How to Deal with A Saturday Ironman or Half-Ironman Race

150 150 Coach P

Every year we have a few key races that fall on a Saturday instead of the traditional Sunday. While it’s only a day’s difference, you’d think the entire endurance world had turned topsy-turvy as folks simply don’t know what to make of the week. Making your final week work for a Saturday race isn’t exactly rocket science, but it does take a bit of finesse. Here’s how we suggest you handle it; if you have any additional tips, please let us know in the comments below!!

Saturday (7 days to race day)

This is your last chance to get in a decent ride. For most folks, riding today should not be about intensity…it just gives you permission to eat more than three pieces of lettuce for dinner!! We recommend anywere in the two to two-and-a-half hour range for the ride, with the only “intensity” coming with some race-pace intervals in the second half of the workout, not to totaly more than 45 minutes. Follow this ride with a 30 minute run, again at true race pace (not the crazy pace that everyone runs around the expo at on race week!).

Florida 2013Sunday (6 days to race day)

We recommend that you take this day off. You have a ton of things to get lined up for your race week to actually happen without friction, and today is a great day to do just that. You can tie off loose ends at home / work; you can do final shopping for the race (avoiding race weekend price markups!), you can finalize reservations, etc.

Monday (5 days to race day)

We kick off the week with a ride and a quick run. The ride should be about an hour total, including warm up, with a main set of two repeats of 10 minutes each at goal race pace. Take two minutes of rest after each. The run (about twenty minutes long) should be done right off the bike. Negative split the run by starting fast for the first ten minutes, then easing back to your goal race pace.

Note: If your bike has been shipped to the event, then consider using your road bike or hitting the gym to sneak in some time on a spin bike (ideally not in an actual class).

Tuesday (4 days to race)

Today is a swim/run workout day. If possible, get into open water to simulate race conditions. If not, then use the pool to get in a swim (no more than an hour!) that includes 9 x 200 on 10 seconds rest. Complete these as three sets of three: the first 200 is done 5 seconds slower per 100 than your goal pace, the second 200 is done at goal pace, the third 200 is done 5 seconds faster per 100 than your goal pace. Repeat until your main set totals 9o0.

This run is a bit longer, and should also build. Run between 30 and 45 minutes, building each third of the workout from an easy jog / warm up pace to goal race pace, and finishing with the last third approximately 10 to 15 seconds faster per mile than your goal race pace.

Wednesday (3 days to race)

For many of you, this will be your travel day…no matter where you are coming from it will be a long day with stress, etc. Your number one priority here should be to reduce friction around your travel as much as is humanly possible. Spend your time wisely, printing itineraries, confirming reservations, and organizing the day to be super smooth. As you travel, be sure to set aside time to move and stretch a bit.

Bonus if you have the time to get in a short run. I suggest between 30 and 45 minutes long, with the first half of the run all about warming up. The main set can include four to five repeats of one minute each, all just slower than 5k pace. Take one to two minutes after each interval to recover with walking and light jogging.

Thursday (2 days to race)

Your top priority today should revolve around getting your bike put together and confirming it’s 100% race-ready. If anything is wrong…you want to know now with 48 hours to make it better! Once assembled, take your bike out for a nice easy spin. If you have planned ahead, you might be able to use a friend/rental car to get you to a critical part of the course so you can correlate your race fitness and race pacing on the actual road. If not, just be sure to find a safe place to ride…with your helmet, of course!!

If you haven’t had the time, you will also want to take care of all your logistical items today. You’ll want to get the food shopping done, register for the event, etc. If you are an expo-attending junkie, today is the day you should get all that done so you can rest over the final few days.

I also recommend using part of the early afternoon to lay out everything on top of your transition bags that you plan to use on race day. This is the best possible way to make sure that you have everything you need…and if you don’t you can make a list and quickly get it before you need to turn the bags in tomorrow! Bonus if you can have a friend review what you have to suggest items that might be missing.

Just before dinner time, head out for a short easy run between 15 and 30 minutes. Once you are warmed up, you can do four to five strides–these are short, fast efforts around 5k pace for approximately 20 seconds each.

Friday (1 day to race)

You should have nothing on your agenda other than a nice big breakfast around 8am; think pancakes, waffles, toast, etc. Once you are done with that, it’s back to your place for more resting and planning when you want to drop off the bike and your transition gear. Do your best to avoid the lines (right when doors open and again when they close); take a moment to walk through transition as you will on race day so you have a visual for how your race process will happen. All day your focus is on staying hydrated and topping off your carbs. You can have a decent lunch and then off your feet all day until an early bed time between 8 and 9pm. Use your spare time to mentally rehearse your race plan; attention to details can really make the difference. Sweet dreams!

Race Day is Finally Here

Even though it’s a Saturday, that will be the furthest possible thing from your mind. It’s 100% focus on your game and making sure you are prepared for the challenges—known and unknown—that lie ahead. If you need help with outlining a race plan, be sure to check out our Four Keys of Ironman® Race Execution. Otherwise, have a great race and get ready for the best part of a Saturday race–and entire Sunday of relaxation!!!



Coach P

All stories by: Coach P

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