We received the following message the other day, and we thought she is probably not the only one who is concerned about running in the heat. She graciously agreed to let us share her question and our response.


hey there…i was wondering if you have any helpful hints for me and elevation/heat sickness when i am over there again?  I start drinking lots of water a few days before, limit alcohol,have salt and sugar handy..i got sick 2 years ago* on leg 10 and just ran holding ice and being sprayed down by my team for the rest of the relay. i was just over there and the same sickness came on after about mile 10 of the dirty half…i have been training in the heat mid day here in the valley but what other helpful hints do you have?  my team is prepared to help in any way..thx

First, let me say you are already taking the major steps to handle the heat. Being well hydrated and training in the heat are really helpful. The more you can acclimate your body to running in the heat, the better off you are. It takes about two weeks of training in the warmer temperatures for your body to make the adaptations, so the more you can run in the heat, the better. According to this NYT article, the more you learn to sweat in the heat, the better off you are.


Although the NYT article disagrees, I’ve found that keeping yourself cool is another key piece. Ice in the sports bra or wrapped around the neck, dousing yourself with water – all good. The cooler you can stay, the better off you’ll be.


I have read that caffeine can cause problems, so you could try to cut back or avoid it the morning of the race. Other dehydrating medications – like cold medications or Pepto Bismol – should also be avoided.


You might want to go ahead and get some electrolyte tablets – like S-Caps or Salt Stick tablets – to take during the day. This will help keep your electrolyte levels balanced as you take in the extra water throughout the day.


The final step you can take is one that no one really wants to hear, and that is that if it is really hot out, you can slow down. Our heart naturally works harder in the heat and at elevation, so running at our normal pace will feel exponentially harder when the temperatures are high. I don’t know if you train with a heart rate monitor, but that could be one way to keep your pace in check – figure out what your HR averages when you are on a typical run at your desired pace, and then keep your HR in that range when you’re running out there on the course. It might not be the fastest you’ve ever run, but you’ll be able to bust out a great 2nd and 3rd leg.


If we get another humid afternoon like we did two years ago, it’s going to be tough on everyone. Those are the worst conditions for heat exhaustion since you just can’t evaporate the sweat quickly enough to cool your body off. The best thing to do then is to really slow it down and know that everyone is in the same boat. Let’s hope that we don’t have one of those years again!


More info on running in the heat: http://www.drpribut.com/sports/humidtxt.html


And training for the heat from Badwater (the Death Valley ultra) folks: http://www.badwater.com/training/simmonsonheat.html


*Heat especially becomes troublesome when the humidity goes up. During the CLR two years ago, it was quite humid in the afternoon before the thunderstorm broke. If we have humid conditions this year during the S2S, please pay extra attention to keeping everyone safe during the heat.