Ready or not, here comes race day: preparing for the Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run

I’m just about as ready as I can be for Race Day, and I feel strong as Friday approaches.  The reduced volume of training this week has given me extra time to make race day plans and go shopping for supplies.  This is my first 100 mile race, so I am sure that I will learn a lot about what I need and don’t need on the run.  I ran 33 miles of the Creeper Trail course in June on a training run, so that really helps as far as anticipating the terrain and elevation.  I know that I will learn a lot about limits on this course, as I push further than I’ve gone before, but thankfully, I will have family and friends (both in body and spirit) there with me to help!

I always pick a verse for my goal races instead of thinking of a mantra, and that helps me refocus and remember that God is in control, and as my Creator, He designed me to run for His glory.  I chose Isaiah 40:26 for this race because it is a reminder that out of all of humanity, God knows each one of us.  He created me to run and He knows my passions.  He also created my sweet little baby, not one of them is missing, and He loves her individually.

Isaiah 40:26 Lift up your eyes on high And see who has created these stars, The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, Not one of them is missing.

About the course:  You can see more about the course here.  In summary, this is an out and back, out again course, so I will run the same 33ish miles three times.  The trail is an old railroad bed, so it is mostly smooth and wide.  The elevation profile is like a tipped bowl, where most of the first 33 miles will be descending from White Top Station to Abingdon, then I’ll run back up and then down again.  The risk is that it is easy to go out fast downhill for the first 33 miles and bust your quads for the last 66+ miles. There are 5 aid stations that runners will pass multiple times due to the out and back nature of the course.  It is anticipated to be in the mid to upper 60s during the day and in the low 40s at night. I am told that White Top Station can feel downright cold and layers are necessary.

My crew and pacers: My husband is my number one support in every way, and he will be critical in helping me on race day, as he knows me better than anyone.  My parents are joining to help watch Cadence and crew during the day.  Finally, I have an awesome new speedy friend, Katie, who will be coming out with her husband and baby as well.  I met Katie through Instagram (@katyhaytay) when she was traveling to Atlanta.  She’s from Memphis, so this is no small commitment from her.  We went for a run together, bonded over running, babies, and Jesus, and the rest is history.  Actually, it’s not quite history yet, but it will be after she paces me through the night with a headlamp blazing the trail!

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Virtual friends who ended up real life friends!

How I expect for the day to go: For people unfamiliar with trail running or ultra marathons, there are a few things that are very different from road racing.  Endurance running most often involves a mix of running and fast hiking.  I won’t be running the whole time, but I would like to keep moving forward as quickly as reasonable.  I’ll carry my food and water with me in my hydration vest and restock at aid stations and when I meet with my crew (parents, Jon, and Katie).  The fuel that I plan to carry includes gels, shot blocs, pouches, and bars.  Plus, I have a variety of foods to eat when I meet with my crew and at the aid stations.  I plan to run a conservative pace in the beginning in the hopes of saving some juice in my legs to finish strong. There is a 30 hour cut-off, but it would be fun to finish earlier than that.

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Practicing runs with the hydration vest. I will miss her on the trail!

The plan is to see Cadence at least twice during the race, thanks to my parents who will be helping out. I will either need to feed her or pump.  Most likely, I’ll be pumping. I’ll meet with Katie at mile 66 to have her pace me for half of the remaining leg, and then I’ll pick up Jon to finish out the race.  I am so thankful for the team helping me run this race, and I am just about as excited to share it with them as I am to run my first 100. :)))

There will be race tracking about every quarter of the way that can be found here, and I’ll hopefully we’ll have enough cell signal for Jon to post a few updates to my Instagram account, @runningwithcadence.

Prep: This being my longest distance yet, I have spent a little extra time trying to map out what I’ll need each hour and mile of the course. I have planned out my fueling strategy, and I am aware that the digestive system works really differently when it is forced to operate on the run for this long of a duration. I purchased supplies over the weekend, including tape, etc just in case I have foot problems or anything else. On Monday I saw my fabulous medical massage person, and she did a final easy massage to keep things loose.  Most of my supplies are packed up in little baggies so that I can grab what I need quickly on the run when I meet my crew.

Any concerns:  I followed a training plan developed by my coach, and I feel strong going into this race.  I have one little place on my ankle that every once in a while gives me a little pain, but when it does hurt, it seems to go away once I start moving. 100 miles will be the real test!  Also, I had surgery in May, and I am always aware of the incision spot above my belly button

My biggest concern is that I am still breastfeeding, so my nutrients and hydration will be diverted to feed a baby.  Cadence turns one year old on Thursday, and I didn’t want for this race to dictate when I weaned.  She’s been waking up a lot in the night to eat lately, so my supply is not as diminished as I would have hoped by now.  Either way, she’s my number one priority, and breastfeeding is worth whatever happens on race day as a result. I also hope that she will let me get a little more sleep on Thursday night, as this past week has not been her best sleeping record.

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Travel: We will leave on Thursday late morning to go to our AirBNB house in Abingdon, VA.  There is a mandatory race meeting on Thursday at 7 pm, and the race starts at 7 am on Friday morning.  We’ll stay through Sunday morning before hitting the road again.

Ready or not, here comes race day!

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What is the longest race you have ever run?  Any tips for race day prep?

The Sweetest Kind of Exhaustion

My relationship with sleep has changed a lot in the last year since Cadence was born.  You see, my baby doesn’t really sleep a whole lot, at least not in long stretches at a time.  I’m getting ready to run my first 100 mile race, and one mantra that I remind myself when I start to freak out about that distance is You can do hard things.  Out of all of my experiences in life, the two hardest things that come to my mind with that mantra are 1. natural childbirth (which really wasn’t that hard; more mental than anything) and 2. functioning for a whole year on very little sleep while training for races ranging from the Boston marathon at 6 months postpartum, to my upcoming 100 mile race at 1 year postpartum. img_20160120_1925463

I can do hard things because I can wake up with a baby all night long, still wake up for my training run in the morning, and then go to work all day only to return back home to the responsibilities of wife and mom.  I can do hard things.

My husband and I met with our pediatrician before Cadence was born, and he told us that babies can sense when their parents are stressed and it can affect the baby.  I tend to be an A type, need-a-plan kind of girl, so being stress-free does not exactly come naturally to me.  This piece of advice really made an impression on me though, and I decided early on that if we had a bad night with little sleep, that was OK.  And it has been. For a whole year.

img_20160814_081402From the beginning, we had the normal newborn, every two hour feedings, plus a few other wake up times for good measure.  Cadence started to get more on a three hour routine around three months old, and then I started back to work and she caught every single bug at daycare.  My lowest point (I can do hard things) was around March (6 months old) when Cadence was waking up more than 10 times a night (my rule is to stop counting at double digits).  I was nearing the end of my training for Boston, and my body was hurting in every way. Miraculously, just in time for Boston, Cadence improved to about 2-3 wakings a night, and we’ve pretty much been in that state since then.  Some nights are better and some nights are worse.

I’m not complaining.  Not one bit.  It has been hard, but I can do hard things.  It has also been one of the sweetest, most rewarding things in my life. I get to hold my tiny (growing) baby in the night when snuggles are the very sleepiest.  I’m still breastfeeding, and I know that even if she is distracted to eat very much during the day, she’ll make up for nutrition with breast milk at night.  I’m at work during the day, and my training takes up my early mornings and some evenings after work.  Night time is our time.

img_20151104_074223014Cadence won’t always need me in the night, so I am soaking up all of the baby snuggles while I can. I’m sure that the lack of sleep has limited my recovery after hard workouts, and I know that it has made my brain fuzzy many days at work, but I’m a mom first, and right now, my sweet little baby needs me. As I approach my race where I’ll be running (and pumping) through the night, thinking of Cadence will be my motivation to finish strong and fast so that I can get back to that little sleeping angel.

img_20160908_224336Any other moms still waking up with their babies at night and while trying to maintain a training schedule?

Interval training: my new favorite workout that hurts so good

Until this past summer, I had never really followed any structure to my training.  I would sign up for a full marathon, check Hal Higdon to see when I needed to do my long runs, and then run whatever I felt like in between with a few speedier runs that I liked to call speedwork.  Fast forward to my current training cycle where I am training for a distance that scared me into hiring a coach.  Plus, as a postpartum runner, I wanted to make sure that my training was appropriate for what my body had to give.

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My current training plan involves a lot of interval training, which I have grown to really appreciate (even though it is a lot harder to get out of bed in the morning when you know that your first hour awake is going to hurt so bad!).  That being said, I am much more likely to embrace a plan if I understand the reasoning behind it, so here are a few things I’ve learned about the nuances of interval training.  Before I get started–an interval is a workout that typically has a faster component, followed by a rest period, and this cycle of fast, recover, fast, recover is repeated for the duration of the workout.

Interval training:

  1. Teaches the body to recruit more muscle fibers as you achieve faster speeds.
  2. Stresses the cardiovascular system to a greater degree than if you were to run continuously.
  3. Teaches the muscles to more efficiently process oxygen (increases VO2 max).
  4. Improves focus, which helps with mindset on race day.
  5. Stimulates many of the same cellular pathways for endurance training, but in less time.  (Read about a study on a stationary bike that showed interval training to produce the same physical benefits as long-duration endurance training here.)
  6. Helps the legs feel different paces, which can help prepare for race conditions and teach the body to handle tough conditions.
  7. Helps increase our body’s ability to run at a sustained anaerobic pace for longer periods of time.
  8. Burns more fat than standard endurance training by increasing metabolic rate. (Read a study here.)

 Tips for interval training:

  1. Build a foundation of 6-8 weeks of running before going hard for the intervals.
  2. Run at a pace that can be sustained throughout the interval without dropping pace.
  3. Focus on perceived effort, working toward a 90% effort.
  4. Integrate ladders (ex: 3,2,1), pyramids (ex: 1,2,3,2,1) , or repeats (ex: 2,2,2) for variety.  A “step up” ladder improves strength and stamina, a “step down” ladder helps build speed by getting more work out of tired legs, and a pyramid can combine the two. All will help improve overall race times.
  5. The longer the interval, the more it works to improve endurance. The shorter the interval, the more it works to improve speed.
  6. Intervals on uphills have less impact on the legs.
  7. Recover adequately during the prescribed recovery time. Your goal is to run the strongest interval time, not keep the recovery fast.  This means that you may need to walk the recovery time.
  8. Always warm up and cool down for interval workouts.  Speed work tends to be harder on the joints, so a good warm up and cool down can help prevent injury.
  9. Keep up with strength training to help decrease the chance of injury when speedwork is involved.

There are a lot of variations to interval training that can be applied, and that keeps training interesting and gives the muscles different stresses for improvement.  As much as intervals hurt while they are being run, they also give some of the best endorphins after a tough sequence is achieved! It’s a love/hate relationship, but after seeing the improvements in just a couple of months, I’ll always have intervals as an integral part of my training plan.

What is your favorite type of training run?

Treadmills, really going the distance

Contrary to a lot of runners, I love the treadmill. It always bothers me when I see people refer to treadmills as “dreadmills” because the treadmill is my favorite material thing in our house.  It has really gone the distance with me. Ha! I started out using the treadmill as a means to walk at an incline and read for my exercise.  This was before I became a runner, and it served as a great foundation for me.  I ran my first marathon in 2013, and that is when my treadmill finally realized its full potential and helped me fulfill my training.

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Here are a few reasons that I love the treadmill:

  1. I can control the incline (I run at 3% or > for all of my runs)
  2. I can control the speed (actually really good for intervals)
  3. The surface is shock absorbing so impact is minimized
  4. I read and run, so I consume books at a rate of about 1/week
  5. A bathroom is always near (very helpful when running through pregnancy)
  6. It is light in my basement when it is dark outside
  7. Bad weather doesn’t keep me from a run
  8. I can run without coordinating childcare for my baby

I currently have the Landice L8, and I love this machine!  We bought it off of Craigslist in 2014, and it has been my staple almost every weekday morning.  A good treadmill for serious running needs to be really solid, and will probably be an investment. I bought my treadmill used, but there is always a risk with used exercise equipment that you might not get as many miles out of it.  Used gym equipment has probably been well maintained, but it also probably has A LOT of miles on it.  On the other hand, used gym equipment is generally bigger and sturdier, which is a great benefit.

Here are the specifications that you should look for in a good home treadmill for serious running:

Motor power: My treadmill has a 4HP continuous duty drive motor, which is ideal for running.  If you only plan to walk, you can get away with less horsepower.

Running area: It is recommended that the running area be at least 20″x60″.  My treadmill has a  22” x 63” running area, and it is perfect for both my husband and me.

Incline: My last treadmill only went up to 10%, and I was happy with that.  Now that I have a treadmill that goes to 15%, I don’t think I’d want to go back.  I like to “hike” at the 15% level for cross training.

Speed: My treadmill goes from 0 to 12 MPH, and that has always been sufficient for me.  If you are looking to break 5 minute miles, you may want to invest in something speedier.

Shock absorption: Landice claims to use commercial grade materials for high quality construction.  With that, they have a special shock absorption system that they say is 5x softer than grass.  I would think that any treadmill that focuses on meeting running needs will also have a pretty robust shock absorption system.

Programs: this is not anything that I have ever used, and my Landice has very basic programming.  I have always thought that the more complex the computer, the more chance that it might malfunction.  On the other hand, it would be pretty cool to be able to simulate a race day scenario in a treadmill program!

Book Prop: this might sound silly, but it is really important to me that I can see my book on the console of the treadmill. The same should be true for you if you are wanting to watch Netflix on your tablet. Also note where the rails are located to make sure that you feel comfortable with your arm swing.

Warranty: my treadmill has a lifetime warranty on all parts as long as I have a bill of lading.  If you invest a lot of money in your treadmill, it is worth it to look into this aspect as well.  If you buy used, make sure to ask for proof of purchase!

I always recommend keeping your equipment well maintained.  We have our treadmill serviced once a year, and we add lubrication to the belt about every eight months if we’ve been using it for a heavy training period.  It is very important to make sure that the belt is aligned and fixed at the right tightness because it can wear out the motor if not.  A shot motor is a very expensive thing to fix, and it makes for a very ineffective treadmill.

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This is still one of my favorite pictures.❤

Do you use the treadmill regularly in your training?

Life seasons and then there’s running

Labor Day weekend just marked the end of summer and the beginning of fall.  Another great season, although this one felt like it flew by now that my baby is WALKING!

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens. Ecclesiastes 3:1

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Working out has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  I’ve always loved the way that exercise made me feel, and it didn’t hurt that it also helped keep clothes fitting through the holiday season.  But then something shifted.  I ran my first marathon in 2013, and then in 2014 I decided to try to qualify for Boston.

Before I knew it, working out was exclusively about helping me run better.  I work out to run and I eat to run.  I sleep to run, and I read about running.  The podcasts that I listen to are pretty much all about running.  It’s been really rewarding to see the progress that I’ve been able to make in both speed and distance.  I’ve met incredible people through running, and I feel like things in general fall into place better when I’ve got goals, even if they are running related. I ran through pregnancy, and I think that it helped keep me healthy in a lot of ways.  I have run after pregnancy, and I think it has made me a better mom and wife.

As you can tell, I realllllly love to run.  And right now, I am at the height of a big training season, so my training is at a high right now (and I am functioning on an endorphin high!).  But just as summer turns to fall, seasons make us focus on different things.   Hopefully I’ll always have a race to look forward to, but I’m reminded that through it all, I’m not a professional athlete.  I don’t even work in a running related field.  I am a wife and a mom first.  And those two things fill me up more than I ever imagined!

This last season of figuring out how to be a new mom, waking up all through the night, breastfeeding, cooking our meals, going to work, keeping laundry clean and folded, maintaining a somewhat clean house, and remembering to feed the dog have all made for a beautiful blur of months.  And all of that doesn’t even include going for a run or training for a race.  I’ve learned a lot about what is important (my family) and what isn’t (a clean house).  I’ve also grown to appreciate just how much a human can handle–in emotions, physical limits, and time management.  I believe that all of these things do make me a better, more grateful runner, but they are also proof that running is a complement to the seasons, not the season itself.

 

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I always have a little helper.❤

What has this last season been like for you? 

 

Marginal Gains: when every little bit counts

Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.

—Jim Rohn
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There was a lot of talk about marginal gains around the time of the Olympics because, for those athletes, a decimal point of improvement could be the difference in a podium win or a back-of-the-pack finish. While no one in my running circle is looking for Olympic-level kind of gains, there are a lot of details in the margins that can make us happier runners with better results.
This current training cycle has been more intense than any of my other training cycles, and I have really found myself relying on the little things to keep my body healthy and happy throughout the workouts. The more intense my workouts, the more critical it is for me to rely on the little details.  As with forming good habits, marginal gains accrue over time to ultimately lead to more success.  Here’s to hoping that all of the little things will help me get to the finish line strong and fast!
Here are a few of the marginal  and not-so-marginal habits that I think have helped make me a stronger runner:
  1. Consistency: Without a doubt, consistency in my workouts has made me a stronger runner.  I wake up early to run before work, and I make sure to complete all of the workouts that my coach prescribes.  There are plenty of days that I wake up tired or get home from work and feel tired, but then I think of my goals and what I want to achieve, and I get my butt outside or downstairs to our gym.  (Of course, if you are sick, skip the workout!)
  2. Sleeping in compression socks: There is debate over the full benefits of compression socks.  Some proponents say that wearing them during a run improves running by increasing circulation and reducing vibrations to the leg muscles.  Others say that during a run, there’s not really that much added benefit.  One thing that is more widely accepted is that compression socks do help aid in recovery (when not running) by increasing circulation.  I do like to wear compression socks when I run in the winter, but I’ve found that staying cool when it is hot outside is more important than running in  compression socks in the summer.  That doesn’t mean that I can’t speed recovery to my legs while I sleep.
  3. Drinking a lot of water:  I started really being intentional with hydration when I was pregnant, and now that I am breastfeeding and working out like a crazy person, it is equally important.  I drink a whole lot of water throughout the day, and I only occasionally drink caffeine or alcohol.  In addition to water, there are a couple of drink mixes like this one that I like to add for flavor and a little added benefit.  I also drink almond milk for the added calcium (still tbd on dairy, so I limit milk).
  4. Eating enough good foods:  Fueling properly has become much more critical as I push my body in training AND in breastfeeding.  My body is working as hard as it can, so I need to make sure that I give it the nutrition that it needs.  I have transitioned to eating mostly organic foods, and I have cut out a lot of the refined grains that I used to eat.  I used to try to eat a low-fat diet, but I now try to incorporate good fats into every meal. I also make an effort to get a lot of protein through good meats, protein shakes, and cheese.
  5. Rolling and stretching: I’m not the best at rolling and stretching, but I am definitely better than I have ever been. One thing that has helped tremendously is that I carry a lacrosse ball in my purse, so I can roll at any time that I feel a twinge or have spare time in the car.  I also keep “The Stick” at my desk at work. I also do at least a light foam roll and stretch every night before bed. One more thing: I schedule semi-regular sports massages.  They are expensive, so I have to ration them out, but they are so valuable when I’m putting a lot of stress on my body.

One of the most valuable gains that I am missing is SLEEP.  The more intense my workouts get, the more I realize how much extra sleep I need.  I am not even getting the minimum suggested amount of sleep when you subtract out the time that I wake up to feed/console Cadence in the night.  She has never been a great sleeper, and teething isn’t helping us much.  So, I’ll work on this. 🙂

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What are your tricks outside of running for marginal gains?

Family time and 100 mile training

The other day my mom asked me how much of my time is going toward training for my upcoming 100 mile race. For good reason, she warned me to make sure that I am not neglecting my family.  My mom was totally right to check in with me and keep me accountable to the people who matter the most.  My parents are getting ready to celebrate their 39th wedding anniversary this week, and they know a thing or two about a happy marriage.

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39 years of marriage❤

I decided to run the Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run shortly after Cadence was born, and my husband and I had a good talk about what all would be involved with my training.  From day one, Jon has supported my efforts, but I know that it hasn’t come without some sacrifice.  The biggest difference with this training cycle from other training cycles is not that I am training for a race about 4x as long as the marathon, but that we now have an adorable baby to love.

While training for a 100 mile race is more involved than marathon training, I have been surprised at how manageable it has been, even with a baby.  My training plan is big on quality, not quantity, so it feels like I’m training all of the time, when in reality, I am just fatigued from my hard workouts. (I also talk about running all of the time, so to the people who love me, I am sure that it seems like running is all-consuming in my life. ;))  I am reading Jason Koop’s book Training Essentials for UltraRunning, and he says that one can properly train for an ultra with 6-9 hours of training a week.  In that case, the hours need to be extremely well executed.  I am definitely putting in more hours than the minimum Koop suggests is permissible, but it is still heartening to know that one can pursue big things without quitting his/her job and training all day long.

My training plan has runs scheduled almost every day and strength work about 3 times a week.  On weekdays when I have a longer run, I try to get up and run before Cadence wakes up. If the run can be finished in an hour, I’ll often sleep a little later and bring her into the basement with me to play in her pack and play while I run on the treadmill.  Most days, she is perfectly content to play while I run, and it is a fun treat for me to watch her. Other days, my husband waits for her to wake up and then brings her downstairs to join me. Ideally, I’d be running more outside and on trails, but in this stage of life, about half of my runs are on the treadmill and about half of my runs are outside on pavement. The drive time that it takes for me to regularly get to the trails is just too much extra time away from my family, and it becomes especially challenging with breastfeeding.

On the days that I do strength work, I try to wake up earlier to finish my run and complete about half of my strength training before work.  Then, I’ll get home from work with Cadence and finish the rest of the strength routine.  Strength work days are longer, and they do mean that we don’t eat dinner until later in the evening.  The good thing is that Cadence is a great little workout buddy, and she crawls around the basement with me while I do my weights.  We have “babyproofed” the basement as much as we can given that there are machines and weights everywhere, and it is really fun to watch her crawl around exploring.  Every once in a while, she gets restless and I end up incorporating her into the routines. 🙂

My coach has suggested that I can do as much cross-training as I want, but not to let it interfere with my speedwork. The pre-baby Meridith would have been all over this, but I’ve found that balance requires that I limit the extras and just do the scheduled training as well as I can.  I do some cross training, but it mostly involves “hiking” with Cadence in the jogger around my hilly neighborhood.  I’ll have to increase cross training a little more as I approach peak training, but it’s been kind of refreshing to let the A-type perfectionist runner in me slack a little on the extras for now.

So all in all, training for a 100 mile race has not been a full time job, and I’ve found it incredibly rewarding.  Jon patiently listens to me talk about training and racing, and he joins me on some of my workouts.  I still have a lot of demands on me as a wife and a mother, but I’ve got a family who extends a lot of grace and support.    At the end of the day, all of the responsibilities of house and home still apply even though there is a race on the calendar!  I am definitely more focused as a mother runner, and I appreciate every mile.  I also appreciate every moment that I get to play with Cadence and incorporate her into my training.

How do you balance training with family?

Running with a jogging stroller: the perfect little pacer

Running with Cadence in the jogging stroller is one of my absolute favorite things to do.  It combines two of the things that I love the most–my baby and running!  (Add my husband and the dog, and I’m in heaven!)  Here are some of the guidelines and experiences I have had with stroller running:

Our stroller, the Thule Urban Glide: My husband and I chose the Thule Urban Glide as our jogging stroller after I read that Steph Rothstein liked it.  We went to REI and walked around the store with a couple of brands.  The decision was between the Bob and the Thule, and the Thule won because it is lighter by a couple of pounds, and it is more compact and easier to maneuver.  We’ve had a great experience with the brand.  We actually had to exchange our original stroller because the wheel was wobbly at fast speeds (we read reviews that all jogging strollers can have this defect), and Thule was fantastic to replace our original stroller with a brand new one.

When I started running with Cadence: Cadence was born at the end of September, and she was a smaller baby.  Our pediatrician said that her head control would be fine to run with her at 3-4 months, but since it was winter anyways, we decided to wait until she was a little bigger.  In February (about 4.5 months), we took her for a run in the jogger, but she still needed to be in the car seat with the adapter because she was still pretty small.  I LOVED every minute of it!  Running with the car seat adds weight, and it makes the stroller a bit top heavy, but nothing is better than looking at your baby the whole time that you run!  I got all kinds of baby smiles and peaceful sleeping views.

How far I’ve run with Cadence: The longest I’ve run with Cadence is 13 miles so far, but I think I could run with her much longer.  She’s really content in the stroller and I feel like my endurance could handle longer distances.  When I was training for Boston, I needed to get in a 20 mile run, but my husband had an early morning event on Saturday, so I ran 7 miles on my own, and came back for Cadence to finish my 20 mile training.  Having a baby has definitely changed the way that I approach training!

How much does it affect my speed: This is actually one of my favorite things about running with Cadence.  Running with the jogging stroller forces me to slow down.  I have to make stops to make sure that everything is ok up front.  I like to talk to Cadence while we run.  I have to go slower on steep downhills and watch the curves.  As every runner knows, we can beat ourselves up over the numbers, but running with Cadence takes all of that away.  It’s also a really great workout!  With the carseat attachment, I was pushing about 50 pounds.  Now that C is bigger, the stroller is about 23 lbs and she is about 17 lbs = ~40 lbs.

 

Now back to the speed.  I estimate that I am about 30 sec to a minute slower with the stroller, but I also choose to run with the stroller on my easier runs when I don’t intend to push it.  Uphills are obviously  a little slower, and I also have to hold back on the downhills.  My neighborhood is really hilly, so it is a great workout! My average easy run with the stroller is typically about an 8:30 pace. I did my first tempo run the other night with the stroller, and I was surprised at how easily I was able to maintain a faster speed even though I had the stroller.  I was easily running low 7s around my neighborhood for the tempo, and Cadence was fine.  It ended up being a great way for C to get a nap and for me to get in a little added resistance.

How does Cadence do? So far, Cadence has been a great running buddy!  We started walking with her in the stroller from the start of her little life, and she seems pretty used to it.  Every night my husband and I walk with Cadence and our golden retriever around the neighborhood, so the jogger is pretty routine for her, whether running or walking.  For my runs, Cadence normally looks around and “talks” to me in the beginning, and then she falls asleep.  I don’t count on it always being that easy, but I’ll take it while it lasts!

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A few things that I don’t leave the house without: Sunscreen slathered all over Cadence in the summer and a hat! The sun can still peak through the stroller canopy, and her little feet are exposed. (We bundled her up when we ran with her in the winter.)  We normally have a spare bottle of water in the stroller just in case the adults need it, but we don’t really worry about much else.  I’m not about to change a diaper on the sidewalk, so if there is an emergency, I’d just run home.  So far, we haven’t had any reasons to have to run home for anything (other than a pit stop breastfeeding session). In the winter, we added little lights to the stroller, but we haven’t had to use them in the summer.

I’m sure that I will have more things to learn as Cadence gets bigger and her development changes.  I can’t wait to see how my little running buddy continues to grow and share things with me.

Do you run with your baby?  Any tips as they get bigger?

Pulling it all together: Physical Therapy and Diastasis Recti

The last few months have been a lesson of limits for me as I face the reality that I am a 32 year old mother runner, and my body will never be the same as it was before baby.  But that’s what aging is, isn’t it? And I’m really ok with it.  Cadence is the best extension of me that there ever was, and if she’s my youth, I could not be more proud than to have her carry on my legacy.  But before I go off on a mortality binge, let me say that things are really looking up!

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Every sacrifice is worth it for this sweetness!

In May, I was diagnosed with a hernia and had surgery for it.  It turns out that it was not really a hernia, and instead I have ab separation.  The surgeon was all doom and gloom about my state as an ab separated mother runner, but I have since met with two great physical therapists who told me that I am in fact very strong and set me up with strength exercises to make sure that I stay strong.

So what is happening with my abdominals then? From what I understand in meeting with the two physical therapists, my recti abdominus muscles (the six pack muscles) are working together when I engage them.  That’s great news!  There is a gap, but it is not significant, and my oblique and transverse muscles are all very strong.  The linea alba is the tendinous median line that runs down the middle of the recti abdominus, and in my case, that is what was stretched during pregnancy. 

 

Interestingly, a lot of women experience diastasis recti (DR) below the umbilicus (belly button), but in my case, all of mine is above the umbilicus.  When diastasis recti is below the belly button, some women experience a “pooch” that no amount of working out is able to resolve.  The abdominals are all connected to the pelvic floor, and a lot of women with diastatis recti also experience incontinence.  That is why exercises like kegels are so important to engage the pelvic floor.  It’s all connected!  If I had lower abdominal diastasis recti, it would also make running more challenging (no!).  In my case, the diastasis recti is only present from the belly button up, which is why I can feel my intestines down the center  of my abs (still sounds weird).  If it weren’t for that little detail, I wouldn’t notice a thing. 😉

I visited two different physical therapists on two separate days.  One of the physical therapists focused more on breathing techniques to help me engage my core properly, and the other reviewed my form in multiple strength exercises.  They both had different approaches, but the suggestions were all very promising (and I even got a few tips for running!).  I was assured that I would be just fine having a second baby.  It’s a good thing for me to address strengthening my core while I can.  When we decide to get pregnant for baby #2, I’ll just have to focus on the proper strength work to heal properly postpartum again.  That’s the great thing about our amazing bodies!

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Physical Therapist office with a complete pilates studio!

My primary takeaways from physical therapy were proper breathing and proper form.

Breathing: The foundation for proper breathing is to take a deep breath in, allowing the rib cage to expand while abdominals are relaxed, then as you exhale pull the belly toward the spine and engage the pelvic floor muscle. Here is a great site explaining diaphragmatic breathing, also called belly breathing.

My assignment is “belly breathe” two times a day for 10 breaths:

  1. lying with knees bent
  2. sitting in a chair with feet on the ground
  3. on all fours

Another breathing technique to remember during my training is to exhale during the hardest part of a workout (ex: exhale when lifting, inhale when lowering).  This means that I am supposed to slow down my strength training in order to coordinate breathing (I am guilty of speeding through a work out just to get it done!).

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Clam shells are my new favorite exercise to help my gait

Strength Training: Engage the deep abdominals just before and as you push/pull/lift any resistance — this includes lifting the baby or any other type of weight.  I was not given specific strength training exercises, rather my current strength form was evaluated to make sure that I am properly engaging my abs to work together during all of my activities.  Examples of core work that I currently do are planks, side planks, crunches (different variations), bridges, etc.  Some women with DR are instructed not to do crunches, but my abs are actually firing properly.  I also have some side-to-side work, that is not always recommended for DR, but my PT said that given the location of my DR, it is good to get the obliques strong.

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Workout buddies

I felt so encouraged in meeting the the physical therapists, and I recommend that anyone unsure of their status post-baby should go see a SPECIALIST in this area.  I think that women, especially in the U.S., feel like they should bounce right back to pre-baby shape (whether that means returning to work right away, fitting into jeans, or getting that PR), and we don’t give ourselves the space to properly heal and process the trauma that our bodies have experienced through pregnancy, labor, and breastfeeding.

Did you feel like you were expected to bounce right back after you delivered your baby?

What are your favorite core exercises?

The stomach bug from hell, and how soon should you return to normal training?

I know that I am in good company when I say that I do not like to take unexpected rest days from running.  But what about my plan?!?  On Tuesday I woke up not feeling so hot, but I slugged through my speedwork anyway and went to work.  My stomach felt off, but I’ve been suspecting that I might have a food allergy for a while now, so I thought I might have just eaten more chocolate the night before than I could handle (dairy).  Sparing you the details, nothing that I ate stayed with me for long on Tuesday, but I didn’t have a fever.  It was supposed to be a weights day, so I got through about 1/4 of my workout on Tuesday evening before realizing that I was absolutely crazy for even attempting to lift.

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Tuesday night before I realized that I had the plague.  Failed attempt at completing weights.

Fast forward to Wednesday morning when I was a whole 7 lbs lighter than the day before and weak and shaky.  I probably would have tried to tough it out, but I am breastfeeding, so I was losing even more fluids than normal for a person being thrashed by the stomach bug from hell.  No medication was working, and I was starting to get a little scared.  My general practitioner told me to go to the ER for an IV, and my sweet husband packed me up in the car and drove me to the emergency room.  A few hours later, I had received 2 liters of saline, and I felt better, yet starving.  We got home and I still couldn’t eat much, but I thought I was improving.  Wednesday night proved to be round two of the worst stomach bug ever, and I woke up thankful that we had “invested” $400 in hydration the day before or this bug would have killed me (maybe I’m being dramatic, but holy cow!).

Thursday I hardly ate anything (applesauce becoming my favorite food) for fear that I would wake the beast, but Friday I was pretty much back to normal, albeit on a relatively bland diet.  All this to say, my running schedule was interrupted, although my body had certainly been challenged!

So what’s the point of this post?  I wasn’t sure when it would be best to resume my running schedule, and I’m sure that I’m not alone when I say that I am the worst at resting.  How soon can you return to running after having the stomach bug?  Runner’s Connect points out that there is not a lot of research on the topic, but they suggest to run easy and short for at least three days after getting better.  If you exercise too soon, you can further compromise the immune system and delay healing.

This article states that it takes longer to replenish fluid in tissues than it does to restock glycogen stores. Even if you have been able to resume drinking, it will still take some time for rehydration to fully occur, as a balance of NaCl (salt) must also be achieved. If you exercise when you aren’t feeling well, you will further compromise your immune system and have mediocre performance in training. Once you do resume running, it is important to hydrate well and take electrolytes after you finish working out.  Also, eat shortly after finishing a work out.

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Day 1: off, Day 2: Easy 4 miles, ~30 minutes

I had an advantage (if you want to call it that) with this stomach bug because I had an IV with saline distributing the correct ratio of fluids to my body.  Normally after a stomach bug, I still feel the hangover effect days after I’m well.  In this case, I felt mostly normal by day 4 of a 3 day bug, albeit a little hungry.  I reached out to my coach to ask how she wanted me to handle the days missed in my schedule, and she said to do about 30 minutes easy on my first day feeling better, then an hour easy the next day, followed by the next few days of my original scheduled workouts at 60% effort.

I’ve pretty well followed this guidance, and I’m feeling really good/healthy again!  It seems that being a mom has given me a little more maturity (gosh, that sounds old but good) in my training decisions.  I know that if I don’t let myself properly recover, I won’t be able to take care of Cadence properly either.  Pregnancy was also a huge lesson that it is ok to take a break from the normal running routine.  One week of missed training is not going to break a training cycle.  Trust the thousands of cumulative miles that you’ve put on your legs, and don’t add stressing out to the obstacles that you might be facing.  Tomorrow is another day and another mile.

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Because she is everything.

What do you do to help you recover from little set-backs?

Have you ever had a big set-back in training? For me: pregnancy and most recently a surgery