postpartum running: 13 months out

I’ve had this draft saved on my computer for well over a month now, and I keep coming back to it, editing and revising it, deciding that I don’t like what I originally said or that it wouldn’t necessarily be helpful to anyone. I guess you could say that I more or less had this “grand master plan” of what my “postpartum running from the one-year-out mark” post would look like, and it wasn’t until (and unless!) my thoughts on the screen mirrored those in my head that I’d be sufficiently content to hit publish.

…and in the “yet again, the universe always makes sense” department, I realized that it’s kinda that image, that picture of me having an idea in my head for how I want something to look, working on it, feeling like I am coming up short compared to my lofty standards, and eventually saying eh fuck it this is probably good enough I’m probably overthinking this and letting go (hitting publish) – that picture, that process, that’s really one as good as any to adequately (appropriately, accurately, pick your starts-with-a-adverb here) to describe postpartum running (round 2) from the one-year mark.

The cliché of how quickly time passes, especially when you have a little one, is a tired cliché for a reason: it’s true. “The days are long but the years are short” – or whatever – but there’s this weird Twilight Zone, time-warp thing that has made this past year both feel like it has flown by and that it hasn’t. Most pertinent to this blog, though, as soon as G showed up a year ago (or 13 months ago, anyway), there began the newest chapter in my “pregnant running” to “postpartum running” story.

3 days old
3 days old. and yeah, after you have a baby, you still look pregnant for a while. totally normal. sweet umbilical hernia I got there, eh?

 

13 mos. old. Slight difference.
aaaaaaaand 13 mos. old. Slight difference.

Pregnancies are known for being wildly different, even when we’re talking about the same woman, and I’d venture to say that postpartum stuff can vary tremendously as well. With my first, I didn’t begin running again until six weeks postpartum, and this was after taking the final six weeks of my ~41 week pregnancy off from running because I had developed some killer lower SI pain that was only going to go away once I had the baby. That postpartum journey with A was good and fortunately without any sort of injury or setback. I had her in the spring of 2011; a year later, almost to the day, I knocked about four minutes off my three-year-old marathon PR, and for those first 18 months (or so) postpartum, I set and re-set PRs in nearly every distance I raced, ultimately bringing my marathon PR down from a 3:37 (2008) to a 3:34 (spring ’12), 3:31 (winter ’13), a high 3:20 (spring ’13), and my current PR, a low 3:20 (autumn ’13, when A was just shy of 2.5 years old). I changed literally everything about how I trained from prepartum to postpartum and was lucky (smart) enough to remain injury-free. Sometimes women can suffer from a bunch of different postpartum-related complications as their bodies get used to not being pregnant anymore, and I luckily didn’t have any of those problems the first time around.

Postpartum running the second time around has been pretty similar in some respects. For starters, I ran longer during my second pregnancy, with my last run about 10 hours before I gave birth, and my midwives cleared me for “activity” sooner, at three weeks postpartum – not at all at my begging insistence, more along the lines of them mentioning to me “oh yea, you’re looking good, go do whatever you want.” Well then … I didn’t have the shitty, ohmygodmyuterusisgoingtofallout feeling I had in my initial postpartum runs like I had before, and generally speaking, I felt great the second time around pretty much from the start. Of course, stupid things came up the second time around that interrupted my running – a double-hernia repair at about a month postpartum and then at about three months postpartum, another outpatient surgery to fetch a runaway IUD that had perforated my uterus and had set up shop elsewhere in my right quadrant (oh, and an unplanned appendectomy, too … BOGO, I guess?), and this pesky GI stuff that I’ve been dealing with actually since before my first born – but all told, postpartum running part deux has been fairly smooth sailing, in terms of the actual physical side of things. Just like the first time around, I fortunately and very luckily haven’t had to deal with post-pregnancy complications (such as DR or uterine prolapse).

thank god I gave birth about 12 hours later. this was my last pic I sent to my also-pregnant-at-the-time sister, basically saying that I had no idea where else this baby was going to grow because I was plum outta room.
praise the lord I gave birth about 12 hours later, at 38w1d. this was my last pic I sent to my also-pregnant-at-the-time sister, basically saying that I had no idea where else this baby was going to grow because I was plum outta room.

 

When I began running postpartum, I didn’t really start with any hard-and-fast running goals, in terms of weekly volume or speed or anything like that, because I obviously needed to figure out how to be a mom to two kids for the first time in my life. It’s no small order, even if you’re “just” a SAHM. I think this feeling of somewhat detaching from my running – that is, being satisfied with being able to run, even if it’s not necessarily what I “wanted” to or “needed” to do that day – has been key to my first year of postpartum running this time around. I can care, but I can also not. Go have expectations, but also don’t. Make some goals, but don’t really worry about them too much. It’s been strangely liberating and empowering.

first time on AR trails after giving birth - 11 miles, 2,400+ gain, and pretty much had my ass handed to me. It was so good.
first time on AR trails after giving birth – 11 miles, 2,400+ gain, and pretty much had my ass handed to me. I didn’t know what distance I’d be able to post that day, much less how I’d fare climbing, but I showed up, and therein was the victory, my friends.  PC- Saurabh

 

Along those same lines, probably one of the biggest lessons that postpartum running part deux has taught me has been to just go with things more often. Cue your inner Elsa, and don’t be afraid to let that shit go sometimes. When you’re figuring out life with little ones at home, you will likely eventually learn that your days and nights don’t always go as you envision. Some drawn-from-real-life examples:

That 5-mile stroller run becomes 1 or 2 because the baby is incredibly fussy, and/or you have to go get your other kid from school because she’s fallen ill.

That predawn run, where you get up at 4 to pump (yup) so you can be ready to run by 5 (yup, there goes an hour), doesn’t happen because the baby literally wakes up as you’re heading out the door.

The long trail run with your friends might not happen because you’ve gotten shit for sleep the past few nights because (insert reason here, probably something related to the baby), and at the end of the day, running for a few hours, while awesome, will not incur the same benefits to you, at this moment in your life, as sleeping for a few more (likely interrupted) hours.

And so on.

With all of these, hmm, let’s call them “life circumstances,” you can choose to just let them go and move on, hoping that tomorrow (or whenever your next opportunity to run comes) will go a little more according to what you envisioned, or you can sulk about things not going your way. It’s admittedly sometimes hard to just let it go – we runners are goal-driven, come hell or high water, for a reason – but it’s been in doing that for the past year that I think I’ve felt my best, both mentally and physically, with my running. I care so much and am so eager to improve, but I’m also very content. So weird. My words are failing me.

When you’re a runner, and probably a bit of a Type A, becoming ok with doing less than you envisioned can be a lot easier said than done. It’s so satisfying to check-off boxes each day, log lots of miles, and watch the numbers rack up week after week. My experiences this past year have taught me that if you’re parenting little ones (and still wearing all the other hats that life gives you), sometimes something’s gotta give – especially if you’re finding that you’re feeling mentally or physically burnt-out or just tired as hell. Running is supposed to be fun. It’s not supposed to be another life stressor. Like I said before, if I can run for an hour or sleep for an hour, and I got shit for sleep the night before, I’m at a place in my life where I will enthusiastically sleep for another hour and not feel bad about it. At earlier stages in my life, I would be riddled with guilt over my irresponsibility. No more. I so do not believe in training at all costs. I don’t know that I’ve ever bought into that mentality – all those ideas that the ridiculous fitspo memes unfortunately perpetuate – but after having my second kid, I’m more of a non-believer than ever. I’m human. I’m cool with that. Sometimes, a lot of times, I fall short. I miss miles. I skip workouts if I think it’s the right call or, hell, if I feel like I need to be lazy one weekend morning (looking at you, Saturday’s workout). It’s all good. I’m alright with it, more now than I have ever been. I want to check-off all those boxes as much as the next runner, but if I can’t (or choose not to), no big deal. Life goes on. It’s not going to break my training/race.

 

course monitoring like a champ
trading in a morning run to volunteer with my team at a major race in my city? no brainer. didn’t feel guilty for it. [~2.5 m/o G]

Looking back at the past year, when I ran the Berkeley half marathon at about three and a half months postpartum, I told myself that if I did it and felt pretty good in the thick of it, that I’d consider a spring marathon. It went better than I anticipated it would, so I figured that a spring 26.2 would be fun. Running while pregnant (both times) allowed me to re-harness my love of running just for the sake of running, but now that I wasn’t growing anyone, I wanted to return to the structure that marathon training dictates – while still being comfortable letting plans fly to the wayside if I needed to. It’s a bit of a juxtaposition – wanting to train for a marathon because I like and thrive on the structure but remaining willing to tell said structure to eff off from time to time – but it worked for me.

cheesin' at Berkeley
mid-run cheese

 

In my first marathon postpartum, at 7 months, I virtually tied my PR with a high 3:20 (fifty seconds slower than my PR, and on a pretty warm day), and not long later, I comfortably helped pace a woman to her first marathon finish and BQ at a 3:30. I could have been pissed about coming this close but still falling short of my PR attempt at Modesto, but honestly, I wasn’t. I ran a time at 7 mos PP that it took me 2.5 years to reach after having my first; c’mon. Of course I was going to be happy with that. About 9 weeks later, when I ran another marathon as a comfortable LR and helped pace a woman to her first marathon finish (natch) and BQ (3:30, baller), when I was beginning to feel kinda mentally burnt-out, I was again thrilled with how my running was shaping up so soon, relatively speaking, after G. I couldn’t have run that pace a year after having A, and I did it less than a year after having G and while still also BFing exclusively. Why wouldn’t I be happy with that?!

Modesto '16 - juuuuuust outside my PR and having an effing ball
Modesto ’16 – juuuuuust outside my PR and having an effing ball

 

but really, if you can't take two seconds to look like an idiot for a camera mid-marathon, why bother. (PEM '16)
but really, if you can’t take two seconds to look like an idiot for a camera mid-marathon, why bother. (PEM ’16)

With all of this, I’m not insinuating that I’m any better a runner than I am; instead, I’m sharing my experiences because I’m trying to harp on the importance of having some perspective in your postpartum running. It’s up to you whether you find value and worth in comparing your postpartum performances to your ones pre-baby, but if you do, please please please remember how much your life and body have both changed so profoundly and dramatically in the process. Becoming a mom isn’t a handicapping attribute to sport, despite what you might have gleaned from Olympics commentators, yet at the same time, it’s unrealistic to think that becoming a mom doesn’t change your running (or your body) in some long-lasting ways. Having two kids now hasn’t written off my will to compete (with myself or with others); if anything, being able to nearly-PR my marathon 7 months out makes me really excited to continue on this road (or trail, sure) and see where it ultimately leads. I have goals and ideas and dreams and aspirations, but like I’ve explained, it’s all day-by-day. I’m along for the ride as much as anyone.

speaking of ride... (10 mo. G)
speaking of ride… (10 mo. G)
winning the 5k baby mama division (while pregnant) in 2015 at she.is.beautiful - Santa Cruz
more rides … winning the 5k baby mama division (while pregnant) in 2015 at she.is.beautiful – Santa Cruz – while pushing A

 

winning the baby mama 10k at she.is.beautiful with G (just shy of 8 mos.) and winning another running stroller - so fun
and more rides still: a year later, winning the baby mama 10k at she.is.beautiful SC while pushing baby G (just shy of 8 mos.) and winning another running stroller – so fun. If you are local, put s.i.b. on your calendar.

 

With all of this in mind, then, if you’re reading this and you’re postpartum, I think the biggest takeaway I can give to you (and to myself) related to postpartum running is to just relax.

You’ll develop your speed again (and at least anecdotally, from virtually any mother I’ve talked to who ran pre-pregnancy and has continued to run postpartum, you’ll probably get faster. Chalk it up to using your running time more wisely, I guess?).

You’ll develop your strength again (and here, you’ll probably be able to throw down more. Hauling around children does wonders for your strength, if not also leaving you a little creaky from time to time).

You’ll develop your training volume again (if you want to. Your world is different now. You might want to, or you might not. Different strokes).

I don’t think there’s any real value in giving yourself a deadline of when you want things to happen. Put in the effort, be ready and willing to work when your body is capable of handling it, and just let things unfold. Don’t think that just because X hasn’t happened by your arbitrary date that you’re somehow incapable of realizing the goal. This shit takes time – all good things do, right? – and again, with postpartum running, you’re figuring out how to “do” your life again. It’s tough. It’s incredibly rewarding, but it’s tough. I don’t know when you can say that you’ve figured it all out because if babies/kids are good at anything, they’re pros at disrupting schedules juuuuuuuuust when you think you’ve got everything figured out – they change so much and so quickly – but hey, parenting, running – take it in stride, ya know? Literally and metaphorically. Step at a time, mis amigas.

even a rocky step is a step. (at the peak of mission peak - Sept '16)
even a rocky step forward is a step forward. (ridiculous and awkward selfie at the very foggy peak of mission peak; you’re welcome – Aug ’16)

 

I implore you – just be patient. Chances are, you’re doing a better job than you realize. If today is rough, it doesn’t promise that tomorrow will be, too. One bad run doesn’t mean that the entire week will be garbage. Every day is an opportunity – as after-school-special cheesy as that sounds – and you’ll figure it all out. You’ll be fine.

You’re doing great.

Two Cities Marathon training, Santa Rosa, and my effing stomach

In my last post, I said that I had decided to bow out of pacing the 3:33 marathoners at the Santa Rosa Marathon because of the continued stomach issues that I was having, the same stuff that made me back out of TSFM two days pre-race. I’ll take a quick aside here to talk about SR for a second because surely, if you read running news at all, you probably saw earlier this week that many racers ended up running longer than 26.2 miles (in effect, an accidental ultramarathon) because people took a wrong turn before the first 5k and tacked on mileage. A lot of what I read villainized and straight-up blamed the 3:03 pacer – the fastest full pacer there was – for taking the wrong turn and throwing off so many runners behind him, and therefore costing many people their BQs and PRs.

Pacers are human, guys. Even though there were other runners in front of the 3:03 pacer, who also did the same thing, it’s important to realize that pacers can obviously also make mistakes, too. You can miss a turn; you can have a shitty day (literally); you can get sick or injured – whatever. Pacers aren’t infallible. Taking a wrong turn in a marathon course (and especially that early in the SRM course, when you’re essentially running in darkness [early race start time] on dimly-lit streets without a lot of signage or volunteers, and on the part of the course that has a lot of turns) can happen to anyone. I doubt many of us have every turn memorized for our races, let alone for the long ones like marathons. I know I sure as hell have never memorized every turn for any race that I’ve done, and I’ve also come close to making a wrong turn mid-race. I feel awful for the folks who went off course, but I also feel especially awful for the pacer because so many people are assigning blame to him. It’s not his fault. It’s shitty that it happened, no doubt, but hopefully some positive changes will be in effect for future years – things like having more visible course marking at intersections, getting more volunteers at potentially-confusing parts of the race, things like that. I know SRM is talking to the BAA, so who knows? Maybe folks who would have qualified, had it not been for the longer distance, will be able to run Boston in the spring after all.

Anyway, deciding two weeks out from SRM that I wouldn’t be able to pace it because of my ongoing stomach issues was smart. I’ve continued to have “issues” since then – a lot (a lot) of the big D, abdominal pain and discomfort, that sort of thing. The good news is that I don’t have any of the bad stuff like Celiac sprue, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s; 9 vials’ worth of bloodwork and an endoscopy verified all of that. The annoying news is that we still don’t know what’s up, so I’m getting some additional testing done, including testing for parasites (!!) that might have set up shop in my body when I was in Kenya. If you want to think about something really disgusting, think about the likelihood that a worm, amoeba, or some other nasty-ass bug could have been living inside you for THE PAST SEVEN YEARS. Oh, and of course, you test for parasites by literally collecting samples of your own shit, so there’s that. #glamorous

nbd
nbd

Hopefully, all this testing will yield some answers, and things will begin to calm down. If it’s in the cards, I’d like to race Two Cities Marathon in early November, so I slowly began training for it a few weeks back. I’m loosely following a trusty Pfitz 55/12 plan, basically doing the prescribed speed stuff and LR stuff but doing whatever I want/whatever the baby will let me for all the other runs during the week. There’s been a lot of stroller running – single or double – and so far, so good. We keep it casual and fun.

Here’s how it’s shaken out so far:

  • 13 weeks out: 30.81 miles (one week what would have been post-TSFM)
    • key workouts: 10 miles of SRM pacing practice with Saurabh; 8:00 avg. It was tough to nail down exactly an 8:07 pace – I tended to swing faster – but it wasn’t impossible, so I thought that I’d still be able to do it.
  • 12 weeks out: 30.10 miles
    • key workout: 9.03 miles of trails at Rancho San Antonio with Saurabh, Tri Greek, and Nina at 8:55 avg for over 1,000′ gain, which was just good for the soul. I hadn’t been to RSA to run since I was pregnant, back in January ’15, so yeah… needless to say, it was a tad more comfortable to run there not being “with child.”
it's pretty there
it’s pretty there

 

    • the other key workout: 15 miles with 13 at SRM pacing practice pace at 8:01 avg. I literally thought about whether I should be pacing at SRM for the entire 15 miles, and ultimately, the fact that I had to think about it – and the small detail that it felt way harder than it should have (thanks, stomach) – made me decide it wouldn’t be wise for me to just show up and hope for the best.
  • 11 weeks out: 36.06 miles
    • key workout: LR 14 with 9 at GMP (7:40, 7:30, 7:29, 7:31, 7:16, 7:27, 7:32, 7:27, 7:26). This felt pretty good. It was nice to run faster than a GA pace for a long run for a change, and in the process, since I was running through Alviso (where you’re surrounded by water), everything looked the same and I managed to overshoot the distance, hope for the best by taking a turn that I didn’t know for certain would lead me back to the main road, and alas – making it back. Thank you, Levi’s Stadium in the distance, for being a makeshift compass.
surely you can see how it could get confusing after a while...
surely you can see how it could get confusing after a while…

 

  • 10 weeks out (just last week): 45.27 miles
    • key workouts: just shy of 8 miles with 4 at tempo (7:08, 7, 6:56, 7:01) with a side of OMG WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH MY STOMACH. I started the warm-up feeling like things would turn south; they did; I thought I was in the clear; I wasn’t; and at mile 3 of my tempo, I could choose to either stop my watch (which I don’t like to do during a tempo run) to go have “an emergency” in the woods … or wear my own diarrhea. I barely finished the run and promptly stayed in bed, in the fetal position, until 5pm that night. Coincidentally, the last time I had been that sick was the antepenultimate day before TSFM, and this time around, I got sick the day before the Santa Rose Marathon. Gah, foresight. Thank you.
    • the other key workout: 17.37 miles of trails (3,621′ gain) running up and down Monument, “EMS,” Mt. Allison, and Mission Peaks with Saurabh and Marc at 11:13 avg. Anyone who lives in the Bay Area should put this run on their list. It’s just awesome. For not running these trails in a long time, I felt pretty good on them, and magically, even though WWIII was going on internally the day before, my stomach felt great. I should write a separate post about this run, if for no other reason than to have a reason to post more photos from it.
14063245_1739074633019036_846667595_n
I’ve posted all of these pics on IG already, but that’s ok

 

Four peaks, a touch over 17 miles and over 3600' of gain, and it took us five miles to get above the fog. #worthit #runwolfpack #runSJ #teamrunthebay #runlocal #seenonmyrun #nofilternecessary
it took five miles to get above the fog, and once we got up top, we watched it slowly creep in. So cool.

After ascending and descending Monument Peak and then the unnamed "EMS" Peak, we three headed over to run up and down Mount Allison. On our way down, we were treated with this gem of a view of Mission Peak popping up over the fog (look closely). We got over to Mission with juuuuust enough time for a few photos before the fog ate it all up. What places running can take us. Hot damn. [PC: Marc!] #runwolfpack #runlocal #teamrunthebay #runSJ #seenonmyrun #nofilternecessary #fogust #armswingheavilyinfluencedbyalotofstrollerrunning #latergram

Leaving Monument Peak and heading for --> "Mt EMS" --> then Mt Allison --> Mission Peak. Squint, and look at nine o'clock to find @bhasin and @marckrejci. Such good stuff! #latergram #runwolfpack #runSJ #runlocal #teamrunthebay #seenonmyrun #nofilternecessary

 

Rio-inspired. (Another gem from this morning's 17, atop Monument Peak). #runwolfpack #runSJ #runlocal #teamrunthebay #nofilternecessary PC: Marc!
HAIIIIIII,  MOM!!!!!!!! (this one and the other one of me: PC – Marc)

 

Other things: I’ve substituted a lot of my predawn running for stroller mileage later in the day, which I’d like to think is making me stronger. If nothing else, my transverse abdominus says what’s up to me near-daily now, and man, after a few days of DS running, my upper body was SORE. If I can swing it with my schedule, I’d like to alternate my long runs between roads and trails, saving the flat or rolling-roads for long runs with workouts in them (like GMP) and spending time on trails when the goal is purely mileage-based. While TCM isn’t a trail marathon, I think there’s some benefit to including trail mileage – even if only a little – in each week’s volume. We’ll see though. There are other things I want to incorporate into my schedule each week – formalized strength work and some amounts of yoga come immediately to mind – so I’ve just got to a) care and b) make it a priority.

Enjoy your long weekend!

marathoning bay area wife and mom ruminating on her love of the run