You’re likely to face some hot races, or at least some hot training days, this summer. So I asked five elite ultramarathoners what gear they recommend to keep cool during the hottest months of the year.
Below, I’ve listed five gear hacks, tips, and products these men use to battle heat stroke across the country, including at famously hot races such as the Badwater 100, the Slickrock 50, and the Western States 100.
Ultrarunning legend Dean Karnazes has run in some of the hottest places on the planet, including Death Valley, the Sahara, Gobi, and Atacama deserts, Namibia, and the Australian outback. He broke his gear suggestions into three temperature-based categories: sub 100 degrees, above 100 degrees, and over 120 degrees.
Below 100 degrees, Karnazes swears by The North Face's Better Than Naked line because of how the materials cool you down while also protecting you from UV rays. "Full disclosure—I’m sponsored by The North Face," Karnazes wrote in an email. "That said, I would use Better Than Naked tops and shorts even if I weren’t."
In temperatures above 100 degrees, Karnazes wears Moeben UV protection arm (and sometimes leg) sleeves to keep the sun off his skin. The hotter it gets, the more coverage he wants.
"When temperatures surpass 120 degrees, as they can during the Badwater Ultramarathon, I like to put on the ‘haz mat’ suit to keep the direct sunlight from hitting any part of my body," Karnazes wrote.
Flagstaff, Arizona-based Rob Krar climbed more than 18,000 feet in temperatures hotter than 100 degrees Fahrenheit to win the Western States 100 last week.
His race-day secret? "Ice, ice, ice," Krar wrote in an email. "This year at Western States, any chance I had I put ice in my hat, wrapped in a bandana and wrapped around my neck.” Krar also cut off a pair of white arm warmers from The North Face and used them to hold ice around his wrists.
Luke Nelson won the Bighorn 100 three weeks ago in stifling heat. Like Krar, he also turned to ice to stay cool. "I have been known to stuff my UltrAspire running pack full of ice and snow and let it work like a cooling vest as I run," Nelson wrote in an email. "It helps keep the temp down and then it turns into water."
But Nelson doesn't save the snow just for the vest. "During a super hot race at Speedgoat a few years ago, I stuffed a bunch of snow under my hat, in my armpits, and in my shorts," he wrote. "I wasn't too hot after that!"
Bend, Oregon-based Jeff Browning won the San Diego 100 in both 2012 and 2013 in savage heat. (Last year, temperatures hovered around 108.) Browning suggests wearing light colors, preferably white, and making sure you have a bandana that you constantly douse with water.
Brown also trains in a sauna starting 15 days before a race to teach his body to handle intense heat. "You don't keep heat adaptation for very long, so you have to do at least four or five sessions every other day, ending four days before the race," Browning wrote in an email. During those sessions, he does push ups, jumping jacks, and lunges to raise his heart rate for up to 30 minutes.
The temperature in Moab, Utah, maxed out at 98 degrees while Matt Hart ran his way to victory at Moab's Alpine to Slickrock 50-mile race last weekend. To beat the heat, Hart recommends cutting a Buff in half, wrapping it around ice (like a burrito), then draping it on your neck.
The cold water drips down your neck and back, keeping you cool. And not only does it take longer for the ice to melt than you might think, the contraption is surprisingly stable at speed, according to Hart. "I was running six-and-a-half-minute miles and it wasn't bouncing off," Hart says. Remember: If you do buy a Buff for this purpose, get a light-colored one.