By: Daniel Garcia
I am a handcycle triathlete. On April 2, 2016, I attempted Ironman 70.3 California Oceanside. It was the first triathlon I’d ever done and, boy, was it a rude awakening! Although I finished with first place in the handcycle division, my performance was impacted dramatically in the bike and run due to severe muscle cramps in my hands and triceps. For an able-body triathlete, cramping in the hands and triceps would probably be of no concern considering that the legs are the primary muscle groups being used. For a disabled paraplegic triathlete like myself, competing in the handcycle division, it means everything. We use our hands and arms for every leg of the race. After Oceanside, I scrambled to find a solution before attempting my next triathlon.
On June 26th, I competed in Ironman 70.3 Buffalo Springs Lake, Texas — one of three National Championships in the world. This race had one open qualifying spot for the World Championship in Kona, Hawaii and two qualifying spots for the 70.3 World Championship in Sunshine Coast, Australia. The pressure was on.
Midpoint through the bike, I thought I had beaten the cramps. I was wrong. I hit some hills near the end of the bike, and the dreaded hand and triceps cramps were back with a vengeance. I pulled into transition finishing the bike and the pain was unbearable, I couldn’t even open my hands to put my wheelchair gloves on. Off I went to finish the last leg of the race, the run (push-rim wheelchair). I would get disheartening pain every time I would hit the push-rim of the wheelchair. Finally, the suffering was over. I finished the race in a total of 6:15:20 with a disappointing run time of 2:00:19. Fortunately, my efforts were good enough to earn me the second qualifying spot for the World Championships in Australia.
With the World Championships ahead of me, I scrambled to find the solution for my cramps and discovered HOTSHOT. I was skeptical at first, but decided to give it a shot. I first tried it during my toughest training days. About 5 minutes later, the cramp completely diminished and it was non-existent for the remainder of the training session. I was sold!
In September, I traveled to Australia for the 70.3 World Championship. There are only four handcycle qualifying spots for every Ironman World Championship, and right before the start, myself along with another athlete couldn’t find the other two competitors. The gun went off and it turned out they were already in the water past the breaking point of the waves at the starting buoys! I was playing catchup from the start. I passed my first opponent in the water. I finished the swim and was off to catch the other two opponents on my handcycle. About an hour into the bike, I began to cramp and drank a HOTSHOT. I felt instant relief. There was a turnaround during the bike course where I saw one of my opponents. He was only three minutes ahead of me so I upped my efforts. About 45 minutes later, I saw my opponent climbing a hill and I got right next to him. I asked how he was doing and said, “Let’s stop playing games; let’s do this!” I gained a lead on him but knew I needed to put as much distance between us as possible on the bike. He’s a former Olympic wheelchair racer and I had just learned how to use the chair a year prior to this race!
My opponent was gaining ground on me. He was in third at the time and I was trying to hold on to second, so I upped my efforts and was able to lose him. I was so focused on holding on to second place that I completely forgot about the possibility of first. Sure enough, I ended up catching up to first and taking the lead. The third-place competitor ended up passing him as well and finished second. I crossed the finish line as the Ironman 70.3 World Champion and ranked #1 in the world for 70.3 thanks to HOTSHOT! HOTSHOT was definitely the game-changer that day. My total time was 5:37:19. I shaved off a total of 38:01 minutes from my finishing time and 43:18 off of my run time from the National Championship, which I competed in only two months prior. Thank you HOTSHOT!
MORE ON THE HOTSHOT BLOG
Train Smarter: 5 things every triathlete should incorporate into their IRONMAN training plan.
Mental Toughness: 5 ways to stay motivated and build your physical and mental endurance.
How to Prepare for Racing in Hot Weather: Train your body to be prepared for race-day weather conditions.