Thursday, December 2, 2010

Ironman and Saltwater - It is close to an ultra!

I just learned something interesting. It relates to triathlons, specifically Ironman Triathlons with the swim in the ocean. That is OK. You are covering 140 miles. That is definitely an ultra.

I entered the Florida Ironman the last two years. Both years I had trouble with a very upset stomach during the run, especially this year. In 2009 I was fine until half way through the second lap of the run. ( The run at Florida is two laps of a 13.1 mile out and back course.) I ended up walking almost all of the final 7 miles. This year was much worse. I began to feel a little queasy during the final 20 miles on the bike, but not bad. I thought I could fix everything in the run, after all I am an ultra runner. I can run 100 miles with virtually no stomach problems. Right? Wrong!

I was able to run a about 6 miles of the first 13 mile loop and not one step of the second lap. I did run the final 100 yards to the finish. It would have been embarrassing to walk to the finish. Literally, that was all I ran. It was actually so bad I could not even walk fast. Last night I talked to an old friend and Go-Kart racing buddy from college, John Cobb. If you are a triathlete, yes, the John Cobb known as “America's Aerodynamics Guru.” If you are not a triathlete, he actually did teach Lance Armstrong how to ride a time trial long before anyone knew who he was. John continued to work with Lance for years and actually went to France one year with the team.

I mentioned the problem to him and without a moments hesitation he said, “the problem was saltwater.”
During the swim you drink so much saltwater that you need to drink plain water and take no electrolytes during the first two or three hours of the bike ride. That way you flush out all the excess salt. He said if you don't, by the run, “your stomach just shuts down.” All during the run I thought I was so sick because I was not getting enough electrolytes. I will know next time, except I plan to enter the Houston Ironmen in 2012. The swim is in a fresh water lake! Maybe I will get in Kona.

David Tosch

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