We are now inside the last 7 days for those who have qualified for the Hawaii World Championships. As I’ve previously written, success for each athlete will depend largely on having the courage to not fall for Kona-itis and start trying new things before the race.
I’m regularly asked about ‘what specifically I should or shouldn’t be doing’ during the final countdown to the big day.
My first instinct here would be to ignore all last-minute quarterbacks who make broad-based announcements about the ‘best’ way to handle your final week before racing. It’s YOUR final race week. How to best prepare in the final days and hours going into a big race is of course a very individual thing.
But a little common sense goes a long way.
For all Ironman competitors one thing is a given, even the fastest athlete this Saturday is going to be out on the field of battle for a minimum of 8 hours. That’s 8 non-stop hours of energy using motion. A lot of you will be out there for a lot longer than that.
Does doing nothing for the last week help prepare us for 8 gruelling hours in the sun?
Does cutting down our bike rides to an 1 hour 30, swims to 30 minutes and keeping runs to under an hour guarantee a good race, because we’re not ‘over trained’?
Does trying to adapt to the heat in the last 3 days by doing all your exercise outdoors and in the sun seem like a good idea?
Before you write in to ridicule me. (Yes, despite our squad’s results people still do). Just sit back and ponder those questions for a couple of seconds.
I’ve built a career on counselling athletes away from doing some crazy things in the lead-up to the big day. Intelligent, level-headed people who get swept up in the hoopla of the big event and start changing what has always worked.
And there is a lot of hoopla out there: Possible early weather forecasts, tidal changes delivered vengefully by the Island Swim Gods, voodoo hurricane wind predictions, and let’s not forget the heat. The HEAT! It can all get a little overwhelming. But the fact is every year the WTC and NBC make an effort to blow these variables out of proportion so that a very simple course sounds more intimidating than it actually is.
Will you actually be better for doing your last runs at the Energy Lab so ‘I know what to expect on the day?’ Probably not. Or how about riding all the way out to Hawi so ‘I can feel what the wind will be like?’ Hasn’t helped anyone I know.
When taming the anxieties that start to bubble in all athletes just about now (pro and age-grouper!), it’s best to take a step back and think. The same tides, the same wind, and the same heat will be there to face every one of your opponents. That is the only thing that matters.
As we say in our squad, and it can’t be any more applicable to Kona:
‘When the flag drops
The bullshit stops’
You can’t win Hawaii in the week leading in, but you can sure as hell lose it.