It is freaking hot outside. I mean like Africa hot (and I'm qualified to say that because I spent a semester running in Niger on the edge of the Sahara desert - chalk that one up to my list of Things That Probably Weren't Worth It).
Running in this heat is not very much fun. It's actually not much fun at all. When I see other runners out braving the high-nineties humidity, I feel the same way that I do when I see others out running in blizzards: I automatically recognize them as comrades in suffering. I like them because I know how they feel, and I know that we share in our dedication to the sport - anyone out on a day like today is definitely a Serious Runner (and also potentially crazy - judge us accordingly).
But there are ways to deal with the heat. Some are obvious, some not so much, but all are worth keeping in mind, because if you insist on being outside in this misery, then you may as well make the best of it!
1. First of all, make sure you hydrate - obviously. But really, drink all day. And don't drink coffee all day (do as I say, not as I do). Rumor has it, coffee dehydrates you.
2. If you start your run with a cooler core temperature, then it takes a bit longer for your body to overheat. So spend some time in AC before you head out if you can!
3. My personal favorite: never underestimate the power of a few ice cubes in the front and back of your sports bra - they melt slowly as you go, dripping cold awesomeness down your back and stomach!
4. Eat salty foods. You already know how I feel about this one! Salty foods make you thirsty, which helps you hydrate, and after a run, salt replenishes electrolytes.
5. People say that you need to adjust your speed and distances when it's hot. I understand the reasoning, but I hate letting the heat get the best of me. So instead, I just think of runs on hot days as more challenging. Heat is a legit excuse to feel more tired, but I try not to let it slow me down!
- Runner's World, and most logical people disagree with me on this one...
6. Wear the right clothes. I have found that a lose pair of lightweight lined running shorts is better than spandex. As always I feel that underwear is unnecessary when running (that's what the lining in the shorts is all about!), but this is especially true when it's hot. Do NOT wear a cotton T-shirt. Or really cotton of any kind. It just soaks up your sweat, and creates an overheated hot tub/sauna on your skin. Stick to lose-fitting wicking material, or just abandon your inhibitions around 90* and go for the sports-bra only option!
Another article on how to "Beat the Heat." (This one provides more sane advice than I do!)
On race day, modify your strategy and run by your effort level rather than your pace. In hot conditions, your heart rate, breathing, and circulation will all be higher at your normal race pace as your body fights to cool itself. You'll have a stronger race if you put the time goals and personal records aside and race by how your body feels. Whether you're monitoring your heart rate or your breathing, running for your effort is the best strategy to finish strong.
Another way to race with the heat is to incorporate power walk breaks every mile to allow your body to cool down frequently throughout the race. Walk the aid stations, set your interval timer or simply walk when you start to feel hot. If you are a run-walker, add another minute of walking or reduce the number of running minutes in your ratio. Like interval training, sprinkling in walking minutes will help you run stronger for longer in the heat.
Racing in the heat successfully is all about managing your body core temperature and not allowing it to rise too much, risking overheating and really slowing down. Like a car, if the temperature rises too high you will overheat and have to slow down to finish. Anticipate, plan, and always be ready to modify your race day strategy. Remember to celebrate your successful finish. It may not look like what you thought it would, but in the end, you finished a tough half-marathon course (hills) on a brutally hot day. Plus, you'll have stories and bragging rights for years to come!