Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Chafing Chronicles

This weekend a managed a 20-mile long run.  I finished it just under 2 hours and 49 minutes, giving me an average pace of 8:27/mile.  I was pretty pleased with the pace and overall time, especially given my 2 hour 55 minute finish for last weekend's 30km race.  Granted that race was on trail, and it was humid, but still...

These two long runs (the 30km trail race on 11/21 and the 20 mile training run on 11/28) were so very different. The weather varied; hot and humid on the 21st but cool and dry on the 28th.  The terrain varied; technical rocky trails on the 21st, familiar and even road and paths on the 28th.  The circumstances varied; a well supported race on the 21st and a solo training run on the 28th.  Despite all the differences between the two days, one element unified both events.  This aspect of running constantly makes its presence known for so many of us, on long run days: the chafing!

Over time, I have simply come to accept chafing as an unavoidable accessory to long distance running.  Don't get me wrong, I do make major efforts to avoid or at least minimize the chances of it occurring, unlike these naked bikers.  However, as the mileage creeps up, there are just some casualties that come along with it.

Side note: while I found this random picture of naked bikers on the internet, there does exist a (mostly) nude cyclist in Austin, TX.  I have seen him with my own eyes, twice, and boyfriend was with me on both occasions so he can corroborate my story.  Nude cyclist wears only an olive green man thong and rides all over town on his bike.  I'm sure he has had his own chafing issues.

Chafing afflicts so many of us runners, and each has his or her own weak spots.  While I have had incidents all over, most of my chafing can be blamed on sports bras and afflicts either my chest or armpits (where the bra seam rests).  I attempt to minimize chafing several ways.  First, I am careful to replace problematic clothing items.  This works for short to medium length runs, but pretty much everything with chafe if you sweat in it for three continuous hours.  Second, I make use of a wide range of lubrication.  Vaseline is always reliable and I have used it many times for toes and feet.  The goopy-ness, however, can be a deterrent for other body parts, especially because it picks up dirt.  For body parts such as the thighs and arms, body glide is usually a better option.

Last weekend, when I ran a 30km trail race, the weather was 65-70 degrees with over 80% humidity.  This weather, coupled with nearly 3 hours of continuous running, was the perfect combo for some extreme tank bra chafing.  While there were minor abrasions on the front, major damage was under the arms, and the most unexpected chafing occurred on my back.  That's right, I had back chafing!  When I got home to take a shower, I noticed large red marks about halfway down and towards the outside of my back.  Both spots stung horribly as warm water flowed over them and I contemplated just how I managed to accumulate friction in this area.  I have to conclude that the elastic band of the bra caused the chafing, even though it seemed too low to be the elastic band and at no point the elastic band had felt uncomfortable.  However, the stinging sensation of my back was proof that the chafing was indeed real, and not imagined.

This kind of chafing is Locker Room Chafing.  Locker Room Chafing is the most common form of chafing and affects private areas of the body, usually seen only by yourself but occasionally glanced by others including significant others, doctors and people in a locker room.  The problem with chafing marks is that to the untrained eye, they don't necessarily register as such.  Therefore, people may ask you questions about your home life, trying to figure out if you are in an abusive relationship or even hurting yourself.  Answering with "No, I just like to run a lot" may not make sense to an outsider, you may need to expound.

This weekend, I managed to escape any traces of Locker Room chafing.  With weather considerably cooler and dryer, and wearing a most seamless sports bra, my tenderest skin was well protected as I covered the 20 miles.  I had hoped to escape entirely chafe-free, but it was not to be.  Seeing as how it was a cooler day and a 20 mile run, I opted for a wicking, long sleeve shirt.  I had the exact shirt in mind, a comfy Reebok 1/2 zip pullover that fits me really well and is very comfortable.  I woke up on Sunday, pulled out my shorts, sports bra, socks...but I couldn't find the shirt!  I had left this shirt at boyfriend's, and thus was forced to chose another long sleeved tech shirt.  No problem, I have plenty.  And I do have plenty, but I only had one in my apartment, all the rest were in storage.  I silently debated driving over to boyfriend's to rescue the Reebok shirt, but it seemed excessive and time consuming.  I grabbed the one long-sleeved tech shirt (white Hot Chili's ski layer) and headed out the door.  I had previously used this shirt on long runs, so I knew what was coming.  This shirt is exceptionally comfortable, except the top, left seam around the neck.  This seam falls right on my clavicle, near my throat and for some reason chafes like nothing you can imagine.  With three miles left in the long run, I stripped off my shirt because I couldn't bear the rubbing any longer.  Three days later, I still have a raw, red mark on the left side of my throat.  Of course, there are no marks on the other side, further confusing me because the shirt appears pretty symmetrical to me.

I have designated this particular type of chafing to be PDA Chafing.  I'm pretty sure that any one who saw me after this run would have assumed the red mark just to the left of my throat was a hicky.  Why?  Because that's what it looks like.  PDA Chafing brings about a whole new level of embarrassment, because unlike Locker Room chafing, the whole wide world can observe it.  However, people aren't even going to ask you questions about why you have red marks on your neck, because they assume they already know and that you are getting hickies all time.  There is no solution to this problem, unless you like putting makeup on your neck.

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