If you’ve ever spent much time around triathletes, cyclists, or runners, you learned pretty quickly that endurance athletes have a tendency to overshare. The letters “TMI” have no meaning to them, and facts about bodily functions that would normally be considered cringe-worthy and inappropriate are shared as routinely as discussions about the weather or last night’s episode of Survivor.
But for the uninitiated, or shy, here are a few questions an answers that you may not be comfortable just coming out and asking the staff at the local bike or tri shop.
Question: Is it true that triathletes sometimes pee in their wetsuits?
Answer: Yup. But remember, it’s a wetsuit, not a dry suit. So water is circulating through the suit, so maybe that makes it a little better. Some also pee in the pool, but there’s a never ending debate about the morality of that one.
Question: What do you do about friction and chaffing?
Answer: Really actually depends on where. Over the course of a 10+ hour race you’ll discover basically anything can chafe but there are some specific problem areas like the back of your neck against the wetsuit, or the arches of your feet against your shoes/socks. For areas like that stuff like Body Glide a great thing to have. You’ll want to apply it liberally anywhere you’ve ever had that problem.If you you’re going for long runs and rides and find yourself a little burned down between the legs, there are many different creams and skin lubricants that are designed specifically to reduce friction in that region. Products like Chamois Butter, Assos Skin Cream, and Hoo Ha Glide can work wonders and I highly recommend them. A word of caution, if you’ve already got a bit of a rash or chaffing going on, DO NOT apply these products, they’ll burn like a mo-fo. Go to a product like Assos Skin Repair Gel instead.
Question: What do you wear under your bike or tri shorts?
Answer: That’s a trick question. The answer is nothing. Cyclists and triathletes go bare underneath their kits for one very good reason (and it’s not to avoid underwear lines), friction. Seams and stitching have a nasty habit of causing friction against the skin when you’re in the saddle which can very quickly lead to chaffing in a very sensitive part of the body. Shorts designed for cycling and triathlon have fewer seams and a special pad called a chamois that is designed to reduce friction, wick moisture, and provide padding for the areas where your body comes in contact with the sadly. Your run of the mill pair of undergarments interfere with that process and can easily cause chaffing, and worse yet, provide ideal conditions for saddle sores, rashes, and infection. Think of putting on a pair of bike shorts the same way you’d think of putting on a bathing suit, your favourite cotton skivvies just wouldn’t feel right.
Question: How do you deal with *ahem* numbness… like… down there?
Answer: You really shouldn’t have to. If things are going numb down south it’s a serious sign that you’re either; riding a bike that doesn’t fit you, riding a bike that isn’t set up to fit you properly, or your saddle just isn’t the right one for you. Numbness is a sign of reduced blood flow to that part of your body often caused by pressure on the wrong part of your… saddle. If this is a problem for you, then next time you get on the saddle be very conscious of where the pressure is being applied. If most of the pressure is not on your sit bones (the two boney parts of your bum) then something is wrong. Get a proper bike fit and test out different saddles to see which one fits you best. Your anatomy is very specific and chances are the saddle that comes OEM on the bike you purchased isn’t necessarily the one that fits you best. The same way you’re selective of your running shoes you should be selective with your saddle.
Question: The Ironman bike ride is like, 6 or 7 hours, what racers they do about going to the bathroom?
Answer: This is personal preference and a little sport dependent. In pro cycling when nature calls and they can’t just pull over to the side of the road, the one rider will have two teammates create a horizontal train side by side to basically push him while he stops pedaling to relieve himself.
In triathlon things are a little different and there are a couple methods. In descending order of appropriateness, here they are… The best bet is to wait until you get to an aid station and hit the porta potty, that’s why they’re there, so you may as well use them. But when you gotta go, you gotta go, so what some people will do is just get off their bike when it’s safe to do so (or they *should* when its safe to do so), take a few steps from off the road, and just go. The problem with that is that it’s public indecency and in some races you can actually be DQ’d for it. The last solution is to just go while you’re on the bike, I’ll let you be creative as to how exactly to figure that one out but if this is the method you’re going to use make sure there isn’t someone drafting you (unless its someone you really really don’t like). Honestly, there are very few circumstances where the third one is really necessary, but if you’re chasing Olympic glory or something like that some people might understand.
Question: My toenails are starting to look weird. Why?Answer: The most common among runners is bruising or slight bleeding under the nail from repetitive trauma of the top of the shoe striking the nail with each step or the toe sliding forward into the end of the shoe. This is commonly seen in runners and triathletes training for long distances races and in highly competitive runners training for shorter distance races but at high intensity and volume. These nail injuries are generally not painful, although sometimes the nails do thicken. They will heal when the training volume and intensity decreases, and the repetitive trauma ceases. A shoe with adequate toe room will also help in some cases as this may also be a sign that you’re shoes are too small.
Question: Why do cyclists and triathletes shave their legs?
Answer: Ummm, why wouldn’t they? It makes us faster and more aerodynamic by shaving off valuable hundredths of a second per hour… no pun intended. Honestly though, there are a few good reasons as to why one might choose to shave their legs. If you’re regularly getting you’re calves and quads massaged you probably don’t want that deep tissue push to be pulling out hairs at the same time. Another reason is that many athletes today are using kinesio tape or are taping their joints and having adhesives pull hairs out of your leg is every bit as painful as you’d imagine it to be. Thirdly, if you’ve ever cleaned up road rash, you’ll know how much of a pain that hair can be. Fourth, it makes your legs look more muscular. And finally, it’s tradition.
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