TR2011 day 4 FYI: Saddle sores aren’t really sores on your saddle.
Six days in the saddle, 4 days racing. The nether regions are taking a bit of a beating, the “ass-tar” is out in full force. We start each day with a stiff cup of java followed by lubrication of the chamois pad in the bike shorts, “beljium butter” or “assos cream”. It is an important early morning choice depending on the terrain, the weather, the particular shorts in question. It is a rather intimate conversation and circumstance, both of us sitting naked side by side on the bed, asking concerned questions about the degree of damage done in each other’s perineal region and the plan of the day for alleviation or mitigation. This area, in medical jargon, is called the “saddle region” which at this point in the race is somewhat funny. The saddle region is particularly delicate tissue, and highly innervated, with excellent perfusion. Great when you are having sex, but not so great when you are sitting on it, in wet shorts, climbing hills, bombing descents, mashing the gears for hour after hour. There are some shorts that are two hour trainer shorts, some that are 2 hour tri-shorts, some that are epic 4 hour road shorts. There are no shorts on this earth that can deal with 5 hours of mud and hail, river crossings and 2200m of climbing without wreaking havoc on the crown jewels. But when the damage is done, there is only one product known to me that will help heal the wounds no-one want to see, overnight. Ass-Tar. Its real name is Draw-Out Salve, and I think it is only sold at Rite-Aid, but when I was racing a lot of Cat 2 road events, especially 5 day stage races, I was introduced to this little friend by my cycling buddy/ coach/ fellow road warrior Rick. Rick taught me the wonders of this nasty smelling salve, the stuff that smells as if it was scraped off the roof and looks as if it came off your shoe. The last place that you want to smear this is down below, but when you feel that familiar burn, that is the first place that you need to hit with the black stuff. Done. Happier already.
Today, we arrived, wet, cold to the bone and famished following day 4 of TR2011. Our start point was the lovely Fernie, we piled onto a bus and shuttled to the North Fork recreation area, where under the scorching sun, we went through the now familiar ritual of loading the camelback with arm warmers, leg warmers, rain jacket and pants, 100 oz of fluids, as much food as you think you can choke down, electrolyte tablets, spare tube, repair kit, multi-tool and the miscellaneous parts which are irreplaceable in the wilderness: chain links, brake pads, front and rear spokes, shoe cleats and bolts, derailleur hanger: the list is long, the pack is heavy. Each time I load it up, I think that I could get away with less stuff, but I have been doing this mountain bike racing business long enough to know that things break down, fall off, burn out, snap, bend out of true and leave you pushing your bike, hiking, cold or all of the above. Loaded up, we hit the trails, straight up a 600m climb, just to get us warmed up and split the field. The course was not as technical as previous days, but was still tough. We traversed Kananaskis cattle country trails, blew by incredible canyons, schlepped up muddy embankments and waded through dark black, knee deep cow holes. Danny and Marty were ahead, Dennis and I a few minutes back. We stopped to dig out the rain jackets while getting pelted with hail, and powered on towards Little Elbow ranch struggling to stay warm by just pedaling hard. I actually welcomed Dennis tugging on my pack for a tow as we hit the remaining climbs, the trip across the final river had chilled me further, and I was happy to work hard to warm up. We hit the finishline after about 4 and a half hard hours in the saddle, heading past the rows of already soggy tents to where our RV stood waiting. The 4 of us crowded in, mud covered, shivering and staring blankly at each other before we began to assemble some thoughts of showering, eating, skulling a beer. One by one, we returned from the shower truck, warm, clean, and more human. Double servings of dinner inhaled, we settled into our new home at Little Elbow, surrounded by mountains, wet tents and happy RV campers. The final ritual of the day is tending to the wounds, ass tar to the saddle region, Neosporin to the knee. If this knee does not get infected this week it will be a miracle. My ER doc Lisa Tessler, had seen us off on the start line in Fernie and mentioned that I should try to keep it dry for 3 days. I raised my eyebrows at her. She knew where we were going. “Try duct-tape” she said. You gotta love a doc who mountain bikes too.