I did it!

On Saturday morning, I ran my first 5K race.

Eight weeks ago, I’d never run before.  I started from scratch with the C25K program, using their iPhone app, and used Digifit to track my progress.

Starting out was tough.  Even running for just a minute was hard for me.  When my app would tell me to walk, I was super-relieved.  I couldn’t imagine how I was going to get to the point that I could run for five minutes straight, let alone 5 kilometres.

But, I kept at it.  I did my best to fit in three runs per week and, slowly, it started to get easier.

During my final week of training, I managed to run for 30 minutes straight after a five-minute warm-up walk.  I felt pretty good and knew that I would be able to run for the full 5K.

Race day arrived and the morning was a little bit hectic.  D was working, so my parents agreed to come help with the kids.  I loaded up the car with stroller, diaper bag and my running stuff.  Off we went.  The race was in a park pretty close to home, so the drive was quick.  Unfortunately,  parking close to the start line was limited and we had to drive pretty far to find a spot.  I ended up setting up the stroller for my mom so she and the kids could start walking.  Then my dad dropped me back at the start line before heading off to find a parking spot.  (I couldn’t handle the thought of walking a few kilometres before running 5K!)

I felt a little weird once my dad drove away.  I was on my own in a crowd of people. Loud music was blasting.  I had to pee so I stood in line for that.  Then I realized that, in my haste getting out of the car, I had forgotten to grab my running gloves.  Crap.  Oh well.  The weather was pretty decent so I could survive without them.

I started to wander around and then saw a familiar face walk by.  One of my work colleagues was there!  I caught up with her for a minute (hadn’t seen her since before Bo was born) and that totally helped calm me down.

My mom and boys made it to the start area at that point so I hung out with them for a couple of minutes until it was time to get ready to run.

The next part was probably the most nerve-wracking for me.  I said goodbye to my family and made my way to the start area.  I positioned myself in the “36 minutes +” area because I wasn’t really sure how long it would take me.  My goal was to do it in under 40 minutes (I’m not very fast) so I figured this was a good place to start.  I re-tied my shoelaces and got my phone strapped onto my arm.  I put in my earphones.  Someone called my name.  It was my fitness instructor – the woman who teaches my mommy and baby fitness class.  She is the one who convinced me to do this and I was happy to see her there.

All of a sudden the race was starting.  Off we went!  I was happy to be starting because, at this point, I kind of just wanted to get the whole thing over with!  This was the first time that I started off running without walking to warm up.  I wasn’t sure how that would impact the overall run for me, but my goal was to run the entire time so I just started off pretty slow.

The run itself was pretty uneventful.  Around the 2K point, I felt like I could probably go a bit faster so I sped up a bit.  Other than that, I just chugged along, listening to my music and looking at the scenery (the leaves were looking pretty beautiful in the park!)  It turned out to be a beautiful morning so I was very warm.  My hands were freezing (those damn gloves!) but I tried my best to ignored that.  The only part that really sucked was that I started to get a cramp with about 1/2 a kilometre left to go.  So annoying!  Luckily, I knew I was close to the finish and forced myself to keep running.  I really, really wanted to walk but I’m stubborn and forced myself to run the whole way.

I rounded the final corner and could see my mom and Bo on the sideline.  That definitely helped.  I waved to them and wondered where my dad and Littleman were.  Then I saw them up closer to the finish line.  That’s when I glanced up at the finish line and saw the clock.  34:45.  Eek!  If I booted it, I could finish in under 35 minutes.  Despite the cramp (and kind of feeling like I could barf!) I sprinted the final stretch and beat the clock.  Yeehaw!

My instructor had finished just ahead of me (she’s 4 months pregnant by the way… I am so impressed!) and she gave me a big hug.  Then we received our race medals together before I went to find my family.

My actual time was 34:24.  I feel good about that.  Actually, I feel good about the whole thing.  I know running 5K is not a big deal to a lot of people but I never, ever imagined that I would run at all, so completing this race feels great.  I didn’t start running until I was 36-years-old and after having two kids.  I’m proud that I was able to accomplish this on my own in 8 weeks.

I don’t know if I’ll do another organized run or if I’ll train for a longer distance.  I haven’t really thought that far ahead yet.  But, running has made me feel good and I’ve been enjoying the time out of the house by myself, so I think I’ll keep it up for as long as the weather allows.

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When Littleman saw my medal after the race, he asked, “did you win, Mommy?” I tried to explain the concept that everyone’s a winner. Since his only experience with medals is watching the Olympics, I don’t think he totally got it. That’s ok. I kind of felt like a winner, anyway!

Weekend mornings

This morning I realized how much my weekend mornings have changed over the past few years.

There’s nothing like a Saturday morning.  Waking up without an alarm clock… the whole weekend ahead of you.

Prior to having kids, weekend mornings were my favourite times of the week.  My husband, D, is a firefighter.  If he had worked night shift, he’d be back in bed for a nap when I woke up.  If he wasn’t working at all, he’d be sleeping in.  I’d get out of bed, make myself some coffee and hit the couch to catch up on some TV shows that I’d recorded during the week.  I loved the quiet time alone with my shows.  Often, I’d still be in my pyjamas at lunch time.  Which was totally fine.  Because it was the weekend and we could do whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted.

Of course, things changed after Littleman, and then Bo, came along.  Instead of enjoying a leisurely cup of coffee, I chug from my mug with one hand, while prepping oatmeal and pouring milk with the other.  Instead of watching my shows, we usually end up watching a cartoon or two.  Then, it’s time to play.

Now I’ve added another – totally unexpected – routine to my weekend mornings.  Running.

As long as D isn’t working, I try to get out for a run at least one, if not both, mornings.  The best time for me to go is during Bo’s morning nap, which means I usually head out around 9:30 or 10.

As I ran this morning, I thought about how the me of five years ago would never, ever believe that this would be my life.  The me who spent her mornings on the couch, in her jammies, with a coffee and a cinnamon bun, watching One Tree Hill, would have laughed at the thought of running on a Saturday morning.  (I was more of a spinning-at-6pm-on-a-weeknight kind of gal back then.  Little did I know that parenthood would make evening workouts virtually impossible!)

Sometimes I miss those relaxing mornings alone.  But after my run, I feel refreshed and ready to enjoy my day with the boys.  It’s a different kind of weekend morning, but I love it just the same.

Running check-in

I’m five weeks into my 5k training, so I figured it was time for a quick status update.

Aside from the fact that it’s very hard to find the time to run, it is going very well.  Today was my longest continuous run (with no walking).  20 straight minutes!  I’m pleased to say that it wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be and, although I was very happy when the voice in my earphones told me to start my cool down, I probably could have run a bit further.

I’m pretty amazed that in just a few weeks, I’ve gone from feeling breathless and in pain after just a minute of jogging to being able to run for 20 minutes straight.  I guess that shows that these “learn-to-run” programs actually work!

That’s not to say that I don’t feel any pain.  I’m definitely starting to notice how hard it can be on your body.  I’ve tried really hard to be better at stretching after my runs and I think that has helped a bit.  But, on days that I’ve run (and usually also gone for a least one long walk with the stroller) I find that my legs and lower back are pretty sore.  A nice hot bath and some ibuprofen help a bit but it still sucks to feel pain.

I also did my first ever treadmill run last weekend.  I know, I know, I’m probably the only person on the planet who had never run on a treadmill before.  But why would I?  I hated running and the idea of running indoors in one spot just seemed ridiculous to me.  Anyway, we were visiting my sister this past weekend for my niece’s baptism and they have a treadmill in their basement.  Since the weather was crappy and cold, I decided to give it a try.  And guess what?  I didn’t hate it!  It took a bit of getting used to at first (I had a tendency to step too far forward in the beginning and was hitting the part where the belt comes out).  I also felt a little bit dizzy at the end when I first stepped off.   Other than that, it felt pretty good.  And the best part was the my body didn’t hurt nearly as much as running on the sidewalk.

My weight has finally dropped below 140lbs and I even saw 135.7 one day, which was a huge win.  135 is pretty normal for me, although I was probably closer to 130 in the time between pregnancies.  I think I would feel pretty good about myself if I could remain consistently at 135, but I also know that I’m probably going to struggle with that until I’m done breastfeeding.

So, all in all, the running is going well.  It’s been a bit of a struggle but I’ve managed to fit in three runs per week.  On top of that, I do an indoor exercise class twice a week (mostly weight training and core work with a little bit of cardio) and I go on a lot of walks.  I hope that I can continue to keep it all up as the weather gets colder but I know it will definitely be harder to motivate myself to go outside.

The lost one

It was a beautiful morning.  I put the baby down for his nap and his big brother was busy playing outside with my husband.  I set out for another run, feeling behind on my 5k training after a few days out-of-town.

I started down the street and I felt good.  The sun was out and it was warm, but not too hot.  After some pretty cold September days, it felt amazing.  As I ran, I thought to myself, how is it already late September?

All of a sudden, it felt like someone had punched me in the gut.  Late September.

My baby – the lost one – would have turned one this month.  If he, or she, had lived, my baby would be a year old.

I felt a bit shaky as I gasped to catch my breath.  I had forgotten.  That dreaded date had come and gone… and I had forgotten.

I wondered, what does this mean?  I still think about the miscarriage often.  But I don’t think about it everyday.  I see my friend’s twins who were born at the same time that I was due and I don’t feel horrible anymore.  I look at my six-month-old baby and I know he was the one who was meant to be part of our family.

But it’s September.

Last year, September was a month I looked forward to with all my heart and then dreaded to my very core.  Even when I found out I was expecting again, I knew September would be a tough month.  Earlier this summer, I realized that I could have had an almost-one-year-old.  So then how did this September manage to creep up on me?

As I ran on, I decided this means that I’m healing.  I’m not a horrible mom for having forgotten that awful due date.  Yes, I still have moments of sadness for the baby I never got to meet.  But I have many more moments of gladness for the family I do have.  I’m not as sad or as scared as I was this time last year.  I’ve learned that bad things can happen and that good things can come out of it.  I am able to think about the baby we lost and the baby we got to meet, knowing that I love them both.

I didn’t see any of this coming when I laced up my running shoes and stepped out my front door this morning, but I see it much more clearly now.  I am healing.

Run #4 and #5: digging my fitbit one

This week was tricky because of D’s work schedule, but I managed to squeeze in my fourth and fifth runs.  I tried taking an antihistamine before the runs to combat the itch I’ve been experiencing.  The first time, about 5 minutes into my run, I started feeling the itch around my mid-back.  It was as intense as the time before and I was able to ignore it.  My legs never got itchy, so that was a relief.  The second time, I didn’t experience any itchiness at all.  I’ll keep taking the antihistamines on run days to see if it’s actually helping or just a fluke.

My new favourite thing these days is my fitbit one!  I used the fitbit flex (the wrist version) from May until the end of August.  I really enjoyed it until I realized how many steps it wasn’t counting.  When I would go out for walks with my mom, who also had a flex, our step counts would be hugely different.  I realized pretty quickly that it was pushing the stroller that was interfering with the accuracy.

D finally convinced me to replace my flex with the fitbit one.  He was curious about the number of steps he was taking everyday, so he took my flex.  After a week of use, I can say that it is making a huge difference for me!  I used to struggle to hit 10,000 steps, even with walking a couple of hours a day.  Last week, on my third day of using it, I got 19,000.  And one day this week I got more than 21,000 steps!!  Both those days consisted of more than one walk and a run, but even on a “slow” day, I’m seeing many more steps captured.  I also really enjoy the fact that it counts stairs because I run up and down our stairs many times a day.

It’s funny how competitive I get with myself now that I have it.  I also get competitive with my (very few) friends who are also using fitbits.  (Haha, I had to type that word five times before it stopped autocorrecting to “titbits!”)  I love seeing myself at the top of the leaderboard and I get extra-annoyed when my husband starts catching up to me.  It’s funny how much this little gadget can push me to move more.

So, it appears that I’ve pretty much survived my first two weeks of running training.  Aside from some minor muscle aches, I’m feeling pretty good.  My next goal is to work harder at stretching.  I’m a terrible stretcher and my muscles are always tight.  My flexibility sucks.  I know that stretching is super important and I don’t want to end up injuring myself so I need to commit to doing this.  Starting tomorrow, I swear.

Run #3: a minor complication

I took a break from exercising on Saturday, so it was time for run number three yesterday.  It was a beautiful Sunday morning.  I got Bo down for his morning nap and left Littleman and D at home, cleaning up toys.

The weather was perfect.  After a couple of days of extreme heat (in fact, I think it was the hottest temperatures we’ve had all summer!), things had cooled down.  The sky was blue, without a cloud in sight.  Lovely.

Armed with my new favourite app telling me what to do and listening to some 90s classics on my iPhone (what better way to spend a Sunday morning than rocking out to G’N’R and Violent Femmes?), I headed out on the last run of my first week of training to run 5K.

It was going well.  I felt pretty good.  No longer do I look at my watch all the time.  A minute of running really does go by a lot quicker than I expect.  I was feeling pretty proud of myself and enjoying the knowledge that I could run longer than a minute if I really wanted to.  My app announced that I was halfway through my run.  Great!

Then, a familiar feeling started to creep in.  Itch…

As long as I can remember, I’ve had an issue where my legs will start itching when I’m out for a particularly long or vigorous walk.  It usually starts on the front of my thighs and then works its way towards my butt.  It’s terribly distracting and scratching it makes it worse.  Often, I’m dying to get home so I can drop my drawers and scratch away, resulting in me looking like I’ve been mauled by a werewolf.

It’s interesting because I’ve walked a ton this summer (with the stroller) and haven’t had this issue.  I exercise indoors and don’t have this issue. But, for some reason, running has caused the problem to resurface.

Since I was near the end of my run when it started yesterday, I did my best to ignore it and made it home without tearing my thighs to shreds.  Last night, I spent some time on the internet, trying to figure out what the hell is going on.  It seems that I am not alone in suffering from this “runner’s itch”.  There are a bunch of theories out there – allergies, dry skin, something about being unfit and capillaries expanding – but none of that made a lot of sense to me, knowing my own situation and fitness level.  Then I came across some info about histamine being released by the body during exercise to combat against exercise-induced fatigue.  Some people suggest taking an antihistamine prior to running.  I have no idea if that will actually work, but it can’t hurt to try.  I don’t think I can tolerate the itch on an ongoing basis and it will certainly make running a 5K race pretty miserable.  I don’t want something stupid like itchiness to make me give up on my goal of running, but it would make me crazy if I have to put up with it all the time.

Has anyone else dealt with this?  Any suggestions?

Run #2: some help from technology

I know I’m supposed to spread out my runs throughout the week, but I decided to do my second run the day after my first because I knew it was supposed to be extremely hot and humid for the next couple of days and I wanted to make sure I got it done.

I took off shortly after 9am and the humidity was already brutal.  Woooheee, it sure was hot.

The run itself felt a little bit tougher than the day before but I’m pretty sure it was the fact that I had sweat running down my face that made it so hard.

I did, however, find a couple of things to help make my runs easier and to keep track of what I’m doing.

First, I downloaded the free C25K app for my iPhone.  It was awesome!  Instead of looking at my watch over and over again (while trying to calculate what time it would be in 90 seconds), I just popped in my earphones and let the app tell me when to run or walk.  It even allowed me to play my music from iTunes.  I could listen to my music, which would get quieter when the voice would come on to tell me what to do.  It told me when I was halfway through and when I had one minute left.  Most of the time, I wasn’t really paying attention to the clock so it was a nice surprise when my minute of running was up.

The other app I started using was Digifit.  I still haven’t explored all its functions but I like that it tracks my route on a map so I can get a sense of the distances I’m running.  It also syncs with my fitbit.  I finally decided to replace my fitbit flex because I was finding it way to inaccurate due to the fact that I’m almost always pushing a stroller.  I’ve switched to the fitbit one, but I’ve only been using it for a couple of days.  I like it so far but haven’t really used it long enough to have a strong opinion about it, but based on what I’ve seen so far, I think it’s much more accurate.

I plan to take a day or two off from running while I start my mommy and baby fitness class.  Hopefully I’ll get a chance to do my third run on the weekend.