California-born Morgan Arritola, 29, is used to charging hard at multiple sports and in any weather. From mountain running, to participating in the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, to competing as part of the U.S. Nordic Ski Team, she’s ready to perform at her best when the gun goes off. Why? She tailors her training to meet race conditions. Arritola lives in Ketchum, Idaho, which, as is often the case in higher-elevation mountain towns, has big temperature swings from day to night—the average July day time high is 81 degrees and the average nightly low is 45 degrees.
We caught up with Arritola, fresh off her weekend at the GoPro Mountain Games in Vail, Colo., earlier this month, where she took first place at the Vail Pass Half Marathon (she also won it in 2012) and second place at the 10K Spring Runoff, to learn how she handles training and competing in summer temperatures.
High temperatures can make long or hard workouts more challenging than normal. How do you stay safe and comfortable while ensuring you have the workouts you need?
I definitely carry more food and water than I think I need, including a nutrition bar so I can eat at any time—my favorites are STRONG & KIND bars. (Ed note: Arritola is sponsored by Kind bars.) I try to plan a route along a river when possible so I can jump in and cool off. I also won’t run a brutally hot and shadeless trail in the mid-day sun. Really it’s just using common sense and erring on the side of too short of a run. You can always add more if you want.
The sun can also zap energy. How do you compensate for it?
I run early because I am not great in the heat. I don’t really sweat very much; it all seems to boil up inside me. I also always get in the river or a lake at the end of a hot run. I have to cool down.
Related: 3 Summer Beach Workouts For Runners
Do you change your hydration and fueling strategy for the summer months?
I wouldn’t say I drink a lot more water in the summer. It just depends where I am and what I’m doing. I have been known to eat anchovies straight from the jar after a long, hot run. I do love salt!
Do you use special gear during summer months? If so, what?
Breathable clothes, a hat and always sunglasses, plus I carry my Salomon hydration pack for longer adventures. I should be better about sunscreen too.
Related: A Runner’s Guide To Sun Protection
What have you learned the “hard way” when it comes to summer running and training?
That once you realize you are thirsty, it’s too late. Drink early and often, same with fuel. Once you realize you need it, your body actually needed it long before, and it makes recovery so much harder if you dig that hole.
What’s your ideal racing temperature? How do you prepare yourself for training in one type of weather and racing in another?
Probably 60 to 65 degrees is best for me. I mimic likely race conditions as much as I can. One year I raced in Hawaii in December. I was still cross-country ski racing at the time. I was training in West Yellowstone, Montana right before the race, and it was below zero at night. To acclimate I would put on all of my clothes and go to a treadmill and run hard just to get used to sweating and being hot.
What’s your best advice for running and training in hot weather?
If you enjoy it, great, but make sure to proceed with caution. Otherwise run early, drink often, and swim in rivers whenever in possible!