In my head I’m still 21 and in this fantasy world I’m still young and cool. I talk cool, I dress cool and I understand cool. Damn, it is cool to be so cool. I am invincible! Then BAM! Just as if someone turned out the lights, I am thrust right smack into reality and trust me when I say, “It is not cool!” My reality begins every morning when I wake up. First, it’s the aches and pains that remind me that the body is no longer young and cool. I often wonder, daily actually, how in the hell a person can wake up being sore. I never remember sleeping being so painful when I was younger; if it was, I had done something significant to earn it! Now, just laying on my side can cripple me for the day and Lord help me if I was to sleep on my stomach….. get the wheel chair!
Despite the pain, I manage to drag the old butt out of bed and try to stretch; no easy process since stretching these days can be akin to ripping flesh off of bone. Then I plod over to the mirror and make my 2nd mistake of the day; I look into it! I can hear the 80’s music in my head come to a screeching halt as if someone scratched the record. It is replaced with some syrupy elevator music; slow and old and so NOT cool. Holy hell, what happened to the 21 year old? I stammer about perplexed. I was 21 just yesterday. Where did all of these crow lines come from? Oh, and the bags under my eyes; I never got those in my youth even if I partied all night. Then the hair; no wonder my body is sore it looks like I was break dancing on my head all night. Actually, it sort of looks like my old 80’s hairdo ….. hmmmm ….. NOPE …… NOT cool! I used to wake up when I was young and look refreshed. Now, I look haggard and beat down. This just sucks and I ponder how I can gain my youth back. Crazy thoughts start to enter my head; plastic surgery …… liposuction ……. $200.00 face cream ….. the list goes on. After a half hour of this torture, I pull myself together and move on with my day. One of the greatest things about getting older is that it no longer takes me 2 hours to get ready in the morning. What in the hell did I used to do for all that time. Man, I was some kind of crazy, high maintenance back then. Now, it’s ½ hour max. I just love the freedom of not giving a shit.
So as you can see I’m not aging well. I’m not embracing this crap. Screw the wisdom, self-assurance and self-love and all that other crap that you hear, mostly Hollywood, women proclaim about the joys of getting older. Easy for those beeutches to talk about all that when they dump hundreds of thousands into maintaining their youth. They’re a bunch of 70 year-olds that look 50; which just messes with the heads of us real chicks. Come on, Cher is damn near 70; where the heck are her crow lines? Not to mention she can wear 6 inch heels and her thighs don’t rub together. That is just not real. I’m real and reality comes with crow lines, sagging everything, mood swings and no way in hell can I wear 6” heels without hospitalization. “Wisdom, self-assurance and self-love……my ass”, I say!
So if the aches and pains of reality were not enough to destroy my young and cool fantasy world, the grim prospect of menopause peaking around the corner buried it for good. Now before I continue with this rant, here’s my disclaimer; I’m not yet entering menopause. Soooo don’t plan on me tripping off the deep end at a dog race or anything; at least not yet. My familiarity with this subject comes from a whole host of friends, relatives and acquaintances that are in the midst of or have been through the big “M” plus a bunch of research I’ve done in preparation for this fun filled portion of my life yet to be experienced. At any rate, I thought it would be fun to bring you into the mind of a menopausal musher. Hopefully, you won’t be afraid to get on the trail with any of us aging female mushers after this!
Our first menopausal subject should definitely be hot flashes! Every woman that is in the know has had some form of experience with hot flashes. It’s something you often hear women joke about; which is amazing to me. How do you find something funny about feeling as if you’re about to burst into flames? It boggles my mind. “Look at me I’ve got flames coming out of my head!” Yep, that’s pretty funny. On the upside, hot flashes can be a welcome thing when you’re hanging out in sub-zero temps; nothing like an instantaneous bonfire when you need one. Too bad you can’t ask for a flash when you want one. “It’s -26F and I’d like a flash to go; make it a medium please!”
Unfortunately, flashes have a mind of their own and they don’t usually come at convenient times. They come at times like when you’re in the truck wearing three layers of polar fleece and a huge ass parka plus hat and gloves. These flashes require emergency clothing removal and let me assure you that this is no easy task in a parka. Imagine being wrapped in a huge sleeping bag and the only way out is by lifting it over your head. You start the process and progress is slow. You are burning like a meteor and find yourself stuck in the middle of your parka. This is usually with one arm stuck to your side and the other still in the sleeve and your head is somewhere in the middle. This situation causes you to start to lose consciousness from the heat and now you can no longer remember which way is out. Panic sets in. You look like a giant parka worm rolling around in the front seat. The observer can see your parka pulsing as you pound your fists against the fabric trying to get out. There are lots of muffled cuss words sneaking out on occasion. Finally, in a big ball of sweat your head emerges. Your hair is full of static and standing on end. You are flushed with red blotches and there is sweat dripping down your face. This would be a mushing hot flash.
Now guys I don’t want you to feel left out and stop reading because you’re thinking this is too gender specific so imagine, if you will, that someone just lit your jewels on fire and you have on a one piece mushing suit with a pair of serious snow boots (the ones that take two people to pull off) and you’re wearing beaver mitts. Welcome to our world gentlemen! So now you know why some women mushers are practically wearing halter tops in the dead of winter. It’s not because they are so tough that the cold no longer bothers them; it’s because they are walking meteors! Hot! Hot! Too Hot!
Since we are on the subject of heat, it seems only natural to move right into night sweats. Yep, we are talking Sweaty Betty in the Beddy! This is a time when most women probably wish they were single. Nothing like the hubby reaching over to spoon you and you’re awakened by his yelling, “Ewwww, what the hell! Did you wet the bed?” You bolt up and start feeling the mattress. OMG, it is wet! You pat yourself down and realize your pajamas are wet! OMG, you start to wonder if you’ve now lost control of your bladder function! Slowly you realize your hair is wet and your pillow is wet. There’s no way you wet the bed unless you were sleep walking all over the bed and peeing at the same time. Whew, what a relief; it’s just night sweats! Now imagine being a musher that is planning to sleep outside in a sleeping bag or inside at a checkpoint. Neither situation will allow you to strip the clothing and try au- naturale to keep cool. You just have to suffer and stick it out, but definitely bring a change of clothes. Unfortunately, an outfit change in the middle of a race leads other mushers to think you’re a Diva. You can’t win on this deal. Frankly, I think older women are much braver mushers. No one else would risk hypothermia with a sweaty sleeping bag and damp clothing?
The fear of losing control of your bladder function comes as no surprise given one of the symptoms of menopause is increased urination. Yep, as if chicks don’t have enough issues with this subject matter; let’s just exaggerate the problem ten-fold as we get older. For a chick musher, increased urination is serious agro; it’s not as if there are port-a-johns all along the trail. You have to stay hydrated so it is not as if you can go without fluids. You cannot leave your dog team to go sauntering off into the bushes; assuming there are bushes in whatever god-forsaken snowy locale you find yourself in. The longer the distance, the bigger the problem this becomes. I once heard of a woman that held it for so long that when she entered a particularly rough section of trail it took all of her concentration and her bladder just let loose. This was not even half way into a 90 mile run in extreme cold. Can you say, FUN! Thankfully, our suits always have that dog pee smell!
So what does a gal do? I have no idea to tell the truth. I have heard of devices you can wear which allow you to pee on the fly. However, I’m not sure sporting a pee ice cube in -26F would be much fun. Then what do you do when you arrive in the checkpoint? You would have to melt your cube to empty the device, right? “Excuse me. Don’t mind me I just have to melt my pee cube over here on the wood stove.” Yeah, right! You could go the diaper route, but those have their drawbacks in -26F as well. Imagine the thigh chafing you’d experience if you had to run or pump in a frozen diaper. Then when you walked into the checkpoint sounding like you were wrapped in frozen canvas with cubes falling out of your pant legs surely you’d be dubbed Ice Queen.
That leaves the only realistic option; stealth peeing. It requires some flexibility and coordination; often another problem for older woman. First and most important, you must look for fellow competitors; there must be no one around. Then you must manage to pull down your bibs with one hand. I don’t know what to tell you about the fact that you probably have to take off your glove and it’s -26F out; frost bite or bladder burst – your choice. Then you must squat real low. The key is to keep the moon as incognito as possible so as not to draw attention. Then let loose as quickly as you can. We don’t have time to waste here; it must be quick like a superhero! While you are being quick, don’t forget to be accurate. You wouldn’t want to risk frost bite only to discover that you peed right into your bibs; defeats the purpose, right? Then superhero quick, stand up and pull up the britches. If anyone makes mention that they thought they saw your white buttocks in the distance, you just tell them it was the spray of snow from your rooster tail while you were leaving them in your dust. Yep, no moon here … just dust baby… WHITE DUST!
Dry skin is another fun symptom of the big “M”. Great, it’s not enough that running dogs outside in sub-zero temps is sucking every ounce of moisture from our bodies, but now our hormones are going to help do their part. Pray for the women in the west that are aging mushers they are literally experiencing what it is like be a piece of freeze dried fruit. When I was a teenager I worked in a retail clothing store and one day this older lady came to the counter and slapped a bag on it. She muttered and looked away, “I want to return these.” I approached the bag with some caution as it was wrinkled and the top had been rolled and folded as if it had been being carried around for weeks. I unrolled the bag and dumped the contents onto the counter. There was a pair of sweatpants turned inside out. Then to my horror I noticed that they were completely covered in flaky, dead skin. I almost hurled. Looking back on that moment I wonder if she was a musher going through menopause! I should have had sympathy, right?!?! So I’m just warning you folks NEVER EVER call an aging gal a flake! This would be taking life in your own hands.
Since we are walking freeze dried fruit, it seems only natural that we would develop brittle bones. Now that is something a musher doesn’t need to be concerned about; falling in snow is soft, right? Yes, snow is soft when there is several feet of it, but trees and icy snow are not. Take your vitamin D chickees or you’ll be sporting a cast.
After all of the above, is there anyone that dare ask why anxiety and irritability are symptoms of the big M? I should hope not, I get bitchy just writing about it. This one is a blog in and of itself.
I had to laugh at the final symptom; painful intercourse. Seriously, what sweaty woman with flaky skin that has to urinate every 10 minutes and is irritated by just about everything wants to have sex? Need I say more?
So my friends have a little sympathy for your aging chicks out on the trail. They are probably some of the toughest and bravest folks you’ll ever run across. And please don’t do anything to piss them off; just let them have their space, offer them a cool spot and maybe some hand lotion or chapstick.