One Year Later, One Month Left

One year ago, I was lining up for the Olympic freaking Trials.

Now I’m eight months pregnant, and I feel like that was another lifetime ago. Did I really do that? I am still running shuffling a few days a week, but, while I realize cutting back, slowing down, or stopping entirely is a normal part of pregnancy, I have this weird blur (pregnancy brain?) about my previous running self. I am so far removed from that version of myself I struggle to picture her.

For example, I was recently in the grocery store, debating which flavors of Halo Top to buy. Unsponsored plug: Halo Top is a low-calorie, high-protein ice cream that is surprisingly delicious. Not that I don’t scarf Ben and Jerry’s as well, but sometimes it’s nice to tell yourself you’re eating ice cream for the protein.

Anyway, while I was picking out my pint, a stranger asked me for a flavor recommendation. I suggested Red Velvet, if you’re wondering. With my bump hidden under a winter coat, he asked me if I ate this healthier brand of ice cream because I was really into working out. I said no.

No? The stranger walked away before I realized that wasn’t actually true. I am really into working out. Maybe not at this particular moment, but that is a pretty big hobby in my life and a pretty essential part of my sense of self. But for some reason it felt more natural to say no, because I don’t feel like that person anymore.

And honestly, that’s the worst part about pregnancy. I’ve been blessed with a pretty easy pregnancy thus far, and what I miss most, by a landslide, since before the beginning, is being able to push myself in workouts and races. I’m not complaining. I’m super pumped to start a family and taking time away from competing is beyond worth it, no hesitations there. But the nausea, heartburn, sleepless nights, constant pee issues, back aches, 24-hour uncomfortable-ness and eight zillion other less-than-pleasant symptoms don’t have anything on the not competing. So maybe I’m repressing my former self as a coping mechanism. Telling myself and grocery store strangers that I don’t even like working out.

These days, I’m run-walking maybe three times a week, between four and six miles, with more walking and less running each time. I elliptical on some of the other days, but I also take more days off than I used to. I’ve completely given up on strength training, which I’m a bit bummed about since I promised myself early on I would at least stick to that. But I haven’t because (a) I’ve never been particularly great about keeping up with strength training and (b) I’m exhausted and there’s just too much to do, especially when getting in four miles takes almost twice as long as it used to.

So, as expected, the third trimester brought the most drastic cuts to my mileage and frequency, but I’m lucky to be running shuffling at all. From a not-at-all scientific survey of my running friends, about half of them were able to run through their pregnancy and half hit the third trimester and had to stop, because it just got too uncomfortable. From an actual scientific survey, only 31% ran through their pregnancies.

If you’re pregnant, the most important thing is to do whatever your body is comfortable with and be happy with that. My runs take a completely different form these days than they used to, but I’m grateful to be doing anything.

Running through pregnancy is like normal training in reverse: rather than runs getting faster and easier, they get harder and slower. Obviously, that’s totally fine and necessary when your body is more focused on forming another person inside of you, and I’m running these days to keep Baby and me healthy, not because I believe these shuffle-walks will lead to some breakthrough performance down the road. That’s quite a different attitude than I usually have, so maybe that’s contributing to my different opinion of myself.

Also, I don’t know if you noticed, but pregnancy lasts a really fudging long time, so it’s been a while (i.e. exactly a year) since my competitive always-striving-to-beat-my-past-self side was allowed out. No wonder she’s been a little forgotten.

But as I jealously watch runners glide effortlessly down the road, I try to remind myself that I used to be like that. And someday I will again.

If you’ve been pregnant, did you ever miss your old competitive running self during those months?

I'm a science journalist with a background in neuroscience and a love of running marathons and baking marathon-worthy feasts. I started out as an over four-hour marathoner but whittled my PR down to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Trials. I write about the importance of chasing big dreams and -- as I'm currently pregnant with my first -- getting ready to chase around a little one.

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  1. Awesome post, Tea. As I get to the age where I need to put up or shut up about BOTH trying to OTQ and having a baby, these are the kind of fears I have. I find myself counting the number of months between marathons to see if I might be able to instantly get pregnant, have a baby, and run an OTQ (this math does not work, by the way).

    Anyway, before I have an existential crisis about this, the side-by-side photo is AWESOME (also, why can I not get my hands on an NB kit like that?!?!?!?!).

    And, Halo Top for the win. I’m a chocolate cookie dough fan. In addition to the low cal/high protein bit, it is all-natural with fewer chemicals than most ice creams and no artificial softeners. It’s more like ice cream you would actually make at home.

    Kick to the finish, Tea!

    1. Thanks, Chicory! The OTQ/pregnancy math IS really hard–something I definitely struggled with. If there’s pressure from others, it can really be a challenge. But you have to go with whatever timing feels right to you!

    2. I definitely had the OTQ/Baby timeline in my head- it’s hard not to once you reach the point where you know it’s a goal you want and you’re getting a little more realistically closer to (I’m still 13 minutes off which is obviously a lot, but somehow it doesn’t feel totally out of reach to me). Too bad guys don’t have to deal with this kind of timeline stuff too!

      I agree with everyone though, love the side by side picture, and cannot wait to see what the future in running and kiddos holds for you Tea (and you too Chicory!)

      1. Yeaaa, I’m very jealous guys don’t have to deal with these timeline issues! Whenever a dude tries to argue the women’s standards are supposedly easier, I get annoyed and want to remind them how much more women have to balance. Peak baby making time and peak OTQ making time is a tough combo!

        And Barley — 13 minutes isn’t that much. (I was ten minutes off until the day I qualified.) I agree with your gut, it’s not out of reach at all 🙂

  2. Hmm, never having been super competitive in racing, I think this might be symbolic of something everyone goes through during and especially after pregnancy. A lot of adapting, a lot of adjusting to a whole new reality. Missing parts of your life pre-pregnancy/parenthood…Give yourself time and hang in there- your competitive nature is a wonderful force to be harnessed, and besides getting back into running (and doing awesome- look at your fellow Saltines!) you may find other child-related outlets for it (youth sports teams are always looking for coaches you know!) And wow, amazing before/after photos!

    1. Thanks, Colleen! Yes, I’m in for a lot more adapting and adjusting to a whole new reality! And great point about the other outlets–I coach some adults and it’s been fun to live vicariously through their achievements!

  3. Yes, I’m 8 months with baby number 2, my daughter is 17 months old. This time it’s way harder and I can barely run . Can’t wait to get my life back

  4. First, I’m so happy to see a post from you. I always enjoyed your training logs and other posts. Secondly- I have 4 kids and I missed running the most during my last pregnancy. The older my kids get and the older I get, I really don’t miss signing up for a race all the time and trying to get faster. I am enjoying their milestones in sports. Congratulations on the upcoming baby!

  5. Each of my pregnancies were different from the other. I didn’t run at all with my twin pregnancy, but with our number five “surprise” child, I embraced the pregnancy and ran 13 races with him. I loved sporting the “Running for Two” tank to all the races I did. I have found, though, that about a year after each child I had some breakthrough racing times. I ended up PR’ing in the marathon almost a year to the day of baby #5! Huge congrats to you on your little one!!

    1. Wow, 13 pregnant races! I did just two, but they were fun (definitely a different kind of race day than usual!) Awesome about the breakthroughs and PR! Very encouraging 🙂

  6. I love this post! It does resonate with me, even though I’m only at 22 weeks now. I have a long ways to go. I imagine being super fast, going from running the Olympic Trials to shuffling down the street is not easy. I know as spring comes around, my itch to race again will come roaring around the corner for me. I am trying my best to be grateful to be able to run in the first place! I hope I can make it as far as you have, or even to the end of my pregnancy. I can’t wait to get back out there, though. It’s hard to remember the days when we were smaller, fitter, faster, less thirsty and having to pee less!

    1. Thanks, Turmeric! And congrats! You could try some spring races if you’re feeling up for it — it’s an entirely different experience with zero expectations and an excuse to go as slow as you like and enjoy the atmosphere. They can be pretty fun and make you feel part of the running scene. Otherwise just take it one day at a time!