NEXT EVENTS: IRONMAN BOULDER 2014, Run Rabbit Run 50-miler

It's never too late to be what you might have been. --George Eliot

This blog is about my journey as an asthmatic, hypothyroid, formerly plus-sized endurance athlete. It's occasionally interrupted with things that have nothing to do with that or whining about my weight and horrible eating habits. "You're never too old to be what you might have been" --George Eliot

Saturday, January 12, 2008

This one is for the girls: Advice from Athletes #2

well, and maybe their caring partners who want to help them become better cyclists.

Okay, so I was thinking of what the next advice post should be, and I've decided that based on some of the stuff that was coming out of the advice about chaffing and blisters that I might do one on TA-TAs, and the inevitable difficulties when one is both 1) a runner and 2) buxom. Which I plan to address soon. But sorry, no ta-tas today.

Instead, I want to address what I've sensed as a growing, angry murmer out there among women who want to be multisport athletes or cyclists. They really do. but, they are stopped, by one thing:

SADDLE ISSUES.

(scary dramatic music here: Dun dun DUNNNNNNNNNNNN)

So, women athletes out there, tell us: What do you use to make long rides more comfortable? What do you do about chaffing? How do you handle bruising?

I'll go out on a limb here and extend the invitation to be brutally honest by being honest myself: I've had races, even sprints, where I finished with everything from feeling bruised to actually having skin missing.

Yeah. Down there.

It happens more in the aero position than not and I've tried various things: saddles, cremes, etc. With varying degrees of success. I'm still working on the problem. Other women whisper to me at races or in the locker room or email me and tell me that although they are fit and/or willing participants, and do long-distance cycling even, that they have these problems as well. Girl problems. Side effects that, quite frankly, make the experience of cyclist much less pleasant than it should be.

So, I KNOW I'm not the only one whose had these issues. But it's rarely written about openly. Oh, there are some veiled references to "soft tissues" here and there, but I don't see much. Much of the advice I see seems to be written more for men, who don't, um, have places for powders and cremes and such to go into and perhaps cause problems.

I cannot believe I'm about to talk about this publicly.

My contribution:
I read recently and article that said that ladies should avoid using, day-to-day, anything that is "warming" down there as a product at any time as it may include honey and/or capsacin, and avoid ever using anything with glycerine in it (like KY)
Why? Glycerine and honey provide, um, er, nutrition, apparently, for bacteria and yeasts, which can cause chronic irritation. As can capsacin. This in turn to make the whole, uh, area
(Okay, it's not as easy for me to talk about this part of my body as it is some others, this is ReALLY hard for me to do)
okay. So these ingredients can make your, um, special place irritated and less, shall we say, sturdy when engaging in things like, um, cycling.
Apparently, menopause and pre-menopause play a role, too, in the, um, condition of skin down, um, there (GAWD, this is hard for me to do...)

So I'm invited all women who've experience and maybe conquered this, in part or whole, to contribute their SADDLE WISDOM. Women cyclists, triathletes, and randonneurs, go ahead.
(Please. I'm excrutiatingly embarassed at what I've already written...don't leave me hanging...)

36 comments:

  1. Sorry, I got nothing here. Other than the initial discomfort of getting used to cycling and some soreness in the sitbones, I have really never had any feminine type issues with seating. I just use whatever shorts I have, and have a gel split seat that seems to work well. No chafing, no pain, no saddle sores. (I know.... I AM knowking on wood right now..)
    The only recurrent issues I have are with yeast infections but I think that has something to do with spending a lot of time in chamois shorts.

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  2. Ouch that hurts even reading about it! Esp. the capsacin-OWE! I don't have problems unless I just don't remember from IM training since my memory is shot from menopause. So you have a split seat? My old tri bike had one-this one doesn't so I guess we'll see when the long rides come..I'm on the ole' gel too for menopause..

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  3. You did a great job getting that topic out there.

    I was that I could add some great information but I can't. I use a gel seat with no problem. I come with alot of natural padding.

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  4. I can't believe you're posting about.... well, I just don't have a civil word for it.

    But when you figure it all out, PLEASE let me know, okay? I want to retain all skin coverage there. I just adjusted my saddle a bit tonight... that would be my 4th or 5th saddle...

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  5. I haven't got much to contribute on this one...it sounds like my problems are fairly minimal compared to yours. Nevertheless:

    1) Saddle--try, try and try again. As many kinds as you can stand. I like my el cheapo Body Geometry Dolce.

    2) Bruising/Sit Bone Pain--it usually takes me ~2 weeks back on the bike for the "calluses" to build up, then it's not bad. Nothing to recommend here but time in the saddle.

    3) Chafing/Saddle Sores--chamois butter or bag balm. More than you humanly think you might need. And I've taken to washing with Hibiclens surgical soap during heavy riding times to prevent the sores.

    Oh, and I guess the overriding thing would be to make SURE your bike fit and saddle angle are right for your body. :-)

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  6. I, too, feel for you. Way to put all that out there. I typically just get some bruising on my sit bones but after the season gets started that tends to get better. I also have the yeast infection problem but I also think that is from the wet swimming suit and the sweaty chamois shorts.

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  7. the only thing that works for me is TITS (Time In The Saddle). And lots of it. The more TITS the fewer issues I have later on with the bruising factor. My parts just go to sleep for the first week or so I'm back on the bike. Not funny.

    I have this to add on the hygiene issue with shorts. Even guys tell me not to stay in bike shorts for any length of time. You ride, you take them off. Don't wear them home from them gym, don't go to the grocery store, take them off. One pair of clean shorts = one ride, not two.

    Plus, air drying the pad on the bike shorts (after a wash) apparently can kill anything that might like to live there.

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  8. I'm new to more ..."serious" cycling (I say that with reservation) but have simply found that shorts that fit well and a split seat are satisfactory. Heck- I commute in regular clothes without difficulty.

    What's with the unease around naming body parts? My labia do not suffer the wrath of my saddle.

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  9. Don't recall how I came across you blog but I sure am enjoying the reading! Seems to be a lot of issues we ladies don't speak of. I've never experienced the skin missing issue but all the others.

    I of course get out of my bike shorts/gym clothes as soon as I can after a workout. Have even take a chance of clothes to tri events - getting out of wet bike shorts into some clean cotton undies helps - and while I usually where thong undies (I know TMI right) after a race cause... well Ms. Kitty is sore, I wear regular undies.

    A friend of mine swears by the split saddle. I think her hubby got it for her actually cause he wasn't getting any lovin' after long races, well because she was hurtin' in them places - so I got a split saddle for my birthday that will go on when I start indoor spinning at home and riding out side again. And advice you've gotten before, get you bike adjusted again, just in case.

    And yeast infections, well always seemed to be a common problem for me. I try and keep some yogurt in me once a day (you know as part of a meal not like it putting it down there ;o) - and I've started taking pro-biotics from Dr. Nutura (sp?) which seem to help immensely!

    Here's to getting back in the saddle again without issues, or at least less of them.

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  10. OK now I really wish I had started reading you blog like last year... I could have meet you at IM KY - or let me spell that out considering the issue I'm posting under - Iron Man Kentucky!

    I didn't race it, hell I just got into multisport last year, but my boyfriend and a friend of ours did!

    Quite the event, even for a spectator!

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  11. GG - I can't belive no one else has had the skin missing issue! I swear, when I first read about it in one of your past posts I was relieved to know I wasn't alone on this. I haven't ridden in months so I have no advice but I must say, the last GEL seat Bigun got for me, helped tremendously. Thanks for all the advice!!

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  12. BTW- I am still cracking up over the fact that not a single guy has posted a comment on this post!! Cracking up...

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  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  14. Ok, I'll come out of the woodwork, too! This is the main reason why cycling isn't my very favorite sport....the numbness, occasional blistering, and the poor squished girl parts that make me writhe in agony for rides longer than 10 miles. (Yes, that bad) I've had my seat adjusted (so it's not on an upward angle) and converted to a thick-padded bike short, but still need to work on the girl saddle and the chamois butter. I am not sure what to think of the chamois butter suggestion, but at this point, anything is worth a shot.

    So, just wanted to say that you are not alone....and if I stumble upon anything brilliant, I'll come over here and share it!

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  15. I did two things to solve my down there problems:

    1) bought a woman's saddle. Sella Italia "Lady" to be specific

    2) I use baby cream, the same you use on babies when they have diaper rash. Just slather a bunch on before and I'm okay for a long ride.

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  16. Oh wow! I did two tris last year on a bike with a mile-wide gel seat. I'm doing 5-6 this year, so I got a full carbon-fiber bike with the appropriate racing saddle. I was super-excited . . . until the pain began. I was really worried until i read these posts -- I guess I just have to ride it a while and "toughen up." It's not the 'lady parts' that seem to be painful. . .it's further back, closer to the sit bones, and feels like bruising. That's "normal" for a new rider?

    Also, off-topic, but if anyone wants to answer. . .are there trisuits for ladies with fuller thighs? At 150 lbs, I look like a sausage in my bike shorts already.

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  17. Thanks for putting this out there GGtI - as a cycling newbie I have nothing to add but a lot to learn.

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  18. For me, I found that a relatively cheap gel saddle with a split = happy tender female parts.

    Other saddles, including a not so cheap saddle with a split but no gel, and a gel saddle with no split have caused many unpleasentries to the tender female parts.

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  19. I find that standing up the entire ride alleviates a lot of the hooptie pain.

    In all seriousness, I don't have too many issues with the stock saddle on my road bike, but have noticed increasing distress with the stock saddle on my tri bike. I'm going to try a women's specific saddle, but I don't know which one yet.

    Things that have worked for me so far:
    *Expensive shorts with just mid-weight chamois. Bulkier seems to be just as bad and too little. My $20 Performance chamois shorts just don't cut it. I can barely handle 30 mins. in them. My favorites are the SheBeest Triple S shorts, Pearl Izumi Sugar Short w/ the mid-distance chamois, and Ooomph tri shorts.
    *Assos chamois cream, and only Assos. I think it's the witch hazel in it, but there's a numbing aspect that, ah, helps.
    *Since we're being so honest...shave it off, particularly the area that contacts the seat -- and maintain daily.
    *I drop those bike shorts within minutes of finishing my ride, even if it means changing under a towel in a parking lot.
    *I actually go commando a lot too, when I'm done training and lounging around the house, which seems to help with infections.

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  20. The best advice I was given was from Ryan...His wife is a 2-time Ironwoman...and she just loads up every possible spot with Butt
    Butter...It works well. So does taking some time off the bike to heal up all the bad spots. I got so used to being in bad pain (believe I'd blogged about my lacerated lady parts about 6 mos ago) that when I took a month or two completely off the bike to focus on running...when I returned to riding, the lady pain was gone and all had healed. Kathy owner of the bike shop said I'd likely worn out my saddle and that could have been part of the problem. I may invest in a new one soon.

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  21. My pearls of wisdom:

    1. Woman-specific saddle. The padded back should line up with the sit bones perfectly.
    2. Split saddle. They don't call that a clit slit for nothing.
    3. TITS. The more you do it, the less it hurts.
    4. This is my best one: To cure/prevent yeast infections, use a blow dryer. The one you use on your hair. Yeast thrives in warm/damp environments, so use the blowdryer to remove the 'damp' element. Just put the dryer on low, hold it near the knees and aim up, and blow all those folds for a few minutes until they are dry. Imagine all the little yeasty organisms screaming and dying as they shrivel and dessicate. Spread those folds and hit the entrance to the playground until it's dried somewhat, too. I'm telling you, do this a few minutes every morning you will be yeast-free forever.

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  22. Okay, first off, this is further evidence of why I DETEST cycling. I love all things outdoors, except for riding a bike.

    As such, I have absolutely no suggestions. But, thank you for further reaffirming my disdane of cycling.

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  23. You know what I love about your blog?

    You keep it real. Thanks.

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  24. Thanks for posting thing. Here are my pointers that help, although the missing skin thing happens more often than it should. I can handle a bruised sitbone but um...not having it hurt when I ...ahem..use the ladies room after a ride would be lovely!

    TONS of chamois cream. I pack a little tube with me when I ride for anything over 2 hours.

    Play with the seat. Right now I have a split saddle, before that I didn't. There are so many studies saying that the split is good b/c it relieves pressure on soft tissue. Honestly, it made my issues worse.

    After the fact, if you're...um...torn...use some bacetracian. DO NOT use the analgesic one, it burns to high heaven. Thought it would be a good idea. Not so much.

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  25. I love cycling!
    Here are my tips:

    1) get a bike fit by someone who is trained to fit bikes. Time in the saddle works great if your bike fits correctly. My bike seat supports most of my weight on my sit bones not my crotch.

    2) Time in the Saddle - you have to build up to long rides over time. Only increase 10%/week - just like running. Don't expect to be comfortable if you double your time/distance - whatever the tolerance is - callus, muscles, dead nerve endings from the vibrations (just kidding) - it is does develop over time and you will be able to ride long distances without pain if you increase slowly.


    2) Invest in quality shorts - find what works for you. More padding isn't necessarily better if it wads up, I find a shaped pad w/welded seams works best for me. My favorite brand has been SHEBEEST. Their "shelastic" chamois is great w/ adequate padding on my sit bones without any extra padding up front. I'm very fond of their "SB Ultra D Short" with their "Century Stretch" Chamois for any rides over 50 miles - I've got two pairs and they are worth every penny. I can't find them locally so I shop at teamestrogen.com

    3) Chamios Buttr really helps to eliminate soreness from friction - apply it often and liberally (for long rides I rub an 1/8th cup on my chamios at the crotch the night before and allow it to soak in - then apply more to my skin before and during the ride)

    4) As for yeast infections
    - get out of your shorts asap after the ride
    - I agree with ana - blow dry

    5) keep hair trimmed

    6) Use Desitin (diaper cream) to heal up any abrasions or sores

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  26. Terry saddles and Assos chamois cream, applied liberally. I have found Castelli shorts to be the most agreeable for me, even though they are grotesquely expensive.

    I made the mistake of trying a pair of shorts with gel padding once, and it took me weeks til my butt stopped looking like a fourteen year old's face.

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  27. and I paid for this site.

    Oh, never mind. That's a different site.

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  28. Without going through the excruciating task of reading everyone's posts, my main advice is wear thinly padded bike shorts, no underwear, and make sure your saddle is adjusted properly.

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  29. A Brooks (leather) women-specific saddle is the only thing that works for me. I use a neophrene cover for triathlons when I am riding in wet shorts. I also recommend Flanders Buttocks Ointment, a particularly thick diaper rash ointment.

    Persistant problems with yeast infections can come from high blood sugar. The test that doctors usually do (fasting blood glucose) doesn't show if your blood sugar goes very high after meals but eventually comes down again. For more information see http://www.phlaunt.com/diabetes/ (not my site but lots of good information).

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  30. Great topic! For me less is more. A less padded seat and tri-shorts (less bulky than full cycling shorts) worked for my IM Lake Placid training and racing. I also endorse the "slit". Of course this assumes you already have built up some tolerance on the sit bones from "TITS". I also use body glide on areas that are prone to chafing.

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  31. Wow - the first time I'm commenting on your blog and it's this topic. My first tri in wet shorts gave me a "great" souvenir of my race with torn up girly bits. Basically I rubbed the skin right off on either side of my whoo-ha. Wow - not fun. I had never had problems before and had spent lots of time on my bike. I figure it's just from wet shorts! Next time I'm getting some butt butter or something!

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  32. My two cents - because the irritation would cause me pain when I peed - ISM Adamo saddle - has the slit in the middle. No pressure on the pudendum - no pain when peeing, no pain at all in that area.

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  33. Alright "Mrs Bigun", I will be the first guy to post on this topic. In my 20 plus years experience in the bicycle industry, I've suggested all remedies to my female clients. "Slit" saddles with medium padding consistently received positive results ONLY if the fore-aft is adjusted well. Feedback on the shorts was mixed however, more padding isn't always consistent with comfort. Actually the more padding, the more risk of a bunching and/or a pinching feeling. The difficult part is finding that short/saddle combo that works best without spending a fortune and acquiring a mountain of discarded gear. Find a shop that will offer you a long test ride on a couple of saddles and of course proper adjustment. I've also been informed by that "grooming" helps reduce chafing and abrasion. "TITS" is truly the best option to train the sit bones, however seat choice and adjustment play a big role. Hope this adds some insight from a different source. Don't give up!

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  34. Anyone having any trouble with uterine bleeding? It seems that after a ride I am experiencing some bleeding which is partly due to peri-menopausal issues at the age of 42, but it appears to get aggravated by my TITS! So, if anyone, hopefully, someone has run into this before, I would love to hear if it is just part of the deal, or if there is something to be done about it. Otherwise the seat is fine, no yeasties or chaffing...

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  35. Oh thank gawd someone brought up female saddle issues. I did my first century a few years ago and I had no clue about "saddle issues." After the ride I used the restroom and I wanted to scream out loud in pain! I mentioned it to my Husband and he didn't have any suggestions - he mentioned all the information he's ever received about saddle issues was about men and the controversy about extended time on bike seats possibly leading to impotence. I said, "surely there MUST be some information about saddle issues for women?!" I ended up doing some research about this issue but I wasn't able to come up with anything concrete. Lots of TITS recommendations, etc. I even tried different shorts and saddle positions. As far as creams...I have to say...the creams made things worse for me as it uhhhh...well, it made my parts split open like a "blooming flower" [sounds hilarious but it's the only way I can describe it]. Things were much better when it was together as a "bud." Anyway, I do have to give kudos to Shebeest cycling shorts! The contours and the different padding zones help tremendously (without adding a lot of bulk). One thing I do know is...getting off the saddle and "standing" once in a while is my best remedy! It took me some time to be able to do this but it's well worth it. I certainly pay the price for sit climbing. OUCH (seriously loosing skin)!!

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  36. Thanks for sending me the link to your post! Your readers have some great ideas. I am going to try a seat that belongs to someone else this weekend and will start checking out the other ones recommended here. I know I need a cutout (or cl** slit, as you reader named it.)

    I also got some assos chamois cream. I knew I wanted some.
    The bike shop recommended taking you bike shorts out of the wash and before hanging them to dry apply the chamois cream to the pad. He uses a putty spatula to make a thin layer.
    I guess in some Lance video you can see him teaching Cheryl Crow to do it for him- with the assos brand name covered up since they don't sponsor him.

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