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.

 

Lessons from Cross Country

This past Saturday I was able to attend a cross country meet of my former high school.  I knew a couple of students running; one was actually a former student of mine! It was the first meet I have been to in probably 14 years, and I had an absolute blast.The meet was at a school named St. Lawrence, and they have a beautiful campus and course.  Having run the course myself many years ago, I knew how difficult it was. St. Lawrence is home to the infamous hill named, “Big Bertha,” and as the name implies, she’s huge.  All the runners did a wonderful job.

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I can’t believe how much fun I had as a spectator; the energy, the simplicity of the sport, the beautiful course, and the determination of young athletes reminded me of the many reasons I love this sport. There’s something about watching  people, especially young men and women, run when you know how difficult it is. This is running at its purest and simplest. These kids are running for the pure competition of the sport. There are no participation t-shirts or medals. There are no age group awards. The competition is fierce, but for most of the runners, it’s only a competition against the guy in the mirror.

It got me nostalgic for cross country days, but it also made me realize how much I wanted that simplicity back.

Without much commitment or effort, I had some of my best running in high school. (If I had actually tried, who knows what my times would have been.) I joined cross country just for something to do; I didn’t really have an interest in the sport. At that time, girls ran a 4k for meets. At the first meet, I just about died. The time I have recorded is 25 minutes, and that’s only because they stopped the clock at 25 minutes. Who knows how long it actually took me.  But as the season went on, I ran faster, without putting much thought into it. I just showed up, ran, and tried to beat my previous time.  Which I almost always did. Our coach would have us do hills or speedwork, which I did, but if we were left on our own, I rarely ran the tempos he instructed us to do, and I have vivid memories of skipping runs because I didn’t feel like doing them. (I know, I had a bad attitude; I regret that now.)

And yet, I still managed to improve. My best time for the 4k was 19:50 (with an injury!). In the span of a couple of months I shaved 5-10 minutes off of my first meet’s time! There was no stressing over paces, no checking times or splits. I didn’t worry about how much sleep I got, or whether or not my body could finish a run. Basically, there was no thinking about it.

I have a vivid memory of running in a meet in a pair of borrowed races flats. It must have been a good day for me, because I felt like I was flying. What I remember is even though my lungs were burning, it didn’t bother me. My legs felt like they had a mind of their own. I didn’t have to tell  myself to speed up or keep going. I just ran. No thought needed.

Saturday’s meet reminded me of all of that, and it made me realize I want to capture that feeling back.  Not the bad attitude part, but the simplicity of it. To run without a time or pace chirping in my ear. To move quickly without thought of how uncomfortable I am, or how I can’t do it.

My new goal is to get that back. Not just the speed; I’d love to be at a 7min/mile pace for a 5k again. (Or even better!)

I want to run without thought or stress.

I want to push my body and see what it can do without pouring over a training log or a pace calculator.

I want to run by feel and let my running unfold as it will.

I want to recapture the competition with my self.

I want to run without devices telling me how I’m doing, or distracting me from discomfort.

I want to capture the pure simplicity back.

That’s not to say I’ll never run with my phone again or my running apps. Or that I won’t check my training schedule to see what I’m running this week. But I want to capture that, let’s call it “youthful ignorance” back.

What does that mean?

  • Less running with my phone/music/podcasts/gps.
  • Let my body dictate pace. Hard will be whatever feels hard, and easy will be whatever feels easy. No times.
  • Take races one bit at a time. Don’t worry about the clock, just catch up to the person in front of you.
  • Have fun. Run with people. Run with my kids. Run barefoot. Play running games.
  • Warm up. (I’m older now, but often skip the warm up. That’s bad. I always did them in cross country practice.)

I’m hoping that not only will I get more enjoyment out of my running, but my times will improve.

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No thinking. Just running.

 

Apple Dumpling Days 1/2 Marathon Recap

What an experience! I’m so grateful for how the race went, and even though I’m disappointed in my performance, I really couldn’t have asked for a better day.

I went into it with a goal of breaking 2:15, but like I said before, wasn’t stressing too much about it. Well, the day before the race, I kept mentally freaking myself out, and I needed to constantly remind myself that I’m only five months removed from having a baby, and to let my body do what it could. I ended up finishing in 2:15:40; didn’t quite make my goal, but still not bad. The last 1/2 marathon I did was over a year ago (May 2015), I was in better shape, but was dealing with an injury and finished with a time of 2:20. I had no injuries or other issues this race and I’m so thankful for that.

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But there is a part of me that is disappointed. I’m disappointed that I didn’t meet my goal, and disappointed that, had I pushed myself just a little harder, I would have.

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The day before:

I had thought about getting up early and doing an easy couple of miles, but opted for more sleep. I did nothing unusual from my regular routine. I did have a difficult time thinking about what to have for dinner that wouldn’t cause any stomach issues during the race and settle on soup. It worked just fine.

Before bed, I set up all of my stuff: clothes, shoes, change of clothes, water, recovery drink hat, gels, phone, etc.

In bed by 9.

Race day:

4:30am – Alarm goes off. The race started at 8, but the bus that took us to the start left at 7. I also needed to get my packet and bib, and that was from 5:30-6:30 am. So I was up at 4:30. (That’s pretty much my normal wake up time anyway, so it wasn’t a big deal.) Ate a piece of toast and a drank a cup of coffee. Made sure I had plenty of time to use the bathroom (several times).

5:45am – Leave for race. My husband graciously stayed with the three kiddos and would bring them to the finish line. (He’s pretty great.) On the drive over, it rained. And rained. I started to get a little freaked and just prayed that it would stop.

6am – Packet pick up, parking, bathroom, yada, yada. Typical race stuff. I had plenty of time to kill, so I checked and double checked that I have everything.

7am – The marathon starts. The marathoners had an out and back race; we shared the same course. The second the gun went off, the skies opened on the poor runners. I love the starts of races. So much adrenaline and energy are humming, that even though it was pouring, it was still awesome. After the start, we loaded onto the bus that took us to the half marathon start. There was a bit of time to drop my bag off, go to the bathroom, and warm up a little.

8am – Race starts. We race up the trail for about a mile before we turned and basically had a straight shot to the finish. The race was along the Elroy- Sparta Trail. It was part of an old railway line that has been converted into bike paths and it’s unbelievably gorgeous. The rain had stopped, but the sun was hidden and the weather was actually pretty perfect for running. My plan for the race was to be somewhat conservative:

  • Miles 1-4 at about an 10:30 pace
  • Begin picking up the pace after mile 4, hoping for an average of about 9:20-9:30 until mile 10
  • Just hang on for the last three miles. I knew the last three were going to be painful and mentally tough. I didn’t care about speeding up or anything. I just wanted to maintain a decent pace.

I was able to stick to that pretty well, but unfortunately I relied on my phone’s running app which must not be accurate. I have it set to prompt me after every mile and it kept telling me my current pace was around 9:30, so I thought I was good. Well, that wasn’t true. So while I thought I was hitting my goal paces, I was about 30 secs slower. Lesson learned.

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The course is beautiful. While I was running I just kept reminding myself how lucky I was to be running and thanking God for the perfect day, beautiful trail, and strength to keep going. About 6 miles in, there’s a tunnel (they had it lit for the race). It was really cool to run though, although a little disorienting.

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I had planned to take a couple gels throughout the race: One at mile 4, one at mile 8, and I ended up taking one at mile 10 since they had them at the water station. I walked through each water station I stopped at, which was about half of them. (They had water stations about every other mile.) I took only water since I was using gels. I figured I didn’t need gatorade or anything like that.

I was feeling pretty strong and confident, (although had I known I was slower than I thought, I definitely could have pushed it) for those first 10 miles. Taking everything one step, one mile at a time.

Around 10 miles is always where it gets a little tough; the last mile and a half are such a mental game. I was able to keep my pace, but definitely, felt it. The last mile of the race actually went through town a little, with the slightest increase in elevation. For the most part, that course is flat.

There were several points where the trail crosses traffic, and usually race volunteers would stop the traffic for the runners. Around mile 11, I came to an intersection, and the race volunteer was kind of confusing in his motions. I ended up stopping and waiting for some cars. I wasn’t too happy about that.

The finish was pretty nice; not like a super long shoot or painful loop or anything. I was actually able to kick it up and finish that last 1/4 mile or so at probably a 8 min/mile pace. (Again, I could have pushed harder during the race.)

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As I rounded the last curve, I saw my family there, which always makes me so happy! The boys were going to run the last stretch with me, which I love. As they saw me approach, they took off.

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Unfortunately, a few people were gather in the finish area (I was NOT please about that). One girl was walking across and ended running into my 3 year old and knocking him into a puddle. Poor kid. I picked him up and carried him across the finish line for a less than spectacular finish.

Finish time: 2:15:40, 9th in my age group

Who knows, had I known my pace was off, and hadn’t been stopped by traffic, and didn’t have to stop to carry my kid, could I have beaten 2:15? Probably. But it is what it is.  I can’t go back and change anything; I can only learn from this race and push on to do better.

I am disappointed. Mainly because I feel like I could have pushed myself more. Am I overall happy that I (think I) set a PR 5 months after baby? Yes. Am I thrilled knowing that I made progress in my running and fitness since having kids? Yes. But I do get frustrated when I want to reach goals that just seem unattainable right now. I know I have to be patient and keep working hard. Good things don’t come to those who wait. Good things come to those who work for it.

I plan on doing another half (also on the same trail, just a different part of the trail), in November. These next two months will focus a bit more on speed and hill workouts, since I’ve already built up mileage. I’m also planning on running some shorter races (2-3, 5ks) to help with speed.

Everyone’s ability and experience is different. I have to stop comparing myself to someone who has been running uninterrupted for year. I’ve had three babies in four years. I need to give myself some grace and focus on working hard and letting my running unfold. Maybe I will never break 2 hours for the half marathon (I firmly believe I can.), or qualify for Boston (the ultimate goal). Does that mean I’m going to stop running? No! In the great scheme of things, times don’t matter as much as the enjoyment in the journey. No amount of disappointment is going to stop me from getting the most out of my running. It’s such a blessing.

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How do you come back from disappointment? Have you ever had a race you felt you could have given more?

 

 

 

 

4 Months Post and Summer Recap.

Holy cow does time fly. Seriously! My baby is now four months and I’m staring at the unforgiving face of another school year. Why is it we wait the entire winter for summer, and then is gone in the blink of an eye? Not cool, time. Not cool.

If your summer has been anything like mine, it’s been full, busy, and absolutely wonderful. I love summer, and every year it’s harder and harder so see summer end. Don’t get me wrong, I love autumn and I’m looking forward to pumpkins and apple cider and football, but I’ll miss summer. Let’s all take a moment and reflect on summer.

(Silent reflection.)

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We were plenty busy this year, and no matter how many times I tell myself I’m going to relax, take it easy, do plenty of school work, it never happens. We took several long trips. (TN and SD – roadtripping with  a newborn is NOT recommended.) Plenty of family get-togethers, showers, parties, visits, and mini-trips. I’ve barely had time to keep up with the house and garden. (Sidenote: the garden became overgrown with weeds and we’ve been fighting a losing battle all summer.) But it’s been wonderful.

My running has been going really well, too. I’m almost back to where I was before pregnancy, but not quite. It feels good to know that with some hard work, within the year I should be better than I was before I got pregnant. So happy that I kept running through my pregnancy; it really helped me maintain my fitness level. Yay!

I’ve been training for a half marathon in September and it’s been going pretty well. I’m hoping to beat 2:15, but I’m not stressing over it. I’m planning on doing another 1/2 in November, so if this first one if terrible, I can make it up. Which is such a big lesson to learn! I’ve gotten so down on myself for races that went less than stellar because of injury, conditions, or mental or physical setbacks and I’m sick of it! This is probably the best attitude I’ve had around a race in a long time. The other day I had a 12 mile long run. Now, 12 miles is long, I know, but for the first time it was just another run. No stressing, no worrying about how long it would take or how awful it would feel. Just another run that required a couple of gels in my pocket. And the last couple of miles did hurt, but it didn’t matter and they ended up being my fastest two miles.

That was such a big step for me. Because running isn’t always just about going farther or faster, or getting skinnier or stronger. Some of the greatest achievements in running come from the mental strength you gain. Something that once seemed impossible, like running 12 miles, becomes just another run. Not a big deal. (Maybe someday I’ll view a 20 mile run like that.) That mental strength can be such a blessing.

So as fall descends, go ahead and do something that seems hard, whether it’s a 12 mile run or a trip to the grocery store with all your children in tow. Build that mental strength. But I would recommend running; autumn is cross-country season after all!

Here are the 4 month updates:

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Sorry about the quality. I was in a dressing room.

 

Baby Girl: She’s so sweet! I love babies at this age. She smiles, laughs, and plays. She rolls over and looks around. She recognizes her daddy and brothers. She’s no longer just a cute little blob, but an actual tiny person with a personality. She does have her crabby moments, as we all do, but in general her disposition is a sunny one. She still sleeps well, although ever since coming back from vacation she’s been off her game a bit. She takes several naps throughout the day and is usually down for the night before 8. Usually. She’s still breastfed, although with school starting soon, I may have to start supplementing with formula. I’m not wild about the idea, but it is what it is. My goal has always been to exclusively breastfeed until 6 months. We might make it to 5 with her. No solids yet, but will be starting that within a month or 2 I’m sure.

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Workouts: Like I said, they’ve been going pretty well. I’ve incorporated speedwork, hill work and pace work into my training and I’m hoping it helps come September. I’m still doing yoga, but it’s about once a week, and I’m trying to fit in strength training too. I just got the Beachbody on Demand and have been doing P90X3 with my running. I’m hoping that more strength training and functional moves will help keep me injury-free. Cross-training is so key, but I’m terrible at getting it done!

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Hill repeats. Lots of fun.

Nutrition: Well it’s summer, so let’s just say it hasn’t been perfect. Still emphasizing protein and fat. I make protein shakes with about 2 tablespoons of coconut oil blended in. to keep those two nutrients up. If you’re nursing, I would HIGHLY recommend adding coconut oil to your diet; the benefits are amazing. (I also snack on coconut manna.) Avocados, peanut and almond butter are a big part of my diet. I’ve slowly brought dairy in, and Baby Girl seems to tolerate it just fine. (Still full fat and organic if I can.) I’ve tried to limit gluten and sugar, but like I said, I haven’t been perfect. Birthdays and parties and vacations seem to get in the way of healthy eating.

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Weight loss: Since coming home from the hospital (after the initial weight loss) I’ve lost about 10 pounds. (Give or take, weight fluctuates.) That puts me at about 5-6 pounds from my pre-pregnancy weight, which is pretty amazing. My guess is those pounds will probably want to stick around until I’ve weaned Baby Girl. It happens. I can get most of my clothes on, which is great, but they’re still snug. I’ll be happy when everything fits normally again. The greatest thing that’s happened this time around is I’m not stressing over it. Yes, I want the weight gone, but since I know it will come off, I’m not freaking out. (Granted it took two pregnancies and two rounds of 25-30 pound weight loss to get to the point where I’m confident the weight will come off.) So give yourself a break, remind yourself that you can do it and try not to stress over any baby weight.

Did your summer fly by? What did you do to keep active?

Tasty Tuesday: Rich and Fudgey Paleo Brownies

I don’t know about you, but I love a good brownie. Rich, fudgey, chocolatey goodness often found in a box and full of chemicals and preservatives. I’ve made my fare share of boxed brownies, and I will freely admit they’re delicious. But I’d rather eat something that doesn’t have a shelf life longer than I do. (And I’d recommend you do too.)

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I’ve said before that I’m not a diet follower, and that’s still true, but I do lean more towards a paleo-like diet. I like the emphasis on veggies, and my husband likes meat; it’s a win-win. And I like that many of my favorite treats can still be enjoyed. Dessert without the guilt? Sign this girl up.

So when I set out to remake the brownie, I decided to make it a paleo version. Plenty of protein and fat (great for a nursing mom), and zero white sugar (because sugar is bad, in case you didn’t know). Bonus? They’re still rich and fudgey and full of chocolately goodness. Do they taste exactly like a boxed mix? Sorry, no, but who really wants that anyway?

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The combo of dates and maple syrup adds the perfect sweetness, while the hint of coffee helps balance and add richness. I used decaf because I give these to my kids, but you can certainly use regular.

(And word about the dates: soak in the boiling water for 10-20 minutes and blend into a smooth paste. This mixes in beautifully.

To start, you need to mix the cocoa powder and the oil. This can be done in the microwave; just heat up the oil until liquid and mix the cocoa in. (If it starts to thicken or harden up again, give another quick zap.)

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Meanwhile, mix all the wet ingredients together: the eggs, the almond milk, the coffee, the date puree, the almond butter, vanilla, and the maple syrup.

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Give it a good whisk.

Add in the oil/coca mix and whisk it in. Be sure to take a moment to marvel at that beautiful chocolate richness.

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Let little helpers mix it in!

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Add the coconut flour. Don’t be afraid of the small amount. Coconut flour absorbs a lot of moisture. Whisk together until it’s relatively smooth.

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Pour in a greased 8×8 baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until done.

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Try and let cool before digging in.

 

Rich and Fudgey Paleo Brownies

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 c coconut oil
  • 1/2 c cocoa powder
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 c dates softened in 1/2 c boiling water and pureed
  • 1/2 maple syrup
  • 1/4 c unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbs brewed decaf coffee
  • 1/4 almond butter (unsweetened)
  • 1/2 c coconut flour
  • pinch salt

Melt coconut oil in the microwave. Stir in cocoa powder. Set aside.

Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, date puree, maple syrup, almond milk, vanilla, coffee, almond butter and pinch of salt until combined.

Add cocoa and oil mixture and stir until combined.

Wisk in coconut flour until (relatively) smooth. Pour into a greased 8×8 baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes until done.