Michael Weiss’ Secret Weapon

IRONMAN pro Michael Weiss’ season got off to a rough start after a bike crash in Mexico, but with the help of the Masimo MightySat Pulse Oximeter, the recently crowned IRONMAN Maastricht champion is headed back to Kona.

2017 would be the best season of Michi Weiss’ professional triathlon career. He was sure of it. He’d kick off his season at IRONMAN 70.3 Campeche in Mexico in March, before locking up his Kona qualification at the IRONMAN North American Championship a few months later. That would give the former Olympic mountain biker and Xterra world champion the entire summer to zero his focus on nailing the perfect race on the Big Island of Hawaii in October.

Unfortunately things seldom go to plan in IRONMAN racing. Twenty miles into the bike leg in Campeche, a 13-year-old boy ran into the street in front of Weiss and he was sent flying into the pavement at nearly 30 mph. Miraculously the boy wasn’t seriously injured, but Weiss was left with a broken collarbone, separated AC ligament and a season in jeopardy of being over before it had really started. Lying in his hospital bed in Mexico, Weiss found the determination not to give up on the season. Sure it would be hard—maybe even impossible—to fulfill his goal of making it back to the Hawaii, but Weiss isn’t one to give up without a fight. His confidence was buoyed by the fact that, once he got back to training, he’d have a secret weapon in his training arsenal to give him an edge on his competition.

Back home in Colorado Springs, Weiss felt the urge to begin training only a few days after undergoing surgery to plate his collarbone and repair the ligament. He was able to ride on an indoor trainer with his arm still in a sling and his motivation was at an all-time high to push his body back to the level of fitness he’d had only a few weeks earlier. But his body wasn’t ready to keep up with his drive.

“That’s where the MightySat was really a big help,” Weiss says. “I wanted to push—to get back to work—but I went back through my MightySat history that I have saved on TraingingPeaks and I could see my baseline data. I knew I wasn’t ready to push as hard as I wanted to. It taught me to be patient with my recovery.”

Each day on Michi’s road to Kona started the exact same way: He woke up, clipped his Masimo MightySat on his finger, and measured his pulse rate (PR) and oxygen saturation (SpO2). In less than a minute, he had the data he needed to fine-tune his workouts for the day. If his PR is high and SpO2 is low, he might have decided to cut his six-hour ride down to only four hours. If his numbers indicated that he was fully recovered, then perhaps he’d throw in a few extra hard intervals during his morning swim.

“That morning measurement is the most important,” he says. “It helps me make a decision about what that day’s workouts are going to look like. It means I’m not just going by feel—I have the numbers to know where my body is at before I even get out of bed.”

While the Masimo MightySat has applications for athletes from all walks of life—from bodybuilders to recreational tennis players—it’s of particular benefit to IRONMAN athletes who push their bodies to levels of fatigue not common in other sports. One of the unique measurements that the MightSat provides that you won’t find in over-the-counter pulse oximeters from you local drug store is Pleth Variability Index, or PVi, which is an invaluable measure of an athlete’s fluid volume.

“More so than with other sports, the measure of PVi is hugely beneficial for IRONMAN athletes,” says Dr. Jonathan Edwards, a physician who has worked with numerous Olympic and professional athletes. “Being able to track your PVi can save you from overtraining or going into a race under-hydrated. Just a few days of dehydration during the weeks leading up to an IRONMAN can have a drastic effect on performance come race day.”

The ability to track progress and share objective data with coaches is of huge benefit to professional athletes like Weiss, but perhaps the biggest asset of daily monitoring with the Masimo MightySat is the mental benefit it provides. Athletes are known to beat themselves up and question their fitness after only one bad training session, but if they start their day knowing that their bodies aren’t fully recovered, they have the assurance that the tough workout is a result of mounting fatigue and not an indicator that their training program is off.

“I think many athletes make the mistake of trying to grade every workout,” Weiss says. “They want to test their limits everyday and then judge themselves based on how hard they were able to push themselves. With the Masimo MightySat, I can see if my numbers are off and then I won’t push myself to that point where I feel beat up and get frustrated.”

According to Weiss, the accuracy and ease of use of the Masimo MightySat is what sets it apart from other pulse oximeters on the market. It’s the only hospital-grade pulse oximeter available for use at home and it seamlessly syncs with any smartphone, with all of the information uploadable to TrainingPeaks to share with coaches and compete with friends. In addition to PR, PVi and SpO2, the Masimo MightySat also measures respiration rate (RRp), which has become a valuable tool for Weiss on race day.

Before sunrise on October 14, Weiss will find himself back on the pier in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, and the same secret weapon that helped get him there will be there with him, taking one last measurement before he embarks on the biggest race of his life. As the pre-race tension of one of the hardest sporting events in the world overcomes his competition, Weiss will clip on his Masimo MightySat, check his respiration and pulse rates, and then perform the breathing exercises he’s practiced hundreds of times before to calm both mind and body simultaneously. He’ll be more relaxed and ready than anyone else on the pier, and he’ll have the data to prove it.

Writer: Brad Culp

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