Parenting and Running aren’t easy

Disclaimer: This is more of a parenting/baby gear post than a running post.  Also, it is not meant to publicly shame people. Read on if you like.

I remember when SuperGirl was a baby, and I was so excited to be one of those moms who runs miles and miles while pushing her baby in a jogging stroller.  I wasn’t excited enough to fork over $400 for such a stroller though.  I found a floor model BOB Sport Utility stroller at a nearby baby boutique for $200, so I jumped at the chance to have one of these luxury running machines.  Once I started using this BOB, I envied the other moms with their BOB Revolution strollers with the swivel wheel.  This must be why the Sport Utility was so cheap- the damn front wheel doesn’t swivel.  It’s impossible to navigate a stroller with a fixed wheel!  If I had a swivel wheel my life would be so much easier.  Maybe it would be easier, but it wouldn’t be safer.

What I quickly learned is that the swivel wheel isn’t there to make running a breeze.  It’s there to make negotiating the aisles of the grocery store or the mall more feasible.  It’s there so that you can have your jogging stroller and everyday stroller all tied up in one nice little bow.  I had a sedan with a not-so-large trunk, so keeping a BOB in there full time was not an option.  Plus, it doesn’t really fold up that easily.  I had a separate stroller for everyday use, so my jogging stroller was just used for jogging/running, and it was stored in our dining room because we had no garage.  Now we have a garage, so it’s basically a stroller grave yard.

The thing is, I have seen lots of people running with the swivel wheel unlocked.  I have also seen people jogging with strollers that aren’t mean for any type of jogging whatsoever.  I won’t even get into that here.  People, this is NOT SAFE.  Do you want to know why? Because if you run “over even a small pebble with a swivel wheel at running speeds could send the stroller quickly veering in an unplanned direction.” See Runner’s World’s Guide to Jogging Strollers.  Also, even if you have a swivel wheel that can be fixed, there is “always some jiggle in the wheel one way or the other.”  If you look at the BOB Revolution owner’s manual, it specifically says not to run with the front wheel in swivel mode.  I am not a huge stickler for rules like obeying the speed limit or not turning on a red light.  But if the stroller manufacturer is telling me not to run with a swivel wheel, and most “serious” jogging strollers are only made with a fixed wheel, then I am not going to take that chance.

I have seen people comment on message boards that it would be “too hard” to push their kids with the front wheel fixed.  Here’s the thing: pushing your kid(s) in a jogging stroller is not supposed to be easy.  It’s hard work.  It makes you a bad ass, because you can watch your kids and exercise at the same time. It doesn’t make you as badass as this guy, but you are still way more awesome than someone who thinks that having kids and exercise don’t go hand in hand. Parenting is hard work.  There are some things that would make parenting easier, like putting your kid in her carseat without taking the 15 seconds to fasten the 5-point harness.  Or leaving your kids at home asleep with no baby sitter for a few hours because they sleep like rocks anyway. Or not installing a baby gate because you would have to find your drill, or making sure your wine isn’t on the coffee table because little Timmy might drink the whole thing (we all know you pour more than 6 oz). But easy doesn’t mean safe.  

Over the years I sold the BOB and acquired a double stroller that had a swivel option.  I only ran with it in the locked position, but I found it was not as sturdy and I worried that at any moment it could become unlocked.  Also, I didn’t like how small the wheels were.  I ended up with the Baby Jogger Twinner which is one of the best things to ever happen to me, besides my family and Amazon.  You can’t put an infant under 6 months in it but this isn’t a problem for me.  I talked about Big Red in a previous post so I won’t bore you again, but a big wheel and lightweight frame are crucial if you want to make pushing a jogging stroller easier AND safer 🙂

 

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Big Red

Last week I went for my first longish run in over 6 weeks. I couldn’t make it to spin class in time, and wanted some more quality time with Super Girl and Super Baby, so I decided we should reunite with our friend Big Red – aka, the double stroller.

Big Red is sort of a beast. She cannot fold down with the quick pop of a button or tug of a rip cord. Big Red was probably manufactured by Baby Jogger in 2003. That’s a rough estimate- maybe 2006. Either way, I was still in law school high school. I originally had a single Bob Sport Utility Stroller when Super Girl was just a wee lass. See:

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That Bob was pretty great. It was durable, I could throw an infant seat in there, and it had good storage. But it was a nightmare to maneuver due to the fixed wheel. Or so I thought…

When Super Baby came around, I knew that spending $500 on another Bob was not an option. So I waited until Super Baby was almost 6 months old, then I got a Kelty Speedster Swivel Deuce. Good looking stroller I must admit:

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The Kelty had an option to swivel the wheel, which made it easier to maneuver if I was just strolling around smooth terrain or even wanted to run to Whole Foods with the wheel fixed, then unlock the wheel to walk around the store. Although side note: Whole Foods isn’t really meant for double jogging strollers. It’s meant for Moby Wraps and other forms of child transportation that only involve wearing your child.

The downside of the Kelty is that it is really really difficult to fold and unfold. And the yellow plastic pieces that have to snap down to ensure the stroller doesn’t just pop up and send your kids flying down the road, well, I broke into a sweat every time I had to do the snapping.

So the Kelty’s life came to an end very quickly, as I didn’t want Super Girl to associate curse words with a) me or b) the act of running.

I had heard great things on runner’s message boards about the old school Baby Jogger strollers. You have seen them around- usually red, turquoise, Kelly green, or purple. They are like a long sling with either no hood (because the hood truly is a POS) or a short flat hood. They have either 16″ or 20″ wheels. Apparently, “serious” runners only do a large fixed wheel of at least 16″. Frills like infant seat adapters, cup holders, iPod docs, reclining seats, etc, need not apply.

I found Big Red on eBay. I had searched on craigslist for weeks with no success. Of course now, as I post this, there are three doubles comparable to mine that are going for about $50. Lovely. I didn’t pay that much more (I don’t think).

Big Red needed a new tire and a little bit of tuning up but otherwise, she was good to go. I have taken the kids on many a run with Big Red and she is soooo light and so fast. She turns on a dime. I always assumed it is impossible to turn a fixed-wheel stroller easily but that simply is not the case. You just need a light stroller apparently! Downhill, we practically fly. It’s a good thing I have a leash so the stroller doesn’t get away form me. Another sidebar: if you run with your kids, make sure you use the strap. Once that stroller gets away from you, only Usain Bolt would be able to catch it.

I haven’t been running much and Big Red has been collecting dust over the past two months. We had a blast last Thursday, just like old times. Knocked out about 4 miles in 35 minutes on a rolling route. Another 4 miles in 34 minutes the next day, and again today. There are times it is so so painful, but isn’t that what being a parent is? Taking the good with the bad?

I won’t be able to schlep these kids around in Big Red for much longer, because Super Baby’s weight doubles approximately every three months. But for now, I shall cherish her as Super Girl cherishes watching PBS kids on my iPhone and inhales snacks while she sits in the stroller. Do whatever it takes to keep a stroller-restrained kid happy!

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Stronger

In honor of the Blue Ridge Relay this weekend, which many of my super crazy awesome friends are doing this weekend, I thought I would regale you with the tale of my “hill work” last Saturday. Super Dad, Super Baby, Super Girl, and I were in the mountains for the holiday, and my only options were run, walk, use a 30 year old recumbent bike, or sit around. While I did choose the latter for two days, I decided to push myself a bit on Saturday.

I haven’t been running much because of my back, but I have been feeling better, so I figured I would go for a run in the beautiful fresh mountain air. When I say I did hill work, that is an understatement. I typically bellyache over having to cover 50 feet of elevation change during a one hour run. I will zig zag up and down the same street 12 times just because it is flat and I cannot drag my butt up another hill. I reason with myself that I can either keep running on flat ground, thereby getting more miles in, or walk up a hill/go home. That said, I know that running hills makes you stronger and faster, and I have gotten a lot better about incorporating it into my workouts because they are simply unavoidable in Raleigh. But that doesn’t mean I like em!

The running I did on Saturday quite possibly induced the most pain I have ever known while exercising. I started at the house where we were staying, then ran to the main road, which was about .6 miles down the mountain. Running that steep downhill (about a 45% grade at points) is not easy. But you do go pretty damn fast. Then I turned around to go back up. Uhhhh, what was I thinking? I ended up sprinting for a minute then completely stopping for 30 seconds, all the way back up that “hill.” Then I did the whole thing again, running for marginally longer stretches on the way back up. My total running time was an average of 6:33/mile.

I’m not going to pretend there’s any way my average would have been any faster than 9:30/mile had I not made it into an interval workout. Just standing looking up the gravel road during my breaks was painful. I could barely catch my breath. Mountain air is thinner right? Ok, I know it wasn’t the Pike’s Peak Marathon, but I am not used to this kinda stuff.

The point is that I know my body has limits, and I wanted to test them without the end result being me lying in the yard of some bearded mountain man with a pack of wild dogs sniffing my lifeless carcass. Plus, when you do hill work, you don’t just run up a giant mountain for 5 minutes straight, unless you are one of those maniacs super dedicated, adventurous people who does the Blue Ridge Relay. Normal people either do short bursts for 10-20 seconds, or longer intervals of 1-2 minutes. I know this workout, however short, made me a better runner.

Today, pushing the kids in the double stroller, I gobbled up the rolling hills in our neighborhood like Miss Pacman taking down cherries. She eats those right? I won’t credit the ease with which I knocked out four double stroller miles to a few measly miles of interval work on a mountain, but the perspective was nice. And the feeling that even though I haven’t been able to run in the last month, the cross training has really kept me stronger than I expected.

So here’s to hills or mountains, pick your poison this weekend. Good luck to all you crazies!

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ISO Endorphins

If you follow me on Instagram – my handle may be really hard to remember: it’s willrunforbiscuits – then you may have noticed 1) no photos related to exercise and 2) everything seems really awesome in my world.  If you don’t follow me but you follow social medial in general, you probably know that most people seem to paint a picture that everything in there life is sunshine and puppies, PR’s in every race, babies that sleep 15 hours at night at 4 weeks old, pay raises, surprise giant bouquets of exotic flowers from significant others, and selfies.  I find it highly improbable that life is that perfect all the time.  People just want everyone else to think everything is hunky dory because really, who wants to be depressed by your screaming kid that just smeared bodily fluids on the wall?  Or maybe there is something missing any putting cute and happy pictures into the universe makes life better for the time being.

I know this isn’t really related to running, or triathlon training, but I’m going to connect the dots soon.  For the last week, I have not been able to work out.  No running (that makes three weeks now), no cycling, no swimming, no lifting, nothing.  Remember that leg thing that has been nagging me for a while that I self-diagnosed as compartment syndrome?  Wrong, it isn’t compartment syndrome.  I jacked up my back somehow.  I really have no clue how I did it.  I didn’t slip, trip, or fall.  I didn’t lift anything heavy other than one of my giant children or 50 pound dogs.  It just sort of happened over the last several weeks.  Really, since before my triathlon in July.  But I thought it was due to tight shoes or something.  In retrospect, I should have known it was my back, because when you herniate a disc at a certain point in your low back, it pretty much ONLY causes leg and foot symptoms. That’s it.  No back pain.  

I mentioned what was going on when I talked to my former boss last week (we’ll call her Jim).  It’s interesting because we joke that she is either future me or I am pre-millenium Jim.  When Jim was my age, she had two small kids.  Then she herniated a disc in her back and ended up having surgery.  Now she has two awesome teenageers and we have a lot more in common which i won’t get into, because I only overshare about myself, Super Dad, and the Super Kids.  Jim wanted to know how I was doing because she noticed that over the weekend I posted a lot of awesome, super happy photos on instagram from a bachelorette party I went to.  Then when I got back I posted a bunch of happy photos of Super Baby and Super Kid.  No Facebook updates to the effect of “Wow, my leg hurts. Still not running.  Really getting depressed.” I think Jim knew that something was still up, so she just wanted to check in on me, which I so appreciate.  Because it’s time I really check in on myself.

Running, exercising, pick your poison, has got to be one of the best anti-depressants out there.  I think most people involved in some form of fitness know that exercise makes you happy.  It’s science.  You’re probably familiar with the term “runner’s high,” which refers to the euphoric feeling one sometimes gets when exercising. Researchers have found that  heavy weights or training that incorporates sprinting or other anaerobic exertion produce endorphins. This is because when your body crosses over from an aerobic state to an anaerobic state, it’s suddenly operating without enough oxygen to satisfy the muscles and cells screaming out for it. This is when the “runner’s high” occurs.  This explains why I always feel best when I run so hard that I want to vomit. 

Since I have not been able to tap into any natural endorpins, my mental state has been less than awesome.  Not just because my body doesn’t feel right, but because I really felt like I was getting on the right track with my tri training.  I was proud of my cycling, my newfound commitment to the pool, and just being able to get some sort of schedule worked out that accommodated our family.  Now, I know it’s only been a week, but I naturally go to this place of “what if I need surgery?” and “what if I’m not supposed to bike anymore, or run?” or “what is nothing helps the numbness and burning in my leg and foot go away?” 

I entered what I consider the four stages of grieving: 1) ignorance- pretend you will be running again in a matter of days. 2) drinking and eating a lot of processed foods to deal with fact that ignorance isn’t working. 3) purging processed foods from house because stage 2 has made me feel totally gross. 4) being a bad friend.

I’m a bad friend because I don’t want to know how fast you are running, what upcoming triathlon you are sure to crush, how many miles you swam after working 9 hours and making homemade baby food, how ripped you are now that you can work out three hours a day and don’t eat any sugar or dairy or carbs, or how it’s soooo crazy that you never get hurt despite running 60 miles a week.  I should be supportive but right now, I don’t have enough endorphins to get me through the day without despairing that my hard work has been for nought.  That I am on my way to becoming a decrepit, unathletic middle-aged woman who will be limited to water aerobics and tai chi.  Not that those things aren’t cool.  But I want to SWEAT.  I want to compete.  I don’t want to be in this place, and so if I’m not commenting on Instagram or Facebook about what a badass runner you are and how you inspire me (because you really do), please don’t be angry with me.  I need more endorphins.  And I need my leg back. 

Temporary insanity

I haven’t run in a week. The downside: it’s making me a little crazy and unmotivated to blog because I don’t get the same satisfaction from just riding my bike. The upside: I am spending more time on my bike, which is clearly my weakest of the triathlon disciplines.

Why haven’t I run in a week? Because for the past several weeks, my left calf and foot have been getting that weird numb and tingly feeling that you get right before or after your leg falls asleep. And my foot has felt swollen to the point where if I wear a shoe that’s at all constricting, it really hurts. I thought that it was just an issue with how I was lacing my shoes, as the weird sensation would kind of go away after an hour or so. But over time, I have noticed that I have that numb and tingly sensation all the time. I asked a friend, who is the world’s greatest orthopedic physician’s assistant, about my symptoms via facebook. He immediately pointed me to this article on the interwebs about chronic exertional compartment syndrome. The symptoms fit me pretty much to a tee, which is not atypical when I google physical ailments. But since I did not initiate the googling in this case, I think I have legitimate reason for concern.

My PA friend suggested I take one two weeks off of running. I thought I could slide by with one but he called me out on it on facebook. That’s what you get when you overshare about your exercise habits. This feels like an eternity. I really felt like I was starting to make some headway improving my speed and stamina, but I’d rather lose a bit of ground that have my calf cut open. Or pay the surgical and anesthesia fees associated with said calf cutting. So far, I have not had any abatement of my symptoms.

I decided to push my international distance triathlon to October 5. It will be in Pinehurst, which is much hillier than White Lake, which I had originally intended. I want to give myself plenty of time to recover from whatever is going on with my left leg and foot, plus with all the hill training here in the Triangle, I should have an advantage over any flatlanders who come from Wilmington. Right? Right?

Instead of running, I have decided to concentrate on my cycling, and have done a 34 mile outdoor ride. It was my first ride over 25 miles so I feel a little better about doing 30 miles during my next tri. I think our average was 18.5 mph including stops for traffic lights, and I was not at all tired afterward, so I can’t complain. I am really just trying to figure out what gear I am most comfortable in while on the flats, and how hard I can push myself for 20 miles, 30, 40, etc. I finally had a professional fit me on my bike, had aerobars put on, and got new carbon pedals which I am in LOVE with. A tri bike is not in my immediate future unless someone would like to generously sponsor me, so I am doing the best with what I have. At least it’s not a mountain bike!

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Last night I did Insanity at the Cary YMCA. That workout seriously is very appropriately named. What kind of lunatic would/could do this every day? I seriously wanted to quit after warmup. No weights involved other than your body weight, but very little rest. I had such a massive puddle of sweat beneath me, I almost slipped and busted my face open on the gym floor. It was really attractive. This morning I could barely get out of bed I was so sore. I think it will be a nice little cross training activity that I will try to do every other week, after I have tapered for like 3 days. I just need to make sure I bring lots of towels next time. An an oxygen tank.

Tonight I have a swim/spin brick on tap. I have not been in the pool at all since the Triangle Tri, unless you include holding Super Baby in our community pool and trying to keep him from submerging himself underwater repeatedly. The kid thinks he is either David Blaine or Michael Phelps. I am not sure. For my heart’s sake, I hope he is the latter. I am giving myself the excuse that most people who do tris are just barely able to stay afloat, so I have that natural advantage. But when it comes down to it, 1500 meters two months from now are really going to suck if I don’t buckle down. Plus, the women who are beating me in my age group are super hardcore and are legit in the water. I am hoping they train at least five days a week, so that once I start swimming more than twice a month, I will start destroying them. Ha.

Getting back to my temporary insanity (Insanity workout unrelated), I am really just trying to listen to my body because if I am going to complete almost 3 hours of activity in October, then I need to be close to 100%. Granted, I have run for over 3 hours in my marathons in the past, but this is a whole new ballgame. Being unable to run, even if it is only temporary, takes away my security blanket since running is something I know how to do, and I can do it pretty much anywhere, regardless of what is going on with the weather. So I need to know what you triathletes do when you can’t run? What are your favorite cross-training activities? And how much strength training do you do? I feel like I am really dropping the ball in that area and don’t know if I should be just going to the gym and lifting or if doing a class with high reps/low weights is enough.

Hope everyone has a good weekend. I am planning to ride FIFTY miles on Sunday, just for fun, so I will let you know if I survive!

Race recap

I have meaning for some time to do a product review post, because I am a product junkie.  Ok, I’m a shopaholic.  There, I said it.  I will get to the review later this week because I wanted to do a quick tediously long race recap.  It may take you 98 minutes (the length of time of my race) to read it.

My first triathlon was this weekend.  It was the Triangle Triathlon in Apex, or maybe it was Holly Springs?  I am not sure.  Anyway, I have the White Lake International distance triathlon on September 7, but felt like this would be a good tune-up race since it is significantly shorter, i.e., I have not been in the pool nearly as much as I should, so I wanted to gauge my fitness (or lack thereof).  Also, as mentioned earlier, my friend Sherman, who has done a handful of Ironmans, basically forced me into doing it.

Last week I had one good workout.  I had been battling a stomach bug for over a week, and the old me would have used that as the perfect setup to excuse a poor performance.  Instead, I decided to just take the bug head on by overdosing on Imodium and Pepto.  After a good 72 hours of medicine, which apparently is contrary to manufacturer recommendation, I felt more than 50% normal.  I did not do any workouts on Wednesday or Thursday as that was when I felt like death was warming over, but apparently this made for a decent taper.  On Friday, Sherman and I did about 10 quick miles on the bike and a fast mile (well, rounding up significantly) after work.  I felt like a pile of warm sludge.  This could not bode well, right?

I made a list of all the things I needed on Thursday night, and packed my bag Friday.  I painstakingly selected a tri suit, oh wait, I only have one kit.  I also set a reminder on my iphone to bring my USAT card or else I would have to pay $12 at the race venue in order to pick up my packet.  I guess I missed the memo about bringing my ID as well.  More on that later.

Super Girl also chose Friday to get some sort of illness, and naturally, she woke up three times in the middle of the night.  Super Dad, as per usual, woke up with her the first time, so as to give me some extra rest.  The other times, I took one (two, three) for the team.  Basically, by the time the alarm went off at 5:15, I felt like I had gotten maybe 39 minutes of shut-eye.  Awesome.

Sherman and I swung by McDonald’s and had a nutritious breakfast of egg and cheese biscuit for me, and sausage and egg platter for him. Oh yeah, we had pizza the night before. Apparently this is some thing that triathletes do?  I guess I really was destined to get into this sport.  How ironic after my last post on nutrition.  We got to the race venue around 6:00 and the race was to start at 7:30.  Plenty of time, right?

By the time we lugged all our stuff from the parking lot to the transition area, met up with some of Sherman’s friends, and went to check in, it was almost 7:00.  I just needed to get out my USAT card and ID to pick up my bib.  Oh wait, I didn’t have either.  I left my USAT card in the truck (one mile away) and my ID at home.  They let me use my facebook page to authenticate my ID – wow, really? And I had to borrow $12 to pay the one-day fee.  Of course.  By the way, I owe Cameron Simmons $12.  Better set a reminder on my iphone.

Fast forward to the swim start.  I was in the 6th wave, so I had to wait about 24 minutes to start.  We warmed up before the swim, at which point I learned the temperature of the lake was 90 DEGREES.  What?!?! A 90-year-old would get hot in that lake. Not good.  I warmed up then stood around more nervous then you could ever imagine.  I seriously almost tossed my cookies.  I had not been that nervous in over a decade I would guess.

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We lined up in the water and I realized it was on.  These girls were hardcore.  I had heard about fighting during the start of the swim, and people drowning and punching each other.  I didn’t drown anybody and managed to escape with no bruises, but I had a minor panic attack when I was trapped in a pack for about 50 meters.  Eventually, we evened out and I was out in the lead with two other girls.  I got really really warm about halfway in (400m), and when we caught up to the wave in front of us, there was a lot of water gulping going on because these were not the most fluid of swimmers.  I just kept my eyes on the girl right in front of me, and perhaps drafted off of her a tiny bit.  Kept me from having to do all the navigating.

Came out of the water tied for second.  I looked down at my Garmin and almost laughed when I saw how slow the swim was.  Yikes.  Maybe time to start training in the water some more. T1 went uneventfully, though I was shaking as I put on my shoes and helmet.  Still nervous!  Got through to the bike start and it took what felt like 4 minutes to get clipped in.  Oy, I should have just tatooed “Novice” on my helmet and back.

The bike went as well as I could expect.  I feel like I know my bike pretty well at this point.  I got passed by quite a few girls on what appeared to be $5,000 tri specific bikes with $2,000 race wheels (that’s what I am telling myself) but I passed a lot of men on hybrids if that’s any consolation.  I am a pretty decent climber but need work on going fast on flats and dropping down to get more aerodynamic.  I can say I was probably the only person with a road bike that did not have aero bars.  So I put an order in for those already.  I am sure I looked like a goon sitting up in spin class as I came down those hills on my aerobar-less bike.  Oh well, it was a learning experience.

I felt good finishing up the 17.5 mile bike, which is perhaps a sign I didn’t push myself hard enough. Or so I thought.  I had a pretty quick T2, slipping into my  laceless Zoots.  Housed a few Stinger energy chews and chugged some water on my way out to the run start.  Feeling pretty good… until about 1/2 mile in.  That’s right people, I pretty much hit a wall at that point. I didn’t have my Garmin on gps mode because I was using it on stopwatch mode during the swim.  I had no clue how fast or slow I was going, and there wasn’t a mile marker until mile 2.  Oh, and at what I presume was the 1/2 mile mark, we went from a paved surface to a trail.  Not like a single-track, break your ankle trail.  But gravel, sticks, and mud puddles.  What?  I really need to spend less time watching Bravo tv and more time reading course descriptions.   I wanted to cry.  I was so tired and hot.

The only thing keeping me going was “only 18 more minutes- assuming I am running an 8:30 mile pace, only 15 more minutes, only 10 more…” Plus, I wasn’t getting passed by very many people.  There was a girl right in front of me who was also in my age group and I remember her passing me on the bike.  She had an Ironman tattoo on her right calf.  I was thinking “wow, she is really struggling and she has done an Ironman.  I don’t feel so bad about myself anymore” and “there is no way I am ever doing any Ironman.  Those people are crazy!” Sorry Sherman and random girl, who I ended up passing.  Woo! At the 2 mile marker I got my 13th wind.  I looked at my watch and realized I was somehow well under an 8:00 mile pace.  I felt like I was speed walking at that point.  Suddenly I was at the 3 mile marker, and then I was done, having finished the run portion in 23:30.  Not too bad after a 750 swim and 17.5 mile bike.

As soon as I finished all I could think was “I am NEVER doing a triathlon again.  Ever.”  And then I thought “Oh hey, they have free Mountain Dew and Papa Johns?! I am definitely doing another triathlon.” Usually you get little pieces of bagel and half a banana after a marathon.  Maybe some beer if it is a St. Patrick’s Day race. But these triathletes do not play around with the pizza and soda. I limited myself to one slice and waited for my buddy to finish.

I finished 6th in my age group and realized that with just a little extra effort in the pool, better form on the bike, and some more strength work, I could actually get on the podium next time.  Hey maybe I could even win if someone wanted to pay for private coaching lessons and a Felt tri bike for me.  And pay my mortgage and daycare so I can quit my job and train full time. Ok, I guess that isn’t going to happen, so I will just buy a book about triathlon training, get the local tri shop to tweak the geometry on my bike, and have them slap on my new aero bars.

My goal this week is to get in the pool twice and do at least one strength training session. We are already on Tuesday and I have done neither, so I guess there may be some doubles in my future. Ouch!

Do you have any favorite exercises to increase leg power?  Any suggestions for positioning on the swim, other than taking up Kung Fu? Anyone else race this weekend?  How did it go? Any triathlons I need to put on my bucket list?

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I suck at yoga…

I also suck at anything involving balance. For instance, a balanced diet, balancing my checkbook, balancing home life versus work life (I am not entirely to blame for this one, as Super Dad and I work at the same place), balancing on my road bike well enough to merely lift a hand to signal to my other cyclists that there is a pile of glass or a pothole they should avoid, and the biggest balance issue facing most runner/triathlete moms: how do I balance my bizarre exercise needs with my family’s schedule? I don’t want our family schedule to revolve 100% around me- 75% would suffice- but I also want us to have some flexibility to enjoy the pool or go out to dinner just because.

DISCLAIMER: This is a REALLY, REALLY, obnoxiously long post. It’s not for the faint of heart. I have 7 months worth of venting to do, so grab some Nuun hydration and read on if you like.

Ok, let’s back this train up. When willrunforbiscuits started, I was all about running. Otherwise the blog name wouldn’t make much sense. I have been all about running pretty much since I graduated from college and decided I would be done with swimming FOREVER. I was that burned out on the sport. I dabbled in some kickboxing and pilates, but realized that my diet of biscuits and gelato were probably better suited to fuel a long distance runner. Cue five marathons, zero swimming, zero triathlons, zero cycling.

I made it a goal to run a marathon between each baby. After Super Girl (formerly known as Super Baby) was born, I ran the Kiawah Marathon in 2010. But then I had the shoulder surgeries mentioned in previous blog posts, which basically left me in the shape I was in freshman year when I quit swimming for 6 months. Round, floppy, and out of breath. I was no good at balancing recovering from my surgeries with finding appropriate but challenging workouts, so I just gave up.

I finally started getting back into shape with the help of my beloved Athletic Conditioning class at the Y. Those were my people. Some of my closest friends that I have developed over the past several years. Check them out, they are a good-looking group.

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Finally, I was ready to start training for “something.” I hit the greenway with my friend Kevin for long runs, and he would join me for interval work on the indoor track at the Y. I would push Super Girl around in her jogging stroller, which definitely helps gain strength and speed. I finally felt like I had the balance thing down. You can be a mom to one kid and still find the time to train distance.

Then I got pregnant with the new Super Baby, and I kept running. All the books I read about exercising while pregnant were totally common sense. “If you have been active, then it’s okay to stay active.” And “listen to your body.” What does that mean???? I need real answers. I was very bad at balancing logic and emotion during early pregnancy. The basic takeaway from everything I read is this: If you are at least moderately in shape and NOT an idiot, then just keep doing what you’re doing, keeping your heartrate in check and taking stock of any other warning signs like cramping, chills, obvious signs of dehydration, etc. If you have jogged one 5k before, probably not a good idea to sign up for you first Marathon, set to take place when you are 34 weeks pregnant. Having already been doing long runs upwards of 9 miles when I got pregnant, I went ahead and signed up for a half marathon which I completed in January 2012, when I was 15 weeks pregnant. It was a really pleasant race because I was able to balance my baby’s safety against my desire to be the fastest pregnant runner out there. I ran a 5k at 24 weeks and a 10k at 28 weeks. It is fair to say that by the end, I had gotten really good at balancing my fluid input/output because there are usually no porta johns on a 3-6 mile course. Yikes!

After new Super Baby came along, surrounded by much drama that I would talk about if this were yet another birth story blog, I initially dove back into the group exercise thing that I so loved. I was unable to balance my desire to train for another marathon with my desire to hang out with my friends and go to classes which I knew would push me and leave my on the edge of vomitus, just the way I like it. So I fell into a bit of a rut.

I ran a few local races at the end of 2012, with my eye on a marathon in 2013.

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But then we moved to Raleigh. So the months of late December to late February of this year are a total blur of boxes, tears, more boxes, house hunting, eating garbage (not literally), and not running. No balance could be achieved in that phase of my life. And quite frankly, it has taken about four months to get back on track.

I really wanted to find balance in my workout regimen upon moving. As I have mentioned a thousand times, I had such a great group of instructors and friends at the YMCA in Charlotte. I wanted to try to replicate that here. I toured probably 6 different gyms. I was like Goldilocks. This gym was too expensive. This gym was too dingy. This gym too far, this gym too boring.

So I decided that instead of trying to achieve in Raleigh what I had in Charlotte, I would create something new. Like a Phoenix rises from the ashes, so too did my new training goal. I decided to sign up for a triathlon. It is definitely a symbol of balance- having to balance your time to train for three different disciplines. My goal race is the White Lake Olympic Distance Tri in September. Before that race, I have a sprint distance- the Triangle Triathlon- this weekend! And I really have no idea what I am doing or what to expect, so it won’t be that different from becoming a mother.

In order to get in triathlon shape, I have spent less time in group exercise classes and taken more initiative to find group runs, go out on long morning runs before my kids get up (which I never would have done before), find group cycle rides, and swim just to get my shoulders stronger and hopefully wake up some muscle memory that’s been covered in cobwebs for the past 11 years. I have finally been able to strike a balance in all the three disciplines, and I am actually having a lot of fun doing it. The issue is just figuring which workouts to do in the morning before Super Girl and Super Baby wake, which to do at lunch (too much work involved in getting re-coiffed for work) and which to do after work, as that calls into play either taking the kids to the Y or SuperDad piling up the parenting points so I can go on a bike ride after work. We haven’t quite figured out how to make it work, and we have to take it on a week-by-week basis, which is difficult.

Raleigh  Trail Runners at Umstead Park.  They look fast.

Raleigh Trail Runners at Umstead Park. They look fast.

Which leads to the final straw that led me back into the blogosphere. My family may be done with 2 kids and 3 dogs, but we may expand- ya never know, we could add a guinea pig to the mix. Whatever size our family ends up being, we will have more and more commitments as our kids get older. Super Girl is in gymnastics and will likely start ballet and music lessons in the next year. Super Baby will probably be entering eating competitions so we need to balance those commitments into our family schedule. My exercise also needs to be balanced out against my family’s needs.

Last night, I planned out this week’s workouts. I planned to do an easy steady-stead 7 mile run before work. Well, off went the buzzer this morning, and I said “let’s get serious iPhone, you know I’m not getting out of this bed.” End of discussion, no agonizing, just went straight back to dreaming about Robin Thicke.

The result of this 100% selfish decision was that I completely threw off our family plan for the day. The morning routine went fine, as I would have been back from my run and showering at the same time I ended up rising. Because we are so earth-conscious, Super Dad and I decided to carpool. Then I would pick up Super Baby and take him to the Y while Super Dad took Super Kid to gymnastics. After my quick little swim and run, I would swing by to get Super Girl from gymnastics. Wrong. As I checked my phone post swim and run, I notice that Super Dad has called and sent an urgent text, something to the effect of “my darling wife, I forgot to remind you that my car is at home because we carpooled to work. As such, our beloved daughter is stranded at daycare, I am stranded at work, and she will not be able to get to the gymnastics class she was so looking forward to. In no way are you to blame, but I wanted to let you know that I will get this taken care of in the approximately 6 minutes before daycare closes. Love Always, Super Dad.” As you can imagine, the text was not quite so polite. Oops, mommy messed up. No really, mommy threw off our family’s balance today in a big big way. One that inconvenienced many people, including Super Daddy, Super Uncle and Super Neighbor, who let Super Girl borrow a leotard. When I got home, Super Girl had a MAJOR attitude. Our conversation:

SG: That was NOT COOL mommy! You don’t leave Daddy at his office. It’s not cool to leave people at their offices. He was lonely.

Me: I’m sorry, I messed up.

SG: Yeah, you did. Now Daddy and I are going inside, but you can stay out here with Super Baby.

…proceeds to lock me out of the house. [end scene]

Moral of the story: if you are going to be lazy, which is warranted every now and then (unless you are Shalane Flanagan and you’re trying to win Olympic Medals) try not to upset your whole family. I need to work on balancing my obligations to my family with my training. Anyone else have trouble with this balancing act?

Rejoice!

For those of you who have spent the past 17 months anxiously refreshing your browsers every 15 seconds (like me the night the iPhone 5 went on sale) hoping that there would be a new willrunforbiscuits post, rejoice! Your prayers have been answered. At fleeting moments over the last year or so, I have felt an urge to resurrect the blog, but it was not until a dear friend facetiously offered to buy me a box of Bojangles Cajun Filet biscuits that I decided it was time to jump back into the world of airing my dirty laundry in cyberspace.  Who are we kidding? That’s what I do on Facebook 19.3 times per day.

In all seriousness, I am well aware that on my Facebook page, there is an overabundance of baby cuteness, talk about lululemon, discussion/photos of my latest carb fests, and posts about my workouts which SuperDad cannot decipher because he ran cross country for 2 years and only understands a running workout that goes like this: “hey you, skinny kid, go run really far then turn around and come back.”  While I am sure my many adoring fans friends enjoy seeing my gigantisaurus rex of a baby and reading about the hilarious and incredibly inappropriate things his sister says, I need a place where I can really throw up all my feelings about trying to be a better runner.

This is not a mommy blog.  This is not a shopping blog.  This is not a “I’m sooooo great because I ran 17 miles with ankle weights while pushing a double stroller and dictating a brief with the sweet Dragon software on my phone” blog.  There are already a ton of those blogs out there and like the good liberal arts major I was, I really am not trying to be the best at any one thing.  I just want to dabble. If only my super Asian Tiger Mom had known this before she pretty much took out a second mortgage to send me to college.  Just kidding!

This is just a blog that will hopefully give me some accountability as I train for my next marathon.  I will definitely talk about my kids because what kind of mother that overshares doesn’t talk about her kids?  I will also tell you about clothes/shoes/gear that I love and probably (more likely) things that I hate.  Because I’m not really an “everything is sunshines and roses and puppy dogs and I love everyone” type of person.  I am obviously an air quotes type of person, and I also don’t know how to edit, according to SuperDad.  Finally, I can already foresee a post about running while pregnant.  Because I have done it twice, and it is not that awesome.  But it’s doable.  And the two books out there that are allegedly about running or exercising while pregnant are also terrible.  The worst.  So bad that I am going to take out a loan, go to med school, become an expert in exercise medicine, and write a book about running while pregnant.  I cannot guarantee that will actually happen. Any of it.

Well kiddies, it’s time for me to tuck in and watch some Real Housewives Breaking Bad with SuperDad.  As you can see, there’s a lot of excitement going on here.  Two kids + 11 mile run tomorrow + generally being lazy = in bed long before I was even ready to put on my makeup back in the day.  You have to use an accent and say “BACK in the day-uh” when you say it.  If you’re lucky I will tell you about my new training plan tomorrow.  But it will most likely be in a week. 

Know your limits… then push them (sometimes)

It’s been two weeks since my second shoulder surgery.  I had a ton of scar tissue so it’s a good thing I had the surgery, or I would be a decrepit old woman with no range of motion within a couple years.  The doctor didn’t tell me that, but this is what I surmise.  The recovery went really well- I was back to work within a day and hit the gym three days later.  I mistakenly thought I could just dive right in and go for a run.  I tallied an impressive 1/2 mile.  If by “impressive,” you mean “really really ridiculously low.”  But instead of pushing myself and impeding my recovery, I hopped on the elliptical for 45 minutes.  I have been building back up since then.  It’s certainly been quicker than the first time around, but I still know my limits.  Like, when I go to Power Hour (which henceforth will be called Athletic Conditioning, because that is what the Y is now calling it) and the class is centered pretty much entirely on pushups, burpees, weighted burpees (aka The Death move), and shoulder presses, I run some sprints on the track and do squats instead.  So basically, I should not have even gone to class.  But I have friends there.  And I also savor the opportunity to a) check to see if one of those friends is going to do something stupid and blog-worthy and b) show off my giant purple bruise.  No seriously, it is gross.  Here is a picture.

Last Saturday, I did my first long-ish run in months.  I know that when I start ramping my mileage up (you know, from  1/2 – 12 miles per week), I start getting shin splints.  It is a tried and true theory, regardless of whether I am heel striking or running in a more natural form.  So earlier in the week, I contacted my good friend at Body Helix, who hooked me up with the brand new Body Helix full calf sleeve.  That’s a picture of me in the silver sleeve.  It is awesome.  It feels so smooth in fact, it feels like you aren’t wearing anything, although you can tell it is providing nice compression.  You know I love me some compression gear.  I have worn Body Helix in the past for my shin splints, and had good results. I think I am going to love these even more though because, being a full sleeve, you get an even greater area of compression.

Anyway, the Body Helix sleeve was only part of what made the run so great.  Another wonderful part of the run was that I got to take sweet Riley running with me.  She is our hound dog and she loves to run.  Rain, shine, hot, cold.  She will run in any weather, unlike me.  Here she is.  The one on the left in the pink collar.  The others are kind of useless for longer runs.  Griffin, in the middle, will trot at a 10:00 pace for approximately 3/4 of a mile.  Then he tries to make his way home or to the car.  There is someone in my house who is fairly similar but I won’t name names. Dylan, on the right, is a decent sprinter and can do about 3 miles if it is precisely 63 degrees and he has not had too much to eat.  We are very much alike.  Riley is the natural born runner, kind of like Shalane Flanagan.  Both are my running idols. Unfortunately, between the baby, two other dogs, and the heat, Riley doesn’t get as much exercise as she should.  It’s certainly possible I train for marathons simply out of guilt, because she will go on training runs with me a lot. Riley is really fun to run with now that all of the dogs had training at the Dog Wizard last December.  She no longer pulls on the lead, which she was terrible about in the past.  She still stops like 5 times to poop (though it’s usually only productive once or twice) but I just sip some water while she does her business. Afterwards, Riley almost had a coronary.  I told you, it’s been a while since we last ran.

Additionally, the weather was incredible.  I despise running in the heat.  I am pretty sure I have mentioned this many many times.  Here in North Carolina, the weather has been horrendous.  So hot and humid.  It is like living on the surface of the sun, after a hurricane.  Oftentimes, I blame my inactivity on the weather.  I think that’s a valid excuse, but I need to deal with it because hello, it’s July, and it’s not likely the heat is going away anytime soon.  But on Saturday, the temp was a brisk 79 when I left the house.  I felt like I needed some earmuffs or something, given how much cooler it was.  The cool temperature tricked my body into thinking it was winter and thus, that I was in some sort of shape.  My goal was to run about 3-4 miles.  I started getting a little tired but felt all right, so I decided to push us. I ended up running 5 miles with Riley and then dropped her off to pick up the other two for another mile.   We won’t discuss what pace I kept.  That’s not what my goal was.

Which brings me to my next point.  It’s HOT AGAIN.  So hot.  Tonight, I went to Athletic Conditioning.   We went outside onto the track, which is not abnormal.  What was abnormal was the humidity.  I swear it was not just me.  We did a decent amount of running, but somehow it felt like I sprinted a 10k with a backpack full of weights in it.  I really wanted to run fast and run hard.  That’s just how I am when I am in a group setting.  But I just couldn’t go as fast or as hard as I wanted to.  Then, when I realized I couldn’t go as fast or as hard as I wanted to, I wanted to quit.  But I stuck it out.  I kept running, slower of course.  I cut off about .01 of a mile off, but I kept going.  I figured out, not surprisingly, that I am not yet capable of running full steam in this kind of heat.  I could have pushed harder- but what would I have accomplished?  A headache, maybe some vomitus, and what else? The point is to get better every day, and enjoy myself.  Physical ailments like shin splints and IT band issues I can deal with, but making myself sick?  That’s not what running and exercising are about to me. At least not anymore.  I know my limit, and for the time being, I am not going to push myself to the brink of sheer exhaustion.  Now that I am a mom and have long term goals like another half marathon and marathon in the next 6 months, maybe another Super Baby, and an Ironman, I can’t risk being out of the game again due to illness or injury.  For now, I just want to have fun and work on increasing my mileage every week.  The really hard stuff will come soon enough…

Why you should only sign up for races while sober…

As you know, I am trying to make my triumphant return to running.  My literal first steps towards this goal culminated in a one mile run.  My most recent efforts have included a 38 minute run at an average pace of 7.4 mph.  The hotel treadmill inexplicably displayed my total mileage as 3.1, but I’m pretty good at math and I don’t think that adds up.  Anyway, I have primarily been going to Power Hour because it’s so hot outside, I can’t stomach a run outdoors after work, and my fuse is too short from my lack of stamina and speed that I cannot deal with the people on the indoor track who openly defy track etiquette.  A few weeks ago, I jogged about 3 laps on the indoor track, and a tween walking around the track with his older sister/babysitter dared walk on the inside of the track for a protracted period of time.  When I said “excuse me,” Carrot Top said, ne, commanded, that the inner lanes are for walkers!!!  I calmly screamed “look at the sign!” and gave up in defeat shortly thereafter.  I have not returned to the indoor track, the former home of my winter 18 or 20 milers, since that incident.  I don’t foresee a trip back to the track until I can tune up my anger management techniques.  Maybe I will take a yoga class…

But I digress.  I have been torturing myself with Power Hour, a class which offers ample running, hill work, and strength work to make me feel like less of a sloth when I sit on the couch watching Real Housewives of New Jersey later in the evening.  It also exposes my shoulder scars to enough UV rays to guarantee I will be branded with these imperfections until I am 80 and the rest of my body resembles an old leather briefcase.  Power Hour has introduced me to some people who I find fascinating, because they too enjoy masochism.  On Friday night, some of my Power Hour friends and “real” friends joined me for Happy- not Power- Hour.  This was an excellent way to kiss goodbye one full week without alcohol. I must say, taking a week off of social drinking was remarkable.  I saved probably $12 in cheap wine and staved off SuperBaby learning the term “Mommy Juice” for at least another week.  Seriously though, I feel marginally more energized and think I will make a habit of not drinking during the work week.  Granted, I’m not a booze hound. I may typically consume 3 or 4 glasses of wine total from Sunday-Thursday, but it’s the principle that counts.  I also have cut out virtually all caffeine and processed flour, so I am feeling rather superior these days.  After consuming two glasses of delicious wine, the name of which I cannot recall, I returned home with my friend Erin and we started talking about running. We thought it would be really fun to pick a race in the fall to do.  We decided to choose a half marathon, since Erin is still nursing a back injury and I will be recovering from a second shoulder surgery.  Instead of thinking our choice through in a sober state of mind, we voted on the inaugural Savannah Rock n’ Roll 1/2 Marathon & Marathon on November 5.  I even found a coupon code to get $10 off registration! We immediately registered online, texted a few friends from Power Hour to harass them into signing up also, and patted ourselves on the backs for our foresight to register early and save $10.

The next morning I see a confirmation email from Active.com congratulating me on registering for the race.  My first thought was “Race, what race?!”  My second thought was “Wow, my brain hurts.  Wine has a lot of sugar in it.”  Great, I roped myself into another race without having even built back up to a solid 10 mile per week base.  And by solid, I mean pathetic.  And by pathetic, I mean “I’m not judging you if you consider yourself a runner and all you run is 10 miles per week.  It’s just that you can’t exactly race 13.1 miles at once if you are running/jogging 2 or 3 miles at a time a few times each week.”  Plus, given I am likely having repeat shoulder surgery very soon, I won’t be running until early August at best.   My negative, super sarcastic brain (which typically wins) laughs at me maniacally, telling me I am shooting for a world record for signing up for races I cannot attend/complete.  See, e.g., Myrtle Beach Marathon (not enough time to recover from Kiawah), Corporate Cup 1/2 Marathon (too much pain 5 days before surgery), Providence Marathon (registered before I realized I would need surgery), and The Scream Half Marathon (wedding that weekend).  My positive brain, which is a rookie, is all about promoting good Qi and making sure I get back into the running that I love.  This part of my brain has decided that Savannah is going to be the one race all year that I fully train for and that I can use to accomplish a PR (under 1:38).  So I mapping out my training schedule, just like I have done in the past.  Here is a sampling of my goals for the next month of training, which will probably take closer to 6 or 7 weeks because of my recovery from surgery:

Mondays/Wednesdays: Power Hour

Tuesdays: 30 minute run at HMP + 10%, 10 cycles of Tabata Sprints (30 seconds sprint, 15 seconds walk)

Thursdays: Intervals (4×800, 8×400, 10×200)

Fridays: Off

Saturdays: Start with a 6 mile run at half marathon pace + 20% this Saturday (on the treadmill at the Aria hotel in VEGAS!!!), add 1 mile per week for three weeks, then back down 2 miles on week 4.

Sundays: Easy 2-3 mile jog

Not too daunting, certainly not like marathon training.  If anyone has any suggestions which one may consider constructive, please send them my way. Happy running, and don’t sign up for any races in the immediate afterglow of Happy Hour!