Race Day: Have a Plan to Finish Your First Ironman

One of the smartest ways to achieve a personal best at your next Ironman triathlon race is to have a specific plan for race day and stick with it. You can bet your very expensive triathlon-specific bike that every pro racer has an Ironman race strategy, and so should you.

There's No Such Thing as a Sprint Ironman Swim

As you probably already know, an Ironman swim is a 2.4-mile open-water slog. Thousands of amateur athletes all want the exact same thing: The water space right in front of their next freestyle stroke.

More: Pacing Strategy for Short-Course Triathlon

Before you even start the swim you should have a plan that includes:

  • Your position at the start of the race. If you're a strong and fearless swimmer, go for the front of the pack. If you're unsure of yourself in the water, start toward the rear. Also, as you probably know, the shortest distance from the beach to the first buoy is a straight line—but that's also the most sought after real estate. If you're new to Ironman racing, you'd be better served to start to the right or left of the first buoy.
  • Settle into your swim race pace early and stick with it for the entire swim. Before you even toe the line at an Ironman, you should know your ideal swim race pace. Let's say that you can comfortably hold and maintain two minutes for 100 yards. That should be your race pace. Unless you're a pro triathlete and you're trying to keep up with the competition, there's no reason to surge or slow during an Ironman swim.
  • Pick a goal time for the swim and try to nail it. It's always a good idea to know how long it will take you to swim 2.4 miles. For example, once you know that you can cover that distance in one hour and 10 minutes in the pool, make that your goal time. And keep in mind that most Ironman swim courses aren't exactly 2.4 miles. Some are shorter and some are longer, but having a swim goal time is a great way to ensure a personal best at the end of the race.

More: Race Day Nutrition for Sprint and Olympic Distance Triathlons

About the Author

Roman Mica is an amateur Clydesdale triathlete who lives and races in Boulder, Colorado. He is the managing editor of www.EverymanTri.com and author of My Training Begins Tomorrow: The Everyman's Guide to IRONFIT Swimming, Cycling & Running.

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