08. November 2016 · Comments Off on Zombie Mums’ Run · Categories: Race Report, Run, Sportlight on.... · Tags: , ,

I’ve just had a wonderful visit with my friend Juliane, her 2 year old son Joey, and her friend Barbara. They flew in for the weekend from the British Virgin Islands (BVI).

Tom and I first met Juliane in 2005, when we were all working in the BVI. She forced me to run back then, and I hated it – as detailed here. In 2013, I went out to visit Juliane and her family in the BVI, and together we ran a BVI Athletics Association 5K race on Tortola:

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I’m wearing the long socks. Juliane has a pink bra and a grey cap.

As it happened, this was Juliane’s very first race (first of many!), and it was also my first race in the heat (also the first of many!).

After Juliane heard that I ran a 5K race last weekend, she asked if I could find a race for the two of us to do together again. A quick google and I found the Phantom 5K held at the Palm Beach Outlets. Juliane was arriving on Friday late in the evening and the race was early Saturday morning, but it would work.

…and then her flight was rerouted to Orlando due to a fire at Fort Lauderdale, so it ended up being after midnight by the time she got to our house. With her two year old. I asked if she was sure she wanted to race early the next day – “absolutely!” she said.

Just to make sure we were well and truly exhausted, our babies both picked that night as the one to be difficult.  Eva needed feeding at 4am and it wasn’t long before I heard Joey up too. So, 3.5 hours sleep before the race. When we arrived at the race venue in the dark and saw all the Halloween decorations, we declared it the Zombie Mums’ Run rather than the Phantom 5K. We did a half-hearted lap around the car park to warm up and both declared ourselves spent. Juliane couldn’t stop shivering in the “cold” 26 deg / 79 F (that’s what so many years in the tropics will do to you!) and bounded off as soon as the gun went. I tried to run steady and managed pretty even splits, as slow as I was (now at 12 weeks postpartum). The course was two laps around the Palm Beach Outlets car park, not the most glamorous of runs.

Juliane finished in 23:11 and came second in our age group, her best time since Joey’s birth, and I ran 25:01, which was a good improvement over last weekend’s race and enough for third in the age group. It’s going to be a long road back to fitness….but I’m taking it day by day.

The next day, Juliane, Barbara and I enjoyed a 10km easy run through the local bird sanctuary – my longest run since Eva’s birth. It feels so good to be back out there.

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Eva: for photo purposes only

 

01. November 2016 · Comments Off on Flying high! · Categories: Holidays, Run · Tags: ,

When Eva was 8 weeks old, we ventured on a flight to Toronto to see her grandparents and then onwards to the wedding of our close friends Ben & Travis on Mackinac Island, Michigan.

We were nervous about flying for the first time with Eva. We needn’t have been.  She was a little superstar. The flight to Toronto was 3 hours and she fed, played and slept. Not a problem. Who knew the plane offered an in-flight service of milk on demand?

The trip happily coincided with the arrival of Hurricane Matthew, although Tom was upset not to get to go windsurfing in it….

After a brief stint in Toronto, we flew up to Sault Ste. Marie at the top of Lake Huron, rented a car and drove southwest to St. Ignace, MI, where we then caught a ferry across to Mackinac Island.  Mackinac Island is completely car-free. Bicycles and horses only! A beautiful place, just 8 miles around.

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The Grand Hotel, where the wedding took place

We had a couple of days to explore the island, go for some little runs and walks, spend time with the other wedding guests and eat fudge and drink hot chocolate (both sold at nearly every shop along the main street). It was the first time really that we had been out and about all day every day with Eva and it was great for us to see that we could do it.

The wedding itself was fabulous.  Ben looked every bit the beautiful bride and Travis very dashing. We felt honoured to have been invited to the very small and private wedding and to get to meet all of Ben’s family visiting from Switzerland.

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Mr and Mrs Cardinal!

As for Eva, I fed her quietly at the back throughout the whole ceremony and she never made a peep.  She was still in her pyjamas and was wrapped up in blankets as it was pretty cold (poor Ben in her sleeveless dress!) with a strong wind. Once we headed inside for cocktails, we changed Eva into her party dress. Unashamedly for the photo opportunities!

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We also got to see our friend Angie, who was looking fabulous at 7 months pregnant.

 

 

Once the Cardinals were safely married, we headed back to Canada and immediately drove north to my parents’ cottage on Georgian Bay. The weather varied greatly – some days we were in shorts, other days it was close to freezing. Don’t worry, Eva has ALL the clothes.

 

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The cardigan was hand-knitted by the fabulously talented Katie Smith in London.

I can’t decide whether I prefer hipster baby or snow baby:

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Up at the cottage, we enjoyed a number of runs, ate ridiculous amounts of chocolate, walked in the woods and took Eva on her first boat ride.

All in all it was a very successful trip and I loved the cooler weather. It was empowering to see that we could bring Eva to new places and we could all cope.  All part of the road back to normalcy.

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Finishing my first ever triathlon, the Nuffield Health Tri Challenge sprint at Eton Dorney Lake

I love racing. From the moment I finished my first race, a sprint triathlon at Eton Dorney Lake, I wanted that feeling again, and again, and again. I love pushing myself and I just love the ambience at races. The feeling of everyone coming together to do the same thing, the nervous tension, the fun, the effort involved from the person sprinting across the finish in first place to the person walking across the finish line last.

 

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It’s not always about going fast. I just love to take part, even when I am not racing.  Which is why I did a couple of races while pregnant, my last one a 5K at 30 weeks.  I like looking for a challenge in any circumstances. Racing while pregnant was great because I had a very visible excuse as to why I was slow. I had so many people waving at me and telling me how wonderful it was that I was out there.

 

 

Post-partum, it’s a different story.  I don’t have anything on me that tells the random bystander “Hey, I just had a baby, cut me some slack!“, but really the only person who needs to know that I need that slack is myself.

2014

This past weekend I ran the Wellington 10 Miler & Sebastian’s 5K (I only did the 5K!) as my very first race since having Eva 11 weeks ago. This race holds a special place in my heart.  When Tom and I first moved to Wellington two years ago, we noticed signs up in our neighbourhood stating that a race would be held on the roads that weekend.  I immediately investigated further and discovered that the Wellington Runners Club was holding its annual race. Clearly a perfect introduction to our new home – I entered it immediately.

Three days after moving countries and continents, I lined up at the start of the 10 mile course. I had never run a 10 mile race before so wasn’t sure how to pace it.  2014 was a huge year for me – I had come off of many endurance events, including Ironman Lanzarote, the Anglesey Ultramarathon, the London Marathon, the Sierra Leone Marathon, and the SVP100, a 100km ultra marathon. I hadn’t done any speed workouts since the Ironman in May. But, as I’ve already stated, I love to race and I definitely wasn’t going to miss a race in my new neighbourhood.

At the start of the 2014 race

At the start of the 2014 race and 20 lbs lighter!

Unsurprisingly, I went out too fast. I wasn’t used to the Florida heat, I wasn’t really trained for speed, and by mile 7 I was losing ground. I was overtaken by a girl with long dark hair in a plait who ran a very steady pace. I finished 5th woman, and as I gasped at the finish line, I saw the girl again and congratulated her on much smarter running that I had done.  She was wearing a Wellington Runners Club vest and she told me about the club and invited me to the track workouts. That girl was Benjamine.

Meeting Ben immediately brought us into the inner folds of Palm Beach County’s running community. I joined the club and started running the track sessions to try to find some speed again. Ben and I were almost perfectly paced for each other and ended up training for our spring marathons together (London for me, Boston for her). We also ran the Leadville Marathon in Colorado together, along with our husbands Tom and Travis, went skiing,  and spent hours running through swamps all last summer preparing for our respective ultra marathons (Laugavegur in Iceland for us, Trans-Alps for them). We also ran many other local races together, from half marathons to 5Ks to triathlons. Sometimes she beat me, sometimes I beat her, but we always had fun and enjoyed a big brunch afterwards with our men.

2016

Last year I was all set to run the Wellington 10 Miler again when I was hit by the car the day before the race. I didn’t make it to the start line. This year, at 11 weeks postpartum, I wasn’t ready for the 10 Miler, but the 5K looked like a perfect goal.  I’d been back running (or should I say jogging) for around 4 weeks, although hardly anything much – 1.5 to 3 miles max, 3 times a week, plus swimming and daily core exercises. A small slow start, as it should be. Returning to running after a baby is no joke. It’s almost like starting over as a complete beginner, except your brain is light years ahead of your body and gets frustrated that the body can’t keep up. It’s okay to be slow right now. It’s okay to need to take walk breaks. This is normal. This is what I keep telling myself.

My friend Carly – who is 14 weeks pregnant –  was running with her two young girls in her double pram. I think we calculated at one point that the total weight she pushes is well over 100lbs?! She is a hell of a runner. So with her triple handicap, we ran together for the first three kilometres and chatted pregnancy, birth, sport, babies. We kept a nice steady pace and she was the perfect companion to stop me from getting ahead of myself.

[Side note: Carly ran hill repeats while in labour. She was the inspiration behind my 5K run after my waters broke.]

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Carly, Travis and Ben, with Molly and Skylar in the pram. Molly was very upset she wasn’t being allowed out to run the race herself.

With two kilometres to go, and Carly being blocked by her wide-load pram from overtaking runners in front, I said goodbye and tried to find any remnants of speed in my legs, heart, lungs. There wasn’t much, but I managed to get to my old marathon pace (!) and finished with a sprint when another lady tried to overtake me.

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Ben won it.

Just like any other race, I had to sit down gasping at the finish line. My goal for the race had been to beat my 30 week pregnant 5K time of 26:59, and I succeeded with 25:37. Not a time I would be proud of normally, but at 11 weeks postpartum I was pleased.

Also, most of the faster runners tend to run the 10 Miler rather than the 5K, so it also meant I won my age group and received a handy pint glass for it. Ben was jealous. She and her husband only got trophies for first woman and first masters…!

With Jen Leeds, the head off the Wellington Runners Club, the race director, and overall just an amazing person

With Jen Leeds, the head off the Wellington Runners Club, the race director, and overall just an amazing person

I have a long way to go on the road back to fitness, but I loved being back on the running scene, back in the race, and yes, as embarrassing as it is to say it, back on the occasional podium.

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This is New

I’ve done a lot of running races and triathlons in the last 4 years. This was my first time having to figure out how to do it with the complexities of a small baby. Here is how it worked out:

  • Tom wanted to run the 10 miler, and I wanted to run the 5K. Someone had to watch Eva.  I won. Tom had to stay home with the baby. This does make me sad. I especially love racing with him.
  • I had to feed Eva before the race. Eva is starting to sleep through the night. She WAS sleeping through the night before the race. I had to wake her at 5am to feed.  Do you have any idea how wrong it is to WAKE an 11 week old baby who is sleeping through the night?! WRONG!!!
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Waking the sleeping baby at 5am. NOT COOL.

  • I had to figure out running with boobs filled with milk. Needless to say, this was not something I ever had to think of before. 1) Empty them as close to run time as possible. 2) Wear the most supportive bra you own even though it chafes terribly. 3) Scream when you have a shower afterwards and the water hits your raw chafed back.
  • Remember to wear black. Because I’ve read enough blogs about leaking milk and leaking wee when running postpartum. Neither happened, thankfully. But better to be prepared….
  • I wasn’t sure if I had time to stay for the awards ceremony or if I had to rush back to feed Eva again. Tom confirmed – she remained asleep and I stuck around for my pint glass.

 

Reader, the race is over.

Eva Lake was born on August 5 at 6:15am, weighing 7lbs 5.5 oz and measuring 20″ long.

It’s pretty shabby that I’m only writing this now, when Eva is 11 weeks old, but that’s how long it has taken to find some semblance of normal life.

The best part of her birth story is that my waters broke at 3:30am on 4 August, but with no accompanying contractions. So Tom, Haile and I went for one last 5km run together before sunrise, and yes, during labour.

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After my waters had broken and a 5km run with an unconcerned Haile

The run failed to bring on the desire effect, however, so later that day we found ourselves in the Wellington Regional Hospital with me being hooked up to IV Pitocin.  Have you heard of Pitocin?  It’s a drug that intensifies contractions by about a billion (no exaggeration).  Our “birth plan” (hahahah) was to go all natural, no drugs, just hypnobirthing that sweet baby out of me.  Well, modern medicine says that if your waters break, you have 24 hours to get the baby out before risk of infection to both mother and baby. So they needed to speed things up.  Bye bye birth plan.

I had envisioned myself walking the hallways and breathing the baby down, but instead I was all but chained to the bed and struggling to survive each thunderous, murderous Pitocin-enhanced contraction.  I doubt I’d have made it through without my doula Tina and Tom helping me every moment of the long night (honestly, I don’t know how anyone gives birth without a doula). I’ll spare you the details but it was no-epidural as I had planned (stupid, stupid me) and Eva Lake was born early the next morning. And then my placenta didn’t come out. Which meant after stitching me back up, the doctor had to dive back in with foreceps and pull it out piece by piece (sorry, too much information?).  The result was very bad tearing. I’m only telling you this because that’s what stopped me from returning to sport for so many weeks after (and unfortunately, as confirmed by my OB today, it’s still not fully healed).

But I did get this:

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Taking Eva home from hospital at 2 days old

I found going home with a brand new little baby very difficult, especially when I couldn’t even take a walk outside for over a month. I felt like I had been playing a game throughout my pregnancy – how much can I do? How long can I keep going for? But once Eva arrived, reality hit hard. How much could I do? Nothing, just feed her and hold her and try to stop her from crying.  That was the first month and the straight truth was that I was not in a good place for a long time.  There were a lot of tears.  I don’t mean from Eva (although there were plenty of those too).

I had a big blobby postpartum jelly belly, a body that felt destroyed from childbirth, the brutal burning summer sun which meant I couldn’t even venture outside with her, and a helpless hungry newborn. Tom was (and is) amazing. He didn’t blink when I cried for the 15th time each day and he approached baby care as an equally shared responsibility (as it should be, but still not so common to see in action I think). I’ve read that the first 3 months of the baby’s life are known as the “fourth trimester” because essentially they should still be in the womb in terms of their capabilities, but they have to come out earlier due to the size of their heads versus, ahem, the size of the exit pathway. Everyone told me that at 3 months old, everything would get easier.

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Scenes from 4am, just a few days old.

Slowly things came together, as friends promised they would.  I attended some new mothers’ support groups – it’s amazing how much better you feel when you realise that other babies, and their mothers, cry too – and we slowly learned a bit more about Eva and she learned to negotiate the world.  Now at 11 weeks she is doing great, sleeping through the night frequently and giving us big smiles.  It’s amazing what a difference it makes once the baby starts smiling.  It’s a real game-changer.

39 weeks pregnant, 1 mile ocean swim with friends

At 7 weeks postpartum, the doctor told me I could resume gentle exercise, with the caveat that things were still not all healed up – so take it easy.  I started out in the pool and was shocked to discover how much easier it was to swim without a huge pregnant belly. Same with my first run.  Although I was still as slow as can be, I was already a minute faster a mile without the belly despite being massively unfit. Relief!

I gained a lot of weight while pregnant.  43 lbs / 19.5kg. They say you’re only supposed to gain 25-35 lb. As active as I was, there was no way that was happening – the numbers on the scale were on a very steady ascent.  That was with running, swimming, cycling, walking and yoga for around 10 hours a week.  My friend Cathy was kind enough to point out that I fell pregnant right before/at Ironman Florida, so I was at racing weight rather than “normal” weight, so I do need to take that into account. Easier said than done.

Nonetheless, post-baby, I was, and am, dealing with a lot of extra weight slowing me down, plus I am massively unfit from all the time off and minimal real training during pregnancy. Which is difficult both physically and mentally.  But I’m trying not to worry about it, and hopefully once I resume proper training, it will trickle away…. My chocolate binges probably don’t help.  My current return to exercise is running and swimming a few times a week, as permitted when Tom can look after Eva, and doing core exercises every day. I’m looking forward to getting back on the bike soon, but my nether regions aren’t quite ready for that yet. My good friend Lara (she of 40 weeks spin class) and I are holding each other accountable to do the MuTu 12 weeks core & diastasis & pelvic floor workout.  I hate that sort of stuff and I never do it normally (OH! That’s why my core is so weak!). Although Lara is in Toronto and I am in Florida, we text each other daily to confirm we have done our sets for the day. Lara, I love you. Yes, it was her idea.

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Eva’s first swim

We have even taken Eva swimming, and she seems to like it – see above! (Lovely scar on my arm from the hit & run one year ago.)

And we have taken her to brunch in Palm Beach:

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But her favourite place of all (other than suckling my boob) is on the quilt I made for her:

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To be continued:  travelling abroad with Eva, my first runs, my first race back!

 

I feel like I’m running the longest race yet.  I’m nearing 36 weeks so the end is in sight… and yet like the last 5K of a marathon, it still feels like a long way to go. And it’s always pretty awful when you have 5K left to go in the marathon and all the spectators are shouting “you’re nearly there! almost done!” and you think…. shut up shut up…. I have so far to go……

I recently enjoyed reading professional triathlete Rachel Joyce’s blog post on entering her third trimester. She is around 6 or 7 weeks behind me when it comes to the bump and (irrelevant but fun) we have the same birthday. Her bump is also teeny tiny.  Not so surprising I guess considering she is a professional athlete. Meanwhile I was out and about this week and had nearly a dozen people come up to me and ask if I was due that week, if I were overdue, if I were carrying twins, and so on……  oh the fun!

I am still running. Like molasses, but I’m getting out there. I know I look ridiculous but thankfully the upside of the intense heat here is that I can only consider running before sunrise, so not many people get to see me to point and stare……  This morning I managed 5 miles in the heat, whoohoo!  I felt great and then Tom took a photo and I couldn’t stop laughing….

Let’s play spot the differences:

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Nearly 36 weeks

But I’m not running much.  A few times a week is a good week, and i’ve been hitting the pool more instead. Which is still so hot that I swear you can see the water bubbling at times.

I would actually like to try my hand at another 5K race but we are now out of season here in disgustingly drippingly hot south Florida so I haven’t managed to find one taking place in the next few weeks (if you know of one, please tell me!). I’m on a bit of a deadline so it’s not much good when Active.com tells me about September or October races.

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I lost my goggles and swim cap at the pool yesterday. Gutted. Particularly because the swim cap was a gift from Leanda Cave‘s sister Melissa (who is half fish), so obviously it imbued me with superpowers – now gone forever.

A number of people have asked me what the belly support band is that I’ve been wearing to run.  It’s called the Gabrialla Maternity Support Belt and I inherited it from my sister who used it all day every day during her later pregnancy.  I don’t find it that comfortable to wear, but I think it does make a huge difference when I run and I wouldn’t really consider running without it now.  It costs USD $31.74 on Amazon. It is VERY sexy.

 

I was heartened to see that even a professional triathlete doesn’t necessarily take all the huge changes to her body in her stride. Rachel Joyce writes,

My bump has only recently formed as a “bump” but before that I would call it a paunch. I remember one day around 15-16 weeks where I stood in the change rooms in my swim suit feeling a little self conscious about my new shape, and for a moment I was hesitant about heading to the pool deck. I’m thankful that I have never really suffered with body image issues but that day I did waiver a bit. I have found a few strategies are good in this situation: a sense of humor, reminding myself that my body is doing a pretty freakin’ amazing thing and now is the time to be kind to myself….

I know all about that hesitancy and adapting to the “new shape.” I used to think that you could regulate weight gain during pregnancy through diet and exercise, but I’ve since learned that it largely appears to be out of your control.  While I’ve obviously massively lowered my training volume and intensity throughout the last 8.5 months, I am still very active and I generally keep to a good diet without too many excesses. And yet the weight just piles on as it pleases. The downside to gaining so much weight is that holy crap, my feet hurt so much!  Tom keeps reminding me that it’s like I’m carrying a huge rucksack at all times (ugh!). All I can hope is that my body knows what it’s doing to make a healthy baby, and that it will all come off afterwards – fingers crossed.

And to help me achieve that, I’ve signed up to the London Marathon (April 2017) and have just submitted entry for a semi-elite place at the Tokyo Marathon (Feb 2017).  Fingers crossed! Both of which I had to miss this year due to the pregnancy. Maybe I’m naive to think that I can do either of these races so soon after having the baby, and of course I will have to play it by ear. But at least if I’m registered, it’s a possibility.

On that note, one of the biggest mental adaptions for us at the moment is realising that Tom and I won’t really be able to do the same races anymore. We’ve done so many together and it’s been so much fun, but the reality is that going forward, we are going mostly going to have to take turns.

 

NON-Sport alert

As for non-sporting news, well, I’ve been busy with my very nerdy sewing hobby, making a quilt for the baby. I was especially chuffed to special-order custom fabric from Spoonflower using a photograph Tom took years ago of our cat Ballon’s eyes.  Turns out she approves of the quilt:

 

 

Ps…. if you were wondering how the amazing Lara is doing after reading about her sporting achievements in my last blog post, at 41 weeks 6 days, Lara gave birth to a beautiful healthy girl named Sasha Dae! Hurrah!

 

 

07. June 2016 · Comments Off on Spin me right round, baby · Categories: embrace the bike, Holidays, Pregnancy, Yoga · Tags: , ,

I’ve been both charmed and embarrassed by the accolades I received after my last post about running the Toronto Women’s 5k race at 30 weeks pregnant. Thank you very much, readers!

Just to put it into perspective, just remember that Alysia Montaño was still racing track events at 8 months (34 weeks) pregnant….

Or how about my friend Lara? She is 10 weeks ahead of me, which put her at 40 weeks (that’s full term, folks) when she proposed we go do a spin class together the day after the race.  On her due date.

I suggested a nice long walk instead, but no, she was insistent: spin or bust. So yes, on her due date, we could be found at Quad spin studio spinning our legs furiously and being shouted at by a bearded man in spandex. I was tired from the race the day before and was sweating profusely… Lara elegantly maintained her pregnant glow and kept up with the furious pumping while I gave up and sat out a couple rounds, pretending to churn my wheels while secretly setting the bike to the easiest setting possible.

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Two days later, a now overdue Lara was suggesting an outdoor prenatal yoga session. We found a yoga video online and proceeded mostly to ignore it, instead having too much fun clowning around in the soft sunshine.

This makes me crack up most of all:

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Lara is now 41 weeks and 1 day and I am wishing her all the best….  as she continues to walk, jump and skip to get that baby out! Good luck Lara! Maybe one last spin class will do it?

 

 

 

I’ve been touched by the outpouring of congratulations and support after my Pregnant Pause post last week. I was in Canada for a short visit with my parents / escape from Florida heat and unsurprisingly I discovered that I could run much better in the cooler temperatures.

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The half marathon in 2013

I enjoyed a couple of cooler runs (16-19° C/ 61-66° F) at the cottage, including a mighty 9 km (5.6 miles) which is the longest run I’ve managed to do since I think about 21 weeks of pregnancy. I felt good!  I felt great! So what to do but enter a race over the weekend? Of course!

Tom and I ran the Toronto Women’s Half Marathon in 2013 when visiting Toronto for our friends’ wedding. It was conveniently the same weekend that we were in town and it takes place every year in Sunnybrook Park, which is very near to where my parents live.

So I was pleased to discover that I happened to be in Toronto yet again for the event. Now, don’t think I’m so foolish or crazy to try to jump to a half marathon at 30 weeks’ pregnant after doing one 9km run… no, but they offer a 5K too!

So I entered.

Cue the heat wave!

Forget the ideal running temperatures of the previous mornings. By the weekend, it was hitting highs of 32°C/90°F. I was lucky enough to be coming from a hot place with plenty of heat acclimatisation, but all the runners here were training over a cold winter and it actually snowed just two weeks ago.  From snow to sweltering!

My father had kindly accompanied me to the race, and we had nearly a mile hike on steep trails from the car park to the start of the race. My heart rate was already far too high. When we got to the start, I jogged a 1 km warm up and my heart rate was hitting 180 (that’s nearly exploding, if numbers are less meaningful to you). I thought, well, it was a nice try, but today is not going to be my day.  Oh well, let’s jog it and see….

Meanwhile the half marathon was shortened to a 12km race in an effort to prevent people from fainting on course. Always a good sign!

I started at the very back of the first corral. Pregnant running is very strange… you just can’t have any expectations. Some days I don’t make it to 500m before I have to walk. Other days, I feel great. What would it be today? Especially in the unexpected heat?

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I won’t bore you with a blow by blow of a slow 5K, but I surprised myself, staying even paced and slowly overtaking the overly keen runners in front of me. I had to take two short walk breaks to get my heart rate down from the heavens (190s), especially after a couple of the little hills, and I grabbed the proffered water that I would normally fly by on a regular day. I did ignore the chocolate station…yes, they have a chocolate station, all melting oozy in the heat, I am sure.

I had lots of support on course from other runners, including the winning lady as she streaked by me after the turnaround point. And lots of looks of outright surprised looks!

2016-05-29 | 2016 Toronto Womens Half Marathon and 5K

And there it was, the finishing arch! I had made it through, and in a better time than I had expected, given the heat (uh and the bump), 26:59.  I was aiming for under 30 min and felt like I’d given it the best shot that I could.

2016-05-29 | 2016 Toronto Womens Half Marathon and 5K

imageI was surprised and pleased to find out that I actually finished 7th in my age group out of 111 people, and 62nd overall out of 772 runners.

imageMy poor father looked slightly worried as I collapsed onto the grass after the race, catching my breath. “Are you feeling okay?” he asked. I had to explain that this was my typical posture after any 5K race and had nothing to do with pregnancy!

I hope to keep running for as long as I can, IF I can. And now that I’ve resigned myself not to care about finishing times, well, I might just keep an eye out for another 5K race in the next few weeks…..

I know some people don’t approve at all of my running/cycling at this stage, but more and more, doctors are saying that exercise during pregnancy is only a good thing:

  • This study showed that female mice who exercised during pregnancy were more likely to have offspring who actively sought out exercise. Where exercise-loving mice were prevented from carrying out exercise during pregnancy, their offspring did not show a love for exercise.

 

  • On Monday, the BBC published this article debunking myths that women shouldn’t exercise during pregnancy, stating, “For a long time exercise was simply thought to conflict with a woman’s reproductive ability. The roots of this feeling were unscientific, and more to do with gender roles than with the health of mother or baby.”

 

  • A number of elite athletes have continued to train throughout pregnancy with amazing results, including most recently: Stephanie Bruce (who ran an Olympic standard 10K just 6 months post-partum, yes, that’s a 32 minute 10K – read her blog about it here); Julia Webb; and Alysia Montaño (made famous in non-running circles for this EPIC photo of her racing 800m on the track at 8 months pregnant).  And of course the fact that Jo Pavey won the gold medal at the European Games for the 10K at 40 years old 10 months after giving birth.

 

  • There is some evidence that women can become even faster and stronger after giving birth.  For example,  Paula Radcliffe‘s unbeaten world record for the women’s marathon (still standing since 2003!) of 2:15:25 was set 3 years after the birth of her second child, or again Jo Pavey as above.

Of course lots of women would like to be active during their pregnancies, but can’t, due to various complications or even just plain and simple pain and discomfort. I’ve had to dip in and out of it myself due to the latter so I certainly sympathise with those who are experiencing more limited options. I consider every run I do now to be savoured and appreciated, as I never know which run might be my last! This morning’s 6km jog was a complete disaster!

 

It has been six months since my last post, and I apologise for the lost momentum.  I hadn’t raced since Ironman Florida and it seems I am slightly lost without races to train for and concrete goals to pursue. I realised after the Ironman that I needed a break, both body and mind.  I was still sore from the hit & run and after a full year of racing, my motivation was waning.  The need for a pause was cemented when I found out shortly after the Ironman that I was pregnant!

I was very sad to defer my place in the London Marathon and to give up my place in the Tokyo Marathon, to which I had received semi-elite entry. Hopefully I will qualify again in the next few years. Always good to have goals!

So… races are have been on hold for a little while. I’m still running and cycling, a little bit of swimming. Earlier in the pregnancy saw me doing a lot of yoga and some weights classes. Oh, and cooking.  It feels weird not to have a plan or a dream but there will be time for all of that again later. And of course, it goes without saying, we have a whole lot of new stuff to look forward to!

A brief catch up of the last few months, from 1 to 10:

  1.  A lot of yoga, then a little of yoga.
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Me doing one of the very few arm balances in my repertoire.

IMG_1357I really suck at yoga. But I try. I’ve been to around 80 classes in the last 16 months. In December I went nearly every day for the whole month.  I definitely improved. Now I’m not going as much, and I’ve regressed.

I try to attend classes with my superstar yoga friend Nancy (also a superstar cyclist and runner), who continues to inspire me as she turns herself upside down and inside out.

Now I’m getting bigger and the yoga stuff is getting a bit more challenging. I’ve given up on any sort of vinyasa for the next little while….

 

 

 

 

2. Some FUN bike rides

It was nice after all that Ironman to go out for some nice short rides with friends and go for a coffee afterwards. No looking at mileage or the clock. Of course I was pregnant during these rides but still very early on, so I was having to work pretty hard to keep up!

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3.  A trip home to the UK for Christmas

We enjoyed a wonderful 10 days in the UK for the Christmas holidays. It was so nice to be home, to enjoy the cold, to be with family and friends, and finally to get to meet my nephew Finn who was born in late April.

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We got lots of cold-weather runs in. I used to yearn for spring back when we ran through the cold dark winter, but I can tell you now, you sure learn to appreciate the cold after sweltering in the heat for ages.  Oh, and hills too. I have a new love for hills.

4. Running with Haile 

I’ve said it before – Haile loves to run. We try to take him running on the trails at least 2-3 times a week, and he happily does 10-12 miles with us (I’m sure he would go further, but this is our off season!).
IMG_2723We also try to take him for a barefoot run on the beach regularly. It’s a good strengthening session for our feet and legs, and he loves playing with the IMG_3028other dogs and galloping in and out of the surf.

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5. Sewing

I have the nerdy hobby of sewing quilts. I don’t sew anything else – just quilts. Here are some recent projects:

6.  Skiing!

We went on an amazing ski trip to Breckenridge, Colorado, with friends. It snowed for the first two days and then we had two days of sunshine. It was a perfect trip from start to finish.  We had great intentions of getting in some cold weather runs too while we were out there, but we were having too much fun on the mountain. We skied, we ate, we skied, we ate. I was 16 weeks pregnant at the time and just about managed to fit into my ski kit with the flies left unzipped.

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7. Cooking

Back when I was at law school, I used to cook a lot. I even had grand ideas of making my own cookbook.IMG_4095
That never came to fruition, and over the years I got stuck in the same rut of recipes. My New Year’s resolution this year was to get back to cooking and to make new stuff more often. I stuck to it pretty well for the first few months, although as I’ve been suffering more from various pregnancy symptoms, it’s not always my first priority.

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8.  Working

Our bike fitting and triathlon shop Magnum Multisport is now open for appointments! It’s been a learning process on how to get the ball rolling properly in the USA/ Florida/ Palm Beach County/ Wellington (yes, each of those has an impact and its own red tape), but we are getting there and it won’t be long before we are open full-time. We now have awesome Argon 18 tri and road bikes in stock and some very slick Lynskey titanium road and gravel bikes. We also have beautiful Lake Cycling shoes and make fully custom moulded foot beds and custom cleats for the ultimate fit. And of course a plethora of other bike gear too, including Shimano, Profile Design, Foot Balance, Cobb, ISM, Fi’z’k, and more signing up with us every day.  Tom is a fully trained F.I.S.T and BikeFit bike fitter and also has a degree in sport science. I know I’m biased but I can tell you he knows what he is doing!

Our website is still a work in progress, but you can check it out here: www.magnummultisport.com.

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9. (Trying to) stay fit

I’m currently 3/4 through the pregnancy (7 months) and I’ve been very lucky so far – I have been feeling good and been able to stay active, for the most part.  I ran nearly as normal until 21 weeks, including doing my club track workouts. Then I had some trouble with shin splints which meant taking time off running and more time on the bike. Now I’m back to running again but it really varies day by day what I’m able to do.

I’ve been loving Sufferfest videos on our Kickr computrainer. I trained for Ironman Lanzarote in 2014 solely via Sufferfest videos on the indoor trainer and I had forgotten how convenient it is to jump on the bike without ever leaving the house. And I work much harder than I generally do on a ride outside.  It’s win win! Tom did a bike fit for me on the bike fitting rig we offer at Magnum Multisport in order to get me more comfortable on the bike with my belly – the result included turning my handlebars upside down, which, while looking crazy, makes a huge difference in accommodating the ever-growing bump.

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Note the upside-down handlebars!

10. Racing!

I know I said my racing was on hiatus… well, I thought it was when I started writing this! But I did a couple of 5Ks for fun.  I ran the Shamrock 5K at 19 weeks. I wasn’t expecting much, but it went better than I had hoped and I won my age group.

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Then at 21 weeks, I ran the Race Against Invasives 5K trail race in our old trails stomping grounds, the Apoxee Wilderness Trail. This was the first time I felt the full force of carrying a baby while trying to maintain any type of pace and it wasn’t pretty… but I got through it and still managed a sprint finish. My friend Ben was first woman, of course!

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More updates to follow!

Meanwhile… today’s 4 mile very happy run in Georgian Bay at 29 weeks. It’s like running while carrying a bowling ball:image

I’m not going to lie – at this stage, some days I feel great running, other days I don’t even make it to half a mile. It really seems to vary from day to day.

Did you stay active through your pregnancy? I’d love to hear what worked for you and what didn’t.

25. November 2015 · Comments Off on SPORTLIGHT on Bob Becker, Double Badwater record holder! · Categories: Sportlight on...., Ultramarathons · Tags: , ,

We recently attended a talk given by Bob Becker at the Delray Beach Running Company Bloody inspirational. I had read of Bob’s epic Double Badwater run in various magazines and websites, but I had no idea he was local to south Florida or that he is race director for two big local ultras.

Bob running in Badwater

Where even to start? How about some quick facts:

  • Bob is 70.
  • Bob ran 292 miles (470km) from the Badwater to the top of Mount Whitney and back, in July.
  • The average daytime temperature in Badwater was around 125° F (50° C).
  • Badwater’s elevation is -280 ft (-79 m) – that is to say, it is below sea level.  Mount Whitney is 14,505 feet (4,421 m). That means he climbed 14,784 feet (4,506 m) from the basin to the top.  There are additional big big climbs en route. His total climbing and descending was 23,346 feet or 7116 meters.
  • Bob set a new age record for the accomplishment.

Have you picked your jaw off the floor yet?

Bob at the top of Mount Whitney – having run 146 miles, and about to turn around to run another 146 miles back to Badwater

What running with a tyre looks like. Very hard.

Bob looks twenty years younger than he is and trains harder than any of us. He told us that he didn’t do crazy mileage while training for his Double Badwater attempt, usually running around 70 miles a week (113 km), but that he really focused on cross-training. He showed photos of him running while dragging a large truck tyre. Someone in the audience asked how long he would drag the tyre for. He said, “Maybe around 6….” I waited for him to say “minutes.” “… miles, with the tyre, and then maybe run 10 miles later in the day without the tyre.” Gulp.

As an experienced ultra runner, Bob had most bases covered going into the event.  But the unexpected can always happen. Bob developed devastating blisters under his callouses (not usually an issue for him), resulting in the need to completely tape his feet and making him run much slower than he had originally planned – but he never stopped moving towards his goal.

He completed the iconic Badwater race (135 miles to the Mount Whitney Portal), plus the additional 11 miles up to the top of Mount Whitney, in 67 hours, 25 minutes. The total 292 miles, including catching a few hours’ sleep here and there, took him around a week.

If you’re hard to impress, let me also tell you that I learned that Bob only ran his first marathon at age 57, and that he also overcame prostate cancer a few years later.  He has run the Marathon de Sables, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, and completed Badwater several times.  He is also the race director of two local races: the Everglades Ultra (distances of 50 miles, 50 km, and 25 km) and the Keys 100, an iconic 100 mile race than runs the whole of the Florida Keys (shorter distance options are also available).

Listenting to Bob’s little talk about his Double Badwater success reminded us of why we got into ultras in the first place – the excitement, the camaraderie, the challenge, the sights. He said, only half-joking, “Multi-sport people will roll right over you in their rush to the finish line. In ultras, the leader will stop to assist a fallen runner. That’s why I love this sport.”  Ironman Florida is now a distant memory and we are definitely considering signing up for Bob’s races in 2016 – anyone want to join us?

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With Chip Corley (also a very accomplished ultra runner) and Bob Becker after Bob’s talk at the Delray Beach Running Company

With thanks to the Delray Beach Running Company for arranging the brilliant talk, and of course to Bob himself for giving it.

I walked out towards the ocean. We had pumped our tyres and filled our water bottles in transition in the dark, scurried to the transition bags to put our last-minute items away while the loudspeakers brayed with a countdown to head to the beach for the swim start. I reluctantly took off my sweatshirt, my flip flops, and awaited a shiver in my tri shorts and sports bra, all that I was going to be wearing for the swim. But the air was already hot.  Somehow you don’t notice the moment between dark and light when you’re occupied with a thousand thoughts. We had gone from the harsh glow of head lamps flashing in our eyes to a calm and underwhelming sunrise.

The ocean had its own surprises. Yesterday it has been a tranquil dozing beast. Today it had shaken off its stupor and the surf was crashing down, lashing out in mock fury at the nearly 3000 swimmers lined up on the beach. And it was a non-wetsuit swim due to the unusually warm sea temperatures.

Tom, Will and I ran into the waves for a quick wetting and warm-up before the official start. The ocean wasn’t playing nice. I fought my way out for less than a minute before heading back to shore. The swim is normally my best discipline of the three. I knew today’s swim wasn’t going to be good. It also didn’t help that I hadn’t done any swimming since the morning of the hit & run three weeks earlier. Never mind. It wasn’t the moment for doubts. I had had ample reason and opportunity to pull out of this Ironman, but by now I knew I was doing it, whatever the day would bring.

We squeezed our way into the starting queue. We were immediately absorbed by over a thousand hot bodies, naked skin against skin, smooth skulls in bathing caps and goggles hanging around necks, people anxiously glancing at their watches counting down until the start, the whole lot squeezing, pulsing, moving towards the start. At 6:15, the crush burst over the timing mats and we threw ourselves into the sea.

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With thanks to Kris Swarthout and Nick Morales for this photo of Ironman Florida 2015 swim start

And so Ironman Florida began.

I think it’s fair to say that Ironman training had begun once we had completed Iceland’s Laugavegur Ultra Marathon on 17 July (best race I’ve ever done, by the way – see here for some spectacular photos). We had a week off after the ultra, and I had 3 weeks off after my crash, so that left 15 weeks of training for the Ironman. In that time, I:

  • swam for 26 hours – 70 km / 44 miles in the pool and/or ocean
  • cycled for over 76 hours – 2187 km / 1359 miles
  • ran for over 48 hours – 471 km / 293 miles

Many people will have done a whole lot more to prepare, but nonetheless it was a significant time commitment and effort, and originally I had hopes for a good race. Then, stuff happened:

  1. I got hit by a car. Yeah yeah, you’re sick of me saying that by now. 3 weeks off pre-race and nursing injuries and wounds is not really ideal, though.
  2. It was too bloody hot so it was a non-wetsuit swim. For any non-triathletes reading this, wetsuits are like body-sized life preservers. They give you free buoyancy, free glide, free speed.  Most swimmers are significantly faster in a wetsuit than without one. No, it’s not cheating because in most triathlons, wetsuits are mandatory so every single person has that same advantage.
  3. And…. I got completely decked by the surf going in for my second lap and I lost my goggles.  Yes, lost my goggles!

Swim: 3.8 km / 2.4 miles – 1:26

My first lap was uneventful. There was the usual scrum of bodies kicking, hitting, punching, and trying to get through the surf took a while and lots of diving under the big waves, and then once we were out there was a pretty strong current dragging us off course if we weren’t sighting the buoys consistently. But overall I just kept it steady and made my way around and didn’t really worry. Swimming is normally my thing.

As I came out onto the beach after my first lap, I heard our friend Dave the announcer saying that huge numbers of people were losing goggles. I thought to myself as I ran back into the sea, what would I do if that happened?

Ironman Florida 2015

A swimmer heads back out for the second lap, with thanks to Nick Morales

It was even rougher heading into lap 2. I had made my way out maybe some 300m, diving under the big waves, when I saw a huge one coming. I am comfortable in the sea, I am a strong swimmer, waves don’t scare me. I dived underneath, but it was no use – it slammed me to the ground, tumbled me upside down, dragged me to the side. For the moment, the race was forgotten and it was just the moment of staying calm and not fighting the drag until I could make my way to the surface. And then I came up sputtering, feeling for my head, knowing already that my goggles were gone. I saw a glimpse of them in the swirl of the opaque water but as I lunged for them, another swimmer thrashed over top of them and then both the swimmer and the goggles were gone.  I felt around blindly. I was being dragged further out to the side into the bigger and bigger surf and I knew I couldn’t do another whole lap without goggles.  For a brief moment, I wondered whether this race was just not to be. I could end it now. Swim to shore, walk to transition and turn in my chip. It was just too much after everything else that had happened.

But I knew I wouldn’t do that.

I fought my way out of the water. The big surf kept dragging me back every time the waves rolled in, and so it took me ages to get back to the beach. I ran along shouting “goggles!” and – bless her, bless her, bless her – a woman reached into her bag and threw a pair in my direction. I have a terrible time getting goggles to fit my face at the best of times so I made these as tight as they would go and crashed back out into the water for my second lap. While I was utterly grateful to this unknown woman for allowing me to continue the race, these new goggles were terrible. They were tiny and dark and foggy and they pinched and hurt. I couldn’t see a swimmer next to me until they thwacked me and I definitely couldn’t see the buoys to sight properly. But don’t mistake this for a complaint, because those goggles got me around when I would have been a DNF (“Did Not Finish”).

I finished the swim in 1:26. In absolutely ideal conditions (never count on those!) – that is, no accident, wetsuit swim, calm waters – I would have hoped for 1:00 to 1:05. This was the slowest swim I’d ever done in any triathlon. Oh well. I reckon I lost 10 minutes to the goggles incident. In reality, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I was 36th out of the water in my age group out of 126. I reckon if I hadn’t lost my goggles, I would have been top 10. Tant pis.

T1: 12:14

I’m slow in transition at the best of times. This was the worst of times. We had a long run up from the beach (600m according to Tom’s Garmin, or nearly half a mile) and into a hotel ballroom. The volunteers were excellent. One grabbed me and proceeded to help me – yes, don’t laugh – wash the salt out of my wounds, clean them up, cover them in vaseline (she barked as she dabbed her fingers into a giant tub – “you don’t have any blood born illnesses, do you?” – and then she wrapped me up with my assortment of sticky burn windows and bandages. Then she helped me get my compression sleeves over the wounds (important to keep the bandages on, the wounds clean and the sun off of everything), calf sleeves on my legs for yet more sun protection, my sleeved-top over it all, sprayed the remaining showing skin with sunscreen and filled my pockets with my food for the bike. She was superb. I wouldn’t mind having her dress me every day. Without her, I expect my 12 minute transition time could have been closer to 20.

Bike: 180.2 km / 112 miles – 6:22

IMG_0529The bike remains my weakest discipline of the 3. Unlike my first Ironman, Ironman Lanzarote, this time I didn’t have any fears about actually making it around the course, but this almost entirely flat course had some of its own challenges.  The wind is always an issue in Florida, because it is so flat – there is nothing to stop it as it comes blowing in, whistling through the flat land and giant clear-cut roads. The forecast that morning showed that we would start with a headwind, and then end with one too, because the wind would change direction during the course of the day, so that was fun – a headwind for most of the ride. That said, it wasn’t a terribly strong wind so it really could have been much worse. The course is, quite frankly, dull. There was one wooded section early on that looked like it had some nice trails, and I thought, ooh, trail running, that sounds like much more fun. Otherwise it was black or grey tarmac ahead, white lines, avoiding cars, avoiding cyclists, eat, drink, pedal pedal, don’t think about the painful hip, don’t think about the painful elbow and hands, just pedal. For over six hours.

My one major criticism of Ironman Florida was that much of the bike course was on open roads. That is to say, roads fully open to cars, trucks, motorbikes etc. Every other triathlon I have ever done has been mostly closed roads, with just the occasional local vehicle going by. No, this was full on heavy traffic and given that I was hit by a car for no good reason at all 3 weeks previously, that did make me nervous. Especially since the shoulder was full of cyclists in race mode, overtaking while big trucks thundered by. I emphatically did not enjoy those big roads in any way.

My ride was uneventful. The road lay ahead, long straight sections. It was hot but overcast. We had 5 minutes of rain late into the ride.  I tried hard to eat on schedule, as per all the long training rides I’d done – alternating between Clif bars and Honey Stinger Waffles every hour, and drinking my bottles of Scratch Labs. I stopped at a couple of aid stations for water and bananas, I stopped three times to pee, had to queue once for the loo, and otherwise I plugged away for 112 miles. The puncture wound on my elbow made going into aero position very painful so I mostly stayed upright the whole time, very uncomfortable on a tri bike. I reckon I got down into aero maybe 30% of the time. Enough for one photographer to snap a photo, at least.

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Pre-crash, my goal for the bike was around 5:50-6:00.  I still had pain in my left hip when I pedalled, aero position meant full weight on an open puncture wound, and I’d had nearly 3 weeks of no cycling.  I was not unhappy with 6:22.  I came off the bike 42nd in my age group.

T2: 8:45

Another painfully slow transition. I changed socks. I re-applied sunscreen. I swapped out uneaten food for gels. I took 2 ibuprofen for my hip. I ate a gel. I blow dried my hair. Ok, not quite.

Run: 42.2 km / 26.2 miles – 4:32

IMG_0442I didn’t know how well my hip would hold up for the run. I also think it hurt me a lot to have essentially 3 weeks off running prior to the race. But it was what it was, and I was going to make the best of it, at whatever pace I could manage. My plan was to walk the aid stations for no more than 30 seconds, and otherwise to maintain a steady if not fast run. And that actually worked out pretty well. The only time I didn’t run outside of an aid station was just before mile 19 when I stopped to vomit 5 times. Yeah, that wasn’t so good.  My stomach was happy on the bike and for the first 10K running, but I am generally not great with gels and despite practicing with them, my stomach still started rebelling after the first hour. I stopped for the loo a few times but nothing helped… the stomach was just getting worse and worse until finally I vomited, when I then felt much better, and decided I would have to continue from that point onwards taking on no more nutrition. Just water and a little bit of coke (in retrospect, I should have had a lot more coke). And here is a dirty secret. Not long after the vomiting episode, I came to an aid station where they were offering chicken broth. I’ve been vegetarian for around 3 years but at that moment I needed to get something down me, something salty, not sweet.  I took that paper cup and I downed it in three gulps and it was absolutely delicious.

It was unseasonably hot. But it was a cloudy day and that helped enormously. I put ice in my cap at every aid station, poured ice water over myself, and stuffed sponges down my front and back in an effort to keep cool. It seemed to work – I never suffered from heart rate drift like I so often did on the super hot long brick days I did in training. This was not my best day running, by any means, but I kept moving, was consistent, and I overtook 598 people on the run course.  Pre-accident, I was looking to run 3:45 to 4:00 for the marathon; on the day, I ran 4:32. Again, I wasn’t unhappy with my result considering the circumstances.

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The run course is two laps, and it gets dark very early in Panama City – sunset was 5:15, I believe, which meant that you had to finish within 11 hours to finish in daylight. Once the sun had gone, the course was dark, as in properly dark, couldn’t see where you were putting your feet type dark, which I hadn’t expected. But I’ve done a lot of very early morning training runs before sunrise so I’m not unused to running semi-blind, and at plodding speed you don’t risk tripping up quite so much. Before long I was on the home stretch, stomach still in a bloated knot, legs barely lifting but still running until the end. The red mats of the finish line stretch came up sooner than I had expected (who says that in an Ironman?!) and then it was all over. As I crossed the finish line, the loudspeakers boomed with announcer Dave’s voice,

You are an Ironman, Julia. Major car accident, hit on her bike 3 or 4 weeks ago. Way to go Julia. Brain power trumps body power.

Total time: 12:41:57

I finished 27th in my age group, 125th woman and 670th overall out of around 2980.

This was my second Ironman. I’m not in love with the distance, but I haven’t decided whether I’m done with it yet or not. I also have had major bike crashes weeks out from both Ironmans. It would be kind of nice to see what I could do if I weren’t nursing injuries or forced to take time off to convalesce.  My original goal for this Ironman was 11:10-11:45, and I reckon it was not unreasonable if things had gone right. But I’m not sure I need to chase that goal any further – does a number really matter? Maybe I will move on to new and different challenges. I’m still taking it a day a  time.  It’s two weeks post-Ironman right now and my hip still hurts to walk or run, so I have been focusing on yoga and having a harsh reminder that being fit to swim/bike/run means nothing once you enter a yoga studio!

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This was Part II of my Race Report. You can read Part I here.