Sue Clements's advice

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by Sue Clements

Sue Clements's advice

Sue Clements shares some of the things she has found out through (often painful) experience.

Long Distance Walkers Keep it up Longer..................

As a walker who takes part in running events Iíd to share some of the things Iíve found out through (often painful) experience. The problems are common to both runners and walkers, but bear in mind that walkers do not have the opportunity to vary their stride or footfall in the way that a runner has. Consequently problems simply get worse unless tended to. Sometimes itís OK to ignore them even though you know they wonít go away; only experience helps you know where this line is. Now I have completed 3 GUCR races and numerous other ultra-distance events I have tried a wide range of remedies. It seems to me that in distance events we are all very much individuals and what works/suits me wonít work for another. I list various points here with the intention of adding to the body of knowledge for others to draw upon.

Where clothing rubs Ė Vaseline is good unless itís very hot when it will need replenishing regularly, Anti-chafing remedies that are effective when you are hot and sweaty for a long time are raw lanolin (incredibly sticky, stains clothes but works well); Sudocream (nappy rash cream); udder cream; deer tallow; Bodyglide (my product of choice. Can be ordered online, note that its much less expensive in the USA); Camel Grease hand cream (available in Belgium, surprisingly nice fragrance); NOK Anti-Chafing Cream (Sports Akilene; French)

For the very personal area: Vaseline (replenish on ultra-distances and when itís hot), Preparation H (anti-haemorrhoid cream or gel Ė itís formulated for this area and stays put), TCP ointment (apply before you are sore otherwise it hurts like *!*!*!*), udder cream. Whichever you use, rub it in well, then apply a second layer on top.

Foot Care
ē Before the race

Avoid treating the skin on the feet with alcohol, this simply dries the skin out. What you really need is an even layer of supple thick skin without any isolated thickened areas such as corns or callouses. The only way to increase the thickness of the skin on your feet is by training. If you develop isolated areas of very thick skin that may become painful pressure points when racing, treat yourself to a pumice stone (the Newton Chiropody Sponge is the best, available from chemists). If necessary have them attended to by a chiropodist.

Keep skin supple by applying cream. Almost any cream will do the job but if you want foot products formulated for the purpose I recommend the following:
CCS Foot Care Cream Ė also good for post-race treatment of bashed up feet because it contains ingredients that promote healing. Also good for treating a sunburnt face.

The French manufacturer Akilene makes a range of foot care products for athletes. The Anti-Chafing Cream is good for preparing feet beforehand (they recommend 10 days prior to the race), during and after the event.

Apart from these, almost anything emollient will do. If you choose to use something thatís very greasy apply it before going to bed and wear socks to protect the sheets.
ē Race day

Taping over trouble spots can be a useful technique although sometimes plenty of lubricant (any of the above) works just as well. I have found the following tapes to be particularly suitable:
Zinc Oxide tape Ė buy the stretch if you can find it, and make sure there that after youíve applied it there are no pointy corners that may rub on adjacent toes, or thick areas to cause pressure. Itís very sticky so it wonít move when you resume running but it may be painful to remove from sore pinkies. In this case use Zoff, an anti-adhesive to loosen the adhesive first.

Mefix is my personal favourite. Itís thin tape available in various widths on a roll from physios, GP & mail order etc. It moulds to the foot well, doesnít move, thereís no need to trim it to avoid rucking up or pressure points, and itís easy to remove.

Artiflex (Beisdorf NV Almere) is artificial animal wool available on a roll in various widths. Good for wrapping round tender areas and to make shoes fit more snugly. Available from some mail order suppliers or over the counter in France, Holland and Denmark (well worth seeking out).

Check your shoe laces are correctly tensioned. If they are too tight this restricts the blood flow in the lower leg and foot and you can end up with swollen ankles, pain over the top of the foot and up the shin.

Blisters Ė to pop or not to pop?
There a number of things to consider here. If you can possibly keep a blister intact you remove the risk of infection and the skin underneath will heal more effectively than if the blister had been burst. Very often simply taping over the blister or applying cream/grease will reduce the rubbing, and therefore the soreness, long enough for you to reach the end.

If you pop the blister you are exposing the wound to the risk of infection, especially if you are travelling over rough ground, areas where cattle graze etc. Speaking from experience, an infected blister is something best avoided. Certainly, if itís a deep blister try to avoid popping it yourself; have it tended to at your GP surgery when you return home. If you really must pop it, make sure the skin is dry, clean the area with an antiseptic wipe and use a clean needle (chuck those dirty safety pins). Expel as much of the fluid as possible by rolling a pen over it Ė this hurts but needs doing so that the flap of skin will be less likely to move when you start running again (you wouldnít want a blister on a blister would you... been there, done that!) Smooth the skin flap right down before applying your dressing of choice. I advocate Zinc oxide or Mefix tape (see above).

Wet feet

Wet feet tend to be more likely to develop blisters. If you decide to change your socks/shoes, standing on a newspaper for a few minutes helps to draw the dampness out of the skin. If you have very wet feet and shoes and think there may be lots of tiny stones/pieces of gravel in them the only way to deal with it effectively is to change your socks and shoes.

After the race

Blisters are caused by rubbing (chafing) and are therefore a kind of burn. Treat as you a burn Ė blistered feet benefit from soaking in cool water to take the heat out. If you have raw skin exposed simply add TCP Antiseptic to the water to ensure these areas are thoroughly cleaned. Take particular care to ensure blisters under toenails are clean. There are lots of specially-formulated products available for footbaths so indulge your tootsies, it helps them heal and theyíve earnt it!

Compeed is good for larger blisters. As maximum benefit is obtained by leaving it on for a few days it makes sense to restrict its use until after the race.

Some injuries sustained during a race may not stop you from completing the distance, for example, minor twists, sprains & strains. When you reach the end itís all too easy to overlook them Ė do look after them properly - if you fail to do so you may be storing up a problem that will rear its head again later and you may not get away with it again. If you are certain itís a minor twist, sprain or strain follow the RICE treatment (rest, ice, compress & elevate) and keep it up for 72 hours. Itís a very effective treatment when applied properly. Consult your first aid book for instructions. If in doubt seek professional advice.

Ensure your crew is well-briefed before you start. Plan how often you want them to meet you. All those minutes at each stop add up to a lot of time. Better to save minutes when you can so you have time in hand for unforeseen circumstances. Call them if you need to see them sooner than planned. When they meet you its good if they also have ready things they think you might need e.g. dry jacket, blister kit, Vaseline etc.

When the going gets tough

This is when you meet the real challenge; those who stop because they are tired, wet, or sore are missing the opportunity to learn something about themselves. This is the challenge and you may be surprised to know that it also happens on races of shorter distances. It is only when you focus on getting through what you think is a barrier that you discover resources you didnít know you have, gain experience and develop as a person and runner. Often, when you get through the bad patch you realise that it wasnít the barrier you thought it was. This is when crews can make or break it for you. Be warned. Clearly there will be times when itís right to retire, but if you have the mental endurance push on and complete.

Consider this scenario: You have blisters, are sore and chafed
(1) If you retire you will have painful feet plus the disappointment of failing to come to terms with.
(2) If you decide to push on when you reach the end your blisters are unlikely to hurt any more than if youíd stopped earlier, and the difficulties and pain you experienced getting there is subordinated by the exhi laration of reaching your goal.

So, before the race itís worth thinking through how you will deal with problems that might arise. Identify positive ways of dealing with them and if the need arises, stick to your plans.

Finally Iíd like to share a verse written by Alan Cook in his book ĎWalking to Denverí:

The thrill of the chase,
The wind on your face;
Each soul has a goal to pursue.

A difficult run
Gives new meaning to fun,
Or a search for that
Hard-to-find clue.

I wish all those new to the Grand Union Canal race every success and hope these nuggets of information help them to reach Little Venice.

Sue Clements