Finish Line Carbohydrates

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The 30 to 60 minutes after an athlete finishes a course are really important, and many athletes actually feel ill at that point.

When taking care of your athletes, I often give them information before I start trying to shove nutrition down their throat. When I know that we are on our second to the last stop of the day, I traditionally remind people that we will have a recovery tool available for them to eat at the very end and that it’s important for them to try to eat it, even if they are not feeling particularly great.

It is the carbohydrate and protein combination that is truly the elixir of rapid recovery.

Even a small amount of carbohydrates will aid their ability to recover immensely. The rules are fairly easy, you’re going to want about a gram of carbs per 2 pounds of body weight.

The addition of protein will really allow those muscles to start healing. An athlete can take in anywhere from 10 to 20 g of protein at the end of their event.

This is absolutely not the time that you want to try to give them something fatty. The body will not know what to do with that and it can actually make them feel sick.

The fastest way to get all of that in is as simple as a glass of skim milk. My secret weapon is to house a delicious smoothie in the coolers.

They don’t need to slam that beverage, they can just take a cup and sip on it slowly. If they are eligible to eat a cracker that’s great, but just slowly sipping that recovery elixir will really improve their strength immediately.

One of my fondest memories is handing my husband a glass of chocolate milk at a forced rest time at mile 54. He got slaphappy and almost looked drunk from how happy his body was to get protein and carbs. He was only going to mile 60 but it had been a really long day. And in the 30 minutes after getting protein and carbs in, we watched all of his body really start to come alive and his muscles were already starting to utilize that fuel.

For those of you who are managing athletes on a regular basis, you will get to know how their minds work and you will start to put in tools that will help them achieve their final goals.

My point in taking care of the athlete after they finish the finish line is that it is still part of the race. Recovery is as critical as any others set point on the course. They must be able to play again.

Trail well.

Pulling Athletes Off the Course

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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.

 

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. 

Heat Cramps

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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.

 

Team Support Can Be Messy, Especially When There Are Chips!

For years I have packed endurance and trail support vehicles and I have learned that simple strategies make my life infinitely happier and help me deliver a better service to the athletes out on the road.

I’m willing to pay someone to wash the car after I’ve had 30 runners eating out of the back of it. But rather than use your own vehicle, consider renting one.potato-chips-448737_1920

On average our car rental has been only about $100, and it has provided so many options on the road that it’s the best hundred dollars we could spend on a team!

What I have learned is that renting a vehicle such as a large SUV that has lots of storage space is a critical tool in your support role.

The main reason for that is that I don’t have to clean it out! The miles are unlimited in a rental vehicle, I can put our logos on the side of it and I don’t ever have to see that car again if I hate it.

I’ve used rental vehicles that are everything from a Cadillac Escalade to a Town and Country van. I will tell you right now you never need a van in your life! It will rattle all your junk, and you can’t actually deliver service out of it. Plus, it is so difficult to manage getting cramped athletes out of it.

Oddly enough is the fact that with those larger SUV vehicles, once you open the doors, it can also be a great sound system. An SUV can allow you to service six athletes at one time. Modern SUVs also offer you the ability to charge any devices that you need to.

A roof rack is impossible to manage for any human under 5’5”, so storing gear on top of a car is, 100% of the time, only to be planned if you want to become criminally insane by the end of the day.

You’re always looking to have a few coolers in the back and dry goods, as well as a suitcase with essentials such as a fleece blanket, because it is the fastest way to get a runner who is freezing warmed up.

Create a bin for the front seat for items that you as the support vehicle need, but can be moved out of the way so that an athlete can sit down, without actually screwing up your maps, drinks, or your personal gear like GoPros or photography equipment.

If you’re doing a 24 hour event, those runners have to be able to manage getting through darkness and temperature change.

If I have an option and I need a runner to be able to get medical attention, I can actually move all of the seats down, push the gear further back and put an athlete laying down into the back of that SUV. Or I can use the fold-down seats to not fold down all the way but prop them up so they can elevate legs or heads.

Very rarely will I put two people in a support vehicle because the pure amount of details when you have a lot of people to support is that somebody will need extra time to gather something that has been forgotten, or is a “fun extra” which adds to the support time. A hot takeout pizza is a great example.  I would rather put two people in two support vehicles and let them piggyback each other.

If the team is going to be running more than 30 miles I try to have support at every third mile, and break out snacks in groups so that each time those runners come to the snack tray they will see something different and that is what extra space is great for.

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 lean.food-995948_1920

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.

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!
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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.