How I earned my Red Badge of Courage
Attention male readers, the content below is targeted for those who are interested in the use of menstrual cycle products as they relate running. I give you permission to stop reading here (that includes you Trex).
I have been rather lucky when it comes to the timing of my long runs and races. But as the stars and moon would have it, eventually my luck ran out and for both Midnight Madness and our 15k night time training trail runs I ran into a few issues that only girls can relate. But with a little support and a costume change I fought the good fight and for it I have now earned my Red Badge of Courage.
I have failed to find any good blog articles that were helpful about how to prepare for long distance running while on my period, which is why I am telling my story here in case some other female comes along and wants some helpful / useful information. Now to start there are several articles going around the Internet, like the ones on Livestrong, and RunnersWorld about how you will run/perform better for hormonal reasons during your cycle. Allow me to debunk that crap right now. It is total BS. While I have felt ok-ish energy wise (possibly due to Keto), which might support their evidence, that is minor in comparison to all the other stuff you have to deal with. No I can say for certain it is not helpful, not helpful one bit.
I highly recommend a useful little app called P. Tracker (or something like it) that I use on my iPhone that tracks the dates of my cycle easily and allows me to project out to the day (if my body plays nice) when I will start/end. Whenever we discuss doing a particular race I first check where that falls in the month and until this last month I have lucked out. Just before the Little Rock Marathon I had a near panic attack as I had an ‘early’ warning scare and thought I was going to have to run my first marathon wearing the traditional forms of female protection. But it was only a scare and my body stayed on schedule. Whew! But this lead me to do some research and I found what I hoped would be the right combo of protection to avoid significant chaffing and leakage, and wouldn’t require equipment change midrace in a porta potty. Yuck!
So as it happened Midnight Madness was my first long race during which I would actually get to test out the reliability of my new female only gear, the Thinx sports shorts and a Diva Cup, both purchased for the inevitable times like this race when being a women feels like a curse. I chose the cup for the main reason that it fits better than most tampons do for running, and it can be worn for 8-12 hours depending on the day. That is important when running on trails where there are no bathrooms or for during long 6 hour races. NOTE: I was not paid for or sponsored for this review. I purchased these products out of my own desperation at full retail price and here is my experience using them (both good and bad)
Before the race I had tested the cup a few times, but only on shorter runs, and had a dry run with the shorts to know they were comfortable to run in, but race day was my first use of them together as the pair to serve as my shield and armor.
For the first half of the race I was totally fine. Happy that I had the right combo of equipment and felt secure, confident and comfortable. But as the run went on I could feel the cup was just not seating quite right and it would need to be readjusted, having been jostled somewhat during the run. But much to my chagrin, mortification, and utter horror I found that I had a wardrobe malfunction around mile 8 of 20, when the Thinx shorts couldn’t handle all the sweat plus small amount of leakage caused by the running and the ill positioned cup. Let’s just say I was utterly grateful for a night time race and my dark sweat towel.
Thank goodness for my DH, who just happened to be done with his race and met us along the way just in time. Like a saint he drove and retrieved my spare clothes (which I packed in my mobile aid station just in case!) and met me at the turnaround. Not wanting to slow us down too much with a wardrobe change I picked up pace and booked it ahead of our little gang and swapped my shorts out for a different set of Thinx underwear and a different pair of shorts and I was good to go again by the time they were ready to leave. At least for a while.
My change of clothes and the cup held up slightly better the second half of the race; and I felt good until about that last 3 miles of the race when all hell broke loose. Every so often my body likes to remind me I am a mere mortal and punishes me with a bout of cramps so bad they would bring a Dino to his knees; and well, my body chose the last three miles of my 20 mile race to dole out this punishment. I had the usual leg aches and pains, but those were insignificant against the low back, abdominal cramps, and a tender soreness of my nether region that I haven’t’ felt since my youngest was born. The pain was such that it actually induced severe nausea and by the end of the race, as we were all sitting around a carrot cake singing happy birthday to Trex, I was doing everything within my power not to ruin his hard earned homemade celebratory dessert.
Now I know for fact that this was not food related. I had no indigestion, or significant trouble intestinally during or after the race. And as I said, I have had bouts with this sort of pain before, but not quite this bad that I can recall.
After the race I drank some Traditional Medicinals Womens Healthy Cycle herbal tea which gave me relief from the cramping and pain, took a long hot shower during which I discovered that I had chaffing where no women should chaff thanks to the ill positioning of the Diva Cup; then crashed in bed for the remainder of the morning.
Last night I experienced a milder version of the above. Having learned from the previous experience, I doubled up on my Thinx under layers, had a black towel at my car, extra feminine towelettes and water. I had to adjust the cup a few times to reseat it which is why I carry black towels and wipes.
Given conditions and my anatomy, frankly at this point I don’t know what will actually hold up, and not cause chaffing, leakage, or considerable discomfort, as the above combo just hasn’t been quite up to the task during my heaviest of days. I think really I just need a different shaped cup for running, or maybe a wet suite. Who knows?
I have since talked to a co-worker of mine who finished her first 100 miler and she too agreed my equipment of choice was the right way to go, but we agreed I should try different brands in search of one that will work better for me for longer distance runs. I found a website… putacupinit.com that seems promising at helping me in this search and it has wonderful information on how and why to use cups verses the more traditional options. I for one love the Diva Cup for everyday use. I also love my Thinx, but if I am at some point going to run 100 miles, I really hope it won’t come with another Red Badge of Courage.