Kona update October 3rd 2016
Wee update from the Big Island. It’s heating up here and the place is starting to become a circus of lycra clad triathletes running and cycling along a busy Ali’i drive from sunrise to sunset, and if they are not on the hot roads then they are part of a murmuration of swimmers in Kailua harbour moving as one from buoy to buoy.
I have been enjoying the privilege of joining my fellow house mates in parts of their run and swim training and it has been a joy. I only wish for every athlete here to see how much they deserve every moment of this experience. Everyone has worked hard for it and this final week is now about recovering the body, refueling the engine, focusing the mind, relaxing the analytical brain, race course familiarization, last-minute equipment checks, preparing your race day nutrition, and maintaining those fit and supple bodies ready for race start.
This week relax the shoulders, breath deep, and just allow yourself to flow with the ironman current so to speak.
When last here in 2014 I wrote two blogs that may also interest you with some tips about the Kona experience:
“Every athlete pounding this hot rock of an island on Saturday 11th October 2014 is all too familiar with the pain of sacrifice – the pain this Saturday can only be medicated with mental strength, courage, and self-belief. Before getting here I believed that focus, visualisation, and fitness is what takes away the pain of the searingly hot and windy 180 km bike ride, or the 42.2km marathon distance run. But apparently that pain is always there; it is how you make friends, make peace or beat the hell out of it that determines your triumph.
Self-belief, faith in something bigger, a cause, and the love and support of family will form the background track of motivation during this race but there is something more that gets an Ironman over the line and that quite simply is the person themselves; the person that they are, competing, alone.
This my friend is what makes me so terribly proud for loved ones and friends…. and strangers alike. Click here to read on:
These South African trouble makers inspired me to make so many changes to my life after Kona 2014; and it seems I’m meeting plenty new trouble makers this Kona ’16!
A few notes:
Making Vitamin D
The Hawaiian sun is potent here; but despite this I have adopted a safe skin approach whereby I take the sun in small doses with no sun cream and then get back out of the sun. This is an art, that I don’t recommend you do unless you can calibrate your exposure and prevent any hint of a burn. This strategy allows me to make much-needed Vitamin D and reap the health benefits without the risks that chemical sun creams pose to health. Sun cream also blocks the body’s ability to make Vitamin D. If I am due out for a longer training session in the day time sun then I apply a sports sun spray.
I am not going to turn this into a Vitamin D blog, a skin cancer blog or a rant about sun creams. Suffice to say Vitamin D is incredibly important to the athlete in terms of health, strength, performance and immune system function, some sun but not too much is amazing for our health and too much sun is not good at all for us. The medicine and the poison is in the dose. I guess its hard to navigate all that is spoken about the sun and health and Vitamin D.
You may or not want to take my word for it; I have done a lot of research into this topic and sun in small doses is a necessity for health, and Vitamin D in higher doses is linked with many health improvements. I am a big fan of having your levels checked by a doctor at least once a year to check that they fall within optimal levels and acting accordingly. This is something to worry about another day!
When training and racing I suggest that you use a strong high factor SPF cream that is waterproof, doesn’t irritate your skin (e.g. heat rash) or eyes (stinging) and if you possible one that is environment and health friendly (low in preservatives and chemical additives). There are many companies out there offering ‘healthier’ versions. If you live in a sunny climate then I suggest you make better choices for your health but if sun exposure is only on rare occasion I don’t believe it is worth stressing over too much when it comes to which sun cream to buy.
Test your sun screen before race day!
But PLEASE do respect this sun; she is powerful and bad sunburns are most definitely linked with skin cancer. The verdict is out on how much sun exposure is healthy and what constitutes the “too much and too little” that we link with increased morbidity and mortality. Be sensible; especially if you have fair skin or skin moles; slap it on, cover up or get out of it.
Please make sure that you apply sun cream after the swim and again before your run, especially if you have sensitive skin that burns easily.
Keeping the bay healthy
Although I only heard it in passing, apparently the high levels of sun cream that slip off athletes and into Kailua bay can amount to a concerning level when we wish to protect the reefs, fish, and all that is alive in the water. I noticed a sun cream company here in the harbour two days ago offering free sun cream for swimmers that was free from oxybenzone; oxybenzone has been linked with harming coral reefs: Sunscreen Ingredient Threatens Marine Life: Here’s How Oxybenzone Kills Coral Reefs .
Do your best to do your bit for the environment.
A lot of swimmers = a lot of sunscreen
Harming Hawaii’s beautiful fish and reefs
Opening your eyes and all your senses
I have been told that I notice everything around me a lot; even when I am training. It is true, I do, it is the source of great joy in my life to feel a part of all that is surrounding me. People and frenzy can feel a lot to me, so for me to connect to the subtle movements of nature, plants, trees, birds, and all that is living and breathing around me gives me energy, and fills my beating heart with joy.
I had forgotten how much an athlete can be in their heads until I was reminded just how much I do connect.
Its simple really; just open your eyes and senses and slow your mind. It takes practice and patience and an allowing of all that will flow with the wonders of nature as you connect to her, and her to you, and as you connect to that great energy within and all around… it reminds you of the miracle that is life.
Have you noticed the flowers? The incredible trees? The colourful and lyrical birds, the fish, or the morning sunset as you swim the bay? Have you been gifted the symbolic sighting of a dolphin, dragonfly, or turtle? Open your eyes and senses and you will be amazed at what gifts and messages come your way. The universe is always watching out for you. Here are a few I have noticed on my morning runs; please click on the images for my observations.
This is a video of just a tree, among many along Ali’i drive; but if you stop and really look wow. Everything went quiet for a few moments as I recorded this; respectfully there wasn’t even a triathlete running or cycling by – and then there was. Soak up these peace-filled moments!
Carbohydrate loading and which are best?
Much has been written about carbohydrate loading strategies and I have written about this along with guidance here which is a basic and yet comprehensive start: Endurance Race and Triathlon Preparation E-Book.
In brief, YES a carbohydrate loading protocol is recommended at least 24 hours and for some up to 72 hours out from race day to coincide with your taper . I believe in a whole-foods approach from mostly real foods, spaced out evenly across most meals and snacks and focused on lower glycaemic index preferably gluten-free options.
Focus on a steady increase in carbohydrate intake as the week proceeds; especially from Wednesday evening, Thursday and Friday (if you are racing on Saturday). There is no need to stuff yourself but start raising it up gradually: oats, rice, quinoa, and other whole grains; potatoes and root vegetables; dried fruit, fruit, and bananas; smoothies and so on are all great options. Spread them out across the day. Maintain quality protein but not excess and increase coconut, avocado, salmon, and other healthy fats. Again not mega doses but be consistent and stick with what works for you.
It is a good idea to also increase you intake of naturally rich in nitrate foods and also anti-inflammatory and antioxidant rich foods. This is something that my athletes and I focus strongly on during taper week and any other individual strategies that I feel are important for them.
Don’t mess around with new ideas; now is not the time to make changes!
Finally here is a nice article from Ironman.com website:
I am beginning to see that I am sitting in the most privileged place ever here in Kona as the athletes prepare for ironman world championships. what a blessing; i get to watch, breath, experience and train here… with no pressure on me whatsoever.
It’s all the little things. I get to walk to the harbour and chat along the way and then join a swim and feel the water exactly as they do, see the fishies, notice the undulating ocean floor and coral reefs (makes me wonder is this what makes people sea sick), feel the water temperature and saltiness, get dragged in the circular current on the way back in feeling I am going nowhere (relax and let it do the work) and the whooshes of cold water coming from somewhere under the water table. I’ve earned some x-stripes on my back 🙂
I get to trot along for some of the running; feel the heat and humidity and phenomenal stress on the body. I now know what sweating is and in a week it has gone from sea water salty to watery sweat. I am feeling what acclimation is.
I get to spend time with each athlete individually and also in a group. To meet random strangers and hear their stories. Stories even from people who love this craziness so much that they are going to come next year and volunteer. I also met a beautiful couple who quoted me Mark Twain as written below.
Every athlete here is the best that the worlds nations have to offer. Each is here on a mission, after a long journey, hours of training that are incomprehensible to the ordinary person, physical pain that most don’t bear; sore arses and bits, pain, stiffness, fatigue, sleep deprivation, the mental toughness that keeps pushing when they wanna stay in bed, training when it is dark, training again when it is dark.
All utterly deserving of their place on the start line. Everyone is here because they fought to get here; physically, financially, mentally…no questions.
Every athlete is exceptional, extraordinary, making no one special; a nice test on the ego.
Now, it is all about self faith, self-love, self-appreciation, self belief… and pacing. And I get to see it all play out like a Shakespeare play right in front of me.
It is me that wonders how I got so lucky! But I promise you one thing, I am here if you need me and I will learn all that I can to be better. You make the most of these opportunities 🙂
Mark Twain called Hawaii “The loveliest fleet of islands that lies anchored in any ocean.”
“No alien land in all the world has any deep strong charm for me but that one, no other land could so longingly and so beseechingly haunt me, sleeping and waking, through half a lifetime, as that one has done.
Other things leave me, but it abides; other things change, but it remains the same.
For me the balmy airs are always blowing, its summer seas flashing in the sun; the pulsing of its surfbeat is in my ear; I can see its garlanded crags, its leaping cascades, its plumy palms drowsing by the shore, its remote summits floating like islands above the cloud wrack;
I can feel the spirit of its wildland solitudes, I can hear the splash of its brooks; in my nostrils still lives the breath of flowers that perished twenty years ago.”