This post is going to be about being a woman, me, at this point in my life. So, if you are squeamish about these topics – menopause, now is your chance to exit the building.
When, I first started this whole endeavor, I had a very specific goal: To finish an endurance challenge. I was overweight, disgusted by my reflection and struggling with bad habits. On the verge of turning forty seven, I was and remain very aware of the looming fifty. During the ensuing three months I began to realize that as my period drew closer my stamina would suffer. Two days before menstruation and I would not only gain a couple of pounds, but my legs seemed to give up. I often felt as though I was pushing them through soup. Fast forward eight days, and I would have fabulous runs, where I was able to increase distance and speed. There was a sort of Wonder Woman effect, which I could ride for about a week before I settled into hard but doable workouts. And then the cycle would begin again.
I spent quite a bit of time researching this on the Internet, and counting days on the calendar to see where I would be when I did the Seaside Heights Duathlon. Had I done the Endurance Challenge, had it not been cancelled, I would have been in the absolute worst time of my cycle. The Duathlon was actually scheduled for the best. But a funny thing happened on the way to Seaside, or actually didn’t happen. Everything changed.
As the days leading up to the Duathlon ticked away, the time for my period came and went. I started to panic. The window before my period over the summer had been so much harder, I struggled so much during this time that I really didn’t think that I could do the event during this phase. But I never hit that phase either. It has been three months and I have remained in the great in between. And yes, I took a pregnancy test.
For awhile I played with the idea that I was working out too hard, and that was the reason for the missed period. But being forty seven and having a mirror – I’m not skinny – made the theory ridiculous. Then I wondered if maybe all of this working out was my midlife crisis, which I guess I’m okay with. But I still am not ready to be in this moment in my life.
I have yet to meet the woman who doesn’t find her period at best an annoyance, and I am no different. Not having one would seem to be such a blessing. But it was also my rudder, my guide and my way of navigating. I had come to count on and look forward to the Wonder Woman time and made peace with the tired and irritable time. It would pass. And I have this persistent sadness. The me that started out four months ago seems like a very different person. I feel detached and removed from her. I feel old.
I also seem to come across article after article about running in your forties and beyond: Master Runners. At a time when I am trying to push myself, and really struggling, I am reading that my body can’t do as much. I feel cheated. I just started this and now I have to peel back? Fuck you! I am already having to scale back because of time. Trying to be a full time mom and teacher and continue intense work outs sometimes seems completely undoable. And those are the days that I don’t go out of bed until 4:30 and I don’t get to the gym until 5 or so and then I have to leave before I can get in a full hour. The sadness is weight that saps my energy and I find myself struggling for motivation. More and more often, I feel as though I want to give up. I miss running outside and biking at all. (Sorry, the stationary bike just isn’t really biking).
But I know, just as I knew in the spring, that once I am out of bed and dressed I am ready. And I have even gotten to like being on the treadmill and the stationary bike for what they are. The bike is never going to give me the joy of riding outside. But it can be a difficult work out if I adjust the settings for that. And maybe it will help me in the spring with harder hills. There is no chance to glide on the bike, there is a demand to keep pushing. And the treadmill and I have sort of a truce. I stay keyed in and it doesn’t shoot me off and I don’t fall down. The bothersome part of the treadmill is I can’t seem to run as far or as fast. Maintaining a ten minute mile on the treadmill feels really hard. And yet, when I ran outside I was averaging under a ten minute mile. The longer time means of course that I don’t run as far. (Well, I’m not really going anywhere, but if I were, I am only averaging around three miles.) Which is something I noticed lately with my outdoor running. I am struggling to make five miles let alone six. What happened to my endurance? My stamina? My drive? It is November, shouldn’t I be adjusted to being back at work?
So I started four months ago thinking that by now I would be in great shape, sporting smaller sizes and running with ease. Instead, I am still wearing the same jeans even though they are a little roomier and still finding it hard, even though I am doing more. So, I guess, if I compared it to where I started, yes I would find my workouts from May too easy and not consider them work outs at all. Yes, I am definitely improving.
So here I go, once again through another door in life. I am leaving behind the tools that I used to orient myself and will have to find new ones. Once again, life comes with no directions.