So next to me sits a stack of race bibs. I normally write on the back of them shortly after I finish a race. I put the time I got, my splits, and my place. Not now. Life is just going way too fast. Time with the baby is too precious for me. LOTS of little things have slipped through the cracks, and this is just one of them.
I want to keep up this blog for me and anyone else reading who cares what a five-month postpartum mother's running looks like.
5Ks In the Fall
I picked up my miles in the fall, mainly starting after the baby began to consistently sleep through the night (around 2 months). I was/am able to run 3-4 miles each morning. Not back to my usual 6+, but I'll take it for now. I also started adding in a longer run of around 12 miles in September, around 16 in November, and around 20 miles in November.
I raced Liz Hurley (October 18 21:42 1st AG), Spooktacular (October 25 21:23 1st AG), and the Krispy Kreme Challenge (that one with my son. We did not eat a dozen donuts--he had 4 and I had 3. We ran the whole time though--a little over 4 miles, and we had a blast!).
I noticed that I've placed in my age group or overall in every 5K I've done since having the baby (the other summer 5Ks were Twilight 5K (July 19 25:07 with my son 3rd AG), Run for Hope (August 2 23:33 2nd OAF), Monte Sano 5K (August 30 23:25 1st AG).
5Ks since baby:
I've also picked up my pace to around 21 minutes. I'm happy with that, given that I'm not doing speed work. I've been surprised to have gotten an age group or overall award at each of these 5Ks too. It's been good motivation for me to run as hard as I can.
Running With the Kids
I've really loved the 2 races I did with my son, along with some other runs just for fun. I love running with him! Here we are before the Krispy Kreme Challenge.
My daughter ran a one-mile for her school and fell at the start. What to do??? I'm so proud to say that she got right back up and kept running, even while blood was trickling down her leg and she was fighting back tears. Her time was around 8 minutes, and she was 2nd place in her grade. She's tough, and I love that about her.
Rocket City Marathon Training
I've marathon trained (probably my worst training cycle ever), and I'm going to attempt pacing the 4:10 group on Saturday. I still nurse the baby exclusively, and that adds TONS of challenges. Timing, wardrobe issues, etc. just to name a few. I managed one 20-miler but felt some weird pelvic pain on and off the night afterwards. I'm not sure if it's too early after having the baby to attempt it.
This will be my fourth time to pace, and it's something I find both challenging and rewarding at the same time! Here are a couple of pictures of my favorite experience pacing, back in 2012. Rick and I paced the 3:45 group (my fastest pace group yet), we were dead on-pace, he kissed me at the finish line, and they used our photos for race publicity. A good experience for sure!
Autumn Chase was Thursday, September 18. This is a one-mile event for elementary students in Huntsville, AL. Our team volunteers by pacing the runs (each grade has two races--one for boys and one for girls so there are many races to pace). Rick and I alternated running the one-mile races this year. I think I did about 5 miles total. I paced an adorable little boy in the kindergarten race who just wanted someone to walk with. He was so tired and was crying so I didn't push him. At the end of the race, I asked if he had his mom or anyone waiting for him at the finish. He spotted his brother and quickly started running for him! I guess he just needed the right motivation.
My daughter wanted me to run with her in her race. I stayed near her for much of the race. With just a little left to go, she was in 3rd place. The girls who were in 1st and 2nd were neck and neck, just right in front of her. So I yelled, "C'mon girls! Who wants 1st place?" and I veered off to watch them finish. Well, my daughter just took off! She passed those other girls and sprinted to the finish. I was so proud of her! She got an 8:04. My son ran his race after hers and got 9th overall with a time of 7:24. They both helped clean up the flags and cones after the races had ended. I sat and tried to get my baby to take her bottle! She prefers to be nursed, but she will take a bottle if it's warm. This one was not but I didn't want it to go to waste and frankly it was not a very convenient place to nurse.
Liz Hurley Volunteering
My family went to stuff packets for the Liz Hurley 5K on Saturday, October 4. This is a GREAT way for families to volunteer! I always leave feeling a little guilty since we are treated to many freebies! Today, we were given a free Mexican lunch and many snacks. My whole family helped (and the baby napped). My son actually got to a table and had begun stuffing the packets before I did! There were 7,000 packets to stuff, so I guess we made a dent in that but there was more to do when we left.
New and Old Long Runs
Below are two runs from almost exactly a year apart. The top was 14 miles this past Saturday, October 11, 2014. The bottom was 13.1 miles last year on October 11, 2013. Though the average on the top one is messed up (forgot to hit stop on the Garmin), they really were very similar times. Seems like I'm hanging out near 8:45 pace right now in runs from 10-14 miles. It's encouraging to notice that my runs have returned to where I was last year in both their times and distances (I didn't use the Garmin at all for a whole year--these runs were nearly back-to-back in my data). My two goal races for winter are the Rocket City Marathon (pacing the 4:10 group) and Mountain Mist 50K. I need long runs in order to do these races. I have about 8 weeks to get up to a 20 mile run and then taper to the marathon. I am running about 3 miles 5 times a week a week with one longer run. I'm feeling good and am slowly returning to running!
It's still going well here. At 12 weeks postpartum, I am back to exercising 6 days a week. This seemed so impossible to me around 6 weeks ago. I felt so tired! So I took things easy. I took days off until I felt like exercising again. The baby's nighttime sleep is so crucial to your ability to exercise at the beginning. Once my baby started sleeping through the night (around 8 weeks), I felt more energetic and could plan my morning runs. Unfortunately when nursing this usually means feeding or pumping before a morning run.
Now I am doing weekly runs of 2-5 miles and a weekly "long run" of around 10 miles. I never thought at 32 weeks pregnant that it would take me 5 months to get back to 10 mile runs! It is so hard to find the time in between the feedings and everything else! For me, I have the most time on Saturdays, but some of those are filled with races or soccer games. And it's been so hot that I could not really run in the afternoons. Luckily last weekend we had a perfect day so I ran after soccer. It was a 1 hour 50 minute run that I'm guessing was 11 miles or so. I ran with music for the first time in months. It was so nice!
I am also running with the jogging stroller (taking it very easy with the baby though and keeping the runs short!). I run alongside my 2 older kids (8 and 7 years old) as they ride their bikes. I parked the stroller near a stream and ran back and forth nearby while the big kids played in the stream and the baby slept in the stroller. Getting creative has been the key to my return to running! I am so thankful that my baby sleeps until after 7 a.m. now, but I am still too tired to get up at 5 a.m. like I used to for a run. I hope to get there soon, but I know that taking care of myself is the most important thing right now. And keeping up my milk supply for her!
My family volunteered at the water station of the Monte Sano 10K race on Saturday, August 30. Pictures by Gregg Gelmis.
Then I ran the 5K. I started too fast and ended up finishing 5th woman with a time near 23:30. For the tough course and my training, it was a good time. It felt incredibly hard!! My weekly runs are still near 10 minute miles, when I bother to time them. I am not working on speed right now, just trying to get back to shape. It will come slowly.
I'm in the pink shirt to the right in these pictures.
I'm happy to be racing again!
After this, my team captain gave me a medium racing team singlet, so now I can represent the team again properly!
Two months out from Baby #3's birth, and so much to report! I have resumed 3-4 weekly runs after barely running at all the first month. The runs are shorter and slower than before, but it feels so good to be running again! How to fit it in? Any way I can!!! I sometimes go for between 10-20 minutes while Rick showers after his run. Running in the mornings is hard right now, since I am nursing and pumping each morning and the baby is not on a scheduled wake up time yet. I am aiming to get her sleeping through the night and waking at 7 a.m. Then I will be able to run at 5 a.m. again.
I sometimes run during the day when my kids are home (they homeschool two days a week and go to school the other days). I run a route that takes me within site of our house at all times, so they can see me from our windows. It's basically a cul-de-sac, and then I turn and run the street in front of our house a bit, then turn around and run the entrance to our neighborhood. It's very monotonous but it works! And now I can take the baby out for short runs during the day in our single jogger. She loves it and has never cried in the stroller! I wonder if she "remembers" our runs when she was inside me?
The 2 5Ks I did turned out well. At the Twilight 5K on July 19, my son and I ran 25:04 (him) and 25:07 minutes, a 5 minute PR for him! I shot off for the first mile but then we slowed down and ran the rest at a slower pace. We both placed in our age groups! He was the only one in his, and I got 3rd in mine! Then two weeks later I ran the Race for Hope 5K with a comp entry. I improved my 5K time to around 23:30 (can't find results) and placed 2nd overall female. I was happy with that time and with my first 7 minute mile postpartum! I have a long way to go and feel a little like Nicholas Cage's character in The Family Man when he bowls and knocks over a couple of pins and shouts "YES!!!!" while his teammates groan in the background. I am celebrating my return to running and will celebrate each small step in that process even though they may appear insignificant to others!
That reminds me of a favorite quote of mine about our "ultimate race." See my previous entry about it here. Last year when I was easily running a 20 minute 5K did I give it the "importance of something I may never do again?" Running for me is now about fitness. I want to get back into shape and stay in shape. I have no other goals for the moment. A 20 minute 5K sounds so unreachable for the moment. The Rocket City Marathon was my goal before the baby came. And now? It just doesn't feel so important. I HOPE to get there, but when I do it won't be with quite the drive I had before. My focus is on this new little baby. My energy is spent on taking care of her. I look to the past and see my races as my "ultimate races," at least for now. This is especially true of the marathon. None of us know when our ultimate race will be. Here's the quote:
"Take time to enjoy your accomplishments. They will have a lot more meaning later in life if you do. You ran a PR, or won a race, or won your age group and you had that feeling of accomplishment that you trained so hard for. Did you give it the importance of something you may never do again? Probably not. Everyone expects the next race, or one soon to follow, will be a new and better accomplishment. And early in your running that may very well happen, even frequently, but one day you will have run your ultimate race. Not until later will you realize that." (emphasis added)
Here I am 6 weeks postpartum in the Race for Hope 5K.
Our baby girl made it safely into the world on Sunday, June 22 at 8:06 p.m. What a whirlwind entrance she made! After only a few hours of laboring at home, we rushed to the hospital and discovered I was already at 9 centimeters. Needless to say, I was able to achieve my dream of a drug-free labor, but it was definitely a scary and painful experience for me. Our daughter is now almost 3 weeks old, and we all love her so.
I have spent some of the last 3 weeks reflecting on the benefits of keeping up exercising (specifically running) until the very end of pregnancy.
I exercised throughout my pregnancy. The day I had my daughter, I had walked 3 miles (chose not to run that day since I was feeling lots of pressure and some contractions, but walking felt great). Two days before I had her, I had walked/jogged for 6 miles total, with 3 of those being a jog (lots of walking in between but 1.5 miles of continuous jogging!). Running was something I wanted to keep up as long as I could. I had run a marathon while early pregnant and ran a "long" run of 10 miles until around 32 weeks. I also continued a couple 6 mile runs each week too and did the elliptical machine a couple times a week. I noticed a significant drop in pace and desire to run around 34 weeks, but I kept up a few miles a week until the very end. All in all, I did some form of exercise 5-7 days a week throughout the pregnancy, but at the end it was in the form of walking, jogging, and the elliptical machine.
I also resumed exercise shortly after the birth. I know this is not typical, but I did a 3 mile run just a little under a week after having her, putting only 8 days in between my runs before having her and after having her. Again, I don't endorse this or think it's typical, but I'm listening to my body and slowly easing back into things. Nothing major yet. Most days I don't do any form of exercise except our nightly 1 mile walk (which we resumed the 2nd day home from the hospital). So short walks with 3-6 mile easy jogs are all I've done so far.
What benefits have I noticed? (I will also make comparisons to my other two pregnancies here. Though I did exercise in both of them, I did not run until the end with either pregnancy.)
*Complication-free pregnancy. No backaches, no gestational diabetes, no high blood pressure, etc. In fact, I felt very good until near the end. I didn't tolerate the heat well and felt uncomfortable being outside. Being "advanced maternal age" (I'll be 37 next month), I felt like exercise helped me to be healthy throughout my pregnancy and to avoid some of the conditions that sometimes plague "older" mothers.
*Easy natural labor. Of course, I had read up on natural labor and done stretches to prepare, but I feel like being in good physical condition also helped me achieve this. My labor was 5.5 hours long, from first contraction to delivery. My awesome husband coached me through the tough spots. I think it helped that we are both marathoners and know our bodies well. Labor is just another way God designed our bodies to work, and the uterus is just another muscle doing its job. Also note that I had epidurals with both of my other babies, so this whole experience was new to me and opened my eyes to what I am capable of if I try.
*Smaller baby. I had no idea if exercise would affect my baby's size, but I do feel like it had an impact (although a small one). My other babies were 8 lb. 3 oz. (born on due date) and 8 lb. 8 oz. (born 1 day early). This baby was 7 lb. 14 oz. (born 3 days early). My family has babies in the 9-10 lb. range, and I feared a larger baby was inevitable for me. So this baby's size, though not much smaller, was a pleasant surprise for me.
*Possible earlier labor? This was something I was really wanting to cause...going on my own without an induction. It's common for 3rd pregnancies to have a slightly early labor (around a week early), but it is with 2nd pregnancies too and that wasn't true for me. I initially was worried about preterm labor, but exercise did not cause that!
Around 37 weeks, I started trying an herbal raspberry tea to help start contractions, and I eventually drank the whole box without any real labor! I was very discouraged because I thought all of the walking I was doing the last few weeks (7 days a week of daily walks of 3-7 miles total with some jogging OR elliptical machine for the equivalent number of miles) had to do something. I knew my doctor didn't want me to go past 41 weeks, so I was really trying to start labor on my own. I didn't want an induction (I had one with my 2nd pregnancy, but this time I wanted to experience the surprise of labor starting on its own). I was 3 cm for a week before I went into labor on my own 3 days before her due date. I'll never know if the exercising helped, but I did lose my mucus plug the morning I went into labor, right after I did my walk and morning stretches. Since this was the earliest labor of all 3 of my pregnancies, I guess I can say that exercise may have helped that a little.
*Less weight gain and quicker weight loss. With my son, I gained 31 lb. and had lost 25 by 6 weeks postpartum. With my first daughter, I had gained 37 lb. and lost 18 lb. 6 weeks postpartum. Here is where I am really surprised at the difference. With this pregnancy I gained 28 lb. and have lost 25 lb. already! I only lost 11 lb. with the delivery, but once home I dropped another 14 lb. in the first week or so (I noticed sweating at night and lots of peeing!!). This was (of course) without any type of dieting or any exercise except the nightly walking and one 3 mile run during that week. I am nursing, but I did with the other two also, so I attribute the weight loss to the exercising I did during pregnancy. Although while pregnant I had some discouraging months of large weight gain (I put on 13 lb. in a month!), I now realize how quickly this weight would drop once not needed.
*State of Mind. Exercise helps me to relax, to sort things out in my mind. Without it, I find it hard to feel like "me." So even though I wasn't doing crazy miles, I still was able to get up and have that time to myself. In fact, when I would walk (usually for an hour), I would not bring music. I was alone in my thoughts. It was good for me to have this time.
In my sleep-deprived state of mind, this is all I have to offer right now. I hope it makes sense and can possibly encourage someone else out there to continue running during pregnancy. It's good for you and baby!
Next up...my son and I plan to complete the Twilight 5K a week from today. He's been training with me and I love it!
I am 38 weeks and 1 day. Yes, definitely counting each day now! We've had a really mild summer so far with many cloudy and rainy days and highs in the low 80s. This makes it easier for me, but I do hope we get some hot, sunny days soon so the kids can enjoy the pool!
As I enter the homestretch, I am blown away by the amazing adaptability of a woman's body. This 30-time marathoner's body has changed into the home of a little, delicate baby all in the span of less than 9 months!
And am I still a runner? Yes! This is something else that has amazed me. Since about 34 weeks, I have made a steady decrease in running while increasing my walking. That's totally fine. I had gotten to where I was walking probably 95% of my walk/runs, totaling 3-7 miles each time. I would run little bits here and there. But I noticed on Saturday that I could actually still run a 1/2 mile without stopping! And today I felt so good that I ran over 2 miles! Granted, I walked nearly a mile first to warm up, then I ran a 1/2 mile, walked a 1/2, and continued that pattern for a total of over 5 miles in 1:18. But still! I do the elliptical too on the days I don't walk/run. And I feel good enough to walk with my family for another mile at night too. I am happy with any exercise at this point and feel good with what I've been able to keep up.
You may think these activities would help me start labor, but so far they have not. This baby is hanging out for now. She's very active and strong, giving me and Rick a big show at night as she changes positions and moves around. We hope she'll make an appearance in a week or less, and we feel ready for the big day!