Keep Climbing Up, Baby

IMslideWhenever I bring my kids to the park there is almost always another family with kids there. And, inevitably, there is a not-so-gentle “reminder” to not go up the slide.

“Stay on your bottom, Sweetie!”

“Slides are for going DOWN!”

“Get off of there! You’re going to fall!”

I’m often given dirty looks and even asked why I don’t tell my children to stop climbing up the slide. Because they are playing and aren’t hurting anyone.  Of course they already know the rule; those going down take precedent & you always get out of their way.  Other than that, I honestly see no harm in it.

Yesterday at the park a woman was desperately trying to keep the young tot with her from going up the slide. But the kid kept going back and trying it again, and again.  Exasperated the woman gave up.

“When you fall off maybe then you’ll learn not to do that again!”

Of course I don’t believe she really wished for the kid to fall (nor would she have let him), but it was clear that she did wish for him to learn it was “dangerous” and to hopefully not do it.  This is where I shake my head a little.  I don’t wish my kids to learn how bad something is and to then avoid it. I want them to learn from it.  If my kid falls off a slide, I want him to yes, learn the dangers of it, but I also want him to come up with a new strategy and figure out how do it without falling.  I want him to grow. I want him to learn.

Imagine if every time we failed we just stopped trying.  My first marathon was a failure.  So was my second.  And, devastatingly, my third.  But I didn’t quit.  Yes, it was a struggle, an “up hill battle” if you will, but I learned something new about the distance after every cycle of training and every race.  I compounded this knowledge until I started getting it right.  If my kid had quit the first time he didn’t make it up the slide, he would have never experienced the satisfaction of having made it to the top once he was big enough, strong enough, and experienced enough to do it.  If I had quit after my first race, I would have never known the joy of smashing my goal.

Sometimes we fall.  Sometimes we get hurt.  Sometimes we fail.  But these can be good things.  We can learn from how something doesn’t work, making us that much more efficient the next time around.  I will do great things in the marathon because I just keep trying.  I keep climbing.  I keep on running.

I don’t ever want my kids to stop climbing up the slide.  I want them to keep climbing up, up, and up because I love the confidence, the satisfaction, and the joy on their faces when they make it to the top, turn around, and smile back down at me.

 

School’s Out & Mom Needs to Run

Tomorrow is the last day of school. Wednesday begins the 10 long weeks of figuring out how to keep my three kids from killing each other.  I have all the library events marked on my calendar as well as all their various sports and activities.  We have chore charts and behavior charts and Summer reading challenge charts already posted.  Unfortunately this Summer we will not be taking a vacation like we did last year, which was a great help at breaking up the monotony as well as giving us all something to look forward to.  Instead, we will be packing and (hopefully) closing on a house.  *Fingers crossed*  But, until we actually know what is happening with the housing situation & when, we will carry on like we have been for the past year and a half; Hubs living two hours away at work during the week and me holding down the fort alone.  This also means I need to creatively figure out how I’m going to get through the first 8 weeks of my next training cycle with three kids, again.

Last Summer I trained for the Hartford Marathon and was in the same situation.  I ended up cutting my training way back while school was out, and only running a few days a week.  I ran Monday mornings before Hubs left for the week, Wednesday while the kids stayed with some friends, and then both Saturday and Sunday.  Every other week I brought the kids to the track on Tuesdays.  It worked out okay.  But I’m at a point with my marathoning where I need to step up my game if I’m going to get faster.  This means more repeats and longer long runs.  So between highly utilizing the weekends, begging the neighbors and friends to babysit, and dashing off for a quick run around the block while they are engrossed in story time I just might be able to pull it off.

But I also need to plan to take a deep breath and be patient.  The Fall race isn’t my target.  While I still have goals, the real focus is on Boston next Spring and this Fall race is simply the conditioning to get me that much closer to me real goal down Boylston Street.  I focused very hard and trained even harder last Spring and I came through that cycle on cloud nine.  Perhaps I should take the Summer as an opportunity to train with a little less intensity and just enjoy it.  Or, maybe I’ll break down and invest in a treadmill one of these days…

The Mile That Broke Me

When I was in middle school we had to do the Physical Fitness Test for P.E. Some kids moaned and groaned about it, but I actually liked it. I was good at it. I was awkward with over sized glasses and scraggly hair, but I was also very competitive and this was my chance to show off. I couldn’t be popular, but I could do this. It was an easy A. Sit ups, pull ups, sit & reach — done, done, and done! But my favorite part was the one mile run. I was fast. I knew it wasn’t a competition, but I was the best and it was the one thing I could be so proud of.

It was Spring of my eighth grade year and my gym class lined up for the mile run. The goal was to run two and a half laps around the baseball/softball/soccer fields while our teacher, Mr. Arch, timed us. I don’t even remember what the passing time was since I already knew I’d beat it. I was running for more than just a passing grade, for more than a Presidential patch. I was running to impress my teacher and classmates and possibly hit a PR. Mr. Arch sounded his whistle and away we went, plodding through the damp grass. I moved quickly and effortlessly. Being on the track and cross country teams meant that I knew where every wobble and divet in the fields were, so I could easily avoid them. As usual, I headed a small pack of athletic boys. Some were on the track team with me. Some played other sports like baseball or soccer. They breathed heavily behind me and I felt self conscious, as many fourteen year olds do. I didn’t like being in close proximity to boys because they unnerved me and sometimes they gave me good reason to feel unnerved.

I picked up my pace to pull away from them as I rounded the first chain-link backstop. I could feel the presence of someone on my left shoulder. Andy drafted off of me as he puffed along. “You keep running like that and I’m going to break your legs, Mary-Alex.” I was startled and turned to see him with a snarly grin right above my shoulder. He threw out a sturdy elbow that caught me in the rib and threw off my balance. I ping-ponged between the backstop fencing and Andy until I had regained control of myself. Once in the open again I tried to veer away from him, but Andy kept close, grunting threats of bodily harm and demanding I slow down.

Andy was one of the best boy athletes in our grade. He played soccer, basketball, and baseball, was popular, was a bit of a trouble maker, and was someone I feared. He was competitive also, but rough, which made him dangerous. And I was often one of his targets for bullying.

We passed by Mr. Arch on the first lap, and he barely looked up. This was no longer just a physical fitness test. This was so much more than a time trial. This was a race. This was boy vs girl, good vs evil. We ran stride for stride around the perimeter of the playing fields while he called me names, promised me rape, and told me I was a dyke. I had been told that boys did these kinds of things, said mean things to girls because they liked them, because they had crushes on them. But I didn’t feel liked. Andy didn’t have a crush on me. Andy had an ego trip and a need for power and dominance. He would have liked to crush me. We were out of earshot of the teacher when he practically growled at me. “I’m going to fuck you, then I’m going to kill you.” He punctuated this decree with a sharp kick to the back of my knee. My left leg wobbled and buckled beneath me. Andy trotted on while I pulled myself up off the grass and attempted to walk it off. He pulled away from me and there was no hope for regaining my position. But Andy wasn’t my target; the clock was and I had to get moving to try and salvage my run.

There was maybe a quarter of a mile left, two more back stops and a finish line. I ran awkwardly and the rest of the lead pack of boys dashed past me. I let them go; there was no point in trying anymore. Andy was too far ahead. I stumbled, half jogging, half limping to where Mr. Arch stood with his clipboard and stop watch. “Great job, Zicky! Six and a quarter…” I tried to tell him that I had gotten hurt, but was told to come back when he wasn’t writing down times for the rest of the class. But the bell rang before I got a chance and everyone else just moved on. Andy didn’t make eye contact as we shuffled out into the hall. I was a better runner, but I didn’t get a PR and I didn’t come in first.

I didn’t pursue the issue. I didn’t even tell my parents. I had passed and I wasn’t significantly injured, so there wasn’t really anything to complain about. I figured I’d just be told again how boys can be be boys. And what did it matter if I was first? 6:25 was a decent time. I knew how fast and strong I was, did I have to beat some boy to prove it, or couldn’t I let him have the win and be happy while staying safe? I spent the next ten years being safe, staying out of the way of some aggressive guy. I kept a step behind, giving away the win out of fear that I’d be cut off at the knees again. And for ten years, anger festered. I was angry at myself for not fighting back, for not being loud about it, maybe for not hitting first. I was mad at myself for being so stereotypically weak. I just didn’t know how to get up and fight back, and I had been down so long I didn’t see the point in trying.

And then I had a daughter. A spunky, headstrong, fierce little girl who loves monster trucks and dinosaurs and doesn’t care at all if her two older brothers are bigger than her; she’ll take ’em on any day! If I won’t get up for myself, I must get up for her to show her to be strong, to be fierce, to not be ashamed of being in front. She needs to be taught to stand up for herself, and to fight back if need be. She’ll be targeted one day. A pimply teenager or insecure college guy will make a move on her, will try to degrade her, to take out her knees. I know this because, unfortunately, some boys will be like this, because I don’t believe that bullying or date rape or domestic abuse or sexual harassment or gender inequalities will ever truly cease to be. But she will be prepared to get back up and take back what is her’s.

I’m not slowing down or giving up anymore. I’m never going to take a step back for someone else’s pride. I now run for my daughter. I run for all daughters. I run in the name of Girl Power and Feminism and Equality. I am going to always run, I am going to always be fast.

Try Hard

“Mom, it seems like at almost every race we go to you’re the first or second girl runner,” my five year old mused over dinner last night.
“Yes, often in the smaller races I do well,” I answered.
“But why are you always first or second? How come nobody else is faster?” he asked.
“Because I try really hard to be as fast and as strong as I can be.”

While I think my son may be giving me a little too much credit, I do appreciate his observation. My running is throughly supported by my family, almost dauntingly so. My husband (jokingly) expects sub-human times out of me and I’m an Olympian in my children’s eyes. They see greatness in me and expect it every time I head to a starting line. And they seem to think it comes easy, that winning is somehow innate. But in reality I’m a regular lady running just ahead of the pack, pouring out everything she’s got just to snag a trophy at her local 5K. And I don’t do it because I’m highly competitive (okay, I’m a little competitive!). I do it because they are watching.

try1

I want my children to grow up to be successful and happy in whatever it is they end up finding their passion in. But, in order for them to be successful, they need to know what that means. By watching their mother set her sights on a goal, strategize, work for it, and reach her achievements they are learning how they can go about being successful.  Running, running well, setting PRs, and taking home trophies isn’t easy, it isn’t innate, but the trying is what exhibits greatness.

try2

I also want my children to go ahead and expect success out of others, even if their expectations are daunting. They should expect everyone to try their best to succeed, because if one isn’t trying to “win” then they have already accepted a loss. Expecting success from their teammates, classmates, and future coworkers will benefit them; their teams will win more games, schools will perform better, and companies will be more profitable. If they learn to expect success, reach for it themselves, and encourage those around them to as well, then the community as a whole benefits.

try4

Trying is important. Sure, there are races when I know I shouldn’t place or pace well. There’s a fast field or I’ve been hampered by injury. But these are self-defeating excuses. Someone has to win, might as well be me, right? I can at least try, give it my all, and go home happy that I did my greatest no matter how I finish. I went into my last race with a sub-21 minute 5k in mind. But after the first mile I knew I had it in me to push harder. Could I go sub-20?! Well, I had two miles to try. I pushed as hard as I could for those two miles and was so happy that my cheering kids got to witness me finishing in first place AND with a 19:24 time. They got to witness the power of trying.

 

A Bad Run & Mastitis 

My long run this weekend didn’t work out for me. I wasn’t as excited for the workout (2.25 hours easy, 45 mins race pace) as I usually am. I also felt like I was working a lot harder to hit my paces. In the second half of the run I started to have breathing issues. I chalked it up to the heat and humidity and pressed on. But I couldn’t quiet the voice in my head that was screaming for me to just stop.

And so I stopped. I was only 2.5 miles shy of being home, but I was done. I called my husband and he came to get me. I was mad at myself for being a quitter. I spent the rest of the day feeling lousy, fighting a headache, and trying to rehydrate. So it was just a bad run. I got most of it in. I had to let it go. 

The next morning I woke up with severe chills that quickly turned into a 103 fever. The headache was incredible. Within an hour the tell-tale red streaks of infection raced across my right breast and into my arm pit. Mastitis. I spent all of Sunday in bed sleeping and pumping. 

I’m on antibiotics now, but I’m still exhausted. The thought of just walking down the stairs wipes me out, let alone any amount of running. Hopefully this infection doesn’t take me out for too long. The Hartford Marathon is less than a month away and I need to be ready! 

Getting Creative

It’s the middle of the summer and the kids are, of course, still home from school.  And I’m still flying solo as a parent during the week since we haven’t found a house yet.  Being a stay-at-home-parent to three little ones can make marathon training rather difficult, but we are managing to get it done.  I’ve had to get creative in setting up my training schedule and getting my workouts in since I don’t have a lunch break to pull it off, and I can’t leave them alone for a 90 minute long run.  If you are a single (or quasi-single parent) then there are a few options for marathon training while the kids are home from school:

  1. Send the kids to daycare, camp, grandma’s, etc.
  2. Have a workout swap with other parents & trade baby sitting while the other runs.
  3. Use a treadmill.
  4. Get a gym membership that has child care.

These are all great ideas that I’ve been recommended by others and have read in countless articles.  But sometimes these options just don’t work for all of us.  I can’t afford regular daycare, my other running buddies work or don’t have children, and my family lives too far away to watch my kids on any type of regular basis.  I also have no place in my home to put a treadmill and I don’t live near a gym that offers childcare.  So what’s a mom to do?!

First, get a calendar.  I printed off blank calendars and marked off the days I knew I had coverage.  Next, get flexible.  My training schedule looks a lot different than the standard ones you’ll find on the Internet. I had to rearrange some runs, combine some workouts, and create whole new ones around my sparse schedule.  Lastly, get everyone involved.  My husband is aware of my training and so are my kids.  We work together to make sure that the training gets in.  That means he makes breakfasts on weekend mornings, and the kids work up a sweat with me during the week.  During the week I make use of workout videos and do speed-work and calisthenic drills in the backyard.

Sometimes my runs can look a little funny:

wp-1469205444835.png

Basically, I run when I can, I try not to get too bummed out when I can’t, and I stay willing to adapt as I go along so that I can keep myself moving. I know Summer won’t last forever and the school bus will be arriving just as my plan calls for longer runs.  Honestly, I’m enjoying the break with the kids!

Running While Breastfeeding

Okay…so that title is a little misleading. This post isn’t about running while breastfeeding – that could be dangerous & lead to all sorts of weird overuse injuries. I want to talk about running as a breastfeeding mom, breastfeeding as a runner. Every time I’ve had a baby I’ve received all sorts of questions and remarks about how the two work together. Well, I figured that since I’ve been a runner for 20 years and breastfeeding for 7 of those years, I might actually know a thing or two about it!

I’m going to start off by saying that I am very pro-breastfeeding. I am not knocking formula feeders with that statement, but for me it was the best option. And, while I do love running, breastfeeding & nourishing my child has always come before my running and training. I breastfed all three of my own children to varying lengths (while running, of course), and am currently supplying breastmilk (by pumping) for the Surrogacy Babe. I am also very pro-running, pro-activity, pro-workout. I believe that being physically fit helps to manage stress, is overall healthy, and sets an excellent example for children.

Does running affect the milk? Do you need to pump and dump after running?
No! Running, most of the time will not alter your milk in any way, so please don’t waste it by dumping it. Milk can contain lactic acid from extremely hard workouts or races, but a run around the block will not cause this. If you do hit the track hard enough for lactic acid to get into your milk, it will not harm your baby. However, your baby may not like the taste and refuse to nurse. I suggest that if you do workout at maximum intensity, wait 30-90 minutes to nurse (if possible) to avoid refusals.

Do you need to get a special running bra for nursing?
No, but they do make them if you really want one. Unless you plan to nurse during a workout or event, it’s unlikely that any special running bras will be needed. I’ve known some ultra runners who would pump or nurse in the middle of a race, and I could see how it would be really handy to have a nursing-sports bra in those situations. However, I’ve had no problems with my regular workout gear…and I usually take a shower and change before I feed/pump anyway. I have had to replace sports bras frequently while nursing due to breasts drastically changing size and stretching them out. In my last marathon I started the race as a moderate A cup, but finished four hours later as a rather engorged C cup! Because of size changes, I’ve had to make sure I had a very sturdy bra to hold me down, and I’ve even resorted to doubling up on bras. Get a good quality bra and be prepared to get another one in 3 months.

But you have to eat so many calories! Is it even worth it?
Umm…YES! I know a handful of other surrogates who also pump for their surrogacy babies and/or preemie milk banks. They believe that working out uses up too many calories that could be used for making breastmilk, meaning they would have to eat that much more, making the workout pointless. Personally, I don’t follow their logic and think it’s a cop-out. Yes, running burns calories (how much depends on the individual and her workout), and yes, breastfeeding/pumping burns calories (anywhere from 300 to 1000+ per day), but counting calories isn’t really the answer. 1. Stay hydrated. Drink, drink, and drink some more water and you’ll be fine. 2. Eat when you are hungry! I eat approximately 2500 calories per day, but my food is spread out in tiny meals throughout the whole day. When I’m hungry I don’t worry about how many calories are in the snack, I just eat it! Obviously, like when you were pregnant, eat the healthy stuff; whole grains, lean meats, a daily dose of dairy, and lots of fruits and veggies.

Doesn’t running decrease your supply? Do you slow down because of breastfeeding?
Along with the calorie-intake mentality is the notion that working out will decrease your supply. Honestly, I don’t know about this one. Unless you are being paid by the ounce and every ounce really matters, I would say no, it doesn’t decrease your supply. Running doesn’t make you produce less (unless of course you are dehydrated or underfed), and breastfeeding/pumping doesn’t slow you down as a runner! At six months postpartum and 40 miles per week, I am producing roughly the same daily ounces I was at 3 weeks postpartum. My performance is slightly slower than what I was able to pull off in college (and that was ten years and four babies ago!)

Working out and especially running is great during the postpartum months. Feeling your body get stronger while nourishing a small person is amazing! Running is a great opportunity to clear your mind, get some alone time (or meet up with other moms/adults), as well as losing some lingering pregnancy pounds. You don’t have to wait to ween your child to start a working out. Know that there are LOTS of breastfeeding and pumping moms out there doing what’s best for themselves and their babies. Get out there, RUN, and enjoy yourself!