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Self-Care After Chattajack

Much has been written about how to prepare for the 32-mile slog down the Tennessee River Gorge known as Chattajack- from training tips to dealing with the stress and even how to handle the Call of Nature. But what about what happens after the race and how to handle it?

Here are some suggestions, based on my six CJ finishes, 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, but you will need more than that.". 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 whatever the heck you want, whenever you want, and in whatever quantities you want for a week post-race. We highly recommend tacos. Lots of tacos.

Warmth

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….hell fog, rain, sleet...the notorious Chattajack weather. 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. In years past, the Active Recovery Pant by Virus was a godsend but they are hard to come by these days, unfortunately. A warm blanket for the ride back to ‘Nooga. Get a Rumpl or Nemo or another 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 the weather is cold, consider having some hand warmers on the ready in 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. The 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 bathhouse 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 bathhouse 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 it to dry.

 Help your Hands

They, and perhaps other parts of your body, will be "tore up" - as they say in the South. Take care of blisters, hot spots, and other places that have chaffed ASAP. Whatever 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 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 you. No matter how well you trained. At some point, adrenaline wears off, and you will start to hurt, ache, or feel 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 outrigger canoe, 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 sore muscles.

Have help

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, and help you get warm. One particularly cold year, I needed help just getting into John Beausang'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 your 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.

Post-Race Depression

This is a thing. It is best handled by scheduling some kind of time with your local paddle buds - a nice local recreational paddle, a surf session if accessible, or a short, fun paddle event is just the ticket. Serious racing is not necessarily advisable because, well, you just raced 32 miles, but 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!!

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