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Ironman: 10 common race day mistakes

Ironman racing is a long day and that means a lot can go wrong. But it doesn’t have to if you have a methodical approach. Phil Jarvis, head triathlon coach at, points out the pitfalls we all should avoid.

3.    Wrong race kit

Pack and wear the correct kit, and you’ll not give it a second thought, make a bad choice and it could jeopardise your race and even be a serious health risk. The here is to take note of the race conditions and your goals and plan accordingly. For Ironman the key focus should be comfort. It’s all very well wearing that shiny new aero helmet, but if it’s a hot day those extra few seconds saved through lowered wind resistance will be nothing compared to the time lost as you over heat.

Triathlon Race Day Checklist


Go through your race step-by-step. Is your wetsuit suitable for the swim, will you need a thicker neoprene cap? On to the bike, will you be content in a tri-suit for 112 miles, or would padded cycling shorts work better? Layering can be your chief weapon here. You may be cold on exiting the water in the early morning, but warm up through the day. Once into T2, dress appropriately for running a marathon, and importantly make sure you have comfortable footwear. The best way to make sure you don’t miss anything is to follow our checklist (here) - and check the weather forecast!

4.    Avoidable mechanicals

You are putting your mind, body and brake cables through intense strain – so don’t forget about the latter. There are few ways more frustrating to DNF in Ironman than suffering a mechanical, especially if it could be prevented by a quick bike check before the off. It not only lessens the risk of a chain snapping, brakes rubbing or aerobars coming loose, it also gives you peace of mind in an unnaturally tense environment in the build-up. Even if you think your bike is in tip-top condition, it’s worth double-checking - saving a few watts of power through a properly lubricated chain equates to big gains over the long distance. If you forget to check beforehand, there is usually a mechanic on site for last minute help. Finally, a common problem is either loose or completely incompatible cleats on bike shoes. It’ll be a painful pedal mashing experience if you cannot clip in.

5.    Not having a Plan B

The one thing that can almost be guaranteed in Ironman is that the race will not run smoothly. From a mass swim start to running down the finish chute, there are a myriad of things that can go wrong. Staying positive is critical, but also think ‘What would I do if…’ and run through potential scenarios. Can you swim if you lose your goggles? Could you cope if the swim is ruled non-wetsuit? Can you change a puncture? Can you change a puncture when you are shivering and cold on the roadside? Do you have a strategy to switch to run-walk, or even start the marathon with run-walk, depending how you feel alighting the bike? Setting different goals is also helpful. If you only have a ambitious A goal and your time splits start to slip, your mind-set needs to be correct to salvage the race. It’s easy to see those without a contingency plan. They’ll be walking the last half of the marathon.

Continue reading our guide to 10 common Ironman race day mistakes (3/4, faults 6 & 7)


Phil Jarvis is head triathlon coach at


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