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!”