Alternate title: What goes up must come down
There is no short version. You have to work for it.
Alternate title: Running on the rag
We all deal with it. If you've never started your period the day before or ON race day, you eventually will. Unless you're a dude.
I like to surf the internets, not for advice, but just to make sure that other people are still dealing with running on their periods (they are). I decided since I suffer from debilitating menstrual cramps, I should weigh in on the issue.
When I was reading up, I found some posts recommending Ibuprofen... and not only for cramps but for actually reducing your flow during a race, which must be done with lots and lots of the stuff. I read a post that states: "Take 600-800mg three times a day, 1-2 days immediately prior to and during the period." I'm not going to tell you why this is a bad idea because you can Google it yourself, but results will include warnings ranging from the risk of hyponatremia to kidney failure. Luckily, commenters were quick to suggest this was a bad idea.
As an injured runner, I mentioned taking Advil during my race if my foot starting hurting. But I know the risks which I can weigh against the rewards, so me deciding to take it vs. someone without that knowledge deciding to take it is very different.
FWIW, I would only take 400 mg somewhere during my race if I absolutely had to in order to finish. But that's on a non-period day.
So what now? Typically, I would take 600mg three times a day on days one and two because I have absolutely unbearable cramps otherwise, and sometimes even in spite of. But I wouldn't do that on race day, when I'm already going to be pushing my body.
A safer alternative (that may possibly lead to stomach issues) is Tylenol to deal with pain. Tylenol does not have the effects on the kidneys that NSAIDs have, but it comes with its own risks related to the liver. Tylenol works in the brain, and doesn't have those anti-inflammatory properties which make it less effective (for me) on cramps. Fun fact, under normal circumstances, they are safe to take together.
I considered taking Tramadol which also works by binding to receptors in the brain. I have taken Tramadol for period-pain before, but never surrounding running. I would be really worried about side effects. Nausea and drowsiness are on the list... none of which I experienced while taking this drug, but add in a trail half marathon and all experience goes out the window.
I know I have done long training runs on days one and two, and since I ALWAYS take Advil, I had to have taken at least some, though amounts can vary depending on how I feel.
I finally decided to plan to take no more than 400mg of Advil tomorrow morning and then take a Tylenol if I need something else. I hate not having a definitive safe alternative. It's really just going to come down to what I think is best after weighing the benefit vs. the risk.
I actually can't believe I have a race in two days. I don't feel like it's really happening. I don't know why.
So with that being said, how am I doing on my race week plan?
This is going almost as planned, with the exception of adding an additional snack. Monday it was one of those Complete Cookies (which is actually more like a small meal) because otherwise I just was not fulfilled after lunch. Tuesday it was a banana in addition to the apple plus a couple of small red potatoes. Yesterday it was a second banana and a Grande Skinny Peppermint Mocha (decaf, sub coconut milk)... anyway, you get my point. I also ate all five servings of nuts I toted to work in three days. Oops. And while we're putting it all out there I ate a bowl of cereal plus two avocado-halves and two pieces of toast this morning. That's like three breakfasts. Whatever.
Also going almost as planned. Monday I did nothing, using the severe wind advisory as my excuse. Tuesday I did speedwork for 38 minutes. Yesterday I did an easy 35 minute run. I was going to choose between my Hokas and Montrails this week, but I decided after how great I felt doing the speedwork in my Hokas (surprisingly) to just run in the Hokas. Today I really need to get my dog out for a walk. Tomorrow I plan on doing nothing.
So how am I feeling?
Well, the Hokas give me mad blisters, which is sad because I was really hoping they were the real deal. I am going to have to tape up my first, second and fourth toes, as well as some tape on in the inside of my right foot. I have never had a shoe rub there, and I really think I bought the right size, but they are just too narrow. Injinjis help some, but my fourth toe rubs the top of the shoe. Sounds like they are too small, but I still contend I bought the right size.
My period also is decidedly going to start either race morning or in the middle of the night before. I plan to eventually do an entire post on menstrual cycles and running complete with data, so you can stay tuned for that. In short, it would be better to start the day of than the day after, as I will actually be able to run faster. However, I will also have to consume a lot of Advil in 24 hours and that's unhealthy for running so I hear, though I planned to take one dose in the event of ankle soreness. Also, starting your period the morning of a long-ish trail race is just defeating, not to mention logistically challenging.
I am trying to drink a lot of water in order to avoid drinking a lot of water the day of. I think that's going pretty well. My diet has been pretty immaculate except for the three bites of bundt cake I just had this morning... though I have been eating more than usual. I think that's okay... PMS would have me eating more than usual anyway, so now I'm just considering it for a good cause. I haven't had candy or sweets except for that little bite this morning, so I really do think I have good control over my cravings right now!
Once I fuel for recovery on Saturday and Sunday I plan to take a few days off running and eating to try to get out of the "I need to eat a lot because I'm training" habit. It's a really bad habit to get into and I really think most runners need to be more conscious of it. But, before race day, fuel me up. I run WAY better after I pig out for a few days!
I need to think something out... Do I carb-load for a half marathon? I find myself saying no, but then again, it's a lot of elevation and will probably take me 50% longer than a road half. But it's not quite 4 hours like a marathon.
So for an ultra (let's just say 50k) I would definitely carb load. Can't hurt, right?, even though I would stay much more aerobic and be able to burn fat, I don't think there's anything wrong with doing it anyway. For a marathon, definitely. I don't think in a normal day I carry enough glycogen stores to run a marathon, so better fuel up. For a Sunday morning long run, no. I might have an extra banana the day before, but I wouldn't exchange nuts for a granola bar the day before a training run of any sort. For a half marathon, I don't really know. I would definitely be out of my aerobic state and burning carbohydrates, so in that case yes, and also because I want to limit the amount of fuel I would need on the course (more than one gel seems ridiculous). I could hit the wall after ten miles if I started out too fast and didn't have enough fuel. (Please, whoever may read this rambling, do not take my thought process as advice.)
With all that, I think I came to the conclusion that I will have some extra carbs tomorrow in place of nuts and the avocado (which I finished today anyway). It would be great to have enough energy to pick up the pace on the downhills and that's part of my race plan, right?
Tonight is no run, but some light foam rolling and stretching. I think it may have just hit me that I have a race!
I REALLY like planning things. I think I am much more likely to do well in a race if I have studied the course and made a race plan. This includes studying the elevation profile and deciding ahead of time when I will walk, when I will take a gel, etc. Mentally, it is far easier to hike quickly up a steep hill if you know when it will end and that there will be a glorious downhill stretch waiting for you.
I did this for my marathon and my ultramarathon and it worked out really well. Granted there isn't a lot of elevation in the LA marathon to worry about, but I still took the time to know ahead of time when I would be running uphill. Whatever I can do to have a better race, I will do.
So I created a race week plan, a race day plan, and a race plan for the Griffith Park Half Marathon I am running in 6 days.
Typically I might not take it so easy before a half marathon, though I wouldn't know since I've never done one before, but I haven't ran 13 miles since February, and I want my ankle to be as rested as possible without getting stiff.
Day Before (Friday):
Day of (Saturday):
Is this too detailed? Too specific? I don't think it is. I think it's just knowing the course and thinking about what I want to do. I've ran a lot of trails just like this one (though never this course) and I can pretty much envision it. I haven't taken a gel since February, but I had some good notes from the last 20-mile training run I did, so I borrowed on that experience. I also know that I like taking gels while I'm hiking up to give it time to settle in my stomach before running down. As you read, I literally thought to take gels at miles 5 and 9.5 before I even looked at the course profile, and that happens to be precisely the mileages for starting climbs.
I'll be interested in how I execute this plan. The hardest thing I think to stick to will be race week meals, drinking enough water all week, and not getting lost on the course ;)
Will definitely update afterwards!
Had a motivating and uplifting experience volunteering at the Ray Miller 30/50/50/100 last weekend...
click here to read about it!
Running in Australia
How to Volunteer at a Race
Running in NYC Part I
All my recaps
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