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.

Cameras on the Trail Can Cause Injuries

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I am seeing more and more adventure athletes taking technology like a Go Pro or something like that on the trail with them.

I have a lot of problems with anything that is a distraction to what they’re really doing. I have seen many athletes stop to take a selfie, or try to get a panoramic shot and end up falling, or dropping their device.

Having a phone on a long course can be a life saver, and I am actually pro-selfie, when it is appropriate. For the athlete, I ask them to be aware of their surroundings. The others are on the course to test their bodies to the extreme and are not usually able to stop or get out of your way. They WILL hit you if you are in the way, and they will be pissed if they get injured from selfie stupidity.

Having basic rules about devices on the course is a great plan, as is having a simple guide to the rules about exiting the course to take images.

There is also the honest fact that metal objects are slippery when you are sweaty. Lots of things get jostled or dropped when you’re on any course. A thing in motion, likes to stay in motion. If you are jostling a phone that has no power to fly, gravity will connect and smash the shit out of that screen. Ouch!

That phone you are now running with has smashed glass, an irritant that can make you bleed. Not great, and FYI, flies love blood and can outrun even a cheetah.

I will tell the people who are walking or running the course on the very back end to look out for items like this that may have been discarded, dropped, or just flat out lost and we will put them in the lost and found at the end.

Besides, selfies are the BEST when they are at the finish line.

Trail well.

Bruises That Worry

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Mountains are dirty and full of rocks. That makes them hard on people who are moving at great speeds to complete a course because any misstep can cause a fall.

When you have athletes that are training in mountainous regions, I always remind people that mountains are made of ROCKS.

Yes ROCKS, and rocks can kill people, even nice, cute people. Depending on if you are in a volcanic mountain or other type of mountain, let’s just agree that all mountains are full of rock.

Rocks get caught up in stuff, they also really hurt and always break skin when you fall on them.  Rocks can cause crazy bruises. Bruises are like a scab on the inside, and you will know instantly when you’re about to bruise the living crap out of your leg, because it will turn color quickly.

If it looks like the bruise on a large muscle group is going to be under the size of a fist, as the Trail Driver I really don’t worry that much. But, if it looks like it is more like the size of my hand if it were open (with all fingers) or larger, I’m definitely going to start to worry.

Bruising that instantly turns black is also not a good sign. Bumps that immediately show a raised “nugget” like a head bump means I will pull the athlete from the course.

It is best to remind all athletes of the rules around safety in advance, so they know IN ADVANCE what accidents will pull them off the course. “Please avoid head injuries” is not enough information…

If your athlete gets injured, ask the person to tell you about the fall and the type of impact. Was it jagged or smooth, was it a deeper punch or just a pancake splat?  Weight falls at 2 ½ times its weight, so a 200-pound male is falling at 500 pounds of force and 500 pounds of force on a spleen is never a good plan.

If you are sending them back, have a medic check them in route and make a back-up plan if the pain gets worse. If they puke after a pancake splat, they need to go right to medical, because this is now a trauma sign.

Best option, pay attention to rocks, tell your team to pay attention to rocks, and NEVER, NEVER trust rocks to stay in place. Nothing outsmarts gravity.

Trail well.

 

Headphones

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Here’s why I don’t appreciate headphones for athletes and events.

One of the items that we have as conversations a lot is about athletes who are wearing headphones while doing an event. Now, I will preface this that it is completely determined on the event that you are Trail Driving as to whether leniency can be brought on. But overall, I just say no.

My biggest reason is safety. While an athlete is doing especially difficult physical things, 100% of their attention needs to be on what they are doing.

Endurance athletes are frequently in challenging circumstances. If that environment has any deadly predators in it like rattlesnakes or pumas, I really need them to pay attention because it could cost them their life. No, I am not being overly dramatic.

Tiny rattlesnakes are extremely dangerous, because they do not have any way to put their venom out in a single bite, they will release as much venom as they can until their fangs are pulled out from your leg. They will also leap from rocks if those rocks are in a descending format, so they can bite at your hand or your face. You are never going to hear that warning rattle with a set of headphones on.

There are many things that can bite that you’re not going to enjoy if you’re an athlete on a mission.

While I understand the power of music as a soundtrack that allows performance, I always invite that athlete to check the box in their head about safety and the safety of those around them. I have had athletes not hear a call for assistance from another athlete because they had headphones on. Part of saving the life of another athlete who is in degradation may be that you actually hear them puking or in a convulsion on the side of the route before you actually SEE them.

So when you’re thinking about headphones on an event that has lots of other people who are trying to do amazing feats, you may want to keep your head on and your headphones off.

Trail well.