Top tips for preparing for an IRONMAN (last 4-6 weeks)

Ahead of a big event like a long distance triathlon, there can be the temptation to over do things in training.

You might also start to worry that you've not got everything ready that you might need. With so much to think about it can be easy to miss something. We spoke to multiple IRONMAN champion Lucy Gossage recently to find out how she prepares in those last few weeks and what are her top tips to make sure you turn up on the start line fully prepared for your Ironman.


1. Don’t do too much too close to the race. Your biggest run and bike sessions should probably be 3 or 4 weeks out. Unlike exams, cramming in extra training as the race gets close won’t work! You’re much better going into an IRONMAN 10% undertrained and fresh than 10% over trained and injured or tired. Believe me, I’ve tried both!

2. If you have a chance to ride the course that’s always useful, though this is only really possible for local races.

3. Work out a training plan for the final two weeks and stick to it. That way you’re less likely to get carried away and do too much.

4. Expect to feel rubbish as you taper. I always feel as though I’m getting ill in race week and am convinced any niggles I have are getting worse. This is normal. Try not to stress!

Two wetsuits hanging to dry

Mechanical preparation

Get your bike serviced two weeks out. Make sure gears and brakes are working and if your tyres are worn consider replacing them. The last thing you want is a puncture on race day.

Psychological preparation

1. Spend a bit of time remembering why you’re doing the race. Think about what it will feel like to run down that finish line! It’s normal to be nervous and a little scared; nerves mean that you care.

2. But try to channel the nervous energy into excitement. Perhaps find a YouTube video of last year’s race. Think about all the training you’ve done. Nobody has a perfect run into an IRONMAN. Put all the obstacles behind you and just focus on the positives. Getting to the start line of an IRONMAN is an incredible achievement. Allow yourself to be proud!

3. Think of some mental strategies that will help you going when the going gets tough. Every IRONMAN has dark patches. That’s what makes reaching the finish line such a wonderful achievement! I often think of a song, or some ‘buzz words’ that will help me when I’m hurting physically.

Cyclist on a road

Nutritional preparation

1. Work out a nutrition plan. Nutrition really is the 4th discipline of an IRONMAN. If you get this wrong, no matter how fit you are, race day will be tough. I go as far as writing down a plan that calculates how many calories I need every hour during the race and how I am going to consume them. Make this plan far enough out from the race so you have a chance to try it in training.

2. Think about how you’re going to carry food on the bike. HIGH5 Energy Bar and Energy Gel are a great source of portable carbohydrate energy. Do you need a bento box to carry these?

3. How much are you going to drink? Have you got enough bottle cages? If you are relying on the race aid stations have you tried the nutrition they’re giving out and checked it works for you? How are you going to get electrolytes? Having an electrolyte drink that also contains some carbohydrate, like Energy Drink in your bottle is a great way to ensure you stay hydrated. you can even add an extra ZERO Neutral tablet for extra electrolytes if it's a hot day.

4. Are you going to race with caffeine? If so, when will you use it and how will you have it?

5. Do you have a back up plan if you drop your nutrition during the race? When it comes to nutrition for an IRONMAN it pays to be a geek!

6. There are a lot of questions when it comes to nutrition. Check out this video I did with HIGH5 where we go through a nutrition plan for a long distance triathlon.

7. In the build up to the race try to ensure you eat well. I would never recommend trying to lose weight just before a race; that will just increase your odds of getting ill. Instead focus on a balanced diet, and particularly focus on fuelling well after training sessions.

Water bottle and wetsuit on a beach

Race week preparation

1. Consider having a couple of sports massages in the run up to the event. I usually get my last one on the Monday of race week.

2. If possible try to avoid hectic long days at work and make sleep a priority. You are unlikely to sleep well the night before the race so make sure you catch up on sleep before then.

3. Check your equipment is working early on in race week. That way, if you have any issues you have time to sort them out.

4. Make sure you’ve had a good look at the race paperwork. Have you looked at the course maps? Do you know the rules, particularly in terms of drafting on the bike.

5. Make a timetable for the race weekend, both the day before and race day. Having the logistics worked out takes away a ton of the stress that can be associated with racing, particularly if there are split transitions. There’s often a lot to do the day before the race with race briefings, bike racking, sorting out equipment etc. Work out how you’ll fit it in.

Man removing a wetsuit during a triathlon

6. What’s the weather forecast? Do you need waterproofs or extra layers for the bike? What about sun cream?

7. Cut your toenails!

8. Plan what you are going to do for food, particularly the night before the race and in the morning. Do you have cooking facilities? If not consider booking a table at a restaurant that serves appropriate food so you ensure you can eat what you want when you want. What will you do for breakfast on race day? A tin of rice pudding with honey is portable and can be eaten anywhere in the world (remember a tin opener!). The day before the race make sure you carry some fluids and snacks with you so that if logistics take longer than expected you don’t get hungry and thirsty.

9. Walk through transition and make a mental note of where your bike and bags are racked. You don’t want to get out of the water and waste time and energy trying to find your bike!

Last but not least, try to enjoy the build up and congratulate yourself on getting to the start!

HIGH5 Triathlon Pack

The HIGH5 Triathlon Pack contains the nutrition essentials to support your next training session or Triathlon with a combination of our most popular Energy, Hydration and Recovery products for triathletes. Get yours here.

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