I’ve had this friend since junior high. We’ve been through quite a bit together, for better or worse, so when I decided to take up running, I knew she’d be down for the occasional jaunt. Friends are a great source of support, and I knew she would be there for me, regardless of my mood. Hell, sometimes, I knew I’d end up begging her to go away, but that she would remain right by my side.
We decided, initially, to plan to run together at least once a month. Lately, however, she keeps bailing on me, or putting me off for days, even weeks at a time. I wouldn’t mind too much, except she always then wants to come randomly (and quite last minute) run on race day, or a big trail training run. Our most recent run was the worst. She had left me hanging for two weeks, then, on mile 14 of a 12 hour race, she just shows up. In fairness, she had called the night before to say she might be coming, but you never know with her. I guess she was serious. When she got here, she was like a manic crack fiend. I didn’t even know she had arrived until I felt the punch to my guts. I nearly doubled over in pain, while my male running partner looked at me concerned, but also bewildered. He couldn’t see her.
“She’s here.” I mumbled in my best “winter is coming” voice, and kept running. Yep. My period had shown up, two weeks late, smack dab in the middle of a 12 hour trail race. In a land of one porta-potty, and no extra tampons, she showed up, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to party. I tried to remain focused, and upright, knowing she’d lose energy in a few hours (and I had about 8 hours left to run). While it was a huge inconvenience, I did learn some things.
- People at ultras love snacks. Girls on their period love snacks. Ultra runners won’t judge you for excessive Oreo consumption. In fact, they support your snacking habits. This is a great time to be an emotional eater, as most bonking is caused by improper fueling. I’m resisting the urge to make up a fake statistic on this… Just eat your gummy worms, ok?
- The level of hydration required to run an ultra allows for ample bathroom breaks, and therefore sneaky feminine hygiene product changing opportunities. Just be sure to not leave anything in the porta-can. Hide your trash in a ziploc for later, preferably in your own drop bag. (but seriously, hydrate extra to avoid cramps, and say NO to caffeine during this glorious time)
- Finishing an ultra is emotional. You are permitted to cry during and after an ultra, thus masking any emotional responses that have been exacerbated by menstrual mayhem.
- Finishing an ultra is exhausting. You are expected to crash, allowing for shameless robe and Netflix time, without dirty looks from your spouse or friends. You earned those fuzzy socks, and that tube of cookie dough.
- If, while running, cramps get to be too much to bear, (and no one has Midol) whiskey is a great remedy. Over the course of 32 miles, I think I took about 5 shots, you know, for medicinal purposes. It felt great! 10/10; would do again!
While running on the rag is a huge drag, your cycle is an important part of your overall health. If you are a runner who is experiencing amenorrhea, please consider seeking help from a medical professional. You can read up on Female Athlete Triad here and here if you have questions about menstrual health in athletes. While the Triad includes information regarding eating disorders, female athletes should know that a lack of menstrual cycle can be caused by a range of nutrition issues, not limited to disordered eating. Know your body, and appreciate the inconvenience of your favorite monthly running buddy.
So, here’s to you, you nature-loving, mountain-climbing wilderness mama. You can’t take a week off every 28 days, so find a way to commune with Mother Nature while she is trying to murder you from within. Think of it as the ultimate form of being the bigger person. And, if you have any advice for your fellow Fallopian sufferers, your comrades in cramping, leave it in the comments below. When you’re out there in the woods, feeling like you’re exsanguinating, remember, you’re a warrior and it’s only a flesh wound. Plus, what doesn’t kill us isn’t worth it, right? (I’m not very good at idioms).