Sunday, June 5, 2011

Can Sitting In A Sauna Help Qualify You For Ironman World Championships?

I'm sitting down here by the pool at the Mauna Lani Bay Resort, about 24 hours after finishing Hawaii 70.3 triathlon, and my 4th attempt to qualify for Ironman World Championships. My previous 3 attempts were successful.

This attempt? Just keep reading...

I think my body has finally had a chance to cool down.

And I'm no longer constipated from yesterday morning's steady diet of sugary gels.


Plus, I've already played tennis, swam, and paddleboarded this morning, thanks to excessive amounts of ice on my leg, 20 sprays of Ancient Minerals Topical Magnesium Oil, 8 Recoverease, 4 Capraflex and 10 Master Amino Pattern capsules immediately after the race. Tomorrow is a day of surfing.

Yes, so that you can better enjoy post-race activity, you can biochemically engineer your recovery in legal ways - and I have a tennis tournament next weekend so I needed to recover fast.

Oh yeah, and coconut water with some added benefits also helps tremendously.

OK, OK, I'll quit blabbing now. On to the race!

I knew it would be hot here in Hawaii, but it has been very cold where I train, in Spokane, WA. So for these last 2 weeks prior to this race, I went to the YMCA every 2 days and sat in the sauna for 30-40 minutes, typically before an easy workout or after a hard workout.

The first 10 minutes of this type of heat acclimation is not too bad. After that, seconds tick by like molasses as you sit staring at a wall, gritting your teeth, fingers and toes tingling from the body throwing circulation everywhere in your body in a flurried attempt to provide cool the fire.

But I wanted to try this sadomasochistic method of heat acclimation as an alternative to my usual method - riding my bike on an indoor trainer with a heater and humidifier (I only did that once before this race).

In just a few minutes, you'll find out if my sauna heat acclimation method worked.

As promised, race morning was hot and windy, as Kona usually is. Hawaii 70.3 is a floating water start, so I pushed myself as far out to the right of the crowd as I could.

As a matter of fact, just before the swim started, I looked behind me and there was NOBODY. In a field of 2000 frenzied competitors, that is a pretty nice feeling to know you've got several yards of empty water behind you.


The cannon boomed and we were off!

This was an easy swim. I hopped on the feet of a big, kinda fat guy in a skinsuit (always a good strategy) and he towed me 1300 meters, then I passed him for the last 500 and pulled hard into the beach. I knew I'd have to be very close to 4:30 total race time to qualify for Kona, and my watch was at 28-something minutes when I came out of the water, so first goal was accomplished.

I hurt my shoulder in a tennis tournament 2 weeks prior to this race, and was only able to swim short 50 and 100 meter efforts going in, so I was pretty happy with this result. Thanks to Tim Gilreath at Therapproach for his "Magic Hands" massage on my shoulders.

In my haste of packing at the last minute, I totally messed up and forgot my BlueSeventy Swimskin for this race. Big thanks to the guys from TYR for saving my butt and getting me into their Torque Swimskin at the last minute before the race. I'm not sure if that was "legal" to wear a TYR swimskin and Blue Seventy Element goggles, but sometimes life happens.


My heart rate pounded out of my chest as I ran the steep hill into transition and grabbed my Gray Storm TT bike from I also used Gray's 9.5 Carbon Clinchers, which I was a bit nervous about using in the crosswinds, but I'm a glutton for punishment, and they are the same wheels I used last year, so that's what I came to Hawaii with.

Just like last year, my feet slipped off my shoes as a rode out of transition and my shoe went flying off my bike. I think the saltwater makes my feet slippery. It happened in the same place as last year, and I felt stupid in front of hundreds of spectators.

There goes coach Greenfield, losing his shoes again. What a rookie.

I snagged my shoe of the road, put it on and shoved off. Only a few seconds lost, but it feels like an eternity when you're racing! Next time I'll use rubber bands.

2 weeks prior to this race, my sponsors at Bike Hub Spokane hooked me up with Speedplay pedals in an attempt to fix some issues I've been having with my Look Keo pedals. I only was able to use the Speedplays two times before the race, and so I stashed a screwdriver into my Spibelt race belt in case I needed to make any cleat adjustments during the race.

Sure enough, 7 miles in I was fighting the cleat.

I pulled up next to a referee motorcycle (you have to use every chance you can to kiss up to those folks, just in case), and made a joke about the "Princess and the Pea" as I fixed my cleat. Another 90 seconds lost, but this time it felt like an hour, and as if the entire race field was passing me by.

And then I rode like a demon out of hell, and it felt fantastic. I wasn't able to split the overall race leaders at the Hawi turn, but they weren't far ahead.

Coming down Hawi with the tailwinds, I looked at my chest and saw that it was literally a torrential down pouring of sweat. At that point, having learned from the effects of dehydration from too little water consumption in Asia 70.3, I made the decision to risk drinking too much water, and bumped up consumption to 32 ounces per hour and lots of big gulps going back on the bike. This was a smart move in retrospect, as I still finished the race significantly lighter than when I started (in Asia, I lost 7 pounds!)

This run was pure freaking survival.

2 miles in, I was already hot. I went from looking at competitors to run down in my quest for a Kona slot to avoiding looking at anything whatsoever except the road directly ahead of me.

At that point, I wasn't racing. I was just trying not to walk.

The next 4 miles went by slowly. My fingers started to tingle, and I felt the effects of overheating coming on strong. It turns out the beneficial effects of a 30-40 minute sauna treatment tend to wear off after 4 hours of redlining in the heat.

At mile 6, I ran out of my Athlytes salt pills (packing error) and I was ready to quit.

I knew there was only one last thing to try.

The almighty CocaCola Ice Sludgies (see my Ironman Hawaii Race Report).

So at the mile 7 aid station, I grabbed a cup of ice, a cup of coke, dumped the coke on the ice, threw half the cup into my mouth, and chomped down hard. Two gulps later and the entire sludge of coke and ice was down the hatch, and I could feel the cooling, sugary sensations surging through my bloodstream.

At mile 8, I did another Coke Sludgie.

And again at mile 9.

At mile 10, my energy started to come back, and I began thinking about that Kona slot again.

At mile 11, I saw a guy in front of me. He was catchable. I had no clue if he was in my age group, because they don't mark calves here. But his race number was close to mine, so I figured he might be.

Just before mile 12, I passed him, and immediately felt like I was going to vomit and pass out from that slight increase in pace.

So I counted to 100. I knew I needed something to distract the central governor in my brain from forcing my body to quit. Then I looked back. He was still there.

So I counted to 100 again.

I looked back again and knew he wasn't going to be able to catch me unless I tripped and fell.

Somehow I managed to stay upright, and then, the finish line was there, I crossed it, and I collapsed. My entire body was on fire, but I made it, and I did it almost a minute faster than last year, despite those stops on the bike. My body hurt everywhere from a combination of heat and 4 hours and 29 minutes of excessive pounding.

5 hours later, I found out that the last guy I nearly killed myself to pass got me the slot to Kona and the Ironman World Championships. Here's the proof:

Training Protocol For Hawaii 70.3:

Monday: 1 hour easy fasted morning bike ride + 30-40 minutes afternoon strength training (upper body) + 90 minutes evening tennis practice

Tuesday: 1 hour swimming (drills workout)

Wednesday: morning hills or 2-4 minute intervals on bike (1 hour) and afternoon hills or 1-2 minute intervals on run (40-50 minutes). Sometimes will combine both into a bike-run brick workout.

Thursday: 1 hour swimming (speed and tempo workout) + 90 minutes evening tennis practice

Friday: 1 hour short, choppy bike intervals (commuting and running errands on bike, sprinting between stoplights, etc.) + 30-40 minutes strength training (lower body)

Saturday: long bike (2-3 hours) OR long run (90 minutes)

Sunday: long swim (3000-4000 meters continuous) + tennis match OR the long bike or long run I didn’t do Saturday

Hawaii 70.3 Triathlon Gear:

Race Kit: Champ-Sys One Piece Custom Triathlon Suit

Skinsuit: TYR Torque

Goggles: BlueSeventy Elements

Bike: Gray Storm TT

Helmet: Gray Aero Helmet

Wheels: Gray 9.5 Carbon Clinchers with Latex Tubes

Components: SRAM Red, SRAM return to position levers, SRAM Quarq crank

Seat: Adamo ISM Road Saddle

Bike Shoes: Specialized Trivent

Running Shoes: K-Swiss Racing Flat K-Ruuz

Sunglasses: Zeal Slingshots

Fuel Belt: Spi-Belt

Race Nutrition:

3 days leading up to race: 2-3 nuun tablets per day for increased electrolyte intake and salted all food

2 hours before race: 3 scoops LivingFuel SuperGreens

30 minutes before race: 1 Nutrarev, 1 Energy28 and 1 delta-E, 20 Sprays Magnetic Oil
5 minutes before race: 1 GU Roctane
Every 20 minutes on bike: 1 GU Roctane
Every 30 minutes during entire race: 2 Millennium Sports Athlytes
End of each hour on bike: 4 GU Chomps
Every 3 miles on run: 1 GU Roctane (from a Spi-Belt) until I switched to Coke.
Post-Race: 20 sprays of Ancient Minerals Topical Magnesium Oil, 8 Recoverease, and 10 Master Amino Pattern capsules, 4 Capraflex

So what's next? Not much. I may go race Portland REV3, but I plan on playing a lot of basketball and tennis this summer, and taking some time off serious triathlon training. This fall I'll be racing Ironman World Championships, 70.3 World Championships, and ITU Long Course World Championships, so I'm sure my body will appreciate a mid-summer break.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave your questions or comments below!


catvill said...

Why do you take GU CHOMPS every hour? How is that different that just taking an extra GU GEL??

Ben Greenfield said...

Because you can chew chomps. It's just something different to munch on.

Luke Powell said...

So I guess the heat acclimation method you tried didn't work as well as actually exercising in the heat during the weeks leading up to the race?

Ben Greenfield said...

Luke, it worked out pretty well. Most importantly, it was far more convenient and less time consuming...

No Limits Coaching said...

Hey Ben, great post. I too just did the Hawaii 70.3. I ran a training camp the week leading up to the race and really enjoyed the race. Training and racing on the bike Island was awesome. Nice work on getting your spot!

Patricia Miller said...

Congratulations on meeting you goal of getting a spot at Kona.

Anonymous said...

Ben, Your race report and your inner drive is inspiring. I won a trip through Ford to the Mauni Launa resort several years ago. What a great place . Keep up the good work cousin !

Chris said...

What led you to buck the common trend of using goo and gel for sub 3 hour events? Both gu and hammer swear you should use their long distance products.

Ben Greenfield said...

Using goo and gels for Sprint and Olympic distance racing isn't aerodynamic enough. I've lost podiums by 5 seconds before because I sat up in the wind to eat a gel.

Chris said...

Perhaps I should type what I mean..or proof read my posts

What I meant to ask was what made you start using gu and gels on longer events? All the manufacturers (especially Hammer) preach to use their long distance fuels. It obviously works for you, but I was wondering if there are any adverse effects like they mention (eg lean muscle cannibalizing)

Ben Greenfield said...

Chris, GU Roctane is designed for 3+ hour events, due to the addition of amino acids. That is what I use.

Chris said...

Great info as always. Interesting that Hammer Gel also has the amino acids. I wonder if they are just trying to sell the Perpetium.

Oh well, I know the Gel only works for me also.

graytt428 said...

Great and inspirational race report. Well done and way to stay hungry despite the pain!!