Training and Racing in the Heat
by Lachie Darch
Living in South Australia, we are no strangers to having to deal with extreme heat and with the recent Nationals being shortened due to severe heat and the Tour Down Under being exceptionally hot this year, it seems as good of time as any to talk about how you can make racing or training in the heat as manageable as possible.
It’s not doable during races; however starting training rides early in the morning can mean that you get the bulk of a ride in before it starts getting hot. On a 40° degree day, starting at 5-6am can mean riding in high 20° degrees, which makes life a lot easier and riding more enjoyable.
In the heat, you will sweat a lot more than under normal circumstances, and the salts and minerals lost will need to be replaced one way or another. Many leave this to the last minute – but it’s something you can start preparing for before your big event. Science in Sport do a GO Hydro range of tablets which contain the electrolytes lost through sweat, but not the standard carb mix – making for a great pre-event option. When consumed before a race they can allow you to remain hydrated for longer, and reduce the likelihood of cramping and some of the other effects of dehydration. Last year at Nationals, I had not had enough fluid and electrolytes before and during the Time Trial. And although a relatively short event (only 29km), I ended up cramping with 10km to go, whereas this year, I drank much more before and even during the time trial and ended up improving my time by 3mins.
Ensuring you start an event cool is a pretty important step. You’ll often see pros wearing ice vests and drinking electrolyte slushies prior to starting. This isn’t always available, so I always find eating something cold or having a spare cold bottle of electrolyte before I start is a simple way to make the first bit of an event more bearable. Another way to keep cool during races is using ice stockings. OUr team manager always complains about the looks he gets when he goes to eh supermarket and clears out their cheapest offerings, but his suffering his definitely worthwhile. We cut the stockings up into 15 cm pieces, fill them with ice and tie knots at both ends. These are really easy to stick down the back of the jersey and provide a little relief in what are otherwise painful conditions. It’s our “poor mans ice vest”.
Then the remaining piece of the puzzle is to drink lots! It’s not always easy to keep up when the temps are high, but not drinking will not only get you dropped – but you’ll have a pretty miserable time in the process. And of course, ensuring that you adequately covered in pedalit sunscreen is an important move, there is more than performance to consider! These are just a few ways you can make your life easier when coping with less than ideal weather.