The season is in full swing, the A-Races are starting, and Ironman UK is round the corner. Neuff Red Ambassador Gareth Riley knows the course better than most and we asked him to share his tips on getting to the finish line with a smile on your face!
By Gareth Riley
It’s race week!! Finally we have a large races going ahead in the UK. It’s around 665 days since most of us clicked the mouse and booked Ironman UK... so what to do this week?
Triathlon Pre-Race Preparation
Most of us will have done some prep events, practiced our nutrition and tried out our kit. Things have changed and now races are all Covid secure it pays to read the athlete guide for Ironman UK. Have you recce’d the course? If not when you arrive in Bolton Drive the bike course, look out for pot holes and rough patches of road. You’ve put in the hours and are ready to race.
Race week is about carb loading, hydrating and relaxing, or at least trying to. A few light sessions to just activate the muscles and then get into race weekend.
I tend to start my carb load from Wednesday, slowly increasing it to Friday and then less on Saturday. We don’t want to be bloated or feeling rough come race morning.
Pasta, rice, potatoes, bread with good protein and good fats. No spice, or foods that I wouldn’t usually eat. I keep it bland and quite strict, after all it’s only a few days and I can have a pizza or burger post race or even both.
Ironman UK Bolton Logistics
The schedule is slightly different this year. There is no IronKids race on the Saturday. Registration and expo are on Queens Park, where T2 is. This logistically should make things a little easier.
Masks and social distancing are still in force but we are all used to that now so no real problem.
Pre-race day schedule
T1 is at Pennington Flash in Leigh which is around 12 miles away from T2.
My advice, and something I do, is get over to T1 at your designated time, rack your bike and blue bag then head over to T2, rack your red bag, have a look at the expo and buy your 'Monday Merch'. I call it Monday Merch because it’s all you will wear the day after the race, even if just to go to the supermarket for the weekly big shop you’ll be rocking the bragging clobber. Well you worked hard so why not tell people right?!
I then drive the bike course. Check out the road surface and stop a few times and visualize what lines to take on certain bends and descents. I’ve ridden the course many many times, but still this helps get my mindset into race mode and ready to rock.
Once that’s done it’s time to relax. Switch off. Enjoy the rest of the day with family, eating well and hydrating properly. Then it’s an early night and get ready for the 3am alarm and the customary 1000 cal breakfast.
Race morning routine
Race morning is an early one. Prep the things you need the night before and get them in the boot of the car. The last thing you want to be doing is going back to your hotel or home because you’ve forgotten your wetsuit. I know people that have and it’s a scramble to get there and back before the gun goes off. No one needs that level of stress before a 2.4 mile swim.
Get to T1 in plenty of time to do your pre bike checks. Don’t put full pressure in your tyres the day before. I’ve worked quite a few Ironman events and the when we were closing up T2 the night before, the sound of tyres bursting as the air temp changes is horrible. Put your full PSI into the tyres on race morning - there are plenty of track pumps floating around T1.
Triathlon A-Race Tips
Try not to overthink. You’ve done the training, now it’s time to execute the race and be proud you’re here. There will be times that you face the dark, but keep pushing and soon enough you are back into the light. The supporters make this event as they are awesome.
For the swim get into a flow. Don’t go off too quick which is natural with the excitement and energy around you. Race your race. Sighting is key so make sure you keep looking as you don’t want to swim more than you need to.
On exiting the water, unzip your wetsuit and take off your goggles and cap and as you take your arm out the sleeve of your suit pull them though. That way they are in the suit and unlikely to get lost in transit to the finish line.
Again don’t rush T1. Get comfortable as the next part is the longest and you want to make sure you're comfortable. Race your race again. Don’t go speeding out of T1 as there are three or four speed bumps at Pennington Flash and you will lose your bottles if you fly over them - something I see every year.
Take the first part up to Chorley New Road easy and get into a flow and rhythm. Take some fuel onboard as you’ve got the next 20 miles before you hit the start of the hills. The three loops are tough but they are cut in half: 15 miles of hills followed by 15 or so lumpy but manageable miles. Take these miles to fuel and recover.
Off the bike and into T2: the next part is epic. Enjoy the run as the people supporting are what make it so special. The day will fly by so enjoy it, after all it’s why we do this.
Top Tips for a successful Age Group race
- Race your own race
These 3 things will lead you to the magic red carpet and the famous words "YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!"
Godspeed and see you on course.
About Gareth Riley
Gareth caught the Tri-Bug after volunteering for Ironman UK shortly after completing his first marathon having decided to improve his fitness for his 30th birthday. Standing on the start line of his first triathlon in 2013, he had lost 7 stone in 3 years and finished in a commendable 16 hours 32 minutes. Since then, Gareth has multiple finishes under his race-belt, runs a coaching business with 20 clients, has worked as Ironman UK bike course leader, race controller and Ironkids warm-up, as well as appearing on local radio talking all things Tri. A true Ironman, Gareth's drive is to be better than yesterday, with passion and no ego!
Photos courtesy of Gareth Riley and Susanne Oswald