I like to race in different environments not only to test my own limits but also to learn from personal experience as how to best have my Coached Athletes approach certain situations. The past two races I have raced have been in hot, humid weather. Being an athlete from the West Coast where the conditions and dry and desertlike, humidity is a foreign feeling to race in. My body is not adapted to the thick, hot air so my performance must be adapted accordingly.
The same goes for athletes going from humid to dry conditions, hot to cold conditions, cold to hot conditions, etc. You are trained in a specific environment. You must take into account if that environment is changing for race day. How can you adapt so you can perform your best in the given conditions?
Sure you can try to acclimate to the conditions by sitting in a sauna/steam room but your body is not being put under the stress of competition in that environment. The best way to get the most out of your performance race day is to adapt your race execution strategy to be a bit more conservative than it would be in your perfect environment, the one in which you train.
How can you adapt the race? First off you must be very conservative in your pacing. For example, this past weekend I was racing at the Ironman 70.3 event in Raleigh, North Carolina. I went out on the bike holding my normal heart rate and power which I managed to hold the entire 56 mile bike course. Upon getting off the bike I know I should be running quick miles at the effort I held on the bike. But in Raleigh I got off the bike and I couldn’t move. My body was totally drained from the effort on the bike. Knowing that it was an environment I was unfamiliar with, I should have backed off of the effort by 10-12% taking into consideration the extra load my body would be under. Your body only has so much energy to expend. If you you are maintaining your normal effort, but the external forces are adding extra stress, your body will be burning excess energy. Although you think you are holding your maintainable pace, you are actually holding a higher effort than you are used to.
Because of the excess energy consumption you must also be very diligent in your fueling strategy. If your body is burning more than you are used to you must account for that excess burn. If you are used to taking in 400 calories per hour on the bike you must up that to 500 calories per hour. If you do not account for the extra energy expenditure you will falter because of lack of calories/fuel/hydration.
Let’s look at an example out side of sport. Have you ever seen the firefighters who fight the forest fires on 100 degree days in full equipment and say, “Wow, that must be so hot. How do they do it!” If any of us were to put on that gear and go into a fire we would last 2 minutes because our bodies would be burning so warm, losing so many calories, and sweating out every bit of hydration we had in our body. These firemen are hot but they can withstand the heat because their bodies know how to react when faced with that situation because of their years of training and adaptation. We would need to replace all of that sweat and calories immediately or our bodies would sputter and fail.
Racing in foreign environments is no different. Check your ego and be realistic with the conditions that will be present on race day. A coach can help you see the big picture. The coaches at Red Performance Multisport can help you adjust a plan to get your best performance on race day. Go to www.RedPerformanceMutlisport.com for more info and to get on our e-mail list which gives special coaching offers as well as secret race days tips email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.