Setbacks, Blood Tests and a Dose of Optimism

It’s officially outdoor track season for 2016. Admittedly the past 3 weeks have not been the best for me, unfortunately experiencing a few setbacks just when I want to ramp up the training to get after my goals. For a good 5 months, my training and body was feeling pretty amazing. Following my 10,000m track debut and 15K road race in mid March – the entire family picked up a string of illnesses. I was risking it as I was extremely sleep deprived at the starting line of both of these events. I then messed up further by initially not taking the whole being sick thing serious. No more whining, I should know better from past experiences. My Achilles’ heel has always been not recognizing when I’ve pushed to far and accepting that rest is best. I am lucky to stay away from injuries, but I’ve had far too many run ins with lengthy viruses. It had been a couple years since I went through this, so I had forgotten that I am not invincible.

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Spending quality time with the kids WHILE running

My coach quickly recognized this and reminded me it’s ok to stop being super hero mom/runner. No more seeking for short cuts and sneaking back to workouts, it’s time to chill.  This was not what I wanted to blog about but maybe it can help you. Bad mistake. Do not repeat. If you’re sick, count a few days as a loss, take off from work AND running, then move on.  Exact same realization with injuries. This did not happen. So here I am typing. The good news, I do know I have a solid base behind me and all is not lost. I just need to turn this around and get my energy back before I can continue forward. Even if I do face a huge loss in fitness, I will venture on and pick up the pieces from where I left off. I compete for the pure love of it, so I’m not afraid to show my cards in a race, regardless if I’ve taken a few steps back.

A few weeks ago, I  went in to get my blood tested. Getting to know what’s going on the inside of my body is a necessary piece to couple my training. All runners (and athletes) should care. If you don’t know some of your numbers, you could be missing out on a very important piece that training doesn’t exactly state (other than “I’m tired or slow or sick”—which can often creep up at the exact time you want to be feeling your best).

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With my biggest goals just around the corner, it was a good time to check in to see how I was doing.

For my bloodwork I use InsideTracker. The new “High Performance” blood test checks 10 biomarkers – all vital for optimal run performance. This test can be done locally (the company is based in Boston), no fasting required, and costs $250 out of pocket. Not a bad price considering most Vitamin D tests alone are $150+.

These 10 markers include:
Testosterone (sex function/athletic performance)

Cortisol (stress indicator)

Vitamin D (bone health/energy)

Ferritin (iron storage)

Hemoglobin (oxygen transporter)

Vitamin B12 (energy production/muscle repair)

HsCRP (inflammation)

ALT (liver enzyme)

SHBG (sex hormone)

Creatine Kinase (muscle health)

The best part is that the results let you know where you stand – not just as a healthy human but as an ATHLETE. I have heard many stories of iron-poor runners having no idea they are at a severe disadvantage with a Ferritin in the teens. Their doctor returned the test results saying “Yep you’re normal. Great work”. Wrong. Huge red flag. Big time problem for optimal iron storage which is vital for blood to carry oxygen to demanding muscles. An optimal ferritin would be 60 or higher. Anything under 30 and you are not doing yourself any favors when it comes to running well.

You wouldn’t know if you blindly trust your health care provider. InsideTracker is a team of experts specializing in sports medicine, who do the work for you so you don’t have to research what an optimal level is and how to correct any deficiencies.

Along with your results you get easy to follow lifestyle and diet recommendations based on personal preferences (vegan, vegetarian, celiac, etc). A new feature help[s you set goals and give you reminders. So here’s what I discovered in my last test:

Optimized

I could use some work. My sickness accurately reflected this. My “at risk” biomarker was my CRP which measures inflammation. My body has been going on 2 weeks of fighting off illness with no success, so this was no surprise. If I want to run well, I can’t keep skimping on sleep. I can’t do it alone. I need to team up with my husband to tackle the sleepless nights. I also need to quit trying to cheat the system. I obviously need to back off in training and there’s no way around it. It doesn’t matter how driven I am, I only have 1 body to work with, and at this point, I have to listen. My goals will have to be altered, knowing it may take another week to fully recover and my race times will reflect this big hiccup in my training.

With my weakened immune system and extra stresses from being a mom that don’t always give me the optimal rest, I need to be on my A-game at all times with eating well. This means real, whole foods over any quick fix sugar cravings. Quality proteins and tons of produce. InsideTracker gave me a ton of ideas that I normally wouldn’t even look for at the grocery store.

InsideTracker was also quick to mention that I could use a consistent dose of Probiotics. Kombucha and a supplement are now back on my daily list of musts. With the lack of sun in Portland- I need to stay on top of making Vitamin D supplementation a priority. Luckily the sun has actually come out the past few weeks- so I have been taking full advantage and getting outside! Staying hydrated is also a big factor with the weather warming up and continuing to provide for my 6 month old. I will now be introducing smoothies back into my routine.

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Iron levels. Less than ideal. Again. Great to know. This has been a lifelong struggle since I first heard that I should get tested as a runner. It is one reason I had my absolute worst years of race results when I was subjected to altitude in my own home (during Alan’s final years as a professional runner 2010-11, our house was set to a high level using altitude machines; a note that the elevation was set to his body’s level of adaptation and not mine). Iron = helping your blood transport oxygen. Low iron =  a big handicap in handling training, and obviously a hinderance living at high altitudes where less oxygen is available.

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 11.44.47 AMI know from my past that keeping healthy iron levels while training is a battle. I need to rethink my iron supplements. I do a pretty decent job at getting in the recommended foods. Time to get back to the liquid form (found at most pharmacies over the counter for under $10), which seems to help my teammates greatly. I will trust their success to hopefully boost my ferritin and hemoglobin back to acceptable levels.

Surprise!!! My cortisol level was optimized. My last test during pregnancy at the end of my first trimester, it was through the roof. I would say I am a much more stressed pregnant chick than having the baby on the outside, so that was a positive reflection of reality. Having the outlet of running has helped me tremendously in having a balance in stress levels and being a mom/having a job and training.

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Once again, my test was eye opening and a necessary reality check at a crucial point in my season. I would highly recommend the test! Check out their website if you’re curious at how InsideTracker operates. If you opt to get the test, use the code HPJULIA to get entered to win a free Ultimate Plan (testing 30 biomarkers).

In terms of my season, setbacks happen. I am fortunate that my job doesn’t depend on my athletic performances, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care any less. The last thing I want to do is start having a huge pity party. I’ll admit it’s hard to avoid though, when things take an unexpected turn in the wrong direction. I’m keeping my focus on the many other great things in my life that are unrelated to my running performance. I also know I’m not alone. Just off the top of my head I can think of a dozen other athletes with bigger goals who are also fighting setbacks. It’s all part of the game. It makes the winning moments even sweeter.

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Post-race at Club Nationals back in December (11 weeks postpartum– 21:29 for 6K); pre-race included jogging the course with baby Paula

I do plan to get out and race regardless of if I’m in PR shape or not. The event I’m focusing on is the steeplechase. My A goal would be a sub 9:52 by June to qualify for the Olympic Trials (no I didn’t say anything about the actual Olympics – BIG DIFFERENCE). My B goal – just run the best I can with what I got. This could be a 10:00 or maybe slower. Either way, I am extremely excited to race my favorite event! My first one lined up is looking to be Oregon Relays at Hayward Field. I live for the everyday workouts, race experiences and am not afraid to embarrass myself. Love the process, the outcome will reflect that. A PR is always great, but the real joy is just having the ability to be out there. Every setback gives more appreciation of the good days. I’m confident I’m a few good days away. Thanks for sharing in my journey by reading my blog!!

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Pictured above – a lethal fight against sickness — probiotics, raw garlic, kombucha, vitamin C and a day off

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3 Day Look at one Runner’s Diet

A follow up to my last blog “Can You Be A Skinny Runner and Eat?” – here is Part 2 – My diet for 3 days.

What do I eat? It’s a question I often get asked. If young female distance runners were to shadow me for an entire week, I’m sure they would be surprised. Not saying everyone has a problem, but there are far too many who under-eat. When you don’t eat enough, it leads to some big time problems long term. Some girls just don’t know. Unfortunately some of the top girls on each team are far from role models in terms of nutrition. Teammates start looking at how each other eat. If one girl is extremely restrictive with calories and she happens to be running well (during that season), the others will start measuring up to her diet. Sadly, many girls feel guilty if they are eating just a standard meal. I am blogging to provide a resource so girls can see that to run well (for years), you need to eat A LOT! If you eat by listening to your body’s natural hunger cues, it doesn’t mean you’re going to just automatically gain weight. Instead of seeing food as an enemy you need to outsmart, the mindset needs to change that food = fuel.

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As a college athlete at UW-La Crosse, I was fortunate to have amazing teammates and a healthy atmosphere  (photo from 2005 cross country)

I am completely individual and my calorie requirements could be completely different than another athletes. This isn’t suppose to be a roadmap to “what you should eat”, but more an inside look at how I do things. For that reason I did not add up calories. It would be a tedious process and not exactly worth the time. If you notice – I eat often. As mentioned in blog 1, my stomach is rarely empty. I rarely get to the point where I’m starving. My method is simple- eat a variety and listen to my body’s cravings. Here’s a really cheesy comparison: I eat often so like a car my gas tank is full – ready to speed away and safely make it to my next destination – not risking the “I’m running out of gas” on the side of the road where you embarrassingly have to call AAA.

To add to the food I ate, I also included time of day, activities I’ve done and sleep. A side note that I have a 5 month old and still am breastfeeding (not completely exclusive; but a minimum of 5 x per day; average every ~4 hours or pump). This adds another ~500 calories to my deficit.

Breakfast & post run are my critical fueling periods. Another part of my plan – going to bed with a little extra so I don’t wake up famished. I often have a big snack before bed if I know I will be running long/hard that next morning. I realize eating at night is less than ideal, but often I do not get to “relax” and actually enjoy my meals during the day, and 10pm is when I sometimes get to “chill”, so I eat at that time. This also debunks the myth if you eat after 9pm it turns straight to fat. As a busy working mom, I am eating in the car; or other times one hand holding a sandwich, the other holding a baby.
On to the point– My Diet for 3 Days

DAY 1 -Saturday 3.12.2016
PRE RACE DAY

Sleep in. (10:30-1:45; 3-9:30- this here literally saved my race. I had not gotten that long of a stretch the entire month)

Breakfast – 9:45 AM
Water (won’t be listing this, but I drink a lot of this; and many  times add salt to my food to absorb the water)

Apple
¾ cup oatmeal cooked w/ 1 cup milk
blueberries and brown sugar topping
~2 Tbsp. peanut butter for dipping
12 oz coffee 

11:30 AM RUN 3 EASY miles plus 5 x Strides

UCAN (1 scoop)
applesauce
Supplements – B complex liquid, Proferrin iron (while preparing food on semi-empty stomach)

Lunch –  1:30 pm
¾ box of mac n cheese w/ coconut oil and milk and frozen peas
chicken maple sausage
salad w/ greens, zucchini, avocado & poppyseed dressing (full fat version)

Snacks 3:30-5

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Always have snacks available in car for post-run or emergency hunger!


Activity – Shopping at Trader Joes

Sweet Potato chips- Food should taste good
Orange
Beef brisket cracker sample
Picky bar

Dinner -6:15 pm
2.5 Egg
½ avocado
Rice w/ olive oil
Brocolli
Greek yogurt

Snack– 9 pm
Red Wine (4oz) and peanut M&Ms (a handful)
Cereal – Trader Joes Fruit Rings, Corn Flakes; 1/2 banana

Bedtime Attempt 10:30 –  baby awake

Snack- 11 pm
Bagel w jelly & butter

Baby duty til 12:00 (lose an hour – daylight savings)

Day 2 — Sunday 3/13
RACE DAY 

Sleep 12:15-4:45 am
4:50 – hop on True Form Runner treadmill for activation .75 miles

Pre-Race Breakfast – 5:15 am
1/2 cup Steel cut oats w milk & peanut butter
Banana
12 oz Americano – black

6:45 – Warm up 2.25 miles; drills/strides
4 oz Gatorade

7:30 AM Shamrock Portland 15K Race– 54:44 (1st female)race_2101_photo_32435953

Gu/water immediately at finish; cool down 1 mile (too cold to run more)
Apple
Kind protein bar

Snack – 10 AM
Starbucks egg & cheese sandwich

walk 1.5 miles to car

Lunch – 11:30
3 pumpkin pancakes (butter, syrup, blueberries)
UCAN (1/2 scoop)

Nap 1:15-2

Snack – 2:15pm
Cereal (cheerios, granola), 2% milk

nap 2:45-4:15 

Snack – 4:30
carrots & hummus
chocolate covered granola bar

General Strength exercises– core/pushups/pullups (25 min)

OJ (Proferrin)

Dinner – 7:30 pm
Roasted red potatoes (~3 medium size w/ sea salt and olive oil)
Mac n cheese (1/2 serving cleaning kid’s plate)
~4 oz chicken breast
Broccoli
big salad (ranch dressing) – tomatoes, spinage, zucchini

Snack –  9pm
TJ morning glory muffin
dark chocolate (2 squares)

Cereal – panda puffs, honey bunches of oats, 1/2 banana, 2% milk

Day 3 -Monday 3/14

Sleep – 10-11; 12:30-8 (saved by my husband)

Breakfast -8:30 AM
Orange
(3/4 c) Oatmeal; cranberries, 1/2 banana, 2 tbsp peanut butter, milk (1 c)

11:00 am – Run w/ stroller (harder than I’d liked)- 62 min (7.5 miles)

UCAN (1/2 scoop)
Kind Bar – dark chocolate cherry
OJ (liquid B complex vitamins, proferrin)

Lunch –  12:45IMG_3042
Cinnamon raisin bagel, slice cheese, egg
Spinach, tomato, zucchini
Kettle chips w/ ketchup

Snack* – 3 PM
Big chocolate chip cookie 
½ caf Americano

*regret* – wanted to nap so badly; no option- still paying for lack of sleep race day. Caved and had more caffeine/junk.  (in hindsight – tea & healthy snack would have been much better)

Snack – 5 PMIMG_3052
Apple

Dinner -6 PM
Rice, chicken breast w/ salt & coconut oil, craisins
Spinach, green beans

Snack – 10 PM
Orange
Cereal – Fruity O’s, Honey Bunches of oats w/ blueberries and 2% milk

 

Next week I will get an even greater look into how my current nutrition is panning out. I have blogged about Inside Tracker in the past, and I’m getting my blood taken  again. It’s been over a year since my last one, so this will give me great insight on important markers of health that help performance including Ferritin, Hemoglobin, Vitamin D, Testosterone, Cortisol and more.

Any deficiencies will point me in the right direction in terms of which foods I could be eating more of, and what to do less of (ahem… cookies, coffee, sleep)! Check it out here –High Performance Test – $249

Use the code HPJULIA and get entered to win a FREE ULTIMATE TEST (winner drawn in 2 weeks)!

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Can you be a “Skinny” Runner and Eat?!

Attention (young) women runners – you don’t EVER have to diet to find your ideal race weight. I would highly encourage you to avoid it at all costs. A simple start of being more restrictive can dangerously ruin your running career and beyond if it were to spiral into a full blown eating disorder. Warning, this blog is a bit of a rant. I don’t care. I have a message to send. 

I wrote this to give insight to women who are looking for some form of role model in terms of nutrition and body composition and cannot seem to find it close to home –whether it be unhealthy teammates or roommates; or just lack of answers when it comes to a Google search! 

This is a 2 part blog. 

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A mini meal at 2pm to hold me over til dinner at 6 

 Part 1 How I personally have found balance and success with nutrition, and how I gauge my level of health as someone with a naturally lean composition.

Part 2-  A completely open honest look at my diet over the course of days – to give a glimpse of just how much food it takes to live sustainably and run well. And what do you know – I never count calories and rarely measure food, but for this I may make an exception. This will be 3 days noting my activity level—and to add more insight this will include a 15K race on day 2.  

Despite my 5’10 and 124 lb frame, I DO EAT! I am completely individual and want to encourage YOU READING to drop all comparisons. My body is totally unique, in that most of my height comes from my legs (when I sit I am on the same level as someone 5’3) – last time I checked a torso looks to weigh much more than freakishly long tibias :)  I hate saying this but I constantly have to justify the fact that I don’t have a problem. It’s under the category of “skinny people problems”… hence another reason I’m writing this blog. OK let’s begin Part 1.

3 crucial elements with how food and I work together:

  • Consistency of constant calories in
  • Moderation in balancing “healthy” foods with “junk”
  • Listening to my body’s natural cues

When you see me from a far, you might think, “yeah I’m sure she’s on some restricted diet” or she’s got some issues with eating. Far from the truth. In order to keep up with the training, I need to eat A LOT OF FOOD. Not just the super healthy colorful fruits, vegetables and all, but also the stuff that isn’t always deemed “healthy”. Allowing myself to indulge a little more in “junk” has in fact has helped with a huge turnaround in my running. Balance is of course key. I can’t be eating whole pies, but I sure as heck am worse off when I under-eat.

I admit I can try very hard to do everything to eat right, train right, etc.  I, however have found that when you are trying too hard to be a perfectionist (especially in terms of nutrition) and training at a high level- you fall into trouble with underestimating your needs. Bottom line- no matter who you are – when your calories in consistently fall short of calories out, you run the risk of nutritional deficiencies, injuries, exhaustion and unnecessary weight loss. Eat only good “whole” foods ALL THE TIME, it gets tough to ever read your body’s hunger, as much of it is loaded with fiber.. making you feel full and going immediately through your system.

I have been there, when my iron stores tank and I’m “light” for me. Anytime I get in the sub 120s, my body is on edge and I just don’t recover as well.

Hate me for saying this but I can get skinny fast. It’s a curse and a gift. Thank genetics and probably more genetics (and obviously my lifestyle) along with the what my husband makes fun of me for. “You never eat an entire box of cookies or a whole pizza”. Yes, pretty true, it doesn’t happen. I never get that hungry because I am constantly fueling. I regularly (typically daily) have treats, but I am highly content in limiting it to 1 serving, rather than Alan in whom I’m seen take down an entire box of Entemann’s cookies after a huge meal. We joke about it how I go all out when I finish one of those 2 serving cookies or when having a craving I will say “I can’t wait to have oatmeal”.

I can easily let cookies, cake, donuts, you name it tempt me for weeks and at most I’ll eat ~1 each day, which easily fits into being lost in the caloric deficit running provides. If those same items were in Alan’s sight, there’s no way they would be there for long.

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 “How can you only eat HALF?!” Actually in this case I think I ate the whole thing.. all ~ 1200 calories worth of ice cream and candy goodness

When it comes to meal time though, I’m a plate clearer. I am great about eating often and very particular about ensuring I’m getting calories when my body needs it the most (breakfast, post run). I avoid that “metabolism shut down” which comes from the “I’m so starving I just ate so fast and now feel so sick I can’t move” thing. So yes, I’m blessed, but I also do the right things to keep my fuel in going to good use. My metabolism is cranking which equates for staying lean despite constant food going in.

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Enroute to a new indoor mile PR – 3 months postpartum 

Post baby I have intentionally been keeping an extra 3-5 lbs on – and ensuring I don’t lose it. This is for a number of reasons — one being performance – since I have been feeling AWESOME at my current composition, two- better physical health while feeding baby and the third shouldn’t be but it is – social reasons.

I mentioned the word “curse” because in today’s world it is not always the most popular thing to be the “skinny person”. It’s as if you need to constantly justify at every situation involving food that you do eagerly partake. Skinny shaming is real. Some great worth-while reads:
BridgetMalcolm

Victoria Secret Model is not Anorexic

Steph Rothstein Bruce on Skinny Shaming

 “Losing weight” is on top of many people’s to-do lists. If you don’t have any to lose then you’re almost a freak. It can be extremely awkward in certain situations that I’m sure I can relate to how an obese person feels.

So what if you’re not eating right or could realistically benefit from dropping weight?

The only solution to change is intelligence and patience. Smart habits developed over time that compliment your training will result in the optimal you. View your body as a machine; food as fuel, not an enemy or something you need to outsmart. If you are caught in an eating disorder or feel it’s the only way to change, you are flirting with an extremely dangerous thing that is far from a long-term solution. This blog was extremely powerful in how one woman’s quest to drop weight to run well in college ended up destroying her. MUST READ HERE– My Deal With the Devil

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Looking mean & lean (photo 2014- pre pregnancy #2)

If my outward appearance may not convince you on credibility that YOU NEED TO EAT A LOT and OFTEN just as I DO, then women runners pay attention:

Despite having a BMI that comfortably falls in the “underweight” category, I have yet to lose a period (other than during pregnancy/breastfeeding) for the 16 years I’ve been training. I have also had 2 complication free pregnancies; both in which I got pregnant in the 2 possible times it could have happened. (We did not “try”). If I did some serious intentional dieting to maintain a lean physique – I assure you the period would be the first thing to go.

Secondly I have never had a stress fracture. Those 2 things are the tell tale signs in restrictive eating and running. (Not saying that if both have happened you are guilty of it- but it would be highly unlikely you could avoid both with disordered eating and running 60+ mile weeks with intense training and racing).

That’s my big warning to any readers – Are you missing your period? Have you dealt with constant stress fractures? You likely are not eating NEARLY ENOUGH and your body is shutting down on you. Maybe you will never look like a Kenyan male runner, but maybe your genetic code will physically not allow it!

Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 3.12.59 PMBesides – Paul Chelimo (2nd place at 3000m USATF indoors this past weekend) was drinking straight up buttermilk the night before his race. You think he counts calories? I think not. He knows a secret – food is fuel. It is the secret to running success –knowing that having a little extra can go great lengths into becoming your race day or workout weapon. You don’t fuel, you run out of gas. You out of gas = looking nice and lean but getting your butt kicked on the track. That is if you’re not injured and can actually even compete.

If you happen to think you can outsmart adequate nutrition in the way many skeletal collegiate champions who come/go like the wind- think again. Disordered/restrictive eating has a short time frame where you can “successfully” run on fumes. You may drop a whole bunch of time short term, but you’re only 1 bone break away from disaster. Long term success is powered by stuff like buttermilk when you’re dropping 80+ mile weeks. You don’t obsess and just listen to your body. Paul’s body was loving that buttermilk. Yours might be craving ice cream. Hard training requires calories. Always a balance, but rarely a specific formula you can plug into, as each person’s unique body burns and fuels at different rates.

chelimo

Doubtful these 2 guys “try” hard to look like this.  TWO words- GENETICS & RUNNING  (Chelimo on left) photo by Fox Sports Arizona

Bottom line, this first blog post was meant to give insight on how my personal physique is completely unique. This should help build credibility, so you know I practice what I preach. It should also give you assurance that not every “skinny” person you see is hiding an eating disorder. I eat, run, repeat; and my body has become very efficient in both disciplines. It is possible to look the part as a runner and fit into society without living on salad alone. You will see that when I give you an accurate picture of my diet in part 2.

I got some eating to do….. tune in soon!

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An old pic but always a favorite — Cafe Yumm bowls are the BOMB

 

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New Year, New Me

Since the family upgrade from 1-2 kids, my blogging has suffered. I’m going to make an honest attempt to come back. What I can promise- I won’t blog as LONG, which might be a good thing:) It might not look as pretty, but I want to get back on it. So here’s a start…

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It’s been over 4.5 months since Paula came into the world, and I am still wondering how this many humans have come to exist. Props to big families, you stun and amaze me. It’s been fun, but it’s been a grind. A worth while grind. What that all translates to is: I really miss my sleep. Yes a bit selfish, but that’s on the basic level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid.

MHN

Aside from a lucky 5-6 hour stretch from time to time, it’s been a solid 4.5 months since I can confidently put my head on the pillow and know I will not be disturbed until I either see the sun or hear an alarm. In recent weeks, 90 minute interruptions have been the reg. “Finally she’s sleeping” – a quote I just heard from 3 year old Joanie as I’m blogging now.

Unfortunately she’s not that easy baby. When she cries it’s often and rarely anything with an easy fix (food, sleep, love). It’s all related to her underdeveloped sensitive digestive system; which would place her in the category of  “colic” -according to wikipedia –  defining it perfectly:

A form of pain that starts and stops abruptly. It occurs due to muscular contractions of a hollow tube (colon, etc.) in an attempt to relieve an obstruction by forcing content out. It may be accompanied by vomiting and sweating. Types include:

  • Baby colic, a condition, usually in infants, characterized by incessant crying

stelmo
St Elmo- You have been summoned. (He is the patron saint of Colic)

When people see her smiling and think back to their own kids, many say “Awww I miss this age so much, they are so great”.. well your kid may have been super great, but in all honesty, the struggle with Paula is real. When she’s not cramping up, she’s unbelievable and happy. But more often than not, she’s hurting. (However it is IMPROVING which is very exciting).

It’s tough but much easier to handle after going through it once before. I know she’ll be better once she can FINALLY handle digestion, but until then, it’s enjoy the good moments, pull out all stops to distract her from the pain, or feed her til it works itself out. Joanie had this same problem, which was exceptionally tough from 3-7 months. It was only then Joanie could start to handle solid foods. Paula has been dealing with this at a high level from 2 days on.

The only way moms can get through this must be the extra HGH you get from the pregnancy, which accelerates my ability to use sleep to its ultimate advantage. This obviously which can help in the running department, but most benefits are canceled out when the “Physiological” need of sleep is unavailable. Why dad’s get hit even harder. They don’t get these magical hormones.

Blog 1 of 2016 complete! My next one is all about how I’m balancing training, work and family while still going after some big goals.. I’m extremely optimistic and beyond thankful for the progress I’ve had since resuming running at 4 weeks postpartum. More to come soon!

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My Home Birth Experience – Paula Vivienne Webb

About midway through this pregnancy we made the decision to have a home birth. It ended up being an awesome choice – no regrets and feel it was the best decision that matched exactly what we wanted. Thankful to have a very low risk pregnancy and a successful labor/delivery in a birthing center with Joanie in Virginia (outside the hospital), I knew that I could handle another drug-free, natural birth. 

A home birth did not mean Alan would be the one delivering. I had a midwife and 2 doulas with a back up plan to head to St Vincent hospital in case of any emergency (a 5 min drive). It also did not mean I would be having my baby in my bathtub. Ha. (Those are the 2 most frequently asked questions). I had the option to get a birthing tub brought into our house, but based on my experience chilling in the water during labor #1 (and bringing minimal relief); I opted to just save the bath for some other time.

 It also meant that I had no plans to “induce” even if I had gone past the 42 week mark. I trusted my body knew when the timing would be right when baby wanted to arrive. (A healthy pregnancy range is between 38-43 weeks; yet most Drs/women get extremely anxious at any point after 40 weeks and most babies are planned to be induced before 41 weeks; which in my opinion leads to more c-sections and less than fully cooked babies coming into the world). Either way, I’ll hold off on sharing any more opinions and get to the point of this blog – – the day I went into labor and how another human is now part of our family!!

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I woke up on Thursday, September 24 feeling ready to take on the world. The day before I had a dramatic drop in energy, and huge increase in appetite. With work responsibilities slowing down and the obvious fact that any day would be the DAY this baby would be here, I happily listened to my body.. sleep, eat, repeat and took a nice fat day off from exercise. It was one of those extremely rare days I had little desire/urge to work out. I took that as sign number 1 the end of pregnancy 2 was near.

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This day however, my energy was sky high! At 11:30 a.m. I headed to the backyard to get in a little mix of cardio and weights. My number one cardio activity of choice had recently become the jump rope, which surprised a lot of people thinking about a 40 week pregnant woman “jumping” around. A typical session – jump up to 10 min in a row, do 3-4 other weight activities or a set of a minute burpees; cut down the next interval to 8 min- 6 min-4 min-2 min; varying from 2 styles of jumps- double leg and “running” – sometimes actually going forward and running (went up to the half mile mark and back at Leif a week prior). My body would get a huge cardio workout and the equivalent of the “running” portion was as if I was going 12 min miles with the added challenge on my arms from turning the rope. The double leg jumps then made it more plyometric and giving my calves a good burn.

4 hours before I went into labor, my workout looked like this–workoutlaborDuring the jump rope portion I was feeling VERY crampy and was pretty excited/confident these cramps were basically the start of the real thing. I only did a total of 10 minutes jump rope broken up as 4 min/2 min intervals in between weights. I had plenty of energy for more, but told myself to chill out knowing I need to “save my energy”. The entire session took me 35 minutes.

A little TMI but labor as you know entitles a baby coming out of your body, so if you’re reading this hopefully you likely have some maturity to know the steps that typically happen before the baby comes out.. Right after the workout headed into the bathroom and happily saw the mucus plug – thank you jump rope -(yes there’s the TMI part and grossest thing I’ll ever say on this blog; well no promises I’m talking about a birth here) but I was like, YEP this is FINALLY happening!!!  Stronger Braxton Hicks (pre-labor cramps) were occurring, but nothing that I considered “labor” as I showered and headed out for a massage with my amazing friend Karlee Coffey (highly recommended for athletes in Portland area!)

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Early in labor , handling this stage just fine

At 3:00 I drove to the high school xc practice and immediately got the suspicion that labor had started. By 3:30 I started my watch to time these “light/semi uncomfortable” but regular contractions and found they were coming between 5-6 minutes. Head coach Rebecca laughed as she found out I was timing what I thought was the start of labor and was like “Go home!” I didn’t argue and headed out. My last minute nesting instincts must have kicked in (which I felt were really lacking the last few months with the amount of other activities/distractions going on) – that I stopped at a grocery store to pick up some last minute items, and by 4:30 as I was checking out – with the intensity amplifying – knew I was going to have a baby by my 41 week date (Friday September 25) – which happened to be within the same day of when I had Joanie! I only underestimated how much faster this labor would progress. My first one lasted 16 hours; I figured it I was lucky I’d go no less than 10.

Once home I was craving a bowl of cereal, so I dominated some Frosted Mini Wheats mixed with Trader Joe’s version of Froot Loops (all natural people!) and a banana. 5:30 Alan returned from practice after picking up Joanie at daycare. I made Joanie some chicken and mac n cheese with peas for dinner and then went on to vacuum the entire house. The timing had increased to less than 3 minutes between contractions, and the pain factor up to a 6 of 10. I basically wasn’t hungry for dinner now and figured I’d have plenty of time for that later to give me energy for the anticipated long night ahead of me. 6 hours into my other labor I remember eating a bagel with peanut butter and jelly, an energy drink and chips.

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Last only child hug from JoJo definitely scared because I was in labor

by 7:30 I was hoping Alan could hustle up with helping me get Joanie to bed as the intensity went from a 6 to an 8 when the contractions hit; to the point I had to hide in the other room so Joanie wouldn’t freak out as I braced myself for the 60 seconds of intense pain. I then opted for eating my dinner; and managed to eat a bowl of that mac n cheese and a coconut water in between the contractions.  I told Joanie we all had to go to bed early because “mommy needs to get a lot of rest because her tummy hurts and the baby is going to come out by morning”. I got my supplies set and texted the midwife that my contractions were now coming every 2 minutes.

8:00 I was then on the 9 of 10 for pain/twisting a knife in me as I braced myself on the yoga ball/ hurt zone. Alan finished up baths and began books. I told him make sure they were short books because I needed him!!! I called the midwife and told her she should DEFINITELY come now. Joanie was scared as she caught sight of me during the start of a contraction as she wanted a hug and story from me. Wasn’t gonna happen, so Alan knew she needed to be in bed/door closed now. She missed her nap at daycare that day, so was pretty wiped and didn’t argue that it was bed time. Head coach Rebecca had offered to come get Joanie but with this labor conveniently progressing as Joanie was about to crash for 10+ hours, we opted to keep her home.

By 8:30 the team had arrived, Joanie’s door was shut with white noise makers blasting in her room and outside of her door. The pain factor 10 of 10; calling on God to have mercy on all women in labor and forgive my lack of effort for being a slacking Christian. Now with my support team here and Alan ready to give me all the attention needed, I was so in-comprehensive I couldn’t even tell who was who. Last labor, I had been able to listen to music, go for walks, try some squatting, bouncing on the birth ball and just being present with Alan cheering me on. Now less than a minute between intervals, the only thing that I could do was bend over gripping a pillow face down trying not to scream or curse. I was successful on that until about 9:30; then it was just a world of pain and intensity of my body shaking, no “break” between the contractions.

My doula Amanda was able to successfully get the baby’s heart rate ONE time; it would have been virtually impossible for me to be still to get checked on how dilated I was at any point after their late arrival. 9:45 I started to have the strong feeling that I had to go to the bathroom (not number 1)…. I finally got myself to sit on the toilet between contractions, tried to “push”; and instead of going to the bathroom — it was then when my water that broke – which happened to be so convenient! While in the bathroom I took a GU ready to get onto the final stage of labor. 10:16 I headed back to my room- this was it; go time- time to push this baby out. On hands and knees, during next strong contractions I pushed with all of my strength… thinking the sooner you get this over with, the sooner the absolute most uncomfortable/painful part will happen – having a baby pass thru your you-know-what. I had heard in a hypnobirthing class, that some women actually found pleasure when the baby was passing thru. WHAT?! How big was their you-know- what?! It was by far the most unnatural/intensely painful things I have ever experienced on both occasions. In 14 minutes of pushing (10:31), she was here. She looks a lot like Joanie did in her first week (a little old man)😉

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Official Stats:
Name: Paula Vivienne (yes some influence from Paula Radcliffe; middle name Alan’s dad’s grandma)
Date: September 24, 2015 (40 weeks, 6 days)
Time of birth: 10:31 p.m. (labor 7 hours)
Weight: 8 lbs, 14 oz (90%)
Height: 21.5 inches (95%)
Head: 14.5 inches (90%)- thanks Alan😉
*Joanie – 7 lbs 15, 20.5 inches, head 13.5; 41 weeks; labor 16 hours

Pregnancy Weight gain: 25 lbs
Weight loss as of September 25, 2015 (8 hour post labor): 14 lbs
Belly measurement 2 days prior to labor: 35 centimeters (interesting because usually this equals the weeks you are pregnant); both Joanie and her relatively same measurement.

 

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30 minutes after Paula’s birth


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Paula 2 days old


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Joanie 2 days old


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Joanie meets Paula!

Most surprising for me was how fast I bounced back and lack of wear and tear compared to the first labor experience. I was WRECKED after Joanie’s birth. Hip pain (6 months limiting running) and pubic bone pain (over a year). I could barely walk for up to a week.  Immediately after delivering, I could walk around, like nothing had happened. 5 days postpartum I definitely don’t feel like I’m up for running, but doing functional strength exercises and walking I am having no problems! The hardest challenge now has not been my recovery, but baby Paula’s digestive system. Long story short, she has been constantly struggling to digest after every single meal, so its been a long long 3 days since my milk supply has changed and she has been coping to handle it. Any time she is not in an upright/pressed against you position within 3 hours of eating (even then) it is almost guaranteed cramping and crying. Prayers definitely appreciated as it has been painful to watch her struggle. I’ve been looking at diet, and so far going on day 2 of no dairy, no beans (including soy), limited acidic foods, and definitely nothing spicy. The sacrifice of that feels like nothing compared to hearing her cry. On to round 2 of parenting.. wish us luck!

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Stay As Long As You Can

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Big time life changing status is about to happen. We are ~11 weeks away from adding another life form into the family. Sleep as I now know it will abruptly end and a cuteness/instinctual factor will take over my heart and power me through the long nights and tiring days. My admittedly selfish habits will have to take a back seat to being mom to 2, notably one who cannot even hold its own head up and likely cause me a very sore arm. I also will admit, I’m not really ready.

I never thought I’d say this, but in round 2 I am honestly semi- enjoying the fact that pregnancy takes so dang long. Had I been on the injury/non-running status like last pregnancy, my feelings would likely change, but with being able to enjoy some quality workouts and runs at least 3 times a week up until now (granted at far less than I’d ideally like), helps my balloon belly situation tremendously.

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What I’m most afraid of isn’t coming back into shape or getting back into running after pregnancy, but how I will handle being a mom of a newborn once again. I know my priorities will completely shift and regardless of my drive and desire to train, compete, or be a force in the workplace, I will get pulled hard by mother nature in putting all my priorities into this new baby and my current 3 year old Joanie. (Which obviously and rightfully should happen!) That does not mean, however, that I will become a slave to being mom and have to pull all the weight. I fully intend to continue to do what I do, with the big time support of my husband Alan.

First pregnancy, you have no idea what to expect with a newborn, regardless of how much self-educating and research you do; and assume that you will somehow figure it out and “learn as you go”. My mom always said, “God only gives you what you can handle.” I guess those statements are true, but it is a swift butt whooping and at some points extremely painful process as it is happening. If first time pregnant moms could experience some of that pain, they might cherish their quiet, feeling fat and awkward time to a much greater degree. Overall message: being a new parent can be ROUGH.

What I’ve found is that I typically “figured out” Joanie just as she was finishing that stage and moving on to the next challenging unknown parental territory. Hopefully this is where “your second kid is always easier” statement comes in.. but then again I’ve also heard 2 is twice as hard. So who’s right?29weeks

There’s a reason why being pregnant is so unfair to your body. You lose most control, in a parallel way of how you’ll lose control of your life once baby enters. As awesome it is to create more life and have a family, you take on a massive responsibility that limits so much of the freedom you once had. I definitely have jealousy moments of my former self or my friends who don’t have this addition yet to their relationships or lifestyle. But I am also thankful about the fact I that I am able to accomplish so much more and multitask at an astronomical rate compared to my former self. I really feel I under performed in many categories, first as an athlete and mostly with my career. Before kids, I remember being bored. Since June 27, 2012, I have yet to have a single moment in a day really that I have experienced that feeling. I never have enough hours in a day, and each week flies by.. including while being pregnant, which seems crazy to me (thinking back to how slowly the first one dragged on).

So with baby number 2 making an entrance soon, maybe I need to readjust my attitude (a likely reason of why I’m writing this blog- to refresh my memory and get my mom mojo back up to par). I need to drop the fear that my second time around parenting won’t match up to baby’s needs. I WILL use all this real time experience and knowledge from recent baby #1 that can help eliminate some of the struggles I experienced from Joanie. While my first pregnancy was mentally tough to sit out from running and dealing with chronic throbbing hip pain day and night, it almost may not have compared to the mental and physical exhaustion I endured during Joanie’s 3-7 month age span.
Beyond that with Joanie, the past 2 years I have been semi spoiled. She still naps. I repeat. She still naps. Long and hard. She loves to sleep and rarely disputes bedtime (I promise you this was FAR FROM THE CASE her first year). Enter nanny Jan (please email me if you’d like her contact, as she works with families from afar). Beyond that I definitely do not have a perfect kid, but her toddler fits and fights are much easier to cope with when I am able to get consistent breaks and regular uninterrupted sleep.joanie3

Cute until she starts screaming (for demo click here and scroll to :45 sec in Dumb and Dumber annoying sound clip; “Bum and Bummer” according to Joanie)

Now I am nervous that with sleep taken away, even at best case scenario=a normal perfectly adjusted to the world infant who needs to eat every 3 hours round the clock; I will struggle to fit it all in. Next week I will find out if I am starting to take on new work (in the interview process), with the additional intent to put in quality training towards my 2016 run goals. My drive and desire to run my personal bests has not waned; and I will admit at this point some of these goals are lofty, as I am being optimistic. However, I am fully ready to adapt these goals if need be.  I do know, there will definitely be setbacks, less than ideal conditions to recover appropriately, and an even greater crunch to my free time, but I am vowing to approach my training intelligently. With all that I have on my plate, I have to prioritize the respect of my constraints and adapt. It is unrealistic to believe I can train like a professional athlete. I am going to train like the best me. For example: this will never equal 80-100 mile weeks; a better number to expect if I’m lucky will be the 40-50s.

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No matter what happens; return to the top of my game running or not, I am going to go in with a grateful attitude of enjoying the process of the training/racing that I can do, and make the most of it. I run because I love to do so, not out there to prove the world that I am the next great athlete. The only way I know how to run, is pushing myself hard, so why not race with the intent to get the best out of myself and enjoy it along the way.

Potential 2016 Goals (thru July): listed in order of greatest to least focus

A GOALS 
I somehow get it done; training/recovering and balancing family/work
B GOALS (if healthy enough to compete) Inadequate training due to time constraints/setbacks greater than foreseen; not going to cry about it!
Compete at steeplechase Olympic Trials; qualify for final; race my brains out Watch Olympic Trials, kick back, enjoy and cheer loudly for friends
Qualify for Olympic Trials (Portland Track Festival or late spring event) ~ sub 9:50 (pr is 9:55 – 11 months postpartum) Portland Track Festival-(if coach who is race director lets me in) steeplechase; season best (whatever that may be)
Outdoor- Oregon Relays, Oregon Twilight, Willamette Invite… find local races to compete at steeple (sub 10:20 opener) and go after 1500m/5000m PRs (4:31/16:49) Enter local Oregon track meets to run steeplechase; have fun; hopefully break 10:30; enjoyingly embarrass myself in the 1500 or 5000m
Spartan Sprint – late winter (Phoenix?)- get on podium (or win); do no more than 30 burpees (1 failed obstacle; vs the 5 I failed my first/only attempt which led to 4th place finish) Get over the 3 massive walls with authority. Smile as I’m doing burpees after blowing the crazy swinging monkey bar apparatus, still get in top 5. Compete fearlessly knowing I won’t have to worry about landing on baby (2015 race 7 weeks pregnant)
Reclaim Stroller 10K record with new baby (37:29 by Maggie Yount)- 6:01/mile pace (my first/only attempt was 38:15 – 6:15 mile pace)–find race in early spring Run it anyways sucking wind and see if I can beat my previous time; maybe I won’t even come close but try to stroller-chick as many “legit” looking male runners are possible.
Club XC Nationals in San Francisco- top 50-75 finish; (race is mid December; only 6 weeks after I resumed training if my body is ready to begin running 6 weeks postpartum) Die hard going up any hills (thankfully not at altitude – Bend race is in Feb!), finish last lap of course in what looks like me running in slow motion, get muddy and enjoy the weekend off baby duty with the team!

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Summary on Pregnancy #2
-Enjoying my summer despite body being taken over (up 17 lbs at 29 weeks; vs up 30 lbs at 29 weeks** first pregnancy) and greatly limited run training (but HEY I am still running; no need to remind me of what a gift that is in any shape/form)

-Running very limited mileage 3 days a week and most at a brisk pace to alleviate pelvic discomfort by getting more from my glutes/hamstrings/calves; definitely includes walk/stretch breaks (2 miles without stopping is my current record the last 6 weeks).

-Still jumping in low key run races (but unfortunately no steeplechase or obstacle races 😉)

-Supplementing my training with swimming, biking, and weights; intent to start doing more yoga

-Far less indigestion than previous pregnancy this late into game (but I could be eating my words; it got really bad last 10 weeks with Joanie- to the point I was only able to comfortably sleep sitting up .. that will be here very soon); no huge physical complaints beyond hip status when running

-Feeling less “fat” in round 2 and more appreciation for my body’s ability to take on another pregnancy; with the relief of knowing how easy it was to bounce back to pre-pregnancy fitness and size

-Vow to get my attitude in check for taking on a newborn and start getting excited to meet girl #2

**weight note- I did however end up gaining only a total of 30 lbs; I am on track to be the same at baby’s due date. Just doing so in a more gradual appropriate manner.

So there you have it…  follow me on Instagram to see my weekly ability to run progress, current workouts, baby belly updates, Alan’s post injury status and more!!

 

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Need for Speed

I’m happy to report that 19 weeks into a ~41 week pregnancy I am still happily running strong. I’ve hit up a lot of local races, with some mediocre times but all walking away satisfied with the effort brought forth. The limiting factor in overall speed in my longer 15-20K endeavors definitely had to be the overly hot Phoenix sun factor. 2 of my long races, I ended up walking at certain points, and felt my energy start to fade as I began to feel overheated past the midway points. The water stop soaking helped for some, but kept me at a 6:20-40 average on these hilly courses.

FlagstaffJoanie Now that I’m closing in on the halfway point, where my baby’s size has literally doubled in the last month alone and the temperatures continue to increase, I am getting away from longer stuff and zeroing in on the track. After 4 months of being track-less, I finally found an incredible facility at Scottsdale Community College. Well worth the 25 minute drive and close to some sweet coffee/breakfast shops.

About weeks 14-16 I was experiencing flashback to 2012 run-pregnancy feelings in my hips as my ability to fit in my jeans went out the window. I then went to purchase a support belt and since have backed off on running only 3-4 times a week (I swim, jump rope, elliptical and bike other days). I now rarely have pubic bone and other hip discomfort as I believe I’m getting used to my new body. I can still tell that with my body’s changes, I am running different with my center of gravity off, ineffective lower abs and added weight (up 9 pounds which may not seem impressive, but to me definitely noticeably heavy). To be safe I’m still sticking to running no more than 2 days in a row. I can definitely live with that.

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16 weeks pregnant and racing 5000m on the track (18:20)

 The one thing I haven’t dropped is the speed work sessions. I find that I enjoy these much more than a straight up run. I usually don’t have a workout really planned out until I am brainstorming on the car ride to the track. Most of the time it involves 400s because I honestly am cutting myself some slack training solo and pregnant;  and one lap at a time sounds the most fun. I feel I can go pretty hard and feel great knowing I can stop in less than 90 seconds to take all the recovery I need before I gear up for another.

Solo mile repeats on a hot track sound miserable right now, so I use my stroller running days to do “longer” hard efforts. The perk there is spending time with Joanie and always having a water/electrolyte source available right at my finger tips while not having the pressure to try to match my pre-pregnant times. These stroller runs, I mix it up, but a typical one may be – picking it up a mile (~6:45 pace) then jog a quarter- half mile and repeat for up to as long as I feel necessary for a good run (as long of course as Joanie is willing to participate). Joanie seems to enjoy this more and is always saying “faster Mommy, can we go really fast again?” She’s becoming more like a run partner as well with interesting conversations and tons of songs. The dirt surface slows us down some as well, so anything sub 7 feels like I’m hauling.

The quicker workouts have been helpful in recruiting more of my calves/hamstrings and less reliant on my tendency to overstride and overuse my hip flexors. My energy continues to be stable at an all time high (beyond levels outside of pregnancy) with a noticeable ability to quickly recover. I would have to say that sadly I feel better running pregnant than often I do when I’m just in a normal state training hard. The limited mileage no doubt helps, and lack of truly intense all out efforts as well. My blood test a few months ago revealed that my ferritin levels were at an all time high. I am so proud of the changes I’ve made in my diet after having a turn around point discovering InsideTracker last fall and this also has been a helping factor in the turn around in my energy. These are all reasons I have continued to put so much emphasis on running quality efforts through the pregnancy. I don’t even have any run related race goals until 2016, yet it is not a question whether or not I want to continue to push it on runs 2-3x/week.

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I have some dreams for when I return to competition in 2016, but know its a long road and will be much more challenging with my ultimate focus being on taking care of new baby and supporting my current family.

Immediate goal coming up in less than 5 months = healthy baby via natural birth, no drugs with a bring it-on pain attitude

If it’s anything like my experience with Joanie, birth #2 will likely will be incredibly tough making my little interval sessions I’ve been doing a complete joke. I actually don’t want the easy “almost had the baby in the car” labor. I know I will call upon the experience every time I start getting doubts when the lung burning sets in during my workouts and races- allowing me to push through to a greater degree I believed is possible. My last birth (Blog here) was something I never could have anticipated doing or completing. Yet without choice julia_webband with my husband’s support, I survived and it made me so much stronger. It took more than a year to even consider “if I could do it again” just based on the labor intensity factor. Yet I was completely thankful I got through it because I emerged with a new appreciation for what true pain is (and from that point on never got worked up about “can I handle” the upcoming interval session or race). I had break thrus not only in performances but also in my pre and mid-race mindset . So yes, with a good long final trimester of likely being half as active (or less) as I would like, I will hopefully be mentally and physically ready to test my limits through the event of giving birth.

In 2 weeks we will be back in Oregon and I plan to finally reunite with my teammates on runs and “workouts” (this may be keeping up with them for a 400 of their miles, etc). I may find one day I just can’t do what I did this week and am mentally prepared for the day my body says, “stop and stick to the pool”. Either way, I am embracing the present, enjoying the blood boosting benefits, extra sleep and testing my abilities of the 1 lapper one workout at a time!

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I’ve been posting much more detailed workouts and race reports on my Instagram (yes I admitted I have been bragging because I am as shocked that I’m still able to do ANY that resemble the former non-pregnant running me)- so if there’s any interest in further details, check there to see my progression through this pregnancy.  

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