"Every time I run in heat I puke."
"I race better in cold weather."
Summer is upon us. This past weekend runners got their first taste of heat and humidity,unfortunately for some, this was also a weekend that held several large races.
With proper planning and education:
We CAN run in heat.
We CAN run without puking.
There IS a reason why we vomit. There IS a reason we get dizzy and weak. Running in heat and humidity is a challenge for several reasons:
- We go into race day with a game plan regarding pace. In hot weather we must race for the conditions, NOT for a goal we came up with in ideal conditions. RUN SLOWER, FINISH STRONGER.
- We must stay hydrated and take in electrolytes. If you feel dizzy or weak, it is because you are most likely deficient in fluids, electrolytes and/or calories.
- All races are NOT created equal. Races longer than 8 hours in length are exponentially harder in relation to electrolyte and fluid management. The body will REVOLT if you don't have a great game plan to address all the variables related to strategy on race day regarding heat management and all the variables related to strong race day performance.
- You must take in enough calories while running in heat. Your stomach will fight you if you are overheated. If your electrolytes and fluids are balanced your stomach will accept fuel better.
Running at an intensity too hard for the conditions can also create havoc. If you aren't trained for the heat you are racing in, and you are pushing the pace too hard, your body is too overwhelmed to digest food. If you are overheating and running your body doesn't want to be overloaded with the demands necessary to digest food so it purges anything in your stomach it to focus on cooling down and getting blood to working muscle groups.
Ultramarathons are chess, not checkers!
Ultramarathons are full color in 3D, not one dimensional black and white.
A break down of the needs of a runner in heat:
- Calories must be easily digestible. You need several hundred per hour for ultra events.
- Fluids and electrolytes must be balanced and replenished. You must know what your specific body needs. Going off of recommendations on bottles is misleading because those instructions are most likely not for ultra distance. A 26 mile marathon runner does not need as many electrolytes per hour as a hundred mile runner in heat.
- Pacing must be adjusted to account for climate.
- Staying cool externally with wise clothing options and tricks.
There are many variables to consider for running in heat. I highly recommend if possible to train in the hottest part of the day. Don't rely on your innate talents to get you though an event. Work harder AND smarter and reach your maximum potential.