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.

Pulling Athletes Off the Course

ben-kerckx

For endurance athletes and teams that are putting themselves in conditions that are personally and medically pushing boundaries, the last thing they will want is to be pulled off the course.

One of the things that I remind all trail drivers when they are servicing endurance athletes is that if it looks painful to you it’s probably not painful enough for that athlete to quit. They are out there to push their limits to places that most people would not consider.

You are there to make sure that they come out alive. And I mean that literally.

For these athletes, before we even set foot on the trail, we come up with a code word or someway in advance to agree when they have lost their mind, or when they are medically unable to continue.

There also has to be an agreement in advance that they will trust you that when you “call it” that they have to stop. And you will have to trust that athlete to know what their personal boundary is and that they can recognize it when they need to pull out. During that agreement time I will usually give a list of items that will make me immediately pull them from the course and those are traditionally the signs of a heart attack, stoke, or medical emergency.

Many times simply resting, or managing water, or a nutrient review will give that athlete enough to continue forward. I never threaten to pull someone from the course, I only invite the idea of rest so they don’t have to get pulled from the course.  I also, during times of complete fatigue, give them a time limit that tells them when I will be managing their health check points. “If you’re still listing sideways  or unable to keep your balance I need you to just sit down and I’ll come get you. I will be watching you in three minute intervals.”

What that simple piece of information does for the athlete is it also lets them know within three minutes if they’re getting better. That sometimes is all the help they need to keep going forward.  It only takes about three minutes for food, hydration, or rest to start working for that athlete.

It also gives you a short enough time for the athlete to work out in their head that we have to go for medical.

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.

Overheating on the Road

mark-small

Any time you have an athlete that is competing or participating in an event that is not in their natural climate you have a higher risk of exhaustion. 

Heat exhaustion is probably the most common. The first thing to do when a runner looks like they’re overheating is to have them stop moving, but the minute they stop moving their body may actually become nauseous.

Always put them in a chair that is a little bit distant from where other runners will be passing by. Give them some space in case they have to hurl. The chances of a person hurling when they have heat exhaustion and have been moving for a long time is very high. (FYI very few things leave a more lasting scent than shoes full of someone else’s puke.)

As someone who does support for athletes I always try to keep an extra hat in my medic kit when I can. You want to have one that is made of canvas and that can hold a little bit of water. 

For those of you who are grizzled heat veterans you’re already saying “ahhh, the old hat full of ice trick.”  Icing down the head is a quick tool to get the whole body cooled down. The ice itself will start to cool the head immediately and melt. Plus it will start to melt at a drip rate that isn’t too annoying. 

One of the things that you will want to do at the same time is hand them a damp towel. That way they can manage dripping and perspiration, or it will give them a place to throw up privately.

You will also want to look for the perspiration expression of the athlete. Zero perspiration can be an entirely different problem. 

Depending on how long the athlete has been without aid station, they usually cool down in about 15 minutes and they are free to go on with the rest of the race. I will frequently send them with an additional hat of ice so that they can manage their own temperature for a while. 

The quickest way to create a hat full of ice is to literally dip a hat into a cooler of melted ice from the back of the van. 

It will get immediate relief to the athlete because the ice is already in a high melt/water form and will start dripping immediately.  The drip from that ice on the neck and shoulders is also why you choose this technique. 

When serving athletes who are doing crazy things, you being calm and assessing the situation is critical. Trail drivers are the ones that need to have their heads on straight.

Thank you for all of you who choose to Trail Drive. 

Trail well.

Dirty Thirsty – Dusty Roads

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Dust on a trail can do lots of things, it can bring your athletes to a different kind of thirsty. Dirty Thirsty is when you’re in a dusty land that is also thirsty. 

If it’s dirty and hot your breath starts to kind of stick to the back of your mouth and your lips start to crack

The other thing that happens is that athletes start to breathe differently because they’re trying to not cough.

Rule number one when working in dirty thirsty areas is to give those athletes a hard candy or something to suck on so that they don’t breathe through their mouth.

Teach them to practice rinsing their mouth before swallowing, or to rinse out their mouth on the trail regularly. Rinsing will instantly calm them.

Dirty thirst starts to bring on a level of tension in the head area when they are going long distances. If you ever felt like a new human being when you got out of the shower you will understand the need to rinse your mouth in the dusty terrain. 

Remind them that nose breathing is critical to avoid getting dirt thirst. This will be a difficult task if any of those athletes are also trying to manage mild allergies on the terrain. 

At each roadside stop you will want toothbrushes and some sort of mouthwash or toothpaste.  

Remember trail drivers, your job is to support each athlete during what is often the most difficult personal and emotional circumstance that they could put themselves in. Your service to that team or individual will allow them to move farther and faster than they could without you.

Trail well. 

Sun Fatigue

borgs
Sunblock will never block the fatigue of being in the sun for hours on end. When the trail driver is driving a team that is going to be physically baking in the sun all day on a road, there are some unique tools that the trail driver will need to bring. 

Hail the beach sarong! 

The power of a women’s beach cover-up. If you’ve ever traveled to the tropics you will know what a giant beach sarong looks like. It’s a very thin cotton square that’s almost the size of a mini blanket and is sold on every beach across the globe.  Women tie them around their waist to look like a skirt, or they will tie them around their neck to make it look like a dress. You also see them being used as a beach blanket for an entire family. They dry nearly instantly when they are wet. 

Depending on the size of your team you will want one of these to help reduce the sun stress on your athletes either while they’re resting or if they are running on the trail they can wrap themselves in it on the trail. 

The point is to give as much of the body a rest from being in the sun while also giving the body a chance to have cooling air next to it

For a runner if there is even a whiff of wind it will be like the heavens above sending a personal fan.  Some trail drivers choose to have these be wet.  I prefer to hand them out dry to wick off moisture. 

If you are serving a team that is moving with some sort of mechanical device they are also helpful to just shade their machinery from the direct sun while they are at a pit stop.  Most of the time the only shade you get in an area like this is whatever can be attached to the vehicle. 

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.