IMTX - The day before

For those of you unaware of all the drama surrounding Ironman Texas this year, I'll give you a quick recap.  A couple of months ago, local political BS resulted in the loss of permits for the bike course (long story).  Ironman scrambled to come up with a bike course last minute and had a 112 mile course when the floods hit and damaged a portion of the bike path that was part of the route.  That led to last minute changes, and a 94 mile bike course that winds through the city.  If you've never been to The Woodlands, it's really busy around here so we now have a 94 mile bike course through town on busy roads.  I'm not sure how that's going to work out.

After all the bike course drama, yesterday it was announced that due to the floods, the water quality in the canal where we finish the swim isn't safe so they had to change the swim course.  We now finish by the swim start.  This gives us two different transition areas and it adds a mile to the bike. 

So that's where we're at now, the day before the race.  A 2.4 mile swim, T1, a 95 mile bike, T2 and the old 26.2 mile run course.  It was images of the run course that drew me to this race so I'm happy it's the same.  We had a chance to run one loop (it's a 3 lap run) last week and it's a great route along the canal and should have lots of spectator support. Some of it is on a running path, and I think that's going to get pretty crowded on lap 3.  It's basically all concrete so it's going to be a pounding.  I hope I hold up.

I'm not too nervous right now, but I will be tomorrow.  I always am.  I feel like the Ironman distance has gotten the best of me since 2010 so my confidence isn't very high right now.  I nailed IMWI 2010, but since then I've come up short of what I feel I'm capable of. It's been a combination of not executing my race plan, mistakes, bad luck, getting sick, etc.  But none of that really matters.  What matters now is tomorrow.  The past is the past.  What I need to do tomorrow is forget about everyone else, focus entirely on myself and execute my plan, be mentally strong and push myself to my limits.

Ironman Texas is known for being hot and humid and tomorrow looks to be another toasty one.  The high is the upper 80s with a real feel in the mid 90s.  There's a chance of thunderstorms, which I'm hoping hit while I'm on the run.  I've had some great long runs in the rain so I would welcome a storm.  If it hits on the bike, things could get ugly.  The course is busy, has a lot of turns, and lots of concrete which can get slippery when wet (my only crash in a race came at Hyvee a few years ago on wet concrete in a corner).

I did what I could for heat training at home, and I've been here for a week and have had a chance to do some training in the heat, but the heat concerns me.  I've struggled in the heat in the past, but I have a new fueling plan based on my sweat test results.  I've only had a couple of chances to test it out, but those workouts went well so I think I may have a solid plan.  I thought about increasing my power target with a slightly shortened bike course, but I've decided to race it as though it's the full distance and save my legs for the run. I think the 18 miles missing from the bike will shorten my ride about 50 minutes, which is less time to deal with the heat. I think I'm better off pacing conservatively rather than taking risks on a hot day.  There is a ton of time to be made up on the second half of the run if I feel good. 

If you happen to be following along online, I'm #726.  



Hooray for Science! Sweat Testing

Last year, a friend of mine told me about an at home sweat test she did where she got info on her sweat rate and electrolyte loss.  I've done a few sweat tests to figure out my sweat rate (weighing yourself before and after a workout) but those were informal tests that didn't give me any info about electrolyte loss.  I was intrigued, but didn't act on it....until I ended up in the med tent (again) after the Galveston 70.3.  It's time to figure out how to end this med tent streak.

So I ordered a test from Levelen.  A couple days later a package showed up in the mail containing my sweat test kit - an alcohol swab, cotton swab, a little plastic vile, tweezers and info card. 

The cotton swab on my arm....ready to start sweating.

You're supposed to replicate race conditions so I rode indoors and cranked the heat and humidity and got the temp up around 80 with 70% humidity.  I didn't use a fan (mistake) because I wanted to make sure I'd sweat enough to get good results.  I rode for an hour at Ironman power, but the heat, humidity and lack of a fan made for a pretty intense workout.  I was burning up and ready for the hour to end so I could drink something and cool down.

As soon as I finished I used the tweezers to remove the swab and put it in the vile and I weighed myself.  I had lost 3.8 pounds - 60 oz.  Ouch.

I dropped everything in the mail the next day and a few days later they emailed results...


 I was and wasn't happy to see these results.  This does help explain why I keep ending up in the med tent, especially the significant electrolyte losses.  This will definitely help me prepare for races, but losing a lot of fluid and electrolytes can definitely make long course races more challenging than they already are, especially hot races.  

But now I have some real numbers to work with.

I lose:
- 53 mmol of sodium per liter of sweat
- 8.1 mmol of potassium per liter of sweat
- 51 mmol of chloride per liter of sweat

That comes to about 1200 mg of sodium per liter of sweat (34 oz).  I've done a few sweat tests in the past and on hot days outdoors I tend to lose between 40-50 oz per hour.  That's about 1400-1750 mg of sodium lost per hour.  

They recommend replacing 60-70% of fluid and electrolytes lost.  So I need to drink around 30-36 oz per hour and take in about 850-1200 mg of sodium per hour for a hot race.  I'm probably getting about 300-400 mg of sodium per hour right now...maybe.

I asked them if electrolyte losses stay the same per liter of sweat lost regardless of sweat rate and they said yes, so now that I know how much I'm losing I can adjust my intake based on conditions and how much I think I'll sweat.  

I got my results back about a week ago, so about 3 weeks before IMTX.  It's a little late in the game to make changes, but what I'm currently doing isn't working so I'm taking a chance and more than doubling my electrolyte intake.