Persistent Running Podcast Interview with Bethany Thompson

Hi friends! I met Bethany at Persistent Running about two years ago, and it has been so wonderful to follow her running career as she has grown her family and her coaching business. She recently started a podcast and I had the privilege of chatting with her last week. Link is below.

You can listen here.

Finishing Georgia Jewel 100 πŸ“· Grant Carmichael

Georgia Jewel 100 Race Report

I signed up for Georgia Jewel 100 miler over Mother’s Day weekend. I had already talked to Jon about the race before covid19 canceled 2020, and I had been keeping an eye on the registration list. When I logged in that weekend, there were only 3 spots left, so I talked to Jon and signed up. Best Mother’s Day gift ever.

The race directors for Georgia Jewel are Franklin and Jenny Baker. Jenny is also the organizer for SheVentures, which I have been a part of for the last two years. Everything that the Bakers do is first class, and their passion oozes into every detail of their events. One really amazing initiative that the Bakers adopted for the 2020 race is to try to get more women onto the trails. When registration opened in December 2019, they gave a discount to all females who registered in the amount of 21% to represent the wage disparity between men and women. By race day, the mix for male – female was close to 50%. AMAZING.

I won’t get into 100 miler training in this post, but I think we all know that 2020 has left us all with less than conventional circumstances when it comes to time, childcare, stress management, and work/life balance.That being said, I am so thankful that I had a goal to chase throughout the summer (my favorite season to train!), and it was really nice to have a focus outside of the $h!t show that is is 2020.

Photo: Jobie Williams

Sept 18, 2020: Race Day!

This is the first year that the 100 was scheduled for a 4 pm start. I have run night races, but never anything this long. It’s tricky to think about rest and nutrition throughout the day when you have 100 miles to run in the hours ahead. Ha. Callie still doesn’t sleep through the night, and the girls slept in until 7:15 am on race day. My mom came around 10 am to pick up the girls and say good luck! I wanted race weekend to be exciting for them, so I had bought them a couple of little presents like headlamps (Cadence LOVES surprises). I would see them again at the finish line!

I had about 2 hours to finish packing and eat lunch. I had not had much of an appetite since the day before because of nerves, but I managed to eat some pasta, pack the car, and kiss Jon goodbye. The race start was one hour and twenty minutes away, but I came to a dead stop on the highway for what would be a 45 minute roll due to “road failure”. Only in 2020! I was trying not to freak out that I would roll in after packet pickup with less than an hour before the start.

I got to the race and saw a few familiar faces. Check in was smooth, and two of my favorite SheVentures girls were there helping give out t-shirts. I was feeling more relaxed now, and ready to get on with the show! A 4 pm start makes the day feel SO long! At 10 minutes until 4 pm, the RD called us all over to remind us of the procedure. We were to start in waves of 10 according to bib number (I was bib #5) at 1 min intervals.

Packet pickup

The Start

I lined up behind the start with wave 1, and there were FIVE other females lined up as well. This is unprecedented and needs to be remarked. This means that 5 of the ladies were projected to be in the top 10 OVERALL. The race directors had worked really hard to make make Georgia Jewel accessible to all females and the field was stacked with amazing, talented women. What a treat! I felt a tiny bit of imposter syndrome, but I have experience with that, so it was all good. πŸ™‚

The RD yelled GO and the 10 of us started trotting off. There is a slight uphill section for about 0.10 miles, and then a very steep drop called Mt Baker (which we would be climbing again at the very end of this out and back race). Within a few strides, I started talking to a lovely runner named Shannon Howell. I knew who she was because of her former race performances, but I had never met her. She was way more adept at the steep decline, but we talked on and off throughout the first section of the race. We ended up running several miles talking about motherhood, training, and work. She has 13 yo and 16 yo boys and works as a Spanish teacher.

Getting to know Shannon Howell in the first miles. ❀

Power Lines Mile 3.2 and Stover Mile 11.6

The first aid station was at Power Lines mile 3.2, and we just breezed through. I reached the second aid station at mile 11.6 called Stover, and saw another lady, Emma, who had been in front of us. Shannon pulled into the aid station as Emma was trying to mix her tailwind drink. We all three left together chatting for miles. Emma is a mom of a 4 yo and 6 yo. We spent the first ~18 miles loosely together talking, encouraging, and enjoying the beautiful trail together. The first section is affectionately called the “rock garden” but I would argue that the entire Pinhoti trail is a rock garden. Haha. The temperatures were in the lower 80s, still warm but could have been worse for Georgia! And there were some leaves that had already changed and fallen off of the trees.

Snake Creek Mile 18.8

The three of us pulled into the Snake Creek, and I said my goodbyes because I knew that Jon was meeting me there and I needed to stop long enough for a quick pump (baby bedtime) and snack. We all wore masks at the aid station tables, but we could pull them down with crew. I replenished my snacks at the car, used the manual pump for a couple of ounces (pump and dump), and ate what I could. My favorite crew treat is the Starbucks almond milk latte, and one of my best friends had stocked me up for the weekend with lots of bottles. It was such a recharge to see Jon at the aid station, since I had driven myself to the start, and I wasn’t scheduled to see him until almost the end of the night. I made sure to have plenty of batteries in my pack, and headed across the street to the trail.

Pocket Road Mile 25.3

I couldn’t tell much of the next section because it got dark really quickly. I normally like to delay wearing a headlamp for as long as I can because they are tight and change your vision. But with so many rocks on the trail, I thought it safest to use a light as soon as it got dark. There was a lot of climbing in the first section, and then gravel downhill to the Pocket Road aid station. Every time that I ran downhill, I was acutely aware that I would be running back up later. I saw one of my friends who I had met at a 100k last year, and it was so great to connect with a friend after so many solo miles in the dark.

The song Way Maker continued to run through my head over and over, especially in the dark hours. My heart was so satisfied with these lyrics on repeat:

Miracle worker, promise keeper
Light in the darkness
My God, that is who You are
Yes it is yeah, it's who You are
Way maker, miracle worker, promise keeper
Light in the darkness (hey)
My God, that is who You are

John’s Mountain Mile 28.6

This next section involved climbing a mountain over lots of rocks and boulders. I met a guy who was military running his first 100, and he was moving super smooth. I tried to run with him as much as I could because it was nice to have company. We probably made it together for about 2 miles of climbing before I had to stop to replenish my headlamp batteries. I needed bright light for all of the rocks. I heard branches fall, and I would occasionally hear an animal scurrying into the woods. It can feel spooky if you think of it too much! This section has a set of rock stairs that wind up the mountain past a waterfall/cave area. I couldn’t see anything, but what was 2 ft in front of me though. Haha. I was still feeling fine, and I was glad to check off this aid station. What goes up must come down.

Dry Creek Mile 36.1

Somewhere between John’s Mountain and Dry Creek, a few things went south for me. I had been eating a different energy chew than I had trained with (woops!), and my stomach was not happy. Every time I tried to eat, I felt nauseous. I can get away with fasted long runs in training, but for a 100, fueling is critical. I knew that I needed to dial in my nutrition fast. These miles also felt really really long. There is a section of trail that looks like an old jeep road, but it is super overgrown, and monotonous that leads to Dry Creek. I did not see anyone for hours, and I was not feeling that great. I was also feeling pretty tired after starting the race at 4 pm and knowing that I would be running well into the next day. I reached a creek crossing that I had expected way earlier in the run, and true to the RD’s description, it required getting my feet wet. I do not mind creek crossings, but my feet are notorious for blisters, and I didn’t have a change of shoes or socks at the next drop bag area. (I have never changed shoes during a race, but I have learned from Ga Jewel that I need to do something different to protect my feet.)

Dry Creek Miles 36.1 to 63.9

I finally pulled into Dry Creek and went to the table to check in. I immediately saw my new friend, Emma, who I had run the first part of the race with. Emma had flown in from Maine to run this race, and she told me that she had just talked to her husband and she was ready to drop out of the race because she just mentally wasn’t there. Well! We were the perfect team then! I told her that she was NOT dropping, and asked her to run with me if she could wait for me to try to eat something at the aid station.

Thankfully Emma agreed that we would team up, and she waited while I choked down veg broth + ramen noodles and coke. I saw my friend, Trena, volunteering at the aid station, and that was a comfort. Trena was at my first 100 and helped get me back on track when my stomach was bad there too. I dropped off my hydration vest, and grabbed my handheld and headed out with Emma.

The Dry Creek aid station is a big parking lot with a big aid station tent set up. Crew can park close by, and there was music and lots of activity and people. The temps were starting to drop in the night so that if you stayed at the aid station for too long (which I had to do a lot because of my stomach), you would start to get cold. There were bathrooms with the bucket toilets, but they smelled so foul that outdoors was definitely preferred. There are two ~7 mile loops leaving Drying Creek that we were to run 2x each. On paper that did not seem bad at all, but mentally, it felt really really long once we got started. Before and after each loop, we checked in with a volunteer at a table to tell her we were headed out or coming back in.

I was so thankful for Emma as we headed out for our first loop. I was at a pretty big low point with my stomach still not feeling great, being at a calorie deficit as a result, and also feeling really really sleepy. Emma was not struggling in the same ways that I was with her stomach, but we both needed to shuffle that first lap. I especially needed to take more time and Emma let me lead so that I could set the pace. When we started, Emma said that she probably wouldn’t be very conversational. Well, that didn’t last long, and before we knew it, we were chatting the whole time. The first loop didn’t pass quickly, but it was MUCH more pleasant with company in the darkness.

We got back to Dry Creek and I told Emma that I needed to take my time with eating at the aid station, and she said that she wanted to wait to continue running together. We were a pair! My biggest struggle was that I could not eat my energy chews without feeling sick, and it is hard to run with aid station food. I drank another cup of veg broth + ramen and drank coke. (Coke helps you burp and has caffeine and calories.) I also grabbed a baggie of oranges and banana.

We headed back out for the second loop and still both felt fatigue from running through the night and from calorie deficits. I was able to go to the bathroom in the woods, which made me feel A LOT better. Emma and I continued to shuffle and chat the second loop. Emma told me stories of some of the adventures she has run. She has a really impressive and cool running resume. Her husband also runs 100s+, and they have run ultras together before. She has two young kids, so we talked about the challenges of training with family and work.The second loop was, again, not fast but WAY more pleasant in her company.

We ran into Dry Creek after our second loop and I was surprised to see Jon and James (my second pacer) way earlier than I expected. It was before 3 am (I think), and I had not scheduled to run with Jon until my fourth loop of Dry Creek. The challenging thing for pacers and crew is that runners don’t have cell service to send updates, and the tracking was pretty minimal. I was SO relieved to see Jon and James, as I was still feeling pretty lousy with my stomach and lack of calories. I was able to eat more ramen and aid station food, and right before Emma and I headed back out for loop 3, I asked Jon if he wanted to go ahead and join us. Jon gives me so much new energy and I was really hoping he would run two loops with me. I was starting to feel better as I had been able to eat calories at each aid station stop now, and I could bring bananas and oranges out with me. Normally during races, real food bothers my stomach, but in this case, I was only able to eat real food, and savory had more appeal. We have been plant based for almost a year, so I wanted to stick with vegan options (which there were plenty of) to make sure not to add any more reasons for an upset stomach.

Jon grabbed his handheld, and the three of us left for loop 3! I led most of the loop and felt so much more energy. Emma ran at the back, and on this loop we picked up another guy for a couple of miles. I am SO fortunate to have run all of Dry Creek with a buddy. Those loops were really tough mentally. The elevation gain is not substantial on this section, but it is absolutely not flat or smooth. There were plenty of rocks and from what I felt, nothing is flat, but it can be hard to determine which hills to run and which to hike. I think the part that made this section the hardest is that my expectation was that this would be an easy section for me, but between nutrition, fatigue, and the terrain, these were my slowest miles (counting the time at the aid station to try to recoup after each lap).

Emma, Jon, and I finished lap 3 in much better condition that our previous laps. Emma and I saw Shannon Howell finishing her fourth lap and headed back towards the finish as we were completing our third lap. Shannon was all smiles, and it was really great to see her again and cheer for her amazing race.

I really needed to try to pump and go to the bathroom again, and I knew that I would need to take a little more time at the aid station. I normally try to take as little time at aid stations, but I knew that if I did not take care of my stomach and get in calories, I would not be able to continue the distance. We were 50 miles in! Halfway! (Or ONLY HALFWAY depending on how you look at it.) At this point Emma decided to head out on her own while I took care of business.

I have been breastfeeding for almost 5 years now between my two girls. Callie just turned two years old, and she still wants to nurse a few times a day and in the night. I’m not in a hurry to stop this sweet journey, especially when there are so many benefits for Callie. I have been pumping for races almost as long as I have been running, so it is really not a big deal to me to add this little step to my race routine. At this point, two years in with Callie, I don’t have nearly as much milk, but even a couple of ounces can feel uncomfortable for a time. I can hand express and get relief, but the manual pump feels better when I know I still have a lot of time ahead of me.

Once I had taken care of everything at the aid station and crew car, Jon and I headed out for the final fourth lap! I was so glad that Jon would be out there with me for two laps. Having him run through the night with me was so helpful in so many ways. We ran past a lot of runners out on the loop. Some said they were on their fourth loop as well, and I realized how much time I had taken at the aid stations if these folks were on their fourth lap as well. About 4 miles into the loop, we ran across a guy who had a very dim headlamp. We asked if he needed help, and he asked to run with us the rest of the way. So the three of us ran the last 3 miles together. This guy was from China and this was his first trail race (and I cannot remember his name, but we shared a lot of words).

When Jon and I arrived back at Dry Creek, the sun was JUST starting to peak up. I could not be happier! That meant that I could leave my headlamp and the copious amount of batteries I had gone through behind. I would wear my belt and handheld for the rest of the run, which was much cooler and way more my preference for comfort. I took my time at the aid station one last time to eat and restock with crew. Then James and I headed out for the next ~18 miles together.

John’s Mountain Mile 71.4

I met James through a friend, and it turns out that he lives about half a mile from my house. I have paced him for his first 100 and a number of his FKTs. He has a really amazing wife who crews him on his adventures, and it has been really fun to be a part of some of his accomplishments. He was so kind to volunteer to support me for Georgia Jewel, and it was really nice to run with such an experienced ultra runner. I was coming out of my funk, and he was so patient to wait for HOURS at Dry Creek while I took forever at the aid station and ran slow loops again and again. It took me a few miles to feel like I wanted to run any uphill at all, and James kindly hiked my pace and kept me entertained. We were finally on the “back” part of “out and back”, and that was extremely satisfying. I had experienced all of these miles in the dark, so it was like seeing them for the first time running with James.

We climbed John’s Mountain, which involved plenty of rocks and incline. The last section before the aid station is a pretty steep gravel road. I was feeling much better from a calorie perspective, although I still could not eat my energy chews. Instead I ran with bananas and oranges in a little baggie squished in my hand. My legs felt like they had ~70 miles in them, but I was feeling better about everything. One of the volunteers had a 2 year old at the aid station, and it was sweet to think of my Callie Ray. James and I took a selfie at the John’s Mountain overlook and then we headed down the mountain.

Pocket Road Mile 74.7

Coming down the mountain in daylight is a really nice feeling! I got to see the giant rock stairs that I climbed in the dark, and there is waterfall that I missed on the way up. We made it to the Pocket Road aid station, and the volunteers had AVOCADOS for the runners, as well as other food. I grabbed a salted avocado and put it in my baggie, and James and I were off to climb a gravel road that would lead us to what seemed like a ridge line along the trail. We saw some 50 milers passing for their out and back race, and everyone was so kind and generous. I think it was pretty obvious that I was a bit more weathered than they were, and everyone gave plenty of space on the trail for me to not have to break my cadence to pass. I was ready to get these miles over, but I also knew that as soon as we reached the next aid station, my time with James would be over, and it was so nice to have his company as a pacer.

Snake Creek Mile 81.2

James and I crossed the road to the Snake Creek aid station, and Jon was there waiting for us. My hero! Other crew in the parking lot cheered for us–I love the trail running community, from the support crew to the runners. I stopped at the car to try to eat what I could. I drank my last vanilla almond milk latte (thank you Marissa!) and tried to eat a bar. Then I masked up, went to the bathroom, and grabbed some more oranges from the aid station. I said my goodbyes to James and Jon, and headed up an incline back on course. James was headed home to sneak a nap, and Jon would be meeting me at the finish line in 18 miles.

This part of the trail looked most familiar because I ran this section in the daylight the day before. It felt like it had way more gain going back than starting the course, but I am sure that was just my tired legs talking. For sections that I probably ran on the way towards Dry Creek, I was hiking now. My toes had been hurting from blisters for hours, and I could feel every step. This is the section that is affectionately called the “rock garden” and it made it harder to get any type of rhythm with running now that my legs were heavier to lift over rocks.

There were a number of 35 mile runners out on the trails, and it was really helpful to be surrounded by other kind folks. I had been afraid that the trails would be crowded and it would be frustrating to have to step to the side as they passed. Instead, the spacing was really reasonable, and I found that I passed about as many people as passed me.

Stover Mile 88.4

The final aid stations were more spread out, and I was going slower, so it felt like it was taking much longer to reach these milestones. I was still moving well for 88 miles, but definitely had slowed down. Before I left Snake Creek, James had told me that I could *possibly* break 24 hours on this course (which had only been done once in the history of the race). I tried to speed up and was surprised that I still had 10-11 minute mile pace in my legs, but I was afraid that I might blow up and then be crawling to the finish. Running into Stover felt most familiar because it was where I met up with Emma and Shannon the day before and the three of us shared so many miles. I grabbed a boiled potato and was heading out when a woman told me I was number 28 for the hundred miler. I didn’t think that I had fallen that far behind, but I was moving as well as I could either way.

Powerlines Mile 96.8

Getting to the final aid station felt so far away, but knowing that every mile made me THAT much closer to the finish was great motivation. I came up behind a friend I had met over Instagram, and she was having a tough time with her stomach. I shared some ginger with her and commiserated with hitting low spots in ultras. It was super helpful for me to take the focus off of my tired legs and blistered toes to focus on her struggles. Luckily, my friend rallied, passed me, and had a strong finish for the 35 miler. The thing about ultras is that you can have really really low points (like vomiting, diarrhea, extreme fatigue, twisted ankles, etc) and still rally to have a decent finish. That’s one of the things I love about ultras.

Somewhere on my way to the Powerline aid station, Sandy Lam, one of my Atlanta friends, passed me for her 50 mile race, and she gave me sweet encouragement, then went on to finish 3rd female in her first 50 mile race. There is nothing like being out on the trail, totally expended of self, and feeling so full and satisfied. As much as I was ready to reach the finish, I was also savoring each minute.

There is stretch of gravel road along the powerlines that leads to the final aid stations. I have never hallucinated during a race before, but I am pretty sure that I did on that road. I thought I saw a camera guy, so I started running toward him. Beside him was a tent covered in camouflage as if he had been staking out the spot all night for runners. When I got to the spot that I thought I saw him, there was nothing there. It felt so strange to have seen someone who didn’t exist. There were other runners within about a quarter of a mile from me, so at least I knew that that much was real.

To the Finish

I ran through the Powerlines aid station and did not stop. I was about 3 miles to the finish and could finally eat a few chews without feeling sick. I was on my last bit of water, but the finish line was so close! Much of this section is downhill, but there are certainly some uphills as well. I ran most of this section by myself, but I passed a few people. I got to Mount Baker, a vertical hill at the last ~0.25 miles of the race, and it was covered in people cheering. I had been looking forward to this moment since crossing the start of the race. My legs were actually ok to hike the steep incline, and I found that going up sideways was actually even easier than that. I saw Franklin Baker, RD of the race, and his beautiful daughter. My SheVentures friends, Wendy and Kim were there cheering their heads off. I lost it when I saw Kim. Was was in my SheVentures group 2 years ago, and we have kept in touch regularly. I love these women.

I topped the hill to more people cheering and ran the last section (slightly downhill) to the gravel parking lot area for the finish. There was a long runway to the finish, and my family was all standing there cheering. My mom had made a sign, and the Cadence was helping hold it. I ran what felt like a fast finish, but I am sure that it was not as fast as I felt. Jenny Baker immediately made me feel special by pulling up a chair. I called Cadence to run through the finish, and Callie followed her. I wish that I had stopped to grab Cadence to finish with me, but I had so much momentum to just get through that finish line.

The girls sat on my lap at the finish line, and then I made my way to the rest of my family. This race was different than the other 100s that I have run because I couldn’t have crew in the last 18 miles, and I didn’t have a pacer for the finish. My parents were such a huge help to watch the girls and help them cheer for me at the end, and Jon had been awake for just about as many hours as I had. I could not wait to see my family at the finish.

Photo: Grant Carmichael

Shortly after that, Emma came over to see how I was doing. I am so glad that I got to see her again and she got to meet my family. I know it was tough for her to not have her family at the finish line, and it made me even more grateful that my family was there. Emma had finished about 5 minutes before I did as 3rd female. I also got to chat with Shannon Howell, who WON the race in 22 hours. She looked super fresh, and was as kind as ever. This year, the ladies really brought their game! I am proud to have finished in 24:34 on that course. Previously only two women had ever run faster on that course. For 2020, I finished 4th female, 11th overall, and 6th place record for the female in all years.

After chatting with a few of my new friends, I was ready to hobble to the car. I peeled off my socks and found the hugest blisters I have ever seen or experienced. In hindsight, I should have changed my shoes after the creek crossing around mile 30, but since I didn’t, I am glad that I did not know how bad my feet were. Then we all drove home. My parents helped get the girls settled at home, and Jon went into super dad duty. I ate two big bowls of chili (which is better than my stomach as ever been after a 100– go figure after my stomach problems earlier in the race!). By the next day, I felt mostly fine on sleep, and my legs just felt sore, with no big issues otherwise.

It was an amazing race with great people and a very tough course. I am so thankful that Jenny and Franklin worked hard to keep the race on schedule and safe for everyone. Now I am ready for some time to relax and enjoy my family.

Photo: Grant Carmichael

Callie Pregnancy Running

When I was pregnant with Cadence, I had a hard time finding resources that provided very clear guidelines for running through pregnancy at the level that I wanted to run. Most online resources will suggest 30 minutes of cardio a few times a week. What do you do when you are accustomed to the marathon and beyond? The most helpful thing to me with both pregnancies has been anecdotal information shared amongst runner friends.

My biggest motivator in sharing my running journey through pregnancy is just to add to the story and hopefully help a pregnant runner feel more confident in her decision to do what is best for her and her baby through pregnancy. In all cases, find a doctor who aligns with your goals and value systems, and then follow the doctor’s orders to keep baby healthy.

I ran through pregnancy with Cadence, so I knew generally what was possible. A book that I re-read as confirmation of my pregnant running journey is Exercising Through Your Pregnancy by Eric Clapp. Another book that I enjoyed is The Pregnant Athlete by Brandi Dion.

 

Weekly miles

Every running journey is different, and that’s part of what is so fun about our little running momma community. I have received so much love and support from my run friends and family, and I hope that you feel the same love too. No comparisons or judgments, just support for the journey and the privilege to grow babies and run (or walk or sit on the couch :).

Here are my Callie pregnancy running stats:

  • avg weekly miles 43
  • avg distance per run 7 mi
  • avg garmin 8:55 (with lots of stops at the end!)
  • 850 miles outside (many of which were with the single stroller)
  • 771 on treadmill
  • 1621 total

Throughout all of my pregnancy, I maintained a strength program 3x a week, typically 30-60 minutes long. I have a history of ab separation and a sort-of hernia, so I met with a women’s specialist PT early in my pregnancy to make sure that I was doing everything correctly. She advised me to lower my weight so that I did not put too much internal pressure on my core. I lowered weights and increased reps. I also learned that slowing my motions helped to add a little resistance since I didn’t have the weights to do that. Strengthening the transverse abdominis was very important to help hold my abs together, as the rectus abdominis sort of shuts down as the belly is stretched. I really think that maintaining strength work throughout pregnancy was so valuable in allowing me to continue to run throughout pregnancy and have minimal discomfort (other than the obvious huge belly).

Below are some interesting plots showing how the pregnant runner’s gait changes. The data comes from my Milestone Pod data (now owned by Zwift).

Stride Length

Cadence

Avg Weekly Runficiency

First Trimester: Week 0 through 12

Biggest challenge: I miscarried in early December and then got pregnant during my next cycle. Needless to say, I was pretty distraught and anxious when I got pregnant with Callie. My husband had a really demanding work project and was gone for weeks. Solo parenting, nausea, fatigue, and anxiety made for a pretty tough first trimester. Not to mention that my husband came home to a CRAZY wife.

Weight gain can be tough for a lot of women, but my biggest goal was just to not lose muscle. I gained more weight in the first trimester with both of my pregnancies, but thinking in terms of strength really helped me just embrace what was happening to my body.

Running highlight: Jan 6th. I was barely pregnant. Like the lines were so faint that I had to move the stick in the light to see it. But I could feel it pretty immediately in my running. I was at a cabin with girlfriends and snuck out for a trail run. The first days of pregnancy when it’s still a secret to everyone but your closest friends are such a surreal time. Being out there on the trails and feeling my heart rate escalate was such a confirming feeling that this was really happening. The air was so crisp and I felt so much relief after just miscarrying.

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Second Trimester: Week 13 through 27

Biggest challenge:

At week 18 we had the anatomy scan and the results concluded that I had placenta previa. I was told not to worry (right?!) and that they would check me again at 28 weeks to see if it resolved. In ~95% of the cases, placenta previa resolves itself, but it’s still tough for any runner to hear. I was told that I could continue doing everything as normal, but this definitely put a lot of fear in me early in pregnancy. I hoped to stay active throughout pregnancy and I did not want a c-section unless it was necessary.

Because of the miscarriage in early December, I chose not to share with anyone other than close friends until week 20. My husband teased me that it was so so obvious to everyone that I was pregnant, but I tried to hide it in IG photos as well as I could. The nausea had subsided and my energy was higher. I really felt mostly good in the second trimester except for the obvious pregnancy symptoms like gaining weight and having gait changes. To help my body feel it’s best with weight gain and gait changes, I switched to the Hoka Clifton, and it was such a nice change for my feet. By the end of the second trimester, Cliftons were pretty much all I could wear.

Running highlight: Our family met up with Sara (@therunningwife) for a beach trip to Hilton Head. I had met Sara in December of 2014 before either of us had kids. The trip together in May was a dream, and I loved all of our stroller miles together.Β  Sara is such a beautiful person and her family is so special.

We also flew to Calgary Canada to visit my husband’s sister and family. I love running with Jon, and my sister in law was so gracious to watch Cadence and give us time every day to run together. The views were beautiful and the time alone with Jon running was really special.

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Third Trimester: Week 28 through 37

Biggest challenge: I had a few days where I felt a lot of pelvic pressure, but overall, I had a really good running experience throughout all of pregnancy. I did find that just because I had one bad day, that didn’t mean that the rest of my running days would be tough. As the weeks progressed, I definitely had to run from bathroom to bathroom, so the route mostly stayed the same. Hills were tougher near the end, so I had no problem walking when I needed to.

Running highlight: My sweet running (and life) friend Katie also visited us at week 30. I called it my friend baby moon. πŸ™‚ We met up with Kat and Jackie (also pregnant) for a run around Atlanta, and this run will also be meaningful for the friendships and shared bathroom stops along the way.

Family runs are my favorite. Most Saturdays, we would pack up the stroller and run to the farmer’s market with Cadence. She’d get a popsicle and play on the playground, and then we’d head home. So much gratefulness to be with my family and to still be able to run. I had been afraid that I would not be able to keep up with stroller miles with Cadence in pregnancy, but thankfully it was never really an issue. If anything, it was a counter balance to my ever-expanding belly and provided a never ending supply of snacks and water.

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Callie was born at 37 weeks, and she was perfectly healthy. I ran all the way through pregnancy and went to a bootcamp the day before she was born.

Pregnancy and Running

Not everything about pregnancy with Callie was easy, but I think it really helped that this was my second time to be pregnant, and I knew there was nothing to prove by

Here are a few interesting facts about pregnancy running:

  • The placenta grows stronger for running mommas so that it can provide nutrients to baby even while momma is out there pounding the pavement. This means that if you run in the beginning of pregnancy, but then stop, your baby *may* be on the hefty side.
  • Babies who are born to mommas who exercised through pregnancy are able to handle stresses of labor better. Running is a stress for the baby (just like lifting weights is a stress on our bodies to make us stronger). Studies show that if complications arise during labor, babies who are accustomed to exercise release less stress hormone than babies whose mommas did not exercise in pregnancy.
  • Blood volume increases for momma 40-50% during pregnancy. This can be an added boost postpartum and many women see an increase in aerobic fitness postpartum as a result. Just ask the Russians.
  • Statistically, babies are born a little earlier and have a little less body fat to mommas who exercise through pregnancy.
  • Statistically, there are less complications in labor to mommas who exercise through pregnancy.
  • Building aerobic strength through cross training is a great way to stay fit for a postpartum comeback even if you aren’t able to run through pregnancy. Gait changes during pregnancy decrease efficiency, so running pregnant isn’t providing the same benefit as far as neuromuscular adaptations.

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Placenta of a mother runner πŸ™‚

Vermont 100 Endurance Race Report: July 20, 2019

I entered the lottery for Vermont 100 in January 2019 at about 4 months postpartum, and ended up pretty low on the waitlist. Vermont is an iconic race with a terrain that really suits my current stage in life of sidewalks and treadmills. It is primarily on dirt road or horse trails, and it has 17,000 feet of vertical gain.

I knew there was a chance that I would still get into Vermont, and I was on an endurance kick, so leading up to the race, I ran a 7 hour race in March, a 100k in April (which served as my qualifier), and a 12 hour night race in June (60 miles). I found out at the very end of May that I got in. Woo hoo! I had run one 100 miler before and it was at 1 year postpartum with Cadence. Something about being pregnant for a year just makes me want to chase long goals, and this training cycle was perfect for lots of double stroller miles and piecing together as much activity as I could while also working and mom-ing.

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We flew to Vermont on Thursday. My parents volunteered to travel as crew and kid-watchers. If you know me, you know that nothing is as rewarding as being with my whole family. That being said, traveling with small children is really exhausting. Haha. I was really glad that we traveled two days before race day, and I was so grateful to have my parents there. We got to our Airbnb around 10 pm. It was about an hour from the race start because everything was booked by the time I found out that I got into the race.

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Race check in was on Friday, so we drove to West Windsor where the race started. VERMONT IS BEAUTIFUL! It was so cool to see all of the tents, runners, and HORSES (but not really COOL because it was in the upper 90s in Vermont due to a heat wave). We bought ice cream and waited around for the pre-race talk. Amy and all of the volunteers were amazing (from pre to post race). I dropped off my drop bag and got my race bib. I have one other friend who ran the race, and I got to meet her in person for the first time at the pre-race meeting. There was a heat wave the weekend of the race, and Amy reiterated safety (to drop if needed) on race day.

The race started at 4 am, so we tried to get an early start to bed. Jon was going to drive me to the start, so he was just as invested in sleep as I was. Unfortunately, the kids weren’t 100% sold on the idea, and we couldn’t settle Callie until about 9:30 pm. Did I mention the heat wave that was going through Vermont on race weekend? And the fact that our Airbnb didn’t have air conditioning? I had a hard time falling asleep and could feel sweat dripping down my shirt in the night. Haha. At some point I fell asleep because Callie woke me up crying at 1:11 am. I finally managed to get her back to sleep and then my alarm went off at 1:45 am. I got all dressed and we left the Airbnb around 2:15 am.

Vermont is beautiful, but not a very fast state. All of the highways topped out with 50 mile per hour speed limits if you are lucky. I wasn’t expecting quite how rural it was. We made it to the start in plenty of time though. I pumped in the car (10 months postpartum) and ate some food. Then I made my way to the porta potties and the start. It was so surreal being there, but I did not have nerves. As per usual in ultramarathons, someone yelled for us to start and we all took off. I said goodbye to Jon and we were off.

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I started near the front of the pack but not at the front. In trail races, if you start too close to the midpack, you’ll end up with folks who just want to walk. The lead pack took a wrong turn within the first couple of miles, so we all followed and had to backtrack. No big deal though. Just a good warning to look out for the trail markers.

By the time that the sun started to rise, we were thinning out and establishing our places and paces in the pack. I met a lot of really nice guys, but did not meet many girls (there were plenty of them in front and behind, just not as many females in the race overall). The course started out mostly on dirt roads through beautiful private property. The hills started pretty immediately, and I tried to be conservative on them but we were moving at a pretty nice pace. It’s easy to hike the steep stuff, but you have no choice but to run the downhills, and that is what can be really tough on the quads.

Around mile 20, I noticed that I could feel my quads, but they weren’t necessarily sore yet. I also started to feel an intense fatigue, probably largely because of my night of very of very little sleep. You have a choice in every ultra. Succumb to the doubts or acknowledge and push through. I think as moms, we have a really great advantage here. All I’ve known since getting pregnant with Cadence (2015) is some type of discomfort–pregnancy, breastfeeding, waking up all through the night, etc. At least out on the trails, you don’t have to worry about anyone else but yourself.

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I’m not sure what it was, but I started feeling better (more awake), and as I got closer to mile 30, I was really flying. I was supposed to see my parents and the girls at the next aid station, and I could not wait to pump. The area was really beautiful and I was excited to share this with my family. I ran into the aid station and there were crew members lining the side of the road looking for their runners (which is how it was at all of the crewed aid stations). I had chosen to see my parents at mile 30 and then not see crew again until mile 70 when I would pick up Jon. The logistics with kids were just easier this way, and I was fine with just drop bags, especially since our Airbnb was an hour away.

I ran into the Stage Road aid station at mile 30 and could not find my family anywhere. People were all trying to help me by looking for my parents’ car in the parking lot and yelling out my name. Other crews offered to give me what I needed so I could get on my way. I got pretty emotional running up and down the field parking lot looking for my family. I had had a lot of momentum running, and I had been so excited to see my family. Unfortunately, none of the crews could help me with the pumping situation, and I was way overdue to pump (~5.5 hours since my last pump). I knelt behind some cars and hand expressed to relieve some tension and looked for my parents again. Then I started running out of the aid station, crossed the street, and ran up a hill crying.

I really don’t know how long I spent in the aid station. 20 minutes? 30 minutes? Either way, I decided that I was being stupid and emotional and ran back into the aid station to look for my family. I needed to truly pump, I really wanted to see my girls, I wanted to see my parents, and I needed to refuel. It was worth losing 30 minutes. It didn’t take long for me to find my family after I returned to the aid station. My parents had gotten lost and were trying so hard to get to me. I got to hug Callie and Cadence. The pump was glorious. I switched out my running vest for a belt so that it would be cooler (because Vermont was still under a heat wave).

Much refreshed but a little emotionally drained, I ran out of the aid station and resumed my run. In a race this long, it’s really ok to lose the time. My theory is that the rest will end up giving you an extra push later, plus the mental break of sharing moments with family are worth it. BUT the tough part of losing time is that you enter the race with runners who don’t run your pace. I was getting back to the trails with mid-packers who walked things that I would normally run. The trouble is that the person in front of you often sets the pace. So I had to motivate my tired self to push when everyone around me was hiking. It was such a relief when I started catching some of my former running friends and could run with them again.

This race is the only race that still exists where runners also race with horses. It is a really neat experience and gives a different perspective to the sport. Horses may be faster than humans, but they don’t necessarily share the same endurance, especially in the heat. The horses had mandatory rest breaks, and there were special water stations set up along the course just for them (runners were allowed to dip in the big tubs too). The riders of the horses were all really encouraging and most of them chatted as we ran. We hop-scotched several horses along the way, as the horses would pass and then be delayed at rest stations.

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Things were really really getting hot. Every aid station had ice set up, and the volunteers would pour cold water and ice over us as we exited. I learned that I could put ice in my sports bra, underwear, hat, and bandana, and clink out of the aid stations much cooler. I was wearing my belt and carrying a soft flask. Hydration was really important, and the aid stations were generously positioned so that we always had ice and water. Around mile 40 was a water crossing at Lincoln Covered Bridge, and it was so refreshing to totally immerse in ice cold water. The sloshing of trail shoes was totally worth the cooling effect.

Somewhere before Camp 10 Bear (mile 47), I took a big fall. My right calf had been cramping up pretty badly, and I know that my footing was a little off. My foot just caught a root or rock, and I went flying. My knee and elbow hit pretty hard, and I had a little limp afterwards. My elbow had an immediate hematoma, and if it weren’t for a sweet older lady who was sitting at a horse watering station nearby, I probably would have worried more. She quickly hosed me off with a hose for the horses, and then gave me grandmotherly encouragement that the huge bump on my elbow was nothing to worry about. Feeling loved, yet limping, I kept going.

I ran into Camp 10 Bear at mile 47. Coming into an aid station at the Vermont 100 is like entering a big party. All of the volunteers are so excited to help you, and there are people everywhere (for the crew supported stations). I told the aid workers that I had been cramping, and they encouraged me to take pickle juice shots (not just eat pickles). Apparently research corroborates this, and I drank a ton of pickle juice from that point forward. My main nutrition for the entire run was watermelon, coke, pickle juice, and my own Honeystinger chews (I ate 28 bags of honeystinger chews by the end of the race). I had a drop bag at this aid station with a manual pump. Even though I was sweating a ton and so hot, I still had plenty of milk to be pumped. In the privacy (not) of a bush and the side of a car, I pumped, dumped, and went on my way. Camp 10 Bear is aid station for mile 47 and mile 69, so I knew that the next time I came into this aid station, I would be meeting Jon for pacing. Only 22 more miles… πŸ™‚

Somewhere in the middle miles I met another girl named Cara. Most of my running partners up to this point had been guys. I enjoyed all of the conversations– most of the guys had families and young kids too–but it was really nice to have female companionship for some miles. Cara is a really strong runner, and it turns out that she lives in Vermont and trains there year round. This was her first 100, and she killed it (ending up as 5th female).

There are several aid stations between miles 47 to 69. I remember Pinky’s because a little girl about Cadence’s age was helping her parents. I took a shot of pickle juice and iced up at every aid station. I met a guy on the trail who had injured his foot and couldn’t run anymore. He was walking to Margaritaville to hang out and drop out. He still had miles to walk before he could sink into a chair and drink away his losses (I actually don’t know if there was really margarita at Margaritaville, but I think so). We saw a lot of carnage along the way with runners overheating. Many of the folks who were running were from the northern states and were not used to the heat. This heat wave was extremely abnormal for Vermont. (For context, an IronMan was canceled in New York because of the heat wave, but thankfully Vermont kept things rolling!)

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By this time I think I had slowed down to a 21-22 hour finish time. My quads were pretty toast, but I just kept moving as well as I could. I learned that it hurt to go downhill either way, so I just bombed the downhills and got them over faster (and I would later learn that this is not good news for the achilles). I could not wait to get to mile 69 at Camp 10 Bear to see my dad and Jon! After being late at the first crew stop, my dad made sure to get to Camp 10 Bear 3 hours early. There are two entries at Camp 10 Bear, one at mile 47 and one at mile 69. Fortunately, Jon and my dad were waiting for me as soon as I entered the aid station. I could not have been happier. I had no communication out on the trails, so I hadn’t had any contact with Jon since 4 am.

I restocked my fuel, pumped again, thanked my dad, and took off with Jon. It was like starting a whole new race after I met up with Jon. He brought an energy that I desperately needed, and it was SO fun to run the trails behind him. We still had a couple of hours of daylight that he could see the trails and view some of the beauty of Vermont, and I got to catch him up on some of the stories from the day. Jon knows me so well, and he knew when to push me, when to let me take breaks, and he knew when I needed silence or conversation.

Jon’sΒ  longest run ever is a marathon from 2016. He had recently run a 10k and trained for it over the summer. We had planned that he would for sure run the next 18 miles with me, and then we were going to meet my dad at Bill’s aid station mile 88 to reassess. By these later miles, I had slowed down quite a bit, but it was still a ton of time on feet for Jon, plus lots and lots of vertical gain that neither of us (especially Jon) was used to. Nevertheless, Jon and I rolled into Bill’s aid station, and Jon said he was good to finish the last twelve miles with me. If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is. πŸ™‚

My dad was so generous to crew me all throughout the day and into the night. He was awake with me in the airbnb to send me off to the start, and he had crewed at every designated stop. By now, he felt comfortable on the Vermont roads (he bought a map at the gas station so as not to rely onΒ  gps signal), and he toted my gear bag all over the place so that I could restock as needed. At Bill’s I restocked fuel (honeystinger chews all the way), and I hand expressed behind the building. I had plenty of water with my handheld and water belt, as there were water and aid stations at least every 5 miles apart.

I will say that most of the aid stations kind of run together in my head, so if you are reading this to prepare for the race, I can’t provide details. But I will say that all of the aid stations were very well equipped, had tons of energy, were well spaced, and I don’t remember anything significant about the terrain changing in any significant way from one to another. It was really fun to experience the aid stations with Jon, and he had fun talking to the volunteers while I regrouped and motivated myself to keep going. One of the final aid stations had jokes along the path leading up to the aid station. Another one (or the same one?) had markers every 0.1 miles saying we were that much closer. I kept telling Jon that they must be off because surely we had already traversed that distance already. I will never think that 0.1 miles is short again.

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We had been running in the dark since just shortly after Jon met up with me at mile 70ish. The race used glow sticks as confidence markers, and Jon and I joked that you would come around a turn and see the glow sticks going up into the sky. It really meant that we had a big climb (or lots and lots of really big climbs). The hills seemed relentless, but this was all expected and part of the race. I was glad that Jon got to experience it with me.

We reached Polly’s around mile 95 and I was so tired. My legs had been toast for miles and miles, so that wasn’t much of a concern, but I felt so tired and that was hard.Β  A volunteer asked if I wanted for her to help, and I gladly agreed. Before I knew it, she had poured an entire pitcher of ice cold water down my back. I cannot express how great it felt to be WIDE awake from that freezing cold water. I immediately rallied and we headed out of the aid station.

There is so much behind the scenes with race volunteers that runners do not see. The aid stations keep track of where every runner is on the course, and they communicate via radio to certain points. There were several of the later aid stations where girls were so kind to me by commenting that they knew I was a pumping momma and that they were so proud. After a long day like that, it is so comforting to be known and supported.

The final station was at mile 97.5. I remember the aid station workers commenting that I would be finished in about an hour. AN HOUR!? As a road runner, it can be hard mentally to see the miles take so long on trail that would normally be a breeze on the road (and legs that had not traversed 97.5 miles already). I remember a portion of that last section being through fields. By the last mile+, I realized that we were getting close to 23 hours out on the trail. Being so close, Jon and I decided to make a push and try to finish in under 23 hours. The last stretch was lighted up by candles in gallon jugs, and I thought the end of the lanterns would be THE END, but we turned into some woods again, and still kept running. My watch was off all day because I had put it on an endurance setting, which makes the accuracy a little off (which compounds over 100 miles). Again, every 0.1 felt like an eternity on that final mile, but I finished at a faster (for me) clip trying to chase that sub 23 hour mark.

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I remember those last moments trying to just soak up every last minute. I am always reflective toward the end of races. In a moment it will all be over–all of the hours of training, preparation, and travel. This journey had been so fun, fulfilling, and filled with so many people who loved and supported me. Jon helped me run to the finish with 22:53 hours, 6th place female. My dad was at the finish, and I was so thankful to see him. I do not take for granted the amount of sacrifice that it requires of crew to support their runner, and seeing my family support me was such a gift. We drove an hour back to our airbnb, where my mom was waiting with my snoozing girls.

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On a less glamorous note, as soon as I got out of the car, I vomited honeystinger chews and the raman noodles that I tried to eat at the last aid station. My stomach was off for another day after the race (Sunday). I got a couple of hours of sleep the night that I finished the race, but as soon as I heard the girls up with my mom, I had a hard time sleeping more. It was so rewarding to sit in the living room with ice on my knee (from my fall in the first half of the race), and chat with my mom about the race. It turns out that there was only a 48% finishing rate for the 100 mile race, where normally the finish rate is around 77%. The heat was FOR REAL.

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I hobbled around on Sunday in Vermont while we visited a couple of quaint stores and went out to eat. Then we packed up and flew home from the Boston airport on Monday morning. It was such a rewarding race, and the experience was made so much better sharing it with my family.

 

This is the prayer that my sister sent to me the night before my race. My faith is such a part of my running, and this prayer was so meaningful as I started the journey.

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On the first day of Christmas…

I love it when I find a new running “thing” to get me excited again. As simple as our sport is–“just need shoes!”–there are a lot of other fun things to make getting out of bed in the cold of morning exciting. Here are a few of my favorite things. They’d make a great gift or help round out your own wish list.

  1. Training Journal: Devotion is a faith-based training journal that I created, so of course, it belongs on the top of my own wish list. πŸ™‚ It’s something that I am so excited about using myself and sharing with the running community. I truly believe that our running goes to the next level when we place our faith in God for performance and training. What better way to worship than with our legs?

  1. For the gym: I bought this knock-off TRX set at the beginning of the year, and love all of the different muscles you can hit with just one tool. It’s a great way to change things up if you have a full gym, and it’s fantastic if you don’t have space for lots of equipment. It also seconds as a great distraction for toddlers while you get in your run. Ha! If you are looking to take your gym to the next level, check out this Hex bar to make squats more fun.

  1. Gait analysis: The Milestone Pod is one of the cheapest little toys out there for the data that it provides. I have one on every shoe and use the pod to track overall mileage and shoe use as well. The feedback that it provides will help you improveIMG_20180515_073525300your gait and/or see when you may be tired (low leg swing) or need to replace shoes (high rate of impact). They were recently acquired by Zwift, and it looks like the pod offers even more than before.
  1. Best jacket: The Patagonia Houdini is an article of clothing that you don’t realize you need until you realllllly need it. It’s a super lightweight jacket (could seriously scrunch up in your pocket) that protects from rain and wind. I bought mine for a race in Oregon and have loved having it as an option ever since.
  2. Fuel: I love the Run Fast Eat Slow cookbook, as well as the newer Run Fast Eat Slow Cook Faster. There’s a chance that the runner in your life already owns both, so in that case, you may want to check out Wellness Mama’s cookbook.
  3. Recovery: There are a billion “sticks” out there and all of them work in some way. Some work better than others. πŸ™‚ My husband bought me the boom stick a few birthdays ago, and it’s saved us lots of money on massages. It is $139, which pays for itself if it helps you skip the table once or twice. This stick is 20 pounds, so a partner is most effective to get the tough-to-reach spots, but you can self-massage as well. It’s great for knots and trigger points, and hurts so good. If you are just looking for a stocking stuffer, I carry a lacrosse ball in my purse just in case I get stuck in traffic and want to work out my hamstring. haha
  4. Recovery: runners need lots of recovery… I sleep in compression socks a lot of nights, especially in winter when it’s cool anyway. It’s a great passive way to recover. I use ProCompression because they have good deals, but there are tons of socks out there that work well. Steph Bruce wears ProCompression, and she’s my hero.
  5. Recovery: starting to see a theme here… I drink tart cherry juice a lot of time in the morning as a sugar boost before my runs, but it can get expensive to get the recommended dose for recovery aid. I recently bought the tart cherry tablets, and it’s easier to make sure that you get the recommended amount for recovery. I wrote a blog post a while ago here about all of the benefits of tart cherry juice. Essentially, research showed that athletes who consumed tart cherry were able to recover and get stronger than the controls.
  6. Recovery: last one, I promise! If you want a stocking stuffer, Rock tape is great. If you are doing it right, you’ll need to tape something at some time. Haha. Rock tape is stickier than most other types of tapes and I’ve found that it helps me improve faster when I feel a niggle coming on. Even if you don’t have an injury, it can be used as a queue for proper form.
  7. Protecting your skin: Runners spend a lot of time in the sun, and if you are like IMG_20180510_103602232_HDRme, you are also likely pushing a kid. πŸ™‚ I carry this BeautyCounter sunscreen stick in the stroller and purse everywhere so that we can apply without a mess if we find that the sun catches us before we’ve thought to apply sunscreen. I love all of BeautyCounter’s products, but this one is probably the most practical stocking stuffer (unless you go for the lip gloss!). I shop under Meredith Marquell if you are looking for a consultant.Β 
  8. Getting stronger: feet are the first thing in the chain of command, and it doesn’t take much to see big gains. Walk around barefooted, do strength work barefooted, and wear Yoga Toes when you are relaxing. It’s a small investment for some nice gains.
  9. Books: I love to read and I love to read about running. Here are some of my favorites:
    Again to Carthage (sequel to Once a Runner)
    Roar (Women are not small men)
    80/20 RunningΒ  (I love everything by Matt Fitzgerald)

    Running Rewired (and Anatomy for Runners by DiCharry)

There are a lot of other running tools that aren’t on this list. I also love rabbit clothing, Hoka shoes (Clifton saved me during pregnancy), and Honeystinger nutrition.

What am I forgetting? Tell me your running wishlist!

Callie Ray’s birth story

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post, but celebrating Callie’s birth seems like reason to write. Now that we’ve had time to get to know Callie, it will be fun to reflect on how she came into this world.

I started having a few evening contractions starting around 36 weeks. At 37 weeks, I had several nights where contractions would wake me up in the night but then end. They were just frequent enough to make me worry that I needed to wake up my mom to get Cadence.

On Friday (37 weeks 3 days), I ran 5 miles on the treadmill. The run was fine, but it definitely felt different. Afterwards, I felt a lot of pressure but no pain. Later that afternoon, when I went to the bathroom, I saw blood and thought it might be the mucous plug. Just to take precaution, I called my nurse and told her what I saw. She thought it was just from the running and cautioned me to “run more gently” the next time.

On Saturday, I attended a fun mini boot camp hosted by my personal trainer friend, Rachel. We modified a few of the moves for me because at this point, I knew that I was losing my mucous plug. Everything else felt normal except a little added pressure. I went home and finished up on the bike after boot camp. Then that afternoon, Jon, Cadence, and I went to a college football game. Nothing makes you feel cooler than walking through a college campus knowing that you are in early labor. Haha.

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Last football game as a family of 3

Everything proceeded as normal on Saturday night and we went to bed as usual. Around 6 am, I woke up and felt like I had peed a little. After going to the bathroom, I got back in bed and felt like I peed a little again. So I put a pad on and started googling how water breaks. (With Cadence, my water broke way after labor contractions had started.) Around 7 am, Cadence awoke, and we all went downstairs. I was having no contractions, which worried me since most OBs will require that the baby be born within 24 hours. I headed out for a walk around 9 am to try to move things along while Jon got Cadence ready to go out. On my walk, I called my two neighbor back-ups who had volunteered to take Cadence. One was in Florida, but the other was home and made herself 100% available to us.

One of my biggest concerns with this second labor was what to do with Cadence. My mother in law was supposed to get Cadence, but she was at work at least an hour away (and we couldn’t reach her on the phone). Our neighbor, Keeli, so graciously offered to take Cadence as soon as we were ready, even though Keeli was celebrating her son’s one year birthday with all of their family in town. I cannot express my gratitude enough to this family.

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Walking to start contractions

When I got back from my short walk, I had started to have a few very light contractions and I had completely wet my shorts through the pad. I changed and we all headed out as a family for a walk to move things along. It is such a weird feeling to have people going about normal lives while you are in active labor just walking down the street. We took the long way to the playground and let Cadence play. My contractions started escalating fast enough that I decided to track them. By around 10 am, I felt a little more urgency to be closer to home, so we walked back (total of about 5 miles) and showered. I talked to my midwife, who suggested that I wait an hour and then go to the hospital. Cadence’s labor was long at home, but once I got to the hospital, I was fully transitioned. We thought that this second baby may come quickly too.

Jon and I dropped Cadence off at our neighbor’s house at around 11:30 am, and she happily joined their family birthday party. We headed to the hospital and tried to make arrangements for my mother in law to come get Cadence when she was able to leave work. Once we got to the hospital, registration felt like it was taking forever. We were finally in the room by around 12:30, and the nurses checked my dilation. I was only at 3 cm, which was pretty discouraging after feeling the contractions so close together.

During the registration process in the hospital, the contractions were painful in the front of my belly. If I marched in place with an exaggeration of my legs, it would relieve some of the pressure on the front. Once we made it to the room, the contractions started to come on more strongly. Memory is a funny thing, and I don’t remember contractions being as strong with Cadence’s labor. I had contractions at home for 30 hours before going to the hospital fully dilated with Cadence.

In the hospital room, the nurses insisted on monitoring the baby’s heart rate for 20 minutes of every hour, which was pretty frustrating (but totally understandable) given that I was unmedicated and wanted to be able to move around. The contractions were getting really painful, and movement helped at least distract me, even if I still had the pain. Marching in place and moving my hips seemed to be the movement that felt best. Jon pressed on my lower back and hips as hard as he could for each contraction. I was also extremely tired and tried to rest my head on the elevated bed every 2 minutes between contractions. Around 3 pm, I told Jon that I felt like I needed to push, so he called the nurse. To my dismay, they told me that I was at 6 cm now and advised not to push or it could cause me cervix to swell. I was in so. much. pain.

I asked what would happen if I asked for an epidural, and the nurse told me that I could have it within 10 minutes but reminded me that my birth plan was to have an unmedicated birth. I felt pretty exasperated to only be at 6 cm and couldn’t think of how I would manage to complete labor in this much pain. The nurse left and Jon tried to encourage me that I was over the hardest part (he has never pushed a baby out of his vagina–hahahaha). Jon said all of the perfect things and encouraged me in all of the right ways. I still thought that I would ask for an epidural, but then the contractions escalated so that all I could do was make it through and focus on recovering for the next. My sweet running friend, Kim, told me that her doula had encouraged her by saying that each contraction leads you closer to delivery. I thought of this with each contraction and it helped so much.

About 10 minutes after the nurse told me that I was at 6 cm, I started dry heaving and felt incredibly like I had to go to the bathroom. Jon called the nurse again, who checked me and told me that I was fully dilated and to wait for the midwife. They told the midwife to RUN and the nurse assured me that she had delivered a baby before. Haha.

I did not feel the urge to push with Cadence during labor, but with Callie, my body took over, and I felt a huge rush to push. It was the most incredible and empowering feeling. Finally, the intense pain of the contractions could be realized with action, and I knew I was so so close to meeting our baby. I pushed a few times and the midwife told me that I needed an episiotomy. This was not my preference, but I had had one with Cadence and just wanted the baby out. The midwife cut me and within the next push, Callie Ray Ussery was born at 3:30 pm on September 2, 2018, 16 days early.

This tiny little 6.5 pound 20″ baby was put on my chest and we fell in love with our Callie Ray. I loved working with my midwife, and the nursing staff at the hospital were all amazing. We stayed in the hospital for one night and then hurried home to be with Cadence. My recovery was much easier with Callie than with Cadence, and I felt well to walk around immediately. I’m thankful that both birth experiences were positive, even though they were very different in just about every way.

Cadence loves her little sister and is nothing but sweetness to her. We are so blessed and in love with these two precious girls in our lives.

We three kings of Orient are Bearing gifts we traverse afar: A Runner’s Christmas Wish List

Matthew 2:9-12

9Β After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10Β When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11Β On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12Β And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

The shepherds might have been the first ones to the Christmas party, but the wise men started the tradition of giving gifts. My Christmas gift list isn’t on the caliber of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but then, none of us are the Son of God. πŸ™‚Β  I’ve made a list of some of my favorite running items and things that may help you (or your running buddies) with running and gift giving.

  1. Devoted Training Journal: I am biased here, but I love my Devoted Training Journal, and I think it would make a great gift for your running friends. The journal covers 4 months, which is perfect for a training cycle or the start of a new year goal.
  2. Milestone Pod: This little pod is such a fun running tool, and it really does help me with running. It’s extremely reasonable in price ($29.95), and you can use the code PodTeamMeridith33Β for 33% off of your entire order until December 5th.
  3. Beauty Counter lip gloss: I have always liked running with something on my lips, and for longer runs, you really need a gloss that will last for a while. I found this Beauty Counter lip gloss, and I love that it is also safe for Cadence, who always wants to share. πŸ™‚Β  There is a great special right now for 3 for $48. You can order from my friend here.
  4. Beachbody on Demand: I was really surprised by how much I like this subscription. I really haven’t used many of the strength programs (although they are great), but I do love the yoga programs! I do not have the time or the money to go to a yoga studio, but for $99 a year, this is a great option.Β  I signed up for my Beach Body subscription through Heather here.
  5. Shoes: If you are looking for a pair of shoes under the tree, I have had great success with Saucony. My favorite shoes are the Kinvara for racing and the Freedom for training. I always have more than one pair of shoes to rotate during the week. (And the Milestone Pod looks really good on a pair of shiny Sauconys. πŸ™‚
  6. Books: I love to read and run on the treadmill, and I find that I can go through a lot of books that way. One of my all time favorite running books is Once a Runner (followed by the sequel Again to Carthage). It’s fiction, and it will make you love running and feel super motivated. I love everything by Matt Fitzgerald. He adds a lot of research to his writing, and everything is relatable.Β  I read 80/20 Running for the second time this year, and I used a lot of the training strategy for my San Francisco Marathon. If you like science and biology (for females), you will love ROAR. Finally, not running specific, but getting the heart and head in the right place makes everything better: Nothing to Prove.Β  And my favorite cookbook of the year is Wellness Mama Cookbook.
  7. Clothes: I ran the Gorge Waterfalls 100k in April, and it was supposed to be chilly and rainy. I bought the Patagonia Houdini at the recommendation of a friend, and it was the PERFECT jacket for the weather. Super light and perfect breathability. For general running clothes, I love Rabbit clothes.Β  Get 10% off with this code.
  8. Nutrition: I started using the Juice Plus protein powder this year, and it is the best tasting protein powder I’ve ever tried. Plus, it is all plant-based, and I feel confident letting Cadence eat it. You can order yours here. If you just want a stocking stuffer, I love Honey Stinger waffles and Nuun.
  9. Recovery: I carry a Lacrosse ballΒ in myΒ purse and I keep them throughout the house. This is such a great way to recover! For my birthday this year, my husband surprised me with a Boom stick. It’s the kind of recovery that hurts so good and gets so deep!
  10. For your training buddy: If you have followed me for more than a minute, you know that I love the Thule Urban Glide for stroller running. I also love our Kelty hiking pack for cross training hikes with Cadence. We got our pack off of Craigslist, but you can find a new one here.

It’s easy to lose focus at Christmas time with all of the lights, presents, and parties.Β  At the end of the day, God gave us the best gift when he sent his Son to this earth. Merry Christmas everyone!

What’s on your Christmas wishlist?

Race Report: Silver Comet Marathon

The whole week leading up to the Silver Comet Marathon and for many of the miles DURING the marathon, I was thinking that I never wanted to sign up for another race. Haha. So much stress anticipating race day when you have worked so hard for a goal! But I’m so glad that I keep racing and pursuing big goals. It’s so satisfying and we grow so much from the journey.

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Leading up to the race. Weather reports leading up to race day were not very promising, with thunderstorms predicted through race morning. I even searched alternative races for the following weekend just in case my race was canceled. Because of the predicted foul weather, Jon and I decided that it would be best for him to stay home with Cadence and join us for the finish. The course didn’t offer many places for fans to hang out, and with the rain, it would be pretty miserable for a toddler. Rain came through on Friday night to get everything wet, but it was not raining when I woke up. Just super humid.

Race check-in was uneventful (just how you want it on race day!), and I porta-pottied and jogged for a few minutes. I should have warmed up better, but it was either go to the bathroom or warm up. In line for the porta potties, I met one of my Instagram friends who had been messaging me about the race. She helped calm my nerves so much since Jon wasn’t there. So nice to see a familiar face!

Race Start. The start of the race was incredibly anticlimactic. We followed the race director out into the street and then the guy at the mic way far away yelled “Go!”. We all just stood there like, “What, go?!” Go! So off we went down the street!

Starting out didn’t feel difficult, but it didn’t feel super easy either. I don’t know that I’ve perfected the taper, and I surely know that I didn’t have a good adrenaline push at the start with that kind of send off. Thankfully it was not raining, but the temps were in the low 60s and humid. Also, the ground was very wet. We started out in the 6:30s paces. There were a few guys up front, and I found stride with a guy named Mike who was running the half marathon. I was so thankful for him because the morning was hazy and everything was so quiet. It was easy to get lulled into a slower pace. The RD made it clear that music was not allowed on the course, but I would have loved to have had a fast beat to keep me alert and moving fast on the course.

The half marathoners split off at mile 8, and I was sad to see Mike head on to his finish (where he PRd!). There were very few volunteers on the course, and many of them were not ready when I ran through. Water was placed on tables, but the volunteers did not stand up to hand it out, so I had to run under the tent on the side of the trail for water. I am thankful for the volunteers, but this was not ideal for hydrating. My nutrition was fine with a Honeystinger gel at ~mile 8 and ~mile 15, plus Honeystinger chews a bite at a time here and there. We had a few little rain showers throughout the morning, which helped cool me down, but they also made the ground slick again. There were also leaves and pine needles on the course, which weren’t ideal for fast running.

There was a little split off at mile 8.5 that I did not expect. I knew that our turnaround was at 15, so I was confused when we reached that point, and I waited for the guy behind me to catch up and confirm the direction. I didn’t lose much time, but it did make me lose momentum. Soon enough we were back on the course and headed to the mile 15 turnaround.

Halfway there! By mile 13, my paces started to consistently be in the 6:40s. My goal was to run in the 6:30s to 6:40s, so I didn’t mind the pace but I did not like it that I was declining so early in a race. My calves were pretty tight from the extra energy of running on a slick surface, and I was running completely alone, passing a few police officers, volunteers, and people out for a stroll. It was pretty challenging to stay focused and fast in the conditions, especially as my body started hurting. I really just wanted the race to be over, which is disappointing because I always want to enjoy my races. They are so short compared to the training leading up to them, and it’s fun (usually) to run fast!

I am thankful to the race participants and volunteers who cheered for me. It helped make a difficult race so much better! I started to REALLY slow down by mile 20. From 23-26.2, all of my paces were in the 7s and I couldn’t even pull out a fast finish at the end. My legs were so shot from the distance and slick surface. I am sure that part of the tiredness that I felt is just indicative of some of the areas that my training was lacking, but I do believe that the extra energy to run on a slick surface, as well as the warm and humid conditions, just made everything harder. I really could have used a cheer squad or music!

And the finish. I ended up finishing first female with a time of 2:57:40.Β  Seeing Jon and Cadence at the finish line was the best sight in the world! I love my family and the way that they support me. I did get a PR, but barely.Β  I am grateful to have at least PR’d, but I’m disappointed that I didn’t move the needle a little more.Β  I do think that on a different day (and potentially a different course) I can absolutely run faster. But when you race, you race in the conditions presented on race day. And we learn so much in the process!

The course itself was pretty decent. As described in the course description, the course was rolling hills. My Garmin tracked 756 ft of gain, which isn’t pancake flat, but it’s not San Francisco either. I like a little hill, and it was the only thing on the course to break up the monotony.

After I finished the race, we waited for my friend to finish 2nd female (which she later found out that she had pneumonia while racing and still getting 2nd!).Β  Then we grabbed pizza while we waited for the awards ceremony. I received a neat trophy, and chatted with the RD and her daughter.

The Silver Comet marathon is a great small local race. It’s organization is great. The trail is beautiful (although I prefer dryer conditions). For my next goal marathon, I think I’ll stick to more mainstream races that offer a few more of the perks like crowd support and a bigger running field.

 

I wrote a pre-race report here talking a little bit about my training over the last 12 weeks. It was a little uncoordinated, but I learned a lot and I found a better fit with training and family. I am so thankful for all of the support that I’ve received through this journey of running and motherhood and family. I’ve had some incredible friends who have made the journey that much more rewarding. Most of all, my husband is my hero. ❀

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Do you have your own personal cheer squad too? πŸ™‚

Pre-Race Report to calm the nerves: the night before the Silver Comet Marathon

I’ve found that it’s kind of therapeutic for me to write a pre-race report, so here’s my pre-race report for the Silver Comet marathon. Why is it that writing things out always puts things into perspective?!

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Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been refining my goals for something practical given what I *think* is my current fitness level for my upcoming marathon. I think most people go through similar doubts during the taper when we start to visualize the race and realize how much work (and a little pain) are in front of us. In my head I haven’t done nearly enough. This training cycle is the first real training cycle where my goals were a bit more competitive but I didn’t have a coach. My previous training pretty much involved 100% intensity with my old coach, and that worked for me until I started to get injured.

This training cycle started out at a limp as I rotated cross training with running to try to protect my shins. I may not have gotten the speed that I wanted, but I also didn’t get a stress fracture. So I can consider that a little invisible victory. πŸ™‚ I also wasn’t able to complete some of the “extras” that would help me with speed.

As I thought over this past training cycle, I was reminded that there is ALWAYS something that steals from the perfect training cycle, and that’s part of what makes us even more resilient. When it gets tough, we have to learn our bodies and improvise. So I’m going to consider this a successful training cycle, even before race day, because I learned different strategies for training, I learned some good recovery techniques for my shin, and I grew closer to God in the process.

Reading back through my training journal to the first week of training reminds me that I have put in the work with a variety of long running, intensity running, trail running, stroller running, cross training, and strength training. I’ve met new people along the way, and I’ve been able to run with some pretty incredible people.

So my Pre-race report is going to go ahead and call this training cycle a success. Now for my real goals.

  1. My ultimate marathon goal is an Olympic Trials Qualifier of 2:45. This is not my goal for this marathon, and I’m kind of excited for the opportunity to chip away at this goal. I got my sub 3 marathon on the first shot, and I kind of like the idea of working for an OTQ. (Not trying to sound insincere, it took me three shots trying to get a BQ–3:35:01, 3:37, 3:29. I know what it’s like to work for a time goal.)
  2. I would like to PR. My current best marathon time is a 2:58. I ran San Francisco in 3:01, and I think that I can do better on a flat course. You never know what race day will bring though.

And I had two process goals:

  1. Learn more about how I respond to different training strategies.
  2. And understand my body and it’s limits as I increase volume and prevent injuries.

Tomorrow’s weather is looking a bit rough with thunderstorms exactly when the race is supposed to start. My mind can’t help but think of all of the possible scenarios, but at the end of the day, I can’t do anything to help the weather and show up hoping to run.

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Thanks for following along on my training journey and good luck to all of the other racers!