Saturday, December 27, 2014

Reflections on My Year as a Mother Runner

(Someone doesn't like her Reindeer ears)
I thought my last race of 2014 would end up being my first cross country race of the season as a baby with a fever caused me to cancel a later race and my husband’s work schedule did not work out for me to go to Club Nationals but I managed to sneak in one more, very low key race in December. I ran in Covington’s first (the race director hopes to become annual) Reindeer Dash 4(k) Food. The race entry was a food or cash donation. The race was not timed. But I still had a great time. I even ran it in Reindeer Antlers. My older brother Josh came in first and I was the second finisher overall behind him. It was a fitting ending to sum up my year of races, which I have two words for, whim and fun. Going back through my training journal I noticed most of my races I signed up for on a whim and my main goals were to enjoy the training and racing and have fun. I would say I accomplished this most of the time.
(Waving to Lilyana while racing)

                So with another year drawing to a close now is a good time to reflect on my first year back as a Mother runner.
                My mileage in 2014 was almost as low as when I was running while pregnant. I never would have guessed that. However, with all the running around I do all day caring for a baby my energy levels felt like I was running 2-3 times that amount. My highest mileage week was 50 that I hit once, almost twice. Besides that my mileage was consistently in the 30s no matter how hard I tried. I would get done with one week and think to myself the next week I will run more. But the next week would come and I would find myself still in the 30s. I did notice my better training came when I was running close to 40, and my faster times came at that level. I feel if I was able to be more consistent there, in time I would bring my times down to being more similar to what I have done before. I do not think mileage is always the key.
                One thing I learned was to really listen to my body. If I was rundown and tired from being up all night with the baby, I would often opt for a nap instead of a workout. This may not be the best recipe for racing PR’s if you do this all the time, but it is a great recipe for staying injury free and saner. For instance, today I was going to go out for a run but I was feeling very wiped out. My plan was to take Lilyana in the evening, just when it got dark, and run through the neighborhood so she could see Christmas lights. The weather was cold and gloomy but having the weather shield on the BOB makes for an enjoyable run for her. I just try to toughen up. Levi was working and the gym doesn’t have childcare after noon on Saturday. With great intentions to run, I laid Lilyana down in her crib, hoping she would take a 2nd nap so I could lie down for just a moment. I expected Lily to entertain herself for 15 minutes or so before wanting out. The next thing I knew an hour had passed. We both had passed out and I missed my window to run as it was dinner time when we awoke, then bath and bed for her. The nap was much needed. My body needed it more than a run. You have to be flexible with your training.
My mother-in-law is giving me her treadmill and my brother-in-law is bringing it up soon for me. I think this will help me on weekends when my husband is scheduled to work and I end up in situations like today. Having a treadmill again will allow me to get more workouts in without having to try and fit them in the gym’s childcare window.
The next thing I noticed was feeling a bit burned out after my track season. I decided to take a break from workouts in August and just run. It worked for a bit, but what I noticed is without my coach sending me weekly workouts I started doing less and less. My mileage went down. My workouts became nonexistent and I couldn’t break myself from this. It got really comfortable to just go for runs as they take less time than workouts. I need to make workouts a priority again. One interesting thing I noticed, after a few months of just running I started feeling tired again. My mileage was lower and the intensity was much lower. I think doing the same thing day in and day out is not what is best for your body whether you are training to race and compete, or just stay fit. After noticing this, I decided to change things up. One day I did an easy run but followed it up with some quick pickups/strides the last mile, then plyometrics, handstands, and cartwheels after. That’s a great thing about having a baby; you can play for your workout without looking too crazy! I ended my run at the local track and took Lilyana out of the stroller. We jumped, rolled, and ran around laughing. I was quite sore the next day but the workout was invigorating and made my body feel alive.
(Dad's got the rest and play thing down!)
I could be writing my own workouts but I didn’t take the time to do this. My recommendation is to write out a weekly plan. You have to be willing to be flexible but having something written down will make you more likely to plan your day accordingly to fit it in. Or hire a coach to help guide you. For me, having my coach write me workouts again will get me back on track. Having the treadmill will allow me more freedom to run at different hours, and having my baby will allow me to train different muscles in a fun and new way.  
2014 was the year of the mother for me. I learned a lot about my body and training and it was a good year for me to give myself time to adapt and not force anything. There were days I broke down from being overly tired and a simple nap or rest week did the trick. I am thankful for my husband during my bouts of craziness and for helping me stay grounded during these times. His best advice being, “Here, take a nap and wear these earplugs.” What great advice for any Mother. It’s not always easy to fit in but I have found sleep to be the key to just about everything. Feeling grumpy? Sleep. Feeling run down? Sleep. Ready to cry at a moment’s notice? Sleep. Upset with your husband for no reason? Sleep. You get the point. I still have goals in mind with my running career but I am not in any hurry to force them to happen. There’s plenty of reward in the journey and I am looking forward to this trip. 
(Enjoying the journey with my family)

Friday, December 5, 2014

Regionals-A No Go

(Lilyana keeping me fueled with PowerBar during a treadmill run)
My cross country season came to a sooner end than I expected. After looking at my husband’s work schedule and trying to arrange care for our daughter Lilyana, we could see Club Nationals was out of the question. I decided I would still do all the races I could and have my last one be at the Regional Cross Country Championships in Seattle, WA. The original plan was for me to drive to the race with my daughter and once Levi got off shift he would drive to Seattle and meet us at the course and take over baby duty. Well, as we know, life with a baby can be unpredictable and plans can change.
                The race was scheduled for Sunday. Friday night Lilyana was burning up. She had a 102 temperature but other than that was acting just fine. I hoped her temperature would go down Saturday but it didn’t. By Saturday night it was the same. She was waking more at night, probably due to discomfort but again was acting fine. I had to make the decision on whether or not to drag a sick baby to a race outdoors. The weather wasn’t going to help either. It called for winds, rain, and cold temperatures. I talked to Levi and told him if her temperature didn’t break during the night then I wouldn’t race. Sunday it was still 100-101 degrees so I told Levi not to meet me in Seattle. Looks like me cross season was short and sweet. One race and done.
                By Monday Lilyana was fine and a part of me feels she would have been OK at the meet since she was acting normal otherwise but the mother side of me didn’t want to risk it so I have no regrets. It is funny how things like that can change. I have become so much more flexible with my training and racing which can be both a good thing and a bad thing. I am still working on finding that correct balance between training and motherhood. Each day brings new changes as Lilyana grows. Some things get easier some get busier. So it is a balance I am sure to work on my entire life. 

(My silly girl)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

PNTF Cross Country Championships

(My Club Northwest Teammates)
                I’m in the midst of packing for a trip to my home state of Montana so I’m going to try and get this off quickly before I leave. I’m trying to pack light but when you have a toddler I don’t think there is such a thing!
                This past weekend was the Pacific Northwest Track and Field Association Cross Country Championships held in Seattle, WA at Woodland Park. I wasn’t originally planning on racing. My last race was the Railroad Days 10k in August and to be honest, I have not been training much since then. I have been going for easy runs, taking many days off a week, and could count the number of workouts on one hand, or a couple of fingers. So as you might gather I have been in a bit of a training funk. After Railroad Days I needed a little break from workouts and the break was nice, the problem was I really struggled getting back into doing workouts.
                Without doing workouts, I wasn’t signing up for races. Usually the two go hand in hand, you are doing workouts, feeling fit, so looking for upcoming races. But when you are just running to run because you enjoy it, checking the calendar for upcoming races is not on your radar, especially with a toddler who keeps your mind on everything else but races. So that’s the position I have been in. I don’t know if it was all the changes, new house, new work schedule for Levi, Doctor appointments to figure out some issues with my Achalasia, lack of sleep, the changing seasons, I could go on and on.  
                The weekend before PNTF, my brother and sister in law came down to our place to watch Lilyana so Levi and I could go out. They stayed the night and the next morning, my sister in law Jane, got up to do a workout. I got home very late and Lilyana woke after a couple hours of my sleeping so when it was time to get up I was not at all ready to do a workout. Both my brothers were going to run the workout with her. She asked if I wanted to come. It was going to be 3x2mile at LT/Tempo pace. I hadn’t eaten and felt like garbage. But not wanting to pass up the opportunity to actually run with people I wolfed down a PowerBar and told them I would attempt to do at least one repeat with them.
(The inspirational Jane)
                I made the first repeat fine, same with the second, and actually felt good on the third! The total mileage was 10, the longest I had run in quite some time but I felt good. Running next to Jane helped. It was fun to feel like we were a team. Having my brothers in front breaking the wind was great. I loved seeing the looks on people’s faces as our group, decked out in Brooks apparel, blew by them. We got many words of encouragement and awe.
                After this workout I felt that I wasn’t too far gone and I actually decided to look into upcoming races for my Cross Country season. Being able to run with Jane helped me regain some confidence and remember that I like racing oftentimes for the sheer camaraderie of being with people. Pretty much the only race I would be able to do with traveling to MT was the next weekend. On a whim I signed up. The course is a tough one, lots of hills and unstable footing, probably not the best one to do for your first out of shape race but what was there to lose? I had never raced at Woodland Park but had heard plenty of stories to make me a little nervous.
                Race day came up fast. The night before the race I was wondering what had gotten into me to make me want to sign up? I ate way too much Halloween candy while at a late night movie with Levi and was not feeling all that great but I wasn’t about to back down.
                Race morning I did my typical post-baby warm up routine of jog some, talk a lot, jog some more, play with Lily, pee a lot, do a few leg swings, then realize I have 5 minutes to get my shoes on and get to the start!
(Over half done)
                The gun went off and I tried to be conservative but the first kilometer is pretty much all downhill. I felt out of control and was going too fast. Downhill’s can be deceiving. They feel easy but if you aren’t careful about your form they really can zap your energy with the eccentric muscle loading. I was definitely heel striking to try and slow down and was using a lot of energy to keep myself from rolling an ankle. Having extra bones in my feet and unbelievable pronation does not help on a course like this. I was in good position and feeling great. I was a little worried about how fast I went out and tried to ease up a little but falsely reassured myself I would be fine. There’s no going back so you have to go with the flow. Lap two I still felt pretty good but by the end of it I was wishing it was only a 4k. I tried to stay strong on the 3rd and final lap but my legs were screaming and mentally I didn’t have the willpower to make it really hurt. I hate to admit this but it is the truth. There were 4 places within striking distance on the final lap but I think I became somewhat o.k. with my position and battled to make sure no one passed me. My goal coming in was to get top 5 on my team. With 400m to go I did try to pass a girl but did so on a 180 degree turn which was the dumbest place to try and go around. I shot way to the outside and it took a lot of energy to get back on course and she easily gapped me by a few feet with that bonehead move. I finished 8th overall, 4th on my team, in 22:21.
(Crossing the finish line)
                My body was spent when I crossed the finish line but my mind was reenergized. I was surrounded by my fun teammates, friends, and family. After the race we took Lilyana to John and Jane’s, set up her Pack n Play so she could nap, then headed out for a lunch date. It was the perfect way to end our day. I can’t remember the last time Levi and I have been able to go out to eat together so this was definitely a great weekend.
                I am now off to Montana for a vacation and some hunting. I know this will not be ideal for my training but I am going to try my best to get in some runs and maybe a workout so I don’t lose this new found excitement for racing that I have been missing.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Railroad Days 10k/PNTF 10k Championships

                August 16th I was set to run the Railroad Days 10k which served as the Pacific Northwest Track and Field Association 10k Road Championships but August 14th I had to take an unscheduled day off and August 15th I was limping home from an easy run.
                I have a weird condition called Achalasia. Basically my throat doesn’t work correctly so I have a hard time swallowing food. I had a Heller Myotomy in 2008 to try and alleviate some of the symptoms associated with the swallowing disorder. The surgery helped some but I still deal with reflux and other swallowing issues. Every so often I have what I call “flare ups” where I may be awake all night suffering from painful heartburn (my husband doesn’t think it is heartburn but that’s just what I call it) other nights I wake up choking due to fluid going back up my throat and into my windpipe. Thursday around 4am I awoke gasping for breath and choking on fluid. On bad days some aspirates into my lungs and I am left feeling really crappy the next day. That was Thursday. I laid in bed as much as possible feeling feverish, chills, achy, sore lungs, and just crummy. Within a day I am usually back to my old self, feeling fine.
(Simple explanation of Achalasia)
                I got up Friday and felt normal. I headed out for an easy run later in the afternoon. I decided to stick to running around the neighborhood as I didn’t feel like pushing the stroller on the hilly trail near our house. I was running fine when at just over 5 miles my right calf seized up. I stopped and tried to stretch and rub the muscle to get it to release but it was locked up. I limped the rest of the way home and did some light foam rolling, ice and even took ibuprofen to see if I could get it feeling ok by race morning. My guess as to what triggered it would be the light speed work day on the track Wednesday followed by my unscheduled day off Thursday where I probably got dehydrated due to being feverish.
                I decided I would go to the race either way, at least to cheer and see if it was ok on the warm up. When I awoke Saturday morning it was not good. I could hardly walk down the stairs. It was very painful. Lilyana woke around 6am to nurse. She usually gets up at 8am but she must have sensed I was leaving. I nursed her and put her back to bed.
                I walked around a bit at the race to see if I could get my leg to loosen up. When John (my brother and coach) showed up I talked to him about it. I don’t think he quite understood how painful it was as I have a hard time admitting when something is hurt. I went on an easy warm up with him and a couple other people and it was doing ok. After 1.5 miles it completely seized up and I had very sharp stabbing pain in the muscle. I had to stop. I limped back to the starting area and told him there was no way I could race. I think he understood the pain at this point.
                As the start time got closer I decided to try some strides. I thought maybe it wouldn’t hurt as bad if I was running faster. My logic was maybe I would push off differently or use different parts of my calf more. It still hurt but the sharp stabbing pain wasn’t there. I toed the line and told John I was going to race. He just said ok but made me promise to stop and walk back to the start if it hurt. I agreed.
                The gun went off and I took off as easy as I could without getting trampled. The starting line was very narrow with a lot of people going through the blow up arch. One of my Club Teammates went down. I turned back several times to see if she was ok. Her husband was right next to me and I told him she went down. I felt so bad for her and hoped she was ok but continued on. One of our Club’s Master’s runners stopped to check on her and he caught back up to tell us she was ok but not racing.
(Not sure what year this was but this gives you an idea of the start)
I let the lead group of women go and just focused on running with proper form and not limping. Every step hurt but I was able to stay focused and put it out of my mind. I would never recommend anyone doing this but the way I saw it was I would either injure it more and have to take a few weeks off or I might not do any severe damage and just have to take a few days off to let it heal. I didn’t have any races coming up so I decided to gamble. Minus the calf issue I felt pretty smooth and strong during the race. I was running a very consistent pace around 5:54 per mile. Once I got past the 5km turnoff point I knew I would be running (or walking) the entire course.  
In no time at all I saw the finish. I sped up as much as my calf would allow and finished in 36:56, good for 3rd place overall. Right when I stopped my calf hurt badly. I must have been running on adrenaline because I was limping only a couple steps past the finish. The body is funny and amazing like that. One minute you are running with perfect form, the next, you cannot even walk without hobbling. A similar thing happened to me at the end of the Chicago Marathon. I sprinted to the finish and right when I crossed the finish line I literally could not take another step. My body felt broken. This was not quite as bad of a feeling but there was no way I was going to be able to jog a cool down.
(3rd place woman)
My calf was severely swollen that night. I iced, took ibuprofen, and gently massaged it and prepared myself for some downtime. These days I actually relish my days off. Maybe subconsciously I pushed the envelope by racing with a strain because I wanted a reason to take days off without feeling lazy. I’m kidding of course. I am not running very many miles or doing that intense of workouts but when I take a day off on the weekend when Levi is also off, it’s wonderful. We take Lily to the park or just do whatever.
I ended up taking 4 days of complete rest after the race. The first day back I walked and it was still painful. The day after that I managed to run 2 miles before it started feeling like it might grab again. I built back slowly and since the injury have not done any workouts. My calf is healed but it has been nice to just take a break and only do easy runs. I finally got a gym membership and have started lifting again. Strength equals speed. Since having a baby I have definitely let the strength component of training slide and I can tell when I try to sprint. My first two days of lifting Levi only gave me four lifts to do. I thought it was laughable but I also knew I needed to start small so I wouldn’t end up so sore that I couldn’t walk for days. I was sore after both sessions but it was a good sore. I guess I should trust Levi’s strength workouts, I mean he is an NSCA CSCS personal trainer and amazing athlete so I think he knows a thing or two. 
I’m not really sure when I want to start adding workouts back in or when my first race back will be this cross country season. But adding the weight lifting back in has somewhat reignited my athletic passion again and I love having that muscle soreness again. It’s so easy to get stuck in a routine, run, run, run, repeat, day after day for your training. Adding something new to your training, like weight lifting, may feel awkward at first. You may feel like you don’t have the time or energy to add this new element in but I am sure you felt this way the first time you started training as a distance runner. It takes practice to get comfortable with something new. You may feel like you are forcing it at first but stick with it, fake it until you make it. You can fall out of a good habit, like I did with my lifting, but with some discipline you can also start up a new habit and make it a part of your normal routine. Strength training, yoga, foam rolling, and many more are some examples of elements you can add to your training that will benefit your running and health.                                                   

Results HERE.