Chapter #1: The Perils of Iron-On Patches

DISCLAIMER: “Real Running: Tales From The Trails” is a series dedicated to running: stories, product reviews, personal updates, tips, encouragement, and such. I feel the need to say that there “might” be discussion of things considered “off color” to some of you, especially if you are not a runner. You see, funny things happen to runners. If you’re not comfortable with talk of bodily fluids, nether-regions, bowel issues, ingrown toenails, and the like, don’t say you haven’t been warned. Read on, brave ones!

I never ran more than 3 miles at a time until I trained for my first half-marathon in 2003. Since then, I’ve been hooked. Over the years, I’ve logged many miles and have seen and experienced many things along the way. I consider myself a runner. Why? Because I run. That’s the great thing about running. There’s no set definition, no specific distance, no governing body to license you or affirm you. Go run and you are a runner. I got up and ran five miles this morning. I’m a runner. You got up and ran one mile today? You’re a runner. You walked three minutes, ran 30 seconds, and repeated that three times? Good for you! You’re a runner.

Over the miles and years, I’ve tried a myriad of shoes, shirts, water bottles, sports bras, energy supplements, recovery drinks, gadgets, apps, and accessories, which I hope to detail later, but my focus today begins with one pair of running tights with which I am OBSESSED. OB-SESSED.  O.B.S.E.S.S.E.D. Got it? I’m obsessed.

I have several models of these tights (full length, insulated, etc.) but for today’s story, I will focus on the CW-X brand 3/4 Length Stabilyx Tights.  And no, I don’t get any rewards if you click on that or buy them. It’s purely reference material. Anyway, at the time of this incident, I had owned a particular set of tights for about a year and a half. Every time I ran, I wore them.  That’s a lot of wear for one pair of tights. They aren’t normal yoga pants type tights. They have extra elastic material sewn into them, creating a supportive brace or web effect on areas like the knees, IT bands, and other parts, depending on your selection. They’re also compression tights, which aids in the support feature but also helps with blood circulation and faster recovery. One downside is that they tend to be a bit expensive, with their fancy sewing and interlocky-webby knee savers. Another downside is that because of the compression effect, a tiny hole or rip can turn into a giant embarrassment quickly, if not addressed.  And I say all of that to explain a bit of the desperation that led to what is known in my house as “the running incident.”

I remember the day well. It was unseasonably warm and sunny, on what should have been a chilly and dreary November day. I eschewed my insulated cold weather running tights, opting for my 3/4 length tights instead. As I sat down for my pre-run potty break, I noticed a hole, about the size of a dime, in the crotch seam of my tights. My heart sank. I loved those tights and was determined to wear them on that day. Why, I do not know. Call me stubborn. I do remember that the dreaded time change had happened, which always sends my depression into overdrive, so one more run in capris was nothing short of a miraculous gift. I refused to miss this opportunity! I finished my business and devised what, at the time, was a genius plan. I had recently patched the knees of some of my boys’ pants. I had some patch material left, so I decided that I could just iron some of that onto my tights, giving them one final hurrah, or at least enough to keep them from splitting out on the trails. BRILLIANT!

Using my extensive knowledge of knee patches, perler beads, and various crafty projects, I found some wax paper, prepped the iron, and applied the patch to the inside crotch-area of my tights. After finishing, though, I realized that the same spot on the other side of the crotch seam was extremely thin, so while I had all the materials, I might as well patch that up, too, right? Right. The more patch material, the better. A few minutes later and satisfied that the patch(es) would hold for one last run I trotted away from my home, unaware of the danger lurking “down below.”

One thing I love about my neighborhood is the trails. We have miles and miles of paved trails and sidewalks here, which is probably another reason I’ve been able to and inclined to run more over the past few years. I always try to run at least 3 miles and sometimes we run 8 or 10 on Saturdays, but in general, our runs are around 5 miles. I’m glad this wasn’t a long run day.

The run went well. No snakes were seen. All the cars understood what “YIELD FOR PEDESTRIANS” meant. The sun was glorious. However, at about two miles from home, I began to feel the patches. I should also note that underwear is not worn with running tights. Underwear causes trouble for runners. It bunches and pinches and rides and irritates the living daylight out of me when I run.  So, I don’t wear it when I run. Running tights, after all, have built-in coverage. Therefore, undies are not necessary. Don’t judge me. When I say I began to feel the patches, I mean that I began to FEEL the patches. I don’t know how exactly to say this, but without being “common” as my Grandmother Hull would say, and without being “vulgar” as my “Mommy Dee” Durham would say, I began to experience an unpleasant sensation in an area “somewhere between” the other areas. I’m trying to think of another word BESIDES the word I’m thinking (and the word YOU ALL are thinking) and I refuse to say it because it AIN’T my favorite word. What shall we call this area? Area. Let’s just call it “the area” and we’ll all know what unspoken, sensitive, betweenly-located nether-region of which I speak.

So, there I was at mile 2 and FEELING the patches. I did what most of us would do and what I would not recommend – I reached down and pulled on the crotch of my tights, hoping to alleviate the discomfort.  The only thing I managed to do in that grave mistake, was to expose the already chafed AREA and to allow the sweaty patch(es) to pull away from said AREA, only to return to said AREA, thus inflicting even more discomfort. And let me tell you, my AREA was NOT happy. It was downright MAD. I knew I’d never be able to run 2 miles home in this condition, so I did what anybody would do: I cried.

Just kidding.  I stopped running, stood still, and tried to think up a solution.  I could get some leaves and stick them down my pants, creating a barrier, but it was November. Only crunchy leaves were left, plus these trails were quite busy, given the beautiful weather. I can only imagine what I would say if somebody walked up on me as I was shoving dead leaves down my pants. “Afternoon! Just out doing some leaf collecting! Well. see ya later!” No thanks. I thought maybe I could shimmy off my sports bra, fold it origami style, and create a padded area FOR MY AREA, but again, the trails are out in the open, without privacy, and even if I could somehow manage to get my sports bra off, folded, and placed properly down my pants without any neighbors seeing me, I’d still have to walk home bra-less. No thanks.

Then, suddenly, the world’s BEST IDEA (at the time) came to mind. I had brought my water bottle, with the hand strap (example here) an in the little pouch was a tube of lip balm! Praise the Lord! I had left the lip balm in the pouch from my last cold run. This time, I’d put it to use in an unconventional way. Quickly, I looked down the trail, and saw a small hedge where the trail made a sharp turn, at the corner of an intersection and knew this was my only hope for relief.

Jogging tenderly toward the hedge, lip balm tube in one hand, water bottle in the other, I marveled at my own ingenuity and resourcefulness. Lip balm as lubricant. I. AM. A. GENIUS! Lubrication (Body Glide, Vaseline, etc.) can be used on all body parts during running. It’s especially good for heels, between toes, under armpits, between upper thighs, or anywhere skin is subjected to chafing or blisters. At one organized run, I noticed giant commercial metal mixing bowls full of Vaseline at each water station. I wondered why, until I saw a man later, whose chafed NIPPLES were bleeding through his shirt.  Yes, I just said NIPPLES. And yes, they were bleeding, because his (probably) cotton shirt had rubbed them during his run. Ouch. Lubrication while running is necessary.  Also, wear clothes that are made for running so you don’t get chafed. No more stories of bleeding nipples. I promise.

Did I mention there were people EVERYWHERE that day? There were people everywhere. The LAST thing I wanted ANYBODY to see was me out on the trails, sticking my hands down my pants. Proper execution was critical, and the window of time was short, just like the hedges. I timed it just right, still tenderly jogging, so as not to draw too much attention. Without even having to look down, I clicked the lip balm tube all the way up. With the other hand, I swiped the entire glob of balm from the tube, changed my water bottle to the other hand, used THAT hand to pull open the waist of my pants, and plunged my hand with the blob of balm down to its intended target. In less than 3 seconds, the deed was done. No people had noticed. Nobody knew. I never even stopped jogging. Given more time, I would have looked closer at the tube before I slathered its contents on my “AREA.”

For about 2.67 seconds, I felt nothing but relief. Ironically, that’s also how long it took me to put the cap back on the empty tube, and for my brain to read and process the implications of the word “MENTHOL.”  You heard that right. I had just globbed an entire tube of MENTHOL lip balm on the most sensitive of sensitive parts, after said part was already chafed and ANGRY. Burning, chafed, and alone, I was out of options, so I did what anybody would do: I cried.

Just kidding. I ran, and I laughed. In fact, I couldn’t stop laughing. The good news was that the impromptu MacGyver lube job did, in fact, work. I did not FEEL the patches any more, but I certainly felt the menthol. I tried to run with my thighs together, but that only made me feel the patches and chafing. I couldn’t run normally, so I decided on the next best of all the awful options, which was to run (if you want to still call it that) with my legs apart as much as possible.  This, however, created a new issue in that the cool air flow through my tights only “fanned the flame,” so to speak, of my chafed, angry, menthol coated AREA. Again, it was the best of the bad options and I knew I could get home faster than I could call anybody to come get me, especially if I needed to explain WHY I needed a ride. No thanks!

Despite all odds, I made it home that way, straight up “March of the Penguins” style, for 2 miles, laughing hysterically all the way.  If any of you saw me that day, out on the trails, spread-leg running and laughing, I hope we can be friends anyway. I’m happy to report that there were no permanent effects from this incident. Given proper treatment, the chafing subsided completely within days. Also, most people like to ask if I threw the lip balm tube away.  OF COURSE I DID! Plus, there wasn’t any left, so there’s that.

I’d love to say that this was the only funny or stupid or weird thing that has ever happened to me out on the trails, but you know that can’t be true. There’s more to come.  See you out on the trails!

 – The REAL Betsy

Share your funny running stories with me

 – The REAL BetsyShare your funny running stories with me here.

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