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 [Edited – later consideration of numbers showed I actually gained 50 lbs / 23kg]. 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!

 

 

We have escaped the heat! That’s a laughable concept when we were living in the UK (where summer begrudgingly arrives for a week or two at best), but Florida is bloody hot and the humidity is strangling. Running an ultramarathon in Iceland was a wonderful way to cool off but it wasn’t long before we were drowning in pools of sweat again.

Evidence that on occasion, we don't wear lycra.

Evidence that on occasion, we don’t wear lycra.

So what did we do, but get in the minivan, loaded up with two TT bikes, a windsurfing board, 2 wetsuits, a duffel bag filled with water bottles, cycling helmets and shoes, and lycra galore, and most importantly of all – our whippet, Haile. And we drove 24 hours north to Canada. The drive really wasn’t that bad. Haile slept in my lap the whole way there, and we listened to Laura Hillenbrand’s biography of Olympic runner Louis Zamperini, Unbroken (it was excellent).

imageThe premise for the trip was to attend an old friend’s wedding in Toronto (hey Alan and Amy, you looked amazing, thanks for having us!). The morning after the nuptials we headed up to my parents’ place on Georgian Bay, namely, The Cottage, otherwise known as Paradise.

The Cottage is where I grew up cross-country skiing in the winter, swimming in the summer; where our first dog is buried; where Tom and I got engaged; where we honeymooned with 20 friends and family after our wedding.  The Cottage is nothing but good memories both in the past and future.

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Normally at this time of year, The Cottage should be hot and sunny, but at the moment Georgian Bay is having a little autumnal practice session. We don’t mind. It’s been around 16°C (60°F) during the day and much colder at night, but really that is absolutely ideal running weather. I did my first intervals session of the year yesterday where I was actually able to get to my real 5K pace (something I haven’t seen in a long, long time). I jumped in the lake afterwards and that sweet fresh water felt amazing (and yes, I screamed as I dived in. It’s cold).

Ironman training continues. Thanks to the wonderful invention of wetsuits, we’ve also been able to do some proper open water swimming, and the newly resurfaced Twelve Mile Bay road is perfect for cycling intervals – even if we have to hike out to the paved road before we can get going!

It’s supposed to get warmer over the next few days, but it doesn’t really matter if it does. The Cottage is perfect no matter the weather.

16. February 2015 · Comments Off on Training with a World Champion: Tri Camp with Leanda Cave! · Categories: embrace the bike, Run, Swim, Triathlon · Tags: , ,

Back in November when I competed in Miami Man Half Ironman, Tom and I met 4 x World Champion Leanda Cave and heard that she was holding her first triathlon training camp in February.  We held a quick conference over our pre-race pasta binge at the Olive Garden and decided that this was an opportunity to learn from the best and we couldn’t miss it.

It was this past weekend in Port Saint Lucy, Florida, and it was absolutely fantastic.  Amazing.  A brilliant weekend – fun, enjoyable, a nice small group and we learned so much.

It was three days of sport, with swim/bike/run each day, plus extra sessions like strength & conditioning, nutrition talks, and swim video analysis. Leanda’s sister Mel Cave (also a prolific competitive endurance swimmer) and USAT coach Kris Swarthout were working with Leanda which meant that we had continuous feedback in all disciplines.

I can’t possibly tell you everything we did, but I’ll break it down to the key things Tom and I took away from the weekend.

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With Leanda before our brick ride

SWIM

We had a video analysis in the pool, drills sessions and an open water swim.

Leanda getting ready to spy on us from underwater!

Leanda getting ready to spy on us from underwater!

Tom and I had a swim video analysis done back in December 2013 so it was really interesting to see what we had managed to correct since then and where we still needed to improve.  If you’ve never had yourself videoed, I can’t recommend it enough.  You really have no idea what you are doing right and wrong in the water until you can see yourself – you will be surprised!

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Leanda and Mel teaching. Tom, Sam and me in the water.

If you care to watch our videos, here they are.  First, my video:

With additional commentary here.

And Tom’s video:

With additional commentary here.

I learned that my body balance and roll and positioning are good, but that I am lacking in power because I have no catch and am failing to lead with my elbows (or EVF for the technical term – “early vertical forearm”).  I now have very specific drills to knock this on the head, and hopefully after that I should have much more power (= speed!).  I’m hoping that if I can get this sorted out, maybe a sub-1 hour Ironman swim could be possible.

Technique is one thing, but open water swimming is another, so we had a session where we practiced sighting, turning around buoys, and beach starts and exits.  All things we never practice but have to do every single triathlon!  I had never realised there was special technique to swim over top of the masses at the swim turns (involving a single backstroke roll-over) and I can’t say that I’ve ever raced into the water properly before.

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Leanda and Mel demonstrate proper EVF

The Blue Seventy crowd: me, Leanda, Ken, Tom, and Adam!

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Leanda also told us she would like to see us swimming 5 times a week.  Eep – some room for improvement there!

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The bike is my weakest of the three disciplines and Tom’s strongest.  We had three bike sessions, the first focusing on bike skills, the second a group brick ride along the coast, and the third a time trial session.

We worked on cornering, pacelines, and transition skills (I’ll look at the transition work separately).  The bike ride along the coast was fantastic – it’s not every day you get to draft off a world champion!

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Ready to ride!

The most exciting photo of the whole weekend:

Leanda and I leading the pack

Leanda and I leading the ride

My cornering skills definitely improved – hurrah!

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Tom’s cornering didn’t really need much work…

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While we were cycling, Leanda’s right-hand man Lou Cantin was busy snapping photos of us all, which he sent to us later – how cool is that?

 

TRANSITIONS

Again, like some of the open water swimming skills we did – transitions happen every race, yet how often do we practice the actual skills?  I do brick runs but it never occurred to me that I might be able to bring it to the next level.

Leanda showed us how she jumps on the bike in transition:

While I wasn’t quite ready to try this, Tom was, with great success!  For me it was a major coup to learn to get my shoes on whilst cycling off:

Tom also mastered the moving dismount:

RUN

The run sessions were broken into a drills & technique session, a brick run, and a track session.  Leanda is an advocate of the Pose method, where you lean slightly forward and “catch’ yourself before you fall by placing your foot underneath you, with a high cadence.

We also practiced injury-prevention drills, some familiar, some not.

On Saturday we did a brick session – 36 mile ride along the beach followed by a 30 minute run.  We were to do 5 min easy, followed by intervals of 90 seconds hard, 3 min easy.  I ran with Leanda’s training partner Guido and the “easy” sections were definitely using that term loosely!  We ran just over 4 miles.

Post-brick smiles with Sam and Jen!

Post-brick smiles with Sam and Jen!

Sunday saw us at the track, which I love/hate (I love it because it makes you fast; I hate it because it hurts so much!).  I do track every week so it’s a familiar pain, but it was a different sort of workout from what I’m used to:

4*(100m hard, 100m jog); 4*(400m hard, 200m jog); 2*(800m hard, 400m jog); 2*(400m hard, 200m jog)

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Giving the boys a run for their money!

Leanda and Chris recommended doing track workouts at 8 weeks out to the Ironman to sharpen up speed.

STRENGTH & CONDITIONING

We all know we should do it, but how often do we do it?  I am going to start…this time I mean it!  I’ve just invested in some swim cords and a bosu ball.

THE REST

We spent a fair bit of time just listening and learning – both during the training sessions and in the education sessions:

Group meals helped us get to know each other while wearing a bit more clothing, and at the very end Leanda drew names out of a hat (or energy drink tin, rather) to win prizes kindly donated by her sponsors. Tom and I won matching Santini trisuits!  Thank you Santini!

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Such a small group meant that we got plenty of coaching attention

And a final picture of the great coaches and organisers of the camp:

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Leanda, Kris, Lou, Guido, Mel

All in all?

It was really remarkable to be learning from a world champion. That’s not something you can replicate. Having such high level coaching from the whole team and Leanda as real inspiration has given new life to both Tom’s and my training.

I now know exactly what drills will correct my swim technique and improve my speed.  The bike skills we learned will make a tangible difference to my times, and the strength training will improve my run.  I’ve come out of the camp knowing exactly what I need to work on to make me faster and stronger.  Above all for me, though, was getting the opportunity to work one-on-one with Leanda.  As a woman in triathlon – still a minority – it was incredible to be working alongside one of the best female athletes in the world.

Have any questions about the camp?  Let me know!

I raced the Miami Man Half Ironman last month.  It was my first triathlon on this side of the Atlantic, first triathlon in hot sunny Florida.

It rained non-stop.

But I still had a blast.

Things boded well when I got to meet a hero and a legend, Leanda Cave, at the expo the day before (4-time World Champion!).  She was doing a Q&A and I took away some excellent swim sighting tips that I put into practice the next day.

Amazing Leanda Cave!

At the Race Briefing, they also confirmed that yes, there were alligators in the lake we were swimming in.  Incentive to swim faster….

Yup, let’s get this triathlon started!

 

Sunday Nov 9 2014

Swim – 1900 m – 34:42

Leanda had said in the race briefing to try to sight the swim course out of the water before starting the swim.  This made all the difference, because it turned out the swim buoys were not in a straight line at all.  I definitely saved some time by choosing the more direct path as a result of Leanda’s sighting tips.

A wave start meant that there wasn’t a frenzied fight at the beginning, but instead a nice straight swim.

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I’m the one in the centre breathing to my left.

 

“Sight like an alligator”

 

It was two laps around the alligator-infested lake.  I can’t say I saw any alligators, but it was a nice smooth swim.  Not the fastest I’ve done, but not too far off and by far the most comfortable.

Then up out of the water into transition to discover it was pissing it down…. sigh.

Wetsuit strippers stripped me of my wetsuit.

Transition had a long run across the grass with the bike to get to the start of the bike course.  Tom ran alongside the transition fence shouting at me to remember that my carbon wheels would mean very poor brakes in the rain.  Noted!

 

Bike – 90 km – 2:52:10

The bike course had a deceptive number of sharp 90 degree turns which were tricky in the driving rain.  And the rain!  It came down in a flood, in a tropical downpour, the rain blinding me, fogging my glasses, covering the roads so I felt like I was a speedboat leaving a wake through the flooded roads.  I did notice that every time the rain got worse, I overtook more people, though.  I’m no expert in rain riding, but I’ve certainly been forced to do it a lot in the UK and perhaps that helped a bit!

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22 90 degree turns in this course!

On the plus side, the course was pancake flat.  What a nice change from my last triathlon, Ironman Lanzarote (2551m of elevation…).

The bike has been my weakness for a long time, and my crash this year didn’t help with that.  I will post about bike confidence another day, but since moving to Florida I’ve been learning to push myself more on the bike.  I was really hoping to finish the 90km in around 3 hours, so I was thrilled with 2:52, especially as that included the long jog in bike cleats.  Despite the rain, I had my best bike split ever.  It was also my first tri on my new Trek Speed Concept!

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Run – 21.1 km – 1:48:53

I knew I had done my fastest bike split to date, but how would that affect my run?  Having a good bike split had been my main goal, so I was ready to sacrifice the run a bit if need be.  As long as I finished within 2 hours…  or perhaps within 1:49 (my Ironman 70.3 Norway run time)…

The sun made a brief appearance for the run, enough for me to curse the heat (c’mon!  raining on the bike, hot on the run? That’s just wrong!),  but thankfully that didn’t last and the extreme rain returned to do more damage to the already soggy course.  From the start I made the decision to run straight through the ankle-deep puddles rather than try to trot around the outside, and that was a good choice given that one way or another, every single athlete was going to get soaked.  (I did see one man running in a big flapping poncho.  Wish I had a picture of that.)

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The run course was 2 laps around the Miami Zoo.  But it was raining so hard that all the animals were in hiding (smart!).  I won’t lie, it wasn’t a pretty run – either the course, or how I felt – but I got around in a reasonable enough time for me.  I overtook around 150 people, while only 1 man overtook me.  Clearly my running is still better than my cycling.

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Total:  5:21:50

I came 3rd in my age group, which was my first podium finish in a triathlon and was pretty exciting!  (I know it was because Leanda Cave wished me good luck). And I even got a trophy… as strange as it is….

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My first triathlon trophy… a zebra?!

 

And following Miami Man, Tom and I were inspired to sign up for Leanda Cave’s Triathlon Camp in Florida in February.  Can’t wait!