Endurance Journey QCM Race Preparation Series Part 2: Considerations for racing in the heat or cold

In part 2 of this series, as we get closer to QCM race weekend, we will continue to answer the frequently asked questions I receive as a coach.

What if it is hot/cold on race day?”

First things first, train in all conditions prior to lining up at the start line. This will be your best strategy against the unknowns that weather gives us.  I encourage athletes to train in all different conditions so they are able to see how their body responds in certain temperatures/conditions.  

Let’s first address racing in hot conditions: 

It’s important to understand the longer the event the greater impact the conditions will have on your body:

  •  The greater the temperature/humidity, the greater your body will be affected;

  • The more you sweat, the more likely the conditions will affect you;

  • The bigger or more muscular athlete will most likely be affected.

Now if you are not able to train in similar heat to what you will experience on race day - SLOW DOWN.  You should expect a slower time and you should be extra cautious in easing into the run.  The reason for having to slow down is because a greater percentage of your blood (which carries precious oxygen) will be sent to cool the skin in the form of sweat. This means less oxygen going to the muscles so our heart rate increases to get more blood to the working muscles.

Therefore, you will typically need to hydrate more in hot conditions but not be able to absorb as much energy from your fuel choices because of more blood flowing to the skin and not available for digestion. The blood volume gradually reduces if we don’t replenish lost fluids. The same happens with salts in our body, they are removed from our body in sweat. As a result we may end up dehydrated or hampered with a full stomach of fluids/food which can lead to nausea, cramping, frequent trips to the port-a- potties…You get the idea, something you want to avoid. 

Here are some other considerations to help you successfully manage the heat:

·      Make sure to stay hydrated and fueled appropriately.  Practice your hydration and fueling strategy in a variety of conditions.

·      Wear light coloured clothing (white is best), moisture wicking materials, a hat, sunglasses, and good socks.

·      A sponge on yourself is a good idea. I tie one with a hair tie around my waist belt.  Take water and wet sponge at aid stations to cool your face and arms down.

·      If you have access to ice, this is also helpful (sucking on ice cubes, in your hat, holding ice in your hands).

·      BODY GLIDE, BODY GLIDE, BODY GLIDE or whatever anti chaffing product you prefer. Anywhere that can chafe on your body probably will in the heat so prepare for it! Take care around “there.”

·      Be prepared to alter your race goals, and be ok with walking if need be.


Racing in the Cold:

If it's cold, make sure your extremities stay warm:

  • Warm head (warm cap)

  •  Hands (gloves or mitts)

  • Feet (proper socks and footwear)

Keeping your core warm is also a good idea. Layer up, because you can always remove layers. Make sure everything is breathable and moisture wicking (wind and water replant material if wind/rain chill a factor).

Keep warm prior to starting the race! I recommend having warm up gear that keeps you a little warmer than you think you need. This will help your body core temperature elevate before you gear down to your race outfit.

Lastly, I suggest on a cold day to take ~10-15% more calories than you planned for during a race in ideal conditions to compensate for the extra energy the body uses in order heat itself. 

As previously mentioned, if you have the chance to do some training runs in cold, wet, and rainy weather you will have a better idea of what to expect on race day. Although, at first you may want to skip your training session that day, use it as an opportunity to prepare in case of similar race conditions.

Coming Up Part 3: What should I be eating and drinking as part of my training? 

Patrick Ash is a coach with Regina-based coaching company Endurance Journey Coaching. He is available to help you improve your performance here.