Posts Tagged ‘safety’

This group of players braved high temps for Ultimate Frisbee this week.

It’s hot. We know that much for sure.  What’s an outdoor enthusiast to do when the temperatures reach the triple digits but the fun of Ultimate Frisbee, cycling or other outdoor activities still calls your name?

Drink more water: Okay, that’s a no brainer.  You should obviously increase fluid intake any time you’re participating in athletic activities, but the Centers for Disease Control website points out that it’s going to take more water than you think. During heavy exercise in extreme heat, the CDC recommends two to four 16-ounce glasses of water at a minimum. That means for the three hours that we played Ultimate Frisbee at South Park on Wednesday, we should each have had between three-quarters and 1 ½ gallons (3 to 5 liters) of water. I personally drank 3 liters (.79 gallons), and it was just right to keep me going. Make sure you’re planning ahead and bringing that much water along.

Replace salt, potassium and other minerals: If you’re sweating heavily, you’re losing salt and other minerals. Salt works in your body to maintain the balance of water inside and outside your cell walls. Most of us have high enough sodium intakes in our diets to avoid hypoatremia — a condition where water swells and damages cells due to imbalance caused by lack of sodium — but this is a real concern for high caliber athletes like ultra-marathoners and distance cyclists. For the rest of us, the most likely consequence of not replacing salt and minerals is muscle cramping. It’s an easy fix though; replace some of your water with an electrolyte sports drink and munch some potassium rich foods like bananas and oranges before you work out.  Interesting fact: everyone loses salt at a different rate, which is generally between 300 and 1,100 milligrams per pound of sweat.

Laura Sievert and Kirstin Smith at Ultimate Frisbee. The heat made hydration very important for all players.

Sunscreen: Apply often; apply liberally. Don’t forget that your lips and scalp can burn, too, and take proper precautions.

Know what heat exhaustion and heat stroke symptoms are: Warning signs of heat exhaustion are heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea and/or fainting. I happened to have the unfortunate experience of moderate heat exhaustion on a bike ride just a couple of weeks ago. I first noticed a headache brewing at about mile 12 of my ride. Just a few miles after that, I knew something was wrong and some of the other riders (thank you Jim and Greg) pointed out that I looked pale and needed to stop. Immediately, I realized that I had been unprepared for the heat and was experiencing the onset of heat exhaustion. I immediately got into the shade, cooled off as much as possible, drank a whole bottle of Powerade, and then headed back with Greg and Brian to where I could have myself and my bike picked up. The guys were super nice, and we took it slow and stopped several times while getting back to the car. I’m not going to lie, I was disappointed to cut my ride short, and it was hard to admit that I needed to turn back. I’m very glad I did though, because I was quite nauesated by the time I reached my car and further symptoms of heat exhaustion were not far behind.

The moral of the story is swallow your pride and know when you need to slow down or stop. There’s no harm in calling it quits in extreme heat, and there can be lots of harm if you keep going. If you’re out in the heat, and especially if you’re experiencing symptoms like I had, just stop. Have a buddy or two bring you back in case you need help. If you’re out by yourself, make sure someone knows where you are, when to expect you back, and what to do if you don’t get home. Do bring your cell phone for emergencies, but don’t make that your only plan. We all know that cell phones can break or not find a signal at the most inopportune times, so they shouldn’t be your only means of letting someone know where you are.

Heat stroke symptoms are much more serious and include  extremely high body temperature (above 103 orally), red/hot/dry skin (no sweating), rapid pulse, dizziness, nausea, confusion, headache and/or unconsciousness. Read the CDC site for complete recommendations on what to do, but if someone has these symptoms you must call for medical assistance immediately.  First-aid includes cooling the victim as fast as possible using shade, water on the body, a cool shower, a wet sheet — whatever you’ve got. Heat stroke is life-threatening and should be treated as such.

Be careful and be ready for the heat the rest of this week and the rest of this summer. Take lots of breaks and get cool when you need to.  As long as you’re vigilant, you’ll get home in one piece when you “Get Out” this summer.

It goes without saying that you should read the CDC’s extreme heat recommendations for further information. “Get Out” blog is not a medical source, so read it from the experts here:www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/heat_guide.asp

For really interesting info on salt and extreme running, check out:www.runtheplanet.com/trainingracing/nutrition/salt.asp

Original Post July 24, 2011

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Clinton Begley works on setting up safety webbing.

This is a little blog about a big thing: Safety.

A few weeks ago, I took an afternoon off work to go out to a local creek with my adventurous friends Clinton Begley and Ryan Craven for my first-ever lesson in rock rappelling. It was drizzling lightly when we arrived, and we set off down the steamy creek bed looking for a suitable cliff face for a beginner like myself. Clint and Ryan are both experienced rock climbers and rapellers, and it was interesting for me to listen to their discussion of each cliff’s strengths and weaknesses for our adventure. That one has too much overhang. Those rocks look like they could be loose. There isn’t a strong looking anchor tree near enough to that one.

Pausing for a picture during my first rappel.

Once we had found a cliff that both Clinton and Ryan liked, we hiked downstream and then up-hill to our chosen location. Clint plopped his bag of climbing gear down away from the cliff edge, quickly put his harness on and proceeded to set up a safety anchor. As he set the small piece of webbing, he explained that everything in climbing is redundant. You always use a safety anchor as you work near the cliff edge to set up your main climbing anchor. Carabiners should either lock or be set up in an opposite and opposing fashion, so that if one fails, the other will take your weight. All climbs, no matter how small they seem, should have at least two anchors.

While he was setting up the anchors, Ryan was fitting me to my climbing harness. The straps of the harness double back on each other so that they don’t slip out.  The way to know that you’ve got it on properly is that you shouldn’t see the red portion of the strap. “Red, you’re dead,” Ryan told me. That’s a safety phrase that sticks with you!

After we were all in our harnesses and no red was showing, the guys went through the procedure with me. They showed me the type of descending or “belay” devices we would be using. The small metal apparatus is called an ATC (Air Traffic Controller), and it was beautiful in its simplicity. The rope is pinched and then strung through the ATC, and as the climber feeds the rope through it, the belay device provides the friction for a controlled descent.

I clipped into the safety webbing so that I could be near the cliff face to watch Clint’s first-descent. Like any good teacher, he explained each step as he was doing it and took note of places that might be tricky to get past. He was down the 35- to 40-foot cliff in no-time, and then it was my turn. Ryan would be watching my technique from the top, and Clint would have the rope at the bottom and could help stop my descent if something went wrong. Even in teachers, I had a redundancy.

Once Ryan gave me the go-ahead, I slowly started backing off the lip of the cliff. That first test of my weight suspended from a rope over that drop was exhilarating. I was grinning ear-to-ear despite also being a little nervous, and in no time I was half-way down the cliff. I stopped for a second to look at the way the cliff wrapped around the creek bed and when the guys called out to ask me if something was wrong, I simply answered, “No — just looking! This is awesome!”

Clinton, Ryan and I had a great afternoon of rappelling, but it’s important to remember what made the afternoon great: redundancy. In climbing, everything has a back-up system. It’s the key to being a safe climber and to have an adventure not turn into an emergency.

Ryan Craven trained for rappelling and other climbing and outdoor activities at the Outward Bound Leadership School

Earlier this summer, Ryan and I, along with his wife Kirstin and my husband Justin, actually were on the scene when a young man fell off a cliff because he’d been climbing around the edge of the 120-foot drop-off in sandals with no gear. We helped keep the teen calm while paramedics were dispatched. Because of the steep terrain the injured teenager had to be rescued by boat. The process was slow and difficult. It was so frustrating to know that the whole accident could have been avoided if the teen had just thought about the situation and realized how dangerous it could be.

Any adventure can take an unexpected turn, and I’ve been in more than one situation where I wished I had been more careful. Safety means being prepared. Bring first-aid kits. Wear life jackets. Bring more flashlights and batteries than you think you need. Don’t just rely on your cell phone for GPS, bring a printed map. Know emergency phone numbers. Wear the proper footwear. Have at least two ways to start a fire. It’s all simple advice, but being knowledgeable and redundant will ensure that everyone has a fun and safe adventure every time they go.

Original Post September 9, 2011

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This blog is normally a very positive place, but after another local cyclist was struck and killed by a car last weekend, I thought it would be appropriate to take a moment to speak to all the drivers out there about the slower-moving traffic that shares the road with you.

A 57-year- old cyclist named Michael Alexander of Fort Madison,  Iowa, was struck by a pickup truck from behind on a stretch of road near Montrose, Iowa, last Friday.   Michael was an avid cyclist, a veteran of the U.S. Navy and a conductor for BNSF Railroad.

I didn’t know Mr. Alexander personally, but just two weeks ago, I was cycling with my husband and a friend on the same road on which he was tragically struck.  It’s a pretty road that runs alongside the Mississippi from Montrose all the way to Keokuk, Iowa.  The shoulders aren’t enormous, but they’re plenty to ride on if cars are paying attention and bikers are staying off to the sides. On this occasion though, a driver was distracted just long enough to not see Mr. Alexander.

This is one of at least four cyclists killed in the Tri-State area this year in motor vehicle collisions. Even though I didn’t know this cyclist, and maybe because I was just on the same stretch of road, the tragedy has hit very close to home for me.  I know that I’ve driven distracted lots of times. I’ve texted. I’ve answered a phone call. I’ve looked down to change a song on my iPod.  It could have easily been me hit on my bicycle, but could also have just as easily been me who was distracted long enough to hit a cyclist, walker or runner.

The truth of the matter is that cyclists aren’t always in the right.  As a group, we’re generally pretty conscientious of laws and we stay off to the sides of the road and use blinking lights and wear the brightest jerseys we can find, but there are times when we make the wrong move.  On the articles about Mr. Alexander’s death on some news of the local outlets though, there were a couple of highly inappropriate comments posted by people regarding riders. You see those types of comments any time a cyclist is hit by a car.  One that really upset me was a comment by a viewer using the name “Lawnboy” on KTVO’s website: “Very unfortunate event, however until bicyclists put their common sense before their ‘right’ to the roads, there will undoubtedly be more of these stories.”

I wasn’t there, and I don’t know if this cyclist was in the right place or not.  The point is this: It doesn’t matter who was right or wrong.  When a car strikes a biker, runner or walker, it’s always the car that wins.  Therefore, it’s the driver’s responsibility to be as conscientious as possible.  As drivers we have to keep our eyes on the road, pay attention to our lanes, and look out for other people using the roadways. The road that Mr. Alexander was killed on is designated a scenic drive and has cycling route signs along its entire length.  It’s a place that a motorist might reasonably expect to see a cyclist. And it was definitely his right to be using the road to cycle.

My heart truly goes out to the family of Mr. Alexander and to the family of the driver of the pickup truck that struck him.  I don’t doubt that the driver wishes that he hadn’t had his eyes off the road to do whatever little thing had him distracted.  Life is going to be hard for both families going forward from this incredibly sad event.

I hope you take a moment right now to think about the way you drive.  Are you careful to look out for cyclists, runners, walkers, kids playing, farm vehicles, construction workers, horses and motorcycle riders?  The text you were going to send, the song you were going to listen to, or whatever else you might find yourself distracted with are not worth the consequences that can happen when you drive distracted.  Please be safe on the roads, and be aware of all of the people who share them with you.

To read Mr. Alexander’s obituary or to express condolences, please click here.

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