Girls Night Out 5K

Or, A 5K Makes Rachel Cry.

But they were tears of joy, so it was OK.

Here’s my race report for the 2014 Girls Night Out All-Female 5K!

Pre-Race:

I had a work commitment in the morning, where I helped to man a WGM booth at a local n0nprofit event. Fortunately, I was able to stay off my feet for a good bit of the morning. I definitely didn’t want to be footsore before the race even started! We had pulled pork sandwiches, coleslaw, and watermelon for lunch. Not my usual pre-race fare, but it wasn’t super heavy so it actually worked out well. I did a few things around the house, then waited until the last possible moment to do a final pump so I was as empty as possible.

We piled into our car with Tim and Kassie, and headed to Kokomo. Like last year, registration and packet pick-up was held in Grace United Methodist Church. The setup was great and volunteers were awesome. And it was nice to have a bathroom to visit, too! Steve was on baby duty and he and Tim staked out a spot near the finish line. K and I joined the 200+ women and girls who had gathered to go on a run together. The weather was crisp and cool; I opted for a t-shirt instead long sleeves. (It was my new Blerch t-shirt, gift from Steve!) I also chose to use my headphones and music. Last time, I did without, and I think it would have helped to have my tunes.

Oh, first there was an ADORBS fun run for teeny tiny girls. This one little 2-year-old was beyond awesome as she came determinedly bouncing in. That’ll be Amelia in a few years, I hope!

Mile 1:

The run started near downtown, and you run on streets for a few blocks before hopping onto a Cardinal Greenway-like trail that went under a main road and into a park along the river. K quickly scooted past me, as I’d expected. Amelia is only three months old, and it’s taken me longer than I thought it would to return to my pre-pregnancy strength. Heck, I’m a ways off still. So I just decided to do my best, push when I could, and accept my body and strength for what it is right now. I passed the first mile marker and the volunteer called out 10:55. Okay, not bad. It would be cool if I could do 33.

Mile 2:

The second mile is really nice, winding up a little neighborhood and through some pretty woods. There are also a couple of hills. I played around with speeding up a bit going downhill, since I figured that I was expending the same amount of energy if I sped up. By now, I’d passed a number of people, mostly young girls who went out too fast. At the second mile marker, I heard 21:57. Sweet, I was still on track.

Mile 3:

In the last mile, you do a quick jaunt across the river and back. The bridge is some kind of suspension bridge that bounces when people run on it, so that was a little disorienting. There’s a serious uphill just a quarter mile from the finish. I think that’s what slowed me down. And THEN, you can see the finish three blocks away, and you can see the big timer, and you’re like AHHH, get there faster!!!

But mostly, during that last mile, I thought about Amelia. You’re not actually supposed to think about your baby when you run if you breastfeed because it can make you let down…but I thought about how a year ago, even though I was pregnant, I didn’t know it. I thought about being pregnant, the labor, the recovery. I thought about how very blessed I am to even be able to run right now! I thought about my amazing husband who was at the finish line, taking care of our baby. Our baby. I thought about our friends who have walked this road with us. And I started to cry. “Hold it together, Rach, hold it together…”

Then, as I got closer, I saw Steve standing in the street, holding up Amelia. He waved at me, urging me to sprint the finish. Well, it hurts to sprint still, but I did pick it up a bit. Final time: 33:50.

Run, Rachel, Run

And then I burst into tears. Happy tears.

(Thanks to Tim for the photo!)

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Return to Racing

I love races. I love the packs of runners, the energy of the crowd, the camaraderie with strangers, and yes, even the nervousness and drama that comes along with it all. Since 2010, I’ve run five 5Ks, two 10ks, four half marathons, and a triathlon.

Tomorrow, I run my first race since last October, when we announced our pregnancy with this photo at a  5K in Matter Park.:

Running for two

Technically, I ran two races while pregnant, although I didn’t know it at the first one. My friend Kassie and I ran the Girls Night Out 5K in Kokomo in mid-September of last year, and tomorrow, we’ll be running it again.

Last year, I was training for a marathon and in pretty decent shape. I can’t remember my exact time, but I believe it was 29:30. I’m never going to be crazy fast, but that was pretty good for me. This year, I’m three months postpartum, still breastfeeding, and things are still not quite back to normal. I’m not even going to have a goal time; I’m just going to run by how I feel. Kassie will smoke me, no doubt!

My next race coming down the pike is a half-marathon (holy yikes) in Indy on November 1. I have no illusions of making a PR at all. I’m just getting back in this racing thing. Plus, this was the marathon I was training for last year when we found out Amelia was coming along. Thankfully, I was able to defer my registration to this year. And since I’m not bouncing back as quickly as I maybe stupidly thought, I’m downgrading to the half marathon. Still will be extremely challenging, but doable.

I think.

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Beginning Again

Amelia (Baby Elwood bloggy name) is eight weeks old. As each week passes, I feel more and more centered and normal. Pregnancy is NOT a normal state of being, and there’s a reason that the weeks and months following birth are called “the fourth trimester.” Hormones, sleep deprivation, breastfeeding, not to mention your entire brain being rewired as you figure out how to care for this little one – who you love beyond all sense.

All that to say, I’ve realized this week that I need to cut myself some slack in the getting-back-in-shape department.

Honesty compels me to admit that my last real runs were probably sometime last November. I did some run-walking up through February, but not very rigorously, and I did just walks after then. So, when I started running again two weeks ago, uh, I shouldn’t have been surprised at how hard it was. Bones hurt. My core felt like it had been ripped to shreds. I felt off-balance. I was frustrated when I could hardly manage two miles towards the end of the week. The schedule I’d created for training for the half marathon said that I should be running three miles by now.

On Friday, I had an epiphany when I lifted a few weights. Two sets of squats and a set of reverse lunges almost finished me off. Besides my abs still being somewhat MIA, I had lost a lot of muscle tone in my legs. My triceps are sore still after ONE set of French press.

In addition to weights, I need to also make sure I allocate time to stretch and do yoga. Carrying a baby around causes strain on my back and shoulders. In the last few days, I’ve done 15-20 minutes per day, and I’ve already noticed my back loosening up a bit. I could barely touch my toes, my lower back was so stiff.

It’s a different mentality – to think of weights and yoga as important as running. I was so focused on running and races before Amelia was born. Logically, I know all three – cardio, strength, and flexibility work – are important for overall fitness. But I’m also really, really task-oriented and goal-oriented. And races really, really worked for me as goals! After Amelia was born, I was excited to once again get back into races. I even have my sights set on a really cool marathon for next fall! But I almost have to treat my pregnancy like an injury; understanding that this kind of event takes a serious toll on the body and it takes time to rebuild.

Time to  begin again.

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Baby Elwood: A Birth Story

Note: this post contains some frank details of the birthing process. Not insanely graphic, but there’s no way of getting around how we all end up in this world. So, if that kind of stuff bothers you, might want to skip this post!

Elwood Family

Nothing like the adventure of giving birth! We are now in the midst of feedings, naps, pumping, and adjusting to life as parents of a newborn. I have learned so much over these days, more than I ever could have dreamed. The love I feel for our little girl is overwhelming. As part of her story, I wanted to record her birth experience.

I’d been having false labor for over a week. One word: maddening. In fact, we spent all afternoon at the hospital on May 27th because the contractions were regular and speeding up. This being my first kid, I had no idea what intensity to pay attention to. As it turns out, um, they have to be really, really intense! So we knew we were close, but close at this stage of pregnancy means either a couple hours or a couple weeks. I was starting to think, though, that I would be pregnant forever.

On June 3rd, I had my 40-week appointment and was 2 cm dilated. My doctor told me to plan to come to the hospital on the following Monday to be induced if nothing happened before then, but he seemed fairly confident that I’d go into labor on my own. On Wednesday evening, we went for a walk and then I did some cleaning and slammed out a pile of thank-you cards for baby gifts. Burst of energy? Maybe.

At about 5:30 the next morning, on June 5, I woke up and went to the restroom. Whilst within, I had a largish contraction, felt a weird internal pop, and out gushed my water. I woke up Steve to tell him and we started getting ready. We took our time because I wasn’t having very regular contractions. I ate a big, fortifying breakfast (I thought back to my pre-race brekkies for inspiration), cleaned up the kitchen, tidied the bedroom, and got the guest room ready for my parents. We finally left the house at 7:30, and I’d still only had a couple more contractions. Baby Elwood (bloggy nickname still to come) was still moving around, which surprised me.

One surprise that I did NOT read about in my books: you keep producing amniotic fluid! So in addition to that first gush, I kept randomly leaking/gushing for several more hours until her head descended enough to basically plug the tear. Who knew?? Feels like maybe that could have been mentioned somewhere!

We were admitted to Marion General Hospital and the contractions got more frequent, but still weren’t super strong. When we got up to the birthing center, all the labor and delivery rooms were full and we had to wait in the hallway while they moved out one family and cleaned the room. I got all checked in and attached to the monitors to see where I was at. By about 9:00, I still wasn’t having very strong contractions, and my doctor came in to talk about administering pitocin to get things going. While that was not my first choice (and holy wow, I hope I won’t have to have it for our next kid), we made the choice to go ahead to prevent a long, unprofitable labor that might end in a c-section.

Before the pitocin kicked in (and I was given the lowest possible dose) I was really relaxed. We watched a couple episodes of Outsourced on my Kindle. They brought in a clear-foods meal tray, and as I was devouring my Jello, things started to get real, man. Regular, every 3-5 minutes hard contractions that required focused breathing. I changed my position about every half hour for a while – hands and knees on the floor, sitting on the ball, leaning over the bed with Steve applying counter-pressure on my back, etc. He was amazing throughout the entire experience. He breathed with me, let me crush his hand, massaged my back, coached me through it all. I couldn’t have done it without him. He was there every step of the way.

I stayed on top of the pain for a while, but things started to get fuzzy after several hours like this. The contractions were every two minutes, and hard. Steve kept saying how strong I was, but I was starting to feel defeated. How could I stand this level of pain for much longer? I was committed to a natural, no-epidural birth. But could I do it?

By 3:00, I was ready to talk options. I was so tired, in so much pain. I just couldn’t keep up with it. The nurse suggested a IV medication called Stadol, which wouldn’t dull the pain but would help me relax in between contractions. I knew someone who had used it and hadn’t been a fan, but maybe it would give me what I needed to power through. At this point, I was about 4 cm dilated. I fully expected to be at this for another six+ hours.

They administered the medication, and I was able to relax so much in between contractions that I fell asleep! I even remember going back to the same dream several times…something about an herb garden. I was also more able to manage my breathing, at least for a little while. At this point, apparently things started happening rapidly because I was able to relax so much. Even with the drug, I was highly aware of how much was going on inside me. I was so overstimulated, I basically kept my eyes closed for the last few hours of labor. Couldn’t handle seeing anything…or smelling, unfortunately for Steve and his Jimmy John’s sandwich. (“Remove your sandwich!!”) Steve tried to distract me with HGTV at one point, and that didn’t work out well either. (“Turn it off! Can’t handle stupid!”)

Things became more intense. The pressure was building and I felt like I needed to push. But the monitor wasn’t picking up on the contractions well, because when Steve told the nurse, she said, “Really? Well, OK, I’ll check her.” I was nine centimeters, and she rushed out of the room to have someone call my doctor, who was across town at his office.

The books all call it an “urge to push.” It’s not so much an urge as it is a frenetic, uncontrollable force with a mind of its own bent on destroying you. I couldn’t help myself several times; I screamed with everything I could muster. Which isn’t helpful, wasting energy and breath on making noise. Steve and the nurse were working overtime to keep me calm and reminding me to breathe.

Through my closed eyes, I could tell that a bright light had come on. Steve told me that they were getting ready for delivery, and that I was super close. “I don’t believe you!” I kept saying. Even though I felt this “urge” I didn’t believe that my body could actually expel the baby. And my body agreed with my head, so all in all, it almost took reaching outside of my mind and body to convince myself I could do it in those last moments. I opened my eyes briefly to see my doctor putting on his gear, and that the table was set up behind him with supplies. The room seemed to rapidly fill with people.

Dr Mueller told me to push, and with just three pushes (and possibly, yes, screams) our baby arrived. In those moments, I reached into a strength that I don’t even understand. I’m not sure I even believed it when she was out. I just stared at her in shock as Dr Mueller cleaned her up, cleared her airways, and placed her on me while he clamped the cord. Steve got to cut it. She was here, she was ours, and she was perfect. Born at 5:10pm on June 5, 8 pounds 10 ounces, 20 3/4 inches long after almost 12 hours of labor.

Meanwhile, I was aware that things were still happening. Dr Mueller was saying something about a lot of bleeding. I felt the placenta come out, and then a burst of pain. I yelled out, “No surprises! What are you doing?!” And in very measured tones, he replied, “Honey, you’re losing a lot of blood and I need to stitch you up.” A nurse who was assisting him started giving me a play-by-play, letting me know when he was giving me local anesthetic and when he was stitching. I was shaking uncontrollably – also something I missed hearing about before birth! Apparently it’s caused by hormone changes, is completely normal, and lots of people do it.

Steve and the nurses kept reminding me to breathe and to focus on the baby. I remember staring at her hand – it was so beautiful and her fingers seemed so long. And while I’m maybe possibly biased, she looked so good even from the start! No funky shaped head, her skin was a pretty color, and she was completely, entirely whole and healthy. Steve and I were in love.

Post-delivery, we stayed in the room for a few more hours. We had a long skin-to-skin time and started working on breastfeeding. The room was cold, and she had a relatively low core temperature, so they put her under a heating device and monitored her until it was raised to the right temp so she could have a proper bath. We Skyped with our parents to tell them the name. They were located in Pennsylvania (my parents), Hungary (Steve’s dad), and Turkey (Steve’s mom) and at one point, we had three different devices pointing at her so we could tell them all at the same time.

I got to walk to our recovery room, pushing baby in the bassinet. I was exhausted, but it felt so nice to stretch my legs after essentially being in bed all day. We got all settled in, and Steve left to pick up take out at Applebee’s. Which I went to TOWN on.

And then, we started our journey of being a family.

Rachel and Katie

Quick note on the hospital: Our experience at MGH was great. The nurses were awesome, a lactation consultant came to our room, and even the food was good! We were very thankful that our hospital experience was so positive. The nurses especially were super kind, helpful, and supportive.

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We Thought You’d Be Here By Now

Some things about this pregnancy business haven’t surprised me, like the fact that I have been able to successfully learn to fall asleep on my side. (I figured it would come eventually!)

Some things have surprised me, like the fact that getting dressed requires intentional focus, otherwise there would be serious tipping over.

One thing that has also surprised me is that the pain of the last five years of infertility hasn’t gone away. I had expected it would, having finally attained that which we so desperately sought. But I guess that when you have that many days and nights of pure struggle, it makes enough of an inroad in your heart that won’t disappear just like that. I still get emotional about it at times. Like I did today when I listened to Wes King’s “Thought You’d Be Here” for the first time in a very, very long time.

But if you like dancing
I’ll make it rain rhythm, and rhyme, and melodies, child
And if you like dreaming
Your mother will make your imagination run wild
Somehow, we thought you’d be here by now

We have a room just for you upstairs. It’s right down the hall
So we’ll be close should you ever get scared
We’ll come when you call
It’s a room full of stories
Waiting to be told
Longing to behold

As you can imagine, a song that hit this close to home – especially a couple years ago – was intensely beautiful to experience, but far too painful to make a regular on the playlist. And even today, as I listened to it knowing what we will have in approximately a month and a half, I still cried.

Maybe that’s the point. To lose all emotional memory of this would be nice sometimes, but I don’t think it would do anyone any good. I need it to remember how amazing God is, how much He loves us, and how prayer can do things you can’t even explain. And maybe, when our little girl is older and I tell her about it, it will be one of the stories she can hold onto as a testimony of God’s work in her life before she was even known to us.

And if you like laughing
I’ll paint you a circus of smiles and ferris wheels, dear
And if you like living
Your mother will fly you to worlds both far and near

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