What on earth was I thinking when I wanted to run 100 miles this week???
For background this is a Centurion Running virtual lockdown challenge (I often run their 50 and 100 mile trail races). It looked fine on paper – double run days using the treadmill, few miles hiking here and there and it all added up to 100. Easy. Of course I could do physically do it so of course I was going to try – against the strongly-worded advice of my coach and physio.
I’d really like to think I realised I shouldn’t do it myself. That I finally realised the huge impact on my body of running 100 miles might restrict the rest of my pregnancy and recovery. That the stress of getting in all those workouts despite being in first trimester zombie zone and juggling work and childcare wasn’t worth it. But in all honesty it took my husband breaking a bone in his leg – and the removal of any hope of me getting the child free time needed to complete it – to realise that.
It has been a real wake up call for me. I’m still at the point where before the time in a day zombie Sophie sets in I don’t feel pregnancy restricts me. My teeny bump doesn’t get in the way of my strength workouts and I just feel a bit less fit and more frequently in need of a pee when I run. But because I CAN do things doesn’t mean I SHOULD.
My REAL goal is having a healthy pregnancy – mentally and physically, being as prepared as I can for the endurance events of labour and new motherhood. I have nothing to prove to anyone else. Of course challenges are great for me personally – they can help me focus, give me some structure to my training as well as motivation. But they have to be the right challenges and chosen for the right reasons for me, not just because everyone else is doing them.
This has become clear in my weight training too. I have another call with my physio Emma who spends a lot of it looking at my form when performing the exercises. She can see my Diastasis Recti (separated abs) has still not healed fully from my last pregnancy. During my pullups, she can see the “doming” in my stomach – there is too much intrabdominal pressure and a bump pops out in the middle. Pulling apart my diastasis recti and meaning that rather than getting stronger, I’m more likely to have a longer recovery.
So I reluctantly agree to ditch pullups from my routine. This might have been more of a fight before my 100 mile week battle ended – I LOVE doing pullups to feel strong – but its good timing as my ego is firmly locked in a box for a while. Another exercise that just because PHYSICALLY I can do it, does not mean I should!
Much of my core routine falls the same way and is switched for exercises where I can control the doming through focusing on contracting my abs. I can't do a double leg raise any more without doming (see picture) - just a single, or instead have to bend my knees. But I know what I'm looking for now so can keep testing and adjusting. Emma assesses my other exercises too – turns out even though I know she’s watching on Zoom I’m still just doing most of them without thought to my breathing or form. As I’m not working to my max I’m getting away with being sloppy - not recruiting the right muscles, not standing tall or breathing right.
It’s now about focusing on the exhale, keeping my pelvis neutral, slowing it all down. Not just bashing out rep after rep. Quality over quantity….. And I do feel it far more where I’m supposed to now!! We’re still trying to work out how to keep my back strong with the home kit I have now pullups are out (and gyms still closed) – I usually do 60kgs on a lat pulldown so a theraband over a door isn’t going to cut it. I’m assessing the strength of my stair bannisters for my TRX…
Good form whilst doing your exercises is extra important in pregnancy. It’s definitely worth the investment for a specialist to review yours – a session with a prenatal qualified PT (on zoom or otherwise) can help prevent problems further into pregnancy and of course a speedier recovery.
As for the running update - I didn't get to run my 100 miles but I did complete a different challenge - helping my friend Katie complete her first trail marathon. She has a big birthday coming up so wanted to hit the milestone and of course I had to say yes! (She didn’t know I was pregnant when she asked but was probably relieved as it meant we needed to stay nice and easy).
I manage to get doing the trail marathon past my coaches as a better alternative to the 100 mile week but we still plan for it carefully. Running a marathon distance is usually something I do without thinking but in pregnancy we have to make sure it is as safe as possible and won’t cause an injury.
We reduce impact in the days leading up to it by putting my runs on the treadmill and having a full rest day the day before. I also already feel the improvement in my pelvis and pelvic floor not carrying Cormac around all the time! The trails are so dry that my Speedgoats aren’t right so I dig out my old cushioned Hoka road shoes I’d run Spartathlon in (a 156 mile non stop road race) a few years back. (Next week I’ll update on my footwear switchup). I haven’t run long distances on road since so all my other road shoes are fairly minimalist and definitely not suitable for pregnancy!
It was going to be an incredibly hot day so the night before I preload with strong electrolytes (Precision Hydration 1500 mix) so I’m ready to go in the morning. At some point I’ll get round to writing a post on the time I went into a coma in a race from drinking too much & not eating salt….but safe to say its always a focus for me now. I also pack a LOT of snacks – aiming for 300 calories an hour of a mix of sweets, energy balls and some salt & vinegar crisps. I’m finding the heat sends my heart rate into overdrive now so I plan almost the whole route in the shade of the forest. Luckily I live on the North Downs Way where I can run for miles in woodland (with great views every now and then).
We end up having just a brilliant run – it’s a long time since both of us had such a break from the kids in lockdown! It takes us around 5 1/2 hours in the end – with a few drinks (and ice cream) stops – running gently and enjoying ourselves. Its such an incredible feeling to help someone to reach their goal and see the positive impact it makes. For me this is just as rewarding as hitting my own goals, often more so.
I’m not going to be doing marathons on a regular basis through pregnancy – there is no point. The endurance in my legs will come back quickly after and this is just too much strain on a regular basis. It doesn’t help me meet my REAL goal. It has given me such a boost though - I'm aware a few weeks ago I wouldn’t have been able to do this at all – I’d have just have been too tired. Pregnancy has ups and downs and hopefully this means I’m going into the “good” bit.
There’s one more challenge for this week – my two boys are both doing their first 5kms!! My 5 year old has been missing his weekly 2km Parkrun and he’s motivated by the thought of a medal. It’s another hot day but he does brilliantly – running almost all of it (and beating me on the technical downhill). My just-turned 2 year old’s 5km is a long walk to feed the ducks and wave to the cows (fuelled by raisins). They are so proud of themselves I can’t wait until their medals arrive! Running is just a fun thing for them – they love to be timed running to a tree and back, or be given a headstart against me for a race. I’m just wondering at which month of pregnancy I’ll need the headstart!!