It’s July, and it’s hot. Duh, right? The Midwest finally broke out of the stretch of 100 degree days that started back in June this week. It’s the hottest we’ve started out here in a long time and my grass is paying the price. It’s also not exactly the friendliest conditions to run a triathlon in.
At Ironman Kansas 70.3, it reached 95 degrees while many late wave starters were still running, jogging and walking to the finish line. That was pretty rare for Kansas at that time of the year. Luckily there were aid stations a plenty and water hoses spraying on the run course, but it’s shaping up to be a brutal summer at the peak of triathlon season.
With the threat of ozone alerts and blistering heat, heed these tips to stay on course and not pass out.
1. Know what you’re dealing with. Pay attention to the forecast and be in the know if you are facing 100 degrees with a heat index of 115. Will you be out running on the course at the peak? Is your wave early enough and are you fast enough to escape the heat of the day? You don’t want to show up unprepared and be a casualty of heat exhaustion.
2. Think light. Light colored clothes reflect the sunlight and could be the difference between feeling like 100 degrees and 90 degrees. Avoid black kits and hats.
3. Skin protection. Don’t be a triathlon lobster. If the heat doesn’t make you pass out, a nice sunburn will make you feel 10 degrees warmer as well, and especially when you have no shade and that sun is searing your flesh. Sunscreen, use it. Protect everything you can with clothing and sunscreen. If you wear a visor to run in, don’t forget the top of your head!
4. Hydrate hydrate hydrate. If you’re running and you’re thirsty, you’re too late. You should have been hydrating on the bike. Be smart and know your sweat rate to understand how much fluid you need to take in to stay balanced. Be careful not to cause an electrolyte imbalance with too much water and not enough sodium in your drink. Don’t overdo it with salt tablets either, unless you really know what you are doing. Being hydrated is your strongest defense from a heat stroke DNF, a visit to the med tent or a trip to the ER.
5. Walk every aid station. If you’re starting to feel the heat, ratchet it down. Walk every aid station, drink some water, gatorade and take a cup of water to go to dump on your head. If you feel light headed, you’re on your way to heat stroke. Dial it down and stay level headed if you want to finish. There’s also no shame in calling it a day to save your health.
6. Know the signs of heat exhaustion. Feeling faint or dizzy, nausea, heavy sweating, rapid and weak heartbeat, low blood pressure, cool – moist - pale skin, low-grade fever, heat cramps, headache, and fatigue are all beginning signs. It could spell serious trouble if you cannot recognize it early and adjust your race strategy to stop it.
7. Ice. If you aren’t able to find a specifically designed portable cooling solution, grab a hand full of ice at an aid station and hold it in your hands until it melts. Cooling the hand stimulates thermoregulation signals to the brain, which is scientifically shown to improve athletic performance and delay fatigue.
8. Walk, don’t run to the finish line. If you feel that you’re not right, and want to get to the finish line, then walk. Your body is working too hard to run and regulate temperature. You have to limit one or the other, and unless you have a self-supported AC unit on the course with you, walking will get you there.
9. Bring ice. Bring a soft portable cooler to T2. All of you cubicle rats out there have an insulated lunch tote, don’t lie. Dig out the Oreos from the tote and fill it with ice and have it ready at T2. Throw a drink in there for a cold one to take with you on the opening of the run and take some ice with you down your shirt or in your hat. The last thing you want is a swig of hot sports drink and nothing to start the run with to keep you cool.
10. Don’t sign up for a race in the summer.
Ryan Falkenrath writes the blog falkeetriathlon.blogspot.com, married father of two young kids, owner of two dogs and trying to balance life, work and multisport. Ryan has participated in multisport events since 2001 from 5k's to Half Ironmans. Ryan is also the Kansas City Endurance Sports Examiner and you can read more of his triathlon thoughts HERE and he collects race reviews at www.Triathlon-Reviews.blogspot.com. Contact Ryan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on @TriJayhawkRyan.