A Race Plan

As part of preparing for Ironman, I use a lot of resources to help coach myself through the arduous journey.  One of those is the copious amount of material put out there by Joe Friel.  One of the tasks he sets out for athletes as they approach their big race is to develop a race plan.  This is an overall plan of what you want to accomplish and how you want to get there. This is mine.

Race goal

The goal of this race for me has always been a sub-12 hour race.  In all reality this is something of an unrealistic goal considering my current fitness and a new course.  If all the stars align and my taper is perfect it’s possible, but unlikely.  As such, I’ve adjusted my goal to be a finish anywhere between 11:38 and 12:42.  I would suspect that I will swim about 1:20, bike about 6:30 and run about 4:30 with probably close to 10 minutes of transition.  That would have me finish at 12.5 hours, which would be just about perfect.

Plan B

With as broad a goal as I’ve set, I’m not sure that a plan B is all that necessary.  At the end of the day, Plan B is to finish.  If anything goes dramatically wrong, the goal will be just to get through it and finish the day.  Sport specifically, finishing the swim under 1:30 will be a success. Finishing the bike around .70 IF will be a success.  Running the entire marathon will be a success.  Any of those will be a great plan B to focus on. 


We arrive in Whistler on the 24th of July.  Given that the trip is over 14 hours long, that’s not a one day deal.  Consequently, we’ll likely drive to Kamloops the first day and then on to Whistler the next:


The two weeks surrounding Ironman Canada are, according to locals, the hottest two weeks of the year.  Yay.  The average daily highs in July are 27°C and mean humidity is 55-65%, so really we have to expect a hot, and fairly muggy day.  Given that I don’t hydrate well at high temperatures (I need more water than my stomach can absorb), I’m going to need to be careful with nutrition and hydration on the bike.  There is little danger of snow or otherwise adverse conditions like there was at Yellow Lake, so I don’t intend on packing a jacket on the bike.  That said, if I run long, it gets dark and cold at night in whistler, so I will have to consider a run-at-night strategy.


The ironman athlete guide equipment checklist is actually really good.  I have a “bag” checklist that I use to keep track:<table><tr><td style="vertical-align:top;color:green;">Green</td><td style="vertical-align:top;">Morning</td><td style="vertical-align:top;">

  • Tri-Shorts
  • Chamois glide
  • Heart rate monitor
  • garmin
  • Perform
  • Suntan lotion</td></tr><tr><td style="vertical-align:top;color:blue;">Blue</td><td style="vertical-align:top;">Bike</td><td style="vertical-align:top;">

  • jersey
  • helmet
  • shoes
  • sunglasses
  • socks
  • gloves</td></tr><tr><td style="vertical-align:top;color:orange;">Orange</td><td style="vertical-align:top;">Bike Special Needs</td><td style="vertical-align:top;">

*</td></tr><tr><td style="vertical-align:top;color:red;">Red</td><td style="vertical-align:top;">Run</td><td style="vertical-align:top;">

  • shoes
  • hat
  • ibuprofen
  • race # belt</td></tr><tr><td style="vertical-align:top;">Black</td><td style="vertical-align:top;">Run Special Needs</td><td style="vertical-align:top;">


Pre-race Nutrition

The day before will involve ridiculous amounts of water and pretzels.  Dinner will be steak & fixings or jambalya, depending on what we can get.  I’ll have a shakeology before bed at ~9:30. Sleep, if it comes, will be until 4:30, at which point I’ll have a couple of eggs, a cup of coffee and another shakeology.  I’ll have a bottle of Perform to sip on through the morning until they close the transition.

Race-morning routine

My race morning routine is pretty simple.  Up early and eat ~2 hours before race.  I will be at the shuttle for 5am.  Basic T1 setup (set out towel and bike gear, check tire pressure).  The goal is to stay warm until about 6:15, at which point I’m into my swim gear, morning bag packed 

Race Nutrition

My race nutrition plan is pretty much the same as last time.  I alternate higher calorie “real food” with Perform and Gu gels every 20 minutes.  I’ve been training until now using Stingers Orange and GU Lemon/Lime.  I’ve been trying to add bonk breakers (particularly the Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich one, yum!), but haven’t been able to buy them for a long time.  I keep looking, but I know they’ll be on course.

Transition and Special Needs

I generally don’t put much of anything in special needs bags…occasionally an extra pair of socks if it’s rainy and some ibuprofen in case I’m suffering. Otherwise I rely on what I can carry out of transition.  Transition for me is a relatively simple endeavor.  I don’t try to blast through, aiming instead for ~5mins each.  T1 is a bit tougher since I’m usually putting on socks (I get blisters if I don’t), but T2 is just a switch from one show to another.  The tricky bit this year has been remembering to take my watch off the bike.  Since there are bike catchers in Whistler, that will be extra tricky.


Pacing is pretty solid at this point.  I’m shooting for a 2:15/100m swim, a 28kph ride (at ~.70 IF) and a 6:00min/km run.  If I can pull that off, that’s a 12:03 which with a kick gets me to my goal. There’s a lot of variability in that, though, hence the wider range above.  We’ll see what happens.

Course Management

The bike course is split into 3 sections for me.  The first is T1 through to the flats 35kms out of Whistler.  My goal for this section is just to focus on staying under 70% FPT.  Get the first big hill out of the way without killing myself.  I’m sure I’ll get passed a whack here, but hopefully I can catch them on the flats.  The second section is the flats, from ~90kms until I get back to that point again at ~145kms.  My goal here is to hold as close to 30kph as possible while keeping the IF intact.  The third stage is climb back to T2.  At around 145km, the course has you climb back into Whistler.  This is a 710m climb of undulating 3-7% grades (according to Raf Lopez).  My 


My mindset for this race is to have fun.  I’ve spent a lot of frustrated days during training because I just haven’t seen the performance improvement I’ve been looking for, but a crazy schedule and unrealistic expectations probably account for most of that. My goal is to stay to the plan and enjoy myself, and the rest will take care of itself.  See you at the finish line.



Jon Holt

A coach, an entrepreneur, and a no-bull advisor in growing small businesses through the use of practical strategy, light-weight governance and sitting back and thinking about running your business, regardless of what you do.

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