Racing somewhere hot? Heat acclimation and hydration tips

On January 18th, I decided to race MTB Ayiti. The race started on January 30th. Besides being undertrained and overweight (which I like to think of as “rested and healthy”), I was really worried about the heat. It was 34 degrees and raining in Portland while I was training and the forecast told me it would be near 90 and humid when I reached Port au Prince for the start of the race.

In a panic, I called Stacy Sims, Co-Founder of OSMO Nutrition and complete hydration expert (She has a PhD and worked as an exercise physiologist and nutrition scientist at Stanford University from 2007-2012, among other credentials. She’s also a Cat 1 road cyclist and elite XTerra athlete). Last year, Stacy helped me with nutrition preparation for the Reve Tour. She also ended up being the link that resulted in OSMO coming on as our hydration sponsor.

She gave me some good advice about getting ready to race in the heat, even when you don’t have much time to prepare:

Before You Go

HOT YOGA: Find a hot yoga class and try to get a few sessions in.

SAUNA: Try to get into a sauna within 30-60 min post training (so you are a bit dehydrated). Try to stay in the sauna for about 30 min then SLOWLY rehydrate over the course of 3-4 hours (don’t gulp lots of fluid right after getting out). If you can do this every day or every other day before you go, the heat will feel very very bearable! Of all the things that Stacy suggested, this was the one that really made a difference for me in Haiti.

Once You’re There

FREEZE YOUR DRINKS: Freeze drinks overnight. With a hydration pack, fill it 3/4 full then top it off with OSMO Active in the morning. I didn’t have access to this option in Haiti (or in France for that matter) but I can imagine it sure would have felt great.

PRE-LOAD: Drink OSMO PreLoad ice cold. Pre-Load is a pretty phenomenal hydration product that we used while riding the Tour de France. PreLoad increases plasma volume and sodium stores. It also contains aerobic and anaerobic buffers. It’s considered a “hyper-hydrator” to be used for intense efforts like racing in very hot conditions or ultra-endurance events. For the first week in France, I drank PreLoad the night before each stage and then again the morning. I found that this loaded me up so much with stored fluid that I was a little puffy! Dialing back to just pre-loading the night before seemed to be the perfect balance. In Haiti, I used PreLoad the night before stage one and three. While I couldn’t put my hands on ice to make it cold, it still worked wonders.

*This is a photo of David Wilcox drinking a beer after getting second in the first stage of MTB Ayiti. This is probably not how you should hydrate, but isn’t he awesome?


5 Responses to “Racing somewhere hot? Heat acclimation and hydration tips”

  1. chr15 says:

    I cramp really bad when riding and running anything over 3 hours, I can almost set my watch by it. Hot day, cold day, hilly or flat 3 hours and my quads cramp, it can be excruciating. I wonder if the OSMO pre-load product could help with that and whether we can get it over here in the UK…

    • Heidi Swift says:

      Chris – that’s very strange. How are you getting electrolytes when you ride?

      • chr15 says:

        You are right it can be the strangest thing, sometimes I can ride through it other times the cramp is debilitating and excruciating. On shorter rides I use electrolyte tablets (nuun etc) and on longer days a carb/electrolyte powder (SIS Go). I’ve tried other supplements too, magnesium for example.

  2. Elizabeth M says:

    Great tips-esp the heat acclimation. Will be useful for our upcoming trip to Hawaii (living in Seattle has killed any tolerance for heat I may have once had).
    Am loving the PhotoGlimmer series!