The Velo team were treated to an awesome Sunday at the 31st annual Mt. Si Relay and Ultra Runs. Individual runners competed in 50K and 50 Mile Ultra Marathons while teams of 5 battled in a 59 Mile relay.
Despite the stiff competition on the course, the biggest challenge came from Mother Nature who managed to dish out a melee of the best and worst the Pacific Northwest has to offer. The day started out perfectly with partly cloudy skies and temps creeping up toward 50, but as the day progressed a series of squalls brought driving rain and hail to the course. Most of the now soaked and frigid participants powered through although many took advantage of aid stations to warm themselves before returning to the course. All in all it was a great day with most participants crossing the finish line dripping wet but smiling.
While the race went off without incident, running in cold wet weather carries with it a real risk of hypothermia, as can be attested to by the 25 runners hospitalized for hypothermia during the 2011 LA Marathon. Appropriate clothing is the first line of defense. Wool or synthetic running socks, midweight tights, and a light running jacket are a great combo that will keep the rain and wind at bay. Layering is key especially on longer races where conditions can change drastically between the starting gate and the finish line. Hats, gloves and vests are a great way to add warmth without much bulk, and they can easily be carried in a hydration vest. Be sure to avoid cotton, which will sap heat and your energy when it gets wet.
The best defense for hypothermia however, may be a good offense. Body heat produced during a race will keep hypothermia at bay as long as you can keep your pace up until the finish line. However, the increased energy demands caused by cold and wet conditions can make this difficult. A study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine last year pitted runners against adverse weather in a climate chamber and found that significantly more energy was used in cold and wet conditions. This matches up with what we see on the course, where most of the hypothermia cases occur near the end of the race when runners, unable to keep up their pace, begin to slow down causing their body temperature to drop. If it is cold and wet on the course, you will need more fuel and better conditioning than you would in fair weather. So next time you head out in the cold and rain, grab some extra fuel and carry the satisfaction that you are getting a better workout than you would on a warm clear day.
For more info on cold weather running check out the resources below: