How to race Holkham in the heat

How to race Holkham in the heat

Posted by on 27th June 2018

Anyone racing a triathlon this weekend will be fully aware that the UK is enjoying some fine summer weather. Whilst this is very welcome, it can have some negative impacts on racing. Award-winning Official Outlaw Triathlon coach, Simon Ward, has put these tips together – with some additional points from High5 Sports Nutrition - ahead of Sunday’s Outlaw Half Holkham.

Remember that predicted temperatures are for shade, not direct sunlight, so you could be racing in temperatures above of 30 degrees. However, there are plenty of basic things you can do to help yourself on race day, and our race crew will be doing everything they can to help look after you.

Race Week Tips:

  • Start hydrating several days out from the race, and make sure you are consuming some electrolytes. This can be a High5 Zero tablet or make your own with 2-3g of sea salt and a dash of lime to a litre of water.
  • The European Food Safety Authority recommends a daily intake of 2.5 litres of water for men and 2.0 litres of water for women – you will need more than this if you are exercising in the heat. Some of this fluid can come from foods.
  • Stay covered up - some exposure to sun and heat is good, but too much can accelerate de-hydration and sun exposure can be damaging to performance.
  • Cut out fibre - 48 hours before your race. Heat may add extra stress to your gut so minimise potential problems. Removing the fibre from your pre-race meals will help.

Race Day Tips:

  • Adjust your goals - most people just can’t go as fast in the heat. In the UK we also have to deal with humidity which can be debilitating. Attempting to hit the paces you were aiming for in a cooler race can spell disaster so try to be conservative. If you know you perform well in the heat, then still measure your efforts with a focus on pushing the effort in the latter stages of the event rather than from the start.
  • Stay cool before the race start - heat causes your heart rate to rise.
  • You should still warm up, but this will be more about revving up your aerobic system than increasing body temperature.
  • Go a bit easier on the bike. You may not notice the heat as much on the bike, but your core temperature will rise. Once it’s too high, you either have to slow down or slow cook. By going 10% easier you have a chance of keeping it lower and this will pay dividends when you get to T2. If you tend to use a power meter, then swap for HR. This is a much better guide to a total load including thermal load (core temp).
  • Start the run a bit slower - this is always a good idea, but you will benefit more in the heat. If you are patient, then the race will come to you.
  • Wear light clothing - lighter clothing will reflect the sunlight so this might be a better option. You can now get arm coolers which respond to having water poured on them. You may also benefit from a quick change in T2 into looser fitting run short and a run top (but note rules on nudity in transition!)
  • Wear a hat on the run - a white running hat maybe even with a legionnaires neck flap at the back could help keep the sun out of our eyes and reflect some heat.
  • Use the aid stations and definitely don’t just drink water - drinking excessive amounts of plain water with no electrolytes during endurance events can put you at risk from hyponatremia. This causes a low concentration of sodium in the blood. Symptoms include muscle cramps, headache, feeling disorientated and vomiting.
  • Don’t forget the sunscreen - most think of this when the sun is shining but even cloudy or hazy days can have a high UV rating sunburnt skin can cause body temperature to rise adding to your challenges for the day. Use factor 30 or greater when racing. 

Post Race:

  • Even with a good hydration strategy, you often finish exercise mildly (or more severely in hot conditions) dehydrated, so it’s important to continue drinking after exercise. You should aim to replace 150% of your fluid lost through exercise within 3 hours of finishing. 

Note that the Outlaw Half Holkham will be a wetsuit mandatory swim.

For more detailed information about dehydration, visit the High5 Blog.