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?