Endurance Racing: Battling Heat and Humidity

Endurance racing ( triathlon, road or off-road cycling, 10k-marathon racing, adventure racing) place great demands on the human body and mind. It requires discipline and self-motivation and months of preparation and focus. Some individuals, due to good genetics or powerful drive are better suited to meet these demands and see greater performance results. Whether you are a novice or elite athlete you not only have to eat and train properly and get adequate rest you have to know your strengths and limits.

I have been racing and coaching triathlon for many years and have come to learn that drive to succeed is both a positive and negative tool. Completing an endurance event, whether it is a 10k road race or an Ironman triathlon, requires not only good and smart training, but more importantly, an understanding of the environmental factors such as heat, humidity, air quality, as well as, the course profile, as they impact your performance and ultimately, your health and well-being.

On June 27th, 2010 I participated in the Philadelphia Olympic Distance Triathlon. This was my 85th triathlon I have competed in over my career. It was also the most difficult race I have done and was fortunate to have finished. The weather was a huge factor- high 90’s and very humid , with very poor air quality. I was well- trained for the heat: hydrated, extra sodium and electrolytes and acclimated to the heat. Many athletes were forced out of the race due to heat-related issues.

By the time I was half way through the 1ok leg of the race, I was feeling very unstable, breathing was difficult and my mind was wondering and I had difficulty focusing. I realized that I was experiencing heat exhaustion, which could have led to heat stroke. I made the decision to walk most of the second half of the run just so I could finish. I ended up in the medical tent and after 30 minutes, I was feeling better and getting back to normal body temperature.

Proper hydration and electrolyte replacement is essential during race season. But more importantly, know your limits. A race is just a race. Most of us are recreational athletes and have other and more important responsibilities ( family and work) that need to be prioritized.

I am passionate about the sport of triathlon, and try to instill this passion in others. I love helping people discover their inner athlete and reach for their true potential. Yet, It must not come with a reckless approach to racing and the need to push through difficult conditions at any cost. The most successful athlete is the smart athlete-someone who knows their limits, stays in touch with their body and mind, and makes good decisions under stress.

Key Points:
– Hydrate before, during and after training and racing.
– Supplement with electrolytes and always use a sports drink if you are training/racing for more than 60 minutes, especially in high heat and humidity.
– Use a heart rate monitor if you have medical concerns or conditions that warrant monitoring.
– Wear light and breathable clothing.
– If you start feeling over-heated or ill in any way, stop what you doing, and if need be, get medical attention.

Enjoy the summer and your race season and remember to stay clear about your goals and your responsibilities to yourself and others.

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