Nielsen’s First Ironman

Here is a quick list of food-for-thought for my mate Paul Nielsen (uber-pic below) who is doing his first Ironman in two weeks on 14th April.

Hey Paul,

I thought back to my first Ironman Lanzarote in 2004 and pre-race expectations. I was quite a rookie with little access to information or experts. Some points to ponder:

• I had never swum 3.8k’s before. Max was 3k’s in the pool. (This proved to be just fine)
• I had never biked 180k’s before. 140k was my longest ride. 100k’s was my second longest ride. (I was a bit short on the cycling, but as I rode easy the whole way, this worked out fine)
• I had a few marathons under my belt, and wanted to run the entire 42.2k’s. (I ran the whole way. In hindsight I should have walked the first few aid stations. This would have allowed me to save the legs for the last 10k’s of the run allowing for a faster time).
• I worried about not finishing the bike. I worried a lot. (All this was in my head).
• I thought I needed to eat as much food as my stomach could hold to fuel the race. (This is a myth which I have since avoided. I felt bloated for the first few hours of the race, and should have opted to eat normally).
• I thought at some stage of the race, I would see my ancestors, whether I want to or not. (This was all in my head and never happened. The only momentous thing that happened was deciding to ask Natalie to marry me).

Now that I know what I know, here are my tips around your taper:

• There is no need to add any more training. You have done all you can do. Keep the training easy, consistent and just keeping ticking along.
• Add an extra hour of sleep a night.
• No more alcohol, late nights and trawling bars to hook up.
• Keep your food intake on an even keel. Don’t sabotage yourself on doughnuts, energy bars and extra helpings.
• Move all your meetings and social engagements to the other side of April 14th.
• Get all your kit and equipment sorted this week. Get someone to double check your stuff.

Here are my tips for when you get down to PE:

• Remove all stresses. Beware of people who drain you of energy.
• Get your bike built asap and make sure everything works.
• Swim out to the first buoy. Familiarize yourself with the buoys and the trees and buildings so you know where to swim. Neutralize the fear.
• Pack your swim, bike and run bags sooner rather than later.
• Don’t hang around the expo for too long. Do not try anything new.
• Relax and chill.

Tips for race day:

• Expect a really bad day with lots of wind and waves and hot sun and cold rain.
• Expect that things will go wrong. Throughout the day.
• Expect to get a puncture. Expect to cramp. Expect massive congestion in the swim.
• Remind yourself now how you will react if your expectations come to light.
• Now what that your expectations are set for Worst Case Scenario, you should have a pretty good day.
• No-one will love you anymore or less if you finish Ironman or not. So YOU better care a whole bunch that you will finish it!

• Swim out easy to the first buoy. Don’t stress and get your breathing under control.
• Take it easy throughout the day. Always think you could go a lot faster but you don’t.
• Make sure you can whistle at every stage of the bike and run.
• During the run, walk sooner rather than later.
• Hold back until the last 5k’s of the run – then go for it.

The beautiful thing about your first Ironman is that it’ll be a PB no matter how fast or slow you go.