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.

Bruises That Worry

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Mountains are dirty and full of rocks. That makes them hard on people who are moving at great speeds to complete a course because any misstep can cause a fall.

When you have athletes that are training in mountainous regions, I always remind people that mountains are made of ROCKS.

Yes ROCKS, and rocks can kill people, even nice, cute people. Depending on if you are in a volcanic mountain or other type of mountain, let’s just agree that all mountains are full of rock.

Rocks get caught up in stuff, they also really hurt and always break skin when you fall on them.  Rocks can cause crazy bruises. Bruises are like a scab on the inside, and you will know instantly when you’re about to bruise the living crap out of your leg, because it will turn color quickly.

If it looks like the bruise on a large muscle group is going to be under the size of a fist, as the Trail Driver I really don’t worry that much. But, if it looks like it is more like the size of my hand if it were open (with all fingers) or larger, I’m definitely going to start to worry.

Bruising that instantly turns black is also not a good sign. Bumps that immediately show a raised “nugget” like a head bump means I will pull the athlete from the course.

It is best to remind all athletes of the rules around safety in advance, so they know IN ADVANCE what accidents will pull them off the course. “Please avoid head injuries” is not enough information…

If your athlete gets injured, ask the person to tell you about the fall and the type of impact. Was it jagged or smooth, was it a deeper punch or just a pancake splat?  Weight falls at 2 ½ times its weight, so a 200-pound male is falling at 500 pounds of force and 500 pounds of force on a spleen is never a good plan.

If you are sending them back, have a medic check them in route and make a back-up plan if the pain gets worse. If they puke after a pancake splat, they need to go right to medical, because this is now a trauma sign.

Best option, pay attention to rocks, tell your team to pay attention to rocks, and NEVER, NEVER trust rocks to stay in place. Nothing outsmarts gravity.

Trail well.

 

Headphones

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Here’s why I don’t appreciate headphones for athletes and events.

One of the items that we have as conversations a lot is about athletes who are wearing headphones while doing an event. Now, I will preface this that it is completely determined on the event that you are Trail Driving as to whether leniency can be brought on. But overall, I just say no.

My biggest reason is safety. While an athlete is doing especially difficult physical things, 100% of their attention needs to be on what they are doing.

Endurance athletes are frequently in challenging circumstances. If that environment has any deadly predators in it like rattlesnakes or pumas, I really need them to pay attention because it could cost them their life. No, I am not being overly dramatic.

Tiny rattlesnakes are extremely dangerous, because they do not have any way to put their venom out in a single bite, they will release as much venom as they can until their fangs are pulled out from your leg. They will also leap from rocks if those rocks are in a descending format, so they can bite at your hand or your face. You are never going to hear that warning rattle with a set of headphones on.

There are many things that can bite that you’re not going to enjoy if you’re an athlete on a mission.

While I understand the power of music as a soundtrack that allows performance, I always invite that athlete to check the box in their head about safety and the safety of those around them. I have had athletes not hear a call for assistance from another athlete because they had headphones on. Part of saving the life of another athlete who is in degradation may be that you actually hear them puking or in a convulsion on the side of the route before you actually SEE them.

So when you’re thinking about headphones on an event that has lots of other people who are trying to do amazing feats, you may want to keep your head on and your headphones off.

Trail well.

The Trail Driver – The Spiritually Driven Athlete – Part 2

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Trail Drivers are those who support athletes so that they can do great things. Trail Drivers allow athletes to be better by helping them have resources while they’re doing things that are incredibly physical. Sometimes that’s logistics, a supply vehicle, or encouragement.

This is a two-part post reviewing how to support those athletes that I call “spiritually driven athletes,” those unique athletes that are called by some special circumstances to do something BIG, like doing a long event to raise awareness for a cause.

These are not the average athletes that are just training to do a specific distance. These are athletes that will be on the road over a series of days doing parts of their challenge over a long part of road. The majority of the time they will be their own support, MacGyver to medic, and they are going to have a ton of time in their own mind. Having a ton of time in your own mind can be great for the first 3 to 5 days, but after 30 days it gets a little dreary and weary.

The role of a Trail Driver, even if they are across the country, is also to make sure that they can help that person manage all of the details that it will take to keep them safe on their journey, supported with the items that they need, and pick them up if there is need. A great Trail Driver can help remove obstacles and put resources to that athlete very quickly.

Mapping is your number one tool. Physical maps are needed on journeys over 50 miles. You will need to see, on one piece of paper, the beginning and the end of that journey, and to be able, long-term, to see how far you’ve traveled. You will need to utilize every form of mapping, Geo location, with a smart phone, and Google maps to identify the physical building that they may need to find. “I’ll meet you at the old post office that’s on the corner of Main and First, and it’s right next to a service station so you “I’ll meet you in the small town.” Mapping does something magical, it allows someone to find out where they are, where they’re going and how much time it will take them, especially when their brain isn’t working right.

Put a map printout at the bottom of their rucksack, and one that they can pull out and use all the time. Losing a single piece of paper is probable. Another tip is to set up the “Find My Phone” application so you can actually Geo locate the phone and you don’t have to call that athlete to be able to find them.

Let someone in that town know you’re coming. Call ahead to either an organization that matches the cause, or a city official. They are going to want to know information; the cause, the name and the information about the person, and approximate times to look out for them. Sometimes I do this so when that day comes, people don’t think this is a crazy vagrant that they have to be fearful of, and sometimes it’s just so they can keep an extra eye out to make sure they don’t get hit on a country road. In small towns across America I have found that having something exciting happen, seeing someone with a dream or that is taking on a challenge to do something greater, is worth coming out for!

Texting is still a tool that allows for people to connect. There will be many times where that person may not be eligible to get that text because of cell service, but at some point they will, and will be glad they have it. If it’s been particularly long and lonely on the road, they’ll gladly interface with it.

Food and types of food matter. You are going to need to have that person focus on anti-inflammatory foods. They, over a series of days will have aches in places they never knew could ache. Orange juice or pineapple juice are foods that they should get to know. There are plenty of menus online that will give you simple items that you can add into their food groups to keep the inflammation down.

Protein is a tool, not just a trend. Having protein to keep muscles building and repairing themselves is going to be critical. A protein-based final meal is going to be a critical tool and how they will recover over the 10-12 hours of being on the road. Their body will want foods that sustain it during the peak hours of exertion, but in their resting state it is going to need all of the energy can get to repair all of the parts of the body that were stressed during the day.

Focus only on the goal for the day. Be the voice of reason. Every day actually has a goal, and every goal has a time that it is completed. When things are feeling boring, overwhelming, or just plain too much, let them know how far they’ve come, how much further they will get in the day, or give them information that will help them locate and find where they’re supposed to be and when in the days going forward.

Editing the rucksack. If they are on a long journey that is over months, you will need to edit the rucksack, and change out any gear that is no longer functional. If that person is a solo athlete, you can actually send gear to a hotel along the way and have it ready for them. I have found that hotels are incredibly helpful, if the athlete is camping and sleeping outside, even the campsite can traditionally get deliveries.

Invite others to the task. If your athlete is covering a lot of physical terrain it is incredibly helpful to invite people to meet them on that terrain at various times and give those people a task. Can you bring extra water? Pack something and meet them there. Those athletes don’t have to have someone with them all the time, but having someone check in with them daily for even as little as 20 minutes will help them keep their sanity on the journey.

In order for people to do great things, they don’t need just courage, they need thoughtful, consistent and persistent support. For those of you who are that support, I personally thank you for making the world a better place.

Trail Well.

Distance for a Cause – The Spiritually Driven Athlete – Part 1

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THANK YOU to all of you who are supporting athletes in their courageous efforts. The world is definitely a healthier and more spirited place because of you.

Many people across the country are choosing to do amazing feats to bring attention to cause, or create a piece of change in the world that they want to see. Many of these are athletes who would not normally take on gigantic physical challenges regularly, but are feeling called to action.

Supporting those I call “spiritually driven athletes” is uniquely different than supporting an athlete who is training every day for a specific distance. Those longer duration athletes are usually participating in multi-day experiences and they are packing rucksack gear on themselves so they can be alone for long periods of time. They will have to be a modern-day MacGyver and medic.

I will break this into a few entries so that I can cover a few different parts of this unique individual path. The first is just a quick list of some backpack items that your athlete will want to add that they may have not thought of, and I did save the weirdest one for the very last, so read them all.

  1. Smart phone and two emergency quick chargers. Phones and chargers do not like extreme weather conditions, be sure to not to store these where they’re going to have the sun beating down on them directly.
  2. Plastic rain poncho that’s really small, really light, and completely effective. It is also a great tool to be able to sit down on something when it’s wet out and be able to keep dry, they look like a giant garbage bag. If you have the space it’s worth having more than one.
  3. Mini umbrella. It is the best thing to make sure you have shade no matter where you are and it can cover your entire body. It is so fantastic to just sit in the shade and have that ability no matter where you are. It will change the temperature around that body by 10° within a few seconds.
  4. Giant safety pins. Things break and you need them to keep working. Nothing works faster than pinning things together. They can also hold little parts that may have fallen off, and they are amazing at picking out thorns, stingers and glass, plus they can even fix a pair of eyeglasses.
  5. Ziploc bag – quart size. You just won’t believe how many things you’ll use that bag for. It can be a trash bag, it can hold wet gear, it can hold rations, it can also be the Holy Grail of keeping clothes dry in torrential rain.
  6. A tiny bottle of high-quality dish soap. It is amazing how much a drop of Dawn dishwashing soap will clean. It’s perfect in a sink at a rest stop to quickly wash up, wash the clothes out in it, tidy up actual dishes, get germs out of water bottles, and it keeps your hair squeaky clean with just two drops.
  7. Extra pens and sticky notes. Everyone is going to need to write something down at some point and a huge notebook is cumbersome, most of the time it’s leaving somebody a piece of information or jotting something down for later.
  8. Hard candy. Many times those athletes will be going on extra long durations but have no access to new water or food, so just having a hard candy can help keep thirst down. Minty is always better than sour, but my recommendation is a wide variety of flavors (but keep the minty ones separate because they will taint all the other flavors). Also it is extremely helpful when you’re going to go a long time without eating or have a nagging cough that won’t let you sleep.
  9. Durable toenail clipper. This can also be used as a scissors in an emergency, it can get packages open, and it’ll actually trim your talons. We prefer the kind that has the tiny nail file that pulls out so you can also use it to dig things out like a stinger, or cut out thorns. It should be able to easily cut through a common kitchen match to be worthy.
  10. Hard box of waxed dental floss, the old-fashioned kind that comes with a cutter built-in. Waxed dental floss can do a multitude of things, like floss your teeth, but it can tie things together, be braided and turned into a stronger rope, it will keep things attached to your bag, and it’s amazing how often you’ll need string. It’s cheap, so get the longest footage.
  11. Portable knife, something that folds up. You can use it to do all sorts of things, but there will be a time when something needs to be cut like a sandwich, stupid things that won’t open when your fingers don’t work, or to alter a piece of clothing because it’s not working. Always opt for a knife over scissors.
  12. Emergency lighter (not for what you think). Emergency lighters are far better than a box of matches because it’s like having 10 boxes of matches. It’s incredibly helpful because they fix frayed ends. A quick light with a small torch will fix all fraying shoelaces, burn wood-ticks, light prayer candles, or they could start an actual fire. Get the full-size.
  13. Small jar of Vaseline. Things rub and it’s a pisser. If you are going to be in a high heat situation make sure you put that in a plastic Ziploc and keep it out of the direct sunlight or it will melt. That said, Vaseline can melt 1000 times and still be good.
  14. Fat piece of sidewalk chalk. It is helpful so that in dry climates you can leave a mark to know that you’ve been on that trail, or to be able to write for help, and to be able to just send a fun message. You can also use this as a way to mark the terrain so that someone in a car can have a clue that you were on that path. Random tip – when leaving a chalk mark for someone to find, also leave the time that you left it. I personally draw a heart with the time in it.
  15. A small compact mirror. Yes you do want to see how pretty you are (I softly imagine that you look into the mirror expecting to see Rapunzel and out comes Rumplestiltskin), but it is extremely helpful to get a vantage point view of places that you can’t normally see (like where the sun doesn’t shine), to get dust or rock out of your eye, but it is also a safety item for someone to be able to find you as you create a lightbeam to show where you are located. So very MacGyver-ish.
  16. Triple antibiotic ointment with pain killer. Things are going to get irritated and the tiny bit of painkiller in there is just enough to stop the mental aggravation. Store with your Vaseline, that way even if they both melt and leak into each other you still have a usable item.
  17. Handkerchief. What an all-around fantastic tool. It will be great for covering nose and mouth when gnats are particularly awful, it also carries things, is a reusable wipe, covers a scrape so that it will stop bleeding (so it won’t attract biting flies), and keeps sun off a specific area like the back of your neck. Plus it can keep your hair from matting down on your forehead.
  18. A teeny tiny spatula for cookies on the trail! That actually was just a lie, but you do need the spatula. It is a crazy thing to have, but you can use it to spread things, put ointment on a large scrape without really touching it a lot, or getting something that is stuck out, like Vaseline. It acts like a stick if you have to get something out of a crevice like the (stupid Apple earbuds), and can also double as an eating utensil.
  19. Something that amplifies sound, like a bell, whistle, or other tool that can help with location identification. But it is also a great tool to keep a dog back (or something else that is bothering or annoying them). Country roads all have dogs who have never seen a leash. Keep it near and easily available.
  20. I did save the weirdest one for the last…polyester pillow batting. It is available in every fabric store, but it can pad a shoe very differently than cheesecloth. It is very helpful to keep some things lifted and away (prevents chafing), so having a little bit of batting will do that. It’s also reusable day after day, and you can wash it out and let it dry and it will fluff up.

Trail Well.

Add the Magical Power of Cracked Pepper to Chow Bags

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We will frequently have chow bags ready for athletes at a chow station, and this is an important message: we ALWAYS use a coarsely ground pepper and not a fine pepper, because fine pepper actually can irritate the throat or create a sneezing or coughing episode. 

But the healing powers of cracked pepper are so important to endurance athletes that we want to give you a couple of ideas so that you can add them into your everyday life and not just in Trail Driving.

Here are 10 of the best ideas for using cracked pepper:

1) Toss white ground pepper in fruity trail mix to give depth of flavor. The crunch of the other things and trail mix also hide coarse ground pepper. 

2) Add to brewed tea to get a nice “bite” and drink on the route, and if you’re adding other nutritious benefits it will help the body absorb those too. Double win! 

3) Pizza is delicious at any temperature and adding some into a rucksack is a nice change. Pepper will help keep burping to a minimum. 

4) Morning salad is a real thing! Just twist some pepper on the top to get those nutrients working faster into the bloodstream and not burden the body trying to break down a heavy protein.

5) Sandwiches are always a delicious treat and adding cracked pepper as you would any condiment also hides the coarse grit. 

6) Cracked pepper plays well with brown sugar, so it is a great extra dash to put into oatmeal clusters or homemade granola bars.

7) Molasses cookies have such a tasty buzz, and a little bit of cracked pepper will give a calming on the sweetness of the cookie and meld it with a darker, deeper taste. 

8)  Dehydrated meats and jerky are cosmic alliances with cracked pepper. 

9) Oddly, black pepper goes great with strawberries! Add strawberries to a salad with a dash of pepper – that travels well! 

10) Edamame is lovesick for cracked pepper, and that goes well as a snack on the trail.

Be sure to share with us any of your sacred pepper tricks for fueling yourself or other athletes.  

Trail well!