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It’s definitely not fair that, after weeks or months (maybe years?) of training, your goal race falls on a day when the temperatures sky rocket. Hopefully you have been exposed to some heat while training for your big event but, even if you haven’t, there are things you can do to mitigate the effect of the heat on your finish time.
Look closely at the weather—hour by hour.
Most likely, you are already doing this but be sure to note the exact temperature at the start and finish so you are prepared on both sides. You also want to notice if there is full sun or some cloud coverage and what the humidity will be.
Dress the part.
Wear light (both in color and material), breathable, sweat wicking fabrics and something you have worn at least one other time while running or racing. Thin socks, a visor, sunglasses and sunscreen will complete your heat-ready outfit.
Hydrate and hydrate more—but not too much.
This is where it gets a bit complicated. We now know that it’s very possible to drink too much water and end up hyponatremic but there is also a danger of drinking too little and becoming dehydrated. Stick with the hydration plan you have been following and add a little more water and electrolytes the day before the race and the morning before you start. Drink on the course as you have planned.
…cups that is! When going through water stations take one cup to sip or drink and another to pour over your head to stay cool. Hopefully there will be some smart spectators with hoses and sprinklers along the course as well.
Think cold thoughts.
There is a lot you can do to talk yourself through a hot and humid race situation. Think back to when you had to run in the heat and use that experience to know you did it before and can do it again. Think about how you will reward yourself at the finish or maybe just chant “cold as ice” until you can almost feel it.
Set a new goal.
Unfortunately, you may not be able to reach that PR if the temperatures and humidity conspire against you. Every 5°F rise in temperature above 60°F can slow your pace by as much as 20 to 30 seconds per mile. Start slower than planned, and make getting to the finish running strong your main goal. Run by perceived effort rather than mile splits.
Your health and safety come first so think about how you can race smart and still feel successful even if you can’t meet your time goal.