Any time you have an athlete that is competing or participating in an event that is not in their natural climate you have a higher risk of exhaustion.
Heat exhaustion is probably the most common. The first thing to do when a runner looks like they’re overheating is to have them stop moving, but the minute they stop moving their body may actually become nauseous.
Always put them in a chair that is a little bit distant from where other runners will be passing by. Give them some space in case they have to hurl. The chances of a person hurling when they have heat exhaustion and have been moving for a long time is very high. (FYI very few things leave a more lasting scent than shoes full of someone else’s puke.)
As someone who does support for athletes I always try to keep an extra hat in my medic kit when I can. You want to have one that is made of canvas and that can hold a little bit of water.
For those of you who are grizzled heat veterans you’re already saying “ahhh, the old hat full of ice trick.” Icing down the head is a quick tool to get the whole body cooled down. The ice itself will start to cool the head immediately and melt. Plus it will start to melt at a drip rate that isn’t too annoying.
One of the things that you will want to do at the same time is hand them a damp towel. That way they can manage dripping and perspiration, or it will give them a place to throw up privately.
You will also want to look for the perspiration expression of the athlete. Zero perspiration can be an entirely different problem.
Depending on how long the athlete has been without aid station, they usually cool down in about 15 minutes and they are free to go on with the rest of the race. I will frequently send them with an additional hat of ice so that they can manage their own temperature for a while.
The quickest way to create a hat full of ice is to literally dip a hat into a cooler of melted ice from the back of the van.
It will get immediate relief to the athlete because the ice is already in a high melt/water form and will start dripping immediately. The drip from that ice on the neck and shoulders is also why you choose this technique.
When serving athletes who are doing crazy things, you being calm and assessing the situation is critical. Trail drivers are the ones that need to have their heads on straight.
Thank you for all of you who choose to Trail Drive.