And I would… in a heart beat! But I promised Mat I wouldn’t. It’s his year!
But if I had to, here’s some things I would change:
- Equipment training. Get the equipment you are going to use on the day and practice in it. Change it if it isn’t going to work and feel perfectly comfortable for the event!
- Location training. Go to those hills and ride them, run them, cycle them. Paddle more, portage more.
- Build in more recovery and cross training in training cycle. A macro-cycle of one week long slow distance, one week of speed and interval training, one week of maintenance and cross training, repeat cycle and then one week off, so you get a rest week every 6 weeks (adjusted depending on competition schedules). Actually, just thinking maybe that should be flipped around, with cross-training, then speed, then distance, so you rest after a distance week… only one way to find out which will be best! 🙂
- Block training. Nail your transitions. Run then kayak. Swim then run then ride. Ride then cycle. Seems obvious, but practice with the gear you are going to use and get your transitions down to a fine art. Know where everything is, what order it needs to come out of the box. Stack it just so. Use it in that order. Be able to do it yourself, just in case you have to!
- Nutrition. I was pretty happy with my nutrition planning. I had enough to eat and drink and never felt completely depleted. I was struggling a bit due to not being able to eat while on the horse, but I did drink and I wasn’t completely destroyed. Practice with the food you use. Find what works for you and be consistent with it. Know that you don’t have to use gels or gus or special drinks, that real food works fine too.
- Preparation. I did good with this (except for missing my crop top, I had everything I needed when I needed it). Unless you have done it a few times and know exactly what you want and need and have packing down to a fine art, take the two days before. Plan everything, write a list, organise and recheck. Cook lots of food! Put everything in boxes for each transition and label the boxes. Let everyone who needs to handle the boxes know what’s in them and what you need them to do with the boxes.
- Recovery. Once again, I think I did well with this. Plan lots of food, plenty of time for sleep and rest, and massage and stretching. I probably didn’t need to take two days for recovery, but am grateful for the second day, none-the-less, as it means cleaning up after the event is possible, and more naps and eating is possible, and there won’t be any struggling through work.
- Helpers. It takes an ARMY to support an Iron Person. There were 200ish teams, not quite 1000 competitors, and approximately 2000 support crew! That’s a lot of people to help out! You need a team manager, you need to review the what’s and where’s, and the team members who are helping you need to know your expectations at each changeover, for example, “Meet with with a bottle of water, then I need the towel to dry off, then if you can put sunscreen on my back and shoulders while I change my shoes, I’ll be ready to go.” Clear expectations means that when you’re adrenaline rushed you won’t be puffing out instructions that might sound more like barking out orders. Also, trust that they have your back. Just do your thing and know that they are doing everything that needs to get done to make sure you can focus on your race. Trust! 🙂
- Also, take good care of your helpers! Organise food and drinks for them. They need to be strong and healthy to support you. Make sure they have chairs to sit on and hats and sunscreen and jackets too. Maybe some money for ice cream, if they are so lucky to be near an ice cream van. Yum!
Some discipline specific changes I would make are:
I was pretty happy with my running. But in training I did start to get bored with the long slow distances, and was struggling to get my distance over 12km. So the changes I would make are:
- Use recovery macro-cycle: build long slow distances; build up speed in 5 and 10k runs with sprints and intervals; do hill climbs, stair runs, plyometrics, lunges, and other running drills to improve form, and keep it interesting.
- Add off-road running.
- Practice downhill running.
- Make sure you are doing it in good shoes.
- Stretch and do yoga to keep the muscles limber. I would love to have done about double the amount of yoga I did! It is good for a runner to be flexible!
Obviously, this easy point to make here is to actually practice in the equipment you are going to use!
- Get good equipment. Try lots of things out, find something you like well before the event, and then practice in it lots. Even if you can’t afford a flash kayak, get something you can afford (or borrow something you will be able to use regularly) and get on the water!
- When you can’t get on the water, do paddle at home in your living room. It really does help. Use a much heavier paddle than you will use on the day.
- Go to the Blackwood River and train on it.
- Practice getting in and out of the kayak quickly.
- Practice carrying and dragging your kayak.
- Cross train with lots of push ups, rows, tricep work (I have strong triceps and they were on fire after the paddle!). Chin ups and other lat work would also be a huge benefit. Wrist and forearm strengthening exercises will be of great benefit too.
- Do pilates for core strength. Your back and core need to be in tip-top shape for maximum stroke effect. Get your obliques strong!
- If your kayak has a rudder, pull up the rudder and practice paddling and controlling your craft without the rudder. You hear about this every year: rudder lost, kayaker can’t control boat, barely or doesn’t finish race.
- Check your equipment before the race and have a back up plan! 🙂
Fitness and some swimming ability alone will get you through the swim. But, there’s always ways to improve!
- In the case of the Blackwood River, don’t wear brown-tinted goggles, as I did. It matches the water colour. And then you really can’t see! Clear goggles are the way to go.
- A wet suit adds buoyancy and warmth, but is not critical to the success of the swim, unless it’s a really cold day.
- Train in open water if possible, if for no other reason but to experience the distance for yourself before the race.
- Train to swim about 2km in a pool, because without the rests and without pushing off at the end of each lap, you end up experiencing a much more challenging swim, even if you’re going faster, because there is absolutely NO PAUSE button.
- Practice running after your swim. Since you need to get up that bank, and you need to THINK after the swim, you need to develop your stamia beyond the 1km.
Some of the things I mention here might be fairly specific to TK, but generally this is a harder and faster ride that is busier and has more people running out of control than is probably ideal. So you need trust and control with your horse.
- Secure a strapper early. Lock them in. Work with them. Thank them profusely!
- Expose the horse to lots of different environments. Go to endurance rides, social rides, ride in new places. Go to pony club, take him/her to different events. Let strangers handle your horse, take them to busy places, and away from them.
- Work on control and TRUST. By trust I mean get the horse to trust that the rider does know what’s best and will not steer you wrong, and get the rider to trust that the horse will listen, watch its own feet, and tell you when something is wrong. Do ‘spooking’ exercises, do group work, do alone work, get a good trainer you can relate to and work with your horse so that you know that when it comes to the day, he’s not just fit, but will ride the ride you ask.
- Build athletic and gymnastic ability as well as just stamina. Use the recovery macros-cycle mentioned earlier. Do long slow distances. Do some speed and heart rate training. Do lots of dressage style work, focusing on flexibility, strength. Do some jumping and in-hand work.
- If possible, get a heart rate monitor for your horse so you actually know how hard he’s working.
- Always always always follow your cool down routine. Just starting the routine will teach the horse that the end is here and that he can rest and he’ll be more likely to cool to requirements quickly. Practice this routine with your strapper.
- Practice good equine management. Get the teeth done, worm, drench, and feed your horse appropriately. Get feet done regularly and make sure that you really trust your farrier, and that he understands the demands you are placing on your horse.
- Separate your horse from a group, pull him up and make him do something different than his friends. Teach your horse that you are the herd, and he doesn’t need the other horses. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll also teach him that he doesn’t need to be first!
- Practice riding in whatever you are going to be wearing out of the swim. Get it wet and ride in it. I got terrible saddle sores from my bike shorts under my pants. Wet rubber leg bands rubbing through onto the fender of the saddle made a BIG ouchie. I rode in my bike shorts in training, but not in them wet. What a difference!
- Make sure your horse loads easily and that anyone can get him on a float. Practice loading with your strapper.
I did alright in the bike, but there’s heaps of room for improvement.
- Get a decent bike with good gearing. I saw a few people doing this on mountain bikes, and they were working hard. Yes, they passed me, but that’s not the point! 🙂 Or is it? They had good gearing and knew their bikes. I also saw young Ryan on a very old bike that he wasn’t very familiar with and didn’t have good gearing and he struggled. He could have done the bike ride way faster if he had a better bike to practice on before the race.
- Go to Bridgetown and ride those hills. Over and over again. In fact, ride it in reverse, too. I think it’d be even harder that way.
- Use the recovery macro-cycle for training. Get some distance rides in, some hills, do some time trials, and a little weight training to develop leg strength.
So, now, in theory, you should be able to go out and do the Blackwood Marathon! Maybe see you there next year! 🙂