Real Talk: Saddle Sores

As cyclists, we are privy to weaker upper bodies, giant legs, and oh, saddle sores. It’s one of those things that everyone gets but never talks about although we are all aware of them. It’s like when everyone in your house is “on a diet,” but secretly everyone is sneaking into the kitchen eating sugar. We all see the cookies disappearing but no one is going to say anything. It’s like that, right?

Well, in a futile attempt to push my ego aside, I’m gonna keep it real: I have a saddle sore (in which I have described to my husband) about the size of a pea, but not just your run-of-the-mill-canned-pea, more like when you pour the canned peas into the pot and you spot the one larger pea from the bunch and you even say to yourself, “hey, this pea is bigger than the others.” Yeah, that’s what I’ve got going on in my undercarriage.

Actually, let’s be more specific: I have an Abby normal large pea-sized saddle sore burrowed where my thigh meets my crotch.

It’s been three weeks of this shit. It feels like the time my mother had a friend stay at ours and they were only supposed to be there for a week. We dealt with the inconvenience of having another person in the house and worked around it because we thought it was temporary. We continued on pretty much like usge, but it was still like, “okay, it’s a little long.” A week went by and there was no packed bags, no “goodbyes,” only more settling in.

Maybe – no, actually – I convinced myself that if I just kept carrying on that it’d pack its bags and get the fuck out. I was in denial when it got angry after races and bike rides or hours crushing the trainer. Just like my mom’s friend, I assumed it was getting ready to leave. Surely, with all the commotion it/they would want to.

No. A big fat, Abby normal pea-sized NO.

That’s when Google came into my life as it always does when I don’t know an answer. I’ve had saddle sores before but I thought I’d learn from past mistakes. I’ve always worn clean shorts, always lathered the chamois cream, always checked my saddle, seat height, and fit. I always jumped out of my shorts the moment I saved my ride (and make sure it uploaded) to Strava. And I’d follow that up with either a shower or action wipe and a dallop of Doc’s post Ride cream stuff. I had that shit on lock.

At least I thought I did until this obtrusive saddle sore decided to make my crotch its new home.

I applied straight up, 100% tea tree oil on it and followed that up with aquaphor. I also used hydrocortisone since that helped in the past. It didn’t this time. I did it for a week and didn’t see much improvement. Then I bought some cream that’s close to what they use for diaper rash. That seemed to do little as well. I bought salve – shit they used back in the Cold War to cure boils and stuff – and that didn’t make it any less angry. I bought some body powder thinking if I kept my crotch free from sweat that maybe my dried up environment would push the fucker out. Nope. It’s as stubborn as I am.

My last resort was staying off the bike and going to my doctor. I decided cross training would have to do. I ran, I yoga’d, and I lifted weights at the gym I hadn’t set foot in since race season started. The only noticeable difference in this monster was that it appeared to be less angry and almost normal pea size.

My doc had the day off so I went to her PA. I’m sure I both confused and baffled her as I described – at length – what was between my legs, the fact that I knew I should just stay off the bike (which that was Day 5 of crosstraining and I absolutely hated not being able to ride), all the things I had done up to that point to cure it, and then finally showing her.

She maybe said two complete sentences including the fact that she had to ask another doctor in the office who rides. She prescribed me heavy duty cortisone cream. I gave it two days until I was back on my bike, cycling up Peak to Peak Highway in a moronic effort to preview a course I want(ed) to race.

And then the monster came howling back.

A teammate asked our group what they did for saddle sores. I thought I’d silently take note. They suggested different creams, time off the bike, and their gynecologist. Apparently, they had a labial biopsy which removed the saddle sore and hair follicle. I called the office and set an appointment (after confirming they take United Healthcare). But i have to wait until July 24 before they can see me and this monster and do whatever they decide needs to be done.

I don’t have patience. Because of this, I continued to GTS (Google that shit). Surely, I thought, a dermatologist will know what I need to do. I found a place, called, and the earliest I can get in is July 7.

So here I am: 4 points away from being able to voluntarily “Cat Up” to a 3 and I have this giant growth in my crotch crevice refusing to quit. I know time off the bike will help heal this. I know my ego is shouting from the rooftop that all the racing and podiums will be for naught if I stop riding. It’s telling me that if I race this weekend I have the chance to get those last four points and then I can rest. It’s telling me to stop being a baby and ride through it. It’s yelling at me, “PEOPLE ARE WATCHING. THEY EXPECT YOU TO CAT UP.” It’s reminding me of that superficial FOMO feeling we all get.

And I’m listening to it. I’m listening to it hard. I get so much in my head that I get decision paralysis.

I listened toThe Dirt Field Recordings podcast today by Lindsay Bayer – manager and racer of Hagens Berman Supermint Pro Cycling – and toward the end she said what I needed to hear:

“Winning isn’t everything. I thought winning would validate all my hard work and make me feel like my life was going in a good direction that I wanted… even if I won everything – that’s the crazy thing about cycling is – whoever won last weekend is irrelevant by the time this weekend’s race starts. And so, you can win everything, but unless you never stop winning, people are going to forget about you so you better make sure your life doesn’t suck when you go back to it.”

If I raced this weekend and made the podium the same people wouldn’t care and the same people would. I’d get a shoutout in my team’s e-newsletter. If I catted up to a 3, it’s the same story: some high-fives, maybe dinner, double digit likes on Facebook. Most people will keep scrolling through their feed for something more interesting. And I’d still have the stupid fucking saddle sore.

I currently live a life a slave to training. I go to bed early to wake up before the sun to ride my trainer alone in my basement. I say “no” more to things than “yes” because #training and #cyclistlife. I act as if I’m a professional but I’m far from it. Clocking in the training hours, checking Training Peaks for my current form and training stress score as if it was the holy grail. Reading four books at a time to design the illusive perfect training plan that will get me my win.

I’m not special. I don’t get paid to race. Quite the opposite in fact. I pay a ton of money to race. The most I get is a 10% discount which plenty of other people are granted. I pay for my team kit, team fees, race registrations, bike upgrades and fixes, transportation, and two times over. It makes no sense to be putting myself through pain when I’m not even paid to do this. Not a single person will be adversely affected if I didn’t race. No one’s betting on me to win.

I train… for what? What am I trying to prove to myself? That I’m worth it? Will winning validate me as a person? Will it prove that all the training I completed was worth it? All the aches and pain showed my competition I can handle pain? Does this make my life meaningful? Will I be relevant? Like Lindsay said, if my life sucks outside of cycling, what do I have when I don’t win?

What do you have?

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I talk to myself out loud.


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