Scott Hendren of St. Joseph has run the Howl at the Moon 8-Hour Run/Walk 26 times. The race — run on a 3.29-mile loop at Kennekuk Cove County Park on the second weekend in August — is nearly always hot. But the 2018 race was particularly brutal.
“Last year was probably the hardest year I’ve had,” Hendren said. “It started off almost cloudy because of the humidity. Then when it burned off, it was so hot everybody was soaked. There is a little bit of shade on the course, but we had no cloud cover at all. The parts in the sun were really long stretches that were just miserable. Even our best ultra runners were struggling.”
Hendren has some strategies for handling the heat that are good plans for anyone to follow while training or racing in hot temperatures.
Hendren is training for this year’s Howl at the Moon on Aug. 10, as well as a 50-mile race in October. He often trains on the Kickapoo Rail Trail, which has very little shade.
“This year, the humidity is just awful. It’s sapping a lot of us who don’t handle heat as well as other people. I’m carrying a lot more water than I would normally,” he said.
During Howl, he starts drinking early in the race.
“I try to consciously stay hydrated early on when I don’t really feel like I need it, so I don’t get so far behind on hydration,” Hendren said. “It’s hard. I can’t drink and run very well, so I have to slow down. You have to force yourself to be deliberate about it.”
Do some training in the conditions that you expect to face during the race.
“It’s not normal to be out there that long, so hopefully everybody is coming in (to the Howl race) a little conditioned to heat,” Hendren said.
There are shady spots on the Howl course where runners can sit and cool off, and many of the racers set up tents or awnings at the start/finish area where they can get out of the sun.
“I walk in the shady parts and get my heart rate down and spend more time in the shade, then run in the sunny parts,” Hendren said.
GO FOR THE COLD STUFF
The aid stations at the race provide a variety of food for the runners to eat, including mini peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, candy and salty foods like chips and olives. Later in the race, watermelon slices are the most popular food, Hendren said.
One frequent Howl competitor puts a shirt in a cooler so he can change into it midrace and cool off.
KNOW THE SIGNS
The signs of heat stroke are a high temperature; hot, red, dry or damp skin; a fast, strong pulse; headache; dizziness; nausea; or confusion.
The signs of heat exhaustion are heavy sweating; cold, pale and clammy skin; a fast, weak pulse; nausea or vomiting; muscle cramps; tiredness or weakness; dizziness; or headache.
During the Howl race, emergency medical services staff patrol the course on a cart to keep an eye on the participants.
“When they see someone getting to a place where mentally they are getting a little fuzzy or they’re not holding a good cadence, they will stop them and sit with them and make sure they are OK or bring them back if they need to,” Hendren said.
The scorers who keep track of the racers’ laps and the aid station volunteers also keep an eye on the participants. The scorers try to talk with their racers at the end of each lap.
“It gives them an opportunity to see if they are responding OK,” Hendren said.
While there have been no serious weather-related health issues at the race, there are usually some participants who need to sit in an emergency vehicle and get cooled off and lower their heart rates, Hendren said. A few have needed IV fluids.
“This is a hard race. It takes a toll on everybody, but we want to make sure they aren’t jeopardizing own safety to be out there,” Hendren said.