When You Should Visit a Race Medical Tent

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With summer just around the corner, hot and humid weather is fast approaching and the good that comes from it is you can start to work on your tan and go on some holiday trips to the beach, but unfortunately, the heat can start to take a toll on your running. Running and racing exert a lot of energy despite which season you are participating in but especially more so with increasing temperatures. Ideal weather would have a race with temps around 55F/12C, low humidity, a little bit of sun and little to no wind. But we don’t always get what we want, now do we?

When the degrees begin to rise outside, so does your core body temperature as well as increased sweating to counter this. All of this which can result in a decrease in your pace. Therefore, it is extremely important to take extra care of yourself and be proactive in preventing heat exhaustion or heat stroke. But sometimes no matter how diligent we are, our bodies may not cooperate and hence the reason for medical aid, assistance, and tents at races. For example, many races provide medical staff and an example of how big the efforts to include the Boston Marathon which has a total of 28 medical tents and 1,700 medical volunteers, resulting in a giant team effort to keep thousands of racers safe and healthy.

Here are 5 ways to beat the heat:

SPF: Not only to avoid awkward racer back or tank top tan lines, but SPF lotions will also protect us from harmful UV rays that could ultimately lead to skin cancer.

Wear Light Colored, Moisture Wick Clothing: You want colors to reflect the light if the sun is out, not absorb, so wear whites or light colors. No cotton! It will absorb your sweat and you want clothing that will wick the sweat away to help keep your body cool. We lose a lot of heat from our heads when exposed in cold or winter temps but absorb heat from there when the temps rise. It is best to wear a light colored hat to protect the head and a visor to protect our eyes. While running, we can keep our heads cool by pouring water onto the hat at the water stops to help to keep our body temperatures down.

Anti-Chafing Creams: The rising temps mean more sweat, which means more loss of salt onto the skin as a means of homeostasis and to regulate body temperature. But salt can be an irritant on the skin with increased friction. Be proactive and use anti-chafing creams or bars to help reduce skin friction and irritation.

Hydration and Electrolytes: This should be obvious, but maintaining a level of hydration start days before the race. The problem is sweating, not only do we lose water but we lose precious minerals and salts that help regulate our ph level. Be sure to drink regularly and replenish with salt tabs or electrolytes throughout the race.

Pace Yourself: No matter how many times we are told to not start too fast, the excitement of a race can override our common sense. By starting out too fast too early in a race can lead to disaster later in the race, resulting in decreased anticipated race times or worse a did not finish (DNF). Better to start a little slow and work for negative splits.

So you finally get to your goal race after months of smart training, yet things are not going your way & you may need to check in with some medical help. It’s not uncommon on those hotter race days like for example the Boston Marathon in 2012 which had temps high into the 85F/30C where 10 percent of the 27,000+ field that year sought out medical help. Take care of yourself and if, unfortunately, a run or race isn’t going your way be sure to monitor some signs and symptoms that may lead you to seek the advice of the medical aid.

Here are 5 signs when you should seek medical attention:

Pain: You may have been training on a bum knee or sore Achilles or plantar fasciitis, but when you keep pressing the limits of an injury, the next time could be the worst time. Sometimes you may be misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all except thanks to Google. Unfortunately, with high repetitions and high forces that long distance running entails, the pain could be something worse like a stress fracture. And that is something you should not be running on.

Nausea/Vomiting: This means the blood flow has reduced to your internal organs and gone mostly to the working muscles of the legs. You may start to not feel well and these issues could occur in either direction of the gastrointestinal tract.

Stop Sweating: You are no longer hydrated and this is a sign of heat exhaustion. Go seek medical attention. Dehydration is the most common issue seen in medical tents. Volunteers will administer an IV while checking blood sodium and sugar levels as well.

Lightheadedness & Confusion: When the body temperatures rise and blood flow shifts and dehydration sets in, you run the risk to organ and brain damage. Medical tents will aid in quickly getting the body back to a normal temperature range.

Don’t be a Hero: All runner need to have an innate sense to not overexert their limitations. If you have trained well, you should be able to perform well. But it is a good reminder to always take caution if the weather elements are outside your control and not what you have been training in. Running by feel on these type of races is your best alternative, or otherwise, you may end up in the medical tent after all.

On a positive note, it has been noted that most if not all, up to 99%, of those who started the races finished uneventfully. Although they may have finished faster or slower than expected, keep in mind that weather, hydration, fueling, the challenge of the course and overall body fatigue all play factors. It’s always best to listen to your body.