Starting up again post-partum

Let me ‘splain.  No.  There is too much.  Let me sum up.

I had a baby.  She’s healthy, beautiful, and awesome, in all the literal and colloquial senses of the word.  That was 8 weeks ago.  Now I’m starting exercise again.

I ran pretty regularly for the first trimester, and then about 15 miles a week until 18 weeks when I got salmonella poisoning and had alarming contractions and went to the hospital for an IV.  Everything ended up fine.  After I recovered, I dropped down to just precor and long walks or hikes–still about 15 miles a week, until about 25 weeks, when I dropped the precor and just kept walking.  At 32 weeks, I started having gestational hypertension, which got worse at 34 weeks, and that’s when I stopped most rigorous exercise.  My daughter was born at 37 weeks (no names or pics since I’m still not sure I want to have her info on the internet yet).

The hypertension lasted for 3-4 weeks after her birth, and that’s about how long I felt pretty beat up physically.

Taking stock, I gained 29 lbs during pregnancy, exactly what I should have, and had lost 15 by the time I got home from the hospital.  The first few weeks of breastfeeding have knocked off another 3-4lbs so far, so I’m about 10 lbs heavier than I used to be.

But so, so, so squashy.  After about 3 months of no real exercise and 7 months since I was really in shape, my abs don’t work, my arms are all soft, and my legs, especially thighs, are so weak and squishy.  So I’m starting slow.

The last two weeks we’ve been doing family walks down the Los Gatos trail, which is about a 5k trip.  We’ve been doing it 3-4 times a week.

Friday I went for my first post-partum run: 2.3 miles around Los Gatos.  The first mile was 9:30, the second 11:50, and the last 0.3 8:30.  I felt so out of shape, but still so happy to get back to it.  Nothing really hurt, but my abs felt bizarrely loose and weak.

yesterday I was so pathetically sore!

I did it again today, though, and it went better–9:40 average pace on the Map My Run app. (Not counting time stopped at lights though–and MMR always overestimates distance, so probably more like 10:00 really).

My plan is to stick with 2-2.5 miles every other day until it’s easy, and keep up with the walks, to be ready for a gentle 5k at the end of January.

It’s good to be getting back to it!

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Temp and Tempo

A recap of the Big Sur half marathon will be along in a minute, but first I wanted to log some thoughts about the running I did in the preceding couple weeks, which had some real ups and downs.

First, the downs.  Two weeks ago I had just a totally miserable long run.  It was 12 miles, but I hated it from about the second mile onward, and when I very slightly rolled my ankle early in mile  7, I just quit, and walked the remaining 6.  I’m still not really sure what went wrong–I had hydrated pretty well the day before and hadn’t been overtraining.  There are two factors I can point to: one is that my motivation was low; I hadn’t made a clear plan for the run, and didn’t feel eager about it at all when I got up.  I think this must be what ultra-ers think of as “junk” mileage.  I felt like I had to get a long run in, but wasn’t purposeful about what it should be or how I was going to pace it out.  The other was that it was pretty warm out–about mid-70s, with bright sun.  I know I always struggle in the heat/sun, but I haven’t gotten anywhere toward how to make it better, other than going for my run extra early on hot days.  A conversation I had with Jen recently about the relative importance of hydration vs cooling seemed really appropriate–she had been reading about some elite runner (name? no idea) who had concluded that it was far more important to keep cool during a run than to force hydration, and just drink when you’re thirsty.  This really resonated–on a cool day I can easily run 13.1 without getting thirsty or suffering any kind of dehydration symptoms, but when I’m too hot I’m miserable.  So I’m taking this as a lesson to look into ways to keep cool.  Has anybody tried products like the Cool Point handheld?  At $20 it seems like something worth trying.


Now, the good:

I had some excellent treadmill tempo training runs in the last couple weeks.  One hour run where I went 7.73 miles (7:45 pace–I started at 8:06, and held steady at 7:47-7:41 from mile 0.5 to 6.5, then 7:24-6:58 for the last 1.23), and one 4 miler at 29:30 (7:22 pace), which is my fastest 4 miles ever.   While I was treadmilling, I did a little practice counting out my running cadence.  Many cross country and track experts seem to advocate training to 180 steps per minute, based on Jack Daniels’ studies of elite runners in the 80s (specifically the 1984 Olympics).  So I checked myself out.  At a 7:47 pace, I counted my steps for 4 minutes and found I was taking an average of 175 steps per minute.  At a 7:24 pace I was taking exactly 180.  So….? On the one hand, if 180 steps per minute represents some biomechanical optimum (like the equivalent of a matching the right gait for a particular speed for horses), then I guess I’m glad to find I seem to do this naturally.  Maybe it represents less injury risk or something.  On the other hand, it means I can’t really work at taking more steps per minute as a way to get faster, and I also seem to scale my stride length with pace more than my number of steps (that is, to go faster, I take bigger steps, rather than more of them.  Which is intuitive, because otherwise those elite runners would never be able to go at 3-4 minute/mile pace while taking the same number of steps as I do going half that fast).  One less variable to mess with, I guess.

Finally, I had a really good long run last weekend.  13.1 miles, 1:49:20.  Pretty much a race-pace half marathon.  It was cool, slightly breezy, and I’d just been training at a faster pace for that treadmill workout.  I also ate a GU 10 minutes before I started, which correlated with more energy than I’m used to feeling late in a long run.  So I brought those same tactics to Big Sur, which I’ll post about shortly (spoiler: a good race, but not a PR).

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Week(end) wrap-up: mostly easy miles

Coming off of Healdsburg, I wanted last week to be the start of getting back to a more reliable and rigorous workout schedule, as part of a buildup to my next big target: the Big Sur half marathon in mid-November.
Monday: rest (some stretching and foam rolling)

Tuesday: 5 miles precor, plus half my old core routine (OMG.  This has gotten difficult while I was hurt and lazy…)

Wednesday: 3.1 miles at near 5k pace: 8, 7:24, 7:06, 0:40 for a total of 5k in 23:10.  This felt very hard but very good!  And then I did 2 more miles at 8:30 for a total of 5.1.

Thursday: a long walk but nothing formal

Friday: core work, 3 miles precor

Saturday: joined JYL for the middle part of her 18-mile CIM training run.  She trekked through the whole thing with nary a complaint like the total rock star she is.  This was perfect for me since I was looking to log a fair number of miles at a gentle pace.  I joined in when she was at mile 4, and we headed up to Point Isabelle and back for 11 miles at about 10:30 pace, then she split off to finish her last 3 while I felt frisky and bolted the last 0.75 back to my car at 7:40 pace.  I felt good, apart from the big toenail on my right foot, which got a little banged up at Healdsburg and is now a lovely range of evening colors.  2 marathons, a dozen-plus half marathons, probably a hundred double-digit training runs, and this is the first time I’ve experienced the whole toenails-turning-colors thing.  Huh.  Hope it doesn’t fall off!

Sunday:  LAAAAAZZYY :).  Tiny bit of foam roller and stretching.  Total for the week: 13.15+5+5.1+11.75=35 miles…but only because I ran long on one Sunday and the following Saturday.

Monday: p90 X2 “Total Body” (Love this workout, but have to do it only when I have the house to myself, since trainer Tony’s inane witticisms drive JMG moderately crazy).

Tues/Today: 5.1 miles precor, foam roller, stretching.

Plan for the rest of the week:  One speed/tempo run of 5-7 miles, 2 core workouts, and one more run or precor at a moderate pace.  Plan for the weekend is 10-12 at 8:30-8:45.  Goal is 25-27 miles total.

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Race recap: Healdsburg half marathon

I had a lot of fun at this one, thanks in part to the power of low expectations, and in part to getting to piggy back on JYL’s birthday plans.

This was my 3rd year running the Healdsburg half marathon, and I’m definitely a fan–it’s smallish (1157 racers this year), the course is pretty and just a little bit varied (small rolling hills).  The full marathon also runs together with the half for the first 8 miles, which I find to be a bit of a pick-me-up (hey!  At least I don’t have to run as far as these suckers!  I only have 5 miles left after this!).  It is very rural and quiet though, so if you like bands and cheering crowds, this race wouldn’t be for you.  There are a few stretches where the road is banked, so it might be a problem for those with IT issues.  I was worried about my knee and hip but they did ok.
JYL and the Gypsy Runner picked me up at dark o’clock (4:45), and we headed up to Healdsburg, where we arrived at about 6am and she promptly found the Best Parking Space Ever (seriously.  about two minutes’ walk from the start line and directly abutting the line o’ porta potties).  We picked up our bibs and chips in no time and had about 45 minutes to kill, which we spent mostly by waking up the Gypsy Runner (who was there in spectator capacity and decided to try and catch a pre-race nap) every 5 minutes or so to rummage in the car for sweatshirts and ID’s and whatnot.  It was very dark and a little bit misty–a happy forecast for the day’s weather, which had been vacillating about: would it be overcast and chilly at 8am, or blazingly sunny and 75?  Since miles 9 and 10 pointed directly into the sun, I was really hoping the fog would hold.

With 10 minutes or so left before the start, we split up so JYL could find some other bloggers who were running, and I could hit the bathroom one last time.  I knew a PR wasn’t on the table, so pre-race jitters were at a minimum, and I didn’t mind weaving through the crowds to cross the start line about a minute after the gun went off.

The plan had been to run a very steady, conservative race at around 8:30 pace that wouldn’t do anything to upset my knee or hip, and that would help me build confidence for Big Sur next month.  So I aimed for an easy pace in the first mile, and tried to stay loose and relaxed.

Mile 1: crowded, some uphill, in town. 8:40 (good job, me!)

Mile 2: downhill, along the freeway and bushes, easy to go too fast (8:20–had to keep checking my pace).

Mile 3-7: gently rolling hills along rural roads.  There were hardly any people out–I think the fog scared them off somewhat.  I saw a buddy (LG) at mile 3, and hearing her holler my name perked me up.  I stayed right at 8:25-8:30.

At mile 7 I started chatting with Pam and Brian from Pittsburg, who come out here every year to bike and drink and run.  They’re Iron(wo)men, but Pam was recovering from an injury and they were taking it easy.  They held pace at 8:25 really well so I didn’t have to do anything, and chatted with me till mile 10, which made the miles pass fast!  The fog held up and I never needed my sunglasses, which stayed perched on my head.

At mile 10.5, Pam and Brian stopped for some Gatorade and I kept chugging away–there was a little downhill, and when I checked my watch at the mile 11 marker I was at 8:10.

Here I debated a bit–I felt pretty good; definitely tired but not exhausted or draggy.  I was pretty sure I’d be able to hold 8:30.  There were a couple women right in front of me who looked about my age, so I thought I’d try to catch them up, and if I started to feel bad or like I was working much harder I’d back off.

Mile 12 went ok this way–8:16, and in the last mile the girl next to me kept edging her pace up, and up, and I kept matching her, so that as we came into the final downhill with 1/3 of a mile left we had run the past mile at 7:44.  And then I threw caution to the winds and charged up to the finish line, saw TC and waved at him, saw I had come in a few seconds under 1:50, and felt relieved and happy.
1:49:33 is not a PR at all, but after being hurt and grouchy for so long about running, I was so glad to be able to be steady, have a strong finish, and not be sick or injured afterward.  It’s the best I felt physically at the end of a race since the Oakland half in March.

JYL meanwhile navigated the course well despite its unfamiliarity and the fog, and finished with a PR by 5 minutes!  Which I hope was a thoroughly satisfying birthday performance.

Sweaty, drenched in mist, but triumphant! The medals are also wine stoppers. Cute, huh?

After the race, we gathered up our free wine glasses and our sweatshirts (all that mist got really cold and clammy once we stopped running), and headed over to a coffee shop so we could change clothes and I could knock JYL’s coffee all over her arm (ack. sorry).

And THEN…drumroll, we took hwy 128 with some minor unintended detours over to Napa for a fantastic lunch at Mustard’s grill.  I uber-recommend the pear sidecar, the sweet corn and mushroom tamales,  and the Mac and Cheese.  Yum!

The fog blew off around 11, and we had a beautiful drive through some fallish colors over to Calistoga and Napa. This car window picture doesn’t do it justice.

Overall, I feel like I’m officially back!  Eager for harder training between now and Big Sur.

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I know it’s been a while.  We should catch up.  I hope you’ve been well!

It turns out talking about running when I’m not feeling great about running is really a bummer.  Also I may be a bit superstitious….like…perhaps acknowledging my injuries makes them more real/limiting?  Anyway.

What’s been up lately:

After several weeks of taking a marked break from running–cutting back to 10 miles a week or so, and dabbling in p90x and other adventures, my knee started feeling better.  While at a conference early in September, I went on a totally ridiculous up-and-down the cliffsides 10k jog with a friend (for the record, I had not realized it would be this way.  He said 10 minute miles and I figured “easy”…and once we were a mile into the cliffsides we thought the worst was surely over…), and that was shockingly pain-free, so I figured I was allowed to start adding back in mileage.

My dubiously triumphant return to running was two weeks ago, at the Lake Merritt Joggers and Striders 4th Sunday run (you remember them, right?  I loved their 5k to pieces back in April).  I ran the 10k in 49:11, just a hair under an 8:00 pace (7:56), and the second woman overall.  So that was very good.  Not outstanding, since I was creeping under 47 minutes not too long ago, but after injuries and a break, very good.  Afterwards I jogged another lap of the lake with JYL, then slowly back to my car, for 10 miles total.  My knee felt fine, hip ok, maybe just a touch achy, but I had really bad stomach cramps later–always my biggest issue after a hard effort.

What now?

So, then what?  Well, the next race I’m signed up for is the Healdsburg half marathon next weekend, so I figured I’d better get in gear and do some real(istic) training runs.  With that in mind, I’ve done 2 more tempo 10k treadmill runs (one at 50 mins, one at 47:57, which made me feel a lot better!),  a very gentle, deliberate 13 mile run around the marinas at 9:40, and finally a 10.3 mile treadmill run at 8:27.  The last was really quite miserable (not for my joints, but for my fitness), but I wanted to know exactly what my expectations could be next weekend, and that meant a long hard fitness test.

So here’s where I’m at, after about 3 months of reduced running:


Knee seems ok.  It aches very slightly the day after a long run, but no more than it did when I was healthy.  Good!

Hip seems…stable.  It continues to ache a bit, sometimes as early as mile 2, but it doesn’t get worse during or after long runs and it doesn’t change my stride.  So be it.


In the last two weeks, I’ve run treadmill tests of 5k in 24:10 and 10k in 47:57 (note: 10k pace actually faster than 5k pace, because of warming up during the 5k).  Both of these were very close to as good as I felt I could have done.  Realistically, I think I’ve lost about 1 minute off my 5k time, and 1.5-2 minutes off my 10k time.  Really not that bad.

At longer distances, my loss of fitness is much more noticeable.  10 miles at 8:27 would not have been a serious challenge last spring, while 10k at 48 minutes would have been.  So between my reduced endurance and the primary goal of not getting hurt again, I have to be conservative with my expectations at Healdsburg

Plan/goals for Healdsburg:

1) Don’t get hurt.

2) Maintain the outlook that this is a training run for Big Sur in November.

3) Enjoy the day, and don’t make myself so sick that I can’t enjoy a good meal at the Mustard Grill afterward!

4) Be steady.

5) Aim for an 8:30-8:45 pace (1:51 to 1:54).


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Staying in shape, sketchy knee edition

So this week, following some deserved chastisement from BT about running on injuries, I’ve cut way back on running and added in some new stuff.  I feel content with the week I had.

Monday: 50 minute spin class with JYL.  This was my first spin class in ever. Like…8 years maybe?  That’s how much I hated the last one I took.  This was a “100 rpm” class with a kinda wild-haired, wild-eyed lady who said we should always keep the rpm at 100 and then adjust the resistance up or down for hard and easy intervals.  I decided early to make the hard intervals not-that-hard, with the result that at the end I was drenched in sweat but not filled with hate.  Then JYL showed me her lifting circuit for rehabbing her knee.

Tuesday I did the first full 50 minute workout (“Core”) on P90X2.  I liked this workout a lot, even though there’s a few things I’m fairly terrible at, like pretty much anything that involves a hamstring stretch or fully extended legs.

Wednesday I rested, although I did roll out my legs and stretch a bit.

Thursday I did the “Plyocide” workout on P90x.  This is a really good workout!  Gets you good and sweaty.  But I have to be careful with it–a few of the moves put strain on my knee: basically the jumping ones with any kind of turning or twisting component.  So I modified those to get rid of the turns or twists, and iced my knee after.  It felt fine afterwards.  But I might swap this out for other cardio stuff.

Friday I did the “ab ripper” again (just a 15-minute workout).

Saturday I did the “Total Body” P90X2 workout, which is my strong favorite so far.  A lot of lifting with core engagement.  We have a pretty lame pull-up bar that doesn’t anchor well into its housing and is very slippery, but since I can only do about 3 pull ups at a time it was sufficient.  There are lots of lunges and squats with weight, so it will totally do the job of building quad strength.  I was pretty beat by the end–not able to finish all the reps.

Today was the only day I ran, and I went for an hour (7.3), followed by a 1.2 mile walk cool-down.  I figure running once a week for an hour puts me at a quarter of my old mileage, and isn’t too far a run.  I iced my knee immediately after, rolled it out, and now it feels pretty good!  My shoulders and arms also super tired from yesterday.


So that’s pretty much the plan: stick with at least the “core,” “ab ripper” and “total body” P90x2 workouts, get at least 2 cardio workouts in (counting plyocide as cardio), and 1 day per week of running.  And the foam roller every day!

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Weekend wrapup: neither better nor worse

Friday I did 4.5 moderate miles on the precor, followed by some stretching, pushups, and crunches.

Saturday I tried out the “ab ripper” at the beginning of P90X2, after borrowing the DVD’s from my good buddy Laura.  She was my partner in both virtue and vice that day, as I spent the afternoon with her at the Oakland wine fest getting sloshed and eating copious amounts of snacks.

Sunday I took a deep breath and headed out to do 10k along the marinas and see how my joints felt, which wound up being neither great nor bad.  Knee felt a little stiff and wobbly in mile 1, a little clicky in mile 3, and hip and knee both felt a little achy in miles 5-6.  But holding almost-10k pace was comfortable (it was cool and overcast with a light breeze, so weather was perfect).  I miscalculated my turnaround point slightly and did 6.58 miles in 51 minutes (7:46 pace), and then I did a 1.2 mile cool-down jog, for a total of 7.7 miles.  Afterwards I was very prompt and aggressive about icing and using the foam roller, and today everything feels ok.  Not great, just a touch stiff, but ok.

So last week’s mileage comes to 5.3+1.25+4.5+7.7=18.75.  It’s about 2/3 of what I was doing in the spring, and about 60% of what I’d hoped to be doing this fall.  But if I can keep doing this through the fall without getting worse and while getting slowly better, I won’t be too disappointed.  My speeds are good.  I just hope I can start adding distance in again to get back to half-marathon distances.  And I’m not going to commit about CIM until after the Healdsburg half in October.

I’m gonna start doing more of the P90X’s to try to build strength and stability, as well as pilfering JYL’s knee rehab plan from her old torn ACL.  I’m grateful to have such good workout buddies!

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