Burn Baby Burn – Rashes

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All rashes have three things in common – they burn, they are painful, they are super annoying – and the majority of them are preventable. I’ll do prevention information in a different post, but here is what to do when you already have a rash.

When you have rashes from exercise, you should really start thinking like a momma, because the fastest way to manage skin that is irritated, red and painful, is actually diaper rash cream. Zinc oxide is a rash’s worst enemy. Many athletes suffer from rashes in armpits, groins, and thighs, and diaper cream works in all of those areas. Plus, we love it for rash relief more than just slathering it in Vaseline.

Here are a few other tips for those of you dealing with rashes on the trail:

Start early – Of course you want to stop whatever is irritating it, but you want to get that area covered with healing creams ASAP.

Use Synthetic fibers – Also if the area is going to continue to rub, you want to throw away the idea that you want cotton on top of it because of how soft cotton can feel. What you want is something synthetic that will keep that area moving without friction.

Cube it – If you are on the trail and don’t have diaper cream in your medic kit, the sure-fire trick to give immediate relief is an ice cold compress. It will stop the immediate pain and burn, and reduce the swelling.

Stay cool – When the athlete leaves to go home, do remind them that hot water will really make it burn, so a hot tub would actually be pure misery.

Rest – Rashes really respond to just having time to be NOT irritated and will heal in just a day.

Trail well.

Team Touring in an RV – Media Mapping Your Route

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If you are touring with your group in an RV, there are some real basics that you will want to know.

  • If you are traveling through mountains, be aware that you will be going at 1/3 of your usual pace because RVs never go fast.
  • You will need to stop for potty breaks just to get out of the vehicle and stretch.

If you have a team that has lots of media to manage, like blogs to write or phone interviews to do, that they had planned for the RV time, make sure to tell them where the cell/internet coverage will be on your route.

Pushing communications out to the world means that you have to have cell coverage. Mountainous regions and many parts of the world do not have coverage in long road stretches and it will be an annoying cluster to manage.

So if you are driving through or across the vast expanse of land with a team that needs to do a lot of interviewing or communication, you will need time to go over the driving plan with them as well as the marketing plan.

I will often plan the interview schedule for a location where we have a stopover near a larger town so we have access to cell phone power, bathrooms, and we can just get away from each other to get all of the interviews done.

We are all more fun when we don’t have six teammates staring at us.

Trail well.

Managing Rapid Temperature Change

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Mountains are beautiful, but they also take a beastly toll on your temperature gauge.

This last week I had athletes that were in the Siskiyou mountains, and at the base of those mountains the temperature was a beautiful 70°. By the time we changed our elevation we were at about 36°.

Among the things to pack for your athletes are the tools that they will need when the temperature rapidly changes. When they are going upward and the climate is getting colder, they will need more layers available to them to add, and they will need to cool off from sweat before they put those new layers on or you will just smother the wetness against their skin and they’ll be even colder.

If you are going downward to a lower elevation, you need to prepare your athletes for the possibility that they are going to need to strip off the gear on their descent and how to get that gear to the stations and tagged so they can get it back at the end.

Adding a simple safety pin to each layer of clothing allows the Trail Drivers to just tag it and bag it. If the temp is cooling quickly you will want to give your athletes warm broth (lots of yummy salt) or even a mild green tea to help in calming the tummy.

In rapid temperature changes where it gets colder fast, you will also see a lot more muscle cramps, so be prepared for that. People naturally start to clench up to fight the beastly environment. Cold, when it is mixed with WET, is deadly, so don’t underestimate the importance of dry gear.

A Trail Driver is a crucial tool in keeping the team healthy and on track. If you are an athlete, find a great one. If you are the one who supports crazy ultra-athletes, be aware of how many ways you can help those people attain their goals.

Trail well.

Basic Headcounts Can Save Lives

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I recently read an article where a group of college students who were cave explorers accidentally left one of their explorers locked in a cave for 60 hours. Really???

Not only is this young explorer lucky to be alive, it was completely avoidable based on some very basic safety measures that need to be in place 100% of the time when you are managing teams.

One of the reasons that there needs to be a check off chart at every stop is so that we can make sure that every athlete has passed through that section. If the Trail Driver has to go back and find someone on a trail or in a very desolate area, they have a much smaller place to have to search for them. Lots of things can happen in endurance events, and they DO happen.

Creating those strategies in advance is crucial:

  • How are you going to get someone out if it’s nasty weather? Rain and wind can be incredibly difficult to get a vehicle through.
  • How are you going to hook an injured athlete up on a trail bike and possibly drag them 15 miles, without further injuring them?
  • How do you manage trail first aid for broken limbs?

The list can go on for days, because there are MANY freak accidents in endurance events and training.

I have had other Trail Drivers push back and let me know that I am a worry wart, that there are too many details that I put into trail driving, but my response back is that we have never lost an athlete, or had an athlete not get off that course with all the limbs they started with. Safety and planning is not an afterthought, it is a tool that allows everyone the chance to play again tomorrow.

As for the adventurer who was lost and locked in to the cave, I completely understand his position (from an interview where he said that he is lucky to be alive), and that he will NOT be exploring caves ever again.

It would be a shame to have talented athletes choose to no longer compete because their safety was not managed appropriately.

Prepare every athlete to check off at every stop so that the Trail Driver knows who they are, and where they are. Plus, it will also help them track their time and have a nice snack in the shade.

Trail well.

Cameras on the Trail Can Cause Injuries

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I am seeing more and more adventure athletes taking technology like a Go Pro or something like that on the trail with them.

I have a lot of problems with anything that is a distraction to what they’re really doing. I have seen many athletes stop to take a selfie, or try to get a panoramic shot and end up falling, or dropping their device.

Having a phone on a long course can be a life saver, and I am actually pro-selfie, when it is appropriate. For the athlete, I ask them to be aware of their surroundings. The others are on the course to test their bodies to the extreme and are not usually able to stop or get out of your way. They WILL hit you if you are in the way, and they will be pissed if they get injured from selfie stupidity.

Having basic rules about devices on the course is a great plan, as is having a simple guide to the rules about exiting the course to take images.

There is also the honest fact that metal objects are slippery when you are sweaty. Lots of things get jostled or dropped when you’re on any course. A thing in motion, likes to stay in motion. If you are jostling a phone that has no power to fly, gravity will connect and smash the shit out of that screen. Ouch!

That phone you are now running with has smashed glass, an irritant that can make you bleed. Not great, and FYI, flies love blood and can outrun even a cheetah.

I will tell the people who are walking or running the course on the very back end to look out for items like this that may have been discarded, dropped, or just flat out lost and we will put them in the lost and found at the end.

Besides, selfies are the BEST when they are at the finish line.

Trail well.

Yes, I Will Open Your Bottle For You – How Support Can Help an Athlete’s State of Mind

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One of the things that I remind people who are dealing with athletes is, that when athletes are stressed, not only are their brains not working, but neither are their little sausage fingers…AT ALL!

Trying to open something that requires grip strength, or a little package, is just insanely impossible. For the athlete, not only are they going to spill it, but it’s just a reminder that their body is NOT working the way it normally does.

Messages of “what is not working” is something that we never want to induce or even allow to come through that athlete’s thought process while they are refueling. They are battling a complete boardroom of ideas that the brain turns on to already stop the madness. The brain turns itself into a diligent reporter on bad news when you get to testing your body to its fullest, and it will find a million ways to tell you that you should stop, that this is going poorly, and that you aren’t strong enough to do this.

And then you pull over to the roadside and your stupid hands don’t work either… damn.

I try to remind those athletes about where their head should be during this time on the trail, and what they should be thinking about.  I will have them notice that their gait is strong, or their form is firm.

Trail Drivers can also help them notice things they DO HAVE power over.

How’s your annoyance, do you think you need some salt? Is your stomach queasy, do you need something to get it to stop rumbling? Try this Papaya it is a super-specific tool to help tummies that feel upset gain calmness. I have used it in every country I have been in. Are you having tension on your shoulders, we can ice that down for immediate relief. The fact is that failure IS part of the endurance training, but it can usually be hacked while on the course.

So, let me open that bottle for you so you can keep your focus on what is our next hack to keep you going.  Trail Drivers can be a superpower to have as a partner.

Trail well.

Great Support Makes Things Better – AKA “I wish Mickey were here!”

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Sometimes being a Trail Driver is like one of my favorite drinking songs,
“Henry the Eighth I am, I am.” 

Ohhhhh, I wish Mickey were here, were here,” would be the chorus sung to the boisterous tone of the famous drinking song.

I had a team once when I was Trail Driving for a large endurance event and, on one of the training days I warned them not to because they would have to do it alone. Now I have eyes that are as big as the entire state of Massachusetts, so when they get bigger it should be a legislative act.  My big eyes warning…”You will have no support for the entire time.”

Like all gut wrenching superstars, the six of them all went “no big deal, we can just bring some water and some block chews.”

Off they went, no money, no resting places, no salt or sugar other than running gummies and a beautiful hot, sticky 90-degree day.

Some of these were new people who had only known race support by yours truly. They had no idea that they were brought up on magic by the person who wrote the Trail Driver protocol for the everyday athlete supporter in the nation.

This little team just thought this was how running groups worked, that someone just wanted to give up their entire day off, shop and pre-package snacks, borrow, pack and clean out a van, have towels and medical kits ready, have a printed map of the route, buy ice, have bathroom options available, and be a new version of an athletic flight attendant.

No, that’s just what they lucked into. But having heat beating down on you for 30 miles makes no one lucky, especially with just one jug of water that gets hotter by the hour.

The grizzled veterans have stories of how they have fainted, maybe gone slightly blind from salt crashes, or limped four miles on a pulled hammie. Those athletes I don’t ever worry about, because they know they are screwed and will just push through it. Those bright fresher faced ones are the ones my heart aches for, they still have fear and worry swaggering all over their determination.

The veteran athletes are just gonna endure the time of having things be hard, awful, or perhaps disorienting, and rack it up to one more story that they’re going to recite while they’re talking to other people about their life in ultra performing.

“We were hot and bothered as sausages in hell, asking for a drink of water from the devil” would become a better story only if they were bleeding.

The people who are new to endurance, those are the people that are learning a ton of new skills. They are learning how to pace themselves, they are learning what to do when their stomach hurts, they are learning to talk their heads into a different direction, understanding how tight their shoes should be, learning how to be uncomfortable in the new shorts that they picked.

There are literally 1,000 different tiny lessons that new endurance athletes are learning. They don’t need to learn how to be hungry and thirsty. One of the things a great Trail Driver will do is to help athletes who are pushing limits have a constant check-in during their process, and one that is there to support them.

So it was no surprise when I heard that lots of times over the 30 miles they lamented about how not having support kinda sucked. Actually, it sucked LOTS of times, so much that one of them called me and told me they needed to take me to dinner (sweet win).

It’s worth the effort to find a great support team and it really important to ASK AND PLAN for support.

And when you are just going to try to hack it out by yourself, it never hurts to just start singing the drinking song.  “I wish Mickey were here, were here!”

Trail well.