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

 

mikebird

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

dirtysocks

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.

The Mind is Medicine

stevepb2

I was talking to an athlete and asking him how they get through extreme events when suffering with pain.

What I got back was something I hadn’t expected – the use of imaginary medicine!

The athlete had a mind technique that is really quite good, and I’m going to share it with all of you. They prepare an imaginary stash of mental painkiller that is located in their body and that does not run out. When they feel pain they start to identify if they need their body to send pain killer to that area. And then they just start imagining pain killer from their body being sent to that area.

Sometimes they imagine a few drops, sometimes it’s multiple doses over miles.

“Does that work?” I ask in astonishment. The response I got back was a gigantic smile and a YES head shake.

What I love about this technique is it gives the mind a chance to check in with the body and work together to get through extreme circumstances. It also helps the body know that this pain does not have to stay, it’s been noticed and it should settle down because much more will be required.

Using mind techniques to manage pain has been used for millennia. Using the power of the body and mind connection is a quick tool that every athlete can take with them, wherever they go.

When you are pushing your body to new limits it IS a brain game, and having as many tools as you can to use when you need them is not just a good idea,  it is sometimes the only way to finish.

Plus in this case there’s no prescription refill needed, it never runs out!

If you have other mind tricks to manage pain while on the trail please leave them in the comments section so everyone can pick them up.

Trail well.

Sharting

hans stair-running-609762

For those of you who may not have had the experience of a Shart, it is the unfortunate moment when you think you’re about to pass gas yet a mixture of other debris comes out along with it.

When a body is on the trail and endurance action, it will often let you know when it’s not happy.

And sharting is sometimes one of the first indicators that an athlete is in fatigue and they have abdominal cramps, after you rule out that they don’t have food poisoning or the flu.

When driving trails that have heat and elevation as additional elements to manage, you need to pack extra pants along with the supply in the gear truck. 

And there is always the dilemma that if you have one accident you might need to prepare for three more. I always have the athletes give me two additional sets of everything to keep it in the truck. Shoes, socks, shirts, and bottoms.

For those of you who have not spent a long time with endurance athletes, these are people who have intense focus and will not let obstacles take them away from their desire to reach a goal. So, a little bit of diarrhea isn’t going to keep them from their goal.

Pain on the trail or with the overall experience only adds to the joy at the end.

And I tell you that endurance athletes are not I lovingly know this for a fact, I did marry an endurance athlete, and he was a normal runner when we started dating.

And at this very moment he would like me to boldly tell you that he has never sharted.

Trail well.

The Brain Game of Catchy Tunes

heissenstein ghettoblaster-1225920A trail driver has many unique roles on the trail and one of them is being an infectious DJ.

And I mean that word infectious. Arm yourself with a diverse playlist that is filled with songs that will roll around in those athletes’ heads for miles and miles. If you’ve ever tried to get “Eye of the Tiger” or “We are the Champions” out of your head, you know that sometimes it stays for days.

A great song at a rest stop can invite that athlete to go further. I will often drive up next to the team with the windows down and music blazing to let them know how far up the trail I will be. Music that’s catchy can give them some mental bonus points while they are refreshing, and it will infect them with positive brain chatter for the miles to come.

Now I will warn you upfront that the gender of the athlete will decide whether or not your playlist is great.  Men have a very different playlist than women do. Know your team and know their favorites. You’re always looking for songs that have a hook that will keep replaying in their mind with positive anthems i.e. “We are the Champions,” “I’m a MF Beast,” “I’m Too Sexy,” “Pour Some Sugar on Me”… You know the list.

Rock on Trail Driver.

Trail well.

We Love Pie!

liguoze

The ability to keep your team wanting to consume fuel is always difficult in long trail activities. So many foods become dicey when the body is in constant distress.

That means a trail driver has to have a few small items that will override their team’s desire to eat.  And I will tell you nothing has made the “Thank Sweet Heaven” list more often than pie.

Now the key is to have a really good looking pie, one that will override any other message that their body is getting. Yes, I am talking about food porn.

Key lime pie can turn the tide on a hot afternoon, plus the few bites they will accept will have a tremendous amount of pure fuel to delight the gut into delivering happy things to the bloodstream as quickly as possible. Tummies like food, and actual food will keep your athletes healthier on the trail.

Over the years we’ve had some other winners – fresh cherry pie in fall, and in cold harsh climates a hot apple pie or oatmeal will win them over.  I absolutely will try to make sure they smell that delicious cinnamon to get them to crave food.  (We will talk about cold trail running in a different blog.)

My advice is to showcase using the powers of sight and smell.  If you have ever smelled a great breakfast that made you hungry, you know exactly what I mean.

Take a minute and set up shop – a bigger pie with smaller takeaway bites so they can choose to just take one bite or pilot an entire piece into the pie hole and settle in with a few extra recovery minutes to sit and enjoy a sweet guilty pleasure.

Pie is your friend.

Trail well.

Heat Cramps

skeeze switch

When you are managing athletes that are possibly in danger of heat exhaustion you want to really ask about how their muscles feel and look for cramping.

Muscles are SUPER particular about how much hydration and salt they have when they are being exerted. When they are out of whack many athletes will get heat cramps, and those cramps can happen in any of their legs or arms. Being hot and tired for an extended period can induce cramps.

Here’s the phrase I will burn forever into your brain :

“It’s time to switch when you see the twitch.”

The earliest sign of heat cramps is a slight little tremor twitch on a muscle, and sometimes the eyeball will give you that first indication. The “switch” part means that you have to switch what the athlete is taking in for beverages – specifically electrolytes and sugars. Six to 12 ounces of sports drinks at a rest stop may not be enough to combat what the body is consuming; 400-800 ML/hour is the optimum rate of liquid intake for an athlete on the trail.

They don’t need just more liquid- they need fuel. Look to salty broth mixtures with heavy carbohydrates to aide the body’s consumption. Over hydration will exasperate the problem plus lead to rapid nausea, and nothing is more disgusting than a surprise liquid splashing chow-blowing. If they get dizzy and blow, they have too much water and not enough fuel.

A heat cramp later on (from over extension) can be signaled when an athlete lilts, weaves, or changes gait without even knowing it because they are hyper focused on their endurance goal.

Heat cramps also come in the abdomen but we will cover those in a different blog because abdomen cramps can mean a lot of things.  FYI parents – I see abdominal heat cramps a lot more in younger athletes (pre-teen/high school) and it is misdiagnosed on the sports field frequently. “My stomach hurts” is usually a common heat cramp from overexertion in youth.

Most cramps come from muscle tightness, but heat cramps are actually easy to identify. Tension cramps are from a type of tightness, and in the onset a tension cramp will “snap” in and feel like a knot. The biggest way to know if it is heat related or tension related is when rubbing doesn’t actually help and the larger muscle is having spasms. Heat cramps will NOT subside until the body has been cooled and the correct amount of water and salt is replaced into the muscle. That can take more than 30 minutes, so trail drivers will have to pay attention to early onset and keeping athletes regularly cooled down.

Heat cramps are a warning sign that the athlete is approaching heat exhaustion, so it’s a really good idea to use an external cool down method as well as an internal hydration method.

Immediately get out of direct sunlight.
Try to cool the entire body.
Give clear juice like apple.
Give sports drink with electrolytes.
Broth mixtures (with marrow) are also good.

Wrapping athletes in ice soaked towels will help manage core temperature, but the relief won’t come until the muscle has been put back in equilibrium.

If an athlete is going to try to run through heat cramps they absolutely need to be taking in sports liquids with heavy carbs, but if those cramps are more than an hour long they will have to shut down and rest in order to get relief.

To keep them on the trail remember “It’s time to switch when you see the twitch.”

Trail well.