First races in the states

The last race my husband and I ran was a half marathon in Luxembourg last September. We were both eager to keep running a part of our new life in the states, but it took awhile to get back into the groove. Out first Boston summer was much hotter than we’re used to, making evening runs hard. And while we managed morning runs for awhile, once bébé Monkey starting sleeping “late” (past 6:30), we did too.

We finally decided on November races, which gave us plenty of time to prepare. I did a 5k at the beginning of the month, in an effort to work on speed before tackling a longer distance again. My husband has his sights set on a full marathon soon, so he did a half marathon this weekend at Red Apple Farm, about an hour away.

My 5k was at the local Y, so it was basically like a regular Saturday morning: Monkey and papa stayed at home while I went out for an hour or two. The half marathon got us all out of the house exploring. It started at 8, which meant getting up before 6 on a Saturday (much harder to do when you’ve only been able to sleep past 6 for the last few months!). The farm was having a harvest festival, so there was plenty for Monkey to see and do.

Blacksmith

Farm Animals

As much as we want to keep exploring New England, I think we’re getting to the point where we just want to chill out on weekends. Yesterday was probably the last of the warm weather (at least 60 degrees for the race). Winter weather has finally appeared and we’re going into hibernation like most people do. So it was nice to have a motivating event like the race to get us to visit somewhere we wouldn’t normally go. And now that we’ve been there, I think we’ll definitely try to get out there again next year!

BearRed Apple Farm
Farms are great places for toddlers, and we’ve already been to a few in the area. This one had everything though – cows, chickens (running free!), pigs, donkeys, sheep, goats, and huge bunnies. The store was absolutely adorable, and the outdoor grill was both entertaining for Monkey and delicious for us. I was the only one who found the blacksmith entertaining, but I grew up next door to one and have always loved it. For the festival there was music and additional booths with all sorts of fun holiday stuff. I think we’ll try to go during apple picking season next year to take full advantage of everything they offer.

Store2 Store1

Even if we didn’t pick them ourselves, we brought some apples home with us that  I can’t wait to bake into a pie for Thursday!

Long distance running is (kind of) like giving birth

Last weekend my husband and I ran a half marathon. It was his second, and my fourth. However, it was the first time we’ve run a race together. I usually manage to motivate myself pretty well, but I hadn’t run a half since 2009, and I knew I’d need a little extra encouragement. The half he did this summer went well (he finished just under 2 hours), so he  didn’t feel any pressure to push himself, and ran along with me for the whole 2 hours and 22 minutes it took me to finish. Which is actually my second best time, after the first one I ran in 2007 in 2:10. And just in case you’re interested, I did one in Germany in 2008 in 2:38 (I blame the hail), and another in Annecy in 2009 in 2:27.

Even if it was my second best race, this was a hard one for me, despite the gorgeous weather and totally flat route. While running long distance is really nothing like giving birth, in some ways, it kind of is . . .

  • I pictured it going a certain way, but it was different than I’d imagined
  • Breathing was very important
  • The food and water provided was not sufficient
  • At various moments I felt terribly sick
  • I said things like “This was a stupid idea,” “I can’t do this,” and “Ahhh everything hurts!”
  • My husband was wonderfully encouraging and said things like “You can do this!” “You’re doing great!” “I’m so proud of you!” “Just a little longer!”
  • After a certain point, words were impossible, and I communicated via grunts
  • It seemed endless, but actually went quicker than expected
  • Walking the day after was all sorts of painful
  • While it was happening, I was sure I would never do it again, yet once the pain faded, I started to think “Maybe another wouldn’t be so bad . . .”

It was my husband’s encouragement that first made me think of all the similarities, since he was saying, word for word, the exact same things as during labor. And just like last July, he saw how hard it was for me and helped me the best he could, but in the end, no one else could do it for me, I had to do it myself.

I’m not in any way an expert in running, or giving birth, but having someone there next to you the whole time rooting for you definitely makes a difference!

Goals for 2015

I hope everyone had fun last night for New Year’s Eve! Ours was very low-key, since bébé is teething (like sleep wasn’t hard enough before!) and neither of us was up for trying to get him to sleep at a noisy party somewhere. It was just me and my husband and his brother at our apartment, watching funny movies and eating all the things we swore we’s stop eating once we got to 2015.

However, I am one of those people who sets goals for the new year, rather than make resolutions. Instead of saying “I won’t eat sugar/bread/chocolate/etc” it’s more like “I’ll eat veggies twice a day.” Easier to track, and easier to stay motivated.

I wanted to get them all written down today, just to make them feel “official.”

My goals for 2015:

– Monthly dates with my husband.

I read a lot about weekly date nights, but since bébé goes down pretty early, we get a fair amount of time alone in the evenings during the week. This goal is more about getting out of the house together on a regular basis. Hopefully as the year goes on, and bébé gets bigger, we’ll be able to go out more often. But for now, asking his mother or brother to babysit one evening a month seems like a pretty big deal.

 

– Monthly pampering time.

I got a haircut and my eyebrows waxed in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and it felt great to have someone else take care of me for an hour. Eating well and exercising are also ways to feel good, but those are things I do myself. I think I could do with a little more TLC from talented strangers: a manicure, a massage, a solo trip to the thermal baths . . . I’ll probably try to do it right before our monthly dates, so I feel extra special before going out. For this goal, more often seems a little selfish, not to mention financially difficult.

 

– A 10k or more in May/June, a 10k max in Autumn

Most companies in Luxembourg sponsor their employees for the marathon in the Spring. If there are enough people interested for me to join a team, then I’ll do that, otherwise, I’ll find another race. I know I’d be able to do another 10k, but if by March I’m feeling okay, maybe I’ll try to train for a half marathon. Training for a shorter race after should keep me motivated by changing my routine, and I’ll make speed my goal rather than simply finishing.

 

– Finish a Coursera specialization

I have taken MOOCs before, and really enjoyed them, but I wanted something more in-depth. Coursera has specialisations now, and one really caught my eye that I think will help with my future career goals. I started it last month and while I could technically finish it by this summer, I think by the end of 2015 is more realistic. Two online courses a month + running + bébé seems like a recipe for total exhaustion. But I’ll keep summer as a soft deadline, since I am the type of person who hears “by end of the year” and won’t start doing anything until December 15th.

 

Relationship, me, health, and career. All of them changed a lot in 2014 with the arrival of bébé, and it was too big of a change to really call it “good” or “bad,” if that makes sense. Is my health “worse” now than before I was pregnant? Was my career or mariage “better”? How can you even compare them before and after? It’s a totally new life situation, like starting from zero. So hopefully with these goals, by the end of 2015, these four areas in my life will be in great shape, and I can start to think about more long-term goals.

Running a 10k four months postpartum

10k four months postpartum

I am super happy that I managed to meet the goals I set for the 10k race I ran this past weekend. I ran the whole thing, and I was faster than I had anticipated, despite missing two runs the past two weeks because of a nasty cold.

While pregnant, I read a lot of posts about postpartum running, and wanted to share my own reflections on the process. None of this is intended to replace medical advice, it’s simply what I learned and observed over the past four months.

My big secret: honesty. With yourself, your doctor, and your spouse/partner.

Honesty with your doctor: it means not lying about how you feel just so he’ll sign off on the race (in France you need a doctor’s note to participate in competitions). It means telling him every single problem and concern about breastfeeding, exercise, and sleep and listening to his answers, even if you don’t like them. I thought he would ok exercise at my 4 week appointment, but he said only walking and yoga until 8 weeks. This was frustrating, but in the end, a very good thing. Postnatal yoga focuses a lot on hips and lower back. Guess what runners need to work on too?

Honesty with yourself: it means asking yourself lots of questions and thinking very seriously about the answers. I think these could apply to any hobby, be it quilting, running, writing, dancing, stargazing . . . whatever makes you feel connected to your pre-baby self.

Questions like:

  • Am I willing to give up x y z to make time for it? (For me, TV mainly, and couple time, but my husband just got a new video game so it meant more time for him to play!)
  • Will I really be able to stick with it through the craziness and exhaustion that is life with a newborn? (Even having just 20 minutes to myself a few times a week really helped me stay sane, so I looked forward to my runs as fun, rather than having them feel like an obligation to avoid.)
  • Will I be disappointed if it doesn’t turn out how it did before? (I was okay with a slower time but I knew I’d be a little upset if I had to walk)
  • Do I want to share my goal publicly to help motivate me? (My family and colleagues knew, and they asked about my progress, which I found very motivating. I mentioned it on the blog, but not on Facebook until it was over.)

Honesty with your spouse: it means asking similar questions, to make sure they understand how much support you’re going to need from them.

Some questions for spouses/partners:

  • Can you put the baby to bed/cook dinner/do laundry X times a week? (My training schedule had me running less than 30 minutes two weeknights, which was very manageable for us. More than that would have been hard.)
  • Is it ok if you see me a little less while I do it? (see video game comment above)
  • How will we set up a schedule so we both can do the things we want to do? (It’s only fair to give if you get, so I made sure to make time for his hobbies as well.)

Ok, so honesty is great and everything, but non-runners may still be wondering how running a 10k at 4 months postpartum is actually possible. (Or maybe there are runners like me going through their first pregnancy wondering that as well.) A few things to keep in mind:

– This is not my first race. Or my fifth. I actually don’t know the exact number, but I’ve been running at least one or two a year for 9 years. This means I know my body, I know what my limits are, how fast I can go, when to run through a cold, when to stay home (and do yoga!), what a real injury feels like, etc. If I’d only ever run one or two races, I probably would have set a much easier goal with less distance, and more months of training.

– I trained with a walk/run plan. This kind of felt like going backwards, but again, knowing my body meant knowing that after almost a year off, it wouldn’t be ready to only run at 2 months. Or 3. But by 4, I got to a place that felt like running the whole 10k would maybe be possible. Maybe not. But at least with a walk/run plan, I knew I’d be able to finish it either way.

– I worked out during my pregnancy. Swimming, yoga (so much yoga!), light weights, walking. While “knowing” my body didn’t really apply during pregnancy, since it was doing all sorts of crazy things I couldn’t control, I did listen to it. And I often felt really great after an easy workout, so I kept at it as long as it felt good. But if I was too tired or achy, I didn’t do it.

– My husband is working part-time right now. Since he can do laundry/shopping during the day, evenings are free to pursue our different hobbies. He is also really really great about dealing with the bébé at night, which means I can sleep, since I have the more demanding work schedule, and so that I can be rested for my runs.

It’s definitely the support of my husband that has helped the most these past four months, and obviously not just for running, but for everything. Even when working full-time, he didn’t hesitate for a second to take a crying baby so I could get out of the house for 20 minutes, or to get up three times a night to change diapers. I told a friend that running this race didn’t make me superwoman, but it definitely made me realize I’m married to superman!

Running again

In the past 3 weeks I’ve run 8 times. Well, actually it’s walk/jog intervals, because it’s been almost a year since I’ve seriously hit the pavement/gym. But it feels better to say I’m running again rather than say I’m jogging insanely slowly. And my goal in all this is to feel better, not to win any medals or set a new PR.

Still, I’m not someone who can be happy with just “feel better” as a goal (though that is the most important one after having a baby), and there’s a 10k race in November I want to finish, without having to walk if possible. It’s in the Burgundy wine region. The last time I ran a race along vineyards it was in Germany, and it was one of my slowest. But it was also one of the most beautiful, despite the hail(!!) and running slower just means you can appreciate it longer. Not to mention, the promise of good wine at the end can be very motivating.

Running is something I’ve always done for me, to feel connected to my body and proud of it. While for some, giving birth does that for them, it was kind of a surreal experience for me, and didn’t last that long. Yes it’s pretty cool that I made a little, squirmy, giggling person, but my head is too much in the present/future to really grasp how awesome it is the way others seem to. Running is more ongoing so I can feel what my body is capable of now, not what it did a few months ago that now has its own body. And all your family and friends can come watch you run, whereas giving birth tends to be a more private affair.

I go back to work in 3 weeks, and I have no idea what that will do to my training. But I figure that getting into the habit now will help me stick with it later. And while the gym is a 10 minute drive away from home, there’s one right across the street from my office, so that might actually make it a little easier.

Weight loss is definitely not the goal, and as long as I’m breastfeeding (= focusing on getting at least a minimum amount of calories rather than restricting myself to a maximum), these last few kilos will probably stick around awhile. Also, since my legs tend to gain muscle fairly quickly, the scale might even go up. But muscle is leaner, and fitting into all my work outfits again will definitely make me (and my wallet) feel better.

A final way running again has been making me feel better is that it’s that precious “me” time parents never seem to have enough of. This past Sunday was kind of perfect since I got to run and then when I got back, my husband rode his bike. We both had our one-on-one time with bébé, and also our stress-reducing workouts. Just the recipe for feeling better after a long week and recharging for the week to come.