Ironman journey to motherhood

 

T1 The Swim…

 

In the first of a two part blog, Rachael reflects on the first 13 weeks of her Ironman journey to motherhood….

 

Ironman. A triathlon journey of three parts. The irony being here that I have not done one (yet- it’s on the “before I turn 40 list”) but I feel it’s probably a good comparison to make when writing a blog about the pregnancy journey. For a start there are three elements to both- Trimester 1 (the Swim), T2 (the 112 mile ride) and T3 (the marathon). This first blog looks at T1 which by all accounts can be horrendous if you have a bad Swim or get kicked in the face. But here I am approaching the end of week 6 of pregnancy and so far, it’s been pretty good to me. I actually feel great! Don’t get me wrong, the nighttime toilet trips are now a daily occurrence, my chest feels humongous and a power nap is normally appreciated but all in all, I feel good and we are very very lucky. We found out very early on- probably a side effect from being a runner in that I am very in tune with how I feel. I had a couple of runs that felt horrendous, because I didn’t have the energy to go any quicker. I knew that something was different and was able to adjust my training regime quickly when we had the good news. I always knew I wanted to carry on training if I could and if it was safe to do so. Pete is really supportive which helps a lot as have or close friends and family. I have spent hours and hours online reading journals, sports articles, medical opinions and blogs written by other amateur athletes. The general consensus is that if you regularly take part in exercise before you are pregnant, then providing it is not a combat or dangerous sport, there is no reason you cannot continue if you are in a low risk pregnancy. From a running perspective, this meant that I was ok to carry on training as before but with a few tweaks. The main consideration is over exertion. As runners we are regularly pushing our bodies to the limit – on the track, in competitions etc. In the first trimester I learnt that your heart works harder to pump blood around your body and to your growing embryo. This means that your resting heart rate is often elevated. As an example, my resting heart rate is normally 40 and it is currently in the late 40s and early 50s. Back in the 1980s, a report went out which limited pregnant athletes to a max heart rate of 140. It became obvious that this was not a realistic limit. For one, every athlete is different and sometimes even walking can get your heart rate to 140! Secondly, what was 140 based on and how can they apply it generically? A growing number of athletes decided to run or train to how they felt- a much more accurate indicator taking into account individual differences and athletic preferences. Thankfully this research is now considered old hat, and the advice is now-

  1. You should be able to hold a conversation comfortably and not be out of breath. This is easy to apply across all abilities
  2. You should remain hydrated
  3. You should not overheat
  4. You should listen to your body

 

So that is what I am doing. And each time I go for a run I feel different so inevitably some runs are faster than others. I’m keeping a side eye on my heart rate though- I have also read about keeping it under 80% of your max which for me is about 160 beats a minute- but I’m not getting anal about it. At the moment I am feeling really good, and as long as I continue to feel good then I will carry on. Both my midwife and doctor gave me the green light so I just worked out what I could or couldn’t do and took it from there.

 

Being injured earlier last year has shown me that I can stop running if I need to, and still gain fitness back without it being the end of the world so I have the confidence that if running is no longer suitable for my pregnancy journey, then it will be waiting for me at some point on the other side. I am lucky to have drawn inspiration from many other running mums- both elite and amateur- so I know I have a wealth of inspiration to help me keep fit and focused for the months ahead.

 

For the record, I’m not saying that pregnant athletes should or shouldn’t carry on with their training- ultimately it is a very personal choice with lots of considerations to make and every choice should be respected. The NHS advises at least 30 minutes of exercise a day for expectant mothers but that doesn’t mean running can’t be swapped with walking/ swimming or other lower impact sports if that feels right for you. At the moment, it feels right for me, both mentally and physically and I’m a big believer in going with your gut feeling so with support I am going to give it a go.

 

I missed the Liverpool cross Challenge as we found out a few days earlier that we were expecting. A few weeks later (week 6) I was more comfortable with how I was feeling so I did the local XC race at Arrowe Park, running with Kelly. Under the premise of being hungover, I started at the back and then slowly but surely wound our way through the field. I was trying to keep an eye on my heart rate during the race but realised quickly that cross country is NOT the type of event where you can maintain a steady rate due to the differing terrain and undulation. Instead I focussed more on whether I could hold a conversation- and I was able to chat to Kelly for the majority of the course- much to the amusement of some of the men we were overtaking 🙂 with a sprint finish at the end, Kel finished in 5th female position and I finished 7th. Pretty chuffed with that despite not racing the course ! I think my XC days are numbered though. Arrowe Park is one of the flatter courses and I found it tough towards the end. Halewood last week was easier for maintaining heart rate so flat road courses will be the future for me. I enjoyed doing it for a bit of fun at this stage of my journey , but I think after the new year I will be hanging up my spikes until next season. It just feels good being able to have that choice, rather than it being forced upon me (this time last year I fractured my fibula).

 

NB I don’t profess to be a medical expert and this blog is simply a recap of my own experiences 🙂

 

Part 2

26.12.17 week 8/9

 

A few weeks on and I am noticing that every run will be a different experience. I ran with the Strider A group on a Wednesday for a muster run and I really struggled. Just felt like I had nothing to give and I was at the back of the group  for all of it. A few days later and I went out on my own and I felt fine. It’s funny how much you can change between a few days. The midwives have all been supportive of me carrying on, but I do wish there was more support and information for people like us who are more than the average plodder but don’t fall under professional category. I did Christmas Day Parkrun in just over 22 mins (First Lady, couldn’t help myself!)- I was able to say hello and chat to people over the course and I didn’t feel tired in the slightest when I finished BUT my heart rate stats looked quite high towards the end of the end which had me worried. I know my watch isn’t 100% accurate though. I then spent the rest of the evening googling high heart rates again even though most of the research tells you to use other methods for gauging effort. It’s so confusing to know what to do. I can understand why some female athletes just leave it completely because then there is no doubt or dispute. St. Helens is a fairly hilly Parkrun so again, that probably didn’t help. I suspect I might be better running with other people in the coming months so I don’t get too carried away or let my competitive streak come out. It sounds daft but because I feel good at the moment, I can sometimes forget I am pregnant! I’m sure that won’t be the case in the coming months when I have a growing bump but I need to keep a reign on things. I have stopped for a walk on some of my runs and it hasn’t bothered me. Especially if there is a hill which brings my heart rate up, it’s nice to walk for 30 seconds or so to bring everything back down and then continue.

 

06.01.18 week 10

 

This time last year I was three weeks post stress fracture and I watched the Merseyside XC champs from the side lines. Everything I had been doing was gearing up to that event and I was bitterly disappointed that I couldn’t take part. Fast forward 12 months and although I’m not perhaps at my fittest at present, I wanted to banish the demons and run in the event. Arrowe Park was the venue for this years Championship (another reason for testing it in week 6 to see how I got on). Although we unfortunately didn’t have a full team out for the ladies, three of us turned up braved the mud. Kelly raced amazingly and finished 7th overall, hopefully putting her in with an opportunity of representing Merseyside at the Intercounties Champs in March. I started off fairly easily (top 25) and then started to overtake a few ladies on the first lap. I ended up finishing 13th overall which I was really pleased with but my spikes are officially getting retired now until next season. Even though I felt in control the entire time and wasn’t pushing myself as I would normally, it’s also difficult running on uneven terrain and I suspect my looser ligaments might thank me if I call it a day now. I don’t mind though, i feel like I have had a bit of a xc season so I know it will be waiting for me on the other side. And I would rather hang up my spikes on my own terms so I very much feel in control at the moment.

 

I have a new worry though. I worry when I get bigger that people will judge me for continuing to run (or waddle!). I know there is still some misunderstanding and negative stigma around exercise during pregnancy and whilst athletes like Paula Ratcliffe and Jo Pavey have shown that you can continue to keep fit, it is still a long way from being normalised. Part of me wants to help normalise it and to hopefully encourage other women that they can still do activity and it be good for both them and baby. So whilst I am worried, I also know that if I can inspire one woman to do the same then it would be worth it. I guess in life you always get judged (and I have been the victim of that in the past) so this is just another potential hurdle to jump over and sail past.

 

The one thing I am failing to deal with at present is my need to snack on sugary things. It’s so bad! The best memory was sitting on the turbo eating a bag of haribo 😂 I have always had a sugary tooth which I managed to curb for a few years but with Christmas etc I really do have the taste for it again. I need to be careful – if I wasn’t exercising I would definitely be putting on more weight than I have and I don’t want there to be any ill effects so I will make a conscious effort… starting tomorrow!!

 

On a scientific side, I have started to show a little more interest in my heart rate. I only got a HRM with my watch last year so I don’t have much to compare it with. I have therefore never trained my heart within a specific zone- I know IM plans recommend it in order to train more effectively but it is something I have never done. On more recent runs, rather than look at pace, I have just kept the heart rate screen up and tried to keep it consistent so my breathing was steady. On the first few runs it meant my pace was a little irratic as I was slowing a little then speeding a little but after a few goes, my pace naturally fell in line with my heart rate. So now I have an evenish heart rate and an even run pace to match. My garmin states that my predicted vo2 rate is 55 which gives me a 5km predicted time of 18:48 – That’s with no track sessions or tempo sessions (for over 8 weeks). The last time I had that score was in the summer. I know it is only an estimate and clearly I’m not in racing condition for that, but I am interested in whether training in this way will have a longer term positive impact on my running. We will have to see!

 

So my running goals for 2018 look a little different to normal. I want to try and get 150 parkruns before the year is out (as of 20/01/18 I am on 117) and I also hit my 25th volunteer total for Parkrun too. I also want to try and get 20 different parkruns (think I am on 16) so plenty to keep me interested and motivated over the coming months. And if I can’t run then I will walk instead 💪🏻

 

T1 Review

 

Biggest surprise- that my swimming speed suffered more than my running. I was at the back of lane 3 after only 4 weeks and after being overtaken more than once I dropped back to lane 2 by week 9. I will run out of lanes soon 😂

 

I haven’t missed alcohol- I really thought I would miss my Chablis or prosecco but it was like a switch went off in my mind as soon as I found out. Funny how your body works!!

 

Best bits- being 1st lady at Christmas Day Parkrun St. Helens for the 3rd year, placing 13th at the XC County Champs and still fitting into my skinny jeans 😉 showing flump my favourite routes and enjoying the time we have together on our adventures (Fairclough bump = flump).

 

Worst bit- more frequent loo stops than normal 😂 pretending to drink over Christmas at all the Christmas parties (non alcoholic beer thank you!!)

 

Stats-

Pregnancy miles so far- 246

Average miles per week since finding out- 27

 

T2 Part 1

 

So the transition from T1 (the swim) to T2 (the cycle) was fairly straightforward. The first thing that happened was that my 12 week (ish) scan revealed I was actually further on than we thought and it put me at 13 weeks and 3 days. This is a bit like finding out you are 5 minutes ahead of your goal pace in the first half of a race! Always better to find out you are ahead than behind ( I know some people have had their dates pushed back as much as two weeks!!). The second thing that happened was that I found out I had been selected as a reserve for the Merseyside County Cross Country team. This I was delighted with, based presumably only on my performance in the Merseyside championships (which was by no means my best but still a fairly solid run). I did have to withdraw my name on this occasion, having already decided to hang up my spikes and the inter counties race would have been around my 20 week mark. But the confidence boost I took from that was immense and gave me the hope that perhaps in 12 months time if everything went well I would be back on the team again. Kelly ran her heart out at the northerns and was rightfully given her first county vest on the squad. It was a good day for us ladies.

 

T2 is a bit like no mans land. You have the 12 week scan behind you but the 20 week scan is still a long way off. There is a mountain ahead but it’s just not yet in sight. I am writing this at 16 weeks, very conscious that I am not yet half way. My running is still going well- I hit 31 miles last week and still had loads of energy left so I know I’m not over doing it. I’m looking forward to the lighter nights because it is hard motivating myself to go out in the dark. I have a few events entered (for fun) which will see me pull my club vest on til end of March but after that I think it will just be Parkrun and training. It is better now that people know- not that I wanted to make a big fuss over it but I was either getting asked why I wasn’t taking part in a race or there was the expectation that I would run well at the ones I did attend. I ran out of “I’m taking it easy” excuses so it’s nice to turn up and just run how I feel.

 

By week 15 I had made a “return” to the track. I had given track a miss for the first few months just because I wanted to concentrate on just running and figuring out what I could and couldn’t do. I had read that Paula Ratcliffe and Kara Goucher had stuck to short training distances on the track (anything from 200m to 800m) as it’s possible to run short efforts and still keep your heart rate at a steady level. For the last two weeks I have been doing 400s between 6 and 7 min mile pace (depending on how I have been feeling) with at least 2 mins recovery between each one (sometimes longer- I’m not counting!! ). My heart rate averages 149 for the session although sometimes it will go higher but only briefly. Throughout the “effort” my breathing is controlled and my running steady. In terms of perceived effort it’s probably about a 13/14 out of 20. Enough to raise the heart rate but nothing to collapse over and I’m talking as soon as I finish each repetition. I have enjoyed it to be honest. Three months of steady running has meant my legs have forgotten to turn over at a slightly quicker pace so it’s good to wake them up again and I feel like I am doing something constructive. I have noticed that the longer I “warm up”, the more I can control my heart rate. A good example being Widnes Parkrun the other week. I did over 1.5 miles as a slow warm up and ran the 5km at just over 7:05 per mile but my heart rate was in the mid 150s (and I felt in control). If I don’t have a good warm up, I find my heart rate can be a little irrational for the first 3-4 miles ( or maybe it is my watch as I don’t always notice the difference??) but then it settles. Learning something every day!!

 

So usual issues in terms of running -leggings starting to get a little tight round my waist (the copious pancakes probably didn’t help 😂) and my weight is starting to creep up but it’s all good. My mum told me she only put on a stone with me (from 8.5 to 9.5). I think I have put on 3kg so far and am approaching 10 stone nearly half way but it’s all relative. Loved taking part in Parbold Hill race last week. Took it easy on some of the technical bits and still managed to overtake a few people on the hill 😉.

 

I have stopped doing long runs (eg 10 milers) because actually, there isn’t any benefit from them at the moment and I suspect they will start to tire me out. 60 mins seems to be a good time for a “long run” and after March in a normal training year I wouldn’t do much long distance anyway so it kind of feels normal to put an end to them for now. I’m still running 5 times a week and likely to move to 4 or 3 in the next couple of months. I don’t even bother looking at pace anymore, I just go for a run and do it completely on how I feel on that given day.

 

My swimming has turned a corner and I am much more effective in the water. In the earlier weeks i really struggled to do the session but I feel more comfortable now and my times have gone back to where they (nearly) were beforehand. I am only going once a week but I enjoy the change and I want to keep that skill up. I only learnt proper front crawl two years ago and I’m really pleased with how far I have come since then. Flump will be getting swimming lessons for sure!!

 

Next Sunday (week 19) will see me pace at the St Helens 10km as a 55 min pacer. I had a practise run last weekend and hit every mile spot on. Whilst it doesn’t give me quite the same buzz as racing, I think knowing that people will be sticking with me to hit their best time will spur me on and give me a sense of satisfaction. I chose 55 mins as I am running comfortably still at 8:30 pace and 55 min 10km is around 8:50. Race report to follow in part 2!!

 

Lastly I have made the decision to go and see a Sports Doctor about training through pregnancy. Whilst I believe (and feel body wise) that I am doing the right thing for me, I just want to ask someone with experience some questions and get that reassurance. I have found someone who is a Medical Officer for British Athletics and British Triathlon so he will know his stuff!!! It’s an investment for me, and my decision was cemented when I asked my Midwife if I was ok to have a sports massage and she replied “what’s that?”. I don’t expect Midwives to be able to answer all my questions as in fairness, that isn’t their job so I have taken it upon myself to get some support. She also said to me “we don’t get many fit people like you”. Perhaps summing up the state of the towns health in St Helens!! Update also to follow in Part 2.

Stats-
Pregnancy miles so far- 385 (this has added up quickly!!)
Average per week this year- 28.8 miles
Happy running 🙂

 

T2 part 2

Well the last few weeks have been interesting. Looking back now I must have been cruising along in T1 and as far as week 20, and now I suddenly feel very pregnant 😂 flump has properly popped out now which in some respects means that wearing running leggings is easier as they go under my bump rather than dig into my stomach. But many of my clothes simply don’t fit anymore – my racing shorts probably won’t see daylight until Christmas now. Runs are becoming more challenging- it has now become the norm for me to plan routes which have plenty of loo stops and also ones that don’t stray too far from home in case I have had enough and need to turn back. The change has been quite quick really- it has surprised me how tired I can get and how much of an effort it is sometimes to get going. I have reduced my runs to 4 a week and I will up my swimming once I get round the joining the gym. Whilst I do have a rough plan as to what I would like to do on each run, realistically this gets adopted during the session depending on how I feel. I was bothered about this for a week or so but now I would rather be out for a little bit then over do it and not get out at all. My freedom and headroom is very important to me.

 

The St Helens 10km was unfortunately cancelled due to the beast from the east and rearranged for Sunday 16th April. I was more than comfortable with running a 55 min 10km as a pacer back in March but a few weeks later and quite a bit slower I have now dropped down to the 60 min pacer group. I think this will give me some breathing space on the day. However it comes at the end of our week in Majorca on the triathlon training camp (full report to follow) so I need to be mindful of how much I do when we are away.

 

My visit to the sports doctor was fairly straightforward and perhaps in hindsight a little unnecessary. He didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know (so I guess I really have exhausted all literacy resources when it comes to running when pregnant!). I did get some advice on post Partum fitness and also about sports massage which was useful. He did give me some comfort over perceived exertion and how I should be feeling after a run in terms of effort etc so I was comfortable that I haven’t done anything that has exhausted me. My watch continues to give me all sorts of interesting heart rate readings so on the whole I am ignoring it and listening to myself. This will probably be useful for post partum training as I’m always led by my watch and pace rather than feel.

 

I have started to wear a “mind the bump” sign on my back so I get a bit of space in races. I was finding especially at parkruns that I was being elbowed and jostled (mainly by men!!) so I took the measure to give me some protection. As a result I have had some interesting parkruns where people either support me or hate the fact they are being overtaken by a pregnant runner 😉

 

My last official “race” was part of a 6 strong ladies relay team at the northern athletics road relays competition with the Striders. I did a reccie on the course (Birkenhead park) at Parkrun the week before and thought it was great. I put myself on leg 5 so I wouldn’t be under too much pressure to chase compared to the last leg. I’m delighted to say that our team came 22nd overall which is our highest ever result (up from 32nd last year!!) and 2nd in Merseyside. I even overtook two runners! We were so pleased 🙂 three of our team mates were mid marathon training and of course I was 21 weeks pregnant at the time! What a result. I got a few cheers of support on the way round (thanks guys!) and it felt good to be part of a team and do a team event.

 

The main milestone in the last few weeks was my 500th pregnancy mile!! I did this at the back end of week 22 and it’s surprising how quickly the miles added up! I don’t know how many more I will do, but the 500 mark is a big one and I’m really pleased.

 

T2 stats
Total miles 511
Average – 26.7 miles per week
Vo2 predictor according to watch- 53, a drop of 4

 

I am typing this whilst on route to Majorca for a week- our last holiday as a two for probably 20 years!! Although it’s not everyone’s idea of a holiday…. it’s our annual trip to Majorca for the triathlon training camp with St Helens Tri!! I still hope to do some cycling and running although not to to same level as previous years. We have both entered the Pollensa 5km again – I don’t think I will be getting a podium position this year and a cockerel trophy (I came 2nd last year and I was awarded my all time favourite trophy!!) but it’s nice to experience an event abroad. I generally hope to use this week to relax and chill and have a break from work.

 

Now that everything is starting to feel a little more “real”, I have obviously been thinking about our future life and what it might be like. It’s weird to think that things will be different (clearly I know they will be) but when you have lived a certain way for so long, the unknown can be a little scary. I’m currently Rachael the HR manager who likes to run. I’m hopefully going to turn into Rachael the Mum, who is also a HR manager and likes to run. It’s a big adjustment to make – and I don’t know how or if it might change my identity. I know these are minor things to consider but I have been me for 33 years so I don’t know anything else! I have some goals that I have discussed with my coach, which, whilst are a little ambitious are fairly realistic. Time will tell whether they will come to fruition but I hope I still possess that desire and motivation – not only to be a good Mum but to also be a better me, which is something I get through sport participation.

 

Highlights of T2 include eating an Easter egg a day for about 5 days on the trot and not caring, still managing a 22:31 5km Parkrun (I suspect this won’t last long), finding out we were having a boy and feeling his kicking for the first time 🙂

 

T3 bring it on 💪🏻

 

T3 part 1

 

The marathon of pregnancy and labour

 

Now that my bump is a little more obvious, I probably should have expected that I would receive a little more attention than normal. It’s quite bizarre how much attention you do get – from random strangers coming up to you, to getting people patting your bump! Not that I mind- it’s just something I hadn’t really thought about! I’m pleased to say that most of the attention and comments I have had, have been positive. Of course I do still get the odd “is it safe?” and “when will you stop?” and I will answer them as best as I can. I don’t know when I will stop. It’s likely that decision won’t be mine to make as such, my body will just tell me when it’s time. Many people say that they couldn’t do what I’m doing, but I honestly don’t think I’m doing anything that special. I was contemplating this earlier today and I realised that perhaps I know my body better than some because of what we have achieved over the last 15 years since I started running. You don’t complete marathons without testing yourself both mentally and physically and I just see this as another part of that journey. I don’t feel like I am pushing myself particularly- I’m that used to getting out and about this feels like the norm for me. I guess I am very trusting of my body to tell me when it’s time because we understand each other well. Perhaps those who haven’t tested themselves as such perhaps would be nervous about doing what I’m doing, but it feels normal to me.

 

That leads me on to the second part of this blog…. labour. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get graphic but last week Pete and I attended our first hypnobirthing class. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect but it was a free class ran at Whiston and I wanted to attend something that wasn’t too clinical. I’m glad I went and it was exactly up our street!!

 

In short, hypnobirthing is about taking control of your mindset and approaching labour with a positive and relaxed attitude. By doing so, you are scientifically more likely to produce the right hormones that help a better and shorter labour time (these hormones relax the right muscles ). On the other hand, by potentially being unfocused or stressed, you increase the production of the hormone adrenaline which can have an negative effect on your labour as it contracts muscles rather than relaxes them. Many hospitals are changing to a midwife led service as they feel labour has become a little medicalised in the western world. This means environments will become less clinical and more relaxing and less like a hospital. I don’t profress to be a doctor of any sort so feel free to research this yourself but that was the general principle. To help relax your mind, the midwife said that you should trust your body to know what to do at the right time; That your body was designed to do this, and that you should feel empowered to embrace the process. You might not be able to control exactly what happens but you can control how you respond to it. Aside from adopting physical practises in the lead up to labour to make sure you are physically fit, positive mantras are also key and the birthing suite was full of these on the wall, coupled with a relaxing environment of dimmed lights and fairy lights.

 

Now clearly I haven’t been through the process before so I can’t comment on this too much BUT I was discussing this concept with Pete and i think we can compare this to running. For example, in preparing for your first marathon aside from the training element, you spend a lot of time visualising what it might be like and how you can approach it. Your Facebook feed will probably be full of positive imagery: “finishing a marathon is a state of mind that says anything is possible”; “pain is temporary, success lasts forever”; “you must expect great things from yourself before you can achieve them”; “running reminds you that even in your weakest moments you are strong”…. etc etc. And this is no different. On the day of your marathon, you trust your body to get you to the finish line and you have to listen to your body and it’s signals during the journey to make the right choices. So that is now my approach. I’m trusting my body in the lead up to labour marathon day – that I will be physically fit and strong to get through the process and that I know I’m strong enough mentally and will adopt a positive and relaxed mindset. I’m going to be honest and say that labour was something that really worried me. However, having attended last week and also after speaking to a few other ladies who adopted the hypnobirthing approach, I feel more confident and dare I say a little excited? I love a challenge…..

 

I would recommend attending a class if you are able. It especially complements the pregnant yoga I have been attending so hopefully in the next 12 weeks I will build on what I have learnt and start to put it into practise.

 

T3 part 2

15, 25 and 35 weeks….

 

About 2 weeks ago I had already started to write this blog in my head. It was going to start off “After deliberation, I have decided to hang up my running shoes….”. I was getting a bit tired (the warm weather was NOT my friend), everything felt a little uncomfortable and my ankle (the fractured one) was starting to niggle me. So it’s with much surprise that I am writing this and I am STILL going!! Don’t get me wrong, all my runs are now split into run/ walks (the interval program on my garmin is a savour!), I am running 3 miles at a time and I have started aqua jogging again but I’m still moving. This is far more than I have could have ever anticipated. I am actually focusing more on time than mileage. I am doing about 2 hours of run/ aqua cardio a week, plus an hour of swimming, pregnancy yoga for an hour and then 45 mins of gym work. Most mornings I get up and walk a mile before breakfast in the early morning sunshine. I feel so much more awake and alert for doing this and I hope it something I can carry on until the end. My joints and muscles feel pretty strong (except my ankle), but part of me wonders whether that is a reaction to the warm weather… I haven’t been very diligent with my stretching but aside from that I’m still doing about 4-5 hours of exercise a week, just of moderated intensity.

 

I have been waiting for that moment when I knew it would be time to stop running, and I still think in the next few weeks it will happen, but for now I’m just making the most of what I can do and enjoying the fresh air. I stopped going to track at 30 weeks- it’s quite funny to read that statement now! I’m such a nutter 🙂 Once I got going on the session itself it wasn’t too bad and my 400m and 200m splits were certainly quick relative to my size but I wasn’t enjoying it. Warming up was an effort. Running round in circles was an effort. And I don’t need to do it so I stopped. I carried on parkrun until 34 weeks – I had my parkrun baby shower at week 32 which was amazing 🙂 and Pete’s 30th birthday/ 50th parkrun at week 34) but again, it stopped becoming enjoyable. And whilst I have had an amazing time doing parkrun over the last 8 months, I wanted to bow out whilst I was ahead and I look forward to going back hopefully in the autumn. I have started aqua jogging again, using Knowsley Leisure Centre. I am used to the funny looks I receive now! I still stand by the fact that fracturing my ankle was the best thing that ever happened to me- it taught me to cross train, to  be patient and to trust the process. If I hadn’t have going through that last year then I think I may have found this a little more difficult but I am still brimming with motivation and confidence which has made the entire journey an amazing one from start to (nearly) finish. Of course it has been hard not taking part in another summer season of competition, but I know it doesn’t really matter and I have enjoyed supporting from the side lines, being bag lady and chief photographer.

 

I am really enjoying my swimming and it’s the one sport where I haven’t felt as much of a decline in relation to the progress of my pregnancy. It was quite funny this morning at Edge hill coaching session- Coach Terry has been letting me wear flippers during the main set to counter act my drag 😉 and today I actually acted as the pacer for my lane over 6 x 100m efforts. Imagine that- pacing at 35 weeks pregnant!! When I look back, I have done so much more than I ever expected and I’m really chuffed that I have been able to do that and hopefully encourage other women to keep active in whatever way is best for them. I know I am so lucky to have been able to carry on, and that other women have had no choice but to completely stop. I don’t take any of this for granted.

 

So every day is different, and I adapt things as I go along. The next few weeks will probably see a reduction over all activities but I’m cool with that. It’s like a taper before a marathon- you have to be ready for race day!

 

So, perhaps for the last time here are my pregnancy stats:
Pregnancy miles so far: 696.9 (I should hit 700 next week !)
Average per week: 19.9 miles
Vo2 predictor according to watch: 49, a drop of 8 overall
Confidence level: 100%
Motivation level: 100%

 

I want to take the opportunity to everyone who has played a part in my journey. Obviously Peter, my very patient husband who joins me on my morning “walkies” round the block, laughs at my disappearing belly button but has always been supportive of my choices; the pt track therapy gang and Phil for supporting me and giving me encouragement when you know I was finding things hard; to the Striders for being so supportive of my decision to carry on running and adapting sessions for me to take part; to anyone who has ever joined me for a run/walk and kept me company or helped me pace or take part in an event; and finally to the running community in general. I was so worried about how i would be perceived but I can honestly say I have had so much positivity from people- both people I know and complete strangers. This has made my journey so much more enjoyable and rewarding. Thank you.

 

Sometimes it is too easy to worry about what you can’t do and instead it’s much more positive to focus on and be grateful on what you can do. The human body is capable of so much more than we give it credit for in our modern sedentary lives. On a final note, I read in the paper that 20% of adults do less than 30 mins of exercise a week and that a proportion of people (can’t remember the exact figure) actually spend longer on the toilet than they do exercising over their lifetime. How scary is that!!! Go out, get outdoors and enjoy the world on offer.

St Helens Striders