On racing

Last May 2012, I registered for my first race since 2004. Through a parent at Adara’s preschool, I heard of the Valley Crest 1/2 Marathon and knew that I had to do it. The course was literally in our backyard. Voted “LA’s Friendliest Race,” the course traversed 13.1 miles of Santa Monica Mountain trails that I ran on every single day. I had ridden the course on my commute to/from UCLA back in 2008 pre-Adara. I was also quite possibly in the best running shape of my life thanks to pushing the girls in our double Chariot an average of 7 miles/day for their afternoon naps. It was too perfect. Training was going awesome, I was feeling great and excited to run a fast 1/2 marathon and place for women or at least in my age-group.

I had just finished a typical afternoon run when I started feeling ever-so-slight stretching in my lower abdomen. It was most likely from the ab workout I did the night prior, but hmm, maybe it was something else. To calm any doubts, I decided to take a pregnancy test. Lo and behold, my suspicions were confirmed as I saw two blue lines slowly appear. It would be a lie to say I was excited. Shock overcame me. A third child was not in the plans. We had done much to avoid it, for now at least. I was supposed to run a fast 1/2 marathon in just 2 weeks and now I was pregnant.. for the third time.

I called my midwife the next day, visited her office and felt my heart lurch with anticipation as I heard the most magical little heart beat. For the third time in as many years, I would be a mother. It was not in the plans, but I could do this. I was ready. However, I could not help but notice the irony of discovering I was pregnant just days before my first race in 8 years. With my midwife’s approval, I ran the 1/2 marathon along with my friend, Tom, who happened to strain his hamstring during a track work session two days prior. We had a blast, chatting the entire time and running a comfortable pace so as not to risk this growing baby’s development. Still, it was not exactly the race I had been hoping for as I couldn’t even race it.

Fast forward to last Wednesday. I caught the racing bug again. After putting the kids to sleep at 6:30pm (they had all been up since 5am with no naps for the girls), I collapsed onto the couch for a dinner of leftover quinoa salad and began to browse through the internet for some local races. If I was going to race, it had to be something very easy logistically – Isaac was still nursing every couple hours and I still nurse him to sleep for naps, which he also takes every couple hours. Thought it’s mostly a control issue, I hate to be away from him. That is probably the reason I take him on nearly every run with me, too. I love this little guy and like to spend every waking minute as close to him as possible. Also, he’s my last little baby and I know it goes by too quickly. I am not willing to put my running hobby before his happiness or sleep/eating schedule. Then I saw that the Calabasas Classic was just 12 weeks away – the exact length of nearly every training plan. Instantly I clicked open a new tab and began exploring various training plans. An hour later, I had the next three months of running mapped out. As I wrote previously, being a mother before a runner requires a lot of flexibility so I won’t stress about “the plan.” At the same time, I love agendas, schedules, to-do lists and the satisfaction of drawing that little check mark that signifies “completed.”

Thus, September begins with my first training plan in many years. I am excited. The notion of dedicating myself to something other than the kids feels good. This is for me, though I may even race with 1 or 2 kids (the race allows strollers!). I may not run a PR, I may not even run a fast race, but the sheer idea of racing thrills me and after 9 years, I am ready.

“Men of Oregon, I invite you to become students of your events. Running, one might say, is basically an absurd past-time upon which to be exhausting ourselves. But if you can find meaning, in the kind of running you have to do to stay on this team, chances are you will be able to find meaning in another absurd past-time: life.”
– Bill Bowerman

Stuck in a rut..

August was a rough month. June flew by with an absolutely amazing trip to Swan Lake, Montana for my brother’s wedding. For five days we enjoyed sweater weather, big sky country, boat rides on the lake, campfires, s’mores, late nights and the most magical wedding and reception in which I have ever experienced as Pat & Ali shared their vows and started their lives together.


Patrick and his beautiful wife, Ali!
 

1,000 origami swans hand-folded by Ali for the reception.

 
July brought a 2-week long escape to Chicago. We stayed at the house in which I grew up in and simply played. All day. I had no chores, no cleaning, cooking or keeping up with the house. I was able to run alone whenever I wanted while my parents kept the kids thoroughly entertained. Adara played happily with dolls and my other childhood toys for hours on end while I chatted with my parents and soaked up as much parenting advice on how to best raise Cesia — my challenging, strong-willed middle child. We enjoyed all the events and activities a summer in Chicago has to offer.
 
Sharing a classic Rainbow Cone at Taste of Chicago!

Grant Park, Chicago. Eating, playing and being happy.
 
Catching fireflies with Grandma!
 
Then August rolled in. We were back home, in the heat (100+ degrees and still going), the girls had another full month off school and there was not much to fill our calendar. Though I try my best not to over-schedule my children, I do like to keep busy. Without anything on the agenda, I grow bored and stale. Alan has had a particularly stressful month as well. Lab frustrations, work travels, and a very long string of sleepless nights has made for a long August. I must admit he does his best not to bring the negative energy home with him at the end of the day, but still it is hard. Arriving home around the girls’ bedtime, after I’ve asked them for the 1000th time to “Please, pick your PJ’s and go potty before bath.” After 13 hrs of pleading, begging and playing other such games all day long, I’m fried. Cooked and done for the day. After they’re asleep I unload my day. Stressed, I feel like the competition for “Who’s day was the hardest?” is ready to roar.
 
 Let me say that I am a competitive person at heart. I was born competitive, or maybe it arose out of survival being the younger sister by just 19 months to a naturally talented, high-achieving (and incredible) elder. Sometimes I feel the need to make it be known that being a stay at home mom is not all fun and games. The days can be long and frustrating as you’re trying your very best to raise three healthy, well-balanced, good kids. And so I pass my stresses on to Alan.. which does not lead to anything productive and I know is simply unfair. August dragged on, I got the most terrible virus I’ve ever experienced (more painfully retching than my 2nd two labors), which then led to a milk drought, which led me to take Mother’s Milk Plus drops leading then to total engorgement and my 5th round of mastitis with Isaac. Back on antibiotics, feeling sorry for myself, exhausted and utterly worn out, Alan left for a 5 day work trip in Europe.
 
We have missed him every second of every day. During these 5 days away, however, something magical happened. There was no one to listen to me sulk. My other mama friends didn’t need to hear it — we’re all in the same boat. We all have challenges, long days, sleepless nights, early mornings. And so I stopped. I finally came to the realization that I could either sit there and feel completely sorry for myself, by myself or I could take charge and change my mind. On this eve of the final day of August, I am out of the rut. We woke up at 5am (as Cesia has done for the past three months) and we got baking – made the most deliciously vegan Goldenberry pancakes, got the girls to school 10 minutes early and packed up the bags and car to join our fun-spirited, adventure-loving friends at the beach this afternoon to put a happy end to a long August.
 
 
Ready to jump right in to September!
 

Are blogs narcissistic?

Some part of me has always believed blogs to be inherently narcissistic. In this age of internet sharing (over-sharing) and social media madness, anyone can spew their thoughts across the web. I did join Facebook during my college days when it was spreading like wild fire, but I have never subscribed to Twitter and I can’t tell you what exactly Pinterest is. Twitter mystifies me. Anyone can write a blog but does anyone really care? To this I must answer, Yes. Some of the most amazing writing in which my eyes have ever been blessed to come across has been from blogs. Mainly that of Kelly Hampton at http://www.kellehampton.com/ and Melina at http://www.thewildercoast.com/. These two women, whom I do not personally know, have inspired me time and time again. I pour over their blogs, seeking out their optimism, adventure-loving spirit, hoping I can absorb just a bit of it to get me through a long afternoon. And lately, I have been motivated to no end by Dorothy at http://www.mile-posts.com/. She is a major reason I took the plunge and purchased a triple stroller. She runs with three (and fast!) and has made me realize I can do the same.
 
And so this is how I see this blog – as a possible outlet for new mothers, running mamas who need a little inspiration, a reminder that there are others out there doing it and they can, too. In no way do I see myself as a role-model or some supermom (which I don’t believe exists, by the way) standing on her soapbox preaching that “You can do it! You don’t need sleep, quit making excuses, life is hard but you have to run through it!” That is not my intention. I am no expert. I am not crazy fast, I have only done 1 race since college (though I hope to do more, soon). I don’t stand taller than anyone else, but if I can help to pick someone up, then awesome.
 
Girls were at school so I got out for a “single” run with this happy dude today!
Always a beautiful view.
When Adara was about 4 months old, I first began running with her in our single jogging stroller. It was tough. Impossible, I thought. Crazy. No one actually runs with one of these, do they? I had faint memories of an assistant XC coach who used to push her stroller on summer runs with us, but she was also an Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier and an elite runner. She was in a whole different league. But did normal moms really run with these? And what about on hills?
 
 
We live in a very hilly neighborhood. I’m talking 10-15% grade to get up to Mulholland. From there the hills persist, mostly rolling, but definitely a hilly route in anyone’s book. And so I quickly gave up on running with Adara from our house. Instead, I would pack her in the car (and she absolutely hated the car, screamed bloody murder every second of every drive for an entire year), drive 45 minutes to Santa Monica just to run along the beach boardwalk or other nearby flat streets. I would usually only run for 20 minutes. She screamed the entire time. I ended nearly every run in tears. This is miserable, I thought. Running was supposed to relieve my stress, but now it was merely causing greater frustrations. Then I’d schlep her back into the carseat of horror, drive another 45 minutes home with a miserable baby and try to forget what had just occurred.
 
During my long, early days with Adara I would pour over the internet searching for some relief. Searching for an answer to running with a baby. The results were bleak. I found nothing consoling. And so, I basically gave up. I resorted to the fact that I would have to run late at night after my husband arrived home from his 12 hr work day. I heard of some moms running in the early morning before their babies woke, but Adara wasn’t sleeping through the night, could wake at any given moment and I had to be there with my full, heavy breasts ready to feed her on demand. (I’m in the same situation again now with Isaac). Life was not very fun and running wasn’t either.
 
Four years later, I now run with a triple jogging stroller, pushing over 120 lbs uphill just to get in a run with my kids. It’s hard, it will always be hard, but I have come a long way. I want you to know that you can, too. You will not run as fast or as smoothly as you do alone, but I’d argue that it’s even better. You will become a stronger runner and mother. I absolutely love running with a baby (or three!) in tow. One, you don’t have to carry your own water or food – throw it in the stroller! You never feel lonely or bored. The girls love to sing songs, count to 100, cheer me on. They all beg to come along for the ride, even on days when Alan is home and I don’t have to take all of them. You’re teaching them invaluable life lessons along the way. You are the model for who your child will become. If you want them to live a healthy, active life then show them how you do it. Make it simple, squeeze it in when you can. I NEVER put running before my responsibilities as a mother. Being a mother is my primary job – making sure they’re fed, happy, rested. Running gets squeezed in. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m nearly always dressed in running clothes. Trust me, it’s not because I love the comfort of them or want to show off “Look at me, I’m a runner!” Rather, it’s out of convenience. I never know when I’m going to get time for a run and so I have to be prepared and ready to (literally) run out the door when the timing is good. I love to get my running in first thing in the morning, but if Isaac sleeps in and I’m too engorged or the girls aren’t interested, we have to save it for later. As a running mama, you definitely can’t be picky.
 
 If I can inspire just one mom out there to get out of the door, run, achieve something great personally, feel better, love being a mama and an athlete, then great. I am not even saying that you need to run. As a stay at home mother, however, I do believe you need to find yourself and find that one thing you are passionate about — whether it be cloth diapering, starting your own business, going back to school to earn that degree you’ve been dreaming of — and push it to the wildest of edges.
 
My Cesia, always running.
 
 
“If you take any activity, any art, any discipline, any skill, take it and push it as far as it will go, push it beyond where it has ever been before, push it to the wildest edge of edges, then you force it into the realm of magic.”
Tom Robbins, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues
 
 

I run to be a better mother…

On the eve of my 28th birthday, I went for a rare solo run on the trails. For me, running has always been about meditation, release, reflection and this one was no different in that matter. Some thoughts on the trail that night:

1. I have now been running for more years than I have not been running. I officially began running at age 14, when my older sister joined her HS cross country team and in typical little-sister fashion, I had to copy her. Bored and slightly jaded, as most 14 year olds, I decided, “What else do I have to do at 3:30pm on a weekday afternoon in the summer?” So I followed her to HS XC summer running three days a week and I was hooked. I will never forget that my first timed mile was 7:11 – not crazy fast, but fast enough to get me noticed. I had never been noticed for much before and attention felt good.

2. Even if your pitbull “is very friendly,” please don’t let him chase me! Yes, I am afraid of dogs. If I see a dog, I will stop running, even if I’m attempting a PR. Sometimes I don’t stop for redlights, I don’t stop when my child is screaming that she needs me to take her wrapper, RIGHT NOW, because it’s making her hands too sticky, but I do stop if I see a loose dog. I don’t like dogs chasing me. I don’t think most people do. So please put your dog on a leash or call him back promptly rather than shouting ahead to random runner (i.e., me), “Oh, don’t worry, he’s friendly!”

3. I run to be a better mother. It’s that simple. I’m a stay at home mother of three children. Ten years ago, I wasn’t sure I would ever even have children. Five years ago, I imagined myself happily working long hours in a Neuroscience lab at UCLA, married to a wonderful husband and spending any and all free time riding our bikes together. Then came Adara. Adara is my first born, my love, who came along four years ago and changed me more than anyone whom had ever come before her. She made me a Mama, and for that I will be forever in debt. I have not “worked” a single day since her birth. I did finish my M.S. degree in Integrative Biology and Physiology when she was about 16 months old and my mother came to help out briefly, but even then I wrote my entire thesis during her naps and didn’t miss a thing. Surprise #2 was Cesia, born just 19 months after Adara and my constant challenge. Spunky, full-spirited, LOUD (and we like quiet), hilarious, intense, fun, but crazy little Cesia who is 2 and will fight to the death that she “will be 2 forever!” Surprise #3 (yes, my husband and I are apparently very fertile beings) and the most shocking and best thing to ever happen to us – Isaac. Isaac just turned 7 months, is a complete Mama’s boy, my Little Prince, loves and is loved by all. Raising three kids under three is a bit insane. I need to keep my sanity and running is where that happens. Running is my rock, my identity, the one piece of myself that I have not lost, have not let go of in 14 years. My life has changed drastically – I am now a stay at home mom (I never thought that would happen, EVER), I serve on my daughters’ Preschool board, I live in suburbia, I am a Sunday School teacher (don’t worry, I promise not to preach), I cook, clean, cook, clean, count to ten, bribe when necessary, read Dora books 50x/day, repeat, ALL DAY. But in the meantime, I run. I run to be a better mother, to have patience with my kids, to meditate, reflect, release, let go, parent with presence, to be a model of a healthy active lifestyle to my kids, to show them I am strong, women are strong, Mama’s are strong. No, I do not sleep through the night. No, I do not have free time. Yes, there are a million things I should be doing at any given moment, but when I’m on the trail with my kids in tow (triple stroller is where it’s at!), I know there is no other place in the world I was meant to be.

Adara (4), Isaac (7 mo), Cesia (2.5) in our new ride!