Tips For Racing Triathlons In The Heat
It’s scheduled to be a hot one at the Santa Rosa Half Ironman this weekend. Here are some tips for a hot race.
I still think you shouldn't go crazy overhydrating before or during a potentially hot race. The dangers of going overboard are well documented now. Yes, make sure you're hydrated the day before. You should be peeing a light yellow. But don't drown yourself. The best guidance now is simple - drink when thirsty. You're only going to get in trouble if you somehow "forget" to drink in the excitement. If the sports drink you're using doesn't have a high sodium content then you can carry some salt tabs.
Get On The Road Early
In many races now, much to my dismay, you can choose when you start. Consider as early a start as practicable to stay out of the heat when your on the run when it’s going to be most critical.
Craig Alexander won the Hawaii Ironman for many years in a traditional well ventilated helmet. It's probably a better choice over a black completely covered aero helmet because you can pour some water down the vents and keep your core temp down, the main challenge to avoiding performance impeding hyperthermia. As it’s likely going to take place in the early mid-morning, and there’s more air flow, the bike is not going to be as challenging as the run to keep your temperature down but you want to start the run in the best shape possible.
Ice, Ice baby
I suggest a light mesh cap in the run for two reasons, cover your face in shade and also throw ice underneath if available. Another reason to get an early start is to take advantage of aid station supplies while they last. A problem in some races. Throw ice, sponges or water down the front of your suit as well to help cool the core. I've never tried them but the white arm sleeves you can soak also make sense to me although it seems keeping head and core temperature down are going to be more effective than the limbs.
I think the most critical adjustment you should make in hot weather is to hold back the exertion more than you usually would on the bike. Likely, stretching for that extra 3 - 5 mins in a half ironman on the bike is not going to be worth it as you can blow that in one mile if you're reduced to a walk in the run. You're not going to feel the full force of hot conditions on the bike but the energy costs of running in the heat are much higher than in normal conditions. So, adjust your expectations on the bike and save it for the run. You’ll likely not regret it.