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Coaches Blog

Avoid the Pre-IRONMAN Freak Out!

Updated: Jan 16, 2020

by Mandi Kowal

Taking on, preparing for, and completing an IRONMAN is a daunting task. So understandably athletes are going to start to question their ability to complete the event or race to their potential. As the race nears, this feeling intensifies.

You hear those voices asking questions like: "Am I ready?" "What if I don't finish?" "Will I make the cut off?" and/or "Will I qualify for Kona?" These are protective mechanisms coming from an old part of the brain.

Don't listen to those voices. Don't freak out!

One thing you can do to quell the "freak out" is fill your head with champion thoughts. I've been racing for most of my life and I quickly found that winning thoughts are the way to go. I see it like filling the bank. Race day you get to cash it in.

The other thing you can do is take action and prepare.

Here are some more tips that have helped myself and countless athletes to maintain composure when closing in on an IRONMAN.


One Month Out:

  • Organize the packing list and tentative schedule

  • Have Plan Bs for race day. Be prepared for the lows and decide now how you will respond to those low moments or unexpected mishaps.

  • Purchase things you need now.

  • Set up appointments for bike service, massage, child care.

  • Avoid social media to minimize prerace stress.

Two weeks:

  • Get your bike serviced

  • Type out your plan for the weekend of the race including action steps

  • Get a massage or two

  • Start to pack your gear bags (I used old IRONMAN bags and taped packing lists to them)

Week of/Day of:

  • Set up your gear bags with the lists on the outside. Put as much in as possible and highlight on your list what needs to be added.

  • Have some fun and compute the number of miles you swam, rode and ran over the course of your training cycle. Those are the facts.

  • Surround yourself with others who are confident, positive and make you at ease. Step away from those in turmoil.

  • Enjoy some time away from the race expo. Focus on something besides the race to give your mind a break. Read a good book, watch a movie/Netflix, or hang with family and friends.

  • Embrace the energy and see this experience as a true and awesome celebration of all the work you put in and sacrifices you've made.

  • Accept current level of fitness. Remember - slightly undertrained athletes always perform better than very over trained athletes.


Here are some examples of winning thoughts. Practice these through training and remember them on race day.

  • "Look at all the work I have done." For fun take a second to look at your cumulative work you have done up to this point. You'd be surprised.

  • "I can't wait to complete this glorified workout with 3,000 like minded friends. We will have the best dang support crew and even fans!

  • "This will be one big day to celebrate all the work we've done.

  • "Remember, the sleeping that counts is behind me"

  • "Strength, power, courage, go."

  • "I'm in charge of me and that's very doable."

  • "Follow my plan. Focus on technique and use my strategies. Swim: 1, 2, 3 breath, rhythm, rhythm, rhythm. Bike: keep the legs moving, get aero, refuel, protect the run. Run: All I have is 26 x 1 mile repeats in Zone 1-2. Then it's snack time. Rhythm, Rhythm, Rhythm"

  • Finally, feel free to laugh at yourself. Give your negative thoughts a smack down. Visualize the powerful you. If that's hard visualize someone you see as strong and act like them.

I leave you with this quote I read yesterday on Facebook:

"The voice you feed is the one that wins" - Jill Sommers

Make it a day to remember.

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