Used and Abused: The Essentials

My body hates me. There isn’t a day where I’m not nursing some type of sore muscle, blister, injury, or rash of some sort (yum). If you know me, you are quite familiar with the fact that I am a certifiable gearwhore. So it makes sense that I’m also a certifiable product-whore as well: if it could potentially make the pain go away, speed recovery, or prevent the pain in the first place, I’m on it. So when I pack my bag for, say, the Death Race, these are the essentials:*

Blister Pads: The nemesis of all ultra/endurance athletes. After 24 hours slugging through the Jersey mud at World’s Toughest Mudder, I had gouged holes in the backs of my heels deep enough to look like gunshot wounds. It was weeks before I could put on anything but flip-flops and backless shoes, and now, over 4 months later, I still have hot spots on the back of my heels prone to blistering and ripping. In terms of healing open wounds, Hydroarmor’s Pedinol Heel Dressings are magical. They contain silver to help speed healing, and they stay on for days (you can even wash them and restick them). Spenco 2nd skin is a pretty good sub and works well during races. I’ve been unimpressed with any other blister pad brands in terms of staying power throughout races.

Gold Bond & Vaseline: I have the man, the myth, and the legend, Johnny Waite, to thank for this tip. At about 22 hours into the Winter Death Race, my feet were toast. Incredibly waterlogged, and looking like prime candidates for some nasty maceration. As I stripped my wet boots and socks off in the hoop house to inspect the damage, Johnny tossed me his jumbo sized Gold Bond and Vaseline, told me to make a paste, and smear it all over my feet. No joke, I felt like a new woman, and they felt great for the next 10 hours. I totally get why men put this shit down their pants. It’s amazing. You could probably use Aquaphor + Vaseline as well, but Aquaphor tends to be harder to spread than Vaseline (and more expensive). This combo kept me so fresh and so clean for GRC Chicago, and I’m a firm believer now in doing this before every race.

Aquaphor: I have often been made fun of for my devotion to Aquaphor. I keep several tubes of it–at work, in my purse, in my gym bag, and a huge tub by my bed. I just must have severely chapped lips, because it’s the only thing that works where I don’t have to keep reapplying. But for races, it’s a god send. Not only is it the best thing I’ve found to fight chafing (even you, Bodyglide), it’s excellent protection against windburn. Windburn on the face SUCKS (a lesson Joel and I learned quite painfully after World’s Toughest Mudder). So while it may feel weird to lube up your face, it’s essential for the cold weather racing.

Diaper Cream: Same idea as the gold bond/vaseline/Aquaphor uses, but this stuff is great for chafing from the sports bra area and other more delicate places when you know you are going to be wet during a race. Also works well on the feet. And leaves you smelling like a baby’s bottom.

Athletic Tape: People sing the praises of KT Tape. I am not one of them. While it feels awesome and looks badass for the two seconds before the race, it’s only good for those two seconds it stays on until you sweat it off. I’ve tried everything to keep it on (rubbing alcohol, vigorous rubbing) and nothing seems to work. And it’s expensive as shit. Regular athletic tape, on the other hand, always seems to do the trick (while painful sometimes to get off). If you double it over, it’s a great way to protect open blisters on the hands, and as I learned at the Winter Death Race this year, it also makes an excellent makeshift splint for your very weak wrists (saved me a broken wrist coming down the mountain the last time)

Band-Aid Tough Strips: Hands down, the best sticky shit around. I carry some with me at all times during races.

Arnica Gel: Bengay/Icy Hot FEELS great for two seconds, but is totally worthless. Arnica, on the other hand, is some natural mumbo-jumbo stuff that is supposed to reduce swelling and ease pain. Well, I know it makes my fingers go a bit numb after I put it on, so I’m a fan. BioFreeze is also a godsend, but a bit more of a pain on the wallet.

Pepto/Immodium: When you are racing for 12, 16, 24+ hours, nature is going to call (despite boys believe that girls don’t ever go to the bathroom). Peeing is perfectly acceptable anywhere (and glorious in a wetsuit), but, sparing any details, it’s best not to have to stop for other business. A combo of Pepto/Immodium pre-race and during the race can save you embarrassing stops, precious time, and sore butts from using poison ivy to wipe. (just be careful–it dehydrates)

Contact solution/extra contacts: For those of us that are blind. No one wants me to chop wood with only one contact in. I’m dangerous enough as it is with 20/20 vision.

Epsom Salts: Name something that Epsom salts can’t fix. I dare you. Heel blisters? Sore muscles? Rough calluses? Shin splints? Constipation? (Never tried that last one, but it says on the box it can…ew). I buy it in bulk and use it on the regular.

Vodka: The ultimate multi-tasker. Not only is it great to numb the pain after 24+ hours on your feet carrying heavy shit, it doubles as an antiseptic. If someone is beating you during a race, throw it in their eyes (Kidding. Kind of). Always keep a flask, despite what the naysayers say.

Let’s be honest, though: I am a horrible packer. I will forget half of this crap at home for my next race and then lose the other half somewhere out on the course. Points to whoever returns my flask.

*I suppose I should probably say that I am in no way affiliated with any of these brands, nor was I paid for any of this crap. Totally unnecessary, given that like 5 people read my blog on a good day, but the attorney in me requires me to cover my own ass.