Race Rehearsal Guidance for Ironman

author : Rich Strauss
comments : 5

The 112/4 Race Rehearsal Brick. If done correctly, the RR is usually no more stressful than a regular training ride, and that is probably the point.

The most important session you can do as an Ironman athlete is a 112/4 Race Rehearsal Brick. This is your opportunity to formulate and rehearse a plan. I recommend 2 rehearsals at about 4 and 8 weeks out from the race. If the total session will take you about 6.5hrs, then consider shortening the bike to 100m.

I usually schedule these at the end of a light week, to ensure the athlete is rested. The rehearsal is usually on Saturday, I like to see a 3800m RR swim on Friday, and I usually schedule Sunday off-with the guidance to sleep in, treat the family to brunch, etc. However, stronger athletes will likely not rest too much at all before the RR and ride 2-3+ hrs the next day.

If done correctly, the RR is usually no more stressful than a regular training ride, and that is probably the point. I've certainly been much more shelled after a 80-100 mile ride, where I have myself permission to hammer as much as I wanted to, than I have after a 112/4 RR session. However, you may experience the different fatigue of riding in the aerobars the entire time and of constant mental focus.

RR Plan
Write up a plan for you RR, beginning with dinner the night before, and submit it to a knowledgeable crew for peer review. Post it on BT.com and ping me. I'll hop over and give you my thoughts. DO THIS EXERCISE!! After the RR take notes on what worked, what didn't, and a plan to fix it.

The following is from an internal email to my coached athletes and purchasers of a CF training plan:

Howdy from CF HQ, home to one ornery, hungry, sleepy tri coach who is deep into IM training, as many of you are J.

A few of our local athletes are doing their first 112/4 race rehearsal brick for CDA this weekend. If you’re doing CDA but are not doing an RR this weekend, don’t worry about it. I see these cats every day and they’re on a different schedule from you guys.


  • Practice and refine pacing and nutrition plan by executing said plans over 112 miles as racey-like as possible.

  • Create the discipline that comes with confidence in your plan. This discipline and confidence is invaluable on race day.


  • Leave time/watts/heart beats on the course so you can spend them on the run.

  • Pace the bike so that you get off feeling as if you did ride the bike for 112 (expect to feel hip/neck fatigue, sore  butt, etc) but definitely NOT “worked.”

  • Use the bike as a fueling platform for the day.


  • Easy for the first 40 miles. By easy I mean “I am simply warming up for 40 miles.” You want to arrive at mile 40 feeling good enough that if you stopped right there you wouldn’t feel like you got in a workout.

  • At mile 40, begin to “ride” the bike. Let’s call it shifting into 2nd gear, having ridden in 1st gear for the first 40 miles.

  • At mile 80 you should feel like you “could” shift into 3rd gear but you decide not to. You continue to sit in second for the remainder of the ride.


Pre-Ride: weigh yourself before the ride. Then during the ride keep an accurate count of how fluids/cals consumed, including the run. Weigh yourself after the session. Net loss is fluid you need to replace. You may also want to consider increasing your fluid intake for the next RR. (sorry, can't make the bold go away :)

    1. Pacing: I believe the best data is historical race and/or race rehearsal data, not training zones. My historical IM heart rate, from races and rehearsals, is 147-150bpm, with time spent below that (in the beginning) and over that (near the end). For reference, my bike LTHR is about 173-175. Throughout the bike, the single most important thought in my head is “I’m banking heart beats to spend on the run.” I take every opportunity I can to lower my heart rate, through good pacing, taking advantage of slight downhills, tailwinds, etc. I ignore those around me.

      • 0-40: Easy. I like to see my HR around 136 and will take every chance to get this to the low 120’s. This is STUPID low for me. Like a warmup, going to the grocery store for a gallon of milk kind of low. However, I create free speed and conserve energy by coasting anytime I get over about 25mph. I stay VERY aero, smooth, relaxed, etc. “Quiet mind, just ride in the box.” “Bank heartbeats.” I also stretch my back and hamstrings when I coast: right pedal at 3pm, bend at waist, stretch right hamstring and right side of back. Left pedal forward at 9pm, stretch the left side.


      • 40-80: Easy to Steady. I shift into “2nd Gear,” and allow myself to ride the bike. This past weekend I bumped my HR up to about 143-145 here but still took all the 135-140 time I could get.
        Critical Mental Place
        : do not hit mile 40 and give yourself permission to “catch them dudes who’ve passed me.” No pride on the bike. Just keep on keeping on doing your thing.


      • 80-110: SAME!!!!! If you’ve done 0-80 right you will feel great here. Or at least much better than those around you. Don’t use that as an excuse to go faster. Bank heart beats, keep on keeping on. Instead, enjoy the confidence that you’ll have a good run.


      • 110-112: you’re done. Spin easy, get your HR back down to that Easy heart rate. Stretch your neck, back, hamstrings, hip flexors.


    2. Nutrition: The bike is a fueling platform for the run. The lower you keep your HR, the more cals you can take in (but don’t go crazy). In my experience, a liquid diet on the bike works best for most people. Miranda has a post on the board about a nutrition plan. I want to get into more detail later, as this is an entire chapter, how to fuel an IM. But very quickly, this is what I do:

· I’ve done it two ways: either 2 x 750cal feed bottles (Spiz) on rear cages or 1 x 1800-2k feed bottle (Infinit) on downtube. I bought a 30oz “Magnum” bottle at Velo Monrovia last week. Friggin huge and it fits in my cage. 1 x bottle of water. I will probably use an aerobottle so I can lose the cages and bottles on the back of my bike. For a race rehearsal I would carry an extra water bottle in my jersey to mimic an aid station. So, to clarify, Rich in Race Rehearsal = 1800-2kcal of Inifinit on downtube, aero bottle of water, 1 x water bottle in jersey. Rich in Race = lose the jersey bottle.

· 0-30’: water only.

· 30’ to end minus 30’: Sip feed bottle every 15’ or so, chase with a few swallows of water. Goal is 300-400 cals per hour, 1.5-2 bottles of water per hour. Note that this cal/hr is individual and one of the reasons why you’re doing this rehearsal is so you can see what works for you. See additional note below on feed bottle.

· Last 30’: sip water only. Personally, I like to feel that my stomach is relatively empty when I start the run.

    1. Other: Every 30’ or so, stand out of the saddle and stretch, to mimic aid stations. Otherwise, stay in the aerobars as much as possible.

Transition quickly to the run. Run 30’ on an out-and-back course as:

  • 20’ Easy. I focus on high cadence, flat foot strike (not midfoot, as my calves are likely tight), forward lean, relax the shoulders. Ok to carry a bottle of Gatorade with you during the run, to mimic taking fluid from aid stations.

  • 10’ Easy to steady. Just come up another gear, that’s all. Hopefully you start to feel better after about 15’ and you now feel like you’re “running” a bit.

  • Don’t think “my God, how will I ever be able to do 26.2m like this?” Don’t let yourself think that. Very few people come off the bike convinced they can run the marathon. It’s too big to think about, so just don’t think about it. Shut up and run J

Feed Bottle
IM nutrition at the elite level has evolved towards a liquid, high calorie feed bottle that also contains “other stuff:” sodium, protein (maybe), anti-oxidants, sometimes caffeine. This set up is now filtering its way down to the age grouper ranks. There are 3-4 ways I know of mixing this stuff. Forgive me, but I’m not the go-to guy on what to buy, etc. I find something that works and stick with it, so I’m not familiar with a lot of the other products out there:

  • Sports drink (carbs and sodium) + Carbo Pro. Carbo Pro is a tasteless, colorless powder that simply adds calories to existing stuff. So you can take a bottle of Gatorade (about 125 cals) and make it 600+ by adding C-Pro. People then add salt directly to this or supplement with salt tabs to increase their sodium intake.

  • Gels + water: make a high cal solution by squeezing a bunch of gel (GU, Powergel, HammerGel, whatever) into a bottle. Add water. Supplement with salt in the bottle or salt tabs. In my experience, this method is inferior to the C-Pro thing above.

The two products I’m familiar with are:

  • Spiz: www.spiz.net This stuff is high calorie (you can mix to 750cals/bottle if shaken, 1k with a blender, I think), contains protein, sodium, and anti-oxidants. More complete than the two options above. Downside is it is chocolate or vanilla, not too tasty when warm, and will go bad if you leave it sitting for a while. For example, I freeze the bottle that goes in my bike special needs bag so it keeps longer. I’ve raced every IM since ’02 with Spiz. Stupid name, not the best taste on a hot day but it works.

  • Infinit: www.infinitnutrition.com. I’m experimenting with this stuff right now, mixing a 1200 cal bottle for my long ride this past weekend. It works great and is much more drinkable than Spiz, in my opinion. Selling point is the ability to customize the blend to suit your personal needs. See below for what I’m working on with Ellen Coleman and Mike (Infinit owner) as my mix for CDA.

Rich’s Feed Bottle:
These are the numbers I’m trying to create, based on a projected 5-5:15 bike split at IMCDA.

  • 30oz bottle

  • 1800-2000 cals (350-400/hr)

  • 5g sodium (1g/hr)

  • 35g protein (7g/hr)

  • 500mg caffeine (100mg/hr)

  • 500mg vit C

  • 200 iu vit E

  • Orange flavor J


Rich Strauss
Head Coach, Crucible Fitness
A Joe Friel Ultrafit Associate

Rich Strauss is the founder and head coach of Crucible Fitness. He is a Joe Friel Ultrafit Associate, USAT Level I certified, a former Marine officer and the founder of the Pasadena Triathlon Club. Since 2001 Rich has specialized in training, coaching and racing the Ironman distance, having coached over 140 Ironman finishers and delivered pre-race talks to over 400 athletes at IMNA races. For 2005 Rich is expanding his services to include all abilities and race distances. Please visit www.cruciblefitness.com for more details and a complete list of coaching services.


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date: May 3, 2005

Rich Strauss