Last Minute Tips for Ironman Cairns First-Timers

If you are about to tackle Ironman for the first time in Cairns, there are a few unique things to be aware of on the course.

Pete McLean has raced Ironman for over twenty years and has some last minute tips for Ironman Asia-Pacific Championships competitors racing in Cairns.


Don’t swim wide or solo. Now that Ironman swims are rolling starts not mass, it’s important to seed yourself correctly and not too far up if you aren’t a confident swimmer. When the time comes to start, focus on swimming straight, sighting regularly and staying on feet. If you swim wide by yourself in unbroken water you will definitely add unnecessary time to your swim split. 


Use lower gears to keep your cadence up when riding into a headwind. If it is windy you could have a nasty headwind coming back to town. You will be fatigued but stay focussed and don’t go too hard as you will regret it when you hop off the bike. Avoid standing on the pedals too often as you will make yourself a bigger target for the wind and your speed will drop off. Lower your gears to increase your cadence, keep your head down and stay as aero as possible.


Don’t run too fast out of transition and keep a close eye on your pace in the first 5km or you may regret it at the back-end of the marathon. Adrenalin is pumping through your body when you get off the bike and most people run out of transition too fast. Use your watch and monitor pace especially in the first 5-10km. Be conservative and be consistent. You will thank yourself during the second half of the run. If it’s going to be particularly hot make sure you have a sodium replacement plan. The more you drink and dilute your salt levels the more likely you are to cramp.


Don’t panic. Think it through. Tipping your transition bag upside down in a rush may mean losing important nutrition. Take stock of what you need and make sure you have it all in your hands before racing out of the tent.


Make a plan before race day so you know what you will be doing at each aid station. Be diligent with nutrition even when fatigued because if you get it wrong you will lose more energy and regret it at the back end of the race. You must have a plan on approach to each aid station. You know what you need, so don’t let adrenalin or fatigue affect the plan.

The reason why most people’s races don’t go to plan is due to incorrect pacing and nutrition. Both of these you can control. Focus on executing these two things and sticking to your race plan and soon enough the day will fall into place and you will be crossing the finish line to the words “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”

Do you have a support crew ready to cheer you onto the finish line? Send them a link to our Supporter Tips so they are all prepared.

Have your own tips for first-time Ironman competitors or want to share your Cairns experience. You can find us on Facebook and Instagram or share in the comments below.

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