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!


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.


Cold Water Crotch

hans ice-cubes-1194499Yes I’m going to talk about crotch and when you’re going to want to apply ice.

I have not met a man yet that thinks it’s a great idea to put ice on his gear, but if they want to recover faster from heat while on the trail, they’re going to want to try on an ice crotch.

It’s summer again and this is when athletes frequently become overextended in the heat. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are really crucial items to watch out for in endurance athletes. For your male athletes who are not sweating enough, not only is wrapping them in ice blankets helpful, but it’s also helpful to apply a nice icy pack right to the groin.

I’m not saying you have to have an extended stay visit with groin icing, but cooling that area down will absolutely speed the recovery process and sometimes by as much as 40%. The cooler moisture will also help keep that area a little more refreshed when they get back on the trail.

If you have this gear you will know exactly what I mean by refreshed. You’re not looking to get that area really wet to induce chafing, you’re really looking to just give it a nice ice.

Trail well.

Adding Six Hot Proteins From Restaurants to SAG Wagon

One of the treats that athletes need later in many endurance activities is the addition of protein rich hot foods. When adding in hot foods, you should really look at items that the athlete can eat and not regret throwing up.

Some foods to consider are foods that are physically light weight.

Flat crust cheese pizza is a great fit – keep the pieces very small and

Hot toasty cheese bread will deliver salty goodness, fast energy, and protein.

Egg white omelette on toast, cut into bite-size pieces.

Baked beans in a sauce container about the size of a shot glass.

Grilled chicken – cut into pieces with no additional sauce.

Lasagna that is cut into small bites about the size of a shot glass.

The critical thing to remember with proteins are that hot protein given to an endurance person should be given in small doses and preferably more often. When athletes are doing more than 25 miles in one day, protein (and specifically hot protein) is a real endurance additive.

Trail well.

Choosing and Plot Pointing Where to Meet Up with Endurance Athletes on a Trail

When choosing to meet athletes on an endurance trail, the first thing to do is get as detailed of a paper map as you possibly can to chart the course out on a physical piece of paper. A GPS is not going to work in all areas. Cell phones fail and so do GPS systems on cars.

When plotting out the spaces, the first 10 miles of the trail do not rmap-455769_1280equire as
many trail stops as the distances will over 20 miles. From 20 miles forward, the SAG (Support and Gear wagon) should plan on an appearance every 3 to 4 miles.

That distance is going to depend on the safety of the athletes and where they can physically pull off away from traffic, or where a car can meet them.

Great places to stop are also places that have facilities like gas stations or parks with portable bathrooms.

If you are doing a road race that is going to put you against the freeway, then you are always looking to pull those athletes off the freeway into safety zones. Do not just stop on the side of the road or in a ditch with your emergency blinkers on. Look for places that you can turn the car off of the main road that is very light with travel – a dirt road is perfect, and will give that runner enough space where they can see oncoming traffic and spot the vehicle.

One of the things that I will frequently do is post a paper version of the road map on top of one of the coolers so that the athletes can track exactly where they are on the course, and they can have a mental image of when they will see the SAG again next.

Trail well.

Managing Your Athletes’ Food Needs on the Trail

The longer an athlete is grazing out of the back of a support vehicle the more diversity in their choices will be necessary. The number one reason for that is not just to be healthy, but the longer they are on the trail the more nauseous they will be. So bright ripe fruit when you have a stomach ache is actually a terrible idea.

I’ve put together my Top 10 List for managing your athletes’ food needs out of the SAG.

1) Room temperature is appropriate for 50% of the beverage items that you have – not all things need to be chilled and runners who are craving specific nutrients will actually receive them faster if they’re not cold.

2) Stage the offerings to the athletes based on how far they are in the journey. Stage one foods that they will need in the early part of the journey are going to be anti-inflammatory foods and juice items that will help their body keep itself regulated.

3) Plan your music to be happy and a little cliché – most endurance athletes need a break from their mind, and a pit stop with a music break can send them on their way with a song in their head and more fuel in their tank. They will access more fuel with a music break, plus you can never have enough of “Eye of the Tiger!”

4) Chips are the internal god of longevity – the longer someone is in a high endurance situation the more salt they will need, and they will need that in calories that will give them burn rate – potato chips are perfect!

5) Buy food in smaller packages because they will put them in their gear.  A tiny container of M&Ms is more likely to get picked up than a large jar of them, plus they can take them on the road and have something to occupy them when they are starting to hit a wall.

6) Be creative on what you are serving and keep the quantities low. A simple pre-race interview with those athletes will teach you a lot about what they are willing to accept on the road. The other thing is that sometimes a wildcard, like a pack of Twizzlers, can make a new memory!
7) Add protein to the menu, whether it be in drink form, or in a small bit of cheese. The protein needs in a long distance run are critical. I have added pizza, chicken, and even burrito bites to the offerings.

8) Smell is a secret weapon – the ability to smell food is the only way you will get a nauseous athlete who doesn’t want to eat, yet needs calories, to be able to eat. One of two things will happen, either it will invite them to the smell or they will just puke on the spot. Either way it gets the process moving forward.

9) Blankets are crucial items to have on hand – it can be a place for an athlete to lay down on the road, it can cover someone who is having a little bit of drama, and it can manage large amounts of water pouring out of your cooler.

10) Letting runners know why the foods are out there and why you have put them at that stage will help them make choices. Saying that this is a good time for your body to access protein, salt, sugars, anti-inflammatories or potassium is a fair reminder to athletes, especially if they are in long deep parts of their trail. Everyone loses their mind at some point in a giant endurance run.

Trail well.