Ironman competitors prepare for grueling race, weather


by Bryan Shaw

Posted on August 21, 2014 at 6:26 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Thousands of competitors will line up for a day long Ironman Challenge of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, followed by a full marathon run of 26.2 miles.

On top of the grueling physical toll it takes on the competitors, they will also battle the weather with temperatures in the mid 90s and the heat index over 100.

“The ones who are at risk are those who have not acclimated to this sort of temperature; haven't given it a two-week period to get used to racing in this sort of environment and the beginners. Those who have been training for a long time, those who have been training for six months to a year, but have never done a full triathlon,” Steve Heilman, the Chief Medical Information Officer of Norton Healthcare, said.

It can get difficult to manage food intake and fluids. You can get dehydrated quickly. You then get nauseated which makes even dehydration worse.

Competitors tend to drink every 10 minutes and eat every 30 minutes.

“Nearly starting from today, we are just over three days out, you just want to be monitoring your hydration level and how much you are drinking during the day and make sure you are staying on top of it. People don’t realize if you are thirsty, it is already too late, you are slightly dehydrated,” Kate Bevilaqua an Ironman Competitor said.

Heat and humidity isn’t the only challenge. There is also the toll the body can take during a day of activity.

“Just because the nature of the sport, 112 miles is a long way to ride a bike, you can get overuse injuries, same as training for a marathon,” Chris McDonald a Professional Ironman Competitor said.

McDonald, who now races full time, trains 30-35 hours a week focusing on one discipline each day. 

Heat related deaths have now become the number one weather killer over flooding.  On days like Sunday it’s important to stay cool indoors, if possible, or wear appropriate clothing and stay hydrated if you plan to be outdoors.  Medications and even fans can mask dehydration symptoms.

“Elderly have the tendency not to seek extra help and care and the young don’t request care, so if someone isn’t paying attention, so a supervisor has to be looking out for them,” Heilman said.

Loose, light colored clothing is the best if outdoors. Sunscreen is important because sun burn hinders your ability to shed body heat. Avoid alcohol and exercise in the morning or evening when it isn't as hot.