You Know You’re a Mother Runner…

Please tell me there are other women who can relate to the wonderful  role of mother while also trying to be a runner?

Not sure? If you have experience one or all of the following, you know you’re a Mother Runner.

Breastfeeding is your cool down. Gone are the days when you could come in from a run, grab some water, and properly cool down and stretch. Now, the second you walk in the door, your husband hands you a screaming baby. And your kids are used to the taste of salty milk.

You have nursed at aid stations/starting lines/finish lines. Depending on the length of the race, you may have done all three!

You buy bananas like you’re preparing for the monkey apocalypse. Snacks for babies, toddlers and runners alike, you’re buying pounds of bananas every week. But if the monkeys ever do rise up and take over the planet, you’ll be prepared.

You’ve prayed that people mistake the wet marks between your legs for sweat stains. I don’t think I need to elaborate here. Motherhood problems, am I right?

You’ve prayed that people mistake the wet marks across your chest for sweat stains. See points #1 and #2. If by chance you can’t nurse your baby on a long run, be prepared. Have they made sweat proof nursing pads yet?

You can pump and stretch simultaneously. Or nurse and stretch for that matter. Or if you’re really awesome, you can pump and run a half marathon simultaneously. We are the queens of multi-tasking.

You encourage your kids to run in the house.  Or around the house. Or around the block. We know how fun it is to run, and nothing makes us happier than sharing that joy with our children. If that means making a game to see who can run from one end of the house to the other, so be it. It’s just a bonus that it burns off some of their energy in the hopes that maybe they’ll sleep. (Fat chance. See point #10)

You change out of running clothes back into running clothes. After your run and shower, what can you put on that’s functional, cute and totally comfortable? Why, more running clothes, of course! Let’s face it. Your closet is 70% running clothes, 15% jammies/comfy clothes, 10% jeans and t-shirts, and like 5% dress clothes/ work clothes. You don’t have many other options, and you’re perfectly fine with that.

You have several jogging strollers. You got one single jogger with your first. Then you continued to procreate and needed a double. Then a triple. You’re pretty sure they don’t make a quadruple jogger, so you reevaluate your desire for a fourth baby.

Kids are your alarm clock. Need to be up at 5am for a run? No need to set an alarm. One of the children will be up to nurse/ go potty/ wet the bed/ has a booger/ covers fell off/ had a nightmare/ thinks it’s morning/ needs a diaper change/ wants to play/ fell out of bed. You’re covered.

Hat’s off to all you Mother Runners! It’s a hard balance to find, but definitely worth the effort.

 

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Adjusting to the Unexpected: Rails to Trails Half Marathon Recap

This post is later than I wanted, but school duties, sick kids, and family visits have a tendency to take priority over blog writing. Alas.

The race was about a week ago, and as I sit here writing this, I’m fully recovered and ready to plan the next goal.

I had my goals for Rails to Trails:

  1. Break 2:15 (the easy/ almost guaranteed goal)
  2. Break 2:10 (doable, provided the right conditions)
  3. Hit 2:08 (if the stars aligned correctly, and everything was perfect)
  4. Mentally hold out miles 10-13 (when things get difficult)

There are a lot of unknowns when entering a race, and the only thing you can really control is whether or not you are the most prepared you can be. Try as you might to control and manipulate the variables of health, weather, injury, sleep, or the body’s reactions, you still never really know what you’ll get on race day.

Such was the case for me.

I knew going in that I was physically capable of running about a 2:08 half. My legs felt good, and I felt my mental game was much stronger than it had been two months ago. I was ready, I was excited, and it was the best I had ever felt before a race. I honestly thought the 2:08 was mine. I use visualization a lot: when I’m running or daydreaming in the car or something. As hokey as it may seem, focusing on a certain time or goal helps me.

The entire week leading up to the race wasn’t great. I had been struggling with some knee pain (which seems to be the indication that I need new shoes.), and we had some sickness in the house I was worried about. I took the week VERY easy; all runs were about 3 miles and slow.

The Day Before

The day before I went on a three mile shakeout run (in new shoes) and felt great. No knee pain.

I hadn’t practiced much in the way of pre-race nutrition. Which, looking back on it, is a bad idea. I need to make that a better habit. We had sloppy joes for supper. I wasn’t really thinking about the race the next day; we just needed something quick and easy for supper. Sloppy joes are always a hit with my family.

I laid out all of the race essentials the night before: clothes, hat, shoes, gels, water and recovery drink, a couple cough drops (I had been fighting a nasty cough), change of clothes, jacket.

I went to bed fairly early, but since the start time wasn’t until 9 am, I was a bit more relaxed about sleep.

Race Morning

I was up with plenty of time to prep. I had my coffee, ate a breakfast of an English muffin with cream cheese, went to the bathroom and got dressed. I was able to get all the kids ready for church to leave with my husband (he’s the pastor, I had arranged for a member to watch the kiddos during church – Thanks, Cindy!) Since I was missing the service, I even had time to read through a devotion.

We all left at the same time. I had about a 40 minute drive, and got to the race at about 8, which was when the marathon started.

The temperature around the start time was about 35 degrees, but the high for the day was 68. I had no idea how to dress and settled on a pair of knee-length tights and a light t-shirt.

I picked up my packet and went to the bathroom. When I went to drop off my packet and things at my car, the runners for the marathon were coming back, (They had two turnaround points in an out and back course; the first brought them right past the finish line again.) so I took a few minutes to cheer them on and struck up a conversation with a woman next to me. Both of us were a little nervous about the temps.

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I shed my jacket, went to the bathroom one more time and lined up at the starting line.

The Race

There were maybe about 200 or so runners, so the first couple of miles were a little congested. One of the reasons I like small races, is because I prefer to run alone. I hope to do some of the larger marathons like Chicago and Boston (someday, fingers-crossed), but I’m always relieved when the pack thins out a little.

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The first couple of miles I was still a little chilly, but warmed up soon enough. My plan was to start at about a 10 minute per mile pace and slowly speed up for 10 miles. Miles 10-13, I always say I’m going to try and “hang on”. My pace was right on the money, but my legs seemed to burn more than they should have. Turns out the race actually had quite the elevation climb: 1400 ft over the course of the race. All of it was fairly gradual, so you didn’t know it was happening,  until your legs were just tuckered out.

At about the 4 mile mark was a super long tunnel. The tunnel was about 3/4 mile long. They had it lit with lanterns, but I used the light on my phone, because it was still pretty dark.

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Once I was out of the tunnel, I focused on steadily increasing my pace each mile, and I took my first gel. (I walk through aid stations.) I actually went from about a 9:50 pace to a 8:50 pace over the course of a mile – not the best – but I was able to hang on to that pace for a couple of miles until about mile 8.

Right around mile 7-8, I felt my tummy rumble. I’ve only once before had any issues with GI distress. I knew it wasn’t good and tried to keep up the pace, but ended up slowing to a walk until the moment passed. I told myself to just hang on until the next aid station. I made it and without going into detail, took a much needed break.

While this was happening, then temp was quickly climbing. Over the 2ish hours I ran, the temp went from 37 at the start to about 70 by the time I crossed the finish line. Needless to say, I was very warm. People were shedding layers; I  don’t think anyone was prepared for the heat in November.

After my unscheduled pit stop, I tried to rally and finish strong. I knew my goal of 2:08 was gone; there was no way I could speed up enough to make up for lost time. So I focused on beating 2:15. Despite my tummy not feeling great, I took another gel.

I was able to recover a bit and ran the last few miles between a 9:40-10:00 min pace. I was pleased with that consider the GI issues, the heat, and the mental aspect. Those last miles are always hard, and I was feeling defeated. I kept telling myself to just put one foot in front of the other. Official finish time: 2:13:53.

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I wasn’t thrilled with my race, but I managed to beat 2:15. Hitting my first goal was a big one for me. I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to fully demonstrate my ability, because I think I could have done much better. Had I not had to stop, I probably would have finished in 2:08-2:09.

I am a little frustrated that I keep hitting these hiccups that prevent me from meeting my goals, but as I said earlier, we can do everything within our power to control all the variables in a race, and still have the unexpected pop up.

The important thing to remember is not to let it derail our race. Something as minor as a bathroom break, or unexpected temperatures, or a broken iPod can trip us up until we’re convinced we can’t do it. Those unexpected things are like annoying, little dogs: lots of bark, but very little bite. Remind yourself that you are capable and strong enough!

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Adjusting to all of the unexpected in a race is part of running. The more experience we gain, the better prepared we can be when they come up.

Side note: At the finish line, I noticed a women breastfeeding her baby. I had see her running around the turnaround point and she was tearing it up. I went over to her and congratulated her, and asked how old her baby was. 3 months! The women ran a half marathon 3 months postpartum and was killing it! What a rock star! We got to chatting about babies and running postpartum. I just love the camaraderie of running.

Battling Excuses

The Rails to Trails half marathon is staring at me from Sunday. While physically, I know I’m set (provided my knee doesn’t give me any issues), and mentally I know I can rock it, I’m still surprised how easily excuses can creep into my mind, even days away from the race.

I’m been running for half of my life, and excuses still pop up and disrupt my running. It seems no matter how long you’ve been running, or how good you get, excuses can derail even the most dedicated runner.

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I’ve been having a really good training segment. The past two months since the Apple Dumplings half marathon, I’ve really focused on my training. Ratcheting up the miles, putting in my speedwork. Doing the legwork, weight training, recovery as if I were training for the race of my life. (Which I’m not; it’s just a small race.) In the grand scheme of things, this race doesn’t matter, but I want to push myself to see just what my body can do.

So why then, when I walked out the door this morning for an easy 3 mile run, I still had to fight the excuses in my head?

It’s raining.

It’s cold.

This will be miserable.

Perhaps I can run later this afternoon.

It’s really dark, maybe I should wait.

It’s really windy. I don’t like running in the wind.

What?! I’ve been getting up and running farther and in much worse conditions, and now that I’ve entered the taper I’m making excuses? It’s ridiculous.

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But it happens more than we’d like – giving in to our excuses, whether it’s running or diet or finances or whatever we’re trying to improve. Identifying the excuses that derail you, and coming up with  strong defense can help battle the excuses when they arise. These are the excuses that most often come up for me, and what I plan to do to defeat the excuses.

Excuses #1: I’m tired. Well, duh, Cate. You have kids. Are you just being a pansy, or is there something bigger going on?

  • When to run: Is it just a mental fatigue? Feeling crummy because of the weather/ lack of sunlight? For most of us, having kids keeps us in a perpetual state of fatigue. Unless your body is physically exhausted, I say get out the door; a run will energize you.
  • When you’re done: Up all night with a teething 6-month old? It’s okay to skip the run. Haven’t slept more than 6 hours the past week? Skip the run. Body burned out from burning the candle at both ends? Skip it. Sometimes your body genuinely needs the break, but be sure to pay attention to where the fatigue comes from.

Excuse #2: I’m hurting. A long run or a hard workout the day before can leave me feeling incredibly sore, but there’s a big difference between soreness and injury

  • When to run: A bit of muscle soreness shouldn’t stop you.Using the muscles will help break up the lactic acid, get things moving/flowing and can aid in relieving the soreness. Just keep it easy. Basically, Cate, don’t be a pansy.
  • When you’re done: Anything that is so intense it inhibits your ability to walk should take a rest day or two. Injury, of course, will require rest. Be sure to pay attention to your body’s signals. Don’t let a little niggle turn into a full-blown injury that will sideline you for weeks.

Excuse #3: I’m sick. It’s that time of year again. Colds, the flu, stomach bugs, and sinus issues are all over.

  • When to run: My rule of thumb is when its limited to the head (think cold, or sore throat) it’s usually okay to run. At the same time, you have to truly evaluate how you’re feeling. A stuffy nose is no big deal, but compounded with a fever is giant pain.
  • When you’re done: Any time your symptoms hit below the neck. Stomach or intestinal upset, lungs or chest tightness/ pain/ congestion, fevers, aches and flu symptoms all warrant a rest day (or two).

Excuse #5: The weather’s bad. Wind, rain, snow, cold, heat, etc. The weather is as unpredictable as a toddler’s moods.

  • When to run: This excuse is one of my biggest obstacles. I will make any excuse if the weather isn’t perfect. Because we all want that perfect day: 54 degrees, slightly cloudy, the slightest hint of a breeze, and no rain. You know, the day that comes maybe once or twice a year? If you wait for that perfect day, you’ll never get anything done, so brave the bad weather and get out the door.
  • When you’re done: If the weather is severe enough to be dangerous. Thunder and lightening, extreme heat/cold, or blizzards all justify a change of plan. Either run indoors, or switch rest days.

Excuse #6: I don’t wanna. We all have that little voice in our head that tries to convince us to give up. It’s our brain’s protection against perceived stressors.

  • When to run: Always. Shut that stupid little voice right up, Cate. Ask yourself, How bad do you want to reach your goals? If you’re not willing to put in the time and make the sacrifices, you must not want to meet your goals that badly.
  • When you’re done: Never. I refuse to let you give up, Cate.

No matter what the goal or task, we all have excuses that will attempt to derail our success. Don’t let them stop you!

Most of my excuses can be destroyed by simply telling myself, “This is good mental training.”

For example, on my 14 mile run a couple weeks ago, I faced some pretty nasty conditions: cold with a light sprinkle and windy. My training plan called for faster miles at 8-12. It was pretty brutal. As I turn the corner for my last mile-long stretch, not only was I running up and down hills, but I was also running into the wind. Every imaginable excuse ran through my head:

13 miles is good enough.

You got the workout done, just walk.

This wind is ridiculous, you can’t do it.

Look, half a mile left. You’re basically done, just stop. 

Everything in me wanted to stop, but I kept thinking about the race I have coming up. I knew that I was going to need a strong mental game to keep running when I feel like quitting. So I told myself, “This is good mental training. Just do it.”

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I finished the run. While the miles strengthened my legs, I think the bigger accomplishment was beating the excuse.

Don’t let those stupid excuses win; you got this.