When I found out I was pregnant, I was 5 weeks away from competing the 2012 US Olympic marathon trials. I was stunned. What I had thought of as end-of-semester stress and possibly the flu turned out to be…a baby! While I admit I was in a daze of “this is awesome” tempered by “so this is why I’m so awfully sick [light bulb flashes on]” my next thought was, “holy crap, I have the Trials in just over a month!” Talk about throwing a bump in the road. I’ve dealt with injuries ranging from minor twinges to torn hamstrings to a stress fractured femur, but these seemed, well, exceptionally different from carrying a child. I know injuries, I know how to begin to deal with the seeming death-knell of, “take 6 weeks off from running….” But a baby? Inside of me? How does one deal with that, from an athletic standpoint? I was responsible for its nutrition, its wellbeing, its health, and here I was, hoping to run my body through the wringer in a few weeks by running nothing less than the US Olympic Trials?!
I was sick, confused, and at a loss. First, I freaked out and told my husband there was no way in hell I was going to race the Trials. Marathons are daunting, hard, and can be brutal, and whether you’re running it in 2.5 or 6 hours. I was deer-in-the-headlights panicked, and the thought of running my third marathon on the stage of the Olympic Trials was daunting enough even without being pregnant. After speaking with my coach, Kay, a world-class New Zealand runner and mom of 3, I had calmed down a bit. She had reasoned with me that I could at least start the race, and provided the next 5 weeks of training went as –or close to- planned, I could maintain some of my pre-baby goals, provided I was cleared by my doctor and that I paid crystal clear attention to my what my body – and my grape-sized baby – was telling me. A frank discussion of my pregnancy with my doctor covered my athletic history, current health, goals for the race, my concerns and the sacrifices I was willing to make – racewise – for the health of my baby, cleared me to run the Trials in part or in whole. My physician was not overly concerned with the stress the marathon would put on my body, but she was concerned that pushing my body to a state of oxygen deprivation would harm the baby. The key again was that I pay attention to my body, and if any dizziness or abdominal cramps set in, I needed to make the move to stop racing or slow down.
Making the decision to race was the easy part. The next 5 weeks turned out to be a hellish carnival ride featuring specters of nausea, exhaustion, body aches, headaches and weird smells. I will be eternally grateful it was holiday break for most of this time, as a grad student, I utilized this “holiday” to spend most of the day curled up on the couch at home, trying not to move or think. After a week or so of this strange behavior, my husband, also on break, began timing my sleep: for 3 weeks prior to Christmas, I was averaging 16hours sleep/day! I was able to eat only sourdough toast and milk, and the smell of anything moderately “spicy” made me flee the house. It was awful. I couldn’t eat, so I couldn’t run. I couldn’t keep my fluids down when I tried to take fluids to fuel a run…and I was exhausted after only a mile or two. I kept waiting for the Awesomeness of Pregnancy to set in…and I kept waiting. For weeks. A month. And then, the trials were only a week away.
I went into a mental panic. My husband and I had told our families of my pregnancy at Christmas, but still, my entire family and in-laws were going to Houston to watch me. I was swimming in self-doubt: I had run less than my normal weekly mileage (70-80mi) over the last month. No speedwork. I saw this great dream of mine, to compete in the Olympic Trials, crashing down in flames a la Old Man Gloom, I was extremely disappointed in myself. Not disappointed that I was pregnant, but sharply disappointed that this great goal of mine was effectively vanishing between my fingers. Athletes can be very hard on themselves, and I was hard on myself facing the dilemma of being sorely disappointed, even though the circumstances of this disappointment were all positive. I was also afraid of doing harm to the baby while I was running. Frankly, I was terrified. So, I did the only thing I could think of doing. I started bolstering my shattered mental strength by gathering images of powerful, successful running mothers. I was already looking to 2016. I reasoned with myself; our families knew of the pregnancy, and knew that the likelihood of my finishing the race was slim, and they still wanted to come and watch, if they don’t mind watching me run what was likely only part of a race, who else matters? So I visualized success with family. Not success after family, but success with family.
More on the actual race and how that panned out coming soon! I’ve included a few notable running moms and athletes. Feel free to add your comment of other notable athletic mothers, whether they’re runners, triathletes, swimmers, cyclists, skiers…whatever! Thanks for reading, and please pass my blog along to others who may be interested!