This is my 3rd year returning to Laguna Phuket in the South of Thailand, and each year the trip unveils new and exciting experiences.
Thailand is one of my favorite places in the world. The oppressive yet relaxing humidity, the warmth of the locals, the cacophony of food flavours..
My triathlon 'career' started here in 2010 when Brett Sutton invited me to trial for TeamTBB - I wrote a little blog about this here - (re-reading it causes me much amusement!)
Racing in early December when you've been racing since March, is a little ambitious, but on discussion with my coach Tom Bennett, I knew I couldn't miss out on the first year that the Laguna Phuket Triathlon became the Challenge Laguna Phuket Tri-Fest.
I arrived in Thailand 2.5kg over race weight (its cold in the UK this time of year and I always put on a bit of fat insulation in the winter ;) and far from the cardiovascular shape that i had earlier in the season. I have been focusing on setting up my new business CuroSeven as well as working a few locum shifts to pay the bills. Training was quality but half my 'normal' training volume. I was unsure how I would fair in the races, but i had faith in Tom that I would be 'just fine' come race day. The bonus was - I arrived 8 days before the first race so time for some acclimation. Plus having raced in these conditions (Heat: 33C & 90-98% humidity) before, the body remembers and re-acclimation is improved.
The organisation is superb for this event (Thanks Roman Flosser!) and as the event is sponsored by Laguna Phuket holiday resort, some of the returning Pro's are treated to 5 star luxury hotels.
Its the reason Multiple World Champ Melissa Hauschildt returns year on year too, and being an Aussie its a quick hop over the ocean. Unlike many other top Pro's who race this event year in year out, Mel is always in good shape. (Has she ever even had a bad race?) Ironman World Champ Pete Jacobs toed the start line this year, along with a very out of shape Macca (I actually thought I might chick him ;).
I started my stay in Thanyapura which is an incredible facility about 20 minutes from the race location. I have stayed here each year and seen its growth and development over this time. I was very excited to hear that Chris McCormack was appointed CEO in recent days which will serve to develop the facility and its use as an international training ground over the coming months/years. Macca is also keen to set up an International Professional Racing Team - watch this space! Former Pro Triathlete Jurgen Zack famous for his uber strong biking has been based out in Thanyapura for years and is credited for the growth of the triathlon scene in Asia.
As a team doc to the MaccaX Triathlon Community I work closely with Chris and am passionate about the growth of the triathlon community. Macca's influence on the growth of the sport of triathlon internationally is remarkable. Personality he is.
In week 1 I helped out with Ben Greenfield's camp which was based at Thanyapura.
I have known Ben for a while, and I admit, initially I was a little skeptical of his 'credentials' and marketing hype. However after talking to him in person and listening to his podcasts, it became obvious that he is extremely well read/educated and a complete perfectionist in many aspects of his life. For someone in his early 30's, he is incredibly successful and 'self-made' - heading up a number of his own businesses, whilst competing as a top-level amateur triathlete (Kona x 4) and home-schooling his two adorable twins. Worth listening to a podcast with him interviewed by Rich Roll . Ben has a religious following and some of this 'biohacking' tips and tricks are addictive!
The camp was superb - busy - with a big focus on technical skills and interactive talks.
See some of the pics from the camp here.
Thanyapura also offers physiological and blood testing so I was able to use my CuroSeven skills and put some of the camp attendees through testing. Many were surprised at their results. Ben himself regularly gets tested and blogs about his blood test reports and what you can learn from them. See here. - as WellnessFX is only available in the US, we set up a similar (albeit much more niche service) in the UK so that anyone interested in taking a proactive stance on their health can benefit.
In the week leading into race 1 - LPT 1.8k swim/55k hilly bike/12k run - I got hit with some form of GI (gastro-intestinal) bug. I could barely eat anything without feeling or being sick and I had to make sure i was never far from a toilet. The Thursday before the race, I stayed in a dark room, sipped coconut water (osmolarity very similar to human blood plasma, hence highly functionally hydrating)... and prayed it would pass. At this point i was one of the only ones who was unwell, but by this time next week, there were nearly 50 people who reported varying symptoms. Two people were hospitalised with severe dehydration and intractable vomiting.
It is difficult to know what caused this high rate of illness. It was not 'food poisoning' as many thought, in my opinion as onset of symptoms were delayed and people were affected in different hotels, eating different meals.
Turns out that heavy rainfall/flooding - as often happens in Thailand this time of year - and certainly did this year - facilitates water borne and vector borne infectious illnesses. So even small amounts of water ingested can cause gastro-intestinal (gut) infection as the water - sea and laguna/lake water - can be highly contaminated.
Ben Greenfield became very unwell and has vowed to be more prepared next time. He writes about his experiences here - "Poop-Emergency"
Add this to the fact that many athletes have weakened immune systems, especially when training hard AND the heat which increases the 'leakiness' of the gut - allowing more toxins/nasties that would otherwise be contained within the bowel into the blood stream and causing illness. Read more about 'leaky gut' here. and through Ben's podcast here.
See this article for a longitudinal study on incidence of infections as related to heavy rainfall in Taiwan.
AND a recent study highly relevant to triathletes! - Gastrointestinal Illness among Triathletes Swimming in Non-Polluted versus Polluted Seawater Affected by Heavy Rainfall, Denmark, 2010-2011
Lessons of this story are: