When you sign up for a full distance (140.6) Ironman, you usually have to do it a year in advance. The day after the event is held on-line registration typically starts at noon, race location time, for the next year’s event. For example, if you want to race the 2016 Florida Ironman, registration for the race opens the day after the 2015 Florida Ironman is held. Once you sign up for the event there is a lot that has to get done in the way of race preparation during that year.
I have put together a checklist that will hopefully make it a little easier for you. If you have less than a year, don’t panic, a lot of these items can be squeezed into a lot less time, I am just trying to spread it out so you don’t have to try to cram in a lot of things all at once. Also, I know that this list is not complete. If you see anything I have missed, please comment below or email me so I can add your to do item to the list.
Over the next few months I will be posting articles on the checklist items, like how to pick accommodations, whether or not to train with a coach, race day nutrition, etc. If you see highlighted text next to any of the checklist items it means there is a post to explain it. Also, at the bottom of this post is a link to this checklist in a downloadable excel format. That will allow you alter it to meet your needs. You’re welcome. 🙂
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A Year to a 140.6 Checklist
9-12 Months FRD (From Race Day)
- Decide if you want to do an 140.6. Read The 6 Ts of Ironman
- Choose the race you want to do. Read Choosing Your Ironman
- Sign up for the race you want to do at the earliest possible date. Read Registering for Your Ironman
- Determine the dates for race packet pick-up. Most Ironman races do not offer packet pick-up the day before the race so you need to arrive at least a couple of days before the race.
- If the race is not local book a hotel or condo. If you can, go with a location that has a kitchen or at least a refrigerator. This will help with pre-race food and hydration.
- Create an email folder for all correspondence regarding the race -race confirmation, travel confirmation, etc.
- Start a real folder and print out copies of the documents that you will need to take with you. If you do this now you won’t be running around the day before you leave for the race trying to pull your documents together.
- Print out or save the athlete’s guide from the previous year’s race – it is filled with valuable information that you will want to refer back to throughout the year.
- If you do not have a triathlon coach, determine if you want one.
- If you don’t belong to a local triathlon group, determine if you want to join one.
- Plan your races for the year, selecting distances and timing between races to keep yourself motivated and continually adding longer distances to training.
- Work on building your base miles.
- Determine why you are doing this race and what it means to you to finish. This is big. If you don’t have this firmly established in your head from the start, it is easy to give up when the training gets tough. Know what being an Ironman means to you.
6-9 Months FRD
- Start developing your training plan for the race. Plans range anywhere from 3 months to 6 plus months. Find one that works with both your life (work and family) and racing schedules.
- If the race is not local start thinking about how you are going to get to the race- drive or fly.
- If you think that you want to fly, look at how you will get your bike to the race – do you want to break it down and take it on the plane with you, or do you want to send it by way of a transport company.
- Check what the historical weather has been for the week leading up to the race and on race day. Plan your clothes, nutrition, and hydration accordingly.
- Start trying to determine what your nutrition and fueling needs will be for the race – how many calories do you need to take in per hour, per event? Start using your long swims, rides and runs to test how many calories you think you need and what brands work for you, i.e. don’t cause you to either throw-up or poo all over yourself during your workout. VCORP – Vomit, Cramp, or Poo
- Break out the athlete’s guide to determine what type of fuel was served on the course – i.e. Gu, Powerbar, Gatorade, Hammer. Unless you have a type of fuel that you are completely committed to, try training with the brands offered on the course. If you can use them then you can carry less fuel on your bike or person on race day. If they make you VCORP (see point directly above regarding gastro distress) then you will know that under no circumstances should you ingest them on race day.
- Start looking at clothing options for race day and rotating them through your long swims, bikes and runs. Make sure that they don’t chafe, become transparent when wet, ride up, bunch up, etc and that they will meet your needs for race day. Two of my needs are that they don’t make me look fat in pictures and that they have pockets to carry my fuel.
- If you haven’t had your bike tuned-up in the last year, take it in for a tune-up.
- If you have had any issues while riding, like back pain, numbness in your feet, legs, or arms, knee pain, etc. get your bike fitted to you. Make sure that you are very specific with the person doing the fitting about your Ironman racing goals and the issues that you have been experiencing.
- Take a basic bike maintenance class to make sure that you can address any issues that come up on long training rides or race day, i.e. changing flats, rubbing break pads, loose cables, pedals, etc.
- Evaluate your motivation level and how your training is going. Revisit your reasons for wanting to be an Ironman. Figure out what you need to tell yourself on your long days to get and keep yourself going.
- Come up with your motto(s) – “go big or go home” “Dream Big” “I’m Not Going Home Without a Medal” “I’m going to be an Iron Mom”, etc. This sounds hokey, but you will need them during your training and on race day. These should be based on your reasons for wanting to complete this distance.
3-6 Months FRD
- Consider if you want specialized race day gear such as a triathlon kit in specific colors with a logo or design on it. These will take time to order and you need to wear it on as many long training days as possible, so if you think this is something you want, you need to order it ASAP.
- Do you have a support crew going with you? Do you want to order t-shirts for them to wear? This can usually be done with a quick turn around, but you will have a lot going on in the weeks leading up to the race so the sooner you can start working on this the better.
- If you are going to fly, purchase your tickets after double checking the dates and hours for race packet pick-up. Don’t book travel that will have you arriving an hour before packet pick-up closes. Consider what will happen if your flight gets delayed. Plan accordingly.
- If your race will be wet suit legal, try on your wet suit to make sure it still fits and doesn’t have any holes that need to be mended. If you need a new wet suit or you don’t already have one, purchase one.
1-3 Months FRD
- By now you should have your fueling for the actual race figured out and be practicing it on your long training sessions. Start thinking about your night before the race meal and your raceday breakfast. Practice these on your long training sessions to make sure they meet your needs and don’t cause VCORP with your workout fuel of choice.
- How is the bike working for you? Does it need another tune-up? Did the fitting help with the issues you were having? Did any other issues crop up? If the bike needs to be re-tuned or re-fitted, you need to do this at least a month out from the race so that you still have time to get in at least one long ride and several shorter training rides to test whatever tweaks were made on your follow up visit.
- Running shoes. Evaluate how many miles you have on your current shoes. Are you going to either be right at your limit or going over by race day? Now is the time to get a new pair to add to your training rotation so that you have plenty of time to break them in.
- Determine if you want to rent a tracker device, like my athlete live, so that your support crew and the folks back home can track you in real time throughout the race and not just when you cross certain points.
- If you decided to send your bike to the race by way of a bike transport company, research companies and book your reservation.
- If you decided to fly with your bike make sure you understand your airline’s policy and fees for flying with your bike. Buy or borrow a bike box. Again, make sure whatever you end up with complies with your airline’s standards. Neither bike boxes or airlines policies are standard. I cannot stress enough to make sure that your your box and their policies mesh. You do not want to be standing in the airport an hour before your flight only to find out that you can’t take your bike. 🙁
- Determine if you want to rent race wheels for the race. Research companies and book your reservation.
- Make sure you have two pair of swim goggles – one clear, one darkly tinted- that you love. By love I mean that they don’t leak and cause you to swim your entire training session with one eye closed.
- Race supply specialties- pace tattoos, motto(s), prayer beads, etc
- Review the race website to see if they have posted an athletes’ packet for this year’s race. Compare it to last year’s race’s athletes’ guide that you have been using to prepare to see if there are any major changes to things like the course or the nutrition that will be served race day.
1 Month FRD
- Ensure that you have all of your clothing options lined up. I am not stressing this because I am a girl and I obsess about how cute I want to look in the pictures. I do, of course, but this isn’t the reason I am stressing it. Good, comfortable, race day wear will go a long way to your enjoyment for the day.
- Make sure that you have all of your fuel for the race and that all of it is well within the expiration dates, remember VCORP. You don’t want to realize a couple of days before the race that you need fuel and be running around trying to find exactly the type and flavor of what you train with. The store will be out of it. Trust me.
- Follow up with your race accommodations. Make sure that your reservations haven’t been lost and that all deposits have been paid. Accommodationless racers are not happy racers.
- If you haven’t already started scoping out the race area on the internet, now is the time to do so. Where is the closest bike shop, grocery stores, etc to your accommodations? What restaurants are in the area that you can eat at in the days leading up to the race that won’t cause VCORP on race day?
- Make sure that your USAT membership is current.
- Make sure that you have all the appropriate items in a bike kit to address emergencies on the course.
- If you have never changed a flat on the bike you are going to be racing on, practice changing the tire.
- Check all of the batteries on your devices – Garmin, bike computer, heart rate monitor, etc to make sure that they aren’t low or, if rechargeable, that they are holding a charge for the appropriate length of time. Change them out if you need to.
- If people are traveling with you either put together packets for them on the courses and where they can see you at or ask someone in the group to do it.
1 Week FRD – AKA Crunch Time
- Special Needs Bag- start thinking about what items will go into your different special needs bags on race day. You might consider packing them in different bags before you travel so that will be one less thing you have to do right before the race.
- If your bike is being transported take to transport company.
- If you are flying with your bike break it down a couple of days before you travel to make sure that there aren’t any issues.
- Check weather forecast for race day.
- Pack multiple clothing options in case the weather changes. You can make the final determination on race day.
- Make sure a hard copy of all your reservations and information is in your triathlon folder and pack it with your carry on.
- If you are flying take your most important clothing items in your carry on, i.e. wetsuit, goggles, bike shoes, running shoes, tri-top, bike shorts, and running shorts. You can always buy new underwear at Wal-Mart, but broken in running and bike shoes, along with goggles you know won’t leak are much harder to come by.
- If you are driving shop for food that you can take with you to eat during the drive and the days leading up to the race that won’t cause VCORP.
- Pack a pair of throw-down flip flops for the race start.
- Packet Pick-up. Go the first day it is open if possible. You will beat the crowds.
- Walk through the expo and pick out the race specific items you will buy AFTER you complete the race.
- If you rented race wheels drop bike off at appropriate location to get race wheels put on bike.
- Determine how long it will take you to get from your accommodations to the race start. Add time for race morning traffic, parking issues, and then add another 20-30 minutes for unforeseen contingencies.
- Drive the bike course-drive it, don’t bike it. Seriously.
- Drive the run course – drive it, don’t run it. Seriously.
- Scope out the transition areas and make sure you understand the flow.
- Determine who to put in charge of getting your gear out of transition something happens to you on the race course.
- Drop off your gear.
- Practice swim in area if allowed. Don’t forget to rinse out your wetsuit, goggles and swim cap and hang to dry.
Night Before the Race
- Eat a safe meal. And by safe I mean hopefully one you have tested previously. Refer to VCORP issues.
- Set out all of your water bottles with the powder in them. Do not pre-mix.
- Lay out everything for race morning
- If you are the type to just get up and on race morning consider wearing your timing chip to bed.
- Set multiple alarms. Go to bed early so you can stare at the ceiling all night.
- Get up early enough to eat your scheduled breakfast. You have a long time before your next solid meal.
- Put on your timing chip if you didn’t sleep in it.
- Mix your liquid nutrition and put in bottles to carry with you.
- Get to race location early.
- Check bike tires to make sure that they are inflated correctly.
- Add nutrition and clothing items to appropriate bags.
- Add nutrition and hydration to your bike.
- Take both pair of goggles to the swim start with you. Light conditions can change quickly and you want to be wearing the best goggles for the conditions. Also, you can break a strap and it is a wonderful feeling to know you have a tried and true back-up pair.
- Make sure you are at the swim start early.
- Put on any pace tattoos, write any mottos on your arms, etc. Review your reasons for being there, think about what it means to you to finish, think about who helped you in your journey.
- Relax and enjoy the day. You are ready, this has been a year in the making. You’ve got this.
After the Race
- Buy the race items you picked out for purchase before the race.
- Start planning your next race.
Here is the checklist in Google Spreadsheet form. I will be updating it as new suggestions are made and as I write posts that explain in more detail parts of the checklist. So check back often.
Okay Stampeders, let me know what I missed!
If you don’t like dealing with spreadsheets – CLICK HERE FOR THE CHECKLIST AS A PRINTABLE