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.

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.

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.