Uncontrollable Crying

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One of the things about doing physically challenging events is that these are also mentally challenging events for the athlete. A lot of things go through an athlete’s mind when they’re in the vast expanse and in a physically challenging environment.

There is a lot of conversation in the media about hitting the wall, but we really do have to talk about the fact that sometimes those athletes are hitting an emotional wall of trauma or triggers, or just buried emotional treasure that will produce uncontrollable crying.

Unfortunately, the bummer of uncontrollably crying is that the athlete will immediately feel betrayed or confused by what is happening.

“WTF- really???? Now???“

The processing of uncontrollable crying is usually emotionally bound. The athlete has no idea where it came from or why it’s there, but they just keep sobbing. The good news is that deep uncontrollable sobbing never lasts more than about 20 minutes, while random, wimpering tears flowing down somebody’s face because they’re processing something can last for about an hour.

Just know this, the “normalness” piece of information for an athlete that has been startled by the fact that they can’t stop crying is receiving incredibly important support. Assure them that sometimes this happens and it may be a once-in-a-lifetime moment, and it usually is a completely positive change in their psyche as an athlete.

My response when I have someone in this predicament is “congratulations, you just won one of the most difficult personal wins an athlete gets to achieve, releasing a piece of emotional pain that you couldn’t get rid of any other way,” and I usually just sit with them because sometimes deep sobbing also comes with puking. 

Please be aware that this is an incredibly personal moment and getting them away from the mass crowds is the best answer. Losing your shit can feel very vulnerable.

The questions to ask them are

  • do they want to stop and work through the deepest part of the crying
  • do they need additional medical intervention, or
  • do they want to just cry through the internal event?

As of this day, I have never had anyone pull out of an event with uncontrollable crying, but I have had them take a small break, get the deepest part of their mourning or grief through and just keep going. And by the end of the event they are actually quite cleansed.

For most of those who I’ve been through this with, we actually laugh about that day and can reflect on how big of a deal emotional health is, because it is.

Trail well.

 

 

Hell’s Heat on the Course

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Who doesn’t love heat mixed with rock and topped off with enormous physical endurance?

“HellaHot” is my nickname for these conditions, and that is the destination direction I give Trail Drivers when they’re packing supply and gear, you’re packing for “HellaHot.”

Trail driving in hot places can deliver searing back-kitchen heat and you have an added bonus of rock and pavement that get even hotter in the sun. Nothing fries tires, shoes and athletes faster than hot pavement.

I remember the great runner Dean Karnasis saying he couldn’t understand why his Trailer Drivers (who were his parents) kept giving him toast on his trail. It wasn’t until he just couldn’t take another piece of toast, that he found out they did send out plain bread, but by the time it went from the car to him across that heat it had toasted.

Extreme heat will ruin vehicles and exhaust athletes in ways they never knew, and challenge keeping protein and milk products at a good temperature in general. Nothing tastes more disgusting when you’re hot than a thick milky drink, which can often lead to upset tummies. Yet those drinks are critical sources of protein that you will have to outsmart (look for later articles on this).

“HellaHot” is a condition that can tear down even the most accomplished athlete.

While there a lot of things to watch out for, the first thing for a Trail Driver to manage is the vehicle itself, especially if you only have one vehicle and it is the lifeline. One flat tire roadside can pull lots of people into deep misery.

Car management is critical in extreme heat and having the ability to cool an athlete down very quickly if you do have to drive them to the medical tent makes the Supply and Gear wagon a moving ambulance for heat exhausted athletes. But those cars will overheat themselves if you just leave them running with the AC on full blast.

Looking for any shade where the car itself can rest is critical, also managing the heat on any electronics or cameras that you have is also going to be critical. Yes, I will frequently pack camera gear and phones in an iceless cooler.

Don’t pull off the road in places that can puncture your tire. When it’s really hot and you’ve been on the road your tires are soft and more prone to pop. Tire management and making sure that you have a spare and all the parts that might be necessary when you are doing “HellaHot” is just common sense and at some point you will thank me for that!

Added heat tip; pack extra plain white men’s shirts that are long sleeved, because you can douse them in melted ice cooler water, and hand them to the athletes to put on. They can run off with it or put it back in the cooler, but they will get an immediate cool down on the largest part of their torso extremities and give quick relief to their heart and lungs.

Those athletes have been breathing in a ton of dry air, so just putting on a freezing, sopping cold men’s shirt will instantly start bringing moisture into the respiratory system. You want a nice lightweight long sleeve shirt, so if they choose to go on the course in it and get the cooling effect, they can later just tuck it away or throw it at roadside where it’s easy for you to find.

Trail well.

Preventing Rashes on the Trail

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Heat rash, chub rub, and wardrobe malfunctions are all things that inspire rashes, as well as things that athletes are allergic to, like ground cover.

Here are some real basic tips to keep in mind.

Heat rash – The number one cause of heat rash is overdressing. The number two cause is wearing cloth that keeps heat in and doesn’t wick away moisture. A simple wardrobe change can help heat rash immediately from getting worse. Synthetic fibers are also a tool in that rash area because it will help keep the rash dry.

Chub rub – The thing about chub rub is that meaty skin (thighs) are irritated and need more friction in that area, not less. Look for wardrobe items that will keep any smooshy parts of you available to have lots of smooth friction on them, that’s why great exercises pants have lots of spandex! Having high performance gear is not just about having high-quality, it’s about having functional materials on a body in movement.

Lube it homestyle – Put preventative salve on areas that are problematic before you dress. Things that stick out, rub. So nipples, bone areas, and areas that fold, (like a groin) are all areas that are available to have preventative petroleum products rubbed on them.

Nip it – There is a reason also why so many people use Band-Aids over their nipples – it’s to keep them protected and smooth, but it is also to keep that area free from friction and encourage movement. Bleeding nipples can happen on every single athlete year round.

Scrub protection – If you are going to have areas of your body that are exposed to the elements that may include brush, rocks, or other things that can graze the skin to open it, you may want to put protective socks or a light covering in that area. Tall socks can be stylish.

Plan ahead – Knowing the terrain that the athlete will be performing in allows the Trail Driver to keep items in stock that will help the performance of that athlete. That knowledge also helps the athlete preplan their wardrobe.

I do want to just sign off for all of you who have ever gone out of your way to help those athletes become superstars, you are the key to help them get to the finish line!

Trail well.

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.