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25 Things I’ve Learned From Ultras, Bike Tours, and Trekking

Kristyn Bacon

1 No matter what season and no matter where you go, always bring sunglasses and sunblock.

2 Bring two pairs of everything and wash what you wore everyday. A cyclist friend of mine has a very efficient washing method: he goes into the shower wearing his entire kit, washes his kit while it's on him, takes it off, and then washes himself.

3 Everything in the backpack goes in a plastic bag. EVERYTHING. IN THE BACKPACK. GOES. IN A PLASTIC. BAG.

4 Anything can be used as shampoo: hand soap, bar soap, body gel, everything. Sometimes laundry detergent. Only toothpaste can be used as toothpaste.

5 Put Vaseline everywhere that rubs. Even if it rubs just a tiny bit and even if it's just a tiny bit of Vaseline.

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First race of spring chafing

6 Decide before you race what conditions will make you drop out. Otherwise, you'll drop out from being wet or cold or tired or in pain.

7 Summer: cold water in the CamelBak. Winter: warm water in the CamelBak. Really Winter: hot water or tea in the CamelBak. Also, CamelBak backpacks can and should be washed regularly.

8 If you're going the wrong way, you really have to turn back.

9 Always put the rain cover on your tent. ALWAYS. PUT. THE RAIN COVER. ON. YOUR TENT.

10 Emergency food should be hidden somewhere in your bag at all times.

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Emergency potatoe taped to a racing bike

11 Eat bananas or your legs will cramp.

12 Shortcuts usually involve steep hills, garbage farmland, or cobblestones.

13 Nothing you do on the trail is gross.

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14 Only pack your bags part way full; you always obtain crap along the way.

15 Water. Water. Water. Little bit of Gatorade. Water. Water. Water. Chocolate milk.

16 Rest stops take five minutes. Rest stops do not take 10 minutes. Rest stops do not involve sitting. Rest stops do not take fifteen minutes. Rest stops take five minutes.

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Peanut butter or cheese? Peanut butter or cheese? Peanut butter or cheese? Peanut butter . . . .

17 Bring something salty on the long days. Pickles are great or chips or pretzels. But pickles are great.

18 Jeans get wet and they don't dry.

19 Know what you need to bring and bring it. If it's too heavy, get stronger.

20 If you eat too much on a ride or run, you will puke. Or worse, you won't puke.

21 If you don't train in bad conditions, you won't be able to race in bad conditions.

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Rainy day race in Berlin, Germany, courtesy of Andrew March.

22 Wear ear plugs when it's windy; the sound of the wind will piss you off more than the force.

23 Look down when going up the hill. Don't look at the hill until you're done with the hill.

24 Take the rock out of your shoe as soon as you realize that a rock is in your shoe.

25 Don't lie about the numbers. Don't round up and don't get creative. Numbers are numbers. I had a guy tell me he ran his best marathon in 2 hours 63 minutes. I congratulated him and said I ran my marathon in 2 hours 165 minutes.

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Kristyn Bacon is twenty-two years old living in Berlin, Germany while working, writing, and learning the German language. Her stories have been published by literary journals such as MOOKYCHICK and DEW ON THE KUDZU and are included in anthologies by BOOKIMBO and SWYERS PUBLISHING. Her sports writing has been published by INSIDE DIRT and DAN HOLLOWAY, EIGHT CUTS. An architect read her work and compared it to George Saunders.

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