Beating the Heat at the Track

Or is it just me?

As temperatures rise over the summer, the risk of dehydration, hyponatremia, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke increases dramatically. It’s important to be able to spot the warning signs and know to how deal with each of these heat-related health risks. There are also several steps you can take to make even the hottest track day manageable.

Dehydration 

Don’t rely on thirst; it isn’t signaled until you have already lost 1-2 liter of water. The best way to prevent dehydration is to drink fluids at regular intervals before you get thirsty. Drink enough fluid to match sweat loss by body weight. Water alone isn’t enough; be sure to get plenty of electrolytes and carbohydrates, either from foods or sports drinks and powder mixes.

The symptoms of dehydration are loss of energy and performance (drink carb- and electrolyte-containing fluids), and possibly cramps (stop activity, massage cramp, and drink carb/electrolyte fluids). In a pinch, most track day providers offer free water, but it’s best to be prepared beforehand.

Hyponatremia

On the opposite end of dehydration is hyponatremia. In athletics, this condition usually happens when too much water is consumed without any electrolyte replacement. Blood sodium levels fall to dangerously low levels. Symptoms include extremely dilute urine with bloated skin, impaired mental status, seizures, or unconsciousness with no increase in body temperature. This is a medical emergency and should be treated immediately by emergency medical services.

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke

It’s important to catch dehydration early as it can prevent most cases of heat exhaustion. However, fluid loss can sometimes outpace fluid replacement in 100+ degree temperatures. The symptoms of heat exhaustion are nausea/headaches, dizziness, light-headedness, and cold, clammy skin. Be sure to immediately replace fluids while in a cool, shaded area until the dizziness passes. If the dizziness is particularly bad, lying with legs elevated should help. Make sure to let someone know what’s going on in case your symptoms gets worse and you need help.

Heat stroke is the next stage after heat exhaustion. Body temperatures rise to dangerous levels, and requires emergency medical intervention to treat. Symptoms are high body temperature with dry skin, feeling chilly/goosebumps, confusion, or unconsciousness. Immediately get out of the heat, douse or submerge in ice water or any other possible way to lower body temp, and notify emergency medical services.

How to keep your cool

Keep in mind that the temperatures on the track are significantly higher than the weather report. There are several strategies that I use to keep cool on the track. You may develop some others that work better for you based on preferences and budget.

Blocking the heat

Fist is to get some cover. Canopies are ubiquitous at a track day. A good canopy can give you, your bike, and your cooler some much-needed relief from the direct sunlight. Or get a camper/RV with air conditioning if you’re fancy. Keep air flowing. Cool yourself off and dry sweaty gear with a good fan. In extremely high temperatures, it can be counterproductive, though. Keep your stuff cold. Obviously get a cooler, but my secret is to put a few hand towels or washcloths in it to use on your face, neck, armpits, and groin (major artery locations) to cool off immediately after a session.

Clothing

The right type of clothing can go a long way towards cooling you down, or at least not making you any hotter. Motorcycle apparel companies make one-piece base layers that go under your suit and wick moisture away from your skin, which aids in cooling. On a budget, getting some inexpensive Amazon cooling base layers is a great option. Ideally, they’ll be skin tight and very thin. Get a pair that is long enough to go over your hands and it’ll make taking your suit off that much easier.

Seek shelter

Some tracks have a indoor area with air conditioning. Be sure to take advantage of it during lunch, or in between sessions. Feel free to skip sessions if you need some extra time in there to completely cool down.

Summary

Some of my best days were in 100+ temperature. The tires are sticky from morning until evening, and the nights are warm enough to sleep under the stars with nothing more than a light sheet on you. If you know how to deal with the heat, they can be some of your best days too.

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