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Beat the Heat – Top Tips for Staying Cool this Summer

Greg Troester July 11, 2023 0 comments
Photo Credit: Drive-by Shootings | Jaxon Dansie

A couple of weeks ago, Utah’s weather took a turn towards being decidedly “summer”: temps up in the low 90s, higher temps overnight, and less rain. It’s been great to soak up some sun after a wonderfully wet spring, but the car and driver are certainly feeling the stress.

Even if you’re a veteran driver, it’s worth taking a look at this list of things to make sure you’re respecting the power of that big yellow ball in the sky and doing everything you can to stay sharp behind the wheel.

Hydration — Start early and don’t fall behind

No surprises here, right? Drink fluids, mostly water, on a regular basis. 

I like to start my morning off by downing about 24oz of water right when I get up and before I have my morning coffee. Prepping a shaker bottle of my favorite greens supplement the night before is my favorite way to have it top of mind and tasty. 

From there, I always bring a large camping jug (something like 6–7 gallon capacity) full of water to the track with all of my gear. I’m consistently draining my shaker bottle and refilling it.

I intentionally don’t bring sugary soda to the track and I have only rotated in hydration supplements in for about every third bottle. Are they water-based? Yes. Are they as good as straight-up water? I don’t think so. 

In fact, I’ve even stopped buying electrolyte supplements like Gatorade and the like after reading this article, on which the TL;DR is: a proper diet provides even the most demanding of athletes plenty of the electrolytes that are depleted after even hours of intense exertion. 

That said, if they help you stay hydrated… I say: go for it. Stick to a 2:1 ratio of plain water to supplemental drinks though – my personal experience has found any more than that to cause my mouth to get sticky and even lead to some gut distress.

Taking a good long drink right after a session while I jot down notes is great.

I also use my restroom visits as a litmus test: I should be going several times throughout the day and the fluid should be light yellow to clear.

Any dryness in my throat or lips are early signs that I may be falling behind — get to know your body’s signs.

Acclimation — Train for the heat

It’s natural for that first heat wave to feel so hot, just like it’s always bracing to have the first chilling breeze in fall hit us. It’s because our bodies acclimate to our conditions and they become our “normal”.

So, what better way to feel more comfortable in the heat than to get used to being in the heat?

I’m talking about something as simple as spending time outside, in the sun, doing something. Walking, hiking, cycling, running, working in the yard… the list is endless.

It doesn’t need to be arduous and I’m not suggesting you go for a ride while wearing a your ski gear, but while it feels so nice to be hanging out in your nicely air-conditioned home… if we spend some time getting hot, then you’ll be used to it.

This one is a freebie because it is taken care of while we’re not at the track! I’ve found it to be helpful — mentally, if nothing else.

Shade — Find it (or bring your own) and stay there

When I’m not on-track or actively supervising grid, I’m in the day garages or classroom. My goal is to not need to use sunscreen due to how little sun exposure I get — and it works!

If I’m traveling to a track that doesn’t have garages or I choose not to rent one, I’m either rolling out the built-in awning on the trailer or unpacking the EZ-Up (weigh these down with gear boxes or spare wheels/tires).

We all know what it’s like to be outside in the hot sun all day — so avoid it! If you can get your car under some shade, do that too! Getting into a cool car is way better than hopping in one that is sun-baked even before you fire up the engine.

Snacks — Some of them provide some hydration

Fruits and vegetables are certainly not a source of hydration, but are a great supplement and rather refreshing. Think about pulling a cool, crisp apple out of the cooler and taking a bite — yum!

My favorites are apples and baby carrots. They travel well, are easy to snack on, and are on the “wetter” side of vegetables (broccoli and others dry out my mouth).

Something to consider when you’re making your food/refreshment list.

Shorts & T-Shirts — Don’t hang around in your suit

Whenever possible, I’m hopping out of my suit and hanging it and my socks up to air out. 

I’ve covered this in other articles, but it’s an easy one. Even if you have a very nice and lightweight suit — if you’re not having to go hop in student cars in between sessions or have other variable demands on your time… get out of that suit!

A dry suit will be able to wick sweat off better (obviously) and won’t feel gross as you climb back in the car for another session. 

You’re also going to be cooler! I know, I know — the suit looks great, but you’ll probably feel refreshed just by taking it off and walking around in flip-flops.

Air Ducting — Ok, now for some in-car tips

If you can get a NACA duct and hose pointing air at your torso, helmet, or even piped in through the back of your seat: do it.

Though we run with our windows down (except for prototypes and other factory race cars, of course!), the window net blocks a ton of air contact with the driver and unless we allow that air someplace to go… not a lot of it comes in, right?

Give this one some serious consideration, especially if you don’t have or can’t run a supplemental driver cooling system. Having air moving across our body in some way allows sweat to do it’s thing: cool by evaporation.

Supplemental Driver Cooling — AKA CoolShirt, FAST, and Chillout

These systems are not cheap, particularly if you go all-in on a unit that uses refrigerant like the Chillout, but it’s one of those things that, once you try it, you wonder how you ever did without.

I had a system fail during my stint in the 2022 NASA Utah 6-Hour Enduro. No NACA Duct, had to keep the visor down for the sun pointing at my face… not fun! Look at the pictures of my heart rate data and comments on how they compared with my brother’s.

Convinced yet?

If you only do two of these things…

Drink plenty of fluids and stay in the shade — your body will thank you.

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