Racing in Heat and Humidity

Many elite athletes when preparing for a hot-weather race will choose a training location that's as close to the conditions of the target event. For instance, Javier Gomez is preparing for the Tokyo Olympics by training in Cozumel, Mexico. Many athletes are also flying into Japan in the lead-up to do training camps and acclimate.

For many age-group athletes though, we've had to deal with directly coming from more temperate climates or out of a Southern Hemisphere winter and racing in rice-cooker temperatures in Asia. There is usually limited time to acclimate depending on how much time one had allocated for the racing holiday.

So what’s the right way to shake off long flights but still stay fresh for your race? (Assuming there are no quarantine requirements...)

MX Endurance Race Team member Lucy Richardson once asked about flying in from the UK to do Ironman 70.3 Langkawi. Belinda Granger recommended:

“When you get to Langkawi don’t rush things: settle into your accommodation and then I would try and do a bit of a swim in the pool, if you have one where you are staying. It’s not so much a swim session but more a “roll-the-arms over, do a bit of kick and even just walking” in the water. Don’t think of it as a session but more to get the circulation moving and wake up some sleepy muscles and nerves. Go for a walk and get your bearings. But definitely no 'training session' as such. Try and sleep as much as you can that night and the next day.

“Eat well and then try and do some easy sessions: a 30-minute run, put your bike together and go for a very easy spin.

“I have a little story for you. A very good pro athlete who is a good friend of mine recently came to Malaysia with me to race a half. On paper she was by far the best athlete on the start list. She had travelled all the way from the USA and she literally got off the plane and straight into some hard sessions. Long story short, come race day she led off the bike and then finished as last pro female. It was an eye opener for her.

“The next week she raced IM Taiwan. I told her not to do any real training sessions — just little bits of everything. She won! This is a woman who is full-time, crazy fit and very good; she just didn’t respect the elements and they kicked her arse. She learnt the hard way but came back with a vengeance.”

The hard work has already been done during the past few months of training. Consider any sessions you do on site leading shortly into the race as part of your taper. Aim to help you get your mind around racing in conditions different from what you're used to, without over-tiring your body.

To sum up: when flying in to do a hot and humid race, skip the intensity and just "keep the engine turning over" so you can gun it when it really matters.

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