Next, PEI

I love the final week before a half-marathon.

First, there’s the tapering. The guilt-free reduction in mileage. Many runners claim they get kind of crazy without all the running. I embrace it.

Long, slow, Sunday run
Long, slow, Sunday run

Then, there’s the carb-loading. Guilt-free eating, heavy on the carbs. Could there be any better time for a Thanksgiving feast, complete with my two favourite boys and homemade pumpkin pie?

Thanksgiving dinner chez Whittaker
Thanksgiving dinner chez Whittaker

Lastly, there’s the anticipation of race day. This is particularly fun attending a new race. This weekend, my husband and I planned out a few details of our weekend in Charlottetown. It filled my stomach with butterflies. There’s so much to look forward to: a free yoga class, free massage, the pasta dinner, eating at our favourite Charlottetown haunts and driving through the fall colours. And then, Sunday, the RACE! I can just picture crossing the finish line at Province House, our country’s birthplace.

I’m feeling good. It’s been 15.5 months since I had my son, and I think it’s safe to say I feel back to my old self. I may not be as speedy as I was in 2013, but I’m in good shape. My legs are strong and it feels good to run.

I haven’t thought much about goals. I could say I want a personal best (and I do), but I’m not going to kill myself over it. The beauty of a new course is I’ll set a personal course record no matter what. And for me, I’m just proud of the fact that I’ve been able to train for two consecutive half-marathons while balancing my new responsibilities as a working mom.

I woke up at 6 a.m. unprompted on Saturday. So like any sane person, I took advantage of my
I woke up at 6 a.m. unprompted on Saturday. So like any sane person, I took advantage of my “free time” and went for a run. Came home, made coffee, and baby woke up.
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Two moms on a mission: the long run

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After a few weeks of less-than-stellar training, I credit Jackie for helping me get my butt in gear today.

This morning – two weeks before race day – we planned to try out the Lorneville Loop route. She suggested we meet up at 8 a.m. I agreed, although I was nervous about the early start and the chilly morning forecast. When my alarm went off just after 7, I was surprised that my nine-month-old boy was still asleep in his room. (He had woken up around 3 a.m. for a quick feeding). I shuffled around to make coffee and one slice of toast with honey, my favourite pre-workout fuel, and get dressed before breastfeeding him and getting out the door.

When Jackie came to get me, I could tell she felt nervous too. You see, our lives are pretty similar right now. We both have babies that are about nine months old and who don’t always feel like sleeping through the night. We also both ran half-marathons in October 2013, when our babies were just weeks along in pregnancy, and we’re both eager to get back into distance running.

We drove to Lorneville, which is at the western edge of Saint John, along the Bay of Fundy. It was cold, about -7 C, but the sun was brilliant and warm. We parked at a convenience store and headed out along Lorneville Road, which hugs the the coast for a few kilometres. There were a few big hills, but the scenery was stunning. The air was still and there was no traffic. We both reveled in the delights of running on bare pavement rather than the incessant treadmill on an early spring day.

As we looped back onto King William Road, my legs felt heavier and I couldn’t muster the energy to make conversation. I wanted to stop and walk but told myself to keep up with my friend. As we hit the 10 km mark, it was like my body knew we were headed in uncharted territory. I have not run that far for a year and a half. But we kept steady on the flat terrain and found our way back to the store. Jackie actually continued for another kilometre to make her run an even 14 km (she’s training for a half). I stumbled back to the car.

But, we did it! And at a decent pace, too at 6:28 min/km.

Not bad for two women who had babies nine months ago.

"RUN, MOM!"
“RUN, MOM!”

A little running, a lot of snow

My grand plan of working out at least three times a week in preparation for the Lorneville Loop 13K is proving a little more difficult than I expected.

I have only run twice in two weeks. Yikes!

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This was after an 8km run last Monday.

I could use the snow as an excuse, but that would be the easy way out.

Mark's the one who has been doing most of the shoveling. And this was taken after only two blizzards. We're now on our fifth major snowstorm this month.
Mark’s the one who has been doing most of the shoveling. And this photo was taken after only two blizzards. We’re now on our fifth major snowstorm this month.

I could blame the baby, this little bundle of cuteness. But he is sleeping better and does really well when I leave him with his Daddy.

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Yep, it really comes down to me, and making running a priority again. I was doing so well up until a couple weeks ago. It’s time to make gym trips fit between nap times, baby activities and appointments (I must say, there was a lot going on this week – but again, no excuses!).

On the up side, I have managed to keep on schedule with my long runs. If we weren’t totally snowed in today, I’d be on track to run 9km. I’m hoping I will be able to sneak out and do my run after we get dug out tomorrow.

On the down side, almost every single run so far as been on the treadmill. I miss running outside, and hope I can at least get a few outdoor training runs in before the race on April 12. Since we have mountains of snow on the ground (my clothesline is now buried), this may be wishful thinking.

Baby sleep, and how I can’t seem to figure it out

Silas, 6.5 months old, having too much fun to sleep!
Silas, 6.5 months old, having too much fun to sleep!

It’s really hard not to stress about baby sleep, especially as a first-time mom not getting optimal sleep yourself.

In fact, it always seems like the prime topic of conversation among my other mom friends. And I’m sure it will be for some time. I remember the chorus of parents saying “get sleep now while you can!” in the final weeks of my pregnancy. Now I know why…

Baby sleep is like a puzzle, because every baby is different. And as soon as you think you’ve got it figured out, they change.

For us, the big change came around the start of December when Silas was five months old. He was teething and drooling like crazy. He was also probably in a developmental leap, learning about cause and effect and realizing when mom was not next to him.

For background: This baby’s sleep patterns has been like a yo-yo. At first, he would only sleep at night while being held. Then he would sleep in his crib but wake up the typical three to five times a night. Then… seemingly out of nowhere, he started to sleep through the night – those magical words every parent longs to hear.

But just as quickly as it started, it stopped. At five months, just as Christmas was starting to ramp up, Silas couldn’t seem to settle for the night. He would fall asleep, but after 20 minutes to an hour, be awake again. It was very tricky to get him down to sleep again. Since we were busy through the holidays, we ended up keeping him awake till we all went to bed (in the same bed). It’s a sleeping arrangement that leaves no one with a good night’s rest.

Just as I thought we were getting back into a good pattern, we had a horrible evening two nights ago. Silas seemed genuinely afraid to fall asleep.

Now I just assume I will spend most evenings going in and out of his room 100 times, rocking him in the dark. Or, laying on the bed next to him for a few hours until I can oh-so-carefully transfer him to his crib, where he might sleep a few hours before waking, and everything starts all over again.

It can be difficult when you’re in the trenches. You try to enjoy the baby snuggles, the baby’s heaviness and peacefulness. But you also worry about helping them to sleep on their own.

Yes, there are the so-called cry-it-out methods, but we’re not ready for that. I also worry that he’s crying because he’s hungry (from not eating enough in the daytime), teething or in pain. And I have a suspicion it wouldn’t work anyway.

All I know is that everything seems to be a phase, and I hope this is one we figure out soon.

Running after baby

Giving birth was hands down my greatest physical feat. Obviously.

So why did I think getting back into running would be so easy? It’s not, and it will be a gradual process to get back on my game. While I was impatient at first, now that Silas is four months old, I’m totally at peace with that, and I’m just enjoying being a mom.

But I’m starting to think about goals for 2015… and it’s exciting!

So for new mommies like me who are anxious to hit the pavement, here is some more wisdom from Caroline Mackay, of StrollerFit Saint John (continued from yesterday’s post.)

When is it safe to run after childbirth?
That depends on the individual. I know some mamas who were running a week after baby. I would never suggest this as I am appreciating my own body after second baby and how pushing yourself too hard can create pelvic/hip pain. Stick with walking until six weeks postpartum then attempting 10, 20 and 30 second jogs and working up from there. Essentially, mix short bursts of jogging into your walk and gradually increase as you feel comfortable. If you feel like you are going to pee yourself or things are still jangling around uncomfortably, then it is still too soon.

How often/how far should a new mom run?
This depends on how much you ran before baby and your level of fitness throughout pregnancy and how you feel after each run. Any discomfort should be a signal to dial it back a bit, remembering that your number one job is to be a mother and you can’t take a sick day. I would encourage timed runs instead of running by distance. You want exercise to feel good.

When is it safe to run with your baby in a stroller?
Your baby should have good neck control before you run with him/her in the stroller. Six months is a safe age but many babies can hold their heads up well by four months. Take into consideration your running surface and the position of the baby in the stroller. The use of neck and head bumpers is a good idea.

A break during a StrollerFit class at Rockwood Park in September.
A break during a StrollerFit class at Rockwood Park in September.

A new kind of runner’s high

One year ago, I was in tip-top shape. I was five weeks pregnant. And I was about to run my third half-marathon in one season.

I was on top of the world.

I remember running one dark October night. I felt like I was sailing down Douglas Avenue. It was effortless to knock of 10 kilometres on a Wednesday night.

Amazing how things can change in just one year. Running is no longer a top priority in my life. I still like it (I think), but a lot of things have to line up for me to even get out for a run, let alone train for a race.

I was feeling a little bummed on the weekend. I had originally planned to run a 5K at a school in my neighbourhood – one of the last runs in the circuit this season. But after battling a cold all week, I didn’t get in any essential training runs. I knew I could run 5K, but it would have been hard. When my baby woke up at 5 a.m. that morning, I looked at the clock said, Nope. Not happening. 

I thought about how much things have changed in one year. A year ago I would have eagerly set my alarm, threw on some cute Lululemon gear and dashed toward the starting line. Now, I am out of breath after running one block.

I wondered if my passion for running has fizzled. Will it ever return? Is this lacklustre runner part of the new mommy-me?

But then, a day later, I did something that runners do: I laced up my shoes.

I handed my baby to my husband. And I went for a run.

And you know what? It felt OK.

It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t too hard, either. My music distracted me from hearing my laboured breath. I set my Garmin so I would run for four minutes, then walk one minute. I ran about four kilometres.

The air was crisp and cool. My cheeks were hot. I actually felt pretty good. And I realized (probably for the third or fourth time since having a baby), that I’m still a runner, and I will get back to where I was before, in good time.

When I got home, the baby was still doing OK so I hopped in the shower.

And when I got out, still vibrating with feel-good endorphins, I saw a sight that would warm the cockles of any new-mommy-heart:

Daddy had rocked his baby to sleep.

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Reflections

People say that being a mom changes you, and I totally expected that. But man, it really changes you.

I’ve been a mother for close to four months now and I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. Who is this person I see in the mirror holding a beautiful baby?

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It’s not the same girl who worked long hours at a newspaper and plotted half-marathon training plans. It’s not the cat lady wine drinker who’d take off on weekend getaways with her husband. That girl is still in there somewhere, but…

Now it’s someone in a loose t-shirt with a pony-tail making faces in the mirror to her baby. Snapping endless cellphone pics and texting them to her parents and family back home in Ontario (who she misses now more than ever). Someone who has bored and lonely days along with overwhelming and joyful and fulfilling days. Someone who thought she knew a lot about babies but who now finds herself Googling things like “how to get your baby to nap” and calling medical hotlines and making unnecessary doctor appointments.

It’s someone who spends hours in a rocking chair and who recently spent good money on a pair of jeans a couple sizes bigger than those she wore pre-pregnancy.

Someone who thought maternity leave would be a cake-walk but who has only recently stopped feeling scared every day.

I’m still getting to know this new person.