Sunday, March 29, 2020

A week in the life


Our little one is 4.5 months old, and my postpartum running journey is still in the base-building stage.  I'm trying to do about 6 miles of running each day, with a longer "long run" on the weekend.  It's been a little tricky lately, as our always "high need" little guy is especially irritable from teething.  Here's a snapshot of a "typical" running week for me right now.

At 11am, I took Teddy on a stroller run in the Thule Urban Glide 2 my parents very generously bought us.  I clipped in a teething toy and a crinkly cloth book to keep Teddy occupied, and put on some children's music on my iPhone.  It kept him entertained for a few miles, but then he started crying (and screaming) about 1 mile away from the house.  I only take him on runs within a 1-mile radius of the house for this reason.  Unfortunately, it still made for 10 or so minutes of screaming for the neighbors as I hustled him back as quickly as I could.  Total: 4.6 miles.  Later in the day I also took him on a 2-mile walk in the other stroller, in which he got a decent nap, and two 1-mile walks in the carrier.  Some good "time on feet" at least.

At 8:45am, we had a very successful stroller run!  I put on the children's music, and after a few miles, he got fussy, so I switched over to a lullaby on repeat.  He fell asleep, so I kept on going until he woke up and got 7 miles.  Also did two <1 mile walks with him in the carrier in the afternoon.

We did our stroller run at 8:24 in the morning, and used the same technique as on Tuesday.  It worked again, and we got 6.2 miles done.  We also took a 1-mile walk in the carrier in the afternoon.  The carrier walks seem to calm him down and get him ready to take a nap, which is nice.  Plus it's extra exercise for me -- like wearing a 20+ lb weight vest!

We got a later start to our stroller run today, as Teddy took his morning naps in the bedroom.  We left at 10:22, and only did 1.7 miles (with mild amounts of fussing) before Teddy started crying very loudly.  I had the same toys clipped in with him, and tried the same tricks of children's music and then the lullaby on repeat, but he wasn't having it.  So 10 minutes or so of screaming as I hustled us home again.  I took him on a 2-mile carrier walk at 11:30 to much greater success.  Then I waited until after dinner to go on a 3-mile run by myself while Joe watched the baby.

It seems to be the trend that stroller runs are more successful earlier in the morning.  However, we left for a stroller run at 10:45 today, and it was just as successful as Tuesday's run.  We did 7 miles again, with Teddy sleeping from miles 4.5 to 7.  There were a ton of people out walking and running in the neighborhood, thanks to the "stay at home" mandate.  It's kind of nice to see so many people out and about, although it also makes for a bigger audience for Teddy's crying at times.

I wanted to get in a long run today of about 15 miles.  But Teddy was pretty irritable in the morning.  I was up with him 4:30-5:30am, and then got him back to bed for a while.  Then Joe took him for an hour so I could get extra sleep, and I awoke to Teddy crying inconsolably, despite a healthy dose of Children's Tylenol.  Poor Joe couldn't find a way to make him stop crying.  After calming Teddy down by nursing him, I was skeptical that he would be okay while I went out for a run that might be almost 3 hours long.  So I decided to do the run in loops (which is what I did last Saturday as well).  I did 6 miles, came back and checked in, and Joe was with Teddy in the front yard.  Teddy was perfectly fine, so I left for another 6 miles.  When I came back, Teddy was in his swing, swaddled and supposed to be napping, but wide awake and fussing.  I took him out, nursed him, and then did the last 3 miles with him in the running stroller.  He fell asleep in the stroller, and I finished off my 15 miles, just in time for a Zoom call with Joe's family in Houston.  I was able to keep Teddy asleep in the stroller during the 40-minute call by pushing it back and forth constantly.  He seems to like motion.  We also did a 1.5-mile carrier walk in the afternoon, which got him nice and sleepy for a 2-hour nap before dinner.  Joe and I took him on a second carrier walk after dinner.  

In the morning, I focused on getting Teddy to take two naps, with a bath in between.  Then we live-streamed a Mass with the girls.  So I didn't get out for a run until the afternoon.  I did 6 by myself, which is always a treat.  There's a nice 6-mile loop I can do along Leon Creek (from our house), that involves a couple miles of trails.  The really nice thing is I got to chat on the phone with my parents for 4.5 miles of my run.  That's how we've been doing our weekly calls lately, and it makes my run much more enjoyable! I use my Aftershokz Trekz headphones, which allow me to still hear traffic, mountain bikes, etc. 

Weekly Total - 63.2 miles (52 miles running, 11.2 miles walking)
(30.7 of the miles run or 59% were with the stroller, 21.3 without)

I'm blessed that all my runs felt good -- no aches or pains, so I'll keep on staying this course, maybe aiming for a 17-miler next weekend.  

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Postpartum running: How it’s going

Our little Teddy is 11 weeks old today. Here’s a quick update on how it’s going trying to be a runner again after taking about 6 months totally off (plus 4 months of preggo-paced jogging).

I started jogging/walking again when Teddy was 4 weeks old, and was happy with how quickly I progressed to jogging 5k without walking. Then I started bleeding again at 5.5 weeks, so I stopped running and only walked, thinking maybe I was doing too much too soon after my c-section. (My midwife definitely felt like I was.) 

Eight weeks or so postpartum I started jogging again, and I’ve settled into a nice 4.5-mile route from the house. I usually take one or two 2-minute walk breaks, and my pace is somewhere in the 11-minute per mile range. It’s a good day when I take no walk breaks.  

It feels great to get out of the house for an hour each day. Joe is great about encouraging me to leave for a run and telling me kind affirmations about my progress. I generally feel so tired and slow on my runs that it doesn’t feel like I’m getting anywhere, and I’m definitely rethinking my dream of doing an ultra distance at Brazos Bend in April. But the consistency of getting out there every day for a run and doing my strength/mobility exercises is helping me feel stronger and more like an athlete again, anyways. 

The big challenge for me going for a run every day is that, since the little guy is too young to take him in the jogging stroller, I have to wait until Joe is home (after late meetings, picking up the girls, attending basketball games, etc.) before I can leave for a run. This means most of my runs come at night, after a long day of taking care of a fussy baby. I find it really hard to get myself out the door, although I’m always happy that I did it once I’m out there. 

Another challenge is that Teddy is so fussy, and won’t take a bottle or pacifier. So poor Joe has few tools to keep him happy when he decides he’s hungry while I’m on a run. I usually come home to a crying/screaming baby, which makes me feel super guilty about leaving. As Teddy approaches the 3-month mark, I’m hoping this gets easier and easier. 

It’s been years since I’ve been at the top of my game worth ultrarunning. I really believe I can get back to where I was in, say, 2017, but I feel like I’m probably years away from getting back there. Once Teddy is older and I can get away for longer stretches, and I have had time to rebuild a strong base, I believe I can get back. At least that’s what I’m telling  myself!

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Return to running!

I haven't run since June, when I was four and a half months pregnant and gave it up, as it was no longer comfortable and walking felt better.  I've been so excited to try to pick it up again.  This week, just over 4 weeks after giving birth to Teddy, I began jogging/walking, which makes me very happy. 

What's been surprising to me is that it feels like my legs no longer remember how to run!  My limiting factor seems to be my legs, rather than my aerobic capacity.  What I am doing is more of a shuffle, it feels -- it's hard to propel myself forward in a running motion.  But it's been so nice getting out there -- both to be running again, and to have a brief break in the day from taking care of the baby.  Of course, getting out the door takes some timing and luck -- Joe has to be home and free to watch Teddy, and Teddy has to be fed before I get out the door.  (He refuses to take a bottle.) But we've managed to find 30-60 minutes for me to get out each day this week.

Yesterday I was able to jog 5k without walking, which I'm proud of.  My pace, however, is so shockingly slow that it's hard to see that number and not believe I walked a step.  Joe is so encouraging and reassuring, and gave me the advice to not even worry about my pace at this point, but just keep doing what feels good to my body.

I'm already realizing that doing the 50-miler at Brazos Bend in April will likely not be in the cards.  I'm hoping I could do the 50k, but even that might be too aggressive.  I'm not writing out a training plan, but will just continue to do what feels good, and hope that I will make steady progress.

I haven't felt in great running shape since September of 2017, really -- ever since the one-two punch of the Tahoe 200 and J&J 100k, both in that month.  Since then, I've been an on/off runner, and have only done a handful of races.  I don't have any delusions of getting back into great shape in these next few months, or even this year, but I do hope that I can get back to being able to run ultras and feel strong doing so.

Today I also resumed doing some hip mobility/strengthening and core exercises.  I realize these will be important as I start running again.  I've already noticed some weaknesses in my legs during my runs, so I am making a commitment to myself to keep up these exercises to regain strength and prevent injury.  I'm hoping that wearing Teddy in a baby carrier for 2-mile walks each day is also helping strengthen my core!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Return to blogging? And reflections at week 33

It has been a long, long time since I've written a blog post.  I've steered clear for more than one reason, some of which I have a hard time articulating.

For one thing, I think that from this current place of happily married life, and expecting my first child, I've been looking back on how I handled recent struggles, namely the question of Joe getting an annulment, and the gloom of infertility, and have been judging myself pretty critically.  Now that everything has gone our way -- the annulment granted, our wedding held in the church in 2017, and a healthy pregnancy achieved after 14 months of trying -- I've been feeling a bit ashamed, like I was weak and without faith in how I let those struggles get me down.

I'm finally getting to a point, though, where I can be a little gentle with myself and affirm that I did show strength in getting through those tough times, in that together, Joe and I didn't give up, but persevered, doing whatever we could to make our dreams a reality.

In the last few months, I've been thinking about starting to blog again, but I've debated whether I should post publicly anymore, or whether I should just continue to journal privately.  I am leaning towards continuing to write occasional blog posts, because I have encountered people on the trails, at packet pickups, and at aid stations who mention that they've read my blog and enjoyed it.  It's hard for me to imagine that -- again, I'm super-critical of my writing -- but if my posts can provide any useful information or entertainment for a couple people, that's great.  And if no one wants to read my posts, that is perfectly fine, too -- they are still good thinking exercises for me.

So here's a quick rundown of some key reflections related to running and this pregnancy, from week 33:
1. Running during pregnancy is hard!  
I started off feeling like I could keep running (jogging) my entire pregnancy -- despite the fact that the day before I took the positive pregnancy test, I DNF'd a 3-mile run.  I maintained my confidence through about month four, when I was reduced to walk/jogs consisting of maybe half a mile of jogging at any given time.  I tried a belly band and didn't feel like it helped much.  My problems include breathlessness, GI issues, and a lack of energy.  I had been inspired by women I'd read about online who said they ran all throughout their pregnancies (one lady said her pace slowed about 30 seconds per mile, boo hoo), but at the 5-month mark, I gave up.  It actually was a relief to feel like I didn't need to force myself to try to run every day.  In this third trimester I've found that I can jog about the length of a block, so when I'm feeling especially good, I will jog the downhills during my walks.  Even jogging for short bursts gives me a quick happy feeling that I'm still a runner and will one day be able to really run again.

2. I have enjoyed staying active in other ways.
I joined the Y and have been swimming about 2 days a week for 30 minutes at a time.  I have also made a habit of doing prenatal strength videos on YouTube, pretty much every other day.  I'd especially recommend those by BodyFit by Amy.  When I feared my center of gravity was making me clumsy, I pulled my balance board out of the closet holding my "Useless Exercise Equipment" (Joe's words).  I balance on each foot for one minute, and then on both feet for one minute.  (See, it's not useless, Joe!) I also walk for 30-90 minutes about 6 days a week.  We were blessed to enjoy great hiking all summer on our various trips, including in the San Juans in CO, Glacier National Park in MT, and Washington state.  I'm hoping that by staying active and maintaining strength and conditioning, it will be (slightly) easier to return to trail running after the baby is born.

3. I am itching to be a competitive trail runner again.  I don't know whether that will happen.  I think I'm okay with that.
I've already signed up for my first ultra post-baby: Brazos Bend 50.  I've already expressed to Rob Goyen that I want to be part of Team TROT again in 2019-2020.  It feels like it's been forever since I've actually been a successful ultrarunner.  I felt like I broke myself two years ago, after running Tahoe 200 and J&J 100k in quick succession -- both in September 2017.  DNFing the Cactus Rose 100 the following month was a tough blow, as that is traditionally my favorite race, and one I had completed four times previously.

I spent 2018 trying to recover from burnout.  I ran only 4 ultras that year, including 2 of the Capt'n Karl's night races that I love, and the Alamo City 50k.  The night races went well -- I think I got a 4th place and a 2nd place -- and then at Alamo City I felt like I could barely make a forward motion with my legs.  That entire race was a painful death march in the hot sun.  It left a doubt in my mind whether I will ever be able to be an ultrarunner again.  It's hard to imagine how I could ever have done 50 mile or 100 mile races, when even running 5 miles seems hard.  I know that post-baby it will not be easier.  But I also have such wonderful role models of women who make working, raising kids, and training work, and who are then able to show their children an invaluable example of grit, work ethic, and perseverance.  These women inspire me to give it my all, and I plan to.  I don't know what that will look like in my case, whether I will ultimately get back to being able to run long distances well or not, but I am looking forward to trying.

Bridge to Heaven trail, CO - Photo by Joe Prusaitis. 4.5 months pregnant. I look taller than Joe!

Mt. St. Helen's National Volcanic Monument. 6 months pregnant. Photo by Joe.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Official Race Recap: 2019 Whataburger Challenge

WBC4: Greatness Redefined

The 4th Annual Whataburger Challenge is in the books, with history-making performances achieved!

With only 6 competitors this year, it was the first time that the WBC had more spectators than athletes, much like you’d see in any professional sporting event such as the Super Bowl, NBA finals, etc.  All but one of the six were return competitors; the one-and-done folks that couldn't face up to the extreme nature of the race have been winnowed away, and only the hardiest of the hardy, the elite of the elite, remain.

Some top storylines this year:

  • Matt "The Assassin" Smith, fresh off his wins in the 2019 Rockhopper Beer Mile and the 2019 Ice Cream Challenge, had the first ever attempt at the Triple Crown lined up with a win here.
  • Mike "The Ringer" Ruhlin, winner of the Taco Cabana Challenge, as well as WBC2 in 2017, was trying to become the first-ever 2-time WBC champ.
  • Chris "Cactus Kid" Russell was purely driven by the desire to stop The Assassin from winning the Triple Crown, and would have to do so without his usual harem of followers.

Franz The Vegetarian and Matt The Assassin (PC: Jess Winnett)

At 9:07 sharp, the gun went off and the gorging began.  Chris was done with his #1 in under 3 minutes and took off, with Joe "Schmo" and The Assassin right behind him.  Those three were followed shortly after by Mike, then Franz, and finally Wimpy Rich.

Matt went directly into Assassin mode, screaming down DeZavala at 6-minute pace, leaving the other competitors so far back they could no longer see him after a couple miles.  This aggressive gamble, typically ill-advised, paid off for Matt as the second restaurant was not ready for the volume of WBC orders.  This second store always seems to be the wildcard!  While Schmo and Franz (Franz was competing in the first-ever Vegetarian division) arrived 3-5 minutes later, their orders were more like 10 minutes behind Matt's.  "Sweet" Chris was heard to say that Denny's service was faster, and that he hoped Matt choked on that third burger.  One must wonder if any collusion took place with store employees.
Matt finishes up #2 while everyone else waits

Matt departed the second store before anyone else even received their #2 combo!  Legitimate worry began to permeate the dining room.  Mike "The Ringer," despite arriving 5th, was the second to leave, albeit 16 minutes behind Matt.  A minute later, Schmo and Franz finished and took off, very slowly, after the leaders.  Blaine Adams, one of the spectators, seeing pools of sweat forming, foolishly offered Chris a towel from his vehicle - Chris sat on it while dining and once complete with his #2, gave it back to the regretful Blaine.
Chris at WB #2, with Mike Ruhlin in the background

The heat took its toll on Rich, and he was the race's first casualty, a DNF partway through his #2 combo; but true to his persevering nature, he still managed to run all the way to the third restaurant with his partially-eaten burger for the weigh-in.

The Assassin arrived light years ahead of the others, but the tide had turned.  As Franz and Schmo finally arrived, both having been reduced to a pathetic walk/jog during the run, they saw Matt's entire #3 combo just sitting there, untouched.  Brian "Banjo McNaturepants" Ricketts, winner of WBC1 like a million years ago, was texting fellow WBC1 finisher (but WBC 4 spectator) Tom "Bro-ling" Bowling to get updates - he asked how Matt was doing.  The response: "Scott Rabb-like," referring to Rabbers' (also a WBC4 spectator) WBC1 performance in which he could only stare at the tray of food.
Paralyzed.  A familiar scene at WB #3 (this was also the 3rd different shirt Matt wore?)

Mike The Ringer arrived a couple minutes after Schmo, and the race's fate was set.  At 2:07, the 4th-fastest time in WBC history, Mike became the competition's only 2-time champion!  Greatness.
 Victory!  Again.

The prize he chose for 1st?  A Rockhopper hat (take that TrailZen)!

Schmo, having previously decided not to even order the #3, changed his mind when he saw the opportunity for his best finish, place-wise.  He ate all the fries, slowly, and stopped with the 3/4 pounds of burger remaining, to grab 2nd place.

Then things got interesting.  Chris had made the same decision as Schmo, but saw the opportunity to complete his mission of taking down the Assassin, as Matt bowed out already.  Chris made it through half his fries to grab the final podium spot, just ahead of Matt, who took 4th.
The podium (L to R: Schmo, The Ringer, Cactus Kid)

Franz made it through the veggie version of the #1 and #2 meals - a disgusting pile of fried hashbrown sticks in a standard Whataburger bun - and definitely deserved first-place vegetarian honors, even though he was the only competitor in the division.
Franz selected Spicy Ketchup for his Veggie feat

Finally, the coveted DFL (and WB Ketchup bottle) went to WBC2 podium finisher Rich, who showed up for his 2nd WBC event, joining a short list of elite competitors to ever attempt this race more than once.
Rich with his #2 bag of deliciousness

A note for those considering a WBC5 entry: you can do this - be sure to train throughout the next year, so you may too have your name forever inscribed in Whataburger lore.

Final Results:
1st - Mike "The Ringer" Ruhlin - 2:07
2nd - Joe "Schmo" Schmal - 0.74 pounds remaining of #3
3rd - Chris "Cactus Kid" Russell - 1.13 pounds remaining of #3
4th - Matt "The Assassin" Smith - 1.16 pounds remaining of #3
DFL - "Wimpy" Rich Mihalik - 0.93 pounds remaining of #2

1st Vegetarian - Franz "The Vegetarian?" Konczak - DNF before #3

Historical (four-year) DNF rate: 78%

Saturday, May 18, 2019

2019 Ice Cream Challenge Race Recap

Ice Cream Challenge 2019
Race Recap

The second annual Ice Cream Challenge dawned bleak and humid.  To the surprise of everyone, Matt “The Assassin” Smith was the first to arrive at the starting line.  He even brought his own spoon, for some reason.  The other competitors trickled in prior to the 10:00am race start . . . except for the Spleens, who maintain their own schedule. 

In a repeat from last year, “Sweet” Chris had his entire Chipwich in his mouth immediately after the starting gun.  Fellow competitors and spectators looked on in awe, having only taken a bite of their own Chipwiches, as Chris took off on his first lap.  Tom was next to leave, followed by Mike “The Ringer,” Matt and Jason, and the rest.

It quickly became obvious that Matt would dominate the race the entire way.  He was first to arrive at the start/finish, with a 10:40 loop one (1.7 miles).  Next in was Blaine “Grizzly” Adams, followed by “The” Steffan, who also made up time on the run.  As the competitors ate their second novelty treat, a Klondike Bar, Steffan made the first of many complaints that his “teef hurt.”

The third novelty treat was a Drumstick.  By this lap, it was already a race for second, as Matt arrived in 22:40, and took off for his third loop in less than 3 minutes, long before another competitor was even in sight.  Second place at this point was Blaine, followed by Joe, then Tom, with Chris hot on his heels.

The first to finish was Tanya, the smartest one of the group, having signed up for JV, which ended after three loops.  When asked why she didn’t upgrade to Varsity, she responded with a litany of reasons, each of which were very good, such as having just completed Miwok 100k two weeks ago.  However, she was miffed upon hearing that Jason (who also did Miwok) was dropping down to JV as well, calling his decision “ridiculous.”  Unfortunately, since he dropped mid-race, this earned him a DNF. 

Runners slowed down in the fourth and fifth loops – Snickers and Popsicle.  That is, except for Matt, who proclaimed, “The ice cream still tastes good” while eating his Snickers treat, and took off just as fast as ever.  While Chris’s running had slowed down (he was heard to complain that “This course has too much running”), he was just as fast in eating as he was at the start of the race.  Steffan captured the overwhelming feeling of the spectators with his one comment about Chris’s instantaneous consumption of his Snickers bar: “Oh shit!” 

Around this time, Matt came in for his final challenge: the lap 6 pint of ice cream.  He had the easy confidence of a winner, remarking, “This [pint] is going down easier than I thought.”  It was around this time, too, that he declared his decision to take on the Triple Crown: having won the beer mile and now the ice cream challenge, he was now throwing his hat into the Whataburger Challenge ring well in advance.  Taking off on his last loop, he would ultimately lap every competitor except for Tom, and finish with a new course record of 1:18:26, decimating last year’s CR of 1:37.  His victory speech: “This is the biggest day of my life.”

As runners ate their 5th treat, a Popsicle, they were asked for their pint flavor request, as there was only one of each flavor.  Chris asked for mint chocolate chip and then took off on his 5th lap.  Steffan was then asked for his flavor.  He also asked for mint chocolate chip.  When told that he’d have to beat Chris back in order to nab this flavor, Steffan got a determined look in his eye, and proceeded to outrun Chris by a good margin.  He had already started into his minty ice cream when Chris arrived and was told, to his chagrin, that mint was taken.  With an intensity driven by resentment, Chris plowed through his pint of chocolate chip and took off for his final lap before Steffan was halfway done with his.  On the way out, Chris muttered to Steffan, “That’s for eating my mint.”

Daniel handing Steffan his mint ice cream. The smile wouldn't last.
Despite arriving second after loop 5, Schmo left in fourth place after eating the pint, with Tom and Blaine severely outperforming his ice cream intake.  Tom would maintain his lead for 2nd place, but Schmo passed Blaine during loop 6 to take 3rd.  Blaine had the honor of “Biggest Bonk” for the race, slowing down to a crawl at the end.  He professed that “The sugar doesn’t bother me.  I’m just tired from running.”  As Tom finished, he noted, “5 minutes faster than last year.  That was my ‘A’ game.”  His wife Michele could be seen beaming with pride near the finish line.

Poor Chris was having a bad day in general.  He complained about his legs hurting, being undertrained, not getting his preferred ice cream flavor.  And yet, he was happy with his finish, since he beat his arch nemesis Steffan.  His first words after crossing the finish line were, “Well, I beat Steffan.  That’s all that matters.”

Mike came in next, for 7th place.  At one point during the race he lamented that he really has not been running lately.  Unfortunately, there was 10 miles of running, and Mike was not able to get redemption from last year’s 4th-place finish.  Bryan “Lacy’s Husband” finished despite a pounding headache, which he attributed to eating so much dairy, and earned the coveted DFL.
Bryan fought hard all day
Next in the eat-and-run series will be the 4th annual Whataburger Challenge, on Labor Day.  Stay tuned to see whether Matt can pull off the unprecedented Triple Crown.

The podium
1st place – Matt “The Assassin” Smith 1:18:26 (Course Record)
2nd place – Tom “Bro-Ling” Bowling 1:32:01
3rd place – Joe “Schmo” Schmal 1:33:23
4th place – Blaine “Grizzly” Adams 1:34:36
5th place – “Sweet” Chris Russell 1:44:22
6th place – “The” Steffan Andersland 1:50:00
7th place – Mike “The Ringer” Ruhlin 1:59:30
8th place – Bryan “Lacy’s Husband” Buchorn 2:18:04

1st place – Tanya “Head Spleen” Espalin 46:00
2nd place – Jason “Spleen” Espalin (dropped down from Varsity)

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Running & Infertility

Note: I wrote this post back in November.  As an update, I'm now off the medication described below, giving my body a chance to "reset" for a cycle, and I'm finally able to run again after four weeks off.  My poor legs and lungs feel like they've atrophied a bit, but I'm motivated to build back speed and endurance over these next six weeks.

At the very beginning of this year, I settled into the idea that this would be a non-ultramarathon-focused year.  The plan was that Joe and I would try to have a kid.  Honestly, I'd burned myself out doing too many ultras too close together in 2017, and I needed a break, so it seemed like perfect timing.  As it's turned out, though, it's not that easy to just go have a kid for some couples -- including us.  Man, that's a bummer discovery to make at age 36, when you feel the pressure of the clock ticking down.

It's a given that pregnancy destroys your running.  But you have a baby at the end of it, so who the hell cares?  What's interesting has been the discovery that infertility, too, can hijack your running.  Let me count the ways.

But first I'll start with the positives.
1. I'm definitely getting a rest and mental break from running.  So whenever I'm able to return, hopefully I'll feel the fire and be able to work hard towards some "A" races.

2. Through this bummer of a year, I've gotten to see the amazing support of people such as Victor Ballesteros and Jena Rose, of Victory Sportdesign, who are committing to keep me on Team Victory, and Rob and Rachel Goyen, of Trail Racing Over Texas, who are keeping me on Team TROT -- despite the fact that I haven't won a single race in 2018, and am not sure I'll be racing in 2019 either.  I'm not keeping up my end of the bargain, so to speak, in terms of getting out there and doing well in races, and yet they continue to support me, which feels like a huge act of love on their part.

3. Over the past five years, my identity has become so closely aligned with being an ultrarunner that it's almost like I didn't think I had an identity beyond that.  Take that part of my identity away, and now I've had to find out what else makes up the core of who I am.  That's probably not a bad thing to have to figure out.

4.  Without the pressure of training for races, I've been able to just walk out the door and go any distance I feel like during my daily runs.  I've even gone watch-less a couple times, and haven't posted them to Strava, which is very unlike me.  (Did these runs even count??)  Running has just been about maintaining fitness and enjoying being outdoors, instead of feeling the pressure of a quota of miles to hit for the week.

And then, of course, there are the challenges.
1.  Not being able to plan for the future messes with my running and racing, as well as my motivation.  Take, for example, Cactus Rose, which was at the end of October.  I have run 450 miles at Cactus over the past 5 years, and was thinking I could do some distance, maybe the 50 miler, this year.  I asked my nurse if I could run it, and she told me I wouldn't be able to, because I'd be taking a medication at that time in my cycle that wouldn't allow for the bouncing that running involves.  So I didn't sign up, and didn't train.  As it turned out, I wasn't put on that medication at that time, so I could have run it after all.  Now I'm being told I'll be taking that medication probably at the end of November.  It's just a moving target that causes me to not be able to plan for any races at this time.

And I certainly am not able to make plans for next year, either.  Joe's thinking about racing another Hardrock qualifier, while I'm sitting here hoping my brains out that I'll be pregnant by then.  And if not, I'll still be stuck in this purgatory of fertility cycles.  Who knows?  I'll likely as not end up not getting to do any races, for no good reason, as happened with Cactus.  That's pretty frustrating.

2.  That motivation part is hard some days, when it's not clear what the point of my run is.  Without a race to train for, I can easily tell myself that just going for a 3- or 4-mile run is fine, and not push myself to go farther or faster.  In allowing myself this slack, I miss out on the pleasure I used to feel in pushing myself to accomplish things I wasn't sure I'd be able to do.

3.  I do feel the loss of my identity as an ultrarunner.  I know that I can come back to it, whether that's at age 40 when we give up trying to have kids, or here and there when we have a break from cycles of trying, like I did this August.  But that doesn't allow for ramping up to ultramarathon fitness and achieving my best efforts at races.  I can finish ultra-distance races by fitting them in between cycles of medication, but I can't really hope to win races with this sporadic approach.  There's something disheartening about knowing you're putting in less when you remember how it used to feel in the past, to give it your best and succeed.

4.  I'm also feeling a little bit of a loss of community.  As soon as I moved to San Antonio, I started running with folks; that's how I met people here and made friends.  The Rockhoppers have felt like my family here, and I love hanging out with them at group runs and races.  This past year, I've still gone to some group runs, I did a couple races in August, and I volunteered at a race in the spring.  But I've missed a lot of races, and have avoided a lot of social media, such as Facebook and some people's Instagram accounts (because I can't stand to see posts about people who have kids), so I do feel a little "out of the loop."  However, at the same time, I know I'm still part of the Team TROT and Rockhoppers family, so it's a bit of a stretch to put this item in the "negatives" column.

Typing this all out has been a good exercise.  It's helped me see there are as many positives as negatives in this process -- even though the negatives (especially #1) feel a lot weightier than any of the positives.  My comfort zone during this whole process has been Negative Nancy -- because it's easier than being positive, getting my hopes up, and having them slammed down again.  It would be an improvement, at least, to be Middle Ground Mary, and at least consider the positives as well as the negatives -- maybe I'll strive for that.