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.

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.

Seven Magical Things to Add to Your Medical Kit

Because I’ve seen so many different kinds of injuries over the years from athletes, one of the things that I have been attentive to is my first aid kit. I have an extraordinary group of things that are put in my kit that have saved the day on different locations

1. Swiss Army knife – I have used that Swiss Army knife to do everything from pop blisters, take out road rash, cut toenails that rub, and even just open a bag of Skittles.

2. A lighter – useful if I have to burn shoe laces to make them lace up again, or need to open a package, or light a sparkler.

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3. Flashlight – this is a critical item, and always have extra batteries on hand too.

4. Chapstick – the sun is a brutal and ferocious beast, and sometimes Chapstick can save your lips not just from sun, wind and frost, but also from panting. Chapstick can also be used elsewhere on the body where you need lubrication, not just on the lips.

5. Multipurpose tool – this is an absolute lifesaver in fixing gear, pulling nails out of tires, or simply used to open pop cans that break.

6. Rubber bands are the near-glue of the world. They can keep ice packs in place, they can hold towels on, they can also be critical in keeping groups of items together in your gear bag.

7. Old fashioned gauze – it is a miracle from the heavens and will relieve aching in shoes or throbbing, chafing man junk. Gauze is not just for breakfast anymore!

Trail well.