My stump (residual limb is the more proper term, but I call it my stump and so that’s what I’m going to call it in this post) is generally fairly compliant and, even when not compliant, at least somewhat predictable. I know the problems I’m likely to have when exercising for long periods of time, and this has allowed me to come up with strategies to get in front of the issues as much as possible (although as you’ll learn by reading this, I still have room to improve my strategies).
Pre-Race Prep: Certain Dri
When it starts getting hot out, and particularly when I have a race coming up, I apply Certain Dri to the areas of my leg that I do not want to sweat when I’m on the run (because that’s the time I have the most issues with sweat). I started applying it nightly about 5 days before Ironman Boulder to ensure that I fully impacted all the sweat glands, which was particularly important because the forecasted high for race day was holding steady at 95 degrees…
The major area I’m usually worried about as far as sweat is concerned is my left thigh because the sleeve that rolls over my thigh is what holds my prosthesis on securely so I do not get too much rubbing between my socket and stump. When my thigh sweats, the sleeve starts sliding down and I lose suction, which cases my leg to piston more with each step I take, thereby causing more leg issues. Luckily, this worked like a charm and despite the heat in Boulder, I didn’t have any issues with my sleeve sliding down.
Also for Ironman this year, I used Certain Dri on the medial side of my knee were I often get a sore/blister when I run longer distances. My thinking was that if it wasn’t sweating as much, maybe it wouldn’t hurt as much, and it seemed to help from what I can tell because I didn’t get a blister there.
Unfortunately, I did not have the foresight to apply Certain Dri to the back of my stump where I sometimes get heat rash, and this is where I ended up having major, though not debilitating, pain during the run portion of Ironman (and throughout the days after the race). After I finished, I discovered that my stump did look as bad as it felt and the sock I was wearing was not only sweaty, but also bloody… It will be interesting to try the Certain Dri trick on this area once I’m back to running longer distances again after I recover to see if that might help better address this issue…
Race Day Strategies: Dry Leg & Glide
When I come out of the water during a race, I have a handler who helps me hop to a towel we have set up off to the side of the swim exit so we’re out of the way of all the other triathletes. I lay down on the towel and my handler pulls off my wetsuit while I take off my swim cap, goggles, etc. Then, I dry off my stump completely and thoroughly, even if it takes a little extra time, because any dampness in my leg can cause major problems for me on the bike and run. My stump has been described by my mom as being equivalent to the “princess and the pea” because it is very sensitive, so it is extremely important that I take care of it during races. Once my stump is dry, I apply Glide all over it, paying particular attention to the back of my limb where I get heat rash, the spot on my knee that gets blistered, and other bony prominences like the outer side of my knee and the bump on the front of my tibia. I have tried other products in the past (including baby power and a cream made specifically for amputees), but Glide has provided me with the best results as far as preventing sores goes, so that’s my go-to for race day now (although it’s still not 100% effective, as seen in the case of the heat rash I got during Ironman).
After the bike, I take my leg off and let it air out as I’m changing shoes, hat, etc., and then dry off my stump, reapply Glide, and put on a clean, dry sock before putting my liner and prosthesis back on to start the run. For Ironman Boulder, I had my amazing leg handler, Sasha, carrying a backpack with dry leg socks and my other leg (walking if I was wearing running and running if I was wearing walking), so that I could switch out if needed because it’s hard on my body to walk on my running leg. I ended up only switching once and I didn’t stop to change out to dry socks because I mentally just needed to keep moving forward and I was afraid I wouldn’t want to put my leg back on if I took it off.
Perhaps it would have helped with the heat rash if I would have put on a dry sock during the run, so that’s something to think about for next time. However, had I done that during this particular race I very well could have missed the 17 hour time cutoff (click here to read more about my close call), so wearing the sweaty sock and getting heat rash (that my leg is still mad at me about) was totally worth it!