Veteran triathlete Belinda Granger, who has completed 50 IRONMAN distance races and who has 15 IRONMAN distance titles, shares that completing an IRONMAN race is as much a mental test as a physical one.
“IRONMAN itself is like riding a rollercoaster. You go through some amazing highs. You go through some amazing lows. What you need to do is you need to come up with ways of coping with both,” said Granger.
“So even when you’re going through the highs, you need to be patient. You need to keep a lid on it. You don’t want to do anything stupid. Keep an eye on your heart rate. Don’t do anything you haven’t done in training even if you are feeling good.”
But at about the 150 kilometer mark of the bike ride and again through the 30 kilometer mark of the marathon come the lows.
“You‘ll start feeling bad. You’ll start slowing down. Try and think of ways that can get you back on task. Think of something good that will make you feel good about yourself again,” said Granger.
“Often even if you have to slow down for a period of time, don’t let the negative thoughts take over. Think of positive affirmations that you can say to yourself to keep on track and to keep you on the task at hand.”
Going through lows often means you’re low on nutrition, low on calories. You should therefore take the opportunity to get some calories in and think about your cadence according to Granger.
“You will go through it. You will go through those low moments and before you know it you will be back on your way and racing well again. Just be aware that it will happen and it doesn’t mean it’s the end of your race by any stretch of the imagination,” said Granger.
“It’s a long day and you’ll be going through so many highs and lows at the end of the day. But don’t think it’s the end of your race. Often you will go through three or four bad patches and still go through at the other end feeling great.”
It’s also important to get up nice and early and have a hearty breakfast. But don’t go crazy at the buffet breakfast. The more you consume the more your body will need energy to digest, to metabolize that food. And you really don’t want to be expending that much energy. You want to save that energy for the race itself.
You should also start hydrating with electrolytes early. Don’t wait for the race to actually start to take in electrolytes. Start taking electrolytes when you get up in the morning. Granger says she goes through a full 750 mil bottle of electrolytes at breakfast before the start of the race.
On the bike, ideally there should be three bottles with electrolytes according to Granger.
“Because basically when you’re racing in such extreme conditions it’s almost impossible to stay on top of your sodium. So if you need water, I’m not saying don’t drink water, but if you need water thentry and get that from the aid station out on course. It’s easier to get a bottle of water out on course,” said Granger.
She added that you need to utilize all aid stations which are there for a reason. These races will have ample aid stations on the bike and on the run. So make sure that you utilize them all. You cannot afford to miss one. You need to utilize every single aid station that’s out there.
Finally, the most important thing when racing at such extreme condition is to keep the body temperature down.
“So try and think of anything you can do from hydration to ice. I often like to run with ice on my hand. Putting down ice on my top.Ice on my cap. When you go through the aid station of the marathon, try and grab as many cold sponges as possible,” said Granger.
“It’s all about tricking the mind that it’s cooler than it actually is. If you can keep that core temperature down as much as possible it’s not only going to feel much better it will also help you keep that heart rate lower. It will help you get to that finish line.”
And at the end of the day that’s what all IRONMAN participants want. They all want to get to that finish line in one piece.
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