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!

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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
    kilns
  • 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
    wemb
  • Had a mini-reunion with some of my study abroad friends in Colorado, visiting Denver and the new-to-me Fort Collins
    denver

*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?

Review: LEGEND Compression Performance Socks

Well, hello again! I will spare you from my now traditional opening paragraph of blogger shame – it would say basically the same as my last post, so if you feel the urge, you can read that one – in the interest of just getting on with it. Shall we?

Disclaimer: I received a free pair of LEGEND compression socks as part of being a LEGEND Ambassador. This review was not solicited, and opinions are my own.

I’ve been dabbling with compression socks/sleeves for a while, ever since my first major attack of the shin splints a few summers ago. I didn’t have a lot of luck with the sleeves – they didn’t really seem to help much – but the socks seemed to do the trick. Thanks to a few grab bag clearance sales at ProCompression, I was able to get a few pairs for much cheaper than the usual going rate ($50 per pair), and rocked them at various races:

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Marvel at my MS Paint skillz!

While I enjoyed the funky designs (especially the shamrock ones!) and the fact that wearing them helped my shins feel like they weren’t about to eject themselves painfully from my calves, I found that I couldn’t wear the socks for very long, as the elastic band at the top would start squeezing me uncomfortably. Then, the one time I tried to wear them for recovery, I had to pull them off in a slight panic (no easy feat, as compression socks are no joke to get on and off!) after an hour or so, as my legs started feeling a bit tingly like the circulation was getting cut off.

I didn’t bother to experiment with other compression brands, given the steep price tag of all the products, and just assumed that if I wanted to rock compression socks, I’d have to make sure I didn’t wear them for too long.

When LEGEND contacted me about becoming an ambassador this past summer, I was intrigued. For one, it meant a free pair of socks, which meant I could give compression socks a go again without breaking the bank (hooray!). For another, their slogan of “Right not Tight” made me think that perhaps I could get the benefits of compression without the loss-of-circulation feeling and squeezy sensation under my knee. I opted to try out a pair of their Performance Socks, and eagerly awaited mail day.

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Mail day! I love this color.

When the socks arrived, I tried them on right away and wandered around my house in them for a while. They were slower than your average socks to pull on – just like other compression socks I’ve tried – but once they were on, they were so comfortable. I didn’t feel squeezy at all. But, to be fair, this was just a trial run in my house… the real test would come later!

Okay, quick break from my personal tale to share the deets of these socks from the LEGEND site:

LEGEND® Compression Performance socks are designed for all sporting activities to enhance power and endurance while supporting the shin, ankle, achilles, calf and arch of the foot. The product design and manufacturing process of our sports compression socks make them among the best performing socks on the planet. These sports compression socks were developed through extensive research in the compression industry. These socks are unique because they implement design aspects that our LEGEND® team pulled from its years of experience with medical grade compression products. By applying those medical learnings to our Compression Performance Socks, we were able to create a graduated compression product that we believe is the best on the market. Featuring 15-20 mmHg of graduated compression it provides everything you need to perform at your best.

KEY FEATURES AND BENEFITS:

  • 15-20 mmHg Graduated Compression for improved athletic performance
  • Compression Performance socks for all sports
  • Greater power output
  • Enhanced Endurance
  • Faster Muscle Warm Up Pre-exercise
  • Increase oxygen levels and blood circulation
  • Faster recovery time
  • Seamless toe and terry sole construction
  • Promotes circulation for muscle performance
  • Reduction of lactic acid
  • Improve muscle support and injury prevention
  • UV protection
  • Moisture wicking
  • Achilles and arch support
  • Open ventilation and breathable design for comfort

(There’s a whole bunch more information on the website that I won’t copy here, but if you’re curious, check it out!)

Test #1:

So, with promises of these socks providing “greater power output,” “increased endurance,” “decreased shin splints and calf cramps,” and “improved recovery time,” I put them to their first real test at the Beach 2 Beacon 10K. I hadn’t run a lot before that race, and I didn’t really warm up at all due to my desire to be social rather than a responsible runner, and these things are usually a recipe for shin splints, sore calves, and DOMS in my legs for a few days after the fact.

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How were they? Well, I’ll refrain from calling them miracle socks for fear of hyperbole, but, reader, they were awesome. I put them on around 5am, stood around in them for quite a while before the race, ran in them for an hour and 20 minutes, sat around in them for at least an hour, then walked another 2 miles in them before taking them off. All told, I’d had them on for probably 7 hours. And there was absolutely no squeezy or loss-of-circulation feelings. My legs felt totally fine. I had no blisters (full disclosure: I did Body Glide my toes before the race). My legs weren’t even that sweaty, considering the socks are long.

But maybe the best part? Remember how I said I hadn’t warmed up at all before the race? When I neglect to warm up, I usually spend the first mile of a race battling shin splints before they calm down. I had zero shin splints at B2B. My calves felt fine. And I had absolutely no residual soreness in my legs at all afterward… not that afternoon, not the next day, etc. It was weird (for me), and I liked it.

Test #2:

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In case B2B had been a fluke, I figured I should test the socks in another race before reviewing them. Fast forward a month to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park 10K. Once again, I donned the socks early, wearing them for a while before running for an hour and a quarter, then stood around/rode the Tube in them. And again, no discomfort or squeeziness. And, once again, despite my not having run in the month between races as well as doing a paltry warm-up, my legs felt fresh after the race and didn’t get sore at all. (I had been a little worried about DOMS given that I had two flights home the day after the race, but my legs felt totally fine!)

Test #3:

(This was a bonus test, since I got lazy with blogging and didn’t get around to writing a review until now.)

So, I’m pregnant. One of the common side effects of pregnancy is swollen legs/feet/ankles as all the extra blood in your body has a tendency to pool at the bottom if you’re not moving around too much. At an appointment a few months back, my midwife suggested compression socks for the days when I knew I would be mostly stationary. At the time, I was being pretty good about taking lunchtime walks – plus all the nearest ladies’ rooms are small epic quests away from my cubicle – so I didn’t really have a need to try them out.

That is, until the day of the Massachusetts Speaks Out Against Hate rally in Boston. Figuring that I’d be standing around for a while without a place to sit, I thought I’d give my socks a non-running go. And you know what? They didn’t let me down. I wore them all day, standing mostly still in them for an hour or two midday, and once again they were nothing but comfortable. And my preggo feet and ankles were happily not swollen when I took them off that night – huzzah!

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Can you see my socks under my massive belly?

The Verdict:

I love these socks. I love that they’re compression socks without the squeezy feeling. I love that they don’t make my legs all sweaty and gross, even when worn under long trousers. I love that they’re comfortable to run in, and that they seem to magically rescue my legs from post-run soreness.

But wait, you may be asking… what about the promises of increased endurance and power output? Good question, reader. In all honesty, I can’t really answer that. To give a fair review of those aspects, I feel like I’d have to try them out when I’m at least a little bit fit. Since I ran in them in races I didn’t train for, when my fitness was diminishing thanks to the growing presence of my new running buddy, it wasn’t easy to compare my power or endurance to previous non-sock experiences. Once the wee bairn arrives and I get out there running again, I’m going to take them on more test runs to see what effect they have (or might not have) because I’m curious too. Watch this space!

Want to give LEGEND Compression Performance Socks (or maybe one of their other products, like sleeves or recovery socks?) a go? If it’s your first time buying LEGEND gear, follow this link to get $15 off!

Not your first purchase but want more gear? Use the code AmbFriend2016 to get 15% off any LEGEND purchase!

How I Fell Off the Running Wagon

Hello there! Apologies (yet again) for a lack of posts lately. Same excuses as last time… busy at work, busy with homework, battling ever-present exhaustion, and less mental capacity for the whole blogging thing… both writing and keeping up with reading the blogs I follow, as well as keeping up with social media. I admit that I am a deviant, and I’m sorry.

Now that that’s out of the way, the one blog post that’s been vaguely bouncing around in my brain for the last few months is about how being pregnant has affected my running. I’m going to attempt that post now… it might border on TMI, and will probably be rambly, so feel free to run away now if you’d just rather not!

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Happily(ish) embarking on some preggo running back in September

When I first found out I was pregnant (early June), I was determined to keep running. I had several races on the horizon that I was looking forward to, including a half marathon that I was feeling very unprepared for… as you may remember. I was doing so much better in 2016 in terms of *not* DNSing (2015 was my year of the DNS), and I wanted to keep up that trend, if possible.

I was lucky enough to have a doctor who was also a runner, who gave me lots of advice along with encouragement to keep it up. Since I had recently dove back into a training plan (sort of), she didn’t see a problem with my continuing to run regularly, so long as I stayed hydrated and took it easy. Her number 1 rule was “listen to your body!” and since I tended to err on the side of that anyway, I figured I was good to go.

 

Now, as I type this, I’m teetering on the edge of my third trimester (!!) and I haven’t run at all since the QEOP 10K at the beginning of September. Prior to that race, I hadn’t run once since Beach 2 Beacon, a full month earlier. What happened? How did I fall off my gung-ho running wagon?

For one, running while pregnant is hard, man. Heck, walking – or even putting on my socks, some days! – leaves me out of breath and with a pounding heart.

(Although, I do have to admit, finding out I was pregnant made me feel a lot better about the runs I did in May that felt so incredibly hard, yet were so incredibly slow. After PRing in both 5K and 10K races earlier in the year, I found these runs and my lack of fitness/speed to be particularly frustrating… just when it looked like I was improving, suddenly I was slowing down and tiring so easily and I couldn’t figure it out. Seeing the positive pregnancy test was an a-ha moment!)

At least in early June I had immediate goals to work toward – the Worcester Firefighters 6K and the Worcester Half Marathon. The half especially, and my lack of training leading up to it, kept me motivated to keep running in the early days. Somehow I managed to pull off a PR in the 6K, and, despite a hot day, lots of hills, and my purposely taking it easy during the half, I somehow came within a few minutes of my PR. You’d think those feats would have motivated me to keep going, right?

Another problem? This summer was hot. Like, in-the-top-10-hottest-on record-in-Boston hot. I don’t do well running in the heat when I’m 100%, let alone when I’m building another human, so I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit to pound the baking asphalt. I went to a few speed workouts with the Shammies, but those didn’t go so well; I either ran like crap and got frustrated, or I had to put the brakes on when my body started protesting, either from the heat or from fun things like round ligament pain.

Speaking of pain, there’s reason #3 I fell off the running wagon. My fellow-runner doctor urged me to stop anytime I felt any kind of pain, which I was experiencing with more frequency as the weeks ticked by. Partly due to the aforementioned round ligament pain, partly due to some cysty business, it would hit me more often than I would have liked while running, causing me to stop a lot. I’d be sitting in the grass, watching the Shammies run sprints and do other things I wanted to do, and it just got frustrating. Sometimes I’d go to workouts and walk, but it was hard not running when I really wanted to. So I just sort of stopped going.

Related to pain, reason #4 is general discomfort. I look back at my Worcester races in June and sigh wistfully about how good I had it back then. Sure, I tired more easily, but that was pretty much it. By the time Beach 2 Beacon rolled around, I had gained 10 pounds and certain parts of my anatomy were more, um, jiggly than they had been before (see below). Plus, there was the whole bladder situation that wasted about 10 minutes of my race and made the whole thing pretty uncomfortable.

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Left: June 19; Right: August 6. Same singlet, a bit more stretched out on the right. (Please ignore the bird I’m flipping on the right… it was accidental!)

By the time I was running the QEOP 10K in London a month later, I had graduated to my singlet that’s two sizes larger than the one pictured above, and cursing myself for not having bought a new sports bra that a) fit better, and b) supported things better. By that race, not only was I still dealing with round ligament pain and an almost constant urge to duck into a portaloo, but I was also dealing with bits that had gotten even more jiggly to the point of being painful. If I hadn’t been holding my phone and a bag of gummy fuel, I probably would have been holding myself as I went.

Right, so, where does that bring us on the list of my excuses for why I’m not so much running anymore?

  1. I tire more easily/get out of breath quicker
  2. It was too hot (hot damn!)
  3. It hurt
  4. It was uncomfortable

Number 5 is a combination of lack of time and general exhaustion. I know I mentioned tiredness in my first excuse, but that was more of a getting-tired-more-quickly-while-running situation. This is just straight-up tired. All. The. Time. During my first trimester, I felt levels of tiredness that I didn’t even know a human could experience (and I haven’t even reached the sleep-deprived newborn stage yet!). I’d be so tired, I’d literally crawl under my desk at work and curl up on the thinly carpeted cement floor and fall asleep.

By the time I’d get home from work, it was all I could do to put dinner in my face before dozing on the couch before then slinking off to bed at 8pm. The thought of running (or blogging!) after work went right out the door, as did thoughts of getting up early to beat the heat on the weekends. I really wanted to try a prenatal yoga class, but the most convenient one to me was at 9am on Saturdays and even that was too early.

Although I got slightly less tired during my second trimester (allegedly the “honeymoon stage” of pregnancy when you’re supposed to have all kinds of energy – ha!), I was still exhausted all the time, and somehow my life got super busy. Drew and I were either traveling every weekend or running around like mad to do errands, visit family, and do other things we couldn’t do while traveling. Then I had the brilliant idea to sign up for a graduate-level history class, which has eaten up most of my free time since early September, and which goes until right before Christmas. I should be doing homework now, actually, but alas.

So there we have it. Those five things have conspired to derail my running-through-pregnancy plans. Could I have beaten them all with an ironclad will? Sure. But anyone who’s read this blog knows that’s not really my style. I know women who have run through their entire pregnancies, and I think that’s awesome. Part of me wishes I had muddled through and done the same. The other part of me lays on the couch with a cup of tea and my feet up thinking “I’m listening to my body!” The more things change, the more they stay the same 🙂

In the meantime, I’ve taken advantage of Old Navy and Primark clearance sales and bought myself some maternity-size workout clothes, and I still have good intentions. I try to go for a walk every day at work during my lunch break, and one of these days I’ll join Drew at the gym instead of doing homework. I signed up for a prenatal yoga class that happens in the evening. I’ve researched and registered for a jogging stroller. I’ll climb back on that running wagon… someday.

Have you ever fallen off the running wagon for any reason? How did you climb back on?

Any running moms out there – did you run through pregnancy? How did it go?

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park 10K, 3 September 2016

What: 10K

Where: London, UK (course map*) aka, my first international race!

*This wasn’t the exact course we ended up running, due to another event being set up for later in the day. We ended up going down by the stadium on the “Old River Path” a few times.

Who: Just me, with moral support from Drew

Time: 1:17:49

Splits: none, because Simon failed me, losing all memory of the race as soon as I paused him at the end. Boo.

Note: This recap is way overdue. Please see my last post for excuses!

Background

You may be asking, “What the heck were you doing running a race this far afield? London??” That is a good question, observant reader(s). A few days prior to this race, I was attending a conference for work in Wembley…

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Quick pause for a Wembley Stadium selfie!

Having attempted to run an international race a few years back but being thwarted by a race cancellation, I really wanted to fit one in this time around. However, I didn’t want to take over an entire day of sightseeing or what-have-you just so I could get some foreign bling, plus I wasn’t sure how ever-more-pregnant me would handle a 10K. I figured I’d see how Beach 2 Beacon went, and would decide then. Since B2B went quite well, and with Drew’s supportive “you never know when you’ll get another chance to run a race in London… go for it” in my head, I searched for races and landed on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park 10km Series.

The race sounded pretty cool – running around a park where Olympians roamed four years ago?? – and came with bling and a goody bag, so I was won over pretty easily. I signed up, found a hotel close to the Overground which would allow for easy transit to the race, and eagerly awaited the big day.

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A view of (part of) Olympic Park

Pre-race

After I carboloaded with some tasty ramen the night before, race day dawned not-so-bright and early. I was pleased with the overcast sky that looked like it would spit rain at any moment… at home it was still in the high 80s and I had been looking forward to cool race weather!

Drew and I hopped on the Overground and made our way to Hackney Wick, then strolled to and through Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. We had stayed nearby a few years ago, when the park was still at the early stages of reconstruction, so it was fun to see all the work that had been done since. We had the ArcelorMittal Orbit (the weird reddish tower in the above photo) as a homing beacon, and it led us to the race start area and packet pickup. Pickup was super easy and quick, and I spent the rest of pre-race time trying to both stay warm and poke my own pin holes through the bib, which didn’t come with any pre-made.

After a very half-hearted warmup on my part, a man with a megaphone (who shall henceforth be referred to as Megaphone Man) started strolling through the crowd of runners, reminding us all to double-knot our laces and treating us to witty banter in a Cockney accent. He then led us all in a group warm-up:

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(Note the not-so-overcast sky in those pictures… I was beginning to regret not bringing a hat or sunglasses at this point.)

After some butt-kicks and jumping jacks and sky punches, we made our way over to the 2012 Walk, where the start/finish line was. It was nice and shaded, and looked charming, and I had hope in my heart that it would be a lovely race:

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The start from Drew’s point of view…

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…and from my point of view at the back

The race

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Drew caught a picture of a bunch of charity runners dressed as monkeys

I wanted so badly to take off with most of the rest of the pack when the starting gun went, but I forced myself to hang back and take it easy. Though B2B had gone well, a month had passed since that race, and I was now carrying more baby weight and was unsure of how my body would handle running 10k.

The first little portion of the race was decent – down the shady flat path, marveling at the fact that I was actually running a race in another country – and both Drew and the race photographer caught me looking chuffed to be running:

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Photo: Drew

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Photo: Basil Thornton

Not long after those smiley pictures, however, things went downhill. It was hot. And sunny. I was thoroughly unprepared for hot and sunny. I hadn’t hydrated enough (surprise!), hadn’t brought water like almost everyone else had, and hadn’t brought sunglasses or a hat, so I was squinty and worried about sunburn. Plus, I was really feeling the extra baby weight. Things were more jiggly and, as a result, quite sore, and I also got out of breath very quickly. I had to stop to walk before the first mile clicked by.

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Stopping to walk meant I could take pictures!

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And then I started to run so I could take a running selfie. I was all ready to be done!

The course was mostly exposed to direct sun, so I was hot and red and sweaty and unhappy pretty quickly. There were also more hills than expected; the race description mentioned “slight undulations” but we had to scale some steep ramps to get onto bridges, and our detour included more hills than the usual route. I walked a lot, more than usual (with my midwife’s “listen to your body, stop whenever you get any pain” echoing in my head), and found myself soon getting lapped by the lead runners.

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About to get lapped by fast people

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Trying to muster a smile for Drew

Right after the above picture was taken, the course took us past a huge crowd of cheering people. Drew later told me that Megaphone Man had rallied a bunch of random passersby together so that we could have a cheering section! That was a fun little surprise.

The first water stop wasn’t too long after, and I savored my drink as I took a slow walk break in the shade. I had two laps to go, and I was mentally and physically done already. I strongly considered stopping, since I knew Drew was close by, but then I thought of the finisher’s medal and how I didn’t want to have my first international race also be my first DNF. So I soldiered on.

I started to hate the scenery. Three laps of the same thing gets very old when you no longer want to be running, no matter where you are. I kept taking frequent walk breaks, pausing every now and then to shove a Percy Pig – my chosen fuel – in my gob. (While tasty, those little suckers are hard to chew while walking, let alone running! I missed my Honey Stingers.)

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Struggling up a hill on the last lap

Two of the course marshals helped me carry on – one saw me struggling during the first lap and yelled out encouragement, then remembered me on subsequent laps and kept saying awesome things to me. The other saw the Shamrock on my singlet and said things as I struggled past, but her Irish accent was so thick I couldn’t make out her words! They sounded friendly though, and I like to think she was looking out for me especially because of the Shamrock. Seeing Drew at the end of each lap was a huge help too!

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Struggling up the last hill!

I can’t even express how happy I was to crest that final hill, knowing the finish line was close! I considered trying for a sprint finish, but the worrywart in the back of my head didn’t want to overdo it.

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Nearing the finish!

And then Megaphone Man appeared. I was a little ways behind the lady in front of me, and as he saw the two of us approaching, he started yelling that we should “make it a race!” and have a photo finish. The other lady had earbuds in and didn’t speed up at all, despite his goading her:

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Megaphoning into her ear

So he turned his megaphone on me and started shouting encouragement, urging me to beat the lady in red. So I thought, what the heck? I enjoy the first picture in this next series (all courtesy of Basil Thornton), because you can see the exact moment I tried to kick it up a notch – arms flailing and goofy look on my face:

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Clearly I didn’t beat the lady in red (she was going just a little too fast for me to catch up, though I did get close!), but I did manage to remember what Megaphone Man told us all we had to do at the finish – put our hands up. He joked that results wouldn’t count if our hands weren’t up, and that made looking through the race photos pretty fun – almost everyone has their hands up!

I made a bee-line for the water table, sucked down a couple cups’ worth (I was one of the last finishers, so didn’t think taking multiple cups was bad), and then stumbled off to get my goody bag and bling.

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So red, so sweaty, so tired… so happy to be done

I then made Drew hang out for a bit so I could hop up on the podium they had set up. Clearly I hadn’t won anything, but other people were leaping up for photo opportunities and I decided it would probably be the only time I’d have a podium picture, so darnit, I was going to make it happen:

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I can almost safely say that I was indeed the first place preggers American!

Mission accomplished, we set off for Stratford tube station, making a quick stop at Marks and Spencers so I could get some food to refuel (the recovery drink in the goody bag had sucralose in it – boo!). I got some interesting looks as I stood in the corner of the mall between M&S and the tube station, sweaty and wearing tiny shorts while pounding a milky coffee beverage and shoving chocolate in my face, but whatever – I had just finished my first international race despite really wanting to DNF, and was enjoying my runner’s high.

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Bling

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Goody bag contents

In the end, I’m so happy I opted to run a race while in London, even if I had been cursing myself while running the thing. I may have finished 313th out of 327 runners (91st out of 99 ladies), but I finished! And, once the runner’s high kicked in and my body forgot about the pain and exhaustion, I realized I’d even had a bit of fun too. It was a cool experience to run through an Olympic park, let alone experiencing an international race for the first time, and it will be fun to tell my wee running buddy about it someday 🙂