It's here—the hottest part of the season. Pretty much wherever you live you'll be experiencing some flavor of heat, humidity or both. It's time to step away from your race pace calculator and take a healthy dose of reality: there's simply no way you can race at your peak potential if your body isn't 100 percent ready for the conditions.
The finish line of every triathlon is littered with bodies of athletes who "coulda shoulda woulda" had a great race if not for failing to address a specific challenge that arose on race day. Use this article to help yourself stay cool and avoid such a predicament.
#1: Pick the Right Gear
If you know your race is going to be hot, you need to make some serious gear considerations. This doesn't mean you have to go out and buy that white one-piece tri suit that's still on sale at your local store for 80 percent off—no heat is worth that kind of sacrifice. Just make sure your race outfit is not all black. Save for the shorts, color does matter.
More: How to Beat the Heat
Your bike should be set up with multiple places to store fluids. In addition to refilling (or replacing) your bottles at the aid stations on the course, be sure to use the water from those aid stations to help keep your head and body cool, too.
For the run, consider wearing a hat. This helps keep the sun off your head and it's great for holding ice.
Consider a Fuelbelt (www.fuelbelt.com) to manage your running hydration between stations. You might want to avoid compression gear as it will most likely keep you hot, but cooling sleeves will help keep the sun off you and retain some water.
Finally, don't skimp on the sunscreen.
#2: Create a Personal Hydration Plan
Spend a few long workouts figuring out what your sweat rate is so that you know just how much fluid you should be taking in. There are plenty of online calculators that can help you out, but the key is actually taking the time to complete the tests. It's a bit of extra work, but totally worth it if it helps save your race day.
Your plan will give you input on not only how much fluid you need to take in but a good idea of how much sodium you need as well. The salt isn't there as a magic anti-cramping tool, but rather to help move the water from your stomach to the rest of your body. For this reason alone, sports drinks trump water as your first choice on race day.
Once you have a plan, test it on a few key training workouts such as a race simulation. Merging your plan with the reality of your ride/run will help eliminate a great deal of race-day friction.