Winter’s over and the long-course nerves begin to gnaw – blog

Age-grouper Andrew Keetley looks forward to the new race season, and considers how fluid intake will change for his first Iron-distance race

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As we head toward spring once more, it has dawned on me how rapidly time passes by when there is serious triathlon training to be done.

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This years’ season has already arrived, with the Dambuster Duathlon and Clumber Park Duathlon already done and dusted. In addition the first pool-based sprint triathlons will be kicking off up and down the country shortly.

Winter hasn’t been too difficult this year, and I would say there has been a healthy number of triathletes out cycling and running during the dark months of December and January. One icy day resulted in a pretty devastating “off” for my wife and I, as we had failed to spot black ice on a minor road. Luckily we did not break any bones and the bikes were repairable. But there was quite a bit of hobbling about for the next week and I had to miss the Keyworth Turkey Trot half marathon.

I guess the moral of the story is; check out the conditions carefully before setting off on a ride. However, no matter how I try and dress it up, training on a turbo just seems so dreary compared to being outside on my road bike….even on a cold day.

My season’s focus is to complete my first Iron-distance event, and this is now starting to gnaw away at my psyche. With plenty of Olympic distance event experience and also 70.3 experience I should be quite capable of meeting the challenge. So what are the major challenges to going long? Here are the three big issues for me:

• Dealing with fluid intake
• Planning the nutritional requirements
• Setting a reasonable pace for the 26.2 mile run

Of course there is a huge amount of information in the media advising us on sports science. Much of it makes sense, but as an age grouper there are only so many hours we can train. I rely on my coach Nick Dunn at Tri-Camp. I figure a twice world champion AGer knows more about how and when to train than I do. So he writes the plan and, as long as I don’t fall off my bike, I stick to it.

Fluid intake conundrums

Back to first of those three issues above. When competing in sprint distance events, I have never really worried about fluid intake. I reason that exercising for 60-70mins is not a problem and if I get thirsty on a hot day there is normally a drinks station to placate me. Although this may sound heretical, even at Olympic distance a single drinks bottle on the bike seems plenty.

The trouble is no one is going to complete an iron distance without fluid intake. Based purely on the number of hours on the course some drinks will be require, after all most of us could manage without a drink for two hours on a working day but how often do we take in fluid over a 11-12 hour period?

I guess I could take on trust what the experts write on the many sports specific drinks packets. But doesn’t everyone worry slightly that these guys have a business to run and might be slightly inclined to suggest we consume a little more than we really need? Perhaps that is unfair. Then what about different athletes, the consumption of fluids for a petite framed female athlete will clearly be different to a male with a 6’8″ frame who could have 70% higher body weight. Not that I am either of the above!

Vexed by these thoughts it seems to me that sweat rate has to be a major consideration. Fortunately it is also pretty easy to measure. Just jump on the weighing scales in the clothes you were born in before a training session. Get on the same scales, again in your birthday suit after the workout. The difference in weight will be sweat. The maths is pretty simple, especially if you like metric measurements as 1kg = 1 litre.

Clearly if you have taken in some fluids you have to account for this but that isn’t tricky as most sports drink bottles have 500ml or 600ml markers on them. As for output.. Well let’s say it’s nice and simple if you sort that out before and after the weight measurements!

The results can be quite startling. Last week a 2:20hr brick session gave me a 2.8kg weight lost, with an input of 500ml accounted for, this showed me generating a sweat rate of 1.2 litres per hour. Which is all a little scary. That is just not sustainable for an iron distance event.

The considerations next have to be:

• What temperature conditions would I face in a real event?
• Will I maintain the same effort levels as I can in an intense brick session?
• Does a training session in an air conditioned leisure centre create a very different effect on the bodies sweat rate?

Whatever conclusions I head towards, one thing is certain the first discipline of triathlon is the swim. Apart from the seriously long distance swims no one has worked out how to drink and swim. So I had better get an extra bottle cage fitted to my bike!

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More on my other hang ups next month. Training track of the month has to be The Black Keys “Gold on the Ceiling”: