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Weekend Witness Maritzburg Marathon: Training Tip 12
28 Jan 2012
Norrie Williamson

Its 25 degrees, you have been paying homage to Samsung, the Korean God of Air conditioning, for most of the night and outside the humidity thickens the air at 80%.

The glow of the streetlights fades as daylight diffuses into the night. From the balcony the view of Durban�s harbor, the fruit basket shape of Moses Mahbida Stadium with the Indian Ocean beyond stand as reminders of the fortune of living on the Morningside slopes in the subtropical coast of South Africa. I contemplate how the weather is both a drawback and an asset as I prepare for a morning run that in more favourable conditions would allow at least another hour in slumberland. A 5am start means at 4:20am rise and even earlier if the meeting point is further afield. At this time of year this is the best and arguably the only time to run. But how can we counter the performance destroying conditions.

These are truly adverse conditions for running, and while there are books about acclimatizing to the heat, 30 years of running experience has yet to present the solution to humidity. The reality is that you never acclimatize to humidity you simply learn tricks to manage it better.

Of course the heat, particularly this year, has even seen the Capeies and Johannesburg bunnies vociferous in their complaints. Dry heat is easier to cope with. Ultra-runners tackling the annual 300km Death Valley race in USA specifically use pure cotton shirts to handle the oven-like conditions.

With the majority of the country having what would be considered a mild winter climate virtually anywhere else in the world, it still boggles the mind that South Africa's two major ultra events are placed such that runners have to train long distance in the most highly adverse weather conditions of the year. A July or August Comrades date would not only allow runners to race both the Old Mutual Two Oceans and the Comrades, but also open the fixtures to faster marathon times in May to September and a more logical 10km and 15km season from November to February.

Instead here we are stifled, sweat-drained and exhausted in the claustrophobic heat attempting to train and race qualifiers in conditions that send core temperatures soaring.

Although it has been proven (by Tim Noakes et al) that our central governor (primarily the mind), protects us against running to our death, the performances suffer dramatically and recovery is delayed.

So what can we do to reduce these effects?

Many runners will remember the pictures of Paula Radcliffe and others wearing Ice Jackets in Athens and Beijing Olympics as a means ofkeeping the body's core cool in similar conditions to Durban.

This is certainly an option, as would be taking a cold bath prior to a race, but neither are particularly practical for the average runner.

A more appealing approach may be to have a slushie-type drink prior to and after training. By adding crushed ice to your pre-training and racing drink you can attempt to bring the core temperature down, and according to the University of Chicago research runners using this approachwere better able to run to exhaustion. Whether this was truly a case of reducing the core temperature or simply reducing the perception of heat is irrelevant, the point is that it seemed to have a significant effect.

Bringing down core temperature and creating the perception of cooler conditions is important to performance, so the use of the crushed ice drinks and even cooling your arms are worthy of consideration.

So what else could go into the drink? You may wish to lace your pre-race drink with carbohydrate, in which case you would opt for a low GI approach using say 32 GI energy drink.
On the other-hand en-route drinks, particularly in the long run, would not only look for some additional carbohydrates, but also some buffers, and electrolytes. Using Hydrassist and 32GI together would work for the longer, low intensity runs, with the option of Accelerate for more intense races and workouts, which have a greater need for higher GI mixes.

The immediate post race requirement is for high GI solutions, such as Accelerate, which will promote the absorption of protein and the nutrients for recovery and repair.

Instead of just mixing the powders into water and thenliquidizing with crushed ice why not consider making the ice blocks out of the mixed drink. So mix up a 5-7% dilution of 32GI and then freeze this in anticipation of the race.

The blocks can then be used as a crushed ice drink, or as single blocks in your mouth on the occasions when people are able to second you along the route. The same can be done with the hydration and buffering mix of Hydrassist and even a protein or meal replacement drink. Where there are seconds, or when cycling, fill insulated bottles with crushed ice drinks. This will give a longer terms supply of ice cold drinks.

Remember however, if you are going to create a slushiedrink then the dilution needs to be slightly stronger to cater for the water you will use to lubricate the liquidizing.

It�s possible to make up a variety of blocks and drinks in this fashion, and these will help refresh you mentally and physically.
However the one thing to watch particularly in the use of drinks is that you don't take too much at one time as there can be a tendency to get �brain-freeze� when large amounts of iced drink are taken at one time.

Of course another way to trick your mind into believing that its cooler than it actually is would be to use cold water, or even freeze some compression clothing for your arms or legs. � Sometimes even wearing gloves in the heat can keep you cool, but �� that's for another post.

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