Signing up for race that will have warm holiday-like conditions can be very exciting, especially if it means leaving Melbourne winter (or similar) for a tropical race destination But as the race approaches you start to think… “hmmm how am I going to handle the heat when I have been training in the cold?”
Here are 5 top tips for racing in the heat, especially for those of us coming from cooler climates.
1. Arrive at your race destination early
Giving yourself time to acclimatize to temperatures your body isn’t used to is important. Generally, the longer the better but as we all know sometimes life doesn’t allow as much time as we would like. We can’t all get three weeks off work prior to race day nor afford to be away for that length of time. The general rule of thumb, if you're doing a weekend race, try and arrive early during the pre-race week. Give yourself a day to arrive, settle in and just generally walk around to get used to the conditions. Day two introduce one or two smaller training sessions - you want to introduce your body to what it is in for, but not overwhelm it. Keep these sessions short and remember that by now you will have reached taper anyway, so no need to over-do things.
2. Pre-race hydration
It is important to arrive at the start line hydrated. Many athletes forget this and end up drinking too much on race morning in a last-ditch attempt to hydrate and end up feeling “waterlogged” at the start line. As humans, our bodies are not designed to store excess fluid, so it is important to spend the days prior to race day ensuring your body is hydrated by drinking regularly, rather than leaving this to race morning. Many sports drinks have a high sugar concentration which means that they are not easily absorbed into the bloodstream, so steer clear of these options and opt for water or water with an electrolyte tablet in the days leading up.
3. Dress appropriately
Everyone is different. Some burn more easily than others, some people like to cover up to protect their skin and others feel like the fewer clothes on the better. One is not necessarily better than the other. Be sure to plan what you are going to wear, don’t leave the decision to the last minute and be left with minimal options. Once upon a time, we were told to steer away from wearing black, but these days with modern fabric technology this is not necessarily the case. Consider items such as sun sleeves, a running visor or hat and whatever you do DON’T forget the sunscreen!
4. Keep cool on race day
On race day the trick is to keep your body temperature as cool as possible. Of course, hydration plays a role here (remember that by the time you are thirsty the damage has already been done, so drink regularly from the moment you first get on the bike). Remember to utilize the aid stations by throwing water on your head or popping ice-cubes down your top. Once on the run, chuck some ice cubes under your running cap or simply run with a couple in each hand. If you get any opportunities to take a shady line when out on the run course – take it.
5. Keep calm and carry on
When racing in climates that your body is not used to, especially as a first timer, it can be hard to predict how your body will react, and it can be upsetting if you feel things are not going to plan. This is when you need to stay calm and manage things the best you can. Rather than focusing on pace at this point, “run from feel” and take walk breaks as needed. Walk the aid stations and utilize the water, ice, and sponges as much as possible. Remember that getting to the finish line a little later than expected will be so much better than not getting there at all. So think end game and don’t be too hard on yourself if things haven’t gone to plan.