Racing In The Heat And How To See Everyone At A Triathlon
Sunday (yesterday) was the 2012 Boulder 70.3. While I wasn’t on the course the same way I was last year, and I didn’t have any athletes racing this one this time, I still knew A LOT of people racing. Since I planned to go up to the race anyway I signed up to volunteer to give back to the racing community that’s been so awesome to me over the last 7 years.
But before I continue with that story, let’s talk a little about racing in the heat. Today was another hot day in our unbelievably hot summer. While not as hot as it’s been, 90 degrees at 5430 feet above sea level is plenty warm. Barely a cloud in the sky and not much of a breeze can be quite grueling to race a half-ironman.
Here’s what to do to prepare:
1) Know your fluid loss rate in conditions similar to the race conditions. If you don’t know how much fluid you are losing, you won’t know about how much you need to drink. Test this in your training – weigh yourself right before you workout, then weigh yourself after (no clothes!). Take the difference and also subtract a pound for every 16oz you drank. For every pound you lost, that’s 16oz of fluid you should have consumed. Set up your hydration plan to as close to this as you can. You do have some room for error (don’t always need to replace 100%) but if you are in for a long day in the heat, if you are off too much per hour in a long race, it can make for a significant deficit. (Note: sodium is only one of the important electrolytes, and you should make sure you are getting the full spectrum. calcium, magnesium, potassium, chloride are the others.)
2) Test electrolyte consumption in your training. Test different levels of electrolytes and keep track of how you feel during similar workouts and how easy it was for you to recover to dial this in. There are also lots of electrolyte products on the market – try some different ones and see how they work for you.
3) Train in the heat. This may not always be possible, but do your best to train in hot conditions if you are going to be racing in hot conditions. I know a pro Xterra athlete who runs a local fall cross country series of races in long pants and long sleeved shirt to help get him ready for Xterra world championships. They are in Maui in October, where the temps are quite a bit warmer than they are in Colorado in the fall.
4) Make sure you are hydrated going into the race. Be sure to monitor your fluid intake the few days before the race to make sure you are getting enough, though you don’t need to go overboard. Just make sure you are drinking and getting in those electrolytes as the craziness of race week can get in the way of proper hydration. Some athletes sodium load to help with hydration.
5) Plan your fluid intake for your race. Write down what you are going to drink and when. Come up with this plan through testing in your training, then test your plan in the weeks before the race. On race day, stick to your plan as best as you possibly can.
6) Keep cool. Dump water on your head and chest on the bike. With the cooling effect that takes place from the breeze induced by riding, you won’t realize quite how warm it is. On the run, use ice in your hat, ice down your top and your shorts, eat some ice, hold it in your hand, anything that helps cool you off.
There you have it – pretty simple steps to prepare yourself for the heat. Knowing how your body responds and planning for it is the best way to have a solid race while others are withering and slowing down around you.
Back to my volunteering. I chose the post at the bike lap location, because that way I would be sure to see every single racer out on the course! It was a little chaotic, with traffic control (from the Boulder County Sheriff), people upset they couldn’t drive into the Res, (the race offered a shuttle, which apparently got a little back-logged) and trying to keep a few spectators off the course (that shade in the photo was a popular spot, and a few wandered onto the road to get photos.) But overall it went well. The pros hit the course at just after 7:30am, and the last bike finisher came through at 1:15 or so to head to the finish. And being on the course that long, I pretty much cheered for EVERYONE. Tons of fun!
Here’s a video of some of the first pros to zip by as they started their race: