The following is a list of things to consider when completing your first Ironman triathlon, derived from my own Ironman experience at age 18. There are many guides that will outline the obvious tips, such as wearing sunscreen, keeping within your heart rate zones, and keeping fuel in at T2, but alas, “the devil is in the details”.
Draft like crazy in the SWIM:
This applies especially to the non-Phelps swimmer.
Focusing on staying with the bubbly feet of the next fastest swimmer makes it easier to:
1) Stay on course…without losing energy from trying to sight with ever-so-often head lifts.
2) Stay strong…without pushing too hard, while heightening awareness of your effort. You’ll be more likely to notice your draftee slowing down than yourself slowing when swimming alone. If the draftee starts to peter out too much, consider finding another swimmer to draft behind.
3) Pass the time…without wearing yourself down mentally. Having to “keep up” with the person ahead of you is a convenient distraction from the lengthy hour (or more) of swimming that must happen before T1. This early in the race, aim to emerge from the water energized by a smooth swim and enthused to take on the rest of the day.
Carry random extras on the BIKE:
Stick a small roll of electrical tape on your handlebars. Unroll and wrap the tape around as many times as needed to hold each item, e.g. once for a GU packet, twice or more for a banana, etc. This is useful not only for items you’ve supplied yourself to start with, but also for the food you pick up at each aid station, and for keeping litter to yourself.
Prepare for the heat before the RUN:
By the time you finish the bike ordeal, everything in T2 will have broiled in the sun all afternoon. Things to remember to bring to T2:
1) A towel to shield your running shoes from the sun.
2) A footstool to sit on, and to make shade for the shoes.
3) A mini-cooler box to hold ice-cold water/fuel, and to sit on, in absence of a footstool.
4) An extra pair of socks into which to switch from your cycling socks, and to give the feet a fresh start by preventing blistering.
5) A drawstring bag/race number belt to hang conspicuously from atop the bike rack bar, and to clearly mark your transition spot. The bag is also good for holding a change of fresh running clothes. If you want to go really crazy, try some helium balloons.
And finally…why McDonald’s is good for you.
All 140.6 Miles: Prevent cramping.
Don’t have salt tablets/pills? Obtain paper salt packets from fast food chain stores (for free!). If this suggestion warrants doubt about the efficacy of McDonald’s salt vs. MotorTabs or other branded salt, remind yourself: salt is sodium chloride is salt. You’ll get potassium (and the less-needed magnesium) in your solid foods, if not the sports drink as well. Consume 1 packet with several gulps of water every 1-3 hours on the bike. Carrying salt on the run is an easy and lightweight safety measure against cramps.
Assuming proper training beforehand, if you keep in mind things like making a trip to a fast food joint before race morning, you will do well on your first Ironman. Get at it!