I’m back to tell you I delivered a healthy, beautiful baby girl named Annabel Grace. The labor was quick and easy (as easy as a ridiculously fast, unmedicated delivery can be). I feel grateful that we have such a mellow tempered baby to contrast the incredibly difficult pregnancy. I’ve spent the last 4 months adjusting to three kids. It’s hard, but for us, it completes our family life. I’ve also been trying to slowly regain my fitness in the cracks of time I have to run. With renewed motivation and a strong desire to make the most of imperfect training scenarios (in running & life!), I’m back with some big goals.
Running to me
Running to me is an itch I have to scratch. For quite a few years after college, I ignored it. But it was always there. I always knew deep down that I was a ball of untapped potential. I found my way back to running after my first baby and I haven’t looked back. I think about running the same way I do when I first met my husband: nonstop. Whether I’m thinking about growing Arete, obsessing over workouts and improvements for our team of runners, or getting lost in my own running dreams, it’s like a constant love affair. We grow together, we hit roadblocks, we evolve, and we’re maturing together.
Capitalizing on opportunity
For me running won’t always be about chasing times or goals. Some day, I won’t have my young(ish) body and I won’t be in a place to try and hit far flung, nearly impossible goals. It just won’t always be important to me in that way. That I know. I also look forward to that day. And I love that running can evolve with us throughout life. I have dreams of one day doing an ultra or getting really into trail running or destination running vacations. But for now, I am still in a place where I can dream about and capitalize on my outlandish goals. Competing still lights me up. I feel like I’ve been given a body that wants to and needs to run fast and now is the chance. I don’t want to look back one day and wonder “what if I had just gone for it when I was in my 30s…what if…?”
So now’s my chance. After not running from August to December 2016 because of pregnancy hernia and painful varicose veins, and then slowly returning in January, I was happy to run an 18:24 5k last weekend at the She is Beautiful 5k off of 30-35 miles a week. Add to that very poor sleep and sub-par nutrition (i.e. ice cream daily and constant nursing hunger and dehydration. P.s. the ice cream consumption continues post-nursing big time. #balance), and I’ll take it as a good sign that I can still run fast.
My big scary goal is to put myself in a position to run a marathon under 2:55 at the end of this year, run under 2:50 next year, and run under 2:45 in 2019, thus giving myself a shot at the Olympic Trials standard. It sounds absolutely insane, I mean nearly impossible. But, crazier things have happened. I also know that I ran my first marathon in 2:58 with quite minimal training (50-55ish miles), and many women have run slower in their first marathon and went on to qualify. And I’m holding close to my heart the stories of the dynamic, dedicated lives of the Arete women. Committed to community, improvement, the love of the sport. So, I’m holding a lot of inspiration from these stories and these women, from trusting the long slow training process, and enjoying the ride. At the very least, I will never look back and say, “I wonder if I had…”
Working in imperfect scenarios
I do pretty well in imperfect situations. It’s taken me a long time to realize that I can’t wait around for the situation to be perfect. I have 3 little kids who are far and above the priority over any run, even a critical workout. My husband and I both work demanding jobs, and will always place the highest value on family time. This means that very few of my runs are ideal, I have very little time for “extras” like prehab and rehab and I’m most likely always undertrained. So what does this mean when I’m chasing big goals? It means I schedule my running a week in advance. When I have a workout planned, I try to focus, nail it, get in and out. But if it doesn’t work out for that day because my kids are sick or they need me, then so be it. There’s always another workout or another day. I enjoy my easy days, and I squeeze in pushups and core work. If I stick to a plan, I only need about 40-80 minutes a day. I can almost always do that. It also requires sacrifice from my husband. My kids go to bed later than I’d like on Wednesdays (track workouts), Saturday long runs cut into our family time sometimes. But my kids are happy and healthy and kind (my God are they kind), and I know they’re proud of me. So my motto is that the imperfect training plan is my perfect and it’s going to get me to exactly where I want to be. Because my kids, my husband, my team, the juggle of it all. It fulfills me in a way that fuels me to run fast. Without all those other pieces of my life, I’m not sure I’d be chasing these crazy goals. Imperfect training allows me to be resilient when I’m faced with unpredictable marathon variables. It’s part of the mental training that gives me the edge come race day.
Pushing the bar on postpartum running
Back in high school when I used to write my goal 800 meter times on my ceiling next to my glow in the dark stars and dream about going to the Olympics, I had a time table for all my goals that had to happen before I turned 30 and was old and washed up from having kids. I was absolutely convinced I couldn’t run fast after having children. I think that is still an overwhelming dialogue in the running community, and I hope that it continues to change and that women who want to run fast postpartum, go after those goals. Luckily there’s more research and understanding that’s going into helping women postpartum (e.g. pelvic floor issues–thanks Dr. Sara Tanza!) and I think that will only improve and encourage women to get back out on the starting line. I know for me, personally, I’ve never felt more focused, structured, or determined in my running since having kids, and I know I’m not the only one out there.
A rule I have with myself when I train: running is fun, it’s my hobby. And for at least two runs a week, I run without a watch, reminding myself why I run in the first place: for the pure joy and freedom of movement. While I have big goals, it will never get in the way of my life: my kids, my husband, my work, my fun. The moment it crosses the line, I pull back.
As I look three years ahead at these big goals, I have many obstacles. Although many new ones will appear, these are my biggest challenges that I’ll continue learn to turn into advantages: parenthood, working, tiredness, & time. The great thing about the marathon is that it’s all about training your mind to be present, trusting, and strong. All the above challenges present perfect learning moments.
This is the part where I start to get emotional. A few years ago, when I was really starting to feel fast again after my first baby, I never felt so inspired to run. By her new life, overcoming postpartum issues, by my strong body. Running was healing and invigorating. I’m more inspired now than ever. Sometimes I stand in my messy house that needs all kinds of remodeling and the pet rat has run under the couch (again) and my daughter wants to wear her dirty leggings to school (again) and my son won’t eat breakfast (again) and we’re late to work and school (again), and I just want to lie on the floor and take a nap and let everyone take care of themselves. But then I’ll sit in this same scenario another day and think how damn lucky I am to have this beautiful messy imperfect life and this powerful gift of running to push me through it, remind me patience, help me make sense of everything. Then I get to practice and coach this most dynamic group of women who show up for themselves in their own full lives. When they show up in their own full complicated lives with their diverse dreams and goals and challenges, it reminds me how much we all have in common. How much we all want to get better, how running is the tie that binds us. I stand up in this complicated life and remind myself yep, running is here for me and it’s my time to go for it. It’s messy, imperfect, takes patiences and faith, community, and sacrifice. But it’s my gift and there’s no where else I’d rather be.
I am excited to be back and share this new journey along the way, so thank you for being part of the ride.