Today it was the loop of the shoelace on my right foot hitting the left shoe with every stride. Yesterday it was the non-existent bump in my sock that I could feel each time the sole of my right foot hit the ground. At other times, the villainous seam is at fault (I find the crotch and the arm pit area the most susceptible to this), rubbing in ways that is not going to be conducive for laying down some pavement. Or the corner of my jacket hitting the left thigh each time I raise my leg. Sometimes that little pebble stuck in the tread of my shoe feels like a fucking boulder until I finally stop and pick it out. If I can even find it. Occasionally, it's the overwhelming desire to have to pee or poop, but I haven't had to actually resort to squatting behind a tree yet.
On almost every run, it's something; one of these above-listed nags. And that one thing sticks with me for a while, sometimes an entire run. And sometimes the nagging thing is real, and sometimes it's more about my head and its need to find something to focus on, and my challenge to overcome it. The fact that my head has to make shit up in order to try and distract me from relaxing into the run tells me clearly that physically I am in good shape. Because if I had any sort of injury whatsoever or even mild discomfort, my head would be focused there. No shin issues, calves, knees, hips, ankles, feet or toes. No blisters, no missing toenails (although one has started to split), no stitch in my side, and no chafing.
I kinda underestimated the severity of chafing until I started running longer distances. Those workout clothes that had always been great for weight lifting, a bit of cardio or the odd class here and there became highly unsuitable for running longer distances, where the monotonous repetition of my movement picked up on the subtle problems with the clothing I wore. I have a Nike workout bra that has a seam under my left armpit that picks and chafes at the skin. I'd never noticed that picky seam before. I've had to accept that I can no longer wear this bra. And I'll only wear my three favourite running pants for any distance over 10 km (two Lululemon and one Running Room), after rejecting 10 others for bad seams in the crotch. Seams I'd never felt before. It's kinda like when I'm in Vegas and choose my most comfortable shoes to go out walking for the day, but realize after walking for 4 hours that not only are they uncomfortable now, they've actually given me blisters. Not until we put these items to the test can we really see their faults.
I've had a couple of recent chafing issues. On a particularly snowy day a month ago, I headed to the gym for a 12 km run on the treadmill. And I decided to wear this cute little Lulu running skirt that I bought last season but had never had the opportunity to wear through our chilly fall and winter. All was fine and dandy until about 7 km in when I started to notice that the inside of my thighs were rubbing, and with each step it got worse. I ended up with a very irritated area of skin there. Will be sticking to my pants for now, unless it's a short distance.
When I did the Vegas race in December I made a chafing error that I hadn't considered before. I run with an ipod strapped to my left arm, as you can see in this picture below. I have always run with it there, even at my longest training distances, so I didn't give it any thought when I strapped it on that day. By the end of the race, the underside of my arm, where the strap sat, was absolutely raw. I realized that all those months of training, and particularly the longest distance days, were all during our cold and rainy season, where I was layered up with shirts and jackets, and never had a bare arm.
But, no chafing error can feel as bad as the one the guy next to me is experiencing... The Bleeding Nipple.
This is a common issue for men who run. (some sort of karmic payback thing I figure...) Women are protected, you see, because we wear good running bras. (good reason to be wearing a good running bra, right?!) But, men often just have a light loose shirt on and, over a long distance, chafing occurs. My Vegas running picture was my desktop pic for a month before my father-in-law saw it, and inquired about the man running behind me. I had never noticed the bleeding nipple before! ( Clearly, I was too focused on how damn good I looked at Mile 13, even though I felt like I was going to a) throw up, b) pass out, c) shit my pants or d) all of the above right at that moment.) This guy's black bib indicates that he intended on running a full marathon that day, but this picture of us was taken as we approached the half marathon finish line. Unfortunately, this guy's race was cut short because of his right tit. I bet he wished that he had bought the Bodyglide at the Expo the day before! I'm sure that this guy's error, too, was that he had not fully considered the dry climate and how our sweat turned to salt on our bodies that day. The grit from the dried sweat on his chest is what killed him, and his nipple. And it's clear to me looking at him here that he is not wearing proper running gear. Don't make the same mistake, boys!
As I eliminate the real Nags, like the socks that don't fit quite right and the picky seams, and I try to anticipate all of the factors, like being layered up vs. bare, and whether my sweat will dry to abrasive salt, I realize there will almost always be something. That's the true challenge of running. The mind game behind being successful at it is continuously working to overcome the Nags.