Category Archives: run white girl run

Group Hug

“If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.” – Kathrine Switzer

What a terrible week.

Monday morning I tossed aside everything I should have been doing in the precious couple of hours alone while the bigger boys were in school and Henry was napping to watch the Internet broadcast of the Boston Marathon. I subscribe to Runners World and they’ve had a number of stories over the past few months about the Boston Marathon – specially devoted to two American female runners who were in contention to win Boston this year. So I spent two hours ironing (and not ironing) in front of my laptop in the kitchen. Boston is a special marathon – America’s meta marathon – because you either have to run a qualifying time to get in or raise a lot of money for a nonprofit to run as a charity runner.

The broadcast of the elite runners ended at noon and I went about my day. Then I popped on to Twitter three hours later and got the first news of the bombing.

It’s a terrible event in any circumstance but even more poignant for people in the running community. Whether you’ve run a 5K or a full marathon, you know what it means to have people cheering for you during a race. I’ve both cheered and been cheered during races. In 2009, I camped out just before the Mile 26 marker at the Chicago Marathon waiting for my sisters to stager up the final hill before the finish line. The next year I ran my first half marathon.

Monday I just felt dazed. And desperately in need of a good, hard run. I injured my knee two weeks before while training for my second half marathon, but later that night I got on a treadmill and ran half of an increasingly painful mile just because I could. We live in an active town as it is, but I swear I saw at least twice the normal runners out that evening.

And then West, Texas. And then more death in Boston.

And now it’s Sunday.

O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

O merciful Father, who hast taught us in your holy Word that you do not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men: Look with pity upon the sorrows of your servants for whom our prayers are offered. Remember them, O Lord, in mercy, nourish their souls with patience, comfort them with a sense of your goodness, life up your contenance upon them, and give them peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Group hug, guys.

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Photographs

We’re in Texas for a family funeral this week. Exactly two years ago when I was training for my first 10K, I would get up as early as 5:00am to avoid running in the grueling Texas heat. I tend to run the same routes so I can compare my times thus each run took me by the same house where each morning I would see the same elderly couple. Texans of a certain age have a habit of sitting out in their garages or carports early in the morning before it gets too hot; drinking coffee, eating breakfast or simply taking the air. This tradition seems to be leftover from a time before central-air conditioning.

I started running again in February after a six month pregnancy/new baby leave, and Monday morning laced up my running shoes to do a 4-miler in my husband’s small Texas hometown. About three miles in I paused my podcast and my stopwatch, and walked up the driveway to say hello. His wife was inside cleaning up after breakfast, but the coffee carafe and two cups were still on the TV tray. Wearing new denim overalls and a short sleeve cotton tshirt, Mr. W and I exchanged greetings, notes on whom we were kin to and comments about the weather. He was one of those elderly men who seems to sweeten rather than sour with age. His short cropped hair was white and his soft plumpness was like Henry’s on the waning side of life. With his fingers laced over his stomach, he told me how he is living 6 miles from where he was born and how his wife almost died from a blood clot a few months ago.

“I’m 85 years old and it was the only time I’ve ever been scared in my life,” he told me solemnly.

This is one of the reason I love to run.

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Mental Marathon: A Birth Story

Listening to my sisters and other friends talk about their marathons it’s always struck me how much they sounded like birth stories.  Even the pattern of their race sounded like childbirth: excitement when they got started, how the hard work would start somewhere between miles 6-13, transition at mile 20, and pushing around mile 25. They would cope with mantras, visualization, music, companionship and endure some of the worst pain of their lives. Their physical challenges affected their mental game. And in the end it was all worth it.

I labored with my first two sons without an epidural or pain medicine. John was a textbook, challenging labor and James a short, quick labor. My doula with my first birth described her labor with her third child as “unpredictable,” and that was true for me too.

I was past my due date. Day after day I would have mild contracts toward the end of the day, usually when I finally let myself lay down and rest after spending a number of hours in hardcore nesting. They never progressed into anything substantial and at my 40 week appointment my doctor told me she had scheduled an induction for me the following Friday when I would be 41 weeks. The part of me that had taken Bradley classes knew that I was supposed to fight this and ask that we wait until I went into labor spontaneously, but I really thought I would go into labor before then and, if I hadn’t, I just wanted to have my baby.

Day after day of the following week ticked by and true labor never started. Thursday it seemed apparent I was about to be induced for the first time. I had worked it out with my doctor that I would come in, receive the Group B Strep antibiotics, wait three hours, and then she would break my water. Normally, they give Pitocin along with the GBS drip to get labor going, but she knew that I really didn’t want to use Pitocin in labor if I could avoid it and said she didn’t have any problem waiting until after she broke my water to see if labor would establish itself.

Friday morning my sister-in-law Laura dropped Michael and I off at the hospital at 7:30 before taking John and James to school. The first three hours Michael and I walked the halls. We talked. I read a book. He watched Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I checked Twitter. I was having 4-5 contractions an hour with lots of downward pressure but they didn’t hurt at all.

This was nothing like my other labors.

At 10:30, Dr. E arrived and checked me. I was at 5cm, 80 percent effaced, which was surprising and encouraging. She broke my water painlessly and I waited for the Big Show to begin.

Two hours went by of more of the same nothing.

Around 12:30, Michael called my sister-in-law to check in on how James’ preschool pick-up went and if she was doing ok. Contractions were starting to pick up at this point though they were barely painful at all. Listening to Michael’s conversation, something shifted and labor started to pick up.

I was pretty quiet during hard contractions. I would visualize myself running up a hard hill toward the end of a really long race and whispered to myself “Up the hill up the hill up the hill.” I was coping well though after a particularly hard contraction I said to Michael rather desperately, “I don’t remember a single reason why I’m supposed to think getting an epidural is a bad idea. Why didn’t I take the time to make a list of all the reasons it’s a bad idea because I can’t think of a single one.” And then I’d get it back together and focus again.

This labor was different too because there were things that really comforted me during previous labor that didn’t work at all during this labor. I didn’t want Michael to talk to me at all. I wanted him to barely touch me; the most helpful things were for him to just hold my hands lightly so I would remember to relax my arms and shoulders during contractions.

I leaned over the birthing ball on the floor for a while, then moved to hands and knees on the bed as I felt transition starting. It was around this time they checked me again and I was a stretchy 7-8cm. Michael was so great about having water ready after every couple of contractions; especially as I got sweatier and more heated during labor. I would fold down into a yoga pose between contractions, then push myself onto my hands and knees during contractions.

I was feeling more clear headed and in control than I usually do during transition. I was voluntarily making my own position changes without having to be coaxed. I would work through a couple of contractions at the squatting bar, and then turn around for a few more on my hands and knees all the while thinking “I’M KICKING LABOR’S ASS.” Then I started feeling a little pushy and just let myself push with the contractions, which was great because, when I would push, I barely felt any pain.

My nurse Chris (whose daughter is in the same kindergarten class as John!) noticed this too and quickly called Dr. E thinking that I was moments away from delivering. She knew about James’ birth and I think was expecting Henry to just fly out when I got to that point. Behind me I could hear them rapidly pulling out the delivery tray, bringing in another nurse and Dr. E getting robed up. Then they checked me and I was still at 7-8cm with a swollen cervical lip from pushing too soon.

Psychologically this was pretty devastating for me and I went from KICKING LABOR’S ASS to it kicking MY ass as I had to breathe through the massive transitional contractions. I went from my whole “Up the hill” visualization and feeling in control, to screaming “WHY??? WHY??? WHY??? WHY???” and between contractions feeling completely lost and saying “I just don’t know what to do. Tell me what to do. How do I make this lip go away????

Labor nurse Chris really stepped up at this point and helped me change positions after each contraction. Finally, she told me she was going to push my cervix back manually during my next contraction with a warning, “You’re probably not going to like this very much.” It was pretty awful but not nearly as bad as feeling like I was going to be stuck in a huge cycle of pain forever.

The delivery group came in a second time and I turned over on my back. This position felt completely wrong. I felt like I should be sitting up more, but couldn’t seem to communicate this in a way that actually resulted in anyone raising the bed. Pushing felt completely unproductive at first. I was glad everyone was mostly quiet while I was pushing except for Dr. E who would tell me when pushing was especially effective.

Pushing was massively painful. For a labor that had largely been relatively manageable, I wasn’t prepared for how painful pushing was. Pushing is usually my favorite part of labor because it’s both something I can actively do while being mostly just about feeling a massive amount of pressure but not burning pain. I had trouble holding my legs back because they instinctually wanted to straighten out to avoid the pain. I was averaging about three pushes per contraction. I was pushing with all of my might, but I felt like I was stuck. They put an oxygen mask on me at one point. Mostly I just felt like I was suffocating. I thought about Into Thin Air when Jon Krakauer talks about using an oxygen mask when making the summit push to the top of Everest and feeling like you were suffocating until you took the mask off, when you really felt like you couldn’t catch your breath.

I found out later Henry’s 14-centimeter head was coming in sideways rather than straight on, and that was probably why it didn’t feel like I was doing anything. The other L&D nurse who was there to assist told me later that night that it’s actually a worse position than the baby being posterior (face up rather than face down). I could hear Dr. E and Chris say something about the head rotating and noticing something when they had checked me earlier. But the take away I got from it was that everything was normal, and labor was back to kicking my ass rather than the other way around.

After one series of pushes, I heard Dr. E say something about the head rotating and then my next series of pushes were more productive. I reached down to see if I could feel Henry’s head crowning because I could feel something like a ring of fire, except this time it felt more like my whole pelvis was a ring of fire. At the end of the next series of pushing, I screamed “IT HURTS IT HURTS IT HURTS” and then in the middle of the next one screamed “I JUST CAN’T DO THIS” out of complete pain and frustration. I heard Chris, Michael and maybe another person start to say, “You can do it” but the voice I heard most clearly was Dr. E not unkindly say matter-of-factly “You don’t have a choice.”

I resigned myself to my pelvis cracking in two and pushed again.

Shortly after this Henry’s head and body were delivered. I looked at his huge body and wondering how he ever managed to squeeze through that end of me. He started crying shrilly and they laid him on my chest. I laid my head back and let the relief of it all wash over me, which is when Michael took this picture.

From October 2011

But the one take two seconds later pretty much sums up the majority of post-birth.

From October 2011

I’m grimacing and you can see my neck straining against the pain of delivering the placenta and having my second degree tear stitched up. I was also shaking uncontrollably. I kept asking for more warmed blankets and the nurses kept piling more and more on top of me. They were doing Henry’s vitals on my chest, but I asked Michael to take him since I was shaking so badly. Henry’s APGARS were 7 and 9, and he seemed much happier once he got into the warmer. I finally stopped shaking after getting a new, warmed hospital gown and my sixth or seventh blanket.

—-

We live only four minutes from our community hospital so Laura brought the John and James to the delivery room shortly after they finished Henry’s newborn procedures and my postpartum ones. Somehow it was like life never really skipped a beat except now there was one more little person in our new family picture.

From October 2011

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Guest Blogging

I am guest blogging today over at Texas Schmexas – a blog that looks for community in unlikely places. Check it out!

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Running While Pregnant

Over the past year and a half, running has become part of my life and I was determined to keep it up as long as I could during my pregnancy. It probably helped that I came across a couple of people who ran far into their pregnancies – the kind of stories that tweaked my “If they can do it, so can I!” competitive nature.

I also found a really helpful book – as best I can tell the only book – about pregnancy and running: Runner’s World Guide to Running and Pregnancy by Chris Lundgren. I liked how the book went month by month and gave a good overview of what were reasonable running expectations for that month. Probably my favorite piece of advice was to change your distance measure from regular miles to “maternity miles.” A maternity mile was equal to 10 minutes of running. As I got slower and slower, it definitely made me feel better to think of two regular miles as three maternity miles.

The book also includes nutrition plans and case studies. Most of the examples were of women who ran longer, farther and fastest than I did before pregnancy, but I thought the author did a good job of making sure to communicate that at the end of the day you do the best you can. Don’t kill yourself.

Throughout this pregnancy people would ask how long I was planning to keep running, and since this was uncharted territory for me I would reply, “Until it hurts.”  I crossed some invisible threshold at 27 weeks where if I did anything more than jog very slowly, my whole baby belly would feel like it was contracting into an extremely painful bowling ball. Basically, it was my round ligaments screaming at me. Finally at 29 weeks I very regretfully decided to back down to power walking. We’re in Texas in the middle of a historic heat wave, and I started swelling so much that I was risking injury to keep running.

In the 6.5 months of this pregnancy, I logged over 175 miles of running. It’s been very cathartic as we’ve faced a lot of uncertainty with Michael’s job situation, and now as we’re in the process of moving to another state. It’s been a mood-booster when hormones attack. It’s helped me feel at least as energetic as I did with my first pregnancy six years ago.

But what I’m really going to miss is freaking out old ladies. Like the elderly woman who drove by me while I was jogging a few weeks ago and, looking horrified, mouthed “OH NO!”

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This is How I Roll

Back in December, I was in a Keystone Montessori staff meeting with Keystone administrator/teacher Cathe and we were brain storming about a school fundraiser. One of the things that I immediately liked about Cathe when I first met her was her early and often expressed interest in making a Montessori education accessible to anyone that wanted one. She wanted to have a scholarship fund, and she wanted to raise the money in a way that was as inclusive as possible. Which is the shortest way to tell the story of how I became the race organizer of the 1st Annual Keystone Montessori “This is How I Roll” 5K.

I’d run enough road races to have a basic handle on what’s important to runners when it comes to deciding to run a race or not: cost, organization and an awesome tshirt. We set the entry price to the lowest one normally finds in the area, made a point of putting together a clean and informative website, and had a Keystone parent design our tshirts and decided to pay a little extra for dry-fit over cotton.

The nuts and bolts of the organization and promotion of the race were very involved – at times it was its own part-time job – though I had a lot of advice and support from John’s Run/Walk Shop who we hired to measure the course and time our 5K. Back in January, I sat down with Chuck at John’s Run/Walk Shop for over an hour talking through the logistics of how to run a great community 5K (the three keys to a great race basically boil down to Sponsors, Runners, Volunteers).

Just after my half-marathon last September, I started running with the Georgetown Run Club & Intellectual Society (which you should join if you live in Georgetown and run even a little). They were another great resource when it came to working through all the details of the race. They were also gracious about coming out and actually running the race, and collectively won a number of the overall and age-group awards!

The Georgetown Run Club at the This is How I Roll 5K – From May 2011

When it was all over, I felt like I had collectively organized my wedding and birthed a 9-pound baby all over again simultaneously (there’s a nice mental image…). I heard a lot of nice compliments on the race from both our ‘elite’ local runners as well as people who had never run a 5K before. People loved the dry-fit race tshirts and the refreshment table with fair trade coffee, organic bananas and Chick-fil-a chicken biscuits. I was glad too that the whole race wasn’t populated just by people I knew or that were connected through the Montessori community, but also by local running groups and others who thought it would be a nice race to run. We ended up having 114 people register and 105 people run, which is pretty good for a first-time 5K being run the same weekend as the Girls on the Run 5K.

We also had a children’s fun run following the 5K award ceremony. It was great seeing how many kids participated because they wanted to run a race just like their parents, grandparents or other special people in their lives. Anything to encourage an active lifestyle early on!

 Race organizer, first time 5K runner & Fun Run boys! From May 2011

I’m hoping that all this work takes a step toward doing something positive for both the Montessori community in Georgetown and the families that want to be part of them as well as generally encouraging health and wellness in our small town. Montessori and running have done tremendous things for our boys and our family.

Check out more event photos here and join us next year on Saturday, May 19, 2012 for the 2nd Annual running of the Keystone Montessori This is How I Roll 5K

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11 Week 5K

Last year during my training for the Bluegrass 10K, I ran the Lion’s Run for Sight 5K as a training run. That was the one where I left my crying, bleeding child in the dust to try to make my time. A year later, John still remembers the incident perfectly. In fact, he came to the door of the bathroom this morning to recount the tragic tale and request that I hold his hand this year.

Our kids were born unable to speak English, but are fluent in guilt.

Coming up the hill for the final half mile. John and James were very excited to run with me. From March 2011

Back in February, I was ramping my mileage back up to train for the Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon when I injured my knee dancing to Lady Gaga with a bunch of college girls at a Zumba class. During my month of recovery, I swam and checked each week to see if my knee had healed and discovered I am pregnant with our third child. Thus my expectations for beating my 29:00 5K personal record while 11 weeks pregnant were pretty low.

The very end of the story is I ran with John around the track – at one point stopping completely while he caught up with me – and still managed to finish the race 40 seconds faster than last year (33:37) and placed second in my age group. (Though I strongly suspect there were only two people in my age group. I wouldn’t be too surprised if most of them are carb-loading right now for the half marathon tomorrow. But, whatever. SECOND PLACE in my massive age group field.)

And then I ate the best sandwich ever created – the Jimmy John’s California Club on seven grain bread – and called it good.

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