Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tip #1: Beat the Heat

The Wasatch Back Ragnar Relay takes place deep within the Wasatch Mountains. The average elevation for the race is approximately 6,000 feet above sea level. Unfortunately, a common mistake many teams make is assuming that even though it is June and the beginning of summer that the elevation will compensate for the searing temperatures in the lower valleys. During the race temperatures will often reach into the 90s, even this time of year. And for most runners doing their legs in the middle of the day there will be little to no reprieve from the pounding sun and increasing temps.

That being said, there is much that can be done to combat the dry, hot, energy sucking temps while out on the course. Each is addressed below.

1. Train in the Heat - As we roll into Spring and the days begin to heat up our natural tendencies will lean towards running from the heat and doing our training runs in the morning and evening, when the sun isn't directly over us. While normally there is nothing wrong with this, it certainly isn't going to prepare for what you'll face during our race. Find time to run out in the middle of the day at least twice a week. Your runs will be very difficult, but they will get easier, trust me. As I prepared for my first 100k  that took place in the mountains behind Provo, UT last August I spent the entire month previous to it running nearly every day in 90+ degree temps in the middle of the day. Thanks to that training I was ready for what I faced on race-day and wasn't bothered by the heat nearly as much as other competitors.

2. Water vs Salt - We all grew up with our parents telling us to drink, drink, drink on a hot summer day. I remember playing football and having 3-a-day practices in temperatures nearly 100 degrees. All I had was a gallon of water with some lemon juice squeezed in. Yet, no matter how much I drank I still found that I was fighting off cramps in my legs right around the 1 hour mark. I never knew what caused it. It wasn't until I became a runner and started doing research on maintaining energy that I realized that salt intake is equally as important as drinking. When our muscles cramp it isn't because of the lack of water, it is because of the lack of salt. Karl King has done a significant amount of research on the issue and is sited in an article by James Raia titled Sodium and Dehydration. Sports drinks like Gatorade, Powerade, or Crystal Light Energy are not enough. They only contain about 8% of your daily recommended intake. Energy gels and bars will provide you with up to another 10% (one brand, Crank Sports eGels provide significantly more), but it still isn't enough. Several companies make electrolyte capsules or tabs. While often no more than just salt and potassium they can prevent cramping or get rid of it within 5 minutes. I prefer to use SCaps! and have found that they have made a huge difference in my performance.

3. Hydration - Salt replacement is vital, but don't let me take away from the importance of proper hydration. On a given day I can run up to 10 or 12 miles without taking a drink and be just fine. On a very hot day that might drop to 6 or 8 miles, but the key element there is that I would have properly hydrated beforehand and would not have been running nearly as hard as in a race. During Ragnar it will be very important for everyone to have a water bottle to carry. I use handheld water bottles made by Ultimate Direction that have a hand strap on the back so that you don't have to grip it as hard. Camelback, Nathan, and Amphipod all make similar versions. If you want to go this route just go to a running store and find one that you like.
It is absolutely critical that everyone drinks a minimum of about 20oz of water over a 6 - 8 mile period when running during the day. At night you might be able to get by without carrying water, but it wouldn't be suggested.
As for water vs sports drinks. I've mentioned a bit above, but I will get slightly more specific here. Sports drinks are fine. If your stomach can handle the colored syrup found in sports drinks go right ahead and drink them. Several companies make colorless sports drinks that are milder to the taste and tend to have a higher electrolyte count. These companies include Hammer, First Endurance, Accelerade, and Succeed Ultra. They are all super tasty and work very well, but can be costly. I like water. It's all I need. Well, that and a little Coke along my run. Mmmm. I get plenty of electrolytes from my SCaps and energy gels.

4. Clothing - This one should be a no-brainer, but I've watched many a people along the Ragnar route dressed like idiots and they often pay for it. Running is simple people; throw on some shorts, a shirt, and a pair of shoes and you're good to go. You'd think so at least. Here are a couple of easy tips:
  • Stay away from cotton of any kind, especially for your socks. Cotton is hot and doesn't draw sweat away from you. Get some proper running socks and a good tech running shirt. 
  • Hats are key to reducing the sun's effects. I'm bald so it's a given for me, but you should be very mindful of it too.
  • Sunglasses - I can't run in the sun without them. You certainly don't have to wear them, but I like them and they make me look cool.
Well, that pretty much covers it. If you have any questions please let me know. craig.lloyd@gmail.com. Next week I'll be tackling "Fuel and Energy". Get ready for a little math!

1 comment:

  1. I also like running in sunglasses, but only ones that make me look cool, that is why I have a great pair of pink shades that have been worn by several people in various ragnar races :)
    Thanks for the tips Craig, you rock!