Thursday, September 29, 2016

A very special announcement

Dear all three readers of my blog, 

I'm interrupting your Game of Thrones marathon, bike trainer session, or compulsive election-news-perusing to bring you a rather exciting announcement: I'm now officially a contributor over at Salty Running

Here is a #seenonmyrun photo thrown in to make this announcement look pretty on social media.
I actually predate Facebook but have learned a thing or two.

Salty Running has a special place in my heart. It's a really, really comprehensive site about women's running, started to fill a gap: the lack of gender-specific information for women who are serious about running and looking to improve. Its community embraces everyone from people with only a year or two of running experience, to others chasing an Olympic Trials qualifying time. And boy, do we all have a lot to learn from each other. (Let no one tell you running is not a broad church.) It has been a cheerleader for women's competitive running in all its forms, from chronicling the Olympic Trials to this terrific series about a high school cross-country team. 

We also laugh at ourselves. A lot

Here's how to get the most out of Salty Running: 
1. Subscribe for regular updates, whether it's by email or feed reader.
2. If you're looking for something specific, check the index and the tags, or search the site. 
3. And finally, talk to us! You can comment (or even have a lengthy conversation) on the posts, chat in the Facebook group, contact us individually, or submit a reader question. The best part of the internet running community is the community; when I've put myself out there and reached out to strangers I've made all sorts of great friends and found new sources of motivation and support for my running*.

* Fellow runners will also listen to you moan about plantar fasciitis, talk about poop, completely understand how you can dread your tempo run so much but feel so damn good afterwards, and also virtually kick your butt out the door to do said tempo run. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

On Boston, big hairy audacious goals, and planning paralysis

1. It's Boston Marathon registration season, which always sparks discussion about how many qualifiers are actually going to be able to register. 

Let's say that again, another way: for several years now, a small percentage of people who qualified for Boston have not actually been able to get in. That's because the fastest qualifiers get to register first in the first week, then it fills up and the squeakers-in have to wait and find out if they have squeaked in by enough. 

Should the qualifying standards be tightened (again)? (A brief history is here.) 

Lots of great discussion over at Salty Running. Obviously there's no such thing as an infinitely large race, and as running's popularity grows, so does the number of people training to qualify. How to deal with the problem of more qualifiers than spots? Some think the standards should be tightened once again to shrink the field to a manageable size. Others feel that the fastest-get-in-first system works best. And then there's some discussion about whether some of the standards are too soft. 

I have approximately as much chance of BQing as I have of performing successful brain surgery - if anything, I'll probably perform the brain surgery sooner - so I gave up commenting because I don't feel I'm really Boston-qualified to comment on this particular issue. (I can literally see the Citgo sign from my apartment and it taunts me whenever I remember: "Too bad, GCA! You'll never perform brain surgery!") But I'd love to know what you, my dear readers, think! 

Image result for citgo sign boston

What do you think about Boston standards? Should they be tightened? Too difficult? Too soft? What to do about the gap? 

2. I am going to talk for a moment, however, about big hairy audacious goals. 

I do have a big hairy audacious running goal in mind; it's a time goal that I'm not going to reveal other than saying that it involves a marathon, it's not BQing, and not quite as much of a stretch as brain surgery. (More on a par, say, with becoming an astronaut.) But it is still a big hairy audacious goal that is quite far away. Probably a couple of years or more. 

Except that I haven't thought about the plan, other than the first two steps ('run a half, preferably in less than 2 hours' and 'run another'). Beyond that? Get a coach? Hire a personal trainer? Eat better? Reduce other life commitments so I can devote more time to said BHAG? I'm kind of paralysed about what to do next or what this big hairy audacious multi-year plan contains. Sort of like, "You don't even have a pilot's license, how will you become an astronaut?" I don't even know if steps 1 and 2 are doable.

I don't have an easy solution for the doubt, but I am pretty sure almost every runner has been through this at one point or another. My mantra when I need a confidence boost about a long-term goal is 'look where you go, and go where you look'. But motivation is one thing. Figuring out a workable plan is another. What's your method? 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Pick 3: Notes from 1+ year of running, working, parenting, and life.

This entry was originally composed as a comment on Outside Time, but it began to take on a life of its own, and I reckoned I ought to give it the space it deserves. 

There's certainly some truth to the oft-heard lament: "After all my favourite running bloggers had babies, they all quit their jobs and started selling BeachBody!"
I have nothing against BeachBody. (Fine, I might, but let's leave the direct sales for another post.) But I do have a 16-month-old, and I work roughly 9 to 5, and seriously, it is [family, work, hobbies/ self-care (including running and blogging), keeping it all together (cooking, cleaning, other quotidian tasks), sleep]: pick 3. It *is* possible to work, spend time with your family, and run, but as you can see I blog roughly once a month...

So what is the relationship between running, momming (i.e. physically carrying and caring for a small child - which is why I'm focusing on mothers here), and work? It's not an easy one. At various times you are going to have to give up two and focus on one. For serious.

The first days - 0 to 4 months. Pregnancy and giving birth really does a number on the body. I don't care what bloggers say. I am not a professional athlete who trained through pregnancy and bounced back to run in the Olympics. (99.9% chance - neither are you.) I went stir-crazy and ran/ walked a mile at a couple weeks postpartum; this was better for my mental health - also essential! - than my physical health. If there is a next time around I'll probably err even more on the side of caution.

I had the luxury of being able to stay home with the little squirt for just over 4 months, but even that was a mental and emotional challenge: daytime isolation, going stir-crazy, mentally wanting to get back to work, feeling guilty about wanting to get back to work, taking on more freelance mini-projects than I really should have, while at the same time being physically tired, not getting enough sleep, etc.

Running during this time was...sporadic. Some mornings during the week, and on weekends, I'd be able to sneak out for a few miles. Mentally, I felt less guilt (why is it always mom-guilt? Why moms? I should've read Anne-Marie Slaughter earlier) about taking time out for self-care *because* I was still home with baby and thus able to spend hours gazing lovingly at him. In late August, 3.5++ months postpartum, I ran my first and only race of the calendar year - a 5k - to get a rough baseline of where I was. It was just that - a baseline.

The next few months - 4 to 9 months - were the early daycare months. I had a great deal of milk-related anxiety. Supply issues, pumping schedules, you name it. I am not one of those lucky overproducers, and struggled to get enough for daycare each day; you pump what you can, and the occasional bottle of formula is not poison.

Amidst all of this, how to run? What helped me was pumping then running at lunch, eating while working, and doing the working-mom split shift: a couple of hours at night after baby went to bed. I no longer pump, huzzah! But that's where my workday runs used to fit in. And my personal rule: if you have time for only two miles, do the two miles. As a working mom who would see baby for only a few short waking hours during weekdays, I was loath to take any time out before work to go running on my own.

Pumping and running can be a concern for overproducers, who may need to pump immediately pre-run for comfort. It's also a concern for people like me, who worry that running might affect milk supply. ('Always be drinking' is my motto. For reals.)

Around 6+ months, baby became sturdy enough to enjoy the jogging stroller, and for a few blissful months he would even consistently fall asleep in it, so I often scheduled runs for nap time on weekends! (Our BOB manual suggested a minimum age of 6-9 months and up; I understand the guideline is now closer to 12? Either way, he seemed to enjoy himself and was certainly comfortable enough to conk out.)

Other things that helped, mentally - I started texting back and forth with another running blogger whose baby is a month younger. She no longer blogs, alas, but we ran Pittsburgh together in May when our kids were around a year old. A half marathon a year postpartum is a pretty reasonable goal, though even that gave me milk anxiety. We might not live in the same area, but a support network of working running mothers is invaluable.

Baby on the move - 10 to 15 months, and beyond:
Around a year, a couple of things happened: at 10 or 11 months, baby was eating enough solids that we were able to give him two 5oz bottles instead of 3 4oz bottles at daycare. The extra two ounces went a long, long way towards preserving my sanity, let me tell you. I also went from pumping 3x to 2x (another time- and sanity-saver) and then 2x to 1 soon after. Suddenly I had an extra hour in my day.
I also started a full-time job, working mostly from home. That meant far less hustling and stress (if you haven't noticed, the journalism market is rapidly shrinking and there are so many freelancers competing for a smaller pie).

After PRing at Pittsburgh - yes, my half PR is post -baby; it was a pretty soft PR to begin with and I'm not surprised to see it go - I signed up for the Baystate half (goal race) and the Cambridge half (backup, or fun run) . That extra hour in my day from pumping once or no longer pumping? It goes straight to running. It's a hard hour, meaning not 'run for an hour' but 'decide to run, get changed, run, cool down, drink, stretch, shower'. That means, typically, 3 to 5 miles. But it's enough. Running at 3pm or lunchtime also means a lot of sunscreen and a gnarly shorts tan because I always wear the same 4 pairs of shorts.

The biggest thing is being able to set my own work hours, to a great extent. And I mean truly set my own hours, not work funny hours in response to something else. Of course I have days packed with conference calls and project work, but knowing the meeting schedule even two days in advance is a great luxury and enables me to run during the workday.

Something else that helped was meeting another local running and working mom (Connie), and going on run playdates - run to the playground, chase our respective toddlers, run on, repeat as needed! This strategy was key once baby no longer napped readily in the stroller.

I do carve out a couple of hours each weekend for a long solo run, but am still reluctant to make such a big commitment as marathon training. At my level, a 20-miler realistically would take in excess of 3 hours, and I'm just not willing to commit that kind of time away from my family just yet. But YMMV! I try to go early and spend the rest of the day with family. A 20-miler would also sap my energy in a way that 13 or 14 miles, which is where my half plan peaks, would not.

Right now, I've also just committed to rejoining my track group for Monday evening workouts. I don't know what took me so long!

Annnd...that's where I'm at now. It's taken a good degree of fortitude and much kindness to myself. And late-night stretching. And eating all the things.

So: which running bloggers have continued working, running AND blogging through their transition into parenthood? Here are some I've read:

Running Bun
A Case of the Runs 
Meals and Miles (alas, now more Disney/ mommy blog)
Chocolate Is My Life (currently kid-focused - I'd say having 2 under 2 is an excellent reason to fall off the running wagon for a season in one's life)
The Wannabe Athlete (now sporadic, and less focused on the eponymous 'athlete' bit, but extremely thoughtful when she does post)

Sadly missed:
Run Write Hike
Health On The Run 

Can you think of any others who have continued blogging while running, parenting, and working a regular job? I get it - it's HARD. Working, running parents are almost certainly going to have very little time to blog. List 'em here in the comments, please!