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

 

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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.

Photographers and Selfies

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This is a time in the world that people want to remember events, and extreme events are specially exciting.

I will tell you that no one looks great while they’re performing strenuous acts. So if you’re going to be taking a lot of photographs on the trail, give people a heads up so they can smile and not look like they’re feeling as awful as they probably are.

I also see a lot of photographers come to events to get endurance imagery. What I will  do for those photographers is let them know the check points that I will be at, give them any tools or tips on the trail that they will want such as lighting and time, and give them my schedule.

If that photographer is going to have many points on the course I will actually send them with a walkie-talkie. That way they can communicate back to the main Trail Driver any information that they are finding out on the trail. They may spot an athlete in trouble, a road that has trouble, or an area that may have been flooded. Giving the photographer permission to be another helpful set of eyes on the trail can be very helpful.

I do remind photographers that they must keep their equipment and themselves out of the way of athletes. I can’t have them interrupting the pattern of an athlete, the course of an athlete, or having an athlete trip to try to get out of their way. I will frequently look them in the eye and remind them that it is dangerous for them on that road, and their safety is also important.

If you’ve ever had a bicyclist going very fast crash into you it’s pretty awful. And it’s definitely going to ruin the mood of the day.

What is a huge win for everyone is that in today’s world photographers are able to get their images back to the athlete as close to real time as possible, and the photographer is able to get the images that they’re looking for. A Trail Driver can not only help the photographer, but can utilize the photographer as another tool on the trail. The Trail Driver will always want to know who is on the trail, why they are there and when they’re going to be there. Frequently photographers are going out ahead of the team so they will actually see details of the trail even before the trail runner does.

And be sure to snap a picture with the photographer – they rarely have pictures of themselves!

Trail well.

Binoculars and Colorful Flag Matter

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If you are trail driving on a terrain that has limited road access, you will want to be sure to pack a set of binoculars and flag-pack your athletes. That means putting a square that is at least 12″ x 12″ on them to use in an emergency situation.

It has to be large enough to see it through binoculars with them waving it. I try to make them a color that is so unique that I will see it against the terrain. If you’re in a desert bloom, yellow is a terrible idea. If you’re in a red rock canyon the color red is also a terrible idea. So my advice to trail drivers is to know your terrain color, and then look for a completely different color for the flags.

No matter what the athletes are doing in that terrain – mountain biking, hiking, climbing and/or running – you will need to put on the athlete a single flag that will allow you to see them through a set of binoculars to send them help. Sometimes I will tie this on a bike, put it in their rucksack, or let them use it as a headband.

If the trail driver will not have access to them with a vehicle, or have very limited access, you will want to have a secondary trail driver there with some sort of bike or small motorized vehicle to be able to get to them on the trail. Always pack the main vehicle with everything that you need. That gives any additional trail support a central location that they can gravitate towards to get any additional supplies that they need .

On particularly rough terrains we will often send a trail runner on the trail with all of the medical needs and sometimes tools, and have a roadside team awaiting at specific areas. This is where walkie-talkies can be a magical addition to binoculars.

Be sure to send a set of binoculars with anyone who is going to have to search for an athlete on a trail that is more than a mile away.  In a pinch I have watched people use an iPhone camera to take a picture of an area, then zoom in with their fingers so they can visually search the area that way.

Trail drivers should be scanning the terrain every few minutes depending on how difficult the terrain itself is.

Trail well.

Extreme Events

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I have been at a good many extreme events but I do want to give a shout out to the Deadman Peaks Trail Run – if you are planning an event go check it out – I watched that team do a miraculous job on extreme SAG (Supply and Gear) stations!

When you are picking an event one of the things that the athlete is responsible to do is to know who is running that event and to find as many race reports as they can. Extreme events take a ton of training mentally, physically, and sometimes will involve climate training. Even a veteran athlete can crush under courses that they don’t know. 

You should be looking for courses that the leadership team knows very well, an event where dedicated athletes go year after year, and ones that have trained aid workers. 

The reason I give such a huge Kudos to the ENTIRE team at the Deadman Peaks event is that they had thought the whole course through very deeply, right down to a night-before report on where rattlesnakes and cougars were. They had aid stations to manage athletes who were in difficult terrain, climate, and different physical levels. They were also able to manage cuts and scrapes that occurred from difficult terrain. 

The course itself was very difficult and had a lot of elevation changes in it. The team had to manage many different items that were going to come up for those athletes. One of the things that allowed them to be so great at delivering in extreme circumstances was how well they had packed for their athletes. 

Salt pills, electrolytes, pickle juice, chips and every resource imaginable was available, including sunblock! 

They also kept track of the athletes, and these are athletes that had only the aid stations as a way to get off of the course. If they were going to be ill on the course they had to walk it out to get to an aid station.  The aid stations were stacked with multiple people who had a range of skills. 

For those of you who consistently do extreme events you know the value of a great aid station. For those of you who are learning how to support athletes in extreme circumstances I do want to say thank you, because every time you help those athletes move further into their own goals you help someone change their life. You may think you’re just handing them a Coca-Cola but you also are giving them the tools they need to keep going on. 

Congratulations to that event and congratulations to all the finishers. 

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. 

Scratches and Brush Bites

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If your team is moving through a terrain that has a lot of vegetation you will sometimes have to manage brush bites. 

That is when the vegetation itself sticks to or bites the athlete themselves. I see this a lot when an athlete is in a hurry to go to the restroom and gets a little too focused on relieving themselves, ignoring or being oblivious to their real surroundings.

Brush bites can be from anything, they can be poisonous, they can bleed and swell, they can also be a gourmet invitation for every biting fly known to mankind. 

As soon as I see that there is going to be biting brush on a terrain I will remind people of the importance of not letting vegetation touch them. Falling or getting scraped up from the terrain in an area where there are flies can make for a miserable existence when the trail is going slow. 

Your basic first aid will be extremely helpful for brush bites, look to see if anything has punctured or entered the skin and remove it, washing the area, covering it from further exposure. If there’s no cover available for the scrape then a topical ointment with petroleum base may be your only bandage (Neosporin, Vaseline).

Continue to check brush bites for swelling and itching. That will let you know if you’re going to need to use some Benadryl. 

If itching is going to make that athlete crazy you will want to give them a tool to divert their thoughts away from the itching. A simple mind tool where they focus on something else will help make the itch go away.  

So far I have seen no one who has thrown their time or had to quit from a brush bite but it sure has annoyed them. 

Trail well.

Sharting

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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.