By Nico Barraza
One of the most painful experiences in distance running is a bad chafe. Armpits, thighs, feet, and more – we have all been there and experienced the horrible burning sensation when sweat, friction, and raw skin collide halfway through a race or training run. It can debilitate an outing and ruin anyone’s day, especially in extreme temperatures when our sweat rates increase. For years there have been only a couple of major players in the anti-chafe industry that have been used by distance runners and endurance athletes alike. A small company based out of ultra-endurance mecca Flagstaff, Arizona has emerged with a new product that has professional athletes and weekend warriors ordering batches of this new, all-natural, anti-chafe salve that has been said to work miracles.
Chances are you may have heard of Squirrel’s Nut Butter (SNB) already. It’s the new, all natural, anti-chafe product that a handful of the nation’s top ultra-runners are raving about, including: Kaci Lickteig, Karl Meltzer, Jim Walmsley, Sage Canaday, Michael Wardian, Pete Kostelnick, Emily Harrison, Zach Bitter, Ian Torrence, and Andrew Miller.
Squirrel’s Nut Butter was developed by Chris and Stacy Thornley out of their home in Flagstaff, Arizona. Stacy first engineered the natural salve in hopes of healing her daughter’s eczema, without the intention of creating a product that would find its way into thousands of runners’ homes across the country by the end of 2016. The Squirrel’s Nut Butter name originated from Brian Marshall, a local Flagstaff-based arborist whose nickname – Squirrel – was given to him for his knack of climbing trees professionally. A good friend and co-worker of Thornley, Marshall got ahold of some of the ‘yet to be named’ magical salve and decided to use it as chafe prevention for a long mountain bike ride in Sedona when he forgot his regular anti-chafe product at home that day. Marshall didn’t chafe once throughout his four-hour ride. The rest is history. In 2015 Chris and Stacy Thornley founded Squirrel’s Nut Butter and began promoting the product in the ultra-running and endurance communities.
The Thornley name may be familiar to you as Chris’s brother Craig Thornley is the current race director for the Western States Endurance Run. The Thornley brothers have been running ultra-marathons for over a decade and grew up right down the street from the iconic Western States trail.
Users of SNB have reported its phenomenal ability to keep an athlete chafe-free throughout the extreme length of ultra-endurance events, many times with only one application. I applied SNB once while racing this year’s Javelina Jundred 100k in Phoenix, Arizona. Temperatures reached a record high for that day (~98 F) and I was drenched in water throughout the entire nine hours of running. Despite these conditions I didn’t have to reapply SNB and remained chafe-free throughout the entire event.
If their new found business wasn’t enough of a surprise to Stacy and Chris Thornley, the family of five encountered their very own squirrel friend in 2016. The Thornley’s rescued and rehabilitated a local squirrel that they named Timber. Chris Thornley rescued the young squirrel from a tree-removal site and along with his family helped rehabilitate the squirrel with the permission of the local Fish & Wildlife service. Timber was successfully reintroduced to the wild shortly after. He made sure, however, to thank the Thornley’s for their kindness and hospitality by posing for some photos before he made his way back into the ponderosa pine forests of Northern Arizona.
As with any new product, there is always warranted skepticism. So, instead of just taking the advice of all the distance athletes who have had success with Squirrel’s Nut Butter, try out a batch yourself. Their products can be found at www.squirrelsnutbutter.com and via Facebook and Instagram @SquirrelsNutButter.