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


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 Brain Game of Catchy Tunes

heissenstein ghettoblaster-1225920A trail driver has many unique roles on the trail and one of them is being an infectious DJ.

And I mean that word infectious. Arm yourself with a diverse playlist that is filled with songs that will roll around in those athletes’ heads for miles and miles. If you’ve ever tried to get “Eye of the Tiger” or “We are the Champions” out of your head, you know that sometimes it stays for days.

A great song at a rest stop can invite that athlete to go further. I will often drive up next to the team with the windows down and music blazing to let them know how far up the trail I will be. Music that’s catchy can give them some mental bonus points while they are refreshing, and it will infect them with positive brain chatter for the miles to come.

Now I will warn you upfront that the gender of the athlete will decide whether or not your playlist is great.  Men have a very different playlist than women do. Know your team and know their favorites. You’re always looking for songs that have a hook that will keep replaying in their mind with positive anthems i.e. “We are the Champions,” “I’m a MF Beast,” “I’m Too Sexy,” “Pour Some Sugar on Me”… You know the list.

Rock on Trail Driver.

Trail well.

Understanding How Athletes Can Thrive in Pain

If you’ve never seen someone push his or her body to the absolute limit for personal satisfaction, you’ve never been a trail driver. Not familiar with the name? We’re the ones that run the supply in gear wagons. We’re also the ones who make sure endurance athletes get to their destination, managing all the details along that lengthy, winding road.  

If you’re choosing to volunteer for this unpaid pastime, understand that you’re a critical member of the team — not an added benefit.

Simply being available at an aid station is actually the smallest part of your job. Besides handing them their next glass of water, trail drivers are really the lifelines to keeping athletes healthy and moving toward their goal. You serve as the voice of reason. You also act as cheerleader, tour guide, photographer, statistician, reporter, admin, medic, and even savior.

Told ya! There’s a lot resting on your shoulders.

Veterans to the trail may not get a lot out of the rest of this post, but those new to the world of trail driving will find it useful and could prove to be an epic warning of things to come.


Endurance athletes have a weird, twisted sense of what’s doable when in pain, and this mindset doesn’t come close to matching that of normal humanity. I’ve watched people literally run with broken bones, blown-out knees, and blisters the size of New Hampshire.

To them, the largest monster to overcome is the mind. If they’re able to conquer the mind, they often believe they can do anything.

Because of this, endurance athletes make a habit of tricking their bodies into moving forward when it looks like it shouldn’t.  Every time they push though and overcome awful obstacles, they get some sort of mental merit badge. Just make sure you let them win it (and wear it, for that matter).

But this badge doesn’t mean they’re not thinking about the pain and tiredness — as well as that pesky little word that often comes with both: NO.

Whenever interacting with athletes, you want to tell them more good news. Anything that’s good news will help get them to the next place. Look for anything positive to tell them, like the trail is clear, the wind is at your back, or the like.

As athletes close in on the finish line, they’ll put up with insanely miserable physical and mental conditions just to reach that goal. Give them the tools to live through it. It’s part of the job.

Trail well.