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The Canadian Triathlon

You may have seen this picture on Facebook:


Yes, I was a spectator at my goal triathlon. No, it wasn’t because of injury. It was that damn FIRST TRIMESTER again…..YES my friends, I am PREGNANT!

Now, you all know how motivated I am. I think I miss an average of two workouts every six months (barring travelling). I was convinced when I saw that positive pregnancy test that I would be competing regardless. First, I was in peak form, I had gotten pregnant on the toughest week of my speed training program. Second, it was the summer and nothing could stop me from getting outside to run.

Well let me tell you, friends, that pregnancy has other plans.

I went through a mild depression where I could barely stand the idea of unbundling myself from my cocoon on the couch to pee. Food was…unappetizing to say the least. Cereal, tuna and white rice, and the odd Subway sandwich, if I had any at all, meant I was getting less than half my usual calories, and no fresh vegetables (couldn’t even look at em). Those calories had to feed me, a rapidly growing baby, and a nursling….which meant exercise wasn’t a smart idea, even if I could drag my ass out there. I was doubled over with nausea for five straight weeks. Standing up from sitting I nearly blacked out from the dizziness. I would get winded walking up the stairs.

I know all the physiological reasons for all of these changes and I won’t bore you with the science. I know exercise is supposed to help, but my friends, the decision was made for me. I could not do anything. My body wanted me to stay still, to lie down, try to put on a few pounds, and there was nothing I could do to make it change its mind.

I am now 13 weeks into this pregnancy and very happy to say goodbye to the storm that is the first. The depression has lifted. I started taking Diclectin for the nausea. I ran four 4 milers last week, and I can eat all the things again (with only the odd “ew hell no”). I stopped breastfeeding, and R seems pretty ok with it.

But…it meant I wasn’t going to be able to compete in the triathlon. As much as I would have liked to, it really was a non issue when I had to decide. I couldn’t train on the bike (had a little bleeding after a bike ride once that made me nervous). It was too hot to run during the day, which would have spiked my core temperature – a huge no when you’re pregnant. Swimming was the only thing I enjoyed but getting there meant enduring motion sickness in the car (not to mention I would have to get up off the couch) so I opted to watch elite athletes perform at their peak in the Olympics instead. On the couch of course. It was a nice distraction.

Huge props to my buddy Ian who completed his first Super Sprint Triathlon! He is the one who, years ago, mentioned a try-a-tri, which I didn’t know existed, and hence planted the seed. I now have the gear and the motivation to do one after this baby, and it is a great goal to have for 6 months post partum. Distance TBA….

This pregnancy, I do have my sights set on The Cookie Run 5K in November though! Hey, 22 weeks pregnant running for Girl Guide cookies….how does it get any better?!

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Week 40: The Ultimate Milestone

So here it is, the milestone of all mile markers. 40 whole weeks, “we did it!!”…hard to remember that it’s just an ETA. After 41 weeks we go for an ultrasound to check on baby and placenta, and after 42 weeks we start daily surveillance – so this is the time to relax, go for dinner, get massages, and enjoy the serenity of the belly-babysitter.

2014-07-25 09.27.24I don’t feel a “coconut between my legs”, and running is still as comfortable as it can be. Ok, not entirely true – baby is big and low now. The bladder is taking a beating (kegels are engaged over the miles!). When baby moves during a run I can feel it through my abdominals, which is really weird! I have to shift my ribcage forward significantly to compensate for the sway in my back. I am so grateful for ChiRunning posture and focuses, without them I know I would not be running even the 2 miles every 3rd day that I can achieve now, despite the huge pendulous belly hanging lower everyday. Stacking your spine correctly makes all the difference.

So, is baby on its way?? No Braxton Hicks that I can complain about. In fact, as the midwife was feeling the baby this week I apparently had a contraction. She called it a “Painless Braxton-Hicks”. Well I’ll be, things really are happening. I’m in no rush though. At this point the stretch marks are what they are, and I’m finally convinced it’s not going to punch through my over-stretched belly button, alien-style. Come out when you’re ready little baby. Almost stupidly active at times, especially around 9-10pm when I’m heading to bed, you can watch it like a thunderstorm, knees and feet just flailing around. As long as that head stays engaged, go crazy baby! Of course as soon as you take out the camera the show’s over…

I wonder if this little tot is going to make this pregnancy a true marathon of 42.2 weeks…I think I’d take that fun comparison over 42.2 hours of labour.

 

Weeks 36-39: The Taper (and midnight thoughts on labor)

I had a rather serendipitous encounter with a running coach who came to my work as client during my last week. We got to talking, of course, about running and how I was maintaining a few miles every other day. He said that the best recoveries he has seen are the women who were able to take a couple of weeks off before the birth – in the vein of a taper for a marathon. Hey, labor got its name from somewhere, and as with a marathon, you need to be in peak physical condition but also refreshed and rested. It’s not worth it to tire yourself out before you cross the start line.

I have remained quite active over this past month, even if my Garmin didn’t track a lot of it. We have had big shopping days, spent time in the garden, and some of my nesting has required me to walk up and down our two flights of stairs a heck of a lot. I have kept up 2 miles here and there as well, although I admit I have taken a week off running at a time because of my extracurriculars.

Walking is harder than running at this stage. While running I can engage my core and essentially float forward with gravity. Walking doesn’t have the forward lean that I’m accustomed to and I bounce and heelstrike (and waddle) a little more. Alignment needs to be constantly considered either way, since I can see my tailbone swinging out behind me now. I engage my core, but what has really helped is keeping my ribcage over my lower back, shifted forward a little. I’m noticing throughout the day that I really do want to arch my upper back to compensate for the belly in front.

don't give up

No matter how big you thought you were a month ago, how uncomfortable you think you felt a week ago…each week you manage to get bigger and more awkward. I’m told it’s a preparation for labor too, you think you can’t handle another contraction, and then you do – until you are finally holding a baby. In my mind it’s comparable to that first marathon. Your body and mind are beat up and fragile…and then you pass the 18 mile marker….SO many more miles to go. You don’t know what lies ahead, if you’ll hit the wall, if you’ve trained and fuelled properly, if you will even make it or how you will feel crossing that finish line. At least with a marathon you GET mile markers!

leap of faithI imagine it’s a leap of faith to keep going during labor. The gruelling 40 day meditations I have inflicted upon myself in the past required a leap of faith of sorts.  Many of them include arm movements or held positions and mantras that test your perseverance mentally and physically. Ideally you lose your “self” in the movement and the mantra, surrender your pain/pleasure/intense feeling to God or the universe. It wrings out your emotions and brings the junk to the surface so you can scrub your mind clean. You never know what will come up through those 31 minutes across the days but it’s always worth it in the end.

If marathons and meditations have taught me anything, it’s that if you persevere you will be rewarded, and in ways you could not have imagined possible. Nine months is a long journey, especially when you can only guess how it ends. You are changing the world around you by bringing a piece of God, a part of the universe, out of your body and into existence…to grow and live and experience the world for itself with you as its first guide. Indescribable, unpredictable magic.

 

Weeks 33-35: A House With Running Shoes

The third trimester is by far my favorite. There are so many fantastic movements going on in my belly! I play with the little feet and knees that poke out every so often, and stroke the little hard area that I think is the back. I don’t even mind the three point flip in the night, which usually coincides with a pee break – it helps when you have a great mattress and a sweet stack of pillows. I still have morning sickness (!!) but most days it’s manageable. Eating helps a lot. So do ice cream sandwiches and nibs.

The best part is, I’m still running! The past three weeks I’ve been able to get a 2-3 mile run in almost every other day. Interestingly enough, I feel even more inspired to run because of the physical challenges this house-like belly has created – thank the Lord for my ChiRunning focuses! The bigger I get the more motivated I am to get out there on the good days. Running actually helps keep the swelling to a minimum, and bonus – I don’t feel nauseated when I’m on the road. I am getting slower and slower, but on good days I can still run the whole way. On not-as-good days I’ll do intervals of walking and running. I have found people in the neighborhood have been supportive if they do say anything, which is good news for what I hope is the new accepted norm!

Today is not that day

I definitely respect the “growth spurt” days, however. When I feel like an overfilled water balloon, the exhaustion hits, and my hormones get out of control I take the day off – usually end up napping on the couch right after dinner to ease the swelling, or waddling around complaining about how far away I have to stand from the sink to do the dishes. For the  most part my hips have held up. I do find now that my left side is finicky and on the verge of a jam, but as long as I’m very aware of my posture while I run, I get away with it. I am pretty sure the stiffness in my hips that I feel now is going to stick with me through to the end, whether I run or walk or sit on my butt all day. May as well get out there!

Now I hear things get even more interesting when the baby drops…someone said it’s like a coconut between your legs. My motto: cross that bridge when you come to it!

Weeks 31-32: Third Trimester in full swing!

 

32 weeksMy belly is quite large, and it’s begun attracting attention from strangers! I had to ask the midwife if she was sure I wasn’t carrying twins, after comparing myself to other women in the same week. In all honesty, the third trimester has been incredibly good to me thus far. I’m less nauseated in the mornings, many thanks to my daily lemon ginger tea in the car. I am only peeing once during the night, and I’m sleeping well despite the acid trip dreams. I had one bad night and subsequent day of heartburn but for the most part I can’t complain. I have internalized that no single day is the same and no symptom is forever. I am living in the moment, loving how my baby feels when it moves, and….I’m running again!!!!!!!! I’m even entering my workouts as a “Run” on my runkeeper! I don’t do more than 3 miles at a time, but my pelvis is awesome. Things can change, and I take each day as it comes, but for now I’m going to rock a few runs a week.

It’s always been harder for me to get up to run in the morning, but I know that’s when I feel the best/least bloated. Well wishing parents of young’uns who tell me to “get my sleep while I can” make me want to lay in bed for that extra hour! (NB: none of said well wishers want to actually HEAR how well you have slept…! lol!) If I had my way I would do runs on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday – but I am acutely aware of how things can change each day so I’m flexible. Every other day has been working really well for me. I’m doing walk/run intervals, and now that I have my Garmin set for 5 running intervals of about a quarter mile I feel like I’m “in training” for the big day. (Is there such thing as a fetish for your Garmin beeping?)

I like to think I built a nice strong placenta during the second trimester. I MUST know the size of my placenta when it’s out! (There’s something to fulfill my competitive side – I want to have a bigger than average placenta!!!) If you have a more efficient placenta working overtime when you’re NOT active – and I was down for the count for about 6 weeks – you could have a fatter baby. My “fear” now is that I’ll have a big baby. I’m not very big to start out with, but I truly believe I can birth whatever I grow…this is also why I have asked my support team to avoid discussion with me about the size of the baby. Need to know basis only please!

how far along

Week 28: Getting to the Finish Line Pain-Free

I’ll start with my week, so that the learning journey concludes with the summary…

Monday – 2 mile walk in the morning. I hope I get into a good habit here!

Tuesday – 2 mile walk in the morning with hubby, then a 2.5 mile brisk walk with my PRB (preggo running bud). She was dressed up for a run just in case…I wore jeans…I wanted to make sure I didn’t run yet! I want to work on my speed while walking so that I can complete the half. I can’t imagine being told at the halfway point that I’m too slow…lol…

Wednesday – Yoga for runners with the hubby. I couldn’t believe how great I felt after. My legs, back, and front pelvis all got a good stretch and strengthen, and I can confidently say I am past the injury! I’m not pregnancy free though, things are still growing and changing so I’m still going to take it easy.

Thursday – 2 miles in the early morning with two jogging intervals (so much for taking it easy lol). I didn’t break! The first interval was an awkward wobble but I played through the uncomfortable feeling until my body said walk. Lo and behold, the next interval was more comfortable, and my watch showed an inspiring sub-10 minute pace! I managed the two miles in under 30 minutes. Went for a second walk with a friend at lunch too!

run funnyFriday – The measure of how much is too much is how you feel the next day, and now the front of my pelvis is complaining again. Hobble hobble!! It’s really becoming apparent that if I want to be pain free I can’t run at all…

Saturday – Driving around all day, followed by the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards Ceremony at night = no time for a walk! That’s ok, I’m hobbling again from my upper inner thigh pain. Feels like something needs to “pop” back into place, like it did in the grocery store a while ago. Alas, no more sleeping with the kitties on the soft bed downstairs, I need the good support of the master bed!

Sunday – Spent the day in Montreal with Mom! Happy Mother’s Day! No time for a walk, but that’s probably for the best since I’m hobbling. Guess it’s back to the doc for me again this week.

I refuse to be in any kind of unintentional pain. I am sure that there is always a way around the unnecessary aches with diet and appropriate exercise. I (thanks to my ART provider) healed a 10-year chronic back issue last year in a matter of weeks while training to run a full marathon. Most often, if you “play through the (bad) pain” without changing something you are only doing more damage – but if you use the pain as a guide you can effect positive changes which help you increase your physicality.

In the case of pregnancy, what I can do differently to ease pain is a stab in the dark. Change in my body has been so dramatic and swift I barely understand it before it shifts again. I have to give some things up (eg., bending over – to pick up a dropped pen, a dime, food…I didn’t realize how much I drop on the floor over the course of a day). I have to stop attempting to run. Despite the fact I have healed my lower back misalignment and subsequent muscular spasm, it put a long enough dent in my training/routine that running now stresses the  muscles in my inner thighs. It creates pain in my front pelvis, where walking would not. My weight quite obviously shifts side to side while I run bow legged like a cowboy, so my tried and true ChiRunning form is compromised.

All signs point to give up the running altogether this pregnancy, and walking/yoga will do just fine as a workout in the third trimester. I would much rather get 5 pain-free miles of walking in over the course of each day, than take 2-3 days off and book an ART session every other week. I love the road too much, so I’ll be back to fast marathons when I’m ready. It won’t be the first time I’ve built my training up from couch to 26.2.

Week 27: The “Walkers” Category

Switched to the “Walkers” category in the half marathon. I’m ok with it, really! 😀

I went for two ART sessions, and I tell ya that never gets easier! Using breathing techniques really does help, and I swear my doc is purposely going as hard as he can to test my limits. But after the torture, I really do feel like a million bucks. After Wednesday’s session I really felt like we had hit a home run. I could be injury free again very soon! The best part of the session was when I asked if he thought I could still walk the full 13.1 miles despite my recent inactivity…to which he breezily said “of course”. His lack of concern strengthened my resolve to complete the distance, or at least try! Recommended: a good pair of shoes, since my feet will probably be what complain the most after the 3:30-4:00 walk.

there's a chance

I went for a few walks with the hubby the rest of the week. I even did a little jog on Sunday to test the waters – with no repercussions! However, it has been so long since I’ve run and I’ve accumulated so much mass that it’s actually quite awkward and uncomfortable. I’m not ruling out “wogging” intervals for the duration of my pregnancy, no matter how silly I must look to people raking their lawns…but until the end of May I am going to focus primarily on walking everyday and breaking in my new walking shoes for the half!

If the worst disaster that has occurred so far is that I can’t run a half marathon in my third trimester I’m feeling pretty freakin’ blessed with this pregnancy. I have accepted routine morning nausea (which is still hanging on), and a (preventable) back issue is almost resolved. I’m excited for the challenges I hear the third trimester brings! It’s such a short time in the scope of things. Whatever strange symptoms appear (or worsen as it may be…TMI not needed here) will likely be gone in a few month’s time. I’ll soon be plotting my return to marathoning, with a little mini me to come along for the ride!

Week 26: The REAL Finish Line

It’s been great to have goals like the Winterman 5k and the Ottawa Half Marathon to work towards, as I thrive on goals to keep me motivated. Unfortunately the changes in my pelvis have created enough of a disturbance close enough to the race that running the half marathon is no longer an option. After questioning the intention of the universe (thank you hubby for putting up with me), I started messaging friends to see if anyone needs a bib. I have until Wednesday to trade. If I can’t sell it I might consider switching to the walking category, but I have inherently let go of the goal. (I would need an average pace of 18:32 minutes per mile to make the 4 hour cut off…and I don’t know what’s worse, a DNF or missing the maximum time limit!)

Funny Sports Ecard: If you want to go running with me, you'd better be prepared to walk a lot.

I have refocused my next goal to the ACTUAL finish line: Delivery! I will find a way past this temporary misalignment and I will be active again, solely for mine and the baby’s health during the third trimester. Walking for cardio seems to be the most promising form so far, since it isn’t straying too far from what I’m used to. Who knows, maybe I’ll be back to running (or wogging) in a couple weeks, belly and all! Yoga will be key as well, and keeping limber and strong sounds like the perfect way to help get this baby out.

Monday-Thursday – Finished up our trip to Winnipeg and recovered! I called to get on the list for the doc, as I was still hobbling away.

Friday – Continuing on my path to pain elimination, I got in for an ART session. This time we got deep into my hamstring and glutes. (I tell ya, if you want to prepare for labor with breathing through the most intense pain you’ve ever felt, come to my doc!) He said the primary issue in my low back has been resolved, and I’m feeling most of my pain from the secondary issue, lower in my butt but radiating through my hip and low back. I have another ART appointment on Wednesday, and the doc mentioned he might need to do an actual adjustment so I’m not in the clear just yet.

Saturday – I woke up and walked with more ease than usual! Looks promising!

Sunday – Moving much better, so I went for a “wog”. I walked to warm up just fine, but my first 30 second run was a bust! I could not find a form or placement that worked. At 1 mile I headed home, the pain in my right side was too intense. I stretched it out, rolled on the lacrosse ball to adjust my spine, and went back out for a slower walk to the mailbox with hubby. Maybe I was too eager to get back to running, but if I can’t even squeak out a mile I certainly won’t be running 13 of them in four weeks. Reality bites!

Week 25: Temporary Setback

In Winnipeg this week! It has been hard to admit my back is still out. It’s not hard to avoid exercise, though, when you can’t walk properly! I think, as with many setbacks, this has been a blessing in disguise. This week has been overwhelming, filled with visits with family and friends, and staying up WAY past my bedtime. My mother in law threw us a shower too! After Easter brunch then dinner with family on Sunday, I got down on the floor and rolled on my lacrosse ball. I heard a delicious pop. Hubby gave me a sweet back rub, and when I stood up I felt like something had changed. Maybe that was “the” spot?! I went straight to bed, and I’ll hope for the best.

I have made it out this week for one 2 mile walk with hubby and his parent’s dog Katie. I don’t believe the pain I had/have is anything more than temporary, I have healed from much worse than that. That being said, thoughts about completing the half marathon started to drift into the land of doubt…I have until April 30th to sell/transfer my bib through the race website, so that can be my deadline. If I am not back to running comfortably by next weekend I will start lining up someone to buy my bib…time will tell, and what is meant to be will transpire!

I have an ART appointment on April 30th, and will try to get something later this coming week as well. I want to get active again, that’s my number one goal!

Week 24: Waddle in Training

pregnantcartoon1

My belly protrudes! I have started having many conversations with people about their kids, and it seems the question always comes up – boy or girl? It’s a funny thing to ask when you think about it. It’s a baby, a family member, magic unfolding – does it really matter if it’s pink or blue? I guess it’s interesting to the outside world, but I like having the 9 months to adjust to becoming a parent without inadvertently selecting my hopes and dreams for the little one’s life. My perspective feels wider. I like the mystery.

With my dramatic change in shape has come a relaxed attitude towards my running form, with detrimental consequences. I spent years working on awareness of my ChiRunning form. Lean from the ankles but move the energy from the pelvis, like a bungee cord attached to your tailbone pulling you forward. This has made it possible for me to run very long distances without the chronic back pain from an old dance injury, but I had to be diligent. I don’t know why I thought I could forget about that now that I have relaxin coursing through my veins as well as additional weight on the front…I still have abdominal tone, I can still lead with my tailbone, yet I slightly consciously chose to let go because “it’s different now”. Well, old injuries come back when you return to old habits…

Monday – Cross trained with a 30 minute walk at lunch. Weather is really starting to cooperate! Bring on the spring!

Tuesday – 40 minute run with my preggo bud! We squeaked out a good 3.5 miles too. Our pace increased with each mile, obviously still holding a conversation. 😉 I’d say it was a 14.5 for effort. Pelvis is still cooperating, it actually feels like it’s better (!!!).

Wednesday – Lunchtime 2 mile walk. Did you know the Tim Horton’s is 1 mile from my work? 😀 I burned 150 calories to get a 300 calorie donut. Pregnancy win!

Thursday – 30 minutes at lunch, 14.5 for effort. Wind gusts up to 82km/hour, nearly knocked me off my feet! Nice to have the bike paths free of snow and ice again too, much more relaxing than taking the streets. I am looking forward to rest day tomorrow, my low back is now being finicky. Recommended by most baby sites online is to do some gentle exercise, not rest…well, yes, I keep saying I’m going to do more yoga. I really am!…

Friday – Rest day for sure this time, not even a walk. Got in with the chiro again early this morning since I was hobbling unnecessarily, from my run yesterday. A lower facet joint had snagged and the muscles on my right lower back seized up. He released the muscles and told me to do child’s pose every morning for 2-3 minutes, twice. Once again…yoga…OK I GET IT lol…

Saturday – Some residual achiness in my low back, so I split my walk up, about a mile in the morning and a mile at night. Yard work, housework, a little yoga here and there, and some shopping. I don’t love this old pain, it’s so familiar and so frustrating. I know it will go away with patience so I’m taking it easy.

Sunday – I must have really done a number on those lower back joints, the residual pain from the jam is still hanging on. I guess today is a forced rest day, and patience will have to prevail. My training plan is about to undergo another renovation! Lots of beginner training plans only get to 10 miles pre-race. I’m training to finish the distance, regardless of speed so I can forgo a taper in these last 6 weeks. I’m still being realistic!

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