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Out There: No Question Too Strange

Competitor Magazine humor columnist Susan Lacke answers reader questions.

Competitor Magazine humor columnist Susan Lacke answers reader questions.

Written by: Susan Lacke

Happy December, folks! This week, I’m taking a break from my regularly-scheduled BS to give you somewhat-educational BS. Competitor put out a call for questions you wanted me to answer, and goodness, people, when they say “no question too strange,” you really let your freak flags fly!

Here’s what you wanted to know:

How do you listen to your body? How do you know the difference between a normal ache and pain and an “OH-SHIT-something’s-really-F’ed-up” pain?

If you’re an endurance athlete, it’s likely that you already know the difference, but won’t acknowledge the “OH-SHIT-something’s-really-F’ed-up” pain until it’s too late. We’re stubborn, sadistic folks who take pride in “playing through the pain.” I’m not saying this is a good thing. There’s an epidemic of endurance athletes ignoring what their bodies are trying to tell them. What was once a normal pain more often than not evolves into a gangrenous limb dangling from the body by a thin filament of tendon – and even then, most athletes, will mutter something through their clenched teeth about “active recovery.”

Don’t be like that. There is no such thing as “normal” pain. Discomfort is customary during a run, sure, but not pain. Being a little bit achy the next day is just your body’s way of thanking you for an awesome workout — but aches are different from pain, too. But if you have actual pain, or if the discomfort and aches get worse, have a talk with your body (and maybe your doctor) before it turns into the “OH-SHIT-something’s really F’ed-up” stage.

Are you really a vegetarian? What do you eat, seed?
Hey, now. That’s just ignorance on your part. Vegetarians don’t just eat “seed.” I’ll have you know I also eat lettuce. I also sometimes drink from the little bottle that hangs in the corner of my cage before my handlers at Competitor make me go back to running on the wheel.

How do I avoid chafing on long runs?

Emulating the Stay Puft Marhmallow man and running with your arms and legs thrown outwards is one way to avoid chafing.

You can run with your arms and legs thrown outwards like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man to avoid skin-to-skin contact. If you do this, please let me know where you’re racing so I can upload a video of you to YouTube.

Or, you know, you can just use some sort of lubricant. You can go old-school with petroleum jelly, or if you participate in enough races, eventually you’ll accumulate quite the collection of tiny bottles of anti-chafe lotions and potions from your goody bags. Most triathletes have chamois cream for their bike rides, and these products can pull double duty by being applied to areas of chafing pre-run.

How can I keep my man bits from freezing off during winter runs?
Do you know someone who is a skilled knitter? And just how comfortable are you with that person?

Have to go #2 with 9 miles to go on the bike: Hold it or stop and use porto?

If you had asked me this question a few years ago, when I was a new athlete, I’d have told you to just use the port-o-johns on the course. But have you actually been inside one of those things? I’m still going to therapy to cope with what I’ve seen in there.

Unless you absolutely H-A-A-A-AVE to go, hold it. If you think you can’t, just imagine you’re a rider on the Tour de France. Do you think they drop out of the peloton? Heck, no. They clench their skinny little bums and ride faster.

How do I realign my #2 potty time to help me avoid having to go mid-race?
What is it with you people and poo? Geez. It’s like being surrounded by a bunch of toilet-training toddlers.

There’s two common culprits behind mid-race rumble: Food and/or nerves. For the former, some people find that avoiding high-fiber foods the night before works. Some also suggest eating very little on race morning (save for liquids and gels) works. Others drink a cup of coffee as a way of – ahem – “cleaning the pipes” before they leave the house.

If your nerves are getting the best of you, try to find coping mechanisms that work for you. Listen to music, repeat a mantra, or distract yourself somehow. When the nerves go, so does the urge to “go.”

Part of your training and race preparations each day should be using the facilities before every single workout. Even if you don’t have to go, talk to yourself like a toddler going on a car trip: “Are you sure you don’t have to go? Why don’t you just try to go potty, okay? Just try.”

What do you do if you get skunked mid-run?
Take it off the leash. Contrary what Pepe le Pew would have you believe, skunks don’t make very good running partners.

Thanks for your questions, folks, and don’t be afraid to keep ‘em coming. Just when I think I’ve answered all the strange questions in endurance sports, you readers up the game. Shine on, you odd diamonds. Shine on.

See you Out There!