When nature calls, we all face a tarsnake of how and where to go

Face it. We all gotta go sometimes in the middle of a run or ride.

We’ve all been there. 3 miles into a 6 mile loop and wham! The urge to go strikes with a vengeance.

It can happen to anyone.  Like the poor woman I encountered crouching behind the thin cover of leafless hedge in late March a few years back. It was too late for either of us to react with any courtesy or dignity. So I diverted my eyes and yelled back as I ran by, “Don’t worry about it! Been there! Done that!”

I’m sure that was a complete comfort to her. Kind words are almost always helpful. Not.

The urge to purge

If you run or ride  enough the urge to go is sooner or later gonna catch up with you. Most often these events seem depressing at the time, yet over the years they can grow to be legends and even funny. For example…

The True Legend of Dumpy the Distance Runner

It happens that sometimes unexpected events become part of one’s personal history. While running with our college cross country team one of the group announced he had to go “really bad.” So he sprinted ahead on the twisting country roads where we trained, hoping to take care of his business before we caught up with him again. But the roads on that loop were quite hilly and it was hard for a runner in front of the group to build much of a gap in ahead of the 6:30 pace we were running.

When we came around the corner of a precipitous turn where a guardrail prevented cars from rolling down a steep embankment, our teammate had positioned himself there with both hands gripping a guard rail, trying his best to relax and let it fly.

He was backlit by the western sun, and as we climbed the hill his entire arse seemed to explode in a violently giant circle bright spray. Obviously he was experiencing more than the usual intestinal distress. The dramatic flare of fireworks that appeared to come out of his butt reduced us all to a howling mass or laughter and tears. Guys literally fell down on the road with glee and amazement. Cries of “Oh My God!” and “Holy Crap!” erupted from our group of runners, many of whom were bent over in laughter so strong they could emit no sound, just fits of snorting and merciless laughter.

The poor guy making the emergency stop was a freshman of course. He had to live with the nickname “Dumpy” for the next four years of his college life. Which was entirely unfair, but circumstances sometimes do make the man. In retrospect, I’m rather surprised the team did not erect some sort of sign at that curve in the road. Something to pass down through the generations of runners who would run that road long after we were graduated and gone. “Site of Dumpy’s Releif” the sign might say. And as a first person witness, I can testify the event was definitely worth commemorating. Wow.

When itching to go, the gals definitely have it worse than guys. 

It is generally much more difficult for women to deal with bathroom issues than men, especially relative to #1.

Yet a female marathoner training who led our women’s team in college thought she had it figured out while joining the men’s team one morning for a 20-mile run. Somewhere around the 10-mile marker she discreetly dropped behind to drop her shorts and urinate in a ditch out of sight from the road. But as luck would have it, she plucked a handful of poison ivy with which to wipe herself from front to back.

The oils of that poison ivy invaded her body inside and out. That poor woman trained all that fall with bandages over her hands. The itching and rash was so bad she had to take medicine to keep her from experiencing breathing problems. Her face and arms broke out first, then her legs and everywhere else. None of us really dared ask what was going on down below.

We did however respect her raw courage in continuing to train with us on long runs every weekend. Her goal was to run and place in one of the early versions of the Chicago Marathon. To her endless credit, she finished 3rd overall still wearing bandages on her hands. Now that’s a tough woman, for sure.

A peak experience

During a training trip to South Dakota, a group of 13 runners ran through the forests to the peak of Harney Peak, an overlook with a clear view for miles around. The round trip running was 13 miles total. There were no bathrooms at the fire tower where the team had stopped for a breather before heading down

Then one of the runners announced he had to go to the bathroom pretty badly.

“I dare you to take a dump off Harney Peak,” one of his teammates challenged. “We’ll hold your arms and you can lean out and let one fly. It’ll drop a thousand feet.”

Astoundingly, he accepted this ribald challenge. Several team members grasped his arms as he leaned back from the fire tower above a cliff and its 1000 foot vertical drop. Straight down. The world’s deepest porta-pottie.

Very few people in the world could relax under those conditions, yet this runner composed himself enough to take what must have been the only dump taken off Harney Peak in history.

That was amazing enough. But something else happened that would live on in the legend of Harney Peak even more. That runner had smartly carried some toilet paper with him for the run, just in case nature called on the 13 mile run, round trip. After he wiped, he tossed the soiled toilet paper out over the cliff. And it went nowhere. The draft was of a precise measure that it kept the crap-stained toilet paper floating right in front of everyone’s eyes. Here they were, on a fire tower overlooking 50 miles of terrain around them, and the toilet paper would not leave. It hung there like a stained white raven in an Edgar Allen Poe tale.

Some visitors had just arrived and were plunking their way up the steps to the top of the tower. Everyone was laughing and several were hanging onto the tower structure to keep from falling off in their mirth.

When the visitors arrived at the top of the tower, the toilet paper was still floating merrily around in the air before them. Surely they could surmise the situation. But perhaps not. There was no ready apparent explanation unless you calculated the insanity of the acts that led to a wad of soiled toilet paper  floating in the breeze, mid-air above South Dakota.

Nature breaks

Most “nature breaks” as Phil Liggett likes to call them while announcing the Tour de France are much humbler and less dramatic, shall we say, than those listed here.

What male hasn’t made the mistake as a cyclist of hitting the Porta Pottie only to forget giving the unit a shake before pulling up the bibs or shorts again? Then you’d better splash a little more water across the front of your team kit or risk revealing that you’ve just partially pissed yourself and are going to try to get back on your bike and dry the heck off before it’s your turn to show up at the starting line.

That’s the only reason this rider hates bibs. They can make a nature break almost impossible to accomplish, especially when on the move. I always try to at least wear a full zip down shirt when riding with bibs so you can at least get the shirt off and get the bibs down without a major projection.

Running in tights can create similar problems. And don’t be a fool and try to pull off your tights without zipping them open. They’ll only get stuck on your shoes and cause you worse problems.

The Catch-22 of hydration and food

We’re all taught to hydrate and (for cycling) eat well when we run or ride. But what goes in, must come out, and the inevitable bad timing events are bound to occur.

If it happens to you, the only thing to do is be inventive in finding the nearest tee or ditch if you can. But try not to use the neighbor’s yard the morning of a race. People don’t take kindly to you peeing on their prized roses, or pooping behind their garage.

It’s far easier and more respectful if you can manage to wait in line at the Porta Johns even if it means crossing your legs or dancing in place.

While out training there is not always a toilet handy when you need it. Again, let’s hear for the ladies who have their work cut out for them in many circumstances. Some women just learn to hold it forever rather than suffer the indignities of public relief.

Men are often not so proud. Not runners. Not cyclists. Most just pick a spot, whip it out and get back into the groove, hoping that no cars come or that no one is peeking out any nearby windows.

The wobbly tarsnake of indecision

Because when nature calls, it really can be a tarsnake of wobbly indecision whether you can hold it until you get home or risk a calamitous accident somewhere further down the road, or holding a guardrail, leaning off a mountain or wiping with poison ivy in a ditch.

Some are choices. Others are necessities. The tarsnake of nature calls us all eventually. In the end, it isn’t really how you go, just that you go that really counts.

Can we get an Amen to that?

Are you bold enough to share your ‘nature calls’ story with We Run and Ride? Leave your comments below. No pun intended. 

About Christopher Cudworth

Christopher Cudworth is a content producer, writer and blogger with more than 25 years’ experience in B2B and B2C marketing, journalism, public relations and social media. Connect with Christopher on Twitter: @genesisfix07 and blogs at werunandride.com, therightkindofpride.com and genesisfix.wordpress.com Online portfolio: http://www.behance.net/christophercudworth
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3 Responses to When nature calls, we all face a tarsnake of how and where to go

  1. Pingback: A New York City Marathon to ponder | We Run and Ride

  2. heavyman927 says:

    Great read! I’ll never forget the time we were riding through town when a friend had to go. We decided to go down an ally between some businesses. It was early so we thought we were safe. He chose a discreet corner for his business but immediately to his right was a large roll up garage door. As luck would have it, it suddenly rolled up and there stood a group of people, including some women, confronted with a man taking care of his business. Without hesitation, as cool as possible he said “Excuse me! Occupied!” Stunned, one of them replied “Sorry” and rolled down the door. We burst out laughing for the rest of the ride! We still laugh about it to this day.

  3. Oh man, that had to be harsh in the moment. But what a great response!

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