Saturday, April 8, 2017

Postpartum Half Marathon Preparation

I have been dreading my upcoming half marathon all week. There are several reasons why I have been having a mental melt-down in regards to this race. But I'm starting to work past the mental blocks and get excited to run tomorrow. This is a long one, and it is really just a place for me to get all my thoughts out and focus before tomorrow, so read it all, or don't. Hahaha!

First of all, I know how much I did NOT train for this. I started off missing a couple runs a week, and then got on track about half way through the training, but of course, the jump in was too much too quickly, so I ended up with the worst shin splints I have ever had in my left leg. I was in pain even when I was just sitting, and I was beginning to get scared that I had a stress fracture, but after rest, and a million self-care treatments at home, and a sports massage, I got the major knot in my left calf that was causing the shin splints worked out. At that point, I had already missed my two long runs, and it was time to taper. Yes, I realized you don't really need to taper when you aren't even running. But that was what happened... that was my training. My longest run was 8 miles about a month ago, but it was an amazing run, and I really enjoyed it, so I am trying to remember that.

Secondly, and the bigger issue for me, is that I had a baby. Sure I have flaked out on my training for the majority of my races... yeahhhh... I know, but I know that my body is different now. I absolutely do not have the body that I did before pregnancy, and I never will ever again. My body has been permanently changed. Some of that, I can rebuild, but the issue is that currently, my core is SHOT, shot, shot, and I have not rebuilt it even a little bit. Believe me... it is baaaaaaaaad. So I regret not working on the major issues I needed to in order to rebuild after pregnancy before running this race, so I know it is going to be so very difficult because long distance running is SO much easier with good core and leg strength.

I needed to turn this around. I needed to get the crazy-negative narrative out of my head if tomorrow was going to end with a half marathon finisher's medal around my neck. Here's what I know, my sister Grace told me when I very first started running, that I could do anything for 10 minutes, but I was in labor without a proper epidural, which is VERY much wanted, for 29 hours. I have a low pain tolerance, and I am not exaggerating when I say I thought I was going to die during that time. I just kept wishing I could die and be done with the pain if I was never going to see my baby anyway, which I didn't think I would because I was positive that I was going to die from the pain and exhaustion before he was born. Now my being in labor feeling every contraction while Huxley was stuck on my pelvic bone was the hardest thing I have ever endured physically, but there are tons of people who have gone through so much worse both physically and mentally. I did a short, slow shakeout today to get a feel for the pace I want to run the first 2-3 miles at tomorrow, and I thought about several people who have been through so much more, or have inspired me in one way or another over the time I have known them, so I am going to give a rundown of the 14 people who will each get a mile of my run tomorrow dedicated to them in my mind while I run.

Mile 1. Sheila- This woman is not just a survivor, but a FIGHTER. I wouldn't be surprised if her picture is in the dictionary. She makes a list when she runs races and dedicates the miles, so I'm stealing her idea, and I am hoping to steal a bit of her strength tomorrow as well. She truly is an inspiring human being.
Mile 2. Julie- Julie is my friend's mom, and honestly, I've never met her in person, but I have met each of her kids, and for that alone, I can tell you she is an awesome woman based off the kids she raised, but she is also a fighter, and has battled cancer more than once, and she still continues to fight. If she can fight cancer repeatedly and still be the rock for her kids that I know she is, then I can finish a half marathon.
Mile 3. Grace- My sister who got me into running gets mile 3, and I know that she will be cheering me on from KC. We have shared so much throughout our lives, and I am glad she convinced me that running could be one of those things we could share.
Mile 4. Matthew- My amazing and stunningly handsome husband. He gets mile 4. He is absolutely the most amazing man, and he supports and believes in me without hesitation even when I don't believe in myself. To him when I shared my concerns about this race, it was absurd that I was even questioning myself at all. He loves me even when I am not very loveable, and supports me in every step I take in life. My life is better and richer because of him.
Mile 5. Myself- I'm taking mile 5. My physical and mental health matter. I matter. As a woman and a mom, it is easy to put yourself aside and tell yourself you don't matter. I do matter, and I will continue to build myself up in order to take care of myself and to remind myself that I do matter.
Mile 6. Laura & Cara- My longest friend and her mom get to share mile 6. Cara has been on my mind at nearly every race I have run. When I feel tired, defeated, or winded, I think about her battle with Lung Cancer, and I remind myself that I am not in pain if I compare it to what she endured. My friend Laura has been my rock throughout some of the craziest times in my life, and she is always there to remind me that I am stronger than I think I am.
Mile 7, 8, & 9. Melody, Rachael, & Leslie- I asked my friends in January if they wanted to sign up for a race to help hold me accountable in my training, and they jumped in for the challenge. They have probably trained even better than I have, and I am so excited for each of them as they will run their first half marathon tomorrow.
Mile 10. My Grandma- My Grandma was the strongest person I will ever meet in my whole life, and I have not a single doubt about that. She survived so much hardship and heartache without letting a single bit of it pull her down or harden her heart at all. She never even questioned why any of it happened to her. I once asked her if she ever questioned why she went through so much in her life, and she said, " Why not me? I'm no different or better than anyone else. Why would I ever ask that? People have asked me that before, but why not me?" She truly was remarkable, and I watched her lose the ability to walk and talk at the end of her life. She still never asked, "why me?'
Mile 11. Diana- She is the sweetest little girl who is so full of life. She was my neighbor when we still lived in Pennsylvania. I met her officially for the first time when she choked a couple days before Thanksgiving a few years ago, and I thought there was no way she was going to live. She was limp in my arms and her face was an ashen blue. I kept trying to save her simply because I could not look her parents in the face and tell them their precious tiny daughter was dead, so in my mind I thought, "I have to just keep trying until the paramedics get here, and they can tell them she's gone." Just before the paramedics walked in, I was able to get the object dislodged, and she gasped for air. She was fine. There was no long term damage, and I think of her every day. She is a reminder to me that our lives can be over at literally any second, and we need to make the most of whatever time we have. I am so beyond thankful that she was ok that day. I carry her in my heart everywhere I go ever since that day.
Mile 12. Erin- My friend Erin is another one of those amazing people who you meet in life, and she has such joy despite having endured challenges. Erin was hit by a car when she was running, and doctors weren't even sure if she'd be able to walk again. Erin not only can walk, but she is an amazing runner and an even more amazing human being.
Mile 13 & .1. Huxley- My baby boy. He is my whole heart. Huxley is truly my driving force in life now. I consider him in every single thing I do. Seriously, I first think of him and whatever it is he is doing before I even let myself go pee. Will it wake him if I go in the bathroom? Should I disturb him cuddling on my lap just because I feel like I'm going to pee my pants? Is he going to scream if he cant see me for a second? Every decision is made with him in mind. Being a parent does that to a person. He is also a driving force in wanting to better myself. I want to show him through example that it is important to work on yourself. I want him to know how empowering it is to set and meet goals. I want him to understand that doing things you love and pursuing your passion is important. I want so much for him in life, and running is one avenue I have to teach him several of the things I want to pass on to him. He is the best thing I have ever done with my life, so it is fitting that he gets 1.1 miles instead of just one.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Runner's Rambles: Here's what I've been up to!

It's been a minute since I posted a new blog post, right? Turns out being a mom, wife, grad student, friend, runner, and all the other positions I hold in life, takes up most of my time right now. I am fully back into the swing of running, and I love it. This is just going to be a major ramble and abbreviated catch-up because it's spring break, so I can take a little bit of the time I usually spend on homework after Huxley goes to bed to blog instead of evaluating some aspect of the current public educational system in the United States! While I find that fascinating as well, it is nice to blog about running for the first time in a long while.

My Current Training
I distinctly remember a woman from my hometown who is an amazing runner coming by the pool I worked at in high school and college to drop something off for her son who worked there as well, and she nonchalantly asked the group of lifeguards in the guardhouse if we ever wanted to run a half marathon with her. Her son told her somewhat annoyed that normal moms invite their kids' friends over for a barbecue, not to go run a half marathon. (Note to self: new future goal- be THAT runner mom.) 
I tell you this because several months ago I realized that I set a goal to run another marathon before I turn 30 when I finished my first marathon. When I realized I will turn 30 this year, I nonchalantly asked my friends, who are fairly in-shape, but not previously dedicated to running, if they would like to run a marathon with me. To my surprise, a few of them said yes.
Right now we are starting off slow and training for a half marathon that we will be running in a few weeks. I have run a 2 miler and a 5 miler so far this year, and though the 2 miler was part of what's called the Frostbite Series, it was actually MUCH colder at the St. Pat's 5 miler I just ran. My friends really are amazing for finding these other races for us to run and for training for and helping me stay accountable in my own training. 
My favorite training run so far was my 8 miler. I ran on a new (to me) paved trail, and I had an absolutely empowering run. I had one of those runs where I didn't know if I was ready for 8 miles when I set out, but I had a great time out running. I felt strong. I have been doing some real work to be a healthy mom, wife, human. I started to open up to family and friends right after Huxley was born, but I was quickly shut down with pretty judgmental and unsupportive comments when I started to talk about my postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. Lots of moms have the baby blues, and lots of new moms are anxious about the new role of being a mom and figuring out how to properly care for a tiny baby, but this is not the same; I had completely crippling breakdowns on a regular (read that daily at the beginning) basis, but I started getting professional help a couple months ago, and running is something that helps to remind me how strong I am. I can overcome so many things, and running helps remind me of that. It helps me connect with myself, with my inner strength, with nature, with God. Running also helps to remind me that so many things in this life are temporary. The temporary can be good and it can be bad, but I need to remember it either way. Pain is temporary, and I will make it to the other side if I just take it in stride. On the flip-side, I know that this life, my mobility, and my youth are all things that can be gone in the blink of an eye. Running helps me embrace the temporary nature of life. The 8 mile training run I did was one of those awesomely isolating yet supremely connecting runs. It filled me with hope, joy, anticipation, humility, gratitude, and drive. I am looking forward to continuing my training to build back up to where I was before I became pregnant, and after running with Huxley in the stroller pushing around 50+ extra pounds while running, I am pretty confident that over time I will be even stronger as a runner than I was before.

My Current Favorite Things
Run, Selfie, Repeat- RSR is a blog, podcast, social media, etc. platform about an average runner named Kelly Roberts. She lets us in on the craziness that is running and life. She is the founder of the #sportsbrasquad and her new(ish) podcast is amazing. I love it because she is down to Earth, and so honest about the struggles she had overcome in both running and life. She is so refreshing in the world of running for the everyday runner like myself.

Still I Run Community- Sasha Wolff is the founder of Still;Run Community to help battle the stigma against mental health. I actually started following her on Instagram before she created the community because I saw her awesome tattoo, and that was before I was diagnosed with PPD and PPA. I love this community because I know how easily people can dismiss a mental illness or judge people who have been diagnosed with a mental illness. I know because I experienced it firsthand. I am not someone who should dismissed or held at an arm's length just because I was diagnosed with PPA and PPD. I am not a bad mom or a bad wife because I have PPA or PPD. I am NOT weak or stupid because I sought out the help of mental health professionals. I may not have support from all my family or friends, but there is a community of complete strangers who are good, kind human beings who also happen to be runners who have fought similar battles to me, and I am thankful for an opportunity to connect with others who want to ensure we end the stigma of mental illness. 

My Current Mantra- She Who Dares. This is my current mantra because it reminds me to be a daring woman. It reminds me to be an example to my son and to those around me to dare to be myself. It reminds me to dare to push myself beyond my comfort zone. It reminds me to dare to set big goals and push toward them. It reminds me to dare to be strong in the face of adversity. It reminds me to dare to be empowered. 

Stroller Running- It's been unseasonably warm, and my favorite kind of running lately is stroller running. It is difficult. It really is. If you have ever seen someone out making stroller running look easy, just realize now that it isn't, and that person is in really good shape. They are pushing extra weight, lacking arm swing on one side, and still keeping up a decent pace. (Not me. I'm so slow with the stroller right now, but those people you see making it look easy are keeping a decent pace, I'm sure.) Huxley loves going out for runs, and I am really enjoying being able to take him out with me. I am excited at the prospect of getting stronger as a runner and getting better so that I can go faster, I can take him out longer, and I can be an example for him. It's something for just me and him. I'm looking forward to the days when he will be old enough to ask me to take him with me on my runs. I'm sure when that happens there will be times when I wish he didn't want to go, but for now, I'm looking forward to it. He's pretty awesome, and being his mom is the best gig I've ever had, so being able to share this with him is pretty amazing even if my actual running with him is less than impressive at this point in time. My strength is building with each run though, and I love it!

Compression Socks- My favorite brand currently is Mojo because the quality is pretty good, and the price can't be beat. Literally. I have not found a cheaper sport compression sock. I got them off Amazon for like 12 bucks. For real. Now why am I wearing compression socks you ask? Well, you see, I had a baby last summer. And when I was pregnant, I developed a pretty bad varicose vein that I will now carry around with me for the rest of my life. Varicose veins can be downright uncomfortable, and especially so when running. Compression socks help. So now I'm that slow runner decked out in compression socks even on a short run, and if you see me, then don't judge me thinking to yourself, "really? you need compression socks chubby, slow, lady barely even going for a run?" because YES. YES, I DO. Because I have a freaking uncomfortable varicose vein, so yeah. Leave me alone. I'm not under some allusion that I am fast or that the socks will make me fast or anything like that. I just need them for my Mother Runner varicose vein-y legs! Ok? Thanks. Hahaha

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A Guest Post on Anything For 10: Breathe Deep

I want to do another check in and get some of my current goals and aspirations out in the webisphere, but it is November, and November is Lung Cancer Awareness month. I've written about my personal connection to this cause in the past, but today you are getting another perspective from my oldest friend whom I have also blogged about before. Laura is taking on the Anything For 10 mentality and raising money for Lung Cancer Research. Why does this matter to you? Because anyone who has lungs and breathes can get lung cancer. It's fatality rate in those diagnosed is one of the highest of all cancers. Take on the Anything For 10 mentality with my friend Laura and educate, donate, or find a race for LUNGevity or the American Lung Association that you can participate in yourself, and don't forget to Breathe Deep.

I still remember the view outside the window of my mom’s hospital room in 2001. It’s the day after Christmas and three days before, surgeons removed a large tumor and surrounding tissue from her right lung.

It’s not a great view, in fact it stinks. From my perch in the window well, I can see nothing but the terraced roofs of the other buildings that make up the hospital complex. I’ve spent the better part of the last three days imagining movie chase scenes across those rooftops. Tom Cruise jumping off the edge and catching himself on a windowsill three stories down before falling to his death. Jackie Chan leaping across the five-foot divide between wings like he was stepping over a crack in the sidewalk. Pierce Brosnan being pinned down by enemy fire behind the HVAC unit.

I got lost in those imagined chases for hours. Never did I imagine myself as part of the chase, as someone running for her life and leaping from rooftops. I hated any physical activity. I was a chubby kid with asthma, I found any excuse to get out of the mildest of exertions in gym class.

And yet, 15 years after that Christmas in the hospital, I’ve registered for my first 5K. For the first time in my life, as a slightly less chubby adult with slightly less severe asthma, I’ve been going to the gym and jogging outside. I know I could walk those 3.1 miles, but I feel compelled to push myself, to cross the finish lungs burning and legs pumping. I want to breathe deep because I can and remember my mother.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Confessions of a Mother Runner

Ok, so I wanted to do a 2 month check-in, I am trying to get back into being active and trying to start running again, but it turns out that it's pretty hard to balance everything. I knew it would be before Hux was born, but there are definitely challenges that I never anticipated before.

First of all, recovery. I am STILL recovering from labor and delivery...still. I have been shocked by how long my recovery is taking. I am still in pain lots of days, and some days aren't so bad, but it's absolutely mind boggling to me that it has been nearly 3 months since my son was born, but I am still in pain. I just keep saying I can't wait to feel better some day, and I am really saying it trying to convince myself that some day I will eventually feel better despite the fact that I am not actually sure that's the truth.

Weekend family runs are one way I get in some miles.
Second of all, I am breastfeeding. This is tricky when it comes to working out. In theory the best time to run would be before Huxley wakes up in the morning. However, he sleeps through the night, and let's be clear; I'm not complaining about that. It poses a problem because if I were to run before he wakes up, then I would need to budget roughly 30 minutes for pumping, plus time to run and take a shower, and all that would have to happen roughly 2 and a half hours before he wakes up in the morning if I were to have enough milk to feed him once he wakes up after pumping in the morning, Huxley wakes up around 6:30. I'm not waking up early enough to budget all the time needed because since I am breastfeeding, I have to limit my caffeine intake. Just not feasible. And if I wait till he's awake, then I have to schedule my running around his eating and sleeping schedule, which doesn't always go as smoothly as I'd like.

Third of all, life has just been getting in the way. I have so much to do around the house, and I am writing my Master's thesis while also taking another class, and there's just not a lot of time.

So what am I going to do? Well, I think I'm going to fall back onto my usual method of forcing myself to start making time for running when I've had a break or start slacking; I've got to spend some money. When I invest money, then I feel more obligated to run. I would love to buy new running shoes as my investment and a bit of a treat for me, but honestly I think it's going to be a race entry this time. I would love to get refitted to check out the changes in my feet and gait from pregnancy, which I can assure you is a very real thing, but I think new running shoes wouldn't be enough to get me to make running a priority because there's no deadline like a race day to force me out the door. I'm not going crazy here. I'm just going to look for a 5k, but even that will feel like a lot for me right now. I do miss running though, and Fall is absolutely my favorite season for running, so I am going to try to come up with a plan to get out the door more frequently.

Taking out Hux and Lucy by myself during the day
has proven to be a bit too much for me right now.

If you want more regular updates on my running, pictures of my cute boy and cute pup, then follow me on Instagram! @mdickersonruns

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Running Buddy's First Run

I was finally cleared to run! I have had a long and painful seven weeks of recovery, and though I had to go through more pain in order to get cleared to run, I am (sort of) cleared to run. My doctor said I could start running once I wasn't in pain anymore, and though I'm still uncomfortable, I'm not exactly in pain...just uncomfortable. I basically followed her directions, so I have started running again! I am slower than slow, but I have gone out for two runs so far. I ran one mile by myself as my first run, and then I took Hux out for his first run as my second! Yay!!
My new runner's feet view!

He will be my motivation because he was happy while  I was
running, and he got fussy because I stopped to take pictures.

Post Run!! Happy campers!!

It's like he actually ran. This kid thought he
needed post-run recovery milk.

My core is definitely in need of some serious work, so I will continue working on the ab separation as I start running. I still have 9 lbs or so to lose. The first 20 disappeared on their own, but I am thinking I will need to change my diet on top of exercise to lose the last 10, and I'm not ready to do that now that I no longer have food aversions beyond my usual picky eating. Through the rest of September, Huxley and I are still working on our Hike it Baby challenge, so that's my main focus for now, and I can focus a little more on my running next month.

I'll be honest, I am so excited to start running again, but at the same time, I'm having trouble setting my goals for the next year. I have had all kinds of goals from training goals to time goals to distance goals float in and out of my head, but I also know as my husband so often likes to point out that I always "have such grandiose plans." I am still going to take time to think about what I want my goals to be for this year. I am using the Believe Journal by Lauren Fleshman as my training journal for the next year, and there is a page for 4 goals, and it has been staring me down. I want to set realistic goals for myself that will be challenging but doable. For right  now, my goal is just to be gracious with myself as I enter back into running with my postpartum body.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Ready for a challenge!

I have grown to appreciate Fall so much more with every passing year ever since I became a runner. I always say now that Fall is for runners. I love the absolute beauty of the world as it changes, and the weather is amazing for running. To kick off Fall this year, I am taking a different challenge on with my newest running buddy.

I cannot run YET. I am still waiting till the day when I will be able to run again, and I am SO looking forward to that day, but my postpartum journey has been very difficult thus far in recovering. I have lots of stitches, and unfortunately my body is "having an adverse reaction to the stitches similar to an allergic reaction." But no worries because he assured me "this really hardly ever happens! It's very rare!" His reassurance did not at all make me feel even a little bit better because it's supposedly super rare, but I get the joy of experiencing it. Yay! BUT my son is amazing, so I will get over it, and I keep telling myself that someday I won't be in pain anymore, and maybe I will even get a week where I am not in the doctor's office for one reason or another! I mean...I will heal eventually...right? right? It doesn't feel like it most days, but everyone has assured me that eventually I will heal. Eventually. But this keeps me from running until I have fully healed however long that will be.

So I have decided to join in the Hike it Baby 30 challenge for September with Huxley. Hike it Baby is a nonprofit group aimed at raising children who enjoy being outside, being active, and exploring the world. There are Hike it Baby chapters all over the US and the world. The Hike it Baby 30 challenge is a challenge to walk/hike 30 miles or more or to spend 30 minutes playing outside 3 times a week. Huxley and I have logged our first miles already on a HiB hike, but not all the miles have to be logged on HiB hikes. HiB is a group that is open to moms, dads, and caregivers who want to meet up with other parents/caregivers and their children to explore the outdoors.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Postpartum Journey: Two Week Check In

My baby boy, Huxley, is finally here! He was only two days past his due date, though it seemed like a year passed in those final weeks and days waiting for him. And then labor and delivery seemed like a million years even though it was really only 29 hours.

My (not so) little baby boy! 

So, my journey as a mom is just beginning, but so is my postpartum journey in repairing my body to be able to be the active and healthy mom I want to be in order to set a positive example for my son. How did I make out in pregnancy and the two weeks following Huxley's birth?

Well, I woke up on my due date with three small stretch marks. They finally showed up, and when I left for the hospital the next day when I was in labor, I still had the three small stretch marks, and I thought I got off pretty easy. When labor and delivery was over, I was covered in them. Several had popped up on the side where his head was stuck during labor, and I was pretty surprised because it hadn't occurred to me that more would pop up while I was in labor. I have also noticed that the skin around my belly button is sort of loose now, and took about a week for my belly button to go back in.
I do have almost two fingers of abdominal separation, so repairing my core and pelvic floor will be paramount to returning to running. And as far as "baby weight" goes, I gained 30 lbs exactly from pre-pregnancy to delivery. At two weeks postpartum, I have about 10 lbs to lose, but the core work to tighten my abdominal muscles and decrease separation will definitely be the bigger obstacle for me.

40 weeks Pregnant vs 2 weeks Postpartum

The honest truth! Here they are!