With GNW nearly upon us, the threads of Cool Running and indeed quite a bit of the conversation surrounding this event turns to the weather and hot how will it get down in the Congewai Valley. The last few years it has hit around the low 40’s near the school, and to the horror of a pasty Englishman like myself, it causes me great concern when I think about the long road up towards the Comms Tower and the little ‘rest periods’ I had to take in previous years.
But how do you prepare for the heat? Typically, with this event being in November, it leaves very little time between our NSW winter and the full on effects of the lower Hunter furnace that comes alive around this time of year.So what can we do? I’ve added a few suggestions and tips from things I’ve heard or read below, as well as offer some links from others giving advice out too.
Option One – Run as if it’s -20 in the South Pole
I remember when I first saw a few training buddies doing this and I dismissed it as silly. How could you gain any effect from wrapping yourself up in thermals and a rain jacket when it’s 30 degrees in the Sydney summer and go off gallivanting in the sunshine? First up, everyone looks at you like you’re deranged as they parade around the footpaths in their t-shirts and boardies. Secondly, it’s excruciatingly hot inside all those clothes and you will have major perspiration issues too.
Yesterday I tried this for the first time, given we were blessed with a 30 degree day here in Sydney. The plan was to do a brisk 10kms around the Bay in Rozelle at above average pace (average pace being 5min kms) and just go with the flow.
The first few kms felt good and I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. But slowly and surely, as the metres progressed, my thermals became ridden with sweat, which then transferred to my lightweight, but extremely sweaty rain jacket. By 5kms I was a mass of sweat, dripping from the inside of the jacket. Other runners in their singlets and shorts looked at me as though I was on day release from the local funny farm. As the run moved on, I noticed a draining feeling in my legs, something you associate with a 50km+ run, but had the early onset of at 7kms this time round.
Then came the light-headedness and by 10kms I was pretty glad to stop. Total time 47 minutes. Not quick, but not shabby, but certainly over-cooked! Did it work? I’m not sure, but one thing it did do was get me used to feeling uncomfortable in the heat and that’s something I think mentally you do need to get used to ahead of the descent into the valley at Congewai. Mentally you have to be prepared for the yucky hot feeling that encompasses your body.
Option Two – The Steam Room
When preparing for the MDS a few years ago, I came across some theories that using either the steam room or sauna (depending on what type of heat you’re going to encounter) a few weeks prior is good, so ahead ofmy run in the desert I did two weeks in the sauna. The reason being is that you can help to raise your core body temperature a little, so that in theory you can cope with the heat better. Again I’m no scientist or doctor and mainly run off what I’ve heard of read from other’s advice, but I can see the logic here.
Some people are better at running in the heat because, well they live in hot conditions so their body adapts – this is what I’m assuming. I guess the same goes for people who live at altitude too. So with that quite a few runners I know will enter the steam room or sauna each day for two weeks prior, slowly building up their tolerance to it by staying in a little longer each day.
Again, does this work? I think there is some truth in this one and have been incorporating it as part of my preparation for GNW this year.I did it for the MDS too, and I must admit that overall, the heat never really bothered me that much as we loped around the Sahara, but it was a very different kind of heat to what you experience over here in Australia.
These are just a few simple things I’ve come across in my attempts to better prepare myself for the heat that GNW brings. Of course, none of this matters if it’s 25 degrees and overcast on race day 🙂 But the aim is to offer a little bit of insight as to what you can do to prepare yourself for what comes around midday on race day. It also goes without saying that other factors do come into play here too, such as making sure you pace yourself correctly, take on board descent amounts of water and also watch your salt levels too.
As always, interested to hear the thoughts of others on this topic and their opinions, but in the meantime, I’ve posted some links below to some useful heat training guides: