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Heat Training for Zion

April 24, 2012

Last week Zion e-mailed all participants that the temps for race weekend will most likely be hot. Like 80-90 degrees hot. And if it gets bad, over 90 degrees. Can I defer?

Well, let’s hope it doesn’t break any records that day or else it will be a very interesting race to say the least. I know I can run in cool weather, flashback to Disney 2010 which was below 20 degrees with sleet, but not sure how my body will react to dry heat. L.A. temps are always a nice 60-70 degrees making it comfortable to run in the mornings and even in the afternoons. I guess I can’t be too surprised at the weather seeing how it’s in the freaking desert, but part of me was hoping for some cooler temps for my first 100. You can’t have the perfect race and I suppose if you are already battling the 100 mile distance, you might as well tough out the heat too. Even better, the hottest parts of the day will also be in the most exposed areas of the course. The race is still two weeks away, so anything can happen, but that e-mail prompted me to revise my training and race day goals.

Especially after the Boston Marathon this year where temps reached the high 80s and they were advising runners to not participate, I got me thinking that overheating is a very serious issue and since I’m not used to running in the heat, I should adjust my training so I am prepared come race day. Since I only have two more weeks of hard training, I’ve decided to incorporate some heating training into my daily runs.

Indoor Treadmill

Everyone’s opinion of the treadmill varies and honestly even though it’s boring as hell, I really don’t mind it. I can really tune out and focus on speed work or get in some good tempo runs. I know it is obviously not the same as running outside since there is no incline and you have the belt to push you so I usually set my treadmill to a 1.0 or more incline to stimulate outdoor running. Also since my gym is so small with a barely working AC, it gets pretty hot fast especially when more people are working out.

Sauna Training

As crazy as this may sound to some people, it is actually a fairly common training technique for those who plan to race during the hot summer months. It is important for your body to learn how to run and adapt in heat and how much liquids you need to compensate for the fluids you are losing. Your workout intensity and the length of your workout contribute to stress produced by heat. We generate heat during exercise and the human body isn’t particularly efficient in this respect – 75 percent of our expended energy is turned into heat. Thus the faster and longer we run, the higher the heat load placed on our body.

In addition, everyone responds very differently to heat, so adjustments to exercising in heat should be made on an individual basis. Thus heat will always be a limiting factor to our endurance performance. Fortunately, a fit runner can tolerate a higher core temperature than an inactive person, so heat problems usually arise when endurance athletes are inadequately conditioned for a race or pushing beyond their limits.

The benefits of acclimatization are less sweating at a given workload, and less elimination of electrolytes in your sweat. More recently, sports drinks with sodium have been found to help endurance athletes retain water in their system, so these sports drinks are advised.

Given these facts, I’ve been taking my night training in the sauna instead of doing my double runs. I figure I’m close enough to the race that heavy mileage won’t help that much anymore. In the sauna, I crank the heat up to 120-140 and run in place for 40-45 minutes until I can’t run anymore. When I can’t run, I alternate between doing squats, shadow boxing with light weights, jumping jacks and seal jacks to keep me moving. It was really hard the first session, 5 minutes into my run, I had to stop and get out of the sauna. I usually bring in a couple liters of ice cold water and a frozen Gatorade to replace my electrolytes. The Gatorade melts really quickly in the sauna but cools down my core temperature allowing me to run longer. I’ve done a couple sauna sessions now, and every time it gets a little easier and I feel more acclimated to the dry heat.

Zion Goals to Keep Cool

The RD also sent out an e-mail detailing all the spots along the race where you could cool down in between aid stations, including a watering hole you could jump into! I plan on immersing myself into any body of water or stream I see along the way and resting in whatever shade I can find. Along with making sure I am well hydrated with water and electrolytes, my main concern is to not overdo it, which means my pace will be slower because I’m not exerting as much effort. Apparently there will be shaved ice along the course too…

T minus 16 days

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Jack Rosenfeld permalink
    April 25, 2012 7:04 am

    I have no doubt that you are going to enjoy your first 100 and that the race report will be filled with some amazing photos. Your race plan reminds me of Bulldog last year where on the 2nd loop–with about 2 miles to go–I slowly walked through the creek to cool off. One of our fellow Coyotes was with us at the time, but he decided to take a 5 minute, full body soak in the creek before finishing.

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