Team Touring in an RV – Media Mapping Your Route

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If you are touring with your group in an RV, there are some real basics that you will want to know.

  • If you are traveling through mountains, be aware that you will be going at 1/3 of your usual pace because RVs never go fast.
  • You will need to stop for potty breaks just to get out of the vehicle and stretch.

If you have a team that has lots of media to manage, like blogs to write or phone interviews to do, that they had planned for the RV time, make sure to tell them where the cell/internet coverage will be on your route.

Pushing communications out to the world means that you have to have cell coverage. Mountainous regions and many parts of the world do not have coverage in long road stretches and it will be an annoying cluster to manage.

So if you are driving through or across the vast expanse of land with a team that needs to do a lot of interviewing or communication, you will need time to go over the driving plan with them as well as the marketing plan.

I will often plan the interview schedule for a location where we have a stopover near a larger town so we have access to cell phone power, bathrooms, and we can just get away from each other to get all of the interviews done.

We are all more fun when we don’t have six teammates staring at us.

Trail well.

Managing Rapid Temperature Change

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Mountains are beautiful, but they also take a beastly toll on your temperature gauge.

This last week I had athletes that were in the Siskiyou mountains, and at the base of those mountains the temperature was a beautiful 70°. By the time we changed our elevation we were at about 36°.

Among the things to pack for your athletes are the tools that they will need when the temperature rapidly changes. When they are going upward and the climate is getting colder, they will need more layers available to them to add, and they will need to cool off from sweat before they put those new layers on or you will just smother the wetness against their skin and they’ll be even colder.

If you are going downward to a lower elevation, you need to prepare your athletes for the possibility that they are going to need to strip off the gear on their descent and how to get that gear to the stations and tagged so they can get it back at the end.

Adding a simple safety pin to each layer of clothing allows the Trail Drivers to just tag it and bag it. If the temp is cooling quickly you will want to give your athletes warm broth (lots of yummy salt) or even a mild green tea to help in calming the tummy.

In rapid temperature changes where it gets colder fast, you will also see a lot more muscle cramps, so be prepared for that. People naturally start to clench up to fight the beastly environment. Cold, when it is mixed with WET, is deadly, so don’t underestimate the importance of dry gear.

A Trail Driver is a crucial tool in keeping the team healthy and on track. If you are an athlete, find a great one. If you are the one who supports crazy ultra-athletes, be aware of how many ways you can help those people attain their goals.

Trail well.

Basic Headcounts Can Save Lives

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I recently read an article where a group of college students who were cave explorers accidentally left one of their explorers locked in a cave for 60 hours. Really???

Not only is this young explorer lucky to be alive, it was completely avoidable based on some very basic safety measures that need to be in place 100% of the time when you are managing teams.

One of the reasons that there needs to be a check off chart at every stop is so that we can make sure that every athlete has passed through that section. If the Trail Driver has to go back and find someone on a trail or in a very desolate area, they have a much smaller place to have to search for them. Lots of things can happen in endurance events, and they DO happen.

Creating those strategies in advance is crucial:

  • How are you going to get someone out if it’s nasty weather? Rain and wind can be incredibly difficult to get a vehicle through.
  • How are you going to hook an injured athlete up on a trail bike and possibly drag them 15 miles, without further injuring them?
  • How do you manage trail first aid for broken limbs?

The list can go on for days, because there are MANY freak accidents in endurance events and training.

I have had other Trail Drivers push back and let me know that I am a worry wart, that there are too many details that I put into trail driving, but my response back is that we have never lost an athlete, or had an athlete not get off that course with all the limbs they started with. Safety and planning is not an afterthought, it is a tool that allows everyone the chance to play again tomorrow.

As for the adventurer who was lost and locked in to the cave, I completely understand his position (from an interview where he said that he is lucky to be alive), and that he will NOT be exploring caves ever again.

It would be a shame to have talented athletes choose to no longer compete because their safety was not managed appropriately.

Prepare every athlete to check off at every stop so that the Trail Driver knows who they are, and where they are. Plus, it will also help them track their time and have a nice snack in the shade.

Trail well.

Great Support Makes Things Better – AKA “I wish Mickey were here!”

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Sometimes being a Trail Driver is like one of my favorite drinking songs,
“Henry the Eighth I am, I am.” 

Ohhhhh, I wish Mickey were here, were here,” would be the chorus sung to the boisterous tone of the famous drinking song.

I had a team once when I was Trail Driving for a large endurance event and, on one of the training days I warned them not to because they would have to do it alone. Now I have eyes that are as big as the entire state of Massachusetts, so when they get bigger it should be a legislative act.  My big eyes warning…”You will have no support for the entire time.”

Like all gut wrenching superstars, the six of them all went “no big deal, we can just bring some water and some block chews.”

Off they went, no money, no resting places, no salt or sugar other than running gummies and a beautiful hot, sticky 90-degree day.

Some of these were new people who had only known race support by yours truly. They had no idea that they were brought up on magic by the person who wrote the Trail Driver protocol for the everyday athlete supporter in the nation.

This little team just thought this was how running groups worked, that someone just wanted to give up their entire day off, shop and pre-package snacks, borrow, pack and clean out a van, have towels and medical kits ready, have a printed map of the route, buy ice, have bathroom options available, and be a new version of an athletic flight attendant.

No, that’s just what they lucked into. But having heat beating down on you for 30 miles makes no one lucky, especially with just one jug of water that gets hotter by the hour.

The grizzled veterans have stories of how they have fainted, maybe gone slightly blind from salt crashes, or limped four miles on a pulled hammie. Those athletes I don’t ever worry about, because they know they are screwed and will just push through it. Those bright fresher faced ones are the ones my heart aches for, they still have fear and worry swaggering all over their determination.

The veteran athletes are just gonna endure the time of having things be hard, awful, or perhaps disorienting, and rack it up to one more story that they’re going to recite while they’re talking to other people about their life in ultra performing.

“We were hot and bothered as sausages in hell, asking for a drink of water from the devil” would become a better story only if they were bleeding.

The people who are new to endurance, those are the people that are learning a ton of new skills. They are learning how to pace themselves, they are learning what to do when their stomach hurts, they are learning to talk their heads into a different direction, understanding how tight their shoes should be, learning how to be uncomfortable in the new shorts that they picked.

There are literally 1,000 different tiny lessons that new endurance athletes are learning. They don’t need to learn how to be hungry and thirsty. One of the things a great Trail Driver will do is to help athletes who are pushing limits have a constant check-in during their process, and one that is there to support them.

So it was no surprise when I heard that lots of times over the 30 miles they lamented about how not having support kinda sucked. Actually, it sucked LOTS of times, so much that one of them called me and told me they needed to take me to dinner (sweet win).

It’s worth the effort to find a great support team and it really important to ASK AND PLAN for support.

And when you are just going to try to hack it out by yourself, it never hurts to just start singing the drinking song.  “I wish Mickey were here, were here!”

Trail well.

The Trail Driver – The Spiritually Driven Athlete – Part 2

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Trail Drivers are those who support athletes so that they can do great things. Trail Drivers allow athletes to be better by helping them have resources while they’re doing things that are incredibly physical. Sometimes that’s logistics, a supply vehicle, or encouragement.

This is a two-part post reviewing how to support those athletes that I call “spiritually driven athletes,” those unique athletes that are called by some special circumstances to do something BIG, like doing a long event to raise awareness for a cause.

These are not the average athletes that are just training to do a specific distance. These are athletes that will be on the road over a series of days doing parts of their challenge over a long part of road. The majority of the time they will be their own support, MacGyver to medic, and they are going to have a ton of time in their own mind. Having a ton of time in your own mind can be great for the first 3 to 5 days, but after 30 days it gets a little dreary and weary.

The role of a Trail Driver, even if they are across the country, is also to make sure that they can help that person manage all of the details that it will take to keep them safe on their journey, supported with the items that they need, and pick them up if there is need. A great Trail Driver can help remove obstacles and put resources to that athlete very quickly.

Mapping is your number one tool. Physical maps are needed on journeys over 50 miles. You will need to see, on one piece of paper, the beginning and the end of that journey, and to be able, long-term, to see how far you’ve traveled. You will need to utilize every form of mapping, Geo location, with a smart phone, and Google maps to identify the physical building that they may need to find. “I’ll meet you at the old post office that’s on the corner of Main and First, and it’s right next to a service station so you “I’ll meet you in the small town.” Mapping does something magical, it allows someone to find out where they are, where they’re going and how much time it will take them, especially when their brain isn’t working right.

Put a map printout at the bottom of their rucksack, and one that they can pull out and use all the time. Losing a single piece of paper is probable. Another tip is to set up the “Find My Phone” application so you can actually Geo locate the phone and you don’t have to call that athlete to be able to find them.

Let someone in that town know you’re coming. Call ahead to either an organization that matches the cause, or a city official. They are going to want to know information; the cause, the name and the information about the person, and approximate times to look out for them. Sometimes I do this so when that day comes, people don’t think this is a crazy vagrant that they have to be fearful of, and sometimes it’s just so they can keep an extra eye out to make sure they don’t get hit on a country road. In small towns across America I have found that having something exciting happen, seeing someone with a dream or that is taking on a challenge to do something greater, is worth coming out for!

Texting is still a tool that allows for people to connect. There will be many times where that person may not be eligible to get that text because of cell service, but at some point they will, and will be glad they have it. If it’s been particularly long and lonely on the road, they’ll gladly interface with it.

Food and types of food matter. You are going to need to have that person focus on anti-inflammatory foods. They, over a series of days will have aches in places they never knew could ache. Orange juice or pineapple juice are foods that they should get to know. There are plenty of menus online that will give you simple items that you can add into their food groups to keep the inflammation down.

Protein is a tool, not just a trend. Having protein to keep muscles building and repairing themselves is going to be critical. A protein-based final meal is going to be a critical tool and how they will recover over the 10-12 hours of being on the road. Their body will want foods that sustain it during the peak hours of exertion, but in their resting state it is going to need all of the energy can get to repair all of the parts of the body that were stressed during the day.

Focus only on the goal for the day. Be the voice of reason. Every day actually has a goal, and every goal has a time that it is completed. When things are feeling boring, overwhelming, or just plain too much, let them know how far they’ve come, how much further they will get in the day, or give them information that will help them locate and find where they’re supposed to be and when in the days going forward.

Editing the rucksack. If they are on a long journey that is over months, you will need to edit the rucksack, and change out any gear that is no longer functional. If that person is a solo athlete, you can actually send gear to a hotel along the way and have it ready for them. I have found that hotels are incredibly helpful, if the athlete is camping and sleeping outside, even the campsite can traditionally get deliveries.

Invite others to the task. If your athlete is covering a lot of physical terrain it is incredibly helpful to invite people to meet them on that terrain at various times and give those people a task. Can you bring extra water? Pack something and meet them there. Those athletes don’t have to have someone with them all the time, but having someone check in with them daily for even as little as 20 minutes will help them keep their sanity on the journey.

In order for people to do great things, they don’t need just courage, they need thoughtful, consistent and persistent support. For those of you who are that support, I personally thank you for making the world a better place.

Trail Well.

Distance for a Cause – The Spiritually Driven Athlete – Part 1

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THANK YOU to all of you who are supporting athletes in their courageous efforts. The world is definitely a healthier and more spirited place because of you.

Many people across the country are choosing to do amazing feats to bring attention to cause, or create a piece of change in the world that they want to see. Many of these are athletes who would not normally take on gigantic physical challenges regularly, but are feeling called to action.

Supporting those I call “spiritually driven athletes” is uniquely different than supporting an athlete who is training every day for a specific distance. Those longer duration athletes are usually participating in multi-day experiences and they are packing rucksack gear on themselves so they can be alone for long periods of time. They will have to be a modern-day MacGyver and medic.

I will break this into a few entries so that I can cover a few different parts of this unique individual path. The first is just a quick list of some backpack items that your athlete will want to add that they may have not thought of, and I did save the weirdest one for the very last, so read them all.

  1. Smart phone and two emergency quick chargers. Phones and chargers do not like extreme weather conditions, be sure to not to store these where they’re going to have the sun beating down on them directly.
  2. Plastic rain poncho that’s really small, really light, and completely effective. It is also a great tool to be able to sit down on something when it’s wet out and be able to keep dry, they look like a giant garbage bag. If you have the space it’s worth having more than one.
  3. Mini umbrella. It is the best thing to make sure you have shade no matter where you are and it can cover your entire body. It is so fantastic to just sit in the shade and have that ability no matter where you are. It will change the temperature around that body by 10° within a few seconds.
  4. Giant safety pins. Things break and you need them to keep working. Nothing works faster than pinning things together. They can also hold little parts that may have fallen off, and they are amazing at picking out thorns, stingers and glass, plus they can even fix a pair of eyeglasses.
  5. Ziploc bag – quart size. You just won’t believe how many things you’ll use that bag for. It can be a trash bag, it can hold wet gear, it can hold rations, it can also be the Holy Grail of keeping clothes dry in torrential rain.
  6. A tiny bottle of high-quality dish soap. It is amazing how much a drop of Dawn dishwashing soap will clean. It’s perfect in a sink at a rest stop to quickly wash up, wash the clothes out in it, tidy up actual dishes, get germs out of water bottles, and it keeps your hair squeaky clean with just two drops.
  7. Extra pens and sticky notes. Everyone is going to need to write something down at some point and a huge notebook is cumbersome, most of the time it’s leaving somebody a piece of information or jotting something down for later.
  8. Hard candy. Many times those athletes will be going on extra long durations but have no access to new water or food, so just having a hard candy can help keep thirst down. Minty is always better than sour, but my recommendation is a wide variety of flavors (but keep the minty ones separate because they will taint all the other flavors). Also it is extremely helpful when you’re going to go a long time without eating or have a nagging cough that won’t let you sleep.
  9. Durable toenail clipper. This can also be used as a scissors in an emergency, it can get packages open, and it’ll actually trim your talons. We prefer the kind that has the tiny nail file that pulls out so you can also use it to dig things out like a stinger, or cut out thorns. It should be able to easily cut through a common kitchen match to be worthy.
  10. Hard box of waxed dental floss, the old-fashioned kind that comes with a cutter built-in. Waxed dental floss can do a multitude of things, like floss your teeth, but it can tie things together, be braided and turned into a stronger rope, it will keep things attached to your bag, and it’s amazing how often you’ll need string. It’s cheap, so get the longest footage.
  11. Portable knife, something that folds up. You can use it to do all sorts of things, but there will be a time when something needs to be cut like a sandwich, stupid things that won’t open when your fingers don’t work, or to alter a piece of clothing because it’s not working. Always opt for a knife over scissors.
  12. Emergency lighter (not for what you think). Emergency lighters are far better than a box of matches because it’s like having 10 boxes of matches. It’s incredibly helpful because they fix frayed ends. A quick light with a small torch will fix all fraying shoelaces, burn wood-ticks, light prayer candles, or they could start an actual fire. Get the full-size.
  13. Small jar of Vaseline. Things rub and it’s a pisser. If you are going to be in a high heat situation make sure you put that in a plastic Ziploc and keep it out of the direct sunlight or it will melt. That said, Vaseline can melt 1000 times and still be good.
  14. Fat piece of sidewalk chalk. It is helpful so that in dry climates you can leave a mark to know that you’ve been on that trail, or to be able to write for help, and to be able to just send a fun message. You can also use this as a way to mark the terrain so that someone in a car can have a clue that you were on that path. Random tip – when leaving a chalk mark for someone to find, also leave the time that you left it. I personally draw a heart with the time in it.
  15. A small compact mirror. Yes you do want to see how pretty you are (I softly imagine that you look into the mirror expecting to see Rapunzel and out comes Rumplestiltskin), but it is extremely helpful to get a vantage point view of places that you can’t normally see (like where the sun doesn’t shine), to get dust or rock out of your eye, but it is also a safety item for someone to be able to find you as you create a lightbeam to show where you are located. So very MacGyver-ish.
  16. Triple antibiotic ointment with pain killer. Things are going to get irritated and the tiny bit of painkiller in there is just enough to stop the mental aggravation. Store with your Vaseline, that way even if they both melt and leak into each other you still have a usable item.
  17. Handkerchief. What an all-around fantastic tool. It will be great for covering nose and mouth when gnats are particularly awful, it also carries things, is a reusable wipe, covers a scrape so that it will stop bleeding (so it won’t attract biting flies), and keeps sun off a specific area like the back of your neck. Plus it can keep your hair from matting down on your forehead.
  18. A teeny tiny spatula for cookies on the trail! That actually was just a lie, but you do need the spatula. It is a crazy thing to have, but you can use it to spread things, put ointment on a large scrape without really touching it a lot, or getting something that is stuck out, like Vaseline. It acts like a stick if you have to get something out of a crevice like the (stupid Apple earbuds), and can also double as an eating utensil.
  19. Something that amplifies sound, like a bell, whistle, or other tool that can help with location identification. But it is also a great tool to keep a dog back (or something else that is bothering or annoying them). Country roads all have dogs who have never seen a leash. Keep it near and easily available.
  20. I did save the weirdest one for the last…polyester pillow batting. It is available in every fabric store, but it can pad a shoe very differently than cheesecloth. It is very helpful to keep some things lifted and away (prevents chafing), so having a little bit of batting will do that. It’s also reusable day after day, and you can wash it out and let it dry and it will fluff up.

Trail Well.

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.