Callie Ray’s birth story

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post, but celebrating Callie’s birth seems like reason to write. Now that we’ve had time to get to know Callie, it will be fun to reflect on how she came into this world.

I started having a few evening contractions starting around 36 weeks. At 37 weeks, I had several nights where contractions would wake me up in the night but then end. They were just frequent enough to make me worry that I needed to wake up my mom to get Cadence.

On Friday (37 weeks 3 days), I ran 5 miles on the treadmill. The run was fine, but it definitely felt different. Afterwards, I felt a lot of pressure but no pain. Later that afternoon, when I went to the bathroom, I saw blood and thought it might be the mucous plug. Just to take precaution, I called my nurse and told her what I saw. She thought it was just from the running and cautioned me to “run more gently” the next time.

On Saturday, I attended a fun mini boot camp hosted by my personal trainer friend, Rachel. We modified a few of the moves for me because at this point, I knew that I was losing my mucous plug. Everything else felt normal except a little added pressure. I went home and finished up on the bike after boot camp. Then that afternoon, Jon, Cadence, and I went to a college football game. Nothing makes you feel cooler than walking through a college campus knowing that you are in early labor. Haha.

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Last football game as a family of 3

Everything proceeded as normal on Saturday night and we went to bed as usual. Around 6 am, I woke up and felt like I had peed a little. After going to the bathroom, I got back in bed and felt like I peed a little again. So I put a pad on and started googling how water breaks. (With Cadence, my water broke way after labor contractions had started.) Around 7 am, Cadence awoke, and we all went downstairs. I was having no contractions, which worried me since most OBs will require that the baby be born within 24 hours. I headed out for a walk around 9 am to try to move things along while Jon got Cadence ready to go out. On my walk, I called my two neighbor back-ups who had volunteered to take Cadence. One was in Florida, but the other was home and made herself 100% available to us.

One of my biggest concerns with this second labor was what to do with Cadence. My mother in law was supposed to get Cadence, but she was at work at least an hour away (and we couldn’t reach her on the phone). Our neighbor, Keeli, so graciously offered to take Cadence as soon as we were ready, even though Keeli was celebrating her son’s one year birthday with all of their family in town. I cannot express my gratitude enough to this family.

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Walking to start contractions

When I got back from my short walk, I had started to have a few very light contractions and I had completely wet my shorts through the pad. I changed and we all headed out as a family for a walk to move things along. It is such a weird feeling to have people going about normal lives while you are in active labor just walking down the street. We took the long way to the playground and let Cadence play. My contractions started escalating fast enough that I decided to track them. By around 10 am, I felt a little more urgency to be closer to home, so we walked back (total of about 5 miles) and showered. I talked to my midwife, who suggested that I wait an hour and then go to the hospital. Cadence’s labor was long at home, but once I got to the hospital, I was fully transitioned. We thought that this second baby may come quickly too.

Jon and I dropped Cadence off at our neighbor’s house at around 11:30 am, and she happily joined their family birthday party. We headed to the hospital and tried to make arrangements for my mother in law to come get Cadence when she was able to leave work. Once we got to the hospital, registration felt like it was taking forever. We were finally in the room by around 12:30, and the nurses checked my dilation. I was only at 3 cm, which was pretty discouraging after feeling the contractions so close together.

During the registration process in the hospital, the contractions were painful in the front of my belly. If I marched in place with an exaggeration of my legs, it would relieve some of the pressure on the front. Once we made it to the room, the contractions started to come on more strongly. Memory is a funny thing, and I don’t remember contractions being as strong with Cadence’s labor. I had contractions at home for 30 hours before going to the hospital fully dilated with Cadence.

In the hospital room, the nurses insisted on monitoring the baby’s heart rate for 20 minutes of every hour, which was pretty frustrating (but totally understandable) given that I was unmedicated and wanted to be able to move around. The contractions were getting really painful, and movement helped at least distract me, even if I still had the pain. Marching in place and moving my hips seemed to be the movement that felt best. Jon pressed on my lower back and hips as hard as he could for each contraction. I was also extremely tired and tried to rest my head on the elevated bed every 2 minutes between contractions. Around 3 pm, I told Jon that I felt like I needed to push, so he called the nurse. To my dismay, they told me that I was at 6 cm now and advised not to push or it could cause me cervix to swell. I was in so. much. pain.

I asked what would happen if I asked for an epidural, and the nurse told me that I could have it within 10 minutes but reminded me that my birth plan was to have an unmedicated birth. I felt pretty exasperated to only be at 6 cm and couldn’t think of how I would manage to complete labor in this much pain. The nurse left and Jon tried to encourage me that I was over the hardest part (he has never pushed a baby out of his vagina–hahahaha). Jon said all of the perfect things and encouraged me in all of the right ways. I still thought that I would ask for an epidural, but then the contractions escalated so that all I could do was make it through and focus on recovering for the next. My sweet running friend, Kim, told me that her doula had encouraged her by saying that each contraction leads you closer to delivery. I thought of this with each contraction and it helped so much.

About 10 minutes after the nurse told me that I was at 6 cm, I started dry heaving and felt incredibly like I had to go to the bathroom. Jon called the nurse again, who checked me and told me that I was fully dilated and to wait for the midwife. They told the midwife to RUN and the nurse assured me that she had delivered a baby before. Haha.

I did not feel the urge to push with Cadence during labor, but with Callie, my body took over, and I felt a huge rush to push. It was the most incredible and empowering feeling. Finally, the intense pain of the contractions could be realized with action, and I knew I was so so close to meeting our baby. I pushed a few times and the midwife told me that I needed an episiotomy. This was not my preference, but I had had one with Cadence and just wanted the baby out. The midwife cut me and within the next push, Callie Ray Ussery was born at 3:30 pm on September 2, 2018, 16 days early.

This tiny little 6.5 pound 20″ baby was put on my chest and we fell in love with our Callie Ray. I loved working with my midwife, and the nursing staff at the hospital were all amazing. We stayed in the hospital for one night and then hurried home to be with Cadence. My recovery was much easier with Callie than with Cadence, and I felt well to walk around immediately. I’m thankful that both birth experiences were positive, even though they were very different in just about every way.

Cadence loves her little sister and is nothing but sweetness to her. We are so blessed and in love with these two precious girls in our lives.

We three kings of Orient are Bearing gifts we traverse afar: A Runner’s Christmas Wish List

Matthew 2:9-12

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

The shepherds might have been the first ones to the Christmas party, but the wise men started the tradition of giving gifts. My Christmas gift list isn’t on the caliber of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but then, none of us are the Son of God. 🙂  I’ve made a list of some of my favorite running items and things that may help you (or your running buddies) with running and gift giving.

  1. Devoted Training Journal: I am biased here, but I love my Devoted Training Journal, and I think it would make a great gift for your running friends. The journal covers 4 months, which is perfect for a training cycle or the start of a new year goal.
  2. Milestone Pod: This little pod is such a fun running tool, and it really does help me with running. It’s extremely reasonable in price ($29.95), and you can use the code PodTeamMeridith33 for 33% off of your entire order until December 5th.
  3. Beauty Counter lip gloss: I have always liked running with something on my lips, and for longer runs, you really need a gloss that will last for a while. I found this Beauty Counter lip gloss, and I love that it is also safe for Cadence, who always wants to share. 🙂  There is a great special right now for 3 for $48. You can order from my friend here.
  4. Beachbody on Demand: I was really surprised by how much I like this subscription. I really haven’t used many of the strength programs (although they are great), but I do love the yoga programs! I do not have the time or the money to go to a yoga studio, but for $99 a year, this is a great option.  I signed up for my Beach Body subscription through Heather here.
  5. Shoes: If you are looking for a pair of shoes under the tree, I have had great success with Saucony. My favorite shoes are the Kinvara for racing and the Freedom for training. I always have more than one pair of shoes to rotate during the week. (And the Milestone Pod looks really good on a pair of shiny Sauconys. 🙂
  6. Books: I love to read and run on the treadmill, and I find that I can go through a lot of books that way. One of my all time favorite running books is Once a Runner (followed by the sequel Again to Carthage). It’s fiction, and it will make you love running and feel super motivated. I love everything by Matt Fitzgerald. He adds a lot of research to his writing, and everything is relatable.  I read 80/20 Running for the second time this year, and I used a lot of the training strategy for my San Francisco Marathon. If you like science and biology (for females), you will love ROAR. Finally, not running specific, but getting the heart and head in the right place makes everything better: Nothing to Prove.  And my favorite cookbook of the year is Wellness Mama Cookbook.
  7. Clothes: I ran the Gorge Waterfalls 100k in April, and it was supposed to be chilly and rainy. I bought the Patagonia Houdini at the recommendation of a friend, and it was the PERFECT jacket for the weather. Super light and perfect breathability. For general running clothes, I love Rabbit clothes.  Get 10% off with this code.
  8. Nutrition: I started using the Juice Plus protein powder this year, and it is the best tasting protein powder I’ve ever tried. Plus, it is all plant-based, and I feel confident letting Cadence eat it. You can order yours here. If you just want a stocking stuffer, I love Honey Stinger waffles and Nuun.
  9. Recovery: I carry a Lacrosse ball in my purse and I keep them throughout the house. This is such a great way to recover! For my birthday this year, my husband surprised me with a Boom stick. It’s the kind of recovery that hurts so good and gets so deep!
  10. For your training buddy: If you have followed me for more than a minute, you know that I love the Thule Urban Glide for stroller running. I also love our Kelty hiking pack for cross training hikes with Cadence. We got our pack off of Craigslist, but you can find a new one here.

It’s easy to lose focus at Christmas time with all of the lights, presents, and parties.  At the end of the day, God gave us the best gift when he sent his Son to this earth. Merry Christmas everyone!

What’s on your Christmas wishlist?

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

Happy 4th of July and a Peachtree date

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So much fun running the Atlanta Peachtree Road Race this morning with this hot guy! 😎 This race never disappoints for heat, crowds, and hills. 😂 But seriously, it’s a really well organized race with over 60,000 runners as the largest 10k in the world. 🌎 Can’t beat that community! ❤️ Finished in 39:55 with a 6:21 pace. Kinda wish I had pushed harder, but can’t be too disappointed. 💦 Definitely gave me the bug to try more short distances! 💨 Happy Fourth of July! 🇺🇲 #gobeyondpace #saucony #milestonepod #runyourworld #runinrabbit #radrabbit #motherrunner #womendrunningcommunity #womenrunning #marathontraining #fourthofjuly #peachtreeroadrace #atlantatrackclub

Happy Fourth of July! My husband and I woke up at 5 am at my parents’ house so we could drive down to Marta and catch a ride to the race start. We were a little tight on time, but arrived just in time to start with our waves at 7:30 am. It was 92% humidity and in the 70s when we started. I think the temps got up to the 90s by the time the race ended for later waves.  I did a little research last year on heat and humidity. It turns out that dew point is the best predictor of performance. Here is a helpful article with a chart for dew point. Today’s dew point was around 73 in Atlanta, which is “very difficult” according to the article.  All part of the sport! 🙂

I’ll write a race report later, but the race went well for me and I PR’d. I don’t feel like I ran as fast as I could have, but I had a hard time pushing to the point of suffering. I kind of just found a comfortably hard pace and tried to stick with it. My overall average pace was 6:21, but it definitely was faster on the initial downhills compared to the uphills at the end! My finishing time was 39:55. I’m happy to break 40, but I’m also a little mad at myself for not leaving it all out on the course. It certainly makes me want to run more shorter distances to have fun with the paces. 🙂

We drove back up to my parents’ house after the race to collect our baby. Before we left, we got in a fun boat ride with a sleepy baby and all ate lunch. Such a wonderful holiday with my wonderful family!

How do you know how much to push during races so that you don’t blow up or run too conservatively?

Race week and muscle tension

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Just got home from a wonderful vacation at the beach! 🏖️ It’s so fun to watch Cadence explore and push her limits.🌊 She definitely inherited her adventurous spirit from her daddy. ❤️ This morning we ran 3 miles to the petting zoo before hitting the road. 🚘 . . . I’ve gotten so much support from this community for still breastfeeding Cadence.👶 It’s been kind of interesting this week–as she pushed her limits more, she also asked to nurse more frequently.🍼 I love to think that the security she feels with us has helped her explore her world more. 🐣 Also, while I’m being transparent, Cadence exclusively nurses from one side. 😬 #lopsidedforlife #toddleropinions #21monthsold #extendedbreastfeeding #breastfeeding #normalizebreastfeeding #hiltonheadisland #seapines #motherrunner #womensrunningcommunity #womenrunning

I am running the Peachtree Road Race 10k on Tuesday, July 4th with my husband, so I’m trying to be careful not to burn my legs out before the race while also marathon training. I’m also trying to run easy enough to protect my shins. Needless to say, I don’t have big expectations for this race, but I’m really looking forward to it! I haven’t run many shorter distances, so I’m not really sure what to expect for pace. I also have felt a bit slower lately (did I really run a sub 3 marathon in January?!), so it will be fun to run fast if I can!

My last two weeks have been a little derailment in training, and I haven’t run my usual intervals. I did a long run on Thursday, which is not the best strategy for a speedy race, but it’s good for my marathon goal. There’s something called muscle tension, and Steve Magness has a good article here explaining muscle tension and how to achieve it. I’ve been cross training and running easy with a stroller this week, but I did get in some strides while we were at the beach. While strides aren’t the top of the list for creating muscle tension, I’m just going to have to hope that it counts enough for a good race!

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Do you try to run any special workouts before fast races? Have you ever had your training fall off the tracks like mine has?!

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?