10 Things that Scare Me About Ironman 70.3

So I’m starting to freak the sh-t out about this ironman 70.3 triathlon thing that I signed up for and have been kind of sort of training for: 2 km swim, 94 km bike (because Ironman 70.3 Muskoka thought it would be fun to add an extra 4km to the bike) followed by a half marathon 21.1 km run.  Ummmm… yeah.  What the —- was I thinking?!?  I figured I’d sign up for this race, get injured badly while training and not have to do the race.  I honestly thought that I’d train myself into some sort of walking cast or need surgery to repair some sort of torn ligament so that I would have a built-in excuse for backing out of the race.  I’m less than three weeks away and unfortunately (fortunately?) that has not yet happened, which means I need to start thinking about race logistics, something that never even crossed my mind until this week.

ironman 70.3 muskoka

Here are the 10 fears about this race keeping me up at night: 

  1. What will I wear to swim in?!? I don’t own a wetsuit because I’m not a great freestyle swimmer – my breaststroke is faster than my freestyle, but it’s next to impossible to do the breaststroke in a wetsuit (trust me I’ve tried).  A wetsuit makes your legs too bouyant to get a good whip kick done under the water so you end up using more energy to pull your legs down under the water.  I think I need a sleeveless, shortleg wetsuit because I’m petrified that after the cold winter we’ve had, the glacial lake the race is in will be way too freaking cold to swim in without one.  I’m scared that wetsuits will be manadatory based on the water temperature (does that happen???), and if that does happens I’ll be SOL, so now I’m bugging everyone to borrow one.  Understandably due to cost, people are hesitant to lend them. 
  2. What stroke will I swim? As I shared above, my freestyle is horrendous.  I’ve begun actually practicing doing freestyle for as long as I can with a short breaststroke “recovery” in order to prepare for having to do freestyle in a wetsuit.  I can now do freestyle repeats for 7 min with a 1 min recovery for 35 min.  Perhaps longer in a race situation… we shall see come race day.  Breaststroke on the otherhand is a stroke I can do all day long if I had to.
  3. What will I wear for the rest of the race/under the wetsuit? (Provided I end up getting my hands on a wetsuit). I have a one-piece trisuit which is great for shorter distance triathlons (ones where I won’t need to stop for a bathroom break), but getting it on and off is a workout in itself.  I honestly have no idea what to wear.
  4. What happens if I get a flat tire? I don’t own a pump, or a spare tube and have never changed a flat before. I have no idea what to do if I get a flat. In the past my plan was to just sit down on the side of the road and cry until someone came to rescue me.  I once had to walk 8 km home with my bike because there was no one around to get me (this was like 12 years ago before cell phones were popular). I may have to visit my LBS to figure out what tools/supplies I need to fake my way through changing a flat.  Usually when I pump a tire I take more air out than I put in, so this also worries me.
  5. What should I eat/drink during the race? Aka How do I keep from bonking?  No amount of training will help if I fail to properly fuel during the race but I have never done a triathlon long enough to warrant a fuelling strategy other than just water.  Do I eat a small snacks in transition, then carry a sports drink on the bike run?  How much should I drink?  How often? Sports drink only or sports drink and water?  Shotbloks during the bike?  Protein bars?  I have no clue other than knowing I need to set an alarm for every 20 min to remind me to refuel.
  6. How do I know if I’m drafting? Getting a penalty for drafting freaks me right out.  I cannot judge bike lengths – do I watch a bike ahead of me cross a crack in the road then count like 5 seconds until I cross it?  How do I know if I’m too close? 
  7. Does my bike need a tune up before the race? I can’t shift to some of my gears smoothly – does this mean I need a tune up? What maintenance should I do on my bike before I race?
  8. Water stops on the bike – can I exchange my bottles for full ones? Do I stop and fill my bottles?  How does this work?
  9. How much walking can I reasonably expect to do during the “run”? Do I start the run with a good 1 km walk to recover from the bike, then run?  I’ve never run a half marathon in the mid-day heat of July – this running thing could get interesting. 
  10. How early should I plan on arriving to the start of the race? Will I get caught in traffic on my way to the parking/shuttle bus?  Will there be enough space in the parking lot for me?


  11. Where will I stay the night before the race? My awesome hubby decided last night that camping out in my van in the shuttle parking lot was not a safe plan so he booked my best running friend and I a hotel near the race so she can be my awesome Sherpa. I can now remove this fear from my list, yay!

As you can tell I’m the queen of signing up for things and not really thinking ahead about how the race will go down until I actually get there. I am not the least bit scared of my ability to complete the distances, but the logistics part completely has me freaked out, which is funny because in a much shorter race I don’t even think of these things, and perhaps I’m WAY overthinking because I am NERVOUS.  Hopefully this stuff won’t keep me up at night for the entire next 2.5 weeks…



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  • Victoria @ My Bright Pink Runners
    June 16, 2015 at 9:23 pm

    Look into renting a wetsuit. I know there are a few places that rent. D’ornellas (sp?) and Running Free have them. There’s also a tri store in Mississauga if you’re looking for an outfit. It’s called DuTriRun. I’m planning on signing up in two years and these are fears I have now!

  • Axel (from Iron Rogue)
    June 16, 2015 at 9:24 pm

    94 k?!?! If anything, they should be shaving 4 k off the distance for hills… Not sure if this helps, but your wetsuit dilemma reminded me that there are suits that provide the same hydronamic qualities of wetsuits, without the buoyancy. Swim skins, I think they’re called, but they might not be cheap.

    You can practice changing a tire at home while watching TV… that’s what a friend advised me to do. I’m still not good enough at it that I’d feel confident doing it at the side of the road, but I have the gist.

  • Lucie Palka
    June 16, 2015 at 9:38 pm

    Sometimes, the only way is to plunge in first (literally) and just take it as it comes! I think all of your fears are quite valid. For me, the only way to avert those fears would be to practice them before the big day, like practice changing a tire etc. Thank goodness for cellphones these days. I think I’d fear drowning on the 2 km swim, but that’s just cause I don’t know how to swim properly!

  • Victoria G
    June 16, 2015 at 10:33 pm

    I have been racing long course triathlon for 6 years now. I have done my best to answer your questions without overwhelming you with info. My opinion and the way I race will not be how everyone races or how everyone thinks you should approach a race. Everyone will have their own opinion about the best way to go about things. Hopefully some of my info is helpful to you!

    1. I would advise you to wear a wetsuit. 1900m can be a long way in open water your first time and the wetsuit will help you to float as well as keep you warm if you are out there for a long time. I know it will be harder to swim breaststroke in the wetsuit but I would say the safety and comfort gains outweigh the cons. There is nothing worse then coming out of the water into cool air and freezing on the bike because you are already cold from your swim.

    2. I would say you should aim to swim as much of the swim as you can freestyle. If you need to breaststroke make sure you start near the back when the gun goes off as there is nothing worse then being inadvertently kicked by someone doing breaststroke while you are swimming freestyle. One of the first things I was told before I did my first race was NOT to swim breaststroke around the turn buoys as the chance of mistakenly kicking someone while doing so would be high.

    3.I would advise a two piece trisuit. This is what I race all my long distance races in. Its easy to stop for bathroom breaks in one. Coeur Sports makes amazingly comfortable tri shorts and tops. You should check them out. They have a unique chamois design in their shorts which really helps to eliminate any chafing. If you can’t or don’t want to pay for both pieces at the bare minimum get a pair of tri shorts and wear a running tank top and sports bra on top. The tri shorts you can use for all kinds of things after the race if you never end up doing another one. (Wear them under your normal shorts when biking around with your kids, run in them, wear them for bike rides, yoga etc.).

    4. For this I would say simply you should know how to change a flat tire before the race starts. This is a very useful skill that will help to increase your confidence biking alone and one that you will be grateful to have for the rest of your life. Perhaps someone at your local bike shop can give you a demonstration. Call ahead and ask them if they will help you with this. Ask if they have a female staff member that can show you which will probably make you feel more comfortable as you are taught and learn. Most bike shops in my town would be happy to help show someone especially if they called ahead and came in at a quiet time (ie. not a busy saturday afternoon). They will also be able to get you set up with a flat repair kit to carry on your bike when you ride and race.

    5. Practicing your nutrition strategy while training is key to make sure you do not have intestinal distress while racing. Nutrition is very personal, what works for one person will not work for everyone. I eat 100calories every 20-30 minutes on the bike and run portion of my half ironmans and ironmans. I also drink Osmo Nutrition Active Hydration during the bike. I carry one bottle of this female specific sports drink and one bottle of water (the water to rinse out my mouth after I eat). You want to eat things that are easy to digest, this means things like gels and shot bloks. I would not advise eating solid food or protein bars while racing, they will be difficult for your body to digest as there isn’t much blood flow to your stomach while you are exercising (its all going to your muscles). Again I would stress practicing during training to find out which flavours of things you like and what you can actually get down. The race will have aid stations on the bike and run where you can refuel. If you haven’t read the race guide for the race I strongly suggest doing so as it is full of very important information that will help answer your questions.

    6. You must keep 5 bike lengths between you and the person in front to avoid a drafting penalty. This is approximately 10meters. Measure out 10meters and then go out to the road and see how far that is, maybe its the distance between a certain number of markers on the road, or telephone poles. Having a visual like this will help you to make sure you are far enough behind the person in front. You can also read more about drafting and how to avoid it in the athlete guide.

    7. If your gears are not shifting well you need a tune up. Period. Book one now at a local bike shop so you don’t run out of time before the race. If you ask them to check everything on your bike and tell them you are racing soon they will let you know what needs to be replaced and will make sure its in good working order.

    8. In every race I have done you throw your empty bottle to the side of the road when you are about 50-25m away from the aid station. Then as you go by you slow right down and grab a bottle a volunteer hands you. You put it in your water bottle cage and keep riding. You can practice this in advance with some friends or your kids to make sure you know how much to slow down so you can grab the bottle. Worst case you stop and put your feet down and take the bottle but this will cause congestion for people behind you and make it difficult to get riding again. On the run the water and sports drink and or cola will be in paper cups handed to you by volunteers.

    9. I have no idea how much walking you will do on the run. It depends how things go, how strong of a runner you are, how fit you are. Whats important to remember is even if you start walking walk as fast as you can. Don’t beat yourself up if you have to walk, try and stay positive, think positive thoughts. Maybe you can do walk/run. I would say start out trying to run. You could also try doing some “brick” workouts before the race. Since I assume you have never done this workout before (and you’re now only a few weeks out from the race) maybe just try and run easy for 10min after your long bike ride so you get used to how your legs will feel switching from biking to running.

    10. Its always better to be early then late. If you aim to arrive when transition opens you will give yourself ample time to make sure everything is ready to go and you are not late.

    I hope that helps you and takes away some of your stress/fear 🙂 Remember to smile and have fun!!

    • Janice
      June 16, 2015 at 10:40 pm

      That helps immensely, thank you!!!!

    • Michele Lash
      June 17, 2015 at 11:25 am

      I second everything that Victoria says! Good luck & have fun!!

  • Emma
    June 17, 2015 at 8:08 am

    If you can come over sometime soon and try my spare wetsuit, we can maybe alleviate one of those fears! I’m just worried it’ll be too big for you and that may do more harm than good. Bring the kids over, they can play with my girls!

    Re: tire changing, it’s really, really not hard. I promise. Here’s a good video:

    Again if you can come over I’ll give you a demonstration and teach you how (you don’t actually change the tire, you just change the tube). I swap my road tire for my trainer tire at least once a week, so I’ve gotten pretty good at it! You can get set up with everything you need to repair a flat during a race for about $15-$20 (tire levers, CO2 pump and cartridges, and spare tubes. That’s it, that’s all you need). Does your bike pump have a gauge on it? If not you really need to upgrade to a proper pump that will tell you the exact PSI in your tires. You do NOT want to be riding on underinflated tires, that will slow you down a huge amount. Again if you can come over I can show you.

    For clothes you’ll want a pair of tri shorts (at this point I’d suggest going to a tri shop and buying a pair, you don’t really have time to order online and wait for them to arrive since you want to get used to them ASAP), and then you can just wear a sports bra and whatever tank you like on top. if you can get to DuTriandRun they should have a big selection.

    Hope that helps a bit! Seriously if you can come over to my place I can help you out with some of this!

    • Janice
      June 17, 2015 at 9:00 am

      Are you home Tues, Thurs or Friday next week? I’ll pick up a kit for my tube etc this week (tomorrow) and bring it over. I doubt your wetsuit will be that big on me – my proportions never really match those size charts. Thank you so much for your help!!!

      • Emma
        June 17, 2015 at 11:25 am

        Any of those days would work, just let me know when!

  • Jen @ Pretty Little Grub
    June 17, 2015 at 9:49 am

    This is why triathalons scare the crap out of me, so many logistics!
    Side note, I had no idea you could do a breast stroke in a triathalon. I suppose you can do whatever you want as long as you’re moving. But I’m actually decent at the breast stroke but freestyle I flop around and drown. That makes me think a triathalon could be in my future someday!

    • Janice
      June 17, 2015 at 10:06 am

      I usually do breaststroke- I pull over to the side of the pack so that I don’t kick anyone, and only do freestyle near the big orange turnaround balls. In the past I’ve trained at spinning class & borrowed a big for race day. If I can do it, so can you! I

  • rachel
    June 17, 2015 at 9:52 am

    Hugs mama. You totally got this! I am SO excited to follow you on race day and hear all about it! 🙂

  • Steph
    June 17, 2015 at 10:21 am

    Ok, first things first. DON’T PANIC. This is probably a lot of stuff that you should have considered sooner but it is not too late!
    1/2 – I’m not a wetsuit fan but if it’s going to be cold, you may want one. Sounds like you may have found one to borrow, but they often have rentals at the expo as well
    3 – The one piece tri suit is fine! I haven’t had to bathroom during any of my 70.3s and the one piece is very comfortable. Don’t stress about this.
    4 – Learn how to change a tire, stat! It’s not too difficult and even if you can just get the process started, it’s better than sitting on the side of the road waiting for race support. Go to your LBS, ask them to get you the tools you need and to show you how to do it. They will help you!
    5 – What have you been training with on your long rides? Go with that. Focus on fuel in the first half of the bike, especially. It’s much easier to take in fuel on the bike than on the run. The what doesn’t matter too much – go with what you would normally use.
    6 – don’t stress about this. It is not a big deal, and in the unlikely even that you get a penalty, use it as an opportunity to rest, regroup and get some fuel in.
    7 – YES. do this when you’re at your LBS getting your flat tools. Do not do it the day before the race
    8 – If you are comfortable, you can grab them on the go, but if not, your best bet is to stop your bike just past the last table (carefully!), and the volunteers will help you fill your bottles. Also a good opportunity to pee if necessary
    9 – I can’t help you here. I’m a terrible runner and I walk a lot. But don’t go out too hard! Run strong and focus on getting enough fuel and water
    10 – I don’t know the logistics of this race but it’s better to have too much time than not enough

    Again. Don’t freak out!! you are going to be fine and do great! My coach always says – remember to smile! This is supposed to be fun!

    • Janice
      June 17, 2015 at 10:32 am

      Thanks Steph, these are fantastic tips! I’ll be heading to the LBS for tire/tube repair/replacement materials tomorrow night & my pal Emma is gonna lend me a wetsuit & teach me to change a flat… So excited as all of these great comments like you have helped me to feel empowered to overcome my fears. Thank you!

  • Felix Lee
    June 17, 2015 at 11:57 am

    I guess this blog about these 10 things that scare me about Ironman 70.3 would be really helpful and inspiring too. Great share!

  • Jon Clegg
    June 17, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    Hi Janice
    This is a great post (and some very useful comments as well!). I’ve been thinking of signing up for my first triathlon, and I am sharing some of your concerns – although mine is just a small one! I do a fair bit of at home cardio work, but I do not spend too much time swimming or cycling. Not sure I could do all 3 in one day in 1 race! But I guess you don’t know until you try. I’ll certainly be taking a lot of tips from the discussion here! So thank you for that!
    I’ll keep checking back to hear how you got on. Good luck!
    Kind regards

  • Abby @ BackAtSquareZero
    June 17, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    Oh heavens. I hope you get it all figured out pre-race. All this type stuff is why I must admit I am a bit scared to try a tri.


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