Written by Paul Ransome

Over a week has passed since the world’s best long distance triathletes at all levels took on the notorious Ironman World Championships in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. I used the opportunity to get some study time in by watching the live feed with the dubious commentary. There were some unbelievable performances, with Daniela Ryf’s record breaking time, Jan Frodeno’s master class in patience, Patrick Lange breaking Mark Allen’s 26 year old run course record, lets not forget Harry Wiltshire’s first out of the water swim and Lucy Gossage improving up to 9th from 10th in 2015.

As part of my study, I noted the amount of athletes that had bad days, which Kona seems to dole out to many. A number of British athletes I was following ended up performing well below par and this did nothing to ease my fears of the infamous conditions that the competitors face. Heat seemed to be the major factor for most, often slowing their run to a walk. From the post race interviews I learned that the heat also caused many athletes to suffer gastric distress during the run and that due to high winds on the bike many had not been able to stick to their nutrition plans and had pushed too hard to catch groups or negotiate the headwinds which caused problems for their run. Then there was the drafting penalties and all I could think about was due to the volume of people on the course, it must have been almost impossible not to get one.  This part I’m not looking forward to.

I am already planning how to cope with the conditions in Kona and started my research. My first ‘Google’ search was ‘how to cope with heat in Kona’ and I read most of the articles on the first page. One I have read before came up which was Torbjorn Sindballe’s experiences and studies on how to improve his performance in Kona. He highlights the major factors you must overcome, namely dehydration, hyponatremia and overheating and to what capacity they will affect your race. He then explains how he prepared and what strategies he employed to neutralise those factors. A major eye opener for me was how important body weight is, studies have shown that men with body weights of between 150-159 pounds were less likely to be affected by the heat and consequently their marathon time was less likely to suffer. My first goal for next year is to try and achieve a race weight 2kg less than this year and I will be 159 pounds. I intend to get the help of a local dietician Renee McGregor to help make this happen. Acclimatisation training was also interesting as if this is done correctly, it can be achieved within 9-14 days of training in the heat which doesn’t sound too bad, so I wont be sweating away for months in my homemade garage heat chamber. He also highlighted the importance of practicing your nutrition in these conditions as due the stress from the heat and your body moving blood to the skin for cooling your gut is at high risk of shutting down, leading to a large number of visits to the porta loos. I intend to scientifically test myself with the help of Team Bath to ascertain at what intensities I will be able to still consume nutrition for the fastest possible speed. This led onto cooling tactics and his most interesting one was wearing a latex glove full of ice on the palm which has been proven to be a very effective way to help cool the body as well as pouring plenty of water over your head at each and every aid station just as many saw the Brownlee brothers do in Brazil and Mexico recently.

All of these article have been put into the info bank for referral at a later date but I’m happy that I have started forming a plan to deal with the conditions, even if there is still a year to go! I can get back to researching how to get more aero on my bike and how to shave off 100g of drag to reduce my CDA and be even faster on my bike. Did I just say that out loud?


Paul is based in Bath and is a personal trainer and triathlon coach. He is part of the team who run Urban Training Systems and you can find out more about them here: Website / Facebook / Twitter.

Paul is sharing his story with Tri Radar as he prepares for Kona 2017. You read his introductory blog here.