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The Fight to a Phlegm-Free Finish

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The average sneeze can generate snot droplets that travel three feet. The average distance between airline seat rows? Two and a half feet. It only takes a single sneeze to ruin 12 months of 20 hours-per-week training, thousands of dollars in travel and gear expenses, and untold amounts of blood, sweat and tears. 

Staying healthy for the big race is a huge concern both age groupers and professional triathletes— just ask Leanda Cave how much it sucks coughing and wheezing your way to a medical tent before reaching the Kona finish line.

So what’s an athlete to do? Live in a plastic bubble for a month before the race? Charter a private jet to the island? Well, it turns out some of the athletes have a few tricks up their sleeves to make it to Dig Me Beach with nary a sniffle.

  1. Wear protective garments: Yes. You will look stupid. But putting on a mask and rubber gloves helped put Kona qualifier Darcy Eaton at ease on her flight from San Diego to Honolulu—at least for a little while. “I had both my esthetician and my dentist tell me it would be a good idea,” laughs Eaton, 41, who will be racing Kona this year for the first time. “The gloves only lasted a few minutes because they were way too hot, but I kept the mask on until the meal was served.” While Eaton admits she felt silly donning a surgical mask and gloves on a plane full of strangers, but after a year of focused, hard training, she wasn’t taking any chances.
  2. Lubrication: Another trick that Eaton picked up from friends in the medical community? Lining her nasal passages and fingertips with Neosporin. “It’s an antibiotic and it keeps germs from getting in through your nose,” she explains.
  3. Aromatherapy: It turns out the same oils they slather on you when you’re at an expensive spa can help keep you breathing easy on the race course. Eaton placed drops of Eucalyptus oil on each of her wrists and smelled them throughout the plane ride. “Eucalyptus is a natural antibiotic and decongestant and it keeps your nasal passages clear,” Eaton explains.
  4. Avoid the Scene: It’s a well-known fact that starting Friday, the pros on Kona disappear like Bears into their caves after the first patch of snow. But for some racers, the hiding starts earlier. “I know lots of racers who avoid shaking hands with people or even going out to dinner,” admits Eaton. “I know it sounds silly but germs really can screw up everything you’ve worked for really fast.”