I recently had an “opportunity” to race in the rain. It was hardly my first time racing in rain, but it felt like it. I always forget the finer points of a wet race, since most races are on nice, summer days and the only real concern is the heat, or sun, or wind.
After the race, I began thinking of all the things I had forgotten to do, or neglected to bring. It spurred me to add to my pre-race checklist. I thought it would make sense to share a few of the key learnings with you, in the event you have yet to race in wet weather or want to get better at racing in adverse conditions. Ironically, the swim in the one event when you really don’t notice the rain – you are already wet, you are already getting water on your face, and a little rain really is not noticeable. Rather, it is the bike, run, and the all-important transition setup where the rain can be a factor. Here are a few things I would pass along to all of our reader to make you better at racing in rainy conditions.
Forget the Socks
If you race with socks, become proficient at racing without them. Unless you are doing a very long race, socks really can be a liability. What happens in a rainy race is that your socks either get wet in the transition, or they get soaked on the bike ride. Running in spongy socks is not only uncomfortable, but it can be terrible for your feet. Gradually begin running and cycling without socks occasionally. You will either develop a preference to not use them at all, or you will at least be able to shed them in rainy conditions when they would serve no purpose whatsoever.
Bring Non-Tinted Eyewear
This goes for both the bike as well as the swim. Having tinted goggles on the swim is great on a sunny day, but not so much on a rainy, overcast day. More importantly, dark glasses on a bike ride in the rain can create eyestrain or even a safety hazard. I found myself pulling my glasses up often in order to get a good look at the road ahead of me. Going without glasses is not an option, though. I did that in my first rainy race several years ago, and having raindrops pelt your eyes on a downhill is not at all pleasant.
Organize Your Transition Area Accordingly
Remember that when you are out on swim or the bike, racing your tail off in the rain, your transition gear is getting soaked. There are some simple things you can do to be sure you don’t end up coming back to soaked shoes or other gear.
First, keep your shoes upside down. By flipping your shoes over, you can avoid having your insoles fill with water, creating difficult bike or run conditions before you even begin. Second, consider storing your shoes in your bag. Yes, it will add a couple seconds to your transition time to unzip your bag and fish your shoes out, but you will more than make that up by running past all of the people who have sponges on their feet. Third, consider bringing along a rainbreak – perhaps a simple plastic bag to keep some key gear in, or even a small umbrella (I have seen this, although I think the plastic bag route is simpler).
Lastly, keep in mind that the rain may come when you are in the water and not expecting it. If there is any chance at all of rain during the course of the race, set your transition area up as if it will be pouring. This way, you won’t be stung by a rain storm popping up when you are unable to get back to your transition spot and keep things dry.
Train in the Rain
Don’t shy away from running, biking, and even swimming on rainy days. Don’t be silly and tempt thunderstorms and lightning, but training in a drizzle or even a steady rain can actually help you improve in those conditions. It will also help you learn about your limits, such as how much to slow down on the bike (biking in the rain is definitely the biggest hazard) or how your gear holds up when wet. Getting a few wet-weather workouts in will give you an automatic leg up against those who head inside at the first sing of drizzle.
Take Care of Your Gear
After training or racing in the rain, it is important that you spend some extra time on your gear once it is all done. Your bike likely got quite wet. Wipe it down, and apply a drop or two of oil to any joints or moving areas where you cannot completely dry out a spot. This will help prevent corrosion that could result from the water. In general, keeping your bike dry should be something you strive to do, whether the moisture is coming from rain, sweat, or anything else.
As for your helmet and shoes, allow them to dry in as natural a way as possible. If the rain is gone, put them in the sun and let them air out. If the rain is not going to end any time soon, help the drying process along by using a hair dryer on low heat. The goal is not to get everything completely dry, but help the natural drying process along so your gear days in good shape.