This blog is written by Alan Scott, its part one of four describing his 2015 Hawaii Ironman experiences and lessons learnt. Hopefully it will prove entertaining and perhaps useful to anyone aspiring to go to Kona or simply complete an Ironman.
It’s March 16th 2015 and I am lying in a heap on the side of a Portuguese Road; bruised and battered and nursing a broken collarbone. All of a sudden my Kona aspirations seem to have been quite literally driven off the road, disaster!
Fast forward to July 5th (thanks to a faster than expected recovery and some super focused training) I am lining up at The Frankfurt Ironman European Championships. The race itself is an absolute scorcher reaching 40 degrees during the marathon – having a crippling effect on the times! Fortunately this worked in my favor, being a lighter athlete (66kg) and preparing with this in mind I finish 4th in my age group 34th overall in a time of 9.26.01. This was a massive result and the feelings of elation were only slightly dampened by the impending costs involved of actually going to ‘the big island’.
My Race preparation obviously started months before with hundreds of training hours. However when preparing for a race such as ‘Kona’ there are some things on top of normal prep that you can do to get ready.
The first is heat acclimation. If you have the funds then you can actually go to heat chambers that have spin bikes in them for specific heat training sessions. Alas I am too tight to do this so I improvised via two methods, which I had researched as good substitutes. Firstly turning your turbo training room into a ‘sweatbox’; heating on full blast with an extra heater blowing hot air in your face. Do not layer up though as this can impede sweat and is not meant to help. So unless you are a boxer trying to shed 3kg just stick to the normal attire on the Turbo. Any session doing this should not be too intense as it is highly fatiguing already, so stick to steady state. Secondly heading straight to the sauna from a run can be good too. I would run with my swim stuff in a bag and head straight to Virgin Active on the way back from the run, grab a quick shower (not cold) and go into the sauna for as long as I could manage. Also, if you can handle it, you want to minimize drinking too much liquid during either of these sessions until half an hour afterwards. Again this is thought to help the body adapt. However common sense must be applied here so don’t do anything too hardcore as no one wants a fainter in the sauna! Finally – these sessions want to be done two to three weeks out and about 5 sessions within a 7 or 8 day time frame, with the last session no less than a week before the race.
Another thing that I worked on for Hawaii is improving my metabolic flexibility. In a nutshell this is improving your bodies ability to burn its own fat for fuel at a higher aerobic intensity. This can be very useful especially in the intense heat as often people struggle to take on nutrition/calories in the hot conditions. So having this in your locker can really take the pressure off consuming the calories on race day! Improving your metabolic flexibility is a whole blog in itself (which i will cover at some point) however a large part of it is changing to a lower carbohydrate higher good fat diet.
These were two things that I did on top of the normal training which I am convinced proved crucial when it came to race day!
Arriving in Kona.
I could write pages and pages about my experiences in Kona however I am sure you will have heard a lot of them before. A couple of little take-aways would be: Nothing can fully prepare you for the heat of the Big Island, although I am sure my heat acclimation helped; heading out on your first run will be a rude awakening. Your heart rate is through the roof and doubt creeps in, “how the hell am I going to run a marathon in this!!” It’s not so much the heat or humidity but the intensity of the Pacific sun! So getting out there early is key, as your body does adapt and you want to give it as much time as possible time too. Added to that a trip up to Hawi (pronounced Hii-V) the out and back climb part of the bike course will give you a good idea of the cross winds you might expect on race day. Check out the palm trees in the back of this photo!
On a lighter note there is no better way to start your day than grabbing a quick cup of local java, donning the Speedos and heading down for an early morning swim in the crystal clear waters of the swim course. I’d then swim back past the coffee boat, grabbing a shot of coffee and a mini Cliff bar before heading to shore. It’s almost worth the trip for this! Plus daily swimming in the build up to an event can build swimming confidence and that consistency helps your ‘feel’ in the water.
Heading out early and going out with friends turned a good trip into a great trip. Training, chilling, eating and drinking with your friends in the build up adds so much more to the experience. I was very lucky, a whole boat load of folk from my club qualified, so sharing this experience with friends just magnifies the experience!
With regards to the parade of nations and the underpants run, two of the more famous things in the build up. I thought the parade of nations was a bit pants to be honest. Waiting around in the hot sun for 30 mins only to amble about 1k ‘as a nation’ seemed a little pointless. Having said that the GB team managers went to a great deal off effort sorting GB T-Shirts for us all which was amazing and did made us look the part. The underpants run on the other hand was a riot. People not taking them selves too seriously running around in their Sunday best all for a good cause. One word about these hard core seasoned Ironman folk though, many have been out in the sun a little too much. Nice from a far… far from nice springs to mind 😉
My last word on the build up to the World Championships would be, try to take it all in. It’s a circus and great to be a part of. This is what you have been training for so enjoy the build, grab as much free sh*t as possible, swim in the ocean, chat to folks, enjoy the food, drink the coffee and socialize. You can do all this whilst still resting the body. Don’t let it all slip by as you fret about the race as once race day is done the circus packs up and leaves town for the year!
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