Tuesday, January 15, 2013

It's the End of the World as we Know it (and I Feel Fine)

I was supposed to run a half marathon on Saturday. The Polar Dash half marathon here in Chicago, to be exact. But I woke up Friday with a terrible sore throat that developed into a full blown head congested, runny nose, sore throat tornado of a cold by Saturday morning. Initially, I was going to run anyway. I thought, 'come on, it's just a half marathon'. Indeed I did run a marathon just two months ago also with a cold, also while pregnant (14 weeks at that point). But I wasn't quite as sick and I was definitely 'less' pregnant! Adam tried to be the voice of reason, trying to talk me out of the race, especially given the pregnancy. But he also knows me well and didn't want me to be full of regret if I didn't run. To be honest, I was most worried about my mental health. I'm a runner. A distance runner. That's a a huge part of my identity. And let's face it, my next opportunity for (marathon) distance running isn't until next fall given babybison's much anticipated arrival in May. I was worried that if I didn't do the race, it would be the beginning of the end of pregnant running. And the beginning of the end of my endurance and cardiovascular health. And the beginning of the end of my mental health.

Adam and I compromised by dressing for the race, jogging to the start, and making a final decision about the race en route. That was a wise decision. About 0.5 mile into the jog, I felt pretty miserable from the cold. But I also was feeling a bit of pelvic pressure- no pain, nothing serious- but not something that I'd want to carry on with for 13 miles. So we took off our bibs and went for a leisurely 3 mile run together instead which was really nice.

Initially, my back up plan was for Adam and I to make our own half marathon this coming weekend (assuming I'd be all better). But as the weekend progressed, I gained some insight into myself and my motivation for running the half marathon in the first place. The first insight occurred during my treadmill work-out on Sunday. After my 1 mile run, I did a 35 minutes hill climb (walking) and read the latest Runner's World. There was a touching article by Marc Parent, writer of The Newbie Runner. He was reporting on his first ever half marathon experience. It was a good article- it really took me back to my first marathon experience. The feelings of pride and invincibility. Struggling through the tough miles, feeling like a rock star during the good miles, digging deep to get through the last miles. The spectators, especially friends and family. Doing something you never thought you could do. It really reminded me of some of my proudest athletic accomplishments. And I realized: I'm a runner. It's who I am now. I think I've always been a runner, but I didn't actualize this part of myself until I started running and ran my first marathon  back in 2006. At this point, 6 years later, I'm not in danger of NOT being a runner EVEN IF my running mileage goes downhill (WAY downhill) over the next few months. I realized I had a deep fear, that if I didn't keep up at least 1/2 marathon level mileage during this pregnancy, I'd be in danger of never being a runner again. Like I'd fall into some deep abyss of lethargy and inactivity. But reading that article, and remembering the positive emotions and memories from my marathons, reminded me that I am not only a runner, but I'm a marathoner and while I may be a low mileage runner temporarily, I will NEVER be a non-runner again. That will not change, baby or no baby.

I realized the other reason I was so bummed about missing the Polar Dash was that I really wanted to do the half as a pregnant runner. Yes, I did the Chicago Tri, the Lake Geneva Tri, the Des Moines Marathon and the Outer Banks Marathon pregnant. But I was in the closet! I couldn't advertise the pregnancy. Silly as it sounds, I want to run a race with my "running for two" tee shirt on. Primarily, running is important to me and my well-being. But, part of my identity as a runner is being a motivator to others. I'm vocal about running and its many benefits, in my real life and in my social media life. It's a big part of who I am. It's my little way of doing good in the world (well besides my job- hope I'm doing some good there, too!). I can think of at least a dozen people whom I've helped or encouraged to start running for the first time, to run half marathons, to do a triathlon, to do a marathon, or just to do a quick 5 minutes of cardio prior to Thanksgiving dinner. That's important to me.

I like to think that continuing to run (and vigorously exercise in general) while I'm visibly pregnant can be a motivator and an example for others to follow. It wasn't so long ago (1970s, the decade in which I was born!) that women were told they couldn't run marathons because 'their uteruses may fall out'. And I'm sure that are some old-school obstetricians who advice against running or exercise during pregnancy even for super fit, healthy ladies. (Again- some pregnant women have complications and shouldn't run- clearly there are exceptions.) And using pregnancy as a excuse to take it easy and eat too much and move too little is rampant in our society. So, maybe it's silly, but I really do want to do a race or two in the next few months. But there's no reason they need to be half-marathons. A 5K will do!

Finally, I also realized how glad I am that I did those two triathlons this summer/fall. As my running mileage decreases, I can easily fill in the time with spinning and swimming. Both of which I'm starting to enjoy more and more. In fact, I can take this opportunity to become better at both. Especially swimming. I really think I can become a stronger swimmer over the next 4 months than I ever was before (starting from a base of non-swimmer, I have lots of room for improvement!). And with two triathlons on my athletic goal list for 2013, this will serve me well!

So while endurance running may be over for a while, it is not the end of the world and I feel fine about the whole thing. Running will continue, distance running will take a hiatus and spinning, swimming and hill walking (seriously, you'd be surprised how short of breath you can get climbing a treadmill hill!) will take over. So without further ado, here are my athletic goals for 2013, i.e. the Year of the Babybison!

1. Chicago Triathlon, International Distance August 24, 2013
2. Half-Ironman Triathlon, Fall 2013 (destination tbd)
3. Sub 4 hr marathon Fall 2013
4. Boston Qualifier Spring 2014
5. Ironman Wisconsin September 2014
(6. Continue working on my 50 in 50 goal with marathons in 2 new states in 2013.)

Short-term steps I'll take during pregnancy to help achieve these goals:

1. Finish 45 minutes of exercise in 45 days
2. Increase swimming distance to 1700 yards.
3. Increase biking distance to 20 miles
4. Strength training weekly with the pre-natal group

So, for a few minutes Saturday morning when I realized I would have to bail on the half marathon, I felt like it was the end of my (running) world. But I've done some thinking. I've adapted. And at the end of the day I am just so grateful to be able to exercise at all. So I feel fine:)

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