Although many of the #motherrunners around the country are dealing with frozen eyelashes, not flash floods, on their runs, Disney's Half-Marathon on Saturday was canceled because of rain and thunderstorms. And the forecast isn't looking peachy for the Houston Half-Marathon and Marathon on Sunday.
Coach Mary-Katherine Fleming, who leads the heart-rate training programs in the Train Like a Mother Club, lived in Houston briefly, and, prior to that, eight years in Southeast Asia. She knows a bit about training in crazy rain, and she wrote this comprehensive post about how to assess whether or not to race through puddles. Whether or not you're headed to Houston, there's surely a drop or three of wisdom to soak up.
You've set your sights on a half-marathon or marathon, trained for months, and done all the things right. Then you get to race day....and it’s pouring. How do you handle it?
Short Annoying Answer: “Depends”
Long Annoying Answer: “You have several options.”
Option 1: Stay in bed, order room service, start looking for a backup race. There's a good chance you can extend the taper for up to 6 weeks (depending on a variety of factors).
Option 2: Go for it. Let’s discuss the adjustments you need to make.
Step 1: Check the long-form weather forecast. Are we talking freezing rain or regular rain? The two are very different. If the rain is freezing and likely to bring ice, you are better off staying in bed.
- If the rain is not freezing, check the humidity and heat index. Is it expected to rain all day or just a few hours?
- It may not be better if the rain stops; once it stops, the air tends to get very still and humid in coastal areas like Charleston and Houston. You’ll be soaked, a little too warm, and if the sun comes out, miserable.
- If it’s expected to rain for the duration, check the intensity of the precip, then the wind situation. If it’s windy and raining, you may want to stay in bed, regardless of the temperature. If it’s a light rain or drizzle, you should be ok, regardless of the temperature.
Step 2: Assess your wardrobe choices. Do you have what you will need to go for it?
Racing in the Rain: What You Need From Top to Bottom
Sunglasses: You will want to shield your eyes. Definitely wear light sunglasses.
Headwear: Consider a baseball or trucker hat (possibly with an ear warmer: a good look!) in cold rain. In warmer rain, a visor is a good call since you don’t want to trap all that heat on your head. I’m not really a hat person, and I sure as hell don’t willingly wear visors—the minivan is as far as I can go into mom-dom—unless it’s raining and I’m running. Then I’m all about it.
Clothing: Let's consider core temperatures. In longer events like marathons and ultras, your body will generate a lot of heat since you’re working hard. Over time, though, if you aren’t dressed properly your body will work increasingly hard to ward off hypothermia. You need to walk a fine line.
If it’s raining and under 50 degrees, you will want a waterproof layer or thin jacket on top. You may better off erring on the side of overdressing and shedding layers as you go. If it’s under 30 degrees you will want to add a body-hugging layer like tights or compression pants. (Avoid fleecy layers since they soak up water like sponges and get very heavy very quickly.)
Option 1: Garbage bag. Conventional wisdom is to cut a hole in a garbage bag and wear it like a poncho. If you think it’s going to be warm and rainy or just a little cooler than you like and rainy, you will not be able to run in it. (Terrarium!) That said, this is a terrific option between dropping your bag and starting the race since you want to start the race dry and warm.
Option 2: Rain jacket. Every time I wear a raincoat I sweat like I’ve just had a workout. (Terrarium, Part II!) Most raincoats are water and windproof, which basically means they are made of some coated, non-breathable material or plastic. You will heat up quickly and that heat will be trapped against your skin. Within an hour you could be just as soaked as you’d be without the jacket. If you aren’t sure you will need it, put the jacket in your drop bag for after the race along with a change of clothes. If you’re looking at a cold rainy day, the rain jacket could be to your advantage; be sure to wear a wicking layer underneath.
Gloves: If it's cold enough to warrant them, make sure your gloves are waterproof or have an optional waterproof mitt. Don’t wear these unless it’s cold because your fingers will prune really quickly.
Socks: The squishier and more cushioned the sock, the more water it will absorb. You will want to rub your feet down with Vaseline then wear a super-thin sock. (Dimity is a huge fan of the Balega ultralight no-show style in all conditions.)
Shoes: Before the race, take a look at your shoes. Are they cushioned? Where? On the tongue, under the soles of your feet? Pinch the sides, poke the bottoms; anything that squishes under the pressure of your fingers is going to absorb water. The more cushion in your shoe, the heavier it is going to be once it gets wet. (This is one of the many reasons why On Cloudracers are my go-to racing shoe; there is nothing in the sole that can absorb water.)
If you've got a lot of squishing going on, check your shoe closet and see if you have a better option. If not, that's fine. Just understand that a waterlogged shoe is going to get heavy and uncomfortable really quickly; the ideal shoe may not be ideal once it is holding 2 pounds of water.
Once you've picked your shoes, you will probably want to put trash bags secured with rubber bands around them until the race starts just to keep them dry. Once you’re out there though, there is little you can do to keep your feet dry. (Sigh.)
Chafing: It’s gonna happen in rainy conditions. Lube up really generously; the higher the temps the more generous you need to be with the lube. Male or female, you’ll likely want band-aids on your nipples.
Putting This Advice IRL: What Would Coach MK Wear?
Situation: Race Day is 60 at the start, moderate rain and wind, then sunny.
A: My pajamas. That sounds terrible. I'm staying in bed.
Situation: Race Day is 40 at the start and 60 by noon, light drizzle, no sun.
A: #allthewarmthings before the race starts, a visor, sunglasses, gloves, shorts and a tank.
Situation: Race Day is 30 at the start and 50 by noon, moderate rain, no sun. What would you wear?
A: Shorts, a trucker hat, earwarmers, gloves, a tank, Saucony Razor jacket, shorts.
Situation: Race Day is 30 at the start, 40 by noon, heavy rain, no sun. What would you wear?
A1: If it’s a coastal race, it’s likely to be windy too, so my pajamas. Ain’t going out in that.
A2: If it isn’t a coastal race, I would need a really compelling reason to get out there because heavy rain is MISERABLE.
A3: If it’s the Pocono Marathon (I really, really love that race!), I would be torn. I do not like running in heavy rain, but wouldn’t want to miss a chance to be on that course. So tights or compression pants; a tank; my Razor jacket; trucker cap; ear warmers and gloves. Plus, a throwaway fleece or thrift store bathrobe over all of it until the start. Then I'd likely show up, and at the last minute, decide not to get on the bus to the start area since roads are slippery in heavy rain.
Situation: Race Day is 30 and sleeting. Would you get out of bed?
A: Yes, long enough to get on the phone and YELL at the Farmer’s Online Almanac’s customer service people for failing me in my race selection process. Still, I wouldn’t get out of my pajamas.
What other advice do you have to drizzle (ha!) in here?