Save 30 Minutes In Your Next Ironman With These 5 Tips

These 5 tips can save you up to 30 minutes of time on your next Ironman Triathlon.

These 5 tips can save you up to 30 minutes of time on your next Ironman Triathlon

Every athlete is looking to save time on their race. The good news is that with proper planning, athletes can shave as much as 30 minutes off their full Ironman finish time, and they don’t have to change their training plan to do so. 

The reality is that a full Ironman is as much a logistical challenge as it is a physical one, so here is what you can do to improve time, and save energy. 

1: Set up your swim 

While it may be the shortest portion, the swim sets the stage for the remainder of your race. Expelling too much energy in this early stage of the race can detract from stores you will need later on in the day. 

To help you be as efficient as possible consider the following:

  • Assess the course. Look at the swim course before race day, map out the markers and turn buoys for distance. If available, assess any currents in the water to make the water work for you. 
  • Line up correctly. If you are too far back, you will waste energy dodging and swimming around fellow racers, too far forward and you will be pushed aside and swam over. Also choose the side that makes sense for you and the side you predominantly breath on. 
  • Take wide turns in the water. At the turn buoys, swimming wider may be faster than cutting the turn on the buoy line in all the chaos. 
  • Draft when you can. If you find someone swimming at a similar pace to you and relatively straight, take advantage and draft them. The key here is not necessarily to swim faster, rather conserve energy. 

2: Prep your T1 

Managing transitions is all about having an efficient set up. The more that you have ready to grab and go, the quicker you will be. Prep your T1 to make it smooth and seamless. 

  • Strip the suit. Before putting on your wetsuit, apply a lubricant such as body glide to your forearms, wrists, lower legs and ankles. This will help the wetsuit slip off much more easily. 
  • Prep your shoes. If you have clip in shoes, it’s most efficient to have them pre clipped to the pedals so you can just grab your bike and go. Note, slipping into your shoes while riding is a skill and should be practiced ahead of race day. 
  • Lay out your helmet and sunglasses. If your handlebars allow, place your helmet facing open and up with the straps out. Sunglasses should sit open inside it. This will allow you to grab them and put them on in two swift motions.
  • Have nutrition ready. All of your nutrition should be locked and loaded on the bike, this includes any nutrition you plan on consuming in transition. Bring it with you and start fueling once you are rolling. 

3: Gearing and Aerodynamics 

Once on the bike, your goal is to maximize the speed created by the steady effort you will be putting out. Your two biggest tools for this will be gears and aerodynamics. 

  • Study the course. Prior to race day, study the course maps and any available online videos. In particular, you should assess the elevation chart and turns to prepare for gear and position changes. Visualization exercises leading up to the race can also help you mentallay prepare.
  • Understand proper gearing and cadence on climbs. Riding in an inefficient gear uphill is the fastest way to burn excess energy. Anticipating hills will allow you to avoid grinding or mashing. 
  • Anticipate turns. Every second you avoid spinning in too high or too low of a gear is time saved. Turns require a necessary slow down before powering up again. Anticipate turns and drop your gear ahead of time, adding power immediately. 
  • Get low at the right times. Your body is the least aerodynamic thing on the bike, so get into a lower position when it counts. Anything above 14 mph should be as aero as possible. And vice versa, when climbing, bring yourself upright with your weight over the pedals to allow your chest to expand.

4: Consolidate your T2 

Similar to T1, you want this transition to be as turnkey as possible. The theme here is assemble on the go. You want to put on as much of your gear as you can while moving. 

  • Get out of your cycling shoes. As you approach T2, prepare by slipping your feet out of your cycling shoes and pedal the remaining stretch with your feet on top of the shoes. 
  • Set up your area. Your shoes should be placed at the bottom of your transition area facing away from you so you can simply slip them on. If you need to add socks, have them pre-rolled and sitting just inside your shoe so you can roll them on from the toe. 
  • Use your hat as a multi purpose carrier. If you wear a running hat, place all of your running essentials inside the hat so you can grab it all at once and go. If you don’t wear a hat, use a small plastic bag that can be tossed at the first aid station. Everything you need to put on for the run should be done so while moving through transition to the run course. 

5: Get on your fuel early 

Success in Ironman really comes down to the run. Did you manage your calorie intake and energy usage appropriately? 

  • Study the course. Know where the aid stations are located and when the key climbs and descents occur. Knowing what to expect and when, will allow you to prepare mentally and physically. 
  • Get on the fuel early. Fueling on the run should be a continuation off the bike. Maintain your needed intake of carbohydrates, water and electrolytes. Even if you don’t feel you need it, take it anyway, it will pay dividends in the back half. 
  • Draft where you can. Yes, you can draft on the run. While it may not be as much of an energy saver as it is swimming, there is still a slight benefit. If you find someone running a similar pace, tuck in behind them and let them block the wind.
  • Smile. The sheer activity of moving your facial muscles to form a smile even if you fake it, generates positive emotions and raises your mood. This release of endorphins can help you maintain a higher output for longer.