How To Avoid the Medical Tent
1. Perform an at-home sweat test. Hiller says to weigh yourself nude and dry, then work out at race pace for an hour (ideally in conditions similar to the ones you’re racing in). Then empty your bladder and weigh yourself nude and dry again. If you lost two pounds (32 ounces), your sweat rate is 32 ounces per hour, and you should aim to replace 60–80 percent of that. Properly replacing your fluids can help you avoid GI issues—the more dehydrated you are, the higher the likelihood of nausea, cramping and diarrhea.
2. Nail your nutrition. Nutrition is incredibly individual, so it’s important to be in tune with what you need. “Know how much fluid you use every hour, how much salt you need to stop cramping, how much carbohydrate you can take that won’t upset your stomach,” Sallis said. Do race-simulating workouts in training where you also use your exact nutrition plan. Once you have it nailed down, stick to the plan.
3. Increase your sodium. Going into a long event, increase your salt intake in the days before. During the event, use sodium according to your nutrition plan—sports dietitian Lauren Antonucci recommends an average of 800 to 1000mg per hour (this can widely vary depending on the athlete, and if it’s hotter or more humid, this number will be higher). Also be sure to include sodium in your post-race recovery.
4. Determine your salty status. You can figure out the rate at which you lose salt via a sweat test, but “one would have to ask around the local sporting community to find someone to do it,” said Dr. Doug Hiller. “It’s not hard to do—it just takes planning and a lab to do the electrolytes.” If you can’t find such a lab, you can look for signs that you’re a salty sweater on your own: Does your sweat taste salty after a run? Do you typically have white streaks on your skin and clothes? If so, try a sports drink higher in sodium or bump up your intake with salt tablets, especially during hot workouts or races.
5. Don’t overdo it on water. Drinking too much plain water can flush the electrolytes out of your system and make you more susceptible to hyponatremia. Stick to mostly sports beverages with electrolytes during training and racing. Also, don’t chug liters of plain H2O the day before the race either because you’ll rid your body of electrolytes. (The old-school “check your pee” advice applies here: Clear urine is water not being absorbed by your body. Aim for pale yellow.) Try adding low-calorie electrolyte tablets such as Nuun to your water leading up to the race.
6. Practice in your gear. Blisters may be a minor injury but they can make 26.2 miles feel like an eternity. Don’t race in anything new.
7. Dress for the heat. Rethink your black tri suit if you know the conditions will be hot. Lighter colors and a hat on the run can help keep your core temperature down. Try putting ice in a Ziploc bag and stuffing this bag in your hat, allowing cold water to drip down your neck.
8. Adjust for the wind. Don’t base your goal race pace solely on speed. Instead, go by power (if available), heart rate or perceived exertion. By attempting to maintain a specific mph in tough conditions, you’ll put yourself at higher risk for dehydration and exhaustion.