How to avoid blisters, cramps and other irritants on the Wildcoast Wildrun®

The Wildcoast Wildrun® (WCWR) is a three day stage race that will steer you over all kinds of terrains, from soft beach sand, firm sand and smooth single track to boulder hopping and river crossings. What this means is that your body and feet will be challenged against constantly changing and testing conditions and terrain. Avoid complications that may arise from the coastal conditions of the WCWR by using some of Bryony McCormick’s, an avid stage and trail runner, and accident–prone human, tried and tested advice.

Avoid blisters

I am prone to blisters and have endured many a tough trail race because of them. Blisters, according to several online sources, Australian’s Blister Prevention blog being one of them, are formed by friction within the shoe. To enjoy a blister free run, you need to lessen the amount of friction in your shoe, in their own words, make the areas that are ‘rubbing’ more slippery. There are several ways to do this, including strapping, double-socking, applying a lubricant (like Vaseline or Zam-Buck) to your feet prior to running, wearing moisture wicking socks or using ‘second skin’ style plasters. All of these methods can reduce friction and thus help prevent blisters forming. I myself am a fan of using blister plasters secured by Elastoplast strapping, and then smearing my toes and arches with Zam-Buck.

If you do however feel a blister forming during a race, stop immediately and address the problem. DO NOT, under any circumstances, run any further. You should be carrying plasters/strapping, so use them to cover up the spot that you can feel or see the blister forming. It is sometimes best to apply a plaster and use strapping to secure it in place. A handy tip for a stage race like WCWR, where you’ll be in and out of water often (thus wet feet), is to carry duct tape. Duct tape is incredibly durable and water proof, and using it to secure plasters (or instead of a plaster) can help alleviate pain, further friction and water making the skin even softer. Just be sure to take it off at the end of the stage. DO NOT LEAVE IT ON.

In a worst case scenario, with blisters so bloated and sore that you are unable to run, you may be required to pop and drain them before using plasters and continuing on. This is a very dangerous position to be however, as using unsterilised equipment could lead to awful infections. So where possible it’s ALWAYS better to walk to the next support station that should have a medic or at least a first aid kit, or hold out until the finish and get professional, medical help.

Cramps

Cramping can be unpredictable, and according to online experts in an article for Runner’s World, the causes of cramping are difficult to define. Ask Facebook friends, and they’ll tell you it’s caused by dehydration, and nine times out of ten will suggest chomping on a banana to ease it off. To date however, there is no credible scientific research or data that can substantiate the above. If you do suffer from cramps it can be one of two types: muscle overloading and fatigue induced cramps, or electrolyte imbalance induced cramps. For the first kind, which are more of a constant, painful type of cramp, the best thing to do during a race, is to stop and stretch out the muscles that are cramping, and if possible, find some ice and give them some attention. If your cramps are more likely due to electrolyte imbalance, you need to increase your sodium/electrolyte intake. Often more sodium is lost when you sweat than replaced by drinking, which could lead to an imbalance, which is why it’s important to stay hydrated (especially in cold weather when you don’t feel like drinking as much). There are products on the market that can give instant relief, and usually regular energy drinks, bananas or potatoes do the trick, but this is only if you’re suffering from electrolyte induced cramps. Because of the unpredictable nature of camping, keeping a running diary might help uncover patterns which could lead to solutions for you. Take note of the weather, distance, terrain, etc, when you cramp and perhaps find the cause that way.

Sore Muscles

Without getting to scientific behind this one, I have found several ways that can help prevent sore, aching muscles during a stage race. The first is to stretch at the end of each stage. It’s usually the last thing you feel like doing, but fitting in a 30-minute gentle stretch will go a long way to readying your muscles for the next day. The second foolproof tip is to eat, eat and eat some more, and to do it as soon as you can after you finish. Sarah Chantler, dietitian at Shelly Meltzer & Associates says that “there is a period of roughly 60 minutes post exercise where the body is primed to resynthesise the energy or muscle that it has used or damaged after sessions.” As soon as you are can sit down and eat post stage, do so. Ensure you get a balanced meal with carbs, protein, healthy fats and veggies. Have a mid-afternoon snack and a hearty dinner. Fueling your body will aid in faster cell-regeneration and thus muscle recovery. Lastly, in my experience, a good night’s sleep will also serve you well. Your body has a chance to recover and rehabilitate when you sleep, so in my opinion the more z’s you get, the better your muscles will fare in the morning. Adventure racers and non-stop runner’s may disagree, saying the more sleep you have the more you stiffen up, but I have always experienced the latter. Remember that your body will be stiff and sore, so use the first few kays of every stage to warm up into your stride.

Chafe

Because the WCWR is on the coast, in sand and through sea water at times, you may find you develop chafe! Chafe, like blisters, is caused from friction. This could be from skin on skin friction (inner thighs, armpit), or kit/gear on skin friction (hydration pack, shirt sleeves, pant lining). Alternatively, you could find that sand or crusted salt may also cause skin complications. Unlike a blister, chafe and any discomfort caused by it can be dramatically lessened using a ‘second skin’ type of plaster, a regular plaster or strapping, so always have some packed somewhere. Be sure to clean the chafed area before applying the plaster to avoid infection. If you are nervous of experiencing chafe in certain areas, using a lubricant can help prevent it from occurring. I prefer to use Zam-Buck, as it takes longer to disperse and tends to lubricate hot spots for longer. Vaseline is an option, or Fissan Baby Bum Cream can work too. Find something that works for you and ensure you’ve always got a small amount of it stored in your hydration pack for a rainy day. Literally.

Sense of humour failure

Ah, the good old send of humour failure! I have lost mine on many mountains, in many deserts and on many a stage race. It seems that there will always come a time, during a stage in your trail career, that this occurs. Instead of losing friends over bad moods, or risking not enjoying the beautiful Transkei coastline, try some of my tried and tested methods to help you maintain a positive attitude. The first is to carry emergency headphones and have a good playlist ready on your phone. I try not to listen to music when I trail run, and rather let the sounds of nature act as my soundtrack, however there have been occasions that a playlist has literally saved my run. Remember to Zip-lock the earphones or put them in a dry bag (with your phone) on the WCWR.  Another way to get through a low point is to pack a treat in your hydration pack, a kind of ‘break in case of emergency’ treat. For me that’s a small Liqui-Fruit style juice, something that is so sweet and tasty there is no way I can’t liven up afterwards. Lastly, stop and take a break. Literally sit down and soak in the sea-views or take a look inland and appreciate the rural, quiet majesty of the Transkei. Don’t spend too much time stationary, but a couple of minutes to catch your breath, take in the coast will give you a boost of energy and a refreshing outlook on the kays ahead.

I hope these tips have been handy, don’t forget to leave yours behind in the comments section, as the very best advice comes from people who have tried and tested solutions, not online blogs and theories! 

 

Article written by Bryony McCormick

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