Two years ago, the temperatures on the Friday of the relay were near 100º.  Last year, the temperatures were in the mid-80ºs.

Guess which year had the most problems with runners dealing with heat exhaustion?

If you guessed last year, you would be correct.

Aiding a runner on leg #6

When the mercury nears 100º, we all know what to do.  Drink lots of water.  Slow down.  Seek shade.  But when the temperatures are in the 80s, we are tempted to throw that solid advice out the window.  80º just doesn’t seem that hot, but for most of us living here in the Pacific Northwest, it is more than warm enough to give us problems.  We need to make sure that we treat an 80º degree day as we would treat a 100º and take the precautions necessary to keep us safe on the course.  What do these precautions include?

1. Hydrate.
If you are thirsty, drink.  Especially while you are running.  The bigger you are, the harder you work, the more out of shape you are, the more you need to pay attention to how much you are sweating and how much you are taking in.  Make sure that you are also getting electrolytes while you are drinking – you can pick up electrolyte tabs that you add to your drinks or pills you take with water at your local running store.  The elevation of this course (4500 feet) will make some extra demands on those of us who live at sea level, so bring extra water for the day.  Continue to hydrate even when you are not running; hopping in and out of vans and being out in the sun will take its toll as well.  Here are some good tips from Runner’s World.

2. Slow down.
The hottest part of the CLR relay is the first set of legs for both vans.  So you have a one-two punch – the adrenaline of starting the race and the challenging conditions of the day.  Your desire will be to run as fast as possible for your team; it is human nature.  But you would be wise to slow up a little, not only to avoid the ill effects of the heat, but to save yourself for the next two legs you will have to run regardless of how you feel.

3. Cool yourself off.
It is wise to dump water on your head or mist your body with water while you are running.  The water on your skin evaporates and cools your body, aiding your body in temperature regulation. Also, forgo a hat, which will trap heat on your head.  A visor is a better choice.  A bandana filled with ice and wrapped around your neck is another way to help your body stay cool.

4. Support your teammate and other runners.
Whatever the temperature, support your runner during his leg.  The beauty of the CLR is that it is not the traffic nightmare of the Hood to Coast, so you do have time to stop and give your teammate aid along the way.  This is especially important on Leg #5, which is 8 miles of hot, red cinder road.  If you are not going to stop that often, encourage your runner to carry aid with her.

If you see someone who looks like they need help, be sure to offer it.  We are all in this race together, and we need to look out for each other.  Check on every runner who passes – offer a cool misting spray, and you will be their hero.

5. Avoid certain medications.
Cold medicines, ephedrine, and pseudoephedrine (Sudafed & other decongestants) can add additional stresses to your body.  Try and avoid taking them before running; if you do, be extra vigilant on keeping on top of your hydration needs.

6. Know the symptoms of heat exhaustion.
Even with your best efforts, it is still possible to fall victim to the effects of heat.  Know the signs of when an issue is serious so that you can seek prompt medical attention.

Symptoms of Heat Disease:

  • Intense heat build-up in the head
  • General overheating of the body
  • Significant headache
  • Significant nausea
  • General confusion and loss of concentration
  • Loss of muscle control
  • Excessive sweating and then cessation of sweating
  • Clammy skin
  • Excessively rapid breathing
  • Muscle cramps
  • Feeling faint
  • Unusual heart beat or rhythm

You might want to throw in a sheet in your supplies that can be dipped in the ice cold water of your cooler and wrapped around a person suffering from heat exhaustion.  This is a quick way to cool them down while you drive for help.