When the Storm Hits
Updated: Jan 14, 2020
Recently several of my athletes and I participated in IRONMAN 70.3 Texas. The morning started like many other race mornings. The weather was overcast and a relatively cool temperature, with a forecast for possible storms later in the morning, but at the start of the race it looked like we would be OK.
My personal race plan was to have a solid swim then hold back on the bike a little so that I could have a fast run leg. I came out of the water a little behind what I hoped, but not too bad.
Going out on the bike, it was still overcast with a steady wind of 15 MPH at my back. IM 70.3 Texas is an out-and-back along the sea wall and triathletes know that on Galveston Island, you will have a head wind for at least half the race. This year, it was on the way back. During the first half of the bike portion I was moving well and feeling good, riding conservatively knowing I would have to fight the wind later. Up to the turnaround point (halfway), everything was going to plan and I felt strong. Immediately following the turnaround, it started to rain and the head wind picked up to about 20 to 25 MPH. I was still feeling good and the wind and rain weren't anything I hadn’t dealt with before. By the time I finished the bike leg, the rain had stopped but the wind was still blowing about 20 to 25 MPH. The worst of the storm was coming, and my wife Dawn saw that, capturing the radar image (above).
By sticking to my race plan, I was having a strong race and was ready for a great run. IM 70.3 Texas is a 3-loop run course. Loop 1 was going well, my legs felt great and I was on pace for I solid run. As I closed in on the end of the first loop, it began to rain. At first the rain was moderate and it actually felt good, helping to keep me cool. However, within a few minutes, the rain went from moderate to a down pour and the wind started gusting to 60 MPH. The rain was horizontal and stung as it hit me in the face. Signs and canopies started falling over and blowing away. This was not your typical rain storm. As I came to the end of the first loop and was about to start the second loop, a race official stopped us and told us to go inside the race was suspended. The storms continued and the race was officially canceled.
low quality screen shots of public video from race day showing the timing sign falling and driving rain and wind.
Fortunately, because the race officials reacted quickly, my athletes and I made it through the storm without any issues. My wife bravely tried to save our Team MPI canopy but the wind won the battle. Fortunately, she survived without injury and found safety in our truck.
This however, brings up a good point of discussion. What should you do if bad weather hits during a race or even during a workout?
Here are some rules I like to use:
If you are in a race, follow the race officials' directions immediately.
Always check the weather before you head out on a workout. Err on the side of caution. As much as you might hate the treadmill or trainer, it’s better than risking injury.
If there is lightning or hail in the area, stop all activity and seek shelter immediately. Shelter should be a structure not a tree. Go inside a store or if you are in a residential neighborhood you may even consider knocking on someone’s door to ask for shelter from the storm.
In a light rain, swimming or running can be ok as long as you are in a safe area. Bicycling in the rain can be hazardous and I always recommend heading back home or finding shelter. If rain starts during a ride, realize that the road is slick and your brakes do not work as well, so be careful if you are heading home.
If strong winds hit during an open water swim and the water becomes very rough it is best to head back to shore. If you are on the bike, it will be a judgment call, if the winds are steady, then you can usually just power through it. Gusty winds on the bike can be dangerous and it is best to head back if this occurs. Running during a strong wind is usually ok, as long as the wind is not so strong that debris (like our Team MPI canopy) is flying in the air.
The main thing is to be safe. To sustain an injury due to inclement weather could set you back in your training substantially more than missing or shortening a workout.
Be careful out there!