Friday, October 13, 2017

Devil Dash 5k 2017

Another race recap, this one not a month late though! I took a little cutback after Rochester Half to recover properly but then wanted to get back into things. Last weekend I was looking around at races to run this month in order to get my feet wet to try and run a faster time in November. I wanted some low key races to work on finding my grit again, and also just to enjoy running (I have always loved start lines).

I had a few options for this past Saturday but chose to do a very small, very low key race in Victor called the Devil Dash. My friends kids are students there, would be running it and supported their school fundraising. Win-Win-Win. I could go run, but also be there to cheer and support them.

The week leading up to the race wasn't great running wise. I didn't get in a run until Thursday. Monday and Tuesday it just didn't happen, and Wednesday I wanted to run but was dealing with some vertigo and figured better to lay low (I did get checked out by MD the following day, just to be sure). He gave me the OK to run as long as I wasn't experiencing symptoms and to stop if I did.

Thursday night I got out for some miles, and Friday I went out as well for some later evening miles and finished with some strides. I felt okay but taking Monday-Wednesday off left me feeling a bit stale. Not a huge deal since the 5k wasn't a goal race, but not ideal.

I woke up and it was pouring rain, but just sipped my coffee and pumped without stressing about it. Brian and Hannah went with me, we made the 30 minute drive and met up with our friends when we got there. I waited in line a bit for packet pickup, and then stood around for a while. I should have started my warm-up earlier but as my friends husband called it- I had a case of the F'its.

I was just like, okay cool running a race see what happens not taking it seriously. I saw a girl running a warm-up and I knew she would beat me by about 3 minutes. Yes, I'm serious and spoiler, yes she did. The rain had stopped, but occasionally started misting- it was actually comfortable temp wise so that was helpful.

I started my warm-up a few minutes before the race and just yogged around the parking lots. I reminisced a bit, as I actually went to Kindergarden at Victor and saw the elementary school, and playground. Though, I got sad when I saw the nice new playground they had- because the old playground was AMAZING. The old playground was a gigantic wooden one, I very specifically remember how good it was- but I think they tore it down for lead issues? I could be wrong. Anyways, I digress.

I ran over to the start with a few seconds to spare, reset my watch and then we were off. I didn't hit start button properly I guess and finally got it to go a few seconds into the race. Operator error.

The other girl I had seen pre-race and I took off out front, a few teenage boys did too but then we dropped them. I smiled because quite frankly it's always fun when women lead a race. I kind of set a goal to 'chick' the field. It gave me something non time related to work on. I hung with the other girl for a 1/4 mile or so and then let her go because yeah, definitely not going to keep up.

The course was a double loop with lots of turns around the campus. The road was open one way, so there were still some cars. Not a big deal, but due to the nature of things it was hard to run tangents. The other girl increased that lead more and more by the minute but I could see her in the distance which kept me pushing since no one else was really around me (again, super small race). About halfway through the first loop a guy latched onto my shoulder and I couldn't shake him but it was good because it kept me on my toes and from slacking off the pace without anyone around me. I never saw him but I heard him. We rounded the first loop and I saw Brian, Hannah and our friends. I waved and then kept going trying to keep the heavily breathing dude from passing me.
P.S. The Saucony Freedom Hat is quite possibly one of my favorite running hats.
SUPER lightweight and comfortable! 
There was a walk in conjunction with the run so I knew the second loop would be passing walkers, and others from the run. I did a lot of weaving but tried to cheer on people at the same time. I lost the heavy breather about halfway through the second loop. I knew my second mile was slower than first, but tried to pick it up through the finish. I looped back through and then cut onto the track and around to find the finish chute. I hadn't been paying attention to my watch so was happy to see 19:XX as I approached and eventually finished in 20:09.

I cut back around after the finish and found my people which is always the best feeling. I immediately chugged some nuun and caught my breath. After that we went back to the corner before the track to watch for my friends kids coming through, they did amazing! It was great to see so many kids and families out there supporting the school but also being healthy and active.

Thoughts on the race: I am really happy and quite frankly never would have thought I would be as close to breaking 20 again postpartum as I am right now. Speed has always come a little quicker (pun intended) to me versus endurance. But I'm really happy with where I am at, and it's a good testament to the fact that it's not always about running ALL the miles. I'm not running an exorbitant amount of miles right now and haven't been doing a ton of workouts but I'm still progressing. Consistency, and doing what works for me is the key.

With that said, I think I'm in sub-20 shape. My garmin measured long (loop course and not being able to run tangents I expected that), and Strava told me I was 19:38 for the 5k. I AM NOT CLAIMING I RAN 19:38, my official time is 20:09 and yes that is my time. You don't get to claim other results than the race ones. BUT, I can look at my race and how I ran it and say that I'm right there for getting my 5k times back down. I can say that given a course I can run tangents better, and a race with more competition to work with I can absolutely run faster. I say this, because it's exciting to me. It also reaffirms my thoughts on taking this fall to just run shorter races and focus on having fun!

I am running another 5k tomorrow, and then planning on just some workouts for a few weeks. I'd like to see what I can do on November 4th at the East Ave 5k as a "goal" and then potentially a 5 miler or 10k later in November as well. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Rochester Half Marathon 2017

A few weeks behind on this recap, but better late than never! The race was September 17th, and my first half marathon since having Hannah!

Probably best to back up a tiny bit and talk about the lead up to this race. When I started running again I kind of had Rochester half in my head. I wasn't overly enthused for the race itself but more for the distance, and easy logistics for my first half marathon back postpartum. The course changed a few years ago, and this would be the first time I ran the new course (though I knew the terrain pretty well regardless except one section which will come into play later on).

Based on how my return to running had been going (20 weeks postpartum running update), I felt pretty good with where I was at. I knew I needed to be consistent with training, work on some hills, and start digging into my gritty reserves for race day.

Workout wise I hadn't done a ton but I wasn't flying totally without some turnover prep. Bergen 5k in August gave me good idea of where I was at for training and race paces. I knew that I would scale slightly based on experience but also the other way for not having a huge base. I at least had SOME idea where I could expect to be and how I should train.

Week of 8/14- no speed workout, long run was 11.2 mile easy progression
Week of 8/21- Random fartlek run, 2 x (4x400), 12 mile hilly long run
Week of 8/28- 6 mile hilly fartlek, 15 mile LSD
Week of 9/4- 2T/4x400/1T/4x200, 10.2 mile hilly relaxed long run
Week of 9/11- 5x 1k @ T/4x200, Rochester Half Marathon

The morning of the race went pretty smooth, after planning as much as possible and with some help from Brian and friends. I got up super early, pumped while drinking cold coffee, got ready and drove to a parking lot near the start. There, I pumped again in my car (ordering a car charger was super helpful ahead of time, then packed the milk in bags and stored in my bottle bag with an ice pack so it didn't go to waste sitting in my car), and drank my UCAN while eating some PB&J too. My friend and her husband met me there and took my bag for me so I wouldn't have to worry.

I jogged the 3/4 mile to the start and did some strides and drills while waiting to go. It was 99% humidity out, and you could definitely feel it. I opted to run in sports bra and bullet shorts (#sobrave) to be more comfortable, and it was a smart move. I also opted to wear my fastwitches instead of Type A racing flats for a little more support on hills; but also because I'm not confident enough in my base at this point to put in the distance with flats. Or I could have just worn 5k flats and increased my risk of foot fracture ten-fold, but figured why do something stupid when I know better.

I planned to run 100% by effort and not pace, and also to NOT stress about a time. I figured I would run 1:35 on a good day, potentially closer to 1:40 given the humidity and terrain. Honestly I really didn't care what I ran, I simply wanted to just run and see what happened.

{Drank some more water and a pack of Honey stinger chews about 5 minutes before the start}

Miles 1 & 2
Running by effort, it's cool. Except when you haven't been training that long and really haven't re-honed in your pacing skills. Took off with the crowd, slightly downhill and wrapped up the first 2 miles in 6:37 (LOLOLOLOL), but at least chilled a bit for 6:55 mile 2.

Miles 3-5
I knew these miles very well, and with the downhill terrain tried to go with effort but also reel in a bit. I enjoy running down through turning point park and over the boardwalk. I knew that the short steep Petten st. climb would be a pain but one that was short lasting. Honestly, I don't even remember going up it, except hearing my friend Dave cheering for me at the top. I knew I would see Brian around mile 5 so it gave me something to look forward to. I saw my friend Maria cheering, and then saw Brian and Hannah standing near the corner cheering and it was honestly one of my favorite parts of the morning. 6:50, 6:55, 6:56

Miles 6-9
Seeing Brian and Hannah put some pep in my step as I went over the O'Rourke bridge and then up Thomas hill. I worked with a few other runners and we just trucked along. The stretch along St. Paul is gradual incline but straight shot so easy to zone out. I found myself wanting a turn or some change in terrain to force my mind to work a bit more. I was happy with the consistent groove I held through this section though and felt pretty smooth. I took a gel somewhere in here, with a few swigs of water at an aid station. Got to see a few friends along this section which is always helpful too! 7:08,7:02,6:58,7:07

Miles 10 & 11
After mile 9 I didn't know the course until the last half mile. This isn't a complaint, this isn't a fault, this is just unfamiliar territory and part of my city I haven't run before. If anything it was good because it made my mind work a bit more trying to figure out where I was going. I had been told there was a hill around 11, and I naively assumed it was indeed shortly before or at 11. There was a few little rollers as we weaved through the falls/bridges, I was getting tired but knew I could hold till the finish. I hit mile 11 and assumed I wasn't paying attention and ran the hill. Wrong. 7:21,7:33

Mile 12
So a little after 11 we looped through a spot where I really didn't know the area, crossed a cool metal bridge and then...I looked to my left and saw a hill and was like- oh that sucks at least we don't....oh come on we're going up that? As a standalone hill it's FAR from the hardest I've done. But being at mile 11.5ish of a half marathon, and also being BROKEN CONCRETE AND SHITTY ROAD CONDITIONS...I was annoyed. I got part way up it and decided to hike for about 20 seconds. According to my gps file/strava this didn't even slow me down much because I was hiking at the speed I was trying to "run" it. This also allowed me to pay more attention to where I was stepping as not to break my ankle. But, alas I got to the top and took some water from an aid station and kept going. 7:47

Mile 13 & through the finish
This is where fast start + lack of good base training really kicked in and I was just tired and wanted to be done. I wasn't running with many people around me and just willed my way through the last bit. Crossing over the Pont De Rennes bridge was cool, through high falls area and then towards the stadium for the finish. I was cramping a bit and so focused on just being done that I didn't see people cheering (they were there) but I did hear them which helped. Crossed, chugged some water, chocolate milk and hugged my people. I love my people. We stayed for a while after cheering for finishers and then eventually the full marathoners coming through. It was a hot one in the sun and I didn't envy those going twice as long. I thought I would since I love marathons more than halves, but not that day.

Finish 1:33:34
(7th Female, 1st AG)

I had no reason to not be happy after the race. I was 4.5 months postpartum/post-cesarean, I ran a half marathon, I saw my people, and I felt an inch closer to being myself again. I don't even regret going out too fast- it was a great reminder of the YEARS of pace work that I did to work on NOT doing that, it's certainly not going to come back to me overnight. Praising my imperfections and progress- because that is where you grow.

What's next?
So admittedly, I thought I would finish regardless of time and feel like I wanted to do more halves this fall and chip away. NOPE. NOPE. NOPE. I realized that I am content with shorter stuff right now, and my brain isn't ready for halves or fulls YET. But, I'm also really excited to finish out the year getting a base back, jumping in other shorter races, and going with the flow. I know that when I kick off '18 I'll want a half or a full to work towards, but I'm not in any rush at this moment for that. A few months of other stuff is exactly what I want and need. I'm going to run a few October 5k's to get some more experience back under my belt, and then try to race East Ave Grocery Run on November 4. I don't know what that time will look like but I don't care, I'm just excited to be working hard again but on my own terms as I still work on this new mom thing at the same time.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Running Update: 20 Weeks Postpartum

So it's probably time to update my running blog about my running...novel idea! I actually really enjoy analyzing my running so this kind of stuff is fun for me #nerdalert.

I gave an update recently on life currently, and briefly talked about maternity leave. I was off for 7 weeks, and the timing worked out that I didn't run until the weekend before I went back to work- so back to work and running at the same time (this was probably really good for me in hindsight). As for working out over maternity leave I was very much on the no-pressure-wagon and did what I could when I wanted to. We walked a lot with the stroller which was just as much for mental sanity and getting out of the house as it was for the physical aspect.

It's worth noting that I really didn't continue to run during pregnancy, so my progression might be slightly different than others. All women are different, all pregnancies and deliveries are different- and all runners are different. My backing off was mostly my choice, I didn't have the desire to run and workout a ton during pregnancy and I embraced the time off. I love racing and have spent the last few years running and training pretty hard and this break came at a great time.

Some might say that the extended time off would make me want to start postpartum running sooner but it was in fact the opposite- I wanted to make sure that I was ready. I published a log of what I did the first 7 weeks postpartum-->here. It's mainly walking, some stretching and strength work and focusing on making sure I didn't do too much too soon. I DID get the itch to start running after a few weeks but fought it off, and stuck to my guns about waiting until my 7 week checkup (had I not had an emergency cesarean delivery I may have considered running  2-3 weeks earlier...maybe).

During the first 7 weeks I also made a point to regularly check in with my abs and assess for any signs of Diastasis Recti or other issues. My doctor also checked me out at my 7 week appointment. While I had a small space it was nothing concerning, and she told me to continue the exercises and things that I had been doing. While the exercises are nothing taxing I do feel like they helped me regain some core control (after my muscles being cut into during surgery) which made life in general easier let alone working out. {Some links to the exercises I have been doing: 5 exercises for D.R., more here, Pelvic Floor exercises, 4 more pelvic floor}

I also have been doing a lot of work with loop resistance bands. I have done these for years and it's something that truly has helped me get stronger, stay healthier and is a great way to build a good foundation while building up miles again. I've got a simple routine and few exercises (literally some of the exercises are just walking forward and back, side to side...simple!) I do that only takes a few minutes- so not a ton of excuses not to make it happen. It's low impact which is helpful too! What's 10 minutes, right?! {Some Links to loop band workouts: James Dunne, Pilates loop band, a few more}

So back to running.... I went for my first run around 7 weeks which was June 17th. From that point on I made a LOOSE plan for each week but it really took a few weeks to even come close to plan. That was much less about how I was physically feeling and more about adjusting to being working mom and also dealing with a few growth spurts with Hannah during that time.

I didn't follow a set rule such as the 10% rule for mileage. But I also didn't add a ton at a time, and I never increased unless I felt ready. My general rule of thumb was that I wanted to finish each week feeling like I COULD have run more miles, even now 20 weeks PP I am still using that rule of thumb for myself. I haven't finished a week where I felt like I couldn't have done more, but I also know that it's a fine line so I am being cautious. There is no award for rushing back to ALL the miles or races after a baby or injury....and it's especially not rewarding if you come back too soon and get injured or burned out.

So that is what my weeks have looked like since my first full week of running again. As you can see, gradual build with a few kind of larger jumps but then letting things level out again. The jump from 20 to 27 miles was bigger than planned but I felt good, and even so I proceeded to hold that mileage for a few weeks and even back off a tiny bit just to make sure I was ready.

A breakdown of the days since running again also shows where I started to throw in some smaller workouts, and gradually build my longer runs. Note: my long runs increased probably a bit more than they should have but I tolerate that well physically and mentally. Long runs are my favorite, and something that is important to me even if not training for a distance race. I have years under my belt of LSD's and it's something I KNOW that I can tolerate, but again I assessed regularly to make sure I didn't overdo it. {not shown on this chart is also that I continued walking a few times most weeks which helps speed recovery but also really helped build my foundation again which I think made my comeback a little bit of easier transition}

Much like mileage, paces are such a relative thing. But it's worth talking about. Pre-pregnancy most of my easy runs were between 7:30-8:30 paces even when training and running a sub-3 hour marathon. Postpartum now, most of my early runs were between 9:15-10:15 pace and now are more closer to 8:45-9:15 pace. The thing that is also different though is that pace doesn't bother me. While I still slowed down on easy stuff before, it was usually a struggle to do so and these days I could go out and plod miles at a slow pace forever and not bat an eyelash.

I have been using my Garmin with optical HR monitor to help me as I get back in shape and make sure I am actually abiding by EASY. Though most of the time I don't even need to or want to look at watch on easy days- I'm just happy to get outside and run. I have a huge appreciation for running for the sake of running and not running for the sake of training that I didn't have before. Though don't get me wrong, I look forward to being in training again and having another goal to work towards but that will come in time.

I ran my first postpartum race at 15 weeks postpartum, as there was Bergen 5k which I have not missed in years and wasn't going to let this year go by without running. I knew I wouldn't be in peak shape but I also knew the timing would be really good to use as a fitness test. I ran a solo 5k time trial on July 4th in 23:17 (7:30 pace) which was a good test but Bergen in August was a good race situation test to see how I had improved. Between July 4th solo TT and Bergen on August 12th I ran a few fartlek runs for workouts as well as some 400 repeats but nothing crazy.

Bergen is a competitive race but I was just excited to go out there and be back in the environment and see what I could do. I was excited to have Hannah there and knew that it would help me push to see her sooner. I went out too fast (6:16 hahhahahaha) but stayed consistent around 6:47-6:48 for the rest and finished in 20:47. I was really happy with that time and it was great to rip off the bandaid and race again. It was also nice to have a true race I could use to calculate my Vdot and training times moving forward.

Also, having my baby girl at the finish was the best thing ever.

Speaking of Hannah, I love stroller running a lot more than I thought I would. Does that make me sound bad that I wasn't sure if I would like it? Who cares, it's the truth. I am a solo runner, have been for a long time and it's something that works well for me. The first few stroller runs were done with our City mini GT (not a running stroller despite the brand being named baby jogger) but our car seat had an adapter that worked with it so it was better than nothing. It's actually not horrible for running, at least shorter and slower stuff.

Once I realized that I liked stroller running with Hannah, I found a car seat on a mom swap for cheap (with tags on and all!) that would work with my running stroller. Buying a second car seat just for running seemed silly but it was a smart move. I LOVE using my actual running stroller and it is definitely easier. We have a Baby Trend expedition jogger, it's considered a "low end" stroller by most runners but honestly I have some friends who have thousands of miles on theirs BT and no issues. I'm not saying BOB's and Thules aren't worth the money, but I think it was the right call for us getting the BT one to start. I don't feel limited with it at all. (The city mini is a great stroller and we love it for everything else...don't want to make it sound like we don't use/love that thing still- it was a great hand me down that gets used super frequently for family walks, shopping and public market trips).
Mini loves stroller runs!

Hannah does GREAT in the stroller and it will be bittersweet when I don't need the car seat for her in it and I won't be able to stare at her cute face while I run. Though, my little nosy-nellie will love being able to look forward and see so much more when she is turned around! I usually put amazon music on my phone on speaker and put it in the pocket on the stroller while I run. We both like the tunes and I'm still very aware of what's around us. I don't run with the stroller all the time, and there are days where I really need my chill solo runs and I get them- but the stroller is a great option for me to get my runs in but also spend time with Hannah. Planning for postpartum running was helpful and I'm finding what works and doesn't for us.

So where am I now and where am I headed with running this fall? Honestly, I don't really know and I'm okay with that! 

For starters I am running Rochester Half marathon this weekend, and I am actually really excited about it. It's going to be fun and exciting to be in the racing scene again and I know I'm in better shape than I was a few weeks ago so it'll be cool to see what I can do. It's a hilly course, but I'm not looking to break any records and really just want to soak in the energy.

Beyond that? I really think I'm just going to maintain miles, workouts, and throw in some races here and there the rest of the year. I have a list of some races that are potentially going to happen but most will be game time decisions based on how things are going in running and life with a baby! This weekend may be the only half I do this fall or I may find one other to do later on as a progression but I'm not super fixed on it. I like the thought of jumping in some 5k, 5 miles, and 10ks between now and December.

IF (BIG IF) I can maintain mileage and base throughout the rest of the year I will most likely pick a late spring race to train for. BUT (A BIG BUT), that will be made at year end and also be made with a lot of factors that need to be considered (where I am at with Hannah, my job, how running is going, and what things look like for selling our house and moving in the spring). Most days I feel like I'm TRYING to be superwoman as a working mom but I don't want to run myself into the ground and put too much on my plate. With that said, a marathon will most likely happen next year- the itch has started to come back and I miss distance. I have some long term goals I still want to work towards and having a kid has not changed that for just changes how and when I may go about those goals. Next year is going to involve selling/buying houses, Hannah turning ONE, and a wedding....sooooooo running I love you but you're going to be the fifth wheel most of the time.

I have been keeping weekly training logs going as Barley over at Salty Running so you can follow along over there, I'm also on Strava if you want to giggle at me running endless neighborhood circles with the stroller.

This post got long so I pulled some things out to put in another post that has answers to some questions I have gotten. Running and breastfeeding/pumping questions. Sports bras for mama's (because man is it different), certain products and clothes that help (postpartum bodies are so different and man things chafe when you haven't run in a while!), maintaining a milk supply with running, and also how my nutrition and diet have changed with if you have any questions let me know and I'll put them in there!

***Edited to add a disclaimer----I'm not a professional, nor an expert. This is MY personal experience and obviously my first time through postpartum stuff. So take what I say with a grain of salt and remember that everyone is different***

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Life Update: 19.5 Weeks Postpartum

Let's see here, last I wrote was Hannah's birth story (when she was already two months old). I had a post all jazzed up about my maternity leave and life, the internet ate it (or I accidentally deleted it before it got posted) and I don't feel like re-writing it. The short of it is that I was off for 7 weeks and it wasn't long enough for baby snuggles and bonding but at the same time it was just long enough for my mind. Sitting in a house with a newborn is incredibly snuggly and lonely all at the same time. Netflix binges, yeah they're great...until you kill like 10 seasons of 5 different shows and leave an indent on one end of the couch where you are constantly sitting and milk-maiding. Being cooped up (even though busy with a newborn) was challenging, and if anything increased my anxiety. Going back to work was hard, but in some ways it actually made life a little easier for me, but we will get to that later.

So here we are over four months into being a mom, and I'm getting the hang of things. By getting the hang of things I mean I basically figure things out and if I don't know I ask one of the many moms in my life and go from there. Some things came really easy to me and others feel like rocket science. Sometimes I use google, but that usually results in a meltdown about how Hannah is going to have a leg fall off or grow a second head. So, usually I just lean on people I trust. Can we just seriously talk about how I have NO idea how I would have done this mom thing as a teen, or early 20-something, or even how the hell I'm doing it now? Anyways, you get the idea. Momming is amazing and challenging all rolled into one and I wouldn't change it for a thing.

Unless someone knows how to train a lab or a pug to change diapers or at least empty the diaper genie...I would totally change some things if we could make that happen.

Back to reality though, which involved neither our lab or our pug changing diapers and they are probably sound asleep at home while I type this. I went back to work at 7 weeks postpartum, I'm incredibly lucky to have the time home that I did, and to have a flexible enough job where going back wasn't a TOTAL shock to the system, just 95%. I work 5 days a week at my day job and I also went back to the restaurant part time usually only one night a week though. It's not easy but it's good for all of us.

Things at home are good, crazy but good. I thought I had online shopping down before, and had no idea how much of a savior it would be with a baby. We used prime for a lot of things before, and now the biggest thing is subscribe & save (specifically 20% off diapers with it!). A friend also got me started on using Ebates, which has changed my shopping habits more but also made it even more helpful for me to do online instead of loading little miss up into the car for days on days of errands. We still shop once a week but it's much more streamlined and the rest of the stuff just shows up on my front porch for the mailman to get his strength training in.

Being a working mom so far has been fairly straight forward. Hannah has amazing childcare between family and friends, and usually it's just a matter of remembering where I have to take her each day and who is going to pick her up. With our work schedules, it's usually me who is on drop-off and pickup duty but Brian tackles other things that make life a lot easier. I thrive off routine and lists and being a mom has made that even stronger- give me ALL the lists, post it notes, and talking myself through the morning to make sure I don't forget anything.

There has been a LOT of trial and error, but I think that comes with anything but especially being new parents. We are figuring out what works for us, and Hannah and all of us as a family.

Hannah is doing amazing, and is my favorite little person in the world. She is really coming into her own personality and changing so fast (I know everyone tells you it goes fast, but man...they aren't lying to you!). Being a preemie baby, she is a little behind on some things and has fell typically a week off schedule (based on the wonder weeks) but this isn't super concerning to anyone given her being a "35 weeker" and those schedules are for "full term" or "40 weekers". I still like the book though, and find it's a good reference.

Surprising to no one, she is a great eater like her mama. She nursed super well for a few weeks and then her reflux got the best of her (and all of our shirts, bedding, and carpets) and we realized that something had to give. She has been on zantac (per her pediatrician) and it helps wonders, on top of that I am exclusively pumping now and we use special bottles which help a ton (when she nurses she eats too fast which made reflux worse). Exclusively pumping is time consuming, but I love that it's an option (and one that I think is often underutilized), I have a great supply so it works for us. Fed is best, however she gets the food is A-OK by me. We supplemented with preemie formula the first few weeks(per her ped) to help her gain weight but she has been on straight breastmilk since about 4 or 5 weeks as she caught up pretty quick. Now here we are starting her on single grain oatmeal once a day (WHAT OMG TIME SLOW DOWN), again shocking to no one...she loves it.

Let's see here, she has been sleeping in her crib for about a month and a half now...she has amazing head control even being small, she hates pushups (I feel you babe, I really do), and she kicks like there is no tomorrow. We bought her a kick and play piano and smarty pants figured it out pretty fast that she makes sounds and's an amazing tool for her to figure things out and for me to make dinner with less interruptions.

Loves: Clifford on TV, the book The Itsy Bitsy Spider, Ferdinand and The Little Engine that Could. We "read" her The going to bed book every night before bed (I know it by heart now so I more just say it to her while we get her ready), Ducky the pacifier, her baby recliner (Boppy lounger), all of the stupid noises and faces we make that you can think of, leaves and being outside, stroller runs or walks

Dislikes: Arthur on TV, The Magic Schoolbus book (leads to serious tears and screams), taking the boogers out of her nose, taking the bottle out of her mouth to burp her, sitting in her car seat without it moving(traffic jams are FUN and usually involve me singing random songs to her).

Overall she's doing great and doctors are happy with her progress. She needs some baby physical therapy (yes, it's a thing) for her neck/shoulder but it's just a minor thing right now and not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Being her mom is one of the best things ever, I'm so tired and happy and amazed that she is mine.

While Hannah is rocking her first few months in the world, I'm doing my best to adjust to life as well. Postpartum hormones, anxiety and transitions are incredibly overwhelming and unpredictable. After a few weeks I could tell I was struggling a bit more than I originally thought and opened up with my doctor (which is really hard...because honestly I was so afraid to tell my doctor how I felt and her saying to take my kid away from me or something). Postpartum OCD is real, it's messy, but we are getting through it and I don't have issues talking about it. I won't let it be Voldemort, I won't make myself more afraid by not talking about it. I'm on Zoloft, I have amazing support, and I RUN. We are all happier, healthier and better taken care of this way. I truly do think going back to work helped immensely as I feel stronger mentally when I am productive and my days have a little more of a schedule to them. I hate the term "self care" but man do I have to make certain things a priority for me or everyone else will suffer to.

In all seriousness though, life is good. Messiness aside, we are figuring things out and soaking in every moment. This is a new phase of life and I'm loving it even when it's really hard. Our relationship has changed in so many ways, but that comes with shifting identities and roles. As much as I fell in love with Hannah when she was born, I also fell in love with Brian all over again watching him become a dad. Sue me for the cheesiness but man it's so true. I've also connected with some amazing women being a new mom, and lucky to have friends who understand life is different these days but they are just as amazing supportive and understanding as they would be otherwise.

Yeah, life is good. I love our family.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Meeting Miss Hannah

Dear Hannah,

You're over two months old now! I don't even begin to know where the time has gone, but I do know that every second has been worth it. I've been thinking a lot about your entrance into the world lately and finally wanted to get it written down. The only way it seemed to make sense or come out right, was for me to talk to you about it because it's OUR story.

We went through a lot during the time you were growing in my belly- particularly during an eventful third trimester. After the second preterm labor stay at Strong, I had no idea just how soon I would be meeting you.

The week leading up to you being born started out pretty normal, even with just getting out of the hospital again. I was feeling better than I had in a few weeks, and I continued to work at the office, prepare things at home and go on with life as normal as possible. I honestly thought that I had a few more weeks before I would get to hold you.

Wednesday things started to turn again though. The temperature outside had jumped and carrying twenty extra pounds didn't make the heat any more comfortable. I stayed home from work Wednesday, and tried to relax as you kicked me like crazy. Thursday rolled around and the heat was still draining me but I managed to scrape together a full work day and some errands but was down for the count by the time the evening rolled around. You were kicking downward so hard that I thought you were going to break my water with your foot, or just make me pee my pants. Neither happened, but it wasn't for lack of your trying.

We were really excited for the weekend ahead. Your Aunt Lauri was in town for your baby shower with your dad's family on Saturday, and Heather was going to be coming for the shower and a half marathon too! I went to work Friday knowing it would be a short day and then head home to prepare for a good weekend. During one of my many bathroom trips between client calls, I noticed I was having a little show. Not long after that the contractions started and I was packing my things up to go home and sit down to see if it was going to continue. Of course I had to stop at the town hall and pay our taxes on the way, and subsequently freaked everyone out in there. Pregnant woman walking around one hand on her back and the other on her belly and making funny faces. I wasn't sure if you were coming or not, but we were certainly going to freak lots of strangers out in the mean time.

I called your dad and told him to be on alert, I didn't want him rushing out of work but he needed to at least be ready just in case. Aunt Lauri came over and hung out with us while we relaxed on the couch, and after a few hours the contractions had faded. I figured that this was going to happen quite a few times in the next few weeks until you came- lots of false alarms, and now that I had a better idea of what labor felt like after two hospital stays I felt a little more prepared.

That evening we gathered at your Nanny and Boppa Galeazzo's house to have dinner and relax while chatting about the shower in the morning. I had a small mommy sized glass of wine to calm my nerves and just sat with my feet up until we went home later on. I crawled in bed and fell asleep thinking about how fun the next few days would be.

Around four I woke up with the normal (yet annoying) urge to pee. These bathroom trips had become much more frequent in the last few weeks thanks to you hanging out so low. I crawled back in bed really uncomfortable and felt some contractions. I looked at my phone at the time and randomly started checking to see how far apart they were. I figured it would be like Friday and they wouldn't be regular and would fade in a little bit of time.

I laid in bed while your dad was half asleep next to me. We were procrastinating doing anything about it, because I was afraid of another false alarm. As the minutes passed, the contractions were getting closer, and stronger. I went to the bathroom again, didn't help. I sat in the tub for a shower and tried to relax, the water dripping down on me felt wonderful but wasn't holding a candle to the discomfort that was building by the minute. I dried off and crawled back into bed without brushing my wet tangled hair and just laid there. A few minutes later the contractions were making me twist and turn to try and get comfortable, your dad was telling me to breathe while holding my hand.

As much as we tried to brush it off, this wasn't going to slow down and I finally made the call to the doctor around 5:30. Having had been hospitalized twice already, they weren't messing around and we were told to get there as quick (but safe) as possible.

My bags were already packed and I grabbed a towel in case my water broke, we were ready within minutes. My feet got wet as I shuffled through the dewy grass in flip flops to get to the truck and pull myself up. The stillness of a crisp dark morning was actually calming to me as we got on the road to make our way to the hospital. The music was playing in the car as we drove down the road, like a scene from a movie as your dad was holding my hand and reminding me to breathe over and over. We called my parents first, and dad answered with "is it time?" as I tried to maintain my composure and failed pretty miserably we both answered with a firm "yes". After trying dad's parents for a few minutes we finally got through and told them where we were headed, though I'm not sure the seriousness of it came through as well as we thought it did.

When we got to Strong (a little after 6), we pulled up front and your dad got me in a wheelchair and gave his keys to the guy at the desk (24 hour maternity valet) which was huge...letting a stranger drive his truck! He wheeled me up to the maternity floor where the doctor was waiting for us as soon as the doors opened.

They got me partially undressed and hooked me up to the monitor at the same time as they were checking my cervix, at the same time I was getting stabbed in the arm trying to get an IV. A lot of things happen at once. It was clear to me how urgent they felt this was, and I realized...this was it. I remember asking what the date was, April 29th they said. Very quickly we had five different people around us talking to us. I was further dilated, my contractions were right on top of each other, and you were stubbornly still trying to come out bottom first.

"Emergency Cesarean time"

"General anesthesia"

"Brian can't come"

"Kiss goodbye"

It happened so fast, I was hyperventilating and crying and I admit it wasn't that "Oh my goodness, YAY I'm having a baby right now moment". I was being wheeled away, and your dad was being left alone in a room to simply wait.

It was scary and I wanted him there with me.

There were what felt like a hundred people in the operating room. They were strapping me down, I was having contractions while they put in a catheter, at the same time the anesthesiologist was shoving oxygen mask on my face trying to calm me down. Of course I then had a sneezing attack. Let me tell you it's very hard and uncomfortable to sneeze when you are tied down, hooked up to a bunch of machines, crying, and have an oxygen mask on.

It then truly hit me what was happening. I remember worrying I wouldn't wake up and trying to think what my last words to your dad were (I love you). The anesthesiologist kept talking to me, which helped more than I can say. I have had surgeries before, but the idea of surgery + becoming a mom at the same time (5 weeks early) was overwhelming to me. My brain was being overly dramatic and there wasn't anything I could do to stop it.
One of your first pictures taken of you by your dada!
Waking up after surgery was very lonely. You were no longer in my belly, I had lost my built in companion I had spent 8 months talking to. It was about 8:30 when I started coming around and could make out the time on the clock across the recovery room. The area was eerily quiet except the faint beeping noises from various machines. A few minutes later the doctor had meandered over to me. She had been in delivery and was leaving but wanted to say goodbye. She told me I did great, and that you were healthy and beautiful.

This is about the time I started crying.

A few more people came over and said similar things, and I know it was with good intentions but if anything it made me feel sad and lonely. Everyone else had seen you but me, and I was the one who grew you! People were asking me your name and I kept telling them I didn't know. Your dad and I had narrowed it to two, but wanted to meet you first! The nurses were coming by frequently to perform fundal massages, which is not any sort of a relaxing thing by any means. I kept asking when I could see you, your dad or anyone in our family. No answer ever sounded soon enough in my mind. Around 9:30 I was being moved upstairs to our room, where I sat alone for a little while longer waiting for you or anyone that I even knew.

The door opened and your dad walked in, I think my heart heart skipped a beat just so incredibly happy to see him. Physically and emotionally everything was so hazy, the anesthesia was still having a big effect on me. My mom, dad and sister all walked in too and I became even more emotional. These are my people, and they are your people too. The door opened again and it was my nurse, I think I sank a little when I realized you weren't with her. She assured me that you were on your way.

A little over 3 hours after you entered the world, you finally entered our hospital room. Your nurse Ashley was as sweet as can be as she wheeled you over to me. Your dad was next to me and my family was watching as you got closer. I was crying before you even got to me, I could finally see you and as she lifted you to me I could hear your little noises. I finally held you in my arms as I cried, and I said "hi baby" and gave you the sweetest kiss I could give.

Everyone looked at me and asked me about your name and I gave your dad the "I'm sorry I'm about to overrule your name idea" look. I loved both of the names we had (he picked one and I picked the other), but to me you instantly felt like my Hannah.

Miss Hannah Elizabeth.

You were born 5 weeks early at 6:32 AM on April 29th, 2017... less than 30 minutes after we arrived at the hospital. You weighed 5lb 6oz, were 19.5 inches long and entered the world with a great big cry. The anesthesiologist is the one who came out and told your dad that you were here brought him to the nursery to wait for you. The doctors brought you in and did all of your checks which you passed with flying colors even for a preemie. I'm incredibly sad that I was not there to see your dad get to hold you for the first time but I know you were in wonderful hands. My family arrived not long later and kept you guys company while I was still being operated on and moved to recovery. Your dad was the only non-medical person to hold you before me- something I am selfishly grateful for.

I cannot even begin to tell you how happy your dad and I were that day, we spent the rest of the morning the two of us. Talking, holding you and soaking in the fact that we just became parents! Due to your very early arrival, it was your baby shower day! Your dad left for a while to go to the shower to open presents and see family and friends. You and I got some quality snuggle time and nursing practice just the two of us so this worked out. Everyone was sad we couldn't be at the shower but were so excited that you were here and healthy! Your dad did a great job standing in for us at the shower, and luckily had a great friend show up for moral support.

Later that day your dad came back to the hospital to see us, and he brought me a full size Rubino's sub. I love you and I gladly gave them up while growing you but I won't say I wasn't VERY excited to inhale that thing now! The evening was more time of you, me and your dad- some of my favorite moments. You were doing SO well latching on and nursing- something we didn't expect since you were preemie, but a good thing all the same. You are a great eater, a true testament to you being my daughter :)

Sunday was a day filled with family and friends in the hospital. The morning was spent sipping coffee and catching up with your Aunt Heather. In the afternoon you got to see Nana and Boppa Anderson, Aunt Meg, Uncle Justin and your cousins Alden and Max. Later on you finally got to meet Nanny and Boppa Galeazzo! It was a busy day but a good one.

On Monday we snuggled all day. Quite literally, all day. It was wonderful and you were passing all your checks whenever they came in. Until you didn't. Later in the evening your temperature was a little low after being right on target all day. Being a preemie, they really watch these things super closely. Your medical team decided to bundle you up a little more during the night for sleep and then would reassess from there. If you didn't stay warm enough, you were to be put in an incubator to help you until you could better regulate your temperature on your own.

When I woke up Tuesday morning, I saw the nurses face and knew you had been put in the incubator over night. What did this mean? I was being discharged today and you were definitely not. I had to go home without you.

I spent the morning showering and cleaning myself up to feel a bit more human and getting my things ready to leave. My discharge was very...uneventful. I signed what felt like 3000 sheets of paper and I walked myself and my stuff over to the nursery. I spent the day sitting next to your incubator only getting to hold you when you were out to be fed. At that time we went into a small room where we could relax and nurse with you. This room would be like our second home for a few more days.

Going home later on that day wasn't as hard as I thought at the time. I knew you were in good hands, and I also knew that a nights sleep at home would do me wonders. Your dad and I decided he would still work at least part time this week while you weren't home yet. That way he could save the time off for when we were all home together. I think I was just so excited to be home that my brain wasn't letting me acknowledge the fact that you weren't with us. I called to check on you, and fell fast asleep after hearing you were doing just fine.
It's a cute view, but certainly not an easy one.
I spent all day with you Wednesday, feeding you and cuddling when I could. Reading to you through the incubator the rest of the time. It was hard, but I also knew this could be so much worse. You were five weeks early, a little small, and just needed help to stay warm. The blessing of that was not lost on me, but it didn't mean it was easy. I cried the whole way home that night as it finally was sinking in.

Getting ready for car seat test!
My days were spent visiting you and my nights were spent calling the nursery to check on you, pumping so you could be having my milk still, and sleeping as best I could. By Friday they pulled you out of the incubator after weaning you the previous night. We were told maybe you could come home Saturday but that Sunday would be more likely. After leaving the hospital on Friday, we went to the store to find some preemie outfits for your tinyhiney and to get a few last minute things we hadn't had time to get for you before. On the way home we decided to stop at the Distillery for food (because lord knows I wasn't going to cook) and since it was Cinco De Mayo...I ordered a margarita. I originally said I wanted to wait for post-baby drink until after you were home with us to celebrate, but the week was so long and emotionally draining that it almost felt necessary. I drank half of it and felt tipsy (lightweight status) before we went home to bed.

Saturday morning I was filled with hope. I wanted you home and I was determined to make it happen. I had been giving you pep talks all week and filling your head with the warmest thoughts I could to get you going. I patiently waited for the nurse practitioner to come around and tell me what she thought. On Friday they told us the stipulations for your release were that you needed to gain weight (you had dropped to 4lb 14oz throughout the week), your bilirubin needed to level out (you never reached levels for light therapy), you needed to pass a 90 minute car seat test, and you needed to maintain your body temperature on your own for 24-48 hours after being taken out of the incubator.

The NP came around and didn't seem over eager to let you go and said she would feel better if you went on Sunday but allowed us to do the car seat test anyways since you had passed weight check and bilirubin check. She told me that she wouldn't count your temperature against you after the car seat test since you will have spent 90 minutes unbundled.

Homeward Bound!
You rocked your car seat test like a champ (you had to keep your heart rate and oxygen levels in a certain range for the entire 90 minutes to prove you were strong enough), and we decided to take your temperature anyways after just to see. It was perfect! The nurses were all chanting to let you go (I'm serious) to the Nurse Practitioner. We had grown very close to many of the staff members throughout the week, I cannot tell you what a difference they made for us. The NP had been the one to admit you the morning you were born and she said she loved that she also got to be the one to send you home. She said she didn't have a good reason to keep you since you did everything they asked of you.

You were coming home. One week after you entered the world you were finally coming home.

I sat with you in the back seat while your dad drove us home that afternoon, and you gripped my finger the whole way. It was the beginning of the rest of your life with us.

There aren't too many words I could put together to actually describe how loved you are and how much your dad and I have enjoyed having you with us. You were so worth the wait, and the months of growing you, and for every hard second there have been 10 amazing ones. All I can say kiddo, is the best is yet to come.

Love, Mom

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Third Trimester Roller Coaster

Considering I now have an adorable 7 week old daughter *SPOILER* , I should probably finish this post about my third trimester. It was certainly a roller coaster of a few weeks, and ended a few weeks early- but a time I still feel compelled to write about because happened.

I felt my third trimester kick off before it even officially started. The start of my 27th week (technically last week of second trimester) the fatigue ramped up, and morning sickness came back. I had been feeling pretty good and had a relatively smooth pregnancy (First Tri, Second Tri) so far so I kind of expected a little karma on that one.

But the symptoms weren't really the roller coaster part during my third trimester. The fatigue, nightmares and general "meh" feeling were consistent and I had pretty much accepted them. The roller coaster was everything else going on.

Early on in the trimester we had some of the fun stuff! I went to a baby shower for a good friend of mine and then the following weekend was my baby shower with my side of the family. My mom and sister went over the top to make the day incredible for us. It was fun, and overwhelming all at the same time.  Being the center of attention, and everyone quite literally spoiling our baby before she is even born. Our little girl is already stocked up on Saucony stuff, Bills gear, Hockey swag, cute headbands and lots of other fun things.

The weekend after that is when the roller coaster really started for us though. The day after I hit 30 weeks I woke up to one of our dogs sitting by the bed barking. Moose doesn't normally do this, so I knew something was up. As soon as I stood up I realized I wasn't feeling good and that it was me having the issue. I had what felt like intense bloating/gas pain in my stomach. I went to the bathroom, no help. Took a hot shower, no help. It was getting worse and Brian was already at work so I called the doctor. I was driving myself to the hospital before I knew it, and making the call to have him meet me there. {I may have gotten yelled at for that...woops #independentwoman}

I figured out where to go (we hadn't taken the hospital tour or orientation yet), and they had me hooked up shortly after getting there. The only thing the nurse would tell me was that the baby was okay (because I kept asking... repeatedly) even as the pain was getting more intense. As soon as Brian got there- the doctor laid it all out there.

You're having regular labor contractions.

You're dilated.

The baby is Breech (Here: sign this C-section consent form right NOW).

"It's too soon, it's too soon" Were the only words I could really get out.

I spent the rest of the day in a labor room with Brian, with doctors and nurses were coming in regularly. My dad and sister also came up to visit and hang out- which was a good distraction. The NICU staff came and explained the implications of a 30 week baby, and checked to see how things were progressing (or not). I was being pumped full of Magnesium, and fluids (I wasn't allowed to eat or drink anything at all in case they had to take me to surgery). I was getting shots in my rear a few times (Steroids for the babies lungs, and pain killers for me) which was SUPER fun. I was also being given a blood pressure medication every few hours to prevent smooth muscle contractions (my blood pressure was fine). This is how they were attempting to stop labor, even though they warned us it's rarely that effective.

We also were sent for an ultrasound to confirm the baby was growing well (she was 3.5 pounds at the time). We then found out that my cervix had shortened drastically since my last full ultrasound at 20 weeks. This pregnancy went from uncomplicated to high risk in the matter of hours, as I laid there trying my hardest not to freak out {believe me when I say I was, in fact freaking out}.
Hospital Stay at 30 Weeks

Lucky for us, the rarely effective way of stopping labor....actually worked. By 9 PM my contractions had diminished and I was being moved off the labor floor and into a high risk OB room. I had to stay in the hospital the rest of the weekend, for more steroids shots and a few more doses of the blood pressure medication to make sure labor stayed at bay.

I was sent home with little restrictions and told that she could still go full term but to be prepared if she comes early. Also, do whatever voodoo and pray to whatever you believe in for baby girl to flip if I really don't want to have a Cesarean.

The following few weeks were pretty low key. We really made a point to tie up some loose ends to be ready for her arrival, I had a baby shower with the girls from my part time job, and Brian and I worked on the Nursery. Otherwise, we went on with our lives as usual. Well, as usual as they can be when you're expecting.

On Easter weekend someone made a comment that she looked like she had dropped and I started paying a bit more attention. Sure enough, baby girl was lower, I could breathe better but also was peeing much more frequently. I stayed home for Marathon Monday and watched coverage while thinking how glad I was not to be running, but at the same time being inspired for when I do get back into things. I think it inspired our little girl too, maybe a little TOO much.

The following day I was feeling some constant period-like cramping and lower back pain. It wasn't like before so I didn't think much about it but called the doctor to be safe. They told me to call if it persisted. Wednesday morning I called back and they agreed I should come in considering I was still deemed "high risk". I wasn't any more dilated at that point but I was having contractions, so off to triage I went.

This time I was more prepared and had my hospital bag with me, knew where I was going, and generally felt better about things. I was one day shy of 34 weeks and knew that those extra 4 weeks were HUGE for her development so if this was it...this was it. I wasn't stressing, and meandered my way to where I needed to go. I lost my chapstick somewhere so I even stopped at the hospital gift shop to get more before going upstairs (Chapstick is a LIFESAVER when you cannot eat or drink for hours and hours...lesson learned during the first hospital stay when my sister saved the day by bringing me some).

In the 10 minutes it took me to drive from the doctor over to the hospital and get up to the floor, I had dilated 2 more centimeters, baby was still breech and Brian was being called to get on his way. I was oddly feeling relatively good even though labor was progressing. We spent the day and night in labor room (again) and the doctor had said if I dilated anymore that they were just going to take me back for surgery. We had a meeting with the NICU staff and were told the extra 4 weeks we got were good, but that she would still be admitted to the NICU if she came before 35 weeks. I was given steroids for her lungs again but this time I was not given the medication to stop labor- they were letting things take their course. My mom (who lives out of state for work at the moment) ended up getting on a flight because we were all pretty certain this was it.

Until it wasn't.

It was oddly frustrating and relieving at the same time when things stalled out. Here I was again looking at a three day hospital stay with no baby (both times I was only "in labor" for a day but they keep you another 48 hours for medications and observation). But, the longer the stayed in the better she would be once she was born. Alas, I was sent home a few days later with no baby in hand and still little restrictions.

When I was discharged and we were told again that she really could still go full term. They also reminded us that making it until at least Thursday was important (35 weeks). In our minds, our goal was to make it to at least the following Monday. The upcoming weekend involved Heather, and lots of Brian's family members coming into town for my final baby shower, we agreed we obviously wanted to make it through all of that first.

You know what they say about the best laid plans....

I'll continue that story in another post, which is just as adventure filled but far more exciting. My third trimester challenged me in a lot of ways, I won't say that it didn't take it's toll on me. Anxiety and antepartum depression became very real(perhaps something worth writing about on it's own?). Those two hospital stays were mentally and physically exhausting (for both of us, I mean...sleeping on an uncomfortable chair next to my bed earns Brian some serious points). Last year when we were at the hospital we left without a baby in a far different situation but it was still very real and raw for us. So additional time there, lots of unknowns, and walking out without a baby again (yes, she was in my belly...but still) was harder than we imagined. As hard as this seven week stretch was for us, we got through it and were reminded how incredible our family and friends are. I cannot even list the amount of messages, meals, housecleaning, errands, visits, and everything else that we received- I'm still waist deep in thank you cards that I need to finish. It takes a village.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

TBT: My Game-Changing Marathons

Even though I am currently not training, or even running at all- it doesn't mean I don't think about it or even take the time to reflect on where I have been with my running. Between 2011 and 2016 I ran 14 marathons, 10 of which were personal bests and 6 of the 14 are races I consider big turning points in my running "career". It feels a little odd to call it a career because it's far from my job- but at the same time we all know training for marathons is essentially adding another job time wise.

I decided to look back at the 6 races (and the training cycles that led up to them) that I consider to be pivotal to my "personal success" as a runner and athlete. 5 of the 6 listed were PR's at the time, but no my current PR and 2:58 marathon I ran at Erie isn't on the list. While it was a breakthrough for me in many ways, it was mostly because of the things I learned and took away from these other races. I found a lot of my turning points came from breakdowns whether in training or the race itself.

Marathon #2: Rochester Marathon 2011 {3:41}

Rochester was the slap in the face that I needed. We've all heard people say you need to respect the distance and what it takes to get to the start AND finish line of a marathon. I know that going into this race I 100% didn't respect it. My first marathon was 6 months earlier and I finished in a strong and respectable 3:46 off very minimal and basic training. After spending the summer doing many runs with friends who have run Boston many times- I felt like I just HAD to qualify. I felt like a BQ was the only way to define a successful runner (my friends never told me that EVER, but being around them made me want it THAT bad). I dove in maybe 2 months before the race and "trained"- my miles were all over the place, I didn't practice fueling, and I didn't set realistic goals. When race day came, I made more mistakes. I went out way too fast being cocky and arrogant and by some grace of God managed not to completely crash and burn until after mile 17. The last 6+ miles were a death march, only made worse by the fact that I didn't fuel (at all), I was under-trained, over-confident and had no right to PR let alone BQ.
The Mile 20 something death march

I did managed to PR by 5 minutes, but missed a BQ by a minute (it was the last time the BQ was 3:40 for open women) while being 11 minutes off of my unrealistic goal time. Looking back I am so glad I didn't BQ, otherwise I don't think I would have gotten the lessons that I needed to really drilled in my brain. Setting a PR and coming close to a BQ was the spark I needed to change. If I wanted more I needed to earn it.  I started pacing myself, actually fueling, training more consistently (though still not great), and set a goal to run my third marathon without wanting to jump in front of a bus in the later miles. Less than 10 weeks later I ran a 3:37 (still missing BQ since it had changed to 3:35) but finished feeling confident, smiling, and proud of a solid race performance.

To this day, after all of the races (any distance) I have run- Rochester is the race that humbled me and taught me the most. I will forever be grateful for the ugly crying that happened in the later miles, and that not only did I not meet my goal time but I also didn't qualify for a race that I had no business being in yet anyways.

Marathon #4: Marshall University Marathon 2012 {3:21}

This marathon was run 7 months after a car accident in which I broke my cuboid bone (foot). Doctors originally told me that it would be 6 months before I could even try to run but instead I did everything they told me to and bounced back stronger than ever. I was running in far less time, and under the guidance of PT's who made sure I didn't overdo it. For the first time, I made a training plan and actually stuck to it unlike the first 3 marathons I ran. The training and consistency was huge, and paid off even bigger at the race. I took the pacing lessons I learned (the hard way) in my first few marathons and used my new found skills to my advantage. I ran a 7 minute negative split from the first half to the second, focusing on my realistic goal which I then blew out of the water by minutes. For the first time ever I trained smart, raced smart, fueled smart, and reaped the rewards with a 16 minute PR and BQ.

Mentally this marathon was another eye opener though. I had been limiting myself thinking I needed to JUST BQ. I needed to reach a time set for me by an organization instead of allowing myself to determine my own goals. I had been using the BQ as a limit. I never thought of running faster than a BQ (at least not by that much) and this was the breakthrough and turning point I needed to start realizing that I had to stop letting others dictate my limits.

Marathon #7: California International Marathon 2013 {3:13}

This race was a turning point in running, and life for me. Running wise, I took a risk and decided to do this race 9 weeks after a 4 minute PR at Wineglass marathon. I was shooting for a 3:15 and was stubborn and felt I needed to try one more time before the year was out. The 3:15 was to try and qualify for a team, but what I didn't realize was that this race would be a whole lot more than just trying to hit a time.

The best adventures usually stem from my best friend Heather and I's crazy ideas. In this case, it was less than a week after Wineglass where we both said we wanted to run another marathon. We booked flights, hotels, registered for the race- and dove back into training as best we could. Because, why not? In the end I met my goal of breaking 3:15, ran a strong race trusting myself and ignoring people who said a million and one contradictory things about running so soon again, my pace plan, or my life in general.

The team I was trying to make lowered the time right after that so I no longer qualified, but I didn't care. I got so much more out of this race than just a time to meet someone elses' standards (see turning point at marathon #4...stop living by others standards or goals and limits). I had built so much trust in my abilities and my own instincts and this was the eye opener. This was a game changer for my running but also my life- a few months later I used that trust and personal instincts to start over in life in a lot of ways- one of the hardest but best things I have ever done and led me to where I am today.

Marathon #9: Rochester Marathon 2014 {3:11}

Training ALL summer on my hometown course
Returning to this marathon wasn't something I was sure I would ever do even being my hometown race. After the 2011 race, I learned so much but was also scarred from a running aspect of not wanting to repeat that course. Earlier in 2014 I made some big life changes (see previous marathon lessons) that left me with a lot of other scars, on top of years of other ones. Fear held me back in some ways and pushed me in others. I spent the entire summer training for this race, and to face the fear of going back to the death march of 2011. I ran myself into the ground the first half of the summer trying to prove something to myself, to take back something (control) that I felt I had lost. I was happy but on a dangerous path with my running.

Eventually things started to get bad and instead of fleeing in fear I reached out and got a coach for help. Eventually I started actually dating again. Eventually I started doing things with purpose instead of doing things just because I could. I realized that taking my life and running back, meant getting some help and that is not a bad thing. When race day came, I ran a small PR and finished feeling frustrated but knew that I was on the right path. I was taking control of my life in a smarter way, asking for help when needed, and accepted that some things just take time. Getting my life and running to a place I wanted them to be at wouldn't happen overnight. Patience.

Marathon #11 Boston Marathon 2015 {3:04}

I refer to this marathon for me as "setting fire to the rain". It was about taking all the bad, the negative, and the flukes and throwing all that shit out the window...or setting it on fire in the middle of a rainy windy day in Boston. Four months prior I ran a 7 minute PR for a 3:04:30, and I was ECSTATIC. It was the breakthrough I was looking for in the fall and had been working towards. The patience after the tough summer, and rocky race at Rochester paid off and I finally felt like I was racing more to my potential. I also received some negativity following that race though which soured my emotions a bit. A lot of disbelief in my time, as in it being a fluke or just a good day...even a "friend" telling me I got lucky! Unfortunately I let those negative thoughts affect me and wondered myself if Memphis was a fluke. It made me wonder if my other goals (sub-3 mainly) were unreasonable or further off than I thought they were.

I trained my ass off that winter, in all sorts of crap Upstate NY weather- and many treadmill miles too. I was building upon the great foundation I had been building for years now and it was paying off. When Boston came, it wasn't perfect but I made the absolute best I could of it. My grandma was literally on the last few days of her life (ended up passing 2 days after the race), the weather was far less than ideal, and I was feeling pretty frustrated in my personal life with friendships and relationships. But you know what, I didn't let any of that noise in and ran a negative split into the wind and rain and proved to myself and others that Memphis was not a fluke. It was a small PR that day in Boston (27 seconds) but on a much harder course and in much worse conditions. Before the race I had made my goal known that I wanted to break 3, not necessarily at Boston but soon and this race proved to me that it wasn't as far off and that letting what others say needs to stop affecting me as much. I mean I know we all try and work on that but even as adults it's hard not to let the noise in.

It also was a great catalyst to get me to stop focusing so much on weather for races. I've ran some of my best races in the worst weather, and reality is that we all have the same weather and have to deal with it in our own ways. You can complain constantly about all your bad weather races, or just suck it up and work on getting better at handling it or adapting to it. Would it be nice to have ideal weather days when we want or need them? DUH. But its' not a personal vendetta from mother nature, don't make yourself a victim of something as trivial as weather for a race (you know, when at the same time that horrible weather could be destroying peoples homes or lives). *Steps off soapbox*

Moving on...last but not least...

Marathon #14: Boston Marathon 2016 {3:16}

This is a different turning point than the others, in the sense that it has less to do with running and more to do with life. A year ago today we found out we were going to be starting a family. I was without a doubt in the best shape of my life, wrapping up one of the strongest training cycles, and prepared to go big mentally and physically on the Boston course in a few days. The race was nothing I originally planned, but was an eye opener in many ways. I left my pace band in my luggage on purpose, I started steady and a little slower than planned and went in with 100% knowledge that I may pull the plug. I hit the half at sub-3 pace and shut it down. My head and heart were not there, my body was telling me it didn't want to run I didn't and I was A-ok with that. I ran and walked the second half. I took many bathroom stops. I soaked in the sights and sounds, and I crested heartbreak without even realizing it and finished completely ready for the next step in life and not worrying about finishing 20 minutes slower than planned.

I didn't run for almost a month after that. I focused on everything else, the things that I hadn't during training and the new things I was dealing with being pregnant. A few more weeks after that we found out our story wasn't going to have the happy ending. After wading through all of that I decided to train for another marathon, one that would be my last for a while so we could focus on building a family in 2017. But as the summer went on, my head and heart still weren't in running. They hadn't been since before Boston and before we found out we were pregnant.

So when we got pregnant again, it all made a lot more sense. That April when I chose my health and my baby over some meaningless time goal in Boston, my head and heart never switched back. So here I am, 33 weeks pregnant today and happy as can be. I'll be watching Boston coverage for the first time in 3 years from my couch, while probably eating ice cream from a bowl that can currently sit on my stomach without falling (unless little loo decides to kick it off...which is a good possibility. I may have spilled an entire cup of water that way already).

Boston 2016 may not have been the epic running race I planned or thought it would be, and since day one I have been okay with that. I chose my family over running that day and something I will never hesitate to do. One day I'll get back to running/racing and I'll get back to Boston(because I love that race and city and not because I feel I have something to prove)- but right now I'm going to enjoy this turning point in my running and my personal life as one of the most important(to me) yet.

It all boils down to...

I've learned so much over the years from ALL of my races, and I'm grateful for where I have been and what I have been able to do. It's also taught me that coming back to it will be so worth it, but doesn't mean the time away isn't worth it either. Each of these turning points and breakthroughs built upon the last, and doesn't even include the things I learned and took away from the other marathons and races I have done. I love that I am a student of the sport, always learning and trying to get better. I love that I can use those lessons in running AND life. It's a good reminder that even the bad times (literal and figurative!) can have silver linings.
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