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  • Writer's pictureSophie Power

37- 38 weeks - a half ironman... and a baby!

The last training picture!

Spoiler alert – this is my last pregnant blog entry! She ended up popping out 8 days before my due date – taking me completely by surprise (I was expecting her to be late – for no rational reason of course). So I end up running the day my waters break!

Anyhows rewinding back to being 37 weeks and my live diary from there on….

As I wrote in my last blog I took a gamble on the Centurion x Rerun clothing “do the race on the random unwanted race tshirt” and end up being faced with a Half Ironman. Ironman Switzerland 70.3 to be precise. Whilst 37 weeks pregnant.

Now these challenges are always open for interpretation – which is handy as swimming pools are closed for lockdown so the closest I’ll get to the water is my hubby’s rowing machine. And sadly swimming is the only leg I could probably do at close to my usual pace. I’m usually slow… I’m still slow and the bump probably helps me float if anything! I do want to honour the challenge – which for me means getting in the course elevation gain (about 1000m) somehow, as well as having a combined time for the 3 legs under the cut-offs.

Being physically able to be this active is of course unusual for this point in pregnancy. I’m conscious there will be many of you reading it thinking you can barely walk at this point. And that was me pregnancy 1. I had PSD - terrible pelvic pain in the last few weeks and as my son had descended early I was waddling along with a head between my legs! Every pregnancy is different, and whilst I definitely feel that a lot of the strength training I’ve done this pregnancy has helped, there is also just a huge dose of luck involved too. Pregnancy training has been up and down according to how I feel. It is all about listening to my body (whilst taking specialist advice) and this week my body says go for it!

I plan to do the “course” over 5 days. The swim (row) is 1.9km, the bike 90km and run 21.1km. Day 1 & 2 will be row & bike. Day 3 run. Day 4 rest (for pelvic floor to recover). Day 5 run.

The most amusing part comes first. I realise that my bump has grown so much that rowing is rather difficult! I have to open my legs at the top of each pull just to allow the bump to get through! I have barely been on a rowing machine since I rowed for my college 3rds – ie the date crew. Essentially we only rowed so we could go on crew dates with mens teams from across the university ; ) I wasn’t exactly an athlete when I was younger – I’d actually never run more than a mile before I signed up for the Marathon des Sables aged 27. But that’s another story….

The row is done in less than 10 minutes even at my bump restricted speed so I give myself a 30 minute time penalty to make it closer to my swim time. I’ve never really used our rowing machine (come to think of it nor has my hubby who bought it…) but it does feel like a great all body low impact workout – possibly something I throw in during my recovery period while I can’t run. Though I can’t see the TV so maybe not.

The bike leg is an excuse to watch 2 hours of TV (I go with the eco challenge again… reminding myself that ultramarathons are hard enough and I don’t want to be rock climbing up a waterfall in the middle of the night). I make the mistake of going off too hard though –keeping more 145HR which is just too high for that long at this point in pregnancy and in the second hour I have to calm it down and fuel better. It’s a definite drop from the last couple of weeks which is to be expected – I’m full term now! Bike: 54km in 2 hours.

The next day I see sense and go FAR easier – keeping 125 HR, 106W tootling along. Reminding myself its not a race and I have loads of time. The only issue is I can’t get comfy on hubby’s racing saddle – I definitely prefer a big squidgy one. At least when 37 weeks pregnant. Oh and its just incredibly boring. Hubby seems quite happy for hours on end on his bike doing his Zwift racing but I think 60 minutes is my max – and even then I need to be doing some kind of interval session to keep my brain occupied. It’s the same on the treadmill to be honest – just running at one speed doesn’t work for me I’m far too easily bored and boredom makes it feel so much harder.

I decide to split the run into 2 sessions – with a rest day in between. The first part is so comfortable – even after 2 days on the bike. I jog at 3-5% with hike recoveries at 10%. I’m now so aware of my heart rate – on the jog its 135 but hiking is 145 which starts getting tiring so I slow it down. Really learning to listen to my body this pregnancy and understand my heart rate and how it affects me. It’s such an important skill for ultrarunning and feels good to have improved something over the last few months I wouldn’t have otherwise done!

I realise I’ve now watched more TV this week than I can remember. I don’t usually have time at the moment – I usually work in the evenings or muddle through the endless family admin tasks. So it feels like a bit of a treat alongside the challenge!

Day 4 of the challenge is rest day. I haven’t been running back to back days in pregnancy for months to allow my pelvic floor to recover in between impact sessions. It’s just like any other muscle – it gets tired when its overworked and it works hard under impact like running. I still want to get out and move so hubby and I go for a 6 mile fast hilly hike while the boys are at school. With it “just” being a hike I’m not thinking about fuelling properly and forget to take snacks. On the way home I start feeling a little dizzy and end up on the couch recovering afterwards (with the biscuit tin)

I finish off the “Ironman” the next day with a brilliant treadmill run – 10 mins jog 4% 5.7mph then 2 mins hike 11% 3.5mph (repeated for 6 miles). HR around 140. I feel really strong- I’m pinching myself that I’m able to do this at this point in pregnancy.

Relief it's all over!!

38 weeks and it’s really time to plan. We spend so long writing labour plans but most mums forget to plan for what happens afterwards. I’ve had friends worry more about the candle fragrance they want in labour than how they are going to manage afterwards. With 2 boys at home already I don’t have a choice! My parents are fortunately 20 mins drive away so as long as she doesn’t fly out they’ll be here in time to watch the boys when we go to hospital.

The key prep is for after we get home. Having food in so we don’t need to cook (and a lot of my dad’s homemade icecream). Booking Ocado (supermarket delivery) slots. Accepting friends’ offers of weekend/after school playdates and help with pickup and drop offs.

Setting a plan at home – who will do what? How do we make sure I get a shower every day? (!). How do we give enough of our time to the boys to support them in this huge transition? How do we minimise the stress on ourselves? With my firstborn I put so much pressure on myself to not only appear “together” as a new mum, but also have the house clean, fresh cookies baked and then ran around after guests when they arrived. This time I’ll put a sign on the door saying “no food – no cuddles”. And I won’t care if laundry is piled up in the corner! This is not the time to care about anything other than family.

It’s also time to think about my mental health. I found it really difficult with my first baby – especially when my hubby went back to work and I felt incredibly isolated. One upside from the changes from COVID-19 is that he now works from home so can help in the day. Just having someone to hold her while I have a shower, collect the boys from school or nursery if she’s having a feed, or give me a break to go the gym (or nap) will make a huge difference. We know the warning flags for me - we’ve been through it before and we’ll both be on high alert to make sure I’m looking after my mental health as well as my physical recovery!

I have a 38 week scan followed by a consultant appointment. There’s no real concern but my placenta was borderline low a few weeks ago so she booked me in again. My bump is quite “neat” so I’ve had to endure several comments over her size (bump size and baby size are not strongly linked but don’t waste your energy telling the commentators this). The estimates can be quite a bit out but they have her at 7lb already. My firstborn was 7lb 3oz so she’s close to him (though nowhere near my 2 year old who was 8lb 12oz with a large head…).

I’ve been using an Aniball for the last few weeks which essentially helps stretch you to make delivery easier and stitches less likely. I couldn’t get on with the whole perineal massage in my last pregnancies, and am still scarred by the tear and resulting stitches I had after my second (that big head). This is a ball you put inside you and inflate, do some exercises then, well, give birth to. The aim is to increase the size of the balloon every day until it’s 25cm. The "giving birth" bit is not fun at all but it does prepare you for the feeling of crowning (possibly the worst part of labour) and I’m hoping I can avoid stitches this time!

I’m term now, it could happen at any time which is crazy to think! The bag is packed, the car seat is in our boot and we’re ready to go. Except next week I have work meetings, a Women in Sport “away” aka zoom strategy day and our house is still being done. I really need her to stay in a little longer!!

The consultant is recommending an early induction if she doesn’t arrive “on time”– booking me in for 40weeks + 3 as this is their new policy. I’m not sure what I think about this. My focus is on her and I don’t want to increase the risk of her being distressed or my placenta failing. The numbers don’t seem meaningful to me. But its difficult to contemplate any increased risk no matter how small.

It’s so hard to assess things – in pregnancy we’re asked to make so many decisions! I’m a numbers person, used to trying to optimise scenarios all the time and I find it hard so I’ve no idea how others would do this. My usual strategy is to ask what the questioner would do if it were them. My consultant says she would be induced. So I accept to book in. If I am induced it likely won’t take that long she says – it's my third baby after all. And with some of the natural methods I can still be in the birthing centre with a pool rather than a labour ward. I also can change my mind at any point. In finance terms this is therefore a free option so I book in and the date is set.

My training is starting to ease off now after last week's half Ironman craziness. I’m on the Wattbike more but am really missing my spin class now gyms have just closed in the latest lockdown. Whilst we have a lovely home gym (TV, fan, tray next to bike for snacks) I really miss the social aspect of class. This week I do a 45 min Wattbike interval session called “rugby conditioning” – picture. Not sure what it has to do with rugby but I really like the set – and can much more easily control my HR when I’m not comparing myself to others. Maybe having the gyms closed is a good thing for me!

Energy is up and down this week. One day I can do an hour at 5% mostly running. The next I pass out after lunch for almost 2 hours and don’t even feel up to a quick weight session in the evening. My Saturday session says “hike or nap!” It’s times like these that I realise how important it is to have a coach that REALLY understands what I’m going through!

38+2 and the pain hits – like hot pokers in my upper back and all around the ribs on one side. I’m walking slightly hunched over on the family hike and on our return heat a microwavable penguin, stuff it down my bra top and secure it with a Heart Rate strap. Then 38+3 I’m feeling really good – my calves say no way to an inline hike but running 5 miles with a few walk breaks is no issue at all!

The bump is getting pretty big - no wonder I've back pains!

38+4 the back pain returns and I skip my bike session – she is really pushing outwards now which is very painful! 38+5 and back on the treadmill. This week really is up and down! I figure running is better based on my last workout but after a mile run I start to have a jabbing pain in my tummy and fairly strong Braxton Hicks. So I switch it to a 15% incline hike and feel much better. I can’t hike quickly now – certainly not to get my heart rate much above 140 so anything harder will have to be on the bike.

I am 38+5 however so it is time to start really winding down. This evening I get some sharp pains in my pelvis. The boys are in the bath shouting for me to throw in even more toys but I just can’t move. I’m finishing off work and only get to bed around 11 before I’m soon woken up by what I can only describe feels like a complete loss of bladder control and wetting the bed.

In other words my waters have broken. I think my body was trying to tell me something over the last few days with all that rib pain! I straight away call my parents to get them to come over and watch the boys – even before I shout to my husband that his movie will have to go on pause. One way or another she’s arriving sooner than we expected!

I'll be posting about labour, my postpartum recovery to running as well as my thoughts on pregnancy as soon as I get some sleep! But in the meantime here's my beautiful Saoirse (and a tired looking me)

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