Run With Swagger

I have a bit of a problem. The image of the runner I am in my head doesn’t exactly match up with reality.

when-i-runYeah, I know. It’s an old meme…but go with me here.

It wasn’t always like this. For many months, I had no trust in my body. No faith in what it was capable of…at least, athletically speaking. I felt weak and clunky and out of sorts when I ran.

And then I raced a 10K. My first ever, and the first real test of my speed since Amelia was born. I never wrote about it here (what’s the statute of limitations on race recaps?), but it was the first time in a long time that I felt strong, confident…competitive.

That morning I went out without my Garmin. It was hot and humid and the race start was pushed back so that by the time the gun went off, I was no longer warmed up and the watch wasn’t connected to satellites. I ran blind, without thinking. My only plan to make it hurt. The first woman took a commanding lead from the start, so I just told myself to keep her in my sight for as long as possible.

I held onto 2nd place for the first half of the race. Until the turnaround point, when a pack of 3 women who were running much stronger than I felt passed me. I tried to stay with them, but my lack of training and endurance were catching up to me. I told myself to just hold on for one more mile. And then another.

Somewhere deep inside I found that internal fire that used to burn so bright when I raced. I ended up passing one of those women in the final mile to finish in 43:10. Good enough for 4th (woman) overall and 1st in my age group. I was back.

Since then, I’ve no longer felt like weak, out of shape, postpartum Lauren. There’s a little swagger in my running stride, and in my head I’m pre-pregnancy Lauren. The Lauren who trains for hours and hours every week and is fit enough to run marathons.

Except I’m not. I have some speed back and am slowly gaining stamina, but I’m certainly not in the shape that I was. And definitely not putting the time into training that I once did.

And yet — part of me wonders if that matters. Not the training part, because obviously if you want to get faster and stronger you have to commit. You have to put in the time. The mental image of myself, I mean. You could argue that confidence in running is a good thing. You never improve if you don’t believe in yourself. Will never reach big goals if you don’t trust that you have what it takes to achieve them.

Then again, confidence can make you do some dumb things. Can make you forget rational thoughts for awhile and take on things that you might not be quite ready for.

In less than two weeks I am running the 100on100 relay for the very first time. This relay has been a dream of mine for a while now – 100 miles down the scenic Route 100 in Vermont. It’s going to be hilly, it’s going to be hard, but I am convinced that it’s going to be a blast. And in all my excitement, I kind of maybe volunteered myself for the hardest legs of the course. In the span of 12ish hours, I will be completing 18.9 miles, the last leg straight up Killington. Cumulatively, this will be much farther than I’ve run in…well, I can’t remember how long.

runner 2 descriptionNot going to lie – that runner profile makes me stupidly excited

But I’m not really worried. Maybe I should be. I’ve been fighting a nasty cold for the past week, which has made running difficult (read: almost nonexistent). My training for the race hasn’t been what I had hoped. And, as if the relay itself isn’t enough, I’m running a 5K the Thursday before with a team from work. It’s going to be an exhausting weekend for sure.

But, I have been running. I may not be putting in hours and hours a week, but my runs have been strong and consistent. I train on hills all the time. I’ve practiced running in the early morning humidity and the late afternoon heat. I think know I will be fine if I just pace myself. I guess we’ll find out for sure in 9 days.

The old LB is back. Maybe not physically, but in spirit. And that’s a start, right?

Confessions & Observations: 7 months

I have been doing this mom thing for 7 months now. That’s more than half a year, which basically makes me an expert on all things running-working-mom related. At least according to the internet.

Amelia 7 months_1

So today I’d love to impart that wisdom useless information onto you.

It took 7 months of “recovery” time for me to finally run my first 30 mile week. All my talk about wanting to get right back out there, being anxious to train, and wanting to run miles upon miles again was just that – talk. When it came down to it, I took my sweet time getting back into running regularly, a fact that I do not regret in the least. And while I feel a little silly to be so excited about running 30 miles after 7 full months of not being pregnant, it’s progress!

It took me almost that long to feel like myself while running. I’d say the big shift happened between 5 and 6 months. I suddenly realized that running no longer felt awkward and the stride that felt like it belonged to someone else for so long finally came naturally again. Things were actually starting to flow, and I didn’t have to focus on keeping my pelvis tucked under me when I ran. At least most of the time (downhill continued to be a problem for awhile).

That doesn’t mean my body is back to “normal.” It probably never will be. My stomach is still soft, I still don’t have any feeling around my incision and I seem to have developed a lovely little c-section shelf. Apparently those are all the rage these days (obviously sarcastic here).

And while we’re on the subject, I still have a canyon between my abs. Because, as it turns out, when you have a significant separation between your abs, that gap does not miraculously go away on its own. Sure, I avoided stressing my rectus abdominis for a very long time (still don’t do core work – hence the soft stomach) and for a few weeks I focused on a few exercises to help mediate the problem. But if I’m being completely honest, I didn’t really give the problem the attention it deserves. So it’s either time to accept that I’m going to have a gap forever, or get serious about fixing the problem.

I am terrible (terrible!!) about cross training. Worse than ever before, really. Remember that Barre3 membership I signed up for months ago?? Well I stopped using it and forgot to cancel my membership until last weekend. Smart use of money, right?

And while we’re confessing things, it’s time to put this out there… I’m a (new) mom. I also happen to be a runner. However, that does not, in fact, make me a #motherrunner.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about in the last sentence, you’re probably better off. Look, I’m not really against the hashtag itself. I can understand the usefulness of it (to a degree) and could maybe even get on board with using it once in a while…if I didn’t see it after almost every single post in my feed on a daily basis. I mean, I get it — finding time and energy to run when this little helpless being is depending on you for survival is no easy feat. The fact that you are a mom who runs is significant and commendable.

But, really, the fact that you’re a person who runs is pretty awesome too. So could we just tone it down a little bit? Don’t know what I mean? Here’s an example:

Just ran my fastest BOB 5K ever! Baby was cheering me on #motherrunner = relevant use of the hashtag

I love my new Sauconys! Best running shoes EVER! #motherrunner = not relevant. Unless Saucony starts making shoes specifically for mother runners. In which case I will take back everything I said.

Being a #motherrunner is a cakewalk compared to being a #pregnantrunner. That’s something I’ve actually suspected for a long time. Now that I’ve experienced both, I can finally let you all in on that little secret. Yeah, logistically speaking, it’s a lot more complicated to figure out how you’re going to fit in a run or travel to a race once the baby is no longer permanently attached. But you want to know something amazing? Your body is yours again! You can push as hard as you want to! And you might even have (a little) more energy to do it.

#pregnantrunner — now that’s a hashtag I can get behind.

…and now that I’ve offended at least half of my remaining readers….

I don’t know if I can commit to a fall marathon, and I’m having a bit of an identity crisis about it. At this point, training season has started. Many popular races have already filled up, and my window of opportunity is getting smaller and smaller.

Why the internal battle? What’s the point of signing up for one if you don’t have the desire to train, you ask? Because I think that in some ways the regimented training could do me good. And honestly — when it comes to running marathons, I’m a little rusty. It’s hard to think about another year going by without a marathon in it.

But on the other hand, I just don’t think I have another non-PR marathon in me. Not that you’re ever guaranteed to PR in a race of any distance, but I’m just not sure I can commit to the level of training required to PR at this point. Call it prideful or whatever, but it’s a lot harder for me to muster the motivation to stand on yet another starting line knowing I’m not in shape to give my best effort. Getting my speed and strength back is humbling enough. I don’t need to spend over $100 to find out just how much more work I need to do to get there.

I am, however, craving speed. I raced my first 10K a couple of weeks ago (this one doesn’t count) and as painful as it was, I’m sort of hooked. I can see glimpses of that speed coming back and I want more. There have been so many times in the past where I’ve told myself I was going to take a break from marathons and focus on shorter distances instead, and I’ve just never done it. So maybe this fall is finally the time?

Sunrise runs are actually kind of peaceful. Even though it’s always too foggy around here in the early morning to actually see it.

 I don’t think I’ll ever truly love being a morning runner, and I certainly don’t love how slow I am at the crack of dawn, but there’s something so calming about hitting the pavement before most of the world is awake. What I can’t figure out, though, is how people do speed work before 6:00AM? One foot in front of the other in a shuffling motion is about all I can muster.

With the exception of running while pregnant, I’d say running first thing in the morning before nursing/pumping has got to top the charts for most uncomfortable running experiences. Why yes, I could wake up earlier to pump (I refuse to wake up the baby to nurse before I run just for my own personal comfort), but I’m just not that dedicated. I tell myself the discomfort will make me mentally tougher. Either that, or it’s a sure recipe for mastitis. I’ll keep you updated.

Running with the stroller? Also difficult. Especially in the summer heat. I do love running with Amelia though, and I just keep telling myelf pushing a stroller up hills is only going to make me stronger.

stroller runI swear there is a stroller in this photo…

I tweeted this the other day but it’s worth repeating. It’s my third summer running in Vermont. And even on the hottest, most humid of days, I can still say that I would much rather run up a mountain than through the middle of the city…even if the route was perfectly flat. There’s just something about that fresh mountain air.

It took nearly 7 months, but I finally ran without a shirt. I know women are on both ends of the spectrum here — some do it all the time and others refuse. The important point is that I have done it many times before, and even had a few very hot, shirtless runs during pregnancy. But, you know, things are a lot larger and softer in that area now, and I’ve been way too self-consious to bare my tummy since.

Except on Sunday it was hot and humid and the shirt I was wearing felt so stifling. So after 3 miles of ridiculous internal debate, I finally whipped that thing off. And you know what? Not only did I instantly feel so much better, but the world didn’t come crashing down at the sight of my soft belly. Imagine that.

Koli_river pupNot really a relevant photo. Except to show that on this particular day, it was also hot. 

Being a working mom is an absolute roller coaster. Some weeks I actually love being at work. Love the stimulation, the creativity, the adult interaction and responsibility. And then other weeks I absolutely dread it. I have a hard time focusing and find myself in a rut of self-pity and guilt that I can’t be there with Amelia all day (and am giving her over to strangers to “raise”). I’m 99.9% sure stay at home moms feel the same way about their own situation from time to time. So I guess I can just say that being a parent (and all the decisions that go along with it) is hard. This is groundbreaking information, obviously.

Being a parent is also the best. I know I talk about Amelia all the time, and spam Instagram and Twitter with her pictures, but I really can’t help it. I have never been more exhausted, anxious, worried, humbled, or felt more out of my league than I have every day for the past 7 months. But I’ve really never been happier. I know that probably sounds crazy to you…it barely makes sense to me. The truth is that I’ve never felt joy like this; never known love like this. Never truly thought it was possible that this little person who can’t even talk yet could have such a grip on my heart.

Amelia 7 months

Another thing I didn’t know was possible? How a baby who can’t even crawl yet can get into so much! Her reach is incredible. And she never sits still. I used to joke that my baby would come out running…now I’m starting to fear that’s coming true.

Amelia_office move

And Just Like that, June is Over

Hello! It sure has been awhile. An entire month, it seems. A fact I am sure all of you have noticed. I’m also fairly positive you all have been waiting each day with baited breath to see if or when I would ever post again. Well I’m happy to allay your fears today.

{End sarcasm font.}

I didn’t really mean to take a month-long vacation from the blog, but June was absolutely crazy. To bring you all up to speed, I figured I’d do a quick update. I’ve got a few actual posts in my head that I would like to write sometime before the end of the year, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.

In the past 30 days I:

Bought new pump parts and have managed to keep them intact…so far.

Amelia Lynne_6 monthsAnd someone turned 6 months old!

Went on an awesome vacation to Asheville, NC.

Family_prayer mtn hike

We got to join 3 out of my 4 sisters at my parents’ house for a week and it was amazing. If I didn’t love Vermont so much (and you, know, had an actual source of income down there…minor detail) I would move to Asheville in a heartbeat. Cool, quirky downtown, awesome food with lots of vegetarian options, beautiful scenery and incredible hikes. Evan and I even got to go on a couple of trail runs together, which has made me want to seek out some trails by my own house.

Follow the leader

Spent over 36 hours traveling home to Vermont, 24 of which were continuously spent in various airports/airplanes across the country. Between flight cancellations, delays, and fighting with unhelpful Southwest gate attendants, we could’ve driven home and back again in less time. Depressing thought. In the course of that 36 hour period, we traveled from Asheville to Greenville, SC twice (by car), flew to Chicago, Kansas City, Baltimore, and finally, Manchester, NH…and then drove 2 hours home to Vermont. Because obviously the shortest way to New England is through the Midwest.

plane napThe only way I could get her to sleep

But that wasn’t even the worst part of the Great Travel Nightmare of 2014. Nor was it arriving at the Manchester airport at 3:00 in the morning and waiting an hour for our suitcases only to find out they had been in the back room the entire time (thanks so much for failing to mention that there was a back room we could check when we arrived, super helpful baggage claim employee!). Nope, the worst part of the entire trip? After being awake for over 24 hours, trying to keep a 6-month old occupied during the entire debacle, running out of diapers, and surviving on crummy airport food, we realized that the car keys were NOT in a suitcase like we had expected. Instead they were locked in my father’s car, alone at the Asheville airport. Awesome.

Needless to say, we will be sticking close to home (and avoiding Southwest airlines!) for the foreseeable future.

Packed up our entire house in 2 days (literally), only shedding a few tears when it came time to take apart the nursery. I’d been counting down the days until we were able to move closer to my work, and had been so excited about it that I never stopped to think about how emotionally attached I was to our house. That was the house where we prepared for Amelia’s arrival. The place we brought her home to. The only home she has ever known…and now will never remember. It was harder to let go than I expected.

Millie_nursery last daySaying goodbye…clearly she was pretty torn up about it

But…now we’re finally in the new place and all the sadness has been forgotten. My commute has been cut in half, I love our new neighborhood, and we are close to actual THINGS again. We’ve spent the past week exploring new running routes, trying out the local restaurants and finding new trails to hike. I’m even seriously contemplating joining a local running club for the first time in my adult life (now that it’s on the internet, I’ve got to do it). In short, it’s been pretty amazing.

Hazen breakfast hike

Ran a 10K…and actually felt like I was racing. Recap to come soon. But I will tell you that it sucked — in the most amazing way. Funny how when you’re unable to race, you kind of forget about the level of pain that’s involved. And then when you finally catch your breath and have a moment to reflect on everything, somehow you’re able to block all that pain out again. Enough time has gone by that I now find myself thinking that maybe I could’ve gone faster. And I’m almost willing to temporarily forget about the absolute suckiness of the 10K distance (because really, it’s the worst) in order to find out if that’s really true.

Red white and blue 6.2I won King Arthur Flour pancake mix! Pretty nice prize if you ask me

Gotten into a groove with running again. It only took 6 months, but I’m finally getting some of that mojo back. And I’m trying really hard to embrace the early morning run. I do not love the half-asleep, slogging through humidity feeling. But I sure do love that all-day runner’s high. Well, until I crash at about 3:00pm, that is.

Became an aunt again! My youngest sister is in the Air Force, so it was only fitting that she had her baby on July 4th. Welcome to the family Madelyn Michelle!

Madelyn Michelle_7.8.14

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Unrelated, shameless plug: My amazing parents (you may remember my Dad from this post) have become pretty avid hikers since they moved to NC, and have decided that it would be tons of fun to take on a 28.3 mile hiking challenge in North Carolina this fall for Make-A-Wish Foundation. I can’t even contemplate hiking more than the marathon distance through the mountains in one day (I’m half convinced the lack of oxygen from their climbs may have addled their brains a bit). But if that’s not enough, they have also committed to raising $5,000 for Make-A-Wish, an amazing organization that grants wishes to children with life-threatening conditions. Every single penny raised will go to helping a child’s wish come true. I never ask people for donations, but if you feel compelled to give, they would be forever in your debt. You can find more information here.

Clearly Winning at Life

Just when you think you’ve finally adjusted to your new routine. When you’re feeling pretty good about yourself because you just might have things together…and sometimes even manage to get everything done ahead of time instead of waiting until the last minute.

At the moment when you’re still riding out a runner’s high because you finally managed to run over 20 miles in one week for the first time since last fall. You’ve even had a few really good runs where you’ve been able to push and what do you know – despite the heat and the dead legs and the heaving lungs, you realize just how much you’ve missed this. How that deep, slightly twisted part of your brain that has formed over so many years of running is now rejoicing at the pain. Is brimming over with joy because your heart is pounding through your chest and you’re trying to hold on…just hold on for one more mile.

So when you’re feeling good about a strong week of running and that nice, productive weekend. When you’re excited that it’s Sunday night at 8:30, the baby is sleeping, most of your stuff is packed for the next day and you are ready to sit down on the couch and enjoy what is sure to be another exciting episode of Game of Thrones with your husband.

And right before that moment – when you’re patting yourself on the back for being so awesome at life, you realize that you need to sterilize your pump parts. So you put a pot on the stove to boil, dump in the parts, and once again congratulate yourself for thinking of doing this now…instead of at 6:00 Monday morning.

It’s just at that moment, the moment when you almost feel like superwoman, that the universe decides to throw you a fun little reminder that you’re not really as put-together as you’re pretending to be.

Because somehow, suddenly, it’s an hour later and you’re jolted out of your Game of Thrones-induced stupor by a weird sizzling sound. A sound that can only be made by plastic pump parts that have been sitting in a boiling hot pot for an hour…a pot that has finally run out of water.

And wouldn’t you know it – when plastic meets hot metal, it melts.

Yeah, so there’s that. Already winning at life this week.

In case you were wondering – it’s probably not a good idea to boil your pump parts for more than the recommended 20 minutes.

Also Game of Thrones and multitasking do not mix. Lesson learned.

Put Up or Shut Up

Sometimes you need to give yourself a little tough love.

I turned 30 this week. A brand new decade. A time to put my youth and wild party days behind me and finally become a mature adult.

dirt cakeWhich is why I celebrated with dirt cake…just like I have every year since I turned 7

Obviously kidding about that last part (not sure I ever had those days). I actually feel surprisingly okay with turning 30. While I am far from having my life completely together (does anyone ever?), I feel pretty good about where I am. And I certainly don’t feel any older…age is just a number, right?

But it’s sort of impossible to enter a new decade without doing any sort of reflection about the important things in life. And yes, I include running in that category — not just because I’m now officially in a more competitive age group. (yikes!)

For the past 5 months, I’ve sort of been waiting around for things to just magically fall into place. I even said that in an email the other day to Aron, the Runner Formerly Known as Runner’s Rambles (whose baby is only a week younger than Amelia and one of the cutest kids I have ever seen. I’m already negotiating the arranged marriage. You know, for when Amelia is finally allowed to marry at 30). I was lamenting (as I so often do) about how tough it has been to adjust to my new schedule, how it can be hard to fit in running, and how I can’t really fathom having the time to train right now.

I know there’s an adjustment period, but things will somehow all fall into place one day, right?

Stepping back, I realize how silly that notion is. Sure, in some way things have come together with time. I’ve gotten into a new routine, adjusted to being a mom and being back at work, and have even felt better on recent runs than I did when I first started back up. Eventually I’m sure I will get to the point where I don’t even remember what my old life was like.

I’m also making an effort to be patient with myself and focus instead on enjoying as much of this first year as I possibly can. It’s already going by so much faster than I had anticipated.

But the truth is — when it comes to training, things don’t just fall into place. Not really, anyway. Any runner who has trained for and run a PR effort knows that they didn’t just sit back for a few months and wait for everything to come together on race day. It takes work. It takes re-committing to your goal every single day. Putting in time and effort to achieve it.

This is something I’ve thought a lot about lately. For the past few months, I wasn’t sure if I was ready for that again. I’ve been wondering if I even wanted training to have a place in my new life, or if I just felt like it was something I should be doing because it has been a part of my life for so long. You all have been so patient and encouraging as I have tried to figure it all out (and sort of whined about the process on the blog).

There is absolutely nothing wrong with giving it up — whether the break is forever or just a few years. Babies are only babies for such a short time. It’s not something I ever want to sacrifice in the name of running. The loss just isn’t worth it.

But I’m finally at the point where I think I can manage both. As long as I focus on quality training and not quantity, I know I can put in the work to start getting back into shape again. I mentioned in my last post that the itch was back, and over the past couple of weeks it’s only gotten stronger. My mileage is still low, but I’m starting to see little glimmers of speed again. Just enough to make me crave it. To finally feel ready to work to achieve it.

I think I just needed time. My re-entry to postpartum running was not really the joyful, easy return I had envisioned. Things felt weird and off for so long. And the comeback is humbling. When you’re pregnant, it’s easy to slow down and hold back because you know you are doing important work growing a new life every day. But this in-between stage of no longer being pregnant but not really in any shape to push hard is just strange. It’s slow and awkward and clunky. And humbling. Did I mention how humbling it is to have to basically start from scratch again?

But that’s where I am. So it’s time to stop just talking about getting back into shape and actually do something about it. Time to put up or shut up, if you will. This post serves as my official declaration. My commitment to less talk, less over-analyzing and waffling and more action. Training begins now.

Garmin 405 v 220Shiny new toy!

To help, I’ve got a brand new training toy and an exciting race on the calendar — the 100 on 100 relay in August! This is a race I’ve wanted to do for a long time and I’m so excited that we finally have a team together. I’d also love to go back and defend my title at this trail race in July…and of course am still toying with the idea of a fall marathon. I don’t expect to be in PR shape by then, but since this November will mark 2 years since my last full, I think it would be a good idea to run one just to shake the rust off. We will see. The actual race I want to train for is still TBD. I may be ready to start putting in the work, but I still have some commitment issues.

Now who wants to come babysit Amelia?

Amelia_ready for summer

 

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