Racing over a week under trying conditions will push the limits of health. Reduced caloric intake and a less than sanitary environments will add negatively to the equation. Take these aspects seriously and take care of yourself.
1. Inoculations: Be sure to discuss with your health care professional any required and recommended inoculations you should have for traveling to your race location. This should be done well in advance (four to six months) since some inoculations require multiple injections at various intervals. At a minimum you should have a current tetanus shot.
2. Pre-race foot preparations: Your feet will carry you to the finish or they will let you down. They are your one and only means of transportation and you need to have them in the best possible condition prior to the start. There is a large body of knowledge out there relating to caring for your feet. Study it and live by it. Make sure callouses are removed, your nails are clipped well and the skin of your feet is toughened up! Strategies include walking/running barefoot on occasions and using various topical products such as Tough Foot or Friars Balm.
3. Pre-race medical check: Normally you will be required to submit a document from your physician that you are healthy enough to participate in the race. This may also entail a resting EKG (electrocardiogram) or even a stress test if you are older. Typically this review by your doctor will need to be conducted within a 30 day window prior to the event. Schedule your appointment well in advance in case there are issues.
4. Hand Hygiene: Be germaphobic! Bring a small bottle of hand sanitizer (1 ounce is usually more than enough, 0.5 oz is typically sufficient) and use it often. Use prior to eating and after contact with others. This will help to minimize possibility of picking up some unwelcome bug. Sanitizer can also be used to wipe off your feet prior to blister management.
5. Self-Care: Know how to take care of your self – especially your feet. The point of these races is “self-sufficiency” and a reliance on medical staff support may result in you waiting in long lines for help instead of interacting with your fellow racers. However, if you do have pressing medical needs that you feel require the attention of professionals then by all means visit the medical tent.
6 First aid supplies: A small kit of first aid supplies usually comes in handy. Included two or three Band-Aids, a gauze pad, suture strips, alcohol wipes, vitamins, Aleve, Ciprofloxacin, Imodium, Sudafed, Tylenol, Benadryl, Cough drops and any personnel medications including prophylactics for malaria in such regions.
7. Sun protection: Unless you are racing in Scotland or above the Arctic Circle in winter time, you will be exposed to lots of sun. This is especially true if you are desert racing or at high altitudes (above 3000 ft/1000 meters). If you are not used to this amount of sun and/or do not take proper precautions you will suffer greatly. Sun burns, blisters and even heat exhaustion/stroke are very real and can occur. Apply a quality sunscreen on your face/nose/ears/neck before the day’s stage and consider reapplying frequently. Wear a hat at all times, even in camp. Consider using cooling sleeves to keep the sun off your arms. Take advantage of shade wherever you can find it and stay hydrated. Don’t forget to wear sunglasses. Hat capes help also as well as dousing your buff and sleeves with water to stay cool.
8. Hydration and electrolyte maintenance: Many stages races take place under extreme conditions and along with high level of physical exertion necessitate the regular replacement of fluids and electrolytes during the entire event. There is typically more than sufficient water available for hydration for each racer. Do not pass up any of your rations! Everyone at one time or another runs into trouble and needs that extra amount! With regards to electrolytes, there are many products out there and you should be familiar with your requirements. Know the signs of not managing your electrolytes! Almost everyone slips into low electrolyte levels at least one time during a stage race and this can be a game ending event! Getting an IV can spell the end of your participation!
9. Toilet Paper: Be sure to bring enough toilet paper (Desert Dollars, Mountain Money, etc.)! Some races do not supply this critical asset. It is unwise to bring just enough due to gastro intestinal problems that may be experienced in foreign lands and with less than sanitary conditions in the field. Remove the cardboard tube. Keep in a zip-lock bag in an easy to reach location. Practice good disposal of all human wastes.
10. Compressed towels: These are small, disposable and washcloth sized. Compressed down to the size of a large tablet a small amount of water “re-hydrates” them. A nice treat to wipe your face and give yourself a quick sponge bath at the end of the day. Consider bringing one per day and a couple of extras. Another option is to bring along de-hydrated (dried out) wet wipes.
11. Sleeping aids: Some bring along various sleeping aids. The use of these aids is up to you and your physician (if prescription based). While a good night’s sleep is great it does detract from the ethos of this type of racing. Your choice.
12. Body Lube: It may be wise to bring along a small amount of your favorite body lube product to help with chaffing. Be aware that overdoing this can result in a much worse situation especially in desert racing where sand can come into play. A little will go a long way.
13. Dental Care: You will most likely desire a toothbrush after about the second day. A small one with part of the handle cut off with a very small amount of toothpaste works fine. You can also bring six very small disposable ones that also have the toothpaste included. This is a lighter option. If you really want to save weight you can cut off half the bristles.
14. Back/Body Taping: Along with feet taping, taping various friction points on your body is useful for some. The most common spots are your lower back and shoulders where your pack will have the most contact and movement. Be sure to prepare your skin by using Tincture of Benzoin. When applying the tape avoid wrinkles. Ensure that the edges of the tape extend beyond the friction area so they are not pulled up. A good tape job should only have to be redone at most once during a race.
15. Other items of concern: There are many other ailments that one should be able to prevent and/or deal with out in the field. Here are some common ones.
• Stomach and other Gastro Intestinal issues
• Soft tissue injuries
• Insect bites
16. Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED’s): The use of drugs to enhance performance is highly frowned upon even those used to treat “nausea”. Additionally, many countries where some stage races take place have a zero tolerance for the importation, possession and use of illicit drugs. Keep it clean.
17. Prescription Medications: Bring along sufficient supplies of any prescription medications you may be on. Transport them in their original pharmacy containers or packaging. Before departing check to determine if they are legal to carry throughout your travels and to your final destination.
18. Medical Alert/Identification Bracelet: If you have a potentially significant medical issues such as a drug allergy consider obtaining and wearing a medical bracelet. Even if you do not, the information on these can be helpful in an emergency. Items that should be included:
- Address and phone number
- Emergency contact name and phone number
- Alternate emergency contact name and phone nubmer
- Known alergies
- Known drug alergies
- Other medical conditions of note
- Blood type