My favourite part of racing Ironman and 70.3 is the week leading into the race. Firstly it is taper week. The long weeks/months of training are done. You are not going to get any fitter at this point. That strange feeling on the Saturday the week before the race of finishing your bike ride by 8.00am, when you haven’t seen a Saturday morning for more than a month. Your “long” run is only an hour and a bit, you have most of the weekend free. I actually find taper week challenging. You are used to long hard sessions and the mental discipline those take. I find it tough during taper week to get motivated for the “easy” sessions.
I also find personally that I go through a number of phases during race week. Early in the week I am extremely tired and wonder if I have got the taper wrong. Have I been training too hard and do not feel there is anyway in hell I will be able to complete an Ironman in 6 days! Negative thoughts rapidly fill the head. But By Wednesday the body has freshened and starts to move into race mode. By Friday I am usually jumping out of my skin ready to get stuck in.
Taper leads to another issue. The change in training regime makes the body more susceptible to illness. So often have I caught colds in race week that I now throw myself into self-quarantine. Anyone so much coughs within a 100m radius is banished from the office/home and stay well away from shopping centres and the like. At least I am not the only one on the plane wearing a face mask these days.
There is something special about an “away” race – that is one that you have to fly to. I tend to commandeer the spare room about 3-4 days before leaving and over those days start to accumulate everything I think I will need – basically I move a bike store into the room and then try and figure out how the hell am I going to pack it all into a suitcase and a bike bag. So the last day is spent checking and rechecking everything and convincing yourself you only need 1 spare tyre not 5. Checklists come in very handy at this stage. I have 3 that are laminated. Packing, Transition and race morning. These became part of my routine after having to run 5 kms back to my hotel on the morning of Kona as I had left my bike shoes next to the front door.
For an Ironman I always like to arrive at least 3 days before (assuming it is in roughly the same time zone). This allows time to fix any travel issues – broken bikes, forgotten helmets etc, to get into race mode and to enjoy the atmosphere. A chance to recon the bike course and swim some of the swim course. Get acclimatised – at least partly.
But without a doubt my favourite part of the week is the day before race day (at least in the pre-covid world). Checking in, sorting out transition, bike racking and getting everything ready for a very early race morning start. The atmosphere is always amazing. Athletes eyeing each other off as they checking looking for any sign of weakness (ie wow Fred doesn’t look as fit as he did last year). First timers anticipation nerves. Expo’s doing a brisk business because people didn’t follow their checklists or because they have seen one of their competitors using a new product and they cannot possibly compete if they don’t have it.
Last decent meal for lunch and then it is back to the room to rest. Some will chat, some will watch a movie, others will sleep. I tend to spend my time fiddling with my gear and checking and rechecking the start list to determine if my analysis had missed anything. Then it is simply a case of getting the last meal in and getting as much sleep as possible, tomorrow is going to be a big day.