Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Battling the Heat in Vegas - Ironman 70.3 World Championships Race Report

Post-race...in my body cooling sleeves and hat...

I showed up in Vegas for 70.3 World Championships ready for a raging hot and extremely difficult course. Throughout this race report post, I'll fill you in on everything I implemented to keep my body cool in the heat. This is some of the same body cooling stuff I will do in Kona. 

I give a rationale for all these "heat hacking" methods in the upcoming issue of LAVA Magazine, and then in the LAVA Magazine issue after Kona, I will write up a more formal report of "what worked" and "what didn't".

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Here I am getting those hip flexors stretched out before the race. I find my low back tends to tighten up on the bike unless I do stretches like this before the swim:


Why not throw the hamstrings in there too?


Of course, nothing sets up good karma for the swim like flashing a peace sign. This is a "wave" start swim, with waves for each age division leaving for a single loop swim in Lake Las Vegas (which, incidentally, does not taste nice).


I wore a Blue Seventy Skinsuit for the swim, which was uneventful. I drafted for about 300 meters, then pulled off by myself. I came out of the water in the front middle of the pack and ran out to transition, which actually turns out to be a long run of about 200 meters.

You will see me in a photo below in T1, getting ready to bike. Notice the bike jersey. Completely forgot my tri-suit and ended up doing the race in shorts and a bike jersey (which ended up being a blessing in disguise, because combined with the Zoot IceFil Arm Coolers, my first layer of protection from the heat, I was very "sun protected"). The Zoot Arm Coolers decrease in temperature when you get them wet...and I noticed a huge difference using these on the bike.

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The arm coolers at this point in T1 are rolled up like doughnuts and on my aerobars. I ended up putting them on while I was riding, but in future racing, I think I will just put them on in transition, which might be quicker, and involve less bike zig zagging and less danger to my fellow competitors.


This bike course is much hillier than the previous World Championships course in flat Florida, and present a much bigger technical challenge, with a good combo of short, choppy hills and long rollers.

My bike strategy was to ride my Gray Storm TT (totally dialed in by the guys at Spokane's BikeHub) easy for the first 7 miles, then attack where the course was hilly, for about the next 25 miles, then settle into a less aggressive pace before the run.

The hills on this course are gradual and rolling, without too many short, steep sections - very similar to the "rolling hills of the Palouse" I'm used to riding on.

I stuck to my plan, and was having a pretty good ride, but just before the turn around on the bike, another cyclist pulls up along beside me and tells me there is a big pack behind me.

I look back, and sure enough...I am "dragging" about 20 guys in my age group, who are just sitting back there chilling, talking and illegally drafting.

To myself, I thought, "OK, you wanna play that game?" and as soon as we turned around I thought "Meep, meep!" (as in Looney Tunes Roadrunner) and I put the hammer down.

After about 4 minutes of hard riding, I looked back. Despite my effort, the pack was still there and I knew I couldn't hold them off. They passed me, I saw that almost every one of them was in my division, but I made the error of not "tagging" onto the back of the pack by about 10 meters (legal) and I instead kept my distance as they rode away. I silently simmered, but didn't say anything.

I rode solo for the next 10 miles, and this time it happened AGAIN, and once again, these were mostly guys in my division. This time, I shouted out to several of them:

"That's a pretty pitiful 10 meters...you guys should be ashamed of yourselves."

One guy turned and grinned, and the rest of them kept riding. They were going too fast for me to "legally" draft off the back, so I rode solo all the way in to transition, reminding myself to "race my race", since I couldn't do much about these other guys.

Note: While this race had less drafting than the old "flat" World Championships course in Clearwater, Florida, I was still disappointed at how many guys were willing to cheat, and how there were relatively few referees riding up on motorcycles and "breaking up" the packs with penalty cards. I'm not saying this to "sandbag", and I am of course very happy with my effort, but I sometimes need to "vent" in my blog posts!

In retrospect, I probably should have just taken a legal 10 meter position off the back of the pack that passed me, but at that point, I was too pissed to think straight.

So I ended up doing the rest of the ride completely solo, and rolled into transition with no clue how many guys in my division were behind me and how many were ahead!

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So in T2, I had a foldable cooler with A) a frozen ice slushie water bottle; B) a BEX Cool Palms, which is a frozen pack that you hold while you run; C) A Zoot cooling hat that drops temperature by when it gets wet; D) an Arctic Heat body cooling vest.

The frozen ice slushie water bottle got dumped down my shirt and pants, I attached the Cool Palms to my hand, put the hat on and got the vest zipped up...and I was off...feeling a bit like Robo-man with all my "extra" gear!

And yes, this is the first time I have truly felt like a "geeked out" triathlete during a race. The only thing missing was compression socks.

The run course is basically an out and back run down a hill and then back up, and then another out and back run up a hill and back down. You simply repeat this entire sequence three times. The best preparation you can do for this race is long, gradual hill repeats with long recoveries.

At about the 5K mark, I ditched the body cooling vest. It was still somewhat cold, but I knew I had a solid 2 mile uphill climb, and didn't want to drag an extra 2 pounds uphill. At this point, it had served it's purpose. Here I am tossing it:



After tossing the vest, I still had the BEX Cool Palms on, and as I run by here, about 20 minutes later, you can see I'm feeling good, and not quite into "overheated slog" mode...



Finally, at about the 8 mile mark, I ditched the Cool Palms (see video below), and it only took about 2 minutes for me to feel my core temperature begin to go up. How much of this was placebo and how much was the palm cooling I do not know - but everything got tough and hot after this point!

(by the way, someone kept video running for 37 minutes...oops. It's just random cheering).



Typically, when the going gets tough like this, I start counting. So I spent much of mile 9 to 12, most of it a hot uphill march, counting down to aid stations, grabbing ice, water, coke, rinsing, washing and repeating.

Mile 12-13 is a downhill. I ramped up my pace and finished the last mile in just under 6 minutes, and, as you can see (although I have no clue whether I've podiumed or not), I am pretty pumped to cross the finish line of the 70.3 World Championships!



Overall, I raced a 4:42. This wasn't fast enough for the podium, but I definitely put everything out on the line that I had, and this was a valuable experience to test out all those body cooling devices!

Interestingly, this was the second Half Ironman in a row in which I've not used electrolyte capsules or tablets, and same as the last race, I had zero cramping.

Here is a basic description of what I used for this race (notice that I did also take 2 capsules of Capracolostrum, which according to a recent study may reduce gastric permeability in the heat, which is a good thing).

70.3 World Championships Triathlon Gear:
Race Kit: Champ-Sys Bike Jersey with Tri Shorts
Wetsuit: Blue Seventy Skinsuit
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: Fizik Road Saddle (experimenting with narrower saddle)
Cleats: Look KEO Blade
Bike Shoes: Specialized Trivent
Running Shoes: K-Swiss K-Ruuz
Sunglasses: Zeal Slingshots
Body cooling gear: hat, arm cooling sleeves, palm cooling device, ice vest
Fuel Belt: Spibelt

70.3 World Championships Triathlon Nutrition:
night before race: Millennium Sports Somnidren GH (helps you sleep before a race)

2 hours before race: 2 salted sweet potatoes with dab of almond butter and yogurt, 2 capsules CapraColostrum 30 minutes before race: 1 Energy28 and 1 delta-E, 10 Master Amino Pattern capsules, 5 Extreme Endurance
5 minutes before race: 1 caffeinated GU Roctane
Every 20 minutes on bike: 1 GU Roctane
End of each hour on bike: 4 GU Chomps
Every 3 miles on run: 1 GU Roctane (from aid stations on course)
Post-Race: 8 Recoverease, topical Magnesium 
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