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)