Friday, May 11, 2012

And on and on

I will say this: It really is difficult to take recovery down time when it's summer, beautiful outside, and the people you spend time with are all out looking for fun. I finished the Stagecoach 400, took a couple of days completely off, and ventured back into easy running for a few days after that. But despite my first truly bad case of saddle sores and lingering tiredness, I've already slipped back toward possibly bad if enjoyable habits. I know I need to make changes in order to stop this cycle of fatigue. If only I could push my willpower in that direction.
 
My friend Keith is visiting from Banff for a spring road bike vacation that he's been planning for months. I can't blame Keith for the bike binging, as this has always been the plan. It's been so fun to have him here, but we've been putting in some solid miles. Right off the plane we did a hard climb up Monte Bello Road even though it was 92 degrees outside and there's still snow on the ground where he lives. He rocked it of course and is excited about all the warm weather, blue skies, smooth pavement and quintessential California cultural experiences like being passed on a mountain road by a parade of supercars. That kind of enthusiasm is hard not to get wrapped up in, and it's been great. But, yeah ... I'm still not feeling super awesome or even 100-percent healthy right now.

 The saddle sores are my most immediate concern. I'd actually appreciate some input from people with experience in this regard, and I'm trying to think of how I can word this without being too off-putting and graphic. So there are blister-like chaffing sores that have been slow-healing and seem to be irritated, possibly infected. I also have a fair amount of lingering swelling and significant soreness in the, ahem, lady parts. I've never experienced anything like this — even after Tour Divide. I often joke with my friends that I have an "iron butt" and honestly thought I was immune to saddle sores. I think it may be a combination of bad chamois choice, less-than-ideal hygiene (although I did take regular alcohol-based wet-wipe "baths" during the race), and more heat than I'm accustomed to. But, man. Ouch. The pain has been bad enough that I haven't been sleeping well at night, still, which also doesn't help with recovery. I tried plenty of lubing for my rides with Keith, as well as applications of a couple of over-the-counter medications for different kinds of infections. I've seen some improvement, but not as much as I expected after a week. Yesterday for a six-hour ride I decided to forgo the chamois and just wear airy running shorts because I've become convinced that chamois are nothing more than bacteria traps and it would be better for me to wick sweat rather than sit on it for six hours. This actually seemed to help. I already have a regular physical scheduled on May 21 so I will have a chance to see my doctor about this. But any suggestions, especially from women, that might offer me some relief before then would be greatly appreciated.

But, beyond the pall of sometimes excruciating undercarriage pain that makes me never want to ride a bike ever again (I joke, kind of), riding with Keith has been fun. We've done a bunch of climby rides because, around here, all the good road rides involve a ton of climbing. On Wednesday we rode Skyline Drive, 52 miles and 4,600 feet of climbing along the wooded spine of the Santa Cruz Mountains. It was fun to share the road with supercars, whose drivers were all courteous and gave us tons of space as they drove the speed limit past us.
 
Thursday was Bike to Work Day, and Google had a big festival with booths and prizes to encourage all of its employees to participate. There also seemed to be a competition of sorts among the employees to see who could complete the most awesome ride on their way to work. A few of Beat's co-workers also saw an opportunity to ride their bikes as long as possible before finally going into work, and planned a "long way" loop to the ocean and back — 77 miles and more than 7,000 feet of climbing. Of course Keith and I wanted in on the fun.

I wasn't the only non-Google employee to show up, but I was the only woman. I rolled up for the 6:15 a.m. start wearing my short running shorts and fat platform pedals attached to Beat's hand-built carbon Calfee. The reason for the platform pedals was because after my and Keith's four-hour ride, my road shoes started pinching and my frostbite-foot toes were sore. With all of my undercarriage issues, I really didn't need the added grief of toe pain, so I threw on the platforms right before the ride. I almost wished I left my headlamp attached to my helmet for a trifecta of dorkiness, but really the running shorts and platform pedals made me dorky enough, not to mention I was the only girl. I don't think any of these guys took me seriously from the get-go, but I held on to the finish.

The pace was friendly but not slacker. We did the ride in six hours in order to make it to "work" by noon. The route was spectacular, really. I would have never imagined myself enjoying road riding the way I do here in California, but this populated place is threaded with nearly traffic-free ribbons of pavement up steep slopes, beside sweeping vistas, and through thick Redwood Forests dripping with greenery. For locals: Our loop route was Page Mill, Alpine, Stage Road, Highway 1, Tunitas Creek, King Mountain, and valley bike routes to Google and home.

Today I talked Keith into a real day off — we're going to the beach and that's about it. After Keith's bike vacation I'm going to have to reassess, again, just how serious I'm going to be about my training this summer — because I'm not sure exactly what I need to combat this fatigue issue. I don't think it's as simple as taking a week off, but something like that will probably be the first step, after the Ohlone 50K next Saturday. But yeah, if I don't get my health back on track, UTMB is going to a lot more absurd than just the pipe dream that it is right now. I have to be realistic, even if I'm having fun.


34 comments:

  1. Jill - try Bag Balm. I've used it both during and after 24 hour races and other endurance races in the rain it helps healing and, more importantly, it makes the discomfort bearable during the healing process.

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  2. Megan2:10 PM

    Hi Jill - I suggest A&D Ointment. It does wonders to help heal broken skin.

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  3. Hi Jill - diaper cream works well. I've used it on my kids and on myself when I have saddle sores.

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  4. Anonymous2:34 PM

    The saddle sores I had were pretty bad and I had to quit riding for a while to get them to heal. Here's my advice based on what worked for me. Never, ever, wear bike shorts that aren't clean, and if you do a multi-day ride plan to bring extra shorts and use Wet Ones to clean your skin. Change you underwear often. Shower often. Wear shorts and keep the air circulating. Sleep nude on clean bedding. I switched from cycling to swimming and I think that helped, too.

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  5. Anonymous2:47 PM

    Oh, and consider using a Brooks saddle. I ride in a club that specializes in long distance events (200-1200k) and almost all of the riders use a Brooks.

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  6. Sally D4:59 PM

    I second the Bag Balm recommendation. I learned about this miracle ointment from some rancher friends years ago. It is the only thing that went on my babies bottom and they did not have any diaper rash. It helped me many times with burns and keeping the bad buggies out of wounds. Great for chapped skin anywhere. Good luck healing and the fatigue issues. I so enjoy reading your blog. You moved to NoCal as we were leaving after 30 years. I am so glad you have found all the wonderful "back" roads/trails that are minutes away from the cities.

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  7. After a bad case of saddle sores I consulted a friend of mine, he is an infection specialist, he recommended any king of fungal cream. Like Lotrimin Ultra. I don't know how bad they are, but you also probably need antibiotics. I am experiencing a not so bad saddle sore problem also after Stagecoach and I'm using lotrimin it works.

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  8. Jill, being raised on a farm I can swear by bag balm. I use diaper cream also and the trick is to use it before you develop saddle sores, as a preventive action. Hope this helps as I haven't had a saddle sore since I started using the diaper ointment. Paul

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  9. Anonymous7:57 PM

    I'll suggest something no one else has: Salicylic_acid

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salicylic_acid

    I look for the "maximum strength" acne pads (they have more salicylic acid in them). Something like this:

    http://www.amazon.com/Oxy-Daily-Cleansing-Pads-maximum/dp/B0015K93M0

    Not an "instant fix", but definitely helps the skin heal.

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  10. Diaper ointment for the saddlesores. Time off for the lady parts. Try tilting the nose of your saddle down just a hair too. And get and extra weight off your back when riding.

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  11. I can third or fourth the bag balm recommendation. I have used the scientific method when I had multiple cuts on my body. Some were left alone as a control, others received bag balm. Bag balm healed much faster. The only problem is that the skin kind of itches/tingles after a day or so. I think it is b/c the skin is repairing itself so fast.

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  12. Anonymous8:55 PM

    Hey Jill,
    My experience is that plain old Lanolin is the best. It is Bag Balm with nothing added. Sometimes any kind of medication is bad. It just seems to ad to the irritation. A gob of lanolin can and has worked miracles with some. It's not good if you are allergic to wool, and it's getting harder and harder to find at pharmacys, but it works!
    Also I would recommend at least a whole week off to recuperate, longer if necessary. You won't lose fitness in that time and healing time is good.
    Good Luck,
    Martyuma

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  13. Jill, if you decide to use a diaper cream, I highly recommend A & D ointment. I used it on three babies and it healed rashes much better than other brands.

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  14. Tom C9:25 PM

    I see the picture with the big Euch trees looks like Stage road. I like the feeling of that area. Like you are 100 years back in time.

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  15. Anonymous9:31 PM

    I'm surprised nobody has suggested soaking in a hot bathtub for your saddlesores. This increases circulation and helps healing from the inside out. Soaking a couple times a day for 2 or 3 days should get you well on your way to recovery.

    Mark

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  16. Anonymous9:34 PM

    Hi Jill,

    It's so fun to read about your escapades! For the fatigue, it would be good to get your iron levels checked when you get your physical. I was also someone who could crank out lots of endurance rides, and thought my fatigue was b/c I wasn't racing/out-of-shape, and I found out I was very anemic. It is fairly common in women athletes, and even a small dip in your iron levels can have a dramatic effect on your energy levels/recovery. Definitely do not take iron w/o getting tested first, but b/c of the amount of running/riding you do, it would be worthwhile checking (from someone who learned the hard way!).

    Natasha
    Santa Cruz

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  17. Anonymous9:34 PM

    Bag Balm rocks! I kept riding with a wicked problem of foliculitis thanks to a generous helping of Bag Balm at ALL times, even when off the bike. Sure, I killed a couple of pairs of undies in the process, but it was worth it. If you are feeling particularly brave and have no problems with it, hydrocortisone directly on the sore and Bag Balm over the top is a pretty good combo. If it persists, you may need some silverr sulfadiazine, which is a really good topical antibiotic.

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  18. Anonymous11:45 PM

    Hey Jill, if you're worried about infected sores, I really recommend salt baths. A few years back, I was bitten in the --uh, undercarriage, by a spider who had taken up residence in a pair of pants, and antibiotics (among other treatments) did nothing - in fact, I kept getting worse - but I started up taking really hot, insanely salty baths - within 12 hours after the first one, I was almost healed. Within 3 days, I was entirely better.

    I use Desitin and Bag Balm for stuff all the time, too.

    Anyway, were I in your shoes, I'd start off with the hot salt baths.

    Good luck! :-)
    Jenn

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  19. I don't know why you're so surprised to be enjoying road riding - you're a 'fireroad' mountainbiker, not that keen on technical descending and with an incredible capacity for pain... perfect qualities for road riding.

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  20. Anonymous4:50 AM

    For prevention, Hibiclens for cleaning and take a small bottle with you on multi day events, but not for use on open sores. La Femme chamois cream by Mad Alchemy - natural antibiotic properties of tea tree oil - it's great. For the lady parts (and less pressure and friction for added saddle sore prevention) a Selle An-Anatomica saddle. Since making these changes I have no saddle sores, no chafing and happy lady parts. The perfect combination. I suspect the saddle alone may even do the trick, it's amazing. Any Brooks leather saddle that fits would also be an improvement, screw the weight.

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  21. Hey Jill- While I can't say I have any experience with saddle sores, and you seam to have enough advice from your friends anyways, I do have a lot of experience in fatigue. In a nut shell, I was a lot like you where I pushed and pushed for years in the endurance world- my famous line to friends was "there is lots of time to sleep when you are dead"...eventually at 45yrs I went from winning the BC bike race 40+ to getting really sick and couldn't exercise for 14 months (I spent all my time either on the couch or sitting at work- that's all I could muster) Like you, all the signs were there- I can hear it to in your voice too, but I chose not to listen. Take my advice- give your adrenals a rest for a full month and see how that goes- it will probably make you stronger for UTMB anyways!...at least you are amazing at other things to keep you busy- LIKE WRITING :)...Randy

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  22. Anonymous8:13 AM

    Hi Jill
    Both Bag Balm or Aquaphor work well. I personally like Aquaphor better. You can mix into it a Neosporin type ointment as well.
    Jay

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  23. hey Jill,
    Local here. I wonder if you've considered whether you have seasonal allergies and that's contributing to the fatigue. We are in the height of local allergy season right now-- mold, tree pollen, *grass pollen*. I mention it because I had similar unexplained fatigue when I moved to the Bay area from back east & it turned out to be seasonal allergies. Didn't even cross my mind that it was allergies since it was at the wrong time of year compared to my (much milder) east coast allergy season. Good luck working things out

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  24. First off I'm a guy. Guess I'm lucky, never had saddle sores. I don't use chamois creams and look for the thinest chamois in cycling shorts. Clean is bliss. I ride with the saddle nose angled downward more than most people. And the harder the saddle the better I like it, the old style Selle Flite, quite rounded. I do think that a lot of riders 'think' the saddle needs to be horizonal for 'looks'...wrong. So my contact with the saddle is back more, away from sensitive parts. On my blisters (hiking...feet) I use Bag Balm or Corn Huskers Lotion. & I'll 2nd the allergy idea for the fatigue, try a cup of TheraFlu before bed.

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  25. I second getting your iron levels checked. When I was anemic I felt very fatigued and very cold (though you might not notice in that hot weather - I had it in winter). When I got my iron checked it was only barely below the normal level but I felt miserable. It was a very easy fix. Could also affect healing times for your saddle sores. Good news is that it's an easy diagnosis and an easy fix if that's what it is!

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  26. I hardly work out and felt like I had chronic fatigue syndrome and many people thought allergies. Based on my breathing problems of late my allergies are definitely bad and I will be taking Zyrtec again starting tonight. That said, I felt better after a week of doing not much and letting the fatigue wash over me and pass. But take a break.

    As for this horrific malady you describe, more running and less biking! Duh! :-). I don't know what to suggest as a non-cyclist but I think your body is pleading with you to take a damn break.

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  27. Danni is right. Sometimes after a break you are flying and feeling better than ever. I will try not to enable you by inviting you to ride in the next couple of weeks ;)

    Saddle sores suck. I tried not to get into gory details, but if things start to go south fast, what's in there needs to come out. Tea tree oil for the early stages!

    I used to get them regularly until I realized two things: I had lost weight, and my shorts were bunching up/chafing. Secondly, my saddle was a hair too high. Since figuring out those issues, I have times of irritation, but I've always been able to knock it out by commuting in a chamois (I usually wear cutoffs) and being extra careful about cleanliness, saddle time, tea tree oil, etc. You will figure it out!

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  28. Wow! That's an amazing amount of comments. I'm sure I'll get lost in the mix. I have skimmed through all the comments but if this has already been covered for give me. Saddle sores are boils and they can get infected. So an antibiotic is a good idea. However for pain, I highly recommend Boil-Ease. It's an over the counter ointment and works very well. Since a boil is basically an infected hair folical you are going to want to draw it to the surface and then lance (pop) it. A drawing salve works well for this. It also is an ointment. Looks like tar and smells just as good. But it works. As far as prevention everyones recommendation for Bag Balm is a good one. However it can break down (Over time.) chamios and leather saddles. So I usually use it after I'm off the bike to help heal irritation/abrasion in the crotch. I would use a good, woman friendly chamois cream for on the bike. Hammer, DZ Nuts, Button Hole, Chamois Butt'r and Mad Alchemy all make good products. As a girl I would avoid any creams with menthol in them. Unless you like a serious "tingly" feeling down there. Since I am a guy I'll defer your girl parts questions to your fellow females.

    Hope that helps. Good luck!
    By the way, I know it's hard to take some time off the bike when the weather is beautiful and the roads/trails are calling. But all the stuff you are talking about are classic overtraining symptoms. Maybe delve deep into a writting project for a week and once your done. Do out on a EASY ride and I bet you will feel a lot better. Plus, that will give your undercarriage a chance to heal.

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  29. Anonymous5:33 PM

    I'm a guy, and I never had saddle sores, but I'd sometimes get really sore in the crotch area from the friction of my inner thighs rubbing against the chamois and saddle all day long. I would notice it getting sore during the ride, but I REALLY noticed it when I got a hot shower later after the ride and soaped up down there. It basically felt like my crotch and inner thighs were on fire when the soap hit it. Walking funny at work the next day wasn't fun either.

    After that I started wearing TWO pairs of bike shorts on long rides off road. I get the benefit of more butt cushioning from the two chamois layers, so my butt isn't pounded when riding rough terrain. Also, since it's saddle-lycra-chamois-lycra-chamois-butt there isn't any friction or rubbing on my skin anymore. The lycra layer between the two chamois eliminates that friction you'd normally get on your skin if it was only saddle-lycra-chamois-butt.

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  30. Anonymous8:01 PM

    Hi Jill,
    I couldn't resist a comment since I have experienced saddle sores as a road racer in SoCal for several years in the desert heat. Being in a chamois for many hours on end is not fun with saddle sores. I've skimmed the comments above and what stands out are:
    1) clean shorts/chamois: if you sweat a lot in your shorts,wash them before the next ride. Dry them in the sunlight to kill all bacteria.
    3) Chamois cream: use lots and reapply during long rides.
    3) remove your shorts ASAP when done riding.
    4) in your hours off the bike get as much "air down there" as possible." Wear skirts, wear string bikini underwear or none at all, esp right after you get off the bike and if you are not at home and can't shower right away.
    5) keep the area as dry as possible, including blow drying your crotch after you shower. Sounds bizarre but it also helps! (use the non-heat setting on your blow dryer).

    I'm sure you have enough advise to last awhile. Good luck to you and if all else fails, time OFF the bike is ultimately what can enable you to heal the quickest.

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  31. Anonymous8:30 AM

    My husband uses the two bike shorts worn together method and swears by it. I am more of a bag balm person. Lots of good advice above! Don't see anything that I haven't tried or wouldn't try, but I have found that time off the bike heals all wounds. You might also consider that your body is so depleted that it is having difficulty fighting off the infection and irritation.

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  32. Durango Joe12:35 PM

    Looking more like a roadie all the time. But I can tell by the last picture your fellow riders don't know how to ride a paceline, they're all over the road wasting energy and going slower. But I can see your evolution is continuing.....

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  33. Jill, it may be worth getting your adrenal hormone levels checked when you go for your medical, especially your cortisol levels. It sounds very much like your body is not metabolising carbs efficiently which is dramatically affecting your energy levels. I am no expert, but this link is very useful. http://www.coreonehealth.com/correcting-the-effects-of-stress-on-athletic-perfo

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  34. Anonymous10:19 PM

    3 words: TEA TREE OIL! Amazing stuff, I kept trying hot bathes to try to pop a big nasty one (more like a cyst, all under the skin, vs. a rash) and it just kept getting worse. I find tea tree oil in a bath does nothing but diluted tea tree oil actually left on the area will draw it to a head (I know gross but it's just like a really awful zit). Then you pop it and apply more tea tree oil. It is antiseptic and antifungal so if you have an infection it could help (not sure if it'll cure it completely) and after you pop one of these suckers you definitely want to clean the area with TTO to prevent infection from what comes out. I use a chamois (sans underwear) and always shower right after rides, other than trying a chamois balm not sure how else to prevent these. They seem to occur after 8+ miles of vigorous peddling (i.e. at lower gear, downhill, in spin class, etc), probably from the rubbing.

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