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Ace Your Next Race with Tips from Ironman Champs Jessica Jacobs and Linsey Corbin

Top tips from pro Corbin. (Photo courtesy of

Written by Chloe Metzger, editorial intern

The FITNESS office has come down with a case of race-fever. It seems like every staffer and her brother/mother/significant other has either signed up for one and is in training, or they just kicked major asphalt. Granted, we are a little passionate over here—we recently crossed the happiest 5K and the New York City triathlon off our lists—but with fun races and Ironman events happening every weekend around the globe, how could you not get bitten by the fitness bug?

Of course, being excited about racing doesn’t necessarily make us seasoned experts. So we chatted with two of the most experienced triathlon pros, Jessica Jacobs, three-time Ironman winner, and Linsey Corbin, third-place winner at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships and Kamut International spokesperson, and nabbed their top tips to help you train harder, race smarter and reach your ultimate goal. Away we go!  

When training for the race…

Find a support group. “Having a group of people to train with is great because it promotes both healthy and social aspects,” says Corbin. “On days when you’re not that motivated, you have people who are holding you accountable, while still giving you a fun, social outlet.” (No friends nearby to form a group? Don’t sweat it! You can find a local running club at Running in the USA.)

Set small goals.  “Sometimes your ultimate, long-term goal can be pretty daunting, especially if it’s to run a marathon or complete the Ironman,” says Corbin. “Having lots of small goals that act as stepping stones will help you stay motivated while you reach that major milestone.” For a step-by-step guide to get you started, follow one of our 5K, 10K, or half-marathon training schedules. Want to step it up to three sports? Check out our tri guide.

Have an inspiration. “When I don’t feel like training, I tell myself, ‘I don’t have to do this, I get to do this,’” says Jacobs, a former U.S. Army officer. “I see military veterans who have wounds and scars that prevent them from being able to do what they would otherwise be capable of doing. On my low motivation days, I suck it up and tell myself to do it for those people. They’re the ones inspiring me; it’s my honor to get to do what so many of them have fought for.”

Be consistent. Consistency is key to shaving big time off your triathlon, according to Corbin, who recently ran a half marathon in only 1:20:16. “Rather than be a superhero and try to fit in just one amazing workout of the week, you’re better off having really consistent training every day of the week, regardless of intensity level,” says Corbin. “By setting up that week-to-week foundation, you can build up to consistent month-to-month training. When your training has a purpose, you’ll start to see big fitness gains.”

Jacobs knows preparation is key. (Photo courtesy of 2XU)


On race day…

Be wary of pre-race traditions. “Say you forgot to pack those favorite socks or a sweat band—is that going to mentally mess you up?” asks Jacobs. “It’s great to have something that gets you ready for a race and gives you good luck, but don’t let it undo you. If something goes wrong, stay calm and remind yourself that there’s so much more out there than just this sport.”

Don’t look at the big picture. On the day of the race, Jacobs recommends breaking up the course into smaller increments to keep from getting overwhelmed. “I think of the bike and run courses in portions, rather than miles. I tell myself to get to the next curve, or the next straight path, and all of a sudden I’m nearly done,” says Jacobs. “You can stay motivated through mini increments, which will make your day-long goal much more achievable.”

Negotiate with yourself. “During my first Ironman, it was a really hot day,” recalls Corbin. “When we ran the marathon portion, it was about 100 degrees and I had to make a deal with myself that I just wouldn’t walk. I kept telling myself not to walk, and I ended up finishing, making a paycheck and qualifying for the World Championships in Hawaii. You just promise yourself that you’ll push past that wall.”

Stay motivated. When you hit the inevitable mental wall, visualize the end result. “I always try to think about what it will be like when I cross the finish line,” says Corbin. “I visualize who’s going to be at the finish line, what I’m going to look like crossing it and how good it’s going to feel. It’ll give you that extra push when you most need it.”

More from FITNESS:

Improve Your Sweatitude: 9 Motivation Rut Busters

Triathlon Training Tips from Fit Bloggers We Love

What’s Your Fitness Motivation?