Beating Heat and Cramps at Ironman 70.3 Hawaii

“Challenging” and “inspiring” are words commonly used to describe the scenic course at Ironman 70.3 Hawaii. While many view Kona, Hawaii as the home of the Ironman World Championship, the 70.3, also known as “Honu” takes just as much tenacity and effort to conquer. Triathletes Thomas O’Brien and Tana Jackson discuss their training schedules and what keeps them focused as they experience one of the biggest obstacles on race day – muscle cramps.

On June 4th, I competed in Ironman Hawaii 70.3 on the Big Island of Hawaii. The athletes competing that day knew it was going to be very hot with ambient temperatures on the run exceeding 100 degrees and humidity over 90%. I drank a bottle of HOTSHOT prior to the swim, one bottle on the bike and another bottle on the run. This was one of the first Ironman 70.3 or Ironman races where I did not experience any leg cramps! It was so hot I did overheat a bit on the run course and sat in a chair while race volunteers poured water and ice over me until my core temperature dropped. But once that happened, I was able to continue running and finish strong.

In these extreme conditions, HOTSHOT delivered as promised! Thank you so much for developing this awesome product. I will continue to use it in all my races. And more importantly, on long training days I never go out the door without a bottle or two of HOTSHOT stuffed in my jersey pocket.

My training buddies are always trying to bum a bottle off of me when they start cramping on long bike rides. Now that HOTSHOT is officially being sold nationwide, they can buy their own!

I’ve been competing in triathlon since 1998 when I first learned to swim and bought my first bike. I was a cross-country runner in college and learned about triathlon through a local run club. When I first started racing, it was all about just participating and being able to complete the event. I’ve tried to maintain that same “just happy to be doing this!” attitude as I’ve become naturally more competitive over the years.

My best distance is Ironman although I enjoy traveling to 70.3’s (I just recently raced Ironman 70.3 Boulder) and doing local Olympic and sprint races. My goal every year is to qualify for my favorite race, the Hawaii Ironman, which I’ve done 11 times!

I typically do about 10 races per year. I try to do all of the local races that don’t conflict with travel races that I’ve planned for that year. I don’t often cramp while training, but I do while racing. I sometimes will cramp during the swim, usually towards the end of the swim and it’s when something unexpected happens such as someone swims over me or I have to make a sudden change to my stroke. It’s very painful, but I’m able to swim through it. I don’t always, but do usually start to cramp by the end of the bike. I’ve found that the best way to deal with the cramps is to back off and continue pedaling. It can take a while, but when the cramp is gone, I gradually pick up the pace but dial it back slightly from where I was before.

On the run, I typically get lower leg cramps that affect my stride, but again I’ve found that the best way to deal with it is to back off and continue running. The first time that I tried HOTSHOT was actually at the Wildflower long course this year. I always cramp at this race (it’s early season and hot!), but I used it before the swim and at both transitions and I didn’t cramp. I had the same experience at 70.3 Hawaii at both transitions and no cramps!

I used HOTSHOT at IM 70.3 Boulder and I did start to cramp towards the end of the run, but I used an extra HOTSHOT at the time of the cramp and it cleared right up. I have recommended HOTSHOT to fellow athletes and I plan to use it at both Ironman Vineman and Ironman Coeur d’Alene later this year… and if all goes well, at Kona! For me, the main benefit is that I’m able to go hard without holding back due to cramps.


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