Ironman Canada is one of the longest running Ironman events on the planet. For many Canadians it is the big race of the season. It typically takes place at the end of August making it a perfect climax to a Canadian summer of racing. For many athletes this is the race they are peaking for.
We asked Ironman Champion Jasper Blake to share five tips on how to make Ironman Canada your best race of the season.
The biggest mistake I see people making when they get close to an Ironman is the sudden urge to make significant changes to their plan. It is normal to get anxious and have small panic attacks leading up to the race but it is a mistake to suddenly think you need to change your whole game plan. It’s hard not to be influenced by others- race week everyone is walking around, talking about what they are going to do pace wise or nutritionally and it’s hard to not get sucked into different ideas. The biggest advice I can offer is to stick to your game plan. If you have practiced something in training and it has worked then stick to your plan. The time to make big changes is not race week.
Break the bike course up mentally
Ironman can always seem daunting- it is a long way and a long day- so break it up into manageable pieces. Ironman Canada is a great course to break up especially on the bike. The first leg involves a fast ride down to Osoyoos. Once you are there you are already a third of the way through the bike portion. The next piece is the climb up Richters pass and the rollers, which can be a welcome break after 60km of flat time trialing. The next piece is the out and back which can discourage people because you literally head straight back to where you came from but remember, 180km is 180km- it’s just a piece of that. The next piece is the climb up Yellow Lake- again a nice break from the flat time trial efforts. And finally you get to descend down into Penticton- 20km downhill, which is a great way to finish off the bike.
Pace yourself up Richters Pass
Richters pass is the first significant climb at Ironman Canada. It comes about 60km into the race and is often the place where people make the biggest tactical error. At 60km everyone feels good and many people go way too hard up Richters. If you overextend yourself on Richters it will haunt you going up Yellow Lake. The people who are smart on Richters are always doing the passing up Yellow Lake.
Run one mile at a time
A marathon after all that biking is not the best way to think about the run. Instead, think of it as one mile repeats. The aid stations are typically one mile apart so make it your goal to simply run from aid station to aid station. The brain prefers small chunks- everyone can run a mile so run a mile at a time.
When the run starts getting tough (which it does for everyone), remember that you are not alone. Everyone is basically experiencing the same thing you are- the steps can be downright painful. A good mental trick is to simply think ahead to the end. The last mile in Penticton is along Lakeshore drive where there are literally thousands of people screaming and cheering. It will be the best mile of your life! So if you find yourself at mile 14 and you are struggling- zip ahead in your mind and get excited about what’s coming at mile 25. Sometimes this little mental boost can get you through a tough spell.