Sunday, December 15, 2013
Vegas 2013 - Heat Acclimation Tips
The latest issue of LAVA arrived recently and among great articles about the winners an even more enlightening article was written by Jordan Rapp about his own failed performance. He breaks down what went wrong and the likely explanations. What hit me the most about this article was not the content, although it was strikingly similar to my own Vegas problems, but the speed at which he processed it into written thought. I am much more eager to write about success than failure, although we usually learn more from the latter, hence the three month delay on this post.
Before I get into the acclimation issues, here are some brief thoughts on the race itself. Race morning dawned, oddly enough, with rain and cooler than expected temperatures. My swim was similar to last year with a 31:52 and it was a struggle to find a rhythm with my toes cramping up after the half way point. The rain continued for the first half of the bike or so at which point it began to get warm and steamy. The bike felt good until about the last major uphill in which my legs completely left me and turned what was looking like a comfortable sub 2:30 into a 2:33. Out on to the run my pace did not match my effort and I was running slow. Just as I did the previous year, and despite trying to cool myself every way I could, I was bent over on the side of the road at mile 10 trying to figure out what went wrong. I jog/walked the last 3 miles dragging myself to the line with my slowest half marathon ever (1:49) and my slowest 70.3 ever 4:59.
What did go wrong?
Similar to Jordan I made the mistake of not being completely acclimated to the heat. Although it makes me feel slightly better that a professional who races much more often than myself would make a similar mistake, this is little consolation since I have made this mistake several other times. I should have prepared properly given past experiences, not the least of which was at the same race the previous year. Like Jordan I have a proven strategy I've used to prepare for races in the heat which involves uncomfortable methods such as no fans, extra clothing, and space heaters if needed in the weeks leading up to the race. Ironically, my best acclimation preparation has come early in the season when I was most worried about coming from a cool climate to a warm climate. Upon further break down of every single half ironman distance race in the last three years (not kidding) I also noticed several other trends in the successful races including at least four days of QUALITY acclimation training per week in the previous three weeks. Both the frequency and type of acclimation training were likely my major downfall as I still performed my acclimation training as I had in the past, albeit with less frequency and trying to substitute overdressed outdoor cycling with indoor trainer riding without a fan.
Other readings have confirmed these methods such as successes had by Ron Daws in preparation for the hot olympics coming from mild climate (T. Noakes, The Running Lore). Perhaps I am more predisposed to heat exhaustion thanks to my northern upbringing or just plain old genetics. But I have seen others find success with this obstacle. Regardless, though I feel like looking for all cool climate races next year, I know I must further make adjustments in my training to reduce the chances of heat exhaustion so I can attempt more warm weather races.
Final thoughts for heat acclimation...
1) I have never had luck cooling myself during a race in which I was overheating. It's like using a garden hose on a house fire. It will get you to the finish but nowhere near your goal pace.
2) Obviously, the ideal way to acclimate is to arrive at the race site several weeks prior to the race. Lets be honest if you have a job other than professional triathlete it ain't happening.
3) Tolerance to heat needs to be built up in the 3-4 weeks (minimum) prior to the race with acclimation workouts of overdressing, turning off fans indoors and space heaters if needed to bring air temperature and humidity up.
4) Acclimation workout duration or intensity needs to be gradually increased over at least 3-4 weeks which can be a bit difficult to mesh with reduced training of a taper. In Noakes' book (The Running Lore) he recommends building from 30 min to 120 min and using your long run. When I've tried to do too much too late and close to the race I just end up getting heat exhaustion in the workout itself, which is obviously counterproductive. START EARLY!
5) Running with over dressing and indoor cycling workouts are the easier methods to obtain the desired core temps.
6) Hydrate to thirst (T. Noakes, Waterlogged). Have available liquids for what your body is actually experiencing and desiring, not the current outdoor temperature.
7) Be safe and listen to your body.
Here is a related article from Torbjorn Sindballe with a similar protocol.
Posted by Kevin Nickel - Triathlete