Thursday, June 7, 2012

Tips On Getting Ready to Race in the HEAT

Expected temps for race day. Yep, it will be a hot one!

I have three "A" races this year: Eagleman 70.3 Half Ironman, Ironman Mont Tremblant, and the Philadelphia Marathon. The first of these, Eagleman 70.3, is coming up this weekend and as it has been in the past, the weather is expected to be Hot! Hot! Hot! Heat is the one element that can trash any well trained athlete and derail any race/workout if a person is not prepared for it. Personally, high temperatures have been the primary cause for any race I don't do well in. The most notable example was the Philadelphia Olympic Triathlon where I collapsed at the Finish Line and had to have EMT's carry me off to the emergency tent. For Eagleman this year, I've put together a plan to make sure I finish as strong as I can for this race without letting the heat impact me too much.

1. Heat Acclimation
Usually the best way to get used to the heat is to train in it. Unfortunately, it has not been that hot yet in Philadelphia. As an alternative, I started going to the sauna two weeks ago at the LA Fitness after my workouts and sitting in it from 15-20 minutes each session about 3-4x a week. It gets to about 105 degrees in there (I brought a thermostat in with me last time to verify) and you really do notice your body reacting to the heat. I wore a heart rate monitor while in there and doing simple exercises like body squats jumped my heart rate zone easily into a Z2 effort. It is crazy how much harder your heart works when in the heat.

2. Sleeveless Wetsuit
The water temperature for the race is hovering right between wetsuit legal (78 degrees and lower) and non-wetsuit legal (+78.1 degrees). This means there is a good chance an athlete will probably overheat in the water over the 1.2 mile swim if they choose to wear a full wetsuit for buoyancy/aerodynamic advantages. There is definite benefit to wearing a wetsuit as opposed to not wearing one, esp over longer distance swims but it means nothing if you leave the swim overheated/dehydrated and have a really crappy swim/run. If the swim is wetsuit legal, I'll probably go the middle route and wear my wetsuit without sleeves. I'll still have buoyancy around my hips to let me swim better and the exposed arms should help to keep the body cool.

3. Zoot Arm Coolers

The bike leg won't be too bad since it will still be early in the morning and the natural headwind from biking helps to keep the body cool. I will be wearing my Zoot Arm Coolers which I have had for a few years to aid the cooling. The arm coolers are essentially thin compression sleeves (not gradiated) that go around your arms. They are treated with Xylitol which supposedly can lower your core body temperature by up to 5 degrees. I don't know if the Xylitol really works or not, but I know there is a definite cooling effect when you squirt water on the sleeves and it naturally evaporates from the wing while riding. I'll probably leave the sleeves on for the run as well.

4. Zoot Hat

Covering the head/neck during the run will be important to stay cool during the run while the sun begins to strengthen and the heat rises. Usually I wear a visor, but for this race, I'm going to go for the "Desert Shiek-look" and wearing the Zoot Ultra IceFill Cap. In addition to the Cool-Max material, I like how there is a piece of cloth that drapes over the neck as well. During the race, I will dump ice water onto the hat/cloth which will directly cool my neck area which supposedly is one of the ideal spots to keep the body cool. The only drawback is that I will look somewhat goofy wearing this hat but oh well.

5. TriggerPoint Palm Cooler

This one is a neat concept. The palm cooler is essentially a frozen gel pack that is strapped onto your hand. As blood circulates through your hand, the frozen gel pack cools the blood as it circulates through the rest of your body. The science of it makes sense, we'll see if it actually makes a difference during the race. The main trick will be finding a container for the palm cooler to go into so that it stays frozen for 3 hours while I swim/bike.

6. Endurolyte Electrolyte Caps

I'm still mixed on whether or not you really need additional electrolytes during a race but if it is going to be hot, I can't see harm in being safe and supplementing with additional electrolytes. These Endurolytes have all of the essential electrolytes: sodium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, potassium, B6, and Manganese as well as some L-Tyrosine, which is an amino acid. I will probably take a couple of these before the swim, some during the bike, and a couple more before the run.

6. Water/Ice/Sponges

During the run, I'm going to try to let my thirst dictate when I drink water and not blindly take water at every station just because it is there. If they have sponges in ice water, I do plan on stuffing them into my Tri Top, as popularized by 2010 Ironman Champion, Chris McCormack (Macca).

So that's the plan. Short of having someone on a truck follow me with a fan, I'm hoping these strategies help me deal with the heat as I shoot for a PR.


  1. Good luck, Q! I went down to Eagleman a few years ago (sadly as only a spectator) and it's an awesome race!

  2. Thanks Mare, it should be an awesome race! I think this is one of the premier 70.3's on the East Coast so I'm looking forward to racing against the best!