58 year old Alan Hinchcliffe is in the top 10% in the world in his age group. But he has always suffered with debilitating cramp towards the end of races. He had given up hope, but then he met Precision Fuel & Hydration at Manchester Tri Show. Three months later he had finished his first cramp-free Ironman and had knocked a whopping 25 minutes off his previous time at IM Majorca (in 30 degree C heat no less). Here's his story...
Alan, tell us a bit about yourself and your background in triathlon and sport in general.
I've always enjoyed sport. I lived in Nigeria and Uganda as a child and I loved swimming and diving in particular, I won numerous youth medals in both sports.
I enjoyed playing football and played to a fairly high standard (though not as high as my brother Andy Hinchcliffe, the Man City, Everton, Sheffield Wednesday and England footballer! I did however play a part in this with running and fitness work in his early days...).
I then snapped my cruciate ligament and sheared off the cartilage in my left knee playing football, so I decided to give it up, but didn't know what to do next. I've always enjoyed being competitive and knew I'd miss that buzz. So, I decided to join the local gym and for a few years just concentrated on getting fit and getting my leg as strong as possible. Then the need to be competitive kicked in again, but what to do?!
I knew a gym trainer who was a triathlete and he wondered if I'd be interested in triathlon and he successfully sold it to me! The problem was, I could swim and I could run, but I couldn't cycle! And so the journey began...
You had suffered with cramp in the past I believe, can you tell us a bit more about the problems you were facing?
Throughout my sporting career I have always suffered from cramp, mainly in my calves. I'd tried everything up to coming across Precision Fuel & Hydration, I had had sports massages and I even went to the doctor who sent me off to get my calves scanned!
Nothing worked and I thought it was just something I had to manage and would never solve. I've competed in numerous triathlons and in every one before using PH i suffered with (mainly) calf cramps.
I was scanning the internet when I came across your website, I completed the online Sweat Test but did nothing more than that initially. I kept checking the PH website but wasn't sure if it was worth giving it a go, mainly due to the fact I was an older athlete and after all these years I guess I had come to believe nothing could help.
I attended the Manchester Tri Show this year and I saw the PH stand. I went over and had a chat and was really impressed with what I was told. I thought "well I'm off doing a 70.3 Ironman in Majorca in May, it'll be extremely hot and humid and the chance of me getting cramp was 100%, so what did I have to loose?"
What did a typical training week look like for you in the run up to IM Majorca?
My training in the run up to Majorca was in 4 weekly blocks, with every 4th week being a recovery week with the volume reduced.
As triathlons are generally at the weekend, I would always do a long brick session on a Saturday. This would entail training with Matt, an ex GB youth cyclist, who would beast me on the bike. The sessions would differ in distance - from 60k to 100k - with varying elevations and pace. Then straight into a run from 10k to 20k.
Sundays normally consisted of a recovery run and open water swimming.
My training continues throughout the week, normally with a rest on a Friday. I generally split my time between all 3 disciplines, but did concentrate mainly on the bike and run which is were I felt I could make the most improvement.
I also do strength and conditioning training twice a week at the gym.
I train about 14-20 hours a week in total. Luckily I work part time so I can normally fit this in pretty easily.
Talk us through your race. What was the biggest challenge on the day? What was your hydration and nutrition strategy?
The problem in Majorca was always going to be dealing with the heat and humidity and managing my cramp. I arrived at the event fully fit but worried about how my body would cope with the heat.
I followed the guidance and preloaded on PH 1500 the day before the race. On the day itself the temperature was a baking hot 30 degrees C, with a high humidity and I preloaded again about an hour before the start.
My swim was the fastest I've ever done and off I went onto the bike. This was a mountainous, tough, energy-sapping course taking me just over 3 hours, but I took nearly 20 minutes off last year's time! I was drinking PH 1500 throughout and getting my energy requirements from Torq gels. I took both religiously throughout the ride.
I then moved onto the run which was at the hottest time of the day. This was the element of the race I was most worried about and where I normally suffer from cramp.
I was now taking the SweatSalt capsules and I just got stronger and stronger throughout the run. When others around me were suffering badly from cramp I just pushed on. I became more and more confident that cramp would not be a problem and even sprinted the last 400 metres, beating my time from last year by twenty five minutes.
This got me more points than last year to maintain my All World Athlete (AWA) status (being in the worlds top age group 10%). But, more importantly, no cramp for the first time in years.
Even after the event when Matt was crumpled up with cramp, I was fine. I had continued drinking PH 1500 hydration after the event.
I have never felt so good after an event and, considering the extreme conditions, I was so impressed that I had no cramp at all. I 100% believe this was due to my new hydration strategy from Precision Hydration, I did nothing else differently apart from changing up my hydration strategy...
What was the most useful thing you learned from the info/advice in your personalised hydration plan?
The most useful thing I learned is that even when you think there is nothing that will help you, you need to remain positive as one day you may find the solution. In my case, listening to you guys and deciding to give it a try was a huge moment for me. The only way to do it is to follow your personalised hydration strategy to the letter and believe in the process.