Reflections of a 2 x Iron(wo)man

I feel Ironman is achievable for everyone, don’t be intimidated by the distance, embrace the challenge. You won’t regret it
— Bec Baird

 I never thought I’d do an Ironman. Triathlon was just another way to challenge myself – except my challenges just kept getting bigger and bigger! I believe that every race is a learning experience and I try to find new ways to improve when I reflect post-race. Now that I have 2 Ironman’s (IM) under my belt, here are the Top Three things I learnt from and changed between Ironman 1 in Cairns 2017 and Ironman 2 for Ironman Australia in Port Macquarie 2018. 

  1. Fuel Your Body - In the lead up to IM Cairns I was not consuming enough food during training to fuel my every day needs, cue falling asleep at 2pm during work and lots of hangry moments. IM Australia was much more organised. I followed a periodised nutrition plan from Dietitian Approved to ensure there was no midday drowsiness, even on my bigger training days, only the occasional hangry moment (who doesn’t have those!?) and plenty of energy to smash training.  
  2. Practice Makes Perfect – I did a lot of my training with friends for IM Cairns which made the 5+ hour rides a lot less lonely. But come race day, I got very lonely and fatigued at the back end of the bike - at one stage I wondered if the race was still going! For IM Australia I made a point of trying to do a lot of solo riding in training where possible and I believe this gave me a much more positive mindset come race day. 
  3. Knowledge is Power – Nerves were not an issue with either IM but lack of experience was. How was my body going to hold up during my 12+ hours of racing? My “weakness” is my run leg and after blowing up fairly early on the run in IM Cairns I knew I had to have a better plan for IM Australia. Taryn made some big changes in my bike nutrition to ensure I was getting the right amount of fuel without any gut issues. Combined with a well-controlled run leg, this made for a much happier race and faster, consistent run splits! 

Whilst I was reflecting on the differences, it also gave me time to remember the things that didn’t change. One thing that was a constant between both races was the love and support I received from my friends and family. It was unwavering, and I am truly grateful (you all know who you are). Triathlon is an individual sport, but it takes a team to get you there. Thank you to everyone on my team. I feel Ironman is achievable for everyone, don’t be intimidated by the distance, embrace the challenge - make a plan, build your support team (coach, dietitian, massage, training buddies) and go for it! You won’t regret it. 

Thanks to DA Crew member Bec Baird for sharing her reflections with us!

Sarah's Tips for the First Time Ironman

Now that she's an Ironman, we asked Sarah to reflect on her experiences and share what she learnt from the day. Here are her top 5 tips for anyone out there embarking on their own first Ironman journey. 

 

  1. STICK TO THE PLAN!! The days leading up to the race and particularly on race day, you'll be a ball of nerves and not thinking clearly at all. No matter what advice you receive from the well-meaning seasoned athletes who have done a billion Ironman races already... Never, ever, steer away from the plan. DO WHAT YOUR DIETITIAN TELLS YOU. The golden rule of racing - never try anything new on race day!
     
  2. ENJOY YOURSELF. Make sure you enjoy every second of the race because the day goes by way too fast. On the day you are so busy caught up in staying focused that the hours just fly by you. No matter how exhausted you are, take in that finish line chute because they really make you feel like a rockstar.
     
  3. DON'T EVER DOUBT YOURSELF! When you taper, your head will start to try and convince you that you aren't ready to take on this event. You will start to worry about things that have never even crossed your mind. Trust your program, trust your training and always back yourself.
     
  4. THANK THE VOLUNTEERS. Those people are just incredible and the lengths they go to to help you out are just amazing. When it's getting late into the night and a lot of spectators have gone home with their athletes, the volunteers will still be out there screaming cheers for you, giving you water and food and going above and beyond to help get you to the finish line.
     
  5. BE POSITIVE. When it starts to get tough on course, reflect back to all the achievements you have made to get to the start line. Think of the sacrifices, the hours spent on the bike, the laps in the pool and the pavement you pounded every day... You are better than your head it telling you, stay on track and go get it!

- Sarah Leuenberger