The TriDot Podcast

Top Tips for Choosing Your Next IRONMAN®

Episode Summary

Signing up for an IRONMAN® is a big commitment. Some athletes have dreamed of a particular finish line. Others agonize over the decision about which race to place on their calendar. Considering factors such as course difficulty, strength of field, location, and your own goals can ensure a memorable and enjoyable experience. Join the TriDot Podcast hosts as they discuss the tools, tips, and strategies of choosing the right IRONMAN®.

Episode Transcription

TriDot Podcast .06:

Top Tips for Choosing Your Next Ironman

This is the TriDot Podcast. TriDot uses your training data and genetic profile combined with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to optimize your training, giving you better results in less time with fewer injuries. Our podcast is here to educate, inspire, and entertain. We'll talk all things triathlon with expert coaches and special guests. Join the conversation and let's improve together.

Andrew: Welcome to the TriDot podcast. We've got some great stuff for you today. With me in studio is coach John Mayfield. John has literally coached hundreds of Ironman finishers in his illustrious coaching career. Did you know that most TriDot coaches also have a coach? That man is usually John Mayfield. He's the coach’s coach, and one of my favorite people to sit down and talk triathlon with. John, excited to have you on today.

John: Excited to be here. It’s one of my favorite topics, so ready to get going.

Andrew: Next up is coach Elizabeth James. Elizabeth is a professional triathlete and four-time Ironman finisher. She's a Kona qualifier and Boston qualifier who has been coaching TriDot athletes for over four years now. Elizabeth, are you excited to talk Ironmans with me today?

Elizabeth: Oh, yes. Always excited to chat about triathlon, Ironman in particular, choosing which Ironman event to race is a question that I get asked very frequently. So, I can't wait to dive into this further today.

Andrew: We're going to get warmed up today by asking John and Elizabeth a tryout training question that I've seen quite a few athletes asked recently. Then we'll get to our main set discussion about how to choose the right Ironman for you. Then we'll cool down with a segment that we call, ”Gear We Use.” This is the part of the show where John and Elizabeth will both talk to me about something they actually use in their own training and racing. And since we're talking about Ironman today, they're going to share what gear they use in their special needs bag on race day. Lots to cover. Let's get to it.

Time to warm up. Let's get moving.

Andrew: So, John and Elizabeth, as I mentioned, I'm hoping you can help bring a little clarity to a frequently-asked training question. The people want to know when a TriDot workout prescribes a certain amount of time in heart rate, zone two, what happens if an athlete has to walk to keep their heart rate down in that zone? A few of our athletes are saying that they have to walk the entire time for zone-two workouts, and they're questioning, is that helpful to their training? John, what would you say to TriDot athletes experiencing this issue?

John: Yeah, this is actually something that's fairly common, especially among new TriDot athletes or new athletes new to structured training. Really, the purpose and intent of training is to train the entire athlete. So, there are a lot of muscular systems or energy systems. And what we don't want to do is focus on a limited number of those, we want to train all of them. All of those things factor into race day. So, the better, well-rounded the athlete is, the better they're going to perform, the better they're going to train, the better they're going to recover. So, it's important to develop the full athlete. And part of that and a very important piece of that is developing aerobic efficiency. So, that's one of the primary purposes of that zone-two training is to allow the body to develop aerobic efficiency. So, basically, the cardiovascular system being efficient in providing oxygen, blood, energy to the muscular system, so that the athlete can perform. So, the way that is done is by spending time at that low heart rate. So, that really is the purpose, that is the intent that is how that objective is completed. So, that's what it requires. So, in order to develop that aerobic efficiency, to really dial in that low heart rate, where you can achieve a higher intensity level, you do have to spend time at that low, heart rate zone. So, it may require walking early on, or it may even require a slower run pace. Whatever you have to do to maintain that heart rate is what needs to be done in order to develop that aerobic efficiency.

Andrew: Because that's the point of that workout.

John: Exactly. And what you'll see in time is no longer having to walk. So, usually what we recommend is a run/walk protocol. If the athlete can't sustain that low heart rate at the run pace, then implement the run/walk protocol. And what they will begin to see is the walk breaks are less frequent, the walk breaks are shorter. At some point, the athlete will be able to sustain their zone-two run pace at that zone-two heart rate. And then we'll begin to see as this is kind of where it kind of gets magical, they'll be able to actually sustain faster paces at that same heart rate. And that'll translate not only at the zone-two heart rate or the zone-two run pace, that's going to translate throughout the spectrum of their marathon pace, their threshold pace. They’re going to be able to sustain those higher intensity levels at lower heart rate. So, it's kind of the win-win of higher output at a lower input. So, less required from the body getting more out of it. So, that's really the purpose of that, at the end of the day, to be able to increase the output and reduce the input.

Andrew: And so for those athletes who are out there, and they're finding themselves walking a lot in those sessions, like they need to be reassured, like that's fine because the point of that session isn't necessarily for you to run. If you run in that session, cool. But if walking is what it takes to be in heart rate to zone two, that's the point of this session this session is to work a different system than your legs. There will be other sessions where you get a chance to work out your legs, right?

John: Absolutely. So, it's really a cardiovascular training session, and we use metrics like pace, but really the importance and the purpose of this is training the cardiovascular system. It doesn't really have anything to do with miles or your pace per mile or anything like that. It's training the cardiovascular system to be more efficient, so that you can utilize that on race day.

Andrew: Well, I feel like John's nice and warmed up. I mean, great, great answer. I mean spot on. But Elizabeth, do you have anything to add?

Elizabeth: I mean, really just kind of some reassurance for the athletes out there that are probably struggling with this concept. You know, just wanted to reassure them that each TriDot workout is prescribed with that particular purpose, and there is a targeted outcome that we're hoping to achieve from that session. So, elevating the heart rate outside of that aerobic zone in a session, like we mentioned, could really compromise future training sessions. So, athletes should feel confident that they're doing the best thing that they can for their progress by keeping the easy effort on those days so that they can conquer the workouts that required increased intensity later on.

On to the main set. Going on in 3, 2, 1.

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Whether it's your first or 20th, signing up for an Ironman is a big deal. I've never in my triathlete life felt more pressure than the full week I agonized over which Ironman event to choose from my first 140.6. The coaches joining me today have a combined nine Ironman finishes and have coached athletes to finishes all over the world. John, Elizabeth, take me back to the beginning of your Ironman careers. What was your first full length Ironman and why did you choose that race?

John: My first Ironman was Ironman Florida. I chose the race because I had a couple buddies that were doing it so probably like a lot of folks got roped in with some peer pressure. I was able to go out the year before back then. In order to sign up for Ironman Florida you basically had to be on site the prior year to get in. It sold out the day of registration for several years so –

Andrew: Kinda like Ironman Arizona today.

John: Yeah. So, a year prior, we drove from Texas to Florida, checked out the race and we're able to do some recon. That was actually my first Ironman experience, first time I'd seen an Ironman race and all the hoopla and fanfare that goes into it, so that was really exciting. Man, I remember standing on the beach with a helicopter circling above, it was super cold and really looking forward to being able to take it on the next year. So, I did. Went back the next year, had a fantastic race and became an Ironman.

Andrew: So, Elizabeth, which one did you choose?

Elizabeth: My first full-distance Ironman was Ironman Wisconsin in 2015. So, in 2014, when I was deciding which event I wanted to sign up for as my first one, I was living in Nebraska. So, Ironman Wisconsin was the closest event to my home. I also knew that for my first event, I wanted to have the opportunity to see the course and train on the course a few times before race week. So, the accessibility of the Wisconsin course really made that a good choice for me.

Andrew: What I love about what both of you just said is that even just amongst the two of you that your primary motivation for which race you chose was different. For Elizabeth, it was, oh, this one's close. So, it's going to be really easy logistically to get there and race it. For John, it was when my friends are doing this one so let me go to do this one. So, for athletes out there when they're looking at different races, there's so many different reasons they can pick one or the other. What are some of the variables that they should really be factoring in when choosing their race?

Elizabeth: Oh, yeah, absolutely. There's a lot that goes into that decision. One of the things that I sit down and talk with athletes about is that, for most of us, triathlon is ultimately a hobby. It's a sport that rather than getting a paycheck from. We actually make a considerable financial investment to be able to participate.

Andrew: Yes, we do.

Elizabeth: Yes. And so when determining which races to register for, I think one of the first things and a very important thing to consider is just enjoyment, and which course is enticing, what's going to motivate you, what's going to excite you?

Andrew: Yeah, I mean, you're committing to be on a course for 10, 11, 12 hours if you're competitive and sometimes for some people, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 hours. So, I guess making sure it's a place you want to be racing in, a course that you're going to enjoy. That enjoyment factor is a great, that's a really great point. John, are there anything else that you would have had people consider?

John: Yeah, I think enjoyment is always obviously important in doing this because it is a hobby. But I think people define enjoyment differently, kind of often lines up with what their goals are, what their objectives are. So, for some, it may just be to experience Ironman for the first time. Others, it may be to set a PR, to take on a challenging course, to qualify for Kona or something like that. So, I think everybody has different objectives, and everyone would kind of define “enjoy” a little bit different. But whatever that is, I think that needs to be a very prominent factor in the decision.

Andrew: Now a lot of factors can sway what makes one course more difficult than another. And there are a few factors here to consider. So, we'll have Elizabeth and John both weigh in. Elizabeth, what is one factor that an athlete should consider as they determine how difficult a race might be for them?

Elizabeth: I would say that one thing to consider is body mass variance and how the course elevation profile can be impacted by that. Now, maybe that's kind of cheating, as I've somewhat mentioned two items there, but I do feel like they are very closely related. There's a wide range of elevation profiles on the Ironman circuit, but in general, you have flat rolling and then your hilly courses. There's challenging bike courses, challenging run courses. Some have much greater elevation profiles than others. And from those elevation profiles, there's kind of two things there to consider. You have an athlete's body mass and their experience and their strength in that particular day. And so I said body mass variance is something to consider because an athlete's body mass will have an impact on a course with more elevation, let's say in comparison to a course that is flatter.

Andrew: So, kind of a concrete example, somebody like me, who is, I'm five foot seven, I'm 135 pounds. I'm not a powerful cyclist, but I'm a light guy. So, the elevation of a course might impact me less than somebody who just frankly has a bigger body, right? Like, I mean, John, you're taller than me, you're bigger bone than me. John's very fit if you're not looking at John, so this isn't a John's-fatter-than-Andrew kind of comment. But someone who just frankly has more mass like you have, someone like you, can be more affected by elevation gain than me, is that kind of the understanding here?

John: Absolutely. So, it kind of comes back to watts-per-kilogram type thing and when you have more to carry up with the same power-to-watt ratio, it’s going to be more difficult to carry that additional mass up. So, yeah, so for the larger athletes, that's definitely going to be a major consideration and a big impact. Whereas two athletes with different builds may perform similarly on a flat course, the more elevation there is, the bigger the delta between the performance is going to be, assuming those athletes have a comparable fitness level. Simply because that larger athlete has that much more mass to carry up all that elevation.

Andrew: The fitness level is a good point there because, I mean, the bike is not my strong suit. So, there are definitely athletes with more mass, I mean, yourself included, who will out-bike me on a hilly course. But we're just talking just in theory when you're trying to pick a course, know that the bigger you are, the more it's going to affect you, right?

John: Absolutely. Yeah, and that's just working against gravity is all that is. But yeah, you can certainly overcome it. That doesn't mean that the larger athletes can't take on those. It's just going to be an additional requirement for those athletes to do. It's math, it's gravity, the larger, heavier athlete has more to carry up to the top of the hill. So, it's going to take a little bit longer to get up there.

Andrew: So, elevation is obviously a big consideration, but there's even a few more beyond that. John, what are some of the other things they should be looking at and what course might be the best fit for them?

John: One thing to really consider is climate. There's a wide variety of climates represented in the Ironman courses even within the U.S. You have courses that are known for being notoriously hot, hot and humid, others are dry, others are traditionally cooler. And different athletes thrive in different conditions. Some do really well in the heat, some really have a hard time in cool. And so it's always important to know what your strengths are and adjust and make your decisions based on that information, take that into consideration at least. So, I live on the Texas Gulf Coast. I train in the heat but I don't particularly enjoy racing in it. I've raced in some hot races, but I really enjoy more of the fall races and the spring races that tend to be a little cooler. And that's just me, I just enjoy racing in those. I race better. I've done the hot races and I just don't enjoy them as much. So, kind of now at the point of my triathlon career where I am, I'm kind of more about enjoying the race, as opposed to seeing how much I can suffer. So, for me, that plays into it, I prefer a little bit cooler races. But again, depending on what your objective is, what your goals are, that may be an additional consideration.

Andrew: So, depending on what ability you’re at as an athlete, should everybody be factoring in something like strength of the competition or is that for just the pros and the elites that need to be considering who is going to show up to that race on race day?

John: Strength of field is definitely more of a consideration for those that are looking to qualify for Kona, either achieve all-world status, those sort of things simply because certain races tend to attract stronger fields. Obviously, Kona is the strongest field out there because the vast majority of those athletes have qualified to be there, and they represent the best in the world. So, it's a very, very strong field. But even from there, there are different races that have different strengths of field. Oftentimes, the regional championships attract strong athletes, so it may be more difficult to qualify those races, it may be more difficult to get the all-world athlete points. So, if that's your objective, those are things to take into consideration as well.

Andrew: It's a real objective, like I gotta keep my Bronze status, John.

John: Absolutely.

Andrew: I gotta keep it, there's perks.

John: Yeah, you don't want to wait in the long line. So, Elizabeth for you because you just qualified for Kona and raced Kona once, and are trying to kind of go back and qualify again? So, after you finished your first few Ironmans, did qualify for Kona, as a consideration did that start really impacting which races you chose?

Elizabeth: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I would say that choosing a race with the goal of qualifying for Kona was a much more strategic decision than choosing my previous events. For me, I qualified at Ironman Chattanooga. Ironman Chattanooga has the down-current river swim, which would be very beneficial to me as the swim is my weakest discipline, then the extra four miles on the bike course would give me some additional time to make up for what I would be behind coming out of the water. And then the challenging section of the run course that is north of the river would play to my strengths as a runner. So, I mean, the course profile itself was going to be a good choice for me. Then on top of that, Chattanooga has been historically hot, so training in the Texas summer heat would also be something that I would be prepared for going into that race event.

Andrew: So, John, you coach a lot of athletes for TriDot, but you also coach a lot of our coaches, and you coach Elizabeth, and so you are helping Elizabeth kind of make those decisions. So, for someone else that's in that spot, they want to pick a race that maximizes their potential to qualify for Kona. John, what advice do you have for them?

John: It's really the same whether you're looking to qualify for Kona, or set a PR or just really enjoy the day as best you can. It's knowing your strengths and your weaknesses and recognizing those, and then finding the course that suits those. So, Elizabeth cited three great examples of why Chattanooga really was a good fit for her in her ambition of qualifying for Kona, and it worked beautifully. So, she was able to achieve that and do so on that course. So, yeah, it's knowing what you're good at, knowing where you tend to struggle a little bit, where you're not as proficient, where you're not as strong, and finding the best course. It may not be three-for-three like Elizabeth was in Chattanooga, but if you can find two out of three that really suits you, then that's going to set you up. Again, whether it's setting up to win your age group and qualify for Kona or set a PR or just enjoy the day. Where your strengths are, where your weaknesses are, find the course, even things to consider like cold water. There are several races out there that are known for cold water. Certain people just don't do well in cold water so if that's the case, you know maybe Ironman Arizona is not a good case for you, where you may be great in the flat bike and the flat run, but if you can't handle swimming in 65 degree water or colder, Arizona is going to be a rough day because that's how you're going to start off is in some cold water. And those are just kind of things to take into consideration again just to maximize the day because you got a lot going in. So, you want to enjoy the day, you want to get the most out of that as possible because you're putting a lot into it.

Andrew: Now guys, I love traveling for races and I was a little apprehensive though about traveling far away from home for a full distance Ironman. John with your athletes, have you found distance from home to be a major factor on Ironman performance?

John: Not really. The vast majority of athletes that are racing these races are traveling to one degree or another. There are very few athletes that will get to sleep in their own bed the night before the race. So, most folks that qualify for Kona or set a PR traveled to the venue in order to do that. In fact, one thing I found, personally was when I raced Ironman Texas, it's in my hometown of Houston. I had a hard time disconnecting. And so I continued to work late into the week. I continued to do the things around the house that I maybe wouldn't have normally done had I gotten out of town a couple days earlier.

Andrew: So, it really prevented you from entering into race mode, right.

John: Yeah. So, it was kind of a different experience for me racing in my own town. There were certain advantages. I didn't have the hours of travel and some of the other things that go along with it, but I feel like I kind of enjoyed some of the other experiences more because there was travel. It can certainly be a challenge and it’s something that we can mitigate and we do need to we need to plan for, especially with longer travel. So, especially if you're flying international, that kind of presents a whole other set of issues with jet lag, additional time in the airports, connecting flights, all those kinds of things. But even if you're flying across the country or flying for a couple hours, don't stay seated on an airplane for three or four hours or not get out of the car for three, four hours if you're on a road trip. So, all those things you just plan for, mitigate them. Another thing is travel tends to be stressful. Ironman racing also tends to be stressful when you're kind of doubling up on those. So, what I always advise athletes to do is plan as much as possible in advance and really lean on your support staff to help take care of some of those details and things leading into the travel just so that you can relax and focus on your race. Let them mess with some of those logistics of getting to the race.

Elizabeth: Oh, yeah. I mean, just to kind of chime in here a little bit. Think of it this way, almost every athlete travels for Kona. I mean, there are very few local athletes in comparison –

Andrew: Yeah, unless you’re from Hawaii, even from California that's still a six-hour flight.

Elizabeth: Yeah. I mean, in comparison to the large field that's coming from around the world, there are very few people that don't travel. And those athletes have the best performances in the world. So, as John was talking about mitigating these effects of travel, they have done that. They've mitigated the factors that can affect them on race day. Many of them have crossed multiple time zones and have experienced a degree of jet lag from the long trip. But they've planned ahead for this and they'll travel to the race site early, they'll allow for that acclimation time, and it's still very possible to have a great race day, even if you're traveling a long distance.

Andrew: So, if you're out there and you're listening to us today, I think the takeaway here is just a word of encouragement. Hey, if you if you want to go race in Hawaii, if you want to go race in Europe, if you want to go race down under, if you want to choose a race on the other side of the country, it can be done, you can have a great race, you just, the farther it is, the more you have to think in advance, the more you have to plan in advance, and you can still have that great experience we've been talking about. So, that's really, really good to hear. Now, here's another thing, though, there have been several times that I've gone to the Ironman website to kind of scout out the elevation profile of a certain course. And the list, the elevation gain number, and then I'll have a friend of mine that, on their Strava, they've done that same course and their Strava data might list a totally different elevation number. And then I'll find the blog somewhere with another athlete who's done that race and they'll show a third entirely different elevation number. What should athletes be looking at when they're scouting for race course information?

Elizabeth: Oh, goodness. Yeah. There's quite the variety there. One of the things that I would say is, well and that I do, I encourage athletes just to reference the elevation profile on the Ironman site, and not to get caught up in all of the various listings from other sources. To be honest, a 200-feet difference in elevation gain is not going to change your training approach. The elevation profile is going to give you enough information to know if it's a flat course or if it's a hilly course. And on race day, those couple feet of difference, that doesn't make a difference. Everybody's going to be doing the same amount of elevation gain. Gosh, like one of the great debates is what is the elevation profile of Lake Placid? You've got 5,500 feet 7,000 feet, there's a crazy variance and –

Andrew: It's like either way, that's a tough course, either way it’s a big number.

Elizabeth: Right. Exactly. And I think that's the point here that at the end of the day, nobody is going to say that Lake Placid is a flat bike course. And so when I work with athletes, I kind of break down the bike courses into three different categories. So, you’ve got your courses that are generally flat. You've got Texas, Arizona, Florida. Then you've got courses that are composed of some rolling hills. So, you've got your Chattanooga, Louisville, Santa Rosa. And then you've got what I would call your hilly or your climbing courses. So, you've got St. George, Wisconsin, Lake Placid. I know I've just mentioned some of the U.S. races there, but it's the same idea for any other course. And the exact number of feet or meters isn't going to be as important as just a general understanding of what type of course it is that you're preparing for. So, don't get hung up on that, don't let the discrepancy in the numbers be a cause for stress. There are far more important things to focus on like your preparations.

Andrew: Now, I've heard athletes that live in flatter places and we're in Texas, right, so we firsthand can talk about this and deal with this. I've heard athletes say that they should avoid hilly courses since they don't have the opportunity to train on hills. Is that a true concern or is that a myth?

John: It's really one of those things that kind of makes sense on the surface, but I would chalk that up as a myth. And really, there is plenty of opportunity for anyone to prepare really for any course profile. And what it comes down to is just proper preparation, it comes down to how you train. So, the body does not perceive that it is climbing elevation. What the body knows is that it's increasing output. And so you can very easily replicate that in your training. So, basically what it takes is time at higher intensity. Oftentimes, we do it at a lower cadence when we're climbing hills. So, whether you're on a flat stretch of road or you're on the trainer, you can mimic those hills with higher intensity, higher output, lower cadence, and you can completely prepare for any given course. That's something that we've seen the pros do in the last several years.

Andrew: Yeah, that’s very true.

John: And a lot of cyclists anymore, getting off the roads in favor of trainers just for safety and convenience and training quality. So, obviously, when you're on a trainer you're not going anywhere and you're certainly not going up at all.

Andrew: There's zero elevation.

John: Zero elevation gain on the trainer. If not, you've got problems. But yeah, you can absolutely increase your output, lower your cadence, and that's going to be the same training effect, same perception to –

Andrew: Because your body doesn't know, your body just knows it’s putting in an effort. It doesn’t know whether that effort is up or down or flat.

John: Exactly. So, yeah, it's very possible. Now, the one caveat there is just having the ability to ride in the hills, that there is a little bit of technical expertise, technical experience. You need to be proficient in climbing hills and descending hills. So, it's a little bit different than riding in the flats. But it's something that most cyclists have the ability to do. So, take that in consideration is what level of –

Andrew: Of a climber, yeah.

John: Yeah, just as long as you can do it safely. Having the fitness to do it, absolutely is possible for anyone.

Andrew: Now, race websites also really talk up all the touristy things each host city has to offer for athletes and their families. Now, I'm totally asking this out of ignorance. Do the host city amenities really make a huge difference for the spectators?

John: I think they can. So, there are obviously certain things that are different in each course. So, whether it's the athletes and the days leading into the race, or the spectators on race day, really all these cities are kind of unique. They all offer neat things to see and do. So, just kind of a word of caution is leading into the race, we want to generally primarily focused on being ready for race day, so oftentimes that means getting off your feet, and not doing some of the touristy things.

Andrew: So, no going on a hike outside of Chattanooga Tennessee with the family, no going to the Tulsa Zoo when your family visits the zoo the day before your Ironman in Tulsa.

John: Maybe not, depending on your goals and your ambitions. Maybe it's waiting till after the race to sample Sonoma County's wine or Louisville’s bourbon. But yeah, there's a lot of stuff to do in all these cities. There's a lot of neat locations where these races are hosted and a lot of these cities are places that you wouldn't necessarily go otherwise. I know personally Chattanooga, Tennessee is a neat town that I probably never would have gone to had I not traveled to an Ironman race to do it. There's lots of them like that. Cambridge, Maryland is another one. I guarantee you I would have never been able to check out Cambridge, Maryland had there not been an Ironman there. But there's really some gems out there that are great cities to visit. They offer fantastic hospitality. A lot of these towns really turn out for the race, really support the athletes, and really enhance the experience both for the athletes and the support crews.

Andrew: So, maybe the word for the athletes listening is hey, the race experience for your family can be cool if you're deciding between two races and you're kind of indifferent, which one your family might be interested in traveling to could be a tiebreaker, maybe. But if there's one course that's better for you, probably lean that way before you consider the spectator experience.

John: Yeah, again, it all comes back to personal preference and how you define success and how you define enjoyment.

Andrew: All right. Well, guys, before we head to our cool down, this has been a lot of really, really great stuff. And I mean, just honestly, I wish I could have had this kind of a conversation before I was picking my first Ironman, because there's just so many, so many factors I felt overwhelmed. And all of these just tidbits, like just having somebody tell you like, hey, just to settle down, pick one you're going to enjoy is really, really great stuff. But before we head to our cool down, I've got to know and I trust the people want to know what Ironman are each of you guys eyeballing for your next race and why?

Elizabeth: Gosh, I haven't made any big decisions yet. So, this is a tough one for me. I really enjoyed taking this last year to focus on my marathon time and the 70.3 distance. I know I've gotten a lot faster, a lot stronger. I can't wait to put that toward a full distance event again. The longer events are my favorite, and I've definitely missed racing at the full distance this past year and I'm anxious to get back to it. I know that I'm looking to get back to Kona and make another run at a Kona qualification. So, I think full is absolutely in the cards for 2020, but I have not yet registered for a particular race or made any big decisions yet.

Andrew: Now, that's very different from John who has registered for his next Ironman. John, why don't you tell us what your next race is?

John: So, I'm days away from Ironman Arizona. This will actually be my second Ironman in about six weeks. So, that's something that I've never done before and so it's been a couple years since I've raced Ironman so to do two in six weeks has been a bit of a different experience. But going forward I'll probably head back, put my coaching cap back on, and do everything I can to help Elizabeth and everybody else achieve their goals.

Andrew: Well, John, we wish you all the best of luck in Arizona. If you're listening to this and you're farther in the future than we are, John may have already completed Ironman Arizona, hopefully. And yeah, well best of luck to you, my friend.

Great set everyone. Let's cool down.

Andrew: All right. For our cool down today we're going to do a segment that we call, “Gear We Use.” Now this is not us talking about different things you can do. This is not us talking about all the options of things you can do. This is us talking about when our coaches are in their training or when they're in the middle of race mode, what is the actual gear they are using? So, this might not be the best fit for you, this might be a great fit for you. But I personally like knowing hey, people that know more than me, what are they using? So, John, you are racing this weekend and for this edition of gear we use I want to know this, what are you guys actually putting in your special needs bag on race day? A lot of athletes out there if they're looking to move up to the Ironman distance, they've raced some sprints, they've raced some Olympics. Somebody like me, I've raced some half's, you don't deal with the special needs back in those races. So, I've never had to consider before what should I put in that bag, what is actually going to be helpful? So, when you line up this weekend that Ironman Arizona, what's in your special needs bag?

John: So, maybe we should call it gear we hope we don't have to use. Oftentimes, that's kind of what special needs is. For some, they're definitely going to plan and stop and use that gear. For me, it's usually more gear I hope I don't have to use. So, for the bike, usually what I'll do is carry extra tubes in case I flat out there. I carry tubes on my bike.

Andrew: It's what everyone should be doing.

John: Absolutely. It's good to know I've got some backup out there that I can pick up. So, spare tube, spare co2, that's really what I put in my bike special needs bags. Other things that are real common are backup nutrition. So, if you're not using the on course nutrition, your special needs bag is a great opportunity for a refill. Other things can be just like comfort things, comfort food, snack, anything like that, that you may need out there on the bike. For the run, pretty minimal as well, Ironman Arizona is a very well-lit course oftentimes, we recommend a headlamp for those who are going to be out after sunset because a lot of the courses get dark. Ironman Arizona is a little unique in that it's all along a path and pretty well lit, even after sunset. So, if I'm out there after dark that's not really a concern. Now, one thing I always carry in my run special needs bag is some candy. My usual go-to is Sour Patch Kids. So, just something a little different-- [crosstalk]

Andrew: Oh, nice. What a crowd pleaser.

John: Yeah, absolutely. And it is you know, you make a lot of friends when you stop at your special needs bag and you have some candy to--

Andrew: And you’re the guy on course carrying Sour Patch Kids.

John: Yeah, you know, always make sure I have enough to share. So, yeah that's what's in my special needs bag.

Andrew: Very fun. Elizabeth, do you do anything different?

Elizabeth: I guess my approach to the special needs bags is a little bit different. Certainly, I have those items that you hope you do not have to use. But I purposefully do stop at both the bike and the run special needs because for me that is my refill of nutrition. And so I-- [crosstalk]

Andrew: And so instead of carrying it you're counting on getting it you know right there, taking a minute or two and getting right back on course?

Elizabeth: Yes, absolutely. So, I use UCAN as my on course nutrition. And so since that is not offered on the course, I do make it a very purposeful style to kind of pick up the nutrition that I’ll need for the second part of the bike course. And then again on the run, I make my own gel packets out of UCAN, and so I'm picking those up as well.

Andrew: Well that's it for today, folks. I want to thank coaches John Mayfield and Elizabeth James for the race selection tips. Shout out to our friends at TriBike Transport for bringing us today show. When you use today's tips to choose the right race for you, the next step is connecting with TriBike Transport and letting them get your bike there race ready and stress free. Head to TriBikeTransport.com and use coupon code, TRIDOT POD to book your transport. Enjoying the podcast? Have any triathlon questions or topics you want to hear us talk about? Email us at Podcast@TriDot.com and let us know what you're thinking. Again, that's Podcast@TriDot.com. We'll do it again soon. Until then, happy training.

Thanks for joining us. Make sure to subscribe and share the TriDot Podcast with your triathlon crew. For more great Tri content and community, connect with us on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Ready to optimize your training? Head to TriDot.com and start your free trial today. TriDot, the obvious and automatic choice for triathlon training.