What to Do When Things Go Wrong at an Ironman

My bike won't shift properly, and I only have a few gears?thoughts?

Ride what you can and keep an eye out for neutral support. Flag them down and get some help. Otherwise be ready to suck it up.

I lost a bottle cage.

Your tri jersey should have pockets so you should be able to hold at least one bottle as a backup. Do yourself a favor and check all the bolts before you race so can avoid this.

My bike nutrition isn't working; now what?

First slow down and make sure your effort isn't the culprit. If you can rule that out, then make sure your fluid intake has been good. If you are eating but not drinking enough, your gut will shut down. Once you have ruled out those two things, you have no choice but to switch to what's on the course. You should be targeting 40 ounces of fluid per hour and another 100 to 200 calories from gels or bars. Avoid food that's low in sodium and that contains fat. Some energy bars aren't ideal, so do your research before you race.

More: 4 Ways to Avoid the Bike-Run Bonk

I see some drafters. Should I update them on the rules or tell the next marshal?

Um, no. They are adults and they know the rules. Race your race and keep it clean by example. Marshals are looking for drafting, not for a lesson. Ride your race and don't get distracted from eating and drinking. Karma will set all things right before the finish.

There's a pack in front of me, should I pass them at 9,000 watts?

Nope. Sit legally off the back and only pass when they slow down because they are done, not because you are over exerting yourself.

I have to pee. How do I do it on a bike?

Find a slight downhill or place where you can coast. Stand up on one pedal, relax the other leg, and try to pee. Once you're done, you should squirt some water on yourself, your bike and pedals to help abate the smell. If that doesn't work, stop at the next aid station as it will seriously inhibit your ability to ride—and eat and drink—properly if you don't take the time to go.

More: 6 Secrets of the Ironman Bike

Running Questions

For most competitors, the run is an exercise in simply not slowing down. You don't race people, they come back to you. In order to make this work in your favor, you'll have to solve a lot of small issues. I cover most things below, but know that focusing on form and cadence are also critical. If I had a dollar for every "out-of-it" IM runner with their head down, I'd be able to quit this coaching game. Keep your chin up, hands up, maintain a nice turnover, and stay on top of your game. It's a 90 percent mental exercise here; you can do it!

More: Running the Mental Marathon

I feel really good in the early miles; should I pick up the pace?

Hell no. If you feel good, you should EAT MORE. You don't get faster than what you trained at, it just means you paced the bike well and are pacing the start of the run well. Nice work. Use this opportunity to eat and prepare for the tough times ahead because they are coming.

My heart rate seems crazy high, what should I do?

You need to make sure that it's not too hot and you aren't overheating. Douse your body and get ice in your hat / hands. If that doesn't fix it, you will need to dial your pace back a bit by being conservative on the hills and making the most of the flats and downhills. Hopefully the tweaks above will help. Otherwise, you might need to take some walking breaks. Early action matters.

My bike nutrition was sub-par, how can I adjust?

You could really be in trouble. Your goal in the first six miles of the run is to eat as much as you can, with some sports drink as well. Walk as much of the aid station as you need so you can eat well. Monitor your effort and pace so you can dial things back as needed when things get hard to digest or your body starts to drop off.

I think I just stopped sweating.

Damage. Control. Time. Get thee to the next aid station and drink as much sports drink as you can, perhaps with some coke as well. Take some salt here if you have it. Bring a gel from this station in case you need it as you leave, and walk for a few minutes before starting to run so the fluids can settle.

My food won't stay down.

If you are tossing it right back out again like a high school science project, it means your body can't handle what you are giving it. Odds are you have too high a concentration of carbs, so switch to chicken broth and/or coke so you can get in easier to digest calories. Really push the broth because of the sodium content, which will most likely alleviate your malady.

More: How to Reduce GI Issues on Race Day

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