Sunday, April 30, 2017

A New Mindset (Feb 24th, 2017)

Feb 24th, 2017

I am very pleased to report that my running has not all been awful since my first pregnancy post last week. While I was confident there’d be good days and bad days when I wrote my last post, part of me worried how many or if most of my running days would be bad ones.

In my last post, I had mentioned how tired I was and how trying running was. I was very surprised by this reaction my body had to such a tiny little dot of a baby. I mean, if the baby is hardly a baby, but a tiny, barely visible embryo, and my body looks almost exactly the same, how can it already be hard? What I didn't know until now is that pregnancy isn't just about the baby growing inside you and the toll the physical baby body takes on the mom's body, but the increase in hormones in the mom's body that enables this growth makes a HUGE difference in her energy. Also, blood volume increases in the body dramatically in order to nurture the baby and lowers mom's blood pressure. Again, a huge yet invisible change to the body. As someone with low blood pressure to begin with, having it go even lower has been an adjustment.

I am now officially more than 5 weeks in (into week 6). That means still very new at this whole growing a human thing, and so new to it that my body shows no real signs of it. But there’s a lot going on inside of me in preparation for the little one, that makes everything more difficult. It's a process my body has never gone through before, so no doubt, there's an adjustment period. I’m sleepy all the time, and while I go to bed at 8:30 or 9pm each night, I wake up like an insomniac fool, starving for a snack, and, whether I snack or not, I stay awake for 2-3 hours every single night. This usually starts somewhere around 3 or 4am. While 9pm-3am might seem like luxurious sleep, I am actually waking up during that time frame at least 4 times go to the bathroom but manage to fall asleep after each waking episode. Well...mostly. And since I’m limiting my caffeine intake, I have little outside help to perk me up and help with this lack of sleep quality. I am bloated too so one might think I’m further along than I am (but it’s all water and air?). But since 99.9% of the world doesn’t know my secret yet, I just have to pretend I’m tired, sick, injured, and that I’ve put on weight. Sigh….I’m sure people are wondering what the heck is up with me, especially if they see me later in the day when my shirts are clinging to my bloated tummy.

But all of the above are common and normal symptoms. In fact, each day I tend to feel better than the day before. Hopefully this means I won’t get all pukey and disgusting as I haven't yet. Hey, I’m allowed to dream!

Thankfully, running has started to feel good. Again, I know I will have bad days, but since the first one, running has felt relatively good if I go nice and slow. The fresh air seems to calm me down from my nerves about all these pending life changes, I don't feel any of my symptoms at all when I'm out there, and my ability to move in a way that’s so familiar and strong empowers me. I am strong and healthy and I am providing the healthiest start to my unborn child.

Running hasn’t been perfect though. I do have to go slow or it’s hard. I’m sure part of it is fatigue, but also with the hormonal changes going through me, my breathing and my heart rate are impacted by that too. My heart rate shoots up pretty high with minimal effort. And my bladder has gained a mind of its own and its paired with pelvic floor muscles that aren’t quite working the way they used to. After a warm up jog, I need to run inside and use the bathroom again or risk embarrassment and/or discomfort for the rest of my run. But at least I can run, and I am running. My first run, the one I wrote about last, was a mere 4-4.5km (a 5km where I walked the last bit home exhausted). My next one was actually about 6km, and I was tired and done by the end, but it was easier than the run before it. Then Weds night I ran about 7km and could have kept going and going except I didn’t have the time to spare. So I’m going to try to get in a 10km this weekend if I can. If I can’t, I won’t stress.

So far I’ve only had a few people ask me about my upcoming races. I continue to tell them what I’m signed up for. Everyone assumes I’m training just as hard as I always do. But I’m not. I fooled them all! I will have them fooled until they see my upcoming finish times, especially since I talked so big about how fast I hope to be at the St. Patty’s 5K. I will run it, and I hope I will be feeling as good then as I do now and can still do it in 30-ish minutes. But that’s a far cry from the fast 5km I had been hoping for before pregnancy. I know when I say “yup, it took me 30 min (or heck, it might take 35min)” I will get some people looking at me weird. But I don't care. 

Don’t get me wrong – many pregnant women are able to continue to run at the same pace and even be somewhat competitive. Some train for and complete half and full marathons with a much more glorious bump than what I've got going on in my early weeks. But I’m not in my 20s, I’m 36.5 years old, and this is my first pregnancy. My child means everything to me, and running is merely a secondary goal. I just want to be healthy, not a podium-placer, and I have no need to finish another big race in 2017. So now is the perfect time to adopt a temporary alternative mindset - keeping active for fitness alone. I can resume my achievement-based mindset after. It will feel good to do so after. But right now, it feels right to be kind to myself. Right now it feels right to run as much as I want to, rather than as much as I need to. Right now it feels right to branch out, run less, relieve the pressure I place on myself, and do other active things that will give me balance, like dancing, swimming. and yoga.

I’m a little conflicted about the April Fools Run which is, of course, a half marathon. I signed up as ambassador before I got pregnant, so I had every intention of running. I assumed that even if I did get pregnant, the race would be early enough in the pregnancy that I would be able to run it anyway. Since running has been less these days, less than I assumed (this is both because of tiredness and ice on the streets I have been avoiding), I don’t know. I didn’t get in my big long training runs, and I don’t know that I will before the big day. And the race happens before I will be going public with my news. Right now I’m thinking I’ll either run/walk it (run 10K, walk 10K, ...ish), or see if I can switch to being a relay participant if there’s a team that needs someone (or find my own team). Or if I really don’t think I can do the run at all, I can go to the race anyway and volunteer at an aid station or finish line, or simply make fun signs and cheer and take photos. I can still be an ambassador even if I don’t run all 21.1km. I’ll decide closer to.

First race is the West Van Run. That’s coming soon, and I won’t be fast. Let’s see if anyone notices J

<3 Zahida

Friday, April 28, 2017

Great Expectations (Feb 17, 2017)

This is the first blog post of the "secret" variety. But the secret is now out and the world all knows, there's a baby on the way :) I wrote a series of pregnancy and running blog posts while my happy news was still a secret, and I'm starting to publish these to the public now.

As you well know, running is my life. I was very pleased to learn that running through pregnancy is not only possible, but encouraged, with the clearance from one's doctor. Of course, with everything else about this new adventure of motherhood, I have been getting on google regularly to ask my questions. I was surprised at how little information there was about running pregnant. Or rather, not so much a lack of information (the science and all that is there), but there wasn't a lot of personal accounts from women who've actually done it.

While every woman and every pregnancy is unique, I thought that my own reflections of my process might be helpful for some of my readers. Or, at the very least, writing for me would help me through it all, and give me something to look back on in the future. As always, my blog is personal, is a reflection, and I hold back very little. I hope this is refreshing to you.

Hope you enjoy!
Zahida (April 2017)


Feb 17, 2017

For those of you who don't know me well enough to know intimate details about me, my husband and I had been trying for some time to start a family.

I am so so so very pleased to be able to type the words today, that we are pregnant!!! Or rather, I am, but you know what I mean :)

Of course, the general rule of thumb is not to go announcing it to everyone right off the bat, as the first few months are rather vulnerable. So while I want to write and share about my experience in the here and now, this will be posted at a later date when it's "safe" to go public.

Today was my very first run since knowing I am pregnant. I noticed my workouts over the last week or so had been rather hard and wondered what was going on. Seemed like my breathing / cardio fitness was going down. My 12km last weekend was uncharacteristically hard for someone of my fitness. My track workout on Monday left me exhausted for the rest of the day. I knew something was up.

Then Tuesday came, Valentine's Day, and I knew without a doubt in my heart and my intuition that I was pregnant. I took a test that day in the evening and a line appeared on the test, but so faint I dismissed it, and retested just yesterday. Yup, there's no doubting it now. I have a poppy-seed sized baby developing inside me, I'm into my 5th week now, and my body is rapidly changing to prepare for all of this. My body is raging with hormones, and I can feel things moving around. It's weird and magical at the same time. I couldn't be more excited, or terrified. It's like I have indeed taken on my next marathon!

There's certainly a lot of material out there on running while pregnant, but I find there isn't much that I have found that's personal in nature, from the words of a mother. I thought my account of it could be beneficial to other readers, especially since I tend to write lots and am not afraid to make it personal. I don't know how it's going to go, to be honest. It could be the worst thing ever, for all I know. Or it could be great! What's amazing me so far is what a change being pregnant has already made to my running, already, at such an early stage. From everything I have read, there can be days where it seems like everything is the same as it always has, and days that are just HARD. This Wednesday's 6km run was normal and didn't phase me at all. But today, I felt so out of shape, could barely breathe, had to walk up hills, and quit after 4.5km. It left me a bit discouraged.

Now, a caveat for other pregnant women who may be reading this - make sure you clear your exercise program with your doctor before you proceed. My doctor has known me for years and knows my health history and about my running fitness as she's athletic herself and relates well. So she had told me that since I have been running consistently for years, it would be OK to keep going through pregnancy for as long as it's comfortable. But I will have to slow down and not push myself too hard. If you have not been running consistently, starting a brand new exercise program at pregnancy is probably not the time to start, and running especially. Brisk walking is just as effective for your fitness. I simply love running and want to continue, take my baby with me on workouts and have that time with him/her, and be able to return to my sport easier after childbirth.

I think the hardest thing about this new set of circumstances will be trying to explain to everyone why I suddenly am putting running achievements second; my competitive go-getter edge is going to disappear for a while. It was always meant to be that way; I decided long ago that running would be a secondary goal once I got pregnant. This was why I haven't been advance planning my races too many months ahead. My excuse was that I was injury prone in 2015 and wasted lots of money on race registrations, but the real reason was being hopeful I'd get pregnant any time. I know I'm likely to be able to run the races I have signed up for that fall within the next month or two, but I don't know beyond that. I also don't know if when a race day comes if I'll be having a good day, a tired day, a pukey day, so it's best I take all pressure off of myself to 'perform'. I am not going to win a race or place at this stage, so why stress. And even if I do get fast for my races that are coming up within the next month, I will slow down after that anyway. Might as well reframe my running now to be more about a way to stay active during my pregnancy, have fun, and continue to socialize in the running community.

I'm thinking my racing will be not so much "racing" but a lot of 5K events taken slower, and fun community runs I wouldn't normally do. I plan to do the other activities I reconnected with too like dance (for at least the 1st trimester, maybe not beyond that), and swimming which will feel so good when I'm huge and unable to run. Of course pre-natal yoga is something I should also consider. When I am ready, I can return to running at my previous level. I'm OK with that, and I welcome the challenge.

So there will be a lot of boldly lying going forward for a little while. I put myself out there are this serious runner, and so everyone is always asking when my next race is, which halfs I'm doing, if I am running a marathon anytime soon, what my time goals are, if they can train with me, what my track workout will be, what my pace is, etc. So for a little while, until I go public, I'll be giving a lot of lame excuses like, "I haven't decided" or "my hip is bugging me" or "I have last minute plans" or best yet "hey look, something shiny over there!". But hopefully once I am able to be honest, people will be understanding of my past deceit.

I plan to keep writing through this journey, from a runner's perspective. Hope it helps or inspires you!

All I can say is that while today left me breathless, I am hopeful it was just a bad day. I reminded myself to just relax and be OK with walking when I need to. Who cares what anyone thinks or what my ego thinks. Today I took my baby out for a walk and a run. The most important thing to me right now, is growing that baby to be healthy and happy.

<3 Zahida

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Race Report: BMO Sunshine Coast April Fool's Run - April 2nd, 2017

Back home after an awesome day on the Sunshine Coast after the BMO Sunshine Coast April Fool's Run. The Coast certainly lived up to it's sunshiney name, as it was absolutely perfect out there. This was my 6th year in a row participating in this event and my 4th year in a row as blog ambassador (please note I forgot to update my bio for this year, so it's a year out of date!).

I had to approach the race a little differently this year. Normally a half marathon isn't really an issue, a challenge yes, but not an issue. I have not been able to train at the level that I would have needed to over the last several weeks, so I knew that 21.1km was not going to be realistic, or at least not a comfortable experience for me to complete. The last thing I wanted to do was not run, or to have a bad experience trying. I was thrilled when Teresa, the fabulous race director, posted on Facebook that there was a 4-person relay team looking for a 4th team member. I contacted her right away, asked if I could switch my registration, and when I had the green light, I got myself in touch with the team captain. It turned out we were a good match, and I signed up to run the last leg of the race for the team "Hill is a 4-Letter Word". Sure, a 5.4km leg isn't a challenge for me, but I knew that I wanted to be part of this event no matter what and that it'd be fun to try something different. If I took an approach that relieved the pressure of the whole distance, I could do just that, have fun. And really, that's what running is about and should be about.

One of the things I LOVE about this particular race is the community feel of the event. It's a seriously awesome race with serious competitors, and all the details you'd expect of a well-run event (it's exceptionally organized and celebrating its 40th anniversary). But the spirit of this community, those who choose to run this event, those who call the Sunshine Coast home, and everyone else, are what make this event so special. I feel like today I got to experience that more than I ever have. Deciding to run this event as a relay team member gave me a unique perspective on the race, and an experience I won't soon forget.

Soon after switching my registration over from the half to the relay, I was friended on Facebook by my team captain and part of a group chat with the other team members to plan our pre-race meet up and get clarity on who was running what leg, etc. I already felt a bit of the warm fuzzies of the awesome running community right away as my team welcomed me with open arms.

This morning, I took the 7:20am ferry with my friend Mary who returned to run the half marathon for her second year in a row after I convinced her to run with me last year. We had a great sailing, saw the beautiful sunshine warming the skies, and soon enough, we docked at the Langdale terminal with our yellow buses and the "ferry fairy" there to greet us and take us to the start line at the Gibsons Community Centre. I had the same bus driver I have every year, and great conversation with fellow bus riders, some new to the race, some veterans like myself.

At the community centre, there was plenty time to get organized, check bags, and so on. Of course, I didn't have to prep to run quite yet as I wasn't going to start running until 5.4km from the finish line. I had lots of time to spare. Instead, I snuck in some selfies and watched the start of the race.

With Mary at the bag check room
By surprise, I found and old running buddy Alexa at the start line!
BMO bear wanted a selfie too....

After the selfies, I headed beyond the start line so I could get a good look at the race as it got going. That was a lot of fun! I had a few people say "aren't you on the wrong side of the line?" which was kind of funny.
Getting ready to go!
After the race got underway, I had 20 minutes to spare while I waited for the shuttle bus to take me to my relay exchange point. It was enough time to use the washroom and relax a few min. There were later buses I could have taken, considering I was running the last leg, but I liked the idea of being able to watch the race a bit and cheer on the runners until it was my turn to run. I was going to be waiting right at the top of the hill on Marlene Rd., which I know is NOT an easy section of the race. It was sure fun to be able to tell people they killed a hill, by the time they got up to the top where I was waiting. But it also allowed me to see who was in the lead in the race. Here are blurry, zoomed in on my cell phone photos of the top finishers:

Paul Kimugal, top male and overall
Jane Murage, top female
The bus ride to the exchange was also fantastic. The bus driver was super friendly, ensuring that at every stop, runners knew where they were going, that they were given safe passage to cross the road (yay for school bus stop signs and lights!), and was quick witted and happy to chat with us on the journey. I also sat near a girl who was getting off at the same stop so we felt good knowing we would have someone to talk to while waiting for our turn to run. We had what we called "dreamboat conversation" about all kinds of topics. We got to know the other relay runners who either came on later buses or drove in, and we had a blast chatting it up and playing cheerleader to runners passing by. It was a morning characterized by "talking with strangers" and my usually introverted self was enjoying this extroverted experience. I was thrilled to hear how many of these relay participants were just getting into running, or this was there first ever race and they wanted to be part of a half marathon.

It was also so nice to be at this tough point in the race to high five and encourage Alexa and Mary as they passed. And I ended up seeing a bunch more runners I knew as well! Did they learn of this race because of ME? Maybe :) I'll just say yes!

Two of my teammates, Brianna and Emma, ended up driving to my exchange point after they finished running so they could cheer in Jasmin (our third runner) and see me off. That was awfully sweet of them! When we saw Jasmin come up the hill we cheered super loud, I gave her a quick high five, and off I was to run my 5.4km leg to the finish line.

The beauty of having run this race 5 times over is that I know it so very well, and exactly what to expect, every turn and every hill. The difference today was that I was starting a few hundred metres from the 16km mark but with fresh legs. I wasn't tired and spent, I was just starting! I was also a little cold from standing a little in the cold. Had I known better what my teammates pace was, I could have timed a warmup jog, but it was fun the way I approached. Once I got going, I warmed up plenty. The sun was sure beating down and gorgeous. I knew I had one hill to the 17km marker, another short one would come up later, but otherwise it was mostly downhill or flat to the finish.

I ran strong, and loved how quickly those km markers came by. It felt like redemption for the halfs I ran where those last kms were hard. When I turned the corner to the finish, I was very surprised to see I only took 33min to get that far (on my watch). In total, our team completed the relay in 2:25:50. Not bad at all! I was greeted by friendly volunteers at the finish, and was handed 4 medals to distribute to my team, who were all the sidelines cheering loudly!

My team Emma, Jasmin, Brianna, and me!

I found Mary at the finish line and after enjoying some of the delicious post race food (yummy soup! fruit, bagels, yogourt, loads to choose from), we watched a bit more of the race as she had a whole clan of friends (one family called the Joneses) in the event, some of whom were walking and hadn't arrived yet, we watched the kids run, and then planned our afternoon. But not before some more photo ops. Here is the Jones family and their awesome matching t-shirts!

The back of the shirts: "WTF! Where's The Finish?"
The Joneses allowed me to tag along and we enjoyed a fun social afternoon relaxing at cabins they have at Halfmoon Bay. It was a beautiful afternoon to enjoy the view of the water, and a great continuation to a very social day, getting to know new people.

So if you can't tell, this was an awesome day and I had a blast. You still wondering why I do this event every year? :)

And check out this sweet bling: