A few years ago a few RMA were embarking on quite a challenging race, the Coastal Classic, a 29km trail run on the stunning south coast of NSW in the Royal National Park. Typically this race is held in early September, however a huge rainy week on the lead up meant that the race was postponed to a later date.
Right away I knew that this meant that instead of running the race in Typical cooler conditions, we would be running in what could be a hot day, so I decided to prepare a little earlier for this event. During the 6 foot track ultra this year I suffered quite horrendous heat stress, which lead to a not so pleasant running experience. I was determined not to let this be the case again. Unfortunately given the hot day, many people did find this event quite hard, especially those starting further back in the start groups.
When running in hot conditions we need to be mindful of a few things. The main concern is dehydration. The other concern is heat stress which is caused from dehydration which can be extremely serious and lead to death.
Sometimes we don’t have a choice when we run, and we certainly don’t control the weather, so what can I do to avoid being victim to heat stress related symptoms on race day, or even just on a normal run day? What are some things to remember when running this summer?
If you know that you are going to be running on a typically hot day, prepare early. If it is a race, a few days out from race day make sure that you are hydrating appropriately. This does not mean drink copious amounts of water, as this will do the opposite and flush out all the good salts out of your body (which could be seriously detrimental to your health and performance), which you will need come race day for your working muscles. It is important to hydrate with water and electrolytes, more than you would if it was a normal day, and definitely if you are still training up to the day to make sure that your stores are high.
Wear clothing that is light and breathable. Wearing a technical fabric if you can that will allow moisture to wick away from your body. sometimes going for lighter colours that don’t absorb the sun is also a good idea. Wear a hat or visor to cover your head and face. Make sure you wear a broad spectrum 50+ sunscreen to protect your skin from the harmful effects of the sun.
You may need to adjust your pace on race day if it is extremely hot conditions. If the course is conducive to it, run on the side of the road/trail that has the shade and try and stay out of the sun as much as possible. At aide stations or water crossings soak your hat in the water or throw water over your body to keep your core body temperature down. Sometimes wearing a wet buff on your neck or wrist is another idea to keep your temperature lower. Make sure that you are hydrating with electrolytes and water throughout the race or session, and most certainly after the session.
If you know that your race is going to be in the heat, it is best to train in the heat some time during your weekly program to prepare your body for performing in these conditions. Instead of going early in the morning, swap your session to an afternoon session. Be mindful to hydrate well and prepare yourself with the above tips beforehand and hydrate afterwards appropriately.
Check for trail closures.
Summer time is also fire time, and we have been inundated this year with dangerous dry fire conditions. Please check the national parks websites for trail closures during the summer months. Always tell someone where you are heading and take enough nutrition, hydration and a snake bandage with you.
Signs of heat stress
lack of sweat
* If any of these signs happen in a session or race and you are concerned, seek help immediately.
Summer should not interfere with your running program. You can choose to run early in the mornings or later in the evening instead of the middle of the day, which is probably better for most of us, but if you do need to go in the heat or your race is held in these conditions, use these tips to help be your guide for good performance on the day.