Mattoon Meltdown!

While Jeff and Kelly were winning State TT Championship titles, Martin was down at Lake Mattoon on August 31, where the annual Great Illini Half Iron Distance Triathlon was held: 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike TT, plus a half marathon to finish it up. 

The good news: my transitions were excellent (about a minute each), I won 1st place in my age group by 40 minutes (!!), and I came in 7/98 overall, my best finish so far in that race.

The bad news: It took me an hour longer than usual for the 1/2 Iron distance!  Things were already muggy in the morning, and heated up to 97 F at high humidity by the end of the run.  I started to worry on the bike, when I could squeeze only 21.3 mph out of a heart rate of 156.  To put it in context, at thr Tri National Championship I rode 24.1 mph at 155 bpm, and my usual 1/2 IM bike is 23-23.5 mph.  It was so hot and humid at Lake Mattoon, pedaling just got really tough.  I must say, I’ve never experienced it quite like this before – even the deserts during RAAM were ‘dry heat,’ as they say.  Then came the half marathon.  A mile into the run, my head began to overheat, and I had to slow to an 11+ shuffle.  Every time I tried to speed up, my head would feel like it was cooking, and I had to slow down to avoid heat stroke.  Tony Garrett, the race director, wanted to take me into his golf cart, but I mustered my strength to talk and smile, and he was convinced that I was not an immediate medical case, and drove off to take others out of the race for assistance.  Later into the race I finally discovered a trick that allowed me to run at 9:30+ instead of walking: after every aid station I flipped a cup of ice onto my head so the cubes would not fall out, and continuously rubbed it over my head to stave off heat stroke. Woe to me whenever that cup ran out before I reached the next aid station!

This is my 2nd race where the temperature was close to body temperature and the humidity was high, the other being Louisville 2010, where I had similar problems.  I deduce from this that while I’m very good at thermal regulation at 90 F/humid and 115F/dry, I am helpless when it comes to the 97F/humid combination.  My saving grace was that the rest of the field (except the pro winner) had an even tougher time: that’s why the next guy in my age group came in 40 minutes after me, and 1/3 the participants DNFd .