What to Do for My 26.2

I ran 20 miles today! It was my longest run in 5 weeks and I didn’t have pain. Of course, I ran at an average of 8:04/mile pace (2 mins/mile slower than my original marathon goal pace), and these easy runs have been pain free for over a week now. Still, I was happy with 20 miles of feeling good.

I’ve been really torn about this marathon. My husband and I have flights/hotel/race already booked and paid for since a few months ago. I decided I’m definitely running, but what is the strategy? Do I run the race all out? Do I run it as a training run, knowing I can probably run faster in a few months when I get back to some decent training? This is the dilemma! You see, this training cycle has been unlike any other. I trained hard postpartum. So hard! I had a body and mind of steel. There was nothing that could get in my way. I’ve never felt so unstoppable. Even when I thought I wasn’t trained to run the times I was running, I knew my mind could carry me through. I was feeling tougher than ever.

Then in creeps this non-injury, injury. I took a week of basically nothing. Pretty much what I would do after a goal race. But there was no goal race. Then I started rebuilding. I did the week of almost nothing. Then the week of 30 miles. I was shocked to get 54 miles of pretty much pain free miles last week and 69 miles of pretty much pain free miles this week, including my first long run in 5 weeks (!!!!!) a 20 miler. I know I lost some fitness. My original goal was crazy fast. I know I’m not sharp enough to hit that pace now. But am I sharp enough to hit a respectable time (for me) still? I know the answer depends on my mental state. This mental state that felt unstoppable just weeks ago is now feeling so fragile. I ask runner friends almost daily to help reassure me. I know if this happened to anyone else, I would tell them their goals were still attainable. They could still PR, even if they didn’t hit that super crazy fast goal time. But when I’m talking to myself, it’s a whole different game. Do you understand this feeling?

All I know is, today I ran 20 miles pain free. I don’t know what tomorrow will hold. Maybe I will be sore. Maybe I won’t be able to run. Maybe I will feel perfect. Maybe this week I will feel horrible and maybe this week I will feel good enough to test some tempo miles for the first time in 5 weeks. I don’t know.

I have 2 options. Run CIM as a fun race, enjoying 26.2 miles as a training run in preparation for something bigger and better later this winter. Or I can run this goal race as intended, albeit slower, but with ALL the fierceness I can muster on race day. Tough call, and time will tell.

Race day is 3 weeks away! Ready or not, a decision will be made soon.

No Perfect Marathon Build Up

Does a marathon training block ever go as planned? I don’t think so, but even if it does, will the race play out perfectly? No! We are talking about the marathon, the event that grabs a part of your heart and fills it with love or stomps it into a million pieces. A marathon demands respect, not perfection.

I’ve had a few glimmers of hope over the past week. A run where the spring and power in my right leg felt normal again. A “long run” of 11 miles which is the farthest I’ve gone in a month (though my leg didn’t feel great the rest of the day). And a hilly trail 9.4 miles where I kept my breathing labored for almost an hour straight. It was the fastest running and most hills I’ve done since my big glute flareup and I had no pain. The run gave me hope that I can run my marathon, less than 4 weeks away now, as long as things keep improving or at least don’t get worse!

I’ve missed a good 3 weeks of training, plus 2 weeks before the big flareup where I couldn’t get my workouts or long runs done the way they were prescribed. My last 4 weeks have looked like this:

4 weeks ago: 59 miles, 1 workout (10×2 min hard, 2 min easy) + half marathon DNF due to flareup.

3 weeks ago: 12 miles, 4 days no running, then all easy miles

2 weeks ago: 33 miles, all easy runs

last week: 54 miles! 11 mile “long run”, 9.4 hilly (800ft gain) trail miles at 7:37 pace avg.

I was really surprised to end the week at 54 miles last week and feel better than I have in 6 weeks. I’m feeling hopeful about being on that start line in just under 4 weeks, and it would be great to have a solid marathon performance, even if it isn’t as fast as originally planned. No buildup is perfect and this setback definitely set me back more than I expected. I’m just going to give this marathon the respect it deserves.

Why I Run

Thoughts on an easy 4 miler. 11/4/16

I run because I can’t imagine life without it. I can’t imagine life without my family – my husband and kids, my parents and siblings – and in a similar way, I can’t imagine life without running. And I know we eventually lose people we love more than anything and our lives continue, but things are never really the same when they are gone. Losing running would bring a similar kind of grieving. Is this selfish? Does everyone understand? Do I expect everyone to understand?

I feel this truth in my core. Running is a part of me, and who I was born to be. It is something my life needs to feel whole.

Let’s Not Call it An Injury

I’ve been dealing with a glute problem recently that has been affecting various parts my right leg, hip and lower back. It’s something I’ve dealt with during every marathon cycle, but never to this extent. I’ve always been able to control this and run through with minimal discomfort. This time, it stopped me in my tracks. It’s the worst it’s ever been and completely shuts off all power in my stride. It’s hard for me to call it an “injury” because it’s just weak + imbalanced + angry muscles. I’m just going to call it FRUSTRATING!

It started bothering me during the last few days of September, but I thought it was the normal discomfort creeping back. I scaled back my workouts. I took it pretty easy for a few weeks straight before the Columbus half marathon because my training was pointing to a half marathon PR. I could taste it and wanted to be cautious before the race. By race week it was getting worse, but I was staying positive.

When I did strides the day before the race it was feeling pretty awful. I thought about not starting the race. Inside I knew this was something I wouldn’t be able to run through, but I didn’t want to listen to that voice. I wanted my PR. I wanted my reward for all my hard work postpartum. 

But… I didn’t get that. Instead, I started the race and felt my right leg starting to drag a bit and not stride through at mile 2. By mile 3 my leg was completely shutting down. I had to stop the race right around the 4 mile point. I got a police escort back a few miles then tried to jog. I couldn’t do it. I had to walk to the finish. There really wasn’t a choice on whether to finish the race. My leg was JUST DONE and I was strangely proud of my DNF. At the time, I only wished I had listened to that voice in my head the day before that told me I shouldn’t even start.

Post Columbus Half attempt

Post Columbus Half attempt

Before the Columbus Half attempt, everything was fine when I was running easy, but fast running really bothered my leg. Part of me wished I had run an easy 20 miler that day instead of starting the race since easy running was tolerable. But the more I thought about it, I realized this was a problem that wasn’t going to go away without some medical attention. I needed to test it and get it to the point where I couldn’t even run to take the steps I needed to get better. I wish I didn’t need that drastic of a message to get it healed the right way, but I did. I got a massage that same day (something I should have done weeks earlier!)

Since then, I’ve received Active Release treatments, and deep, painful, massage and both seem to be helping. My practitioners seem to think this is a postpartum issue – all the muscles in my core and hips are moving back together, and little imbalances mixed with hard training can cause big problems. When this issue was at it’s worst, I had major inflammation near my SI joint, high hamstring and outer hip. (Now, when I get one of my deep massages and ART I’m told my muscles feel healthy, so things are definitely improving. And, I can feel that!)

After the big flare up, I took 4 days completely off, no cross training or running, just doing a few glute activation exercises I was given by the doctor. I started back up running 1 mile, then 2 miles, then 4 miles, then 6 miles. I’m now back up to running approximately an hour at a time and feeling good. I attempted a stride, just one 20 second pickup, and my leg locked up again so I know I need to stick to everything I’ve been doing and forget about speed work for now. Today’s run was the first day where my legs felt fast and normal. Still, I didn’t try anything fast or crazy. I just did a nice easy 50 minute run.

So many people have reached out to me with advice, comforting messages, and their own glute issues and all of this support has been awesome! Thank you! Many of you have asked me to write a blog post about the issue and what I’m doing to try to heal it. I’m going to compile a list of exercises I’ve been given from my medical practitioners plus advice and exercises I’ve been given from running buds. I hope this can help some of you and I hope you take the steps you need to get better before things get out of control! And I recommend seeing someone for help, despite the time, money, and any other resources. I wish I would have taken this advice sooner…

Sometimes I have a cute rehab partner

Sometimes I have a cute rehab partner

The Rehab Plan:

  1. Active Release technique 2x/week
  2. Deep Tissue Massage 1x/week
  3. Daily foam rolling
  4. Jasyoga videos daily
  5. Hot/Cold Contrast Bath daily, studies are mixed on this technique but I’ve found a lot of relief since starting this. I have a peculiar house set up with 2 bathrooms side by side and always thought this was the most ridiculous thing. But now I found a use for them! I fill a bath with ice water. I fill another bath with hot epsom salt water. I alternate every 5 mins for 25 mins, starting and ending with cold. Sometimes you can do this technique in a bucket, but this area is hard to fit into a bucket, unlike a foot/ankle/achilles problem. If nothing else, ice packs are your friend, multiple times a day.
  6. Exercises from medical professional, 10 reps multiple times/day, both sides: 
  • Bridges: just to activate the glutes, (not til muscle fatigue)
  • Knee to shoulder: From a seated position on the floor, legs out in front, cross one leg into a “four shape” then pull that knee toward the opposite shoulder
  • Clamshells
  • Hamstring dynamic stretch: Prop foot on something of varying heights, from weight bench to higher and bend at waist toward propped foot, pointing toe as you bend+reach and flexing foot as you come back to start position
  • Bird/dog.
  • Cat/cow.
  • Unweighted dead lift, activating glutes/hamstrings on way up
  • Assisted hamstring stretch/lengthen: start on back knees bent, feet flat on floor. Have a partner lift one straight leg into a hamstring stretch while you push down (against their stretch) lightly, like 10-20% effort.
  • IT Band stretch expanded- Standing position, cross right leg over left and bend slightly toward left. Then bend down toward toes, reaching for the left foot (though I’m only flexible enough to get just past knee!)
  • Added exercises from runners going through similar problems:
  • One legged bridge
  • Back lunges concentrating on pushing through hamstring and glutes
  • Hip capsule stretch (google this for youtube videos-lots of options!)
  • Theraband exercises, front/back/side motion
  • Lacrosse or tennis ball on the glute, against the wall


Advice other runners have given me:

  • Don’t cross train too much
  • Think about simply activating the muscles before strengthening them
  • Peppermint or Deep Blue essential oils

Let me conclude by saying, I don’t have all the answers. I’m definitely not healed. I feel sad about this every day, when I’m getting ready to run and just want to bust out a fast workout and cant. When I’m doing endless rehab/rolling/icing. When I think about how just one month ago I was killing my races and workouts. But I also feel optimistic every time I see some improvement. I don’t know what will happen with my goal race (CIM). I’ve scrapped all racing until that day to avoid another flare up. I’m still planning to race CIM right now, and I’m just taking things day by day.

Anything you want to add? Please share in the comments so we can all help each other!

6 Months Postpartum, Backtracking on Race Updates

I have to be honest, running is going well, but daily life feels like I’m almost drowning, barely staying afloat with not enough hours in the day. Every day I ask myself, “what HAS to be done today?” and that’s what happens while the rest falls to the next day. So naturally, blogging about my racing takes a backseat to my actual racing and training. But here I am, house a complete disaster, but foam rolling while trying to write a blog post about all the running and racing I’ve been doing the first 6 months postpartum. Both boys are sleeping and my girl is in school so let’s see what I can accomplish.

My last post covered my 5 *week* postpartum 5k and I was extremely pleased with that 18:49 and 2nd place finish. If you follow me on Instagram, you know since then I’ve competed in a track race, a 10k as part of a triathlon relay, a 5k, a half marathon, and a 10k and all were races that left me pumped up for days.  I’ll do little recaps of all of these races in the coming weeks, I hope, starting with the track.

Track Meet: I haven’t raced on the track in at least 14 years… since my 2nd year in college! I can’t believe that much time has passed. Even in college, I was plagued with injuries so I really haven’t raced on the track much in life. I’m very much a beginner and have a lot to learn if I decide to compete on a bigger level on the track in the future. Thankfully, this postpartum track meet was very low key, put on by my running club, the Pittsburgh Pharaoh Hounds. I signed up to run the full mile (not 1600), the 3k (because how often do you get to race a 3k?) and the 4×400 meter relay. I was 3 months postpartum at the time (knocking on the door of 4 months postpartum) and was curious to see how I would run for a few reasons.

  • First, we arrived back in Pittsburgh at 1am the day before the meet from a 5 week west coast family vacation and I knew I would be tired (this vacation was not all fun and games as we had a 6 year old, 2 year old, and 2-3 month old baby traveling from Pennsylvania to Washington through Oregon and California, back to Washington then Pennsylvania by both car and plane. Some of this was for my husband’s work and part was just family fun. It was mostly great fun and manageable with a few rough spots of “Ahhhh… I’m alone in a new city with 3 kids, husband is gone all day+night and what on earth are we going to do?!” but it all worked out pretty well. (I’m comfortable breastfeeding in public and hanging out with all 3 kids in public without another adult. If that wasn’t the case, this trip could have been a nightmare!) :)
  • Next, We had been living in mostly 55 degree weather and were coming back to Pittsburgh’s heat and humidity. The track meet was scheduled to start at 6pm and temperature at start time was supposed to be 95+ degrees. Typically, I don’t do well in heat, and especially not for the first year postpartum.
  • As stated above, I was 3 months postpartum.
  • I haven’t raced a mile, 3k or 4×4 relay in a VERY long time!

I was (and still am) breastfeeding so I pumped milk until completely empty and packed that bottle right before we left for the meet. My husband and older two kids were also racing and the baby didn’t accept bottles from me at the time (he would take bottles just fine from others at that point, but that was something we had to work at as he didn’t love bottles initially). I put the bottle on ice even though my baby is particular about body temperature milk! It was too hot to leave the milk out for a few hours. I hoped he would accept the milk fine when the time came and he did. I ended up keeping it on ice until it was about 15 mins before I thought he’d want it then I let it sit in the heat of day in the stroller and he took it just fine. Whew!

I could have breastfed during the meet and I have breastfed at races, but with my husband and other kids running too I wanted to prep as much beforehand as possible. I wasn’t sure how much time would be between events and between the 4 members of my family racing different events, we ran almost every event of the track meet! I wanted to be around to cheer and take photos of the bigger kids so a bottle was a good choice for me that day. I also wanted to run my first race with as little milk inside me as possible and pumping right before leaving for the meet that was 2 miles away from my house was perfect.

The mile: I had seeded myself with a 5:10 mile and 11:00 3k a month earlier. I immediately regretted submitting those times. I felt like such an idiot expecting to run that fast postpartum, in the heat and felt so embarrassed that my time was listed there for everyone to see. At the same time, I actually thought there was a chance I could run sub 5:00. Does anyone else’s runner brain do that? I can feel 100% foolish about a race goal, yet feel 100% confident that I could do even better. Strange. Anyway, I started the mile in the back on the first lap and picked people off until the last lap with about 200 meters to go when I passed the last guy and won my heat in 5:13! I was elated to feel so good running fast and get close to my seeded time.

Racing the mile, last lap

Racing the mile, last lap

The 3k: Next was the 3k maybe an hour later, I really don’t remember how long I had between events. I was snacking on a Picky Bar and water between events. My kids ran the 100 and 200 in there somewhere and I was just listening for the announcer to call the events. I was slightly worried about what I would have left for the 3k while also being excited to get back out on the track and push through some pain. I felt ok in the 3k for the first 2 laps, then it was a struggle but I finished much under my time goal in 10:25 for about a 5th place finish in my heat, first female. After the race I asked my husband “did I look like I was…” and I was going to say “cruising” because I was in pain, but I felt like I had a good rhythm. He finished my sentence with “struggling”. Hahaha!!! He is the most supportive, yet realistic husband ever and I still laugh when I think of this interaction. Obviously I looked worse than I thought. :)

First time in starting blocks!

First time in starting blocks!

My husband ran the 5k immediately after my 3k so I think his warmup wasn’t perfect but what’s ever perfect when juggling 3 kids and racing, right?! He is very good about showing up last minute and performing and we proudly cheered him on as a family!

The 4×4: Finally, right after the 5k we did a family 4×400 meter relay and it was the most awesome thing ever! I was the first leg of our relay. I handed off the baton to my 6 year old daughter who handed off to our 2 year old son, who handed off to my husband! We were last place by so much but it was an amazing experience! My son even fell on the final straightaway and as he laid on the ground unsure of whether to cry or quit and run into the infield, everyone on the track and in the stands started clapping for him and he got up and finished. It was such a beautiful moment!

Family post relay!

Family post relay!

So, it was an exciting evening. I got home and fed the baby, ate dinner, and tried to go to sleep, though night races always leave me wired and my body was still on PST. The baby was sleeping like a champ at the time so I recovered well and kept up the training. My next race would be a 10k as part of a triathlon relay and I wanted to start to mentally prepare for hurting for a longer amount of time…

Pittsburgh Marathon 5k, 2nd Female, 18:49!

I am delighted to say I ran the Pittsburgh Marathon 5k on Saturday in 18:49 and was second female! I’ve never participated in a race so soon postpartum, but Pittsburgh Marathon weekend is one of my favorite weekends and I couldn’t let it pass without participating in something as long as I was feeling healthy and running. The goal was to run fast, but not all out. Afterall, my baby turned 5 weeks old the day before the race. I told my coach it would be like a true time trial to show where I’m starting and if anything felt bad or weird at any point I would just jog/walk it in. It wasn’t meant to be a true race effort, just my first harder effort post baby and I was pretty excited.

pittsburgh marathon 5k finish

My good friend cheered her head off and captured this shot at the 3 mile mark!

*I should also note that I was lucky to have the least complicated labor this time around. It was vaginal, fairly quick (less than 3 hours of pain), and no ripping/tearing during delivery and very little swelling after. This helped my body feel normal much quicker. Coming back to running and especially harder efforts would not have been possible with another scenario so I got lucky.*

I didn’t run anything fast at all since having the baby until the race. My runs have all been easy pace ranging from 7:50/mile to 9:00/mile. I have been trying to just get in some miles and return cautiously. My coach told me I couldn’t even do strides on my training runs. I thought doing some strides might remind my legs they have speed before the race but he told me to just take it easy and I listened!

In the week leading up to the race, I chatted with 2 friends about time goals. I told them each I had this crazy thought that I would run sub 20 minutes, but that was only if everything was perfect. In reality, I thought I would run 21-22 minutes and that would be great! And I had these thoughts in my head, but I didn’t set a limit to what I could do. To be honest, in a dream world that I didn’t really believe, yet didn’t rule out either, I thought it would be cool to run 18:45, or 6:00/mile pace. This sort of came to me as I was running with my friend Kate and she was telling me she believed in me and reminded me to reflect on postpartum races and workouts of the past.

Race morning was just as hectic as every morning. I got up at 6am (8am race start time), quickly got partially dressed (everything but my sports bra/tank since I needed to feed the baby and pump). I ate breakfast, got my older son and daughter ready, fed the baby, pumped the rest of the milk out, finished getting ready and we left the house at 7am, 15 minutes behind schedule. We got downtown around 7:20 and waited in line for our bibs since I didn’t have time to get them at the expo the day before. Because the race day bib pickup lines were long, I didn’t start my warmup until 7:35. I probably jogged about 1/2 mile, did my first strides in FOREVER and felt super awkward on those.

Thankfully my in-laws came to town for the race so my husband and I could both do the 5k. I thought maybe I should feed the baby one more time before the race since I could already feel my chest getting heavier, but there was no time. I pulled on a second sports bra and knew baby and I would both be fine. We took off for the start line and left the in-laws to find a cheer spot with all 3 kids – sons in the double stroller and daughter on foot.

Crazy bouncing singlet! I'm 10lbs heavier than normal and can't fit into any of my racing stuff right now, but luckily purchased this oversized singlet from my running club, the Pittsburgh Pharaoh Hounds, when I was pregnant and needed something to race in last fall. Now it's too big, but better than something that's too small and it was bouncing around like crazy the whole race!

Crazy bouncing singlet! I’m 10lbs heavier than normal and can’t fit into any of my racing stuff right now, but luckily purchased this oversized singlet to represent my running club, the Pittsburgh Pharaoh Hounds, when I was pregnant and needed something to race in last fall. Now it’s too big (but better than something that’s too small) and it was rolling up and bouncing around like crazy the whole race!

There isn’t too much to report on the actual race. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to check my Garmin and know my splits during the race or not, but that was decided for me as there were clocks at the different mile markers. When I saw the 1 mile mark clock in the distance and it said 5:40 I was a little shocked. The first mile felt so comfortable, maybe like a tempo run, not a race, and by the time I hit one mile it read about 6:10. Mile 2 was less comfortable, but still felt pretty good! That mile was a bit faster, about 6:05 and I was just so pumped about how I was keeping this pace feeling so strong. The last mile was my fastest, sub 6:00 pace and I stayed strong through the finish line. I was so surprised that I pressed the “lap” button at first instead of “stop” but guessed my time was probably just over 18:50. (I later saw official results and found I was just UNDER 18:50, at 18:49 woohoo!)

My daughter took this photo in the finish area!

My daughter took this photo in the finish area!

I talked to a few friends as my husband and I went through the finish shoot then we reunited with our family. My daughter took a picture of us then my husband went for his cooldown while I quickly nursed the baby as my daughter was set to start the Kids Marathon in less than 30 minutes and we had to walk to the start line over 1/2 mile away. Of course she wanted to run most of the way there!

high five during kids marathon

My daughter giving a high five to Daddy during the race!

My daughter had an awesome time running the Kids Marathon. I ran with her as my cooldown. We spent a few hours hanging out in the finish line area. They have tons of kids activities during the day and the kids always have so much fun! A few hours later, my older son did the Toddler Trot. Of course my baby was screaming his head off because he was hungry right then so I was walking to the race area while trying to nurse the baby. #multitasking at it’s finest.

Pittsburgh Marathon toddler trot

My son and husband before the Toddler Trot

I was surprised to feel really good the next morning (Sunday) but I wanted to take it really easy to be smart. For my run, I went to the 15 mile mark of the Pittsburgh Marathon course, just 1/2 mile from my house, and ran back and forth over a 3 city block area, cheering for everyone who passed! It was the best way to spend the morning until I had to be home to feed the baby again. I love running the Pittsburgh Marathon (half) partly because the fans and cheer sections are so awesome! Since I’m always running the event, I’ve never been able to cheer even though it passes so close to my house. It was so nice to be on the other side this year and be part of the amazing Pittsburgh cheer sections!

A lot of people (myself included) asked me after the race “how did you do it?!” I’ve done some thinking about it and here are my answers.

  1. I was in killer marathon shape when I unexpectedly got pregnant. I was in the best shape of my life and was gearing up to run a whole marathon at the pace I ran the 5k this weekend. Since I ran through my whole pregnancy (though I only ran easy runs and did 20-30 miles a week with that being on the lower end as I got closer to my due date) I was able to maintain some fitness.
  2. I went into the race physically well rested. Although I’m getting up in the middle of the night and not sleeping as much as I’d like, I’m taking my physical activity really easy. I had 3 weeks completely off running, And have come back slowly with short, easy runs the next 2 weeks, and a day off 2 days before the race just to let my body completely rest.
  3. Big cheer section. I can’t thank all my friends enough for showing up on the course and cheering! I heard my name so many times and it made the run feel pretty effortless (as far as racing goes anyway!)
  4. Belief in what I can do. This should probably be #1 on the list. While I was shocked at how fast my time was, I knew deep down it was possible. I didn’t expect too much from myself, but also didn’t put a limit on what I could do. I spent the first 16 years of my running life putting limits on myself and only started seeing my potential when I learned to start letting that go (I’m still working on this aspect of my racing and life, but I’m leaps and bounds from where I was just a few years ago.

I talked to my coach this morning and got the go ahead to do 30 miles this week if everything feels good. I ended last week with just under 22 miles with one day completely off.

Thank you everyone for the encouragement and cheers and for following along! I really appreciate it!


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!