Today’s coaches corner by Peter Bell asks how we should prepare for those early races where the weather is still cold - both in the water & on the bike.
Racing in cold whether can be more detrimental that you can imagine. Your body will use vital energy to keep you warm. A reduction in the body’s temperature can as we know lead to hypothermia which is not uncommon in races where simple mistakes are made in the name of ‘hardness’. You should always have in your kit bag certain items of kit to help combat those variations in weather so that you can have a great day in the office
How important is it? Before we go ahead, the first question is How important is the race? Local race or main race such as qualifier or ironman. If it’s a local race or one which is just a race for enjoyment, then I would suggest if the weather is that bad, it’s best to opt out and go home. Getting seriously ill or injuring yourself might affect your main goal so man up & pack up. If it’s your main event, then follow my simple tips for a more enjoyable experience.
Swim Double cap: event race caps are normally thin and cheap. Okay in July by no help in April / May. So where another silicone or even a neoprene cap to keep your head warm. The blood hides so your perception of the cold on your hands, feet and head feels worse. It will come back but help yourself by wearing a second cap for the warmth. You can’t wear gloves in races (BlueSeventy now do a glove which I understand is okay in some races, but not in most) Base layer / arm warmers: try wearing a thin base layer (short sleeve) or maybe arm warmers under your wetsuit for when you exit T1 for the bike. You won’t feel the affects of the cold as you will have another protective layer to help fight off the cold both in the water & on the bike. It won’t drag you down in the swim due to the wetsuit.
Bike Toe covers: have some neoprene toe covers on your shoes to block the wind. You will still be able to get in & out super fast, but you want to be able to feel your feet when you dismount off the bike and these will massively help early season. Extra layers: as mentioned above, wear a base layer & or arm warmers to cut down time wasted in T1. If it’s not your A race, then have a easy lightweight wind stopper jacket, but remember A: it will be harder to put on wet than when you practice dry. B: tighter the better to help trap in the air and generate warm and aid aerodynamic flow - but then again if you are putting on loads of clothes I suggest you aren’t thinking about time. Socks could also aid keeping your feet warm and help with the run phase too. Light weight gloves which you can stick in your suit and then put on whilst you are riding will help too. Anything will help cut down the wind chill factor
Run Gloves & hat: I’d suggest having in T2 hat, gloves for the run leg. The wind chill factor will be less now so you will warm up really quickly. Having too much now will mean you could over heat so think about it carefully. I favour a head band early season to keep my ears warm but allow heat to escape via the head.
Hot drink Now - don’t tell people this but the pros use a hot drink in their bottle so that they can get their core temperature up during races. Hot orange etc will help but don’t tell people