March 25, 2014

Ironman South Africa: The Basics

There is less than 2 weeks to Ironman South Africa. A new course promises new action and new challenges, but in the end, its still a 3.8km swim followed by a 180km cycle and a 42.2km run. I am not here to give training advice, instead – I wanted to give some of the best tips and pointers that eased me into the race with the least stress and the most success in the race.

This is for newbies and experienced athletes alike. I am going to split it into sections for easy understanding, as the athletes are by now starting to get irritable and agitated as they are dropping volume for freshness.

Taper Week:

1. Do not hang out for hours at the expo. Go in, see what you need to, and leave with what you need. Do not buy new running shoes 3 days before the race and do not be fooled into believing that a compression nose sleeve will improve your breathing and make you run like Mark Allen.

2. If you don’t have to stand – sit.

3. If you don’t have to sit – lie down.

4. If you have spare time – nap.

5. Make sure your bike is booked in for a race check-up and you have it back by the Thursday evening to double check it on your last ride in Friday morning. If anything is off, you have time to take it back to the shop.

6. In terms of movement and exercise – less is more.

7. Hard intervals are dumb. Stop that.

8. Do not carbo load. Eat normally.

9. Download a meditation app like JC Hypnosis and once a day, take 15min to relax with the help of someone who does this for a living.

10. Don’t talk about Ironman 50 times a day. Your friends, family and kids don’t care.

11. BREEEEAAAATHE. Seriously – breathe deep. You WILL finish.

12. Smile – it’ll help you relax.

13. Pack your transition bags 2 days before. Use a list.


1. Get to the race area with enough time to check your bike, get your gear bags up and say goodbye to your loved ones.

2. Get a 10min swim in. Long, easy strokes.

3. Warm up your legs as well, you are about to sprint from standstill.

4. Swim on the outside of the group if you are weary of the washing machine.

5. Do not blindly follow feet – look up and find your own direction.

6. High five someone on the beach on the way up to T1.

7. Swim your own pace.


1. Spares list to be on your bike, for your mind sake:

– Chain breaker and 10 speed link.
– Small multi-tool.
– 2 x tubes or 1 x tubby as spare.
– 3 x bombs and inflator.
– 1 x proper tyre lever
– 1 x spare rear derailleur hanger for your bike.
– 3 x cable ties.

With that, you can fix almost anything. Weight is not important on a 180km time trial. Peace of mind is. Practise fixing a puncture in the next few weeks, then do it again.

2. Use concentrated bottles of nutrition and mix with water if you don’t use the on-course nutrition in your training. Don’t switch from Rehidrat to Powerade on race day.

3. Don’t draft.

4. If someone is drafting your wheel, ask them nicely to get off it. If they then draft again, a well timed squirt of rehidrat to the face has worked well for me in the past.

5. Use the special needs stop. It’s 30seconds of your day for a full day of peace and you can put stuff in there that you can use in an emergency. I dropped my nutrition in 2012 with 75km into the race and no special needs bag – it was catastrophic. I turned my stomach inside out just to get to the finish on the untested nutrition and couldn’t eat for 12 hours after the race.

6. Smile at friends when you roll by at the end of each loop. They have sacrificed a lot to be there.

7. If you don’t NEED an aero helmet ie you aren’t shooting for the overall win, and it’s predicted to be a warm day, use a helmet with normal ventilation.

8. If James Cunnama doesn’t need a disc wheel to go Sub 8 at Ironman, neither do you.

9. Bike for show, run for dough.

10. Don’t ride 6km/h faster than you did in training. You are NOT that amazing.


1. Start slow.

2. Special needs again. Put something awesome in there for a reward at the end of lap 2. My favourite was a Red Bull and something salty.

3. Smile and wave when people call your name. Let it carry you. Let the smile relax your jaw.

4. It’s going to suck at some point. Suck it up and remember that pain is not cumulative. Embrace it and try to minimize the emotional response to the pain. YOU CAN DO THIS.

5. Wash yourself at the last aid station. Finish line photos with snot, coca cola and GU all over your face are not fun for your loved ones who have sacrificed a lot for you to get there. This is their memory as much as yours.

6. Don’t smash 50 cups of coke into your stomach if you haven’t practised this in training. You should be able to get through at least one lap with normal nutrition and then switch to small sips of coke – not cups full at every aid station. I take along a pre-mixed concentrated mix of Rehidrat Sport and water and use that for the first two laps exclusively. On lap 3 I use a bit of coca cola just to get the caffeine in which helps me focus when the darkness closes in.

7. Don’t expect a rainbow to appear and unicorns to jump up and down with flame-throwing ninja midgets at the finish line. Your life will not make sense when you get there. Take the next two weeks to sort your shit out and get your head straight.

8. Relish the moment. The day will go by SO quickly. Absorb the emotions and feelings and get through it with panache and style.


That’s really it. Keep to those and rock ‘n roll through the day.

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