Triathlon Magazine Canada - - Front Page - BY MOLLY HURFORD

LET’S GET REAL for a minute: noth­ing can de­rail a race faster – or be more dif­fi­cult to ex­plain to friends and fam­ily post-race – than chafed, numb or just plain un­com­fort­able nether-re­gions. As triath­letes we’re even more ex­posed to po­ten­tial sad­dle pain thanks to ag­gres­sive rid­ing po­si­tions, un­for­giv­ing cour­ses, less pad­ding (than most cy­clists wear) and the time-trial style of rid­ing that keeps our butt firmly planted on the sad­dle for hours at a time. And, as triath­letes, we of­ten be­gan our ca­reers as run­ners or swim­mers, so we’re of­ten un­der-in­formed about cy­clist “is­sues” and have no idea who to ask about them. It doesn’t have to be that way. We can ease the pain, al­le­vi­ate dis­com­fort and make sure that our rides are as ef­fi­cient as hu­manly pos­si­ble. Here are a few tips:

1. 2. 3. 4. Choose the Right Sad­dle

This seems like the most ob­vi­ous place to start, but so many peo­ple ride on the sad­dle that came with their bikes with­out ever re­al­iz­ing that it’s the wrong shape or size for their par­tic­u­lar anatomy. When choos­ing a sad­dle, opt for one that’s sized to fit your sit-bones (most shops can mea­sure this in un­der 30 sec­onds) so that the weight of your body isn’t rest­ing on sen­si­tive tis­sue rather than those bones. Your triathlon bike will have a dif­fer­ent sad­dle than your road bike, since you’re most likely tilted for­ward more on the triathlon bike to get into a proper aero po­si­tion.

How the nose of the sad­dle feels when you’re fully tilted for­ward is worth con­sid­er­ing when test­ing sad­dles. Don’t be afraid to test a few be­fore settling on the one you pre­fer: it takes a few rides to re­ally un­der­stand how a sad­dle feels for you.

Train in Good Shorts

Triath­letes race in skin­suits with a thin chamois. We can, though, still train in proper, well-fit­ting bike shorts. Con­sider in­vest­ing in a pair of bib shorts for op­ti­mal com­fort and fit (and no muffin top) and look for a chamois pad that feels com­fort­able and pro­vides a bit of pad­ding and has an an­timi­cro­bial coat­ing. For a triath­lete, con­sider your po­si­tion when try­ing a chamois on: you’re go­ing to want one with more pad­ding to­wards the front since, again, you’re tilted for­ward more than a typ­i­cal roadie. In ad­di­tion to a good chamois, adding chamois cream for long rides can go a long way to­wards fight­ing fric­tion.

Ac­knowl­edge Prob­lems Early

The worst thing a cy­clist or triath­lete can do is ig­nore small, nag­ging prob­lems and al­low them to grow and get pro­gres­sively worse. So, if you do have a small spot that chafes ev­ery ride over two hours, you get numb when you’re rid­ing at thresh­old pace or you get a sad­dle sore on long rides, don’t wait for the is­sue to be­come a con­stant prob­lem. Ad­dress it now by chang­ing your sad­dle, shorts, bike fit or rid­ing style.

Drop Your Shorts

When you fin­ish a ride, the best thing to do for your­self is to get your shorts off. Do this be­fore you check email, an­swer a text, up­date Strava, eat a snack or drink a pro­tein shake. Tak­ing your sweaty shorts off will save you from the “petri dish ef­fect” that’s hap­pen­ing. Hop in the shower or at least use a baby wipe to clean up as soon as pos­si­ble – es­pe­cially af­ter a triathlon where you’ve swum in open wa­ter with any num­ber of bac­te­ria, then cy­cled for miles while cre­at­ing mi­crotears in your skin from sad­dle-to- chamois fric­tion, then fur­ther ex­ac­er­bated the sit­u­a­tion by run­ning and pos­si­bly adding some chaf­ing to the mix.


5. 6. Ad­just and Ex­per­i­ment

A proper fit­ting bike cures al­most all pain, but just be­cause a bike fit­ter as­sessed you a few years ago doesn’t mean you’re good to go. Some­thing as sim­ple as tak­ing a yoga class or even just putting in more hours on the bike can com­pletely change the way you’re rid­ing. If you are hav­ing re­cur­ring prob­lems, con­sider tweak­ing your fit your­self, play­ing with sad­dle height and the fore and aft po­si­tion. The worst thing that could hap­pen is that you have to re­set it to where it was and start over, yet so many peo­ple are scared to make changes on their own. If the idea of mess­ing with your fit gives you shivers, con­sider tak­ing it back to your orig­i­nal fit­ter for a quick tune-up where he or she can re-as­sess your fit and make small ad­just­ments.

Stand Up!

The eas­i­est ad­vice to cure most of your sad­dle prob­lems is to sim­ply stand up in the sad­dle more. Triath­letes we tend to stay in one spot for our en­tire race, pressed down on the nose of the sad­dle. But you can al­le­vi­ate numb­ness and chaf­ing – and most sad­dle sores – by tak­ing a few stand­ing pedal strokes ev­ery few min­utes, al­low­ing some air­flow to hit your nether re­gions, get­ting your blood flow­ing back into your un­der­car­riage and re-ad­just­ing your bits and pieces just enough so that the same square cen­time­tre of soft tis­sue isn’t han­dling all of the pres­sure for the en­tire ride. Even if you aren’t hav­ing sad­dle prob­lems now, this is a good habit to start to avoid them in the fu­ture.

Have a spe­cific prob­lem or ques­tion? In Molly Hurford’s book: Sad­dle, Sore: Ride Com­fort­able, Ride Happy, ev­ery topic from preg­nancy to menopause to male-spe­cific is­sues is dis­cussed, plus tons more on sad­dle and chamois choice, hy­giene and deal­ing with dozens of skin prob­lems. Buy the book at Sad­dle­sore­ and on Amazon (

HE­LEN BOBIWASH WASN’T sure the bald ea­gle feather in her lug­gage would make it past Aus­tralia’s no­to­ri­ously scrupu­lous cus­toms agents, but it did. So, when she was in­tro­duced as the flag bearer for Canada’s five-per­son na­tional team at the ITU Cross Triathlon Worlds in the Snowy Moun­tains last Novem­ber, that pre­cious white plume was in her hand as she hoisted the Maple Leaf.

“It was im­por­tant to carry the ea­gle feather, to rec­og­nize my Abo­rig­i­nal roots and to ac­knowl­edge that Canada was built upon the wel­com­ing ef­forts of Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple,” Bobiwash said.

It was a proud mo­ment for the 48-year- old Anishin­abe woman from Sud­bury, Ont., who had spent the last year won­der­ing if she could – or should – take the spot she’d qual­i­fied for at the 2015 Mine over Mat­ter race in Mil­ton, Ont.

“Part of me was scared I’d be ex­posed to crit­i­cism for par­tic­i­pat­ing at worlds when I don’t ex­pect to come in first,” she told Triathlon Canada’s age group team’s man­ager, Te­nille Hoog­land, when Hoog­land asked her if she’d con­sider be­ing the flag bearer. But her friends and fam­ily per­suaded her to go for it.

“Ul­ti­mately, I feel like I rep­re­sent the ‘ typ­i­cal’ age grouper who does what they can in the sport while bal­anc­ing the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of life,” she said. But there is noth­ing typ­i­cal about Bobiwash. She got into triathlon a decade ago, at a dif­fi­cult junc­ture in her life. Her mother had just died af­ter a long de­cline from the com­pli­ca­tions of di­a­betes. Her mar­riage had ended a year ear­lier and she was ex­hausted by the task of rais­ing her only child on her own.

Born pre­ma­ture, two-year- old Mzhi­ikenh needed fre­quent med­i­cal at­ten­tion and Bobiwash, an ac­coun­tant, had re­cently moved back to Sud­bury from a small town more than an hour’s drive away to avoid the long weekly treks to the doc­tor.

Bobiwash had her own health is­sues, too. She was over­weight, at high risk of devel­op­ing di­a­betes and was wait­ing for menis­cus surgery – the re­sult of smash­ing her knees into the dash­board in a car ac­ci­dent two days af­ter Christ­mas in 2006.

The YMCA in Sud­bury be­came a lifeline, Bobiwash says.

“They had child­care, so I could go for a swim or I could work on the weights and know my son was be­ing taken care of.”

son will look af­ter yours,’” Bobiwash re­calls. “So peo­ple in the com­mu­nity made it pos­si­ble for me to con­tinue with my train­ing and, even­tu­ally, to par­tic­i­pate in events.”

Her coach, 2015 Ul­tra­man world cham­pion Mike Cough­lin, says Bobiwash gave as much as she got from Sud­bury’s mul­ti­sport com­mu­nity, step­ping up to or­ga­nize lo­cal events and in­spir­ing oth­ers with her spirit and per­se­ver­ance.

Now based out of Guelph, Ont., Cough­lin fol­lowed Bobiwash’s progress on Skype and helped her de­sign a train­ing pro­gram.

By 2014, she had a cou­ple of 70.3 races un­der her belt, in­clud­ing Muskoka. But she found the train­ing a grind.

“I’d be on my bike for three hours and no­body would want to come and join me,” she said. “I kind of lost the so­cial as­pect that I en­joyed.”

Then, in 2015, she did her first Xterra race, in Mil­ton. She laughs at her au­dac­ity: She loved trail run­ning, but she had no moun­tain bik­ing skills. Still, she thought, “Why not try it?”

She was ter­ri­fied she’d in­jure her­self on the bike course and, when she didn’t, she was ec­static. At one point on the ride, a deer jumped across the trail, just me­tres in front of her.

“It just lifted my spir­its to a whole other level,” she said. “Then I hit the run.”

She re­calls lis­ten­ing to the birds and watch­ing chipmunks along the trail – then wip­ing out. She fin­ished the race with a throb­bing hand, find­ing out only hours later that she’d frac­tured it.

“But I’d had the best time of my life,” she said, vow­ing to do an­other cross triathlon. Sim­ply by fin­ish­ing the Mil­ton event, she’d qual­i­fied for the 2016 Worlds. “There aren’t a lot of older women in cross tri,” she quipped.

Af­ter fig­ur­ing out how much money she’d have to save up to get to Aus­tralia, she de­cided to go for it, aim­ing to be in the best shape of her life. Then, in Oc­to­ber 2015, while moun­tain bik­ing with a friend, she tore her right Achilles ten­don. She was in ex­cru­ci­at­ing pain, and deep in the bush. The only way out was to pedal one-legged, her right leg dan­gling be­hind her. Laugh­ing out loud at the sight of her­self, she thanked Cough­lin, her trainer.

“We can fi­nally tell coach that all those sin­gle-leg drills came in handy,” she told her friend.

Twelve weeks in a boot left her pre­cious lit­tle time to pre­pare for the 2016 rac­ing sea­son and in­deed, her right leg was still not 100 per cent when she made it to Aus­tralia’s Snowy Moun­tains in Novem­ber. She knew fin­ish­ing the race within the five-hour limit would be a chal­lenge.

A fall 12 km into the bike course when her han­dle­bar clipped a metal pole left her scraped and limp­ing on the trail run, re­duced to walk­ing by the 2-km mark. With two laps of the three-lap course to go, an of­fi­cial pulled her off the course to get med­i­cal at­ten­tion.

“I cried,” she re­calls. “I knew af­ter I fell that my race was over, but it was still dis­ap­point­ing when I was faced with the reality.”

De­spite that, Bobiwash is grin­ning in ev­ery photo. And, two days af­ter the race, she had healed up enough to par­tic­i­pate in the re­lay event with her fel­low Cana­di­ans, Brooke Dar­ling­ton, Nathan Ste­wart, Alexan­dre Boyer and Chuck Fortier.

Bobiwash’s son, 12-year- old Mzhi­ikenh, was with her, root­ing for her ev­ery step of the way. Sim­ply ex­pos­ing him to a healthy, ac­tive life­style makes her feel she is do­ing the best job that she can as a mother, she says, and that the world is his oyster.

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