5 Ways to Stay Cool on Race Day

#3: Focus on Finishing Place, Not Time

Whether you know the race will be hot beforehand or you are surprised by a sudden race-day heat wave, the effect is the same on your strategy: focus on place, not time.

All of your metrics and benchmark workouts were most likely conducted in much more amenable conditions than what you'll face on race day. That great long run you had four weeks ago? It was a 78-degree day without a swim and a bike beforehand...simply not applicable here.

Instead of trying to hit arbitrary targets, focus on being a smooth as possible on race day to eliminate spiking your heart rate.

Make sure your nutrition plan is dialed in to ensure you have the fuel required to outlast the competition. Let them melt in the face of the heat by following their race plan from last month...you know better.

More: Acclimating to Heat and Humidity, Part I

#4: Adjust Your Pace

Be prepared to adjust your pace if needed. These sample benchmarks for the swim, bike and run can help:

The Swim: Swim only as fast as your ability to maintain form. There is no excess exertion here—slow is smooth, smooth is fast.

The Bike: Ride the most steady effort you can, working to flatten all the hills. If you have a heart rate monitor, you'll want to watch your heart rate drop out of T1 before settling into a steady effort consistent with what you have seen in training. Expect your HR to be elevated by up to five or seven beats...anything higher than that and you'll need to back off again to preserve the run.

The Run: For every 5 degrees over 65 degrees, you'll want to slow your goal pace by three seconds per mile. So if you planned on running eight-minute miles but it's 95-degrees out, that's six increments of five degrees, or 18 seconds slower per mile. Run conservatively from the outset making the most of the slower pace to get in more fluids and fuel.

More: Acclimating to Heat and Humidity, Part II

#5: Stay Cool on the Run

The most important factor isn't speed, but rather how cool you can get (and stay!). Reducing your core body temperature for the run starts with the last aid station of the bike. You'll want to grab extra water and douse your head, back and shorts. Don't worry, this water will run off long before you hit transition so it won't interfere with your change—but it will help you stay cool.

On the run your first aid station is the most critical. Again, douse yourself fully with water, doing your best not to get your shoes wet. If there's ice, some of it goes into your hat (guys) or your jogging bra (ladies), as well as in your hands as you run out the other side. If you have on cooling sleeves, make sure these are wet as well. Maintain this process for the next three aid stations at a minimum, as you continue to front-load your calories.

All of this is possible given your slightly more conservative race pace. By the time the heat really settles in on the run, your competition will be facing the hardest final six miles of their lives and you'll be just getting started.

More: Does Pre-Cooling Improve Race Performance?

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About the Author

Patrick McCrann

Patrick McCrann is one of a handful of elite triathlon and endurance sport coaches based in the U.S. Patrick's articles on triathlon, training and the endurance lifestyle have appeared on Xtri.com, Active.com and in Inside Triathlon magazine. You can learn more about Patrick on his blog or purchase one of his training plans online.
Patrick McCrann is one of a handful of elite triathlon and endurance sport coaches based in the U.S. Patrick's articles on triathlon, training and the endurance lifestyle have appeared on Xtri.com, Active.com and in Inside Triathlon magazine. You can learn more about Patrick on his blog or purchase one of his training plans online.

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