Running and racing in the heat can be a real challenge. We LOVE our summers, but running in them is actually much more difficult than you might think. AND, training in the heat is different than racing in the heat.
Training vs Racing in the Heat
What is the big difference? Regardless of your plan, you will inevitably run harder in the race than you do in training. It just happens. Most of us do it right off the bat when the gun goes off and we start that first mile. It is exciting and before we know it, we look down and we are running at a pace we did not know we could hit and we certainly cannot maintain.
When you add to that the desire to go faster at the finish line or the fact that sometimes, just sometimes, life gets in the way and our training isn’t quite adequate for the distance, our exertion in the race is almost always higher than when we are training.
As you get ready for a race in the heat, you will want to be very proactive.
6 Tips For Racing In The Heat
- Make Sure You Taper: Hopefully you know what this is, but if you don’t, you want to make sure that the week or even two before the race, you start cutting (tapering) your miles. If you start two weeks out, cut your miles by a quarter and then the last week cut those miles by half again. By cutting your miles, you give your body time to get fully re-fueled, rested, and re-hydrated. Plus it gives you a break making you more excited to run come race day.
- Hydrate in the Days Leading Up To The Race: It is not just race day or even the day before the race that matter but the 3-4 days leading up to the race. And, it isn’t just about water. If you totally flood yourself with water, you will actually flush out your electrolytes and may actually make your race experience worse. You need water AND something that contains electrolytes.
- Realize You Might Have to Adjust Your Pace: Running in higher temperatures naturally raises your heart rate more than running in cooler temperatures. Instead of watching your pace on your gps, you will want to race based on your perceived exertion. If it feels super hard at your normal pace and you are breathing harder than normal, you definitely want to slow down.
- Make a Plan: Think ahead about how and what you are going to drink and potentially eat. The biggest mistake you can make is “winging it” and waiting until you “feel” like you need something. If you wait until you are thirsty or you start to fall apart, you have likely already passed the point of no return. You might be able to pull it back together, but it certainly won’t be your best effort and you might be headed to suffer city. Make sure to hydrate well in the early stages of the race. Again, this includes not just water, but something with electrolytes and calories such as Gatorade or you can do water with gels. You may even want to carry a bottle even if you only carry it for a few miles and then toss it.
- Wear a Hat and Sunscreen: These are simple, but more helpful than you might think. Keeping the sun off your face will make you feel cooler and avoiding a sunburn……do we need to explain that?
- Consider Some Electrolyte Capsules: This might be the secret weapon that many people do not know about or try. In the heat, it is always a good idea to carry a gel and some electrolyte capsules. What are electrolyte capsules? They are simply little pills that have sodium, usually magnesium and potassium in them. Unless you go to a fancy lab, you cannot know your sweat rate and consequently you cannot determine how many electrolytes to replace to avoid heat exhaustion. You can take a couple the morning before the race or even the night before the race and then I always carry 10 with me in a plastic bag to take if I start to get the chills or lightheaded.
Racing in the heat can actually be quite dangerous. While winter is cold and sometimes, icy, summer poses even more significant challenges. Dehydration and heat exhaustion are SERIOUS business so listen to that body of yours and always, always be prepared. While we want you to have a great race, more importantly we want you to be safe and healthy.
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