This weekend, we will have athletes racing around the country in very hot conditions. Racing in the heat demands that you be smart and strategic as well as have a heart of determination. Here are some things to consider as you go into a hot weekend of racing:
Shorten or Eliminate Warm Up – In high temperatures, we want to keep our core body temperature as low as possible before the race so your starting point is lower. Therefore, for longer races like a half & full Ironman, it is best to eliminate at least your run warm up (and possibly bike) in the heat. Substitute dynamic exercises (inside air condition if possible) and do the swim only. For shorter races, you can still complete your warm up but shorten it and possibly skip the run if really hot. If you do warm up, consider wearing a couple ice packs to keep core body temperature down.
Nail Your Nutrition – This starts days before the race and goes through the race. We have written extensively on this subject which you can find on the EF Blog. The two key things in the heat are fluids and sodium. In the days before the race, load both a little bit more than normal (but don’t go crazy) and then look for at least 24 ounces of sports drink and 600-1000 mg of sodium per hour starting an hour before the race and continuing through the race. If super hot, you may need 36-48 ounces of sports drink and be closer to 1000 mg of sodium per hour.
Pull Back The Pace – Smart racers adjust their goals in the heat. The optimal race temperature is 60 degrees. For every 10 degrees higher than 60, you should adjust your bike power and run speed by 1.5% (around 5 sec/mile for the run and 4 watts on the bike). So, if you planned to run 7 min pace but the temperature is going to be 90 degrees, you should adjust this to 7:15 pace. Use heart rate to make sure you have this right.
Stay Cool – Do everything you can before and during the race to stay cool. The key is keeping that core body temperature down. Wearing a hat or visor can do a lot to regulate body temperature. Better yet, add ice to the hat or wet it at aid stations to keep your head cool. You can also add ice packs or cold sponges which are often given at aid stations in your jersey. Additionally, plan to take an extra cup of water at all aid stations to throw over your head. With that said, if humidity is low (under 50%), I suggest avoiding water and ice on your head as it will tell your body to stop sweating which regulates body temperature best. If humidity is high, the moisture on your pores tells your body not to sweat and therefore we need to use external measures – ice, water – to keep core body temperature
Maintain Perspective – I have been in a couple super hot races when I felt like I was absolutely crawling and had to be the last person in the race when in the end, I finished quite well. Everyone is going to be slower in the heat – keep moving, maintain a good attitude, and you will probably find you actually place very well.
Be More. Live Red.
EF Founder & Head Coach