Briana: Training and Racing in the Heat - The Giant Race

Briana: Training and Racing in the Heat

By Briana Ottinger

Summer in San Francisco usually means cooler temperatures and frequent visits from @KarltheFog, lately however temps have been soaring and that can make for a sweaty and hot run. If you’ve been running the Giant Race for several years now and you know the temperatures can be all over the place. If you ran with me in Sacramento or San Jose this year you may remember that it was quite warm for both races. I’ve raced a half marathon in the freezing pouring rain and finished a triathlon in 100 plus degree heat. Temperatures in the East Bay creep up to the high 90’s on the regular and I often get asked how do you survive training and racing in the heat? The biggest thing is to adapt and adjust to the heat rather than trying to fight it. I regularly run in the heat, rain and wind. Training in all conditions helps you better prepare to race in unpredictable weather. Here are my top tips for staying cool on your summer runs.


Drink fluids before, during and after your runs. Plain water is typically fine for workouts under 45-60 minutes, after that consider taking in an electrolyte supplement, I love adding nuun hydration tablets to my water or adding coconut water to my post workout smoothies. If you’re training for a specific race be sure to check out what electrolytes will be on course and train with them ahead of time or plan to carry your own mix on race day. On long runs I carry a handheld bottle, Nathan makes a great one with a storage pocket for your keys or a backpack style one. I’ll often put a ton of ice in them on really hot days, drinking cold beverages can really help bring your core temperature down a few degrees.


The gear you wear during a run or race can make a world of difference in your performance. I tend to lean towards black or grey workout clothes, but in the heat I prefer wearing white or another light color that reflects heat. Whether you prefer running in a sports bra or long sleeves look for non-cotton sports fabrics that wick away moisture and dry quickly. Wet clothes + heat + sweat = chafing. There are fabrics with built in UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) that can be especially useful if you plan to be out in the sun for a long period of time. A friend of mine puts her run top in the freezer the night before and swears it keeps her cool for miles.  


I almost always run in a hat or visor regardless of the conditions, but it especially makes a difference in the heat. Look for one made out of a technical fabric, with a sweatband built in, the new Giant Race BOCO trucker and visor are great options. You’ll not only look great, but it will keep the sun off your face and sweat out of your eyes. I’ll even pour ice water into my hat if it’s really hot out!


A great pair of sunglasses will not only protect your eyes from UVA and UVB rays, but did you know they can help you run faster? Squinting will cause you to furrow your brow and hold tension in your face, wasting precious energy that could be better used to power your legs. I love my Rudy Project pair with transition lenses, perfect for any light, especially the unpredictable San Francisco weather, and Roka makes ones so light and grippy you’ll almost forget you’re wearing them.


A good sunscreen is a must have for me any day of the year. I prefer non-toxic zinc based ones but they must be water and sweat resistant. Be sure to apply sunscreen to any exposed skin 30-45 minutes before the race and reapply if you’re going to be out there for longer than 90 minutes. I usually carry a stick formula from Bare Republic in my run bag and use Zealios or a spray from Trader Joe’s before the race.


Schedule your runs early in the morning or late in the evening to beat the heat. Be sure to carry a headlamp and wear a reflective gear if it’s dark out. Drive to a shady trail or the beach, it’s almost always a few degrees cooler at Ocean Beach. If you have to run in the heat pay special attention to how you feel, you may need to slow down and reduce the intensity of your run. If you know it will be hot on race day or you’re racing in a hot and humid climate, arrive a few days early and spend some extra time outdoors to get acclimated. A few minutes in the steam room or sauna before and after your runs can also help your body acclimate to the heat. If all else fails take your workout indoors, especially helpful on those really hot days or when air quality is poor.

Rain, fog or shine, I hope to see you at the starting line on September 9th! I’ll be running the half marathon, so if you see me come say hi. Stay cool and happy training!

Briana Ottinger, The Starting Nine
Instagram: @brianaottinger
Mobile Personal Training, Run and Triathlon Coaching