Saturday, May 27, 2017

Pregnancy, Weight Gain, and Body Image

It's been a little while so thought I'd start with a little update, before I launch into today's topic. I'm almost 19 weeks along, so in other words, almost halfway through this pregnancy! Now it's starting to feel like time is flying and perhaps it's time to start getting organized at home, etc. But I know there's still lots of time yet. I still have time to nest and get my home ready for baby.

I certainly look pregnant now - no denying it! And I finally really feel it too because of my bump and because I feel movement from my tiny dancer too (who's not so tiny anymore at the size of a bell pepper!). I'm finally at the stage where I can enjoy being pregnant. I'm no longer exhausted all the time. I'm tired yes, but I now know my limits and have learned how to say "no" when I find myself overdoing it. And because my bump is kind of cute, I'm getting some positive attention too which doesn't hurt. I am sure that things will get challenging later on as it gets hotter outside and I get larger and more uncomfortable.

So far my discomfort comes mostly at night when I'm trying to sleep. My hips ache from lying on my side (the only position that's comfortable at this stage). I seem to be combating this now with some exercises my chiropractor gave me and from an RMT friend who recently gave me a pre-natal massage. I do the exercises before bed in hopes I go to sleep in alignment with everything limbered up. It's not perfect but it's helping. I have feared that my hips would give me issues while running as I'd had hip issues pre-pregnancy, but so far so good (touch wood). All that relaxin hormone in my body that's preparing my body for childbirth can also cause some discomforts during pregnancy! Things are moving around or looser than usual and it isn't always a good thing.

But I did mention previously about some dull achiness I'd feel in the abdomen, or round ligament pain that would sometimes last for hours after running if I either went too fast or too long. I did a bit of reading into it and learned that wearing a pregnancy support belt might help; the one most recommended for pregnant runners was the Gabrialla belt so I ordered it on Amazon. It's sort of like wearing a bra for your belly, so it helps minimize bounce while you're active. While I'm certainly not far along enough to need to wear the belt regularly, I've worn it on my last two runs and have noticed it's made running that much more comfortable and I have had no discomfort at all after running. Hopefully this means I made the right choice and this belt will continue to help me as the pregnancy progresses. I'll certainly let you know.

Alright, so onto today's topic - weight gain during pregnancy. Oh, and body image.

First of all, weight gain during pregnancy is absolutely expected, normal, and healthy. There are specific guidelines out there for how much weight a woman should gain depending on her pre-pregnancy weight and how many babies she is carrying. It takes into account that if you were overweight beforehand, you don't need to gain as much. Underweight women should gain more. And healthy-weight women should gain somewhere in the middle. The guidelines further break things down into how much weight should be gained in each trimester in order to ensure you stay on track and gain the right amount over the course of the 40 weeks. There's guidelines on how many extra calories to consume each trimester as you "eat for two"; this amount varies in each trimester too. So much math to think about. And while I have tried not to stress, it sometimes gets to me.

The thing is that I have had this story of remarkable weight loss that changed my life. After losing 130lbs, I became a runner and have maintained a healthy, active, athletic lifestyle. The journey because almost 10 years ago and the weight loss has been sustained long term.

So it's weird to somehow be OK with seeing the numbers go up on the scale. I have stayed off the scale for the most part over the years, but I started monitoring again once I realized I was pregnant. The numbers started going up almost right away and itt got to me because in the first trimester, many women don't put on any weight. Some even lose weight because of morning sickness. I on the other hand, put on about 8lbs rather quickly as I had such crazy hunger and snacking was the best way to keep my nausea away. Maybe I overdid it? But I also know that I started retaining water real fast too so it wasn't all a "food baby".  And up top where I'm usually not very endowed, things got large and heavy fast in preparation for nursing. Because I didn't look pregnant and nobody really knew I was pregnant, it got to me. I was slow and tired and adding extra weight to that equation meant extra sluggishness to go with it. I looked like I had "let myself go". Truth is, I probably only felt that way, but I assumed it was visible. I made the mistake of going on some pregnancy forums (which I've now unsubscribed from!) and as women do, there was a lot of comparing going on. Perhaps there was a bit of body image induced comparing, or perhaps people just wanted to see if their experience was normal compared to others. "How much weight have you lost in the first trimester?" would be a common question. I'd roll my eyes and grumble.

It's not that I don't expect weight gain in pregnancy, I just want the gain to be healthy and have it so I can bounce back to my pre-pregnancy self shortly after I give birth. I don't want to gain too much and have a hard time losing it later.

But really, why give in to the comparison game? Do I know anything about these women who are asking the questions? And seriously, my experience doesn't have to match theirs. I am not them. When I went to my first doctor's appointment, she assured me that I was doing just fine and had no concerns. My weight gain was healthy and normal. Her opinion is what should matter.

But I didn't listen, and I kept looking at the scale and seeing the numbers creep up every week. Duh, they're supposed to go up! But it drove me crazy to see it. By my next prenatal checkup, my weight gain was exactly where it needed to be and I felt OK about things. I finally stopped getting on my scale at home. And doing so was positively reinforced at my next doctor's appointment too; my weight gain was still on track. If I am making healthy eating choices, not overdoing it at any one meal, eating based on hunger cues, giving in to cravings within moderation, and keeping active, I have nothing to worry about whatsoever. My body will do what it's designed to do.

Yet I still catch myself looking myself up and down in the mirror. Is my different looking body just because of the baby? If the baby wasn't there, would I look like me? How quickly will I bounce back post-partum. Why am I asking these questions? The thing is, that's what women do often. We're constantly told that even if we are slim or athletic, we need to be thinner. And because I've been the opposite, it's my biggest fear in life that I will revert to my old overweight / obese ways. I need to remind myself that I'm in no risk of this happening any time soon.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Let's Set the Record Straight!

One thing I've noticed reading about pregnancy and parenthood is there are a number of differing opinions about certain big issues and therefore, a lot of judgement for those who do things a little differently. I'm tired of it, and I'm barely in this game. For example, women who are unable to breast feed their child may be faced with judgement from others who say "breast is best" and the mother who desperately wants to feed their child but can't is left feeling really bad about themselves. Meanwhile the child is healthy and happy, eating formula and growing and thriving. Or those who have no option but to deliver by C-section are sometimes judged as "not having really delivered" or having the baby "the easy way". Meanwhile, they've had MAJOR surgery and there was absolutely nothing easy about it physically or emotionally. I'm tired of reading about stories like this and I'm months away from delivering or feeding my child.

The thing is that what unites us, as parents or parents-to-be, is a desire to do the best thing for our children. For the most part, every woman, every mother, is on that very same page.

So this is why I get really upset when I hear about judgement that women face for running whilst pregnant. In fact, I wonder if I'll start to get that judgement for myself. I have a feeling it might happen more from onlookers who see me running while sporting a bump, rather than from anyone who actually knows me personally. I recently ran the False Creek seawall and the way my clothes hug my preggo belly, it is pretty obvious I am pregnant if you really look at me. I was greeted with eyes looking at my belly for sure, but thankfully it usually came with a smile. It might be because the tummy makes me look possibly just pudgy rather than pregnant to those who are unsure. I hope this positivity continues while my bump becomes more obviously pregnant. And while I'm excited to rock my bump, part of me fears judgement or rude comments from those who don't get it.

For the longest time, running was considered to be harmful to women. Women were considered too weak and fragile for this sport. This was, of course, absolutely absurd and inaccurate. This is the basis for Katrine Switzer's famous first Boston Marathon where men chased after her, trying to disqualify her. You may recall this very famous image.

Women are strong. We're strong as heck. We may look small, but we're fierce. Ever wonder why in some species, the women do the hunting? Ever wonder why it's the women always who birth the children? Exactly, we are strong!

So it bugs me in when people judge a woman for running while pregnant. Is it fear that we're too weak and fragile to do two big physical tasks at once? Oh come on! Every woman I know is excellent at multi-tasking, and doing each task at high quality!

I've heard people argue that a woman who runs pregnant is doing so for vanity, because she can't handle the idea of weight gain. I will also tell those people to shut up! Every woman gains weight while pregnant. It's a fact and a natural, normal, healthy part of pregnancy.

The recent Boston Marathon had a lot of newsworthy moments including Katrine Switzer's return 50 years after her famous debut noted above, as well as the story of Julie McGivery who ran the marathon 8 months pregnant. While most were very much wowed by Julie's achievement, she also faced a lot of criticism. People on the course and the finish line were gasping in disbelief. The trolls online sure commented about how "selfish" her actions were. I didn't want to fall into the trap of judging her myself for enduring the exertion of a marathon while pregnant - as your recall, I opted out of a half marathon because of being pregnant and not wanting to exert myself over a long distance on my feet. I was looking at a half marathon, and this was a full marathon that Julie ran. So I decided to read further about her journey and think critically about my own opinion and examine why people were being such trolls!

First of all, what you do while you're pregnant has so much to do with what you were doing before you were pregnant. My most recent half marathon before my pregnancy was in October 2016. So while I was maintaining a base mileage and a high level of fitness, I would have had to train up to longer runs to be ready for my half in April. Given the low level of energy I had in my first trimester and the large amount of ice on the roads, I wasn't prepared for that. Julie on the other hand, was more than equipped for Boston.

If you read further, she completed the race in almost 7 hours. All of us know, to qualify for the elite Boston race, you need to be much much faster than that. Her qualification time was indeed much much faster (about half that time). So Julie clearly made the necessary adjustments to her pace and likely walked a bunch of the course too in order to complete the 42.2km distance. She didn't run at high intensity. She knew her limits, and distance wasn't one of them. She adapted to her condition, took it slow, and took care of her baby.

I think there are some people who assume that we run for selfish achievement reasons. Sure, Julie didn't want her Boston Marathon opportunity to go out the window after working hard to qualify. This is a race every marathoner dreams of doing at least once in their lifetime. So maybe she had a feeling of "I need to do Boston, this is my chance" and it was a little selfish. I say, WHO CARES? When we take care of ourselves, we're better at taking care of others. When we make choices for ourselves that make us happy, we're indirectly making choices for those directly in our care. A confident mother equals a confident role model for her children.

Running or exercise in general during pregnancy have nothing to do with vanity, nothing to do selfishness, and nothing to do with a fear of weight gain. In fact, it's all about a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. Today, the standard medical advice that encourages pregnant women to work out is a very sharp contrast to the recommendations given to women only about 20 years ago. The idea that women should put their feet up for 9 months is outdated. Yes, we should not overexert, and yes we should limit heavy lifting and high risk activities that might involve falling. And no, we should not try anything new or start a new workout routine. But doing what we're already used to and taking the intensity down a notch, is absolutely encouraged, with the doctor's clearance of course. And for you, if you too are pregnant and unsure about being active, talk to your doctor and discuss what's safe for you:

Here are some of the benefits to staying active while pregnant. Read them and be wow'ed! For me it's incentive to keep going:
  1. Labour and delivery may be easier (Amen to that!)
  2. Lower risk of gestational diabetes.
  3. Less likely to experience back pain.
  4. More likely to gain only the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy.
  5. Less likely to be constipated.
  6. Exercise relieves stress and anxiety.
  7. Exercise encourages you to be outside, get fresh air, absorb Vitamin D naturally which is essential for baby's development.
  8. More likely to deliver a baby of healthy birth weight.
  9. Maintain or improve flexibility and muscle strength.
  10. More likely to avoid forceps, c-section or other intervention at delivery.
  11. Experience that confident feeling of a hot mama rocking her bump (rather than a beached whale)!
  12. Less likely to experience leg swelling.
  13. Less prone to (or gain relief from) morning sickness.
  14. Encourages healthy habits and allows easier transition to active lifestyle and loss of "baby weight" post-partum.
  15. Improves sleep quality.
  16. Social opportunity to meet other pregnant moms (I'd met some amazing women at my prenatal yoga classes)
  17. Less prone to prenatal depression
  18. Helps give you that pregnancy glow :)
  19. Boosts your immune system.
  20. Inspires others and gains you positive attention! 
So there you have it! Fit mamas rock.

<3 Z

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The second trimester is here! (April 27th)

April 27th

Well, I’ve been there a little while (the 2nd trimester, that is) being in my 15th week. All I have heard from other moms and from my reading has indicated that energy will come back. Essentially the placenta has taken over the hormonal load, relieving me from that pressure. The baby's organs are all developed and the little one is rather complex already. Just a small lemon-sized baby, needing to grow large and strong.

In case you're wondering, there are a few logistical things I've had to contend with now to make running possible. I've always joked about how the last thing I need is more work out clothing. I have an abundance of it given how many race shirts I have and that I work at the Running Room part time. But quite quickly, I have had to re-think my running wardrobe. I have been wearing maternity running capri pants the last couple weeks as the waist bands on my regular ones are too restrictive for my new bump and I wouldn't want to stretch them out anyway (so I can wear them post-partum). I found some inexpensive ones at Old Navy (online) and they are suiting me fine. I just need to find an option for running shorts. I also have been ordering all my race shirts in a size XL to give room for a growing belly. I'm already starting to wear the larger shirts too, again for comfort over necessity. I'm wearing the same few shirts over and over again. No big deal, just laundry more often. Oh, and then there's the sports bra! Nobody told me I'd need to upsize that so quickly. I thought that would be later in pregnancy, but no, preparation for nursing happens early. I had to splurge and buy new sports bras. Now I'm kitted out. Just have to make sure I have shorts soon as it's getting warm outside!

So as for this 2nd trimester energy, I think it’s coming back, but not 100% sure if it’s mind over matter or not. What I’ve noticed so far is sleep quality is improving. Instead of waking up half a dozen times to use the bathroom, it’s down to 2-3 visits. The baby is moving up in my body as it grows and taking some of the pressure off down below. Or something (I’m not a scientist). Also, I am no longer falling asleep at 8pm but can stay up until my usual 10 or 11pm like a proper grown-up. Naps in the afternoon are no longer a necessity. This is helpful since I work full time and can’t exactly nap at my desk. So not feeling the afternoon fade recently has been particularly helpful to my productivity.

I’m just kinda waiting to see if this new stage of my pregnancy has impacted my running. I think it has, but I’m not sure. The thing is, it still feels more sluggish than the normal me, but my pace seems to be a bit more respectable than it has been in recent weeks. I haven’t been looking at pace while running to keep my confidence on the positive side – I don’t want to see how slow I am while in action. What I have been monitoring is distance and heart rate. But regardless of what stats I choose to look at, my watch still tracks all the other stats. At the end of my run, I can scroll through my stats and I have noted that my completion times for the workouts are steadily improving. I also know that a lot of the reason for my slowness generally is that I often walk hilly sections or when I find myself out of breath. The usual me would push through that discomfort. But I’m taking it easy, knowing that when I deny myself oxygen, I also deny that of my baby. So the time spent actually running vs walking, I’m running at a pretty decent pace, and it’s improving.

So I will side-track for a moment since I mentioned heart rate above. If you google exercise while pregnant, you’re bound to find a whole lot of useless outdated information in addition to the good information. One of the common myths that has been recently proven wrong is that a pregnant woman should not let her heart rate go above 140bpm. When I first read this I thought it was absolutely absurd as no two women or two hearts are the same. I’m quite fit so my resting heart rate is very low. I have trained a fair bit at high intensity so I can comfortably get my heart rate quite high as well. I max at around 200bpm, and see HRs in interval training go pretty close to that. This is high for someone my age, but because I’ve been running a while, my heart has a large range. Even though generally my heart rate has gone up since pregnancy, for me, 140 bpm is still the equivalent of barely moving. Sure, I’m getting exercise, but it’s not at all taxing, it’s like granny-jogging?

The real truth about how hard to work running is all about your perceived level of exertion. I wear my heart rate monitor so I can see how hard I’m working, but I don’t stress keeping it under a particular number as a number of variables impact heart rate. I like seeing the HR just because it’s useful information on how I’m feeling that day vs how my heart responds. Running right up to 170bpm has been still quite comfortable for me even though it is a little higher than it normally would be at the pace I go these day. But some days that doesn’t feel good and I slow down even slower. Some days it feels fine and I keep going at that pace or let it creep higher by going faster without stressing. The important thing is that comfy talking pace and not getting to a point where I’m gasping for air, that anerobic feeling, or being absolutely exhausted after. Recently my runs have been easier, my HR is averaging in the 150-165bpm range even though my pace is improving. So that’s something! Yay for 2nd trimester. I hope soon I feel like Superwoman.

So I’m quite excited to see how things continue to progress, although I still have minimal expectations of myself. I run 3 times a week at minimum, one longish effort, typically on the weekend (8-10km) and two shorter ones, during the week after the workday (4-6km). The weekday runs are a struggle as I’m usually rather pooped by the time I get home from work, but morning runs during the week are not an option right now as I need a hearty breakfast and don’t want to run fasted. Again, it’s not only my nutrition at stake. The weekends allow the extra time to eat, wait, run, eat again. I plan on running through the month of May, but will play the summer months and beyond by ear. I might not be comfy in the heat, and after the summer, well, I’ll be large. I am hopeful for June, but again, no pressure.

Coming up is the BMO Vancouver Marathon on May 7th, and I’ll be running the 8km. Then the following weekend is the Run For Women, where I’ll be doing the 5km. Then we’ll see!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Weekend to Reflect on Womanhood and Motherhood

This weekend I did something I have never done before – run events on two consecutive days! I’ve often been tempted to do this, but I never have actually done this. It’s likely because of my former competitive/performance mindset; how can you give one event your all, leave all of you on the course, and then turn around and do the exact same thing the next day with only 24hours recovery. No doubt one event would suffer as a result so what good would that be? So perhaps now that my mindset is about just staying active and having fun with it, trying two events back-to-back for the first time is exactly the ticket.

I signed up for the Shoppers Drug Mart Run For Women 5K in early February. I was pregnant when I signed up but had no idea at the time. I signed up because it to me sounded like a fun even celebrating women, and it just so happens to fall on Mother’s Day weekend. As a Running Room run coach (who’s taking a break from coaching), I got my race entry for free and so it was a “why not” type of scenario. After realizing I was pregnant, I thought it’s even more meaningful to be part of this event. I’m discovering every day how truly magnificent it is to be a woman. And now I get to experience a part of womanhood I haven’t experienced before.

Then a few days ago, my friend Karen told me about the Fairmont Mother’s Day Run which takes place on Mother’s Day itself. Another friend, Sara, had mentioned she was doing it a while back, but it didn’t clue in at that point that it might be something I’d want to do. I guess I thought that I was already doing an event, so why would I want to do another. Then Karen told me more about the event a few days ago, and it sounded like fun and decided, hey why not. I feel that at almost 17 weeks pregnant, I am kind of like a mom, and I should absolutely celebrate in this way. And I don't know for how many more months it will be comfortable to run events anyway.

The thing is for me, Mother’s Day has always come and gone with mixed emotion. For years, it was a difficult day because I knew what it stood for. Since the invention of social media, it got even harder. I would see almost everyone I know post a message sharing their loving relationship with their mother on Facebook. I had nothing to post for myself. I have made peace with my strained relationship with my own mother. And it has become much much easier since marrying Cam 3 years ago. I feel that now I can legitimately call his mother “Mum”. But you know what, it still isn't an easy day.

While we certainly tried to have a beautiful relationship, it simply never happened for my mother and me. A complex relationship like ours meant that for the longest time, I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to be or was ready to be a mother myself. How could I possibly give my child the meaningful mother/child relationship they deserve when I haven’t experienced firsthand an example that works? But I soon realized my own experience actually makes me very capable of doing this. I have learned through years of heartache. I know I won’t be perfect, but I’m sure going to love my child and do my very best for them.

So with this pending Mother’s Day, I was feeling a bit conflicted. How do I feel about this day now? I’m not officially a mother until I give birth or am I? Cam surprised me last night with a "mom-to-be gift" so he believes I'm eligible. The outpouring of love from friends today makes me feel eligible. Next year will be my first official mother's day, but as I’m so thrilled and over the moon to be a mom-to-be, so why not start the celebration now. If I can turn my feelings about the day toward thinking of me and my own family that I have created with my husband, this shall be a beautiful day indeed. I find running gives me a positive outlet to reflect and I often somehow find a way to express myself through this sport. An event in the community where I get to celebrate what motherhood can be with other mothers sounded like exactly what I needed.

Shopper's Drug Mart Run For Women
The Run For Women yesterday was a really fun time. It wasn't the usual kind of event I attend - more of a community fun run than a runner's run as I didn't see even one person I knew until after I finished and found my girlfriend Patti on course walking with her two daughters. It is a timed race, but no awards for time, and no competitive element whatsoever. The event is all about fun and celebrating womanhood.

I arrived to the site about 40min before the race start time, just enough to get the lay of the land, find a washroom, and see if I could locate Patti before the race. I didn't find her, so I spent the pre-race time on my own. It wasn't so bad really as I enjoyed taking in the energy of the event. When it was the 5K runners time to line up, the announcer explained the corrals and that "really fast" people, as in those who expect to finish in under 35 minutes should enter the first corral. I certainly knew I would be under 35min or around that anyway, but I felt odd lining up in the first corral with my pregnant body. So I lined up at the front of the second corral instead. But I also have never thought of 35min as a super fast finish time anyway!

The course pleasantly surprised me as I actually hadn't given the course map a look. Starting from Wesbrook Village in UBC, we went into the trails of Pacific Spirit Park, before looping back to the village. The course closely resembled that of the Canada Day Run I've done a few times. The wave start meant it never felt crowded. The weather was perfectly mild and I felt great! I wasn't sure how I'd fare as we had a late night the night before (the U2 concert!), but I slept great in the time that I did get, and all conditions were perfect to run strong.

Again, as always, I ran by feel rather than by monitoring pace on my watch. I paced myself comfortably and intentionally walked up a few of the hilly sections (not that it was super hilly but there were a couple incline sections), just because I didn't want to push and risk the abdominal discomfort I had after the BMO 8K, especially knowing I had to run the next day. I crossed the finish line in 33:25 which surprised me considering what felt like a leisurely approach. Again, something so wonderful about this second trimester. Perhaps I should have lined myself up in the first corral afterall!

I was given a finishers bracelet and a swag bag from Shopper's Drug Mart that is actually kind of obscenely huge - loaded with all kinds of product including full-sized (not sample sized) shampoo, antiperspirant, soaps, razors, you name it. Then after this swag, Life Brand gave us more goodies, and food vendors did the same. Around the corner was a delicious pancake breakfast complete with fruit topping! I couldn't believe how much we were spoiled. I stretched, wolfed down some pancakes, and headed to my car to unload the goods I'd collected and grab my sweater. I was then able to check my phone to see the official results and to confirm that I had not missed Patti crossing the finish line. As my car was parked on course, I stayed there (it was warm!) and watched the race.

When Patti and her daughters were in view, I hopped out and joined them to the finish line. Her eldest wanted to run but was tired so I offered her my hand and that seemed to make her want to run to the line and she grabbed my hand again stronger to make sure I came along. So I crossed the finish line a second time with them and it was a very sweet moment. I loved seeing them and being able to enjoy the post race festivities with this beautiful family and inspiring example of a loving mother. When we parted ways for the afternoon, I headed downtown to collect my package for my event the next day.

Here I am with the post-race afterglow.

Fairmont Mother's Day Run
So today was the 2nd event of the weekend, the Mother's Day Run. Like yesterday's event, there was a choice between a 10K and a 5K but I opted for the 5K given I was running back-to-back days. I was quite tired when I got up this morning, but I had a good 8.5hour sleep. I could feel yesterday's run in my abdominal region and groin. This is a common active pregnancy symptom, so I just knew in my head and heart that today I'd have to run a bit slower.

Being a point to point course, there are some logistics to sort. The start and finish only being about 3km apart though meant it was a little less stressful to navigate. The race organized shuttle buses between the start and finish so I parked near the finish and shuttled to the start. I was able to connect with both Karen (a mother of two who came to the race solo) as well as Sara who was there with her family. Here are Karen and I pre-race.

After some catching up, we checked our extra gear for pickup at the finish line and lined up at the starting area. Karen is rather speedy these days and knowing again this isn't a competitive race, placing is a real possibility here. So she lined up near the front and I joined her but kept to the side of the path to allow others to pass me as needed. This course ran from Ceperley Park in Stanley Park to Jack Poole Plaza with one loop around Lost Lagoon. It's a very flat course with only one incline area of note toward the end to get up the ramp to Jack Poole Plaza. I took only two walk breaks compared to three yesterday but still felt my pace was a lot slower than yesterday (again, I didn't track it, just did what felt comfy), and made very sure not to push myself.

The weather was perfect for the run and just started lightly raining as I neared the finish. As I walked up the ramp to Jack Poole Plaza, the sky started to open up and rain started coming down. Karen, who finished about 10min ahead of me, took this blurry photo with her wet cell phone of me crossing the finish. Notice the bump in my profile?

When I got to the finish, a volunteer wrapped a beautiful pashmina scarf around my neck, the finishing gift to all moms running. It's beautiful and kept me warm in the rain that was now pouring down. Karen and I quickly sought cover and awaited Sara's family's finish and word on whether they were giving out awards. Karen got 1st in her age category and I believe was the 2nd female to finish. I came in 10min later at 36:08 which was enough for 8th place in my own category. Not too shabby for me and the bump!

It was brilliant seeing Sara and her family there too. Sara is a new mom herself and this was her first official Mother's Day! She knew how special today was for me and surprised me with a lovely mom-to-be Mother's Day card. How very thoughtful.

I felt so much love today and yesterday and I can't wait until my first official Mother's Day when I get to spend it with my child. Until then, I will keep on gestating and keep on trying to be a healthy and fit mama.

Thanks for reading!
<3 Z

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Preparing for full disclosure (April 12th, 2017)

April 12th, 2017

I’m now 12 weeks along in this pregnancy and approaching the end of the first trimester. I’m nervously anticipating this coming Easter long weekend as we will be announcing our news to our immediate family. There are a couple members we disclosed to early, but for the most part, this will be a huge surprise to all. Now I’m nervous as heck as I haven’t seen the baby since our 8-week ultrasound a month ago. So how do I know things are going well and on target? Part of it is trust, faith, knowing my body, but I also have my next doctor’s appointment tomorrow and hope she’ll give me the confidence when she examines me and the baby. I know I’m far along enough now that she may be able to detect a heartbeat with a handheld Doppler.

At 12 weeks, the baby is much more baby-like. I can't wait to see the ultrasound next week where I get to see him or her. Arms and legs are moving now, reflexes are developing, and it's pretty amazing to learn about how complex the little one is. I'm feeling great! In my earlier weeks, I'd wake up nauseous and had to eat breakfast right away or feel worse. Now things are more normal, and having breakfast is part of my regular getting ready for the day routine. The only thing that isn't normal about this is that I don't run in the morning as the old me would do so before breakfast (if the run was less than an hour), and I'm not going to run fasted when pregnant. I don't want to wake up at an obscene time to allow a run after digesting breakfast and still making to to work on time.

This past week I’ve started to tell close friends as I run with them or as I see them, just asking them to keep their mouth shut. I need the understanding when they run with me that I need to go my pace, and they need to be OK with that. And I think news of this magnitude is nice in person. I’m so close to tell family (2 days away), so why not be less deceitful with friends. 

I just re-read my other private pregnant-runner blog posts to get an idea of what I’d talked about before. I smiled a few times over what I talked about and reflected on. I feel that my peace with my “condition” has grown in the last few weeks. I think a lot has to do with the fact that I’m close to telling the world means it’s easier to let go of the “what will people think?” piece, because, well if they don’t suspect yet, they will find out soon enough.

I think the other piece is that my attitude toward running has changed. I am no longer disappointed that I couldn’t run the April Fool’s Half Marathon, but I’m actually proud of the fact I made the best choice for myself and ran the relay instead. I no longer beat myself up if I have to turn back home early in a run, or walk up the hills, or choose a nap or a short walk over more intense exercise. I have started to really let it sink in that I’m responsible for the well-being of more than just myself. Exercise, yes, has LOADS of benefits when pregnant. It helps my health and the baby’s health, and I hear it can help make labour easier too (yes please!). But growing a person itself is also hard work, plus I work full time, so if I’m tired once in a while and running doesn’t feel like the right choice for my time, does it matter? Does it make me any less of a fit person? Does it mean I’m making lame excuses? The answer to all these questions is a big fat “absolutely NOT”. I’m finally starting to come to grips with this.

My question is how long will I keep this sport up before I favour more comfortable activities with my ever growing body? It depends on how I feel. I have a couple events to run in May (the BMO 8K and the Run For Women5K) and I will play it by ear if I run events beyond that. I like the idea of the Shaughnessy 8K and there’s a West Van event at the start of June. But I won’t commit until I see how the running goes in the first part of May. The summer is up in the air because I might not like running in the heat. Walking may be a better option then. We’ll just have to see. No pressure either way because we all know I’ll return to running post-partum as quickly as I can and will be back to running all kinds of events for 2018. Nothing wrong with a season off to train for the marathon of motherhood!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Race Report: BMO Vancouver Marathon (8km event) - May 7th, 2017

The BMO Vancouver Marathon’s 8K event yesterday was a big success. This was my 4th race as a mom-to-be, but my first being 'out' and public about it all. At 16 weeks, I have a wee little bump and as it's hard to hide now, I sported it proudly with a witty personalized bib.

I have been part of the BMO Vancouver Marathon in some way since 2012: I ran my first marathon at this event in 2012, volunteered as a water station captain in 2013, and ran the half marathon 2014, 2015, and 2016. Oh, and I ran the kids run in 2015 with my niece and nephew. So I had done it all, literally, except the 8km. This year, I finally got to check that off my list. I registered knowing of my pregnancy and wanting to tone down the mileage and intensity and the 8km seemed like the perfect option to still participate. Literally a day or two after registering, I was surprised by my sister-in-law, Michele, who asked if she could register and join me. I was so pleased with this suggestion as I enjoy running with her and having company and conversation at a race where you’re not going all competitive (i.e., and you don't need to be in your own head the whole time) can be a wonderful thing.

As you know, my training has been going rather well. I have been able to do 8-10K as my weekend “long run” distance with relative ease throughout my pregnancy. I say relative because it’s only OK if I don’t do it too often. Otherwise, I exhaust myself or worse, get discouraged and have a bad run and quit early. So I’ve been keeping my runs to about 4-6km and only going longer about once every two weeks in order to guarantee more success. I ran 8K about 10 days prior to the race and it was one of my best training runs. I believe this energy surge one gets in the 2nd trimester is really a thing. I had heard about it but only believed it when I experienced it. Suddenly running isn’t as hard as it was the first 3 months. It’s all because the placenta is doing a lot of the work now and takes the toll off of me a little. Hormones are still present, but they are no longer taking over my life! Anyway, all of this had me looking ahead at the BMO 8K with excitement and confidence it would be fun and not difficult.

And it was indeed exactly that! It started out with a fun visit to the expo with my dear friend, Sigrid, who was running the marathon as her 6th lifetime marathon. We visited almost every booth and caught up. This is one of the draws of this event – the expo is always a great time! I always bump into people I know and have many enjoyable conversations. The running community is amazing!

The weekend of the race couldn't have been more perfect. Spring is here in Vancouver in all its beautiful glory and the sun was shining, not too hot. Sunday morning, Michele and I drove downtown and parked near the finish line. We would have taken transit but the seabuses don't operate early enough on Sundays. A little annoying! Being a point to point course, we parked at the finish line but needed to get to the start line in Stanley Park. Driving to Stanley Park wasn't an option because all roads were closed for the race. But the race provided shuttle bus service to the start line for us 8Kers. We walked to the area and boarded a yellow school bus within minutes. It dropped us off a few blocks away from the start but there were volunteers there to guide us to where we needed to be. Easy and seamless!

We spent some time watching the half marathon runners go by, and of course, hydrating, washroom breaks, and all that pre-race prep stuff needed. This includes taking selfies, naturally :)

Goal was to get the water and some half marathon runners in the background!
At a few min before  the gun would go off 9:30am, we shed our layers and lined up in our starting corral and got ourselves ready to run. It was absolutely perfect outside. Warm, but not hot, breezy and refreshing in the shade, and sunshine to light up the route and make Stanley Park absolutely spectacular.

I was very pleased with how well I ran and how energetic I felt. I didn't need to walk up any of the hills for the most part, except a small section as we left Stanley Park, less than 1km from the finish line, before turning onto Georgia Street. I never felt like my breathing was laboured, and it was nice to have Michele's encouraging self there and conversation too to keep me motivated and moving forward. Even so, I never felt like I was pushing myself. Every time Michele asked if I wanted a walk break or to slow down, the answer was always "no, I feel great!". So far during my pregnancy, I've never been shy to take the break, but on Sunday, I didn't need it.

I didn't realize until we crossed the finish line, but it was a much faster run than I thought it would be. It ended up being my fastest run in about 2 months, I think. When I think about it, it makes sense. Normally I take walk breaks, especially on hills, or just when I start to fatigue so when you combine or average out my running time with my walking time, my improved second trimester pace has been around 7:15-7:30/km. My first trimester pace was often in the 8:00/km range. But here I only walked about a 100m stretch and otherwise ran the whole way. I don't think my pace was any faster while I was actually running, but without walking mixed in, I averaged approx 6:30/km for this race. I was expecting somewhere in the 58min range for a finish time, but we crossed the line at 54:24. What a pleasant surprise!

And here we are, at the finish line, celebrating our finish.

We tried to get the finish line in the background but I think my head is blocking it!
I also received my medal from John Stanton. It's always great to meet him at races as he's so very positive!

Gosh I really look pregnant here!
The finish line festivities were also fun to check out. In previous years running the marathon and half marathon, I was just too tired and anxious for a shower and real food to stick around. But the nice thing about an 8km, if taken leisurely like we did, is you've got plenty left in the tank after. So we wandered, enjoyed some of the freebies, and when we'd seen it all, we headed back to North Van to freshen up and go out for celebratory brunch.

While I felt great during the race and immediately after, I was absolutely exhausted for the rest of the day and had a dull achy feeling in my abdomen that lasted right until I went to sleep that night. It was nothing to be alarmed about, but round ligament pain, which is when the muscles/ligaments that support the growing uterus are taxed. Drinking water to rehydrate my tired body and lying down helped, so I parked myself on my couch pretty much the rest of the day and went to sleep early. Essentially, I overdid it.

It has left me feeling a little bit of a dilemma. I don't want to feel this way after running again. But I had no idea I was overdoing it because I literally felt like Superwoman during the race! I never once thought I was pushing myself. But perhaps because I didn't take walk breaks, I actually was pushing myself (relative to most recent workouts). Maybe 8km is too far now, even though a distance I can easily complete? Maybe distance isn't the issue but I need to run/walk? Maybe it's about shortening my stride? Maybe I need to be more conscious of gravity and take it easier on downhill sections since I'm now carrying more weight in the abdominal region? I am not sure. I'll speak to my doctor and in the short term, I won't exceed 5km on any given run and will run/walk.

If you have insight for me, feel free to share.

<3 Z

Friday, May 5, 2017

Running Victories and Pending April Fools Run (March 27th, 2017)

March 27th, 2017

It’s been a little while since my last honest running blog post. It’s been a really good few weeks of running. I have found my groove and the majority of my runs have been good. I can still count the number of bad pregnant runs on one hand. That is good considering I’m running 3-4 times a week and I’m now into my 10th week of pregnancy. Yay for positive stats!

By week 10, the embryo has completed its most critical period of development and it's tail has disappeared, making it look a little more human. 2 weeks ago, we had our ultrasound and found out everything is going according to plan and our little baby has a nice strong heart beat. Another very very positive set of stats!

With the positive stats, come a couple of running victories. On March 18th, I ran the St. Patrick’s Day 5K with my sister-in-law, Michele. I had told her about the pregnancy the day before so she knew I had a valid reason for running slower, needing to walk up the hilliest hills, and staying away from the post-run green beer. It was a really fun day and we totally took the race easy, ran together, walked when needed, pulled aside for selfies when the scenery warranted it, and didn’t look at my watch for any stat aside from my heart rate. We managed to finish in a respectable 34:37 which was faster than I was expecting considering our very leisurely approach. Sure it was a little slower than the West Van 5K, but this is a hillier course, and well, I was further along with my baby bump (which is now kinda visible!).

My second victory was last week. Cam and I had a little holiday, thanks to a generous friend who gifted us a 2-night stay at an oceanfront resort on Vancouver Island. I was expecting to spend time swimming in the pools, but then realized the pools were well-heated spa pools and not the best environment for me to be swimming in (overheating in the first trimester can be dangerous to the embryo). So the run gear I brought was used more than I had planned. I ran two beautiful runs along the path next to the water. It was mostly flat too, so it allowed me to maintain a consistent pace and not stop for walk breaks. I ran 5K two days in a row and enjoyed the beautiful spring weather and ocean views. Spring hasn’t fully sprung in Vancouver yet, so it was great to see the blossoms out. I even got to hang out with a hummingbird for a little while!

Next week is the April Fool’s Run, the half marathon on the Sunshine Coast I run every year. I’ve been conflicted about this race ever since I found out I was pregnant and I found that running became that much harder. I decided early on that I wasn’t going to push myself in training, and upping my mileage now isn’t the time. I can stay pretty fit running in the 5-10K range for all my workouts. No need to go much higher. I think I’d assumed I could consistently run 10K on weekends for my Sunday long runs, and so then at AFR, I could run 10K and walk the remainder. I could still do a half marathon this year, like I do multiple halfs every year, but this would be my only one of the year and done slow. Well, it turns out that a plan to run 10K and walk 11K might be flawed. 2 of my 3 bad runs since becoming pregnant were runs where I attempted 10K. I’ve successfully run 10K a few times (once was just a week ago), but twice I had to bail and go home early because of fatigue. There’s no sense in running myself exhausted when I’m trying to grow a vulnerable tiny human. We both need my energy. One of these bad 10K attempts was yesterday. I quit at 6km and walked home. it could be that I pushed myself too hard on the day before gardening. Or it could be that the torrential rain got to me. Or the fact my sleep the night before was not sound but interrupted by many a bathroom break. Or I was otherwise tired. I have every right to be.

So this left me feeling more of a dilemma toward the pending half marathon. Luckily Teresa, the race director, posted on Facebook that a relay team was looking for another member. So I contacted the right people to see if I could join a team and run a quarter of the race, instead of the entire thing. Hopefully this works out, as it will give me a more reasonable running distance (the 5km range), and it’ll take the pressure off of me. What if I sleep poorly again the night before the race? What if it’s another bad day? It won’t matter so much if I only have to run 5K. Fingers crossed this works out. Otherwise, I will stick with plan A and pack lots of snacks for the walking portion, and I won’t feel shy to DNF if I need to.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Wonderfully Magical (March 10, 2017)

March 10, 2017

That’s how I can best describe this process of growing a human – wonderfully magical. I wake up each morning remembering there is a sweet life growing inside of me. Yes, partially because of nausea, but mostly because this is a new and awesome experience. Now my little one is only the size of a blueberry, not exactly huge, but it has made its presence known. Somehow I feel his or her presence with me all the time. We have a bond I can’t describe, that will continue to grow and deepen. When I think of it, when I truly think it through, it IS wonderful and magical. How amazing it is to be a woman and be capable of having this happen in our lives. I know not all women choose this path or are able to follow this path when they want to, so I know I am truly blessed to have this journey. In fact, my husband and I had been trying a while, and for the longest time, I was discouraged and wondered if this would ever happen. But sometimes, dreams do come true.

In a few short days we have our first ultrasound and I will know how the little berry is doing. I hope to see the little heart beat nice and strong. I hope for peace of mind that everything is going as well as I believe it is going. Yet sometimes I am still in utter disbelief that it is happening at all.

Running this past while has also become wonderful again. I’m not training hard like Zahida normally does, but I have been running consistently. I haven’t had a sucky run day since the first run I tried as a pregnant lady. I imagine I might have more, or there may be days in the 3rd trimester that I am simply too large for it to be a desirable option. I don’t know if it’s easier now because I know what pace is manageable and I'm no longer forcing my old pace. I am rather happy going 1min/km slower than usual. Or is it because my anxiety over whether it really was safe to run has gone away? Yes, there were days where I'd run and feel tired after and worry unnecessarily that I had done something bad for the baby. But that feeling has passed because I know in my mind and in my heart of hearts that running isn't harmful (but beneficial). I can still run a decent distance fairly easily and it’s wonderfully magical that my favourite sport isn’t going anywhere anytime too soon.

And last Saturday, I ran my first race as a pregnant lady, the West Van Run 5K. Given 5K can be treated either seriously for time (the usual me) or as a fun run (the current me), I had the perfect event to just go with run method B and have some fun. I was a bit nervous about it, more that I would accidentally push myself too hard in the adrenaline and emotion of the crowd. I was also nervous about my ‘followers’ noticing a slow finish time. Or if I bumped into anyone there, that they would see me not doing warm-up strides, and they’d see me sneakily lining up at the back and starting out at a jog.

But, nobody I knew noticed me.

But someone else did. A woman about my age approached me, a complete stranger, wearing a beautifully fluorescent orange top, seeing me on my own likely pacing anxiously. She said, “today is my first ever race and I am so nervous! My kids are here to support me and everything.” She was exactly what I needed. And it was wonderfully magical

I responded congratulating her on the pending achievement, telling her how fun an event this was to do as a first. I then confided in this complete stranger about my own nerve-wracking milestone, “I have been running races for a number of years but I’m also very nervous about this one as it’s a first of a different kind. This is my first race as a pregnant woman, and I don’t know how I am going to feel out there.” My brave words were greeted with a smile. I say why not tell a stranger when I can’t tell just anyone I want. She wished me well too. She also told me that pregnancy is hard and everything after that is way way better. She thought it was admirable that I was running this race pregnant. Hopefully I looked suitably pregnant for her to believe me, haha!

I did what I alluded to above and sneakily lined myself up near the back of the pack to start the race. I set my watch screen to only show me heart rate and distance traveled, so I could monitor my effort without any indicator of pace or projected finish time. Anytime my heart rate would rise above where I wanted it, even if my legs and lungs could do it, I held them back and slowed right down.
I saw the woman in orange lined up ahead of me and I kept my eye on her. She was running about the same pace as I was, but it appears she either later slowed down, or I sped up, as I passed her around the 3km mark. As I did so, I wished her well and told her she was doing awesome. At the finish line, I waited for her to cross the line before I went to investigate the race food. I never learned her name, or shared my own, but it was so nice to unburden myself and tell her what I was going through. It was nice to have a high five with someone who too felt a great accomplishment for completing this race.

I ran this race with the intention of having fun and going an easy pace the whole way. I had assumed in my head, that my pregnancy pace would be a 7min/km and to expect about a 35min finish at the event. Anything near that or even longer than that would have to be fine with me. I realize this was a net-downhill course, but I kept an easy does it pace the whole way, never once feeling laboured breathing, and came in at 32:53 – enough to come in in the top half of all finishers. Much slower than a usual 5km race, but I’d say a pretty respectable finish considering my ‘condition’ and my approach. I hope to do about the same at St. Patty’s next week. I’ll use the same approach. There are a couple of hilly sections so I might be slower. But who cares – I’m not looking to win. I just want to keep running, having fun, and stay nice and healthy for the little blueberry!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Primal Running (March 3, 2017)

March 3, 2017

Pregnancy race #1 is tomorrow, as I approach the 7-week milestone in this journey (6.5 weeks). Tomorrow is the West Van Run 5K. Or should I say it’s a “race” (stressing the "quotation marks") as I’m running but not exactly as competition to anyone, let’s be real! This is the one I mentioned the last post saying, “I wonder if anyone will notice [how slow I am]”. I have mentioned to a few who’ve inquired that I plan on running this race, and the assumption is that I will be trying to go fast, maybe to figure out what I’m capable of for the next 5K, the St. Patty’s. You know, because I was talking about how my track workouts were going and helping me get faster. Nope – things have changed since that conversation. I’m just going to run this at whatever pace feels comfortable and keeps my heart rate where it should be. I will keep a smile on my face and not mention finish time at all in anything I publish online.

At 7 weeks, the baby has doubled in size since last week, but is still quite small (blueberry-sized). Little paddles for arms and legs have formed, and the baby still has a little tadpole tail. It kind of looks a little weird. I continue to be tired, pretty much all the time, but I have been lucky that my nausea is manageable and I haven't been sick from it yet.

I’ve kind of been wondering if anyone has noticed my lack of running posts on social media these days. I wonder if people are wondering what happened to my weekly reports from the track. I’m not running there anymore… I better post *something* tomorrow, just so the questions go away. More importantly, I want to promote this event too! But I will be focusing on the fun of the event, not my performance. This might be odd to some when I say, “West Van Run was so fun!” and I don’t say anything else. They will ask, “so, how’d you do?”. Or they will be nosey and look me up in the results page and be puzzled. But I have to let the world know that I’m running; I will just make sure any selfies taken do not show my bloated mid-section.

I’m so very thankful that running is something a woman can safely do in their pregnancy (with a doctor’s approval). I mean, from an evolutionary standpoint, this makes sense! I should be able to continue to flee danger and hunt for food, even with child. Actually I should be able to do that especially *because* I’m with child. But it’s so wonderful in a practical sense because I don’t entirely have to get into a new routine. I simply adapt the one I already have and tone down the seriousness and intensity of it. It’s something that has brought me joy for years and will continue to do so at least for a little while (maybe a temporary hiatus when I get huge). It is the best stress release out there that I am aware of, or that works for me, which is wonderful for me to have in a time of rapid change and uncertainty. I always feel better after I have gone for a run, even if I didn’t feel particularly bad before.

The feeling of running has always been a primal feeling I have loved. It’s the main reason why I love running; I feel alive and connected to the living being that I am. I am not just an intellectual being with a career, emotions, and opinions, but I’m a living, breathing, strong animal and a force to be reckoned with. When I’m outside and running, I am aware of my heart beat, my breathing, my muscles, my surroundings, the ever-changing view, the smell of the grass and the trees, the sounds of the birds, the warmth of the sun, the taste of my sweat, and the feel of my feet contacting the ground. Running highlights this animal instinct in such a very real way. I find it empowering and I feel fierce. I feel strong, powerful, and like I can take on anything. Whilst I am much slower these days, I still feel empowered by my ability to move freely in this way. It empowers me that this physical task of growing a human is something I can do. It, just like running, was something this woman was born to do.