Posts Tagged by winter running

Adventures in Treadmill Running…

…with a baby and a dog

The scene: Tuesday afternoon. Another freezing, windy, snowy day in Vermont.

The cast: One stir-crazy mom who has been on sole baby duty for almost 2 full days, a relatively happy though sometimes inexplicably fussy 2-month old, and a slightly neurotic, somewhat attention-starved pup.

The decision: to schlep this motley crew down to the basement so that mom can get in a few miles on the treadmill.

I’ve talked about my old, slightly broken and very worn treadmill before. It’s something I used to avoid running on at all costs — it shakes, there’s a rut in the center of the belt, and it just feels way harder than running outside. But after the winter we’ve been having, that treadmill and I are becoming the best of friends. Because even a barely functioning treadmill is better than nothing.

treadmill.jpgObviously this gym set up needs some work

But I’ve been hesitant to bring Amelia down there with me when I run because it’s in the partially finished, cooler, storage half of the basement. Plus I had no idea how she’d do. So I usually just plan my runs around Evan’s work schedule, passing the baby off when he gets home and getting in a few miles and a shower before she needs to eat again. I don’t run every day and I’m not working, so it’s pretty easy to be flexible right now.

Until yesterday. We were on Day 2 of Evan leaving the house before 7:00am and coming home after 9:00pm. The weather has been absolutely frigid and snowing…so cold that I don’t really feel comfortable bringing a two-month old outside for a run (maybe it wouldn’t have been bad…I don’t know. I’m new to this). I suppose I could have gotten up early to run before Evan left, but I’m just not dedicated enough to a) cut into my unpredictable sleep and b) get up even earlier so that I could pump first.

So the treadmill was my only option. I gathered up my supplies: the bouncer, a blanket, a frog wubbanub, and some brightly colored toys to keep Amelia happy and an edible bone to give the dog something else to do besides bug the baby. I set everyone up, got my shoes on, and stepped on the machine, nervous about how long Little A would last. She’s not the biggest fan of her bouncer, preferring to sit in the swing or even lie on her play gym. Usually her tolerance for the seat is only about 15-20 minutes. But I figured that was better than nothing. I’d run however far she’d let me and that would be good enough.

the set upMy company for the run

Turns out I was worried about the wrong child all along.

(In case you’re wondering why the dog had to come down with me, well…you’ve probably never had a boxer. He tends to have low impulse control on the best days, but since Amelia’s arrival he’s been getting himself into trouble more often. My poor, needy, slightly misplaced older child. I figured we’d all be better off if he was down where I could watch him. Plus, he usually hangs out with me while I’m on the treadmill anyway…content to just lie there and watch.)

The second he got his bone, Koli started sprinting around the basement, tossing the bone up in the air and having the cutest solo game of fetch I’ve ever seen. I started to run, patting myself on the back for being so resourceful. Why didn’t I think to do this earlier?

…until 30 seconds later when the dog began crying because he had gotten his bone stuck under the treadmill. I got off, retrieved the treat, told him to “go!” and started my run again.

And again I was interrupted by the dog’s cries. This time because no one was playing with him (poor, tortured creature). When his whining failed to give him what he wanted, he gave up on the bone and searched for other ways to pass the time. Checking on the baby, trying to play with her toys, getting into the cat litter, sniffing around in half open boxes — all of these activities were apparently way more interesting than chewing on a silly little bone. He’d take periodic breaks to run around the basement, searching for a place to hide the treat so that he could dig to “find” it. Apparently the treadmill looked like a prime location, despite the fact that he was too scared to actually get the bone once it was trapped under the moving belt.

I spent the entire run saying, “Koli no! Koli – go on!” “Go lay down!” “Koli!!”

Meanwhile, Amelia just sat calmly in her seat, transfixed by the sound of the treadmill and the sight of my moving feet. She sat there wide-eyed the entire time, like it was the most fascinating thing she had ever seen. That girl is going to grow up to be a runner, mark my words.

Amelia_bouncerAfter the run — she kicked off her blanket, pushed away her toys and spit out the wubbanub. But still happy as a clam.

Finally, 2.5 miles into the run Koli wore himself out. He sat down on the mat and stared sadly at the bone, defeated.

I picked up the pace for a final half mile and stopped the belt the second the numbers ticked to 3.0. Better not push it. We schlepped back upstairs where my happy baby hung out with me while I stretched. And poor Koli, after surviving a full 26 minutes staring at it, could finally eat his bone. Apparently the basement is no place to consume such a delicacy.

IMG 5609

Lesson learned: Apparently Amelia likes the treadmill. But next time I’ll leave the dog to his own devices upstairs.

And for our next adventure, we’ll be taking a 2-month old on an airplane. We may be crazy, but we need to escape the cold somehow. Plus my younger sister is running her first ever half marathon (!) and I need to be there. Pregnant Lauren secretly hoped she’d be able to run that half with her sister, but rational postpartum Lauren is content to just cheer.

Anyway, when I get back I’ll be sure to blog my expert tips about traveling with a 2-month old. Because you know, doing something one time makes you a pro. So stay tuned!*

 

*Obviously that final part is sarcasm. In reality, I need all the tips about traveling with a baby that I can get (Have you done it before? Tell me about it!)! We have nonstop flights both ways and we’re hoping she just sleeps the whole time. If not, I apologize in advance to our fellow passengers.

The Not-Training Training Plan

After a few warm days that teased of spring, winter has returned to Vermont. It’s freezing, the one million feet of snow still on the ground has turned into ice, and more snow is in the forecast for 4 out of the next 5 days. It’s that time of year when I start questioning the life decisions that somehow brought me to this frozen tundra of a state. Thankfully Evan, Amelia and I will soon be escaping the frigid temperatures for a much-needed warm getaway. My little snow baby isn’t going to know what to do with herself when she feels the sun for the first time. But more about that later.

IMG 5530

Instead, let’s talk about training! (it’s been awhile) Or rather, “not-training.” Over that past few weeks, I’ve enjoyed heading out for a short run whenever I felt like it. It’s been nice to ease my way back into this sport. As much as I missed the regularity of training plans and races in my life over this past year, I find that I’m really enjoying this in-between stage — the not pregnant, but not training phase. Just taking my comeback one slow step at a time.

However, there’s a little race that I signed up for in mid-April that’s fast approaching. As tired as I am of this winter weather, I can’t believe it’s already the end of February. Spring (and my return to work) is right around the corner. Which means it’s time to get my butt in gear.

The half marathon I’m planning to run will be a little over a year to the day that I found out I was pregnant with Amelia. I’m not training to race this half. In fact, I don’t even expect to get up to 13 miles before race day. Instead, I’m looking at it as a milestone. To signify the end of one cycle (pregnancy/recovery) and the beginning of the next. This half marathon will be the the start of my training. A goal to keep me motivated during this tough re-entrance into running and a baseline to see where I’m at before fall marathon training begins.

I’m so excited to bring this phase of life full circle. I loved running while pregnant, have really soaked up my recovery time and am looking forward to the future. There’s a fire burning deep in my heart that I haven’t felt in a long time. I want to get strong, I want to work hard. Any trace of burnout I’ve felt over the past couple of years has completely disappeared. I’m ready to get back out there again. I know it’ll take time, but the funny thing about it is that makes me more excited, not less. I want to be fast again — someday. But more than that, I’m looking forward to the work. To feel that familiar ache in my muscles after a long run, the gotta-puke-burning-lungs sensation during a hard workout, and the mental pain as I fight those demons that tell me I need to quit. In short, absence really has made my heart grow fonder. It’s been so long since I’ve pushed myself that I’m actually looking forward to the pain.

Now, of course that’s easy for me to say as I sit here on the couch with a baby sleeping on my chest. And despite my excitement to work hard again, I’m still not at the place where I’ll choose a run over time with Amelia…and I’m certainly not wishing I was out running long on a cold winter morning instead of in bed snuggling a baby. I am soaking up every single minute that I can with her. But I’m slowly getting glimmers of my old “runner” self back, and I love that too. When I do get the opportunity to run, I’ve tried to enjoy every single moment, even the sucky “why am I so tired after 4 miles??” ones.

DSC 0801

Anyway, that’s a lot of rambling to say: I’m excited about training and want to slowly build up my base, but I’m not considering myself to be “in training” yet. However, since I do have a half marathon coming up in the very near future, I need to make sure I’m actually able to run for over an hour and a half without dying. Enter the “Not-Training Training Plan.”

postpartum half marathon training plan

The sole goal here is to build up my base. To slowly work on my endurance and practice running long. My last double-digit run was over the summer when I was 20 weeks pregnant….almost 30 weeks ago. I would like to get my body back to the place where I can handle double-digit runs before I start actually training (i.e. working on speed, etc). But I want to be smart about it. I’ve been running for 3 weeks and have only gone on a handful of short, easy runs in that time. Chances are I’m being a little more conservative than I need to be. But my injury-prone body has been through some pretty dramatic changes over the past year. So I’d rather be safe than sorry.

The training plan I posted above is meant to serve as an outline only. Weeks 1-3 reflect my actual runs. The rest are runs I hope to complete. It should be noted that I don’t really plan to follow this schedule exactly as it is written — I already didn’t complete the run I had scheduled for yesterday. But I need a guideline to make sure I can actually handle the distance on race day. Like I said before, it’s probably more conservative than I need to be. I’m keeping my overall mileage low and building up as slowly as I can within the time frame. If I feel good one day/week, I’ll run more; if I don’t feel up to it, I’ll do less. This is all uncharted territory for me.

In the meantime, I need to figure out how to transfer this sleeping baby off my lap so I can run to the bathroom. My day is just chock-full of excitement! Hopefully I can squeeze a few miles in later too.

 

The State of Things

This comeback is going to be one of stops and starts. After a semi-successful first week, I took quite a few days off before I attempted another run. First because we had visitors, and then because I got sick. But over the last two days (yeah, I know, only 2…not quite on a roll yet), I’ve been so excited to get in a few miles. So I suppose we can’t quite call it a comeback yet…but it’ll get there.

For the past couple of days, I’ve been too chicken to brave the frigid cold and have resorted to running on our old, slightly broken treadmill. You know the winter weather is bad when a noisy, shaky treadmill with a permanent rut down the middle of the belt is preferable to a run outdoors.

That being said, I think I need to get out for a mile or two today. We have well over 2 feet of snow…I kinda sorta think it would be fun to schlep through it.

Photo  9We’re watching my sister’s dog this week. He is not impressed.

Despite the fact that I’m 20 pounds lighter (and sans baby), my running stride still closely resembles my pregnancy shuffle. So on my last two treadmill runs, I tried working in a few quick sections of high knees, just to practice lifting my feet off the ground. I’m sure it’ll come back eventually. Okay…not really sure. But I hope.

In my pre-baby life, I could run a marathon at a 7:30 pace. Now 8:30 feels like sprinting.

I used to have abs. Now I have a big smooshy hole in the middle where they should be (just keeping it real <– I love Lauren Fleshman). It’s a lovely condition called diastisis recti that can happen as a result of carrying a big baby…and if the muscles don’t come back together on their own, I may need physical therapy. So that’s fun.

Because of the extra “gush,” you’d think I’d be super motivated to do core and strength work. Not so much. I know how important it is to work on strength and I know that I REALLY need to start prioritizing it, but I’m struggling. The ridiculous part about it is that it’s not like I’m even spending that much time working out right now. I run for 30 minutes — I think I can spare a few more to do a little core work while the baby is napping. Or while we’re watching the Olympics at night.

Turns out that running with almost 30 extra pounds can really wear down your shoes. I finally ran in a new pair yesterday and the difference was amazing.

saucony mirage 4.JPGThe new Saucony Mirage 4s…the key to my comeback

You know what else was amazing about yesterday? I finally felt good on a run! (It must’ve been the shoes.) Everything came together and I felt like myself again…only slower. And just for fun, I held a sub-8:00 pace for the last 200m (look at me fly!)! I haven’t seen that pace since…well, early pregnancy. It hurt so good.

After almost a year of not being able to push myself on runs, it feels weird to work hard again. There’s a part of my brain that fights against it and automatically holds me back. But once I get past that, it feels so good to push…in the most painful of ways.

I joined Strava. I don’t really know what I’m doing, but I figured I needed some sort of platform to track my training and keep myself motivated during this comeback. I used Daily Mile a couple of years ago and eventually got sick of it. I’m not sure if Strava will be different but I’m willing to give it a try. So if you want to follow me or secretly stalk my training, here you go. It’s pretty inspiring stuff. (speaking of which: I feel like I did in those early Facebook days. How do I find people? Is it weird to request to follow this person?? Why does this seem so awkward?).

You’ve probably heard a lot of women say that they credit their quick recovery to an active pregnancy. Heck, I probably even said something along those lines to support why I was going to keep running as long as possible. But you want to know the honest truth? I really have no idea if my “active pregnancy” has done a darn thing. I mean, sure, I can suppose that running would feel even harder right now if I hadn’t exercised while I was pregnant. And so I assume that an active pregnancy has helped in the recovery process. But the reality is I’ve never done all this before. I have nothing to compare it to. And after my c-section I wasn’t exactly sprinting out the door anyway. The only thing I can say with absolute certainty is that exercising through my pregnancy helped keep me sane and feeling good. And it sure did help grow a big healthy baby.

Photo  7Who is growing WAY too fast!

And while we’re on the topic of babies…I love this kid more than I ever thought possible. And most of the time, I love being able to spend the day with her. But I have to admit that there are days when I go just a little stir-crazy. After yet another snowstorm or the one millionth sub-zero day in a row, I start to feel just a little trapped. I don’t really want to wish time away, but man am I excited for spring.

neverending snow

That being said, I don’t even want to talk about how fast my maternity leave is going by. I’ll be back at work before I know it. And I can’t really say I’m looking forward to it…

Learning to Love Hills Again

Like many runners, I have a love/hate relationship with hills — meaning I love when a nice gradual downhill helps push me along to a fast pace…and hate when those climbs slow me down and leave my chest heaving.

When I moved to Vermont and realized that hills were going to become a part of my everyday running reality whether I liked it or not, I kind of learned to embrace them. I’ll even go so far as to say that after awhile I grew to prefer rolling runs to flat land. Case in point, during last August’s Hood to Coast relay, my least favorite (and slowest!) leg was also my flattest.

But then the holidays happened and this endless winter descended upon us and my love for hills slowly faded away. I don’t really know why or how it happened, but somewhere along the way I completely lost my hill running motivation. It’s impossible to avoid all hills around here (unless you run inside every day), but I quickly figured out how to steer clear of the worst ones. All winter long I finagled my routes — sticking with the slow, gradual climbs and the nice flat treadmill. When you live in a town with approximately 4 roads and only one of them feels flat for any significant stretch of time, running gets boring pretty darn fast.

Not only did my runs grow stale and boring, but my “hill terrors” haven’t exactly been helping my training. Because there’s also a tiny little problem of that marathon I signed up to run in May. It’s not flat. 

VCM Elevation

So last week, after giving myself approximately 2,000,000 pep talks, I finally got pumped up enough to tackle one of the hilliest out-and-back routes around. A route that starts off with a steep climb and continues going up for over a mile. A route that doesn’t have a single stretch of completely flat road but is instead a constant roller coaster of ups and downs. A route that I used to be strong enough to do tempo runs on last fall but I’ve been avoiding like the plague ever since 2013 began.

I strapped on my Garmin to record the data but told myself that I wasn’t allowed to even peek at my splits until the turn around point (which just so happens to be at the base of a very long climb). Then I turned on my most motivational playlist, took a deep breath…and off I went.

I’m not going to lie — it sucked. That first climb, the one that I have to get myself all psyched up to even attempt, was worse than I remembered. And it wasn’t like it got easier after that. Every single incline seemed to have grown steeper and longer in my absence…while the declines were too few and far between. I felt like I was crawling. I couldn’t even pick up much speed on the downhill sections. My legs were so tired that even convincing them to increase their turnover on the declines seemed like too much effort.

It may not look like much according to this chart, but I swear they feel harder in person…

Screen shot 2013 03 20 at 12 11 57 PMHills in elevation chart are larger than they appear

Turns out that when you avoid all major hills for over 3 months, you lose a whole lot of your hill-running fitness. Pretty deep and insightful observation, right?

But even though the run left me wondering how I ever managed to get in quality workouts over this course just a few months ago, it wasn’t all bad. Because there’s a moment on this particular run when you reach the top of the very last climb and the world opens up. You see rolling farmland on your right and mountains ahead and you know that it is quite literally all downhill from here. A moment when every single climb you tackled becomes worth it — for the view, for the fact that you get to cruise down to the finish over a mile away, for the pride you feel knowing that you survived the roller coaster. It was at that moment when I finally remembered why I loved that running route so very much. And where I resolved to start embracing the hilly runs again.

steep grade sign

To keep good on my promise, I headed out on Saturday to tackle another hill that I’ve been working hard to avoid. Remember how I said this run was my favorite route for runs that are under 12 miles? Well, that’s because around mile 6 the road takes a very steep, long drop down for almost 2 miles — which means if I head out that way, I need to turn around and run back up the awful thing. That long, winding climb is the very definition of “soul crushing.” The only thing I can do when I’m running up it is focus on getting through one turn at a time, promising myself that I’ll walk once I make it through that particular section. I haven’t actually walked yet (though my pace may suggest otherwise!), but I’m still awaiting the day when I can run up that hill like it’s nothing. I’m not really expecting that day to ever come…

IMG 1445No the road doesn’t end there. It just drops sharply downward.

But I am going to keep climbing. This post serves as my promise (or my source of public shaming if I don’t follow through). For the rest of my training, I’m going to be tackling these hills at least once a week (probably more). Hills make you stronger, they make you faster, and they give you confidence. If I can tackle these hills in training then surely I can tackle the hills on race day. And I will be a better runner for it.

Coming Out of {Internet} Hibernation

The snow is melting, the rivers are thawing, and puddles of mud are forming everywhere I look.

mud season

Spring is finally coming.

winter thaw

Or at least that’s what they tell me. The current temperature and winter storm warming in Vermont sort of suggests otherwise…

spring snow

But I’ve got to believe that change is in the air. And I am slowly making my way out of the internet hibernation I’ve been hiding in these past couple of weeks. When I posted about going to Florida, I didn’t actually mean for that to signify that I was leaving the entire internets behind for awhile. But truthfully, sometimes a break from it all feels really good. The best thing about having a blog that’s only a hobby is that there’s never any real pressure to post. So I just kept waiting until I actually had the urge to write something. Which just so happens to be today (aren’t you all lucky?)

Whenever there’s been any sort of significant break, it feels kind of weird to jump right back in with some post about whatever running rambles are in my head at the moment. So instead, here’s a brief update about what I’ve been up to. You know, all those things that only my family and I actually care about, but I take time to blog about anyway…

I spent a week getting a glimpse at life as a stay-at-home Mom. Parts of it were incredibly fun, but other parts…not so much (you know, like dealing with home renovation fiascoes in my sister’s new house for two days and being stuck at home while things are getting installed). And it gave me an even greater respect for mothers who somehow manage to work out regularly on top of getting a bunch of real tasks accomplished in one day. It’s amazing how fast a day can pass with a baby and you’ve got nothing to show for it.

Leah_6 months

One of the best parts about my time with my niece? A relaxing 10.5 mile run we took together. Well…I did the running while she took a good hard nap.

Leah_jogging buddy

I love my sister’s Bob stroller, but it’s not easy to run pushing another person…even a mini-one! (Yes, I realize this is not news to anyone.) I have never been more thankful to run along completely flat roads (the wind in FL, however, is a completely different story!). And despite how tough/awkward the run felt at times, I actually really loved the company. It was kind of fun knowing I had someone along for the ride.

Leah_froyoWe introduced Leah to the joy that is self-serve Frozen Yogurt. She loved it…clearly

I somehow managed to get tendinitis in my elbow…or, you know, that tendon that connects your tricep to your elbow. As a result of this super fun injury, I spent over a week with an arm so swollen that I couldn’t even bend it enough to brush my own teeth.

tendonitis elbow

How does a runner managed to injure her arm? Well…I don’t really want to talk about it. Okay, fine. I was stupid and stubborn. My sister somehow persuaded me to join her for a CrossFit class and I have way too much pride to give up on a workout that I know is probably just a little too much for the girl who begrudgingly lifts only twice a week. So yeah, CrossFit’s no joke. And you should probably take some legit introductory courses first. My sister just completed an 8-week CrossFit challenge and is seriously in the best shape of her life. It’s impressive. But I think I’ll stick to running for now.

One more picture because she’s just so stinkin’ cute…

IMG 2856Not only does this kid recognize herself in the iPhone camera, but she also knows how to take selfies. At 6 months old. Babies amaze me.

Speaking of which…running lately has had its ups and downs. Do you ever have a week when your legs just feel flat and your paces seem off? And no matter what you do, every run just seems way more difficult than it should be? Well, that was me this last week. Slow running, failed speed workouts, and lots of frustration. I’m trying not to get discouraged and just chalk it up to an “off” week. At least we had a few days of warmer temperatures and awesome running weather thrown in there amongst the wind and cold. Today marks the start of a new week, which means a chance to start fresh.

On a related note, I’m no longer running for Saucony. It’s not something I really want to go into at the moment, but I feel like in the interest of full disclosure, I should let you all know. Ultimately, it’s a good thing. I love Saucony products (and stand by my claim that the Mirage3s are the greatest shoes ever created), but this does give me a little more freedom in what I talk about on HOtR. In all honesty there are a lot of great running companies out there doing some really cool things. I’ve been sort of silently watching this past year as small companies like Oiselle have taken the social media/female running world by storm, creating a community of athletes that really seem to support each other. It’s cool to see that kind of thing between companies and their runners.

But I will miss wearing this uniform…

Nuvision action image storefront 1679769

 

Winter in Vermont has kicked my butt. Figuratively, literally, physically, emotionally…and other kind of “ly” you can think of. I’m from New England. I’m used to snow and cold and ice and wind. But what I’m not used to is all of those things plus dreariness and isolation. To say that this past winter has been harder than expected would be an understatement.

HOWEVER – I survived (or am surviving. It’s not really over yet). And although I’m generations away from ever being considered a true Vermonter, surviving a winter here earns me some points in my Vermont cred, right? Maybe?

Plus, despite the difficulty of winter time, I have loved every single chance we’ve had to go skiing. I feel really lucky that I’ve gotten to ski more this past winter than I have in my entire adult life combined. And I’ll freely admit that this has taken a toll on my marathon training. I’ve sacrificed runs and fresh legs for another day on the slopes. I know full well that I could’ve worked harder this winter and that I willingly chose not to. But honestly – I don’t regret it in the least. It’s just where I am in life, I guess. Sometimes you want to put everything else on the sidelines for the sake of training and the pursuit of a goal. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But other times, for whatever reason, it’s just not worth it. Skiing has really been the only thing that has gotten me through the cold dreary months up here. And the only thing I’ll miss once all the snow finally melts.

Stratton_American Express

That being said, the season is coming to a close. And race season has officially begun. Hearing about everyone’s early spring races, watching runners I know and the women I coach improve by leaps and bounds, seeing the hard work so many have put in over these past few months finally pay off — well, that’s enough to give me the racing bug again. The itch to race is stronger than it’s been all year. And I hope to find myself on a starting line in the (very) near future.

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