One of my favorite anecdotes in Run Like a Mother: How to Get Moving--and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity is from Megan, who tells of getting her period on marathon morning. She was so ticked off, she pushed hard enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon. (Nicely done!) It's happened to us all: You train your butt off for a race, then Aunt Flo shows up for the ride. No fun.
Given that we are pretty much in the height of training and racing season, I figured it was time for some tips for dealing with running on the rag--or how to avoid it entirely. (An obvious warning: TMI ahead!)
-Shorten the string. Women have complained to us about chafing from a tampon string. (Yeah, we hear it all--we love nothing better than a good overshare!) One mother runner, Christine, told us cuts it shorter so that no string hangs outside her body. I took to knotting my OBs and snipping the string--then wondered why it took me 20+ years to figure out that simple trick. Another chafe-avoiding tactic we've read about online: Liberally apply BodyGlide to the string hanging outside your body.
-Investigate the Diva Cup, a menstrual cup used in lieu of a tampon or pad. One can hold the flow for up to 12 hours so bring on that ultra or 70.3 race. (Like the next option, this one isn't for the squeamish.) Another mother runner Christy Zuzelo is a fan; here's a post she wrote about it.
-Go with the flow. Monica complained about the discomfort of wearing a tampon on a long run (we didn't ask for any more details--had something to do with, um, drying her out). So when she runs long, or races, on lighter flow days, she pulls the plug right before she starts running (and wears black bottoms so any spotting isn't visible). Not an option for neatniks, but when you figure your capris get pretty nasty with sweat, little blood isn't going to make that much more of a mess.
-Consider changing the timing. You can't rejigger the day of a big race, but you can alter the date of your period, if you're on birth control pills (or the patch or the ring). Instead of taking the placebo pills for a week, start a new pack instead; this will make you skip a period. Our favorite mother runner OB/GYN, Amanda Hurtubise, recommended this one, saying, "Any nurse at your trusty OB/Gyn's office is an expert at this--call her for further instructions if this doesn't make sense." For a longer-term solution, you could also look into Seasonique, a birth control pill that makes a woman only have four periods a year, or an IUD.
-Pop pills. Dr. Hurtubise gave us this news-to-us suggestion. "For women who are not on hormonal contraception a great trick is, 'scheduled ibuprofen.' Take 600-800mg three times a day, 1-2 days immediately prior to and during the period. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) constrict the blood vessels to the uterus and can significantly decrease menstrual flow. The key is to take it consistently 3x daily prior to and during bleeding. It won't work if just taken haphazardly. This trick will also help with any cramping."
-Don't forget supplies. Pack some spare tampons in a baggie and stash them in a pocket or hydration belt. Also, learn from a gross-out tale from Jennifer, who got her period as she jetted off for the Goofy Challenge at Walt Disney World. In the excitement of back-to-back races, she "lost a tampon in my innards." (Yikes!) She visited the doctor, who told her the case of the wayward tampon was not uncommon. Lucky for Jenn, it emerged on its own nearly three months later. (If tampons could talk....)
Now, it's your turn to overshare: What are your tips for dealing with your monthly visitor during a long run or race?