SOLUTIONS AND HYGIENE
This is to all woman, to you that dream of ultra racing one day, to you that just likes bikepacking, to you badass woman love riding bikes, to you that are curious and also to you man who are keen to learn how woman have to handle some things a bit different. These are tips I would have liked to learn before taking part in AMR2020.
So apparently it is common for women to have their period during an ultra race, even when the timing may be off, like myself.. Your body is put into an unusual situation and will act differently.
To learn more about that you could read the article written by Katherine Moore
Or read the journal on the Apidura website.
in case you expect to have your period during one of your rides, or if you’re just curious how to handle such a situation in general, there are several options for you to make it reasonably comfortable. Actually as some scientists would say having your period might be in your favor. I’m not 100% convinced there, but hey, everyone is different.
Here are some tips I wish someone had told me;
- bring biodegradable wipes.
- bring some more biodegradable wipes.
- bring paracetamol and
- bring your favorite snack and hide it away for those difficult times and
- don’t be ashamed, it’s natural, half the population bleeds every few weeks, you are not grose!
Last, prepare for the flow and act accordingly so you can be comfortable. Decide whether you want to bring something along or bleed freely and what else you might need to feel happy in this uncomfortable situation.
Bleed freely solutions:
Extra Bib: that way you can wash one out(cold water always) while wearing your other one. It might sound uncomfortable to you, but for me this was the best solution, avoids irritation and be kind to nature at the same time. Hygiene wise, I figured that it is my bib and I can decide what I want to do with it.
Tampons are not to be left behind. If you are in the wilderness then I can assume you care about not leaving trash behind. Whatever material they are made of it takes a long time to biodegrade, especially being in the desert. So if tampons are the product you prefer, then bring something to collect the trash.
I personally advise not to use pads. It will cause saddle sores like you never experienced before.
Menstrual Cup. This is a great environmental friendly solution and easy to pack as just in case option. There are several brands, Moon Cup or Organi Cup are some examples. These cups essentially collect the blood and get rinsed out later. It also has the added benefit of no string to contend with, and you’re not producing any trash. I really like these and use them back home. You can let the cup sit the whole day, but be sure you are comfortable cycling with your cup. For me it causes too much irritation and friction.
Something to keep in mind is the problem of heat regulation on your period, although some scientists would state differently, it is a common thing to experience on your period within the conditions of a race in hot desertlike, to get dehydrated. Discomfort becomes a constant factor during ultra race, partly the fun of it too. The unease is just there, whether it’s a stomach ache, screaming knees or drowsiness you name it. I usually giggle, as that seems to work pretty well for me in these ridiculous intense situations, it all seems like a long weird intense XTC trip. It appears just hilarious that we all are in this, having the luxury to pick our challenges.
And so, somewhere in this blur of days and nights, I noticed blisters in my mouth, and swollen lips. Otherwise, I felt fine, didn’t feel like I had to rest and didn’t to pay much attention to it anyway. I’m riding in the dark and while trying to ignore the blisters, my body decided to add another obstacle and made me vomit, but there was nothing to vomit. My body continued with gagging and threw an intense shivering on top of that. In this moment I had to act and get myself safe and warm. Got out my down pants and headed to find a spot to rest my body in that warm burrito and wait for sunrise to solve all problems. At sunrise my face had blown up, I’ve never felt so pretty in my life. While still wrapped up in my sleeping bag, I ate the best orange I could remember, that was stinging my mouth, but couldn’t bother. Found the strength to pack my stuff, and then continued to ride at an easy pace. Being careful today to the fragile state I am in.
I’m not sure if there are ever singular solutions for any and every landscape, every climate and every person is different, but I’d begin by saying be careful with salt tablets. I drank approximately 6 liters of liquid a day. That might seem a like lot, yet to put it into perspective you should be drinking 0,5 liter an hour. Considering that while being 18 or more hours on the move, that won’t do. Be kind and gentle with yourself and allow yourself to share your burden with other riders. Although I often feel the struggle to show positivity as complaints out loud can be ruinous and still being able to share those challenges. I strongly believe it’s important to share and have a good laugh on all the ridiculous stuff that’s happening. I experienced strong camaraderie and those encounters can give you that needed energy when feeling low.
Note: This text and the drawing were provided to us by Quinda and we decided to split it into three parts due to its length.
The amazing photos were taken by Jonathan Hines, Lian van Leeuwen and Quinda Verheul.