Thursday, July 28, 2016

Andres the Giant - Kona Bound!

Just a quick post to congratulate our teammate Michelle Andres (Minnesota) on the huge accomplishment of punching her ticket to Kona! She finished 3rd overall at Ironman Canada this past Sunday, winning the F3539 age group.

Check out that sweet ride!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Tips For Exercise in the Heat

Elaina Biechler (Iowa) is fast, as in Kona fast. She's also smart, as in PhD smart, teaching college courses in Sports Nutrition and Anatomy & Physiology. Put these two together, and she knows a thing or two about athletic performance... here's some great info on training in summer heat.

Tips for Exercise in the Heat:

As we enter the dog days of summer, I’ve been asked by multiple clients for tips on how to deal with the heat. The unfortunate news is- no matter who you are, the heat will negatively impact your performance. I can however offer a few tips for how to minimize the negative effects, as well as a few nutritional advices in hopes of preventing dehydration in a hot environment.

If you monitor your exercise intensity via heart rate: know that in a hot environment, your heart rate will be elevated significantly compared to a cooler environment. If your heart rate is normally around 150 bpm while running an 8:00/mile, when it’s hot out, and running the same pace, your heart rate may be 165 -170 bpm. This tends to be more significant in females, but males will also see some increase in heart rate. This doesn’t mean that you’re suddenly out of shape. 

It means that your body is trying to complete two major tasks: maintain your exercise intensity, and get rid of heat. Our perception of exertion is also significantly higher in a hot environment. If running an 8:00/mile is moderately challenging on a normal day, in a hot environment, it might seem significantly harder. The more overheated or dehydrated you become, the more significant your increase in heart rate and perception of work effort will be. Don’t worry, this does NOT mean you are out of shape, it does not mean to throw your training out the window! Don’t panic! If 8:00/mile is your normal running pace, don’t be afraid to slow this down in the heat. Trying to maintain your regular speed in a hot condition (particularly if it is humid) could result in heat illness.

Can we acclimatize to the heat?

A classic study done by Nielsen et al. (1993) showed that heat acclimation can occur in 9-12 days of consecutive exposure to heat. Optimal exercise duration during the acclimatization phase is around 90-100 minutes. Following regular heat exposure, subjects were able to exercise 80 minutes to exhaustion on average compared to 48 minutes leading up to acclimatization! Subjects also showed a lower core temperature and an increased sweat rate following regular heat exposure (which is good!). Adaptations to the heat depend highly on exercise intensity, duration, number of hot exposures and whether the heat is dry or humid.

What if you can’t acclimatize to the heat where you live?

New research supports the concept that heat acclimation may actually occur with a hot water bath as well! Zurawlew (2016) recently reported that a 40 minute hot water bath immediately following exercise had heat acclimatizing properties. 17 males completed six days of hot water bath immersion after exercise, and resulted in significant improvements in endurance performance in a hot environment. Seems like a reasonable idea if you are planning on traveling somewhere warm for a race, yet you live someplace cold!

Regardless of who you are (novice or elite, male or female), studies generally report that a hot environment will decrease performance by at least 10-20%. With heat acclimation, you may evade this by about 5-8%, but will still ultimately have some decrease in performance. The traditional recommendations regarding heat acclimation:

  • 10 days 
  • 100 minutes per day (doing more than this doesn’t induce a faster/ better response)- less than this may require more than 10 days 
  • At the temperature you wish to compete at 
  • At the intensity you wish to compete at 
  • The majority (75-80%) of the adaptation occurs in the first 4-7 days 

Nutrition/ Hydration Tips for the Heat:

The key to proper hydration in a hot environment involves increased hydration prior to the exercise bout, increased fluid intake during the exercise, and rehydration immediately following. The major issue in the heat is with such a high sweat rate it is almost impossible to intake enough fluid during the exercise to prevent some level of dehydration. While drinking water might be good enough under normal circumstances, in the heat, it might be appropriate to also consume some carbohydrates and electrolytes as well. There are many effective brands for carbohydrate beverages and endurance supplements- my recommendation is to try many types, and find out what sits well/ works best for you. Ideal fluid guidelines, which of course can vary from person to person depending on exercise intensity, body size, and environmental conditions:

  • 20 ounces of fluid prior to exercise (1hr) 
  • 7-10 ounces of fluid every 20 minutes during prolonged exercise 
  • In a hot humid environment we can lose up to 2-3 L of fluid per hour!!! 
  • Following exercise, consume 16-24 ounces of fluid per every pound lost 

Related Posts:

Triple Threat Profile: Elaina Biechler - Iowa

Nielsen, B., Hales, J., Strange, S., et al. (1993). Human circulatory and thermoregulatory adaptations with heat acclimation and exercise in a hot, dry environment.

Tatterson, A., Hahn, A., Martini, D., & Febbraio, M. (2000). Effects of heat stress on physiological responses and exercise performance in elite cyclist. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 3 (2), 186-193.

Zurawlew, M., Walsh, N., Fortes, M., & Potter, C. (2016). Post exercise hot water immersion induces heat acclimation and improves endurance exercise performance in the heat. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports 26 (7), 11.

A study looking at elite cyclists reported a 6.5% decrease in power output in a 30 minute cycling time trial in a hot environment when compared to a thermoneutral environment (Tatterson et al., 2000).

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Rio Bound! Interview with Chris Hammer

Introducing Chris Hammer, an incredible athlete who is preparing to represent the US in Rio. Thanks for the time, Chris, we'll be cheering you on!

What’s your background and how did you get into triathlon?

I grew up in Michigan playing a bunch of different sports. I started running in middle school - mostly to get in shape for hockey - and found that I was actually pretty decent at it. I ended up running collegiately and a little post collegiately. It wasn't until after the 2012 Paralympic Games that I decided to pursue triathlon.

As respectfully as I can ask, were you born with the partial defect of your arm/hand or did something occur later? Does it hold you back in any practical ways as a triathlete or has it driven you to overcome and be great?

I was born without a left hand and my whole left arm into the scapular is slightly underdeveloped in general. Since I was born like this, it is hard for me to really think about what I am missing out on or what challenges I face that are unique to me because this is all I know.

Don’t be modest here… by your best estimation, just how strong are your forearms? : those of a toddler (  ) Taylor Swift-ish (  ) your average ColdStone employee (X) Serena Williams (  ) Arnold in his prime (  ) Popeye (  ) The Incredible Hulk (  ) Zeus (  )

I have to go with ColdStone employee, but mostly because I scoop ice cream for myself on a nightly basis.

When did you decide to go for the Olympics in Rio, when is the big day, and what are your goals?

After the London 2012 Paralympic Games we were invited to the White House. When I was sitting in the airport to go back home, I was surfing the internet and saw that paratriathlon was going to be contested for the first time ever at the 2016 Paralympic Games. That's when I sent an email to the USAT Paratriathlon program manager to inquire about the sport. I didn't really consider the fact that I didn't know how to swim and that I never road a road bike before. The Rio Paralympic Games takes place a few weeks after the Olympics, so I race sometime in early September. The goal is for me to get to the starting line healthy and knowing that I did everything in my power to be as prepared as I possibly could be. If I do that, hopefully the results take care of themselves.

Do you have other races on your schedule in getting primed for Rio?

I am not sure if I will be doing any other local races, but I will race the ITU Paratriathlon World Championships in Rotterdam, Netherlands at the end of July.

How has Balanced Art Multisport helped you in your preparation?

Having committed coaches has been one of the most beneficial things that has happened to me as a triathlete. You don't really realize how much goes into a training plan and proper periodization, so having someone take care of that for you so that you can just focus on the actual training is a necessity. And then I also have an awesome bike coach (Jeff Sherrod) and strength coach (Andrew Stasinos) whose help has also been so important for my development as a triathlete. I also train with BAM athletes on a daily basis and have become good friends with a number of them, and that has made training even more enjoyable. Being a part of BAM has just really allowed me to connect with a network of really cool people who I am so fortunate to get to know.

You've dominated the local scene, including a slew of young BAM talent. Like a dad proving he can still "take" his teenage son, do you feel some sense of personal duty in teaching the young bucks a lesson on race day?

That's a funny question, but there is some truth to that. I train with a lot of these guys and we all wish the best for each other, but at the same time we are competitive and we want to win. But I do hope that I can set a good example for these young guys and help them achieve their goals, because they are so talented and are going places in this sport and in life. It won't be long until I am chasing them. But also, I feel a responsibility to race well to represent paratriathlon. A lot of people see the Paralympics and para sport in general as more of a feel good story rather than high level sport. I feel that by me racing at a high level locally, I hopefully bring a little bit more awareness or maybe credibility to para sport.

Tell us about your family, you have a young daughter, correct?

I have a wife, Amy, who I met in college. We both ran on the cross-country and track teams. She was an All-American athlete and could run a 5k in the 16:40s. She works as a physical therapist now. Being in a relationship with a triathlete is not easy because it is such a demanding sport, but she supports me despite all my travel and training, and for that I can't thank her enough. We have a daughter, Peyton, who is almost a year and a half. She wears us out because she goes non-stop, but she is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

What are your plans in the next couple years post-Rio, both racing and non-racing

My focus after Rio is to complete my PhD from the University of Utah and then I probably should get a real job. I really don't know what my triathlon future looks like at this point, but hopefully I don't get too out of shape after Rio.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Ironman 70.3 Coeur d'Alene Race Report

Nick Hetro (Washington) reporting on the inaugural CDA 70.3 in northern Idaho. Would he take the guaranteed spot to 70.3 Worlds in Australia or hold out for a chance at Kona??

Having raced 7 years now at the sprint and Olympic distance, I was ready to try something different for 2016. The goals for this year are to race my first half Ironman and full Ironman in Coeur d’Alene (CDA), Idaho. IMCDA being my A-race and 70.3 CDA a B-race.

As you may know, Ironman shuffled locations and dates this year for their PNW races. 70.3 Boise was dropped. A half Ironman was moved to June in CDA. IMCDA was pushed back to late August. Therefore, this was the first year for 70.3 CDA.


Friday, July 1, 2016

8 Konas & Counting - Interview with B.J. Christenson

From sprint to Ironman, B.J. Christenson is widely considered to be the fastest all-around triathlete in my state. I caught up with him (for once!) as he ramps up for his 9th trip to the Ironman World Championships this October. Thanks for the time, B.J., and best of luck this season!

Let’s start with a question you’ve never heard before. How tall are you?


I bet you hear a lot “oh, those long legs, it’s so easy for him!” Do you ever get annoyed with that?

Yeah… people don’t realize how much you hurt, and they don’t understand the mechanics. It’s a lot about turning the levers over. Technically bigger guys are disadvantaged in heat, but I try not to buy into that mindset. On descents I will say it’s an advantage. In swimming there may be an advantage to having a longer body. But as a disadvantage I punch a big hole in the air… and they don’t make bikes my size!

one of B.J.'s many trips to Kona
I take it you’ve put in a massive amount of time on the bike to keep the “pocket rockets” in sight for the run?

It’s all relative, but not really tons of time. In a really good week I’ll get in 150+ miles, 3-4 rides. When I hear what other guys are doing who really dominate the bike… man. But I’m trying to ramp it up this year.

How would you sum up your 2015 season, and how is 2016 looking so far?

Last year I broke my scapula in a bike crash, which set me back the whole year. While recovering I ran a lackluster Boston Marathon and participated in St. George 70.3 with my wife. My training was really lacking getting ready for Coeur d’Alene. Then CDA was crazy hot. I beat myself up mentally and had a little pity party on the course… when I got to the halfway point of the run I thought “another 13, do I really want to?” It gave me a different perspective, just wanting to finish. Of course Ironman is monumental for everyone, just going the distance.

I lost some motivation, but things came around for Lake Tahoe in September. I wasn’t as prepared as past years, but was able to qualify for Kona 2016 (editor’s note: first in AG in 9:49).

I took a really long offseason after Tahoe. I’m a big believer in timing. I take a lot of time off… 8, sometime 12 weeks. If I’m planning on peaking in October I gotta have the fire to train. I raced St. George 70.3 this year (note: 4:35, 4th in AG), but I never want to have my best race in May. “The grind” as I call it has started, and I’m gradually building up more and more. But I enjoy training.

What’s motivates you to keep gunning for Kona?

Ultimately I got into triathlon because it’s fun. Racing for me is still about finding personal victories. It’s less about competing against someone, but competition brings out the best of me. Kona and I have a terrible love/hate relationship. I enjoy trying to figure out the code. I’ll have two good races there, then a disaster. That gets me hungry to go back. I’d like to go back for #10, then be done with the Kona conquest. I just have a personal goal I haven’t been able to reach.

Can you share what that goal is?

Uhhhh, I’ll probably keep that to myself. I don’t want to offend the Kona gods!

The vast majority of triathletes never qualify for Kona, and those that do might go once. For you not qualifying is the exception… how many times have you been to the Big Island now?

My first time was 2006, then I didn’t go back in ‘07. I’ve been back every year since except last year, so this Kona will be my 9th.

Would you say it’s getting harder or easier to qualify?

If anything it was easier in the past when there weren’t so many Ironmans. My first IM was actually Kona, because I qualified at a half (Hawaii/Honu 70.3) back when you could. I had never run a marathon, even though I was a runner. I did Oceanside 70.3 three or four times and didn’t make it. They don’t even have spots there anymore. At the time there were only ~15 full Ironmans in the world. At Lake Placid, where I qualified in 2008, there were a full 10 slots in the M3034 age group! (now there are way fewer). A lot more chance for a rolldown, too. Kona has continued to race the bar… the competition is getting better and better.

Some people have friendly local rivalries, are yours pretty much around the world? Have you ever talked trash to a German dude you pass at mile 23?

Ha, yeah… I stalk a few people. Couple Aussies, a Belgian, an American and some Germans. Also you never know, every year is new. I feel like half of’em don’t have jobs.

No trash, I’m usually the joker at the start trying to make people laugh. Kona is a sharkfest… most aggressive start you can ever be in. It’s a beat down, with so many swimming within that hour mark. I try to crack jokes to make light of the situation. I do get mad at drafting. It happens a lot, you just hope the referees call’em out. They do a pretty good job… you’ll see a penalty tent on the course with 40-50 guys in it. My first 2 Konas I got drafting penalties… wrong place at the wrong time. You have to be astute, pay attention.

Have you ever raced at 70.3 Worlds? How does that compare?

I did it when it was in Vegas. It was fun. I’d consider racing in Chattanooga when it’s back in the US. That said, in terms of the pageantry and the hype, there’s no comparison. Vegas was basically a glorified 70.3. Kona definitely has that international feel. They’re rockstars. The first time you’re just happy to be there. I’m much more level headed now but you just marvel at the level of good athletes. It still can be intimidating… so many people who are so good.

What are the 3 races you’re most proud of?

1) Kona 2013 was my best. My best Ironman, best Kona, best placing… it gave me hope to do something more, to get the result I feel I’m capable of. That was a special year. (note: 65th overall including pros, 8th AG, S 56, B 4:59, R 3:02, Overall - 9:03:34)

2) My first Spudman win. I first raced it at age 15 or 16, and came close to winning so many times. I took 2nd 5-6 times, 3rd a few times. It took me 13 times. Spudman had some good ringers that would come through simply because there weren’t that many triathlons back then. It’s still a great event locally.

3) Lake Placid 2008 I was the 1st amateur and had the fastest run split of the day including pros. Was my first Ironman to qualify. It rained all day. I do ok in the rain because I’m so big and generate a lot of heat. I came off the bike 12th in my AG and ran people down (2:56 marathon).

What are your thoughts on continuing to grow the sport at local levels?

I think there’s been a lot of healthy growth over the years, and I hope we keep seeing positive things from the club world in terms of involvement. The next chapter for me will be giving back to the sport and encouraging people to get involved. This is a sport of inclusion, whether you ride on your mom’s mountain bike or your neighbor’s 10-speed. I never want people to feel that they can’t belong to a club or get involved unless they’re racing on a fancy bike. You don’t need a $5,000 bike to play in the game.

ahhhhhhhhhh, girl look at that body... I work out
I also look at the clubs with a little bit of caution. It used to be you showed up, did your thing, everybody was supportive & cool. Now I’m afraid people will only be cool to people in their club. It hasn’t happened necessarily, I just get nervous. Be individuals as opposed to “I’m with this group.” I hope I’m making sense here.

Do you usually train solo or with a group?

Train solo, I like going when I want to go. I like doing workouts late at night… 8 pm, 9pm. Timing is part of it. I’ll do some rides with people.

I’ve had the displeasure of seeing you out on a course spectating in a speedo (SG 70.3 in 2014 I believe)… have you ever gone old school, full Al-Sultan in a race?

I did for my very first race at Kona and my first Spudman win. I do love to pay tribute to the old days. These days I get a little annoyed with people caught up in tech. Full body skin suits… you’re not riding 30 mph the whole day. Ridiculous. In the old days, the Sultan look… so hard core. Oh I also did the Kokopelli half back in 2002 with a shaved head and no top. Back then you didn’t have to. There was 100 bucks up for grabs for the win. Full Al-Sultan. I remember I was a bit numb, but it wasn’t too bad.

Follow B.J.'s journey back to Kona @67irongiant

recently retired German pro Faris Al-Sultan and his signature look