Apr 2, 2007

What NOT to do When Chaffing

Now that I am back in running form, I was searching around the 'net looking for good running reads... when I came across this. I found this article very amusing. Although I have never had "gel" issues - I know that pain all too well.


By: Robert Key - Founder of Faithful Soles

There are some funny and crazy things that happen to us as runners in an effort to get in those planned training sessions, and only other runners can truly understand why we do the things we do. This story actually happened to me, uh, I mean it happened to a real close friend of mine who told it to me...

Regardless of your level of fitness, all of us have encountered chaffing in one form or another during exercise. When you start moving body parts repeatedly back and forth or against one another in a motion that you are not accustomed to, the skin starts to get red and depending on how long this goes on, even bleed. There are several products on the market to take care of this, but definitely not the one I chose.

Several years ago in the winter I was on a long run of about 20 miles in my hometown of Houston. We had finally gotten in a cold front (cold in Houston is a relative term since it was probably still about 50 degrees) and the humidity was down to around 40% or so. Like everyone else here who has to train for most of the year in heat indexes ranging from 90-110 degrees coupled with 70-100% humidity, I was very anxious to get out and get in a nice long run without having to drink 10 gallons of water before, during and after, and without having to stop to wring out my shorts or hear the squish-squish of my sweat-soaked shoes with every step.

With the humidity as high as it normally is, and me being one who can sweat just walking out the door, I rarely ever have to use anything for chaffing, especially where my thighs rub together. Also, the weather had been so hot that I had not been able to run more than about 10-12 miles up to that point for a long run, so the extra rubbing motion of my thighs against each other over the course of an extra hour or so had not been a factor.

I started the run and it was glorious. You just can not describe how great it feels not to be dripping wet with sweat within a few minutes, and how nice it is to be able to breathe easily without feeling like someone's foot is planted firmly in your chest.

Around mile 10 or so I noticed a bit of burning between my thighs, and stopped at a crosswalk for traffic and looked down and saw that I was getting a pretty healthy red area. Since the humidity was so low for that day, I was not sweating hardly at all and therefore there was nothing to ease the friction between my legs.

Around mile 13, it started to hurt really badly, so I stopped and looked again, and now I could see little dark red splotches where the chaffing was getting worse. I had my fanny-pack with me, and could not remember if I had left a small squeeze tube of petroleum jelly in it that I usually carry on long runs and marathons just for this type of emergency. I opened it and looked through it, no petroleum jelly. All that I had were about a half-dozen 1 ounce packets of what I will just call "gel" (rather than tell you the specific product name). If you are not familiar with these, runners carry various brands of these gel packets with them on long runs and take them every 30 minutes to an hour with water to maintain their carbohydrates and energy levels.

I continued on and made it to about mile 15, stopped again, and now I could actually see a few tiny droplets of blood where the skin had been rubbed raw. Unfortunately, I was still 5 miles from my house and even walking back would have been a struggle because now my inner thighs were really burning badly with every step I took (besides that, I would have looked like an idiot to passersby since I would have had to walk with my legs far apart so my thighs would not rub together).

Suddenly, it dawned on me... Use the gel. I was a logical person, so quickly I thought it through... when I would squeeze the gel out of the packet into my mouth and then drink water, the gel felt very slick in my mouth, so obviously it would be a terrific replacement for the petroleum jelly and I would get back to the house just fine and be able to complete my 20 mile run. I quickly took out a couple of the packets (about 1 oz. each), tore them open, and smeared them liberally on my inner thighs.

Everything was fine until I took my first step. I immediately noticed that the gel was starting to change consistency, and within a minute or two it had turned from slick to more of a thick and gummy texture. What's more, it was making it even harder to take a running stride. To top it off, the wind had started to pick up and now the wind chill was probably somewhere in the 40's, and the gel began to HARDEN AND MAKE MY THIGHS STICK TOGETHER! It took on an almost crystal type form and as I took each step, it was pulling the hair out of my legs when they rubbed together.

Once again, I became logical. Gel dissolves in water, and I had a water bottle with me, so just pour water on it and wash it off. Wrong again. The problem was not in my theory, the problem was in how much water I had. All one water bottle did was loosen the gel up enough for it to spread even further down and around my thighs.

About an hour later, I was finally standing outside the back door to my house. I had two huge circles about 6 inches in diameter on the inside of each thigh that were chaffed, bleeding and totally bare of any hair. I learned a very valuable lesson that day... On long runs, stick to gel, but don't let gel stick to you.

By the way, I still use this particular brand of gel today and vanilla bean is my favorite flavor.

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