04/20/14 AT 22:46:14
Death By 1000 Cuts
DNF=Did Not Finish
Many reasons for the 100+ DNFs we will see this year. Too many to possibly predict or enumerate here. Many times it's a crushing avalanche of tiny things that lead someone to load their boat on the car and head home before reaching St. Charles. We call this Death By 1000 Cuts. DB1KC.
Here are some tiny cuts that can add up.
Go find the silkiest shirt or tie or lingerie in your collection. Now, pick a spot on your skin and rub it gently there for, let's say 60 hours. I promise you, while it may feel pleasant enough for the first 8 or 10, the next 50 hours are going to be miserable... and you'll have a nice welt there to show for it.
Chafing will surprise the rookie who hasn't experienced days upon days of doing something like this. You'll find hotspots every where. Armpits, toes, crotch, thighs and one that surprises the heck out of most guys...nipples. Yes, male nipples are often mercilessly chafed out there by the end of day 1. I am not joking. Females seem to have this all figured out. We do not.
Cotton is a plant. A fibrous plant. So that cotton shirt you're wearing is a dead plant. Feels great sitting around watching a baseball game for a few hours. But get it damp with salty sweat and do a repetitive motion like paddling for hours on end and those useless little man-nipples you've managed to ignore your whole life will suddenly have your full attention.
Solution? There are many. Non-cotton shirts do better. Another solution is bandaids or some other protection over the tender area BEFORE it gets bad. You will see guys at Kaw Point with bandaids showing through their shirts. Now you'll know why and you won't make fun of them.
Hydropel and similar products offer protection for all kinds of places on your soon to be tested skin. It's like a body lube that repels water and keeps you all squishy and slippery where you'll want to be squishy and slippery. Maybe this has never been an issue for you on your 5-6 hour training runs... but going all day and night, then day and night, then day and night... will expose your weaknesses. Trust the veterans and lube everything up "down there" and everywhere else where you might chafe. Body glide is another product. Like all the stuff we talk about, there is no magic bullet. You've gotta find out what works for you. Reapply often!
Another contributor to the Death by 1000 Cuts is a nasty sunburn. Please don't wait to apply sunscreen. It should be on at 5am day 1. Sun protection in the form of long sleeve paddling shirts, tights, hats with flaps, sunglasses, covered feet, etc. are commonly seen worn by veterans. Because they know what's coming. Don't forget to protect your hands. They're kind of important out there. And your eyes! Your eyes can get sun burned. Not sure if that's the technical term for what happens, but if you stare all day at the sun bouncing off the water, often times by sunset your eyes hurt too much to even keep open. This has knocked people out of the race. Bring sunglasses. And have an extra pair stashed either with ground crew or somewhere aboard. A strap is not a bad idea either.
Most folks will get some blisters on hands and fingers. You can prevent or minimize this by doing lots of training and building up calluses. Besides paddling to build up calluses, those other exercises you're doing to build your core muscles, like pull ups, can also build calluses. Toughen up your hands while you can.
Then, while out there during the race, be aware and alter your grip from time to time to protect tender spots. You can also use many of the blister treatments like mole skin and good old duct tape to protect spots that are getting "hot" before they become hamburger. You'll see lots of folks in St. Charles with duct taped hands and fingers. Gloves are another option. Some folks swear by them, others despise them. Not anyone's call but yours. Whatever works for you when you train.
Eating the Elephant
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
How do you conquer 340 miles of river?
You really just have to break it down into several small trips. 340 miles is an overwhelming number. Especially if your experience is only 30-40 mile training runs. But that's ok. If you know what it takes to do a 35 mile training run at a sustainable speed, keeping hydrated and fed and using efficient technique, that's great! You just have to do that 10 times and you'll be there.
Most folks approach it checkpoint to checkpoint. Some break it down by day. Others take it in 3 or 5 hour chunks. Breaking it down into manageable bites will help your mental game. And this is mostly a mental challenge.
Reward yourself at regular intervals. Your ground crew can help with this. Rewards should be simple things. An ice cold drink (remember, no high fructose corn syrup) is a great idea. If you know there's something you crave waiting at that next rendezvous, it makes a difference.
Music is a big motivator that can get you through a rough patch. We do not recommend ear buds as you need to hear what's going on around you... but waterproof speakers are great! Use that playlist to your advantage. Tell yourself you're going to paddle hard for that entire Boston album and then you're going to drift for two Jimmy Buffet songs while you eat a banana and a frozen snickers. Find what works for you.
Some folks get into the math of it all. They can tell you exactly what percent of the race is behind them. I've come up to folks and asked how they're doing. "Great! We are 52% of the way there!" And they proceed to update me every 3.4 miles.
Above all, remember to have fun. You're in your boat! You're on the river! You're NOT at work. I remember one guy telling me he wasn't having any fun the first day because all he did was stare at his gps and watch his average speed the whole time. Only when it got dark and he couldn't see the darn thing anymore did he start having fun and just relax and enjoy the experience. The next morning he just turned the gps off and never touched it again. He stopped worrying about the clock (he was well ahead of cutoff times) and started enjoying the moments and chapters of his race.
Find some fun people to paddle alongside for awhile and get to know them. You might be with them for 10 minutes or an hour or an entire night and day. Yes, it's a race and you'll be passing a bunch of people day 1 and that's exciting. But by day 2 and 3, it seems to become less about passing each other and more about helping each other survive. There's some crazy bonding that happens, especially towards the middle and back of the race. You'll see groups finish together... and by together I mean they will precisely finish together with noses touching the beach simultaneously. Blood brothers and sisters now. But only just meeting a few dozen hours before.
So relax and let go of some of that nervousness. Yes, it's a LONG way to St. Charles. But it's not that far to Lexington. And from Lexington, it's not bad to Waverly. And from Waverly, it's just 12 miles to Hills Island! And just 10 miles from there is Grand Pass Sandbar... and then 10 more miles to Miami and pancakes! Well, you get the idea.
There are still TBDs on the roster! Please get your partner signed up. We've got 600 paddlers to manage and those TBDs are gumming everything up. Some people only respond to deadlines. I get it. How about we set a deadline of May 1st. On May 1st, we'll bump the price up $20/seat for those TBDs to $195. The extra $20 will go to our friends at Missouri River Relief.
Speaking of Missouri River Relief! Remember that everything in our store at http://store.rivermiles.com is for our River Relief friends. 100% of everything sold there goes straight to their coffers and shipping is FREE. So get yourself something nice and we'll mail it right out.
Also, please check the roster and make sure your boat number is valid. If it says, "Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to select a new number" that means you need a new number!
Roster is here: http://www.rivermiles.com/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1386982916
Let me know if you have any questions.