New 1/2 Marathon PR! Review and Recap

When I initially signed up for Worcester, I signed up for the full marathon…I was 6 months pregnant with Mr. Man at the time and in my deluded state thought that my return to racing would be so easy that a full was well within my grasp.  Come March, when my return to running really got serious, I opted to drop down to the ½ distance.  I dropped down, not because I wouldn’t be able to run the distance, but rather because I wouldn’t be able to run it well.  I am a perfectionist and I demand the best out of myself, so why run a full and settle for a sub-par time when I could race a ½marathon and more than likely set a PR?

One month out of Worcester I ran an unplanned ½ marathon inProvidence.  I went in running it with The Hubs as a “fun run”—the first leg of a new event being held in Rhode Island—The Triple Crown ½ Marathon Series.  I went into that race with no plan or goal—no pacing strategy.  I PR’ed that day; I did it in the ugliest of manners possible.  My pace was all over the place from the start, which was too fast.  I found myself at the halfway point saying to my husband words that I have never uttered during a run before—I can’t do it. NEVER have I used the words “I can’t” before in any run—let alone a race.   So while I managed to squeak out a 20-second PR, it was not a PR with which I was proud.

June 3 rolled around and in the days leading up toWorcesterI was nervous—nervous that I would either fail to reach my PR or maybe more so, nervous that my performance would be a dismal as the last and those words “I can’t” would again be spoken.  I was very prepared for this race—the race I trained for.  I had logged the miles; I had done the cross training; I had taken the rest days prescribed by my coach.  “I can’t” shouldn’t be a phrase that needed to be uttered, yet I was still afraid of saying them.

Saturday late afternoon, me and The Hubs packed up the kiddos and headed out to Pam’s house where I’d be spending the night since she is relatively close by race.  Saturday’s weather was abysmal.  The torrential downpours  were projected to last into the morning of the race, though be a slow light rain.  With the weather a relative question mark I knew my potential to PR was no longer in my hands.  I could run the best race I could the next day, but if the weather didn’t cooperate there was nothing that I could do about it.  That might have helped me sleep that night—letting go of that self doubt.

The morning of the race turned out to be perfect—beautiful blue skies with white puffy clouds; perfect temperatures in the low 50’s, a slight breeze.  After meeting up with another of our running buddies, Christine, we opted to ditch the potty line and head to the start.  There were a total of 4-potties with a massive line—not nearly enough for the amount of people in the race.  Thankfully for me, I was able to ditch and know that it didn’t matter much because it was more than likely nerves and as soon as that gun sounded I’d be fine.  However, not having enough potties was definitely and issue for my friends, they had to stop on the race route and use the potty which ultimately was the deciding factor between a PR and not setting one.  Big fail on the race director’s part.

The race didn’t start on time—close to 10-minutes late, potentially due to the fact that there were so many people in the potty line.  For me that mean 10-more minutes of nerves and anxiety—I just want to run!!!!!!  Finally the gun was sounded and the racers were off; nerves went away and I ended up in a zone, so much so that I realized about ¼ of a mile into the race that I didn’t even wish my friends luck on their race.  The start was congested, as most races are, but with the road conditions (large pot holes) and parked cars my thoughts of PRin, despite the weather went on the back burner.  My goal was to simply run the best race I knew how and hope that it was enough.

The hills started almost right from the start, my goal was to focus on running them aggressively, yet holding enough back so that at the top my legs weren’t burning.  Mile 2 approached quickly and I was feeling strong.  By the time mile 3.5-4 came along I was ready for The Hill—I had viewed the course elevation chart a few times in the days leading up to the race and knew that it was fairly significant.  I simply put my head down and ran.  My pace slowed to a crawl (10:41 was what I remember seeing on my Garmin, Tim Gunn) but I was passing people.  My legs were on fire, but I started to bargain with myself—pass the girl in the pink shoes, get that guy wearing the black shirt…next thing I knew I was cresting the hill and on my way down the back side.

At the full/half split, the race volunteers were great, lots of signage indicating which direction you were to go and lots of course directors yelling and pointing half to the left, full to the right.  It was after the split that the course conditions started to get slightly more ridiculous.  I understand that not all courses can be closed courses but I would at least expect that there be a significant amount of cones clearly defining the running course from the cars speeding by.  There were a good number of police along the course at intersections which was great, however at one point I found myself on the wrong side of the course and needing to dart across two lanes of opposing traffic in order to make the turn on the course. The water stations were fairly regular, almost every 2-miles, but there were no gels being offered along the course (thankfully I never rely only on race course fuel so it didn’t affect me too much).

At one point I saw the sign for the 19-mile marker on the full and thought to myself, “thank god I’m not running the full today”…it’s not that I was hurting because I actually felt pretty great at that point.  My legs were on autopilot and my breathing was constant and not labored.  At that point I started to try and do some mental math to see how likely the PR was.  I couldn’t rely on watching my Tim Gunn Garmin pace due to the hills—the ups and downs were clearly showing that at one point I might be running a 9:30 but then at another point it might be a 7:30.  I knew based on some quick mental math that I was going to be close to a PR and that easing up was not an option.  I needed to continue to run the best I could and know that whatever the outcome I gave it my all that day.

With a little over 3-miles to go I saw a girl go down, and thankfully it was in front of emergency personnel because there was a stretch shortly after that were there was no one; no spectators, no police, no race course volunteers.  It was a little frightening to be honest.  To get my mind off of what I had just seen, the mental math started again.  Roughly 2 ½ miles left and it was close, close on the side of missing the PR.  I asked myself, “how bad do you want it?” and my inner response was “BAD—RUN and run hard.”  I started to chant inner mantras—“make it work,” “THIS it what tough looks like,” “nothing worth being proud of ever comes easy.”  Along with my inner mantras the perfect song came up on my iPhone—“Pump It” by BEPs.  I actually think I said, “Pump It” out loud when it came on because the guy in front of me kind of turned around and looked at me.  It was then that I decided to pick off every person that lay ahead of me.  One by one, I approached each person and passed them.  I had my eyes set on one guy that I had been following for about 4-miles and was going to “chick” him.  As I came up to his side he just stopped.  Stopped dead in his tracks—I was SO angry.  I looked at him as I passed him and said to him “come on—let’s go you’re almost there.”  He never caught back up.

My legs were flying and Tim Gunn was beeping at me that my pace was faster than the 8-minute miles that I had it set to alarm at.  My glances down to Tim Gunn to see my time kept my mental math going—I was close.  With the 13-mile marker quickly approaching I knew I was about to turn the corner to the final straightaway and see The Hubs and the kids.  This was what I was running towards—not the finish line, but my family.  I knew then that I had a PR, but I was running to my family, not the finish line.  I was running to show my children that “hard work, dedication” always paid off.  As I turned the corner, there was The Hubs with my kiddos along side Pam’s family.  I screamed and pointed at them and ran my butt off to cross that finish line.  THIS is what tough looks like!  I stopped Tim Gunn at 1:48:37—a PR by about 01:30-seconds and a 5th place age group finish!  To say I was elated would be an understatement—5 months post-partum and a new ½ marathon PR!!  I had sought out to run a sub 1:50 and I had accomplished that.  I felt amazing the entire race—my legs did not fail, nor did my lungs, nor did my mental game.  I grabbed my medal and walked towards where the family was waiting for me and saw Lil One running towards me with her arms outstretched cheering “MUMMY!!!!!”  I bent down and hugged her—she looked at me and said, “I’m so proud of you for running fast mumma!”  My heart melted—hard work, dedication.  She is the reason I run and in that moment, my success was her success.

We waited for Pam and Christine to finish not too long after and headed to the athlete recovery area, which could have been better.  There wasn’t much in terms of recovery food that was not prepackaged junk food—just some bananas.  I was at least hoping for some yogurt or oranges.  In the end, whileWorcesteris now my PR course, it’s more than likely not a course that I’d run again.  The police presence was great, but the lack of clear course markings or cones, some of the road conditions, the late race start, lack of potties, and issues with race packet pick-up and shirts (they ran out of size small—a size that I had clearly marked as being requested 1-year ago at registration) I will more than likely not be running it again.  It was a small local race and along with that comes associated glitches, but having run other small local ½ marathons with better overall experiences, it’s not a race I will likely scramble to include in my race schedule.

Next up—a couple weeks of rest followed up the start of marathon training.  It’s going to be a long summer of training, but again, hard work, dedication!!

What Does “Healthy” Mean?

I originally posted this over at the blog I recently started with my friend Pam, Fit Moms & Full Plates.  I wantd to cross post it here as well becasue I feel very strongly about this topic.

“This should be filed under rant. I know this won’t be a popular post and I’m OK with that.  I want to start out by saying that I am not perfect when it comes to food and nutritional choices. I have been known to enjoy a chicken sandwich and fries from the golden arches; I’m a fan of ice cream in abundance; my favorite meal in the world is New York System Hot Wieners (a Rhode Island thing—think disgustingly processed hot dog smothered in a greasy meat sauce, onions, mustard, and celery salt). I say all of that and also say that I consider myself a relatively healthy individual. I am a true believer in the idea of all things in moderation (OK, so maybe a ¼ block of Comte cheese with a crusty loaf and a ½ bottle of Cabernet on the occasional Friday or Saturday night isn’t moderation)…but when does moderation cease to actually be moderation? Sure today I may have only had a ¼ block of that yummy cheese, but if it is done once a month, once a week…for let’s say from the age of 21 for the next 30-years is that REALLY moderation? A whole lot of littles can quickly add up to one big lot over time.

What has recently been bothering me is a realization that a good number of people might not really have a sense of what is good and what is bad—thinking that they are making the right choices, when in fact they are being duped (me included from time to time).   Marketing companies are labeling food products with words such a “natural” or “whole”; shakes are advertized as being good options for a “meal replacement” to lose weight (why would you want to replace a meal of REAL food with something to drink?). Even some of the most recognizable diet companies are adding to the guise of things being good for you simply because a serving “only costs me 7 points!”—meanwhile the recipe someone concocted to get to the magic number 7is comprised of regular white pasta, 2 cans of cream of condensed soup, and a whole block of—wait for it—fat free cream cheese! If you ask me, fettuccini alfredo will never be a healthy dish, even if it does only cost me 7-points per serving. Clearly people are missing the fact that at the very least whole wheat pasta should be used (better yet—no pasta at all!), that cream of anything soup is bad for you, (forget the fact that it is laden with preservatives), and just because something is fat free doesn’t make it good for you.

It wasn’t that long ago that I too fell into the trap of thinking that if the label says it is healthy, and good for you it must be true.  I rarely read the ingredients labels for products that I always thought were beneficial to my family’s wellbeing.  Take for example yogurt—I’m not sure why the idea that there was organic cane juices in my fruit on the bottom Greek yogurt surprised me—I mean shouldn’t it just be yogurt and some berries?  I now see the importance of reading all the ingredients on the package—which is hopefully less than five (though, I tend to give a pass when there are 6 herbs listed in addition to the other 4 actual ingredients).  I have since made it a priority to make myself (and my husband) aware and educate us on what we put in our bodies to fuel it.  The way I’ve been looking at it recently is in terms of gasoline.  Sure my car can run on the 87-octane fuel that is assuredly cheaper, but I can get much better gas mileage and performance on the higher octane fuel for a few extra cents per gallon.  Same goes for food and fueling your body.  Can we live on low calorie cream-filled cake treats, snack crackers that are whole wheat but may contain traces of a GMO, or boxed and canned fat free prepared food?  Sure—but there is a price our bodies will eventually pay for it.

The idea of all things in moderation has been weighing on me heavily after having my two children.  As I have mentioned before, both of my children were products of infertility treatments.  While it was discovered that I indeed had one blocked fallopian tube, my reproductive endocrinologist hesitated to say that was definitively what caused my infertility (as it continued even after opening the tube).  The fact of the matter still remained that I was not ovulating for any good reason.  All my blood work and hormone levels came back OK—I just didn’t ovulate.  In the end, after having the two children I was left with a diagnosis of “unexplained infertility.”  How in the world is “unexplained” any kind of a diagnosis?  Oddly enough, there were two other women and a man at work who sat in adjacent offices to mine who were also going through infertility treatments and we all jokingly agreed that “there was something in the water.”  But what if that were in fact true to some extent?  What if it was nothing in the water so to speak, but in our food supply?

Most of our fruits and veggies growing up as kids were treated with pesticides and I can remember many times grabbing the apple before my mom had a chance to wash it.  More recently, many crops are genetically modified.  Our meats and dairy sources at some point In our lives have been given artificial hormones and antibiotics; and most food on the shelves in markets are filled with ingredient lists a mile long with words that are difficult to pronounce.  What if my occasional or “in moderation” healthy treats over time have simply built up a toxic level of garbage in my body that it’s prevented me from having normal fertility?  If that is plausible (which it is, check out what Robb Wolf has discussed on Paleo eating and fertility), then could my daughter be susceptible to the same fate if she is given the same garbage food in “moderation?”  Sure can!

Instead of shopping for “fat free” or “low calorie” foods, which are highly processed and sadly, also cheaper, maybe focus  on shifting the money from many processed snacks to a couple true healthy snacks—a big bag of organic apples and a jar of almond butter?  Instead of making the dinner with 2 cans of cream of condensed soup, figure out a way to get the same creaminess from ingredients that are in fact natural and not highly processed and refined.  Something that we have recently considered in our family is local farming.  Our produce bill is GIGANTIC because personally, we have opted to purchase organic in most cases.  This year we joined our local CSA—their produce is cheaper, fresher, and still organic.  Many local farmers are indeed practicing organic farming but simply cannot afford to pay the governmental entities the registration fees to become “certified.”  Not only are you helping your family by eating better produce, but you are also helping your local farmers in the process.

I fully recognize that eating truly healthy can be expensive and eating perfect with 100% organic and grass-fed/pasture-raised can be downright wallet emptying.  I am by no means passing judgment if you cannot afford to pay the prices that can go along with that kind of a lifestyle decision (because there are weeks where we can’t afford it ourselves).  What I am saying is that we, as a country, should do a better job at educating ourselves and our children on what is truly healthy and demand that those products, which can be out of financial reach for many, become cheaper.  I really believe that if enough people recognize that we are being fooled by false advertising and begin to boycott some of the products; it can send a message to our government.  Instead of subsidizing large corporate entities to produce genetically modified organisms they should subsidize the small farmers; we will get a better food source for all to access.  Please, be aware of what you are eating—read labels.  Try and stick with five ingredients or less.  Don’t buy something that contains an ingredient that you cannot pronounce.  If it has a shelf life that is longer than the life cycle of a gold fish—it’s probably not good for you.  If you don’t do it for yourselves, do it for our children.  Kids learn by example and they emulate what they see other do.  We have the ability to help change the thinking and health of a generation.”

Trying to Get Back in the Game

I keep saying I’m trying to get back into this and I keep failing miserably.  I need to get into a rhythm so that my kids can one day look back at this and see the mom that I was while they were small.  Lots has gone on since my last update–I’m back to work now.  That was a difficult experience–not because I dislike the company I work for, or the people I work with for that matter, but the commute that takes up 3-3 1/2 hours of my day drains on my spirit.  Without going into too much detail, things will be better now.  My commute is still the same but my hours have shifted and I’m able to work from home one day a week.  It has already made a difference in my attitude and outlook and it’s only been two weeks.

Today I am trying to prep as many of the weekly snacks as possible.  Now that Lil One is in daycare three days a week and I’m out of the house at 5:15 every morning, it’s more important than ever that I am as organized for meal prep as possible.  Without that attention on the weekend we WILL eat like garbage and that’s not a habit that I want to get back into anytime soon.  Sure it costs us a fortune to eat well, but eating healthfully is important to me and my growing family.

This weeks menu plan is as follows:

Breakfasts–On-The-Go Egg Bites and Breakfast Sausage; Paleo Coconut Blueberry Muffins; Breakfast Cookies

Lunches–Salads with roasted turkey, avocado, hard-boiled egg, and sunflower seeds.

Snacks–Fruit and Nut Bars; Grain-Free Granola Bars; Gluten-Free Grain-Free Graham Crackers

Dinners–Pan Seared Steak with roasted brussels sprouts and mashed cauliflower and celery root; Moroccan chicken with cauliflower “rice”; veggie stir fry with seared sea scallops

I will have more to say in the upcoming day (I hope)–there are dietary, excercise, craft, personal/life goals, and friend/training related things I’d like to post about and I’m hoping I can get back into it now that I have less time on my hands–I tend to work better under pressure!

 

Missing In Action and 11 Things

I’ve been missing in action for some time now.  To be honest, I’ve had many things that I’ve wanted to blog about but when it came down to it, just like in the past I decided I had better things to do.  I love snuggling with my little man.  I love talking to my crazy little girl.  I love sitting with my hubby.  I thought that being on maternity leave would allow me a bit of time to get into the blog groove, but in actuality it’s made me lazier with my time. 

I’m going to start back up today on leap day, with the 11 Things Post that has been going around the blogging world.  I was tagged by Liz from Run, Bake, Race.  Liz—thanks for tagging me—I was actually really excited to be tagged and then I TOTALLY dropped the ball!  So here it goes!! 

The Rules:

Post these rules

You must post 11 random things about yourself

Answer the questions set for you in their post

Create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer

Go to their blog and tell them you’ve tagged them

11 Things About Me:

1. Like most little girls, I was a dancer.  However, if they had the show Dance Mom’s on tv back then I’d probably would have been on the show!  I was a really good dancer—my specialty was tap.  I actually competed in age divisions that were two above me because of my abilities.  I was also asked to audition for Star Search but because of the taping schedule my mom wouldn’t let me out of school for that length of time—missed my chance at fame!

2. Ever since I can remember I wanted to be an architect.  I used to draw buildings for fun as a kid.  I went to school and graduated with a degree in architecture but at that point I knew I didn’t want to be an architect anymore.  I ended up in graduate school for city and regional planning and I now work as a construction project manager.

3. I’m beyond frightened of needles and pass out every.single.time.  It’s so bad that at the dentist when I need work that involved a shot for Novocain, they actually Rx me something for my nerves.

4. When I was a toddler I refused to wear anything unless it matched my eyes (blue).

5. I have freak out when people mix up the colors in art supplies.  Seriously, crayons that are not in the Roy G. Biv color patterns are like nails on a chalk board to me.  And forget that I have a 2 ½ year old who likes to mix the Play Doh colors together or likes to muddy up the water colors. 

 6. I’m in love with the actors Gabriel Byrne and John Malcovich.  I went to go see Man in the Iron Mask when I was in college, not because of Leonardo DiCaprio, but because BOTH Gabriel AND John were in the same movie!

7. When I was in second grade I didn’t do my spelling homework and had a quiz the next day.  I got a 10 on the test (out of 100).  My teacher posted all the tests on the closet doors no matter your score.  I was so embarrassed by my 10 that from that day on I became obsessed with school work and getting good grades. 

8. My dream job is to be an Imagineer for Walt Disney.  I’ve applied twice for a project manager position and will keep applying for them as they pop up until I work for them.  So Mr. Mouse—please call!  I’ve wanted to be an Imagineer since I’ve been in 8th grade.  I’m 33 years old now—you do the math!

9. I first attempted to be a runner in high school but they wanted to make me a hurdler.  Being the klutz that I am, I quit the track team the next day.  I wish I had stuck with it.

10. I met my husband the same night as my cousin met her husband at a basket ball game.  It wasn’t even a double date!

11. I went to Catholic school from kindergarten through undergrad.  My first “public school” was my graduate school.  It felt odd not having to take a religion class each semester.

My Questions From Liz:

1. What song on your iPod are you most embarrassed by?   That would have to be a tie between “All 4 Love” by Color Me Badd or “Watch Me Do Me” from the Disney tv show Shake It Up.

2. What was your first concert?  I’m pretty sure it was Bryan Adams.  I forget though because my first three concerts were all in the same year—I also saw Tiffany and New Kids on the Block and The Cover Girls and Stevie B the same year.

3. If you could live anywhere, where would it be?  Washington, DC.  I went to college there and love it and miss everything about it.

4. What would your last meal be?  I really can’t even answer this because it depresses me too much!

5. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?  Another tie—totally a toss up between Butter Pecan and Pistachio.  It’s a REALLY hard decision for me to make.

6. Do you still have a t-shirt from high school or college?  I have a ton!  I actually have wanted to make a quilt with them so that they are at least useful because right now they are in a box.

7. Is your computer a laptop or a desktop?  It’s a lap top.

8. What would your dream job be?  See Answer to Number 8 above.

9. What is your favorite holiday?  Thanksgiving—mostly because I get the day after off…I just really enjoy when you’re able to enjoy a holiday and not worry about work the next day.

10. Did you go to college in a different state than where you grew up?  Yes, I grew up in RI/MA and went to college in Washington, DC.  Best decision I ever made and I love everything about Washington, DC.

11. Do you dread going to the doctor?  Only if I need to get a shot or blood work.  Normally going to the doctor doesn’t get me worked up. 

 Here are my 11 questions for you—I’m not tagging anyone because I feel like everyone has done it already.  If you haven’t and want to be tagged please let me know and I’ll link you!!

  1.  If you could be on any reality tv show, which would you pick and why?
  2. What is your favorite kind of cuisine?
  3. Who was your first crush as a little kid?
  4. If money were no object, where would you travel to for a month long vacation?
  5. Who is your favorite Disney character?
  6. Have you ever been operated on and for what?
  7. If you had a theme song what would it be?
  8. What is your favorite Olympic event to watch?
  9. If you could change your first name to anything, what would it be?
  10. What is your favorite color?
  11. What is your least favorite food?

Tag! You’re it!!

What the??!!

With a crazy creative 2-year old and a demanding hungry 1-month old my next blog post will have to continue to wait a little longer, until then:

An 8:50 pace?! What the??!! I’ll take it for my second run back…felt great (in my new blue shoes). I REALLY have a real post coming up…I swear!!

Three Things Thursday

1st Run:  I went on my first post partum run yesterday and ROCKED it!  I haven’t run in close to 7 weeks now and was in dire need of a run after today’s potty training fails with Lil One.  When The Hubs got home from work I threw on some gear and headed out for a 5K.  The temp was really great—41* according to the bank thermometer along my run.  For late January in Rhodey, that’s pretty warm.  I had all the right gear on except my gloves!!  The pace felt comfortable for the first 2 miles.  By the 3rd mile things felt harder and I really felt laborer on my breathing and began to get discouraged—maybe because I was running an 8:48 mile!!!!!  WHAT?! 

When I finished I had an overall pace of a 9:00-mile for a time of 27:56.  Definitely NOT my fastest 5K, but I wasn’t trying to race it or go that fast.  I went out to run by feel and since I had turned all of my pace alerts off while I was pregnant, I had no idea how fast I was actually running.  I’m planning to turn my pace alerts back on so that I can slow down by about 15-30 seconds for a few weeks; I don’t want to risk injury coming back from time away.  My only complaint was my left knee was bugging me a bit—might be ITB in nature, but I’m pretty certain that it is related to my fall the day before I went into labor (more on that in another post).  So I’d say that my first run back was a success!

1-Month Well Baby:  This morning I am headed to the pediatrician for Baby Bro’s 1-month well baby visit.  I’m totally curious to see how big my little man is.  He was 6-lbs, 13-oz at birth (2-weeks early).  At a sick visit last week he weighed in at 8-7.  I was surprised by that because he looks much bigger, but when we compared it to Lil One’s 1-month he was only 1-ounce bigger.  I’m fully expecting him to be a ½-pound bigger than what she was for his official 1-month weigh in.  Today will also be my first solo trip out with two kiddos.  Please pray for me!

My First Feature:   I’m a member of Team Tough Chik (a dedicated post in the future).  TTC has received some pretty awesome sponsorship.  One sponsor just happens to be one of my favorite hydration companies—nuun!  When the sponsorship was announced, we Toughies began to share our love for nuun with each other.  I shared how I make ice cubes in addition to just drinking it.  Tough Chik sent me a message asking me if I could do a quick write up about my “nuun-cubes” for a feature on the TC blog!  How awesome is that?!  Head on over to check it out.  While you’re at it, be sure to check out both the Tough Chick and nuun websites, and also like them both on Facebook. 

Please note that I have made all nuun purchases on my own and my opinions are entirely my own.

Have you ever been surprised by your first run back after a break/time off from running?  I’d love to hear about it!

Wordless Wednesday: Which Shoes Look Better Mom?

1-Month Old and My Legs Are Itchy!

Being the mom of two kiddos is just a little bit of work—especially when you are nursing your newborn and trying to potty train your 2-year old!  Between only a little sleep at night (still on the every 2 hour cycle with nursing) and non-stop running around chasing a high energy toddler while constantly nagging her to go sit on the potty, I have REALLY itchy legs that are dying to go on a run!  I should be waiting until my 6-week post partum appointment before heading out for any kind of a run, but in all honesty, physically I feel great in terms of recovery.  The thought of being out of running for 10-weeks is maddening to me.  I was hopeful that this weekend was going to be decent so that I could test my legs and fitness on a short, non-stress run of 2-3 miles.  However, as per my luck, we received 8-inches of snow.  While that would not normally deter me from going for a run, my lack of fitness and also the amount of gear I’d put on for a 2 or 3 mile shake out really just isn’t appealing.

Now that Baby Bro is 1-month old today, I am starting to reflect on my time as a running preggo.  I am beyond grateful that I was able to run for as long as I did.  When I found out I was (finally) pregnant again, I can’t lie about my concern for what that meant to my running.  Since I started running after the birth of Lil One, it had become so much a part of me.  I was nervous that I would be sitting on the sidelines for 9-months.  Thankfully, I had a supportive husband who recognized my need to not only maintain my running as long as possible, but also a supportive and understanding OB (who was also a runner).  After seeking out the advice of  some ladies who blogs that I follow who have had experience running during pregnancy, TMB and Heather, I came up with my own plan for running throughout my pregnancy.

My first trimester definitely saw a decrease in my mileage thanks to a combination of coming off both a marathon and half marathon.  Throw in a trip to HUMID Aruba (though I did run one morning while on vacation), and general 1st trimester tiredness and you can probably understand why my mileage was so low.  But by the time July and the 2nd trimester rolled around I was feeling much more energetic and ready to get my run on.  My average weekday run was in the 3-4 mile range with a “long run” on the weekend.  I’m not sure why I joke about “long” runs because they were in preparation for a ½ marathon in August.

My BFF, Beanie, was coming to town with her husband so that they could both run their first ½ marathons at the inaugural Providence Rock n’ Roll ½ Marathon.  I had signed up for it before I was pregnant and decided that I wasn’t about to bag it, so instead of gunning for a PR as I had initially anticipated, I planned on running alongside Beanie in support.  I will admit that it was hard to give up on a PR dream and to run at a slower pace than what I was accustomed.  However, it was something that I was OK with doing because this race was about two things for me—1) to say I ran a half marathon pregnant, and 2) the most important reason, to be there and support my best friend!  We shared so many wonderful memories and experiences together, a half marathon (PG with her godson as a side note) would be added to those memories.  As it turned out, there was a monsoon that day which made for less than ideal race conditions.  Shoes weighed you down; puddles became dangerous because you didn’t know if they were a few inches deep or hid a giant pothole!  We ran side by side the whole race, except for the break where I told Beanie to go on—the preggo bladder couldn’t hold much more at the 10K mark on the course and a pit stop was needed.  I caught up with Beanie just in time for the race photographer to take an awesome photo of us—looking pretty fab and fierce, making it work in the rain if I do say so myself.

That ½ was supposed to be the last of my races during my pregnancy and I was supposed to start slowing down.  I realized that I still had more in me and I needed to keep running.  After another discussion with my OB, I was cleared to continue running into my 3rd trimester as long as I was being smart—I needed to listen to my body and not push through things I normally would push through.  If my breathing felt hard, I needed to slow down or stop.  If I had a cramp I needed to stop and stretch (not to be confused with a contraction which would have stopped my running altogether for the rest of the pregnancy).  Not pushing was a hard lesson to learn, especially when I felt like I had so much in me.  Seeing my running buddies go for long runs in preparation for the Chicago Marathon was hard.  Having my husband, who I usually pass easily, pass me as I completed an 8-mile run while he was finishing up a 12-mi marathon training run was down right demoralizing.  I admit it—I cried.  I yelled.  I pouted.  I felt SORRY for myself.  The competitive person within me couldn’t be silenced—I didn’t listen to her and push on, but I did listen to her and her words hurt. 

My running buddy Scary knows my competitive spirit and told me that if a) The Hubs was on board, and b) that my OB was on board, she would run the Amica ½ Marathon with me in Newport, RI—I’d be 28-weeks pregnant.  I was beyond grateful to her—she was willing to essentially throw away a race just so that I had someone to run with.  Scary is a certified personal trainer so she was the perfect person to run with me—she knew what to watch for and how to help me if I started to get uncomfortable.  The only thing that made that offer even better was the fact that my other best running buddy, K. also offered to run with me.  To have my two running-BFF’s out there supporting me was a gift that I will forever be thankful for!

Everything was on track for me in terms of training for the ½ marathon, and then the Chicago Marathon happened the week prior…and the pregnant marathoner.  To say that I was not nervous or concerned about the reception that I would receive the next week as I chugged along with my big giant pregnant belly would be a lie.  I was afraid that people would think I was careless or that I was doing it to be like the PG marathoner.  In reality, I had been signed up and training for this ½ well before the PG marathoner, and I had received medical clearance, and I was running with a trainer.  But when you are on the race course people don’t know that or understand that and it was a perception with which I would have to deal.  Come race day, the nervousness over what others would think went away as I realized I was with RUNNERS!  Runners support each other and encourage each other—even when you are total strangers.  I have pushed others on and been pushed by others during races because that’s what runners do.  As I ran along the course, both men and women cheered me and my Posse on—I was PROUD to be running while 28-weeks pregnant.  As the finish line approached, I saw The Hubs, Lil One, and my in-laws cheering for me and it was the final boost I needed to cross the line.  I was proud of myself and for going out there and doing what I knew I cold do—safely!  I didn’t push the pace; I ran what I felt I could run; I walked up a steep hill and stopped at water stops and for multiple potty breaks.  I finished; I beat my previous PG ½ marathon time; and I was proud of my accomplishment.  It was more of a mental accomplishment than a physical one for me—I beat myself.  I told the voice in my head that had been telling me I was weak the entire time I was running while pregnant to take a hike.  That day I was victorious!

After that race, I started to taper my runs back.  Long weekend runs started to be dropped, and my times for my mid-week runs started to slip, as did my mileage.  The month of November saw a 20-mile decrease for the month, and by December, I stopped running.

My last run was at about 35-weeks.  It coincided when we started renovations for our basement, where we keep the treadmill.  But it also was time for me to stop—I was getting home from work really late due to trying to wrap things up before I went out on maternity leave.  As a result of more time at work, I had less time at home with my daughter, and with the quickly approaching holidays I had more and more to-dos being added to my list before Baby Bro made his arrival.  Sure I didn’t run until I gave birth, but I ran as long as I could.  I remained true to myself and my need for running, but I also remained healthy, still gaining almost 30-pounds during my pregnancy. 

In looking back, I have realized that I’m pretty bada$$–there are people out there who don’t exercise at all, never mind, run 3 ½-marathons while pregnant.  Just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean that you need to be immobile.  You have to be smart and listen to your body.  Most importantly, you need to listen  to your OB or midwife!!!!  If I had talked to my OB and she told me no way you BET I would have sucked it up and not run!!!  While maintaining m fitness level and running ability was important to me, the health and wellbeing of my unborn baby was MOST important.  I never would have doe something knowingly or willingly putting that baby in harms way.  That being said, if your medical staff and significant other is on board, then by all means, know that you can still be a bada$$ while pregnant.  I am so excited to share these experiences with Baby Bro when he gets older and can appreciate them!

In the meantime, I can’t wait to get back out there and start to run with my ERP (Elite Running Posse) ladies soon!!  Race season is approaching and I have me some pavement to pound!

Please note that I am NOT a medical professional and I do NOT advocate my training or running plan for others.  Please consult a medical professional before starting any exercise program—whether pregnant or not pregnant.  While this may have worked for me, it may not work for all people and you should be monitored according to your personal health history and circumstances.

Discovering Meal Planning

People tell you all the time as a childless couple that once you have a baby your world changes–I just don’t think we were prepared for how true that actually was!  Before getting pregnant with Lil One, I lived in my kitchen.  After work, I’d be in the kitchen coming up with some fantastically gourmet-sounding dish fresh inspired by the pages of my large array of food magazine subscriptions.  After my meal was complete I’d plate it up and pull out my camera so that I could photograph it for my food blog.  Upon enjoying the meal with a glass of wine, I’d head to the computer, edit my photos and write up my post for the day.  I swore that after I got pregnant, nothing would change!  I’d still be the gourmet in the kitchen and work on my food photography and continue to expand my culinary horizons.  How wrong I was…

It took me and S. about 2-years to get pregnant with Lil One.  While I didn’t have to suffer through morning sickness, and my bouts of nausea were reserved for when Mr. Way Too Much Cologne Wearer sat next to me on the commuter rail into work every day–my energy levels were just not there for me to step foot in the kitchen and make a dinner worth photographing, let alone blog about.  Instead, my meals consisted of Velveeta mac and cheese.  Yup—that’s it.  100% pure, processed mac and cheese.  It comforted me the way nothing else (other than my homemade guac, which I made once a night for the first 2-trimesters by the way) could.

Once Lil One was born and I was back at work however, things needed to change drastically.  I was not going to continue with my pregnancy-induced-processed-food-eating-ways.  When I sat down and looked at my schedule for the weekdays, it laid out something like this:

–getting up at 4 a.m. to pump my daughter’s morning breast milk needs

–getting ready for work at 5 a.m.

–get out the door for drop off at 6 a.m.

–commuter rail into Boston for work at 6:16

–train home, often times not until 6:30 at the earliest

It was clear something needed to be done in order to get a nutritious meal on the table as soon as I got home at night so that I could maximize the 45-minutes I had to spend with my daughter before bedtime.  Solution:  the slow cooker was going to become my new best friend!

I started to sit down on Saturdays and review the meals we were interested in, see how I could adapt them to fit the slow cooker and began to make my menu for the week and subsequent shopping list.  With about 25-lbs of added baby weight to lose and an equal 25-lbs of “support weight” for S. to lose we really tried to focus our meals on healthful options and significantly cut back on our processed food intake.   We decided that rather than five separate meals for the weekdays we’d focus on three—a Monday/Wednesday meal, a Tuesday/Thursday meal, and a homemade pizza Friday.  This idea of staggering leftovers and menu planning is not rocket science, nor do I claim it to be—it’s just what had gotten us through.

Sunday became my prep day.  I’d cook a massive batch of soup for lunches for the week, prep Monday’s slow cooker meal in the crock and toss it in the fridge and completed what prep I could for Tuesday’s meal.  We started to purchase the disposable crock liner bags to help save avoid the need to chisel off any debris that may have crusted on during the cooking process.  Come Monday morning, the crock got tossed in the slow cooker and we set the timer as we walked out the door.

We are now two years into our menu planning and have made a few changes to the planning process along the way.  We decided that since we were on track with not only menu planning, but limiting our processed food intake and having a steady exercise program in place, it was time to make some additional diet modifications.  Last year was called “Operation Whole Grain and Legume”—we were not eating nearly enough of them in our diet before and this needed to change. This year is being dubbed “Mission Clean Eating.”  I recently subscribed to Clean Eating Magazine—I can’t wait to get the first issue in the mail in March!

I am being realistic in that I know from time to time I’m just going to eat gross food and I’m OK with that.  I’m a firm believer in moderation.  We don’t consume large quantities of fast food, nor do we intend to, but sometimes I just crave those fries and nothing will stop me from having them.  I think the goal for me and my family is to make the best possible choices in our food consumption as frequently as possible and hope that Lil One and Baby Bro grows up to make the best choices she can as a result of what we raised her on.

So down to the nitty-gritty—what is on the menu this week?

Lunches:  Thai Chicken Soup.  I used organic for 95% of the ingredients, reduced sodium chicken stock to control the sodium content of the soup.  I also added ¼ cup of quinoa to the soup. 

Monday/Wednesday:  Tomatillo, White Bean, and Chicken Stew.  We are huge fans of tomatillos and the past two summers we tried our hand at growing them in our garden for fun.  Low and behold they were a cash crop for us putting out the largest yield of any of our crops.  We made a large batch of roasted tomatillo sauce (using jalapeños from our organic garden as well in the recipe) and froze it in small batches.  We combined some of our sauce with boneless, skinless chicken breasts, white beans and some onions in the slow cooker and served it over organic brown rice.  This is one of our favorite dishes to make, and honestly, it has gotten so much better by the addition of our roasted tomatillo sauce instead of the jarred one we had been buying.  The best part—our food-fussy Lil One LOVES this meal!

Tuesday/Thursday:   Spicy Black Beans and Rice with Mangos.  This will be our vegetarian meal for the week and is brand new.  I just recently purchased a vegetarian slow cooker cookbook and am putting it through its maiden voyage.  We totally do not have organic mangos in season locally so we are relying on the frozen organic mangos for this recipe.  I’m hoping this is as yummy as it sounds on paper.

Now it’s your turn—I’d love to hear how you approach meal planning for the week.  I am constantly inspired by others!

Do you menu plan?  What is your menu for the week?  Do you have any vegetarian recommendations to try out?

Beauty and Strength

This morning when I read G’s past two blog posts it really hit home for me.  She talked about self-doubt and what can be our own poor self-image.  How many times have you downplayed someone’s compliment of you?  Or how many times have you looked at yourself in the mirror before going out somewhere and said “good enough” because you KNOW that you can’t possibly look better because you are fat, bloated, ugly, NOT WORTHY…I can step up and easily tell you that I am guilty of that on a daily basis. 

I gave birth 16-days ago.  I gained a total of 28-healthy-pounds and of that I have 11-pounds to lose in order to get to my pre-pregnancy weight.  Those 11-pounds are already weighing on me (no pun intended).  The little voice in my head is beating myself up for not being at pre-preggo weight; it is yelling at me for having a flabby belly. 

G’s blog post today challenged us to:

Post a photo of yourself on your blog that makes you feel beautiful, or epic, or Galactically Bada**.  Or all of the above is OK too. 

I thought long and hard about this.  I am so critical of myself that I can find something wrong in most photos:  my hair looked bad, you can see a roll of flab, my smile was terrible, my lazy eye was REALLY lazy, I looked fat…

However, when I really thought about it, I came up with two photos that made me feel beautiful, that made me feel strong, that made me feel complete–they are photos taken of me during both of my pregnancies.  When I think about how I am upset with myself for not being back to pre-pregnancy status 16-days post partum, I stop and look at my son and daughter.  The body that I scold and berate grew two children and nourished them after birth.  When I look at these photos and then look into the faces of my children, I ask myself how I can say I am ugly or weak when I think that they are the most beautiful children in the world?  I am a part of them and they are a part of me. 

Amy Ro Photography (www.amyrophotography.com)

Amy Ro Photography (www.amyrophotography.com)

I am beautiful and I am strong and when I forget or doubt that, I need to simply look at my children and those doubts will be erased.

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