In the first week of January 2007, it became clear the temps would spike up over marathon weekend. The 2007 race was one of Disney's worst handled events by far. Rather than make efforts to 'over supply' aid stations, all that we received was make sure you include PowerAde at the aid stations. It was a rather underwhelming approach to what was a tough weekend to run 26 miles. The race ran out of liquids at stations though the last half of the race... Part of the issue was the runner's fault. I know I took at least 3 cups of liquids at most stops after a couple hours into the race. Water and sport drink in and one over the head. If everyone used water at that pace, then one could not be surprised that the race had issues. But Disney is a master of logistics so this simply could not happen... but it did.
If the NOAA long range forecast holds, the race day temps will be normal to warmer than average. Way back, there was a piece in Florida Running & Triathlon by Keith Brantly former Olympic marathon team member and he gives a little piece of advice. In the section he talks about watching the weather and if the start temp is >60 consider changing you race strategy. Mr. Brantly gives a combined number , greater than 130, for the heat and humdity that makes it less likely that one may run fast. His example is a temp of 55 and humidity of 80% to get 135 which would be high enough that you may need to adjust your race and hydration strategy.
Race strategy would be something like slowing 15-30 seconds a mile for the combined temp of 135-140, 30-45 seconds for the 140-150 and even slower as it gets higher. I finished the 2007 marathon about 70 minutes slower than I could have run the race on a 'normal' day. That equates to a little over 2 minutes per mile slower. I did not start off that slow, but after a 3 miles stretch of little fluid, I had to pull up.
I am reminded of this from an email I received today from a half I am running this weekend. The RD at this half is doing the right thing in advance of the day. He is even going as far as opening the course linger than advertised. Here is the email
We are just a few days away from the race and getting very excited to host you. Please read this email carefully as it contains important information concerning the weather conditions for Sunday's race.
As many of you know, the forecast for Sunday is showing warmer than normal temperatures. That coupled with what is forecast to be a high humidity morning will make for an unseasonably warm day. Because of this, we are implementing the Event Alert System (EAS) as part of this year's race. This is the system that marathons like Chicago and Houston use for race weekend, and it is after consultation with them directly that we decided to implement it as part of our race this year and moving forward. The purpose of the EAS is to clearly and easily communicate with runners about the predicted and current weather conditions for their race.
The EAS is pretty straightforward. It has four levels of risk--they are low, moderate, high, and extreme. If current weather predictions hold, we will start the race at a low level of risk and move into the moderate risk level sometime that morning. The moderate risk level is defined as "less than ideal conditions," and runners are encouraged to "slow down" as well as take in more fluids, dress in cool clothes, and pay close attention to how they feel during the course of the race.
Many races are run under the moderate risk level, and many races don't change anything about race day when this happens. But our goal is go above and beyond what most races are doing and making your race as safe and enjoyable as possible is part of that goal.
Because of this goal, we are adding several precautionary measures to help you have the best and safest race possible. This is our way of saying "we know it will be warmer than usual out there and want to do everything in our power to make sure you are safe and well taken care of." Here is what we will adding to this year's race for you:
Our goal is not to alarm you, especially our less experienced runners, but to give you as much information as possible to help your race day experience be the best that it can be. We are here to take care of you, and we look forward to doing that again this weekend. Please let us know if you have any questions at all.
- Extending the course time limit from 6 1/2 hours to 7 hours. It's not fair to encourage you to slow down but not allow you more time on the course to do so.
- We will also have towels in large buckets of ice water for you to take during the later stages of the race. Look for these after you pass the 20 mile mark of the marathon and the 7 mile mark for the half marathon.
- We have increased the amount of liquid that will be on the course by more than 20%. Drink early and often.
- We will have "Cooling Zones" for you at the last two aid stations (22.5 for marathon/~9 for half & 24 for marathon/~11 for half) in the way of school buses that will be idling at those locations with their air turned on full blast. This is a great place to sit for a few minutes and cool down.
- The start/finish area will also have two buses for cooling zones as well as a towel in ice water for each finisher.
- Our Scott and White medical team has bulked up all of their resources and is ready to ensure runners are safely taken care of in the event of a medical emergency.
For the record, Disney has a Temperature Risk flag system. It used to be in the program and instructions but I am not able to lay my hands on the system. I do remember black flags were bad. As a general rule, if you see flags flying at the first aid stations (not the white with blue cross on top of the tent, but solid colored in front of the tents) assume that the weather is warm enough to take a little extra care in keeping cool and hydrated.
Be prepared if you see that the weather looks warm over race weekend. While the race must provide a safe and well stocked course for you, you are ultimately responsible for your health and safety while out there.
Train hard and enjoy the race.