Choosing Joy (in running and social media)

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Cadence will say “cheese” just once for the camera and after that, she’s done. 👶😂 Quick family run after work tonight. 🙌. It’s one of my very favorite things to do. ❤️ Love tank full. ✔️ Maggie even got to join because it’s just a tad cooler lately. 🐕

Lately I have seen a few people write posts about how “fake” everyone is on social media and how we only post the good stuff. I don’t know that I think it’s such a bad thing to write about all of the good stuff going on in our lives. Do you? As runners, we know more than anything that the mental side to running and life is more than half the battle. If we look at all of the good in our lives, it’s got to make the dark days look a little brighter, right?

Don’t get me wrong, I think transparency and honesty are great with the right medium and the right audience. But I really think it’s pretty great to post our good days and smiley babies on social media. Sometimes I start to write something about a crummy day, and then I realize as I type it out how incredibly blessed I am. Who am I to complain that I had a bad night of sleep with my baby? I have a friend who just lost her baby. I’m going to enjoy waking up with Cadence until I’m blurry eyed.

I have posted some of my tougher days on Instagram, mostly involving Cadence and being a working mom.  Even then, I feel a little trite because I have an amazing job (I work for my dad) and I have amazing co-workers (who all support my passions).  Don’t get me wrong, I think reaching out when you are struggling is a great way to use our community.  I have gotten SO MUCH support from the community of runners and mommas!!! But I don’t feel like it’s fake to not post about every headache and traffic jam. I’d just rather post about the delicious cake that I’m eating or morning baby snuggles.  🙂

I also think it makes us better runners to focus on the positive things in our lives. Daily stress is just as bad as the cumulative stress of training. I’m sure that I’ll have days when I just want to complain, and I know that this community of runners will be so supportive to lift me up and cheer me on, but in the meantime, I’m choosing joy when I can.

Philippians 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

What do you think? Is it fake to not post the good and the bad?

I mean, how can I complain when I’ve got this cuteness right beside me?!

A TMI PSA

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I had planned to go for an hour on the bike this morning, but I heard a tiny voice calling my name as I was heading downstairs, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for morning snuggles AND a workout buddy. 👶 Being a working mom and training can be a hard balance, but thankfully, we’ve found ways to make it work for our family. ❤️ I couldn’t do it without the support of my husband (who came and rescued Cadence so that she’d get breakfast today 😁). 50 minutes on the bike today with a few speed intervals to get the legs burning. 🚴‍♀️

This post might be a little too much information, but ladies, consider it a public service announcement. (Honestly, we all know that there is never TMI when you are a runner or a mom. haha) A few cycles ago I started using the Diva Cup after reading this article written by Clare Gallagher, who I respect for her success in running.

My period returned 14 months postpartum, even though I have continued to breastfeed. This is the first time in years that I have had a normal cycle without the influence of birth control, so I’m getting to learn my body and see how my hormones affect me day to day and in running. Here’s a blog post about how the menstrual cycle affects our running performance. (The SF Marathon was as a high hormone phase for me; you can’t always plan your races around your cycle. Guys don’t know how good they have it!)

Anyway, back to the point of this post. I started using the Diva cup a few months ago, and it’s a total game changer. I don’t have to worry about the chemicals that are in tampons, I don’t have to change anything all throughout the day, and I am way more comfortable using a menstrual cup. It’s also cheaper than having to buy tampons and pads. The menstrual cup can stay inserted for up to 12 hours without leakage, and you won’t notice it at all.  It’s almost like you aren’t on your period. I have not altered any of my runs using the menstrual cup, it doesn’t leak, and it is waaaaay more comfortable than any tampon ever dreamed to be.

Apparently these are all the rage in Europe, and I understand why! There are different brands of menstrual cups, and I’ve only tried the Diva cup. Anyway, just had to share with you. ❤

Anybody else tried the Diva cup?

Ab separation and rockin the crop top

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Ok, so I know that you aren’t supposed to try anything new for race day, but I just got my new @runinrabbit crop hop in the mail. 😍🐰 I did a short test run this morning, and I think it’s comfortable enough to risk for my marathon on Sunday. (I mean, I’ve chafed for longer than that. 😂💯)🤞 Now to decide between coral and white. 🤔😁 . . . And more for all of the mommas out there. Cadence sat really high in my belly when I was pregnant, and I still have a lot of ab separation from my pregnancy.👶 I had to have surgery last May because my intestines (still) pop out just a little above my belly button (like a hernia). 🙈And then there’s always the skin that doesn’t have quite the same elasticity that it used to…😊 All that to say, our bodies are incredible and continue to support us as we grow human beings, breastfeed, and then go out and run our hearts out. ❤️🎉 Since you can’t necessarily see my intestines popping out very well in this picture, I just wanted to keep it real. 😂😘 . . . #motherrunner #marathontraining #taperweek #radrabbit #loveourgoldengirl #milestonepod #gobeyondpace #saucony #runyourworld #runningthroughpregnancy #postpartumrunning #extendedbreastfeeding #womenrunning #womensrunningcommunity #hshive

I think I’m set on wearing the crop top for my Sunday race, I just need to pick out a color! 🙂 I wrote in my IG caption about my ab separation and pseudo hernia, so I thought I’d elaborate here in case any mommas are in the same boat.

I have a series of blog posts where I discovered the “hernia” and got a diagnosis, had surgery, and then learned that I just had ab separation and weak fascia, but no actual hole in my fascia for a hernia. I elected to have surgery last May after noticing a nickel sized little bulge about midway up from my belly button. I was afraid that it would just get worse with my activity level, and the surgeon agreed that it was better to fix it while it was small instead of waiting until it got worse and required a larger repair.

After the surgery, I noticed that I still had the little bump, and returned to the surgeon. That’s when they told me that my fascia had just been weak, but there was no hernia to repair (yay! surgery for nothing!). My intestines press against the weaker fascia where I have ab separation (or diastasis recti) and create a little bump. I can push it back in, but inevitably, any effort causes it to poke out again. Doctors have told me that it will only get worse with a second baby, and that a tummy tuck is the only thing that would fix it. It’s a good thing babies are so cute!

Do you have ab separation from your pregnanc(ies)? Any other faux hernias out there? Haha

Easy day, extended breastfeeding, and the power of “baby spit backwash” for health

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Got in 30 easy min on the bike this morning with my sidekick. 👶 Cadence has a summer cold 🤧 and since I’m still nursing, I kind of hope to catch it so we can fight this thing together. 🍼Motherhood definitely changes you! 😂 We spent the rest of the afternoon visiting with my grandmother, and my heart is so full. ❤️ #shenursedalldaylong #allbydesign #beautifullyandwonderfullymade #breastfeeding #extendedbreastfeeding #21monthsold #bestlittletrainingbuddy #motherrunner #crosstraining #homegym #marathontraining #womenrunning #womensrunningcommunity

I have a race tomorrow, but I’m using it as a training run.  It will be my last long run before the San Francisco marathon NEXT Sunday! The race is called Hot to Trot, and it’s an 8 hour timed event with about a one mile loop as the course. I plan to only run a couple of hours, and then maybe hike a little with Cadence. The REAL reason that I am excited about the race is that I get to meet one of my Instagram friends for the first time at the race. I love the running community!!

Cadence is sick with a cold, and I’m hopeful that breastfeeding will help speed up her recovery. Here is an amazing article talking about what happens when babies breastfeed (check out the excerpt below). I know that I am in the minority still breastfeeding at 21 months, but it doesn’t get much better than this for care of sick babies!

“According to Katie Hinde, PhD, a biologist and associate professor at the Center for Evolution and Medicine at the School of Human Evolution & Social Change at Arizona State University (who also runs a blog called Mammals Suck … Milk!), when a baby nurses, it creates a vacuum in which the infant’s saliva sneaks into the mother’s nipple. There, it is believed that mammary gland receptors interpret the “baby spit backwash” for bacteria and viruses and, if they detect something amiss (i.e., the baby is sick or fighting off an infection), her body will actually change the milk‘s immunological composition, tailoring it to the baby’s particular pathogens by producing customized antibodies.”

Any other “extended breastfeeders” out there?

Running performance and the menstrual cycle

One of the aspects of running that I love the most is understanding how our bodies work.  I have a biomedical engineering background in sports medicine, but I didn’t really start to run until several years after I finished my masters degree.  (Ironically, I simulated the Boston Marathon for my thesis waaaaay before I had ever run a marathon.)

One of the most complex and fascinating areas of science are the hormones that make us tick.  I never gave hormones their due respect until I got pregnant and realized within days that my body had completely changed as a result of a few hormones starting the cascade of signals to grow a baby.

I have been breastfeeding for 20 months now (check out a recent post on extended breastfeeding here), so my hormones are still a bit on the postpartum spectrum, but my period returned at 16 months postpartum and so far I’ve been regular every month.  With this, I’ve taken a new interest in understanding how different levels of hormones during the menstrual cycle affect running performance.

I was on birth control for as long as I can remember before my husband and I decided to have a family. With that, I do not feel like I experienced the same shift in hormones that I feel now that I am BC free.  Before you give a point to BC for eliminating noticeable shifts in how I felt, also note that I think that BC may have negatively affected my performance.  I have come back postpartum way faster than I was pre-pregnancy, and I don’t have as much body fat. (Little sidenote: Steph Rothstein Bruce did not use BC because of her suspicions that it could affect performance, and that is how she unexpectedly got pregnant with blessing #2.)

So back to the hormones:  There are two main phases: the follicular phase (days 1-14), in which you have your period and ovulate, and the luteal phase (days 15-28) when the body is preparing for a possible pregnancy.

Follicular Phase: First menstruation occurs at day 1, and then around day 5 or 6, estrogen starts to increase along with a hormone called the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).  Around day 12 the estrogen levels surge with the luteinizing hormone (LH), which causes ovulation and an egg is released.

Luteal Phase: After ovulation, estrogen dips for a brief time, only to rise again with progesterone, as the body prepares the lining of the uterus for possible implantation.  Estrogen and progesterone peak around 5 days before menstruation. If the egg isn’t fertilized and implanted, progesterone levels fall and the body returns to day one with menstrual bleeding.

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This Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons image is from the user Chris 73 and is freely available at //commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MenstrualCycle.png under the creative commons cc-by-sa 3.0 license.

How our hormones affect us: Our carbohydrate metabolism and recovery are more similar to men in the low hormone phase than the high hormone phase. During the high hormone phase, in which we have higher amounts of both estrogen and progesterone.  High estrogen makes us spare glycogen and utilize fat stores instead. This is not a great scenario for high intensity exercise when we need a fast source of fuel.  High progesterone delays the sweat response, turns up core temperature, increases sodium loss, and increases muscle breakdown.  The result in this shift to the high hormone phase can cause fluids to move into the cells, resulting in bloating, as well as a predisposition to central nervous system fatigue. (Yay! Tell me more!) Ok, so here’s more.  During the high hormone phase, your body is more likely to break down muscle but not re-grow more (low anabolism, high catabolism).

There is not a ton of research on the effects of the monthly cycle and performance, but it is recognized that generally, low hormone times are the best for performance, with actual menstruation being noted as one of the best times to compete.  This is of course, highly subjective, as everyone has a different experience with their cycles.  If you are planning to compete during a high hormone phase, be aware that cooling will be more difficult and that proper protein ingestion will help with muscle catabolism.

What Next: If you want to learn more, I highly recommend the book Roar by Stacy Sims. She goes into much greater detail how the system works and ways to mitigate some of the negative effects of our hormone shifts.  While some of the side effects of the hormonal shifts women experience can be frustrating, we need to celebrate the amazing mechanism taking place so that we can stay healthy and grow our families.  As with just about everything in life, the more we understand, the easier it is to navigate the things of life.

Do you notice a change in your running performance at a specific time of the month?

Do you plan your races around your menstrual cycle?

 

Late to the Party

 

I just received my bib for the Peachtree Road Race 10k in the mail, and I’m in the seeded wave.  This is something new to me.  I’ve always been active, but I didn’t really run races until around 2013 when I finished my first marathon (3:45), and I had to work really hard (3 marathons) to finally BQ for entry into the 2016 Boston.  I ran my first 50k in November of 2014, then ran a 50 miler in January of 2015.  These were not fast races for me, but it was a great introduction to trails and the lovely trail community.  And then I got pregnant, and running took on a whole new meaning as a little human grew in my belly.

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Fast forward to postpartum running, and I was pleasantly surprised to have come back faster.  This wasn’t without effort, as I painstakingly ran through pregnancy and kept up a pretty tight strength routine.  I also think that pregnancy, delivery, and the whole process of keeping a baby alive gives a certain resolve that must be earned.  I can do hard things.  And I don’t take running for granted after what essentially feels like a year of injury as a pregnant runner.

My paces went from about an 8 minute mile to about a 7:30 minute mile. I trained for Boston, and ran a 3:24 at 6 months postpartum, which was a PR of about 5 minutes.  Things were definitely more speedy, but nothing like the speed that I would develop in less than a year after I hired a coach.

I signed up for my first 100 mile race shortly after Cadence was born, and decided to hire a coach since this was totally new territory for me, and as a postpartum momma, I wanted to make sure to do things right for my body.  My coach is a total badass and she has a little girl too.  A big part of my training is interval workouts.  I had never (never) run intervals before hiring Michele.  It turns out that speed work makes you fast.

I hear so many other fast runners who talk about their high school and college experiences running cross country or track with a coach who pushed them. I missed that somewhere along the way, but I’m so thankful to have a coach now who has shown me my potential.

I ran my 100 mile race in September of 2016, and I had an amazing experience and kind of accidentally placed 2nd female.  Then I set a goal for a sub 3 hour marathon in January of 2017 and surprised myself by hitting the goal in 2:58.  I have runs where I feel so slow and can’t believe that I could ever sustain that marathon pace, but then sometimes I get ambitious and want to keep getting faster.

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My next big race is the San Francisco Marathon on July 23rd. I get to start as an elite runner because of my 2:58 marathon time, which just blows my mind. I would never have dreamed that my mid-pack legs would line up with the elites.  It’s been really fun (and a lot of work) to see how fast I can get. As long as I am still enjoying the process and have the support of my sweet husband, I’ll keep chasing goals.  For anyone else who has dreams to get faster, keep pushing!  You never know what your legs can do until you give it a shot.

Have you ever surprised yourself in a race with a faster finish than you expected?

Ultra breastfeeding

I never fully appreciated the affect of hormones until I got pregnant in 2015.  Holy moly.IMG_20150612_210946272 Anyone who has ever been pregnant knows what I’m talking about. Everything. Everything changes. And it happens pretty quickly as that tiny little poppyseed starts dividing cells.

Fast forward to after you’ve given labor and that watermelon is out of your belly. All normal, right? Nope!  If you choose to breastfeed, you are in for a whole new ride of hormonal bliss.  Yeah, bliss because that oxytocin is the real deal for happiness. There are also a lot of other things involved that can make you not so happy, so don’t start counting your chickens just yet.

About a year ago when I started this blog, I wrote about breastfeeding and running.  My experiences today are a bit different than they were when Cadence was a few months old, so I thought I’d add an update.  I’ve really relied on other mommas and their experiences with running, so I hope my story will help someone else figure out this whole breastfeeding and running journey.  As of today, Cadence is 19 months old, and we’re still breastfeeding. Some people call this extended breastfeeding, but the World Health Organization actually recommends that mothers worldwide breastfeed up to two years and beyond if possible.

First, let me say that breastfeeding is a very individual experience, and everyone’s bodies and babies are different.  Some people choose not to breastfeed or have another challenge that keeps them from breastfeeding.  Whatever I say in this post, mommas, don’t take anything personally.  The great thing about having our own babies is that we get to choose how we want to parent. We’re all in this together!

Frequency of breastfeeding with a toddler

At about 16 months, I stopped pumping at work, and we figured out a way to help Cadence sleep better at night (thank you hot husband).  So now I nurse once in the morning, once after daycare, once before bed, and once in the night (4x). I’m not quite ready to drop the night time feed, even though I know how delicious a complete night of sleep would be.  I really think that one of the reasons I have had such a solid supply is because Cadence has been a terrible sleeper, and I’ve nursed her a lot in the night when she wakes up screaming.  Prolactin hormone levels are highest at night for milk production, and our bodies learn to keep up with the demands.

Training as an extended breastfeeding mom

When I first started breastfeeding, I was absolutely affected by the need to pump or nurse a baby. For one, my boobs were full and uncomfortable, and two, baby’s gotta eat! Now that we are a little further on this journey, my cup size has gone way down (I can wear my old sports bras!), and I don’t nurse Cadence during the day, so training really isn’t affected.  I still take nutrition and hydration into account, but without the day time feedings, I feel much more like  normal person.  My volume of training hasn’t changed much. I still do about 50-70 miles a week with 3 nights of strength training. My running intensity is generally very high, and this has not affected my supply.

Racing as an extended breastfeeding mom

I’ve raced a few marathons (here is Boston and here is my sub 3 hour race in January) and ultra marathons (8 hour here, 100 mile here, and 100k here) since having Cadence.  My most notable breastfeeding performance was pumping throughout my first 100 mile race when Cadence had just turned one year old.  I recommend a hand pump for every (lactating) female athlete. It gives so much freedom to train and compete when you aren’t stuck next to a wall with an electric pump. I exclusively pumped with a handheld pump throughout all of my working and training days, and I have a freezer full of breastmilk to show for it.

If you pump during a race and plan to use the milk, be careful of how much caffeine you consume. Some fueling products include caffeine or other supplements that might not be safe for baby. Be aware that you will need to hydrate and fuel to compensate for the nutrition that is being diverted to feed that baby.  Aren’t our bodies incredible?!

I recently tested my first non-pumping ultra in April at Gorge Waterfalls 100k, and everything went fine.  I nursed Cadence the morning of the race, started at 6 am, and didn’t finish until around 7:30 pm.  All fine without pumping.  That evening, I was able to nurse Cadence without any issue. I have never had any problems with not having enough breastmilk to nurse Cadence after an ultra race, although I might not have had my usual oversupply.  For some of the shorter distances, I have actually noticed a bump in supply at times, and I attribute this to endorphins signaling to produce more milk (just like stress can have the opposite effect).  Everybody’s different here, but thankfully, I’ve never had to choose between racing and breastfeeding.

Hormones as an extended breastfeeding mom

They say that as long as you are still breastfeeding, you are considered postpartum.  19 months is a long trip to be postpartum! I had my hormones checked in December, and everything in the panel was returned in the normal range. I got my period at 16 months, so for the most part, my hormones are regulated. In order to breastfeed, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone levels are depressed,  while oxytocin and prolactin are increased.  Now that my menstrual cycle has returned, my hormone levels are normal enough to signal the cascade of events for a regular cycle.  I’m not sure how this affects my performance since I still have hormones for breastfeeding as well.  I know that I will benefit from regular levels of testosterone and estrogen once I finally wean.

Future Plans with breastfeeding

I really don’t know how long we’ll keep breastfeeding.  I had no intention of going this long, but it’s worked for us, and I love the connection and nutrition that it provides for Cadence. Our approach to parenting has pretty much been “baby led” everything, and baby led weaning is no exception.  I think one of the biggest factors that has helped with motherhood and breastfeeding is that I have a husband who appreciates what we’ve done with breastfeeding and supports me when I need him.  I do think that I’ll perform better with running if I did not breastfeed because nutrition is such a key factor, and the body stores and uses carbohydrate differently according to hormonal signals.  This window to breastfeed is so short in Cadence’s life, and I’m thankful that we’re still on this ultra breastfeeding journey together.

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Anyone else out there have any stories of running and breastfeeding to share?