Racing in rough conditions with elevated percentage of humidity and hot temperatures can be tricky even for racers who live in areas with that kind of weather. Before going over a few tips on how to cope with that on race day, I’d like to explain here the mechanism that leads to poor performance on a typical hot and humid day.
The physiological standards we used to in mild conditions are higher in warmer venues, I mean, basically your heart rate, your core temperature and your sweat rate will be higher. Your lactate blood levels and the rate your body burns carbs and fat will rise. Considering these events individually, none of them will dramatically affect your performance, but they will start a cascade of events that will lead your body to overheating and then you will start feeling problems to keep performing as you planned. Your body temperature will rise, and you will start sweating. In normal conditions this sweat would evaporate, but with the high % of humidity, it will take more time to evaporate as the air will be already dense with evaporated water. The sweat will accumulate on the surface of your skin, the body core temperature will keep rising, the body is overheated more and more and the cycle is continued.
Now that we are aware how it all happens, a few tips on how to cope with it on race day:
– The fabric/material of the suit you race is very important! Those that help your body to keep a low body core temperature and do not keep humidity and get dry fast are the best!
– You MUST use a visor or a hat! The head loses or absorb a lot of heat pretty fast, so make sure you’re protecting your head from the direct action of the sun. It also helps to protect your eyes from strong sunlight (use sunglasses as well) and your face’s skin from the UV rays that can make you have sunburn.
– Cool your gels on the fridge before race day. If they get too warm it will be hard to swallow it and easier to get stomach sick.
– Freeze your water bottles as well, consume the volume of sports drinks you are used (and practiced in training) and cool yourself off at all aid stations with water, especially over your head and neck! It will help you to avoid overheating and feel a bit “fresher” on the hard moments of the run.
Those are only a few basic things you can make in order to avoid overheating while racing. Doing that and keeping your race pace under control can lead you to perform your best even in hot and hard humid day!
Article written by:
Guilherme Ferreira Campos
Italian Long Course Pro Athlete and Coach