Trail Smarts

Outside the weather has deteriorated.  It is snowing hard, the wind is blowing 30 mph and the temperature as well as visibility are dropping.  A huge change from just a couple of hours ago when it was sunny, calm and relatively warm.  Fortunately, it is a rest day for me.  The wood stove is crackling softly while the dog and cat rest peaceable beside it.

But what if it wasn’t a rest day?  Would I have been out in the storm striving to get my miles in?  The short answer is no.  What is there to prove?  Why risk an injury? Besides I got the weather report and did not want to be caught out in the storm.  You can prepare for and be out in these conditions but sometimes it is best not to tempt fate so to speak.  Using your head is important.

With the increase popularity of trail and ultrarunning there are many participating that perhaps have little experience in the outdoors.  I am sure most are physically and emotionally prepared for these events.  However, do they have the trail smarts not to get into trouble and to get out of it if they do?  Can they deal with an unexpected, potentially life or limb threatening situation?  Do they know what to do in a medical emergency?  Are they smart enough to know when to back off or even call it quits?  Can they deal with being off course by themselves in the dark?

Ultarunning is a tough, individual sport.  Events are conducted in remote locations that may not have any cell service whatsoever and the nearest aid station could be hours away.  GPS devices fail and the flagging may have been eaten by elk.  You are on your own and responsible for yourself.  This is even more important if the ultra is being conducted under adverse conditions.

These words are not to discourage, far from it, but are meant to encourage preparation as much as possible and to understand limitations.  Being under prepared especially in the knowledge department not only can put yourself unnecessarily at risk but others who may need to come to your aid.

A prime example of the potential hazards in ultrarunning was the most recent edition of the Hardmoors 55 (17 March 2018).  The weather took a turn with near blizzard conditions and the event organizers called the race.  Fortunately, competitor were well equipped and experienced enough to use their head, map and compass; enabling them to reach shelter.  Even so, some were suffering from hypothermia and mountain rescue transported racers to the finish location.  A relatively happy ending to a potentially bad situation. 

Other things can go wrong.  A nasty fall with an injury, a dry water drop, confrontation with wildlife, a flash flood or perhaps an intense lightning storm, heat exhaustion or frostbite.  You may not necessarily be the one in need, it may be someone you meet along the trail; a fellow racer or just someone out and about.

Your best piece of kit to deal with all of this and more is what is between your ears.  Use it and it will usually keep you out of trouble.  Become familiar with first aid, navigation, weather and basic survival.  There are many organizations out there that can help so take advantage of their services.

Hopefully, your trial and ultrarunning endeavors will be positive and free of tribulation.  Use your head and be prepared!  Finally, I leave you with some words that if everyone takes to heart than we all will be better off.

Look out for your fellow competitors, but assume no one is looking out for you!





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