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  • Writer's pictureSophie Power

35-36 weeks. Just enough time left to accept another challenge!

5 weeks to go until due date and I’m definitely ready to end this and get her out! I’m 20lb heavier which I can really feel – especially as it seems to mostly be in the bump and I can barely reach to tie my laces now. She is starting to drop… which means every time she squirms (which is very often) I can feel the pressure on my pelvic floor.

This should remind me to do my pelvic floor exercises but in all honesty I’ve gotten slack over the last few weeks. I’d worked them into my program, but when my program changed with my hamstring tear I didn’t program it back. So I’ve had about 4 weeks of not properly doing my squeezes eeeek. I’m writing this as a message to myself to get back on them. If labour goes to plan, it will most likely be my pelvic floor that limits my return to fitness so it should be my number 1 priority!

Running is still going well which I'm so surprised at as I thought I would have stopped at least a month ago. One day I think its over as I feel all heavy, then the next I can happily bust out 6 miles on the way to the pool! It really is a case of taking it one day at a time now, doing the workout I feel my body needs.

The last outside run!

They’ve announced another lockdown which means my pool and gym will be closing until just before her due date at a minimum. I decide my run to the pool for my last swim session will be my last outside. Whilst I would far rather be on the trails, the treadmill on incline really does reduce the impact on my body and I can hike when I don’t feel like running. Also there’s a bathroom nearby that stops me having to find bushes!

I’m not going to miss swimming to be honest. Any good intentions I had of re-learning to swim properly have already vanished and it will probably take signing up for another Ironman to get me back in regularly. There is no point doing a form of exercise you don’t enjoy as there will always be another one you will. And life is too short to be miserable! It was helpful during pregnancy… though mostly as a way to get a solo run in to the pool instead of shepherd the boys there for their session.

I squeeze my last spin class in before lockdown too. I was hoping to go until I popped with classes but lockdown has stopped that (my Spin instructor will be breathing a sign of relief). Maybe it’s the right time to stop though - I can have more control over what I do on my wattbike (well my hubby’s wattbike) than in the ego-driven heat of spin class. For the first time today I felt the bump start to get in the way of pushing a higher cadence (I realised after that it really has grown – straight out in front of me!). During class I’m also more breathless than usual when I up my heart rate so I dial back and keep it more in check. It’s all about listening to my body now. Things are changing so quickly almost day to day that I can’t rely on heart rate zones that have been comfortable through the rest of my pregnancy.

With my gym closed now I don’t have sessions booked in my diary that I HAVE to attend. My gym’s strict cancellation rules for classes are helpful in making sure I go! Instead I have my training plan from Eddie which I’m trying to stick to but when hubby suggests a hike during my bike slot I give in and go with him. It means I haven’t had a heart-raising workout in 3 days. Which doesn’t sound like much but ends up leaving me without energy and in sugar fuelling mood (cue eating a pack of chocolate biscuits without being hungry). Yes I’m nearly at the end. But I need to keep focused on my mental health which includes exercise. I have everything at home to get my workouts in. I just need a bit of a kick to do something – whatever works for my body that day.

Strapping the bump up for a treadmill run

On Sunday my run keeps getting delayed – hubby steals the early slot to head out on a cycle then I take the boys hiking and we run into their favourite dogs then a friend comes over and before I know its time to get another kids hike in before dark. (They need 2 exercise sessions a day to let off steam!) It would be so easy just to ditch the run but I remember how I felt with the last skipped session and head upstairs to the gym. Besides my 5 year old is acting up and it is an excuse to skip his bedtime so I do 5 miles on the treadmill with some incline hiking intervals and watch eco challenge on amazon prime!

Hiking is now proving a better workout than running – I’m just not happy running anywhere decent pace on the treadmill and hiking can be much harder! Running 3% at 6.5mph is 155 bpm. But so is 15% hiking at 3.5mph which feels a lot safer. I’m doing my longer stretches at 5.5-6mph jog but think the intervals from here will mostly be hiking. If I want to increase my HR further now it’s just going to be safer on the bike.

With lockdown arriving Centurion running are putting on another challenge and I don’t want to miss out! I keep forgetting I'm now well over 8 months pregnant... In the first lockdown I did the Centurion Marathon, run with my friend Katie when I was 13 weeks pregnant – mostly to pace her on her first marathon. My second was climbing “Everest” – a vertical challenge I did on the treadmill at 20 weeks pregnant. This one is a random challenge partnering with ReRun clothing which feels rather exciting.

ReRun Clothing is an amazing organization set up by elite ultrarunner Dan Lawson and his partner Charlotte to recycle unwanted running gear. I’ve bought a few brilliant preloved pieces from them in the past – including a few bigger sizes to get me through pregnancy – and will be sending them a big bag of gear back soon!

This random challenge means they allocate a preloved finisher race tshirt to you at random and you need to interpret that race for your week’s challenge. As I watch the video feed of the selections I’m breathing a sigh of relief as I “miss out” on the Centurion Grand Slam (400 miles), UTMB (106 miles with 10k climbing) and various other long ultras. I’m also a little relieved I don’t get the “Princess 5km” tshirt the girl before me does as that feels like a bit of a cop out. What I do get is Ironman Switzerland 70.3 (ie a half Ironman) which really feels doable. It feels like it was meant for me as I’ve actually done the full Ironman Switzerland as my only full Ironman – a whole 9 years ago. Sadly pools are closed (and the one part I could do at my "normal" speed!) so I’m going to have to work on an interpretation for that stretch but I’m excited for another challenge. Tune in for the next blog post to see how I get on!

I post on Instagram about my favourite race tshirts now finally fitting me at 8 months pregnant. There’s the environmental issue of them being low quality and mostly unwanted so they end up in landfill (or at ReRun clothing and dished out for a Centurion challenge!). But an equal frustration is the lack of female fit t-shirts - being given a huge unwearable sack at the finish line. It not only is bad for the environment as these tshirts don’t live their full life – but it discriminates against female athletes. We pay the same entry fee, run the same race and deserve equal treatment. I really love the Trees not Tees concept – to plant a tree instead of receiving a tshirt. Which unless I can commit to wearing a race tshirt for its full life will be my default option from now.

The strain of my bump growing in the last few weeks is starting to hit. I have this awful pain in my back from the afternoon onwards which is like a hot poker in the ribs and means I postpone a couple of sessions. Lying on a massage ball relieves it temporarily, as does using a theracane. But I’m mostly walking around with a hot microwaveable Penguin strapped to my back using a couple of heart rate monitors! It does look a little strange on zoom calls but being pregnant I reckon I can get away with most things now!

Despite the back pain I’m still running – it seems to disappear when I do. My stride is what seems to be affecting me the most – whilst running feels good longer strides don’t. I walk with hubby (at his usual walking pace… he keeps forgetting I’m a little slower than usual) and keeping up with him by taking longer strides than I have been puts a strain on my pelvis. It’s the same on the treadmill where walking slower at a higher incline feels more comfortable than hiking faster on the flats.

I have another visit to my lovely midwife Nikki. It’ll be every week from now until she arrives. She’s started to descend 2/5ths which is a bit earlier than she’d expect but that does explain all the pressure I’ve been feeling on my pelvic floor. The issue isn’t when I run now - it’s when she kicks and pushes herself down! She’s side on which is fine but explains why I’m only kicked and punched one side!

I take the time to ask her questions about Group B strep. I’ve been messaging with Iwan Thomas, the former 400m runner whose baby had a near miss with the infection. He’s campaigning for more awareness and is running his first 100 miler next year (the South Downs 100, which I’m also planning to run) to raise funds. It’s a very serious illness I’ve never heard of and Nikki is more than happy to chat through the warning signs in a newborn. Forewarned is forearmed.

But it makes me wonder how much more I’m not aware off in terms of illnesses. In fact just in terms of what’s normal for a newborn and when I should seek advice. This might be my third baby but I suddenly feel I’ve forgotten everything! I spend a few hours googling what to expect from the stages of delivery to changing colours of poo to Vitamin K injections. It’s slowly coming back to me.

It’s all a nudge to finish my baby admin and pack my hospital bag in case she’s early. Which mostly involves a frantic search to find my TENS machine! TENS machines provide pain relief using electric current and I found mine very helpful during the early part of both previous labours – right before I got in the birthing pools. Handily I’ve put it away alongside my postpartum gear (big pants and pads galore) so it all goes in. I can’t seem to find any newborn clothing which I must have passed on. Cormac, my second son was almost 4kg and went straight into 0-3s but this one is likely to be a little smaller. So I’m frantically bidding on ebay for some newborn baby sleepsuit bundles! At least this means that her newborn clothing won’t be all blue like the rest of her future wardrobe.

It does feel like I’m packing for a race – everything organised into my bag as if I need to grab and go at a checkpoint. Things for during labour in one side – snacks, TENS machine, hydration salts and more. Toiletries for after for me (all those pads…), baby clothes for her in a little package with teeny nappies and wipes. Changes of clothes in case I’m stuck for a few days, with some for John too. Remembering that I won’t be straight back in my size 8 jeans after she pops out (a mistake I made when packing first time around). I’m thinking of every eventuality and preparing for it. Just like in an ultra.

I’m also prepping for my mental health as well. What I need after she comes. I’m fairly high risk for postnatal depression – I probably had it with my first son as I struggled to adjust to a very different life. I only took 3 months of maternity leave – and my husband was at home the first 6 weeks as he was between jobs, but just those 7 weeks by myself just being a new mum were crippling. This time I’ll have the boys to keep me busy, my husband working from home who can help out (and be company) and ongoing work projects to keep my mind active. So the risk is slightly different – if I’m not careful I’m going to be overwhelmed!

So I’m taking off as much pressure as possible in advance and calling in all the help I can. Christmas is only 3 weeks after her due date – which means if she’s late it could only be a week away! I’ve delegated all the cooking to my mum and limited family stays to just 1 night. John’s parents can no longer come over due to the lockdown in Ireland which takes more pressure off.

With hubby working from home (one of the few upsides of Covid) he can support with school and nursery runs, as well as giving me a break in the day to exercise while she naps. My parents have already been stocking our freezer with homemade bread, icecream and pasta sauce which will come in rather handy and I’ve reserved Ocado slots for the next few months.

Both hubby and I know the warning flags and we think we’re ready for it. We’ve learned from having the boys what we need to do to survive. Yes, I’ll be the primary caregiver for the first few months but this is a team battle. And the bigger the team I have behind me, the better the outcome will be for our whole family. So for anyone offering help, the answer is yes.

Not long till they outnumber us....

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