Completing a Half Ironman triathlon is a tremendous accomplishment. It requires intensive training and preparation, something worth considering before committing to such an event. The Half Ironman covers 70.3 total miles, consisting of a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run. Endurance, perseverance, frustration yet dedication, all play a part to ensure you accomplish your goals of completion. Equally important as these aspects are to the competition, so too are proper nutrition and hydration. A well-nourished body allows you to go the distance and the best hydration setup requires a training technique as well.
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The Half Ironman pushes the human body to the max. Every muscle group engages during each repetitive exercise but you also face the inevitable challenge of running out of fuel. According to a 2000 study published in the "Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine," ultradistance triathletes can experience unhealthy fluid retention and electrolyte imbalance during endurance events, which at times lead to adverse health effects. Specifically, the study measured and confirmed the possibility of sodium retention as it related to increased cellular swelling and acute hyponatremia. The temporary fluid retention is avoidable with an adequate hydration schedule, initiated weeks before the competition and continued throughout the duration of the event. A 2010 study in "Toxicology" explains that well-prepared triathletes suffer no long-term adverse health risks during Ironman events when proper nutrition and hydration occurs.
Training Hydration Setup
Half Ironman participants typically begin training weeks to months in advance. Employ the basic principles of exercise hydration during the training process. Drink plenty of water at least one hour before engaging in exercise and continue to hydrate during the biking and running portions of the training. If you lift weights, include other forms of cardiovascular exercise or participate in stretching exercises, continue to hydrate. It is important to prepare your body for the constant flow of fluids in and out. As a rule of thumb, drink at least 12 ounces of water pre-workout and eight ounces of water every 30 minutes during workouts. Keep in mind that consuming nutritious foods is also part of the hydration process because food helps to supply electrolytes like sodium, magnesium and calcium, which support internal fluid balance.
Hours before the race eat a solid 400- to 800-calorie breakfast, which includes protein and carbohydrates. A good breakfast at least three hours before race time clues the body in to digestive nutrients so your blood sugar level is balanced. Pair your meal with eight to 12 ounces of water. Rehydrate and refuel with carbohydrates immediately before the start of the race. This quick reload allows your body to use the fluids and fuel instantly before it needs replenishment later in the race.
During Race Hydration
The swimming component of the race is not the time for hydration. If you follow the initial setup, your body will have the fluids it needs to get through that portion of the competition. During the biking and running stages, however, stay hydrated by drinking 20 to 30 ounces of water per hour. The Beginnertriathlete.com website advises that you hydrate with at least eight ounces of fluid every 30 to 40 minutes during the bike or running part of the race, if you are a triathlon beginner.