|January 30, 2015||Posted by Lauren under Running|
(Tim Gunn Style)
First – thank you for making me feel so loved on my last post. Unfortunately my blog has apparently decided to stop emailing me when people comment, so between that and just not being in the habit of checking this space on a regular basis, I actually had no idea people said anything for a long time. I’m sorry…I don’t know how to fix the issue, but I’m working on it.
When I think about all the things I love most about running – that long list that makes me excited to get out the door – waking up before 5:00 AM to run in place on a moving belt while staring out a dark window is not one of them.
Picture from a rare morning when I actually got to run later than 5:00AM
Who would’ve thought, right?
And yet, 3ish times per week, I find myself doing that very thing. Cursing my 4:4X alarm after a night of restless sleep and crazy dreams about how I’ve already done my workout, stumbling through the motions of getting ready and getting myself out the door as quickly as possible. Trying not to slip on the ice in the dark and praying my car will actually start despite the negative temperature (the one time it did not start because it was -15? The absolute worst.). And then making the 8 minute drive to the gym so that I can check in, strip down and start running by 5:15, so that I can be back home by 6:15 and showered/ready to nurse Amelia around 6:30 (yes, we’re still nursing. More on that another time if anyone is actually interested).
It’s a bit disorienting to leave in the dark and come home in the dark to a (usually) sleeping house. And it feels like a mad rush from the second I wake up until the second Amelia and I sprint out the door for work at 7:20. There’s no time to ease into the run. No time for cooling down or stretching or any of that other good stuff you’re supposed to do after a good run. I have just enough time to run 5-6 miles, walk for a minute or two afterward, and go.
But in a weird way, I kind of love it. There’s something so nice about being done with my run by 6:00 AM. And despite how hard it is to get up, and the fact that I crash at 8:00 every night, my day just feels better after a morning run. I’m more energized, more alert…happier. It’s not enough to make me want to do it every single day of the week. But it’s enough to make it a regular part of the routine.
Plus the reality is if I don’t wake up, I have weeks like the beginning of this one (or let’s be honest, like the months between Nov and Jan). Where it’s suddenly Thursday and I haven’t run once. Because on Monday I wanted a rest day (despite knowing there was a blizzard coming), and Tuesday we were snowed in and then Wednesday I turned off my alarm at 3:00 in the morning because I was nervous about the state of the roads after said storm, vowed to run at work instead but then right around 2:00 when I was getting ready to go, got a visit from Amelia and her teacher because of a bad rash/temperature. And so instead of a run, my afternoon consisted of sitting in the pediatrician’s office only to be told that she’s just fighting off a virus (like usual), the rash is fine, she doesn’t need to be out of daycare.
In short, like so many others, if I don’t run at the crack of dawn I don’t get to run at all. I know this is not unique. That many grown adults with responsibilities have been doing it for years. I also know that I’m lucky enough to be able to squeeze in a lunch run from work once a week or so. And despite the hassle of lugging all my running stuff in along with everything else and then showering again in the middle of the day, and despite the fact that a good portion of my coworkers think I’m crazy, I love those runs out in the fresh air…after food and caffeine and sitting all morning. But I can’t always count on them. So instead I wake up, drag myself to the treadmill, and pound out a workout while many are still asleep.
It sets the tone for my day. At least that’s what I’m trying to tell myself. It’s a good habit, provides structure and routine, and honestly makes me feel like I’m sort of training again…even though my mileage is still very low. Those early morning treadmill runs have even brought the return of speedwork into my life. It’s relatively short and doubly painful so early, but man does it feel good. Yesterday, for the first time since I can remember, I ran a workout that made me want to puke – 3 mile repeats in the middle of a 6 mile run. No stopping in between, just a quick 0.25 mile recovery jog. Maybe not a workout to really write home about, but it was the hardest I’ve pushed in a long time. It made me feel strong while reminding me how far I still have to go. And it sure made the time on the treadmill pass by a lot faster.
Someday I’ll take those early morning runs outside again. And I’ll actually have time for more than 5-6 rushed miles. But for now, when it’s pitch black and the temperature is below zero, I will make it work by stumbling my way onto the treadmill…thankful, at least, to not be battling humidity.
Except for today. It’s Friday, it’s (lightly) snowing, and the temperature is supposed to rise to freezing (32 degrees). Which at this point is a basically a heatwave. So today, I’m running outside at lunch.
On Monday, when the single digits return, I will retreat back to the safety of my treadmill…just me and the handful of other people crazy enough to be at the gym as soon as it opens. (Though not quite as crazy as those who actually manage to run outside in the dark and single digit temps.)
At least winter is bound to end at some point, right?
Oh and in case you want to know what, exactly, I’m training for? The answer is TBD. I’ve got my eye on a few spring/summer half marathons plus a summer relay, so for the past month I’ve been trying to reestablish a base after all those weeks of barely running. But it’s almost February and it’s time to actually commit to a 2015 race schedule. So more to come.
|January 14, 2015||Posted by Lauren under LifeontheRun|
Hi. Remember me?
It’s been awhile. Months, in fact. I’m not sure you noticed or even gave this blog a second thought, but I did. Day after day of thinking about posting and wondering what to do with this place…my little corner of the internet. I found it unsettling to have it just hanging out there in space, unresolved. After all these years and all the changes, was it time to finally call it quits? I think we can all agree that the quality of the blog has gone downhill over the past year. I do not have the time, or even the same amount of energy, to post that I used to. Did I really want to continue putting things out there that I wasn’t exactly proud of? What’s the point anyway?
My site is set to expire in a few weeks. And for a long time I thought about not renewing. Just making a quiet exit. In some ways that seems like the best way to go out…don’t make a fuss. Just let things fade away.
But when I started seriously considering giving it up, I found that I couldn’t let go. Not yet. Time and time again, I kept coming back to this space. I thought up blog posts in my head. On my runs. While driving. When I couldn’t sleep at night. My writing skills might be rusty, but the stories are still there, ready to be shared. I just struggled with how much to share. How much of my little family’s life do I want to make public? And how much can I reserve just for us.
I used to lament that there aren’t a lot of blogs written by working parents who also run or train for endurance events. Don’t get me wrong – some of my favorite blogs are written by SAHMs or childless runners. I love following their training. But still I feel it can be hard to relate. It’s not that I’m so much busier than everyone else simply because I have a kid. I know there are busy people in all walks of life. And I’m certainly not trying to start up some debate about who has it harder, those who work or those who stay at home.
Now I understand. It’s not necessarily the time, although that is in short supply these days. It’s more the exhaustion – mentally and physically. And the stretching – the feeling like you are dividing up parts of yourself and stretching yourself so thin that by the end of the day, there’s nothing left. It can be hard to devote yourself fully to being a wife, daughter, friend, employee, runner, pet-mom, etc even without kids. Add one (or more!) children and some days it feels impossible. And the easiest thing to let go, the one truly expendable thing, is this blog. As much as I used to love sharing here.
But I didn’t start this post to list excuses for not blogging, or even weigh out the pros and cons of continuing on. I just wanted to say hi. To let you know that I am still here. Starting again. Seeing where it will take me.
Somehow I blinked and a year has passed since I started this juggling act. I like to think that I’m getting better with time, but the truth is that most days I’m struggling to keep all the balls in the air. My running has started, then stopped, then started again. I feel like I’m tumbling around, goalless. For a long time, that was enough. I actually surprised myself by how little I cared to really devote time and energy to training for the past year. My life felt fulfilled without it.
But things are changing. It’s not that I no longer feel fulfilled, it’s just that I want more. The past year was exactly what I needed, but that familiar itch has returned. I’m still not quite ready to devote myself to one singular goal race (aka a marathon), but I am finally, truly ready to put in the work. More about that soon.
And my baby? That little, quiet, watchful newborn that entered the world a little over a year ago has turned into a chatty, curious, active toddler right before my eyes. Always on the move, trying to run or climb at every opportunity. She is strong and persistent and smart and funny and sweet and more amazing than I could’ve ever dreamed.
I know I have said this every time I post, but I love the stage we’re in right now. I miss the snuggles and the higher level of dependency, but there is nothing that brings me more joy than watching her interact with the world. I love when she holds out a toy for my inspection saying “dat!” (what’s that). Love when she squeals “kitty” and tackles the cat, smothering him with hugs and kisses (don’t worry – he loves the attention). Love when she runs toward me at the end of the day when I pick her up from “school.”
This little baby is becoming a person – with a strong personality and desires. And she makes every day a little brighter just by being in it.
So that’s life in a nutshell. I realize I just wrote a whole post about nothing, but when you’ve been absent for so long, it can be really hard to know where to start.
One of my goals is to actually get into the habit of blogging more regularly again. Which may mean changing the format of the blog a bit, though I’m still trying to figure out exactly what that means. One thing I can say is that I will probably start including more basic training updates. I’ve never done that before on HOTR so I can’t promise it’ll be interesting. But I think it will be helpful – for me anyway – as I focus on regaining some speed and building up to a marathon again. Stay tuned…
|November 13, 2014||Posted by Lauren under Running|
I have been terrible about race recaps. Unfortunate, since those are the most fun to write (and read!). And since this is supposed to be a running blog, you’d think I’d be jumping at the opportunity for “content.” Although my erratic blogging is a topic for another day, I suppose it’s not really a coincidence that of the last 4 races I’ve run, the only one that made it to the blog was the 5K where I ran a PR. Maybe I’m vainer than I’d like to admit.
So here we are, over 2 weeks later, in the midst of other awesome marathon recaps and post-NYCM excitement, and I am about to babble on about a race where I well enough — not bad but certainly not a groundbreaking performance. Aren’t you excited?
The CHaD Hero race weekend is a fundraiser for Dartmouth Children’s Hospital. The Half Marathon was only one of three events that day and the entire atmosphere was of one big party. The course is well organized, there is good support (from bands, performers and crowds), the post-race feast is delicious and plentiful, and it’s truly an inspiring event to be a part of. Trust me, that’s not a word I use lightly. There were huge teams running in honor/memory of someone. Looking around at all the shirts with faces on the back at the starting line was incredibly moving.
And if all that was not enough to make we want to make this race a yearly tradition, the start is only about 3 miles from my house. You can’t ask for a more super relaxing and easy race morning than that!
So while I loved being a part of the weekend, I won’t say it’s because of the course itself. This is a certified half marathon course and I know…the course is the course is the course. But it felt long. And it was harder than expected (no excuse for this really. See “race was basically in my town.”) All the turns and the weaving around people in the beginning made it hard to run the tangents, and the very hilly last 3 miles seemed to drag on forever. From the beginning, my watch was 0.1 miles ahead of the official mile marker and that gap only grew throughout the race (finished at 13.3), despite my constant wish for things to even out.
I am ashamed to admit this now, but I was a slave to that stupid watch, completely unable to trust my body to tell me how fast to run. So the fact that it was beeping for the mile well before I could see the official marker really got into my head. Which is why, even though I ran a smart, strong race — never bonked or hit the wall, never felt like I hadn’t trained enough or had that moment when I swore off running for good – why I was left feeling a little disappointed. Not so much about my time as about my attitude.
How’s that for an uplifting introduction? As ashamed as I am that I let something as trivial as my Garmin splits throw me off for a race, it’s all a part of this comeback journey, right? Part of learning how to race again, learning to trust my body, and remember what it’s like to truly run by effort and know when to push.
So let’s get on to the actual race, shall we?
The half marathon didn’t actually start until noon on Sunday, which made fueling a bit tricky. Evan and I woke up early (babies don’t sleep in on the weekends), had a couple eggs and a piece of toast, and just sort of milled around with my parents for a few hours. All those things that I would have done the night before – finalizing my race outfit, making sure the Garmin and iPod (my other annoyance during the race – more about that later) were charged – I had put off until that morning since I had plenty of time.
Around 10:30 I figured I better eat something else, so I rushed down a piece of toast with almond butter, banana and honey. Standard race breakfast. I chugged more Nuun, nursed Amelia and finally around 11:15 or so, headed to the start. In hindsight, we probably could have waited until 11:55 to drive over, but the nerves got the best of me. My dad dropped Evan and I off right in front of the town green and we burned off some nervous energy by jogging around and using the portapotties a few times. Finally it was time to line up. The announcer had us recite the CHaD Hero oath (which included not complaining about the course…oops) and we were off!
The 5K and Half Marathon started together, making it hard not to get caught up in the surge of people at the start. Combine that with the slight downhill for the first two miles and my conservative plan to go out around 7:20-7:25, settle in and then drop the pace down from there (goal: 7:15s) was completely out the window. But I felt good and strong, so we went with it.
Somewhere around mile 2.5 or so…awesome form, LBC. Note the guy in sunglasses and bright orange shirt. He was an official pacer. This is important.
The first 3 miles weaved through Downtown Hanover before we heading over the Connecticut River and into Vermont. Those first two miles ticked off fast (7:07, 7:02). I knew my official splits were a little slower, but I still felt like I was moving at a decent clip — at least until the 7:30/mile pacer whizzed by us just before mile 3. Evan and I looked at each other in disbelief, and immediately I started to panic. Was I going that much slower than I even realized?
No sooner did Mr. 7:30 pacer pass us, but we saw my parents waiting with Amelia at the top of our first (only) really long descent. I wanted to yell — don’t be nervous! I swear we aren’t running 7:30s! But they didn’t care. They were so excited to see us, so excited to show Amelia her parents, that I’m not even sure they noticed we were even behind him. My mom bounced Amelia up and down, and she waved at us with the biggest grin on her face. It was all I could do to not stop and scoop her up.
Seeing them helped me forget about pacing for a little while. We were entering my favorite part of the course – the Vermont section. Back on familiar roads where I did many long runs over the summer. The temperature was perfect, my legs were feeling warmed up and I just felt settled into a pace, trying to hold myself back because the numbers on the watch were making me nervous. I didn’t really notice the gradual uphill during these miles. It just felt good to be running.
We gradually started gaining on the 7:30 pacer and the girl that was running with him (who seemed to be his biology study buddy?? Totally what I talk about when I’m racing too…). We had just pulled up alongside them when a man who was watching from the sidelines pointed to her and then to me, saying “6th woman, 7th woman!”
From that moment, it was on. Because, you know, getting 6th place in a race was exactly what I had been shooting for all along! My first reaction was to turn to Evan and say, “I wish he didn’t say that.” The competitive juices had started flowing and I couldn’t stop them. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to be competitive. Wasn’t sure this girl even considered me her competition. But it didn’t matter. Whoever she was or whatever her goal for the day might have been, there was no way I was going to let her beat me. So without even really thinking about it, I picked up the pace just a notch and inched ahead of her and that annoying pacer.
Don’t be jealous of my awesome race day outfit matching skills. Orange and pink are the new “it” colors for the season. Trust me on this one.
For the next couple of miles, Evan and I ran side by side without saying much – except to remark on how annoying it was that the mile markers seemed to be getting further and further apart (I know, I know). When we turned to head back into the center of Norwich, he told me he felt like we were going too fast and was afraid he was going to blow up. I told him I just wanted to make it to the hill after mile 9. I knew that would slow us down, so the entire race I had just been focused on making it to that spot. If I could keep a consistent and steady pace until then, it didn’t matter what happened in those final miles.
New favorite race picture of all time! Feeling as strong and steady as I looked at mile 8.
We ran down along the Connecticut river, rounded the corner back across the bridge, and suddenly my family was there again. Waving and cheering and smiling! It was awesome and the perfect boost before the climbing began. I turned the corner to go up the hill and felt a little pep in my step. Trying to focus on one step at a time, I envisioned myself powering up the hill like a locomotive.
In reality it wasn’t quite that powerful or smooth. But at least the effort felt steady. And that is where I lost Evan. I briefly debated slowing down and waiting for him. Despite my warnings before the race that I wouldn’t, I hated not having him by my side. I thought if only I could get him to catch up with me again, he would be able to pace off of me the rest of the way.
In the end I just kept running. I was too afraid to break my own momentum…and half-convinced he was right behind me.
At mile 10, we reached the cruelest part of the course. After a mile of climbing, you run back through Hanover, across the main green and right past the finish line. There were people finishing and I still had 3 more miles to go. Awesome.
Debating if anyone would notice me making a u-turn to the finish
The fun just kept on coming. We climbed another steep hill that I didn’t know existed before the race. I had told myself the hill a mile before was all that I had to make it through – this one felt even worse! We turned a corner into a residential neighborhood and it seemed to keep climbing. I willed my legs to move forward, but they just didn’t have any speed in them. I kept wondering if I should take the gel I stashed in my shorts just in case, but since I hadn’t trained with them and haven’t taken a gel since, I don’t know? 2012? I ultimately decided not to. Just kept powering along, telling myself that with all this climbing it HAD to be downhill to the finish.
I was wrong. The elevation profile will tell you that there were, in fact, some downhill stretches in the last 3 miles. I didn’t notice them. Somehow it seemed like an endless climb. And my legs just had no speed. No power. I wasn’t spent or ready to puke, but I still couldn’t push any faster. Or maybe I had given up. By this point I had stopped looking at my watch, discouraged when I realized at mile 10 that I was going to finish more than a minute slower than what I had calculated. Any rational person probably would have turned off autolap and manually lapped their watch at the mile markers, or at least turned the screen to simply show the time of day or something, anything to get over the inaccuracies. But I wasn’t thinking rationally. I was just pissed – pissed that my watch wasn’t lining up with the course, pissed that I was pacing according to my watch and not the course in the first place, and pissed that I had let something so silly get into my head so much…especially for a race that I wasn’t going to PR anyway.
Demonstrating more awesome running form
Finally we headed back through campus and I knew the finish line had to be close. I tried to pick up the pace and someone remarked that I was “making it look too easy” but it didn’t feel easy. My brain was not communicating with my legs the way that I wanted to. I felt weird and disconnected. Like that pain place I used to know how to get to (and through) no longer existed for me. So I continued my steady run right across the finish line.
If you look really closely, you can see a man in a tan jacket and tan hat on the lefthand side of the photo, standing out into the course a little. That would be my Dad — my Mom is the little speck of blonde hair behind him. They both were amazing cheerleaders AND babysitters. We couldn’t have done the race without them!
Also, today is my Dad’s birthday, in case you want to send him a note.
And immediately felt guilty. I didn’t see Evan. I was annoyed at myself for being so annoyed during the race, and upset with myself for leaving Evan — and all for what? For a moment, my attitude went from bad to worse, and suddenly the strong, relatively even paced race I had just run became this complete failure in every way. Talk about dramatic. (I am not proud, I will admit. And yes, I can now see how ridiculous I was about the whole thing.) I stood there, scanning the crowd, hoping that each person I saw would be Evan nearing the finish line. Finally, 4 minutes later he came in, happy and proud of his effort, while I blubbered like a baby and apologized for something he never asked me to do.
So my race day mental game and focus? Needs some work. The endurance is there, the strength is there, even the building blocks for that mental focus are there. I had my iPod on me the entire time in case I needed it, but I never even wanted it. For the first time in any distance race, I preferred the silence of my footsteps and thoughts over music. Instead it just became another annoyance as I tried to keep the stupid cords from bouncing around by wrapping them into my sports bra.
In spite of everything, I still managed to place 2nd in my age group, and was somehow able to hold onto that overall female finish spot (and the first place girl in my AG actually finished 3rd overall, but they awarded her both prizes, so…).
Finish: 1:36:04 (7:20 pace); 46th overall, 7th woman (my friend at mile 5 must’ve counted wrong because no female passed me after I thought I was in 6th), and 2/141 AG
Just because I found it interesting: 5 of the 6 women ahead of me were under 25 – talk about a group of fast, young women (thinking the Dartmouth track and cross country teams must have been well represented here)! Only 3 of the ladies in the top 10 were in their 30s…it’s not every day I feel like the old lady of the group.
For my prize, I won this super cool, exclusive cup that Amelia immediately claimed. I figured she earned it more than I did for being such a trooper the entire day. She missed her afternoon nap to sit outside and wait in the damp cold. And didn’t complain once. That’s worthy of a gold star in my book.
Here’s how the splits broke down. Keep in mind that these don’t add up to my overall official pace
|Mile 1 – 7:07||Down|
|Mile 2 – 7:02||Down|
|Mile 3 – 7:10||Up|
|Mile 4 – 7:02||Down|
|Mile 5 – 7:16||Up|
|Mile 6 – 7:10||Up|
|Mile 7 – 7:03||Down|
|Mile 8 – 7:04||Down|
|Mile 9 – 7:31||Up|
|Mile 10 – 7:36||Up|
|Mile 11 – 7:38||Up|
|Mile 12 – 7:09||
|Mile 13 – 7:17||Up|
|Last 0.3 – 6:43 pace||The only flat section!|
|Garmin: 13.3 miles in 1:36:06 (7:14 pace)|
|Official: 13.1 miles in 1:36:04 (7:20 pace)|
And the elevation profile. The entire course was rolling – not sure there was any section besides that final stretch that you could consider “flat.”
So there you have it. A tale of how a crummy attitude can ruin an otherwise good race. Overall I really loved being able to run most of the half with Evan, and it has lit the fire for speed. I know I can run faster. I know I have another gear. I just need to remember how to access it.
Not sure what’s next for me. But I know it’s going to include speedwork.
|October 24, 2014||Posted by Lauren under Running|
It’s been awhile since I’ve written one of these.
Sunday is technically my “goal” race. The one I have been training for all season.
Please note that I use the word training lightly here, since I wouldn’t say it’s been particularly strict or intense. But I have been running. There was a “cycle.” I built up my mileage and I tried to stay consistent. There wasn’t exactly any speed work, but I occasionally ran fast and did a few short races to work on speed. And I’ve even seen a little improvement. My endurance has gotten better, my paces have dropped. I think I am a stronger runner now than I was in June.
But I am not where I want to be – where I hoped I’d be way back when I was plotting my comeback. I’ve come to peace with this and I honestly have no regrets about the way my training went down. Just stating a fact.
So when it comes to setting goals for Sunday, I am sort of at a loss. I can look at projected time calculators and obsess over pacing all I want, but when it comes down to it, I still don’t really trust what my body can do. Racing still feels like unfamiliar territory – that confidence I used to feel on a starting line has not quite returned.
But I also would be lying if I said I had no goals whatsoever. That I would be happy just to finish this half marathon. I did that back in April. This time, I want more.
This is what I do know:
A. I want to race this thing. Whatever that means for Sunday, I want to go into the half marathon ready to run “competitively” (with myself) and know that I ran as fast as I could on that day.
B. I would like to run faster than I did during my first postpartum half back in April (<1:48:28). I think (hope) I’ve got this one in the bag, but you know…anything can happen.
C. Ideally I want to see a 1:3X on that clock when I cross the line. I realize this is a very big range (anywhere from 7:33 to 6:51 pace), but I will not be quite as happy with anything over 1:40. There, I said it.
D. While I would love to PR (<1:33:07), I know I am not in that kind of shape. The unrealistic side of me focuses on the fact that my PR half was run on a snowy day in the middle of marathon training when I was battling a really awful chest cold. I would like to think I could (theoretically–someday) run faster. But my sane, practical side knows that even sick Lauren from 2011 was faster than I am now.
So where does that leave me? Doing a whole lot of babbling over a whole lot of nothing, you could say.
Given how my runs have gone over the past few months, I think a 1:35 is probably a realistically challenging goal. If I can hold a 7:15 pace for 13.1 miles, I will be more than happy. I guess we will see how it goes!
Evan will be running with me, so the other part of my goal of course is to not let him beat me. At our last race (which I promise to recap soon only because it was awesome), I chased Evan the entire way. Finally caught him in the last 0.5 mile, passed him and thought I really opened up the lead in the final stretch. So imagine my surprise when I crossed the finish line and suddenly saw a flash of his bouncy dark hair right next to me. The jerk leaned across the line for the tie. And since E comes before L in the alphabet, he is now listed first in the results for all of eternity.
At least we have documentation of our “photo finish.” So I will leave you with that, and let you be the judge…
Back soon with race recaps! Best of luck to everyone racing this weekend!
|October 9, 2014||Posted by Lauren under LifeontheRun|
Recently Amelia and I hit a pretty big milestone. 40 weeks. Exactly the same amount of time spent on earth as she did growing on the inside…or at least according to our best estimates. Somehow this 40 weeks seems to have gone by twice as fast as the former. During pregnancy, all I wanted was for time to speed up. Now I just need it to stop.
As I’m sure you can imagine, I’ve done a lot of reflecting over these past 9 months. On pregnancy. Motherhood. Life with an infant. Running. Working. You name it, I’ve mulled over it. And now that 9 months have gone by, it seems like a good time to share some of these reflections. To wrap up this phase of life and look forward to the next one. Not that things are really changing anytime soon, but you know.
So here are a few of those reflections. Most of these are things I would tell myself if I could go back. I realize that not all of this is true for every person, but they (obviously) reflect my experience.
No matter how slowly it seems to crawl by at times, pregnancy does eventually end. It certainly doesn’t seem like it when you’re 36 weeks, achey, struggling with insomnia and heartburn, not fitting into any of your clothes and so exhausted walking up a flight of stairs leaves you winded. But I promise, it will be over before you know it. One day you will look back and the whole ordeal will feel like a lifetime ago. Something that happened to someone else; an out-of-body experience. And you will find yourself thinking “I guess 40 weeks isn’t that long…” I suppose this is how women are tricked into having more than one child.
So don’t rush it. Don’t rush the time when it’s just you and your partner. When date nights or spontaneous getaways are easy. When you can sleep all day if you want to…or stay up all night and not have to worry about functioning the next day. When it’s easy to get out for a run or do a race or even clean your whole house from top to bottom. I know you know this already, but you’ll miss it. You won’t want it back. You won’t trade how things are now for anything in the whole world. But you’ll still miss it.
No amount of exercise will guarantee you a certain type of labor and delivery. You can do everything “right” for 40 weeks — regular exercise, yoga, strengthening, mental preparation, eating all the right things. In the end it doesn’t really matter. Sure, if your body cooperates, all that exercise and mental toughness certainly will help you get through the grueling task of delivering a baby. But sometimes things don’t go according to plan. And you may find yourself in surgery, scared out of your mind on what is supposed to be the most empowering day of your life.
I don’t say this to scare you, or be all gloom-and-doom about birth. I say it just to make sure you’re aware. Because maybe you’re working out and training your mind and expecting everything to happen seamlessly. After all, women have been giving birth for centuries. And I hope it does. I really, really do. But please just be prepared for the possibility that it might not. For better or for worse, the c-section rate in this country is on the rise. So even though it probably won’t happen to you, it might. If there’s one regret that I have about my own labor & delivery experience, it’s that I didn’t prepare. I knew little about c-sections and even less about the recovery. I think my experience would not have been so scary and negative if I had done even a tiny bit of preparation before going in…and I’m pretty sure the recovery would not have felt so terrible either.
Despite all that – exercise during pregnancy (with your doctor’s permission, of course). Not because it will lead to the “labor of your dreams” (whatever that means). But because it keeps you healthy, makes you feel better, move better, ache less. It keeps you sane, eases your stress, and gives you endorphins. And because it’s good for your baby. Because you know that every step you walk or yoga pose you hold is helping your baby grow healthy and strong. I had a love/hate relationship with running while pregnant. It wasn’t always the blissful experience I expected it to be. But I did what I could for as long as I was able. Find the balance that makes you feel best.
On Postpartum Weight Loss
There’s a lot of pressure in the media and on blogs to be perfect. Have the perfect pregnancy. Exercise (but not too much), eat healthy, glow from the inside out. Have an “easy” labor and “bounce back” immediately. We as a culture are obsessed with shedding that baby weight ASAP. It’s all crap. Absolute crap.
You may bounce back. The weight might slip right off and you may get back to running/working out two weeks after baby without any problem. You may find yourself effortlessly balancing motherhood and training, and you may wonder why some women claim that it’s so difficult.
But more likely, you may not. And what’s more – you may not even care. You may look at your loose belly and wide hips and be grateful to them for the amazing work they did. You may find yourself at peace with a lower level of training than you did before baby. You may even find that training for races doesn’t have a place in your new life. That’s okay. Just because X blogger or X celebrity was below her pre-baby weight in 2 months doesn’t mean it’s normal. Just because you struggle to get back to some semblance of the person you were before, you are not alone.
Just don’t give up on exercise after that baby is born. It doesn’t have to be much. It doesn’t have to be intense. People will tell you “they’re only this small once” and it’s true. You don’t have to sacrifice time with your baby for training…don’t have to make it your top priority. But move every day. It’s good for your body and it’s good for your soul. It will help you feel like yourself again. And it sets a good example for that baby of yours. Walking, running, and hiking with Amelia are my favorite things to do now. She loves the fresh air and I love being active as a family.
That being said, don’t feel bad if you just don’t feel it. If you used to run before baby and now just don’t have the time or motivation. It’s so cliche but it’s true – the days are long but the years are short. Your priorities may or may not change. Don’t waste your time stressing about it. Someday things will fall into place.
Do not underestimate the importance of recovery. I know some women seem to be out running or working out a few weeks after giving birth, like nothing ever happened. Maybe you were one of those women who couldn’t wait to get back at it and felt amazing fairly quickly. But it’s okay if you’re not. It took a good 6 months for me to feel like “myself” again when running. It has been a slow, stunted process…an improvement that has included many plateaus. But I think my body just needed time. And I believe that the slow comeback is the reason why I find myself gradually getting faster and feeling strong every single month.
If you’re nursing, training may take a lot more out of you than it did before. It takes more calories to produce milk every day for your baby than it did to grow him/her. My OB warned me of this, but I didn’t truly appreciate that warning until I was in it. This past week I finally ran 40 miles. My first 40 mile week since early 2013. It took a long time to get there, and I will admit that I was pretty proud of myself when I did it…and subsequently exhausted. And that’s with a baby who is a good sleeper! But that working + running + nursing combination is a doozy. So don’t be too hard on yourself if you need to do less.
On Babies and Parenthood
It’s pretty easy to become that parent. You know, the annoying one who thinks her baby is a genius for finding her hands, or making eye contact, or waving…or playing peek-a-boo with you for the first time. It’s okay to think it. Your baby is way more fascinating than any other baby in the history of babies. But maybe it’s better if you just don’t share that fact with every stranger you meet. Every single milestone that we hit, I say – “this is my favorite age! I wish I could freeze her in time right here.” And then another one gets here and I love it even more.
There is something about a teeny tiny, squishy, snuggly sleeping newborn. And somehow, despite the fact that your child was a newborn not so long ago, you may find yourself missing those days sooner than you thought possible. Maybe it’s because your tiny baby has suddenly become Miss Independent – always on the move, not wanting to be fed, able to play by herself – but you find yourself aching for a tiny newborn to snuggle. And then you remember what you have to go through to get one of those newborns, and you are suddenly thankful for pregnant family and friends who will let you snuggle their baby and then return them.
The sense of pride that comes from successfully adjusting the baby without waking them up is unlike anything in this world. Despite the fact that this is more related to luck than to talent, you will find yourself rejoicing every single time you manage to do it. Last night I somehow managed to put Amelia’s socks back on her feet at 10:00PM while she snored blissfully away in her crib. By the way I danced into the room afterward, you’d think I’d just won a race…or been given a huge promotion at work.
On the flip side — there is nothing quite like the despair and dread that results from the unsuccessful attempts. When you sprint out of their room and into your own with wild fear in your eyes, trying to run from that cry you know is about to erupt. Only to face your husband accusatory: “WHAT did you do??”
Related: you also may find yourself staring at the baby monitor and obsessing over whether the baby is too hot or too cold in her crib…despite the fact that she is currently sleeping peacefully. Or maybe that’s just me. I look at the temperature, look at what she’s wearing and hem and haw over whether the window needs to be open/closed, the fan needs to be turned up/down/off, I didn’t put her in enough layers, I need to get that sock back on, etc etc etc. Evan is convinced I’m just making up an excuse to go in and check on her every night. I have no comment.
Just when you’re feeling good about yourself and how much you’ve learned over the past 9 months, how far you’ve come as a parent, you make a rookie mistake that knocks you down a peg or two. Like thoughtlessly throwing the wubannub in the wash one weekend morning and forgetting that wash cycles take awhile (and things do not air dry instantly). Amelia doesn’t have many sleep crutches, but her wubbanub is her buddy. Froggy Friend is the only pacifier we have at home (Kitty lives at daycare) and even though we only see him during naps and bedtime, I’m pretty sure she is as attached to the frog at this point as she is to the paci. So when it came time for a nap on that Saturday morning and Froggy Friend was still soaking wet in the middle of a wash cycle, we had a bit of a meltdown. I stood there rubbing her back, cursing my stupidity, and contemplating whether it would be worth it to let my child sleep with a soaking wet pacifier.
And then you might find yourself, right before it’s time for the afternoon nap, frantically blow drying Froggy Friend in order to avoid a repeat of the morning’s events (a very effective drying strategy — as long as you have the patience to sit there and do it!).
It is impossible to keep pet hair out of a crawling baby’s mouth. You could vacuum every single day and still it seems to spontaneously sprout up from the floor. Or the baby grabs the poor cat and comes away with fistfuls of hair (“gentle” is not yet in her vocabulary). I love my animals dearly, but there are days (many days) when I find myself puzzling over the absurdity of this cultural tradition of taming wild things to live in our house.
Babies also have an uncanny ability to find the teeniest tiniest grossest crumb of junk. A morsel that looks delicious only to them. And even though you may think that you are more dextrous than a 9 month old who has really just mastered that dang pincer grasp, they are lightening fast when it comes to getting such morsels into their mouth. This morning Amelia may or may not have eaten dirt from the mudroom floor while I was gathering up my stuff for work. Or maybe it was a crumb of dog food. It’s really impossible to tell. So much for that organic, no-additives diet.
Pinterest might try to tell you otherwise, but those cute, perfectly staged photo opps you envision may not always turn out like you had planned. Especially when your schedule gets thrown off, the baby is exhausted and she falls asleep 5 minutes into your apple picking excursion. You know, the one where you had planned to take all sorts of “natural” cute fall photos of her picking her first apple, sitting on a pile of pumpkins, and looking adorable in her fall gear. You may only end up with pictures of her sleeping…which, in the scheme of things, is better than pictures of a full-fledged public meltdown.
Parenting is a wild, crazy ride. Unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. I may have learned a lot in the past 9 months, but I’m still just making stuff up as I go. Hoping that this baby of mine, who I love deeper than I ever thought possible, grows up to be a happy, well-adjusted kid. I’ve heard that it just keeps getting harder. And more amazing. I can’t wait.