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    The Female Runner

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    I bought this book called “The Female Triathlete” about three years ago. I had just given birth to my second daughter, Alena, and had started running again. I didn’t know when, but I knew that I eventually wanted to do a triathlon. I ran consistently for about two years, and then last spring, finally picked up the book. I read it in its entirety, made myself a training program and did my first triathlon in July 2010.

    At one point, I offered it to my husband, an inexperienced swimmer, to read the technique tips and training drills for the pool. Although I can’t remember if he read it or not, I remember realizing that marketing that book to women was ridiculous. It dawned on me that the only reason it was titled “The Female Triathlete” instead of “The Triathlete” was because it had been written by a woman. The only difference between male and female athletes, when looking at training drills and techniques is the fact that women have their period to deal with. There’s usually one chapter dedicated to a combination of iron suppliments, period “stuff” (I’ll leave it vague, since if you’re a woman, I’m sure you’ve read the chapter and if you’re a man, you don’t really want to know), the importance of calcium and probably a quick blurb about pregnancy.

    My favourite running book, John Stanton’s Book on Running has this chapter, so obviously a man is qualified to do research on this subject and publish it. So why is a book written by a man marketed as a unisex training guide, while the book written by a women is marketed solely to women? Because men wouldn’t buy it.

    (Should I duck and cover now?)

    Look, sorry if this offends anyone, but the fact is that women are STILL regarded as less than men in many, many ways. We may dominate races in numbers, we are the fastest growing group in marathons, we occupy half of the work force, half of the population, but still we can’t write a damn book and have men read it? Why is it acceptable for John Stanton* to give me (totally solid) advice about being a menstruating runner while most men wouldn’t look twice at any sort of training book written by a woman? Regardless of the fact that it was written by an elite athlete who is very likely more experienced and faster than any person reading her book would be.

    This was all supposed to be an introduction into a concern I have, but I kind of got away from myself didn’t I? Anyway, as a disclaimer, if you’re not interested in reading about “The Female Runner and Her Womanly Issues” I suggest you close your browser now.

    So, as we all know, one week out of every month sucks. Aside from the 3-5lbs you pack on, the Tostitos you may eat in abundance, the cramps and, if you’re like me, the seven-day headache that borders on migraine and near-constant sense of nausea, there is exhaustion. Oh, exhaustion.

    Too tired to worry much about the maintenance of my life, you can usually find me laying on the couch “watching” Dora with my kids (and by watching, I mean watching it with my eyes closed). The weights are heavier, the runs are longer the hills are steeper, it’s just the way. I am in tune enough with my body that I give myself leeway that week and take it easier than usual. When I’m not training for something, I’ll even take the week off if I really need to. When your body says “Rest” then rest you should.

    I had a 34k run planned today and turned around at the 8k mark. It just wasn’t happening (for all of the above stated reasons). No biggie, I’ll run 35k next week and then start my taper. It makes me a little nervous that the past three weeks have been very light on kilometres due to final exams and then vacation and then an unexpected road trip to help a friend out, but there’s nothing I can do about that now, and so I focus on the next four weeks. Which brings me to my point of concern.

    Four weeks from now means three weeks of strong running and then a week of headaches and fatigue. Right in conjunction with race day. And there doesn’t seem to be a damn thing I can do about it.

    Now, I’ve found, in my racing experience, that the body can do magical things on race day. For example, last year at the end of my triathlon, I ran a 24 minute 5k. I have never before and never since been able to match that pace. I have run as fast as I could with fresh legs and not come close to the time I ran it in after swimming 750 metres and biking 20k. Adrenaline is an amazing force. Maybe at the end of next month, my body will somehow find energy that is usually lacking. Maybe the (frustrating but always so effective) tapering will have my legs jittering in such an excited way that I won’t feel exhausted within the first kilometre.

    Que sera sera, I suppose. But it still isn’t going to stop me from fretting about it for the next month.

    *No offense to John Stanton, I’ve mentioned many times how valuable a resource his books have been to me.