Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Gabrialla Maternity Belt: A Review

This will probably be either a two-part review or a review which I update significantly as the belly gets larger. I thought about just waiting until I was further along to review it at all, but I've been running in this thing for a month and I mentioned a reviewing it several weeks ago, so I figured I would go ahead and do it.

In case you're in a hurry and you want the short version of the review, here's a synopsis: I LOVE it. I can't imagine running without it until after the baby gets here.

The longer version: I don't personally know anyone who has run through an entire pregnancy. So I didn't get any support belt reviews from people personally I know and trust, which is something I really like to do when I have to spend money on something I've never bought before. I have been thrilled by all the product advice I've been getting from friends who have gone before me in motherhood--the best kinds of baby slings, bottles, pacifiers, butt paste (yes, butt paste is apparently a thing). But as far as a support belt for running during pregnancy, I was on my own.

So I did as much online research as I could, reading blog posts, Runner's World articles, Amazon reviews. And I settled on the Gabrialla belt. Medela also makes a belt which came recommended by several sources, but I liked the idea of the Gabrialla's adjustable support on the sides, and the fact that it seemed a little less bulky. Also, it came in black or white instead of nude, and as I was going to be wearing it over my clothes and sweating in it, the darker color was more appealing.

The product description says it is not noticeable when worn under clothing, but I can't comment on that, because I wear it over my clothes when I run in it, and I'm not to the point where I want to wear it for anything other than exercise--I don't need that much support yet. If I get there, I'll give it a try. Most of the reviewers who wear the belt for exercise recommended wearing it over clothing to prevent chafing, and I agree--the material is not soft and would probably rub.

When I first started wearing the belt, it was still cold, so I was running in tights. I had a bit of a problem with the belt sliding up over the slick fabric of the tights, and I had to pull it back down several times a run. Now that it's warmer, I don't have the same problem with shorts or with most longer running tops.

My favorite thing about the belt is it not only provides support for the belly, lifting it off my bladder a bit, but I wear it low enough that it supports my hips as well, specifically the sacroiliac joint, where I have been having some pain since about 10 weeks. Since I started wearing the belt, SI joint pain after running has decreased significantly. Yoga and foam rolling have helped also.

The one downside is the belt's lack of a pocket. I know it's not designed specifically for exercise, and people who wear it for daily use probably don't need a pocket. But I do. Because it happens to cover the exact location of the tiny key pocket on most running shorts. If you stick a key in the pocket and wear the belt, the key digs into your skin. I finished a run a few weeks ago with a perfect imprint of my car key on my right hip. Running product designers, if you're reading, maternity running belts need key pockets! Thanks.

Overall, this is probably the single purchase I would recommend to any and every pregnant runner. Without it, at 24 weeks, I might have reached the point at which running is more uncomfortable than fun. It really makes a difference, and I am so glad I bought it!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Race Report: 14th Annual Jackrabbit Trail Run

Saturday I wrote about how excited I was for this race--my fifth race during this pregnancy. I'm happy to say it lived up to my every expectation! Except maybe for the weather. I'm ready for spring to make up its mind about being here.

Race morning dawned cold and windy--not what I was expecting. I had my outfit laid out and my race number pinned to a short-sleeve top. I considered wearing it anyway, hoping it would warm up, but as I shivered and froze while walking my dogs, I decided to go with warmer attire. And it was a good choice--it's always windier in the mountains.

I hadn't gotten a good night's sleep--it was one of those nights of the frustrating cycle: can't sleep, get angry about it, can't sleep even more. I was worried I would miss my alarm when I finally did drift off, or feel awful when I woke up, but neither of those things happened. Though I definitely took a three-hour nap after the race!

I met some friends outside the park and rode in with them, as we were worried about parking. Franklin Mountains State Park has several small areas of parking along the road, and we got a great space but ended up having to walk what seemed like fifteen minutes uphill in the cold wind. (I'm sure it didn't actually take that long. And the parking situation was excellent compared to some races I've been to).

Despite the cold, the starting line was lively and everyone seemed excited. The sun had yet to appear over the mountains, a fire truck displayed a massive American flag, and we looked out over El Paso and the distant green of the Rio Grande valley area--such a gorgeous picture! We started promptly at eight, the first mile or so almost entirely downhill on the paved park road.

When we entered the trail, the pack had thinned enough that having to run single-file wasn't a problem. I replayed in my mind the advice of a veteran trail runner at packet pick-up: "Don't take your eyes off the trail, even for a second! I know someone who fell twice last year." Meaning himself--these guys were hilarious! I love friendly packet pick-ups! And I tried really really hard not to take my eyes off the trail. But I couldn't resist sometimes; El Paso is so much more beautiful from the mountains, and on stretches I gauged as relatively obstacle-free, I allowed myself glimpses of the scenery. And I managed not to fall! Success!

The first section of trail is mainly flat or downhill, and I ran all of it. About a mile before the turn that would take the five-milers to the finish, the ascents began, and I walked much of them. I wasn't alone in walking, and I didn't mind walking--the scenery was still gorgeous and I was still outside, on the trails, in a trail race.

At the five-mile cutoff, I ate my Apple Cinnamon flavored gel (not an excellent flavor choice, by the way), estimating I had just over 2 miles to go. This began my favorite stretch of the course: a lengthy flat and downhill straightaway running along an edge that somehow has fewer rocks than the rest of the trail. It's a fast section, and I reveled in every second of it, knowing I would soon begin the long climb to the finish line.

The last mile of the course makes up all at once for all the minor descents of the first half of the course: a long, rocky hill that levels off only for stretches of ten yards at a time. I was prepared to walk the entirety of the climb if necessary, and I'm happy to say I was able to run some of it. At the top, the finish line is thirty yards away. My friends were there and managed to snap this great picture!

Many thanks to Kalie for the photo!

I finished the seven miles in one hour, thirty minutes, and forty-two seconds, about what I was estimating it would take me. I was expecting to be unhappy with a finishing time that I knew I could beat significantly while not pregnant, but I found I didn't care about the time at all, because I was so grateful and elated just to be running a trail race!

So I'm calling it a success on all five of the goals I listed Saturday. I didn't fall. I listened to my body and walked, ate, and drank when I needed to. I didn't get angry for having to walk so many of the hills. I am content with my time, and I was joyful throughout--and still am! I haven't come down off the cloud from this race yet. I wish there were more trail races coming up.

Going into a race with the goal of joy rather than speed is kind of a new experience for me, but I think it made all the difference. I had so. Much. Fun! A few other things that aided my race experience: wearing my hydration pack (having some weight on my back helps balance out the weight I have up front right now), wearing the maternity support belt (even though I think I look like I have a back injury since my belly isn't too obvious yet), and eating a gel during the race. If I wasn't pregnant, seven miles isn't a race distance that would make me take food or water along, but I was definitely grateful for it this time.

If we were going to be in El Paso longer, the Jackrabbit Classic would become a staple of my spring racing season. I'm sad that we will miss it next year, and I'm sad I didn't discover it sooner. It was a great race--well organized, well-marked, friendly, and the course was a blast!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Jackrabbit 7 Miler: Anticipation and Expectations

I had a different post in mind for today, but I am so excited about the Jackrabbit Trail Run tomorrow that it can wait.

About this time last year, I was running the Prickly Pear 50K in San Antonio. That was both my last trail race and my last really long race. I don't have any long races on the horizon, but I am so very excited to finally be racing on the trails again!

I hiked the course with a friend on Tuesday, so she could get a feel for the trail. I have both run (during the 2013 El Paso Puzzler) and hiked it before, but even though I knew what to expect, that hike made me look forward to tomorrow's race even more!

What I'm worried about, though, are my expectations. I have only run the rocky Franklin Mountain trails a handful of times while pregnant, and not in the last couple of months. I know I'm going to be slow, both because I have slowed down and because I will be exercising more caution and attention than usual, so I don't trip and fall. And there are several hills--another aspect of running I've neglected lately.

So here are my goals (and I have never made a set of race goals quite like this):
-Don't fall!
-Listen to my body
-Don't berate myself for walking the uphills
-Be satisfied no matter how long it takes me to finish.
-Be joyful throughout, and be grateful that I am still running, let alone trail running!

If I can manage all these things, I will consider the race a success. There will be time for racing later, time for focusing on my finishing time and my age group place. Now is the time to be in the moment simply enjoy running.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Yoga: A Sort-Of Love Story

Yoga and I have had an on-again, off-again relationship for years. Almost nine years, to be precise. We first met in college, where yoga DVDs were sometimes waiting for me at afternoon practice, a welcome change from aqua-jogging or a second run of the day.
image from Amazon

Unfortunately, it wasn't love at first sight. Because that first yoga DVD was Denise Austin. If you need a video instructor who is beyond excited about yoga, Denise Austin is your girl. I mean, just look at the cover: even her pants are too excited about yoga. We joked that she must be on crack. Unkind, but apt. So I had no idea yoga was supposed to be calming.

As the years passed, the team got new DVDs and the experience improved. A more subdued video instructor made for a more relaxing practice, but I was still on the fence. More often than not, I was more sore after yoga than before, because I tried to stretch too far. Oh, Rodney Yee can bend like a pretzel? Watch this, Rodney. (Lesson: yoga is not a competitive sport).

But more and more, I kept feeling as if yoga was something I should do, and love. You don't have to look hard to find professional athletes from all kinds of sports shouting the praises of yoga, for strength, balance, injury prevention, rehabilitation, and relaxation. Why didn't I love it?

In grad school I found a class that met on the weekends, free at the campus gym. And that's when I started to enjoy it. But I wasn't consistent about it. If a better offer came along, I would ditch yoga in a heartbeat.

Fast forward to now: prenatal yoga. I had wanted to try it anyway, but when I read in Expecting Better that prenatal yoga has been demonstrated to aid in labor, I was sold. Fort Bliss offers a free class each week, and I've been going with an awesome group of ladies. It is relaxing (so relaxing), with the right amount of strength and balance poses, all modified for this growing, soon-to-be-in-the-way belly. And man, are there some bellies in the class. I'm inspired, and I hope I'm still at yoga class when I'm 38 weeks pregnant.

So I have fallen in love with yoga. Whether it will be a lasting relationship, or one that just gets me through this pregnancy, I can't yet say. Like every relationship, it has it's flaws. Yoga instructor jargon  makes me laugh: last week we were told to weave a golden thread with our breath. What?! But I feel both stronger and more relaxed when I leave class, in a way I don't find when I stretch on my own. I think I would stick with it even without the labor benefits. So our on-again, off-again relationship is on again for now.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Race Report: St. Patrick's ACTS 8K Run

Saturday dawned cool and blustery, and I met my friend Kalie and her husband just north of downtown El Paso at St. Patrick's Cathedral for the ACTS 8K. It had completely slipped my mind that the race was probably related to the upcoming holiday, so I wasn't wearing any St. Patrick's Day green. But lots of other runners had gotten into the spirit: we even saw two guys dressed as Peter Pan and Tinkerbell.

The race started on a downhill, but it didn't stay that way for long. We turned the corner onto Rio Grande and then headed up Brown Street. Literally, up. It was probably a two-mile uphill, into the wind much of the way, continuing from Brown into the beautiful old neighborhood near Scenic Drive. I walked three different times on this incline, never for more than a minute at a time, but just long enough to catch my breath.

And then we turned a corner and the rest of the course headed downhill, back to the starting line. At first, it was a welcome change, but soon running downhill took as much of a toll on my legs as running uphill had earlier. There were two water stations, and all of the volunteers were so friendly!

I finished in 46:46, a time I feel pretty good about. I don't know when I last ran an 8K, so I don't have much to compare it to. Which is fun--I enjoy odd distances for a change from the common 5K.
At the finish line, there were hot dogs, hamburgers, fruit, and chips--perfect because I was starving!

This was such a fun race! This week, I'm taking some recovery time and looking forward to the Jackrabbit Trail Run coming up this weekend!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Friday Five: What I LOVE About Running

1. One of my very favorite things about running is seeing new runners get excited about running and watching them achieve and surpass their goals! It is so fun to see them make progress and realize that their goals are attainable. It makes me remember those first few running achievements of my own and how they felt, and reminds me of why I started running in the first place: because it's fun.

2. That post-workout exhaustion high. It's a paradox, how tired I can be and how good I feel anyway.

3. The bond of being a runner. Some of the best and fastest friendships I have made started upon finding out the other person runs. My husband and I ran together before we started dating. I swear you can join any stranger's running conversation and be welcome, simply by saying, "Oh, you run? I'm a runner too!"

4. It feeds my competitive side, and I am my own biggest opponent. I'm the kind of person who can get way too competitive playing board games. I try to keep it on the down-low though, so as not to alienate my friends.

But in running, you don't have to hide it. Because (friendly) competition is the point, right? And especially with myself. I want to beat my own times and distances even more than I want to pass the person ahead of me. But only a little more.

5. It's always new. If I have a bad run, I can rest knowing tomorrow's will be better. If I'm bored with my neighborhood, I can run somewhere else. I can meet friends to run, sign up for 5Ks, trail runs, or color runs, do some speed work for a change of pace, or take my music or an audiobook along. When non-runners tell me, "I wish I could run but I just get bored," I wish I could show them it doesn't have to be boring! But maybe that's something you have to find out for yourself.

Thursday, March 6, 2014


I couldn't resist sharing these fun numbers for your Thursday.

The Mizuno website has a fun interactive with these numbers. It's fun to imagine what the world would be like if everyone ran!

To add to theirs, I thought of my own, less-statistical list of benefits:
People in cars would never yell "Run, Forrest, run!" at runners.
Cars would pay far more attention to runners in cross-walks with the right-of-way.
And I would never have to be ashamed of my pedicure-less feet in sandals, because everyone would understand the importance of keeping your calluses.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Pre-Race Jitters, or: Why I'm Grateful for High School Cross Country and Track

I once had to stop and go to the bathroom twice on a fairly short van ride to a cross country meet. I was well-acquainted with the port-a-potty line at every high school meet. Why? Pre-race nerves. I was that kid. The one who gets so nervous before events her bladder goes into overdrive and inconveniences the heck out of everyone. I was almost always more nervous than the situation called for.

I used to shake on the starting line. I'm from south Texas, so it was rarely cold enough for this to be shivering. Sometimes I felt like I was going to throw up. And I always, always, had to pee.

Fast forward ten or so years, and I'm still a nervous person. Especially when I have to speak in front of people, but even before minor 5K races. But there is a difference now, and the difference is how I let those nerves affect me.

I realized this last week in Sunday school. Our class was practicing something called storying: one person memorizes a Bible story (not necessarily word-for-word), and tells it to the class. The class then goes around the room, each person saying one part of it. Then one person volunteers to try and tell the whole story. By the end, the whole class will be familiar with story in a different way than from simply reading it over and over again.

I volunteered to lead last week, along with a friend. We memorized the story of the Transfiguration, in Luke 9:28-36. I thought I would be nervous about it all week. And I was. But not in the way I was expecting. Every time I thought about it, I just practiced it to myself and envisioned saying it successfully in front of the class, and I was fine.

On Sunday morning, I was a little more nervous, but I kept imagining (and also praying for) success in telling the story. And it went well. I didn't leave anything out. I'm always critical of how nervous I sound when I speak in front of people, but I'm going to go ahead and call this a victory, because (1) I didn't have to pee; and (2) I did it!

On the drive home, I reflected on what brought about this change, realizing I am much less nervous in general than I used to be, and that I'm at a point where I can be really nervous without letting it negatively impact my performance.

Part of it, I think, is growing up. Becoming an adult means learning to do things you don't like and to do things without letting your feelings get in the way. But I think being exposed over and over to situations where I was really nervous is also part of it. And that's why I'm grateful for high school races: they were opportunities to face, over and over again, the nerves I couldn't stop myself from having, and learn how to work around them.

I don't think I will ever step up to the starting line of a race I've invested myself in, or stand in front of a gathering of people to speak, without feeling those jitters. And I'm okay with that: they're part of who I am. Now I know how to use them and how to get past them to do a good job. And I don't think I would be there yet if it wasn't for all of those teenage racing nerves.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Celebrating (Over) Halfway!

I was going to post last week, when I was 20 weeks, which is officially halfway through the pregnancy.

But last week was super busy, so I waited. And it feels a little more real this week: most first-time moms stay pregnant past their due dates, but the vast majority of doctors will induce on or before 42 weeks. So at 21 weeks, I am for real at least halfway there!

And I know. Nineteen (or as many as twenty-one) more weeks is still a long time. And I probably have the most uncomfortable weeks ahead of me. But right now, I'm choosing to feel grateful: for a healthy baby, for feeling good in general, and for still being able to run.

I wasn't sure how running would feel at this point, so I was cautious with my expectations. I'm happy to be able to say, despite some tiredness, I still feel great! I went for a 7 miler on Saturday in preparation for an upcoming trail race I'll hopefully be running, and I was pleasantly surprised to not feel much slower or much more tired afterward than pre-pregnancy.  So I'm planning to run an 8K this weekend, and the 7 mile Jackrabbit Trail Run on the west side of the Franklin Mountains the following weekend. I can't wait!