This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.
Summer is here! School is out, family vacations are planned, and the summer racing season is firing up!
The summer racing season is a fun time. All runners, from high schoolers to masters, come together at the same races. We’re all out of season as the younger runners are thinking of the upcoming cross country season and the older runners are planning out their fall marathons or other fall plans. However, we’re all together giving it all we have in the summer.
I love that aspect! One of the drawbacks of the spring and fall road racing season is that you see very few runners younger than about 22 at these events. Not that there is any problem with older runners. I am one of them after all but I for one enjoy seeing those younger runners out there.
This is a fun time of the year but it can also be challenging. The heat and humidity that comes with the summer racing season can take its toll on us. So how do we prepare for this?
Step 1: Training
In training, embrace the heat. Don’t shy away from it. If it’s hot on race day, you don’t get to hit the treadmill to run the race. While sometimes it might make sense to do so in training, if you do this all the time, you’re not going to be prepared for the heat. Generally, it’s going to be best to get out there and face and even embrace the heat. There are physiological changes that will help you handle the heat and the psychological benefit of knowing you’ve faced that in training can’t be overlooked.
Throughout the summer, as you should ideally be doing all year, make sure you’re staying well hydrated. Hydration isn’t something you can do part time. To be properly hydrated, you need to be consistent. That means throughout the day, every day. Develop the habit.
Step 2: Pre-race
Even before race day starts, you need to ensure your hydration is where it should be. Again, this isn’t something you can just do a crash course for. You can’t properly hydrate starting a few hours or even a day before a race. It’s a long term thing.
On race day, you may want to rethink your warmup. Especially if the race is longer, ask yourself whether you really need to spend as much time warming up as you do when it’s cooler. In some cases, the answer may be yes. In others, you may come to the conclusion that it’s better to not extend yourself in the heat before the race even starts.
Step 3: Race
In my opinion, the most important thing to keep in mind during the race is that you will be slower. Accept and embrace it. This is where running by effort, which I’m a big fan of, comes into play. If you are running by effort, your pace will automatically adjust to the conditions. If you insist on checking your splits, I can’t tell you how much to adjust because we all handle the heat differently. However, make sure you do adjust. If you don’t, you will pay the price later and, in the heat, it can be a hefty price to pay.
Don’t be shy about grabbing some water at aid stations. Even in short races, I do this when it’s warm but I don’t drink the water. I pour it over my head. I’m sure you’ve seen runners doing this when racing in the heat. It feels good. Some research also says it is beneficial, potentially more beneficial in cooling than drinking it (and, if you’re running fast, you don’t have to worry about actually getting it down or choking on it). Also, if sprinklers are out, use them. The same for shade. It may even be beneficial to run a little farther to get shade rather than running a shorter path but in the sun if those are your choices.
Step 4: Reap the benefits
So what does all of this get you? Well, beyond the thrill of competition, there are actually benefits to running in the heat. You’ll be a faster runner when fall comes around (and not just because you kept your training up).
So get out there and race this summer! Just make sure you’re well prepared and you have a race day plan.