Saturday, 31 December 2011

Keeping it real

I hate New Year, I love Christmas. I get ridiculously over excited, spend weeks planning, buying gifts, wanting to get everything right till hubby eventually sends me out of the house to calm down! Christmas comes and goes and by 27th I feel myself sinking into post party blues. New Year does nothing for me, especially 5 months pregnant, I can hardly fit in some of my maternity clothes let alone a party dress!

I tried a little run again as my legs were itching and desperate for some action. It felt OK, but its so slow and I cover such a paltry distance I am not sure I can be bothered again. This is the first Christmas for 15 years I haven't been training for something. I feel beyond frustrated and grumpy that I have nothing to focus upon apart from getting fatter, more tired and more cranky! I want to be out with my friends, on my bike, in my trainers, getting my heart beating hard and feeling that gorgeous post exercise smug glow of satisfaction.

But then I take stock of what I have. Woman man up. You have a wonderful family, a gorgeous little boy who is the light and life of my life, another one on the way and the most amazing husband anyone could ask for. In this world we live in we are always wanting everything and we want it now. We live on credit, material gains, how we look is how we are judged to be good people, happy people. So what if I cant be doing exactly what I want to do for the next few months? I have years ahead of me to do my hobbies (and that is all they are at the end of the day). You are only pregnant with that child for such a short period, sit back and enjoy. Let the pressure of trying to look right, do the right thing, be the right person go by. Enjoy this quiet period, this enforced slow time, lets others pick up the pace. Ill be back out there, just because I'm in my stretchy pants right now doesn't mean this mama hasn't still got some athletic fires burning!

Happy New Year to all, make it your year, with your goals, no one elses, enjoy every moment -be it slow or fast and most of all live your dreams life is too short for what ifs.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Not running anywhere with my baby!

20 weeks pregnant and time to call a halt on running. Its been pretty sporadic 'running' the last few months anyway with morning sickness not allowing for anything speedier than a dash to the loo. Once I started feeling better I was determined to try and keep in shape, but it has been much harder. Running has seemed unnatural and painful and rather than enjoying it,  I have spent most of the time convincing myself that its not sore and I am fine. But on Sunday, it really did feel bad. I felt like I needed to hold my stomach as I ran and the next day was so sore I couldn't even walk a mile without twinges. So that's it, I just have to face the facts that this time round I may be getting a few pounds heavier and wont be in as good as shape coming out of pregnancy as last time, but really in the whole scheme of things whats a few months of lard carrying between friends?! Pregnancy books and midwives tell you to walk as one of the best forms of exercise and I do walk miles everyday with the pram, but its just not the same as the high I get from a run however slow or short.

I have packed up my training kit, ready for May next year, when I will squeeze myself back into it again and set out on another long road to fitnessville. I miss wearing my sports kit, I miss hanging out with my buddies post training rides and runs, stuffing ourselves with lattes and muffins and the endless bragging of who got dropped when. But I have it all to look forward to again (though there might be less time for latte sipping)  I feel much more confident in the ability of my body to bounce back, about nursing my baby while exercising and my husbands ability to hold the fort while I have some Mum time!

So for the next few months, it will be power walking with my baby. He can pretty much power walk next to me now, though his ability to stay in the same direction or follow the path can lead to some rather frustrating circular routes! He loves to walk, to run, to pick up and throw anything he can get his hands on. He is completely fearless and would happily stay outside 24/7 if he had the chance. I seem to be the mum who is always at the bottom of the slide come rain or shine watching another skill be mastered-completely ignored until needed for a helping hand or to be shown a particularly large stick! I wouldn't have it any other way, I hope he has inherited my love for the outside and activity and if I have to slow down for the next few months it will just give me more time to watch  the little strong boy I am so proud of getting stronger and stronger everyday.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

You Win Some You Lose Some!

This week has probably been the toughest yet in my new career as a Mum. Baby has been sick, really sick for the last 6 days and nothing I could do or say would help. I have new found respect for families who have really ill children all the time, how exhausting and how dedicated the parents must be. After just 6 days I feel completely battle weary, I cannot stand to hear another whine, change another set of clothes, be hit, clean up snot covered mess or cook anymore tempting meals to have them thrown onto the floor in disgust.

My biggest mistake to make, as always, and one I constantly do, is to put adult human emotions onto my little baby. He has never coughed before, had a chest so full of gunk he cant breathe or a headache and achingly dry lips. Even though all of this is new to him, I get frustrated that he wont do what is best for him. Why does he not just sit quietly with me and read a book, why does he need to pull everything out of the cupboard and then slam the door on his hand? Why does he need to throw his head back in rage against the wall until finally he gives it such a crack he ends up howling. These are his ways of expressing his dismay in feeling so terrible, but to me they seem an addition to an already highly demanding and stressful situation, of the all consuming sick toddler.

Being a stay at home mum means I have had no respite all week, not wanting to lurgy any of my friends and not up to play dates we have spent hours inside, him slowly getting better, while I got iller with said cold and more exhausted from night screaming (him not me!). I have found the constant demands  physically hard, but hey I'm a strong cookie, its the unexpected mental drain of not being able to do anything right, in fact doing everything wrong and no reward for a long day apart from a still fractious and ill baby.

In my previous life I have always been able to control situations, work wise I liked nothing better than chairing a meeting and making decisions (ask my department!) and in training thrived on a dedicated and demanding schedule. But here I am now, melted down to the bare bones of me, nothing to show for my week, but a son who has now turned a corner and is happily out shopping with Dad and me a frazzled, worn out and cranky mummy!

That's the hardest thing, I think I have probably worked harder this week than in any of my working weeks or training units and I have nothing to show. I feel a sense of guilt that I haven't really achieved anything this week or been a particularly good wife and lets not lie, we all like praise and recognitions, but none will be coming my way. The only person to say thank you for that, you did an OK job (debatable!) is me.  And so, I will.

Gone are the days when I had trophies and targets to show my talents but I have a family, a medal so special, yet so demanding that only those lucky enough to also have this gift in life will understand. I'm beginning to understand  you don't need the thanks, you don't need to prove you are a worthwhile being by being a high achiever, you just need to know in your heart, when the going got tough you did the best you did and it all worked out in the end.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

All quiet on the running front....

So radio silence needs to be broken.

This is the first time I have sat down at my laptop properly for 3 months. I just havent been able to face it. Just been too sick, too tired and too depressed. So unlike my normal self and so draining when accompanied by a cheery 14 month old companion. Reason being....I am expecting another baby! 'Hurrah' I hear you shout.....'Crikey  those two will be close!' Gulp, yes they will, but hey so many positives can be drawn from having a close sibling, I am testamant to that. Who needs sleep and rest when you can just be surrounded by babies 24/7!

I have been hit with mindblowing morning sickness (a term clearly defined by a man as I have been sick all hours of the day), it really has been truely the worse few months of my life, the delight of being pregnant again has only just eclipsed the terrible all encompassing sickness which has left me weeping, weak and wobbly everyday for weeks on end. However the cloud seems to have passed and though I still feel the occasional clutch of nausea I have suddenly come back into the real world and am able to begin living again rather than just surviving.

So running has taken a miserable back seat.....funnily enough the last time I ran properly was my 100mile week in Scotland when I didnt know I was pregnant and since then have only managed a handful of 5kms, not just because I was so sick, but for the first time in my life running actually made me feel worse. So unlike the me of old I listened to my body and have just 'let it go' allowing my body to channel all its energy into creating a new little being and allowing my hormones free rein to run wild!

I am now itching to get back moving again which I think is always the sign to get going again. Running comes easy to me and even after a 10 week break I managed an easy 5 miles and then 7 miles at the weekend. I keep my heart rate below 150 which means running painfully slowly, biting back my competitive instinct and the temptation to power up hills and take on that random male runner who always has a point to prove. But as with last pregnancy I have lost the will to push myself to the limit..'doing' exercise is enough, bit of fresh air, bit of a sweat on and that will do.

And now second time around....there is no time off, no sneaky lunchtime swims, no nanny naps (well a few!). I am exhausted running around after baby who is in the prime of life as a toddler - the no fear, maximum danger phase. But it is also a super fun phase, he is interacting, popping out the odd word - 'Burleeeeeease' when he wants some of my snacks and 'ball' which of course had both Dad and I glowing with pride!

So I will do my best knowing that coming out of this pregnancy it might take a bit longer to get fit again. To keep me dreaming I have set some big goals for 2013 including a gold medal which still eludes me and on my slow plods I imagine now not one mini cheer leader, but two, shouting their Mum on and longing to get away so they can go and play football!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Letting Go...

I am happy, really happy. I feel I have finally reached a place where my heart doesn't ache with the decisions I have made. I am still missing my sport and my job, but loving my changed life as a Mummy and a better wife.

Baby is now almost a year, some people say that it takes 9 months to grow a baby and 9 months to get over having the baby. Well physically I recovered really quickly and though I breastfed for 6 months, I quickly felt my body bounce back and my legs and lungs regain their strength. However mentally I did not realise how much it would take getting used to having this little being in our lives. Not only the demands he has placed on us, but also the indescribable love I feel for him. He has totally encompassed and enchanted us and turned both my life and my heart upside down.

I have adapted my training so I can now still fit in a good enough leg smashing that I feel I am improving my fitness, but still have the energy to cope with a very active 11 month old. I have come to terms with the fact that I cant compete at the level I would like to and no longer feel a twisting of my stomach when I see riders go by, rather I am enjoying coaching others to fulfil their dreams and enjoying a while new set of dreams  myself. I miss my work and my work friends, but other opportunities are beckoning and I am so glad that I stuck to my guns in not returning especially when I get to witness every major milestone that are coming thick and fast.
 I understand that these are personal choices and everyone has a different idea of how they want to bring up their children, though it still irks me when friends who have gone back to work comment...oh I wish I could sit around drinking coffee all day. I wish! The choices I have made make my life hard work. Limited funds means a  limited material budget, but for everything we are lacking in monetary value we make up for in finding the joy in living a simpler and quieter lifestyle.

We recently spent a blissful week in Scotland, introducing baby to the highlands and our favourite pastimes of epic adventures combined with epic pie eating! I managed to squeeze in just under 100 miles running which plus with walking left me feeling suitably back to my original 'bouncing' self. I haven't been running over these familiar trails and hills properly since pre baby and it was so exhilarating to be back where I really feel I belong with the added bonus of sharing the magic of some of the hills to our son.

And it was up there, in the pouring rain with both my boys by my side that I realised I wouldn't want to be anywhere else or doing anything else in the world. Life was pretty much perfect. I have no medals or trophies to show for my past years work, no  money in my bank account, but  I have the most important thing in the world, a wonderfully happy and contented family.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Baby Steps

Momentous times in our household this not only now standing on his own, but walking! He has been getting braver and braver by the day, till yesterday, hands went off the cupboard and he walked his first four steps into my arms. What did I do? Burst into tears of course! Which Mummy doesn't on seeing their first baby take his first steps into a whole new world. We spent the rest of the evening taking little steps, even surprising Dad when he arrived home early from work. Of course today he has totally refused to even stand up, but spent most of it sitting in a corner sucking his thumb...I wonder if this is a by product of his sudden found independence or his legs are feeling the fatigue from last night and he is just resting up ready for our next training session tonight?!
 On my run last night after watching baby walk for the first time it got me thinking of this sudden grasp of independence. Time has just flown 5 weeks time baby will be a year old.  I'm not ready to have a toddler yet, I want my little baby who I can still dress in cute sleep suits (fat chance of getting those poppers up now!), cuddle with and carry around. In honesty I love the fact that he relies on me for everything, that the bond we share is so strong I can tell what he needs almost before he does. But I guess from the moment the umbilical cord is cut, that thick, strong lifeline has to be slowly shredded in order for your children to grow into strong, confident people. Watching him walk really was the highlight of my mothering career so far, his legs lifting, bending and muscles flexing for the first time. And the look of pure delight and astonishment on his face (and mine I am sure!).

Every day I see him becoming more and more independent. From stuffing food in his mouth to knowing exactly what toy he wants and when! Being at home every day, day in day out, is wonderful and I wouldn't change it for the world though there are times when I want to stick forks in my eye!  Now I see him becoming a little man every single 4am wake up, meal thrown on the floor, wash hung out, is worth it. By giving up some of my independence I feel he is gaining his in return.

And so while running last night I let my mind wander to where those very strong legs of his might end up walking him to. Mine have been such an asset to me-not my most attractive feature, but strong, tireless and healthy they have carried me to all sorts of adventures and I have and will continue to work at making them the best mummy running legs they can be.

So little baby....take your time with your next steps. Mama is in no rush to see you off into the sunset, but know this, wherever those legs take you, I'll never forget those first steps,  I'll always be there for you and I'll always be proud.

Monday, 18 July 2011

I Do!

We have entered the wedding season. Our mantelpiece has been strewn with invitations for months, gifts have been bought, accommodation booked, outfits scrambled together and now we begin the weekends of
wedding extravaganzas. 

Husband and I enjoyed our first night away from the baby at the first wedding this weekend. Leaving the baby in the crazy, but capable hands of his beloved aunts we headed off.  Hubby was best man and I was going to be set free from my 5am wake up call. We planned a few drinks, but after the initial excitement of the reception and the bubbly (I always guzzle and then realise too late that I am peaking way too soon) we decided we couldn't face the 4hr drive home with hangovers and we were very happy to just have an evening together.  How grown up and boring are we? Or is that the way all new parents feel?

I love a wedding, I want to cry the minute I sit down, you cannot help but get caught up in the electric emotion of the day, feeling the nervous tension in the room as the groom squirms in his seat awaiting the first sight of his future wife. I remember that moment of walking up the aisle so well. It hadn't really dawned on me that all these people would be in the church and  my bridesmaids have never forgotten the look I gave them as I realised that this is it!

Over the past few years I have often thought of that moment and all our lovely friends who gathered to celebrate our wedding. When times are tough (and they are, I may be married to a saint, but I am still quite high maintenance!) I think of the vows we made to each other and the promises we made in front of all our friends. They believe in us and we can draw on them for support and love whenever we need them. When I am tired, fed up or just plain bored of the endless round of chores I let my mind wander back to that blissful day, when I married my best friend in front of all our best friends.

And so though we have entered a treadmill of weddings, I know how important our presence is at each and every one. By attending we are saying to our friends we believe in you, we support you and we love you. Go for it!

We drove home, refreshed, renewed and ready for our bundle of destruction to be waiting at the front door for us.

The wedding is just the beginning, it may only be a day, but the memories will be drawn on forever and my vows to my husband will last for all eternity.  So here's to all the husbands out there. The support they give us, especially as new mums is invaluable and that cup of tea handed to us at 3am will never be forgotten. I love my husband, I love him more everyday as I see the wonderful parent he is becoming and I love being lucky enough to be his wife.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

The Everyday Race

An early waking baby has started to leave me feeling really drained, days have become weeks that I am up before 5am. We have tried every bit of advice to get him to sleep later, but nothing works and I have succumbed to the fact that's its us, not him, that has to change our body clocks in order for our lives to work in tandem.

There is so much information out there and as more and more of my friends have babies you see everyone go through the same realisation- first few weeks of bliss as baby sleeps for most of the time, just waking to feed or stare nonsensically at a visiting face. Then WHAM the baby wakes up and suddenly evenings become a screaming match and days blur into a milky reality. Slowly you and the baby swing into a routine, whatever works for you, works (in my opinion). It doesn't matter what you do as long as you always do the the months go on I am realising more and more that all babies really require is stability and predictability just like us.

I have struggled with this stability over the past few months as my life is repeatably thrown off kilter. And it doesn't seem acceptable to say out loud that actually life with a baby is exhausting! Bring back ironman training and full time work any day....this is never ending! The cleaning, the wiping, the washing, the cuddling, the playing, the demands are 24/7 there are no rest days or easy days for this athlete! You have got to be on full time race peak all day till that blissful evening moment when you shut the nursery door and switch the kettle on (or pop the cork!) and sit down.....oh no wait the washing machine needs unpacking!

Trying to fit in any serious training is not that tricky with such early get ups and light evenings, but I just cant cope with the exhaustion a long session brings to my day and I don't feel its fair to not be in great shape to look after my baby. Without quality sleep the muscle repair and rest just isn't happening and as I saw in the last few weeks I end up going into deep exhaustion with nothing really to show for my efforts apart from crankiness and tears!

So while we are going through this phase I have cut down my training to let my body cope with the demands a very active 10 month old is placing on it. To most the amount I am still doing would seem a lot, but getting out of the mindset of ironman training is tough where if you are not doing at least two sessions a day its hardly worth talking about!

All of this is so new to me, being an athlete has meant being selfish for the past few years and people (notably my husband) fitting in with me and my schedule. Suddenly the tables have turned and I am fitting in with someones else schedule. I am learning to do this and am enjoying seeing how much he is flourishing with this care and security. I realise it really doesn't matter whether I can smash out a 5km in record time or fit into my size 10 jeans, but what matters is our little family is happy and healthy in our own little training schedule where everyday is a race and everyday is a prize.

Friday, 1 July 2011

To my Mummy

One of the best parts of becoming a mother has been the change in my relationship with my mum. We have always been close and apart from a regrettable incident with a bottle of Archers and the school disco we have never had more than a few tense words between us. She helped me plan my wedding to perfection, so much so we nicknamed her 'J-Lo' and through these actions I began to realise how much her daughters meant to her. Now as I am taking my first tentative steps into motherhood I have this new found respect for her. I never realised how hard being a mother was. Never realised the endless drudgery, chores, sleepless nights, manic days and she had 3! What makes me so proud is I never realised...she never complained, never moaned. All I remember of my young childhood is many blissful days in the garden, endless rounds of meals and endless games with my beloved sisters. I know both my parents were very busy, but Mum was always there in the background to pick up the pieces when we fell and to tuck us in at night.

Now as I watch baby and 'Granny' together I am in awe at her ease with both my son and to how well she has adopted to her role as the 'supporter.' Never once has she judged me, criticised or contradicted my mothering skills. For this I am so grateful. She is there to help with baby and they adore each other already, but I know equally importantly she is watching out for me, her daughter and her baby. I have always loved her dearly, but now I feel our bond is changing, life is moving on and I am stepping into her shoes as she is moving into a new pair.

I know I am lucky. I know others have strained family relations...but don't worry she isn't all perfect! She HATES all things Ironman related and so I have kept many a race and result to myself. I didn't tell her about the 40 mile run I did a few months ago (though had to confess the next day when she saw me walking down the stairs). She doesn't get my need to push myself to the limit and cant understand why a good dog walk isn't enough!? But in some ways this has served its purpose, I have nothing to prove, no pressure doing my sport, it is purely for myself and no one else. When I go home I can just be me, her daughter and now the new mummy.

I love you Mooms x

Monday, 20 June 2011

Baby Body

My body, my machine, my engine and now my baby carrier and nurturer. Its been put through the mill the last five years. Firstly with four years of full on triathlon training plus full time working and then pregnancy, birth and breast feeding. It has stood up and answered every demand I have placed on it and yet I feel I am only just winning this love hate battle I have been fighting with all my life. I am beginning to feel at peace with what I have been given and to let the bonds and unrealistic expectations of modern society slip away.

My body has always been strong and powerful, it seems to have never ending powers of endurance. It's never suffered a major injury despite training repetitively week on week out. When asked in a big race, its always performed and apart from falling apart in the closing stages of the World Champs in Kona, physically it got me to the finish line, though I left any coherent thoughts out on the Queen K!  Most importantly, it grew, protected, nourished my baby and then delivered it (with a little help!) safely into the world. And only now, am I able to look in the mirror and accept and be happy with what I have been given.

My body is in no way its tight, muscle bound shape it used to be. Bits sag (sorry), are wider, smaller, stretched, scarred and yet it is serving its natural function and finally finding its natural shape - not something I am forcing it into being to fit my demands or the expectations of others. Over the past few months as I battled with the realisation that I just wouldn't be able to train and compete (at the moment) it has slowly dawned on me that my body does not need to be punished for the shape it is. It is what it is and no one apart from me (and my lovely friend Vickie!)  really cares. My son and husband both love me for being me, I am their rock, their nest and their comfort, they do not judge me for my shape, their love is unconditional and unjudgemental.

I am sure other Mums feel the same way. Life is suddenly not about you, in fact you are very low in the pecking order. That reliance on you by another or others makes you realise that body shape is really not worth worrying about. Time is so precious and seems to be going so quickly and I want to enjoy every last minute!

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Jumpers For Goalposts

I saw the most brilliant thing in the park yesterday. Four boys in their 20s playing football with jumpers for goalposts; two little lads, cant be more than 8 years old came up to them and asked if they could join in. Without batting an eyelid they said, 'of course, you go on one team, you on the other,' and off they went. I watched them for a bit, all completely immersed in the game. There was no talk of rules, offside, fouls, they were just all playing for the love of it. I don't think they even knew each others names. The PE teacher in me was delighted! This is what sport should be like, we put too many rules, restrictions and expectations on young people to perform and achieve, when really all they want to do is play.

Lots of people, in jest (of course I take it quite personally!) have said, what am I going to be like on the sideline when watching my son play sport or even worst, what if he doesn't like sport?! (well that is hardly going to happen!) The truth is, though I am freakishly competitive myself, I have seen the products of one too many pushy parents. I have fielded the phone calls on Monday at 8am asking why I haven't followed up on the e mail sent last night sent at 10pm demanding Fifibell be put back into the U12A netball team. These children are nearly always mortified by their parents behaviour.

Those children that do achieve and continue to achieve throughout their life are nearly always the ones whose parents support, but in the background. They are there to cheer the victories, but also to pick up the pieces in defeat. They understand the role of sport and its importance in their children's life, but they create a balance where personal or team achievement is celebrated rather than winning.

And so this week I have set myself a number of personal challenges, no competition with anyone else (though I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE 'chicking' guys while I am running with a pram!), just me, myself and my baby.
For those who know...getting to this post hurt a lot!

Run 5km in under 20 minutes
Cover 50 miles in total throughout the week
Run to a new coffee shop (!!)
Do 1 double figure run
Max out up every hill to the 'post'

I wont lie to you, previously I have always been motivated completely by winning and being the best I can be. I love racing and now that I dont have that in my life these mini challenges keep me heading out the door and they entertain me greatly, only clarifying what I already suspected I am a complete loser!

And so I have ticked them all off, apart from the 50 to 46 and couldn't face one more mile with the pram and probably nor could baby, though he hardly has an opinion as sleeps through most of my epic victories!

So now without races all my energy really is focused on being the best Mum I can be. I am learning not to take it personally when he wont sleep, wont eat, just wants/needs to have a good yell, when pulling everything out of the cupboard is all he wants to do (again and again) or being carried around is the only thing that will settle him. I am learning this doesn't mean I am a failure or not winning, but its all part of our learning curve. Watching him this week now rocket round the flat, pulling himself up, cruising round the furniture, I know it wont be long till he is one of those little boys asking to play football in the park, and you know what? I cant wait!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Closing The Door

For the first time yesterday post baby, I had to get up and go to work in a suit, on a train. I left the baby crying for me as I shut the door and it broke my heart. How do people do this everyday? I am sure it gets easier and you settle into a new routine. I had to tell myself strongly, not to express my adult emotions onto my baby, but I was torn up inside with this innate desire to rush back inside and hold him to me, never letting go. I felt sick as I boarded the train, glancing around, waiting for someone to accuse me for being a terrible mother and hearing his distressed cries alongside my rapid heart beat. Of course, women have to do this everyday, and for this I have a new found respect, doing the job is the easy bit, leaving the baby is the real challenge.

More and more I am now having to face up to people who ask 'when' am I going back to work? Normally there is an uncomfortable silence, which I fill with reasons... blah blah, oh I'm doing this, I'm doing that, we are getting by etc etc. All empty excuses and in my head I am shouting at myself-tell the truth! I cannot bear to leave the baby with someone else, in someone elses care. I don't actually  think I am strong enough to go back to work. Funny for someone who all their life has competed, trained, worked their body to the limit that this little person has weakened every resolve I ever had!

It does seem that I have lost part of my identity now that I am unemployed. Am I of any value to anyone apart from my family now? Will I lose the ability to communicate with others; by taking my foot off the treadmill of employment will I be left forever wiping the floor and putting on the washing machine? !
But then, do you know what I did today? I went for a run with my baby (ha my legs were tired from standing in heels all day yesterday!). After we sat in the sun and shared breakfast, listened to the trees rustling and the skylarks singing overheard. I realised that everyday with my baby feels like I put together another part of our jigsaw. We put the pieces around each other (getting them in the wrong place, more than the right), but when they fit, they fit beautifully.  I just know taking some time out is right and one day when I see the whole picture my son and I have created I will know every precious minute of this time together was worthwhile.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

A River Day

Its hard when you have been up since 5am with a teething sad baby to get your butt out of the door for a run. I try and think of every reason in the book not to go. Come on you are tired, go back to sleep (fat chance, I often give hubby an extra lie in, but if baby gets the faintest sniff that mum might still be in the house and better still in bed he is onto me like a shot!) or better still just stare into space with a cup of tea.

But I know if I go out now I will feel better, I don't like to run with the pram more than four times a week. I know my running action shortens, my knees get sore and well sometimes its just so nice to be out and by myself.

So I headed out this morning, cranky in my head and in my heart. I didn't want to spend another day with the whiner, I was tired.  Put the trainers on, out the door, don't think about stiff legs, hungry tummy or itchy eyes. Just get the legs moving, get the blood pumping and the lungs working. In moments like this there is only one place to go. The river. The Thames, the artery of London. In and out it ebbs and flows all day, my constant companion, always different, but always the same.

Standing on the banks, hands on my hips, I take deep breaths, I am not running hard enough to be out of breath (I hate running hard in the morning), but it feels so good to fill my lungs with almost fresh air, savour the almost silence of 6am, feel my shoulders relax, my back straighten and my head lift.

My feet turn for home, lighter, faster and stronger. The pavements are filling with grey suits heading to the bus, as I run in the opposite direction, back to my work, which I love with my whole being.

Friday, 3 June 2011

It is by chance we meet by choice we become friends

As my life has changed in so many ways over the past year, one thing has remained constant and that has been my friends and family. Having a baby turns your world upside down, no one can prepare you for the huge range of emotions you go through daily or the exhaustion you feel day in day out. Not working, means you lose that network of friends you have inbuilt at work, daily 'hellos' become a lifeline as you realise its 3pm and the postman is the first other adult human you have seen all day. And that's when your little support group of friends comes into its own. Some are new, some are old, some were forgotten, but all hold a dear place in your heart as they provide a vital lifeline to the outside world and the person you used to be!

I really struggled in the first few months with terrible loneliness, we have just moved back to London, I wasn't training and could hardly walk to the shops with battered abdominals. No one told me that babies never stop crying. I had lost my network of training friends and without the routine of school timetables, training sessions and goals I felt lost.

Then I was invited to some postnatal sessions. Jumped at the chance, cant remember anything about the class, but here I met 6 other women who have become dear friends.  I would never have met these women in my 'former' life, but they have proved to be my life, my therapy and my support network through the tumultuous first few months! I know some of them will be friends for life.

Training friends have come and gone, those working towards big goals are understandably single mindedly training, I look back and think was I like this? Must have been and for that I apologise! Some-mainly those with kids themselves-totally understand what its like to be at home days on end and one in particular has gone above and beyond to meet for a quick coffee or take the baby for a walk so I can have a smash fest run. I have felt almost tearfully grateful at this simple act of generosity.

Finally my husband and family have proved to be invaluable. Hubby is my absolute rock, supported me through everything, from the labour, the terrible pain of initial breastfeeding and then kicking my wobbly butt out the door to get in shape again! Every morning he asks would I like to go for a run and rushes home at night so I can get out or so he can cook dinner. I know how lucky I am and how little I show my appreciation. Your relationship complete changes with your loved one once the baby arrives. Life is no longer about us, its about him, what he wants, what he needs, but he has brought us closer together-we've laughed, cried and clung to each other as we stumble our way to become the parents we so want to be.
It is funny to make new friends post baby. I feel now, having reached the grand old age of 31, I am finally becoming me. So different now I have this little man by my side all day. I feel stronger, more stable and happier within myself and in my body (that's a whole other post!!). I do still struggle with my new identity as a Mum. Some times I am not really sure who I am or who I am supposed to be. And I suppose that's why friends are so important, they love you for who you are, just the way you are.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Farewell My Carbon Friend

There has been some dismay this week as we bid farewell to the black panther who is off to pastures new. I have been umming and ahhing for weeks, no months, about my sporting future, what to do.

My sport, triathlon has taught me patience, its taught me dedication, motivation, to dig deeper than I ever thought possible. It has shown me what you can achieve if you put your mind to something and believe.

I love the multi sport element, the challenge of always improving, the millions of options of training sessions and the fact that after five years I still cant b*****y swim!! I have met some of my best friends through the sport,  had some of the biggest highs and biggest lows. Dodgy tan lines, chaffing in places a girl shouldn't have chaffing and buckets of sweat have gone into my love of this sport, not to mention thousands of pounds and a very unfortunate bus drive back from Ironman Austria which involved my then not husband and his shorts!! Recently I have felt too guilty that a great lump of carbon is sitting in our hallway not being used, when it could be funding my sons enormous appetite and being ridden by another aspiring athlete.

And so the black panther, who taught me everything I know about cycling  is off to a new home.
She has been such a companion these past 4 years, what a journey we have been on.

And with the money I have brought her replacement......christened black panther 2....

And so where does that leave me be honest, I am just not motivated to compete at the moment. I know if I said to husband I wanted to compete again he would support me, but I just feel its not the right time. These early few months have been so precious as our little family have settled into its new rhythms and the relief of not worrying about a race or missed training has been immense.

Don't get me wrong, I feel bereft at the loss of this part of my life. But if I want to stay at home and bring up my baby I cannot afford financially (or emotionally) to be that committed to training. I am excited at trying my hand at some ultra running, and now I have done a 40 miler 7 months post baby I reckon a 100miler 12 months post baby is not impossible?! Don't worry all you triathlon friends, I know I'll be back, mile 20ish, just out of the energy lab is still calling my name....

Friday, 13 May 2011

Come Join The Club

Out running most mornings with my pram I get one of two looks from other mums already out and about.

There are only ever two looks and they go like this:

1. You are MAD, what the HELL are you doing, WHY would you be out running at this time in the morning, you TERRIBLE mother!
2. GOOD on you, you go CRAZY woman!

I always smile, a little on the outside, a lot on the inside. I love my running time with baby. He has already been up for a couple of hours and is ready for a nap. I settle him in and he happily watches the world whizz by. Bang on 1 mile he is asleep and I am free! I know I have about 40-50minutes to get some exercise in before he wakes, I put on my ipod, turn up the volume and go for it. Sometimes its fast, sometimes its slow, sometimes I stop and just listen to the birds and enjoy as much peace as a park in London can offer. As we head home, baby normally awakes and asks how my session went (OK, he doesn't actually ask, but I tell him) and then we are done. The rest of the day is free to completely devote to baby. I feel refreshed, energised and so much better about myself and my job as a mum.

And that is the beauty of running. Whatever doctors, trainer manufacturers, physios like to tell us, we are meant to move our bodies. It is part of our natural flight or fight defence. It is what makes us feel alive and powerful. It is like anything in life worth having, hard work at the start, but so worth the effort.

And when two runners pass each other nearly always there is an acknowledgement, a nod, a grimace or a smile, more often than not a brief hello. We are part of a secret club, there are millions of members, we are an easy to please bunch, anyone is welcome, you only need a pair of trainers. Come on join in!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Rolling with the changes

After a heavy few years of Ironman training and full time working I had promised my husband to slow down, give him some quality time and hopefully start a family. After a fantastic trip to Kona I was very lucky to fall pregnant almost straight away.
Pregnancy hit me like a sledgehammer, I was exhausted, sick and hardly able to drag myself into work let alone carry on training. The midwife advised me to keep exercising  `as normal,` I didn’t even bother explaining that perhaps 25-30hrs of training were not what she recommended!
 I found the lack of any conclusive studies on exercising when pregnant frustrating and nothing from any former ironwomen. Most of the studies completed are on rats (!), obviously women are not particularly keen to be subjected to tests while pregnant, however the majority of women I met while pregnant were keen to continuing exercise or start exercising as they focus on providing the best shelter for their baby. 
I was determined from the onset to listen to my body and do my best for the baby with my only goal being to be as ‘pregnancy’ fit as I could be for labour and the recovery (this was to prove invaluable after a very long labour and an emergency c section).
The first trimester I was nervous about hurting the baby in some way or overdoing it. One of the hardest parts was changing from the mindset of hard core triathlon training when you drag yourself through training session after training session and smashed legs are a daily occurrence to exercising just to keep lightly conditioned and even walk at some points! My husband had decided to embark on marathon training so I joined him for the end of his long runs and sometimes a few reps of interval training. Morning sickness ruled though for the first 12 weeks and after vomiting sometimes 40 times a day it wasn’t hard to let training take a back seat.
After 12 weeks I felt better almost overnight and decided to try and train a little more. I was advised to wear a heart rate monitor and not to exceed 150bpm which I followed.  I found personally ‘listening to your body’ approach the best method. I knew sometimes I overdid it and would find myself sitting half way up a hill I used to pound up after a 100 mile ride unable to even jog slowly. I knew that it was important for my baby to slow down, but I did find it hard watching my fitness (and my abdominals!) slip away. I was overjoyed to be pregnant, but changing my mindset from an athlete to a ‘mum’ took me a while.
Funnily as the weeks progressed, you naturally slow down as you become heavier, your muscles and tendons loosen and the drive to exercise diminishes. I ran till 30 weeks (and this I say to all my pregnant friends when I say ran by 28 weeks it was a 2 mile shuffle listening to some tunes and walking up any slight inclines). My husband loved it, he was as fit as a fiddle ready to do a 3hr 15 marathon debut (all my coaching!!) and could at last run circles around me - After years of me dropping him at every opportunity! At 30 weeks I made the executive decision that for the last ten weeks it was all about swimming and I enjoyed making up ‘pregnancy’ sets. I didn’t use the pace clock apart from to time recovery;  I am an athlete born and bred and even if I was only hitting 2 minutes for 100m I would start challenging myself to beat it each time! I loved swimming, though tumble turning was a no go after leaving me feeling travel sick for the rest of the day (poor baby!).
After a quick house move at 37 weeks I took to walking everywhere to reacquaint myself with all my old London haunts. I walked for an hour or so each day gradually getting slower and slower and with more tea breaks! By the end of 40 weeks I was longing to meet my baby, get out of my maternity clothes, back into lycra and to see my feet again!
I was looking forward to labour, I was intrigued how I would cope with the pain and whether years of firstly 8oom running training then ironman training would have me laughing all the way through! Lets just say it was the hardest training session I have ever completed, but the prize was the best ever!
I had images post baby of getting back into training and possibly an ironman at the end of the year. Well after a c section everything took a backseat for 6 weeks as I nursed my baby and my battered body. Spot on 6 weeks and with the all clear from the Doctor I excitedly laced on the trainers and headed out. I managed 2 minutes of running, my body felt like it was detached from my legs- what was that wobbling round my waist-oh my stomach! Husband gave me a strict talking to on my return as in floods of tears I moaned I would never be in Kona shape again. I’m no quitter and within 2 weeks was back to jogging 2 miles, challenging myself each time to a little further, walking when needed, smashing my legs when I felt strong and just enjoying having half an hour to myself. My general rule has been adding on a running mile for every month post baby, which has worked out well and allowed me not to overdo it or be too tired should I be required to do an unexpected ‘teething’ nightshift!
5 months on and my body is getting back to shape. As I wanted to feed my baby, timing of runs, swims and bikes have been a military operation, often completed late at night, turboing next to the cot as baby naps or a quick car park pit stop mid ride/run! I never thought I would appreciate exercise so much, the bliss of heading out the door for a quick spin or even better the joy of coming home to a delighted baby! With no time for the junk miles I used to love, every session now has to be quality and with more recovery time in between I am able to work consistently harder.  I’ve had my ups and downs –long days with a crying baby are exhausting, the frustration of not being able to train while all your friends are out getting fitter and fitter . The baby has taught me to slow down and appreciate the small things in life (and my amazing husband!). I contemplated just giving up as the road back to fitness has been so tough, but determination is something ironwomen are not short of, now I am not motivated by winning or course records, but seeing my son cheering me on and carrying him over the finish line and making my little family proud.
I would recommend other pregnant triathletes out there to listen to their body very carefully when exercising, but don’t be afraid to carry on gently SBRunning!  You know your body better than anyone. Look after your nutrition as well as you can, try to do a little activity everyday, but don’t feel guilty if you don’t and invest in a good quality maternity swimsuit!  Mostly, if you are anything like me, enjoy the free time! Enjoy not following a training programme and exercising for how long or how little you feel like! Instead of long runs take you partner out for long walks (with compulsory tea stops!), slow down, appreciate having time to do all the chores you always have meant to do and go to the cinema....believe you me life will never be the same again!!
Since writing this now almost 8 months post baby I am back into good shape and finished my first race last weekend! Nothing like a challenge...a 40 mile off road run! Well why do a marathon, I’ve done loads of those! I enjoyed this race more than any other I think I have ever done. The feeling of a ‘competition’ again, the pre race nerves, the targeting a runner ahead and pushing my body through the pain. The pit stop at 20 miles to feed the baby and wait for husband (ha ha ha back smashing him again!!) was a surprise. Watching others run by would have infuriated me before baby. Now I just thought, ah well I cant wait to run past you all again in a minute! I loved the ultra, loved the feeling of the last 8 miles as we ran over the most beautiful British countryside with legs that would hardly bend, but felt strangely stronger by the mile.
At the finish line was my husband and baby cheering me on, I felt like I could have run forever....but I didn’t want to, I had tea and love to give to my new little family.