Navigating Your First Ironman

Navigating Your First Ironman

I started my multisport adventure when I was 17. I grew up in Kansas City, a competitive swimmer since the age of 4. I had tried a few other sports like dance and gymnastics, but had always fallen back to swimming. As a Junior in high school my Dad raised the question to me, "You already are a swimmer, and you like to run...why not try biking and make this a whole new sport?" Now yes, I knew how to ride a bike and had enjoyed taking the two wheels on the sidewalks, but had never raced on my bike. Being a swimmer made me strong and powerful and the thought of a new sport that would challenge me mentally and physically didn't take me long to come to a decision...I was going to try a triathlon!

That summer I rode my used, $80 dollar, heavy aluminum bike daily to gain strength and confidence. I continued to swim laps in the pool and log miles running on the road. Putting together the 3 sports was a new found passion. I raced my first triathlon at a local Kansas City sprint triathlon in 2002. After that race I went straight to the computer and looked for other local triathlons that I could race that year. I continued to race locally with sprint and olympic distance triathlons. Each year in December I would turn on the T.V. to NBC and watch the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. The tenacity, grit, and perseverance of these athletes inspired me to go the distance and try to complete my first Ironman.

I got on the computer again and looked at the Ironman website. I wanted to race in Florida, but the registration was already full. I found Ironman Louisville, Kentucky and the race had only Ironman Foundation spots available. This meant I needed to fork over a lot of money if I wanted to race that year. I registered and never looked back at the decision. Now came the tough part of placing a training plan together to get to the finish line. My training consisted of pool and lake swims, long, hilly bike rides and hot, painful runs.

Through the 8 full Ironman races I have completed I have learned a lot from start to finish.

My first tip: Find a race destination that is exciting and that will motivate you to get to that starting line each day.

I had never been to Kentucky before, and now Louisville is one of my favorite towns to visit for racecations. I even flew to this town 3 times to volunteer at the Ironman races. Louisville became a great town to race in for many reasons, the finish line was electric and near all the hotels, the race was later in the summer so I could train, and it was an energetic run course.

March Apparel Sale

My second tip: Bring food from home that you are used to.

When traveling for a race of any kind you can run the risk of eating food that is bad or can be unsettling to your stomach. Pack lots of snacks that your body is familiar with. Prepping for an Ironman can take months to years of preparation and the last thing you want is to be hugging the toilet bowl the day before the race. I personally will make my own dinner in the hotel room the night before the race. I have pre-made spaghetti, sauce, bread and tuna packets for my pre-Ironman dinner. I am not suggesting that I have a new delicacy, or that it tastes that good, but it works!

My third tip: Enjoy the Ironman training journey and all that it has to offer.

I joined a local multisport group and started riding and running with the team and learned a lot through all the athletes. Each morning I would wake up, be able to workout and remind myself that "I get to do this." Not everyone can physically, mentally, financially or logistically do what I "get to do". I appreciate all the time I am able to do what I love, even though the actual work is hard and grueling. The journey seems long and taxing as you are going day by day but once you reach that finish line, the goal is met and it's over before you know it. Take the time to reflect and enjoy what you "get to do''!

My fourth tip: listen to your body.

I have learned from my first Ironman to my eighth Ironman that the body is magnificent and it can tell you many things. The smart athlete is one that listens to his or her aches and pain. Yes, you will wake up on most mornings in the thick of training and be sore, this is normal. Pain is different and should not be ignored. Those pain signals you are receiving are warning signs to back off, slow down or take time to rest. I have personally pushed through many two-a-day training sessions and ignored those signals, only to not make it to the starting line. Use recovery devices to your advantage, like:

  • Theragun (percussion massage)
  • Massages (even self massage)
  • Foam Roll
  • Hot and cold Epsom baths

These tools and tricks can make a world of difference in your training and your body’s ability to continue to train hard each day.

My fifth and final tip: Hydrate and use proper nutrition.

There are two parts to proper nutrition during training and the race day. Your body is a fine tuned engine and needs quality and quantity to run properly. Be sure to get plenty of calories and consume an adequate carb/protein ratio within 30 minutes of a workout. Have healthy snacks available at work and when you're on the go. Hydrate before, during and after those training sessions. I like to use my Fitly pack on my back for those hot and humid long runs. This allows me to carry necessary equipment and plenty of hydration, while still remaining comfortable. When your race day arrives, it’s vital that you don't stray away from the items and the plan you have been practicing throughout this journey. There will be plenty of new items at the expo and on the course, but stick to your plan. Don't try to reinvent the wheel while riding on your two wheel because you saw another athlete eating some delicious and nutritious bar.

Your first Ironman and What you need to knowTriathlon and Ironman training can be rewarding and draining at the same time, but appreciate all of it. Each race I have trained for and raced in I have learned something new. I reflect back on each race and realize just how lucky I am to have a mind that seeks challenges, a body that endures hours of torture, and a family that comes along side me cheering me on! When it gets tough just remember, "We get to do this"!

Written By: Beth Hinton, Tri Sirena Siren Luminary
Follow Beth on Instagram @hintonfox

Do you have suggestions for first time Ironman participants? Let us know in the comments below!

This blog was created for informational purposes only. It's content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website or online.

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Insightful article and an enjoyable read.


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