The year of 2017 has been momentous for me to say the least with the birth of my son in March. After spending nine months pregnant with him I was more than eager to get back to one of my true passions: running. However, saying that starting to run again was like an uphill battle might be a bit of an understatement. I had no idea how difficult it was going to be starting to run again after not running for nine months.
It's hard to describe how running felt again after having my son, but 'shocking' might be the only word I can find to describe it. The one thing I love about running is that it will never lie to you. It will tell you who you really are and, well, sometimes the truth isn't pretty. Running will tell you if you are overweight or out of shape, or hurting, or tired. It shows no mercy.
When I started running again, I felt all these things. I felt overweight. I felt out of shape. I felt the burning in my lungs. My calves hurt like crazy. My mind was willing, but my body was not able. I would call it starting over again, except I've never been this heavy in my life before so it's more like a starting line that I've never known.
In May I nervously signed up for the Pittsburgh 5k that ran the Saturday before the marathon. I hit my goal and I was feeling great about myself! But at the end of May, my maternity leave was over and I returned to work full time. It was becoming difficult to find time for myself so running and working out went by the wayside. So I did what I usually do, when I want to force myself to run; I signed up for a race. I ran the Brentwood 4th of July 5k, which also happened to be the last race I ran in 2016 while I was pregnant with my son (but didn't know it yet!)
I had high hopes for this race. My husband and son even came, yet it went terribly for me. It was the warmest 4th of July race in years and I had a complete meltdown in the heat. I usually don't do well in the heat, but the heat along with being 4 months removed from having my son forced me into walking most of the last mile and a half. I felt really defeated during this race.
After the 4th of July 5k I didn't sign up for anymore races. I was shocked, really in a way, at how poorly I felt and how poorly I did. It was a very humbling experience to do the slowest 5k I've ever done in my life.
I started to realize I needed to adjust my outlook. For a while, I thought that because I had continued to workout during my pregnancy that I would 'bounce back'. But that's not what happened and I had to accept that it was okay. Otherwise I would just end up becoming more and more frustrated with myself.
With this new attitude I decided to sign up for a 4 mile race in October. Could I run 4 miles? I wasn't really sure. Then in late September we took our long awaited family of three vacation to Ocean City, Maryland. During my three years living on the Eastern Shore I loved running on the boardwalk, so I took my running shoes with me.
The second day of vacation I decided to do my run. We were experiencing the long distance effects of a hurricane so I knew that the weather might be challenging. As I set out on my run, the sky was overcast but the rain was just a drizzle. I was feeling pretty good as I ran along the ocean. But then a mile into my run the rain starting pouring on me.
I watched as walkers on the boardwalk ducked into covered spaces and stores; but I kept going, kicking up water, as my feet hit the boardwalk. I was getting absolutely pelted with raindrops but it felt exhilarating and in that moment I felt happy to be running.
When I turned around to head back to our hotel, I was running into a strong wind. The wind pelted me with salt water and fogged up my contacts. I couldn't see at all. I realized running a mile back on the boardwalk wasn't going to happen so I ran off the boardwalk to the street level and wiped the saltwater from me eyes. I ran back on the sidewalk which had much better running conditions than the boardwalk. When I reached my destination I took this selfie on the boardwalk, commemorating this run.
It wasn't a race, or a personal best, but it was a day where I had found my joy in running again. After that run, I felt my attitude really shift from being terribly frustrated to just enjoying my ability to run.
In October I did the Mario Lemieux 6.6k. I had done this race about three years ago and remembered enjoying the course. Race day turned out to be a really warm day for October so I ended up wearing shorts and a t shirt on race day. At mile marker 1 of the race the Stanley Cup was on display! It was pretty cool to see such a recognizable sports trophy on display during a race. I did run a decent portion of the first part of the race and then the second half of the race I walked pretty often. 4 miles was the longest I had run in a long time and the it was much hotter than expected so I didn't want to overdo it. At the finish line, I got a high five from Mario so that was a great way to end the race!
My final race of the year was the Pittsburgh Turkey Trot. This was actually my first time doing a Turkey Trot race as I am usually traveling or hosting on Thanksgiving Day. It was a pretty cool experience to wake up on Thanksgiving Day and go for a run. I would definitely do it again. (Plus you feel a lot less guilty when eating dinner later in the day.)
Fortunately several of my buddies from T2 CrossFit were also running the race, so we met up for a picture before the race. It was absolutely freezing! I think the temperature at the start of the race was around 26 degrees, which would make it the coldest race I've ever done. While I have definitively trained in colder weather, I had never ran a race this cold before!
I didn't wear my watch for this race because it's been frustrating to see my pace times, so I just went with how I felt. I still had to walk some, but this ended up being my best 5k time of the year at 39:35. I was really surprised at how much better I did when I didn't know how fast I was running and just went with how I felt.
I'm still running (mostly on my treadmill) but won't race again until next year. Overall I'm very happy that I was able to participate in four races this year. I'm also happy to end the year on a high note after being really frustrated with my performance during the summer. I'm so glad to have found my passion for running again.
This year I had the joy of welcoming my son into the world. It seems hard to believe but he recently turned eight months. My journey to have my son was not a nine month, journey but rather a 2 and a half year journey that included two miscarriages and a third pregnancy which resulted in my beautiful baby boy.
It was a very long, and at times, a very painful journey. To say otherwise would not be telling the whole truth. For the first time in years I feel comfortable sharing parts of my story in the hopes that it will help someone else.
I could never actually tell my story as it was happening or as I was living it in real time. It was far too painful and confusing for me to share as it happened. I hope those that may read this and perhaps may be thinking critical thoughts, will rather be kind and listen to my story.
So here we go.........
After my first miscarriage I was given the advice to try again in two to three months. However my mind was so far from even wanting to try again I could not even consider it. When I got home from Ocean City, Maryland where I had my first miscarriage in September of 2014 and visited my OB they listened to my story, but I left without any information on counseling or mental health. I was simply told to try again.
Days later the shock of the situation wore off and the reality set in. I was completely shattered. Yet I had no clue where to turn or who to ask for help. I was told miscarriage was common, yet I found myself completely devastated. I called support groups but couldn't find exactly what I needed. I called a few therapists but wasn't sure they were the right fit. So I gave up making phone calls and I got very depressed.
Eventually I pulled myself out of it with the help of family and friends. Then in May of 2015 we decided to try again and wouldn't you know I was pregnant again.
But I knew things were 'off'. I could sense it this time and a week after my positive test I found out that I had another miscarriage. When I asked my doctor for testing they said I needed to have three in a row to have testing done. Needless to say I left that practice after that appointment. There was no way I was going to open myself up to pregnancy again without testing.
This time, I didn't get sad. Instead I got angry. Very angry. I was angry about the silence of miscarriage and how it doesn't help, but rather hurts those of us who are looking for answers.
I started researching miscarriage and how it was handled in other cultures. That's when I came across Jizo who is a figure of Japanese Buddhism. Jizo is the protector of deceased children including miscarried children. It's hard to explain the joy I felt when I learned another culture recognized this loss when my own didn't.
I found someone who made these statues in the USA and promptly ordered one. Shortly after it arrived I became pregnant with my son. After every ultrasound I placed my ultrasound photo next to Jizo. It gave me great comfort when I needed it the most.
I have some exciting news to share! I recently wrote my first book of poetry and it is now available in paperback! This book is very special to me as it contains poems I wrote during a heartbreaking time in my life that led to a journey of healing and self discovery. I've paired each poems with a favorite photo of mine. Click on the image below to buy your copy!
This week I was doing some shopping at a drug store while on my lunch break from work. I currently do all of my shopping for myself while on lunch break. It's the only time that I'm not with my 7 month old son and I have the greatest success of actually buying everything that is on my list. This is not a complaint; it's just the way life works right now.
A few weeks earlier I was picking out new nail polish for a fall wedding that I was attending. Ever since the summer of 2003, where I spent my college break, working at a high end spa I only buy Essie nail polish, Essie is expensive nail polish. I'm sure that the price turns people off, but it looks good no matter how haphazardly I paint my nails. And yes I always do my own nails. A few weeks ago I got my first pedicure in nearly four years. My feet had a couple marathons and a 37 week pregnancy wearing on them and it wasn't pretty. I definitely need to go back sooner than 4 years from now.
Essie nail polish also seems to last a lot longer than other nail polishes that I've tried to use. It'll hold up in it's glass bottle for a few years. It's seriously some good stuff. But I digress, that is enough about my love of Essie nail polish.
So I studied the nail polish colors like I was picking out the color of bridesmaids dresses in my wedding. Nail polish is a bold statement. Especially on your fingertips. It is a message that you are sending to the world.
So I picked a dark burgundy. I love dark reds. I love burgundy and maroon. I'm not sure where this love affair started but I would guess in my high school, Uniontown, where the school colors were maroon and white.
But my eyes kept darting to this beautiful black nail polish. It was this gorgeous color called 'licorice'. I wanted it. I wanted it badly.
But then the voices inside my head started talking to me.
'"You have a corporate job.'"
""You're a mom now."
"You remember what happened the last time you painted your finger nails black."
So I left the black nail polish behind, quite pleased with myself for showing self control and not buying the nail polish that I desperately wanted.
The last time I painted my fingernails black was about ten years ago. I so excited about them. I felt fierce when I wore black and I was feeling fierce with my newly painted black fingernails. Then the comments started coming.
"Are you going goth?"
"Are you depressed?"
I was neither of these things, but the questions I started receiving made me so sad that I promptly removed my black nail polish and didn't wear it again for ten years.
When I was in elementary school, one of my teachers asked what my favorite color was. I replied, "Black." She told me that my favorite color couldn't be black so I had to pick another one. I picked "Blue". Don't get me wrong, I love the color blue, but it doesn't make me feel the same way wearing black does.
My friends sometimes tease me that I need to wear different colors. I need to brighten up my wardrobe. It's true. A good bit of my workout clothes are black. My formal wear is mostly an assortment of black dresses. I feel good wearing black.
So this week I went back to the drug store and bought the black nail polish. It's currently on my toenails as I type this post. Whenever I find some down time I plan on painting my fingernails with it. I'm not going to make apologies for it this time around. My favorite color is black and there is nothing wrong with that.
In just a few short days it will be September and as hard as that is to believe I know that September marks the first six month of my son's life. It has truly flown by.
To say that the last six months of life have been anything but a whirlwind would be an understatement. Ever since the birth of my son I've been trying --- to catch up---- to break even---- to not get left behind.
Whatever it is, the demands of modern life do not harmonize well with the constant demands of an infant. I find myself trying to hold on to some semblance of myself ----while still trying to navigate modern life -----while wondering if it even matters to hang onto any aspects of modern living. It can be an exhausting existence.
I have been finding myself swaying between these worlds; trying to manage both of them while feeling like I failing at all of it. I know deep down that I am not failing. I am doing much better than failing.
But perhaps one of the most difficult tasks of this new found existence is staying in the moment. Caring for an infant keeps you constantly on your toes, determining the next need of your child. The need is often and never ending. Sometimes I determine the wrong need, but I at least know better than to be upset or guilty about it. Because we must move on to the next thing ----- the next bottle----the next diaper change---the next nap. And when it is all said and done it is already the next day.
And perhaps that is the part that already makes me the most sad. I realize that the moments are fleeting. They are changing. They are never going to be the same. They will not wait for me to catch up. I just want to stop and soak it all up while I can.
On May 6, 2017, I ran my first 5k since having my baby boy in March. This also was my first 5k since last July 4th. Shortly after that race I found out that I was pregnant and decided to stop running.
After having my son in early March I was eager to get back to running. I also knew that the Pittsburgh Marathon was fast approaching and I would love to be involved in some way! The 5k seemed like the perfect fit! I decided to take the approach that I would run/walk the race.
Along with the challenge of actually physically being able to do the race, I found some other challenges being a new mom.
One of the biggest challenges was what to wear! As I didn't run during pregnancy I really wasn't sure what out of my running wardrobe would fit, My original plan was to wear shorts and and a large t shirt but a few days before the race I saw the forecast was low 50s and rain, so that outfit wasn't going to cut it. So I dug out a pair of leggings and my running jacket for rainy days.
I pulled up my tights and they seemed to fit okay. Next I tried on my jacket. It barely zipped but I got it on! At two months post partum I still need to lose 25 pounds to be at my pre pregnancy weight. This generally does not bother me except when my clothes don't fit!
The morning of the race I met up my friend Christina who was also running/walking the race with a friend. She drove us to the start of the race and we sat in her parked car as long as we could because we both hate getting wet! About 15 minutes before the race we decided we should actually get out of the car and head to the start: Along the way we stopped at the porta potty. After using the porta potty I felt like a runner again! We ducked into a parking garage lobby to keep dry, tie our shoes and get a pre race picture!
We go out to the start and we are at the very end. This doesn't bother me as my only goal is to finish! There is a buzz in the air and I'm excited and nervous! I'm so happy to be here and can't believe I'm running a race again!
Mile 1: We begin! I start running and feel the excitement of being in a race, But my start feels fast. I look down at my watch and see an 11 minute mile. That's way beyond my capabilities right now so I need to slow it down.
Mile 1.5: I stop to get water. I realize that I haven't been running that long but it feels much longer.
Mile 2: It's becoming obvious that my outfit was a poor choice. It's one thing to look at yourself in the mirror at home and another thing to actually go run in your outfits. My pants do not fit and keep rolling down over my post partum belly. I keep pulling them up but they will not stay up. So I grab ahold of the top my pants with my left hand and hold them up, while swinging only my right arm now. Looks like I'm going to finish this race with having to hold my pants up. Speaking of finishing I realize that I only have one mile left! I'm so use to do longer races that it didn't even dawn on me that I'm nearly done!
Before crossing over the Clemente Bridge I take a walking break. I really want to run the entire bridge since running bridges (with the exception of Birmingham) are my favorite parts of the Pittsburgh races! After crossing the bridge I just have to finish the race through downtown. I can't describe how badly I wanted to stop and walk at this point but I had just a half mile left at this point and told myself I wasn't allowed to walk!
Mile 3: Only .1 mile left! I'm being passsed by people on the left and right making a dash towards the finish! I wish I could sprint the finish but there's nothing left! I'm just trying to hold on until the wheels fall off!
I cross the the finish line at 39:45. I did it! It is my slowest time ever but I'm elated. It feels so good to be doing this again. My friend Christina pats me on the back and says good job. (Thank you for sticking with me throughout the race!)
I have to admit that running a 5k two months after having my son was a bit agressive. I was no where near the shape I'm usually in for running. In fact with the exception of the days before delivery, this is the heaviest I've ever been in my life.
So why run a race? Shouldn't I have waited? Two things made me want to run so soon. The first was that I missed running. I couldn't wait to do it again! I tried to imagine myself not participating in marathon weekend and that thought made me sad! I just knew I had to run!
The second thing that made me run was the realization that there will never be a perfect time to start running again. My nights of interrupted sleep and exhaustion probably won't get better for a while, so why not just start now instead of waiting! My point is that if you really want to do something, don't wait for the perfect moment, just do it! I am so happy that I did!
I usually don't write race recaps of 5ks but this one was a pretty big deal for me. If you've read my recent blogs you are aware that I recently had my son in March! During my pregnancy I remained active, however, I did decide to give up running. This isn't to say that pregnant women should stop running. I believe that you should do what you are comfortable with during pregnancy and I was not comfortable with running so I quit for the time being.
But along with that decision I really missed running! When I would see people running down the street in my neighborhood it would make me sad and I looked forward to the day I could do it again.
Towards the end of my pregnancy I also developed high blood pressure for the first time in my life and had to take it easy for my health and the health of my baby. Fortunately he was born healthy and happy at 37 weeks.
To be totally honest after his birth I felt like I got hit by a bus for the first two weeks. It also didn't help that my blood pressure spiked even more and I had to go on medication.
This was a bit of a low point for me, going from someone that was extremely active to sitting on the couch, to having to go on medication. I definitely had a good cry about it.
After two weeks I started walking short distances on my treadmill and eventually outside, pushing the stroller, I worked up to a mile. I also noticed that my blood pressure was going down on its own and I was able to drop the dosage and eventually get off medication.
Then at my four week post partum appointment I was cleared to work out again! The next day I put on my running shoes and headed down my street. I felt like a fish out of water. My legs felt heavy, my breathing was labored but I was running again! As I ran I could hear the birds singing, dogs barking and watch the kids walking home from school. It was glorious!
I returned to my front door elated and out of breath! I had only ran one quarter of a mile but it was a start!
I started running a little farther each time and eventually ran one mile. It took me over 14 minutes but I had done it!
It was now early April and the Pittsburgh marathon was coming up. Since moving to Pittsburgh in 2012 I have ran either the full or half marathon every year. Obviously both of those options were not attainable but there was a 5k held the day before the marathon. Could I do it? It seemed a lofty goal considering I had just completed my first mile with less than a month to train. My wonderful husband said to go for it! I could walk if I had to and it would be a good goal for me. So on April 9th I decided to sign up!
I decided to train with a run/walk mentally. I didn't have set intervals, but would just walk when I needed a break. I worked up from 1 mile to 1.5 miles to 2 miles and then 3 miles. I was never concerned with how long it took, I just wanted to make sure I could cover the distance. I did my longest run/walk one week before race day in my neighborhood. My neighborhood has many more hills than the actual course so I knew I would be in good shape if I could complete those 3 miles. Fortunately I was able to cover the distance and in true marathon fashion, I only ran 1.5 miles the week of the race for my taper.
To to be continued...
It has been nearly two months since we brought home our baby boy from the hospital. And while I'm not willing to share these precious early moments of his life in my blog, I am more than willing to share the antics of my beloved cat since bringing home his brother. Barton has lived with us for seven years since we adopted him from a central Pennsylvania shelter. In many ways he was our 'first baby'. He has taken becoming a big brother in stride, barely batting an eye when we brought home our son from the hospital. He does remain a very curious cat. Being home on maternity leave, I've been able to capture many of these moments and, well, I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves.
Is this my new bed?
Well then, I'll just take this chair.
What about this playmat?
I will watch brother for you Mom!
Is this mine too?
If you don't pay attention to me I'm going to drink toilet water!
..... Or go into hiding.
Do you still love me, Mom?
I will always love you, Barton.
As I write this blog post I am currently no longer pregnant! I'm very happy to report that I delivered a healthy baby boy at the beginning of March! We are doing well and getting back into the swing of things.
Now for my last few weeks of pregnancy, let's just say things didn't go as planned. At 35 weeks I was diagnosed with gestational hypertension. This diagnosis is basically high blood pressure brought on by pregnancy. I was really surprised by this diagnosis because I've never had an issue with my blood pressure before. I also was tested for preeclampsia but did not have it. Thank goodness!
Once I had this diagnosis I had to monitor my blood pressure at home and see if it raised with my activity level. Unfortunately it did raise, the more active I was, so I stopped going to the gym, or outside, or anywhere, and basically sat on the couch everyday.
This was a far departure from what I'm use to doing, but necessary to keep my little one safe! If I were to offer advice to pregnant women it would be to always go to your prenatal appointments. I felt fine and never had any clue that my blood pressure was rising. I feel so fortunate that it was caught at one of my regular appointments.
Once I delivered I was surprised to see my blood pressure spike even more and I had to go on medication. Fortunately it has started to improve as I reach almost 4 weeks after delivery. I'm also starting to move again and it feels great!
It's now spring in Pittsburgh which is wonderful because I can go outside for walks. This past week I walked my first mile in what feels like forever. It was super slow but I was just happy to complete it!
At this point I don't have any goals set for myself but I'm sure I'll be thinking of some over the next few weeks. I'm very eager to take up my active lifestyle again and get healthy for my new addition!
Well I am still plugging along. Just barely, but yes, still plugging along. Somewhere in the midst of Week 30 I hit a major energy crisis. I felt like I was back in the first trimester, struggling to survive my day and looking for a place to quickly lay down and find some peaceful sleep.
The point of this blog is not to complain, but I don't want to sugarcoat the way I'm feeling either. Growing a tiny human is exhausting physically, and as someone who was crazy enough to run a marathon twice, I'd like to think that I have a good handle on physically exhausting myself.
Although my workouts have felt like a shell of what I know I am capable of doing, I have been proud of myself for just continuing to move as much as possible. Some days are better than others. Some weeks I work out three times. Some weeks I work out once. I'm really letting how I feel dictate how much I do at the moment.
It almost seems hard to believe I'm nearing the end of my pregnancy. For a long time I've wondered if this day would ever come. It was almost three years ago that my husband and I decided that we wanted to try to start a family. Little did we know that we would suffer two miscarriages, I would suffer from a hormonal imbalance after my losses and after all of that we would discover my condition that would make all of my pregnancies high risk.
In some ways my pursuit of working out and my pursuit of the dream of a family have been intertwined. Through working out and my love of running, I've learned that you must always keep going no matter what gets thrown your way; even when things look bleak and believe me there were some very bleak days.
Sometimes when you feel like giving up, you have a breakthrough, which is exactly what happened to me.
Author: Sarah Warman
I like to run, take pictures and write. I've combined all three in this blog.