July 8, 2016

Team Z – Reminders for this weekend – Tips for racing in the heat and setting your mind right to begin the swim.

In this email:

  1. Racing or training in the heat
  2. Reminders about swim “mental prep”, Swim Strategy, and Execution.


  1.  Racing or training in the heat

I am so glad we are racing on Sunday and not Saturday.  

  • Saturday – 96 degrees with a real feel of 102. Mild wind at 5mph.  Humidity rises to 80% during the race.  
  • Sunday is 91 with a real feel of 91.  Fair winds at 8-9 mph. Humidity starts at 71% on race morning and drops drastically to 40% by 2pm.

*DO NOT BE A HERO.  Weather racing or training this weekend – it is going to be hot.

After getting numbered up – put on sunscreen. Put suncreen on first?  Numbers will come off immediately.

Have someone put sunscreen on you if you have somebody not racing.  Or be very careful to wash your hands thoroughly before you swim. Do not get sunscreen on you face anywhere near your eyes until after the swim.  Do not touch your goggles unless you know  your hands are very clean (eyes will burn, not fun).

Do not play around with the heat, do not try and “tough guy it” if you find yourself overheating or in trouble.  There is no shame in being smart, and taking a break in the shade with a wet towel over your head and back.  Heat Stroke and heat exhaustion are very serious and dangerous conditions.  Reconize the symptoms.

Heat exhaustion:  http://www.webmd.com/hw-popup/heat-exhaustion

Heat Stroke:  This is a very serious medical emergency and should be dealt with immediately.  http://www.webmd.com/hw-popup/heatstroke

If you have not heard me say this before – if you only learn 4  things before racing this weekend they are….

  1.  You simply can’t beat mother nature.  When it is hot like it will be this weekend – the only way to race well for the entire day is to SLOW DOWN.  You simply can’t maintain the same pace as you would on a 70 degree overcast day. Don’t think “I race well in the heat, so this does not apply to me”.  It certainly does – the high temperatures affect everyone.  Maybe some more than others – but everyone has to dial it down a notch or two or suffer the consequences.
  2. Replacing electrolytes is important.  Many sports drinks help you get moving towards this goal, and then many athletes use salt tablets to help meet any sodium gap.  DO NOT TAKE IN EXCESS SODIUM.  Too much is not a good thing either.  General guidelines for endurance athletes from Rebecca’s suggestions – 400-600 mg sodium per hour.
  3. Fluid during the race.  You should drink 2-3 liters of water every day of your life.  When you train or race – you add an additional liter for each hour of exercise AFTER the first hour.  1 liter is 33 oz.  A normal/smaller gatorade bottle from the store is 20 oz.  The normal size squeezy water bottle people use on their bikes is 32 oz.  So – if you are drinking gatorade on the course as well as water – you would drink around half of the bike bottle of gatorade and about half of the bottle of water.  You can’t ingest more water if you drink it just b/c its hot. You will end up with GI issues.  In the heat – this is even more important (see below)
  4. Pre-Race Hydration – Get yourself a 2 liter soda bottle and empty it. Fill it with water.  Maybe add a string/sling so you can carry it on your shoulder. With one hour of exercise in a given day, you should drink 2 of these.  YOU HAVE TWO DAYS TO HYDRATE. You can’t hydrate on race morning.  It takes time.Take advantage of the next two days and catch yourself up. This is one of the easiest and super important things you can do to help yourself race in hot weather.

The following suggestions from Mark Allen regarding racing in the heat.

The work is done! IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene is waiting for you! Your biggest job right now is to relax, do your final race gear prep, and make whatever last-minute fine-tuning is necessary to help you have the race of your life.

One of the small pieces that can still make a huge difference on race day is how you will manage Mother Nature. The predictions this year, as I’m sure you’ve seen, are that race day could be a cooker! If you plan carefully for it, you can use the conditions to your advantage and put together the perfect race. And what I mean by “perfect” is not that everything goes as planned, but that you handle everything that happens on race day perfectly. Planning for heat is going to be one of those pieces and the one I want to address today.

Blood, oxygen, and pace

The first thing to remember about heat is that it will cause your heart rate to go up for any given output. So, if you are used to running an 8-minute mile in 70 degrees, if the day tops out at over 90 you might see your heart rate hovering five to 10 beats higher for the same pace and feel.

What does this mean for an IRONMAN? Your body will try to dissipate its heat internally by moving a lot of your blood to the surface of your skin””where sweating will help cool it, and thus your body. The catch? This takes blood away from your working muscles. This in turn means that there is less oxygen being delivered to your muscles as compared to in cooler temps. In other words, the internal athletic engine gets muzzled.

What’s the solution? Slow down! Hold back from what you would normally be doing. Lower your perceived effort if that is what you are using to gauge your pace from what you normally feel is sustainable, because when heat comes into the mix, “normal” is not sustainable. If you use heart rate to gauge your effort, stick to what you had planned. Your pace will be slower, but internally, your system will be working overtime. If power is what you use on the bike, dial the watts back a few percent in the first two-thirds of the bike until you can assess how you are doing at managing the heat’s impact.

Nutrition and hydration

Racing in extreme heat will also impact your nutrition. The hotter it gets, the tougher it is to break down and use solid foods of any kind, so try to get just about all of your calories in liquid form. This goes back to the blood flow I mentioned above””your blood is going to your skin, not your stomach. So, the less work your digestive system has to do to break down and absorb your calories, the better off you’ll be.

When it comes to fluids, stick to your regimen but don’t try to overcompensate. How much is going to be enough? Generally a person can absorb 30 to 40 ounces of fluids per hour before they get backed up in their digestive system, which is not a good thing. So even though it’s hot, you can’t force additional fluids into your body once you hit that upper absorption limit. The good news is, you’ll hit your maximum sweat rate at a fairly low output level and relatively low temperature; the amount of fluids per hour you can handle, that you dialed in during training, will still apply here.

Sweat and humidity

The one big consideration at Coeur d’Alene as it relates to fluids is that the air is very dry, which means that you will likely not see a lot of the visual cues that show you are sweating, because your sweat will be drying just about as quickly as it forms on the skin. In a humid environment, it’s very clear that you’re sweating. Not so in Coeur d’Alene. So take heed and make sure to stick to your fluid replacement strategy, especially on the bike where you will not see much sweat.

The final piece is going to be your electrolyte replacement plan. In the heat, your need for sodium is high no matter who you are. How much you need is going to be very individual, but in general it’s good to try to get at least 350mg/hour on the bike and run, especially in the heat. Look at your sports drink and do the math as far as what you will get based on your calorie and fluid intake plan. If you are short of that number you may want to consider how you plan to supplement sodium during the race to make up for it. If you are a huge sodium sweater (someone who ends up caked in white after long rides) you could need double or triple that amount. (Editor’s note: Gatorade Endurance will be the isotonic sports drink served on course.)

[Mark Allen’s]  background with heat

As an athlete myself, I dealt with all of these issues in my racing career. I got them dialed in and had some great IRONMAN races, and I had others where I did just about everything wrong with disastrous results. In the early years of racing the IRONMAN World Championship, which clearly qualifies as a hot race, I tried to take in solid foods along with my sports drink. I tried to take in many more calories than I needed for a hot race. Those two strategies had the same result: I ended up with gastric distress. (A polite way of putting it!) Finally, I figured out that solids were off limits and that I could actually dial back my total calories per hour compared to what I used in training.

In the early years, I also assumed that in a hot climate I should pound the fluids to compensate for dehydration. But again, what happened was that over a certain limit my stomach just couldn’t absorb any more liquid and I’d get bloated and then sick to my stomach. It actually took me until my final IRONMAN World Championship in 1995 to get this correct. That was the first year I really dropped my total fluid intake down to normal levels. It was also the first IRONMAN where I didn’t experience any gastric distress.

The sodium piece came to play for me in 1989. I had been part of a research study that the IRONMAN Medical Team did a few years earlier where they took blood samples from people who ended up in the medical tent to see what had landed them there. They found that I had blood sodium levels almost as low as people who were having severe cramps and convulsions. I thought, “Great, I was a grain of salt away from having a convulsion!”

In 1989, one of the doctors who did the study put me in an environmental chamber and had me ride and run for six hours at 90-degree temps and high humidity. They found that I was sweating out around 350 mg/hour of sodium, which is a rate that would deplete my sodium reserves after about three hours of racing. This would take me to a point where my performance would gradually drop off until I fell off the cliff. So, in 1989 I took salt tablets for the first time in a race. The result? My first IRONMAN victory and the first time I was able to run at my goal pace for the entire marathon.

Originally from: http://www.ironman.com/triathlon/news/articles/2015/06/heat-advice-from-mark-allen.aspx#ixzz4DoDn8


  1. Reminders about swim “mental prep”, Swim Strategy, and Execution

These are things that we discuss at each transition clinic/race strategy discussion we have – so it will be a reminder for many of you.   This is just a brain dump which will hopefully help many of you get your heads in the game and start the season off right!   Please come and find Alexis, Myself, or one of your swim coaches before the race if you have questions or need a pep talk.

  • How you approach the start of the race mentally, and how you physically execute the start of the race is very important and goes a long way to “setting the tone for the day”.   This is true for good swimmers and “newer swimmers alike.
  • When the race is about to start one of your biggest enemies can be the pre-race energy/nerves and adrenaline.   But this can be managed easily if you just remember what you have learned and repeat your brand new mantra OVER and OVER and OVER again inside your head.   “Keep my head DOWN.   Swim in super slow motion.   Breathe every stroke”.   Swimming in a lake is just like swimming in the pool.   Do not forget what you have learned.   Head down, breathe, relax.   JUST LIKE WARM UP AT YOUR LOCAL POOL.   Head down, swim super slow motion, breathe every stroke. 
  • At the start of ANY wave you will see a zillion triathletes start out swimming FAST.   Arms are flying, legs are kicking, and everyone is fighting to “be the best they can be”.   This is ALWAYS a mistake.   Even for veterans.   The only people who should start a triathlon swim FAST are those that are competing for a podium spot in their age-group, has experience, and for whom “two minutes” really and truly matters.
  • Prove it to yourself if you don’t believe what I write here.   This is not some coaching “BS”.   I promise you.   IF you test yourself – you can swim 800 yards in a pool HARD/ALL OUT, and get your time.   If you then immediately swim 800 yards easy, and get your time again – you will note that your times will only differ by 1 minute, or even less.   In the swimming world this “one minute” is a VERY big deal.   In the triathlon world – it is NOT A BIG DEAL AT ALL (not in a 2, 3, 4, or 12 hour race).   Unless you are competing for the win – you need to swim Zone 2 – just like every Tuesday morning workout.   EVERYONE.   The energy cost of swimming in Z4 (or WORSE Z5) is NEVER worth that 1 minute, or two minutes if swimming a mile.   NEVER.   If you swim easy, your FIRST TRANSITION will make up that minute alone.   Because you’ll be able to run through it fast, change fast (with a clear head), and start the bike fast.   IF in Z4 or Z5 during the swim, your transition time alone will be slower, and you will have to spend time on the bike going SO SLOW to recover – you get the point.   You can only spend a matter of minutes in Z5 before you CRASH.   If you notice that you are swimming to hard, tired, tense – get in your own head.   SLOW DOWN.   Flip on your back and breathe.   Relax.   Setttle Down. Start over.   Head Down, super slow motion, breathe every stroke.
  • SO – approaching the swim.   With race adrenaline pumping – you want to swim the first 200-400 yards feeling like you are in SUPER SLOW MOTION.  I promise you this works – even though I swam in college I did the same thing at the start of every race to help me set the tone for the day.  When the gun goes off – your heart rate will be sky high already – do not add to that by sprinting or holding your breathe.  IGNORE everyone else, no matter how hard they are swimming and kicking.   SWIM YOUR RACE.   “Head down.   Super Slow Motion.   Breathe every Stroke”.   If you do this, then in 5 or 6 minutes, you will notice that the adrenaline burns off and you start to feel more comfortable. The key is to stay 100% aerobic on the whole swim.   100%.   EVEN THOUGH THE RACE IS CALLED A SPRINT TRIATHLON DOES NOT MEAN YOU EVER SPRINT (until the end of the run).   THIS IS AN ENDURANCE EVENT.   In Zone 5 – you can only last for a matter of MINUTES before you will bonk.   IN Zone 4 – a well trained athlete (like winning the AG) can last for 60 minutes, or more if they are experienced.   THIS IS A Z2 EFFORT FOR ALMOST EVERYONE – UNTIL YOU GAIN EXPERIENCE.   IF you swim and bike well, then you can race the 5k or 10k as hard as you want.   Just stay aerobic until you gain knowledge!
  •  IF you ever find yourself gasping for air on the swim, totally out of control with the breathing.   RECOGNIZE THIS IMMEDIATELY AS A MISTAKE.   Flip on your back or do breaststroke or side stroke, float and recover completely. The sooner you do this, the sooner you will recover.  Repeat.   “When I start swimming again, I am going to swim with my head down, super easy, and breathe every stroke”.
  • Starting – if you are nervous – DO NOT get in the front of the group or in the “mix“.   When the gun goes off, you can and should just WAIT.   Let everyone else “race the start” – you are smarter than that.   Right?   When the gun goes off – BREATHE DEEP AND EASY BREATHES, and repeat your mantra.   Head down, catchup drill (you know who you are), super slow and easy, breathe every stroke.   Start swimming when you are ready.   And sooner than you think, you’ll be passing those other people that are FRIED from doing an 800 yard swim in Zone 4/5.   It may not be until the bike, but you’ll get them.
  • Boats – you are allowed to hang on them and rest – this is not a penalty.   Just grab the nose or tail, not the side (so you don’t flip them).   Say hi.   Talk to them.   Rest, and continue.   They are helpful, and compassionate people and they’ll be your biggest cheering section.
  •  Walking the swim is legal – walk when and where you can and want.   Its slower than swimming – but it is allowed!   You can walk the first 50-100 yards of the swims at Lake Anna with no problem – and it is allowed.   USE IT to calm down.   Let the crowed/mass go – forget about them and focus on yourself.
  • DO NOT SWIM WITH YOUR HEAD OUT OF WATER OR “UP”.   IF you can’t put your face in all the way – switch to backstroke, side stroke, or breast stroke until you are relaxed.   Then try again.   Swimming with your head out will crush you – think back to your initial swim clinic!   Head DOWN.   Imagine the black line and look for it.   Sight occasionally – but not every stroke.   After sighting – put your head back down!
  • WARM UP.   Take the time to let the adrenaline burn off.    Get in the water as soon as you are allowed to and go “all the way under” and get it over with.   FAST.   Get some water in your suit, and then float on your back and BREATHE deep relaxing breaths.   The cold shock (if there is one) will go away in a minute or two – it always does.   But it takes time.   Expect it to happen, be ready for it, know that it is “ok” and expected – and that it will go away.   BREATHE DEEP AND LONG BREATHES.   If this has you nervous, come to the race site the day before so you can experience it.   Trust me – it goes away.   But do not wait until that last minute to get in the water and deal with this – and the pre-race adrenaline at the same time!
  • Even with warmer water and less “cold shock” risk, the pre-race adrenaline and hype can be enough to cause that “out of breathe shocky feeling” for EVERYONE.   Like when you feel like you are taking very short and shallow breathes.   It happens to everyone – and it goes away in 3-4 minutes.   So it is important that you try to get in before your wave starts and get “used to the water” and warm up a bit.   I try to time it so that I get in 10 minutes early.   I swim easy for 5 minutes and let that initial pre-race “shock” go away.   Then I get out and walk to the swim start with 5 minutes to spare (or just swim over).   “IT” will not happen a second time – only the first.   IF you do not get in the water before your wave starts and you are nervous.   Then when your wave gun “Starts” – walk out to waste deep.   Take your time when starting – and swim SUPER SLOW and BREATHE.

TAKE YOUR TIME.   BREATHE.   SWIM EASY.   Take a mental picture of what it feels like to swim warmup at the pool – this is how you should feel and visualize yourself when starting this swim.   SWIM SLOW!   If you want to race the swim – wait until the second half!   START EASY!   I can’t say this enough!   Remember that this is for fun, and the only way to gain experience is to put yourself out there. Have FUN.   Do your best, and be happy with the experience. You are racing YOURSELF and nobody else!   “Head Down.   Catch up Drill.   Super Slow.   Breathe Every Stroke”.   🙂



Faster Swimmers:

You should start the SAME WAY.   I MEAN IT.   START SLOW.   After the adrenaline settles and you start to “Feel loose and in control” – then you can start to ramp up the effort.   But I promise you – if you try to swim your 200 pace at the start of this race, you’ll pay for it at the end of the swim/etc.   Even if doing a relay.   Swim the first 3,4,5 minutes “easy”.   With adrenaline you’ll still be going faster than you should!   SUPER SLOW motion.   IGNORE the other people around you.   They will fade at the 400.  They’ll be fried.   Promise.