Monday, March 29, 2010

Running and Chafing

It sounds ridiculous, but chafing is basically a clothing-induced injury. Either your shorts, shirt or socks have rubbed you the wrong way for too long and now you've got a sore spot and possibly some blood on your hands. It's avoidable and non-runners think it's funny, which might make it all the more annoying. I don't know how many times I've heard "You run marathons? Is it true that people's nipples get chafed and bleed?!" It's right up there with "Did you lose a toenail?" (Answers: yes, but not mine; no, knock wood)

On yesterday's long run (11.5, flat, 55 and sunny) I wore a favorite Nike dri-fit T-shirt; fitted, low-rise Nike running shorts; a beloved Champion sports bra and the usual footwear, sunscreen and hat. I was very comfortable but that's not my point. When I got home, it turned out, the sports bra had injured me. Maybe, because I've been traveling, I've been wearing it too much. Maybe the elastic is getting old. I don't know. What I do know is that I now have a red line the length of my pinky running across my diaphragm, connecting my ribs, where the bra had been rubbing. It's not fatal, but for the sake of milking sympathy, here's a picture.

The problem with chafing is that now you have a sensitive spot that could get worse every time you run. Next thing you know, depending on your chafe spot of choice, you've got a giant bloody patch on each of your inner thighs, in the crease of your armpit or on the tip of each nipple. It's not sexy and it hurts. Literally, insult to injury!

What's the solution? As always, prevention is best.
  1. When buying new gear: Avoid shorts with a seam between the thighs and shirts and sports bras (if you wear them) with seams under the armpit. Spend what may feel like a ridiculous amount of time in the dressing room swinging your arms like you're running to check for rubbing. Then walk around to see if the shorts are going to bunch up. Rubbing, bunching and riding up are all deal breakers. Lastly, double check that you haven't accidentally fallen in love with anything that's made with cotton. I've said it before - love it for everyday wear, but for working out, cotton is rotten! 
  2. When the gear is home: Do a short test run, to check for potential hot spots. I have some shirts that I love, but when I wear then I always make sure to put Body Glide under my left arm. The longer you've been running, the more you'll know what your danger zones are. Mine are my sternum, under the left arm and, now, across my diaphragm. Those are the spots that I slather with Body Glide, which is the final step in prevention. 
  3. Before each run: Body Glide your chafe spots. It's like deodorant; just a quick swipe under the arm or between the thighs and you'll be good to go. And like deodorant, you'll notice more if it's missing than if it's there. My only beef with Body Glide is that it smells a little greasy, but it works better than Vaseline so I keep using it.
If all else fails, don't give up, just keep your chafed spot clean while it heals and turns into a callous. Hmm, callouses between the!

Good luck and happy running.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

New UV blocking shirt!

Hello Spring Running. That means coolish weather, but sunburn-causing daylight. Perfect excuse to buy a new running top...

Temp: 58, late afternoon sun
Wind: Mild
Precip./Humidity: None/Low
Terrain: Rolling hills
Distance: 3 miles

What I Wore: Tiny Puma shorts (not pictured cuz they are so very short!); New Balance UV 20 blocking long-sleeve shirt; hat.

Did It Work: Yes, temperature wise, although I felt a little exposed on the bottom.

How's the Shirt: I give it a B. First of all, the color. Yikes for anyone who isn't brown-skinned, which I'm not. But chartreuse was the only choice.
The fit is good - sleeve is long enough and an extra small fits my somewhat puny torso closely.
I like the reflective strips on either side of my abs for their slimming and reflecting, but I know better than to think a driver would see those soon enough to stop from hitting me.
My only real complaint is the seams. I often think that runners don't design most running tops. Seams that wrap under the arm and down the sides are not good for more than 5 miles (less if you're really easily chafed). Most people don't run more than 5 miles, so it's a good shirt for many, including me, most of the time.

Lastly, I don't feel like I really tested the UV blocking element. I'll let you know when I do. Until then, happy trails!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Know Limits (70, sunny)

It is a gorgeous day. Sunny, light breeze, 70 degrees. Horrible for running.

I had scheduled 10 miles. I am WAY behind on my training for the 13.1 in NYC on April 3, so I really wanted to get in a double-digit run.

You'll notice, maybe, that this posting has no photo. That's because, while I completed my 10 miles, it was hard. Much harder than the 9 miles of hills I did last weekend. The way was flat, the day was lovely, and I was sucking wind.

Some runs are just like that. It doesn't matter how well dressed you are (brimmed hat, Nike dri-fit shorts and t-shirt) or if you ate pasta the night before (it was delicious). Some runs are just hard. For me, when a run is so hard it feels like my legs are made of steel and the sidewalk is a magnet, all I can do is finish.

Today, I finished, barely.

Afterwards, I took a nap. When I woke up, I drank a little juice. 10 minutes later, I saw that juice again, going the other way. It's just one of those days, physically.

Until next week, good luck to everyone running half and full marathons this weekend!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Favorite Thing

When it comes to gifts, in general, socks are below the Father's Day Tie on the "thoughtful" scale. Unless the recipient is a runner and the gift is perfectly fitting, just the right height, soft yet supportive, not-a-bad color running socks. Then you will get thanked many times, almost to the point of discomfort.

Runners care about their socks. We're prone to toe nail loss, random foot bleedouts, blisters and plantar issues. I'm going to brag a little here and say I'm one of the few marathoners I know who finishes each season with all my nails and no blisters. Then again, maybe I'm just not trying hard enough.

My point is, when I say that these Nike socks are my favorites, I don't say it lightly. I say it in a voice that Moses might have used when he came down from the mountain. "You shall try these socks!"

Here's what I like (and I'm trying to think of something bad, just to seem balanced. We'll see what I've got by the end.)
  • Lefty Righty. These socks were the first that I ever saw with the left foot, right foot fit. And you don't have to guess which is which because there is a tiny R and L on the bottom (framed in photo, so you don't miss it). The first time you wear them, you notice it right away in the hug of your arch. When you've been wearing the same pair for three years, you appreciate the fact that they haven't become shapeless blobs.
  • Arch support. Nike makes these in varying degrees of support. The super supportive ones were a bit too cinching for my high arched foot. These moderately supportive ones give me just the right lift.
  • Quality. Did you notice above that I said I've been wearing a pair for THREE YEARS? The sock in the middle of the picture would be a pre-schooler if it were human! I wear it at least once a week and yet it's just gotten a little fizzy. It's still the right shape and pleasantly supportive.
  • Cushion. The Goldilocks of cushioning - not so much that you can't get into your shoe, not so little that you wonder why they bother marking it in different colors.
  • Colors. The version that I think is for women is white with some light blue and pale gray. There's a band of orange on the inside cuff. No pinks or purples, no kittens, no cute phrases. The guy version is white with orange and gray. Not black and the word Extreme has been left off. The super supportive one is white with grays. In other words, all three could be worn by either gender with comfort and pride. There may be more colors out there, but I don't want to become that creepy chick who hangs out in sock aisles all the time so you'll have to find out on your own.
  • Easy to When I first started wearing them, it was tough to find these little guys, which is why have pairs that are made for men (with small feet) and a pair that is overly supportive. Basically, if I saw them, I bought them. Now, any running shop worth its name should carry them.
  • Good seams. I'm never sure what the phrase "the devil is in the details" means, but I guess that's what could be said here. Part of what gives us runners trouble, with our feet and with chafing in general, is bad seam placement. These socks have good, clean seams in the toe box - not too much excess on the inside and no pointy corners where the fabric meets.
  • Right height. A lot of socks do this well, so it comes last. The Nike footie stays on, mile after mile, year after year. The anklet hits just above a common Achilles blister spot and just below nerdy. Fold it down to lower your tan line and show off the orange detailing on the inside.
Oh! I thought of a con. Nike socks are not indestructible. The one in the picture above is also three years old and a spot over the big toe looks like it might wear through soon. (Sniff)

So, now you know: if my birthday is around the corner (it's not) and you're looking for the perfect present, the answer is socks. Specifically, these Nike socks.

Ok, signing off before I appear to have a fetish. Wishing you happy feet and happy trails!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What to Wear Running: Hills, hills & more hills

Temp: 45, sunny
Wind: Mild
Precip./Humidity: Moderately low
Terrain: Hilly!
Distance: 6 miles

I took a little break from distance running while New York went through a series of snowstorms that put outdoor runners and owners of dogs to the test.
But now it's warming up. The path is clear and I had to get back on it to be ready for the NYC 13.1 in less than a month. I ran hills. It was rough. Thanks to the hill shuffle (not really a run, but NOT walking) and holding onto a visual of myself at the end of my last marathon (I temporarily aged 40 years), I kept going, stayed upright and finished. Now I'm sore.  Like, 'couldn't run out of the house if it was on fire' sore. It's great to be back.

What I Wore: Road Runner Sports long-sleeved, light-weight tech top; knit gloves; brimmed cap; Puma shorts; sunblock.

Did It Work: Perfect. I was cool heading out and just a little sweaty on the way back. The weight of the top was perfect - even on all those hills, I didn't over heat.

Yoga tomorrow. Rest on Friday. Maybe 9 on Saturday.

Monday, March 8, 2010


Temp: 53, partly cloudy
Wind: 10 mph, solid headwind
Precip./Humidity: I thought none/moderate
Terrain: Rolling to flat
Distance: 2.5 miles

What I Wore: Today I really wanted to test my Heart Head Hands theory; that if those three are warm the rest of you will usually be fine. So, I went with a sleeveless Nike top; shorts; knit gloves; and brimmed cap.

Did It Work: It actually would have been perfect except, for the first time in my life, I got caught in a hail storm. That stuff stings! It was like being shot by a mean kid with a bb gun! Of course, no sane person would deliberately run in the hail, so it's kinda hard to plan for it. But, if you think you might encounter a freak storm, wear sleeves!