Lesson 4: Knowing When (and That it’s Okay) to Stop

Well hello again, and welcome to the fourth installment of lessons I’ve learned as I navigate post-baby running! If you’re keeping score at home, my previous lessons are:

  1. Lower my expectations
  2. Be prepared
  3. Be willing to compromise

This week’s lesson is all about knowing when to quit, and knowing that it’s really okay to do so.

Let’s set the scene. It’s yet another Sunday morning and Drew is encouraging me to get out and run with the Shammies. However, it’s Beach 2 Beacon weekend, and most SMSers are up in Maine.

[Brief aside: in my post about B2B last year I said I wanted to run it every year. It’s a fab race. I actually won a spot in this year’s race via the lottery, but ended up transferring my bib to a Shammie who didn’t get in. By the time I found out I got a spot, all the good hotels and airbnbs were booked, and logistics with a baby were too much for my brain to deal with. There’s always next year! #loweringmyexpectations #rollingwithit]

Drew took the Bairn out to get breakfast, and I set out for a run around the neighborhood. Last time it went really well, so I had some hopes of repeating that. Some things had stacked up against me, however, and it was not to be.

For one, my shoes are starting to hurt. I had heeded Lesson 2 and had my shoes all untied and ready to go, but they felt squeezy and uncomfortable. Sometimes pregnancy can change your feet a bit and make them bigger, and I’ve been wanting to get my feet/gait checked at Marathon Sports to make sure I’m wearing proper kicks. But that requires time, which I don’t have a lot of these days, plus I couldn’t justify spending money on new shoes when my current pair are still in decent shape. Alas.

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The shoes in question

For another, my knees are a little dodgy lately from all the bouncing I’ve been doing on our exercise ball to help get the Bairn to sleep. (Sometimes, even though They say not to, you just need to fall back on your sleep crutches so that YOU can get some sleep. Still in survival mode over here. And hoping that someday he’ll realize that he can, in fact, fall asleep on his own.)

And third, after wondering if my great run last time was at all due to my new Legend compression calf sleeves (review coming soon), I decided to go sleeve-less this time around.

So, yeah. After a brief warmup walk, I set off down the hill and right away my feet hurt. Not badly, but enough to throw me off my game. Then I could feel my knees… they didn’t hurt, per se, but they felt like they were about to start hurting at any moment. And then my shins, ow the splints. So splinty. Turns out the calf sleeves really make a difference.

I had barely gone 25 yards and my body was protesting. I wanted to stop, but I felt like it was way too early to declare my run a failure. I told myself just to make it to the end of the street, to take it easy, to focus on keeping my knees from doing anything stupid.

And I barely made it. I was practically limping, and my feet were doing weird things in my shoes to try to escape the squeezing. I turned around at the end of the street and walked, mentally assessing my body. I felt like if I tried to go any further, I’d be risking injuring something, and I really don’t want that right now, right as I’m making my semi-glorious return.


So I walked home. I traveled 1.03 miles in 16:30, and less than half of that was spent running/hobbling.

And that’s okay. As short and bad as it was, I got out for a run. That little bit was better than nothing, and better a short, bad run than a longer one that ends in injury.

It’s hard sometimes to quiet my inner voice that says dumb things like “no pain no gain” or compares my current running attempts to my halcyon days when I was in shape and uninjured and getting faster all the time.

But that voice needs to shut it. I’m not in the shape I was once in, my body is still a little wonky and I’m still getting used to it, and someday I’ll be better. But right now I just need to get out there smartly, so that I can get better. I’d rather quit a run and potentially stave off a return of my dodgy knees than explore the alternative!

What exciting lesson will I learn next? Stay tuned to find out!

Lesson 3: Compromise

Hello there, reader! You’ve stumbled on the third installment of what has turned from two rambling, somewhat related posts into some semblance of a series. As I make my slow return to the world of running after having a baby, I’m learning (sometimes the hard way) tips that are making this return easier, bit by bit. So far, I’ve learned:

  1. …that I need to lower my expectations
  2. …that it’s helpful to be prepared

My lesson for this week is: be willing to compromise!

If you’ve visited this blog before, there’s a good chance you’ve read about Tuesday night track workouts with my run club. A Tuesday night speedwork session was my first Shammies experience 3 1/2 years ago, and I’ve loved (and hated) them ever since. Drew knows that I’ve been itching to return, and so for weeks months now, he’s been offering to take over the Bairn’s bedtime so I can get back out there. And yet, each week my excuses pour out: it’s too hot, it’s too humid, I’m too tired, the Bairn is melting down and I feel guilty running away, it’s raining, I’m out of shape and track sessions attract all the fast people, etc.

Last Tuesday, I decided I was going to bite the bullet and go to track. Even if I didn’t do the workout, I could still run-walk around Lane 6 and see my run club peeps. I told Drew I was going for it, he expressed his full support, and I spent the day mentally preparing for Shammie time.

[Note: Here is where I ask for your understanding, dear reader. When I was thinking about this post a few days ago, my point was clear. Now that I’m actually writing, my still-rampant pregnancy brain (apparently it’s here for a while – boo!) has struck and I can’t remember a pretty important detail. Please bear with me as I carry on regardless…]

As track time approached, something [see note above] happened. I can’t remember what now. Either Drew came home from work and had had a bad day, or the Bairn was melting down, or… yeah, it’s gone from my brain. In any case, something occurred that would have made my going to track difficult, for me but mostly for Drew.

Thankfully, this lesson wasn’t learned the hard way. Perhaps because of many of those excuses I listed before (it was hot, track is full of fast people and I’m slow and out of shape and self-conscious, etc.), I wasn’t upset at giving up my Shammie time to help deal with the Bairn.

And, once he was cozy in his crib, I threw on my kit and set out for a run around the neighborhood. It was cooler by this point, I didn’t have to feel self-conscious in front of all the Shammies who regularly place at races, and I knew I wasn’t leaving Drew in the lurch. I set myself some modest goals – run to X then walk to Y, three times with different Xs and Ys – and managed to meet them (huzzah!). Post-run analyzing of my run even showed that my average running pace was 11:- and change, which is an improvement from the 12:-s I’d been running, so that was encouraging too.

I guess this lesson is pretty connected to lowering my expectations… had I been dead set on running a speed workout, I would have been disappointed to miss out. But, honestly, I don’t have many expectations when it comes to running these days, so just getting to run around the block for 20 minutes was pretty exciting. Plus I got to reward myself with freeze pops, a cold can of cider, and an episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Thumbs-up all around!

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What lesson will I learn next? Will there be more, or will my posts devolve once again into even less structured rambling? Stay tuned!

The Art of Being Prepared

Wow, was my last post really a month and a half ago?! I swear I just wrote it. But then again, I can’t wrap my mind around the fact that it’s August already. What the heck.

Anyway.

Hi! Me again, here to blab at you about life and attempted fitness post-Bairn. I’m still working on keeping my expectations low (and doing a decent job, I think!), and my lesson for myself this week is to try to be a little better prepared. For what, you may ask? Running specifically, since this is my running blog and all, but really, for lots of things.

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Let’s travel back a few Sundays, to when I was determined (albeit with lowered expectations) to meet up with the Sunday Morning Shammies for some kind of run. They go out around 7, so I set an emergency alarm for 6 (ha!! As if the Bairn would let me sleep that long), planned out my morning so I could get out the door at 6:45, and crossed my fingers.

Sunday morning came, and though I made a solid effort, my morning fell apart. Drew overslept, and it turns out 45 minutes isn’t enough time for me to change and feed the Bairn, and then change and feed myself before heading out the door. At least not when I’m half asleep. So I skipped the run. (Could I have gone out on my own? Sure. But I was all upset and stubborn… these post-baby hormones sure do stick around longer than I expected).

How could I have made that morning smoother for myself? By being prepared! Have my running kit out and easily accessible, so I wouldn’t have to risk waking my exhausted husband while stumbling around in our dark room. Have an easy-to-grab pre-run bite to eat ready to be grabbed. And so on.

Well, I tried to learn from my failure the following week. I had my kit ready to go. I had something to eat. I had that laughable emergency alarm set. And somehow, even with Drew up this time to help me, it was still a rush to get to the door in time, let alone out of it. I was on the verge of missing the Shammies – and thus my motivation – and when I went to put on my shoes, the laces ended up being very stubbornly double-knotted. I couldn’t undo them while in a rush. So I threw on an older pair of shoes that I’ve been mainly using for walking:


Turns out these shoes are pretty dead. They feel fine for walking, but after running a bit in them: ouch. My back hurt for a week… though to be fair my back is in rough shape anyway from hefting the Bairn around.

BUT. I made it out there! I saw my Shammies, got the social motivation I needed, and let them set off on their 7-mile run. I walked to the pond, figuring I’d do a lap and walk back to HQ, but after a turn through the lagoon, it was so lovely I decided to do it again.

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View of the pond from the lagoon

The lagoon has a lovely dirt trail, lots of shade, and had far fewer people than the paved, route around the pond. So I walked the causeway back to the start of the lagoon and ran a second loop. Well, run-walked, but still. It wasn’t my prettiest run, but it was a run nonetheless!

So, a little preparation and I managed to fit a run in. Had I thought ahead even more, I would have untied those silly shoes, but, well, hindsight is 20-20. And now I know my Adidas sneakers are toast.

For those keeping score at home, the post-baby fitness lessons I’ve learned so far are:

  1. Lower my expectations
  2. A little preparation goes a long way

What lesson will I learn next time? Stay tuned!

Learning to Lower My Expectations

Perfect gif for this post, right? (source)

Hi-diddly-ho, readers! When I last saw you, I was gushing with excitement at my Grand Return to Running. Since then, I’ve been for one more run. It didn’t go as well.

It was that kind of morning.

I think I wrote a few posts ago about how having a baby has made me realize I need to go with the flow, since the Bairn has a way of foiling any plan I make. Want to meet friends for lunch at a specified time? Oops, morning nap turned epic and now I’m late. Want to stop at Target to grab some things since the Bairn is sleeping peacefully in his car seat? Oh wait, he’s awake and no longer peaceful. Want to watch an episode of Kimmy Schmidt after the lad is down for the night? Just kidding, did I really think he was down for the night? And so on, ad nauseam.

Unsurprisingly, this includes any attempts I make to run, go to the gym, or otherwise not feel like a lump. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I quite like being a lump sometimes. But sometimes I need to move!) And that’s been hard.

I was by no means expecting to be running races again immediately after giving birth, but I was hoping to at least take the Bairn out for walks and work my way back smartly. I wanted my Grand Return to Racing to be the Worcester Firefighters 6K; being in June, I figured 5 months postpartum would be plenty of time to be ready for that. I didn’t need to PR, I just wanted to complete the course. Alas, poor DGobs.

I think I took the Bairn for 3 walks during my maternity leave. He was born in January and, this being New England, of course the weather didn’t cooperate fully. We did have a few warm days that were perfect for walks, but they tended to fall after snowstorms and – as I’m pretty sure I’ve complained in this space before – people in my city rarely clear their sidewalks. Not conducive to pushing a stroller. I had a wrap, but the Bairn was so tiny (he was just shy of 5 1/2 pounds when he was born) that I didn’t feel comfortable carrying him in a wrap built for babies 8 pounds and up. I couldn’t easily take him to the mall for walks either, as I’d had a C-section and my midwife advised against driving for 6-8 weeks.

All that to say, the Bairn and I got used to being lazy cozy in our warm, snug house, and exercise wasn’t so much happening for me. I was dying to get to the gym – Expresso Bikes kept emailing me about fun new challenges! – but logistics were complicated and honestly, whenever Drew offered to take Baby Duty so I could go, I’d usually opt to sleep instead. (I’ve opted for sleep the last several times he’s tried to shoo me out to run, as well. I’m tired, yo.)

Anyway. I managed a few stroller walks eventually, and after going back to work, where it’s a 10-minute walk to and from the T plus a continuous stair workout as my desk is on a mezzanine – I was feeling stronger and once again setting my sights on the 6k. The Shammies promote a race at the beginning of May, and I figured it would be a good test run.

By the end of April, there was no way I felt ready to run a 5k. I still wanted to support the race (which supports the local Boys & Girls Club) so decided to sign Drew and myself up as walkers, figuring we could push the stroller and still take part. I was a little wary of signing up ahead of time – remember what I said about the Bairn and my plans, and mice and men and all that – but knew it would be much harder to get us all down to the race if we weren’t signed up and committed. So I bit the bullet.

Race day arrives. The Bairn is recovering from bronchiolitis, and none of us have been getting much sleep for over a week. The 10:15 start time, which seemed so luxuriously late, came and went while Drew was still in bed and the Bairn was napping on me. Ah well, at least part of the race fees went to a good cause. And we did swing by the post-race festivities to show off the Bairn, where he was awarded his first race bling:

The president of the Shammies gave the Bairn his age group medal, just for being cute

After that race is when I finally got to run, and after 2 walk-run extravaganzas, I felt like I could at least finish the WFD6K. However, learning my lesson and lowering my expectations, I didn’t preregister. Even as race day crept ever closer and I wanted SO badly to sign up, I just had a feeling.

The WFD6K was last Sunday [edit: now two three Sundays ago; I’m lowering my blogging expectations too, you see], and I did not participate. The day ended up being a scorcher, in the 90s, and that race is midday and traditionally hot. My own lack of enthusiasm for hot races aside, I kept thinking of poor Drew having to keep the Bairn cool in his black stroller. Plus logistics about nursing, plus the fact that the Bairn was (is?) going through a phase of screaming bloody murder in the car, and I was relieved to not be running. I’m still bummed at missing out, but there’s always next year!

Last year, when the Bairn (who was about the size of a blueberry) was much easier to run with

So… where was I going with this post again? Oh right, lowering my expectations (as well as yours, for any sort of pithy posts). Back in January, I was determined to run the WFD6K. I knew I’d be disappointed in myself if I weren’t back to a running routine(ish) by that point.

Now that the race has come and gone? Meh. Sure, I’m a little bummed that I missed the race, but only a little bit. At this point, if I actually make it out the door for a 20-minute run around the neighborhood, I’m happy. Someday I’ll get my running groove back, but for now, not lowering my expectations will only lead to feeling bad about myself and ain’t no one got time for that.

Now if only I could get better at lowering my expectations for pace when I run… I know it’ll take a while to get back down to mid-9-minute miles again, and yet I’m disappointed in my 12-and-change pace these days. Unfortunately I think there’ll always be a part of my brain that thinks I’m FloJo.

Til next time!

Taking This New Body for a Test Drive

It finally happened: I went for a run! *confetti cannons and muppet flails* 

Today, for the first time since the QEOP 10K in early September – and not counting the ~20-foot jog I did in jeans to see what it felt like to run with the jogging stroller – I actually ran. I am so chuffed right now. 

It wasn’t pretty by any means, but it was running(ish):

4.91 miles, most of which was walking. I ran a total of just over 1 of those miles, in between ~1 mile warm-up and cool-down walks. It was glorious to cruise around the pond and lagoon again, and even my giant red face throbbing in the sun felt glorious. A bit. 

The lagoon


I made it just over a half-mile of my first bit of running before I had to take a walk break, which wasn’t too bad. The running felt great, but then less so during each running stint. I am so very out of shape, and I could feel weakness/tiredness in pretty much my whole right side – foot, leg, shoulder. Something to work on… one of these days!

In honor of my jubilant mood, how about a wee indulgent thanks-to-the-academy speech?

Thank you Target, for having a sale on your already pretty reasonable activewear, so I could get some running kit that actually fits. 

Thank you Lanisoh nursing pads, for keeping my new running kit free of any lurking milk. 
Thank you Legend Compression Wear, for providing socks that prevented soreness and fatigue in my calves. I was worried my shins would want to split away from the rest of my legs as a protest, but they behaved themselves nicely. 

Thank you Groupon, for selling fancy new Garmins at a slightly more affordable price. Simon is dead; long live Simon II.

Thank you MapMyRun, for stepping up in the awkward time between when Simon died and Simon II wasn’t charged enough to use yet.

Thank you Mother Nature, for giving me a lovely day in the low 60s for my return to running. 

Thank you Drew, for urging me out the door to run while you wrangled the screaming Bairn. I needed this run badly, and you knew it. I appreciate that more than you know. 

Thank you body, for being awesome. Yes, you’re a size or two bigger now and things are still a little out of whack and disconcertingly jiggly from carrying and delivering the Bairn, but you still know what to do. You can still pound the pavement and clear my head and make me feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally, and that rocks. I look forward to doing this with you again, hopefully soon!

C’mon legs, let’s run.

We Interrupt This Blog…

Oh hello there. Remember me, the blogger whose posts got sparser and sparser as her pregnancy moved along? I had big plans, readers. I did. I have several draft posts started, and I was planning on finishing them and queueing them up so I’d have some regular entries, and then I’d start blogging again in earnest once I got in the groove of maternity leave. You know, when it would be spring and I’d be out rebuilding my mileage base with the jogging stroller and would have a lot to write about.

Well, one thing I’ve learned in the past few months: babies are really good at laughing in the face of your so-called plans.

I was convinced my wee bairn would be late. I decided to start maternity leave on his due date anyway so that I could have some final “me time” – time to read, work on cross-stitches for the nursery, organize the baby clothes, mentally prepare for motherhood (as much as one can, anyway), etc.

And then my wee bairn decided he wanted to check out the world three weeks early.

The day before he was born, Drew and I finally started building the nursery furniture. We got the changing table and rocking chair done:

…then took one look at all the pieces belonging to the crib and thought “nah, we’ll do that tomorrow.” Also planned for the next day: getting the baby’s bureau down from the attic, washing all his clothes and then organizing them and putting them in said bureau, and finally getting around to taking baby shower gifts out of their bags that were still taking up our hallway.

Instead of all that, I woke up the next day and thought “hmm, I feel a bit funny.” A few hours later “a bit funny” had turned into “HOLY HELL” and we were on our way to the hospital. One hour after checking in, my little speedster was staring at us with huge blue eyes:


My wee man continued (and continues) to laugh in the face of any plans I made, but he’s adorable so I don’t mind too much. I’m learning to roll with it when he decides to take epic naps on the days I plan to meet friends for lunch, or when he decides to scream at the overstimulation that is Target on a Saturday afternoon when Drew and I thought it would be fun to have a little shopping adventure.

And the jogging stroller adventures? We’ve had one. It was a walk. Mother Nature decided she wanted the bulk of my maternity leave to be filled with snow, and since people in my city don’t clear their sidewalks, I’ve only had a few chances to get out there. But that’s okay. The snow is gone now and warmer weather is on its way, and I now know that the jogger is AWESOME and I’m so ready to run around the pond with it.

I’m hoping to blog about postpartum running adventures at least a little bit. I naively thought all those late night feedings would be a grand time to blog, but, um yeah… those late night feedings are barely survived with my eyes open. I can’t make promises, but I’ll certainly try to keep up with this whole blog world as much as I can.

In the meantime… what have I missed? How are you? What’s the most exciting thing that’s happened to you so far in 2017 (because the chances of me successfully playing catchup with all the blogs I follow is pretty slim!)?

2016 in Review

Happy New Year!

It’s that time of year again (well, a few days late, but considering how neglectful of this blog I’ve been in the past few months, a few days is nothing!), when we all gaze back on our accomplishments and/or struggles of the previous year. 2016 was certainly an interesting one. Let’s get down to it, shall we?

2015 Goals Recap

A-ha! I had no specific goals for 2016, other than staying healthy and running to enjoy it. Health-wise, well… the start of the year saw me still recovering from a dodgy metatarsal and related bursitis, then I learned that I don’t breathe in the best way possible, which led to a reprise of dodgy ribs, and my knees bothered me off and on. And, while not an injury, I got pregnant a few months into the year and that made running a bit more interesting than usual. On the whole, I think I enjoyed running. For the most part.

In spite of my lack of goals this year, though it took an extra trip around the sun, I did meet 2 of my goals from 2014, namely beating my 5K and 10K PRs (huzzah!). More on that below. I also managed to add one new town to my race map, plus a new country, so that was pretty cool.

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Celebrating a new PR and starting off 2016 happily!

My 2016 in Numbers (Running)

Total miles: 106.84*
*Closest estimate I could get given that I lost my training log from the start of the year and Simon died on me without saving some data

Races completed: 8 (up from 7 in 2015; 3 5Ks, 1 6K, 3 10Ks, 1 half marathon)

States raced in: 3, none new (Massachusetts, Maine, and California; up from 2 in 2015)

MA towns raced in: 3, 1 new (Dedham (new), Lunenburg, and Worcester)

Countries raced in: 2, for the first time! (US and UK)

PRs beaten: 3! 5K, 6K, and 10K

DNSs: none! for the first time!

Firsts and Milestones (Running)

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I unofficially placed first in the Pregnant American division at the QEOP 10K

Firsts and Milestones (Personal)

  • Traveled to my first international conference and visited two new-to-me cities (Dundee and Glasgow)

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    Enjoying a cheeky Clarkies pie in Dundee

  • Sneaked in one last match at White Hart Lane before they started tearing the stadium down (our seats from that match are now a gaping hole in the ground)
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  • Had tea and Turkish Delight at C.S. Lewis’s house
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  • Found out I was going to have a baby… that was a pretty big moment*

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    Already a Spurs fan

  • Attended my second international conference and got to bask in the glory that is Wembley Stadium
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  • Had a mini-reunion with some of my study abroad friends in Colorado, visiting Denver and the new-to-me Fort Collins
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*The whole baby thing continues to be a pretty big moment! Sometimes it still feels completely unreal, despite the Alien situation that’s nearly always happening in my growing bump. And speaking of the growing bump…

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August 16

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August 29

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September 3, post-QEOP 10K, when I realized I had officially outgrown my clothes and had to make an emergency Primark run for a shirt that wouldn’t expose my belly

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October 3

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October 22, bump buddies!

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November 19

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December 23

I look absolutely HUGE in that last picture… I don’t think the angle helps 😉

So, yeah. 2016 had a lot going on. And that’s not even taking into account the state of the world with Brexit, Syria, Standing Rock, the US election, and all the seemingly endless other things that gave this year a general feeling of despair. If I’m honest, I’m finding it hard to be hopeful about 2017 as a whole, and it’s all a bit overwhelming. So in light of that, here are my goals/things to focus on for the year:

  1. Get this baby out safely and make his little world as cozy, safe, and full of love as possible.
  2. As soon as I get the OK from my midwife, jump back on the running wagon. I’ve been missing running like crazy, and the new jogging stroller is all assembled and ready to go!
  3. Related to above, I’m hoping to be fit enough to run the Worcester Firefighters race in June. I’d like to keep that streak going!
  4. Read. Read for fun, read to learn, read fiction, read non-fiction, read newspapers. Try to balance staying informed with staying sane.
  5. Do good, no matter how small, whenever and wherever I can.

Wishing you all a happy, healthy, hopeful 2017!

How was your 2016?

What was your favorite thing that happened last year, running-wise or not?