In this episode we talk with founder of 303 Triathlon, Dana Willett. She teamed up with Kris Thompson, co-founder of 303Cycling to expand 303’s reach back in 2007. She has also raced more triathlons than she can count and recently has started distance trail running while downsizing to a small, farm style home near Hygiene. She was training like crazy before Covid-19 but is staying motivated training with her son who is home from College. She shares such a wealth of wisdom from various careers and experiences. Enjoy!
New Leadership at 303 Media Group
“Our mission has always been, and will always be, about enriching the lives of people who participate in endurance sports. For now, that focus will still be on cycling and multi-sport where there are so many opportunities to grow. I want to make a slight, but possibly very impactful change, and that is to focus on the lifestyle of those passions and also to always remember that the camaraderie and community we play and work in, is what really matters. Everyone is the news, and in Colorado, one of the key endurance markets nationally, our local news is national news,” says Bill Plock.
303Cycling was started in 2007 by Kris Thompson and David Kutcipal. In 2012 Dana Willett joined the leadership team, launching 303Triathlon and eventually taking over both sites as majority partner and Editor in Chief in 2014. Today the network sees over 300,000 annual visitors. Dana will continue in the role of associate editor and key advisor.
The majority of the existing 303 team will remain in place, with Jen Findley, Khem Suthiwan and Cheri Felix all contributing and helping bring the endurance community the best local news, event coverage, education and entertainment possible.
“We have some additional key staff members, ambassadors and partners lined up to help us expand our current offerings and grow our network, so stay tuned for those announcements soon,” says Bill. “I’m beyond excited, and I love Colorado and this lifestyle and I think there is so much opportunity to reach more people and give them a fun and informative experience every single day!”
By Dana Willett
As multi-sport athletes, we’ve pretty much all heard about the importance of salt – sodium – electrolytes – during endurance activities, especially in hot weather.
But how much? And what kind? And how often?
The go-to “test” most athletes are familiar with is a sweat rate test – weigh yourself before exercise, go hard for an hour, weigh yourself again, and do the math on how much fluid you lose (details below). Then load up with any of the many sports drinks out on the market, and try to consume close to the amount you normally sweat out.
BUT. So many different products. And they all affect our guts in different ways.
Salts and minerals that can conduct electrical impulses in the body. Common human electrolytes are sodium chloride, potassium, calcium, and sodium bicarbonate. Electrolytes control the fluid balance of the body and are important in muscle contraction, energy generation, and almost every major biochemical reaction in the body. –From Medical Dictionary
And, perhaps more importantly, the concentration of sodium in your sweat is as important to understand and utilize as your sweat rate.
My coach has recommended I use the current off season to tackle any testing and nutrition questions, so I have plenty of time over the winter and spring to integrate any changes and trial-and-error any new products. I’ve had year-over-year trouble with gut issues and muscle cramping, so salt intake is at the top of my list.
I checked in with resident expert Ryan Ignatz at Colorado Multisport, who agreed, saying, “Now is a good time to consider Sodium Composition Testing since people have more time and can start implementing their new knowledge with their bigger indoor workouts. Often we see people just drink water when they ride inside through the winter, which can actually create a bit of issue in their sodium balance after a few workouts.”
I booked an appointment at CMS for the sweat test and was surprised to learn no workout was involved. This test can be done any time, with no exercise-induced sweat necessary.
I sat comfortably in a chair, and Ryan applied a small disk to my forearm, secured with a strap.
The disk is equipped with a type of electrode that promotes a sweat reaction on the skin just below the disk.
The sweat is collected in a tiny coil of tubing inside another disk called a macroduct; once enough sweat has been collected, Ryan withdraws the fluid using a syringe and analyzes it with the Precision Hydration machine.
And just like that it’s confirmed – I am a salty sweater!
I’m in the “high” category, bordering on “very high.”
I need 1331mg of sodium for every liter of sweat that I lose.
Levels of sodium loss fall anywhere between 200mg or 2200 mg – but the proportion each individual loses stays the same (except for hyponutremia, a condition caused by overhydrating with plain water – without sodium – and water diluting the blood stream). Thus, each athlete’s sodium concentration level is individual, similar to a blood type or VO2 max… it’s yours for life, and it does not change.
When I do a traditional sweat test (see below), I lose two pounds over an hour – so I basically need at least a full liter of fluid and 1200-1300mg of sodium for every hour of racing. Plus 200-300 calories an hour.
The immediacy, and accuracy of this data is quite reassuring, especially given my history.
During my last full Ironman, I suffered kidney trouble. I was using a well-respected endurance formula (“exclusive blend… all the electrolytes an endurance athlete needs… no need to supplement with salt tablets...”). I consumed 24 oz an hour, 240 calories, 334mg of sodium – not nearly enough sodium for me.
Unknowingly, hour after hour, I was about 1000mg shy of meeting my sodium needs, compounding every 60 minutes. Plus I supplemented with some extra water – which only further diluted my blood sodium level. No wonder mid-way through the day my kidneys weren’t working well, and after the event I experienced mild rhabdomyolysis .
The key is the sodium concentration in your sweat, and your sports drink.
Ryan reassures me, underlining the importance of ratios over quantity: “Its more about the concentration of sodium in the fluid you drink – it’s not only about how many milligrams per hour, because that varies depending upon different conditions, such as intensity, temperature, etc.; both your sodium concentration, and sweat rate are important. You need to drink to thirst, and make sure your drink contains the correct sodium concentration – that is what is important.”
Determining those formulas ahead of time is the key to solid hydration: Ryan says to look at packages, and really read the labels. “If Gatorade Endurance is on course, look at those sodium levels ahead of time and consider how much you’ll need.” Another thing to consider is everyday nutrition, and sodium intake during training sessions. “Athletes who train regularly and eat ‘clean’ tend to not add salt, and may not get enough in their everyday diet,” Ryan adds – another reason to dial in sodium levels to ensure training fluids are the proper concentration.
The next part of the sweat test included reviewing the leading products on the market, factoring the sodium levels, and taking into account past gut-checks, calories, delivery method (salt capsules, stick-licks, powders, etc.).
When you study the variety of offerings, you might be surprised. For example, Endurolytes by Hammer – whose name indicates a product appropriate for endurance events (“Electrolyte replenishment done right“) – has only 40mg of sodium per capsule.
Do the math… for me, needing 1300mg of sodium per hour, I would need 32.5 capsules every hour. Thirty-two+ pills. Every hour.
There are different types of salt… Sodium Citrate is not as strong tasting… and Sodium chloride is table salt.
Ryan suggests drinking to thirst, and then separating your carbohydrates/calories from your fueling. He recommends dialing in your hydration: “Make sure everything that you drink has a certain concentration of electrolyte – that way, no matter what amount you drink, you always have the best ratio of sodium to fluid for your personal body chemistry. ”
Base salt… Boulder salt… Salt Stick… what’s the difference? “Mostly method of delivery,” Ryan says. “From a salt shaker kind of delivery, where you lick the dispenser, to capsules, under the tongue delivery (bypassing the stomach), to a canister with a scoop for mixing with fluid.” Other things to consider are packaging (key when you’re trying to ingest while in the aerobars or carrying on the run), and cost. Some offer better ability to measure intake-specific doses.
What if you find yourself on a course, you’re unsure of your sodium needs, and salt is being offered? Ryan says, if in doubt, take it. “Most of the time it’s probably a benefit because most people aren’t doing enough.”
“When we exercise, the number one job the body has is to cool itself – through sweat,” Ryan points out. “It will do that above just about anything else. Sodium concentration is key to this process.”
One final point from Ryan: “Drinking to schedule can work against you – drinking to thirst, with proper ratio of electrolyte to fluid, is the best practice.” And, “Always, always, check the math!”
Contact Colorado Multisport to book your Sodium Composition Test. The cost us normally $129 – mention this article and 303Triathlon for a 10% discount plus 10% back through December 31, 2017!
A certificate for the test can make a great gift for the triathlete in your life.
Your standard sweat check procedure is:
- Check your weight before and after training, and calculate weight loss.
- Convert any weight loss to ounces or ml of fluid.
- Check/measure the amount of fluid consumed during training.
- Add the amount of fluid lost to the amount of fluid consumed to get total fluid losses.
- Divide the total amount of fluid lost by the number of hours of training to get fluid losses per hour.
By Dana Willett
I was wide awake when my alarm chirped at 3:00 a.m. on Sunday morning. Normally, early morning race routines start with a belly full of adrenaline and pre-race nerves, but not today. The Colorado half marathon “fit nicely” into my seasonal training plan, according to my coach of nine years, Craig Howie. Like always, life has intervened this spring and I missed some key workouts and cut others short… so my goals for this run were not so much to try to beat previous records, but to run a smart race, a solid race – one that would anchor my season.
Even though the performance pressure was off on paper and in my brain, my heart still wanted to do well, which is the reason I continue to toe the run/bike/triathlon line year over year. Life in my 50’s has taught me that while my endurance remains, I just don’t have the leg speed I had 5-6-7 years ago. OK, even three years ago…
So I popped out of bed, fresh and clear-headed from skipping my nightly wine for the last several days, and went through my routine. Stand-alone run events are so EASY to pack for! No bike or wetsuit or long list of gear! The 45 minute drive north to Fort Collins was quiet and dark.
After parking, a quick walk across the street brought me to the waiting buses – race organizers really have this routine dialed in, and everything moved smoothly. While in line I met a woman with a bike who was pacing the lead female. Her name was Mandy, and I really enjoyed talking with her and learning how she came to be in that role. A multi-Ironman finisher, seasoned athlete, mother and wife, she exuded what I love about our community: a genuine positive nature, willingness to help others, gratitude for all the outdoor beauty.
A 20-minute bus ride took us up the mountain canyon to our staging area, where familiar signs of porta-potty lines and crowds of blanket-clad runners huddled together for warmth in the dark. I stood aside and watch the golden sunrise hit the surrounding mountaintops, as the Poudre River gurgled in the background, and I felt so satisfied that I’d made the effort to get to this race. As the bullhorn guided us to the narrow start line, and a sole bugle played the Star Spangled Banner, a blanket of cloud cover covered the sky, securing cool, mild temperatures in the low 60s for the duration of the race.
The first few miles of downhill sped by and it’s always hard in this section to manage the effort because you don’t want to go to fast and trash your quads, but you also want to take advantage of the downhill. I hear Coach Craig’s voice in my head – “soft knees, quick turnover, it should feel too easy…” In no time we were at mile 5.5 and the steep uphill… this is where the first fast-starters gave in to walking and all those people who passed me earlier were now slowing down. Just after the crest of the hill movement to my left caught my eye – a beautiful Paint mare was cantering along the fence line parallel to us, her spunky chestnut foal at her heels… they seemed so happy and celebratory! With the second half – and toughest part of the run course – still to come, this was a good reminder of the fact that we’re out here to have fun.
Once out of the canyon the trail curves and winds mile over mile… the majority of runners followed every curve, instead of running straight tangents for the shortest distance…I tried to imagine the lines the race organizers used to measure the course, and not take any unnecessary steps.
This race is truly challenging with those long, unprotected miles at the end, including the suspension bridge that undulates for a good 2/10 of a mile – it can really mess with your knees, hips and back if you don’t slow down a hair and go with the flow. And then the mile markers seem to surely be stretched out too far, and the day was really warming toward the 80-degree high… I just kept thinking about relaxing my shoulders, concentrating on my form, and a strong cadence.
I had switched my garmin to heart rate and was using that to guide me – not pace. This is new for me this year – I’ve always approached races with time & pace goals… this year my goal is to be more realistic about where I am, now. My ability, today. Heart rate can be tricky on race day, depending upon nerves, elevation, etc. But for a long endurance event like the half marathon, I’ve learned what my numbers are, and how to also integrate perceived effort, and gradually build from low zone 3 for the first four miles, mid zone 3 for miles 4-7 (except the hill), high zone 3/low 4 for miles 7-10, and building zone 4+ for the last 5k.
And just like that I could hear the crowd at the finish, long before I could see them. The final two long blocks are uphill and seem to take forever, but as soon as that thought passed, my name was being announced.
As I crossed the finish line I glanced at my watch, switching from heart rate to time… I’d watched the 1:50 pacer pass me in the first half of the race, but never saw the 2:00, so I wasn’t surprised at my 1:57 time. But I wasn’t thrilled either – after all, despite my “I’ll-just-run-to-my-ability” approach, I DO care. I’d run faster several times in the past, and chalked this up to a solid effort and good for my overall training. I later learned that my finish was good enough for 2nd place among the 39 bad-ass women in my age group – a reminder that every course is different, and we do slow as we age.
I was buoyed by all the volunteers, the medals, festival vibe, and the Kaiser Permanente booth, drawing a huge crowd. This booth, just past the finish line, had the longest line by far. Finishers stood in queue, stretching quads and wiping sweat, for the coveted prizes Kaiser was rewarding. The literal fruits for our labor? A little free farmers market where runners were able to load a whole bag of produce – tomatoes, peppers, apples, broccoli, and mounds of fresh KALE.
Because it is the COLORADO Marathon after all.