Over the past 15 years as a licensed massage therapist I have found on site sports massage to be fulfilling, both professionally and personally. This summer I turned more aggressively in a new direction with this concept; more weeklong outings taking the clinic on the road. Venturing out from the local one-day scene of running events, state mountain bike point series, road cycling, local triathlons and the like. Heres a quick rundown, enjoy!
Ride The Rockies
The 2011 travel season kicked off with the cycling tour called Ride The Rockies. June 11-16, a six-day road cycling tour in Colorado that took riders over 11,000 ft mountain passes, into the snow and rain and down in elevation to the heat of the high desert. The average distance in a days ride was around 65 miles.
There were 23 therapists on the Ride The Rockies trip. I was one of the newbie’s in the team so I only knew two other therapists, the coordinator and a long time friend. I was thoroughly impressed with the talent and organization of the therapists in the team. Therapists came from all over Colorado, a few other states and one from out of the country. It was so refreshing to see the caliber of work going on in this crew; it was a bit like attending a massage ceu class in talking about findings and techniques and simply learning by watching the other therapists work. Half way through the first day another therapist came to me with a handful of ice-cold blueberries. I had an athlete’s leg in my hand, what was I to do, I wondered? She said, “Open up” and so I did, she put her hand to my face and gently let the berries fill my mouth, she said no more and walked away. A half an hour later another massage therapist, this time a guy, walks up to me with 3 sugar snap peas in his hand, positioned as if ready for insertion. He held them about two inches from my mouth and looked at me as if to say, “Open up, it’s time for your medicine.” I followed suit, opened my mouth and the peas were administered, cold and crispy. A team was there, and I was part of it. What a strange group of people: watching out for one another, helping one another out, knowing the struggle of a 7-hour day tableside and doing what they can to help the group survive. I joined in and went to the store the next day, big, plump, juicy strawberries! The Doc was in the house, just watch the fingers! What fun! ! I feel like I met some lifelong friends up there.
We had one huge (20’x30’?) yellow and white striped event tent, as seen in the images, that was bomber in the winds of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. There was a great sound system in the massage tent and in the week of doing bodywork I don’t recall hearing the same music twice, and nobody complained about that!
This summer was my third year doing massage at the crazy fun, challenging and HOT Iowa bicycle tour, RAGBRAI. 2011 was my second year with an outfit called Porkbelly Ventures, a full service charter for the riders; we had nearly 1,000 people in our camp alone. For those unfamiliar, this is the Register’s Annual Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, which typically occurs the last week in July to the first week in August, it’s hot, humid and buggy, with thunderstorms and tornado warnings and so on with the weather of the great Midwest. With an estimated 12,000 daily riders, several teams, charter services, individuals, groups and pirates, there is no shortage of work to be done at RAGBRAI. Cycling really is a full body sport; being down in the drop bars causes neck, shoulder, and arm and hand issues. We know the quads, gluteals, IT Bands, and even the calves get roasted on the long Iowa rollers. There are a few folks in this group riding bent bikes, saving some of the work up top. But, this is not a technique article.
What a mixed bag of folks on this massage crew, I love mixed bags! You have the party girls, the vets of 23 years, the hungry massage therapists just out of school, and the dude in a kilt. I love it. My wife Missy, a therapist of 6 years, came along on this trip to the fields. It was a real pleasure getting to spend the week out in the corn, sweating and working right along side one another, keeping each other hydrated, fed and sane. Seems as if the massage therapists sort of kept to themselves on this trip, not the food shares we saw on Ride the Rockies. But then again, I was with my wife!
The days were long and in the Iowa heat we all pretty much felt the same, hot and sweaty. For most of this trip and all I was wearing was shorts and a bandana with ice in it. I gave all of my athletes the option of me putting on and wearing a shirt for their session. I had no takers, thank God. Okay, some days I wore a shirt, but not many.
We had some close calls on this trip. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke is gnarly. On day 2 in Carroll, Iowa, Missy had a gentleman go into full heat stroke on her table. His legs went into rock solid cramping and then he got dizzy. She had him sit up, and her next client arrived. I was in between athletes, so I started to speak with the gentleman, and he continued to get dizzy and pale and less coherent. I asked if he wanted medical support, he had enough in him to say he thought it might be a good idea. I ran over to tell the coordinator of the charter service that we needed medics to the massage tent NOW, as I could see this was not going to be good. I ran back to the massage tent where he was standing like a statue, I had him sit in a chair, I got him a banana and an ice cold electrolyte drink and put a chilled towel around his neck to cool the carotid artery. He was going out, I kept talking with him, trying to keep him awake, begging him to stay awake in fact. The next thing I know he dropped his drink, slumped in the chair, and convulsed a few times. Right at that time, two of the volunteers from the charter crew, who are also EMTs, showed up. One of the ladies looked me straight in the eyes and said, “I can’t get a pulse.” I was holding this man up from falling over in the chair; holy shit, the feelings and thoughts that ran through me are hard to explain. One) I’m holding a dead man. Two) what could I have done differently? Three) what will tomorrow feel like? After about 30 seconds he lifts his head and says, “Oh, sorry, I fell asleep.” Just then the ambulance pulls up, two medics come over with bags and get debriefed by the volunteer EMTs, who did a spectacular job, and my next athlete comes in. I’ll never forget that day in the corn.
All in all RAGBRAI 2011 was a great trip. I was able to spend time with my family, hear some great bands; I got some fishing and mountain biking in in Missouri and Colorado, and spent time with the kids and wife in Colorado on the way home!
TransRockies Run, 2011
From August 19th to August 27th I participated (did massage!) in the Gore-Tex Tran Rockies Run, a 6-day, 120 mile, 20,000 ft of climbing, trail race through the Colorado Rockies. A well oiled machine! The runners in this challenge are in teams of two, mixed ages and sexes. One of the requirements is that the teams meet the checkpoints together, and cross the finish line together. The stages this year were from 14 to 24 miles with elevation gains of up to 5,000 ft daily. This is an interesting race, not quite an ultra run in the daily mileage, but when they throw down the 6 days together, each stage needs to be fast to win, granted not all of the participants were in it to win. Mike Smith and Jason Wolfe of Team Run Flagstaff did take the overall title. Cheers boys!
On a daily basis the massage team joined the tent crew volunteers and broke down, transported and set up nearly 250 tents for the race participants. Maybe 4 hours in total. Once camp was set for the runners, we proceeded to set up the massage tents, 7-9 10’ x 10’ pop ups, 13 massage tables for 13 therapists, sidewalls, massage gear, reception area, etc. The typical day of massage included 5-7 hours of tissue recovery and preparation work, stretching, avoiding raised toenails and blisters, and checking out the stories of the trail. Break massage camp, sit by a fire and visit, off to sleep and repeat. Breakfast was served each morning at 6am. Good eggs, potatoes, fresh fruit, bagels, toast, sausage, oatmeal, coffee, juice, it was all there! After breakfast we grabbed a bag lunch of awesome sandwich, chips, and a cookie, and stashed it somewhere in the gear for later in the day. We then proceeded to help with runner tent breakdown, transport the tents to the next town, set up, repeat as above. See the flow here?
It was worth the extra effort to help out in camp. Many massage therapists may be above this, not I, and not many on the Transrockies Massage Crew. We all worked together to contribute to the total event. Some of the massage therapists worked checkpoints for the runners early in the morning. They had fruit to cut, water to fill, trucks to pack, gear to move, then drive out to check point until the last runner came through, then break down checkpoint, drive back to camp, where much of their gear was set to massage, and work a full load of massage. That’s teamwork, without an “I”. Get the entire Transrockies Run story Here.
After the long week on Transrockies I slept most of the 7 hour drive home, dreaming of my new mountain bike. A sweet bike she is!
All in all the summer of travel was awesome! I wonder what fall will look like? I know what next summer looks like, hope to see you down the road!