One thing I love about trail running, and especially ultrarunning, is the chance to talk in depth about a variety of topics for hours on the trail. On any given day these might include parenting issues, the next race on the calendar, training pitfalls, injury prevention, and female body systems. Yes, I’ve been known to engage in deep convos on menstrual cycles, hormone irregularities, and all three of my pregnancies. As menopause approached when I was 49, I had already been dealing with its typical symptoms: night sweats, heavy menstrual flow, irritability. I asked my friend Martha, who had already “menopaused,” what to expect in the months ahead. Her response:
“You’ll have a huge, out-of-control menstrual flow, the Mother of All menstrual flows, and then, you’ll be done.”
Now I realize that every woman’s body is different. My own experience will be different from yours. However, I took solace in Martha’s prediction, as I was frustrated with being on long runs in the woods in the middle of nowhere while menstruating, thinking I was prepared with 6-7 super size tampons and a large plastic baggie for trash, only to go through all 7 tampons in six hours AND have people running behind me on the trails. I would have to pretend to take a pee just so I could be at the back of the pack so no one could see the evidence on my legs. YUCK, I know! I couldn’t wait for this period of life to finally arrive after years of its teasing symptoms (aka “perimenopause”). It meant no more ovulation and no more menstruation, which for us trail sisters can be a wonderful thing if we are not trying to get pregnant.
- I was consistent in my training with no injury time-outs. I would race 5-6 ultras during the year but take a full week off of running after each race. I also took three weeks off running in December.
- I ran about 50-60 miles per week leading up to a race. I always (and continue to do so) took a cut-back week every third week, down to about 35 miles.
- I went to the gym two days per week and focused on core, upper body, and hip strength. These workouts took about 20-30 minutes and often followed a hard workout, so that the next day was a true easy day.
- I always took 1-2 days off from running every week. I would swim a mile, stretch and do yoga poses on those days. Some days I did absolutely nothing and slept in.
- I ran a hard midweek run and incorporated quality during my long runs on the weekend. Joe Friel, author of Fast After 50, recommends high intensity interval training for improving speed as we age. My hard runs would be either hill repeats of 3-5 minutes or a track workout of 800s and 1200s. During my long runs in the mountains, I would run for time up a 20-30-minute climb in the middle of the run, sometime twice.
- I ate a lot — lots of plant-based foods with color, my granola/fruit/yogurt concoction every morning, tea or coffee in the morning and a glass of wine with dinner. And dessert, always dessert.