Over the past several years, as the popularity of Ironman racing has increased, so too has the availability of devices for tracking our training and racing metrics. As race day in Kona nears, what are the most useful tools for tracking how we’re doing and what to expect on race day? Having coached dozens of athletes across the Big Island’s finish line, I have learned that the following 10 metrics can make or break you on race day, regardless of your fitness.
Two weeks out
The next three metrics will begin to prepare you for an optimal performance. You should consider them two weeks out from race day.
Perceived sense of self
While this comes in many forms, the top indicators that you can home in on include feeling rested, self-imposed pressures, and senses of confidence and satisfaction in your preparations, both mentally and physically. This is an excellent time for you to use appropriate race-day imagery and establish positive race-day cues, focusing on how your day should unfold, and preparing yourself to manage the inevitable setbacks that an Ironman athlete is bound to encounter. Don’t hope something won’t happen; assume it will and make sure you have a tool in your race-day toolbox to deal with it. Part of this is the development and imagery of contingency plans, to combat any number of potential snafus. If you work out and practice in your head “If I flat, then I will . . .” you’ll be best prepared to manage the situation if it comes up.
The key with this metric is to make it just that: a metric! Many athletes understand this concept but few formally assess where they fall on the spectrum as race day approaches. I suggest you sit down and formally assess yourself in this area, honestly and objectively. Write down the pressures you are feeling and separate those that are self-imposed from those that are real. Write down things that you hope won’t happen and develop race-day tools to fix them.
This is paramount in any hot race, not just Kona! Arriving during race week in a dehydrated state will put you in a position that is very difficult to recover from. After months of preparation, putting yourself behind the proverbial 8-ball is inexcusable. Making this a primary focus two weeks out from race day helps to make sure that there is ample time for any necessary corrections well before you even pack your bike.
Urine color is the easiest metric to ensure that your hydration levels are where they need to be. Always aim to see urine that is a very light yellow, or nearly clear. Understand that significant amounts of vitamin C may skew urine color. To remove subjectivity, I recommend using a hand-held refractometer to test your urine’s specific gravity to estimate your hydration level. Refractometers are a great tool for keeping you honest, as the constant accountability ensures that a water bottle is never too far away. If you live and train in a hot climate or have any issues with remaining hydrated, I strongly suggest having a refractometer on hand. They can be found for as little as $200, a fraction of the price of not having one.
Overnight heart rate
For it to be effective, heat acclimation should begin at least two weeks before race day. Within that time, one good metric to track the progress of the acclimation is average overnight heart rate. Typically, as an athlete begins to acclimate to the expected weather conditions, this overnight average will begin to settle down to pre-acclimation levels. Be sure to establish baselines before starting the acclimation period, and make sure that during acclimation you sleep in a warm environment with very little air-conditioning.
For more tips, see Part III of this series one week out from race day at the Ironman World Championship. This original article, “Big Island Metrics” by Jesse Kropelnicki, appeared in the October/November 2012 issue of LAVA Magazine. To subscribe to LAVA Magazine, click here.