This year so far has been cold and wet for southern athletes, and cold and icy for those in the northern half of the country. Avoiding storms has been a large part of training so far in 2017. Nobody has had a hot day yet to train this season. I was training here in the Utah desert yesterday with an athlete visiting from Idaho and riding in dry dirt for the first time this year. He said “60 F never felt so warm”!!
Important early season races are generally located in warmer parts of the country. The combination of only training in the cold, then travelling south to a warm race can be a shock to the system. Being unprepared for a temperature difference catches athletes out every year. This year in particular has the potential for this scenario to be enhanced due to the cold and wet weather in Jan and Feb. During a race, the longer you can keep your core temperature normal, the longer you can keep your speed up. When core body temp starts to rise above normal your body will slowly shut down and reduce your ability to push hard. Ignoring a rising core temp is extremely dangerous and may lead to heat stroke and possible death.
Here are race day strategies to perform well in the heat when you have only been training in cold weather and have not had a chance to adapt.
Do’s and don’ts for racing in the heat
- Don’t underestimate how warm 75 F can feel while racing if all of your recently training has been in temps 50 F and below. 75 F will feel a lot cooler to you in August when you are more heat adapted than it will in March or April.
- Do wear light weight and light-colored clothing that breathes well. For very high temperature days, consider a sleeveless jersey.
- Do modify your warm-up routine. On a hot day, the goal is to get to the start-line with your core at normal temperature and your muscles warmed up. A shorter and lower intensity warm-up routine than normal is the best choice on very hot days.
- Do put ice in your hydration pack and bottles. Drinking cold fluids will help keep your core temperature in check.
- Do put ice-cold water on your head and back during the race at every opportunity. The longer you can keep your core temp at normal the faster you can go. Wearing a neck cooler or some pantyhose with ice inside around your neck is a good option.
- Do keep your intensity in check. On very hot days you must race at a lower intensity to keep your core temperature from rising. Once your core temperature starts rising in a race it is very difficult to get it back down without stopping.
- Don’t let yourself get dehydrated. Carry extra fluids and drink enough to replace losses.
- Do have a plan for electrolyte intake based on your prior racing experience.