With three 70.3 IRONMAN triathlons under my belt, I feel I've learnt a lot. This knowledge includes a lot about myself, about nutrition, about swimming, about running, about biking.
In this post however, I'd like to focus on 5 Topics in particular that I've been asked a lot about over the last year or so and that, well, I think provide for some entertaining reading and writing.
I've also asked Trevor to provide his particular insights into the Tips and Advice, to offer a more holistic view.
So here we go:
Tip 1: Avoid anything "new" during race week
This is meant to be a catch all, but I really cannot stress this enough. From what you eat, to the activities you typically do, avoid doing anything your body isn't use to. This is not the time to shock the body with new experiences, foods, drinks, etc. As you'll see below, there are a number of reasons for this. This leads me to Number 2 ....
Brandon's Advice: Be boring. Eat boring food. Consume boring drinks, in quantities not out of the ordinary. Sleep the same amounts. Simply, don't change things up too much from your regular routine. Now is certainly not the time to throw in a random game of pick up basketball for shits and giggles. Nor is it the time to put your stomach under distress by trying new foods or foods your not used to. You don't need all that training and prep work being wasted on some unwanted GI issues.
Trevor's Advice: I agree that this is good advice per se, but I’m not usually very good at following it. I do new things sometimes because I get bored, or I get lazy, or I panic and forget things last minute. Tammy ran a marathon in new shoes not that long ago. Brandon did Ironman Calgary 70.3 in new bike shoes when his broke. I raced Victoria 70.3 with new headgear and did a sprint triathlon with a brand new wetsuit. So I would say that use this is a guiding principle, but only to the point where it doesn’t cause you extra stress. If, for example, your race destination doesn’t have the right kind of bagels, just get other bagels that are close and don’t stress it. I do totally agree though that you should avoid new and different athletic activity. By a week out your body is like a tuned up guitar string. Pluck it right and you get perfect tune, pluck it wrong and it snaps and hits you in the eye and just like that you find yourself on the waitlist for an eye transplant. No one wants that.
Tip 2: Sex - go for it, but keep in mind Tip 1
We've all got needs. Of this there is no doubt. When it comes to sex, I have to recommend balance, but it really depends on the person. Some people like to have some built up sexual tension to add a little drive to their race. Others might find that it takes away from performance by keeping them tight and wound up. It really is up to you. Based on some quick research, there really is no evidence that the typical approach taken by sports teams of abstinence before big games does anything to improve or hamper performance.
Brandon's Advice: Go for it. I'm definitely not going to abstain, in fact, I'd prefer to have sex at least a few days before a race. My only caveat - race week is not the time to be getting experimental. In fact, I'd strongly encourage asking your partner to "do most of the work", it would be an awfully embarrassing story to miss your race because of a sex injury or twisting or pulling a muscle ..... trust me.
Trevor's Advice: I’ve…..uhhh….never had sex (Hi Mom). But if I were to have done that shameful thing, I like Brandon’s advice about letting your partner “do most of the work”. Lol. That’s amazing advice. In conclusion, just be a bottom.
Brandon's Advice: I'd also add, make it up after race time. Nobody needs to be selfish here.
Tip 3: Get over it, Peeing in your wetsuit is smart and strategic
It really is amazing how many times I get asked about how or when I go to the bathroom over the course of a race. It is not unexpected. The races are long and biology is biology. The answer is pretty easy. There are plenty of porta potties sprinkled all over the bike and run courses. I've used them before. It is easy. It just costs you time. Want to save time. Learn to pee yourself.
Brandon's Advice: Get over it and learn to be comfortable peeing yourself in particular. My typical routine is usually - use a bathroom before you put your wetsuit on - if possible. If not, pee in your wetsuit. In fact, I particularly try to pee right as I'm leaving the water at the end of the swim. This empties the tank as I prepare for the long ride. Strategic. I know. As for biking and running - my rule is simple, if I'm on track to best or match my goal time, I'll have no issue peeing on the fly. If not, i'll salvage the 1-2 mins and use the bathroom.
Trevor's Advice: I’m actually peeing as I write this. So yeah, pee wherever and whenever you can. I tell you the discomfort of letting it go in your race kit is far less that the discomfort of of having to hold it until you can find a stop. Especially on the bike with that little seat smashing into all the go-pee areas. Plus, one piece trisuits are impossible to strip off in a porta-potty. You’re most likely to pull a muscle and there are no guarantees you won’t pee all over yourself anyways. Just grab an extra water bottle at the aid station and hose yourself off. No one will be none the wiser. Although for “number 2” I would suggest you avoid doing that in your suit if at all possible….
Tip 4: You'll never avoid saddle sores or occasional scrotal numbness
Yes, saddle sores and scrotal numbness are a thing. What are saddle sores? Well those nasty little irritations you get between your thighs and on your ass for riding on a bike seat for hours on end. An especially uncomfortable problem when using a stationary bike, where you are literally sitting all the time. And scrotal numbness, well its when you private parts go numb and tingly. Plain and simple.
Brandon's Advice: There are a number of ways to prevent this from happening. A few recommendations: get a good seat - you'll never find a perfect one, but some are definitely better than others. Use some sort of chaffing cream. There are ton out there, but seriously I just use Vaseline. It is cheap and effective. And lastly, try sit up every hour or so when on your trainer. Relieve some of the pressure, give your body a rest. Minor relieve, but it will help. Word to the wise - NEVER EVER let someone see you apply Vaseline to your undercarriage as it is the least sexy act ever, although it is a sure way to make Tip Number 2 irrelevant.
Trevor's Advice: I’m actually battling a particularly nasty saddle sore myself right now. I’ve never had one before. It really sucks. If it gets bad, days off, epsom salt baths and polysporin are my go tos. As for scrotal numbness, this is a terrifying but very real effect of hours on a bikeseat. Sometimes you have to just muscle through, sometimes you have to stand up, sometimes you have to bash it around until it comes back to life. I would caution against ever “getting used to it” though. If it’s happening more than just rarely, get a new seat or maybe switch the “tuck” direction (I’m a lefty most days myself).
Tip 5: You can trust a fart after 30 km ..... but seriously, be careful.
I'm sure you've heard the adage "don't trust a fart after XX km". No? Well it's a thing. And while there is certainly some truth to that I'm sure, I'm guessing you can actually trust a fart after 30 km, but I'd seriously just be careful.
Brandon's Advice: I've luckily not have to deal with this particular issue. My approach has been to have a little cup of coffee very early in the morning and hopefully empty the tank prior to race start. I also avoid excessive fibre intake in the days leading up to a race. If push came to shove - there is no way I'm shitting my pants to save a couple minutes. That's an easy one.
Trevor's Advice: I am no pro. There is no reason for me to shit my pants. If in doubt slow down immediately and pucker up until you can find a rest stop; don’t tempt fate. If you can’t find a rest stop, well, you’re your own best guide at that point. But yes “GI” issues are very real. They are hugely inconvenient. They are absolutely embarrassing. And they are a reminder that in the great sport of triathlon there are just some things that you have to deal with on the fly; you can’t plan for it all.