Humor on the Trail

ryan mcguire emotions

This is a personal requirement, because sometimes it’s really tense for the athletes and humor is a delicate but helpful tool.

I remind people the reason I use humor is because it’s going to give them a shot of dopamine to laugh. A little bit of laughter on that trail can give them a punch that can help them get through times that are strenuous or mentally challenging. I will frequently add this in my night-before Trail Driver meeting. I also invite them to make me laugh.

I also remind them about how to use humor on the course. Nothing can be more irritating than a clown when you are crashing mentally, so I remind people to use humor in ways that are thoughtful and not demeaning.

Just sending a smile to someone who is crashing will sometimes force them to smile back at you. Even that smile will help them come out of what may be depression on the trail.

A kind word and a big smile can go a long way, but a fairly awful joke that makes you laugh can stick with you for miles.

Laughter is medicine and it’s also a fabulous painkilling drug.

Trail well.

Finish Line Carbohydrates

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The 30 to 60 minutes after an athlete finishes a course are really important, and many athletes actually feel ill at that point.

When taking care of your athletes, I often give them information before I start trying to shove nutrition down their throat. When I know that we are on our second to the last stop of the day, I traditionally remind people that we will have a recovery tool available for them to eat at the very end and that it’s important for them to try to eat it, even if they are not feeling particularly great.

It is the carbohydrate and protein combination that is truly the elixir of rapid recovery.

Even a small amount of carbohydrates will aid their ability to recover immensely. The rules are fairly easy, you’re going to want about a gram of carbs per 2 pounds of body weight.

The addition of protein will really allow those muscles to start healing. An athlete can take in anywhere from 10 to 20 g of protein at the end of their event.

This is absolutely not the time that you want to try to give them something fatty. The body will not know what to do with that and it can actually make them feel sick.

The fastest way to get all of that in is as simple as a glass of skim milk. My secret weapon is to house a delicious smoothie in the coolers.

They don’t need to slam that beverage, they can just take a cup and sip on it slowly. If they are eligible to eat a cracker that’s great, but just slowly sipping that recovery elixir will really improve their strength immediately.

One of my fondest memories is handing my husband a glass of chocolate milk at a forced rest time at mile 54. He got slaphappy and almost looked drunk from how happy his body was to get protein and carbs. He was only going to mile 60 but it had been a really long day. And in the 30 minutes after getting protein and carbs in, we watched all of his body really start to come alive and his muscles were already starting to utilize that fuel.

For those of you who are managing athletes on a regular basis, you will get to know how their minds work and you will start to put in tools that will help them achieve their final goals.

My point in taking care of the athlete after they finish the finish line is that it is still part of the race. Recovery is as critical as any others set point on the course. They must be able to play again.

Trail well.

Stress Fractures Are Annoying and Preventable!

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Over the years I have met a ton of endurance athletes, and one thing that they all have in common is their own personal list of annoying injuries. Many people have a war story to go with each injury on that list.

All you have to do is say to an endurance athlete “pulled hammie” and you will watch their whole body scrunch in reaction to how painful that is in real life and how annoying it is to manage the recovery.

Stress fractures not only hurt, but they are traditionally really annoying because it takes so long to heal bones. Hobbling around on crutches, keeping legs elevated, or having an inability to put weight on that region for any athlete is super-duper, big sigh, frustrated kind of annoying.

Taking steps in advance of an endurance event to avoid stress fractures is the “pay attention” advice for the athletes reading this article. This blog series is really focused on the things that happen on the trail and how a support team is going to react to those events, so I will focus on what to do after the injury has occurred.

The chances of a stress fracture for endurance athletes is high, especially for athletes that are pushing their muscles to the very limit. A normal athlete has between a two and 20% chance of having a stress fracture. An endurance athlete will most likely have one at least one in their personal list.

The reason a stress fracture happens is the muscles themselves become too tired to do the work. In order to pick up the impact of the work being performed that the muscles can’t manage, it directs that stress to the bones.

The majority of stress fractures that I have seen on the road really happen in the areas of the feet and the legs.

The athlete will know that they have a fracture because they have a pain that is traditionally getting worse, it will have a lot of swelling, and it may end up with a slight bit of bruising, but it will be first noticeable by pain. You’ll also know it’s a fracture when the pain is reduced as soon as any weight is lifted from the area or it will  immediately start to feel better from rest, and then spurs back as soon as motion or weight is applied to that area.

The hop test- have the athlete hop on the one side where the pain is. A stress fracture will deliver a pinpoint sharp pain.

Your best option is always to STOP-REST-ICE. If you are a trail driver, 100% of the time my advice is to have the athlete pulled off the course, and I will tell you very few athletes want to be pulled from the course. They will endure huge amounts of pain to not leave the course.

My advice to the athlete in a situation like this is to give them as much information as you can about where you think their injury is or where it is heading. Invite them to discontinue what they’re doing if it is causing them pain. In this case if it is a fracture they could actually double the amount of time that they will be unable to perform and be recovering.

Because this type of pain can often look like many other things that are not as critical, like shin splints, you really need to pay attention to the swelling, and how the pain changes when the area has weight taken off of it. When you have pain that is in the muscle tissues, it will start off REALLY screaming. If it is a bone pain, it will get progressively more painful as they move.

There are many athletes that will choose to continue on and bull their way through a stress fracture just to meet those goals. For those crazies, try to wrap the area tightly, give ibuprofen and a sturdy warning. That is all I can offer that will be accepted.

I will leave you with an odd fact, and that is if your athlete was also an athlete as a child, orthopedically they are less likely to get a stress fracture as an adult. And that has to do with the placement of the hip being different in athletic development of children.

Here is that random fact link.

Trail well.

Multi-day Endurance Events: Setting Up Camp for the Hotel

 

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Trail drivers for events that are longer than 50 miles in a day or over a series of days have the extra task of managing morning and evening needs of the athlete on top of managing the endurance part of the athlete’s event.

You will often be working in tandem with two people in the supply gear wagon. To support endurance athletes to get through an event that is multi-day, it really is helpful to have a second person or second vehicle. If you are supporting a team, that can mean preparing for transferring the athletes at the end of day and managing medical needs throughout the day.

When I say managing medical needs, sometimes that is simply having called in advance to the towns that you are moving through and knowing if there’s a massage therapist available, or having one that can be delivered to the hotel at the end of day.

The preparation for the hotel is usually that the trail driver themselves has a larger room where all of the athletes can come to to get needed care either immediately or throughout the evening.

It is also the room that you will prepare for the next day, clean up from the existing day, and make the largest mess in.  You will always need the Trail Driver’s room to have some amenities like a bathtub, be near an ice machine, have extra towels, and an extra trash receptacle. It is also going to be a very good idea to prepare to leave the cleaning staff a cash tip in the morning, because those rooms will take them longer to clean. I would plan on about five dollars per athlete usage.

Ordering ice in advance is the best idea – you will want to order a case of ice prior to 1 PM, because every hotel at 3 PM has rooms that are now checking in and that is when the most ice is pulled out is from 3 to 7 PM. Ordering ice ahead guarantees you will have enough.

Preparing ice baths: I do have a different blog post on just the basics of an ice bath, but you want to prepare for ice cold water, about 50° that the athlete is in and out of in eight minutes.  If you are icing for the purpose of managing muscle tears, then have them come in right off the road and go directly to the ice bath so they can dip in and out multiple times, and have a bed that can manage them cooling down naturally.

You will need about 10 additional towels per athlete if you are ice bathing or soaking over an evening. They will need them to cover the floor, to cover themselves, to lay over the bed. Ten towels is really how much more work you’re leaving for the hotel per athlete. If the hotel does not have a way for you to order additional towels, your next option is to go to the pool area and use pool towels.

Ordering hot food: many times these events are going through small towns and are in hotels that don’t have restaurants attached to them. Someone will have to find out what the dinner plan will be and find out how to pick that food up and have it brought back to the hotel.

Having a nutritious and healthy meal at the end of the day will absolutely make the difference in how the morning is going to go, and it is also your time to pre-order food for the morning trail.

Lights out and lights on, putting those athletes to bed as quickly as possible with a full meal and all their medical needs met will give them more recovery for the next day. The fastest you can get them to bed and into a full body recovery the more they’ll have for the road the next day.

Trail well.

Why I Choose to be a Trail Driver

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This is the most frequent question I get in running a support vehicle. Why would you choose to do this task because it is a lot of work and sometimes it’s a little bit miserable.

I started doing trail driving because I happened to marry a crazy idiot that loved endurance running.  My concern for him on the trail and his deep desire to not be “concerned for” made me have to have a new relationship with people who are going to test their body to limits that are medically questionable.

After you get about five endurance events under your belt you start to realize that the support that you give to athletes is sometimes the missing tool that they need to be able to reach new  limits.  Having support while you are doing a crazy stunt or a physically intolerable task will be the difference between a victory, not even trying, or a DNF ticket home.

I have never had an athlete NOT tell me that they weren’t glad to see my tires pulling past them on the trail.

My inner secret is that it is downright impressive to watch people take on physical tasks and mental challenges like this. It is inspiring and downright humbling to see humans achieve in very physical ways.

I am not an endurance athlete but I am an excellent chaos manager. And with great management, athletes can perform in ways that they themselves did not know was possible.

There is never a night that I go back to my hotel room that I am not just downright impressed with the strength of humanity.

I could live without the stink though.

Trail well.

Elevation Burns

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When you are trail driving in areas that have high elevation and a lot of sun you’ll want to watch out for elevation burning.

It is also called sun poisoning, but it’s where you see (usually on the arms of an athlete) what looks like sunburn but has teeny white dots in it. Those white dots will be right underneath the skin and may have a little bit of topographical texture to them. Traditionally I see this in higher elevations, but it means that the athlete needs immediate complete sunblock and burn treatment.

I have a tool that I use that is in a tube form called “Rescue Remedy.” It is available at Whole Foods everywhere, or multiple places online. It is a homeopathic treatment that is especially good for burns. If you are taking notes, buy some and keep it in your medic kit at home for burns that happen on the stove. I am not kidding, this stuff is magic!

You want to slather it on that burn as soon as you see it and let it do its job. It will be the difference between blistering and not blistering.

If you have Rescue Remedy, I would apply it immediately and let it soak into that skin as many times as it can. The first application will melt into the skin. You want to apply it until it doesn’t immediately melt anymore and it’s got a white top finish. As soon as that slow sinking white top layer gets melted in (it may take about a minute) then you want to apply sunblock over that.

That should do the trick for the rest of the day, unless they are sweating off their sun block. Be very gentle when touching this area and remind them to not scratch. Scratching will make those white bumps that are actually a kind of blister pop up to the top.

Trail well.

Photographers and Selfies

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This is a time in the world that people want to remember events, and extreme events are specially exciting.

I will tell you that no one looks great while they’re performing strenuous acts. So if you’re going to be taking a lot of photographs on the trail, give people a heads up so they can smile and not look like they’re feeling as awful as they probably are.

I also see a lot of photographers come to events to get endurance imagery. What I will  do for those photographers is let them know the check points that I will be at, give them any tools or tips on the trail that they will want such as lighting and time, and give them my schedule.

If that photographer is going to have many points on the course I will actually send them with a walkie-talkie. That way they can communicate back to the main Trail Driver any information that they are finding out on the trail. They may spot an athlete in trouble, a road that has trouble, or an area that may have been flooded. Giving the photographer permission to be another helpful set of eyes on the trail can be very helpful.

I do remind photographers that they must keep their equipment and themselves out of the way of athletes. I can’t have them interrupting the pattern of an athlete, the course of an athlete, or having an athlete trip to try to get out of their way. I will frequently look them in the eye and remind them that it is dangerous for them on that road, and their safety is also important.

If you’ve ever had a bicyclist going very fast crash into you it’s pretty awful. And it’s definitely going to ruin the mood of the day.

What is a huge win for everyone is that in today’s world photographers are able to get their images back to the athlete as close to real time as possible, and the photographer is able to get the images that they’re looking for. A Trail Driver can not only help the photographer, but can utilize the photographer as another tool on the trail. The Trail Driver will always want to know who is on the trail, why they are there and when they’re going to be there. Frequently photographers are going out ahead of the team so they will actually see details of the trail even before the trail runner does.

And be sure to snap a picture with the photographer – they rarely have pictures of themselves!

Trail well.