Heat Acclimation

By Mackenzie Madison

It’s that time of year when the summer heat can really push you over the edge when it comes to training and just as important – racing. You don’t need a thermometer or to check the weather to know that it’s hot and humid. It’d be quicker to step outside and notice the immediate beads of sweat start to roll down your face along with your sunglasses fogging up. Some of you dread the heat, some of you don’t mind.

But here’s why you should mind. Recently, in a group of elite cyclists completing just a 30-minute time trial in moderate heat of 90 degrees Fahrenheit, their overall power output was lower by 6.5% than when performing a time trial in a thermoneutral environment of 73F. (Tatterson) So yes, even in elite cyclists and moderate heat exposure, your performance decreases.

So what can you do to minimize these performance decrements? Get used to it – literally – and get heat acclimated. Besides improving your ability to perform at a high level in the heat, heat acclimation also starves off serious health risks when you are exposed to the heat. Not being heat acclimated exposes you to several risks including muscle cramps, feeling faint, inability to coordinate muscular movements, headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, hyperthermia, shortness of breath and overall general fatigue.

click here to read more: Original Article

Duathlon Sallertaine

Transcending Fears

Let us define fear in this context; ‘an unpleasant feeling of anxiety or apprehension caused by the presence or anticipation of danger’.

Saint Mary’s Day 2009

Sallertaine, France August 15, 3:43pm After just pumping up my rear tire I was dismayed to see it go flat.  With only 15 minutes to the race, it became a mad dash to find out why, and fix it.  Ten minutes later it seemed the valve extender on the deep dish wheel was letting out air; unscrewing it after filling up the tire should be the ‘fix’.  The race will be commencing any second and I had yet to visit the transition area. 

Heading to transition with everyone else lining up at the start line forced me to hurry.  Two elderly gentlemen would not let me pass.  I searched out Dede, “Tu avez mon nombre?” Repeating a few times before he understood my poor accent, he smiled and supplied said number.  Then, I asked Hortense if she could attach it to a race belt for me.  This got me through transition and I took off my flip flops and put on my running flats half expecting the race gun to go off.  But wait, another official came up to me and explained that I could not use a race belt and it was an obligation to pin the number to my shirt.  Starting to get flustered, in my haste, the number tore while taking it off the race belt.  Hortense and I pinned the number to my wet and sweaty shirt.  Pheeew, there was no doubt I would make the start.

“Who needs a warm up when it is close to 40C” I convinced myself.  Without thinking about it, I was about to face one of my fears; Running fast in heat and humidity.


Pushing your limits is one reason we all race, no one ever thinks they will push themselves to death.  It used to be so for me.  A trend was developing in humid races, hurting me to the point of needing medical attention right after.  My 5th ‘occurrence’ of running hard in humidity landed me in St. Anthony’s Hospital. A painful and traumatic experience to not remember the last 2 miles of a 6 mile run only to have your brain shut off, sending you to the pavement, within sight of the finish.  I survived but my will under similar circumstances was understandably defeated.  Yet, the human spirit is persistent and amazing in its ability to overcome our fears.  These challenges enrich our lives and make us better.   

Sallertaine 4:22pm The pavement radiated heat and the breezes did little to alleviate the roasting sensation.  This settled the pace to a degree but the lead group had dwindled down to five.  We turned into the field for the second time and we ran single file in the barely distinguishable goat trail.  In the first lap I was stunned to be tramping through a field leaping over clumps of grass while running on uneven ground and scanning for the best line.  I had not expected the adventure through a farmers pasture but enjoyed the surprise.  Now, in the second lap, running single file I contemplated what to do about my race number flapping; being torn off from the wind and hanging on by one pin.  “Nothing” I thought, “there’s nothing to be done while running like this.”  The intensity of the pace and the heat brought me back to navigating the farmer’s field. 

“It’s bloody hot” I said aloud to the other lead runners as we came to a narrow bridge over a ditch.  The bridge being made of just one bowed board of wood made for a tricky passing. 

Entering transition on the heels of some very good runners, namely Adam Fitzakerley and Kristian McCartney, put me in great position starting the bike.

In Saint Jean de Monts team van in route to Sallertaine 3:20pm  Adam, Kristian and I joked about some unfortunate encounters with French referees.   “My streak ended last week with the aquathon” I explained to them as we drove to the start of the duathlon.  The first 5 races in France have all had serious ‘mishaps’, from red cards and wrong turns, to wetsuits being unzipped and stop-&-go penalties.  Some of them my fault, others just part of racing.  Finally, my 6th race in Jard sur Mer had no mistakes.  “I’m starting a new streak today”. 

Sallertaine 4:34pm The head referee held out his hand and blew his whistle at me.  “Oh no, the race number”, I thought, forgetting the not so little problem. I protested but he insisted my number be displayed properly before I continue the race.  Already 20 to 30 seconds behind I let my bike fall to the ground needing two hands for the delicate surgery of pinning my wet and torn race number to my shirt.  It made me angry to have to disrespect my bike like that.  It seemed crazy to be standing in place carefully undoing the safety pins, trying not to prick myself.  I hurried too much and focused too little on the art of number pinning while racing.  Finished, I spread my arms out in jest.  The ref shook his head no.  I had failed miserably,  not only was the number upside down it was backwards showing nothing.  Dismayed, I picked up my bike and nicely set it down against a guard rail.  It didn’t make me feel much better, it just took more time.  Thinking out loud I said, “This is ridiculous”.  Hortense calmed me down and eventually I pinned my number correctly.  After what felt like a lifetime, and wondering if I should even continue the ref let me start biking. 

A few miles into the bike ride it became obvious that it was only a matter of time before my race number became litter on the side of the road.  I tore it off and put it in my back pocket.  Riding suspicious of the many referees, kept me crouching low on my bike whenever I saw one.  I felt like an outlaw. 

 Abandoning my original plan to ease into the bike on this hot day, I rode hard right from the start.  Riding somewhere in the top 15 I tried to pick off some bikers and focus on at least getting a good effort in.  Race situations are outstanding for keeping your skills sharp and boosting your performance for later.  Honing in on my pedal stroke I drank lots of fluids and flew in the heat.

Drueling from the heat

In Saint Jean de Monts team van in route to Sallertaine 3:25pm  Being from a swimming background I’ve had to learn, be patient, and train smart to bring my running up to speed with my peers.  “This is less than an ideal situation for me, a duathlon, with good runners, in hot and humid weather, kind of a nightmare situation for me” I joked with the guys in the van while we kidded around about winning the ham that went to the top 3 finishers.  To be honest, in the past, fear would creep into the situation, today, I felt up for the challenge. 

Sallertaine 5:12pm My cycling legs showed up and turned my race around in a hurry.  Within about 13k of a 30k bike ride I had caught all but the lead biker.  Even a driver that got on the course, drove too slow and then stopped the car, forcing me to come to a screeching halt didn’t bother me.  It was a chance to work on some accelerating. 


Getting off the bike and running out of transition to start the second 5k run left me wondering if I would have another encounter with the ref.  After all, my number was in my back pocket.  He was waiting for me.  I smiled and took the number out of my back pocket and he let me go!  Wow, what was all the fuss about earlier?  Ah well, time to tackle a hot run.  I felt fit, fast and in control.  Although with the hot temperatures it was good to be running solo at exactly my comfortably fast pace.  Just two more times through the goat field and I could cool off and maybe win some ham.

That night the crew celebrated at the Coliseum with good spirits, fireworks, and ice cream.  Saint Mary’s day is a big holiday in France and the crowds were out late; we enjoyed the sea-breeze-summer-night-air with them. 



Six man break-away in the Tour of France (Aug 12?)

Tour de France 2009: Thomas Voeckler wins stage five as Fabien Cancellara retains yellow

Thomas Voeckler, the darling of the French crowds ever since he sneaked a yellow jersey in 2004 and defended it like a Lion for ten days, took advantage of a cagey peloton on another difficult windy stage to claim a popular breakaway win

Those were the July 8th 2009 headlines. To think then, that only a month later I would be out on a 100 kilometer ride with the famed French rider! A cycling tour of Vendee with Voeckler and Matthieu Claude of Bbox and Anthony Charteau of Caisse d’Epargane. Wow! To say it was an outstanding ride is an understatement. I did not want the ride to end, but the day was hot, my water was out and it’s a good thing we finished when we did.

We met at Fred’s house (Saint Jean de Monts coach); who happens to live close to Voeckler. The drive to Mouilleron-le-Captif should have taken Adam and me about an hour. Set an Auzzie and American loose on French streets with translated directions and an episode of Beavis and Butthead ensues. Leaving at 8:30am to arrive at 10am left us 30 min of ‘lost’ time. With the car running out of gas and several good laughs at our own expense, we arrived at 10:10am. Luckily, Fred told us be there at 10:00, when actually, it was 10:15 that we truly needed to arrive.

Just returning from the car with my bike and gear ready I see the famed Bbox rider zip through the alley and turn into Fred’s house. “Bonjour” we exchange greetings, shake hands and then a moment of silence as we wait for the guys to come out of the house. “Have you taken any time off?” I ask. “Yes, I took 5 days off” was his reply with a smile. Already, heavily sweating from riding an hour.

Seconds later he zipped off, back through the alley and Nico, Adam, and I had to scamper to catch up to his modest acceleration. I don’t think we blinked for the next 3 hours.

First we picked up Anthony Charteau and then, about ten minutes later, Matthieu Claude. These three had animated discussions and laughed a lot while they rode at an ‘easy’ 38k/h. They danced on every rise, getting out of the saddle often and shifting gear with precision. It seemed like I had ridden with Voeckler for years; his form being so familiar from seeing it on TV. The head position, the pedal stroke, the side to side dance, and general animated style.

We rode through seven or eight villages, on mostly small streets turning this way and that. I was utterly lost. For Vendee, we went over quite a few hills; always maintaining the same speed as the flats. We did a huge loop mostly Northeast from where we started.

Voeckler got off the front for about 30 minutes and the two of us road side by side. He asked questions about the triathlon team, where I was from, what my best sport was. We talked about the Tour and how his French team Bbox (winning 2 stages) was happy with the results. That in the tours, like tour of California, you don’t see much because you’re focusing on your job. Race, hotel, eat – repeat. We talked about coaching the kids triathlon group here in Saint Jean de Monts. That Hortense, was covering for me so I could do the ride. He had actually watched one of the Triathlon Grand Prix’s on TV (Tours perhaps? He wasn’t sure). We talked about the upcoming Paris Grand Prix.

Nico yelled from the back while we were climbing a steep hill. He had a flat. The guys had no problem holding up and waiting for him to change the tire, they even seemed to enjoy it. I razed Nico a little…Allez, Allez! Adam offered Nico his chamber to fill up the tire but he used Thomas’s portable pump instead. Just as Nico finishes the tire change we hear a loud tire puncture and all the air escaping. Or so it seemed. Adam’s chamber had warmed up and released all its air. Adam, “shit”. We all had a good laugh over that.

The last hour of the ride picked up and we averaged over 40k/h with a good head wind. I was happy to be in the draft, trying to ride as comfortably close as they did. Near the end of the ride an angry motorist even honked at us. “Are you kidding” I thought, “That’s Thomas Voeckler you’re honking at!” That same driver would beg for an autograph if he knew.

Voeckler was impressed that we had a 20 min tempo run to do right after the ride. He wished us good luck for Paris and rode off to his house. Our run was strong, but we were wiped from all the excitement after that. Fred cooked an exceptional recovery lunch where Nico out ate all of us. Getting directions for the way home, we were confidant of our navigation skills this time. Just two minutes into our drive on an empty tank of gas we were lost on a small back country road somewhere in France. We had to laugh.

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Jard sur Mer Aquathon

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Jard sur Mer Aquathon, France 3:30pm August 9. Dede drove Adam, Hortense and I about an hour south to Jard sur Mer, a village town in Vendee right on the coast.  Feeling spent from a tough week of training both Adam and I opted out of the scheduled 3.5 hour bike ride in order to perform at a higher level for the race.  Our race did not start until 6:30 pm so we had a lazy lead up, lounging near the house all day. 

It should be called the Runathon with 3 short dips in the bay to cool off.  The format is three swim/run combinations with a short (10 min) break between.  1st race: 200m swim / 1.5k run (one lap on swim & run course).  2nd race: 200m swim / 3k run.  3rd race 400m swim / 3k run (two laps on swim & run course).  Worth noting is the 110m run sprint to the water to start off each race.  Wanting to work on my run ability, this proved the perfect race.

Jard sur Mer 6:30 pm.  Starting the first 110 sprint to the water it was all I could do to keep the horde from running me over.  Everyone seemingly overzealous to blast off from the word go.  After 100 meters and being engulfed by the crowd we all took a hard left turn and ran down a boat ramp to the water’s edge.  Some navigated this corner better than others, I took it conservatively and still nearly pushed Adam over while I drifted wide through it.  “Sorry!” I yelled as I scanned the water for a safe place to dive.  Six or seven athletes were already churning up the bay.  Diving left of the group; a few streamlined dolphin kicks put me near the front.  Managing to get behind one of the Roy brothers by the first turn around the pace was comfortable while drafting the corner.  Coming back I made a move to pass but he held tough until the last turn where I edged him out.

Running up the boat ramp heading back to transition slowed the progress and spiked the heart rate.  I had a good transition but Adam smoked it and actually left just before me to start the run.  We took off at a blistering pace.  Adam is an excellent runner; I knew this would be an opportunity to move me closer to that status.

Forest’s of Saint Jean de Monts August 6, 10:49am.  The smell of fresh pine permeated the air; the rain refreshed the land and my body and my breathing played a strong chord with the beat of my feet as I flowed over rolling terrain.  Breathing in copious amounts of air filled my lungs with just enough to keep my body hurtling through the forest.   It was the freshest of sea breezes, eternal in its revitalization.  The pine needles on the trail softened the blow of my feet striking the earth and sometimes soft sand would absorb much of my forward progress.  The trees flew by, yet finer details of many were taken up by my senses.  The bark, the green needles, the leaves, the girth, the ancient age, the roots in the trail and the smell.  I heard bird calls, saw rain falling from the clouds and delighted at the site of vibrant flowers.  The subtle but somehow intense smell of the sea and pine needles mesmerized my soul and I ran on.  I ran hard.  I ran fast. 

Jard sur Mer 6:38 pm.  Coming down the finishing stretch my body flew on two legs like few get to experience.  I felt fortunate to have kept Adam just a few seconds in front of me.  The run had been a breakthrough for me and I tasted blood as proof.

Doing a mental check of the body I realized just how hard these next two races were going to be.  Intense, flat out efforts.  Perfect test for a body, mind and soul in training.

Just ten minutes later after several cups of cola and water we were in another mad dash to the water’s edge.  Fairing a little better but still diving into the water behind several athletes, I was able to pull into the lead before the turn around.  Feeling strong but not fast I exited the water with a small gap.  This time, just getting out of transition before Adam.  It wasn’t until cresting a hill and taking a sharp descending turn that he accelerated away from me.  Starting the second lap he was still holding that same gap but he increased it again on the same corner.  Adam finished a solid first place and I came in with another genuine run about fifteen seconds back.

In a routine now, I walked over to the refreshment stand and hydrated while coaxing my body into a quick recovery.

Forest’s of Saint Jean de Monts August 6, 11:03am.  Nearing the end of a broken six kilometers of fast running I had IT.  Yes… IT.  That thing which we all yearn for.  The reason people climb mountains, base-jump off bridges, go to church, kite board, pray, dance, take photos, surf the web, kayak…that natural state, most of us have lost.  The state of connectedness with something incalculable and permanent something that, strangely enough is essentially you and yet much greater than you.  Sometimes we get forced into the moment…the ever present moment to a degree that brings beauty, love, creativity, joy, and peace.  Many endurance athletes refer to it as ‘The Zone’.  Running through the forests along the coast of the French Atlantic seemed an intimate and ancient experience.  Running this fast ensures a high degree of suffering, yet I was thriving.  The air was alive, the forest was alive, I was alive and running for my life.  A heightened state of awareness, feeling my surroundings and my body.  Yes, my body was tired, suffering even, but accepting it gave me energy to keep going. 

Taping into this kind of power is easy, quiet your mind, accept your situation and be present.  This simple formula has no end to its depth.

Jard sur Mer 6:52 pm.  It took almost the whole first lap of the last swim for me to take the lead.  Overcoming a lethargic dash to the water, being tired from the first two races was the culprit.  I enjoyed the clean water on the 2nd lap and Adam and I had a sizeable gap starting the last run.  We both kept the pace honest and finished up much like the 2nd race.  I won all the swims and finished 2nd in each race while Adam won every race with the fastest run.  I am thrilled with how I ran and appreciate having a teammate push me to the limits.  We are both going to have some very good races in the coming weeks.  The short intense races are just the ingredient needed for our success in French Grand Prix racing.

Better quality photos HERE

Running For My Life

Today, an Aquathon has me primed for racing again.  It feels like a long time since my last event but, actually, I only had one weekend away from racing.  Without a race, training picked up.  My focus is on the Paris Grand Prix on August 30.  A 750m, 20k, 5k triathlon.  Calling it a ‘sprint triathlon’ is a misnomer.  Ask any swimmer training for anything at or over a 400m or a runner training for a 5k.  They will assure you, they are not training for ‘sprinters’ events.  The ‘sprint’ triathlon takes an hour (for pros); give or take 5 min depending on the course.  Racing for that long takes massive amounts of endurance.  Yes, there is power, anaerobic threshold, and sprinting involved but the underlying limiter is endurance.  Hence, this last week was my biggest training week ever!  I’m in my 6th year doing triathlons and before that swam for a national champion level swim team as a distance swimmer and never have I done 28.5 hours of training in one week.  All this, for a ‘sprint’ triathlon. I am 34 years old, yet I feel like I am 18 again.

The journey towards the grand prix race is invigorating.  A challenge that keeps me on my toes every step of the way.  When 90 accomplished athletes take the starting line, there is no getting away.  Javier Gomez came close at Tours winning by 20 seconds.  Yet, for the majority of his race it was shoulder to shoulder, tooth and nail, cardio power fighting.  Apart, from Gomez, the top 20 all came to the finish within seconds of each other.  There, in lies, the true meaning of pushing your limits.  Unless you are one of the most dominant triathletes on the planet, you are guaranteed to be pushed to the max, with 5 or 6 guy’s right there with you.  Mental clarity, focus & belief become paramount.  You will reach your max and then be asked, “Do I have any more?”

Enjoying the process is my theme, whatever the situation; enhancing the moment and accepting it for what it is.  Much joy lies in this realm.  Riding, running, and swimming for hours a day with always more to do can lead to anticipation of finishing this or that set.  But the true power lies in being present.  This is something swimming has done for me for years and its one reason I love doing it…no matter the crappy pool or the choppy ocean surf or the super strong currents.  Getting in and focusing can actually turn what looks to be a bad workout into the best you’ve had.

Sometimes the most unexpected situations bring on intense tranquil and soothing moments.  Many routes out of Saint Jean de Monts are fun for biking but I’m getting hooked on riding to Noirmountier  Riding in the rain earlier this week, late in the day and near dusk helped keep me focused.  It was a cool, windy and rainy day.  It was comforting to just lay in the house and read with my feet up and my body warm and dry.  But I had a 3 hour bike ride scheduled.  Waiting for as long as possible at 6:30 pm I set off on my ride.  The clouds were dark and stormy, the wind was gusty, the sun was signing off on the day and the rain went from slight drizzle to serious down pour.  The ride was outstanding.  I attribute this to the elements keeping me in tune with my immediate surroundings.   

The week has been full of wonderful events and lots of hard training that just feels fun.  I’m stunned to have trained so much while feeling so good.  It will be fun to move my body over land and sea in a few hours… as fast as I can.

Running for my life…

Here’s to running for yours too…