Multi-Day Running in a Rainforest – Hint ‘n’ Tips

©iancorless.com_TCC2016-3069Multi-day racing brings many challenges and variables not only in the terrain that you can and will encounter but also how one journeys from day-to-day. For example, the Marathon des Sables is a multi-day race that requires self-sufficiency, the only exception comes with water, provided by the race but rationed and the provision of a ‘bivouac’ which provides basic cover which must be shared with seven others. It’s why the ‘MDS’ has become THE multi-day race to do. It strips the runner back to basics.

The Coastal Challenge with takes place in Costa Rica, by general consensus, provides a more challenging course than its desert counter part, however, there is no self-sufficiency.

Don’t be fooled though, the race throws many a challenge at participants and below we provide ‘Hints-n-Tips’ that will make a journey into the rainforests of Costa Rica not only more enjoyable but more successful.

What is The Coastal Challenge?

The race is a multi-day journey that travels from Quepos to Drake Bay over five days and the sixth day is a loop around the Corcovado. Distances are as follows:

  1. 32km (917m+)
  2. 44.6km (1788m+)
  3. 38km (1811m+)
  4. 35km (2054m+)
  5. 52km (1822m+)
  6. 23km (584m+)

Is the race harder than Marathon des Sables?

To provide an ambiguous answer – yes and no!

NO:

  • The race is not self-sufficient and therefore runners only need to run with a small pack with essentials and water.
  • Aid stations are provided with some food and therefore the need to carry anything heavy is minimal but one should think about personal needs, tastes and requirements.
  • You take your own tent (or hire one from the race) and therefore you have your own space to sleep and recover.
  • You have a bag or box that is transported each day to the finish of each stage and therefore you can have fresh clothes, shoes, medical supplies, food etc at your disposal.
  • Food is provided in  the morning, post run and in the evening – you can pretty much eat as much as you like.
  • Many of the campsites are in amazing locations and some local amenities are available, for example, you can have a beer or a cold drink most evenings.
  • The ‘long day’ is not as long as MDS.

YES:

  • The terrain is very varied and at times brutal, you need to be able to handle technical terrain.
  • The course has many 1000’s of meters elevation and descent.
  • Fire trails connect the forest, beach and technical sections which are hard on the legs.
  • Beach sections are long and physically exhausting and mentally tiring.
  • The heat is relentless.
  • The humidity is 75% + and you will sweat, sweat and sweat.
  • Your feet will be in and out of water everyday.
  • The long day is not as long as MDS but at 52km with 1800m+ of vertical over very technical terrain with relentless heat and humidity, it is more than enough of a challenge.

How does one achieve success at TCC?

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KIT:

Bag/ Storage:

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Within reason you can take as much kit as you need as this is transported daily by the race. The race organisation ask that you use ‘Action Packer’ boxes for a couple of reasons: 1. They are waterproof. 2. They are easy for the race to transport as they pack together and are durable. However, from a UK or Europe perspective they are a nightmare to travel with and are troublesome. I recommend *The North Face Base Camp Bag Duffle (here), an Overboard Waterproof Bag (here) or an Ortlieb Waterproof Bag (here). Waterproof is important as you ae going to a rainforest and you do stand the chance of rain on at least one day. You can of course use individual waterproof bags inside to separate and itemise clothing, equipment and so on. *The TNF is not 100% waterproof but I have used it and had no problems.

Clothing:

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You have a bag that can carry all your kit, so, take 6-8 sets of clothing. It’s really simple, you run in one set of clothing and at the end of the day you freshen up and change into the next days run clothing (which you can sleep in). You can of course add some additional casual clothing if required.

©iancorless.com_TCC2016-9808Make sure clothing is breathable, comfortable and I recommend that tops cover your shoulders as this can be a problem area in such intense heat and sun. You will need a hat without a doubt and some prefer to run with a hat that has protection that comes over the back of the neck. Ladies – just a word of warning on ‘strappy’ tops, they expose more of your skin and you end up with some crazy sun tan.

Feet:

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Not looking after your feet is one of the main reasons (in addition to dehydration) why you will not finish the race. Feet will get wet everyday and you will run on all sorts of varied terrain from gravel fire trail to technical and rocky boulder sections. Your ankles will be twisted and your feet can feel pretty beat up. Obviously you can take advantage of having more than one pair of shoes, I would definitely take two pairs and ideally three. Maybe you could take one pair a 1/2 size larger as a ‘just in case!’

©iancorless.com_TCC2016-9973Think about the fit of your shoe. Forget the advice about going a size larger, for me, this is just bad advice. A shoe that is too big will allow your foot to move, a moving foot causes friction, friction causes blisters – the rest is a horror story and believe me, I have seen some horror stories at TCC. You need a thumb nail of space above your big toe, no more! Of course I provide generic advice here and should YOU know you need something different from experience, trust your instinct. Because the trail is often technical, you need a shoe that can handle a multitude of surfaces that includes rocks, gravel, sand, wet rock and so on. You need trail shoes! Consider your gait, the amount of drop you prefer and how much cushioning.

©iancorless.com_TCC2016-0044Only you know this and nobody can tell you which shoe to use. Also considerer that a shoe needs to be breathable – your feet will get very hot but more importantly your feet will be in and out of water. A shoe that drains water is essential. As an example, Scott Kinabalu (here) has drainage holes that allows water to escape, inov-8 are also making a shoe called ‘Chill’ which is designed for hot weather (here). Some runners like to tape their feet to protect them, if that is the case with you, do that in training so that you understand how that impacts on what size of shoe you require.

©iancorless.com_TCC2016-6245Good socks are essential and in four years of running and working at TCC I have always worn Injinji and never had one blister! Take a fresh pair for each day. Finally, the TCC does have one or two foot doctors who will look after you should a problem happen, my advice, avoid the problems by understanding your needs before arriving in Costa Rica.

Tent:

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The race can provide a tent for you which you can hire, however, I prefer to take my own. The most important thing with your tent is that it must pitch ‘inner’ only. The reason for this is that it’s hot, really hot, and therefore you want as much air-flow as possible. An inner tent with lots of mesh is ideal too. You also don’t really need to worry about the size, I don’t recommend bringing a huge tent but I also don’t recommend bringing a tiny tent. Although I recommend an inner pitch tent, please bring the fly sheet that makes it waterproof – it is a rainforest remember! You can just throw the fly sheet over if required.

Equipment:

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Unlike other multi-day races, what you require whilst on the trail is quite minimal. I recommend a ‘vest’ like pack that can hold bottles, bladder or bottles and bladder. You will drink lots and lots and over the years I have found that having a bladder and two bottles takes some of the worry away from drinking. At times, aid stations can be very far apart, you don’t want to be without water! I would take a simple first aid kit, a whistle (just in case), purification tablets, phone, pocketknife, cash and some sun cream. In past editions, some runners have taken a ‘Spot’ tracker or similar. Poles at times will be useful, it depends if you are a racer or a completer. Importantly, should you take poles, make sure they fold, make sure you can store them quickly and make sure you know how to use them. I would bring your favourite run snacks (gels, bars or whatever) and think what you will need for six days. I have mentioned clothing and shoes, no need to compromise, so don’t! Think about toiletries, medical supplies and personal items that will make your journey in the rainforests better – for example an iPod. You will not need a sleeping bag, it’s too hot, however, I do recommend that you bring a sleeping bag liner, it can often get just a little chilly around 2 or 3am. Pretty much everyone sleeps in run clothing. Bring a sleeping matt and one that provides good comfort, some campsites are rocky!

Hydration:

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Think you have already understood that it’s hot, very hot. You will sweat immediately and you will sweat all day. This places unique demands on you and you will need to keep hydrated. I have already mentioned about carrying enough liquid – make sure you do! I would normally recommend drinking to thirst, but here, I would drink every 10-15min and keep that going. Electrolytes are a constant debating point, particularly with Tim Noakes ‘Waterlogged’ book. However, you will need to replace salts and how you do that will depend on you and your needs.

©iancorless.com_TCC2016-7175The course has constant possibilities for you to submerge yourself in water and reduce your core temperature – do so, it’s essential! Never pass an opportunity. Just 2-3 minutes fully submerged will allow you to continue on feeling refreshed. Never run in the sun when you can run in the shade and cover up your head and shoulders.

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Top Tips:

  • Day 1 starts with 10km of good running. Everyone starts out way too fast and ironically, day 1 at TCC has the most drop outs through exhaustion and dehydration. Start slow! Ease into the race and without doubt, if possible, get some heat acclimatisation before coming out to costa Rica. Day 1 also starts much later than every other day, so, the shock is magnified!
  • From day 2 you will start running with sunrise, take advantage of the cooler hours but don’t go out running hard like a wild animal. You will pay for it.
  • Feeling tired? Run in the shade, walk in the sun.
  • Poles are a benefit at times and I would certainly bring them so you can make a choice whilst at the race.
  • Understand that this is a technical race with very varied terrain, lots of climbing and lots of descending. Practice this and prepare both physically and mentally.
  • Learn to walk – everyone will walk at some stage.
  • Take advantage of every possibility to submerge yourself in pools, rivers, ponds etc.
  • Use a buff or similar product and keep that wet and cool.
  • Pour water over your head regularly to avoid over-heating.
  • Use a hat.
  • Flowing water is often drinkable but be careful, I take water purification tablets as a precaution.
  • Never pass a feed staton without filling bottles/ bladder.
  • Think of your own food needs and diet requirements.
  • The course is exceptionally well marked and be attentive, it’s easy to pass a marker when you have your head down. Not seen a marker in 5-minutes? Chances are you have gone the wrong way.
  • Wildlife will surround you and the reality is that you will not see any of it as the animals are too frightened of you. However, you will hear lots of noises, that is part of the fun! You stand a good chance of seeing monkeys, maybe a snake, spiders and birds.
  • Calf guards or compression may be a good idea on some of the more technical sections, however, I prefer the airflow to keep cooler.
  • When back in camp after a day running, take shoes off first and put some flip-flops on and let your feet breathe. Check for any irruption and blisters and get that seen to asap.
  • Have a shower and freshen up, get some fresh clothes on.
  • Eat and hydrate.
  • Take a nap and elevate your legs.
  • Masseurs are available at a charge (tbc).
  • Evenings are very social and you will be able to relax and bond with fellow runners. However, you do have your own personal tent, so, you can escape and have quiet time if you wish.

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Check List:

  • Waterproof bag or box
  • 2/3 pairs run shoes
  • Run apparel for 6 days
  • Casual clothing
  • Tent that pitches inner only but bring fly sheet
  • Head torch/ tent light
  • Sleeping bag liner
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Travel towel
  • Phone
  • Knife
  • Electrolytes
  • Food for running
  • Whistle
  • Sun cream
  • Medical kit and medication
  • Cash
  • Credit card
  • Poles
  • Gaiters
  • iPod
  • Rope to make a washing line
  • Pegs

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Finally:

Running a multi-day race is an experience and something to cherish. Look around and take advantage of what is a stunning environment. Accept now that this race will challenge you and that it will be tough. Get your head in the right place. Prepare as best you can for heat, humidity, technical running, climbing and descending, if you come prepared, the race will be so much easier.

I always provide impartial advice based on my experiences and knowledge. However, I do accept that I don’t always know or understand what ladies require at a multi-day race. Niandi Carmont has run the shorter Adventure Race and the full distance race at TCC and she provides here a little additional advice for female competitors:

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You might be spending a significant part of your day out on the course but it is always nice to have something clean and light to change into other than run kit. Since you don’t have to transport this, think about light cotton sundresses you can change into after your shower at the end of the daily stage. It will be boiling hot and humid in the evenings so no point bringing anything warm.

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Flip flops are a must. Bring a good quality pair that won’t break the first day in camp. Your feet will swell up and will have macerated in run shoes the whole day. They will have taken a pounding and thank you for allowing them to breathe a few hours. Also I recommend taking showers with flip flops as the showers won’t be sparkling clean and this will reduce the risk of catching anything like athlete’s foot or plantar warts which are highly contagious and prevalent amongst ultra-runners.

Bring a 2-piece swimsuit – there will opportunities to bathe in rivers or the sea at the end of the day.

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I suggest a very, very light negligee to slip into in your tent if you don’t like sleeping in the nude as you will be sweating and no doubt not be using your sleeping back or liner. Temperatures hardly drop at night and it remains humid.

Don’t economise on sun cream – bring a spray, high SPF type, which is non-greasy. Don’t forget you will be sweating a lot in the high humidity so this will have to be applied regularly on the course. Carry a small tube (Tingerlaat (here) do a tiny tube with SPF 50). Take a small tube of anti-chafing cream or gel (Gurney Goo do small tubes) in your pack too. With the high humidity and being constantly wet, running through water even runners who don’t usually suffer from chafing will find this an issue. Apply beneath your sports bra and inner lining of run shorts.

I would recommend against running in ‘skorts’ as you will be constantly sweating and trying to cool off in rock pools to keep your body temperature down. The skirt part will just weigh you down with water. Bring single-layered run shorts or short breathable tights. You will probably suffer less from chafing too with tights.

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Hair conditioner is an absolute must as you will be showering every day and if you don’t want to end up with damaged, straw-like hair or knots, bring a good conditioner. I have had plenty of experiences of leaking bottles of haircare products so I take enough L’Oréal sachets which pack very well and are single use.

Don’t wear rings! Your fingers are going to swell up through heat and some dehydration – so leave the solitaire at home. You will just have to put up with the unsightliness of sausage-finger syndrome for a while.

Bring waterproof zip-locks for cash and toilet paper to carry with you on the daily stages as you will be running through a lot of water and believe me you will be happy to buy an ice cold coke some days on the course. Also make sure your mobile phone is in a waterproof casing/bag or don’t take it with you on the river sections.

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Hyperthermia on RunUltra

A runner loses heat via sweating. This sweat evaporates on the skin which dissipates heat by convection, assuming that humidity is low enough. Heat stroke will occur when the bodies thermoregulation is overwhelmed.

Overwhelming the body (in simplistic terms) may come from excessive environmental heat (running in a hot climate), running too fast or too hard, being dehydrated, a lack of free flowing air that will help cool the body or a lack of water to splash on the body to cool down.

Read the full article on RUNULTRA HERE

Beat The Heat (Part Two) – Marc Laithwaite

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Exercise in the heat can place a lot of strain upon your body, if you’re used to cooler climates. For this reason, many elite athletes will spend time acclimatising to the higher temperature. Acclimatisation can require up to 14 days, so what if you’re an amateur athlete traveling abroad for an endurance event, who can’t afford to travel 3 weeks before the event?

This is part 2 of our ‘exercise in the heat’ blog series. Last week we explained why exercise in the heat is such a problem (you can read by clicking the coaching articles link at the top of the page and then scrolling down through past blogs). In this week’s blog, I’ll explain how you can acclimatise before you travel and highlight the key physiological changes that take place, as a consequence of acclimatisation.

It’s a bit cold up North, so acclimatising might be difficult!!

Okay, if you live in the North of the UK and you’re traveling abroad to race, then you might be struggling to understand how you can possibly acclimatise. I use the term ‘North of UK’ as we all know that in the South of the UK, the temperature rarely drops below 18c. I’ve never traveled further South than Birmingham, but I hear they wear shorts and flip-flops pretty much year round.

In simple terms, to acclimatise before traveling, you need to make yourself hot and encourage sweating when you train. There are really easy ways to do this:

  1. Wear extra clothing
  2. Run on a treadmill or cycle indoors and turn up the heat
  3. Spend time in a sauna or steam room on a daily basis

I’d recommend you start doing this from 2 weeks out, but you need to do it consistently. Ideally it should be on a daily basis. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the above methods can help acclimatise you before travelling to warmer climates.

General guidelines:

  1. If you’re exercising outdoors, wearing extra clothing will lead to a higher sweat rate, so make sure you hydrate during the session. The same can be said for indoor running or cycling, make sure you are hydrating throughout.
  2. You should expect it to affect performance to some extent. If you use a power meter when cycling or you run at specific speeds on the treadmill, you should expect your power of speed to be a little lower than normal. If you’re temperature is higher, attempting to maintain the same intensity as usual could result in you being exhausted by the finish of the session!
  3. Try to progress the sessions in terms of exposure and intensity. For example, if you ride indoors, gradually turn up the temperature over a 7 day period and gradually build up the volume and intensity of the session. Don’t simply crank up the heat on day 1 and ride the full session as you’d expect to in cooler temperatures.
  4. The same rule applies for the sauna and steam room. Start with 10-15 minutes and gradually build your time to 30-45 minutes. Take a drink into the sauna or steam room with you to ensure you are hydrating adequately.

What are the physiological changes that take place?

There are a couple of key changes that take place when you are forced to sweat at a high rate:

The first is an expansion of plasma volume, this refers to an increase in the amount of blood plasma. Last week we explained that blood is made up of plasma (the fluid part) and cells. As you sweat, you lose plasma, which then thickens the blood. Part of the acclimatisation process in as increase in plasma, which means your blood is thinner. By increasing your plasma volume, this also means that you have more blood in general. The amount of cells doesn’t change, but the fluid component is increased, thereby increasing the overall blood volume. This is handy when your blood has to supply both muscles and skin, as discussed last week.

The second key change is a reduction in salt loss. Early in the acclimatisation process, your sweat contains a high amount of sodium. As the acclimatisation process progresses, your body retains sodium by reducing the amount lost in sweat. In simple terms, your sweat becomes less salty. If you’re acclimatising over a 2 week period, lick your skin every day and see if you can taste the change. It’s not socially acceptable to lick someone else’s skin.

As stated earlier, for these 2 changes to occur, you simply need to encourage a high sweat rate when training. The more you sweat, the more these changes will occur. Be sensible, reduce the intensity of the training session and gradually build up heat exposure over the 2 week period.

Until then, stay cool.

About Marc:

Sports Science lecturer for 10 years at St Helens HE College.

2004 established The Endurance Coach LTD sports science and coaching business. Worked with British Cycling as physiology support 2008-2008. Previous Triathlon England Regional Academy Head Coach, North West.

In 2006 established Epic Events Management LTD. Now one of the largest event companies in the NW, organising a range of triathlon, swimming and cycling events. EPIC EVENTS also encompasses Montane Trail 26 and Petzl Night Runner events.

In 2010 established Montane Lakeland 50 & 100 LTD. This has now become the UKs leading ultra distance trail running event.

In 2010 established The Endurance Store triathlon, trail running and open water swimming store. Based in Appley Bridge, Wigan, we are the North West’s community store, organising and supporting local athletes and local events.

Check out the endurance store HERE

Endurance Store Logo

Beat The Heat ( Part One) – Marc Laithwaite

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This week we’re starting a series of articles titled ‘environmental physiology’. We’re going to open with a 2 part series relating to exercise in the heat (I say 2 parts, but who knows what could happen by next week). Following that, we’ll take a look at altitude training and potential benefits.

But before we go on, why not catch up on our seven part series of posts on RACE DAY NUTRITION HERE

Too Hot? Call The Police & Fireman…

Exercise in the heat can place a lot of strain upon your body, if you’re used to cooler climates. For this reason, many elite athletes will spend time acclimatising to the higher temperature. Acclimatisation can require up to 14 days, so what if you’re an amateur athlete travelling abroad for an endurance event, who can’t afford to travel 3 weeks before the event? Well this blog is quite timely for me, as I’m off to Lanzarote in less than 4 weeks for the Ironman triathlon and potentially, it could be very hot. There’s probably quite a few people reading this blog who are traveling abroad this year to take part in triathlon or running events in hot places. The purpose of this blog is to explain simple ways, which you can acclimate your body beforehand and explain the physiological changes, which take place to improve your performance.

Too hot? You Make A Dragon Want To Retire Man…

In a nutshell, when you exercise in hot climates, your core temperature rises and your performance suffers. If your core temperature rises too much, it could potentially be lethal, so your brain is pretty quick to try and stop that happening, by persuading you to stop!

How do we reduce core temperature?

There 2 main ways, the first is ‘convection’ and the second is ‘sweat evaporation’.

Convection

Think about a car radiator, it’s positioned right at the front of the car as that’s where the wind hits it when you’re driving. Heat is generated in the engine, this in turn heats the water which is then pumped to the radiator. The wind hits the radiator, cools the water and the cool water goes back into the engine to pick up more heat. This cycle continues, to keep removing heat from the engine, which is why it’s important to keep the fluid topped up or your car will overheat! The human body works the same way, heat is generated in the engine and your blood then picks up the heat. The blood is pumped to the coolest part of the body (the skin), where the wind hits it and cools the blood. It then returns back into the engine to pick up more heat and the cycle continues.

If the wind is blowing against your skin whilst you exercise, convection may well be enough to keep you cool and maintain a normal body temperature. It’s easier to do this when cycling, compared to running, as your speed is generally higher, so the wind chill is greater. Runners will notice that treadmill running leads to more sweating than running outside as the air temperature is generally warmer, but also you’re not moving, so there’s no air flow past the skin and therefore no wind chill or convection. The same can be said about indoor cycling or using a turbo trainer, especially if you don’t have a fan blowing.

Let’s use the treadmill running or turbo cycling scenarios as an example. If there’s no air flow past your skin to cool the blood, then in effect, you pump hot blood to the skin surface, it doesn’t get cooled, so the hot blood goes back into the engine / core. That’s a sure fire way to overheat. This is the same as leaving your car engine running on a hot day, whilst stuck in a traffic jam. If you’re not moving, there’s no wind hitting the radiator, so convection cooling can’t happen.

Sweating

Sweating is based on ‘evaporation’. Water from your body cells makes it’s way to the skin and as the hot blood arrives, the heat is passed from the blood into the water droplets (leaving the blood cool). The heated water on your skin, evaporates into the air like water from a boiling pan and takes the heat with it. If you’re running on a treadmill and there’s no convection, you need another method of getting rid of heat, so the sweating and evaporation will kick in.

It’s important to recognise that ‘evaporation’ removes the heat, so any sweat on your skin, clothing or floor, serves no purpose other than to lead to dehydration. 

Convection and sweating don’t compliment each other too well

If you’re racing in hot weather, convection isn’t enough so you’ll also sweat to keep your temperature down. As you sweat, you lose fluid from your body and this leads to a drop in blood plasma (plasma is the fluid/water component of blood). The problem is that you need a lot of blood for convection to work well. When you’re exercising, blood is pumped to the exercising muscles and what’s left is pumped to the vital organs. So what happens when you then need to pump extra blood to the skin to cool down? Do you reduce blood flow to the muscles and vital organs? It sounds like a great idea to keep you cool, but where is this extra blood coming from? As if that wasn’t bad enough, you’re now sweating and the amount of blood you have is dropping. So not only do you have to supply muscles, organs and the skin, you’ve got less and less blood available as sweating continues.

Blood is made up of plasma (fluid) and cells (red/white/platelets). When you sweat, you lose plasma, but not cells. This means that the total amount of blood is reduced and it also gets thicker (same number of cells but less fluid). 

What does this mean in terms of performance?

As you’ve probably guessed already, this isn’t good for performance. Heart rate is generally higher for any level of exercise. This is due to the fact that you’re trying to pump blood to all areas of your body and your total blood volume is dropping. Your cardiovascular system is therefore working overtime, trying to match the demand with a struggling supply. Due to fluid and salt losses, your body becomes dehydrated and cells cannot function correctly. We’ve mentioned previously that salt is required for transporting fluid throughout the body and as high amount of salt can be lost in sweating, this mechanism is impaired.

Something of great importance, which is less frequently discussed, is the change in substrate utilisation. Whilst the exact mechanism is still under question, it’s pretty clear that you use more carbohydrates and therefore empty your glycogen stores more quickly when exercising in the heat. The simple explanation is that that there’s a lack of ‘spare blood’ going to the muscles, due to the fact it’s going to the skin for cooling. Fat metabolism requires more oxygen than carbohydrate metabolism so there’s a switch from fat to carbohydrate. This may also be explained by a switch from ‘slow twitch’ to ‘fast twitch’ fibres, which use less oxygen.

All in all, this isn’t looking too good. We’ve got an ever-decreasing blood volume, which is being pulled in several different directions. We’ve got decreasing salt levels and an onset of dehydration. We’ve got a heart rate which is significantly higher than it should be for the intensity we’re exercising at and to cap it all off, we’re running out of carbohydrates at a faster rate than normal.

Don’t worry help is at hand. Next week we’ll discuss how acclimatisation helps you to deal with the issues and explain the physiological changes responsible.

Until then, stay cool.

– Marc

About Marc:

Sports Science lecturer for 10 years at St Helens HE College.

2004 established The Endurance Coach LTD sports science and coaching business. Worked with British Cycling as physiology support 2008-2008. Previous Triathlon England Regional Academy Head Coach, North West.

In 2006 established Epic Events Management LTD. Now one of the largest event companies in the NW, organising a range of triathlon, swimming and cycling events. EPIC EVENTS also encompasses Montane Trail 26 and Petzl Night Runner events.

In 2010 established Montane Lakeland 50 & 100 LTD. This has now become the UKs leading ultra distance trail running event.

In 2010 established The Endurance Store triathlon, trail running and open water swimming store. Based in Appley Bridge, Wigan, we are the North West’s community store, organising and supporting local athletes and local events.

Check out the endurance store HERE

Endurance Store Logo

Running in the heat

Okay, lets start as we mean to go on! Do you you prefer it on your back, in your hand or maybe you need both hands or maybe you prefer it all centered around your waist… of course I am talking about your method of hydration.

With temperatures rising, the UK in a heat wave and longer lighter days, we can hopefully all get out and run more. But as we all know, or maybe we don’t. We need to consider several things when running in the heat;

  • It’s harder
  • You sweat more
  • You need more fluid

We need to adapt. So what happens when the mercury rises?

Well, the body’s core temperature rises with exercise. In simple terms the more we exercise, or the harder we exercise and this core temperature rises. Unchecked this internal core would exceed boiling point; not a good idea. So, our clever body reduces this core temperature by evaporation (sweat). This process helps cool the body, maintain a manageable core temperature and hopefully allow us to continue exercise.

I say hopefully because the process of evaporation means that we loose liquid (hydration). So the trade off of a cooler core is potentially dehydration.

Dehydration as we all should know is something that does not go well with any sport. It increases heart rate and also adds to core temperature rises. It therefore can become a vicious circle. Initially running will feel much harder, the supply of oxygen to the brain will become impeded as blood is forced to the skins surface to help reduce the internal pressure. Your muscles will start to fail, become heavy and cramp. You may start to have blurred vision in extreme cases and in severe cases you will just stop, potentially collapse and black out. If you need clarification, this is NOT GOOD.

Kilian exhausted at the end of Transvulcania La Palma – dehydration ?

Depending on external temperatures, your ability to withstand heat, your own personal sweat rate and your adaptation to heat it is possible to loose 3-4 litres of fluid in an hour when running. I know, 3-4 litres! Loose more than 2% of body weight and this will impair performance and your mental ability. So, if your looking to perform or if you just want an enjoyable stress free run in the heat, you need to keep on top of hydration.

Hydration is NOT just fluid. Sweating means that we loose key minerals. These minerals keep our body in balance. Therefore you must replace electrolytes (salt) to keep your body in balance. Like your own personal fluid requirements, you salt requirements will also differ to that of your run friends. So take your time to work out what works for you. At the end of a hot run do you have salt marks on your clothes, do you have dried salt on your face? If so, you are more than likely a heavy sweater and your salt needs may very well be double or triple. Plenty of products are now available on the market and they all offer different methods and tastes. For example, Saltstick offer a really handy tablet which works well with bladders or bottles as it means you can keep your electrolyte supply separate and it also means that you can adjust your needs on the fly. However, Nuun offer a very popular flavoured tablet that comes in a handy tube that again can be taken with you on training or racing. This product must be added to your liquid though. Of course other products are available and I use these two reference points as purely as demonstration of what is on offer. It is fair to say that all sports drinks manufacturers now offer a form of electrolyte replacement.

How do you avoid the dreaded dehydration?

First and foremost assess yourself and your abilities. If you live in a hot climate with all year sun and heat you are going to be well adjusted. If you live in the UK and then we suddenly get a heat wave, you are not going to be adjusted. It’s a simple fact that many fail to acknowledge. Running 7 min miles in 10 degrees is much easier than running 7 min miles in 25 deg. As I said previously, you try to run the same pace in much hotter temperatures and only one thing will happen; your core will rise, you will sweat more, you will start to suffer and eventually you will come to a stand still.

Slow down. Accept that the warmer temperatures will mean a slower pace. This will allow you to regulate your temperature and keep on top of your hydration. The longer you spend in the heat, the more you will adjust and eventually you will start to be able to lift the pace for the same effort and sweat rate. In simple terms this is what pro athletes do when they ‘acclimatize’.

  • Start a run hydrated. Your urine colour is a great indicator of how hydrated you are. A light straw colour is best.
  • Keep the sun off your head when running by wearing a white hat with a peak.
  • Wear sunglasses.
  • Wear light clothing that is loose and that will reflect the suns rays.
  • Use waterproof sun cream and be careful around your eyes.
  • Drink regular and often.
  • When possible, pour water on your head to reduce your core temperature.
  • Plan your runs and make allowances for refilling bottles or bladders on long runs using streams or shops (as applicable). You may want to carry some water purification tablets if you are in extreme places.
  • Take some money, mobile phone and ID.

Do a self-check when running:

  1. Do you feel cool? (and I don’t mean in a ‘rap’ way)
  2. Do you feel clammy?
  3. Have you stopped sweating?
  4. Do you feel sick?
  5. Are you dizzy?
  6. Are you fatigued?
  7. Is your heart rate pounding?

Any of the above and you are starting to show signs of dehydration. Don’t wait to be thirsty… it will be too late. Depending on how bad your symptoms are you will need to do one of the following:

  • Reduce your pace to a walk, let your temperature drop and slowly rehydrate – don’t gulp.
  • Stop. Sit down in the shade. Recover and let your temperature drop while drinking slowly to rehydrate.
  • Stop and basically STOP. If you have all or a combination of the above symptoms your best option may well be to stop and recover. Come back another day with lessons learnt

Recovery is key and it is important to rehydrate post training and racing. For every 1kg of weight loss drink 1ltr of water. When your urine has returned to a light straw colour, stop drinking and resume normal drinking… do not over drink.

Hyponatremia

Drink sensibly,  don’t force yourself with water. Research into Hyponatremia has shown that it’s not a lack of salt, which leads to hyponatremia, it’s drinking too much fluid. If you urine regularly and it is clear, you are drinking too much. A bloated stomach is a sign of the onset of the problem, headaches and nausea. During an event just sip and understand your sweat rate and needs. You can always test yourself by wiggling yourself naked pre run, run for 1 hour without drink and then re weigh yourself. The difference will give you an idea of your sweat rate; 1kg = 1ltr. Of course please keep in mind external conditions. Your sweat rate will differ for hot/cold days and depending on how hard or easy you run.

Drinking methods when running?

Do you you prefer it on your back, in your hand or maybe you need both hands or maybe you prefer it all centered around your waist…

How we carry our fluid is very personal and it also does depend on the demands of the training or the race. If you are racing you may need to carry compulsory equipment and this will almost certainly mean waist pack or rucksac is required.

But how we carry the liquid is what counts. The fluid needs to be accessible at all times as this will promote drinking.

Bladder?

Bottles?

Bladder v Bottle

Bladder:

Bladders come in varying sizes. 1ltr to 3ltr, with different methods of distributing the liquid to the runner, ultimately this is a pipe with a mouth valve. Bladders sit on your back or around the waist and offer an easy slurp system that is easy to use. The main issues with them are that they are difficult to clean, you are never quite sure how much you have left and they are more awkward to fill when racing.

Bottles:

Like bladders they come in varying sizes but 500ml to 1ltr is normal. The size of the bottle may very well depend on your carrying system. For example – handheld bottles, bottles in a waist pack, bottles on a rucksac (at the back) or bottles on a rucksac (at the front). Bottles are easy to fill on the go, easy to clean, cheap to replace.

Combination:

Manufacturers realize now that runners needs are increasing and runners are becoming more demanding. Therefore packs such as the S-Lab 12 has allowances for a bladder, bottles on the front and even two large ‘dump’ pockets on the side of the pack that will take bottles. The advantages here are excellent as you can customize your needs for each run.

Putting it into practice

I personally use all of the above.

When it is really hot and I am just going for a training run I love just having two hand held bottles (Dakota Style) and running free. It allows for no restriction on my waist it also allows my back to be free and ultimately enables me to remain cooler.

If I need to carry some essentials then I will add a waist pack that will hold just a light jacket, phone, money etc and keep the bottles in my hand.

When the demands are greater I shift to a rucksac allowing me to use a bladder and or bottles with the option to carry other equipment.

I am not a fan of waist bottle belts as they usually become uncomfortable, bounce and rub the skin – but that is my personal feedback.

It’s not rocket science but not putting it into practice is the difference between a great run and a lousy run. More importantly, when racing, it is the difference between potentially winning and not even finishing.

Choose your method and keep hydrated on your next run!