Investing in my Health, Part 8

Then I had kids

Now, having kids is a trip. But what it does your body? A whole OTHER trip. I had read the books and been told countless stories, horror and non-horror, about what happens to your body, but I wasn’t fully prepared. I don’t think any woman is when she pops a human out of her body and then sees her body afterwards. There aren’t many things in this world that you can stretch and pull and push and tug and have them come back to their original condition. The human body is the same. Or at least mine is.

Being active for most of my pregnancy for several of my pregnancies, I couldn’t wait to get back to being active once my doctor said I could. So, I made it a priority to get moving, and, well it wasn’t easy. There were logistics – when was hubby coming home so I could go? Was my brother available to watch the baby? Could my in-laws help while I went for a run? How early was too early in the morning to get a workout in? It was a juggle, as much of parenting is.

Then there was the physicality of it. Will my body move the way it used to? Could it handle to go through another bunch of activities, and actual marathons after the marathon that is pregnancy? Well, the answer for me, fortunately, was yes.

But not without challenges.

My love of running didn’t die when I became a mom. In fact, I think maybe it got stronger. If there was ever a time to take care of myself, it was then, right? And I think I felt like I had to prove to myself that I could still do it. That I still had it.

The first race I ran as a mom was a 15k run…in the dark. It took place in the evening, midsummer, and…in the Leslie Spit (see my last post for how much I love *rolling my eyes and shaking my head* the Leslie Spit). I started strong, keeping good time, and then some version of the Wall showed up – possibly largely in part of where I was geographically. I had trained for this so I know I was physically fine, but my mental state brought me back to when I hit the Wall there last time, and I felt so disappointed with myself. When I look back at how I did, it really wasn’t bad. I think just how I felt and that I didn’t make the time I was hoping for, was what did me in. I felt like maybe my body just wasn’t gonna do it anymore.

Depleted but not defeated.

But instead of letting it get me down, I kept going. I ran more races.

When we got pregnant again, due to some easy complications, I was actually required not to do anything physically active. It was hard to make sure my heartrate didn’t reach a certain point and hard not to be active as an active person. It was a really sluggish pregnancy, I can tell you that. But, I set a goal to run another marathon. And this time, I was gonna do it better. I was gonna take my experience and do it the way I wanted to. I trained hard. As soon as I got the go from my doctor, I signed up for a marathon that would take place on my next birthday. I trained from summer through to winter. On hills. On hot days. In the evenings. Through blizzards (insert “Rocky Theme” here). If it was on my training schedule, I did it. I got pretty hard core.

One of the things I did while training for this one was a Beachbody program. I needed to cross-train, I wanted to get stronger and faster, and I didn’t have much time during regular hours, caring for my kids, going to work, battling winter, so I reunited with Beachbody and did Insanity with Shaun T at 5am every morning. I would work out in the wee hours of the morning and fit in anywhere from a hill run to sprints to tempo run, when I could, in the evening. I think about that now and have no idea how I did that.

I even worked on training my mind and my spirit. Each time I trained, I brought my faith in and listened to podcasts about my faith. Being active became one of the ways I prayed, worshipped and thanked God for giving me the gift of a capable body, and a mind that believes I can do anything. It became my time with my God, and where I fell short, he carried me through.

This training and dedication, the motivation from my family and friends, and my experiences, helped me to really get moving…and CRUSHING my previous race time.

I remember asking my husband to make sure they were cheering me on close to the finish line so I could use that extra push to ride into the finish. I remember hearing “MOMMAAAAAAAAA!!!!!” and seeing my, then, 3 year old son, step onto the path waving at me. I whispered to myself “THIS IS IT.” I said a prayer. And as I sprinted to him, I removed my fuel belt to hand to my husband for less weight to carry, and high fived them as I zoomed passed. I don’t even remember my legs moving…I just felt like I was on water. Of all the races I’ve ever run, that, by far, was the strongest finish I’ve ever had.

After that marathon, I found out my son was mad at me. “She didn’t even stop! She just kept going! UGH.” LOL!

Of the marathons and races I’ve run, most of them were as a mother. It was challenging and scary, but I did it, and I was proud of myself. It is so rewarding to finish a race and see my family afterward, proud of me while also somewhat oblivious to what I just did.

What has also been awesome is seeing my kids talk about me being a runner, me taking care of myself, and them wanting the same thing, even at very young ages.

And now, they see me helping people, sharing progress pictures of people I’m coaching, sharing what my fellow coaches are doing. They see that I’m helping people and loving it. They know they can find me working out in the morning. They’re eating more vegetables and are more curious about what I’m eating and not eating, and why. It feels good to set an example like that.

Investing in my Health, Part 7

Marathons and other races

Running my actual first marathon was an experience. Let me tell you that.

42.2 km.

There are islands that are that whole distance. It’s just short of the circumference of Maui.

If you’re from Toronto, like me, that’s the distance from Toronto to between Pickering and Ajax if you go east or Brampton if you go west.

All I knew was I wanted to do it, and I knew it was gonna be hard but I was determined. At the same time, I chose to run a full marathon with Team in Training and fundraise for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada in memory of my Mom. This was gonna be for her and for all the other little girls who were in danger of possibly losing their mothers to blood diseases.

I trained with the team, had an awesome mentor and coach, and trained on my own too. I was introduced to all sorts of tips and tricks for running a marathon, what long distance runners really do and how I was gonna do it.

I trained up to 25km and was so proud of myself. That was the farthest I’d ever run.

I remember the first time I ever hit “THE WALL”. The Wall is the point in a race where you feel like you can’t go on. It’s just like it sounds: there is a WALL in front of you and you can’t go on.

On a biological level, it’s mental and physical. You feel absolutely exhausted. Your liver and muscles run very low on glycogen, which are energy stores in your body. You also don’t have enough sugar in your body to maintain the level of endurance you need. Your brain even begins to shut down in order to preserve what you have left. This means you end up thinking negatively and well, kinda crazily… “I can’t do it!” You know you’re not done because you haven’t finished but you really don’t believe you can get there.

It’s a horrible horrible place!

The first time I hit the Wall, I was training by myself. I had set myself up for a 30k run, and was on km 26. I was doing so well, even trucking on while it started to rain. I felt like a champ, the rain pouring off of my hat, but I was running out of fuel. I knew I didn’t have much water left, which was scary and I had consumed my last gel several kilometres before. I felt like I was gonna be ok…

…and then I wasn’t.

It was like I ran right up to it. There was no more left in me. I was so mad at myself. I had to call my husband and ask him to pick me up. When I got in the car, all I could do was bawl my eyes out. I got home and cried on the couch and kept saying things about how I couldn’t do it, why did I sign up, how was I ever gonna finish a marathon if I couldn’t even finish 30k? Even my brother was there and tried to help.

That was my first experience with the wall.

Then my brother told me I was gonna do it. I was gonna cross that finish line. Even if it meant walking. I would finish.

And a few weeks later, I did. I hit the Wall that first marathon (and in the Leslie Spit of all places…some people love it, but for you non-Torontonians, this is where they take bombs to detonate them safely…not my idea of paradise)…so that was not a fun place for me), but, I had pushed it to 31k. This time, I didn’t stop. Even when medics who biked by would check on me. I walked over the wall. Just because I had to walk part of my race, it didn’t mean I didn’t finish. I finished my race with the help of a volunteer who was also a running coach. He got me running 5 minute intervals (i.e. run for 5 mins, walk for 1 min, run for 5 mins, walk for 1 min, and so on) while he filled up my fuel belt. I sprinted the last 500 meters and never saw him again.

I was happy to finish, I swear!

That was my first experience with an actual coach. I spent some time trying to find out who he was to thank him but no one knew who I was talking about!

2 things came from this first marathon experience:

1. I know what it’s like to hit the Wall. To be completely spent and lose all belief in myself. So, having gotten there, having let it take me down, and having learned to CLIMB OVER THE WALL, I know what it feels like to approach it, to know my limits, to know now how to push them. And I know what it takes to avoid the Wall even showing up. THAT is how I have the endurance I have.

2. That coach. I tell people this story sometimes, and even the organizers of that marathon have made me wonder if this guy even existed. Did my brain create him while it, too, was delirious?

In any case, I’ve wanted to be THAT GUY. The one who cheers people on, gets them what they need to finish.