the entrances and exits

Stick to your goals: Be careful of mission creep……where suddenly you think you’re capable of an 8 hour Ironman. Or the goal that you’ve had for the last 12 months of “just finishing with a smile” suddenly becomes “under 12 hours and a 3hr run split”.

Nutrition Plan: Have a detailed and specific plan of what you will eat and drink, how much and when. Including what you will carry and what you will take from the feed stations. The biggest mistake you can make is to wing it. If it’s detailed then if it works you’ll be able to repeat it. If it didn’t work it’s easier to change. Generally aiming for 0.5g of carbohydrate per kilo of body weight per hour of the race is a good guideline.

Feed Stations: Figure out your strategy for feed stations. What food and drink will you take and how often. Will you stop on the bike, or grab them on the fly. Will you walk through feed stations on the run and for how long, or will you run through them.

Run: If there’s a very high possibility that you won’t be able to run all of the marathon then it’s usually best to implement a run walk strategy from the start. Shorter more frequent running breaks are better, so think 30sec to 60sec walking breaks. As you start to get to the end of your tether make the running sections shorter and the walking sections more frequent – rather than just throwing the towel in and walking. So think run 60 seconds, walk 30sec when it’s really getting tough.

Finish Line: Wipe the snot off, straighten your top, do you hair and make sure you cap is on straight. No matter how shit you feel make sure you LOOK AWESOME as your cross the finish line because “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN”.

Get in touch if you need some help or advice about a race coming up.