My Fitness Diary: Feeling the heat on the lava fields of Hawaii

Competing in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii for the second time, I learnt plenty of lessons from the last time – particularly staying cool and hydrated

Aileen Flynn during the 2017 Ironman World Championship race in Kona, Hawaii

Aileen Flynn during the 2017 Ironman World Championship race in Kona, Hawaii

 

Last month was my second time racing the Ironman World Championships in Kona, and it was an entirely different day on the lava fields compared to my first experience of it.

There are a lot of lessons to learn each time you complete an Ironman, especially in the heat. Every action has a reaction and nowhere is this more evident than over the course of an Ironman race. Every time I race, I discover another piece of the puzzle to implement in the future.

Ironman racing certainly requires an immense amount of physical training and work in preparing for it, but, on the day, it is things like pacing, staying well hydrated, adequately fuelling the body and keeping strong mentally that can make or break it.

Athlete competing during the Ironman World Championship in Kailua Kona, Hawaii.
Athlete competing during the Ironman World Championship in Kailua Kona, Hawaii.

I arrived fit and ready to the start the race last week. The week leading into the race involved a good amount of rest and quality sleep. It was a real bonus getting valuable rest on board and something that would be desirable year-round in an ideal scenario. I had a race plan for the day and felt comfort in knowing that if I stuck to the plan, all would go well.

Hydration strategy

Lessons I had learnt from my previous experience in Kona included being more mindful of sun protection, keeping the body from overheating and improving my hydration strategy. I decided to wear a suit for the bike section that offered maximum coverage to help in protection from the sun. VeloRevolution kindly made me a custom-made aerodynamic speed suit to wear which was very comfortable and allowed me to bike through the heat of the lava fields without any worry of scorching myself. I took on lots of electrolytes on the bike section and tried to stay away from energy drinks as this can negatively affect my stomach.

My race on the day was an hour quicker than 2015 and I felt 100 times better and totally enjoyed the experience. Overall, I raced conservatively, but this paid off as I was able to pick up my pace for the final 10km of the run. I also did a much better job at keeping control of my body temperature by using ice in my running cap from the very start of the run. I think if your head feels cold the rest of your body gets tricked into feeling cooler too.

Calibre

Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii is like no other ironman race out there. The level and calibre of athletes competing is astonishing and the speed that some of them can cover those miles is impressive.

Surfers hold the line before the women’s pro start at the Ironman World Championship last month.
Surfers hold the line before the women’s pro start at the Ironman World Championship last month.

I know first-hand the hard work, dedication and sacrifice it takes to get to the start line in Kona and there is a collective mutual respect amongst the athletes that is very special.

I finished 34th in my age group out of 94. I hoped to finish a little closer to the top of the field, but I was happy I put in a decent race performance in such hot conditions.

On the day, over 2,500 competitors towed the line on race morning having qualified from Ironman races all over the world.