To Pee or Not to Pee - Page 2Going the Distance
Ultrarunners usually have enough time to find a bush, and because races can last 24 hours or more it's best that they do stop during the earlier parts of a race. "Urine changes the pH of skin," says Mayo Clinic urologist Christopher Wolter. "It breaks down the stratum corium—the most superficial layer of skin—and leads to chafing." When urine dries, it leaves behind byproducts that sweat or rain don't, and these can cause a dermatitis reaction, especially if your skin cracks.
Therefore, Wolter cautions against an ultra-distance cycle of wet-dry-wet-dry. Instead, save the shorts wetting for those last miles. Indeed, after peeing during her first ultra, Moehl asserts, "Never again! The shower after that race was the most painful ever. The chafing that the wet shorts caused was unbelievable."
A Little Privacy, Please
If you're apprehensive about the practice but serious enough about your running to give it a try, here are few tips to make that wet spot less noticeable—and painful:
- Dump water all over yourself. I usually end up doing this anyway, on accident, as I try to run and drink at the same time. Splash some down your front and it'll simply look like you tried to cool yourself down. Wear dark-colored shorts. Thewet spot that will show up on your lime green shorts will blend in on darker colors.
- Bring a change of clothes. After a long trail race, you'll probably want some stashed anyway.
- Save energy and time. If you're a female and just can't bring yourself to urinate in your shorts, step behind a bush, pull your shorts aside and go standing up. This method will relieve your legs of having to squat, keep your shorts dry and still save time.
- Wear polyester-nylon blend underpants and shorts. They dry quickly and wick moisture away from your skin.
If you're a trail runner in a shorter race, you have an advantage over road runners in the public urination department—privacy. You're not likely to encounter a throng of fans spanning your entire race, like at the Boston Marathon. But if you are caught in the act, just continue running with pride. After all, you've just proven yourself to be a hardcore distance runner, one that stops for nothing—not even nature's call.
Number Two Etiquette
If you're running a 50K or longer, chances are you'll need to relieve more than just your bladder. But you'll need to pay more attention to how you dispose of your waste, since fecal matter is more toxic, and thus less environmentally unfriendly, than urine.
:: Always thoroughly bury your waste at least 200 feet away from any water source in a "cat-hole," a hole six to eight inches deep; simply use a sharp rock or the heel of your shoe to dig it. In arid lands, avoid washes and dig your hole on a south-facing slope slightly shallower so the sun can hit it and break down pathogens.
:: Bury toilet paper in your cat-hole unless you're in the desert, in which case you should pack it out. In arid climates, toilet paper decomposes much more slowly, so there is a chance wildlife will discover it or it will wash out in a storm. Also consider "natural" toilet paper—rocks, leaves and snow are all options.
:: Wildlife also like the salts in your urine, so dilute it either with water or by peeing on gravel or pine needles.