Self Care After Chattajack
It is that time of year when we – well most of us – are obsessing about everything Chattajack. There’s even a special language that goes with it.
Much has been written – here on the Mullet and elsewhere – about how to prepare for the 32 mile slog down the Tennessee River Gorge, from training tips to dealing with the stress and even how to handle the Call of Nature. But we’ve never really written about what happens and how you should handle it AFTER the race is over.
So, here we go. In no particular order.
Eat. EAT EAT EAT EAT!!
Yes, there is the most wonderful chocolate milk in the world waiting for you at the finish line (and this year, one of my students who is a volunteer is going to hand me mine, so excited and honored!!) but you will need more. Arrange to have protein and whatever else your body might demand waiting for you. Pack a cooler. Have your Sherpa swing by MacDonalds or Wendy’s, whatever. Just be sure you eat. And keep eating. You have a pass to eat what ever the heck you want, whenever you want and in what ever quantities you want for a week post-race. We highly recommend tacos. Lots of tacos.
Let’s just assume you will be chilly after the race. Either because you just paddled 32 miles and you have stopped and are standing around in sweat-soaked gear or because….well…two words: Last Year. BE PREPARED. You will want the following:
- Warm, soft, cozy comfort clothes. Fleece everything. Even fleece (or Merino wool)underwear. Highly recommended: Surfur’s parka. It’s amazing. Also highly recommend Virus’ Active Recovery pant which has the same bio-ceramic technology in the fibers as their tights to promote recovery. It helps. Really. A warm blanket for the ride back to ‘Nooga. Get a Rumpl or Nemo or other brand of puffy blankie.
- A knit cap. Not the one you wore in the race. It will be gross. (See below.)
- Fleece gloves and if things go the way of last year, consider having some hand warmers on the ready on the car to tuck in your pockets.
- A thermos of hot coffee, tea or the toddy of your choice.
Deal with the Stank
Your clothes. They will be gross. Gross beyond measure. Especially if you have taken our advice about “going.” Be prepared. Two ways to go on this one:
A. The Bag and Forget method. Have a heavy duty black trash bag waiting in your car and dump the disgusting garments in the bag as soon as you get them off. And then forget about them until you get home. Only flaw in this strategy is that you might forget about them a little too long and the problem amplifies. That leads us to:
B. Shower with them on. If you can get into the bath house at Hales Bar, or if you have a friend who’s rented one of the cabins there and has offered, shower with your kit on. Practice this at home. It actually feels kind of good and can help warm you up if needed. Bring body wash in your Sherpa-mobile and soap up the clothes on your person, take them off, scrub, and rinse. Then do you. You have thereby mitigated some of the stench and grossness, and you’ve kept the bath house a bit tidier in the process. Have that plastic bag handy for the ride back into ’Nooga, where you can repeat the process in the shower or sink and then hang to dry.
Help your Hands
They, and perhaps other parts of your body, will be “tore up” – as we say in the South. Take care of blisters, hot spots and other places that have chaffed ASAP. What ever healing balms you prefer, have them in your Post Race Essentials bag (Also known as the Spare Change bag) along with the other items we’ve mentioned here. No matter what you do during the race – something somewhere is very likely to be blistering or chapped beyond measure. Prompt attention will lessen the impact later. Personally, I like Joshua Tree Paddlers Salve, All Good’s Goop or Climb On! Hand salve best for my hands. The callouses you develop post-CJ need to be maintained so you don’t have to get them going next paddle season so apply liberally.
Deal with the Pain
You will be sore. You will feel like a truck ran over over you. No matter how well you trained. At some point adrenaline wears off and you will start to hurt, ache or feel a tired deep in your bones. Be prepared. Have anti-inflammatories handy. Pack ice packs. Pack a heating pad. Pack a foam roller and get after it as soon as you can. The first year I did CJ in the OC, I sat on a LaCrosse ball on one butt cheek all the way home. So bring a LAX or tennis ball. Use it. Hammer Nutrition’s Hammer Balm is a wonderful product to have on the ready to soothe the sore muscles.
A good Sherpa or two is hard to find and so, so good to have. They can wrangle your gear, load your board or boat, make sure you eat, help you get warm. Last year, I needed help just getting into John’s 4Runner and even though he was not my sherpa, I was ever so grateful that Larry Cain was there to help get me into the car, ‘cause I needed it. Badly. Your mind as well as you body will pretty much check out. So having a sherpa to remember things like where you put your stinky clothes is invaluable.
The Ride Home
The euphoria of your accomplishment will reach its Zenith here. Be prepared. It’s highly advisable to drive with someone who understands everything you have just been through, or is at least very empathetic. You will ramble on a lot. You will relive and retell every single moment. You will think caffeine is necessary but it’s not. It might make the situation worse by preventing you from much needed sleep. If you are driving alone, you will have epic conversations with yourself or perhaps even dearly departed ones. However, you will begin to crash at some point. If you can, sleep. If alone, stop often. Have a bed of some sort already made up in your car so you can stretch out and catch z’s when needed at rest stops.
This is a thing. It is best handled by scheduling in some kind of time with your local paddle buds. For us in NC, it has been the Surf to Sound race, which sadly has been cancelled this year because of Hurricane Florence. Serious racing is not necessarily advisable because, well, you just raced 32 miles, but the camaraderie is key. Just be together. Celebrate the paddle season you just had and talk about next year. Eat tacos (see above.) It helps. It really helps. Because at some point, you will realize, at least for most of us, that your season is over. You will start to miss everyone before you even leave Chattanooga and when the full import of that hits you, it hits you hard. Embrace the things you have put off because you have been CJ training – do other activities like mountain biking, climbing, surfing, skateboarding. Remember how much you enjoy those other activities. It is a good distraction for the Chatta-crash that will come when you get home.
Most of all, remember – no matter what the outcome of your race in the Gorge, it is an accomplishment!! Be proud of yourself!!
See you in ‘Nooga, y’all!!