Monday, July 26, 2010

How To Train in the Heat and Humidity of Houston, Texas ...

Houston, TX

Average July High Temperature  -  93.6 F
Average Morning Relative Humidity  -  93%

Yep, that is my average day down here in the South East corner of the Lone Star State.  A lot of people who have never visited the Houston area are under the impression that because we are in Texas that we are surrounded by deserts, cacti, and armadillos.  Well, that is not the case!  The climate in Houston is very much like the climate in Central Florida.  Visitors are always amazed by the large amount of trees and inland bodies of water.  They are also amazed at the amount of humidity.  Which brings me to the subject of todays post.


On May 17th of this year I did a local Half Ironman race in Denton, TX. Denton is 5 hours North of Houston and the temperatures were supposed to be in the low 70's with rain and overcast skies.  As is the case with most weather predictions, this forecast was completely wrong.  The temperatures ended up reaching the low 90's and the humidity was well into the high 80 percentile.  I crashed and burned, literally.  My body fell apart under these conditions as I suffered from severe cramping in my legs and experienced the effects of dehydration. Both my training and nutrition were completely unprepared for the day.  So instead of just chalking it up to poor and unexpected conditions I have been actively training in these conditions and experimenting with my nutritional needs so if this happens again I will be prepared.

Sweat Rate:

About 6 weeks ago I found an article (HERE) in Runners World about calculating your Sweat Rate.  Look at the article to get the calculations if you are interested.  My overall opinion of the Sweat Rate Calculator is -  Ehh.  It may work for others but here in Humid-ville I found it to be unreliable.  The problem is that in the mornings our humidity is usually in the 90th percentile.  In the afternoons the humidity drops by 20-30% but the temperature is up in the 90's.  This means I have a different sweat rate depending on what time of day I decided to train and I have a completely different sweat rate on the bike too.  It might work for others but for me it is just too much to calculate and I do not want to have to get a weather forecast every time I run or bike.  I'll go over hydration a little later.  IMO, Sweat Rate Calculator = FAIL.

Trial & Error:

Now a normal person would probably just be happy with the Sweat Rate Calculations and leave it at that!  But I decided I'd like to do it the hard way and just experiment with hydration and nutrition while doing my workouts.  Sort of like practicing transitions, it would just become something I do!

First, on any run or bike of an hour or more my gel's of choice would either be GU Vanilla or Chocolate #9 Agave Gel.  I'd carry water on either a Nathan's Hydration Belt or in bottles on the bike.  On a couple of long rides my quads and calves would feel some cramping but overall this seemed to be working.  I had a system of a gel every 40 minutes and about 10-12 ounces of water every half hour.  In addition to the above I also began to try out Succeed S! Caps to get my sodium needs met.  I began taking one S! Cap every 30 minutes during training and all of a sudden I no longer was having muscle tightness during workouts.  Life was good!

Then a buddy of mine in the Tri Club introduced me to the EFS Liquid Shots from First Endurance.  As I looked over the ingredients I noticed the Liquid Shots had a much higher quantity of Electrolytes (1500mg) and still had 400 calories in a little 5oz reusable container:
(Click on image to see larger view)

I ordered the Liquid Shots ($30 for box of 6) and began my trial and error test again.  At first the taste was a little bland but after the first 5oz bottle I became accustomed to the taste and actually like it now.  After using 6 bottles and testing on some long runs and long rides of 84mi, 60mi, and 52mi all I can say is this stuff is awesome!  To me the difference from GU or Chocolate #9 is the higher electrolyte count in the Liquid Shots. With the other gels I would take them and get an immediate "boost" - almost a sugar rush feeling.  This is great but the problem is that after 40 or so minutes I would also experience a sugar crash.  This does not happen with the Liquid Shots.  Just a sustained boost throughout.  

Now back to the purpose of this post and how does the Liquid Shots help in the heat and humidity?  It replenishes the body with sodium which is essential to keeping the body and muscles hydrated.  I figure if I am going to take a gel it might as well do more than just give me calories like GU, Hammer, or Chocolate #9 do.  

So to recap:  To train (and race) in the brutal summer conditions my nutrition is 1-oz of Liquid Shots every 40minutes and 1-Succeed S! Cap every 30 minutes.  Now in addition to the nutritional needs let's talk about keeping  hydrated.  I have been riding with 3 -20oz bottles of G2 and this gets me through about 3 hours.  When running I carry 2-10oz Nathan's Bottles or 1-22oz Nathans Hand Held Bottle of G2.  This gets me through about 8 miles.  Simple and repeatable.

Everyone is going to have different needs and opinions on what works for them.  These are what works for me and could be the exact opposite of what you need.  What I am trying to say is don't blindly take my advice and go off and race using my strategy.  Practice and Train, Trial and Error.

**Disclaimer:   All products were paid for by me and these are my opinions and my findings alone.  I am not a doctor or physical therapist or coach or anything of that nature and I didn't even stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.  So take everything said above with a grain of sodium.

Thanks for Reading,



  1. I was just discussing the sweat rate with a coworker this morning. She was saying how she doesn't know how I do it. I have no idea how much i sweat but I know it's a lot, however, I think I'm doing a pretty good job (unscientifically) on managing it. No white sweat marks like I used to get and no dehydration stomach cramps since last summer. SO I guess the Nuun, hammergel and Powerade are working so far.
    So fun that we can whine together about the heat and fumidity and live to tell.

  2. Sweat is in the book... important stuff to know to replace your sodium, especially given what Texas might throw at you.

  3. I sweat like an absolute pig on most workouts and know I need to replace but havent quite figured it out yet.Will get there though.

  4. Hi Jeff,
    I have no idea what my sweat rate is. I can tell you that you impress the hell out of my by doing training workouts in the middle of Texas's hot and humid summers!

  5. I with you on the whole sweat rate thing - unreliable. I've tried it a couple of times and it has been all over the place. Probably the same issue you are dealing with (fluctuating heat and humidity).

    We're getting some of the same heat and humidity in Michigan this summer (a record 21 straight days over 80* temperatures). The difference is that in a couple months it will be in the 40's and then the teens. :( Weather just makes us tougher right???

    Good luck with your nutrition, you sound like you are on the right track by practicing and trial/error.

  6. I found that I didn't need a sweat rate calculator because I just sweat like hell!

    We are coming up on our humid season soon. For us it is during the months between August and November. At this time our trade winds die down and the humidity picks up.

    The great thing about Hawaii is that the average temp is around 85 all year long so you can pretty much count on good training weather throughout the year.

    Thanks for the review of EFS.

  7. Good review Jeff. Though I'm not a tri-geek like most of your readers, I'm always looking for something to throw in my bat bag to endure the heat and humidity of Sunday afternoon baseball. I might give that EFS a shot.

  8. Interesting... Sounds like a good lil thing to carry with you and I like that you don't have to rip them open and risk a littering penalty!

    I very rarely get the salt rings anymore... once every 3 or 4 weeks I notice a salt buildup on my body, nothing major though.

    I agree with GU packs, instant pick up and then a CRASH at 30 minutes... Hammer gel has been very consistant for me... just saying.

  9. OH how I remember the heat and humidity of July in Houston. The only good thing are the sights at Memorial Park.

  10. TOTALLY had the "what the F did I just do" last night after hitting submit button on the IM entry - LOL - oh well I guess I better TRAIN!

    Great info and post...your focus over the last month and a few other blogs talking about nutrition and hydration really helped me last weekend in my race, I had a way bigger focus on both becuase of this.


  11. So you didn't stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night? Does this mean none of us should stay there? Is this a surreptitious review you slipped in at the end?

    Anyway, great to read what is going on in the Dangle Lab, always very scientific and very thorough!

  12. Yes, I think Maryland is bad, but I'm sure it has nothing on Houston! Anyhow, I think you are so smart to figure it all out like this. I have been trying to get a run in at least once a week a bit later in the day to help train myself. I'm also a big salt loader the day before long runs in the heat. Such an experiment of one, no?

  13. Dont forget, if possible, pick routes that have shade along the way, it helps.

  14. So glad we will never have to deal with these temps... Now, can you give some advice for training in 20 below, lol?

  15. I've thought of doing that sweat calculation thing, but I feel like I can sense when I need something on my own. Trying to keep my long ass runs semi techincal, while not being technical, if that makes sense.

  16. UGH the heat kills me - but figuring out how much to "put back in" is definitely key to dealing with the heat. I have been trying to run in the heat some to get more used to it and have found I am very salty...ha. That sounds weird. BUT anyway GU I get a big high and a big crash, I am trying EFS gel right now and like it much better and plan to use it in the HIM.

  17. I'm fairly certain if I lived in these types of conditions, I wouldn't be a runner. Plain and simple. I just couldn't do it.

    I had planned on going for a run when I was in Bangkok but it was too much for me.

  18. Awesome post Jeff! Way to get on it in prep for future race conditions.

  19. Preaching to the choir man friend – Southern Mississippi.

    The only saving grace is that these are perfect proving grounds for Kona. Now we just need to get faster!