You have chosen to race two championship 70.3 events; the Asia Pacific 70.3 championships this weekend and the World 70.3 Championships on the 2nd of September this year. This is a bit different to your strategy leading into Kona last year where you only raced one event in the 4 months between Ironman Cairns and Kona. What’s the thinking behind racing more, and racing the half-distance in the lead up to Kona this time around?
Before last year I used to race a lot. I have averaged 10-15 events per year for the last 5 years. Many of the events I used to race were multi-day events, mixed in with XTERRA and 70.3. I enjoy racing and I always felt I adapted well to racing more. Last year was different as I was effectively taking on a new sport, and I was approaching it with a long term vision. I knew it would be hard on my body if I didn’t do it right and I also wanted to make sure I was in the best condition of my life leading into Kona. It was great to have the longer training blocks last year. I had to work through a lot of the mental challenges of bigger volume and longer blocks, that I had always managed to navigate around when I was racing a lot. I’m looking forward to racing 70.3 again. I haven’t raced this distance much in the last 2 years, but it’s a distance I really enjoy. The race this weekend for me is a test for where I’m at. I have had 4 solid weeks post Cairns training in Noosa and I feel like I achieved a really solid block of training over all 3 disciplines. But you really don’t know where you are at until race day.
You placed fourth 2 years ago at the Asia Pacific Championships in Cebu. What have you learnt about preparing for a race in that kind of heat?
Heat acclimatization is critical. I raced in Cebu 2 years ago and I was under prepared. It’s only been in the last 18 months that I have started to look at the marginal gains that I can achieve outside of just training. Sauna work to me is one of the ultimate ways to develop heat acclimatization. Over the past 6 months I have been testing the effects of sleeping at altitude in an altitude tent, versus heat acclimatisation using a sauna for 30-40 minutes immediately post training session. The jury is still out, as I seem to adapt well using both techniques, but I think ultimately the sauna work is more practical and can achieve the same results as altitude. Pre-race hydration is also hugely important for racing in this type of environment, especially when you throw in a long day of travel so close to race day. For the two days leading into the event I take twice the amount of electrolytes I normally do and I also salt my food using a high quality mineral salt.
The other key learning I had from my first race in Cebu is how important it is to pace on the run. The body doesn’t respond as well to surges, and copes a lot better with finding a steady pace so that it can focus on keeping cool rather than dealing with the extra pressure of intermittent higher intensity.
You placed 4th here in 2016. What were the key learnings from that race? What’s your expectation 2 years later? How have you evolved?
In 2016, I probably wasn’t that well prepared coming into this event. I lacked a lot of power and endurance on the bike. This resulted in me coming out of the bike about 6 minutes down and going into the run in 11th place. The best run time from Tim Reed was about 1:20 that year and I ended up with the 2nd fastest split at 1:21. Those times are up to 8-9 minutes slower than both Tim Reeds and my best half Ironman run times and I think that’s pretty a pretty good indicator of how much harder it is to perform in hot environments. From the first few kms on the run when I raced here last time, I found athletes were completely exploding. I was passing a lot of good runners and it felt like we were all barely moving. So the key learning for me is around pacing and not giving up as you just can’t predict how the 21.1km will play out.
What heat acclimatization prescription have you been using leading into Cebu?
Last year Stacey Sims gave me a protocol for heat acclimatisation. This is the protocol I have stuck with. It’s pretty simple. I basically try and do 20-30 minutes of sauna 4 times a week, 3 weeks out from a race. I normally do this straight after a training session to maximise on the physiological adaptation.
Stacey Sims Exercise Physiologist Heat Acclimatisation Guidelines:
- Aim to start your sauna session within 10-15 min of you finishing your training session.
- Sit in the sauna for a 20-30 min period. If on the first few exposures you are struggling to stay in for 20 min you can reduce the duration to what is manageable on the first day and increase a little each. Be aware that if all sauna sessions are of short duration (< 20min) it may not be enough heat stimulus for achieving beneficial adaptations.
- Try not to drink water during session
- Ensure you are sitting (upright position) rather than lying down
- If you start feeling dizzy/light headed then remove yourself from the sauna
- Avoid any cold showers/baths immediately after
- Ensure you maintain good nutrition and recovery strategies on days you have a post-exercise sauna as repeated heat exposure can be fatiguing
- Only use a sauna if you are healthy. If you are ill or feeling unwell, DO NOT perform
Do you have a strategy for race day?
I have had a really good block of swimming and my last few race results have given me a lot of confidence in my swim. I think that’s the beauty of my position now. By having a stronger swim, it allows me to be more flexible in my race strategy. I am not sure how Sunday will unfold but I intend to race strong.
Who are going to be the key players in Sunday’s race?
I think in this race, it’s going to come down to the best athletes in the heat. It will be a really hard race to get a breakaway on the bike as the road will be busy with spectators, and as it’s a 3 lap course there will be a lot of age-groupers also out on the course too. So for me I see the likes of Tim Reed, Tim Van Berkel, Craig Alexander and Mauricio Mendez being the key athletes in this race. They all perform well in the heat and they are all strong runners. To me, that’s the key in Cebu.
What’s it like racing in a country like the Philippines?
I really enjoy the culture of racing in Asia. Travel can sometimes get arduous but it’s a pleasure to come here and be welcomed by the locals. It feels like the people here genuinely enjoy hosting this event in their hometown and you can feel the energy and enthusiasm out on course.