For a man, being a father and a runner don’t always go together. In fact, finding time for running together with a career, partner, and social life can be as challenging for a guy as getting all their kids buckled into the minivan without anyone having to go potty — you think you’ve got it all under control, until everything comes crashing down. Ladies, do you ever wonder how these supermen do it all? In this Week in the Life, a busy #fatherrunner tells us how he balances family, work, life, and running. Read more >>
Tropical transplant to the chilly Northeast. Professional writer and researcher, cantankerous editor, mom to one inquisitive toddler, asker of inconvenient questions.
Weeks 29-30 and 30-31 of pregnancy
I’m really putting the ‘untraining’ in this training cycle! Pregnancy is a lot like a reverse training cycle: I’ve definitely become detrained (at least specific to running) along the way, and now am just kind of hanging in there to maintain my general health, fitness and sanity till delivery rolls around. (Emphasis on roll.)
Monday 5/28 – Memorial Day was a damp squib of a day, wet and rainy. Husband and his brother took the kiddos cabin camping overnight, which I declined, because I can barely sleep well in my own bed as it is, let alone in a sleeping bag on a hard platform. I ended up staying in PJs, doing chores, and reading for most of the day, and made cookies for a friend who’s solo parenting for a month. I did a couple of Aaptiv maternity workouts: one strength, one elliptical cardio. I also read this and thought about my cousins and other relatives in military service here and elsewhere.
Tuesday 5/29 – off
Wednesday 5/30 – Shuffling around the track, ~25 minutes.
Thursday 5/31 – off
Friday 6/1 – Aaptiv workout, walk ~3.5 miles
Saturday 6/2 – off
Sunday 6/3 – Cambridge 5K Freedom Run! 3.1 miles
Cambridge 5K Freedom Run: a mini race-recap
On Sunday I woke up, still not sure whether I was going to spectate or participate. The weather decided it for me – sunny most of the day and in the 50s/60s? Bring it on! We started at the back, with the strollers and the walkers (and the costumes. I spotted both Uncle Sam and a 6ft hot dog wearing the works), right where I needed to be to do a 5 minute run/ 1 minute walk ratio. I was definitely running during the run segments, but it was an easy effort – no heroics here.
The course starts outside a mall, goes through an office area with lots of biotech companies, then loops
back up to Cambridge Street and the residential neighbourhood near the local courthouse. There are maybe four or five turns, a brief climb, and a gradual downhill back to the finish. I can think of worse ways to spend a summer Sunday. I finished with a record personal worst and can definitively say the Cambridge 5K race experience is just as pleasant at the back of the pack as it is in the middle, which is not true of every race – but should be.
The afterparty featured a huge range of brews and ciders (sadly, none for me this year, but I did snag a lemonade and a couple cans of cold-brew coffee to take home), but it was loud and a little overwhelming for the stroller set – and my ice cream hopes were dashed! What kind of barbaric summer race doesn’t have ice cream or freeze pops at the end?! Otherwise, if you like beer and dancing plus a well-organised race experience, it’s worth the money.
Alas, post-race sacroiliac pain bugged me for the next couple of days. The terrible thing is that I never know when it’s going to flare up or how bad it’s going to be – sometimes I can walk for miles or run without pain, sometimes I walk a mile and the pain shoots down my leg, and sometimes it doesn’t show up until hours *after* the offending workout. This particular flare was bad enough to need a heating pad, and I made a couple of PT appointments to figure out how to quell it.
Monday 6/4 – off
Tuesday 6/5 – MYRTLs, perfunctory series of lunges and squats
Wednesday 6/6 – walk (errands)
Thursday 6/7 to Sunday 6/10 – travel. We were in New Orleans for the very sweet, very beautiful and very low-key wedding of one of my dearest friends from college. (I asked her for sitter recommendations as she’s nannied in the past and has friends with kids in town, and she said ‘oh, just bring Kiddo’! Who turned out to be all kinds of well-behaved, especially after we plied him with snacks, and was the first one to hit the dance floor at the reception before he was hustled back to our AirBnB for bedtime.)
Remarkably, despite walking (maybe much more slowly than normal? the weather was very sticky) all over the city, I had no pain. None. Zilch. My brain and body must’ve been in full-on holiday mode, so that even the sacroiliac pain took a vacation. Does dancing my feet off for hours at the wedding reception count as a workout? I think so.
Naomi Alderman, ‘The Power’;
Alex Hutchinson, ‘Endure’;
Hanya Yanagihara, ‘A Little Life’;
Thomas Pynchon, ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ (for book club…very…slowly…)
Week 28-29 (properly in the third trimester now, yikes!).
Here’s the difference between a first pregnancy and a subsequent one. First pregnancy: you know down to the minute how far along you are, baby’s stage of development, your baby is the size of a cauliflower, etc. etc. Second pregnancy: your midwife asks you ‘so how many weeks are you now?’ and you have to go check your app. First pregnancy: baby showers! all the stuff! setting up the nursery! Second pregnancy: you just add some (tiny, tiny) diapers, another carseat, and some emergency formula and bottles to the Target shopping list. True story.
At this point I’m torn between impatience and wanting to meet the little pipsqueak, and wanting Pipsqueak to stay in and bake til fully ready (I think everyone surely feels the same way at this stage). The first 4-5 weeks of third trimester must be the longest month in the history of the calendar.
Monday 5/21 – run/walk, 2.5 miles, felt good
Tuesday 5/22 – off
Wednesday 5/23 – Track! I don’t even pretend to do the workout any more, unless it’s a pure time-based one. Run/ walk 2 minutes on, 1 minute off. This didn’t feel great. 3 minutes on, 2 minutes off is still a better ratio.
Thursday 5/24 – off
Friday 5/25 – Aaptiv maternity strength workout plus a walk before dinner
5/26 – Went hiking with friends at Blue Hills Reservation. Time: roughly 1.5 hours. Distance: unknown and brief. Pace: preschooler. Is there anything slower than one preschooler? Yes, and that is two preschoolers who are both toting large sticks and yelling ANT! every time they see a bug. To their great credit, neither one made a single peep of complaint, and only one (mine) had to be carried any distance, and only at the very end.
Minus: We were all eaten alive by mosquitoes.
Plus: Pond with beach and swimming area.
Sunday 5/27 – Jasyoga (yoga for pregnant athletes) – the strength video. Also spectating a half marathon. Isn’t it nice when Mile 6 is literally outside your house?
Finally, here’s a preview of the upcoming week: summer is hot, work is nuts (I’m staffed on our shortest-turnaround projects for obvious reasons), sacroiliac joint pain on the right side is bugging me a little and I need to make a PT appointment, and this coming weekend I’ll decide whether or not to run the Cambridge Freedom 5K – it depends on how I feel when I wake up in the morning.
I like the Cambridge 5K. Logistics are a breeze, it doesn’t have too many turns, a little uphill, a little down to the finish. We usually run it with friends and their kids, and it’s the site of my accidental PR last year – whereas this year it’ll definitely be a Personal Worst AND I won’t be able to partake of the adult beverages at the end! But I am signed up, I have a bib and a really nice t-shirt, even if I walk the whole way it’ll take me less than an hour, and I’ll be sure to eat my bodyweight in ice cream.
Hi everyone! This week you get four weeks for the price of three. That’s because one of those weeks is basically empty, like expensive filler air at the top of a bag of chips (no, Frito-Lay, I’m not totally bitter). Analysis reveals a bunch of walking these past weeks. Sunshine, fresh air, podcasts, multitasking with errands – it looks like a lot, but includes the errands I’d normally run and commuting I’d normally do. And definitely not enough strength work. (What? Getting up and down from the mat is a pain. I am a lazy person.)
Monday 4/23 – walk (errands) 2 miles
Tuesday 4/24 – run/walk with kiddo, 2.5 miles
Wednesday 4/25 – run/ shuffle at track, total 4 miles.
Thursday 4/26 – walk commute, 3 miles
Friday 4/27 – off
Saturday 4/28 – Ballet class. Then chased kiddo and friends around the park, followed by hotdogs and ice cream
Sunday 4/29 – errand run/walk, 4 miles
Monday 4/30 – off (sick)
Tuesday 5/1 – Aaptiv maternity strength workout, 25 minutes
Wednesday 5/2 – run/ shuffle around the track, 2.5 miles
Thursday 5/3 – off
Friday 5/4 – swim, 30 minutes
Saturday 5/5 – ballet class
Sunday 5/6 – off
Monday 5/7 – walk to/ from lunch, 3 miles
Tuesday 5/8 to Sunday 5/13 – absolutely nothing. I was working 14-16-hour days at a conference. We might have walked around the conference centre and to and from a couple of other venues, but that was it. I flew home super late on Friday night. On Saturday and Sunday, I SLEPT and we did a few family things (it was Mother’s Day after all) and I attempted to get over the cold I’d brought home.
Monday 5/14 – short Aaptiv run/walk plus some errands – 5 miles total
Tuesday 5/15 – off
Wednesday 5/16 – walk commute, 2 miles
Thursday 5/17 – walk to dr appointment and back, 2 miles
Friday 5/18 – Aaptiv strength workout (lots of wall sits), run/walk 1.5 miles
Saturday 5/19 – Spent all day prepping for son’s birthday party, wrangling about 20 toddlers and their families in our rain location (20 kids indoors gets LOUD), and cleaning up thereafter.
Sunday 5/20 – Kid woke up super early and I ran/ walked 3 miles with him (roundtrip) to get coffee and breakfast. Later, walked 2 miles to brunch with some girlfriends – trying to take advantage of this one kid/ no diapers/ low-maintenance life for the next few months. I know what’s coming! Total for the day, 5 miles.
At this point (start of 3rd trimester, yikes!) I’ve switched from the belly band to the Gabrialla support belt, plus heavy-duty cushioned shoes (the NB 1080). I also found a 2min walk/ 3min run ratio is most comfortable right now, after playing around with various combinations.
I thought I’d list a few runners and other information sources I’ve been following or reading through this pregnancy:
First, the Salty Running brain trust. Plenty of us have been runners while in the kid-having stages, including Salty, Parsley, Licorice, Barley, Turmeric, and Avocado. These few alone give you a taste of how different one person’s approach can be from another. Salty ran through most of three pregnancies; Parsley comes from a very high-level running background and scaled back accordingly; Barley switched to lower-impact activity early on; and Licorice, Avocado and Turmeric, like me with my first pregnancy, were somewhere in between.
Other sources of info and/or fun:
SarahFit (Sarah Dussault), a fitness instructor whom I find refreshingly honest about pregnancy and postpartum movement; bonus – she’s currently expecting her second kid, and teaches a mom-and-baby fitness class that’s local to me
Lindsey Hein (who is on her fourth baby so she definitely knows what she’s talking about when she says every pregnancy is different and to listen to your body when it comes to running).
Celeste Goodson of Recore Fitness, a certified pre-and-post-natal trainer who teaches women how to recondition their core after giving birth.
4/9 to 4/15 (Week 22-23)
Monday 4/9 – errand run, 5 miles
Tuesday 4/10 – squats workout
Wednesday 4/11 – Track night. 1.25mi up, 4×800 every lap faster (nailed it! – by starting out really slow #sandbags), 2min rest, 0.75mi down. 4 miles total.
Thursday 4/12 – off
Friday 4/13 – walk commute, 2 miles
Saturday 4/14 – Perfect weather for a run! Naturally, I went to ballet class. I’ve been doing a bit of ballet while my son is in his Saturday morning dance class (he LOVES LOVES LOVES dance and is completely transfixed when we watch clips from the Nutcracker or Sleeping Beauty on YouTube). So rusty. So inflexible. So sore. (Me, not him.) But rewarding – it’s something I can still do with basically zero modifications right now.
Sunday 4/15 – Lots of friends were in town for the Boston Marathon, so I did a shakeout run with some of them (‘guys I was *serious* about those 11min miles!’) in the morning (3.6 miles). In the afternoon, I met up with Avocado, Barley and loyal Salty Running reader Jesse (hi Jesse!) for coffee and shop talk. (2.5 miles walking)
Drew Magary, The Hike: This book was described as ‘like early, good Chuck Palahniuk’. And it was: loopy and hallucinatory and highly entertaining.
Chip and Dan Heath, Decisive: The Heath brothers are those guys who write a lot of business-strategy-books-for-a-lay-audience. I’m not normally a business-strategy/self-help book person, but this book offered some ways to make decisions more effectively – both in work and in life.
4/16 to 4/22 (Week 23-24)
Monday 4/16 – walked 2.6 miles to and from spectating the Boston Marathon. (DES! YUKI KAWAUCHI! ALL THE FEELS*.) Yes, out in the rain. I wore: long underwear, joggers, a base layer, a fleece jacket, my puffy coat, a wind- and waterproof shell, my hat, gloves, base layer socks, and wool socks, on the premise that if I couldn’t be dry I could at least be warm. I did not envy the runners.
*We were standing almost at mile 25, and then heard ‘Elite women coming!’. The media van came first, then the motorbikes with their flashing lights. I saw Des coming through, and began to lose it. Then, after her… no one. For. A. Long. Time. The seconds tick by. My friends and I look at each other. Where’s everyone else? Entire minutes pass. And that’s when we realise she’s got it in the bag, and I basically start crying happy tears.
Tuesday 4/17 – upper body Aaptiv maternity workout, brief run/ walk (somehow there was a headwind both ways?), 2.2 miles
Wednesday 4/18 – Track night. Not even pretending to work out any more. I had alllll the ordinary little discomforts of pregnancy today – tightness across the top of the belly, round ligament pain, sore calves, you name it – but I knew I’d feel better if I moved a tiny bit after sitting on my ass all day. Went to track, enjoyed hearing everyone’s marathon war stories, and ran like 4x400m at something vaguely approaching marathon pace, which is not a workout that does anything remotely useful. I just felt better after doing it. 2.5 miles. (PS: I need a better support belt. Any recommendations for something that really works and won’t break the bank?)
Thursday 4/19 – perfunctory series of squats while playing with the kiddo (‘Mommy what are you doing?’ ‘I’m exercising, sweetie.’ ‘Can I exercise too?’)
Friday 4/20 – errand run/walk, 2.2 miles.
Saturday 4/21 – walk to and from DINNER DATE! with husband, 2.6 miles. We were supposed to go to a free jazz performance on campus and got a babysitter to go out that night, but kid declined to nap that day, thereby saddling the poor sitter with a potentially crabby little terror, so we decided to just nip out for a quick dinner. Turns out kiddo was not only not a terror, he was Good As Gold for the sitter and actually asleep by the time we got home, which is like winning the lottery – cha-ching! Sitter probably felt like she had won the lottery, too.
Sunday 4/22 – 5 miles! of actual running! and sunshine! Well, more like plodding through molasses than running, but I didn’t stop to walk.
I also unearthed my NB 1080s for a test run. Normally these would be far too much shoe for me: I’m usually a Zante or even Nike Free girl, and often the more flexible the shoe the better. The last time I ran in the 1080s they actually caused some foot issues. But something someone said over the last week (was it you, Jesse?) planted the idea that a bit more cushioning might help with the pregnancy-related aches and pains. Pleasant surprise – the extra cushioning and slightly higher drop of the 1080s worked like a charm! My hips and shins and calves didn’t complain once. These might be my go-to shoe for the rest of my pregnant running journey.
Verdict: Oh, the emotional ups and downs this week! The theme of this week is patience. Watching the Boston Marathon is awfully inspiring, sure, and I’d love to qualify and run it someday. But between pregnancy and postpartum recovery (not to mention adjusting to a new routine in family and professional life) I literally don’t know when I’m going to run another marathon again, let alone go after long-term sub-4 or BQ goals.
Realistically? Nothing athletic has *ever* come easily to me. I’m not one of those superwomen you’re going to see running through third trimester. In fact, I’m barely running right now, and there’s still almost half an entire pregnancy to go, plus however long recovery takes! My body needs the break, even if my mind is raring to go. And I’ll be honest – that’s a little frustrating and I’m envious of anyone who can run right now.
But then I remember how long that first year of new parenthood felt. And how I actually got faster after that year than ever before, despite sleep deprivation, a new job, and imperfect and slipshod training. And the high of setting two half PRs and a gigantic, 35-minute marathon PR in the second and third years of parenthood. And that’s fuel for the tiny spark of hope that I can do it all again.
Which brings us right back to Des and the marathon. She’s the patron saint of the pluggers, the people who keep showing up, whose very showing up day after day reinforces bit by bit their confidence and tenacity. It’s the fairytale for those of us who have nothing else but the belief that if we keep looking where we want to go, eventually we’ll go where we look.
Mango’s pregnancy untraining log, 4/2 to 4/8 (Week 21-22)
Monday 4/2 – lower body squats workout
Tuesday 4/3 – went to exercise room in evening – both the treadmill and elliptical were occupied so I ended up doing a spin workout on the bike. No one ever wants the poor stationary bike except in the dead of winter, as it languishes next to the heater so that your left ankle feels somewhat scorched by the end of your ride. Everything in this building is the size of a postage stamp; the exercise room contains exactly one (1) treadmill, one (1) elliptical and one (1) stationary bike, and is configured so that the person on the treadmill can basically look over and see the resistance at which the person on the bike is cycling. On the VERY BIG plus side, it is IN THE BUILDING.
Wednesday 4/4 – nil (I forget why. Work? Freezing rain? Both? Something like that?)
Thursday 4/5 – Exercise room again. Elliptical for 20 minutes then run for 10 minutes when the person on the treadmill finished.
Friday 4/6 – off
Saturday 4/7 – Ran with friend during naptime, 3.5 miles
Sunday 4/8 – Upper body workout followed by a short run in the AM, 4-ish miles
Verdict: Work and weather conspired this week to prevent me running outside most of the week – grr. Is it spring yet? I’m also definitely slowing down, and all my runs are on the far end of my Hansons (non-pregnant) ‘easy’ pace (for me, in the 11:00-12:00/mi range). I don’t feel the slightest bit out of breath – rather, it’s something about the way my weight (hello, extra 15 pounds), my gait or my centre of gravity is changing, such that it actually takes more effort to move my legs forward. When I don’t feel like running continuously, I do walk/jog/run intervals by effort. I figure by summer I’ll be spending a decent amount of time pool running. Or really, just floating from one end of the pool to the other.
Pregnancy craving of the week: Do not, I repeat, do not ever attempt to come between a pregnant lady and her boba tea. That is all.
Mango’s pregnancy untraining log, 3/26 to 4/1 (Week 20-21)
Monday 3/26 – very boring Aaptiv maternity circuit workout
Tuesday 3/27 – walk-commute, 2 mi
Wednesday 3/28 – walk-commute, 2.5 mi; evening 3mi run. I went to track later that evening for a pretend workout! 0.5mi up, 0.5mi down, 2×1600 @MP on 2min rest, a lot of shooting the breeze with friends as everyone finished their real workout.
Thursday 3/29 – walk-commute, 2 mi
Friday 3/30 – AM: Kid woke up at 4.30am for the day. After an hour of trying to get him back to sleep, I packed him into the stroller and went for a run. 2 mi + long coffeeshop/ bagel interlude. Lunchtime: ran errands, 2.5mi.
Saturday 3/31 – Ballet class while kid was in his dance class. So rusty. So sore.
Sunday 4/1 – Family stroller run/ walk (with mid-run pause for kid ‘fishing’ by the river – it is a truth universally acknowledged that small children will always find the very largest sticks and puddles in any given outdoor area), 3.8 miles. Then off to Easter dinner with family!
Verdict: Well, I did manage to do a little teeny tiny bit of something every day this week.
Currently reading: What Happened, by Hillary Rodham Clinton. All the feels. I had to take this a few pages at a time.
Mango’s pregnancy untraining log, 3/19 to 3/25 (Week 19-20)
Monday 3/19 – off
Tuesday 3/20 – ran all my errands. 4 miles
Wednesday 3/21 – off, still feeling questionable. Probably routine pregnancy-related crud: fatigue, etc.
Thursday 3/22 – Aaptiv maternity programme lower body workout (sort of like myrtls and barre had a love child); 30ish minutes of treadmill walk/ jog/ run intervals, 2.5 miles. (Note: I’ve been around long enough to do this by effort, but the ‘jog’ bits were something like my Hansons recovery to easy pace and the ‘run’ bits something like my Hansons long run to marathon pace.)
Friday 3/24 – sluggish 4ish miles
Saturday 3/25 – 5.6 miles outside with a friend
Sunday 3/26 – 3.6 miles, combination of treadmill and elliptical. From the department of mildly questionable but mostly harmless life decisions: I looked at Strava (why did I do that?!) and realised that I had 3.6 miles to go to make it 20 miles for the week, which may be my highest pregnancy mileage…ever. (I am not a mileage beast at the best of times, and spent a lot of my first pregnancy on the spin bike rather than running.) Naturally, I had to make it a round (and getting rounder – ha ha) number, and also figured I would feel less sluggish if I moved a bit, so I noodled along with a few podcasts for a while. Finished off with an Aaptiv-guided stretching sesh.
Verdict: Am getting my $’s worth out of Aaptiv. Also, I can feel my running gait changing a little – less bounce, more shuffle – and my calves are getting awfully tight. Need to stretch and roll more.
WTF pregnancy craving of the week: McDonald’s chicken nuggets. I haven’t had these in years! I did the most logical thing I could think of: walked a mile to the McD’s, picked up some nuggets, swung by the library, got a few books, went home, ate and read. Sweet and sour sauce is still delicious.
Currently reading: Jennifer Egan, ‘Manhattan Beach’. I enjoyed it, although midway through I had a moment where I thought ‘These plotlines seem a little disjointed. Is there a point to all this?’ Yes. Yes, there is.
We occasionally chat with past Salty Running contributors to find out what they’re up to these days. Recently, we caught up with Garlic, our resident sports-medicine doctor, mom of 3 and adult-onset competitive middle-distance runner. Read more >>
When last we left off, I had instituted two goals for myself the following week: one, move and eat in ways that made me feel good each day, and two, do more strength workouts. Did I make it? Read on…
2/26 to 3/4 (Weeks 16-17)
Monday 2/26 – rest
Tuesday 2/27 – Aaptiv full-body strength workout
Wednesday 2/28 – Lunchtime: easy 1.6 miles. Evening: Track! 0.5mi up, 4x(800m at HM effort, 200@5K effort), 0.5mi down. I plan to keep going to track as long as I can: it’s a small but not insignificant part of my social life! Plus it feels good, amid all the walking and easy running, to mix things up once a week. Even if I’m not hitting my old paces, I don’t really expect myself to, and no one’s putting any pressure on me to do it.
For many runners, spring racing season is just beginning, which for our friends, family and other spectators can mean only one thing… figuring how to track friends and loved ones on the dreaded race app.
Once you’ve downloaded the app (which you’ll never use again, as it appears to be specific to a single race and offers no other races you want to track this year), handed over your social media details (and date of birth, and lifetime privacy rights of your firstborn child), and entered far too many details about your runner (including but not limited to their bib number, height, eye color and mother’s maiden name), what’s next? Read more >>
Hello again, energy! It’s nice to have you back, along with not worrying about throwing up every time I cough.
As Barley and others have written about before, stepping away from hard training due to pregnancy or injury has made me realise that I derive much of my running motivation from competitive goals. I haven’t lost my motivation entirely, but I like to flip that idea on its head: the joy of untraining during pregnancy, especially in winter, is that I can choose when (and how far and how fast) I want to run. I don’t have to get my long run in slush or ice the day after a snowstorm. No one is forcing me to do an 18-miler (well, no one actually forces any runner to do an 18-miler ever, it’s just what you do if you want to be properly trained for a marathon). I don’t have any mental pressure to hit a certain mileage each week; I can just go out for however long I want.
In fact, these last couple of weeks, my brain has craved slightly longer runs, but I haven’t had the time because I squeeze it all into the 8-5.30: work, making dinner, a lunchtime or late afternoon run, and sometimes daycare pickup. (I usually tack on another hour or two of work after the kiddo goes to bed.) And sometimes my mind says ‘6 miles!’ and I get to 4 and my body says ‘We’re done!’…just roll with it.
2/12 to 2/18 (14/15 weeks pregnant). Solo parenting this week. This was also National Plumbing Disaster Week or something.
Monday 2/12 – Husband leaves for conference on the other side of the country. Contractors come to repair leaky bathroom faucet. They fix faucet but do something that backs up the sink. We have one bathroom. 4 miles.
Tuesday 2/13 – Contractors return to fix sink. They fix clogged pipe but in order to do that they have to take the sink off the wall. Now we have one bathroom, no bathroom sink, and the old sink sitting in the middle of the bathroom floor, rusty sharp bits and all. LUCKILY the kid is old enough to recognise that touching said bits is a Bad Idea. Walk, 1 mile each way to visit friend and her new baby.
Wednesday 2/14 – 9am: contractors due to install new sink & vanity. 7.55am: we are on our way out the door when…the toilet…overflows.
7.56am: I attempt to shut off the toilet valve. It does not work. (Did I mention my building is pushing 50 years old?)
7.57am: Kid and I are sitting on the bed. He is flipping out and crying. I am internally flipping out but on the phone to building management, with the toilet still pouring (THANK GOODNESS) pretty much clean water.
7.58-8am: The entire apartment floods. We pretend we are on a boat.
8am: Building super arrives, does something magical that halts the flow, has janitor pump all the water out and mop the floor most of the way. Building super, whom I trust with our lives, sticks around while the contractors install the vanity.
9am: I finally cart kid to preschool, where he announces ‘Our toilet flowed over!’. THANK GOODNESS for daycare. Call boss, inform him of minor apocalypse, take day off, flee to cafe to try and get a bit of work done.
Noon to 5pm: Laundry. Laundry. Laundry. Haul sodden floor rugs out. Laundry. Throw out water-damaged stuff. Laundry. Retrieve child from preschool. Disaster relief: friend comes over with sushi and ice cream for dinner, and she entertains kid while I fold a mountain of laundry. Happy Valentine’s Day to me!
Thursday 2/15 – stress-relief 4.2 miles, tempo effort.
Friday 2/16 – rest. Husband arrives at 6.30pm. I promptly go to sleep.
Saturday 2/17 – rest. Some people stress-eat; I stress-cook. Cook way, way too much food for Chinese New Year potluck with friends. Eat, drink, be merry and horrify people with my Great Flood tale of woe.
Sunday 2/18 – did something to my back on Wednesday, in between 5 loads of laundry and dragging heavy floor rugs out of the house. Penance yoga (mostly just a lot of cat/cow and child’s pose).
2/19 to 2/25 (15/16 weeks pregnant)
Monday 2/19 – rest
Tuesday 2/20 – 3.5 miles.
Wednesday 2/21 – 4 miles. No matter how busy and stressed you are, you DO NOT turn down a run when it’s almost 70 out and sunny.
Thursday 2/22 – rest
Friday 2/23 – 2-mile roundtrip walking commute
Saturday 2/24 – 6 miles in full sunshine and completely glorious weather (high 40s, about 8C)
Sunday 2/25 – rain, wind, chilly; we took kiddo to a playspace to meet up with his daycare BFF and it was as much of a zoo as you’d expect for a dreary Sunday. Followed by family naptime.
Goals for this week:
- Eat and move in ways that make me feel good – whether that’s a 6 mile run or a bunch of squats, a homemade smoothie bowl or sour cream and onion Ruffles. (Ahem.)
- 3 days of strength training! On which I am already behind. Aaptiv has been an excellent motivator for this.
Generally, under normal circumstances, there are only 3 people on earth who are interested in the contents of my internal organs: me, my husband (if he happened to cook dinner), and my primary care doctor.
However, get yourself one of these, and suddenly n > 3 people are a little bit more interested.
(Tiny human #2 has intra-uterine dance party. Don’t worry if you can’t make out him/ her clearly. On normal ultrasounds the tech has to be like HERE ARE FEET, THIS IS THE HEAD.)
Once again I’m training to grow a wee human. (It’s dead obvious to anyone Strava-stalking me: lots of run/ incline walk treadmill workouts, most of my jaunts were 2-4 miles tops for several weeks during the ‘feeling like ass’ phase aka first trimester, and my ‘long’ runs shrivelled to 5 miles…)
People keep asking me “how do you feel?” Uh, I’m a parent, tired is my default state. So I’ve been going with the ‘a little something each day’ plan: a bit of movement every day, whether that’s 20 minutes of treadmill walk, a group track workout, or a few sets of MYRTLs and 15 minutes of stretching. Instagram SuperHeroMotherRunner I am not.
Right now, at this stage, I finally feel about ready to kick my long runs back up to over an hour, but the weather hasn’t been cooperating and I have zero desire to treadmill for >1h. At this point, my midwife has given me the green light to basically go ahead and keep doing whatever I was doing – well, maybe not train for a marathon, but you know. I’ve slowed down a whole lot on easy runs (heck, everything that’s not track is an easy run) and a tad on the track, but haven’t needed to modify significantly yet. (Around 2nd or 3rd trimester, I start switching from distance-based reps to time- and effort-based ones. For instance, if the set calls for 800 repeats, I work out how long each one would have taken at my normal non-pregnant pace, and just run for the same duration, which allows me to vary my effort if I need to without the workout taking f or e v e r.)
Anyway, yes…tiny human…. I realise that in itself sounds like another cliche: girl achieves great big huge marathon PR (see: Baystate), girl eases off training, girl celebrates, girl gets knocked up. After Baystate in October, apparently my body was like ‘What? You’re not running 50 miles a week? DEVOTE ALL THE RESOURCES TO EGGS!’
It all happened so rapidly that at least one person asked me (kindly) if it was planned. (Answer: yes. I take a year and a half to plan for a single marathon, we definitely planned this tiny human.) We were just very, very lucky. Under absolutely ideal circumstances there’s like a 1 in 4 chance each cycle, so I was psychologically prepared for it to take some time, like the last round. And, knowing other people who have struggled so hard with fertility, I am very, very grateful (& also wish someone would record this data point re: running, BMI and fertility for a fuller picture). We decided to just go for it, like the crazy people we are (because daycare x2 + 1.5 incomes + 1 bedroom apartment = pretty certifiable, even if all of those things are mercifully temporary).
But your racing fitness!
Anyway, I’m not the only one to have the thought go through my head: what’s the point of working my way back to full racing fitness and building up all that motivation and confidence only to essentially chuck it aside again for about a year and a half? Between 2014 and 2017, I ran a scant handful of races (but oh I was so much more SRSBZNS about each one). It took me a year after giving birth (to be honest, partly physical conditioning/ sleep deprivation, partly milk-supply-related anxiety) to work my way back to the point where I could happily finish a half marathon. I didn’t run a marathon for three years. Why, after having achieved this level of fitness, would I want to ‘throw it all away’ again?
The truth is, I’m playing a long game. I’m not on anybody’s timeline but my own: I’m not training to qualify for the Olympic Trials, or even BQ (and heck, you bet I will take that age advantage, because #cabooselife!). I’m not in any hurry. I don’t expect to set any marathon PRs till about 2020. Racing and all its joys will be there when I’m ready. The tremendous advantage of being a mediocre (ahem – lazy) hobby-jogger is: There is no pressure. I can always improve some more. Heck, I have a friend who still sets PRs. In her 50s. Don’t talk to me about over the hill; we runners eat hill repeats for breakfast.
Plus, I really like the kid I do have. Sure, I didn’t sleep and existed in a grumpy haze for a year and a half of my life, but for someone who was so demanding and angry at night, he sure is a sunshine child in the daytime. (Said a friend who just had her second: I forget, how do you get them to sleep? I looked at her blankly. Don’t look at me, I don’t know.) Sure, sometimes it’s a PITA to wrangle everything, toddler clothing and snacks and all, for a 30min stroller run; but the look on his face when we pass a train, or various species of truck! And it is honestly fun to run at top (stroller) speed while pretending to be a spaceship or bellowing variations on Old MacDonald Had A Farm (‘and on that farm there were…uh…some stegosaurs’) with nary a worry about what other runners think.
I never really thought of myself as a ‘kid person’ and am still not a ‘tiny infant’ person; other people’s children are cute and entertaining for a while and all that, but MY CHILDREN, oh, they are delightful. (I obviously do not expect everyone else to share this sentiment.) Small #1 sometimes still insists on falling asleep with his hand on my arm or tummy, looking at me like ‘duh, mom, you do not have bodily autonomy, you are an extension of me’. (In breaking science news, well crumbs, I *am* actually an extension of him. Who knew.)
In the meantime, I run because it allows me to feel like me. Not worker bee, not mama bear, not meal-planner-and-dinosaur-toy-imagineer-in-chief, just, you know, runner me. End of story.
February to date
Week 13: a couple of glorious 5-mile runs outdoors, 1x track workout, 1x walking commute (45min), 1x Aaptiv strength workout feat. lots of squats, 1x single set of MYRTLs
Week 12: Treadmill incline walk, track workout, some strength work, Saturday morning 5-miler
January: average 10-15 miles per week, some yoga, some strength work, lots of Aaptiv-motivated treadmill incline walking
Perhaps you’re in the far reaches of North America, and it’s already begun to snow, or the early morning cold and dark have you burrowed under the covers and hitting snooze on your alarm. Or perhaps you’re in Australia, where the scorching summer heat makes running intolerable at anything other than zero-dark-thirty.
Whatever the reason, many runners opt for the treadmill in inclement conditions. These days, there’s a growing crop of treadmill studios popping up in places like Boston, New York and California. Is a treadmill studio right for you?
Mango took a class at the Heartbreak Hill running studio in Cambridge, MA, and our very own Avocado teaches at MyStryde in downtown Boston! Together, we’ll help you figure out if and when a treadmill studio might be right for you. Read more >>
Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.
— Bruce Lee
Much earlier this year, before I ever decided to sign up for the Baystate Marathon, I threw out my marathon time goals. Let’s face it: While a sub-5, sub-4, BQ, or some other arbitrary round number is nice, it’s not what the pros shoot for. Even they don’t PR every time. They think about their performance and their racing. (When told he nearly broke the masters record at New York, Abdi Abdirahman said, “To be honest, I didn’t know anything about those masters records…I was just trying to be competitive. My goal was a podium finish.”)
And also, to be honest, I was just fed up with obsessing over time.
Back in 2014, I ran my 6th marathon at Gold Coast in Australia. While it was a gorgeous day out, marathon #6 was a crushing disappointment for me, due to debilitating cramps and likely under-training and under-fueling. Yes, it was a PR; but a PR by a single, hard-fought second, and way closer to the 5-hour mark than I wanted to be, or that all the race equivalency calculators said I should to be.
In the three years since, I’d convinced myself that my inner “turtle girl” was right — that I have no real business running marathons… but the itch to do so was still there. So in June, I signed up for the Baystate Marathon: Massachusetts’ other, smaller, lesser-known marathon.
When you have absolutely nothing to lose, you let go and become a master of total non-attachment. I let go completely of any marathon time goals. My process goal for Baystate was to train properly, stick to my race strategy, and see how it went. I even outsourced my training plan — I asked one of the coaches from my running club to write me a plan for a small extra fee, and we’d check in with a phone call every so often.
Somewhere along the line I said to her, “I know exactly how I want to feel during the race. You know the middle miles of a half marathon? With the sun shining and the wind in your hair, and you’re flying along, feeling the earth return to you all the energy you put into it with every step? THAT is how I want to feel.” I believed this with every fiber of my being, and I knew that it was true.
I’d trained using a theoretical goal pace of 9:05, which roughly dictated my tempo and speed efforts, but I honestly couldn’t care less if that was race day pace or not. By the time race day rolled around I was so burned out from work and other life stresses that I knew I wouldn’t hold that pace anyway. (See: no time goals.) Plus, I tend to be on the slower side of race calculator predictions the longer the distance gets, even if conditions are perfect. Perhaps I’m just too chicken to race a hard half or full marathon. That’s fine. I’ll get there.
But not October 22.
I drove up to Chelmsford the day before and shared a hotel room with my club-mate, T. At 5 a.m., her alarm went off — bzzzzzzzt! Morning routine, totally practiced and utilitarian after weeks of 5:30 a.m. long runs. Instant oatmeal, coffee, nuun, wash face, visit bathroom, get dressed. Bodyglide, bra, tank top, shorts, socks, shoes, Garmin. Decided to run without visor, gloves, arm sleeves, or water bottle. 6:15 shuttle bus to the start. Drop off bags. Run into friends, take selfie, head in to UMass’s Tsongas Center to wait, pee, eat a Luna bar. I felt … loose. Preternaturally calm. Totally zen.
By 7:45, it was already warm enough that I wasn’t shivering in the start corral — so, a little warmer than ideal. So what? That’s not something I can control. I’d trained through the entire summer’s worth of heat; I knew my hydration needs; this was nothing. Plus I had no sleeves, gloves or bottle to weigh me down. I planned to start with 9:30s and hold that pace throughout. Anthem. Pushrim start. And then we began.
Miles 1-5. 10:20, 9:21, 9:16, 9:32, 9:40. Gel at mile 5. My plan was to take a gel every 5 miles and water at every water stop (about every 2 miles).
I started somewhere around the 10min/mile section of corral, and took the start very easy (10:20, mile 1). I chatted with people, including a woman doing her first marathon, and then had to pick my jaw up off the floor when we ran by her family and FIVE kids — the youngest were 4-year-old twins. (Spoiler: she finished with me.)
I saw my fan club (Mr. Mango and D-money) who had driven up from Boston that morning and strategically situated themselves up the road from a giant playground. After I saw them the first time … well, what do you do with a toddler while mom runs a fall marathon? You go pumpkin picking, apparently. Now we have two enormous pumpkins and a toddler who has learned the word ‘wheelbarrow’ and uses it enthusiastically.
Miles 6-10. 9:29, 9:16, 9:37, 9:28, 9:28. Gel at mile 10.
This, not April, is the best of Massachusetts. Fall colors were on full display. The course wound through mostly residential neighborhoods until we got to the part along the river, heading northeast towards the Tyngsboro Bridge. At mile 8 I saw another club-mate — hooray! — who shot the single happiest photo I’ve ever seen of myself during a marathon. It’s pretty easy to be happy at mile 8.
Miles 11-15. 9:38, 9:25, 9:53, 9:28, 9:38. Gel at mile 15. Surprise! I got the single salted watermelon gel I’d packed in my SPIbelt amid all the sea salt chocolate GUs I’d bought in bulk. It was a very tasty game of roulette.
I sang “Top of the World” to myself over and over in the exposed middle miles, and meant it.
Somethin’ in the wind has learned my name
And it’s tellin’ me that things are not the same
In the leaves on the trees and the touch of the breeze
There’s a pleasin’ sense of happiness for me
I’m on the top of the world lookin’ down on creation
And the only explanation I can find
Is the love that I’ve found ever since you’ve been around
Your love’s put me at the top of the world
Other things I thought to myself at this point:
- Why is nobody else running the tangents? People are weird. (For the record, I finished with 26.2 on my Garmin, and I think this is actually just really good tangent-running rather than a short course.)
- Roadkill: Only two dead animals this year! The “highlight” of last year’s half was a flattened raccoon.
- Slow and steady. If I’m Turtle Girl, I’m going to own it.
Miles 16-20. 9:48, 9:30, 10:04, 9:59, 9:53. Gel at mile 20.
I still felt good, like I was merely on an extended long run, but the lengthy exposed stretch around mile 18 was starting to get hot. I knew that I could certainly make it to mile 20, as I’d done on my long runs, and then I could re-evaluate how I felt beyond that.
To distract myself, I chatted with a senior gentleman. At my pace, there are always Senior Gentlemen (and Senior Ladies, too!), the sort of crusty gent who’s been running for decades and is now basically enjoying life. This one told me war stories of marathons past and talked about running Baystate in its early days. When we got to mile 20, I said, this is the fun part now, isn’t it? Clearly it was, for him — when I looked him up in the results later, I found he had BQ’ed by finishing a few minutes ahead of me.
Miles 21-23. 10:21, 10:16, 10:41.
I could feel my quads starting to protest, and gritted my teeth at mile 23 as the protest crescendoed into a full-blown revolt. It was warm now, and I knew from last year that the final miles were in direct sunshine. At each of the last few water stops I downed a full cup of Gatorade, which helped stave off the cramps for a minute or two each time.
Be like water, I thought, channelling Bruce. Where normally I’d start to freak out at the first twang of cramps, checking and rechecking my watch to calculate whether I’d make some arbitrary round-number time goal I’d set for myself, this time…nothing. So I’m cramping. So I’ve cramped in 6 marathons now. This one’s already gone better than any of the previous ones. Cramps? Not a roadblock. Around. Over. Through. I can finish. I can do this. Mentally and emotionally, albeit not physically, I was totally relaxed.
Miles 24-26.2. 10:56, 10:39, 11:21, 9:37 pace for final 0.2.
With my quads cramping hard as usual, I was in no mood to walk and take a gel at mile 25 — I just wanted to keep shuffling on into the finish. Shuffle, shuffle. One foot in front of the other. All I had to do was not stop and I could be proud of my effort.
I didn’t stop. 4:19:38.
You guys. YOU GUYS. That is nearly 35 minutes off my last marathon time. The cramps didn’t kick in till mile 23, much later than usual, which I think is testament to being (mostly) properly trained and being pretty conservative.
What did I learn and what would I do differently next go-round? A 22-miler next time, perhaps? Step-mill for cross-training, to focus on what clearly is a physical weakness? And some real lifting instead of just my MYRTL routine. Mentally, I still have trouble with the idea of pushing medium-hard for that long. I’d like to get more practice racing some hard half-marathons for effort rather than time.
I think what I’m happiest about here is that I finally feel like I’m beginning to run the marathon to my potential, my fitness and my training. I managed to stick with the race plan until the cramps really started in earnest. That decision to try and hold 9:30s, or rather a comfortable sort of just-a-little-faster-than-long-run pace, instead of pushing any harder, was the right one. I enjoyed the whole darn thing. Even the crampy bits.
Maybe one day I’ll race a marathon — go out at a harder effort, endure discomfort for more of the marathon, and see where it gets me. Right now? I’m satisfied with this.
This log contains three very different weeks: one Goal Marathon Race Week, one recovery week, and one week of work-and-play travel.
Monday 10/16 – 3.8 miles easy
Tuesday 10/17 – 2.5 miles easy
Wednesday 10/18 – off
Thursday 10/19 – off
Friday 10/20 – 3.7 miles easy
Saturday 10/21 – 20 minutes easy without Garmin
Sunday 10/22 – race day! Short version: Made some sensible decisions regarding weather and life stress, had a pretty good day, and took nearly 35 minutes (4:19:38) off my last marathon PR (4:54:17) despite cramping and heat. Goodness. Race report to come.
How I felt.
How I looked. (*Not* like Shalane. But Team Both Feet Off The Ground 4eva!)
This week was much less exciting than the last. I spent it frantically catching up on work before a major project/ conference, so I did a little less moving than I wanted. I usually find a teeny tiny bit of gentle walking or cycling post-marathon really helps with soreness, and scratches that itch to move without being too damaging.
Monday 10/23 – lots of foam rolling
Tuesday 10/24 – some Jasyoga moves (I could yoga for free from YouTube, but Jasyoga has a couple of innovative, useful and gentle runner-specific stretches that I haven’t seen anywhere else)
Wednesday 10/25 – off
Thursday 10/26 – off
Friday 10/27 – 2 miles
Saturday 10/28 – off
Sunday 10/29 – 3 miles
Work travel week
Monday 10/30 – Ran errands, 2+ miles: the Strava map looks like an erratic zigzag. Flew to London that night.
Tuesday 10/31 – off, work. Brought a bag of Reese’s peanut butter cups for my UK colleagues, in the spirit of American Halloween. Half of them were delighted; the other half befuddled.
Wednesday 11/1 – off, work
Thursday 11/2 – off, conference in Oxford
Friday 11/3 – off, conference in Oxford and travel back to London
Saturday 11/4 – Took the train out to Wiltshire in southwest UK to see C, an old running friend who’d moved back there from California! We did a gentle 3 miles in the late afternoon before Bonfire Night (a British institution / bit of quirky history).
Sunday 11/5 – Had just enough time in the morning for 8 miles of trail running happiness with C.
Then I washed off all the mud, had a hot drink, and boarded a series of trains and planes and cars that brought me home to Boston.
All in all, that was a pretty excellent three weeks. I’m not racing for the rest of the year, though I might do a fun 5k or something, so I might shoot for some sort of low-mileage run-streak through December 31.
Baystate Marathon training log, weeks 15, 16, and 17 of 18.
Husband has been travelling for a month and gets back two days before the marathon. This month I’ve worked anywhere from 8 to 12 hours a day, and had to get *extremely* creative to fit the runs in. I’ve relied on our wonderful daycare and a lovely network of friends and neighbours and playdates and lots of late nights of work to get stuff done and to get some adult company. (Seriously, it’s like Hops was in my head writing her post about the #motherrunner myth. Hi!)
One week to go now. I just looked at my training log and it’s at nearly 630 miles now this cycle – nothing spectacular, just steady and consistent bits of work. I didn’t miss a long run. The hay is in the barn. This training cycle hasn’t been ideal — there is no universe in which a combined five weeks of solo parenting during a marathon training cycle is ideal — but it’s…there. Done.
Right now, I don’t have time or energy to waste worrying about anything beyond my control. I’ve trained through summer. I’ve finished marathons when it’s 85F out and 85% humidity. I do spectacularly better when it’s cold. If it’s hot, I’ll carry water; if not, I won’t. I can do this. I am enough.
One week more. One day at a time.
Week ending October 1
Monday 9/25 – Last evening group track workout for a while. 2 miles warmup, 3 mi @ HM, 3min rest, 2mi @ 10K-HM, 3 min rest, 1 mi @ 10K. I managed to pull a 7:55 mile out of my patootie for the last mile.
Tuesday 9/26 – 4 miles easy
Wednesday 9/27 – off
Thursday 9/28 – Long run day. 5 miles at lunch, 10 on the treadmill at night with a neighbour over to watch kid as he slept (treadmill is in apartment building exercise room).
Friday 9/29 – 3.5 miles easy, errands
Saturday 9/30 – off. Kid and I were very productive this rainy day: laundry, baking, playdates, movie.
Sunday 10/1 – 5.8 miles with stroller.
Week ending October 8
Monday 10/2 – Solo lunchtime track workout. 2 miles warmup, 4x(1600m @ 9:00/ 3 min rest).
Tuesday 10/3 – 5.7 miles easy
Wednesday 10/4 – Ran all my errands. Gym to renew membership. Ordered small amount of stuff online for pickup at Target. Ran to Target. Ran to grocery store. Walked home with heavy fragile perishables (aka eggs and milk). 5.4 miles.
Thursday 10/5 – 10 miles
Friday 10/6 – rest
Saturday 10/7 – 5.4 miles easy with stroller, with generous rest stop to watch special diggers working on a rail line over a bridge
Sunday 10/8 – Ran to pool the long way round for kid swim lesson. 1.6 miles.
Week ending October 15
Monday 10/9 – Daycare was closed for the public holiday. I hate rainy days. When it’s sunny out, we stroller-run. On rainy days we are reduced to sitting indoors, watching movies, and having wild-rumpus playdates. Technically we *could* run outdoors, but since the point of my stroller-running is to look for trucks and ducks/ run to a playground / run errands, running in the rain is extremely underwhelming for everyone involved.
Tuesday 10/10 – 5 miles easy
Wednesday 10/11 – full day of work and meetings. no running
Thursday 10/12 – 8.5 miles
Friday 10/13 – 3.7 miles
Saturday 10/14 – 2.9 miles
Sunday 10/15 – 2.1 miles
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