Us Brits have an interesting relationship with the summer sun. We spend the vast majority of the year, desperately waiting for it to burst through the clouds and then are caught completely off guard when it finally does.
For your average person this means nothing more than bad tan lines, at worst a little sunburn. If however you spend your free time competing and training out in the elements then the risk becomes a little greater. Chronic dehydration and overheating is far from pretty and can in severe cases require hospitalisation. It goes without saying that your performance will take a hit too, even just a 2% drop in body weight through dehydration can cause a big drop in performance. Let it go further though and it gets worse, another 3% drop in body weight and expect to struggle to finish even a short route as studies have shown a 30% reduction in endurance. Fortunately a little forethought can go a long way and whether you’re running the trails, navigating a tricky downhill section on a MTB or tackling some tough cliff faces. Something that ultra running phenom Kim Cavill knows all too well. Competing earlier this month in the Transvulcania Ultra Marathon, a brutal 74.33 kilometer course that takes it's competitors on a helter skelter route through the steepest climbs the island has to offer. All under the relentlessly sweltering sun, that the Canary Islands are known for. Here are Kim's battle honed tips to keep you operating at your best despite the heat.
Drink plenty in the week before your competition. It will do you no good trying to drink gallons during the race to catch up: you’ll end up with a bloated, sloshy stomach in the best case scenario, and it could even be dangerous.
Eat healthily. You hear a lot about carb loading and to most people this means wolfing down mountains of pasta or pizza. The best thing to do is stick to a healthy diet of regular meals full of vegetables and easy to digest carbohydrate such as basmati rice. Your stomach will have a lot of work to do come race day, so be kind to it!
Throw water over your neck and wrists as often as you can. Keeping these pulse points cool will help you regulate your core temperature and stop you from suffering too much.
Try to stick to real food during the race as long you are used to it. Your body will fight back if you fill it with gels, sweets and carbohydrate drink. Give it an easy time and feed it what it can naturally process.
Get acclimatised. This isn’t always easy to do but if you are competing abroad, try to get to your event at least a week before so your body is not too shocked when you start asking big things of it in such different conditions.
Keep your fuel and hydration separate. If you give your body liquid fuel, then more liquid hydration, it will pass through you very quickly in one way or another! Eat something, drink something – simple.