Learning How to Improvise Will Lead To Endurance Racing Success The Power of DUCT TAPE

Posted on 24 February 2016

How many times during your racing career have you witnessed complete mental breakdowns, panics, hysteria when something goes wrong with an athlete’s “perfect race plan”.  As we all know, THE LONGER THE RACE, THE MORE THINGS CAN GO WRONG.”

I can remember back to races over the years and some great innovative ideas that worked and continued toward the finish line. It becomes so difficult to improvise with a mind that can’t think straight or even process information when sleep deprivation is involved.   Experience and actual self testing improvising techniques during training can help gain confidence.


Personal improvisation stories with the one magic product – DUCT TAPE:

While competing in a DECA Ironman in Mexico many years ago, I was unprepared for freezing weather and rain.   It was so unusual; no one expected it.   It never crossed my mind to bring along shoe booties for the bike.  My feet were so numb and painful; it became a constant nuisance in my brain and could not divert the pain to somewhere else in the body.    Time to improvise – DUCT TAPE solution #1.   Rick, my super crew came up with an idea to craft together Duct Tape booties.   Duct Tape insulation is much better than plastic bags in the shoes and waterproof.  Also, I could not take the cycling shoes off, because my feet were so swollen (when I took sleep breaks, I just slept in the shoes).    The duct tape booties worked like magic and stayed together for the remainder of the bike section.

During the same DECA Ironman – my shoulders just never seemed to loosen on the bike after swimming 24 miles.  As I cycled past the 600 mile point,  (total bike distance, 1,120 miles) I could not reach back into my cycling jersey to get nutrition and electrolytes.   Of course, I could of thought to bring a small top tube feed bag but never expected this to be a problem.    Duct tape came to the rescue again, and a modified food bag was crafted.   We attached it to the top tube and it lasted throughout the remainder of the bike course.


Duct tape for blisters during an ultra marathon.   This was an old ultra running technique.  I can remember vividly when I heard about it and of course thought it was crazy.    The year was 1992 and I was racing in a hot/humid (95 degree Fahrenheit) 6 hour, ½ mile loop running race.  This was the early years of ultra-running and my feet were a mess of blisters – (water blister, blood blisters, everything).    A fellow ultra runner offered me duct tape and showed me how to use the duct tape as a base layer (sticking two pieces together as a pad) and it worked like magic and deadened the pain.   Most importantly it helped me get to the finish line.

Learning how to improvise will help you with your ultra racing.   With any self-supported adventure it’s crucial to be adaptive and not panic.   Practice the improvising in your training and racing and the next time you face a crisis you will be better equipped to handle the stress.   Never forget your duct tape!

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