Monday, July 18, 2011

What Triathlons and Disaster Preparedness Have in Common

While on a short deployment July 4th for the Maryland Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT), I got to thinking about how much being on the DMAT and being a triathlete have in common. I am fortunate enough to be part of the MD-1 DMAT (part of the National Disaster Medical System), and Team Trakkers/Rev3.

"A winning effort begins with preparation." (Joe Gibbs- Former Washington Redskins Coach)
In triathlon, you train for the known and the unknown. The distance is known, but you also prepare for the unexpected technical or physical difficulties(flat tires, muscle strains, GI distress...). In disaster medicine, there is a huge element of unknown. We train, review the equipment, but never know what might happen during our "on call" months, or when. Regardless, preparation is key. Prepare for the unexpected and practice how you would respond to the unexpected.

Triathlon is often an individual sport, but there is a huge sense of camaraderie among athletes. For me, Team Trakkers/Rev 3 is like a second family. In the same sense, my DMAT teammates are people I quite literally may have to trust with my life. My teammate Lee and I have been fortunate enough to train together and deploy to DC on July 4th. We have become friends, and gotten to know each others strengths quickly. It makes a huge difference to have support in a stressful situation (even just a familiar face out there on the race course or in a disaster to give you some strength and confidence). Having friends to laugh with helps some days, too!

The Gear
This is what really struck me. We could dedicate an entire room in our house to the gear required for triathlon and the DMAT (plus Tommy's fire department and hockey gear). For the DMAT, you need a 72-hour bag (which can be carry-on baggage on a plane), as well as a two-week bag. For triathlon, there is the transition bag, the bike gear, the running gear, the swim gear.

The Bags:
For DMAT it is a large duffel (with wheels), and a smaller hiking backpack.

For Triathlon, it is a tad TYR sport backpack.

The Footwear:
Once again, the footwear for tri is much cooler than for the DMAT. I get to rock my Avia Bolt IIIs for racing, but wear big black boots for the DMAT. They keep my feet safe, but running in them isn't nearly as comfortable!

Triathlon wins the award in this category for sure. Transportation for the DMAT involves a lot of big white vans. In triathlon it means my awesome Kestrel Airfoil Pro ("Lucy").

Nutrition/hydration is actually a big focus for both tri and the DMAT. With tri, a successful race involves a carefully thought-out nutrition plan. For DMAT, a deployment can sometimes mean hours in the heat, without ready access to food. First Endurance EFS is great in both situations for hydration, and electrolyte repletion, and it doesn't taste gross when warm. I'm wondering if Ultragen (awesome for recovery from hard workouts) might be a good option on deployments where food is scarce. I think I will have to talk to the First Endurance folks about this.......

They warn you in the DMAT that you may be functioning in an "austere" environment. ( toilets, no showers, etc.). Thankfully so far we have had showers for our training and deployments, but I have a shower bucket and a chamois towel just in case. SBR sports Tri Swim products (especially their sample sizes) are awesome for travel and deployment (not to mention chlorine).

I have decided that Recovery Pump needs to market to healthcare providers. While I love using my pump before and after workouts, I love it even more after a long day on my feet at work. It makes going back for more the next day even better.

At the end of the day, you hope that the preparation is in place, the equipment is there, and you are able to do what you set out to do on a given day. It certainly doesn't happen without the support of my wonderful husband, children, and family.