Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Summer Training - Part 2

A lot of women will talk about feeling really exhausted during their first trimester.  I knew that even when I was planning to race while pregnant, not really thinking much of it.  I discovered it is true that fatigue/exhaustion tends to indeed come with first trimester.  This can be disheartening for training and competing.  If you’re able to get a nap in, great!  I’ve never been much of a nap taker, but there were a few times I got a good nap in during those days.  If you’re not able to get one in, it’s understandable.  Hopefully you are pushing to get a good night’s sleep every night.  You may be noticing you are getting tired earlier in the evenings then, as such was the case for me. 
When it comes to getting those workouts in when you are exhausted, sometimes it becomes a matter of mind over body.  What is great about working out is that exercise can help wake you up and reenergize you.  There were definitely days I had to give myself a pep talk and extra push to still get out there, and I do remember once getting quite upset over being so tired and not feeling well when I wanted to get out and get a bike ride in yet!  I ended up napping that day. 
Most days I pushed through it and got done what I had aimed to do, and that’s something you’ll have to figure out how to get through as well.  Find your mantras and motivation to get you through the rough days, and know that occasionally missing or adapting a workout should not be detrimental in the grand scheme of things.  As I have been reminded - triathlons are a long term deal.  Think big picture.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Summer Training - Part 1

            Society says to rest lots and eat lots – don’t listen!  There are many misperceptions about pregnancy out there (like you shouldn’t really eat for two).  I raced all summer (1st trimester for me), which also means that I trained all summer long.  I started my triathlon season with an Olympic distance race at the beginning of June, and right before I became pregnant.  Because of this, I had already been training long and hard in preparation and built up a solid fitness base.  I had done a couple 5K’s and a 10K already as well.  I was running every day.  Typically I would run 5 days all just at an easy pace.  One day would be a longer run (at easy pace – most times), and one day was some speed work with mile repeats or something similar.  I would bike 3-4 days a week, with my longer rides around 30 miles or so in distance (at the beginning of the season).  I was also in the pool 3 days a week doing swim workouts.  I also did strength training 2 days a week on top of all that.
            I was able to maintain and gradually build on my training load throughout the summer, adding on more miles (I did my longest ride ever in July - 50 miles) and some open water swims.  Another thing I added – more food and sports drinks!  While the baby did not need much at that point, I needed to make sure and fuel my body and hydrate.  I had talked to my doctor about my activities, and he said that each of the three sports were okay for me to continue doing.  The guidelines he did give me for working out was that my heart rate should not exceed 140 bpm for more than 20 minutes at a time.  He didn’t care how much over 140 it went, whether it was 141 or 170, just so long as I would bring it back down for a period of time before letting it rise again.  He said I could run all day long even if I wanted so long as I monitored myself.  Different medical professionals may tell you different things, and your personal needs may require something more, like if you have high blood pressure for example. 
I did not have a heart rate monitor to use, so I continued to assess myself based on my perception of how my body was feeling.  Most of my running was at an easy pace, and the intervals on the bike were 20 minutes in length or less for the high intensity parts.  The main set of swim workouts was also completed in about 20 minutes time.  You can try to keep your heart rate lower by staying cooler (dress very cool and avoid the midday heat by working out morning and/or evening), regulating your breathing, and staying hydrated (always have plenty of water with you).  Make sure and have two bottles of water and/or sports drink on the bike, and pay attention to the weather (temperature, humidity, etc).  Bring food or snacks along with you as well, which will help keep the nausea better under control.  Going too long without eating something was the only time I would feel nauseous.  Be attentive to your body.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Pregnancy Week #13: Half-Marathon

            A week later, I ran my first half-marathon – at 13 weeks!  My husband, Andy, ran it with me.  He said I could set the pace and understood I needed to be able to respond to any needs or warnings that my body might give me.  I didn’t have a heart rate monitor, so again, I based the run and my pace off of my perception and just went by how I felt.  This is how I gauged pretty much everything that I did.  This may work for some women, though others may not be comfortable with that.  It is something each woman will have to decide for herself, along with the advice of her doctor. 
I wore a GPS watch so I knew my pace, and with Andy beside me, we could check in on how each other was feeling.  My goal time was fairly conservative I felt, at a pace of 8 minutes/mile.  We started off around 7:30 pace, each of us feeling good at that pace, so we decided to try and settle into that speed for a while.  Our later miles actually got faster as we went along.  I mostly concentrated on keeping my breathing relaxed and even, knowing that it would help me to keep my pace, and I hoped it would help keep my heart rate a little lower.  It was also fortunate that it was fairly cool out when we started. There were water stations every 2 miles, and I made sure to take a cup at every one, knowing hydration was also important.  We ended up finishing with an average pace of 7:23/mile, far exceeding my expectations!
            The half-marathon marked the end of my race season for 2012.  I raced the majority of it pregnant, but staying attentive to my body, trying to be more relaxed and staying on top of hydration, I felt good about the season and what I was able to do during my first trimester.  All of this needs to also be kept in perspective, as this was my experience, and I had a high level of fitness going into it all, without any pregnancy complications.  Your own personal circumstances and the advice of your doctor may lead to a very different experience for you.  A lot was possible for me though, and I hope others will realize that pregnancy should not be treated as an injury where we are suddenly unable to do things. 
What are your experiences?!

Friday, March 15, 2013

First Race Win!

Top 3 Female Duathlon Finishers

            At 12 weeks, I competed in a duathlon, consisting of a 2 mile run, 14 mile bike, and 2 mile run.  I was excited for some quick, short distances.  My plan for the run was to go at a pace that was fast (yet I was comfortable with), and then planned to hammer it out on the bike, knowing that it was a nice, flat course.  My first run wasn’t anything impressive, as all the “real” runners took a decent lead ahead of me.  I knew this would most likely happen, but I felt like the bike leg was more of my strength, and so I definitely hammered it out.  It was exhilarating.  I felt good, pushing my speed and catching up to the lead. 
I came off the bike with my fastest split ever (I averaged 22 mph) and headed out on the run, feeling comfortable, relaxed, and with adrenaline pumping.  I held a pace that I could maintain and tried to keep my breathing calm and even.  A woman flew by me at some point, and I knew I could not even attempt to stay with her.  I crossed the finish line exhausted, but feeling good about how it went.  Then I found out that the woman who passed me was on a relay team, and I was the first individual female competitor to cross the finish line!  Best. Race. Ever!  That was the first race I've ever been the overall female winner - and I was 12 weeks pregnant!  From the start to the end, my body felt solid throughout the whole race.  I wouldn’t go back and change a thing. 
The top male and female winners both received a jersey from Draft Cyclery (which I'm sporting in the picture to the right).  The conversations that I had with Draft Cyclery that followed ended up leading to a sponsorship by them! Now I'm decked out with a bunch of sweet bike gear for racing and training in both warm and cool weather – I would recommend them as they are worth checking out! 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Racing at Week 9 of Pregnancy

With my friends before the race

            I raced again at 9 weeks, in an Olympic distance triathlon (half mile swim, 28 mile bike, and 10K run).  Due to the experience of events with my last race, my mental approach to this race was a lot more relaxed.  I knew I could easily cover the distance, and felt like I could probably clip along at a decent pace, but I was not going to push it like I did at the last one.  I was actually hoping that doing the longer course would help me to stay calmer and keep me from going as hard as I would want to in a sprint.
This race was also in the town I currently live in, so I’ve been able to get out on the course, and I’ve done the sprint race the past two years already.  The swim would have been fine if my goggles hadn’t gotten completely fogged up, and I felt lost at times in the swim portion of the race (this made me realize my weakness with open water swimming and sighting).  How disappointing to have this happen in the lake I swim in!  When I saw my time coming out of the water, I told myself it was okay that I was behind what I had thought was a doable swim goal time.  Stay relaxed, deep breaths.  I hurried through T1 and headed out on the bike.  I knew it would be a long, hilly ride.  I settled in at a pace that I felt comfortable with (though not extremely fast), and while I was out there I remember thinking about how much I was enjoying the ride!  I focus so much on getting to the end for races, that I don’t often enjoy the adventure along the way.

I moved through T2 quickly and headed out on the 10K run.  My body felt good, strong.  I started at what felt like a moderate pace, and gradually kept picking it up as I went along.  No tightness, no cramping.  I just felt good.  I continued this through the end, feeling on and picking up the pace as I went.  I was definitely tired at the end, but it was also a race that my body just felt GOOD throughout.  Could I have gone faster?  Most likely.  Should have I?  I’d rather not go there.  I like to try my best at each race, but I also knew I needed to race smart.  I ended up first in my age group and fifth overall, and I was pleased enough with that.  I got a lot of enjoyment out of that race, and in the end still felt like I raced smart and competitively.  

Monday, March 11, 2013

1st Race During Pregnancy

Finishing a Sprint Triathlon at 6 weeks

So what IS possible?!  That’s what I really had been wanting to know all along. 

I wanted to time out the pregnancy with hopes that I would not have to take a season off from triathlons.  My plan was to race during the first trimester, while I would not be yet showing and the little baby was nicely protected within me.  Doctors count your pregnancy weeks starting from the first day of your last period (while you are not even pregnant yet), which means you don’t even know that you are pregnant until you are at least 4.5-5 weeks along.  So there is no reason for you to make any changes or adjustments during that first month (except no alcohol, etc), when it comes to training or racing as you just won’t know if you are even pregnant or not.
            I competed throughout my first 13 weeks of pregnancy.  I did a sprint triathlon when I was 6 weeks along (first race knowing I was pregnant).  I really didn’t know what to expect about how I would feel while racing.  Would it affect my intensity?  What if I felt cramping?  I did have concern about morning sickness (as all races are in the mornings!), but fortunately I was very blessed and never experienced that.  I’ll share with you my experiences from each of those races through these next posts, as well as my mentality with each of them.  
As I said, the first race I did was a sprint course at six weeks.  I felt completely comfortable in the swim.  It was about a half mile and straight across a lake.  It wasn’t crowded around me and my body felt good during it.  The bike was only 15 miles (I had done an Olympic distance race earlier in the season that was 29 miles), so I felt good about going pretty hard on the bike as it would be relatively short.  It was pretty flat so I was able to keep a fairly even effort throughout the ride, and feel comfortable with it.  I very much was just trying to channel into my body, hydrate, and watch for any signs of cramping or trouble.  It was quite hot that day, and I needed to be even more mindful of that and hydrate even more than what I did.  I came into transition with my fastest bike split of my career, but when I took off my helmet, water (or sweat I should say) dumped out.  This was the first and only time something like that has happened to me.  I should have taken a little longer in T2 and just guzzled more Gatorade at that point.  I also knew that I had to be in good placement at that time, and I just tried to book it out of there.  When I changed my shoes for the run, my calf almost seized up in a cramp at that point, and I had to feel it out as I built into some speed for the 5K portion of the race.  I just felt fatigued at that point and wanted to finish it.  I had a hard ride, it was hot and I didn’t hydrate enough, and now I was fighting off cramps.  Not a good mix.  On the second half of the run, I started experiencing tightness in my side.  I couldn’t tell if it was a side-stitch from running or possibly something more serious.  I had already let a woman from my age-group leave me behind, but I could hear the finish line approaching.  I couldn’t pick it up to push the finish, but I was able to hold my pace to the end.  It was enough.  I ended up second in my age-group and third overall. 
That was one of my toughest races of the season, in that I really began to evaluate what it meant to race while pregnant.  I’m glad it was a short race, and fortunately after hydrating I was fine.  I was also fortunate with that being the only race that I questioned myself about what my body was experiencing.  I pushed the line too much that day, and I wanted to race smarter with the rest of my season.  Don’t push yourself beyond what you are comfortable with.  Have objective guidelines in place for yourself and be prepared to stick with them.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Conceiving While Training

           I am posting about this only because as I previously shared, my mom thought I may have troubles getting pregnant while training.  You may be wondering about this as well.  While the stress that training puts on your body may indeed affect your body’s ability to take to pregnancy, it is not a guarantee by any means.  Some women have difficulty conceiving for a large variety of reasons.  Stress in general can definitely be a factor.  There are life stressors to consider as well though.  Job stress is probably one of the biggest ones.  
            I had been increasing my training load steadily over the months prior to trying to conceive.  However, I feel like my body adjusted to the training load quite well and had adapted to the new lifestyle.  I think this is important to keep in mind for yourself as well.  I actually became pregnant the first month we gave a serious attempt at conceiving.  I had a positive life situation at the time though as well.  I had recently resigned from a stressful position (and I am not one who typically is stressed by a lot), and the coaching season had just ended.  I had a part-time job that I very much enjoyed, and was able to get my training in more easily with my new schedule.
            Don’t be discouraged if you do not conceive this quickly, but do remember that there are many factors that are involved, and for some it may just take longer.  The less pressure you put on yourself to get pregnant, the better.

Coming next - racing during 1st trimester!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

So Many Opinions Out There!

Before we even began attempting to conceive,  I was already trying to research online and see what I could find out about training while pregnant.  I discovered two things: 1) I didn’t feel there was a lot of good, solid information out there that could be easily found and 2) there was a lot of differing opinions on the subject!  Of course, a lot of it kept coming back to “ask your doctor.”  I do agree with this and will encourage all of you to do the same.  I’d like to also encourage you to find out as much research on the topic as you can.  Knowledge should be used to guide your decisions.  It is also important to listen to your body!  Don’t underestimate the body’s ability to communicate when something is wrong.  However, some may be more “in-tune” with their body than others when it comes to this.  While I found some mothers wrote about what it was like having kids and competing, I could only find one who talked about what it was like training and being a new mother.  However, it's tough to find anyone talking about training during pregnancy.  Everyone always says to take it easy with exercise during pregnancy and to rest a lot.  I wanted to know how much I could do, not what all everyone else thought I should not do.  What have other serious triathletes been able to do during their pregnancies?
I can share my decisions that I made along the way, along with their reasoning, but it is up to you to decide for yourself what is best for you and your baby.  Every pregnancy is different.  What works for one woman, may not for another.  There are many factors that differ for each woman.  I did not experience morning sickness or headaches, and I was in very good shape before I became pregnant.  I have a February baby and live in Wisconsin, so heat was not much of an issue later on in pregnancy while training.  Some women experience hip pain as their hips widen to prepare for childbirth.  Some have lower back pain that holds them back from continuing running throughout the whole duration of the pregnancy.  Some have run the day before giving birth (mine was up to two days prior)!  High blood pressure, gestational diabetes, nausea, heartburn, etc may all affect the way that your doctor will allow you to workout, as well as your own attitude towards training.  If this is your first pregnancy, you have to accept the fact that there are a lot of unknowns, and you won’t really know how your body will respond until you go through the pregnancy yourself.  Each pregnancy of your own may also vary greatly from one to the next. 
I am very competitive, but I also needed to accept these things because you just can’t know for sure what your experience will be like.  I was fortunate with my first trimester and was able to race all the way through it (I’ll get to that soon!).  While I wanted to be aggressive with every race I entered, I also knew that I had to be mentally prepared to change my approach mid-race if my body waved any warning flags at me.  If you’re competitive like me, that can be tough when the adrenaline is pumping, but you’re not alone out there on the course anymore!  Superb race results just aren’t worth more than your new baby.
Not only will you find people have a lot of different opinions on the web, but you’ll also (much to your dismay at times) find that people around you have a lot of differing opinions and will freely (unfortunately at times) share them with you.  Your family, friends, coworkers, and even complete strangers all have an opinion on what they think you should or should not be doing.  My own mother commented that I may not be able to become pregnant while training so hard.  This was very disheartening and frustrating to hear.  What you want most of all is just support from those around you, and instead, at times, you may just feel you are getting a lot of criticism.  Don’t become discouraged too quickly though!  I hope you will find my experiences both encouraging and inspiring as you embark on your own journey.