Chrissie Wellington: Countdown to Kona
With only a few days left until the World Ironman Championship in Kona, Hawaii, the excitement and pressure is mounting. But this pressure is only as much of a burden as you let it be. I try to see everything as a positive, and knowing that I am already triple World Champion brings with it a satisfaction, pride, and joy that far overshadows any last-minute nerves. The most important thing for me now is to focus on rest and recovery and ensure that I have a mental and physical plan for race week, and race day. The moto of every good Boy Scout or Girl Guide rings true here: Always be prepared. Preparation brings peace of mind, which breeds confidence and, hopefully, success! Here is a little window into my race week and race morning.
In terms of training, I will reduce the volume by about 30 percent five days before the Big Dance, as we affectionately like to call it. So the Tuesday and Wednesday will include some race pace efforts to remind my body of what’s in store, and I take Thursday as a total rest day. The day before the race I do 30 min. of each discipline. I make sure I ride my Cannondale Slice before midday so that I am able to address any last-minute mechanical issues. As always, rest is vital, and I try and have at least 9 hours each night–getting as many hours before midnight as possible. Few athletes sleep well the night before a race, so I accept this and don’t panic if I can’t seem to knock out the zzzzzzs. I try to concentrate on relaxing my mind even if I cannot drop into a slumber. I always have a gentle massage on the penultimate day. Bodily hygiene is also a must, and I shave/pluck/clip/wax various body parts and make sure I clip my toenails to prepare them for the onslaught of the marathon!
Visualisation is a huge part of training my brain, and so I always go through the race in my mind, and ensure I have a mental, as well as a physical plan to deal with all the inevitable ups and downs – like my goggles getting knocked off, a flat tire, or nutritional issues. It is so important to visualise the whole event and give myself the peace of mind so that I can cope with the unexpected. I also spend my spare time doing things that help take my mind off the race–talking to friends, listening to music, reading, or watching a movie. The Shining is probably best avoided. Pretty Woman or Top Gun get my vote.
In terms of food and drink, I don’t overhydrate or overeat. I cut down on fiber and spicy/rich foods about three days out to try to reduce the likelihood of GI distress and stick to plain foods, with a lower GI index, such as white rice, bread, and pasta. Retaining the same calorific intake coupled with the reduction in training ensures my glycogen stores are full, but not overflowing. I always eat my main meal at about 6.30-7 p.m. the night before a race. And it’s always the same delicious and nutritious treat: tuna pasta with a tomato sauce, a bit of cheese, and some olive oil.
I always have a list of the equipment I will/may need and I check each item to ensure I haven’t forgotten anything. It’s also good to have spares–for example, I have two pairs of TYR goggles–a clear pair for darker conditions and a tinted pair for sunny days. I lay out my kit in separate piles for each of the three disciplines two days before the race–race morning is not the time to be worrying about where I have put my tub of vaseline.
On race morning I have my breakfast about 2 hr. 15 min. before the start of the race and get to the venue nice and early, leaving enough time for traffic jams and long queues. At this point it is crucial to focus on myself and not to look at what others are doing. In the final moments before the start I sip a little water and spend a few minutes relaxing my mind. I always have a mantra written on my water bottle and a bank of heart-warming images to give me that final boost I need–memories of crossing the line, images of family and friends, and songs that lift my spirits.
Then finally I take a few deep breaths and walk slowly down to the beautiful blue ocean. As I skull on that start line in a few weeks time I will know that I have done everything I possibly can to prepare myself mentally and physically for the battle ahead. There will be dark times, but the euphoria I will experience when I cross that finish line will overshadow any pain and discomfort I may feel. Hawaii is the magical, beautiful, hallowed island where I can put myself to the ultimate physical and mental test, and pit myself against the best endurance athletes–male and female–on the planet. And the place where I managed to make my dreams come true three times over. And as the clock slowly ticks ever closer, I can’t wait for the Big Dance on the Big Island to begin! Aloha and mahalo!
Chrissie Wellington stunned the world of triathlon by breaking the Ironman world record for women in Roth, Germany, in July 2010. The time she beat was her own, clocking in at 8:19:13, 12 minutes and 46 seconds faster than her previous record. The Brit also has the distinction of winning the most esteemed triathlete victory three years in a row: Ironman Kona in 2007, 2008, and 2009. She'll be back this year to go for number four. Be sure to check the Outside Blog for more posts by Wellington as she heads toward the big day at Kona.