Friday, December 2, 2016

Pregnant Race Report - Richmond Half Marathon

Months ago, when I was hiding my reasons for not putting together a racing schedule for the summer and fall, I tried to take some of the pressure off by announcing my plan to run the Richmond Half Marathon. I was moving to Richmond, it made perfect sense. (Why it was the only race on the calendar made significantly less sense.) I didn’t reveal that I wanted to waddle it instead of race it, as I hoped to be a few months pregnant at that point, but I wasn’t lying saying I wanted to do it.

I realized early on that I would miss the running scene. As soon as I started trying to get pregnant, I missed competing and suffering through the hard workouts beforehand. I missed the anticipation of race day, the excitement of the start, the enthusiastic spectators, the spilled Gatorade, the joy (and guilt-free food fest) at the end. I knew jogging a half marathon mid-pregnancy would not satisfy all those longings, but at least I’d experience the fun of race day and be around fellow runners (including my GRC teammates who were actually racing).

I didn’t have any plan for the race itself; pregnancy has a way of keeping you on your toes: some days you feel like a runner, some days like a balloon filled with lead. With a take-whatever-I-get attitude, I wasn’t at all nervous (an unheard-of race morning experience). I was just out to enjoy a long run with a few thousand people.

My only concern was how many times I’d need to stop to use the bathroom. General nervousness may be down, but the pre-race pee anxiety was increased by an order of magnitude. After one Porta Potty trip, I needed another but the line was too long and I had to skip it to make it to the start. Heading off to run 13 miles, nearly 5 months pregnant, already needing to pee? This is sure to go well.

I decided 8 minute pace was probably fair, which had the immense bonus of allowing me to run with Husband, something that never happens and made the race a lot more enjoyable. I’m used to pushing myself and fighting to beat those around me, but this race had an entirely different flavor and I wasn’t sure what I’d focus on. My focus (albeit a cheesy one) became how special it would be to run this race as a family.

We settled in the first few miles, trying to shake off the chilly air and savoring every sunny stretch. I giggled to myself listening to two runners discussing the crazy people ahead who could run 6-minute pace. Sigh, I used to be one of those crazies.

By mile four, there was no denying a bathroom break was imminent. I picked it up a bit in the hope that I’d be able to catch back up to Husband not long after. Amazingly/luckily/fortunately I’ve never had to stop in a race before, so the pee-and-dash was another new experience. I was in and out of that Porta Potty so fast I thought I was forgetting something. Are my shorts around my ankles? Is there TP on my shoe? But all seemed fine and before long I spotted Husband ahead. (An advantage of his height: he’s easy to find in races.) I picked it up to catch him and was shocked I felt good at that pace, but was also happily relieved to slow it down again when we reunited. I was reminded of Brother and his valiant effort in Boston 2011, but was well aware my own quick stop and catch up after having jogged a few miles is not exactly the same as what he did 17 miles into running a marathon at PR pace.

After that I felt better and was determined to stay with Husband. We knocked off shockingly even splits and, to my immense surprise, I didn’t have to stop to pee again. The course was autumn perfection, with gorgeous colors and leaves falling. But by mile 9 or so, I was getting a little bored; shocker: races go by slower when you’re going slower. I wasn’t used to not racing and I had to accept people passing me, something else new. (Ohh, I get passed all the time. I just usually hate it.) I thought about how someday, post-baby, I’d like to race this course for real and get back to being one of those 6-minute crazies. I started doing recon, thinking about what it’d feel like at this point, turn, etc. I may not be racing now, but one day…

With about half a mile to go, we made a turn to head down a long hill to the finish. I’d heard about this hill (and even seen part of it while spectating a few years back) but I was not prepared for how extreme the drop was. We were flying. And of course, husband, with his legs that are approximately the length of my body, was cruising down it at what seemed like world record pace (a disadvantage—for me anyway—of his height). I tried to keep up without falling over and rolling down the thing (a serious achievement while pregnant) and we finished side by side.

Post-race. 
Mom and Dad might not have PRed, but Baby did.
In yet another first, I realized later that my belly button—which has moved into its new pregnant, popped out position—got chafed, which has also certainly never happened before.

No matter how much you’ve run, there are always new experiences.

Dream big,
Teal

Friday, November 4, 2016

Halfway: The Peebody Awards

This week, I’m 20 weeks, officially halfway through the pregnancy.

Of course, I can’t help but compare pregnancy to a marathon. (If—instead of a full body collapse into a vat of fries and ice cream—marathons ended with the not-so-trivial responsibility of caring for a tiny human being.) If it was a marathon, I’d be at mile 13.1: still feeling pretty good, but scared about what’s to come (especially that last 0.2—i.e. the actual giving birth part).

In the last week or so, things have improved. For most, some of the early woes end with the first trimester, but I was still completely exhausted well into the second. Some people blamed my running; combined with growing a baby, it was clearly enough to exhaust me. But at 19 weeks, I finally got my energy back. The stairs aren’t the monster they used to be and I can make it through a whole day without wanting to collapse in a heap on the floor. (Mostly. I mean, who couldn’t use a nap right now?) Like the marathon, there’s an ebb and flow to pregnancy: good days/weeks and bad ones, good patches and rough ones. I’m currently in a good patch, but who knows what’s around the corner.

I’m also sort of still in denial as to how pregnant I am. I feel like I look way more pregnant than people expect at this stage. (Before seeing me, people ask if I’m showing yet. When they do see me, their “Oh geez, yes, you certainly are showing” reaction is hard to disguise.) I have no clue what I’m *supposed* to look like at this point (every body is different) but some part of my brain is still in denial: I’m not even *that* pregnant, why don’t my pants fit? Do I already need maternity clothes? Like the dangerous denial of the early miles (I don’t need the Gatorade yet, I’ve just started, I’m not even thirsty!) this thinking backfired brutally a few weeks ago when I ripped my last pair of jeans that fit and had a complete “I literally have nothing to wear” meltdown. Turns out, yes, I am *that* pregnant and yes, I do already need maternity clothes.

But at this point in the race, mostly all I can think about is that I really need to pee.

Always, constantly, day and night. This is what I personally blamed on my extreme tiredness; I haven’t slept through the night since that life-changing pee back in July. (But it’s just getting me ready for nights with Baby!) Now that the exhaustion has subsided a bit, the getting up in the night to pee multiple times doesn’t bother me so much. What really bothers me is when I’m running.


Even if I pee right before I walk out the door, I need to pee again within the first mile. It’s incredibly frustrating, especially because I moved to a suburban neighborhood and my routes pass very few stores/gas stations and no woods, just house after house after house. It’s sapping the enjoyment from my runs; it becomes all I can think about and when I’m done I’m just immensely relieved that I made it home to relieve myself. The happy endorphins seem to get overpowered by my annoyance with my bladder.

This was a major concern in my first pregnant race. Could I even make it through a 5K?

Predictably the warm up was full of thoughts about how I needed to pee, but after a porta potty stop before the start I surprisingly didn’t think about it much during the race. The course was on a trail, and while I didn’t have much of a sense of what time I’d run anyway, the nature of the trail made times even more irrelevant. It wound through the woods, up and down hills covered in threatening roots, across bridges I had to tiptoe across so I wouldn’t slip. (My poor record of falling makes me a particularly cautious pregnant runner.) The course took me back 15 years to cross country races through the woods of South Jersey; the constant winding giving the runner the sense that the race could either end around the next bend or possibly go on forever. A fall morning spent looping through the woods—this was the type of run I first fell in love with. In the end my time was pretty close to what I ran in high school, a fitting tribute to what seemed like a throwback day. (Well, except for the maternity shirt…)


Best of all, even though completely surrounded by woods and all alone for most of the race, I didn’t have to stop to pee. Maybe I’m hitting my stride.

On to the next 13.1 miles...

Dream big,
Teal

Friday, October 28, 2016

The First Trimester: Fear and Secrets in the Empty Room

Twelve weeks in is when many people choose to reveal their pregnancies. The reason is largely due to the risk of miscarriage; it drops from about 20% in the first few weeks to 3% after twelve weeks. (Bumps also become much harder to hide around the same time.) Miscarrying is shockingly common; I’ve had many friends and family members lose a baby, and while this used to be ignored and not talked about, I’m glad my generation seems to be more open to sharing it. But the commonality doesn’t do too much to alleviate the fears of it; I was so excited to be pregnant, but simultaneously so worried it was too good to be true. I tried not to get my hopes up too much (yeah right) or believe it was too real until we hit that magic twelve-week checkpoint; I wouldn’t even let Husband refer to the spare bedroom as Baby’s room, as if that might jinx it. 

But for anyone who thought twice about that bedroom (why do we need an extra, completely empty room?) it was pretty obvious anyway. The most telling sign that a woman is pregnant is that she suddenly stops drinking (if she drinks to begin with, of course). I tried to avoid social situations involving drinks (“Happy hour? Nah, let’s do lunch instead!”) but it became pretty impossible. At a baby shower serving mimosas in champagne flutes, I tried to whisper to the bartender that I’d like plain orange juice, wink wink. He put it in a juice glass. “Oh sorry, could you put that in a champagne flute? WINK, WINK.” He skipped giving me the fruit garnish. “And could I please have the raspberry? WINK, FREAKING WINK! … And could you please realize we are at a BABY shower, with at least three obviously pregnant women and likely some others trying to hide it?!” (Many women have similar stories from weddings, etc. — Can we give bartenders a briefing on this or something?)

Obviously, we need this totally empty bedroom. Just don't ask why.
That baby shower was with my teammates. If they hadn’t noticed the strangely dark hue of my “mimosa” (I didn’t continue my whispered fight with the bartender long enough to ask for a splash of seltzer) or the fact that I was sweating profusely (Oh hey, did you know pregnancy makes you sweat more? It’s delightful!), I’m pretty sure they saw right through my “race plans.” Or lack thereof.

For months, I kept putting off nailing down races, which is pretty atypical of me. I generally announce them here before each spring and fall season. But I had no summer or fall schedule and no explanation of why. “Oh, you know, just enjoying my post-Trials break… for six months…” I couldn’t explain it and I dreaded the “What’s next for you?” question, through the months of trying and the first months of pregnancy. While it’s probably hard for everyone to disguise, I wondered if it isn’t way more obvious for runners—forget the sketchy drinks, I was suddenly a competitive runner who wasn’t competing.

But despite not competing, in some ways I still seemed like a marathoner. Pregnancy is a lot like marathon training in that:

(1) You’re exhausted all the time.

I used to be able to say I was tired because of a morning twenty miler. Now I go up the stairs and I’m tired? (Well, I was also busy making an eyeball.)

(2) You’re hungry all the time.

I craved mountains of purely bad-for-me foods: french fries, burgers, milkshakes (exactly the food I scarf post-marathon… because, you know, those stairs were such a Pheidippidiesian task). I luckily avoided the classic puke fest so my appetite was in no way diminished, except for an aversion to anything remotely healthy. (I did feel nauseous sometimes but the lack of anything more extreme made me more worried, since many friends experienced worse morning sickness during healthy pregnancies than ones in which they miscarried. My doctor later refuted this and says it’s totally normal (and lucky!!) to not be super sick.) I wondered if people speculated my new little paunch was a baby bump or just assumed it was a big lunch. (Answer: both.)

But I wasn’t running like a marathoner. My worries about running mostly went away after we conceived (running does NOT increase the risk of miscarriage, just like it doesn’t hurt your knees or kill you) but I still didn’t increase my mileage much or jump into workouts. My main concern was that it was the middle of summer and many things I read cautioned against running when humidity or heat is too high, but there were no numbers indicating what “too high” meant. (And news flash: it’s humid here Every. Damn. Day.) I spent some of the worst summer days on treadmills, hating every treadmill step, but when my doctor said I’d be fine so long as I was smart (i.e. go early in the morning, hydrate well), I felt better about getting back outdoors and started enjoying it a lot more.

When the twelve-week mark came and we were blessed with everything being fine, I was obviously immensely relieved. People say many of the other stresses and annoyances of early pregnancy (exhaustion, nausea, the constant need to pee) also go away at the end of the first trimester. (Although some make a not-so-welcome return in the third.) They didn’t for me; I’m now well into the second trimester and still feeling much of the same. And even after I told people what they already suspected, it took a while for me to believe it myself. Maybe my paranoia/fear of jinxing it set in a little too deep. We officially started calling the empty room Baby’s room, but still, I couldn’t quite grasp this was real. Does it ever set in? I’m pretty sure I could be holding a newborn and still in disbelief. (Check back in a few months.) My worries about this little one haven't subsided either, and I'm sure they'll last years as it hopefully grows much bigger than a little one. (Check back in a few decades.)

But at least now every one knows it wasn’t (just) a big lunch and no, that’s not a mimosa. And not having to try to hide that is another big relief.

Dream big, 
Teal

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Trying Time

This past spring, whenever I went to CVS for a pregnancy test or prenatal vitamins, my receipt included a coupon for tampons. (Other purchases warranted different coupons.) “Nope,” said CVS with a sneer. “No baby this month.” It was like a slap in the face. Because dammit, CVS, for months you were right.

I was originally optimistic about the ease of transitioning from serious runner to mother-to-be because of how many young mamas raced at the Trials. But once I was stressed enough to overanalyze it, I realized that in all the stories I’d heard (or Googled) the women got pregnant right away (within two months at most). But then I started to wonder: What happened to all the women that took a while to conceive? Those that had to step away from the sport for longer, for all the months of trying, before they got pregnant? What about women who miscarried? Statistically, these women must exist. Do they not share their stories? Did I selectively forget them in an effort to be positive about quickly conceiving? (Very possibly yes.) Or does staying in the sport require getting pregnant right away to minimize time away? I read a blog about how to plan your pregnancy around your running life, even down to scheduling it so you can be sidelined during your least favorite season, and—while the post tried to gently mention this wasn’t possible for everyone—it made me want to punch the computer. Who can conceive with such precision?! I’d just like to get pregnant sometime in the near future, please and thank you.

More recently I found an old post from Lauren Fleshman about how the unrelenting Olympic cycle makes this a serious problem for women pro runners. “You better hope your pipes work in the first few months of your off-season because the clock is a’ticking. Miss your window and you have to wait.”

But I’m not a pro runner. And while I do think in Olympic [Trials] cycles, my job/earnings/etc. don’t depend on my ability to run. So it felt incredibly selfish to be stressed about getting pregnant right away because of running. I wanted a baby quickly for other reasons of course (I wanted to start a family, and generally when you want something, you want it to start as soon as possible). But every time I honestly thought about why I wanted it to happen ASAP, it came back to running.

Because my running was already a mess. At first I thought I could race some summer 5Ks, or at least aim for them, and then possibly skip them once The Stick told us the good news. But then I started to worry even that was too much… the books and literature made the odds of conception each month seem shockingly small. (I would not recommend them for a high school Sex Ed class.) There’s not much you can do to help the process; you can try to time it correctly, pray about it, not stress over it. (Good luck on the last one). And—as nearly every book will gently remind you—you can stop all that running nonsense.

Most books about pregnancy (nearly all) aren’t written with a serious athlete in mind. They talk about hormones and how running too much (like over an hour) will mess up your chances of getting pregnant. But what if an hour run isn’t a hard effort for you? And pros have gotten pregnant in the middle of serious training or in the Olympic village, without giving their bodies a break. But obviously not everyone is that lucky, and who knows where I fell?

As the stress grew (What if this run is a hair too long or a beat too fast and I’ve screwed up this month’s chances??) the risk seemed too great. I gave up workouts, races, and long runs. Now that I’m happily and blessedly pregnant, I regret that slightly. I have a long road of reduced running ahead, and I wish I had started in slightly better shape. But it’s easy for me to say that now; at the time, I didn’t know who to believe and was too worried about everything I was doing. For the record, there are books (like this one) and doctors (like my new one, thank goodness) who say it’s totally fine for athletes to keep up their running routine while trying to conceive (so long as you are normal weight and get your period). I didn’t have those influences at the time.

As soon as I stopped training, I missed it. I was still running, yes, but I immediately missed the hard workouts, looking ahead to a race, really pushing myself and feeling simultaneously completely spent and exhilarated. The books warned not to worry about the extra flab or squishiness you may gain while trying to conceive, but I didn’t give a crap about any of that. I missed the competition and the readying myself for it. And I kept ruminating on this idea of what if it takes a long time to get pregnant? Every failed month meant one more month away. But those worries devolved into wondering: What if I can’t get pregnant, ever? And then I’d berate myself: Why the fudge am I worrying about running?! Who cares about such a dumb, selfish hobby?! I just want a baby!

But, in July, we got that happiest news that pee can deliver. Five months post Trials and I was pregnant. I’m fully aware of how incredibly blessed I am to have gotten pregnant and to have had a healthy pregnancy thus far. But just because my struggle turned out to not be that long, I didn’t want to forget how frustrating it was. In my anxious Googling, I didn’t find much about balancing running and trying to conceive, just article after article about running while pregnant. And I certainly didn’t find anything about the emotional battles of being a runner and trying. Times of stress normally make me turn to a hard run for an emotional cleansing—but, in this case, that just led to more questioning.

I wish I had helpful advice for those struggling, but I don’t. (One of the unexpected annoyances of pregnancy, in my opinion, is the ever-constant reminder, “Every pregnancy is different.” There are no hard and fast rules about anything, including exactly how hard and fast you can work out. You’ll need to talk to a doctor—preferably one with a healthy appreciation for a running obsession—for individualized advice.) But I can lend some understanding and agree that it’s really hard and frustrating and annoying and discouraging and stressful and feels impossibly long.

But I really hope it’s not impossibly long. And that one day, you’ll get the pee result that will give an ultimate F U to those CVS receipts.

Shut up, CVS. This time you're wrong.
Dream big, 
Teal 

Monday, September 19, 2016

A New Challenge

Back in March, fresh off the Trials, I talked about what’s next: many more miles in an attempt to make the 2020 Trials. But I also mentioned the possibilities of new challenges and curveballs along the way. And while I certainly can’t anticipate what all of those may be, I was secretly hoping and praying for one in particular.

Since then I’ve been pretty silent about what’s immediately next. But I suspect savvy readers might have figured it out:

I’m in my early thirties, happily married.

We just bought a house that has at least one more bedroom than we need.

My list of races in 2016 is uncharacteristically short, and I haven’t mentioned any upcoming ones…

So yea, you guessed it:


We’re expecting a new addition this spring!

Yes, I’m still running. (Yes, it’s slow.) Yes, I realize my life is absolutely going to change in every conceivable way (and some as yet inconceivable ways). But no, the name—and mission—of this blog won’t change. I’m incredibly inspired by the many mothers of young children who have made it to the Trials, and I’m hoping to join their ranks. Family will always be my number one priority, but we all know I love a good challenge and this is set to be the cutest one of all.

Dreaming big for two,
Teal

Friday, July 22, 2016

Summer Reading List, Olympics Edition

It’s the time of year for summer reading lists… but, this year (in just two weeks!!) it's also time for the Olympics, so I've combine the two into an Olympics edition of the typical summer reading list. As an Olympics super fan, I’ve read many books about the Olympics over the years and have compiled some of my favorites below. Take your pick to read now to get excited, in between events, or afterward when you’re depressed over the long wait until Tokyo.


Best of the Best: Rome, 1960: The Summer Olympics that Stirred the World, by David Marraniss

This is my ultimate favorite Olympics book. It follows a remarkable cast of characters (Wilma Rudolph, barefoot Abede Bikila, young Cassius Clay before he was Muhammed Ali) as amateurism began to die and drama from drug scandals, politics, and equal right issues exploded, all while the world followed along on TV for the first time. When I read this, I wished there was a book like this for each Olympiad. But other similar books haven't measured up, proving 1960 was truly special.

For the Marathoner: Showdown at Shepherd’s Bush, by David Davis

This book tells the story of the 1908 Olympic Marathon—the first time the marathon (back then just roughly 25 miles) was the absurdly arbitrary 26.2-mile distance we know today. It follows the three favorites and a stunning, controversial finish that made the marathon the must watch sport of the time.

For the Biography Lover: Triumph, by Jeremy Schaap

While the book is about Jesse Owen’s life, the main focus is of course on the 1936 Games in Nazi Germany. You may know the rough story, but I enjoyed the extra details of Owens’s early life and particularly the in-depth story behind the ’36 Games. I watched the movie Race recently, but was left thinking (as always), “The book was better.”

For the Ancient Historian: The Naked Olympics, by Tony Perrottet

This book is about the original Olympics in ancient Greece, not the modern Games as we know them today. I always assumed our Games were nothing like the ancient version, but when reading this I was surprised at the many similarities: political fighting, professional athletes, cheating. (Although the latter was by performing magic, not taking drugs.) Of course there were also huge differences, with very few events (one of which was an extreme version of Ultimate Fighting), naked competitors, and an unreal amount of olive oil.

From the Non-Running World:

I love the Olympics not just for the track and field, but also for all the niche sports that get their quadrennial moment to shine. Here are my two favorite Olympics books that have nothing to do with running:

Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown

Another book about the 1936 Games, this time focusing on a rowing team out of the University of Washington struggling through the Depression. I knew nothing about rowing when I started the book, but the underdog story was captivating. 

The Three-Year Swim Club, by Julie Checkoway

This book starts in 1937 and tells the fascinating story of impoverished Japanese-American kids in Maui trying to make it to the 1940 Games. (Minor spoiler alert if you think that through…) Against all odds and a particularly tumultuous time for Japanese Hawaiians, they become world-renowned swimmers. While some parts seemed a little long-winded, the story is truly special.  

Have another favorite? Let me know in the comments below!

Dream big, 
Teal

Friday, July 8, 2016

The (Un)Loneliness of a Long Distance Runner

We leave DC today. While the last few weeks have been a whirlwind of figuring out what exactly goes into buying a home and excitement about having a whole house, there have also been jolting reminders of what I’m going to miss: all the friends I’ve made in my seven years here.  

Particularly, my running friends.

I’ve talked about my GRC teammates a lot: their help getting through workouts, their constant support, even the science behind increased pain tolerance when working out together. But of course there’s more, like the simple camaraderie of long runs.

Fast friends.
I’m painfully shy. Sometimes I try to pretend I’m not and dive headfirst into a new situation or conversation (fake it ‘til you make it, right?) but inside I’m screaming with awkwardness. (Often not just inside…) Usually, though, I can’t repress my shyness. I feel incredibly vulnerable when I share too much (and yes, this happens a lot when publishing posts), but somehow, on the run, that loosens. Endorphins (and whatever else causes the runner’s high) can act a bit like a stiff drink, evaporating the awkwardness. You quickly get to know someone if you run with them for a few hours. Do it week after week after week and you’ll cover a lot of ground, in more ways than one. (And that’s before the additional layer of friendship that comes with suffering through the agony of 2K repeats together.)

Before I joined GRC, I was worried about the team dynamic because I was so used to doing my own thing. But, I knew a team would make me faster and I thought it’d be nice to have some friends that shared my love of running. So, shy as ever, I dove in. The first long run I did with the girls occurred a few days into the London Olympics. They talked about the Olympics with the same excited obsession as me and I remember realizing, “These are my people.” That’s been confirmed a million times in the last four years, but most recently as we all gathered together to fan girl the track Trials, while scarfing chips and guac and brownies and casually dropping Friends references.

Part of me is in denial. Richmond isn’t far, so it’s no big deal, right? And obviously we’ll stay close. But there’s something special about doing long runs together, week after week after week, that can’t be achieved over text message. That's what I'll miss the most.

Dream big,
Teal