The Barrelman is a race that I keep going back year after year. It’s certainly not because of my amazing performance at that race. I go back, because it’s a well run race and many Baydogs attend as athletes, volunteers and spectators. So naturally, it’s the race (place) to be in September.
That was my 4th year as an athlete at the Niagara Falls Barrelman 70.3. It was my second time being part of a relay team. This year, I was the runner. I had some unfinished business on the run course from the previous year. That story will be a podcast episode in the next few months.
While most teams have a hard time finding a strong swimmer, our team had 3. But, only one of us could swim. Gabriela won that coin toss.
We arrived on Friday and made sure that we stayed well hydrated leading up to the race. We numbered the water bottles and made sure we were taking them in regularly. We also made sure our protein intake was adequate the Friday and Saturday night. That’s sometimes hard to do when you are away from home. It definitely takes some planning to make it happen.
Late afternoon on Saturday, we laid out our clothes and nutrition for the next day, went for dinner and went to bed early.
Sunday morning we were ready. Now, normally, I have my breakfast and race day nutrition planned out. I know what works for me. When completing the event as an individual, I have the caloric, carb and salt requirement sketched out. But you see, I was part of a relay team. That means that I was running when Rebecca, the cyclist came in.
I wasn’t really prepared, from a nutrition standpoint, to start running in the middle of the day. While I tried my best, I know that I failed miserably. I didn’t start with my usual breakfast, as I forgot to grab a microwavable cup the night before and the room we stayed in, didn’t have a coffee maker to heat up water.
The day was much hotter than expected and while I brought what I thought was plenty of water, I could have had a little more and I should have included more electrolytes race day. But I didn’t.
The wonderful thing about being the runner for the relay, I was able to watch the swimmers from the stands at the Welland Flatwater Centre. It’s such a beautiful venue and spectator friendly. But it was hot. Even in the early hours, it was HOT. If I recall, the thermometer on the screen indicated 32 degrees soon after Rebecca left on the bike. Yikes!
Gabriela and I took the relay bus back to Transition 2 in Niagara Falls.
We had some time before It was my turn to run. I did my best to stay in the shade. Ate some bars, drank water and patiently waited for Rebecca.
Rebecca came in at 1:30pm, and I was off. The heat of the sun got to me shortly after I left. I could really feel the heat. So, I slowed my pace down a little, and allowed my body to acclimate a little. At the first aid station, I accepted a cold wet towel and placed it around my neck and kept the cup of ice in my hands. That helped.
While I have been working hard on hill training, I decided to walk up the 8% grade hill out of the park. I wanted to make sure I had enough in the tank to finish the race. The second reason I decided to walk is that I knew at that point that I would be walking part of that race. Since I know the course fairly well, I decided I would walk in the shady spots and run in the sun. That way, I could extend my time in the shade a little, hopefully helping me cool down a little.
The first loop went well. I saw many athletes struggling with the heat. I wasn’t the only one.
The second loop, right by Marineland is where the race went downhill for me. At that point, I stopped sweating and my left calf, that never cramps, cramped. My stomach was aching, and I had severe nausea. Those are all things that I have never experienced before.
The next aid station I grabbed some F2C, pretzels and ice. I knew if I didn’t recover a little from how I was feeling, I would have to walk 1 min, run 1 min. At that point, it was symptom management and just get to the finish line.
Shortly after the aid station, I met up with a woman that I had been following on the course for a while. She was walking at that point, so I walked with her an asked how she was doing. She told me she was cramping and would be walking most of the rest of the way. We walked a fairly good clip, 10 min/km and talked our way to the finish line.
The last 2 km, It was a real struggle. It really was. The mental game was real. The cramping and upset stomach was real. But, I wanted to make sure my new companion got to the finish line. So I kept walking.
Gabriela and Rebecca were there at the finish line, waiting to come in to the finish with me. We did it. My new friend also made it to the finish line.
That’s not where the story ends. I really didn’t feel well after that. I laid down on the ground for a little bit, but knew I had to get some carbs and salt back into my system. That was hard, since I was so nauseated. But I did. Potato chips always tastes amazing immeditely after a race.
It took a few days to feel better. I NEVER want to feel like that again. NEVER!
I’m now looking at what I could have changed in my race day nutrition or the training leading up to race day to make this a more pleasant experience.
After reading Podium Runners article on Beat the Heat: Warm Weather Racings article, there are a few things that I did right and a few things that I could improve on. Let’s break them down.
- Pre-cooling. While I have done that at home in training, jumping in my unheated pool before a run in the sun, and it’s worked for me, I will have to find ways to pre-cool before races.
- Replace lost fluids. This is an important one. I drank water and not enough electrolyte drinks leading up to the run. I was afraid of gastric issues. Another thing to experiment with.
- Hyperload on sodium. I am a salt secreter when I exercises. I usually have plenty of salt in my diet. Since I was there on the Friday, I didn’t make my own meals. I should bring my own little salt shaker next time. Add a little to my water as I hydrate leading to race day. I will be checking with my Naturopathic Doctor for the levels that I need.
- Eat a cool breakfast. While I didn’t have a microwavable cup on race morning, I wasn’t able to get my usual meal in, which is usually a warm meal. I did have a banana, tangerine, bar, cheese, bagel etc. This is something else I could experiment with.
- Reduce the warm up. I didn’t run pre race, but I wanted to make sure that I was physiologically ready to run. I completed part of the Be Iron fit warm up. I also didn’t really know when Rebecca would be coming in, so that was hard. I feel like that warm up was adequate for the climate.
- Lower your core body temperature. Thankfully, the course was supplied with plenty of ice as well as some cooling towels at key hydration stations. I keep the towel around my neck and added some cool water and ice cubes to it periodically. I think that is a good stratedy.
- Drink early and often. I did. But I think by that point, I was sodium depleted.
I would love to hear from you. What are your Beating the Heat strategies?
Record your voice memo on your smart phone and send the file to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include Beat the Heat in the subject line.
Till next time, have a great active week