Guest Article: Your First IRONMAN

Bryan McCrystal_2019

Bryan McCrystal is Triathlon Ireland Athlete of the Year 2018 and the current long distance national record holder. He gives his advice on what to expect on race day of your IRONMAN...

Your first Ironman

Rewind 12 months and you may question whether this event they call Ironman is all it's cracked up to be. The build up and the training surely has tested you in every way and most certainly the people closest to you. Sacrifices were made. Believe me it will be worth it.

It's funny how I write this on the flight to Lanzarote where in 2012 I completed my first Ironman. The one thing I got right was I respected the race and I did ok, I got through it. There were no calculations or pressure to finish in a particular time. I needed that medal and for my body to go through that Ironman process. In some way for this race I have the same goal but for different reasons. But this article isn't about me it's about you and I want to offer some help in you achieving your finisher's medal and t-shirt.

Bryan McCrystal_Bike2019

Probably something you won't want to hear but you may not perform to your potential on your first outing. Take the pressure off yourself! No matter what age you start triathlon, it will take years and years of smart consistent patient training to really put in a top performance. 

The swim for most can be the most daunting. No hand outs are given and certainly no help from a competitor. If swimming is your weakness and you haven't put in the hard and smart yards then you won't touch the bike. You'll be sitting on a high stool with hat and goggles in hand. 

Don't be intimated by what you see. "We need to swim around that". Hopefully you've been swimming upwards of at least 3km twice a week. Be in charge of yourself, be confident and puff out your chest and say to yourself that you deserve to be there, after all, it's cost you a clean fortune. When that gun goes off get in, find your own water and do what you've been doing all year. The bodies around you can be intimadating but you must stay calm. It will pass. Breath and with one stroke at a time you will get through it.

The hardest part of the Ironman is the first two hours of the bike. By hard I mean, it's hard to hold back. This is make or break. You are so fresh. You've tapered your training and you're mad for road. You can get carried away and ride other people's paces. Do this and you're a ticking time bomb. There's a bad man that talks to us in endurance sports. The less you speak to him the better. You will go in and out of feeling strong and weak.  Eat, drink and be conservative with your effort and you'll not see much of him. Fail to respect the race, distance and your own ability and he'll come and knock you out. I can't say this enough. Build into the race. In reality it's a long training day effort. You shouldn't be outside of zone 2. This is a moderate effort or a 6 out of 10. 7 at a push. In the future you may be able for more but for your first Ironman keep your powder dry for as long as possible. See it as an apprenticeship. Serve your time. He who slows the least will be the fastest. In other words, 'hurry slowly'.

Bryan McCrystal_Run2019

I won't give any recommendations on fueling. All I'll say is eat and drink plenty. You've a marathon coming up.

"How in the name of God am I going to run a marathon after that". You have to. That's it...there's no other options. The less options you give yourself the better. Whatever plan you have ie. Walking the aid stations or running at X pace, stick with it. Don't all of a sudden run out of T2 without that plan. You're running out to a war zone. By the end of the day you'll have wanted to unsee alot of things. This is no regular marathon. This is an Ironman marathon. Not comparible. The best men and women will go through the horrors like you. It's going to happen. Fact! Once you know it's going to happen it will help. One rule I try to have is not assess during the race. Assess after, analysis after. Don't get sucked into the club battle. Competition within the club can be detrimental and ruin your day. Seeing a clubmate passing you can destroy you. If that happens ask yourself one question. "Can I go any faster?" If the answer is yes, then get your finger out and go. If the answer is no then accept where you are. Don't analyse!!

Find that finish line. Pick landmarks up the road. Get to it. Pick another, get to it. Break it down mentally. You will finish.

Trust me, it's worthwhile. All the emotions will flood through when the finish is in sight. The journey filled with  highs and lows will be forgotten. It's over. You will of had more lows than highs. But what a high you will finish on.  Soak it up, embrace it and wear that medal for about a week!! And lastly, make no rash tattoo decisions...sleep on that one.

 I forgot to mention, enjoy it if that's possible. :)

Good luck


* If you are racing at IRONMAN Cork and do not have a race licence from Triathlon Ireland or another ITU accredited National Federation, you will need a One Day Membership (ODM). For all the info on how to do this see our guide here.*