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August 30, 2021

Crafting Your Race-Day Hydration Plan

You know how important it is to stay hydrated in training and racing. So on today’s episode, Sports Scientist Andy Blow from Precision Hydration returns to the show to help you craft a race day hydration plan. Precision Hydration has studied the hard-earned sweat of thousands of athletes all so YOU can properly hydrate your way through that next event. Learn how to strategize for your sweat rate, sodium levels, race distance, race weather, and more!

TriDot Podcast Episode .101 Crafting a Race-Day Hydration Plan Intro: This is the TriDot podcast. TriDot uses your training data and genetic profile, combined with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to optimize your training, giving you better results in less time with fewer injuries. Our podcast is here to educate, inspire, and entertain. We’ll talk all things triathlon with expert coaches and special guests. Join the conversation and let’s improve together. Andrew Harley: New show today, and we are talking about drinking! Drinking electrolytes, that is. We've learned in past episodes how important it is to stay hydrated in training and racing, so today we will specifically be learning how to craft a race day hydration plan that accounts for our sweat rate, our sodium levels, the race distance, the race weather, and more. Our key guide to the world of hydration is Andy Blow from Precision Hydration. Andy is a sports scientist with a degree in Sports and Exercise Science from the University of Bath. An expert in sweat, dehydration, and cramping, Andy has worked with multiple Formula 1 Racing teams, NBA, NBL, MLB and premier league sports teams, as well as many professional triathletes. An elite level triathlete in his younger days, Andy has finished in the top ten of Ironman events, as well as winning an Xterra world title. Andy Blow, welcome back to the show! Andy Blow: Good to be back, Andrew, thanks for the invite! Andrew: Also joining us is coach John Mayfield. John is a USAT Level II and Ironman U certified coach who leads TriDot’s athlete services, ambassador, and coaching programs. He has coached hundreds of athletes ranging from first-timers to Kona qualifiers and professional triathletes. John has been using TriDot since 2010 and coaching with TriDot since 2012. John Mayfield, are you amped up for a drinking conversation? John Mayfield: Conversations are always more entertaining when they involve drinking, so yes. I am looking forward to this one. Andrew: And just for the record, John Mayfield is not a closet alcoholic. I didn't want to make it sound like you were that way by saying that. Anyway, I'm Andrew the Average Triathlete, Voice of the People and Captain of the Middle of the Pack. As always we'll roll through our warmup question, settle in for our main set topic of hydration, and then wind things down with our cooldown. Lots of good stuff, let's get to it! Warm up theme: Time to warm up! Let’s get moving. Andrew: At the time this episode is being recorded and published, we are right at the tail end of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. I trust all of us have enjoyed watching our fair share of the games. The other day I was watching the men's 4x100 meter IM relay, where the United States and Great Britain finished one second apart for the gold and silver medals. Specifically, I was watching the closing 100 meter freestyle leg, and I thought to myself, "I wonder what it feels like to be able to swim like that." I bring this up to set up today's warmup question: If you could feel what it feels like to be a world-class athlete in one Olympic sport just for a moment, or for one race, game, or split you could jump inside the mind and body of a top Olympian and feel what it's like to be as good as they are, what sport would you choose? For the Summer Olympics, my choice is the downhill cycling BMC racing. I was watching this, it was new to the Olympics, it was super cool. These guys and girls are on BMX bikes, shoulder to shoulder, eight of them at a time, pushing and pedaling their way down a course. It's the combination of the physical effort that they're putting forth, the dirt-bike-like taking turns, and going over jumps and catching air. If I tried that – I am a nervy bike handler, I am a triathlete in my bike handling skills – I would crash and burn so hard if I tried BMX racing. So to feel what it would be like to be elite at that sport and be able to just fly through the air like they do would be super cool to me. BMX racing is my personal pick. Andy, what is your pick here? Andy: Yeah, that's a good one. I reckon there was a new sport in the Olympics this time around, which was the indoor rock climbing, where they did three things. They did the speed wall, and the bouldering, and the lead climbing. My son Bobby is 7 years old, and we've just started going indoor climbing together some weekends. I did a little bit of that when I was younger, not to any level, but then watching those guys and girls at the Olympics and the level of the problems that they have to solve on the wall. Apart from the speed climbing, they only get to see the route they're going to do for six minutes before they start the competition. Just how they do it, the strength and the nerve. When I've been climbing with my son, we went to one wall and I got to the top, and it was quite high, and it was enough. Then we went to another different wall. A brand new wall opened up, which is in a much bigger warehouse, and Bobby said to me, "Do you think you can climb all the way to the top?" And I thought, "I'll give it a try," and I got about two-thirds of the way up and had to stop and come down, because it was all getting a bit much. So I was so impressed watching that. I was glued to the TV. So that would be the one for me. Andrew: So they didn't get to practice on the wall. To your point, they just looked at it for six minutes. So they're mentally playing this chess match of determining what they think their route should be, and then they have a certain amount of time to climb it. Yeah, those are some athletes with the speed that they can get up those walls. It was insane. Andy: Yeah. Incredible. Andrew: John Mayfield, we've got one nomination for BMX cycling, we've got one nomination for the rock climbing at the Olympic Games. What is the John Mayfield selection for this question? John: I think, like you said, it'd be so cool just to experience what it feels like to do a sub-1:00 pace in the water and all those 100-yard dash paces. What does that feel like? So for me, kind of like you, I'm not going to deviate far from our cycling experience. As a 90s kid, it was super cool to have the BMX freestyle and skateboarding and surfing added into the Olympics. I think for my generation, those were the underground sports. They were largely discouraged, and you had to find a place that you could go and do those activities without getting run off, have the cops called. Then the X Games came along. So I think for us it's coming full circle now that it's completely legitimized in Olympic sport. For me, watching the BMX freestyle and seeing those back flips are just insane. I do everything I can every time I ride to make sure that that rubber never leaves the road, so for those guys to go and do those back flips and front flips and everything else they do, it's just insane. I can't fathom what it's like to climb that ramp, go and get several feet of air and leave the bike and come back on. It's just amazing. Back in the day we did it as kids, and mine looked much more like the scene from Napoleon Dynamite, where they set up the bike ramp. But those guys and girls are just amazing at what they do, such stellar athletes, and I can only imagine how many times they crash, and what it feels like when they don't land those tricks. That makes it just that much more amazing. Yeah, I would love to experience a backflip on a bike off a ramp. Andrew: Yeah, my wife and I were watching the skateboarding competition, and that's one thing she said, "I wonder how many times these kids have fallen in practice trying to perfect these tricks." Because you see how much they're falling in competition, and they practice this every single day of their lives, and it's absolutely insane. Really cool picks, guys, really cool sports. As always, we're going to take this question and throw it out on the I AM TriDot Facebook group. We want to hear from you guys, our audience on this: What Olympic sport you were watching and you just thought to yourself, "Man, I would love to feel what it's like to be world class at that sport?" We would love to hear what you have to say. Go to the I AM TriDot Facebook group, find the post asking you this question, and let us know what you think. Main set theme: On to the main set. Going in 3…2…1… Andrew: We recently had sports scientist Andy Blow from Precision Hydration on this show, and learned that there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to hydration, because everyone loses a different amount of salt in their sweat. We learned so much from that conversation that we have Andy back on the show today to share more. So as someone who sweats a lot, I wanted to get a better understanding of how much salt I lose in my sweat, so I took their online sweat test. After taking the test, I received a personalized hydration plan, and was recommended their strongest electrolyte, PH1500, which is three times stronger than most sports drinks. It's been a game changer for me, particularly in hot conditions. Y'all, I live and train in Texas. If you've ever struggled with hydration issues like dehydration or cramping during long, hot sessions, it's worth checking out precisionhydration.com. You can take their free online sweat test, find out which PH strength matches how you sweat, and then get 10% off your order with the code TRIDOT10. To learn more, you can even book a free 20‑minute video consultation with them to ask any questions you have about hydration and fueling, or even to discuss your own personal strategy for an upcoming race. Again, that's precisionhydration.com, and use the code TRIDOT10 to get 10% off your electrolytes and fuel. There's a quote from a past podcast episode that I absolutely love. It came from the great triathlon coach and podcast regular John Mayfield, who says on the race course, you've got to "drink like it's your job." This is a mindset that will help many triathletes stay hydrated to the finish line. But today I want to unpack it a little bit with Andy and John, so that we can learn what we should drink and how much we should drink and when we should drink so that we can drink like it's our job as effectively as possible. So for anyone who is listening right now and has not already listened to Episode .87 where Andy gets into the science of our sweat, pause this episode, go to Episode .87, take in all of that juicy information, and then come back and resume this one. It's just really going to provide some context and lay the groundwork about how we all sweat differently, and so we all need to hydrate differently. Andy, let's start today just by talking about forming a hydration plan for a race. From our last conversation, I think all of our listeners by now understand the amount of electrolyte needed per hour will differ from athlete to athlete. But other than the amount of sodium we need to replace, should the race plan itself really be that different athlete to athlete? Andy: Yeah. It is one of those things that I think, when you lift the lid on this, at first people look at hydration and electrolyte replacement, and you can get around a lot of long, hot endurance events with a very rudimentary plan or in fact no plan at all in many cases. You can bluff your way around. But often that is a very painful way to do it, and I know that from first-hand experience because when I started doing long-distance races, although I had a bit of a background in sports science, it wasn't one of those topics that got covered specifically, and I just went with how I felt. I just tried to figure it out, and what I figured out was that deep into the marathon you can feel really awful if you don't get those things right. You can be as fit as anything. At one point, I was going as fast as I'd ever gone short course, and I was in super great condition, and yet in Ironman I was taking the best part of four hours to do a marathon that should have taken me three. It was basically the hydration issue, and not knowing how big a hole I was digging myself on the bike early on in the run that was catching out later on. I suppose the way to think about it, to start to distill it down for you is to say, like John's analogy there, of "drink like it's your job". Because you've got to basically put some working rules in place because it's like a job. You can be lazy and you can not work hard enough and get behind, but it's important to realize you can also be over-organized and over-diligent and overwork, and you can work yourself into the ground. So what you need to do is find the happy medium, and you need to do the work that's required. With hydration, that's going to come down to understanding two parameters. The first one is roughly how much fluid are you doing to need? I like to do it on an hourly basis because that then gives you targets through the race or metrics to hit, and also looking at the amount of electrolyte, and specifically the amount of sodium that you're going to replace. It varies a lot from person to person because of the differences in our sweat rates and the differences in the sodium concentration of our sweat, and it also varies for the same people in different situations. But to constrain it to start, we start with the outer limits and then work inwards, I always think that's a good way to go. Because people often ask that: "How much should I drink per hour on the bike in an Ironman?" Generally speaking we would say to people around 34 ounces, or one liter an hour, is what's compatible with the upper limit of what most people can absorb. You certainly don't want to be drinking more than you can absorb per hour. That's a key limiting factor, because if you start to drink more than you absorb, obviously what happens is it starts to back up, and you get that horrible bloated, sloshing stomach feeling, and that's doing you no good. So then what I would also say is, let's face it: there are Ironman races that happen in cooler or colder conditions, but they're more frequently in warmer and hotter conditions. So straightaway we can start to constrain the realistic guidelines of what's a reasonable amount of fluid to drink per hour in an Ironman to more like 16 to 18 ounces on the low end, and more like 32 to 34 ounces on the upper end. And that, I think, if you took the majority of athletes and the majority of conditions, that's still quite a wide range, but that starts to zone people's heads in to where we're at. In more colloquial terms, it's like one or two standard bike bottles, within a small variety, per hour. You're somewhere going to be in that mix. Then how do you drill down from there? Well, we've talked on the last podcast about measuring your own sweat rate. We've certainly got a blog about it on the website which is worth a quick look. You can download a spreadsheet from there. You can weigh yourself before and after some bike rides to start to figure out how much sweat you lose per hour. When you're riding at race power in race environmental conditions. That then starts to give you an idea of whether you're a heavy or a lighter sweater. And I would say if you're someone who's losing upwards of 1.5 liters, so that's 48 ounces an hour, you're in the heavy sweating category. For context, we do see people losing up to 3 liters plus an hour. Again, they're in the minority. Anything above about 48 ounces is really high. Something around 30 to 35 ounces is probably relatively normal, and if you're substantially below that, you're probably quite a light sweater. What we're not looking for here is just to take that fluid and use it for one-for-one replacement. It tends to be that you're going to drink less, and you should probably drink less than what you sweat out. But what you're trying to avoid is a horrible mismatch. You're trying to avoid drinking 32 ounces when you're only losing 16 or the other way around. I don't love generic rules of thumb for a lot of things, but if pressed, I would say 70% or 80% of your losses on the bike in an Ironman is a decent target to shoot at, because although you could probably finish the ride in reasonable shape drinking only 40 or 50% of what you lose, that's not the recipe for setting yourself for a good 26‑mile run. That's the starting point for the process of defining how much fluid you need to take in as an individual. The again, as we talked about before, and I certainly invite John's comment on this because I know he's a very experienced athlete himself, the most important thing is the trial-and-error process in training. Going out, doing these long brick sessions, long bike rides where you have significant chunks at race pace. You've got to try these different fluid volumes and see what's compatible with good performance. Andrew: Yeah, see how you feel having drank that much fluid. We preach that all the time, in your race rehearsals, in those longer stamina sessions, in those race-like training sessions, to practice eating what you're going to eat on race day. Same thing for hydration. Practice with different amounts of hydration and water and sodium and see how your body responds. See if your body can absorb that much. I actually just recently, Andy, had two friends of mine from high school in the last 12 months have gotten into triathlon. One of them has raced a couple races, one of them just raced his first triathlon ever, and he did a half Ironman. So my buddies Jonathan and Edwin, they both raced 70.3 Ohio just a few weeks back. My buddy Edwin, brand new triathlete, had never done a triathlon before, it was his first one ever. So in our little text message chain we kept telling him, "Hey, this is your first race, how are you going to fuel, what are you going to use?" and he kept saying, "Oh, I got it. I got it." Okay. So it turns out, race day comes. Edwin, the entire 70.3, took in no calories. All he did was drink the Gatorade that was offered on course at the bike aid stations and the run aid stations. And to your point, Andy, he says to me, very key, "You can get to the finish line of an endurance event off of very little." But when Edwin came across the finish line, he pretty much immediately laid down on the ground and he was just absolutely depleted. Just had nothing in his system. He'd had no fluids, no food, no calories, and he was done. So now we've had some serious conversations about, "Okay, let's talk a little bit more about what you're going to use next time, so that you're not finishing in this kind of a state," because he was just in terrible shape on the run. So we all have that moment where we learn that lesson the hard way, right? So for an athlete to take what you're saying and to form a plan, and to weigh themselves and figure out what they need, what is that process like for an athlete? How do we go about planning how much electrolyte we need for a race, and how we're going to consume that electrolyte, and how often we need to consume that electrolyte? Andy: Yeah, so the electrolyte thing is the other component, obviously. Fluid, we talk about them independently, but obviously you're going to end up taking them fundamentally together, whether it's in the form of sodium salt capsules or salt tablets or drink mixes of some sort. Just rewinding onto the thing of when we sweat, we obviously sweat water plus electrolytes. Sodium's the main electrolyte, that's the one that varies a lot from person to person, and like with the fluid, we need to replace a proportion of that, if not all of it, with the fluids that we drink. Because beyond a certain point, it compromises blood volume if we don't, and that's the principal thing that causes a problem. Your body doesn't like to dilute the sodium levels in the blood too low if you just drink water. Again, probably as much or even more than with fluid recommendation guidelines, sodium guidelines are all over the map. One of the reasons they're all over the map is you cannot prescribe this on a one-for-one basis. Whereas we might see that kind of three or four-fold variation in the amount of fluid people need to drink on the bike on an Ironman per hour, the sodium variation can be more like ten-fold, so some people who have very dilute sweat, and particularly those who also don't sweat very much can get away with very minimal supplementation. We've seen athletes do really well on two or three hundred milligrams of sodium per hour during an Ironman. I would, as it happens, tend to say to most people that that level of supplementation is really quite low, and there's probably arguably not a down side to going a little bit more aggressive or whatever, because it's in my opinion a bit more of an insurance policy, but we've certainly analyzed enough data from athletes to know that people do successfully race Ironman on very low amounts of sodium, if their physiology and the conditions allow them to. On the flip side though, we've got a lot of athletes, and clearly we will come across these athletes because they'll seek us out, who need to take 1,000 or 1,500 milligrams of sodium per hour right through the bike ride in an Ironman, and probably as much as 750 or 1,000 milligrams an hour on the run to keep their hydration levels topped up and to stop them either cramping or fading out in the heat. And also to keep them absorbing the water. Because we talked about that, if you drink too much you can get a sloshy stomach. You can also get a sloshy stomach if you don't take in sufficient sodium, because your body will slow the absorption rate from the gut into the bloodstream. If you put enough salt in the drinks and food that you eat, then that can really help draw the fluid from your stomach into your gut and into your bloodstream, and help to solve that problem. Because as with any endurance sporting event, what your body is doing is basically fighting a battle of homeostasis, trying to keep everything balanced. And if you are basically losing fluid and sodium in your sweat at an extravagant rate, but you're only putting fluid back in, you're clearly encouraging a growing imbalance the whole time. By putting in an amount of sodium that's in relation to two things: it's going to be in relation to the total amount that you're drinking, and it's going to be in relation to the concentration of your sweat, then you are basically just giving your body a helping hand by keeping it on a level. That's what your body wants to do. Your body doesn't particularly want to go faster in the Ironman, what it wants to do is just not deviate too much from normal. And when it doesn't deviate too much from normal, ironically that's when you can push yourself to go vaster, and it's when these things get out of whack that your body shuts you down. So basically, sodium requirements escalate with escalating fluid requirements for everyone. As it gets hotter and more humid and you sweat more, everyone needs a bit more sodium just because we're net losing a bit more, but specifically it really goes through the roof for those of us that have got salty sweat, because our losses can get close to that cliff edge where performance is really going to deteriorate. John: Yeah, very much so, I agree. Andrew mentioned it earlier, that every session that is done is an opportunity to test that. It's having that mindset and mentality of, "I'm going to do training today, and I know what my workout is, and I'm going to execute that." But it's also having that mentality of, "I'm going to test everything that I can," because there are certain things that we can quantify with data. There are certain things that we can prescribe based on data, and largely that's our training. It's very easy to quantify that, we have a large amount of data. We have analytics that are able to turn that into highly productive training. But things like nutrition, as we've been talking about, we don't have those metrics, and they vary widely from athlete to athlete. So yes, I 100% agree, it's all about finding what's right for you. I highly recommend looking into and working with the experts like Precision Hydration that know this stuff and have done the testing and can establish those ranges, but as you've mentioned, it's taking those ranges and finding exactly what's right for you based on your conditions, your race distance, all those. I always recommend athletes, especially in the long sessions, to have a mentality of, "I'm doing my training today. I'm getting fit." But I'm also preparing for race day in a little bit less tangible way in that I'm refining my hydration, my nutrition. It's kind of ironic that once you reach the higher states of dehydration, sometimes it's actually harder to drink. In the beginning it's easy, it tastes good, it's nice and sweet, it's fruity, but by the end, five hours in, however many ounces in, you're sick of it, you're over it. I do vary the flavor, which helps with some of that flavor fatigue, but again, sometimes your stomach is like, "enough of this!" So it's really developing that discipline. It's developing the ability to absorb, developing the gut strength and that sort of thing. There's a whole lot that goes into it, and the more you practice, the more you dial it in, the better it's going to be on race day. Andy: Yeah, and I think that's a really good point you've made, John. You've got a lot of experience, especially in hot conditions on these long rides, and you find that you really have to make a commitment to the drinking later on in, and I think one of the big things that we see with athletes who know their bodies really well versus those who are maybe like your friend, Andrew, who's a bit more novice, is learning to read the signals. Because sometimes you can feel like not drinking. If an elite athlete tells you they really feel like not drinking, that to me is usually a sign that maybe they've drunk enough, or even a bit too much and they need to back off, because what they're reading there is a different set of subtle signs than someone who is just starting to blow up, and who's actually losing the will to keep drinking and keep eating and those kind of things, when we know from experience that what they need to do is keep shoveling stuff in. What it fundamentally falls back into is learning to read the signals that your body gives you, because with all of the knowledge in the world you still need to rely on that kind of intuition, and that intuition gets better the more you do. I was very guilty of this as an athlete, so I can say this unreservedly. You don't get to build that intuition by just going out and doing stuff. You have to go out and actively engage in what you're doing. You have to write down after the sessions what you ate and drank, and think about how you felt, and you have to analyze that stuff in the same way that people pore over their power data files and their CDAs when they're trying to dial in their aero positions and things like that, the heart rate files or whatever. If you just passively go out and do ride after ride after ride, you'll learn a little bit, but unless you actively engage in that trial and error process, I think it's why it's one of the most rewarding parts of the job we do now working with elite athletes, is that while we're on this call here, some of the team are on calls with Sam Appleton and Emma Pallant, who just came first and second, respectively, in their races at 70.3 Boulder. We had a call with them last week where we collected their pre‑race hydration/nutrition plan, and today is debrief day. So we then get a really detailed rundown of everything they ate and drank, how they felt, then we write it all down, it goes into a spreadsheet, and then the great thing is now with those particular athletes, we've got lots of those previous ones to draw upon. We can look at what the weather was like in Boulder compared to what it was like in St. George or whatever, and how many grams of carbs they got in on the bike, how many ounces of fluid, and by the time they get to the level of error, the differences and tweaks that we're making, if we're making any, are relatively subtle. Having that data to draw back on, and those experiences really helps us to learn, and it helps them to learn, and it gives them solid information on which to make future decisions. If you go to 70.3 Worlds this year and it could be significantly hotter or cooler, how are we going to adapt the plan with 48 hours' notice, because you then have an accurate weather forecast, and it's that discipline of going over the data and not expecting it to just happen and fall into place. You've got to actively engage in it, I think, is a huge part of the process. John: So Andy, there are several different ways of consuming electrolytes, getting them into the body. Is there a difference in those different methods? Is one better than the other, or is it simply about getting enough in? Or does the method of consuming those electrolytes make a difference? Andy: I would say very strongly that the hierarchy here is that getting in the right amount is the most important thing. You want to take a salt lick on the bike rather than an electrolyte drink, as long you get enough salt/sodium in, you'll do just fine. The hierarchy is get the right amount, then the method of delivery is very much secondary to that. People have different and strong opinions on that, but for me, it's down to the basics. Whether you put a salt tablet in, or an electrolyte drink or whatever, once it gets to the stomach, it all gets broken down. It's all into its individual components, and the body just sorts out what it needs. There are a couple of exceptions. One is that you, as stupid as it sounds, you do need to choose products that you either like or at least don't mind consuming, flavor-wise. Because we're only human; if you have a drink in your bottle that you don't like the taste of, you will drink less of it, or you'll be less inclined to drink enough of it. Andrew: Yeah, so Andy, to that point, something that I found early on is not just necessarily liking the flavor of what I was drinking, but making sure I had an easy way to drink it. There's a lot of different places on your bike you can store fluid and hydration.  I tried the bottles behind my seat because I had read, "Oh, that's the most aero! Get it out of the wind, get it behind your body!" I found, I have short little arms, I'm not a great bike handler, I'm not very good at reaching behind my saddle and grabbing a bottle and then drinking it. So I found if I have my fluids in that between-the-arms bottle, with a straw right in front of my face, that causes me to drink that much more. I would even say, once you find a drink that you like, you like the taste of it, you happily reach for it every single time your Garmin buzzes and reminds you to drink, the next step is then to make sure that what you're drinking from is very easy to access, because that's another thing that can make it so much easier to get the fluids in on race day. Andy: Yeah, I 100% agree. Even back when I was seriously racing, it was nearly 20 years ago now, but even then Profile used to make the bottle between the bars with a straw there and a little sponge pad in the top where you could dump the other bottles in, and I found that was a massive gain for me, especially on long, flat courses where you wanted to stay tucked in. It's huge, and you drink well because you're right, you're not having to disrupt your flow and get down and reach another bottle. The other thing allied to that is that although we do spend a lot of money on our bikes, making them as light as possible and that sort of thing, I think in hot races and humid races, especially when the course is relatively flat, I would always err on the side of carrying more of my own drinks from T1 in a long race, because I think the weight penalty is different on a hilly course for sure, where you've got to think a bit more about how much extra weight you want to be lugging up and down the hills. But when it's fast and flat and hot and humid, if you can rely a little bit less on aid stations and get more of the drinks and things that you want, then that's when I would be considering stashing an extra bottle behind the seat, having the extra-large bottle on the frame, or even an internal bottle or whatever. Because I think that seconds may be lost because of the weight, but minutes might be gained by executing a better hydration plan. Then to the other point about form of electrolytes, the big difference is if you're not mixing them into your drinks, you're probably taking them in the form of a capsule or a tablet. This is where people get a bit on their high horse sometimes and a bit funny about it, because I do recognize the fact that with a drink it's hard to overdose with electrolytes. It's hard to take way too many because you're essentially dissolving them into a liquid, so you are taking them at a hypotonic level, whatever you're doing. You're taking in more liquid relatively than sodium. If you just pop salt capsules, you can take a lot of them without any water or with only a really small amount of water or another drink, and then of course that can result in a super concentrated amount of electrolytes and sodium in your stomach and could make you quite queasy or quite sick. That's not a good way to go. My argument against people categorically ruling out salt tablets for that reason is I'll just say, "Look, all you need to understand is how much electrolyte is in them, and how many to take, and then you take the right amount." It is risky if you don't know what you're doing and you just decide to pop these. I've heard lots of stories, particularly in the ultra-running world, of people going a bit crazy with the amount that they're taking, but it comes down to knowing your numbers. The sweat salt capsules that we make, we purposely made them in exactly 250 milligrams of sodium per capsule, so you know that if you need 250 an hour, it's one. If you need 1,000, it's four. When I used to race Ironman, although I didn't have those particular products, what I did was I used all sorts of different brands. But I knew that if I was in Kona and I bought lava salts, then I knew they were 212 milligrams, and I would stick them on the underside of my bars, and on my armrest with a little double-sided sticky duct tape, stick them under there so they stayed dry, and I would just pick them off and eat them once I'd run out of drinks. As long as you knew that four of these is 850 milligrams, then you're golden. But it comes back down to having the discipline to know your numbers and then use them in the right away. Andrew: And drink water alongside of them. Andy: Yeah, drink water, or if it's on the run I would wash those down with cola or whatever it is I'm drinking at that point in time. You usually are going to want a small cup full of water per capsule, is a rough rule of thumb. But I'm not anti-those, like some people are, but I know that some people feel a bit more vehemently that they're not good because they say they're very concentrated in the stomach. Which, as I say, I can buy that if you're abusing them. But we could say that about a lot of things. If you took ten energy gels one after the other, you'd have a queasy stomach. Andrew: Absolutely. So both you guys have actually referenced in this conversation already palate fatigue, and just getting tired of a certain flavor. You get to the end of a 112-mile bike and all of a sudden I don't want to drink any more. You get to the end of a 70.3 run course, and I know I need one more gel to get to this finish line, but I've already had so many gels. What are y'all's tangible strategies for combating palate fatigue over the course of a race? Me personally, I haven't done a full Ironman yet, but even at a 70.3 I've never gotten to a point where I'm even almost sick of my gel or drink, I always am just fine by the end. So I can't speak to it personally, but for the two of you, what are your strategies for dealing with palate fatigue so that you don't get sick of what you're drinking or eating and can continue to do so as needed? John: One thing I do is try to vary the flavor. In my nutrition I have two different flavors, and I try to make them different so that I do my best to vary the bottles. It doesn't always work out that way, but generally it's every other bottle, every third bottle is going to be a little bit different flavor, is going to hit the palate a little bit different. It also helps to just have water as well, which for me is difficult in my training rides, because I'm trying to carry as much nutrition as I can, so do I have a dedicated water bottle? Oftentimes that's a little easier on race day, and just to be able to rinse out can help, to cleanse the palate before adding more, especially if we're taking in a lot of sugars and electrolytes in there that tend to kind of hang around in the mouth. You take a swig of it, but you're still tasting it for the next couple miles, so just having that water bottle to rinse it out, keep it fresh can help as well. Another thing on race day, especially if you're using on‑course nutrition: always take a cold bottle. There are multiple reasons for that, primarily due to your cooling protocol. You're going to be better off with that fresh, cold water that hopefully has been in some ice until the last couple minutes. Whereas if you've got a bottle that's been hanging around on your bike for the last three hours, it's going to be nice and warm. That's not going to be as inviting, not as palatable, either. Do what you can to vary the flavors, and if you can get cold beverages, that is going to be a little more refreshing, a little more palatable. So there are some strategies you can have to offset that, but at the end of the day, this is an endurance event. You've just got to push through. Sometimes it hurts to keep cycling, sometimes it hurts to keep taking in the nutrition. But yeah, there are certain things you can do to help offset some of that. Andy: Yeah, I agree with all of those points, and I think especially the last one. I'm not saying that people should just put up with getting ridiculously sick, but there is a point at which this is just a tough event. John: Yeah, if that's the worst thing you experience on race day, then I would count that as a pretty good race. Andy: Exactly. John: Let's talk about when and how often to drink. Is there a difference between having a consistent interval, or just maybe doing a chug every few minutes? For me, personally, I've talked before about how I have a timer set. It's every 15 minutes. I do my best to drink regularly in between those 15‑minute intervals, but I know every time that 15‑minute interval hits, I'm going to take a big draw or two on my bottle. I've talked before about how oftentimes, especially on the bike, I’m monitoring my power output, I'm monitoring the road and what's going on, and even in those hot conditions, sometimes I forget to drink regularly, and I can find myself getting behind. So that's why I set up those alerts. So is there a difference in maybe even taking in just a big draw every fifteen minutes versus every two or three minutes, more like what Andrew was saying, out of a straw where you can sip regularly. Is there a difference in how the body absorbs, and is there an advantage one way or another? Andy: Yeah, it is a good and common question. The science suggests that the main difference is, if you take a large bolus of fluid in at any moment of time, it has the tendency to stretch your stomach a little bit, and then that can speed up gastric emptying. So you can maybe get more fluid from your stomach into your gut to be absorbed. Whether that makes a substantial difference overall to the amount of fluid you can absorb is not necessarily as clear. So what that probably leads me to suggest is there's not necessarily a huge disadvantage to drinking larger amounts infrequently as compared to drinking smaller amounts frequently. The advantage of drinking smaller amounts frequently of course is you don't get that fullness or bloating, which is uncomfortable on the bike, but is obviously a big no‑no on the run. You really don't want to feel like that on the run when you're bouncing up and down. So I think as a rule, if people are asking for advice, I would normally suggest they do exactly what John said: set a beeper for every 15 or 20 minutes. I think that it's not necessarily an indictment that you have to drink at that point. If it's obviously a hot and humid race and you're constantly going to be behind then it might be, but what it is more is a reminder to think about drinking every 15 minutes, and then asses: "Do I feel like I need a drink, how much did I have last time?" It just helps you with a routine and a rhythm. It's the same with taking on calories, it's really a comfortably tolerable amount each time. The only other exception to the rule is obviously course-specific. When we were at the Ironman 70.3 championships in Nice a couple of years ago, where the bike course is essentially flat, up a massive hill, down a massive hill, and flat again, you're not really trying to drink on the descent particularly, because this was a seriously hair-raising, fast and furious descent. And although it was tricky to drink on parts of the climb, it was very steep, some of it was relatively shallow in-the-saddle climbing. So we were saying to people was, what you want to be doing is obviously drinking before the climb, drinking a little bit on the climb. Don't worry about drinking or eating on the descent, but then what you've got to do is get some drinking and eating done on the flat on the way back into town before the run. So there will be circumstances where the course just dictates that to you. John: Which that much more just demonstrates the need to know the course, know what you're going to experience. I always say, "no surprises on race day". I always recommend driving the course to see where those things are, even things like aid stations and how they are positioned in relation to things like you're talking about. Is this aid station at a 90‑degree turn? Is it on a climb? Is it at a descent? Is it at the bottom of the descent? Sometimes I question why did they put the aid station here? This is not the easiest time to reach up and take a bottle. Yeah, that's great stuff, that definitely matters. It's great if you can anticipate that, because obviously, like you mentioned, we're seemingly always running in deficit. If we can plan ahead and offset the fact that I know that for the next ten minutes I'm not going to be able to take in a significant amount of water or take in my nutrition, you can do what you can to preload that and offset the effects of that. Andy: Yeah, I would say that's good. Another thing you mentioned as well is the aid stations, and the fact that sometimes it can counter-intuitively be the sensible thing to do to ditch a bottle that's two-thirds gone and pick a fresh one up at an aid station where it's easy to do so, rather to risk running out ahead of the next one and then missing a bottle. Obviously the ultimate no‑no is to run out, miss one at the next aid station, and effectively go two stops without getting one. Plus, like you said, the water or whatever obviously gets really warm. So if in doubt, ditch and old bottle early while you can get a fresh one, and ride with them relatively full. John: I've learned that lesson the hard way at one of my races, and I had a really bad run because of it. It was later in the bike, and so I was trying to lighten up. It's Ironman Louisville, which had some elevation gains, so I was like, "I only have 30-40 miles left, I don't need three bottles." So I just took one, knowing I had another aid station coming up. As soon as I took that bottle I looked down. I have a horizontal cage between my bars, and the lid had popped off so the whole bottle of all this sugary stuff had just dumped onto my wheel. So I had nothing. By then the day was getting warmer, I was on a relatively hilly part of the course, so I was doing some work, putting out some heat, sweating, and I had nothing to come back. So I could have potentially maybe saved seconds by not having that little bit of extra weight, but it cost me significant minutes on the run because I was so far behind coming off the bike. Andy: Yeah, all those lessons but often learned the hard way, aren't they? Andrew: So Andy, something I want to ask about, because we have a substantial amount of people in our audience who are not Ironman athletes. They're fantastic triathletes; they race sprint, Olympic, they like short course. When we talk about making a plan for race day, does the race distance have any impact on what we need to be taking in fluid-wise, or is it just kind of know your numbers, know what you need per hour, and the only difference is I'm doing that for one hour verses 14 hours? Or is there actually a different approach to take based on the distance of the course? Andy: Definitely a huge distance based on the duration of the activity. Where they're similar is with all of the events, you're going to want to turn up on the start line well hydrated, because you can't overhydrate too much. You can preload a little bit with some additional sodium and be optimally hydrated to start, but you can't go far beyond that. It's not like glycogen, carbohydrate loading, where you can significantly store additional fuel. So presuming you've started a race well hydrated, if a sprint one is going to take a really fast athlete just a little bit under an hour, and some people are going to maybe out there for 90 minutes or so, you're in that zone where, certainly in cool conditions, getting away with drinking very little to nothing is doable. So the fastest athletes will drink close to nothing often in a sprint race. If it's hot or humid, and if you're going to be out there a little bit longer, most athletes probably should have a bottle on the bike with something in it. My advice there would be drink what you feel you need to, so listen to your body, basically. If you're a complete novice it might be good, as John suggested in the longer races, to have a beeper on the bike just to remind you as a cue to say, "think about this," because it's easy to just get wrapped up in it and forget. But for me, the composition of that drink is probably more about carbohydrate energy than it is purely about hydration. Even if it's hot and humid and sweaty, in 60 to 90 minutes yes, you can become a little bit dehydrated, but you're not going to reach catastrophic levels of dehydration. If you drink something which is a bit higher in carbohydrate content, you're far more in danger of running out of energy than running out of fluid, and the bit of fluid helps it. An isotonic sports drink is probably a really good choice for that duration. When you get to more like Olympic distance, just under two hours for fast guys and maybe stretching it to three and a bit for other people, that's where the conditions will play a huge role. So in colder, cooler conditions, but I wouldn't recommend this, I definitely remember doing Olympic-distance races as a youngster with nothing by mouth. I would consider it fine to do a couple of hours of racing maybe swilling a little bit of water on the bike, but that would be it. If it's hot and humid though, you may want to drink one or even two bottles on the bike, and you might be starting to bring some electrolytes and things in if you're a big sweater, because you're out there for a long time and you want to set yourself up for a good run. But again, like the sprint distance, I would still say that hydration is important, but fueling is the most important for those sort of races. You need some carbs. You'll see, if you're watching the Olympics, the amount of guys and girls who run out of T2 with their little energy gel totes in there, probably had one or two energy gels on the bike, because the rate of energy burn when you're going hard at that intensity is really high, so fueling up. Then half-Ironman, the shorter versus the long course races, that becomes much more closely related to Ironman in terms of I start to advocate a lot more for people to separate their fueling from their hydration and electrolytes so they can manage them independently.  Then we're back into all the variables you talked about before, where low amounts of liquid for cooler conditions and people with low sweat rates, and you could be up at almost those Ironman levels of drinking if it's hot and humid. Honestly, you're just doing it less hours, so there's less hours of drinking on the bike, but the same kind of principals apply. Andrew: So Andy, the cool thing is, no matter what race somebody has coming up, no matter what the conditions are going to be, no matter what your numbers are, any athlete can book a 20‑minute consultation call with Precision Hydration, specifically to get their own race plan nailed down. Talk about next-level service: I always appreciate companies that aren't just in a game to sell their product, but they genuinely care about the athletes, and their experience in the sport. I mean, at TriDot that's the approach we have: we genuinely love and care about our athletes. We get the same sense from Precision Hydration, so talk to us about these free 20‑minute calls. What are those conversations like? Andy: They're interesting. They are a side-effect of the coronavirus epidemic, really, because we started them because we used to go to a lot of events, and that's where we would interface and talk to athletes face-to-face in the event village, expos, and things like that. We were due to be at the London Marathon expo in April, when the coronavirus/COVID pandemic hit in March. And we sat around and said, "Well, what are we going to miss about that event?" And we said, "We won't be able to go and talk to people, our customers." So we put in our newsletter, "Book a free video consultation so you can chat with the team," instead of meeting us on the booth at the London Marathon. Within a few hours, like 80 people had booked calls, and we suddenly had to pull some really long shifts in the office, and everyone got calls. People absolutely loved it. We loved it, because we got to talk to customers, and we're all sociable people who love a good chat about sport. But also what we found from a business point of view, is we really learned what kind of questions people had, about what people want to know. We'd always talked about this, but this is where our concept that we're increasingly pushing and talking about now about knowing your numbers came in. Because what was glaringly apparent for people is that people wanted to be told what to do. They wanted guidance. They wanted to know how much to drink, how much electrolyte to take, how many gels to take, and that sort of thing. Because you can't just neatly write out a table and give people advice on that, what we found is that it taught us what questions we needed to ask in order to better understand individual needs. Then in order to make that more accessible to more people, it fed into the online tours that we built. The online sweat test, the quick carb calculator, those kind of things help people to get a handle on those numbers. What we basically found was those calls were a lot about helping people to identify their individual numbers. Rather than giving them the whole playing field, we're zooming in on the bit of the ball park where they needed to be doing their trial and error. Then we've had numerous feedbacks or second calls and follow-ups with people over the last 18 months, and a huge amount of success. Then as individuals and as a company, like it is when you're a coach as you guys well know, it's just really gratifying when people come back to you after their event and say, "Yeah, I did this, and you know what, it worked phenomenally well." We get so many people contact us who suffer badly with cramps because obviously electrolytes can be involved in that, and we have some of the genuinely nicest emails and feedback forms in from people who have cramped at the last ten attempts at Ironman or whatever, and then finally got through one without cramping because they've changed their hydration plan. We all know the amount of your heart and soul you pour into doing a big event like that. The financial commitment, the time commitment, the time away from your family, the pressure it puts on you at work, whatever else. Then to actually go and derailed by cramp is soul-destroying. Then to turn that around is obviously doubly sweet. To drill it down, often those conversations is all about an education around these numbers. I think if people can get those numbers right, then in triathlon terms it is the killer fourth discipline. You have to be fit enough, you have to pace things well, and if you get your nutrition and hydration right, then the only other things that's going to take you out is dust cart reversing into you on the bike or something like that. You're going to have a good day otherwise. It's getting those things right. Andrew: Yeah, and TriDot is here to help people get fit enough. We have RaceX, which is to help people pace correctly, and we have our friends at Precision Hydration to help us nail that fourth discipline. John, you actually weren't on the first episode with Andy. It was myself and coach Elizabeth James interviewing Andy back on Episode .87. So John, you listened to that episode, and right afterwards you were so compelled by hearing Andy talk about knowing your numbers and knowing what's in your sweat that you reached out to Precision Hydration. You did one of these 20‑minute consultation calls that we're talking about. What made that episode so compelling for you, and what has your experience been with the product since that consultation? John: I identified with Andy in his story, in his struggles, and everything he had been through. Early on in my racing career I encountered a lot of the same issues that he did with races falling apart where I had done the work, I was fit, and there are things that happened on race day that never happened in training, and a lot of that can revolve around all those things we've been discussing: not having that well-vetted, well-executed plan or having the right product in place in time. That's always been something that I've either struggled with, or been intentionally working towards and improving on. So I've done some racing the last couple years, but I had started 2020 with some real goal-driven race initiatives.  Obviously those got deferred to this year, but I really want to race well, and then Andy did the podcast. He's clearly an expert, he clearly knows what he's talking about, he's got the education background, he's got the experience, and that really spoke to me. I've always committed as a coach to perpetual learning. I will never arrive, I will never know everything, so it's always fantastic to encounter somebody like Andy that really knows what he's talking about and is passionate about it, passionate about helping people. So I really identified with that and it immediately struck a chord of, "I need to do this as soon as possible," because I know that I'm going to be training through the Gulf Coast summer, I'm going to be training in very hot conditions. I'm racing my earliest fall Ironman ever, so all of my training has been through June, July, August, whereas in the past, if I’m racing Ironman Arizona, I do a lot more racing in some of those cooler months. But I've done all my training through the heat of summer, and I knew that in order to be successful in those sessions, I had to nail my hydration and my nutrition. It's something that really spoke to me, both as a coach working with athletes, but also as an athlete with goals that I want to do well in my races this year. So it was priority for me. Then the website was fantastic; it was very user friendly, very informative. The process to book that call was easy. I had that call with Sean, he was awesome. He knew my story when we started the call. I could tell he had done his due diligence. He'd read the information that I'd provided, he'd done some background work, and from there made some really good recommendations that all really struck with me. He's like, "Yeah, this all makes sense. I get it, I understand it." He did a great job of explaining the products and how to use them, and then afterwards there was a great follow up with provided resources as well as notes from the session. I've referred back to those notes several times in my preparations for these sessions coming up, so it's just been a fantastic experience. And then the product has just worked. We were talking before we started the recording about how I did a five-hour 100‑mile ride on Saturday, and I was a little nervous because my family had gone out of town on Friday, and I was leaving as soon as I could to go meet them. But after doing five hours in the Gulf Coast heat, it was 100 degrees when I finished that ride. I was really nervous about hopping in the car for three hours and then being in dad mode for the afternoon, and being there as to not just be laid up and crash for the afternoon. I felt fantastic. The drive was no problem, I had a great time with my family that afternoon, and I really truly believe a lot of it was because I came off that workout not in a severely depleted state. I was able to keep up with my hydration, keep up with my nutrition, and not come off in such a depleted state where I was just trashed for the rest of the day. Yeah, I've had a great experience with it, and am really looking forward to using them on race day. Cool down theme: Great set everyone! Let’s cool down. Andrew: Always happy to share cool, unique, and/or meaningful event opportunities with all of you. We do a segment sometimes in our cooldowns called, "My Favorite Local Race," where an athlete can tell us all about their favorite local race to sign up for and participate in. But today, TriDot athlete Jason Glynn has a special annual event to tell us about. One of the cool things with being a multi-sport athlete is sometimes you can participate in a charity or fundraising event as a way to get in your training while supporting a good cause. Jason has a meaningful opportunity coming up where we could do just that. Have a listen. Jason Glynn: Jason Glynn here for the Central Lakes Cycle David Grotberg Memorial 24/7 Duathlon and 5K‑ish Run. I wanted to invite everyone out there in TriDot Podcast Land to join us in person in Fergus Falls, Minnesota on September 18, 2021, or to race with us virtually for this unique event. It's a bike-run-bike duathlon, which makes it one of a kind. It starts off with a 20‑mile bike on paved roads in the Central Lakes Trail, followed by a 4‑mile run on roads and trails, and finishing up with a 7‑mile bike on paved roads. If biking isn't your thing we also have the 5K‑ish run, where the "ish" bumps the typical 5K up to a 4‑mile distance. This race has been on hiatus for a couple of years but we're bringing it back this year, with the proceeds going to fund a scholarship at Baylor University in honor of David Grotberg, who sold me my first bike as I was getting into this crazy sport of triathlon. David was tragically killed in a hit‑and-run accident while riding his bike back to campus as a student at Baylor in 2016, where he was a sophomore and a trumpet player in the Baylor University Golden Wave marching band. He worked at Central Lakes Cycle with his father since he was about 12 years old. The rest of the race committee and I are excited to be bringing this back in his memory. We'd love to have you join us in person, but we also have the virtual option for the run and the full duathlon, with both legs of the bike course on Rouvy to give you the full benefit of the scenic views and rolling hills here in West Central Minnesota if you have a smart trainer. You can find us on Facebook by searching for "Central Lakes Cycle Duathlon and 5K", and I'll post a link with more info on the I AM TriDot Facebook page. You can also go to www.centrallakescycle.com/clc-247-duathlon for more information or to register for the event. We look forward to having you join us! Thanks! Andrew: Well that's it for today, folks! I want to thank TriDot's very own John Mayfield and Precision Hydration's Andy Blow for coming on to help us craft our own race-day hydration plan. Be sure to head to precisionhydration.com to learn more about your own hydration needs, and be sure to use code TRIDOT10 when you check out with some of their fantastic hydration and fueling products. Enjoying the podcast? Have any triathlon questions or topics you want to hear us talk about? Head to TriDot.com/podcast and click on "Submit Feedback" to let us know what you're thinking. We'll do it all again soon! Until then, happy training! Outro: Thanks for joining us. Make sure to subscribe and share the TriDot podcast with your triathlon crew. For more great tri content and community, connect with us on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Ready to optimize your training? Head to TriDot.com and start your free trial today! TriDot – the obvious and automatic choice for triathlon training.
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