I have some 24-hour race advice for you: A few weeks ago, I raced in the Kona 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo as part of the duo team Lost Nuts. We finished in the middle of the pack, with having few mechanical problems being our only distinguishing feature. It was my first 24-hour event, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. My partner, Harry, had a great question for me after the event. “So, what did you learn?” Here are the answers.
1. Pack meticulously, and don’t overlook food. I failed to bring some essentials that I used throughout my training: V-8 and coconut water, both of which are great for re-hydrating. I also, if you can believe this, forgot my freakin’ helmet. Fortunately, several local bike shops had set up camp there and I was able to score one on the cheap. A second helmet is going to be useful for riding at night more often. Which leads us to #2.
2. Ride at night lots before the race. That way, you won’t be a chicken like me. Night riding freaks me out, and I need to get used to it if I’m going to do this more often. Which I intend to.
Arizona is bizarro world. Most places in the country hibernate and cower from the elements during the winter, but we do it in the late spring and summer – and heck, a little bit of autumn, too. You wouldn’t believe the number of people in this desert city who never learn to deal with the elements, preferring instead to scurry like suited-or-skirted rats from one air-conditioned space to another.
Those of us who choose to embrace the desert do it differently, especially when it comes to outdoor exercise in the heat. You really can survive summertime exercise and adventures in 100-degree-plus heat – you just have to be smart. Ask any member of the local fire department about all the nasty ways heat can hurt you – they’ve rescued enough ill-prepared people to know.
Here are some of my favorite tips to ensure YOU won’t need to be rescued. Feel free to suggest any I’ve overlooked!
1. Bring enough water. It would astound you how many people prepare badly for a foray into the hot sun. My rule of thumb is 30 ounces per hour. You can use a hydration pack, or one of these new-fangled water belts favored by runners.
2. Electrolytes – they’re what YOU crave. Sweating a lot burns off your electrolytes. Get too low on
sodium and potassium and you’re headed for cramp city – or worse. You’ll also feel horrible the rest of the day, with headaches a frequent symptom. If you’re out longer than an hour, use a good-quality sports drink. Gatorade isn’t terrible, but I prefer Cytomax.
3. Get started early. Leaving at high noon for a 10-mile run is gonna hurt. If you get started at 6 a.m., you can get done before the temperatures get really brutal.
4. Hydrate days before. Staying hydrated is a never-ending task. What you drank the day before is important.
5. Recover! Replace your electrolytes and calories. After a hot-weather run, a cold glass of V-8 really helps replace all the salt you sweated out. Chase that by more water and maybe even a sugary beverage to replace your calories.
6. Freeze your water bottles. The night before your exercise, pop your bottles in the freezer. It will help them stay cold at least a bit longer.
7. Bring a snack. This is essential if you’re spending an extended period outdoor.
8. Wear sunscreen. It definitely helps you feel cooler.
For more reading on the fun-filled world of heat-related illnesses and the good times of dehydration, check out these links: