The following question arrived at YOURIRONGUIDE headquarters from a Facebook friend following the last blog.
“Hi Rod interesting timing on the saddle soreness subject, any advice on a cure for it as I've picked up a nasty inflammation on my under carriage after a 6 hr ride last weekend. Driving me crazy all wk ! Cheers”
While Ironman training won’t allow most of us to have bodies as good as World Champion’s Craig Alexander or Mirinda Carfrae (pictured below), it is likely to improve physical appearance, toning the muscles and reducing excess weight.
There are 3 areas however that are more likely to become uglier than before you started. These include fungal infections (in places that stay wet/damp during and post training), saddle sores and cuts around the “undercarriage” and black toenails post-race. We fired off a response but thought it was worth sharing in the hope of giving everyone tips on limiting their impact on your training and race.
Unfortunately when it comes to time management, Ironmen are in a rush between a training session and work or another appointment. This means we neglect personal hygiene to the detriment of possible infections. This is particularly relevant to drying all skin thoroughly before moving on. Fungal infections will regularly attack the feet especially between the toes (athlete’s foot) and toe nails (toe nail fungus that turns nails yellow and disfigured) as well as the groin. The simple guard against this is to keep these areas as dry as possible. I have even dried my feet (and undercarriage) with a hair dryer and a small portable hairdryer is a valuable investment especially in prevention rather than cure. I have also chosen to drive to work bare foot while having the car interior heater on and directed at my feet especially in winter. Regularly changing to clean dry socks and training gear and using plenty of soap and water when cleaning these areas also helps. If you can get sunlight to affected areas it is also a bonus (but be careful if this is for the undercarriage as not everyone needs to see that!). In addition, wear flip flops in public shower areas. If you do pick up a toe nail fungus, it looks like a yellow elevated toe nail and requires a long term treatment. Creams and ointments are available from the chemist or you can go “old school” by alternating soaking in 3% hydrogen peroxide mix and vinegar (not at the same time!!!!) each day. The new nail will need to grow through the old, fungal nail so it does take a while. YOURIRONGUIDE always rides without socks in preparation for an event and this also increases the risk of infection. Add foot powder to shoes (and socks if you use them) and Bi-carb Soda can also be used in shoes (especially smelly ones) to lower moisture.
Firstly, confirm if it is a saddlesore (ingrown hair/boil), cut or ripped skin or simply numbness due to sitting on your sitting bones for that period? The recommended first step would be to clip the area and confirm exactly what it is with a mirror. Shaving with a razor or using depilatory cream may irritate the area more. If it is a cut, then buy some fixomil (available from most chemists). Thoroughly clean the area with soap and completely dry first. Then cover the area with a small sheet of it. This stuff breathes like skin but will pad and protect the area allowing you to continue riding. Leave it on until it washes off under the shower as it will continue to protect even after a ride. Make sure you dry thoroughly the undercarriage after any shower/swim. Use a hair blow dryer. Always apply a good chamois cream/anti bacteria cream before riding. Wind trainer sessions especially will increase the risk of an issue. Change bibs over and wash them in woolmix regularly. Saddle sores may need further medical treatment – see link below.
Black toe nails
There have been many reported causes of black toe nails following IM events. One in particular is the building up of blood in the toe area from cycling, then pounding this area under pressure within shoes immediately after. Multiple IM world champion, Chrissie Wellington, always recommended a shoe which was half a size bigger than for training for events. YOURIRONGUIDE has followed this guideline with great results. Another theory is to completely submerge the toes in Vaseline before running but we have never tried this. The best advice is to never run in new shoes for an event (wear them in well before race day) and have a good set of socks to match. Wear the black toe nails like a badge of honour and have flip flops/thongs at the finish line to walk home in as you will need them! BTW, black toe nails will eventually fall off and the new nail will be created by hardening the exposed bed (not growing from the bottom up).