6 Weeks ago I embarked on training prep for the Hell of the West Triathlon.
An iconic race held in Goondawindi QLD that started back in 89 – Its labeled QLDs toughest Triathlon.
It’s a long course race consisting of 2km swim 80km bike and 20km run and serves as the QLD Long course championships
Held in early Feb it’s the extremely hot conditions that bring about the name sake and status.
I decided to pour my efforts into a prep for this seeing as though it was bucket list race for me practically since I started Triathlon. I have been eager to revisit long course for some time.
I knew I was faced 4 major challenges
1 - Overcoming a back injury
2 - Going long – Could I get the mental aptitude right again
3 - Juggling 3 jobs - efficiency needed.
4 - The heat adaptations
The first 3 challenges were fixed by contacting my old coach Kel Rook who came on board to support me – Kel goes all in, he thinks big and communicates black and white and we speak nearly every day. Its an old school approach - He tells me to get a pen and write down the program. I do it. Point and shoot method. Working with Kel keeps me thinking less and doing more/less when it counts. Most importantly sometimes It’s a matter of doing it for him just as much as I do it for myself.
Good listener, vision and pusher... That’s the kind of coach I aspire to be for my athletes.
So the remaining challenge would be the heat.
Summer came on pretty quick here ..
The first couple of weeks started with some midday anaerobic threshold swim sets and a 30 min time trial run – Here I found prickling skin and mental prison felt when the body overheats and loses its juice. I survived these small doses. They were key starting points in making sure I was completely on point with hydrations and recovery nutrition/ practices
BRICK SESSION 1 - 70KM TT 14KM RUN - Murwillumbah Cane Fields
The first big reckoning was a Sunday morning in the Cane fields at Murwillumbah where my session goal was 70km TT with 14Run off.
The bike went off without a hitch I was somewhat surprised with the output … Off to run with my tiny water bottle. It was HOT out there. The convection on the bike really takes away the true interpretation of the heat. I was running through the cane fields but it felt like I was running on the sun. No wind, no shade and it felt like 45 degrees beaming back off the tar.. At 5km my skin was tingling…. Mentally I was doing everything to cope but I literally felt like I was in a furnace, by 6km I made the decision to turn around because 1km more before turning felt like I may have not been able to make it back it was that bad. At 8km I stopped to hide in a tiny piece of shade and my heart rate dropped from threshold going 5 min pace then sat on 138 and did not move. I was out of water and trying magically make a tap appear.
After 10 mins I had cooled slightly – I had 4km to get back to the car. Another 2km up the road and a tiny piece of shade came again. I once again hovered… this is pathetic right? I’m thinking about guys in Kona, I’m wondering if its as hot as this – or hotter? I’m wondering how anyone can survive this.. I’m not feeling overly confident about HOTW right now...
I make it back to the car. Recover up and knock out another 5km after lunch to make up for the volume and add some for the piss weak effort.
RACE DETAILS -
I checked out the HOTW race site to investigate the run course – it says on river so I'm assuming potentially some shade break? I see the start time is 530am so the sun wont have hiked as much. There’s apparently always wind in Goondawindi so perhaps that will aid the cooling. But I’m not going to bet on any of that – I’ll expect it to be a little similar. I’ll adapt, and I’ll use the aid stations
BRICK SESSION 2 - 80KM TT | 16KM RUN - RATHDOWNY/RUNNING CREEK
The following week another long brick session in Rathdowny 80/16 – Riding 80km TT from Rathy to Woodenbong return – This time I'm thinking smart and set out to run my 16 km as 2 x 8km laps - out 4km towards running creek and back to the car so I have an ‘aid station’ at the car….
Its hot, humid and once again there is no wind.
Lap 1 - 3km in and I’m F cooked. Skimming under every tiny piece of shade avail, which is bugger all. Playing the mental games to work through it. The final 3km heading back to the car I am in every bit of hell fire hurt locker. My touretts syndrome has kicked in and there’s verbal anguish.
I reach the car and spend the next 10 mins under a tap dousing my self continually with water…. I sit in the shade for another 10 mins reflecting on that first 8km – devastated knowing I should be carrying on with 16 straight
Im thinking 'How will I finish this race'.
I console myself and having cooled down I have no excuse as to why I cant knock out another 8km – Even if it meant running out and back 2km to get more water on my body.
This time Stacey takes the car out with some big water bottles.
As soon as I start the wind picks up – Wow. Completely different experience now, Im still slowly heating up but its bearable. I decide I can easy push out the 8km – Stacey hits me with water at 2km and 6km and I don’t start to really struggle until the final K.
I got the volume done and I feel how much of a reprieve the wind and water make… that gives me a touch of confidence. Im still beaten up but I close that day feeling like it was a victory.
BRICK SESSION 3 - 90KM TT | 18KM RUN - CURRUMBIN VALLEY
I back up 5 days later with a 90/18 on the Thursday and I do this one in Currumbin from home. I prepare more fully with bottles and set out to run the 18 as 12 km into the valley – duck into home for a quick tap hit then the final 6 towards the beach and back …..This time I go the distance only breaking 2 mins to refill bottles and douse myself with the hose.
Whether it was slightly cooler or I was adapting im thinking a bit of both – Today was a big win.
BRICK SESSION 4 - 100 | 20 - CURRUMBIN VALLEY
Only 5 days after my last one again and a Club race in the middle of that ..Its time for the big one – 100/20. Same deal – Currumbin, but this time I challenge myself to the full 20 as runing beach side 10km/out back. I finish the bike with equal watts and speed to my 90 the week before and I grind out the run – only stopping at a few beach showers to quickly get water on the body. Perhaps not as hot as Mur'bah or Rathy but still cooking up - Dealing with it better.
Big win here – I know I can go the distance.
I’ve mentally sorted a few things too – 4hrs 35 of aerobic threshold this is possibly the biggest training session ever ever done besides a race.. And I did it pretty loaded. The mental game is where its at. Constantly shoving off the little voices that want the thing to be over.. I come back to present. Nothing else to matter but moving through it.
Race is 3 weeks away and I still have some work to do including the obvious one being HOTW day itself.
Here is a summary that may help you with training/adapting in the heat.
- Running into a breeze is a lot cooler that running with the breeze in your back
- Water on the body it plays a huge role in reducing the perception and physical temperature.
- Mental adjustment to pace and feeling needs to be made in order to stay positive
- Let thoughts go that serve to concrete in the point of pain .
- Be selective with the choice of hat / or no hat. I used a baseball cap on my first 2 runs and it was certainly a factor in heating me up more than the effects of sun protecting/shading it provided.
- Use electrolytes and don' play catch up - Stay on top of it
Get at it :)