Hi All! Most of my readers follow me on instagram and interact there, so you know I'm still alive... Running injuries just left me feeling uninspired and unable to articulate any emotions or feelings since nothing was really feeling right. I have a lot of blog posts brewing, and want to get back into writing about the less concrete side of running; some of what I've learned through injury and through 20 plus years of competing. How to balance performance based stress, how to manage emotions during low times, and more, With that being said, tonight is the eve of my second baby's first birthday, and I want to pick up where I left off, talking about motherhood.
I was a mother of two girls two and under for almost exactly a year (two weeks and two days shy)... I have learned A LOT but a here are a handful of the hardest things I learned.... the list is endless, because it's that difficult of a transition (In my opinion the transition from none to one is less jarring than one to two). So weather you have one child already and aren't sure if you are ready for a second... or maybe your expecting your second and want to know what you're in for.... or maybe you already have two and want to compare notes.... It's also for those you who have more than two kids and want to take this moment to laugh at my struggle wishing my problems were still yours (because everything is exponentially more difficult each child, I imagine). Or if you're just plain bored.
Here are Five Hard Lessons I learned once I became a mom of two (two and under)
1. Its NOT twice as hard...
Lets start at the most obvious and most important thing I learned: It's not twice as hard... OH NO! It's at least ten times harder than having one child... especially in those first few months where you are still getting to know this little stranger you took home from the hospital one day. I don't want to make it sound impossible, there are definitely things you have more confidence in having already had a child (like trying to put clothes on.... remember how you thought you'd break those little arms? Round 2? You've got this!) But for the most part, everything that just started getting easy is hard again. Potty training, toddlers sleep patterns, keeping a schedule, laundry... and things you haven't even thought of are suddenly issues. Like, how the hell do I get two kids in and out of the car? What happens if I'm in public and the older child starts throwing herself on the ground or refusing to walk? How am I going to carry her out when I don't have enough hands for this...? Everything is harder .... everything. You also pray a lot... and if that's not your thing, you probably self talk a lot "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can"... Or you just never leave the house. Leaving the house is scary... especially in those early stages. The level of difficulty, this first lesson, is so in your face those first few months that it needed to be mentioned all by itself even though in many ways it summarizes all of what's to come.
2. Shopping SUCKS!
This is important... because shopping is exponentially more difficult (as mentioned in lesson number 1, everything is). It's so hard that I had many people praise me on social media for trying so early. People even sent me suggestions on online shopping (like PeaPod) that helps you avoid the hassle... but I hate staying in one place so I put on my big girl pants and got to it. I put the toddler in the seat provided by the cart and the infant car seat (until recently) in the body of the cart. Everyone contained, I got this. This is my number 1 reason for shopping at Walmart. Not only can you fit both kids, but you can also fit your shopping list. (It's truly a no brainier that I shop here because it's also the closest store to me). As Raea got older, whenever I had my husband we'd practice with her walking and staying with me. Sometimes shes too tired to walk now, and Maebel no longer is in the infant carrier, so Raea is in the body of the cart and Maebel is in the provided seat. You gotta do what you gotta do but this takes time. Let me simplify it for you by breaking down some of the places I learned are good to go, or a no go when it comes to carriages.
Other places you can shop at comfortably: Cosco, Sams Club, BJ's, Wegmans
Moderately accommodating, as in you can fit the kids and minimal shopping list items: Target, Whole Foods, Babys R' Us (RIP), Shaws, Price Chopper (most grocery stores... but stick with above if you can).
Toddler/Infant FAIL: Kohls (I hate you!), Marshalls, Trader Joes (sad face), Michael's, AC Moore (forget about DIY projects anyway-Impossible), CVS, Party City
Other Major Fails: Nearly all clothing department stores. Not only do they not have carriages, but they barely accommodate a stroller, never mind a double stroller. When it comes to clothes just give up on life.... Sure, you can shop online, but your body is changing again... and you have no idea what its going to look like next so... Online is a risk.... So, your stuck with your halfway fitting clothes or you can do what I do, the Walmart Special... I'm just going to get milk, or juice, or some bodily fluid on it anyway... why would I spend a lot? Faded Glory FOR LIFE!
3. Your First Born has a lot to learn and will Still take up Most of your Time.
Your first child is at a weird age when you first bring home that baby... The toddler is discovering independence, but also lacking the skill or safety awareness or maturity to truly be independent, so your poor baby is on the floor kicking and screaming while you chase after, play defense for, and teach your first born how to do certain things themselves. Since maturity is a factor here, not everything can be successfully taught before the baby arrives... proceed with caution. For example, I tried really hard to finish potty training before the baby, but Raea just wasn't fully able to pull up and down her pants without making an even bigger mess, so I inadvertently made my life way more difficult because she was trained enough to hold it and ask to go and refuse to wet a diaper... but wasn't trained enough to actually do it herself. I can't tell you how many times I broke my own rules and told her "you have a diaper on, it's okay"....and then proceeded to argue with a two year old over this since she was way above wetting herself. Your baby wont be too mobile for at least the first 5 months, so take the time to teach independence in the areas you can as early as possible because once that newborn grows and gets mobile, you're going to need some true independence more than ever... but also, you'll need some back up! Both my kids walked really early (Raea 7 months, Maebel 9 months) so it's been a bit crazy around here. I was cooking one day and Raea made Maebel cry. When I asked her what she did (yes, I assumed she was picking on Maebel... #badmom... Don't worry it's in lesson 5). she said "Maebel put somethin' in her mouth!" and sure enough, Maebel had found a rock near the endless pile of running shoes, and put it in her mouth. Someday I'll have a mudroom, but until then, I have Raea watching Maebels every move! Which only occasionally has it's perks.
4. Feeding the baby is never ever relaxing.
I breastfeed, so I can really only speak to that, but I imagine it's similar for bottle fed babies too, infact possibly worse in the beginning because at least I have a free hand. When I had one child I loved breastfeeding. Talk about time to restore and rejuvenate? I know some people struggle, and I'm lucky I didn't, but once we got into the swing of things when it was time to nurse Raea (at least before she was mobile) I would just sit on the couch, watch tv or close my eyes... drink water, put my feet up, turn on music... ahhhhhh.... relax. No MORE. NO NO NO. Breastfeeding with two is so hard! because lesson number 3, your first born is a dangerous little human climbing on tables and chairs... opening refrigerators, spilling the tupperware everywhere, climbing on the couch your sitting on, jumping on the couch... pulling your hair, trying to sit on your shoulders, being so loud it's impossible to get the baby to sleep... ... Ahh... Ugh... Why can't you understand that if you just give us this little bit of time, I can play with you, or help you, or do WHATEVER YOU WANT... Just let us finish!!! This is one of the things that actually has gotten more difficult as the baby ages (and I think bottle would be easier at this point since most babies can hold it by themselves). Maebel can't make up her mind these days, she wants to play but she wants to eat, wants to play, wants to eat, latch, unlatch, latch, unlatch, teeth, teeth, teeth, TEETH!! I feel like an open bar and a chew toy at once, abuse! I.... cant..... even.... That's all I can say. She's one today, wean, wean, WEAN!!!! Why wont she wean!?
5. You Don't Learn Patience...
People might disagree with me here, but IMO you don't learn patience. Patience doesn't suddenly grow. I am an extremely patient person. My work involves a significant amount of patience, and it involves the same type of patience used for parenting (I'm a teacher for students with ASD, and most have significant behavioral difficulties... so I do a lot of discipline and behavior modification) and patience does not grow. I don't suddenly have more of it because I have another child. In fact, the last thing that happens to your patience when you have another child is that it grows. How can you get more patience when you are using it all up everyday? .... What you do learn is where and how to disperse your patience across the day. You learn the art of not giving an F about stuff at work or what that aHole driver did, because you have two little people at home who require a lot of your patience, and who deserve it. You literally don't care about things you used to because you can't. You don't have room to care. With that being said, you will run out of patience at home because now there are two... and lesson number one, this is exponentially harder. This has been especially evident for me as my first born is starting to become a little bit of a bully towards her younger sister. God it kills me when she knows shes doing something wrong but does it anyway. I yelled at her just today because she was intentionally scratching Maebel and literally saying "look mommy I'm scratching Maebel" and Maebel is screaming and I'm arms deep in dishes. Now I do this for work... I know she is looking for attention- she's a walking, talking, FBA- and the right thing to do is redirect and maybe pick up Maebel and give Maebel all the love in the world and ignore the scratching and talk about it later once balance is restored, but I've run out of patience. "In your room you go!" and now I'm a monster. "Punishment reinforces the punisher".... You don't learn patience, you learn to let things go, and maybe forgive a little. Forgiveness towards yourself for losing your cool, because it will happen. When you have one child you certainly lose it from time to time (although I can probably count on one hand how many times it occurred with Raea before Maebel, and now it happens almost daily) but there are a lot more chances for you to restore and rejuvenate with one (Lesson Number 4), with two you are in multiple directions all day... all day... so instead of patience growing, your ability to forgive yourself grows... and actually... as that grows, you become a bit less uptight and find ways to rejuvenate within the chaos. It's not patience growing, it's your ability to accept that you might suck at life sometimes, but as long as you are only a reasonable amount of sucky, forgive yourself, have a conversation with your child about your intentions behind your crazy shit , say sorry, and move on... lots of chances to get it right.
The Biggest Lesson I learned thought, and this isn't a hard part is that while patience doesn't grow,
When your pregnant, you are trying to wrap your head around how it will be possible to love another human the way you love your first. You intellectually know you will.... but you don't really know how. It doesn't make sense because the love you have for your first is endless... how can that occur twice (or three or four, or 8 times?) but it happens.... You do. You love them equally.... differently... but equally... and the coolest part is how different they are. It's not like you have a "type" like when you're looking for a partner in life... One can be loud and out going, and it's perfect... and at the same the other is reserved and introspective and you love that, too (neither of my kids are reserved, but it was an easier example to share than the examples I have).... Before I had kids I heard it all the time "It's so so hard, but so rewarding" and I didn't quite understand...I also didn't understand why people would be all like #wheredmybabygo? and be all sad about their kid growing up... but I get it now. My baby is one today... ONE! And my first born just turned 3. What?! How did this happen? It's so cheesy, but it's the realest thing ever:
"The days are long, but the years are short"
It's been a hard year, but the most rewarding.
As much as I want to believe anything is possible, I'm a realist, and the reality is that this is just not true. I expressed a similar sentiment in my most recent instagram post. Love me or hate me, I was coming at you with some pretty raw emotion having torn(?... I really don't know) my calf for the third time in 9 months. (sidenote: How is it that I was able to run and race pregnant with no problems and now I'm a hot mess? My odds. ha!) There are a plethora of variables that dislodge you from achieving your goals. There are a million and one reasonable excuses, and other commitments that can keep you from your own personal "Olympic Trials Standard" (you know, that perfectly out of reach goal that you are stretching and grasping for), but there are two major major variables that I'm referring to as Thresholds that will come into play at some point.
Talent and Time
Talent is a confusing word in the world of running. In general, we all know talent means someone who has a natural inherent skill. Running is so much more complex than we give it credit for. The word Talent, in my opinion and from my experience, is really just a bowl of multiple skills necessary to excel in the sport. So, in theory, you can be talented in one aspect and not in another and still find success... but the more you have, the better you are.
Let me explain: In my years of running this is how I see it... Talent in running is like a bowl. Your raw talent (what we typically think of as talent; Your v02max) is your bowl. How much raw talent you have determines how big your bowl is. But you know the saying "Hard Work beats Talent when Talent doesn't work Hard". Talent is useless. A bowl is useless until you use it and fill it with something. What do you fill your talent bowl with?
Here are some examples of other skills or talents that are typically important to have in your talent bowl:
1. Work Ethic
2. Physical Toughness
3. Mental Toughness
4. Stress Management
5. Time Management
These are all stand alone skills that not every Raw Talented runner possesses. Just as you can only improve your God Given running talent so much, you can only improve on other skills to a certain degree, too. Some skills, like work ethic, can be improved upon better than others. Mental Toughness, for example, is an area I feel is very hard to gain if it is not inherently there. (There's nothing tangible to help measure mental toughness, so how do you really know if you improve? and if you're not sure if you are improving upon a skill, how do you know if what you are doing is "working")
Then there is durability. I didn't include durability above, because I see it differently. Durability; What is your talent bowl made of? How much of the above can it hold without spilling or breaking, or dropping something? (think of a bowl made of straw vs. papermache, vs clay vs glass vs. plastic vs stainless steel.) How much do you respect it and take care for it? It doesn't matter how big your bowl is (how much raw talent you have) or how much you put in your bowl (all those subset skills) if it's just going to break or leak or fall apart before you are able to use what you're storing inside.
So it's not the raw talent that really changes. The size of your bowl is generally fixed (maybe some slight modifications can be made, but nothing major). It's what you fill your bowl with and how you protect and take care of your bowl that produce results (some require more maintenance than others. eh'em). As much as we like to believe our potential is endless, it's not. Once your bowl is full there's not much more you can do. There are always exceptions, but generally speaking, if you see someone dropping 30 minutes to an hour in their time, its not because they beat genetics, it's not because they were never a runner, it's because they suddenly became aware that this talent was there. They found this big ol' family bowl that hidden in the back of the pantry somewhere and started filling it up with that other stuff they naturally had or had learned over time.
The good news (depending on your perspective) is that most people are not going to hit this threshold in their lifetime. Most people will never fill their bowl to the top, so this is amazing because forever in your life you will always have the ability to improve upon something. keep on grinding and don't give up!
With that being said, the bad news is that the reason you will likely not maximize (truly maximize) your potential in your lifetime is because there is another threshold: Time. With each passing day, the durability of your body declines, which means holding onto all those skills you've mastered gets harder and requires more work. If we had endless youth, and endless amount of time, think about what you would be able to fill your bowl with! There's a benefit to age. One study showed that a 18 year olds ran similar times in the marathon to 55-60 year old's, this is likely because experience also matters so much is learned with age and maturity. Research also showed that you can still run like your 20 well into your 40's.... that's amazing! But with that being said, your body is still losing muscle mass, and overall the stability of your bowl is declining. You are continuing to fill it up with experience after experience, after experience... but you are constantly racing against time. Will you have enough time to fill your bowl before it breaks?
Why am I writing this? Am I trying to crush everyone's dreams? NO... I guess I'm writing this to refocus myself, I need to give myself a visual for what is going on right now. I'm frantically tossing shit in a bowl because I'm fearful of time beating me... Meanwhile I'm wasting my time because the only thing I should be focused on is healing. Truly healing. So that's what I will do. Meanwhile, I don't have to worry about not gaining anything. I think injuries build a lot of that mental toughness. That part I said was really hard to come by if it wasn't already there, so there is always always something to be gained. As frustrated as I am, I'm going to focus on that positive, and hang onto it. I plan to take time off until I am out of school and have weened Maebel a little bit more. I'm done thinking about my goals for a while, I just want to focus on my family and my happiness. I'm not going to keep filling my bowl up with stress and anger, and frustration. Good Vibes only!
"Hard work beats talent
Most of us are familiar with the concept of the quote above. It is basically saying that if you work hard you have the ability to surpass someone who is more naturally gifted at something than you are simply because you are "out working" them (or working smarter than them, I should also say).
You're going to be getting a lot of reflection posts from me these days because I've been having these revelations as I get further and further from a part of my former life that really held me down. Feeling the freedom to think my own positive thoughts without having a negative interjection counter it has made me realize a lot about myself and my approach to the sport in the last 7 years or so....
I was that talented kid that didn't work hard. That was always me. It's not to say I didn't work at all I'm simply saying that until my senior year of college, I never gave it 100%... or even 80%... probably not even 75%. In High School, when I started with this sport, I worked hard 180 days of the year (school days) and a handful of weekends... So maybe, just maybe, I was giving it 60% effort. When I was at practice, I was 100% all in, but when summer came and we had our workouts prescribed on paper and no one watching, I did nothing. I saw people from other schools training all summer and I laughed "why are they working so hard, I'm just going to beat them"... and that's usually what happened. When your talent is reinforced, instead of your hard work, it's more difficult to become a hard worker... even if that's what is necessary to get to the next level.
In education, praising someones work ethic as opposed to their natural intelligence or talent is all the rage. There has been a plethora of research done by Carol Dweck suggesting that praising a child for being smart can lead them to have a "fixed mindset", but praising them for trying hard, doing something challenging or outside their comfort zone that maybe they aren't so natural at produces a "growth mindset"
What if we apply this same level of thinking to sports? Is there a danger in calling someone talented? Maybe you know someone who was really talented but quit early due to a fixed mindset? I think there is a danger in how you praise (this is a huge part of what I do for a living in my special education classroom), and I am a direct product of praising inherent abilities rather than work ethic. I'm not writing this and moping because "wahh wahh, woes me, I'm talented, people called me talented, poor me" No, please don't interpret this post as me feeling sorry for myself and excusing all my shortcomings... I'm simply processing how to shift my mindset so that I can see more growth this upcoming year and beyond, and maybe this will reach someone else who is reading this who has also felt stuck.
Looking back, winning the Presidential Physical Fitness award in the 6th grade was the start to this partially Fixed Mindset and also the beginning of the word "talented" being thrown in my direction. Only three people won it in our school, and one of the other people happened to be my cousin who is doubly related to me (our fathers are brothers and our mothers are sisters). Maybe she was more talented than me and got it without trying, but I worked for that award. No doubt it was mostly talent. Ann and I have such similar genetics, it couldn't be a coincidence that we were 2 of the 3 people that achieved this highest honor. The running came naturally, and I weighed next to nothing so I could do push ups and crunches easily, But I was NOT flexible. There was this part where we had to stretch a certain amount of inches passed our toes and I worked for that. I was 11 years old I have a distinct memory of having my sister push on my back as I exhaled so that I could try and get 5 inches passed my feet (Mary can vouch for how annoyingly hard I worked). However, when that award was given, no one talked about the work I did. No one talked about how I improved from 2 inches to 5 inches, everyone just praised me for my talent. Naturally, I was proud.
It wasn't until I started entering bigger ponds that talent started to recognizably hurt my way of thinking. I was always able to win the important race in high school. I am still one of 6 people that have ever won three consecutive CMASS titles, and I'm the only runner to win in both Divisions.... but I always under performed at the States. I would say "well, I can't win that, so I don't care." as if the results were fixed... just like my way of thinking. The only year I ran well was the year my team had a chance to win. That was the only year I beat World Record Stroller Runner, Dianna Chivakos but it wasn't until later that that became important. College took some adjusting. I spent most of it feeling horrible because I simply couldn't win anything and I didn't even realize that the girl winning everything was Dianna. She saw me in the bathroom and mentioned she recognized me because I out-kicked her at States. I was in her families home video or something. Whaaat? I beat her? HOW? I realized I had to give more, why is this person that I beat in High School minutes ahead of me? I needed to rely on something other than talent. Before entering Senior Year I finally started running over the summer (yes, I never ran over the summer). My hard work was immediately reinforced with a 19:08 5k right off the bat, a 30 second PR. Later that season, I made it to the NCAA National Championship. I was so proud of the hard work I put in, but I remember someone telling me "well, it's about time!" I knew that was their way of celebrating with me, but it voided all my hard work. I worked hard, this wasn't something someone handed to me... I worked hard... for the first time ever, I worked hard" and it didn't matter that I worked hard because all I did was finally, finally meet the expectation people already had for me based on my talent. In that moment I stopped feeling proud, instead I felt ashamed. Have I been letting people down all this time?
As you can see, my inner dialogue was always concerned with what people thought of me. Am I Good Enough? I would never describe myself as insecure, but this was as close as it got.
fFI've been fighting a battle with a Fixed Mindset for a long time as it was the foundation I had laid early on. Fortunately, I had a lot of people (my high school coach, especially) pushing me in the direction of a Growth Mindset and I developed enough of that to never quit. It's really hard to change what is already there; change the foundation in which you built everything you've ever achieved on top of. The only real way is to destroy it all and rebuild from scratch. The knee surgery, the injuries, the two pregnancies; these, I guess, are the things that made me realize I need to start over. I'm not "rebuilding" a foundation, because I don't want the same thing. I'm simply building something totally new. I'm building a totally new physical and mental foundation. It's only been 12 days of the new year, but these 12 days I have spent looking at my new blueprints, my new map, instead of trying to put patches in places that just keep breaking or taping together my old map that really leads to no where. For the first time ever I’m excited about the hard work rather than the result. Maybe I fail a few times, but having the goal to work hard is completely in my control, and so far—I LIKE IT!
Do you struggle with a Fixed Mindset in any aspect of your life?
What steps do you take to overcome this way of thinking?
What do you attribute to forming your Growth Mindset?
I'm up in Vermont, a place I find myself often on Memorial Day weekend due to the popular Vermont City Marathon... but I've never actually been a participant in the Marathon Event. Today I ran the bike path (the finish for the last 5ish miles of the marathon) for the first time ever and had a lot of thoughts about last year that I wanted to get down somewhere.
I trained harder than I've ever trained in my life for this marathon last year. Almost every single thing went perfectly in training up until the very very last week.... and I was left picking up (another) marathon number that would never be worn.
I want to explain what I mean when I say "harder than I've ever trained". I didn't do 100 mile weeks, I didn't do double session runs, I didn't do my long runs at an incredibly blistering pace... It was a cumulative type of "hard work"... a small and consistent amount of work across a really really long period of time. I still feel jaded and slightly heartbroken about the whole thing, but it's probably all worked out for the best... and I can explain my logic behind that later. This post is about the journey and sheer discipline I had to the Vermont City Marathon post surgery and postpartum... I never made it to my destination, but lots was learned on the journey that I'll be ready for when baby number 2 arrives!
I had an unknown "phantom" injury which eventual lead to a knee operation at 23 weeks pregnant. I was 100% committed to getting this injury resolved in order to compete at the Boston Marathon 2015. I was willing to pay whatever money and drive whatever distance to see whatever specialist I could to get this injury "fixed"... I got a diagnosis and set a date for surgery in November giving me barely enough time to get fit for Boston. During pre-operation tests I found out I was pregnant. After a year of searching for answers for my knee, thousands and thousands of dollars, countless specialists... nothing mattered. I was sidelined. I couldn't have surgery. Matt and I were NOT trying (quite the opposite actually... you're looking at one of those people in the 1% on the back of the trojan...) I was freaking out.
I had knee surgery pregnant. While many people have criticized me for this, it wasn't a selfish maneuver just so that I could run. I was in a very dark place. I was very depressed about not being able to run. My whole identity has been shaped around running and I've been without it (at this point) for well over a year. I was circling the drain. Pregnancy definitely helped me feel more optimistic about my life, but I was scared about postpartum depression, I worried if I'd ever have the chance to get the surgery once I had a baby (ain't no mom got time for weeks of crutches)... and then again I'd worry about being a horrible mother to my child because I was lacking a coping mechanism for everyday stress... just letting it compound was never going to be good, but I also couldn't do any other cardio activities without pain. I couldn't swim, hike, rock climb, yoga was even hard... I couldn't do really anything without having to stop from swelling and pain. In addition to those worries, there were also completely practical concerns. I could barely walk downstairs at my normal weight... I lived on the third floor... how was I going to get up and down stairs 9 months pregnant? How was I going to squat and pick up a newborn baby.... or a toddler?! I depended on my hands to stand up since my knee was so unstable and so painful.... I had to put aside the Naysayers and trust that this was the best thing for, yes, myself... but in turn my baby! The doctors said it was safe, I had my reasonings... so I went through with it. #worthit
Ever try to do stability drills 9 months pregnant? I have. PT twice a week until the baby was born and then more PT after. The injury took so long to diagnose that I ended up with an even bigger imbalance from the constant compensation. Lots and lots of work! Most of the post-operation/pre-baby work was done to avoid getting more scar tissue, but there was a lot of other work I couldn't do because I wasn't able to tilt my hips and use my glutes in the same way I would if I wasn't pregnant... so I had to put some exercises on hold.
PRE MARATHON TRAINING TRAINING: I took about 8 weeks to get clearance to workout from the OBGYN, and then another solid month and a half before I got clearance to run by the PT. My imbalances were pretty severe upon fatigue. I haven't been running for nearly 2 years at this point... Where do I begin? ... I began with 5 minute runs. Yes... 5 MINUTES! Every other day for a while... Some of my runs were 5 minutes running 5 minutes walking, 5 minutes running.... and eventually that turned into 5 minutes easy running, 5 minutes hard, 5 minutes easy. When I say hard, I'm talking a huge pat on the back for anything sub 8:00 pace for only 5 minutes. In that first month (November, an entire year after the original surgery date) I ran a total of 46.6 miles. This is where my starting point was. I was 34 days into running when I signed up for the Vermont City Marathon and I was averaging 10 miles a week. I ran a 5k to get a time for a starting point. 22:21. My slowest 5k ever (until recently haha!). I was over 50 days into running before I got to 20 miles per week. 50 days!!! So for those of you just trying to start out and pushing yourselves too hard don't worry! Although I didn't break 3 hours when I planned, I did run a 1:25:40 half marathon at 6 months postpartum... and it took me over 50 Days to reach a 20 mile week. I"m 7 months pregnant and doing more than that. It's not about the mileage all the time.
THE BEGINNING OF MARATHON TRAINING: My husband coached me, and the big question was always "How do we build gradually and quickly at the same time" If I went too quick I'd get hurt, but I only had 7 months total to get in PR shape for a marathon after surgery and a baby, and many of those months had already passed. My monthly mileage built from that 46 to 93 and then to 144.... and then it plummeted. We made a mistake. I was still well over my "normal" training weight as I put on weight from both pregnancy and the 2 year hiatus from injury. I never concerned myself with weight.... I was concerned with performance, the weight would come off in time. I kept it in mind when I ate, but didn't look at a scale. I judged my "weight" on my efficiency and how I felt running. HOWEVER, my shins couldn't handle it the extra pounds. The ONE thing my PT told me to do that I didn't (because it seemed silly) was jump rope. It now made sense. He wanted me to jump rope so my body could acclimate to the weight but in a controlled way. I emailed my PT for some suggestions and couldn't afford to take any days off that were not absolutely necessary. Remember, I wasn't trying to just run a marathon, I was trying to break 3, I was trying to PR.. and at this point in time I was projected to be in the mid 3:30's. My PT suggested cross training and soft surfaces. I began to do ONLY runs in the grass and on the soft trail. I did 8 mile runs circling grass fields... I also switched workouts to hills to be able to increase heart rate etc. without the same level of impact. I walked the downhills. I used the eliptical, my least favorite thing in the world. My February miles were 85 total... I was behind schedule to get in sub 3 hour shape. At this point everyone else was just starting their marathon training for Vermont, so I did take comfort knowing that even with the days off I still wasn't "technically" in the window where I would normally begin marathon training. I made an early enough mistake that I could recover from it in time... but I still had a lot of obstacles ahead of me.
BREASTFEEDING AND TRAINING:
In the beginning, I was only doing short runs, so it was pretty easy to fit in a run around Raea's nursing schedule. It got a bit more difficult when I started getting my mileage back up. A lot of people are asking about training and breastfeeding. This was probably the hardest part and the most underestimated. Raea was tiny (5th percentile), so I was worried that somehow I wasn't feeding her enough... now in hindsight she just doesn't eat that much at a time... but because I was oversupplied and my kid never over ate, if I had a long run I would feed her and then pump so that I wouldn't be painfully engorged by the end of the run. My husband was also training for a marathon (he ended up running a 2:39, his goal was sub 2:40) I'd do all this while he was on his long run.
Did the hormones slow me down? The short answer is no but part of that is because I wasn't just running. The hormones released from breastfeeding make you more elastic and loose. You can lose some of that snap or quick turn over from it... so to compensate I did a crap load of speed workouts and an even bigger crap load of drills. Drills drills drills.Every Friday I had Agility Drills and Strides at the end of an easy run. Drills were things like high knees, butt kicks, bounding, skips, a million different hopping type of agility things. On Tuesdays or Wednesdays (whatever day I didn't do speed) I did stability drills. These were all more balancing, core, strength. A lot of bosu ball stuff. These were my favorite because I did them with Raea! On Mondays I did really really slow trail runs to keep my ankles, shins and lower legs strong. I running on the undulating terrain kept those smaller shin muscles working hard. I also did yoga on Mondays at home. So these were all part of my "easy" days so on the other days I was running fast. I was basically doing things to improve speed every day of the week (except Sunday Long Runs) even when I wasn't actually doing speed work. That's the great benefit of drills, they help your speed without destroying your body.
How did I keep up with Calories? I'm lucky enough to be married to a Nutrition Counselor. My husband graduated from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, so I was pretty good. Each day I'd wake up to feed Raea. I'd pump on the opposite side that I fed her on because again I was over supplied and she'd never take the second boob, so I'd be in lots of pain by the time I even got to work. I found that I got more milk pumping if I was also feeding and I was constantly worried that my oversupply would run out once I got to real marathon training, so I needed to stock up and keep everything flowing! I was always in a hurry out the door so breakfast was probably my worst meal as I ate it in the car. I had usually a peanut butter bagel (I miss peanut butter) and half a green smoothie. It was a strange thing because I needed to lose weight but also keep the caloric intake high. The biggest difference I made was eating lunch twice. The second thing I did was change the type of lunch I normally have. Lunch is always my biggest meal. Normally I would do leftovers from the night before (mostly out of laziness), but this stopped. Every day I pumped at 11:30-11:45 during my students lunch/recess, and then ate my actual lunch while nursing Raea (my parents house is next door to the school, so I'd get to see her!) from 1:00-1:30 when a large portion of my students had specials (art, music, gym). I did not take a prep because of the extra feeding. At 11:30 I would eat a basic spinach salad and it was mostly just greens, a few veggies, cheese, and crutons. Then at 1:00 I would have a veggie sandwich with apple, cheese, more greens, cucumbers, peppers, and occasionally a tempeh or veggie "meat". I made sure to have some dense yogurt (I never get low fat and always the whole milk), and I'd put nuts and granola in it (I'm now allergic to nuts... so, that's not going to happen anymore) I'd have the second half of my green smoothie that I had for breakfast, and usually a banana or an orange. I ran at 3:30/4:00 every day so I didn't want to eat anything that would be too heavy. For dinner we mixed it up but a lot of rice and beans and quinoa with tofu, tempeh. Or pasta with the soy crumbles. I never turned down dessert.
When did I stop breastfeeding? My first breastfeeding goal was to make it to 6 months. Then to a year, then after that I just decided to wean when it felt right for Raea. She was a breast milk addict so the day I got a positive test for pregnancy was pretty much when I stopped. I thought it'd take the whole 9 months to wean, but I said no once and she had no interest in me anymore. I still lactated for the next two months so I had to manually express occasionally just to relieve the pressure. I actually got an infection from the sports bras and the engorgement but This wasn't until well after Vermont so I wont get into that anymore. I could probably write an entire blogpost on training and breastfeeding, but these are to address some of the questions I've received. If I think of anything else I'll do a followup. I"m sure I'll be learning even more when October comes around.
LACK OF SLEEP:
Truthfully, this wasn't a real issue for me. I had Raea sleeping in 6 hour stretches by the time she was 2-3 months when I was only running 10 miles a week. I have lived off of 6 hours of sleep for a long time. Often she'd wake up at 4am and I'd take her in bed with me, nurse her on my side, and fall back to sleep. NOT ADVISED by doctors and hospitals and all that other stuff, but I was very aware of where she was, I knew she was safe, I wasn't worried about it. She was already capable of pushing blankets away and rolling over at 3 months and by 4am I was only lightly sleeping. So for months I just had her in my bed for the last two hours. Breastfeeding was the hardest and yet easiest thing because I got way more sleep because of it (albeit very poor sleep, it was better than the alternative) Tonight is Raea's first night in a toddler bed, I really buckled down with sleep once I cut night time/4am feedings completely (around 6 months when she started solids). I modify behavior for a living and feel like I applied all the theories I've ever read to sleep and came up with a really great way of making going to bed positive instead of "crying it out". I'm hoping it works for baby number 2 and for the toddler bed! If not, I know that I would put my bodies needs before training. Some days I'd probably train through a tired phase, but I'd most likely trade some easy days for some extra sleep. Sleep is where your muscles repair!
I kept track of everything on strava, and I had a print out of my entire schedule. We'd print a new one if I needed to make adjustments. I religiously came home and put a big "X" over each day. After February everything went perfect. In March I ran 192 miles, and in April I ran 261. Ramping up the mileage would not have been possible without all the additional work I have already mentioned. That buildup from March through to the taper looked like this weekly: 24.6, 29.6, 39.5, 50.6, 49.1 55.9, 60.5, 64.4, 64.9, 65.0, Then I started coming back down very gradually. I was 190 days of running when I pulled my calf, and just about a week out from the marathon. During the whole training cycle I had massages, I went to the chiropractor, I took ice baths... all in ADDITION TO the drills. At some point in peak training I did ease off on the drills because I was really, really tired.
Hardest workout? There was no ONE workout that stands out as the hardest. It was a cumulation of workouts that got hard. The most mentally difficult phase was in the first phase where every single Saturday it seemed I had a two mile tempo. At this point in time I still wasn't in great shape, so I would get really nervous that I wouldn't get faster as the weeks went on... I would also have a really hard time not getting discouraged that two miles was SO hard!
Here is my progression:
I would say the hardest was when we started combining the tempo runs with track workouts. Track workouts in themselves are not hard for me. I have spent years mastering the perfect pacing on the track, and I've run intervals much faster than you'll ever need for a marathon... so the track didn't stress me out... but the fatigue that would set in from the tempo run right before would make getting up to interval speed difficult. I think these were the most important workouts I did.
Workout I enjoyed the most:
Easy "Ryan Hall" runs in the trails. A common mistake runners make is not using recovery runs to recover. I did not make that mistake. I ran really slow in the trails almost every Monday. While no cardiovascular gains were made, I was able to use the softer terrain to recover and build stability.
What I would do Differently: Other than the glaring error I made at the very very end of the training cycle (coming up next) I would do more hills during long runs or the day after long runs on tired legs. I did most of my long runs on flatter terrain as the course I was training for is flat. However, I did one long run from my house because there were baby showers and other things I needed to get to, and that's when I realized my knee was still unstable when it gets fatigued, and this concerned me. It wasn't the ultimate demise of all this hard work, but it was the first time since February that I felt like we left something out, and it was too late to make it up... I just was glad Vermont City isn't hilly...
WHAT WENT WRONG:
I was within the 10 day forecast of the race and still going strong. Temps were rising and we were creating a new plan. I had run a 1:25 half with the first 6 miles at marathon pace... so a HUGE negative split...Using the VDOT calculator (religiously) I was projected at sub 3 hours across the board with all the workouts and now a race. I had ONE marathon pace workout left and I was WIPED OUT Physically and Mentally. We had done a lot of driving the day before and at work I just didn't feel right. I felt extremely bad. So Matt told me to cut the marathon pace run in half if I didn't feel good (from 8 miles to 4) or to do it the following day. My schedule with a babysitter the next day was not good, so I just said "fuck it... I haven't missed a single thing... I'm not missing today!"... I had to stop at a crosswalk during the marathon pace run (that felt really easy even though it was in the 90's and no shade)... and when I started up again I got a cramp in my calf and that was it. The cramp was most likely caused from dehydration. I felt behind on hydration all day from being in an old unairconditioned school. I had a meeting on the second floor the last hour of the day basically in a giant closet with no windows. I knew I didn't feel right, but I was stubborn. I let my obsession with the training plan take over what I knew was right for my body. Stopping at the cross walk and then suddenly starting was all it took for the cramp to become a more serious injury. I knew it was over. Everyone else tried to convince me the calf would heal if I stayed off it for 10 days... and that I wouldn't notice in the race, but I know my body and I know once I have a calf pull I'm out for 2-3 weeks minimum.... and I only had 10 days. Of course I got dry needling, massage, chiropractic care, active release therapy, graston... The works in! I attempted running the Thursday before the marathon and I couldn't make it 400m. Just like that, 190 days of training was all for nothing. It took two months to heal because I tried to run a marathon a month later just to get a BQ in... (made it to 18.6 before a DNF)... but there was no coming back from this.
BLESSING IN DISGUISE:
I have literally never been so heartbroken. It would be impossible to include all the sacrifices (I should note: I sacrificed a lot, but It wasn't like I missed my baby's first 10 months of life... I breastfed, which basically means I can never be away from her for too long. Other than running she was with me for all of it!), you could never understand the work of art a Sunday Morning was and how Matthew and I made it possible for both of us to be in great marathon shape at the same time with a newborn. My mother was a huge help, his mother was a huge help, sneakerama (where he worked) was a huge help SO many people helped us... and even though I didn't get to run, I still felt all that love and support. As it turned out the Vermont City Marathon got SO HOT that they deemed it unsafe and shut it down... so if you were slower than 3:45 you didn't get a finishing time... and if you were faster than that, you still had a slow day. It was really, really hot! I would have most likely ran in the 3:05-3:10 range based on other competitors I knew there.... I would have done something stupid like try and break 3 hours and totally blown up. The biggsest blessing is that NOW I'm having a baby! If I had run this marathon I would have run Boston 2017 and I'd just now be thinking about another child. I would never want to change the circumstances I'm in. I'm so grateful for the little baby I have growing inside me! This also may workout for the best. Since I now have my sights (long term) set on the Olympic Trials, I have more time. I was going to run Boston 2017, have another baby and try to do the OTQ in two training cycles. Now I'll have more than that! There's always a plan!
First I want to start by saying Thank You a big, big, THANK YOU to those of you out there that are soaking up the Boston Marathon for everything it's worth... It's adding to the valuable lesson I've been learning for the past 5 years: Respect Boston.
Growing up as a competitive runner in Boston is an exciting experience most of the time, especially when you are much younger and all your dreams are still in front of you.... but when you are a runner in your mid 20's to mid 30's who has not done Boston, its hard to not develop a dislike for it. There are a lot of non-runners that only know about this one event. I'd have a lot more money if I was paid for every time I had to put my ego (admittedly, pretty large ego) aside when a non-runner tells me about their friend who ran the Boston Marathon one time... and then asks if I have done Boston... and then upon hearing my answer gently imply that maybe I could be an amazing runner like their friend one day and finish Boston... (insert eyeroll emoji) I know it's harmless, but this is something us sub-elite, non marathon runners swallow on a daily basis. It's one of the reasons I started running marathons. I wanted to get the monkey off my back!
I have literally been in a situation where me qualifying for the NCAA NATIONAL championships (twice!) was considered nothing compared to a co-worker running the Boston Marathon as a charity runner. It was another one of those Slow Clap, Do you want a Cookie? moments where I just needed to swallow my pride and say "good job"... (It was close to a decade ago now, I handle these things a little better these days)
I was always a pretty good runner. I never had to worry about qualifying for the event that everyone wanted to qualify for. I made it to State Championships without blinking, I made it to Conference Championships without even knowing there were qualifying standards, and I always assumed I'd make it to Boston the same way. Qualifying and finishing Boston never seemed like a big deal to me.... Until now.
I joined Instagram this year, and while it's certainly got it's flaws, I've really enjoyed following people all over the country and even world and watching all of you get so excited to an event that I (and in my defense, many others around here that I know) have rolled our eyes at for years. Your excitement has renewed my respect for Boston. Running Boston wasn't something I really wanted to do deep down, like I said, it was one of those things I just felt obligated to do so that I could be recognized as a good runner for once. Two decades of really hard work, grinding through the snow, wind, heat, and rain; sleepless nights before big championships, tears of sadness, and occasionally joy after them, heartbreak that has cut deeper than any man ever has or could; I've experienced all that and so much more... but until I have a Boston Marathon finishers medal, I'm no more than a hobby jogger to the vast majority of people around here.
I wanted to do Boston for others... now, I want to do Boston for myself... for the first time ever I really feel like I want to be part of it not that I have some Bostonian Runner Obligation to do it.
My journey to Boston seemed like it would be easy. I ran my first marathon in 3:05 in fall of 2013 a solid 30 minutes below the qualifying time (I think? I don't even know the qualifying standard... I can't remember if it's 3:30 or 3:35, I never needed to think about it...Really.) I thought I'd just sign up the following September and run in April 2015. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately (?) that didn't happen. Here is my timeline for my road to Boston... It's repetitive for some of you who have followed me a while, but if you're just joining here it is:
November 2013: Ran Manchester City in 3:05
January 2014: Injured my knee
September 2014: Signed up for Boston hoping knee would be better by April
October 2014: Knee diagnosis, surgery scheduled for November
November 2014: Found out I was pregnant, surgery rescheduled
March 2015: Surgery during second trimester
April 2015: spectating the Boston Marathon that I was supposed to run
August 2015: Gave birth to first child :)
September 2015: Rehabbed Knee
November 2015: Began training for Vermont City Marathon 2016
April 2016: Spectated another Boston excited that I'd be at the next one
May 2016: Pulled my calf the week before Vermont City
May 2016: DNS Vermont City Marathon that I trained SO hard for (this is the most heartbroken I've ever, EVER, been)
June 2016: signed up for another Marathon as a last chance for Boston 2017 (Great Cranberry Island)
June 2016: DNF Great Cranberry Island, calf wasn't better.
July 2016: signed up for Hartford Marathon
September 2016: watched everyone else sign up for Boston
October 2016: Ran 3:05 again, and qualified for 2018 Boston Marathon
November 2016: Expecting second child (this was planned, family is important, too! I'm giving myself as much time as possible to get back in shape for Boston 2018)
April 2017: Spectating another Boston.
I still have a long journey left... and hopefully it goes according to plan this time, but no guarantee! I need to give birth again, recover from that, train again, avoid any serious injuries (probably the most difficult for me), and I'm completely banking on the fact that I will be able to handle training with a toddler, a newborn, and a traveling husband while maintaining a full-time job...
It should be interesting...
Anyway, to wrap this up I want to finish where I began, with a Thank you. THANK YOU for reminding me that the Boston Marathon is a big deal! And over time, it's actually become a longer commitment than getting to Nationals was (seriously, it's taken me 5 years to get to Boston, it only took me 3 to get to Nationals...) Thank you for showing me all your hard work... whether it was to raise money as a charity runner, or to work hard to get that qualifier, you've earned your spot on the starting line. To those of you who just missed qualifying, qualified but didn't make the cut off, or got injured... I see all your hard work, too... I feel your heart ache with both disappointment and excitement this weekend (just like mine does) and I hope to see you in 2018. My Journey to Boston has been longer than I ever anticipated it could be. I'm excited to have had these years to reflect and really build on the anticipation of crossing that line myself. If it went accordingly, it would just be another race, but it didn't.
There will be pain
There will be tears
There will be joy
This isn't just another race. This is BOSTON... and running it is one of the greatest honors in this sport... It has just taken me 5 years to see it that way.
Welcome to my blog! I blogged my entire pregnancy in 2017 and I had high hopes for where I could take my running after baby number 2, but my body had other plans. At some point I got too discouraged to write and recently realized that it is essential for my personal growth and development to keep putting feelings into coherent(ish) thoughts. I still hope to run sub 2:45 in the marathon one day, but for now I’m trying to focus on the process and I’m learning to enjoy it. You can come along for the ride, apologies in advance for grammatical incorrectness!