Keep Your Cool

red rock trail vista Running a hot-weather race is no joke, and here in Las Vegas, pretty much every race between May and October has the potential to be a broiler. So what to do? Don’t let the heat melt your resolve to enjoy racing regardless of the climate. Here are 10 things you can do to keep your cool during a race where the temps and/or humidity combine to make for challenging racing conditions.

  1. Dress for success. It may seem counterintuitive to wear long sleeves when it’s hotter than a griddle at a truck stop, but the intensity of the sun will convince you pretty quickly that it’s a good idea. Loose long sleeves in light colors and moisture-wicking material are best. Investigate heat gear at your local running or outdoor supply store to see what’s comfortable for you.
  2. Protect your neck. And your ears, top of the head (including bald spots), nose, throat, front of the neckline, etc.–all those body parts that you might not typically pay attention to will require anointing with sunblock to keep from burning.
  3. Heads up. Wear a hat with a brim and a drape to cover the back of the neck. If you don’t have a shrouded hat, consider wearing a bandanna or a buff around your neck. Keep in mind that visors will shade the face but leave the top of the head open to sun exposure.
  4. Cool it. Pay attention to the body’s hot spots to help regulate your temperature. Pour cold water over your head at aid stations; mist yourself with ice water; cover your head with a hat or bandanna and wet it down periodically; roll ice into your buff and wear it around your neck. Note: Being wet will increase your risk of chafing, so be sure to compensate by wearing plenty of body lube.
  5. Block those rays. Get a quality sunblock with the highest SPF you can find and apply it liberally, then reapply it during your race if you are sweating heavily or spraying yourself down. I like Coppertone Water Babies Pure and Simple–it’s zinc-based, has an SPF of 50, and holds up nicely.
  6. Bottoms up. Hydration is obviously critical in staying comfortable. Have a hydration plan in place before your race so you know what works best for you. For example, I know that I require a lot of hydration in hot weather. I accommodate for this by muling a hydration pack even when there are aid stations on the course. Sip your water, don’t chug it–that will prevent “sloshy gut,” which is no one’s idea of a good time. Monitor what you’re taking in: if you’re consuming sports gels or chews, read the package: most should be taken with water and not electrolyte beverages.Red Rock Canyon Trail
  7. But think before you drink. Don’t make the mistake of over-hydrating, which can cause a dangerous and potentially fatal condition known as hyponatremia. Be sure that your hydration plan includes a way to monitor your sodium and electrolyte intake. Experiment with electrolyte or salt tablets, specially formulated hydration beverages, or salty snacks such as potato chips or pretzels to find what works best and doesn’t upset your stomach.
  8. Revise your expectations. If it’s hot as blazes, don’t expect to run hell for leather during the race. Run the easy parts and jog/walk/shuffle the more challenging parts.  Concentrate on enjoying the race and keeping yourself safe and reasonably comfortable.
  9. Treat your feet. Heat and sand are two things that will wreck your feet–and your race–if you don’t prepare for them. Wear gaiters to keep sand and gravel out of your shoes. Tape any potential problem areas with breathable (not duct) tape. If you use lube (Aquaphor, A&D ointment, etc.), know that any sand that gets into your shoes will likely stick to your lube. Be prepared to wipe down your feet and relube them periodically. Wear moisture-wicking socks and change them if they get sweat- or sand-logged.
  10. Pay attention. Know the signs of both heat sickness and hyponatremia and take care of any symptoms as soon as they appear. Don’t just “gut it out.” Be smart, race well, and finish happy.

IMG_7135Here are some helpful links for info on running in extreme heat conditions:

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