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Seven pro tips for Ironman Arizona from Jen Annett

Last year, Jen Annett finished third at Ironman Arizona. This year, she is back and ready to compete for the top spot. As you get ready for your own race, Annett shares a few tips for race day in Tempe, Arizona.

Jen Annett. Photo: Jen Annett

— by Jen Annett

This will be my third year racing Ironman Arizona, and I keep coming back for a variety of reasons – the weather, time of year and its course.

You should expect to have a “fast” day. The course is relatively flat with no big surprises and the weather is almost always perfect. Whether you are racing Ironman Arizona for the first time, or want to better your race from a previous year, I’ve got some tips for you for race day.

Jen Annett finishes third at IRONMAN Arizona in 2017.
  1. We will start with the swim. The water is quite murky and cool (19-20 degrees Celsius). I don’t think it has ever been a non-wetsuit swim, but I would pack a swim skin in addition to your wetsuit just in case. The swim is one loop, so there is no issue of fast swimmers running into slower ones on a second loop.
  2. The bike is relatively flat and fast. However, it is a three loop course, which means that you can expect a lot of congestion. Unfortunately, I have seen many crashes each year. It is so important to keep your head up. Yes, I know we all want to keep our head down to stay as aero as possible, but it’s not going to help you if you run into another cyclist. Stay to the right as much as possible if you aren’t passing. When it comes to passing, be sure to yell “on your left” to warn the riders in front of you, as well as keeping your ears open for others wanting to pass you. Regardless of how fast or slow a rider you are, congestion on this course is unavoidable, but scary situations are if we all play as safe as possible.
  3. Special needs: This is not at the halfway point on this course, and you should be sure to plan your nutrition accordingly. You will pass special needs three times at approx. 40, 100 and 160km, but can only access it once. I would encourage you to attend the athlete briefing in case this has changed.
  4. The run is two loops and has a few small rises but no huge hills. It is a very exposed course, so it can get quite hot with very little shade. Be sure to keep your electrolytes in check and use sponges and ice whenever possible to help keep the body cool. It looks like this year could be a little cooler in comparison to some previous years, but that could easily change.
  5. As in any race…. Please, please, don’t try anything new on race day. If you haven’t tried or tested it in training, don’t try it on race day. The only exception to this is if you have something unexpectedly go wrong and need to improvise. For example, if you lose a bottle on the bike. Rather than not taking in any nutrition or hydration at all, which would be more detrimental, you may need to use what is on course. Going under fuelled or dehydrated will end your day sooner than taking a chance on back up nutrition/hydration.
  6. On the nutrition subject: Gatordae will be on course, however, Canadians need to be aware that the Gatorade in the US is completely different than what we have in Canada. It always contained more sodium than ours did. Gatorade reformulated their US product last year, and it now contains maltodextrin, half the amount of simple sugars and also contains fructose. It’s basically an entirely different product. These are all important things to consider when planning out your day. You can be in the best shape of your life going into a race, but if your nutrition fails, you won’t be giving all that hard training a chance to shine.
  7. Last but not least, be safe and have fun. You have put in all the work to get to that start line, so go out and enjoy it!