Mirinda Carfrae on coping with the heat in long-distance triathlons

We ask the 2014 Ironman World Champion how she performs at the highest level in hot weather, and what happened at Kona 2012 when she didn't take on enough water

Mirinda Carfrae running at Kona

We asked former Ironman World Champion Mirinda Carfrae (AUS) for her tips on how to cope with the heat…


>>> Beat the heat when going long

I think there’s a couple of factors of why I’m pretty strong in the heat. One, growing up in Brisbane helped as it’s quite similar conditions to Hawaii regarding temperature and humidity. So that’s an advantage. Also, my size helps. Being small helps in the heat.

During a race in the heat, you have to be very conscious of how much water you’re taking in. I made the mistake at Ironman Hawaii in 2012 of not taking in enough water and paid the price come the end of the marathon. In cooler races, you expend more energy so you need to increase your carbohydrate intake. You don’t need to be so aggressive with your water intake.

In Hawaii, you still need to fuel and take on those carbohydrates but the most important thing is to take on water and salts. That’s especially true of the bike as it’s harder to take on water and salts during the run. In my bottles I tend to have a mix of CarboPro with Gu Roctane.

Tactics in the heat

I don’t really change tactics. The main thing I pay attention to is pacing and making sure I’m not going into the red, or burning too many matches as some people term it. If you fall behind with hydration, or push too hard, you can really pay for it later in the day. So I make sure I stick to my nutrition plan as there’s little room for error.

What happened at Kona 2012

I was really keen to put together the perfect race. I got onto the bike and took on my nutrition – or my calories – that I’d planned to take on. But I lost one of my nutrition bottles so had to figure out how to replace that with on-course nutrition, which isn’t ideal.

I did a decent job of that but on that day it was a little cooler on the bike than it usually is in Kona. There was a bit of a breeze. I drink water to thirst and, because it was a little windy, that was drying the sweat from my body. Having sweat dripping from your body all the time is a constant reminder to keep drinking.

I think I was so focused on working hard on the bike and riding well, that I dropped the ball about how much water I took on. I lost about 10lbs. I thought it was because I’d lost one of my two water bottles on the bike and I’d be low on calories so I took on more nutrition to compensate.

But that made it worse because you need water to break down the carbohydrates and help them pass across your stomach wall. Ultimately, you need a good hydration plan that you practise and stick to.

(Main image: Nils Nilsen)


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