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.

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.

Trail Driving Birthday

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How does the everyday person start to bring endurance athletics into their everyday life?

My first recommendation is to create a birthday celebration (in your sport of choice) that is longer than you would normally go as a solo athlete.

A celebration is a time to invite people into your life to do something that is fun and maybe a little different. For those of you who are learning how to trail drive, this is an easy entry level place to start learning how to manage the trail. It’s also a time that younger people can learn to manage endurance athletes, because it’s not high stress.

The “30 miles for your 30th birthday” as a run is a perfect example of inviting people at many different athletic levels to participate. You’ll also need to have someone managing those guests at mileage intervals.

A new trail driver can have really very little experience and still do a great job because they will not have a huge distance and a huge team to manage.

So if you are an endurance athlete, it might be time to start training in your back up crew by having a cupcake celebration at every 10-20 mile interval while just enjoying the day.  

Trail well.

Good Clean Fun!

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Let me introduce you to the beloved “Squirt Shower.”

Outdoor athletic activities can be messy and dirty. A great trail driver will do everything in their power to keep their athletes feeling like they can do the impossible, and sometimes that’s all about being squeaky clean.

Grizzled endurance athletes absolutely want you to think that they don’t want to be babied, but they really do.  So when they’re coming in for a rest stop be sure to offer a way to clean them up.

When an athlete is out on the trail and sweating, every disgusting bit of the world is going to stick to them: everything from pollen, cotton, dirt, rocks, sap, hay, sand, clay, and gnats will adhere itself to legs, necks, backs and arms.  And if you’ve ever done a road trip across the country and looked at your windshield, you can imagine how many bugs hit athletes.

That’s why I always keep about six squirt showers ready for athletes during a rest stop. Make sure the bottles are easy to squeeze because athletes will have a difficult time squeezing hard because of the nature of how the body is going to move blood flow during athletic performance. Fingers don’t get as much good blood flow as hearts and lungs do. Have squirt top bottles that are filled with 99.5% water and a little bit of unscented dish soap.

Now if you’ve never had somebody wash you off I’m going to tell you right now, I am brutally serious about the NO scent part. Nobody wants to smell like a Hawaiian vacation on the road and it will make them hate you, PLUS it can make them nauseous (and for those of you who have read my blog over time there’s nothing more disgusting to manage than chow blowing).

It really is a quick and easy love-up by lightly squirting down a towel and wiping them off, or having them sit with feet raised so they don’t get their shoes wet while you squirt directly on their legs or arms. That will clean off the environmental goo that has attached to them. The goal is to just get the road debris off of them and get them back on the road.

If you’ve ever gone into the shower as a disgusting, grunting, dirt pile in bad mood and come out a refreshed and a boldly better human being, you will completely understand the power of the squirt shower.

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.

 

Cold Water Crotch

hans ice-cubes-1194499Yes I’m going to talk about crotch and when you’re going to want to apply ice.

I have not met a man yet that thinks it’s a great idea to put ice on his gear, but if they want to recover faster from heat while on the trail, they’re going to want to try on an ice crotch.

It’s summer again and this is when athletes frequently become overextended in the heat. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are really crucial items to watch out for in endurance athletes. For your male athletes who are not sweating enough, not only is wrapping them in ice blankets helpful, but it’s also helpful to apply a nice icy pack right to the groin.

I’m not saying you have to have an extended stay visit with groin icing, but cooling that area down will absolutely speed the recovery process and sometimes by as much as 40%. The cooler moisture will also help keep that area a little more refreshed when they get back on the trail.

If you have this gear you will know exactly what I mean by refreshed. You’re not looking to get that area really wet to induce chafing, you’re really looking to just give it a nice ice.

Trail well.