Friday, October 14, 2011
Ironman Training Day 14: Cramping
15 minutes into my run this morning, I found myself doubled over in agony, unable to run another step. I clutched my abdomen, closed my eyes, and tried to breathe deeply and slowly as the waves of pain washed over me. Sitting on the curb in the dark, I vaguely wondered what the occasional passing motorist might be thinking as they passed, their headlights lighting up all the reflective bits on my apparel. Is she sick? Injured? Homeless? Yet, no one stopped to check on me.
Five minutes later, recovered, I stood up and resumed my run.
Everyday, my inbox fills with emails from the various newsletters I'm subscribed to: Runners World, Triathlete Mag, Lava, Active, etc. Newsletters with training ideas, nutrition advice, run techniques, race day strategies, tips for beginners, apparel news, etc. But it's extremely rare that I see any discussions of the physical challenges that we face specifically as FEMALE runners, cyclists and triathletes.
You know what I'm talking about... Our hormonal cycles affect everything we do, often rather dramatically. Just a few examples:
-Some women, like me this morning, suffer debilitating menstrual cramps during workouts. Other women can barely get out of bed, much less exercise, on certain days of the month.
-Pre-menstrual water weight gains affect how our exercise apparel fits. Waistbands may feel snugger. Bras may feel too tight. Our breasts may hurt when we run. Earlier this week, I had to mine my dresser drawers for sports bras that were a full cup size larger to accommodate the swelling and provide enough structure and support for the extra weight of my breasts.
-Managing our flow during exercise is a challenge. Tampon strings may rub. Pads may chafe. We may find ourselves far from home in unexpected need of feminine supplies (usually while wearing something other than black bottoms!)
-Race days become more complicated. Where to stow the extra tampons on your bike or during the run? How to manage your hygiene when the "bathroom" is a port-o-john without a place to wash your hands?
-Our appetites change. We experience cravings and may seek out foods that are not necesarily conducive to helping us maintain an optimal weight.
I could go on, but you get my point. Why is it that these topics never come up in the flood of "Tips, Tricks and Top 10 Lists" we see all around us? With so many women participating in running events and triathlons these days (I read recently that there are now more WOMEN competing at the half marathon distance than there are men), why is it that there's so little discussion of a topic that concerns just about every woman who participates in these events?
Are we prudes? Are the mags and websites afraid of alienating or (more likely) grossing out their male readership? Do we think that these sorts of topics are best discussed in whispers with our girlfriends?
I don't have the answer, but it puzzles me, and I wish it would change. It would be nice if we could be "grown-ups" and talk about ALL the things that affect us as athletes.
Along those lines, I want to give a shout out to Nicole DeBoom of Skirt Sports. Nicole, a former professional triathlete and Ironman Wisconsin Champ, is expecting her first child with her husband, professional triathlete Tim DeBoom. She's been blogging through her pregnancy, and this morning's post totally cracked me up. I loved that she was so open and honest, talking about something that every woman who has had a baby experiences, but might not be considered a topic for such public consumption. So kudos to you, Nicole, for writing such a frank post.
Despite this morning's challenges, I ended up with a decent run. I've "graduated" from R3W2 to R4W1. The knee is still a little tender on these runs, but it's slowly getting better. Not perfect, but I'll take it for now.