3. For optimal success, make a mental game of it.
Not only do you have to carefully manage your physical energy throughout race day, how you cultivate, save, manage and spend your mental energy is crucial to peak performance. Race nerves, for example, can help you boost performance several levels but overstimulation of race nerves can do the opposite. One of the problems of the Hawaii Ironman is stress incurred when thinking about how bloody overwhelming it all is. I mean, come on: a rollicking 2.4 mile ocean swim (with 1850 others, hence, the great “washing machine” image), a 112-mile bike ride through the trade winds of a volcanic island and a 26.2-mile run in the humidity of a sunny tropical island afternoon.
Let’s try not to think about this all at once. Rather, break the race up into a bunch of small pieces—the first five minutes of the swim (goal, to get some breathing room); the remaining first leg of the swim (goals: establish smooth breathing pattern, focus on technique, establish correct pace). Or during the bike (error-free transition, use first few miles to warm-up into rhythm, consume x ounces of fluid, eat x ounces of food; break the whole ride into segments, trying to stay in the goal pace for each segment, staying aero as much as possible).
The key here is to break the entire race into bite-sized segments and then to channel all of your concentration only into the segment, and the objectives of the segment, forgetting (as best you can) that there’s anything beyond the immediate task at hand. The purpose of this strategy is to prevent complete freak-outs (“What the hell have I got myself into?”) and to make sure you continue to check off those tiny little goals that, combined, build toward an optimal performance.