Racing in the heat can be tough: you sweat more; your body temperature is higher; and your perceived exertion goes up for paces that are usually manageable. The heat throw a wrench into your plans, both mentally and physically, especially if all of your training has done in cooler weather. Most runners have race day plans for their pacing, various race strategies, and nutrition, but it’s rare that people plan for significant weather changes. While you won’t be able to change the weather, there are ways to adjust to prepare yourself in a short amount of time:
If you’re travelling to run in a hot race, try to arrive to your destination as soon as you can. Taking a few days to acclimate will make a big difference come race day. The body needs time to adjust to the heat, especially if you’re coming from a cooler climate.
When temperatures go above 20C , the negative effects of heat start to amplify, so the least amount of exposure to the heat and sun possible one race day is ideal. Cut your warmup short and do just enough to get your muscles moving and ready to ease into race pace. If you there’s an opportunity to keep cool in the shade, take it. Also, think about bringing a towel to soak in cool water or ice, to place on your neck/hands in an effort to keep your core temperature down. You’ll feel more comfortable at a cooler temperature and ready to run fast as a result.
Once the gun goes off, try to start at a slower pace and adjust your goals. The heat can negatively affect the race, but it won’t necessarily sabotage it entirely. If you’re sensible in your approach, a fast time is possible, it just might not be a personal best. By going out a little bit slower than initially intended will keep you in check, and increase the likelihood of finishing the race strong.
Throughout the race understand that your fueling strategies may have to change. Your body will be working hard to regulate your temperature, so the fuel that you’re used to may not sit well in your gut. However, drinking a fuelling is key so do your best to consume early and often. Taking in nutrition while you’re feeling good in the first half of the race, will help you in the latter part of the run if things start to go sideways. Taking even just a sip or two or water/sports drink at every station will help to get you to the finish line.
Adjusting your race plans and goals when the heat sets in can be enough to salvage a race. Throughout training be sure to plan for any and every kind of mishap, it can make a difference when it really matters!