7/27/16

What not to say to an Ironman triathlete


I love the Ironman distance.
2.4 mile swim. 112 mile bike. 26.2 mile run.
As taxing as it is on the mind and body, there is something so uniquely special and extreme about moving the body over the distance of 140.6 miles.
It's a distance that should be respected and not taken for granted.

It's often said that race day is the easiest day, compared to training, as you are supported by volunteers, friends and family, with thousands of other athletes, to keep you motivated and inspired as you move from the start of the swim to the finish line of the run.
Race day is the day when you can look back on the many months, if not years, of accumulated fitness, endurance, strength, speed and power, with excitement in your belly and a deep hunger inside to put it all that training to good use as you earn your Ironman finisher medal and t-shirt.

However, race day can bring a variety of emotions, as it's a day full of unknowns, even for the most prepared or experienced athletes.

Knowing that most Ironman athletes will experience some type of obstacle on race day, whether it is dealing with unforeseen weather, a cramp, GI issues, fatigue, a mechanical, sore muscles, etc. it's important for any Ironman athlete to stay mentally strong before the race in order to help reduce all pre-race jitters, anxieties and nerves that may sabotage performance.
While it's ok to be nervous, it's very important that you spend your time around energy givers as it can be difficult to surround yourself with people who suck away the energy that you are bottling up for race day. 

As a 11x Ironman finisher, including 4 Ironman World Championship finishes, as well as a coach and board certified sport dietitian who specializes in endurance triathlons, I put together a list of all the things that "us" Ironman athletes do not want to hear on race day.

1. Are you ready?
2. What will be your finishing time?
3. Are you going to win the race?
4. Did you know that ____ is in your age-group again? Didn't he/she beat you at the last race?
5. Are you worried about getting a flat tire?
6. Have you ever crashed on your bike before?
7. The water conditions don't look good.
8. It's going to be so hot on race day.
9. It's going to be so cold on race day.
10. You are going to eat all of that?
11. The swim looks so long.
12. Doesn't your butt get sore riding that far?
13. How much do your legs hurt after you get off the bike?
14. You actually enjoy doing this?
15. What do you do when you have to pee on the bike?
16. It's going to be really windy today. Don't blow off your bike.
17. Did you see all the hills you have to climb?
18. You look tired.
19. I'm feeling sick.
20. Can we sight-see after you check-in your bags and bike?
21. You are boring to be around.
22. We/you have to wake up at what time on race day?
23. Try to finish by ____ so we can go to dinner. 
24. Did you get to your race weight?
25. Are you still injured? 

Many times, the best thing you, the supporter, can say is nothing.
As athletes, we may not always say it or show it but we appreciate the unconditional support - always. Although it is an individual effort on race day, it takes a team approach to get to the finish line.
Just being there means so much.
It's a big commitment to train for an Ironman and race day is never easy.
So while it may be hard for a supporter to find the right thing to say to calm down a nervous, anxious or overwhelmed Ironman athlete, just know that an Ironman journey wouldn't be the same without the support of our close friends, family and teammates.

26. You are almost there (at mile 1 of the run).
27. You look great (at mile 24 of the run).