Sunday, July 24, 2011

Racing in the Heat

It's one thing to ride/train in the heat it's another to RACE in the heat.  I've always wondered how the Pro riders are able to cope with the heat when race day temps are nearing 100F.  I can barely stand being out in that kind of heat let alone race in it.  Wimp?  Absolutely.  But, this blog is not about me being a fair weather (wimpy) rider/racer it's about coping with the heat on race day..what you can do to be competitive in the heat.

If there is just one thing I can recommend (to you) for coping with the heat on race day and that is ACCLIMITIZATION (or acclimation).  Put simply, if you're going to race in the heat..you've got to train in the heat.  That is, you've got to get your body used to dealing with the heat/humidity.  If you know you'll be racing at the hottest time of the day..usually around 3pm..you've got to train at that time.  Yes, I realize that most of you are working during those mid-day hours and it's not possible to be out on the bike.  But, the pros are out on the road at that time and training in the heat.  That is why they are able to cope better than amateur racers.  So, other than skipping work and training in the heat..what can you do?  The first thing you can do..and again, I know this is NOT possible for most of you and that is to get out of the air conditioning.  When you work for 8+ hrs in an office with 68F temps..it's NOT going to help you acclimate to the 100F heat on the road.  Sorry, but that's a hard fact.  If you're a UPS/FedEx driver that drives the truck with the doors open in the heat all day (all week long), you're going to fair/acclimate much better to the heat on race day than the guy/gal that works in an air-conditioned office all day/week.

In addition to acclimation..here are a few other things you can do prior to and during race day to better prepare yourself for the heat:

a) Nutrition- you want to eat "quality" carbs leading up to, and including, race day.  That includes eating plenty of fruits, veggies, etc.  Watermelon is a great fruit (carb) to consume even during race day.  Stay away from the simple carbs. i.e. sugars, sweets, etc. prior to the race.
b) Hydration- you want to keep your body hydrated at all times...leading up to and during the race.  It helps to consume electrolytes along with the fluids.  Make sure the fluids/liquids are COLD.  Keep your water bottles in a cooler right up to race time.  It will help lower your core temperature.  Also make sure you put ice in your water bottles.
c) Ice- during your pre-race warmup put some ice in a pair of stockings/pantyhose/etc.  (You can steal a pair from your wife or girlfriend (or both) ha.  Put the ice on the back of your neck/back (inside your jersey) and let the ice melt and run down your back.  You want your jersey to get soaked with cold water.  This will help evaporative cooling when you race.  It also helps to wet your hair (if you have some..ha)..which will assist in evaporative cooling.  Remember, your body sweats to put fluid on your skin as a way of (evaporative) cooling itself.  If it's REALLY hot outside, take your shoes off (for a couple minutes before you warmup) and put your feet in a bucket of cold/icy water.  That will really help lower your core temp.
d) Shade- stay in the shade..period..right up to race time.  It makes no sense at all to warmup in the sun...and I see it ALL THE TIME.  If you don't have a sun canopy..buy one.  You can buy a 10x10 ft. canopy for under $100 and use it for other events/activities.  Also, keep your sunglasses on.  I can't tell you how much energy you lose through your eyes squinting into the sun without sunglasses.
e) Clothing/equipment- if you have a light-colored helmet (white is best) wear it during your race.  You don't want the sun cooking your brain under a black helmet.  Same with your kit.  If your team has a light-colored kit..wear it on race day.  You don't want to be wearing black since it absorbs heat.  Also, lower the zipper on your jersey..there's no sense being all zipped up retaining heat.  Don't worry you can zip it up for the final sprint and your finish line photo..ha. You can also put a soaked/ice cold bandana around your neck when you race.  You might even want to put some ice in an empty jersey pocket to keep your lower back cool.  If you sweat profusely while racing in the heat like I do, wear a head band to help keep the sweat out of your eyes.  There's nothing worse than sweat impairing your vision when you're racing.

Remember, it's your core temp that you want to keep from rising.  You can feel fine and have an elevated core temp.  Unless you have a rectal probe inserted (or swallow a core temp ingestible pill) along with a temp sensor, there is NO WAY you'll know if your core temp is rising.  If your core temp rises..you're cooked/done.  You will NOT be able to generate your normal power output during your race with elevated core temps...period.  And, that's a fact.

Stay cool!  Power ON! Coach Rob