Return to Running!

Back to running!

Back to running!

I am running again! To backtrack a bit, I ran all the way through my pregnancy, until the day I went to the hospital to give birth. I averaged about 20 miles a week toward the end and my runs were 1-2 minutes/mile slower than my normal easy days (which are already very slow/easy compared to my workout/race days).

One of my last runs before Baby Ryles was born, added bonus of having my big girl on the bike.

One of my last runs before Baby Ryles was born, added bonus of having my big girl on the bike.

So this post will outline what has worked for me in the past and what seems to be working for me in the present. I’m not saying this is right for everyone, but it’s a glimpse into my journey back to running. I would strongly urge everyone to listen to their body and not get caught up in “this person started earlier/later than me”. It’s definitely better to start cautiously slow than to come back too fast.

How to decide it’s time to start running again:

  • When your body feels normal again – After carrying a baby for 9 months, everything in the general stomach area feels a bit jumbled and out of place. It’s been making room for this giant thing growing inside and it takes a little while for everything to navigate back into place. For me, this usually takes a few weeks.
  • When you stop bleeding – Did you know a mother will bleed for usually 2-6 weeks after having a baby? I had no idea when I had my first child. I always figure my body is getting back to normal when the bleeding stops. With my first child, this was 4 weeks. With my second, it was 3.5 weeks, with my third, it was 3 weeks.
  • What does your doctor/midwife/healthcare professional say – While I do believe in finding a good healthcare professional, I know many women struggle with someone who is stuck in the past, thinking running isn’t good during pregnancy or for a long time after. I’ve always had a return to running plan (based on what I’m writing here) and I always tell it to my healthcare provider instead of waiting for them to tell me what THEY want me to do. And I’ve always gotten the green light. I try to take control because I’m the only one who truly knows how my body feels. And I personally wouldn’t run if I didn’t know my body was ready because a HEALTHY return to running is more important to me than a few extra days of running that will result in injury or other bodily harm.
  • When do you feel like it – If you are exhausted and struggling to make it through daily life and have no desire to run, it might not be a good time to start. If you are itching to get back out there and are feeling great, go for it! If you are itching to get out and run and you are feeling horrible, it’s probably still a good time to go for it! I know the first few runs for me are always very freeing and exciting because it reminds me of my “normal life” before this new addition and gives me a better sense of myself and that everything is going to be OK!

With my first child, I took 4 weeks completely off running. With my second, I took 3.5 weeks. With my third, I took exactly 3 weeks off. So what did I do before starting running? Well, I guess that’s pretty obvious – love on my new baby and try to figure out our “new normal”. Of course with kids things are always changing and just when you think you have some sort of pattern or schedule, the kid throws something new at you! But there was definitely plenty to do in those first 3 weeks and while I missed running, I was completely ok without it too!

I wasn’t completely away from a fitness routine while I wasn’t running. With all 3 of my kids, I sort of instinctively started doing really simple ab work from day 1 or 2 postpartum. When I say simple, I mean VERY basic. I would concentrate on my abs (truly sitting there and thinking about them activating for a moment) then focus on pulling them together, up and in and holding. The first day, I really couldn’t even locate my abs to be honest, but I still worked on trying to find them and going through the motion in my mind. The next day I could do it a little.

And I kept going from there. While loving on my little guy, or while playing with/reading to my other 2 kids I would continue working on engaging my abs. At 5 days postpartum, I did 10 minutes of mind/body balance yoga. At 1 week postpartum, I added in some balancing on the bosu ball (My balance is really horrible right now!), some clamshells, and bird/dog. I’ve continued on this routine about 4 times a week since.

In terms of running, I’ve been back to it a little over a week now. I have done between 2 and 3.3 miles a day, until last Saturday when I ran a “long run” of 5.2 miles with friends. And yesterday I did the same 5.2 mile loop with my friend Kate. I’m just running easy and although I’m pretty exhausted (from having a newborn and 2 energetic kids at home with little sleep!) the running feels great!

It’s definitely different this time. When I had my first child, I came back to running feeling like a stranger. My first run felt awkward. It was as if I was watching myself in a dream – I didn’t feel like a “real person” doing “real running”. I didn’t have any goals, I didn’t know what to expect, and I didn’t have any running mom mentors or examples to follow. (This is just one reason why I think social media is awesome. As much as people, myself included, complain about the “comparison trap”, it’s so nice to have other examples to follow. You can learn from other people’s success and mistakes and know you aren’t alone.) After my 2nd child, I came back to running easier but it still felt foreign. I got back into workouts and built my mileage faster than after my first child, but I still came back slowly, cautiously, and smart. (I hit a big half marathon PR at 15 months postpartum, 1:15:59!)

This time around has been completely different. I started back running after 3 weeks off and from my first run, I felt like I hadn’t missed a beat. Well, I feel out of shape for sure, but mentally it seemed as though I had just run my normal trails the day before. I felt completely “with it” mentally and emotionally and it was such a great, and unexpected feeling.

Hotel bathroom selfie before heading out for one of my first postpartum runs.

Hotel bathroom selfie before heading out for one of my first postpartum runs.

As far as fitness goes, I have a long way back. As far as my body goes, same thing. I’ve noticed my balance is horrible. Just standing on one leg can lead me to topple over if I’m not paying attention. If one of my kids holds onto me for support while I’m squatting to tie my shoes, I’m going to fall down for sure. I’m not normally a person to get on a scale, and I don’t care how much I weigh, but I have a general idea of my weight because of doctor appointments and I’m about 12 pounds heavier than my normal racing weight right now. My body wiggles and jiggles everywhere except from my knees down, my elbows out, and my neck up. I don’t say that to sound insensitive. I told that to some girlfriends who lightheartedly joked with me that wiggles and jiggles are just “the norm” for them while running even when they are in shape. I think it’s important to mention since some women have a baby and expect to be back to their normal body ASAP. It just doesn’t work like that, especially not if you are getting back into shape in a healthy way.

The most painful wiggles and jiggles come from my much larger than normal breasts! Even though I pump until there’s nothing left immediately before my run (both for relief when running and also to build my supply for freedom to race and travel later), I still can’t believe what a huge difference I feel in my chest when running. I’m used to being a B cup and now I’m a full C/D cup. This added weight gives me shoulder and back discomfort. I know lots of women deal with this normally so I shouldn’t complain. I’m just saying I really feel your pain!

I also have a good 3-4 finger width ab separation (diastasis recti). I’ve had this problem after each baby and have been able to keep it under control doing exercises such as the ones in Steph’s post. I highly recommend this post! I will talk to my midwife at my 6 week appointment to make sure nothing crazy is going on this time and hope they pull back together with time (and lots of work!)

For now, I continue base building. Thanks for reading and following along! I hope the tips are helpful!!

Ryles – The Birth Story

newborn magee women's hospital

Introducing Baby Ryles!

I had every intention of blogging through my pregnancy and then getting the birth story up AND THEN blogging about my comeback to running, but here I am, almost 4 weeks postpartum and doing my first post in many months! I’m writing up a “quick” birth story for anyone who is interested in how my 3rd baby entered the world and then hope to get right into blogging again about coming back and how my running is going. (And for anyone who wants to see about life and running before then, follow me on Instagram as that is my main social media account right now!)

Ryles entered the world 2 weeks early, just like his older brother. The birth was similar in some ways (vaginal, no epidural, extremely painful delivery!) but also different (middle of the night, exhausted, starving momma this time around).

I’m going to start by going off on a little tangent and say BRAVO to all moms for carrying and delivering babies regardless of how the process goes. I think one of the worst parts of pregnancy for me is realizing around 8.5 months that a baby is coming out and it’s going to be painful and scary at some point and your birth plan is most likely going to go right out the window. I made it easier on myself with my 2nd and 3rd child by saying “this is what I want to happen in an ideal world, but I’m ok with anything that has to happen to result in a healthy baby and mom in the end.” Before having my first child, a daughter, I wanted a perfectly magical, natural labor. After taking birthing classes I felt like I knew exactly what labor would be like and I WAS GOING TO DO IT SO WELL! Then I ended up having a long, painful labor that ended with an epidural and I quickly realized I knew absolutely nothing and every labor is different and you really can’t prepare much for what it will really be like other than mentally preparing for ANYTHING. Epidurals happen, c-sections happen, blood transfusions happen, newborns in the NICU happen, the list goes on and on – you are NOT LESS of a woman or mother or person for the way you choose to have your baby or how your body chooses to respond to labor. We are all SUPERWOMEN!! Moving along…

I had a strong feeling on the Sunday evening before I gave birth (the next Friday) that I had a small, high, amniotic fluid leak. When I would go to bed at night, I would feel almost like I peed my pants a little, but I knew it wasn’t pee. I told my mom who urged me to go to the midwives on Monday. I had an appointment on Thursday and decided to wait until then. (I don’t want to recommend this, it was actually a poor decision on my part that turned out ok, but once your water is broken at all, you should go see your doc/midwife because of the risk of infection). Thursday rolled around and I brought my hospital bag to my appointment. I see the midwives at the hospital where I deliver and I just knew I wouldn’t be going home. I was right. They confirmed I had a leak and I would have to be induced Thursday evening.

Posing in front of the hospital after finding out I was going to be induced.

Posing in front of the hospital after finding out I was going to be induced.

I was a little disappointed to be induced. I felt like I did something wrong. But then I remembered what I typed earlier – we are all awesome and having a leak and being induced is not my fault and I’m not “failing” at anything. I did request the midwives check to see if there was a low bag of water that needed to be broken since I felt the leak was high and the baby was still surrounded by plenty of “water” and labor wasn’t going to progress quickly like that. I wasn’t feeling like I was in labor at all. I thought if they would check that and break my water my labor would start to progress. But they recommended not checking due to risk of infection and they would start me on Pitocin. I agreed on the Pitocin and reminded them in a *perfect world* I wanted a natural, vaginal delivery but to offer me an epidural when things got rough and let me make a decision then.

My family met me at the hospital but left after an hour had passed and it was clearly going to be a longer process than originally expected.

My family met me at the hospital but the kids left with our good friends after an hour had passed and it was clearly going to be a longer process than originally expected.

I had lunch at noon that day before my 1pm appointment and when I was waiting for a room to clear (2:30pm) they asked if I wanted to get a snack before they induced me. I assumed I would have a room soon and the induction would be quick, having me eating dinner by 6pm so I said I was fine. I didn’t want to feel full during my labor. Well, that was a horrible idea because I was STILL waiting for a room at 6pm and got started on Pitocin at 7pm. To make a long story short the Pitocin did nothing and I was still waiting for noticeable contractions at 11pm. I was on a clear liquids diet so kept requesting italian ice and gingerale to give me energy.

In my gown and ready to get this show on the road!

In my gown and ready to get this show on the road!

Face swapping with my husband to pass the time! HA!! :)

Face swapping with my husband to pass the time! HA!! :)

Living the granny lifestyle these days, I’m accustomed to a 9-10pm bedtime so by 11pm I was really wanting to get the show on the road. I was exhausted, starving, and worried the process might take all night and I didn’t feel like my body or mind would be able to handle it. I asked if I was still on a low dose of Pitocin because I was literally feeling nothing but Braxton Hicks feeling contractions. No pain at all. They had been increasing the dose every half hour and said I was up to a high level (still half of what is “allowed” but most people don’t go past the dose I was being given and nothing was happening). The midwife ended up coming in and I asked her to please please PLEASE!!! check to see if I still had the low bag of water that needed to be broken. She agreed and my instincts were correct. Baby was still hanging in tons of water so she broke the water right then, at exactly midnight. Within minutes, the real contractions hit pretty hard. It was now officially Friday morning and I knew my baby would be born sometime on 3/25/16!

I decided if all went well and was normal, I was going to approach this labor like a race – most specifically a marathon. There was going to be the part that was comfortable, then it would be annoyingly uncomfortable, then there would be pain, then it would get unbearable and I would want to throw in the towel, but if I could pass that point (which is the “transition phase” of labor I would “see the finish line” (pushing) and be able to make it through.

Luckily, that scenario is exactly how labor went. When things got really bad, the midwife offered the epidural and I said, “I feel like this is going to be less than 3 hours and I know I can deal with 3 hours of pain so let’s go without it.” I hit many points where I thought I would throw up, then I was sure I would pass out. Strange things crossed my mind like, “will I die?” or “will my baby die” and then “what will happen to my baby?” Most of this time I was laboring alone as the midwives are very much into letting you labor as you wish and not interfering. This is one of the reasons I chose the midwives. My husband was pretending to sleep on the couch, knowing I am independent and like doing hard things on my own!

When labor started to seem unbearable I reminded myself the finish line was approaching. I had the advantage of knowing exactly what the “transition phase” felt like from my previous 2 children and knew I was there. When I was ready to push, I buzzed for the midwife and nurses and they came to my room fairly quickly. My husband then got up and joined me and it was go time. I was so tired I started to worry I wouldn’t be able to push the baby out, but on the second contraction after the urge to push, I was holding baby Ryles in my arms. 2:44am, 7lbs, 8oz, 20 inches long. I had 2 hours and 44 minutes of real pain then I had my reward!

Relieved to have my baby in my arms and have the pain stop.

Relieved to have my baby in my arms and have the pain stop. So many thoughts and emotions running through my head at this point, but was mostly just relieved.

People say you forget the pain of labor, and that happened after my first child (labored for 35 hours and had an epidural with her for the last 12 hours). I also forgot the pain almost immediately after my second (he was quick and came just before lunch when I had high energy levels and high spirits and I didn’t have time to get an epidural as I was 10cm and ready to push when I arrived at the hospital). But the thing is, I can still imagine and feel the pain of this 3rd baby, even though the pain subsided moments after giving birth. So, don’t believe everything you hear about childbirth and never believe every labor will be the same! :)

Later that morning after I had about 30 minutes of sleep, the whole family joined us at the hospital and we got a family picture. I recovered really quickly and was walking around, using the restroom unassisted and doing all the things I needed to do in the first hour or so. Yes, I got LUCKY! I was able to leave the hospital the next day to join my other kids and parents at home and start to learn what it feels like to be a family of 5!

Bigham, part of 5!

Bigham, part of 5!

Thank you so much for all of the love and encouragement and I will blog soon about my return to base building, then real training, and finally back to competitive running! Spoiler alert: I’m “participating” in a race 5 weeks postpartum.

Running Buddy and Bodies are AMAZING!

At 19 weeks pregnant, I’ve reunited with an old running friend! Her name is Gabrialla and she’s… my maternity support belt!

There she is! Gabrialla has been with me since my first pregnancy and is still going strong for baby #3!

There she is! Gabrialla has been with me since my first pregnancy and is still going strong for baby #3!

I started using maternity support belts during my first pregnancy (after 20 weeks) and started using them at 18 weeks last time around. I love them and recommend them to everyone but it’s important to check your expectations before purchasing one. It’s kind of like when you have a great first date and one of you is thinking “wow, this is my soulmate!” and the other person is thinking “what a great time! I’d love to casually date this person!” No one is ever going to be happy in that situation. I feel like a lot of people have unrealistic expectations about the support belts so let me tell you some things I’ve learned about them. The maternity support belt will NOT:

  • make all of your runs magical
  • completely get rid of round ligament pain
  • stop braxton hicks contractions
  • stop the need to pee every mile or so on the run
  • feel good on every run (most days I feel better having it on, but I have runs where I pull it off and carry it home because it’s umcomfortable)

I like the support belts because they make me feel less pain and discomfort on MOST days. Like I said above, sometimes the baby is in a strange position and there’s just no way to get comfortable. Support belts are not made of magic and won’t cure every ache. I wear them because I feel more supported in my belly area and in my back as well. I just feel more compact and held together, which is somewhat silly since the baby isn’t swinging around or going anywhere when I run, but it just feels more comfortable to me.

I wrote a post about my 2 maternity support bands and the sizing I recommend during my last pregnancy. All the info is the same so Here is the link. I put some information in the beginning and then you can scroll down to the bottom of the post for brands and sizing info. I only have 2 bands (I use Gabrialla the most by far) and they both lasted through heavy use in my first 2 pregnancies and show no sign of breakdown so I think they are worth the money. I’m not affiliated with either of these companies and purchased the belts full price for myself 6 years ago!

Here's a front view of where I position my maternity support belt for the most comfort on my runs. I usually wear a layer under it so I don't have to clean it as often, but took this picture of bare skin to show the position better.

Here’s a front view of where I position my maternity support belt for the most comfort on my runs. I usually wear a layer under it so I don’t have to clean it as often, but took this picture of bare skin to show the position better. This was taken of me before my run this morning when I was severely overdressed after freezing while walking my daughter 1.4 miles roundtrip to bus stop in the cold rain.

Seriously, aren’t our bodies just AMAZING?! I mean they can grow a human, stretch like crazy and then come back and help us achieve big things in sport and life. Our bodies really know how to rise to any occasion. It’s mind blowing!

Speaking of amazing things the body can do, I had an experience recently (nothing to do with pregnancy) that I can’t quit obsessing over. Almost a month ago, we had a busy weekend on tap. My daughter was finally having the Halloween party she had been asking to have for 3 years. The kids were really excited. In addition, my husband’s college roommates were in town and staying with us for the weekend. These are all great things, but whenever I’m hosting anything I’m very excited and want to be overly accommodating so I’m a little high strung (in a good way, right, right?!)

I went out for a quick run the morning of the party and twisted my foot/ankle badly. I was instantly worried about it, couldn’t put initial pressure on it, and started to hobble/walk home. Then I thought about how I had to be back for the kids while the college roommates and husband had brunch and I just started running. The pain went away and I was shocked I could run home! I made it home (only a bit over a mile) and showered, party prepped, had an awesome party, cleaned up and all day didn’t think once about pain in my foot/ankle. It was like the mini-injury on the trail never happened.

When all the busy-ness of the day ended and we were driving to a restaurant (Bigham Tavern, no relation!) for dinner, I started getting severe pains in my foot/ankle area. Within minutes, the pains in my foot felt similar to the labor pain I felt when I was being taken to the hospital to deliver my son! By the time we arrived at Bigham Tavern, I couldn’t eat. I thought I was going to be sick. Then I started feeling faint. We ended up calling an uber to take us to our car just blocks away. When I got home I looked at my foot and it had doubled in size! Although I rarely take medication, I took some Tylenol and started doing ice and heat+epsom salt contrast baths. I was reduced to crawling around my house. I literally could not put any amount of weight on my foot. When the Tylenol started to take effect, I was able to sleep, but I had to take 4 days off running.

The next few days I just couldn’t get the situation out of my head. I concluded my body must have totally gone into “fight or flight” mode. It seems silly to think that just having 3 friends staying at your house and hosting twelve 5-year-olds and their parents for a Halloween party could put a person into “survival mode” but it did. AND… how cool is that? I survived a whole day running around on a foot injury without noticing a thing. A foot injury that required 4 days off running and had reduced me to literally crawling around my house! While I never want to be in a life threatening situation, the experience gave me so much confidence in myself and my capabilities if a real life threatening experience would arise! AH! I love the human body and I’m trying to tap into the experience a bit and tie it into my running after I have baby #3!

Anyone have similar stories of where their body did something totally awesome that blew their mind?! I would love to hear them! This experience really made me realize there’s always a way to dig deeper, always another level of hurt we can conquer!

It’s a…

These two little sweeties are excited to add a baby brother to the cuddlefest!

These two little sweeties are excited to add a baby brother to the cuddlefest!

It’s a boy! We found out earlier this week we are having another little boy! My husband and I have never had a preference on boy or girl – we both say we’d love a house full of either/or – but we are excited to see the little guy kicking around and looking as healthy as can be.

Last photo of me before my ultrasound revealing baby #3 is a boy!

Last photo of me before my ultrasound revealing baby #3 is a boy!

In awesome, daily-life-changing-news, my nausea has gone away! I can enjoy the tastes of all foods/drinks again and I am not stopped in my tracks to gag while running! The nausea lifted at 17 weeks which is the longest it’s lasted for me during pregnancy. I won’t complain because people go through MUCH worse and I have been able to eat and sleep and function like a normal person for the most part. A text from Ashley described my feelings best – “like a perpetual hangover”. All day every day! Ah! Happy to be feeling better now!

As far as running goes, I’m still chugging along, doing 2-7 miles a day, usually more like 3 miles. I have to laugh at myself because before I got pregnant I was running 70-80 miles a week, at least an hour a day. Then I got pregnant and like usual a switch flipped and I had zero desire to train like an elite runner. I was a half mile into an evening run this week and I was feeling like poo. I decided to do small loops around my house so I could stop at any time. I just wanted to get to 1 mile (I ended up doing 2 miles). I wasn’t sad about it at all. I was just thinking of the countless friends/family members/athletes I’ve coached, who are so proud to run a mile for the first time. A mile is really quite a big deal! And I was happy I got out there.

Bathroom selfie taken at 18 weeks after a 3 mile evening run.

Bathroom selfie taken at 18 weeks after a 3 mile evening run.

I don’t claim know the secrets to life or to a successful pregnancy, but I think this change of mindset during pregnancy is the reason I have been able to run up until the day I gave birth to both of my children. I think it’s easy to say “I’m slowing down” or “running more than 1/2 mile is painful so why even go out there” but I go into my pregnancies totally elated any day I complete any exercise. I don’t try to compete with what I was doing pre-pregnancy or even previous pregnancies because it doesn’t matter. I just do what feels right each day. (That being said, I think it’s fine to completely hang up your running shoes during pregnancy and find some other activity that you enjoy. You don’t have to keep running during pregnancy if it’s not working for you!)

Here is where I have to throw in 3 awesome tidbits I’ve taken from other runners lately:

  • On the RunnersConnect podcast with Carrie Tollefson, she spoke a bit about running while pregnant and adjusting expectations and said something to the effect of “maybe you can’t go 10 miles, but you can go 5.” I highly recommend this podcast for pregnant runners but also for the general public since Carrie talks about having a life beyond running and life balance.
  • On the RunnersConnect podcast with the Hungry Runner Girl, she spoke about how “running will always be there”. She was referring to injury and life circumstances, but since I’m expecting, I related it to pregnancy. It can definitely be seen as a bummer that if you want to have a baby you might have to take 2+ years out of competitive running (getting pregnant, being pregnant, returning to top form), but your running will always be there for you if you want. I understand aging is a factor people worry about but look at examples like Molly, who ran a marathon PR and got an Olympic Trials Qualifying time at the age of 47! Or Catherine, another inspiring masters runner who is killing it. Or the 22, yes 22 masters runners who qualified for the last marathon Olympic Trials. Or countless grannies who are out there just getting their daily miles in, enjoying life!
  • At a talk given by Erin (also known as Jungle Chicken) who is mostly social media-less, but is well known and loved in the running community – she spoke about how running will always be there for you and love you in whatever way it can. Her talk wasn’t about pregnancy at all, but I think back to her talk often now that I’m expecting because my running has changed but it’s still there and I know it will be there (and I have a feeling better than ever) after I’m holding my new little sweetheart in my arms.

All of that being said, I had a REALLY hard time dealing with running in October. As the weather turned perfect for racing and my fall goal marathon got closer and closer (the goal I had before I found out “oh hey, I’ve been feeling so horrible lately because I’m pregnant!”), I felt like I was experiencing a loss of sorts. I wasn’t sad to be pregnant or regretful of any way my life was changing, but I couldn’t stop thinking of the goal I had been working towards since I had my last baby and all the hard work I put in that would never come to fruition. I had 3 almost completely sleepless nights mourning the “loss” and many days where I went through my life feeling a bit bummed out. I asked my husband “what will make this better?!” and he simply responded “time”. He was right. Actually, just talking to him and a few friends made the sadness pass much quicker than I expected. I also thought about the 3 tidbits I shared above and they helped me cope.

What a bummer way to end this post, but I’ll wrap things up now. I always have a goal to update the blog more frequently, let’s see if I accomplish that this time around. Thanks for following along and for all the wonderful comments and messages about baby #3!

2015 – What’s Next?

2015 has been quite the year for me in both my “real life” and running life. I started off the year with a half marathon PR 1:15:(59!)  in January on un-tapered legs in the middle of my marathon training cycle. I traveled a lot and finally learned to keep up with my intense workouts and training on vacation (even in Disney World, the Most Exhausting “Happiest Place on Earth”) and while we traveled through European countries for 24 days. My training came to a new level where I had 100% confidence in making the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials. Workouts have gone better than ever, my training plans have been more enjoyable than any in the past, and it’s been fun to have a laser focus on my goals and stay motivated.

Even with some setbacks – an Achilles injury that squashed my plans of racing the Garry Bjorkland half marathon in June when my training was going so well and a marathon DNF in late March – I couldn’t stay down for long. I fixed the problems, jumped back on the horse and got back to work. It’s been a big year of growth for me that left me very excited about my next 10+ years of improving and hitting PR times.

This was also the first summer I hit my mileage and workout goals all summer through the heat and humidity. Not every workout was perfect, but all the workouts got done and left me feeling stronger. While I haven’t been using social media as frequently and have definitely been slacking on this blog, I was doing some major work behind the scenes and I want to thank everyone who has helped make that possible! I’ve felt a shield of invincibility around me, while still eating my humble pie daily.

So this naturally begs the question – what’s next?! Now… I’ve already had a friend jokingly accuse me of burying the lede but there is always a huge backstory and I definitely just gave you a short version of it! But, the thing that is next for me is: having baby #3! Whoa, right?! Whoa, whoa, whoa! The most exciting, strangest news you probably never expected, is true! Early this coming spring, I’ll be snuggling up with my third little sweetie. I’m 13 weeks pregnant now, and my husband, kids and I are very excited to share the news!

So, my racing days are over for the next few seasons, but I’ll be going out in a special way, running The Great Race 10k here in Pittsburgh tomorrow! It is my son’s 2nd birthday so the post-race celebration at my house will include party hats, cake & ice cream! In the past, I haven’t raced while pregnant (not that I think there’s anything wrong with it – I just have no desire to be competitive during pregnancy). The Great Race holds a special place in my heart as it was the first race I knew about in Pittsburgh (aside from the Pittsburgh Marathon and half marathon), it starts less than 3/4 mile from my house, and my water broke while running across the Great Race start line (2 days prior to race day) two years ago (you can’t make this stuff up).

So while I’ve been feeling extra exhausted and nauseous lately (that should be over any day now, right, right?!), I’m excited to run this special race and share the course with so many awesome people. The Pittsburgh running community is the best. We are lucky to live here!

Thanks for following along and I look forward to cheering for all of you while you go after your big running goals this fall, winter, and spring!

My Nutrition Plan

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We are coming up on a week until race day for the Pittsburgh Marathon! I wanted to share a bit about my nutrition plan (especially race week nutrition) now so it’s fresh in your mind for next week.

If you’ve known me for awhile now, you know I’ve had many longer races (beginning in 2011) spoiled by stomach problems. It’s very soul-crushing to put a lot of time and energy into a race and come up short on a goal because of porta-potty problems. I’ve been working on little solutions and while I don’t want to jinx myself, I think I have quite a bit figured out. I haven’t had any stomach issues in races in 2015 so I thought I’d share a bit about my normal diet and then tell you about how that changes during race week.

I found out I was lactose intolerant during my sophomore year in college, but I continued consuming most dairy (except milk) because cheese/yogurt/ice cream/etc are delicious and I could deal with some bloating most of the time. When I started running seriously about 10 years later, I began realizing my body couldn’t handle long or intense runs with dairy in my system. I also found out through elimination dieting while breastfeeding that both of my babies were miserable and fussy when I consumed dairy. This is the very short version of many years of struggling with my love of these foods and my body’s hatred for them. I have found a happy place where I don’t have dairy MOST of the time, and don’t usually miss it. I will sometimes have quesadillas or pizza with real cheese and of course ice cream. I just avoid these foods 2 days before workouts, and a week before a big race. But most of the time I just avoid them completely because I don’t usually want them. If you would have asked me even 2 years ago if my life could ever be this dairy-free, I would tell you no. After the initial mourning period (of many months), it was actually pretty easy.

A typical food day for me includes a lot of calories. I’m a 60-80 mile per week runner, a hands-on active parent of 2, a person who chooses to walk over driving on most occasions, and a breastfeeding mother (until I weaned my son about 2 weeks ago). You can imagine the thousands of calories I need to support my activity level. I try to eat the way many people do – mostly from the earth, minimally processed foods. However, a typical day finds me grabbing convenience foods or cooking frozen dinners.

A typical day might look like this:

Breakfast within minutes of waking. 99% of the time I eat toast with some type of nut butter, chia seeds, and banana. I drink about 30 oz of water and a mug of black coffee. This is the meal that never changes.

After my run I will have either a Vega recovery drink, a picky bar, or another banana with nut butter.

Recovery at it's finest! Double fisting Picky Bars and Vega Sport!

Recovery at it’s finest! Double fisting Picky Bars and Vega Sport!

I usually also snack on something junk-foody if it’s there. This would be candy from the latest holiday or a pastry from the bakery next door. If I don’t do this in the morning, I might do it in the afternoon.

For lunch I eat something like hummus and crackers and a few eggs on bread with avocado. Or I’ll have a veggie burger with avocado. I usually eat 1-2 avocados a day.

In the afternoon, I usually have a few more bananas. They are the easiest fruit in my opinion. No washing, very portable, delicious! I also eat whatever other fruit my kids are into at the time. I might also have dry cereal, crackers, nuts/trail mix.

My goal for dinner is always something with lots of veggies, a grain, some beans or tofu, occasionally some fish or meat. On good days, I accomplish this goal. Many days, dinner is something frozen from Trader Joes (insert anything in their frozen section here). Family favorites are probably their pizzas (they have a good dairy free roasted vegetable one), or fish sticks and sweet potato fries, mini frozen tacos, and spanakopita. Usually by the end of the day the kids are feeling a little wild and my husband gets home late and prepping my perfect little meal just doesn’t happen. We also go out to dinner fairly often.

When we go out for dinner, I TRY to pick something healthy. If I'm lacking in vegetables, I order a big salad. I love a big veggie burrito as well! I'd say about half of the time I end up getting a sandwich and fries or tots.

When we go out for dinner, I TRY to pick something healthy. If I’m lacking in vegetables, I order a big salad. I love a good veggie burrito as well! I’d say about half of the time I end up getting a sandwich and fries or tots. I’m obviously not a food photographer!

Before bed I have either some kind of dessert or another banana or two with nut butter. Yes, I eat 4-6 bananas every single day!

The most important part of this post in my opinion is what I do during race week! I’ve been feeling really good about my pre-race meals and hope I can help some of you who may be having tummy troubles. First of all, I completely avoid dairy the entire week before my race. Besides that, I don’t change much at the beginning of the week. I start eating fewer vegetables and fruits about 4 days out from the race and eat more pretzels and crackers.

I think the biggest change I’ve made is my diet the day before the race. As I looked over my diet, I realized I consume a lot of calories and my body has a lot to process. I thought maybe I could change the timing of my calories so my body would get everything it needs but still have time to work everything through before race time. This is the plan that has been working for me:

On race-day-eve in the morning I eat my normal breakfast and recovery foods immediately after my run. Then I eat a very large lunch. I like a huge omelet with just a few veggies (no cheese!), potatoes, and toast. I drink a good amount of water as usual. In the afternoon I snack on some pretzels or bread. Then at dinnertime, I eat a much smaller meal than normal. I make sure I’m content but not full/stuffed. I have found this combo – a side order of rice, 2 spoonfuls of black beans (this is totally random), and 2-3 flour tortillas – to work great. It’s the most boring and smallest meal I eat, but worth it to feel good the next day.

As far as what to do the day of the race, you should do whatever you practiced! Here’s what I do, and it’s still a work in progress!

On race morning I eat a plain or salt bagel or piece of cinnamon raisin bread, depending on what I can find, topped with a bit of nut butter 3 hours before the race. I drink no more than 6 ounces of coffee, and maybe 30-40 oz of water in the few hours leading up to the race. With 30 minutes to go, I drink a Vega pre-workout drink. Then with 10-20 minutes to go I take a vanilla Gu.

During a half and full marathon, I take water or the electrolyte drink provided on the course at every stop. During a half I will take a swallow of gel (most of the time) around mile 7, about 40 minutes into the race. During a full, I will do the same as the half with fluids every time provided and a bit of gel every 6-8 miles.

Hope this helps someone and feel free to ask me any questions!

 

Pittsburgh Wild Half Trail Race

I ran the Pittsburgh Wild Half Trail Race on Saturday. I was debating doing a 5k Saturday and 10k Sunday since I haven’t done anything “fast” in awhile, but the trail race was calling my name (my husband was really excited about trail racing as well) so we chose the 13.1 on the trails. I ended up first female (3rd overall) and setting the female course record by 14 minutes. My husband won overall and set the course record as well.

Jeff and me post race.

Jeff and me post race.

I planned to do a few easy warmup miles, run at least part of it at a “tempo effort” (not knowing what the course would be like), then do a few miles cooldown. We ended up getting to the race later than anticipated so I probably only got about a mile warmup, then ran the race, and finished with just a bit over a mile cooldown because we were SO SORE! The course consisted of single track trails that were very hilly, muddy (think shoes being stuck in mud in many places, 2 creeks to run through, 2 grassy fields that were easily under an inch of water, lots of roots/trees to jump over, trees to duck under, you know, any obstacle you could imagine in the woods. It was totally awesome and a huge physical challenge.

Thanks JL Photography and Design for the photo!

Thanks JL Photography and Design for the photo!

While I was never running fast (ended up 30 mins slower than my last half marathon!) the course was very intense physically and mentally. The physical was explained above. The mental challenge came from the need to pay attention to every step I took to keep myself from falling. My husband always lovingly jokes “watch out, there’s a flat part coming up” because I tend to trip on nothing at all when running. Add some obstacles and I’m asking for trouble. Also, I tend to completely zone out during parts of my run. Sometimes on training runs I don’t remember parts of my course until I look at the data from my Garmin! There were very few steps of this race where I wasn’t intensely concentrating on where my next foot would land. No zoning out this time!

While this race was definitely the most challenging course I’ve run, it was great fun and a nice way to change things up a bit. I wish I would have worn trail shoes instead of my regular training shoes (Asics Gel Cumulus) so I wouldn’t have done so much sliding around. I got some nice prizes as shown below.

Shirt, plaque, visor, feetures socks, water bottle, 2 gift certificates, a box of power gel, and a power bar

Shirt, plaque, visor, feetures socks, water bottle, 2 gift certificates, a box of power gel, and a power bar

Feeling stronger every day and ramping my miles back up this week. I’m even thinking of adding another goal race to my calendar soon!

My next post will be on nutrition lately (since having my second child and running at a high level) and my pre-race nutrition that has been keeping my stomach happy! Thanks for following along!

 

Time to Race Again!

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I’m out of my funk and ready to get excited about racing again! And this is good news because the Pittsburgh Marathon is less than 3 weeks away! I took some down time after my marathon fail, running whatever, whenever. I was getting the itch to go fast again and completed my first real workout post marathon yesterday. (It was 6x 4:00 on, 2:00 off for anyone interested!)

I’m racing the next 3 weekends and all of my races are special to me for different reasons. This weekend I’m doing a very challenging (think intense hills!) trail half marathon. I’m running this race more like a workout. I’m so excited about this race because I am a bit obsessed with running on trails. I only remember running one trail race and it was at least 7 years ago so this feels like a good way to switch things up and have some fun! I plan on doing a few miles warmup, sort of running it like a tempo run based on feel since the hills, mud, etc will prevent any sort of normal pacing, then finishing with a few miles to make it my long run of the week. I hope to come away with the course record, a good workout for the 13.1 distance, and some cool swag.

The following weekend I will be running the Glass City Half in Toledo, Ohio. I’m excited about this race because it’s close to my hometown and I have quite a few friends running it! Also, the afterparty is a lot of fun! (Yes, runners, you know where to meet me post race!)

And the next weekend is Pittsburgh Marathon weekend! Just 7 months postpartum when I raced last year, I had such an incredible weekend that I told my husband “I will race the half or full here every year forever! How could I miss this?!” I’m excited about this race because it’s on my home turf and I love running in this city! I’m excited about racing faster than last year and tearing up the streets here in Pittsburgh.

I was able to attend a cool event for the Kids of Steel program on the last day in February. It was an indoor training day (free event!) with different fitness stations set up for the kids. As the kids performed different exercises like running races, burpees, core work, egg balancing on a spoon races, hula hooping, etc, they could mark the activities off on their list and go home with a ribbon and some prizes. It was a really special event for the kids and a fun event for me to attend!

Racing with some kids at the Kids of Steel indoor training event. I think I came in last place! :)

Racing with some kids at the Kids of Steel indoor training event. I think I came in last place! :)

My next blog post will be covering the results of my trail half and I’ll talk about how my race week nutrition has changed recently. After some deep thinking and experimentation, I think I’ve finally found foods that sit well in my stomach during race week!

Thanks for following along!

 

DNF

What do you do when a goal race becomes a DNF? It took me a long time to write this post, not because my life has been crazy, but because that question has been haunting me, hurting me, making me take some time to heal emotionally. Physically, I’m fine. (Thank you to everyone for reaching out to me, making sure I am ok!) I am having a problem with my left hamstring, but that had nothing to do with the race. To make a long story short… on race day I just felt FLAT.

Pre-race selfie

Pre-race selfie

Yes, I went into race day confident, but not “too confident”. I had my share of awesome runs and some failed workouts. I think that’s actually the perfect recipe for a training cycle. Push training to that line where you can’t do everything as prescribed, but keep building and pushing and know that most runs went just how you wanted. During race week, I felt kind of blah, but that’s just how taper can be. On race morning I seemed to feel fine, but by 10 steps into the race, something just wasn’t right. My legs felt like trash. I was fighting my own body. I felt totally flat.

I’ve been running long enough to know that sometimes it takes 5, 7, 10 miles to feel good on a run. Sometimes you just need to work the junk out. But I was feeling worse each mile. At mile 13 I started thinking I should drop out. Not because I couldn’t finish. Not because of an injury. I was thinking of my main goal this year – to qualify for the Olympic Trials marathon and I *knew* it wasn’t happening that day. I have 2 shots this year, a spring and fall marathon. (I’m not a superhuman runner who can do more than one marathon every 5-6 months.) So in order to salvage my spring season, I dropped out at 15.5 miles with a plan to choose another full.

I ran off the course and straight to the ocean. I ripped off my singlet, socks and racing flats, looked out to the sea and cried for a good while. I was 3 miles from my hotel, shivering, and a big emotional mess. Some very kind lady on the beach let me use her cell phone to call my husband. Jeff and I walked toward each other on the sand and met in the middle. He comforted me better than anyone else could, but I was feeling very broken.

After some tears (and beers)

After some tears (and beers)

What I didn’t anticipate is the toll a DNF would play on me. DNF feels like a black mark on my record; a storm cloud hanging over me that won’t go away. If I wasn’t going for this goal, I wouldn’t dream of quitting (aside from injury) so why is this ok? Could I have started feeling better a few miles later and killed the last 8-10 miles? My mom always tells me to never give up, because things might turn around and something special might happen. While I think it was extremely unlikely in this case, we will never know.

The decision to drop has been weighing heavy on my heart and making running miserable for the first time in a very long time. So I made the decision to just run whatever I want for the time being (or don’t run at all). Whatever I feel like doing until I feel the urge to train like my normal hardcore self is fine. This time was originally supposed to be marathon recovery/down time and my body wants and needs that so I’ve been honoring it.

Thankfully, I’m blowing away the dark cloud a little more each day. Running isn’t a struggle mentally anymore. Three weeks later, it’s time to let it go! All I can do is move forward now. Running is SO IMPORTANT to me. It’s a huge chunk of who I am… but come on, it’s just running! I’m turning the page and getting pumped for my upcoming half marathons! I can’t wait to see so many friends at races this spring.

Some people are probably wondering if I have any idea what went wrong. Can my bad race day experience somehow benefit you? Do I know what mistakes I might have made leading me to feel like poop on race day? Oh, speaking of poop, my stomach felt awesome on race day and that was the one positive part of my personal race story. I think I figured out a good pre-race meal and I’ll talk about it in a future post. I know of 3 things that could have contributed to my horrible race and will put them out here for anyone who wants to know. Hopefully it can help someone! In no particular order:

  • Breastfeeding issues. I had been breastfeeding my little guy quite a bit this winter (3-5 times/day). We had a lot of sicknesses going around in my household so he was doing a lot of comfort nursing. I considered weaning him but he was very interested in continuing so I tried to cut back to just 2 feedings a day 3 weeks leading to the race. Then a week out from the race, I went to 1 feeding a day, and during race week I stayed at 1 feeding except one day where I didn’t breastfeed at all. I felt really hormonally out-of-whack. While I haven’t done much research on this, I think it would have been better to stick with what I was doing at least 2 months out from race day.
  • Taper issues. I tapered HARD for this race. I told myself as long as I got to the start line healthy, I would be good to go. I did a solid workout 3 weeks before race day and didn’t really put much effort into running after that. I didn’t follow my training plan at all. I just went out and did less mileage and hardly any quality work. I thought I would feel fresh on race day by doing this. That obviously wasn’t the case! I’ve thought back to the week I ran my half PR in January. I wasn’t tapered. I was getting over a week of high mileage and even my first double run of the training cycle 2 days before the race. And I had more than a 2 minute PR. I think a 3 week taper could very likely be too much for me.
  • Mental issues. I have a pretty solid mental game, but there are a few things that can “get to me”. I think many people have these things and it’s good to know them, accept them and find a way to fix or avoid them before race day. Instead of having lighthearted conversations and nervous running chatter with my husband (which is my mental power zone), I found myself talking with less positive people about less positive things. I don’t want to sound dramatic, no one was trying to sabotage my race. I was having conversations with innocent people who didn’t know they were bringing me down. I should have ended when I knew it wasn’t good for me but I didn’t. Instead I spent the next few hours (when I should have been sleeping) wide awake in bed trying to visualize my race and think positive thoughts to erase the bad thoughts that were entering my head. I was mentally exhausted on race morning.

I can’t say enough THANK YOUs to everyone who supported me, reached out to me, or gave me positive thoughts during the very difficult last few weeks! You all helped bring the running sunshine back in my life and I appreciate it!

 

Hey Pittsburgh Half Marathon – I’m Back! #GameOnPGH!

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I’m excited to say I’ve been accepted into the Elite Field of the UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon this year AND I’m an Official Blogger for the Pittsburgh Marathon! This will be my second year running the half marathon here in Pittsburgh and I’m pumped to see how fast my legs can carry me through my wonderful city! Last year I was 7 months postpartum when I raced the half and came in 5th place. This year I hope to be a few minutes faster and compete for a top spot once again.

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Pittsburgh is a stunning city and I love running over the bridges (5 bridges in the half, 3 rivers!), taking in the sights, and hearing the cheers/music/cowbells around the course. I’m fortunate to also have friends who will show up and add to the cheers in each neighborhood. And I’m very lucky to make this race a family affair! My daughter ran the Toyota of Pittsburgh Kids Marathon (1 mile) last year. She asks about the race multiple times every month and can’t wait to run again this year. You can read her post about it here. Easily the best post ever featured on this blog! My husband ran the half last year and will run it again this year. My older brother ran the full last year. I might even talk a sibling or two into racing this year!

As I mentioned in my last post, this will be my final big race of the spring – the icing on the cake! My full marathon is now just 3 weeks away so my training is well underway. I will take a week off running after my full, then start gearing up for what I hope to be another half marathon PR!

I will do follow up posts talking about things like my preparation/hydration/fueling/nutrition in general or anything else that pops into my head. And please feel free to ask me any questions you might have!

Thanks for following along!