Monday, May 26, 2014

Don't Make Decisions Going Uphill

My husband said that to me the other day. He actually said I told him that once. I don't remember saying it, but there's a lot I don't remember lately (thanks, pregnancy brain!). Whether I did or didn't say it, it was a piece of advice I needed to hear.

Last week was a week of painful runs, poor sleep, and general irritation at how uncomfortable I'm getting. I wondered aloud, more than once, why on earth I'm still trying to run, and whether it's worth it, and whether I even want to run anymore after the baby, let alone train for ultras. Dramatic, yes, I know.

And that's when he imparted this bit of wisdom: Don't make long-term decisions while you're going uphill. At the time, I thought whined, "Yeah, yeah. But this is hard. And it's not fun."

But this morning I had a great run. The weather was cloudy and cool, and I got in a good three miles with minimal pain. I remembered his words and smiled. I'm so glad I didn't let last week make me quit yet. I am so glad I had this run.

Almost exactly two years ago, I ran my first ultra, the Jemez Mountain 50k. In the first ten miles, the course climbs to the top of a ski mountain, and in that stretch I did as much walking as running. Painful, oxygen-deprived walking and even more painful running. I knew my mom was waiting for me at the next aid station, and I fully intended to drop out there and let her drive me home.

But the aid station wasn't at the top of the mountain. I had to go back down first, and in that short stretch of blissful descent, I had just enough time to change my mind. I didn't drop, and I am so, so glad.

I recall that race all the time, as motivation on tough runs. You'd think by now I would have learned that lesson applies to life as well as running. Keeping up my fitness during this pregnancy, with round ligament pain and fatigue, has seemed like an uphill race getting steeper with each step. But today reminded me why it's a bad idea to quit just because the going gets tough: you never know when it might get a lot better.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Treading the Depths: Carlsbad Caverns

Last Thursday we took a trip to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico, about two and a half hours from El Paso. (We hit up two national parks that day--bathroom break at Guadalupe Mountains, because there is seriously nothing else between El Paso and Carlsbad).

I looked like this:

My parents took me to Carlsbad as a young child, but since I don't remember much of that trip, this was like experiencing it for the first time.

The self-guided tour enters the cave through the natural entrance (the gaping hole behind me), via an asphalt path which has been blasted into the wall in places. The initial descent is steep at times, and very dark once you leave the light of the entrance behind, but I never felt unsafe. Only slightly creeped out about being so far below ground.

But the creepiness is worth it, for views like this:

It's amazing to think all this was formed by dripping water, and that some of the speleothems (my new favorite word) are still growing! The park website has better pictures; cavern photography is apparently a specialized art form for which the iPhone is not equipped.

The park ranger at the entrance (they give you an orientation before you can go in, to make sure you know not to touch anything) said the 1.25 mile descent to 750 feet underground takes about an hour and the tour of the Big Room at the bottom takes an hour and a half; we did both slightly faster. And while you can leave the same way you came in, we took advantage of the elevator ride direct to the gift shop.

I had intended to wear my support belt since I knew we would be doing so much walking, but my scattered brain forgot to bring it. I was fine though--no round ligament pain. I didn't run that day, so our two-ish hours of hiking counted as my workout.

It was a fun trip, definitely something worth seeing while in El Paso. If you have the time to make a weekend of it, stay until evening to watch the bats fly out of the cave en masse. I wish we had been able to see this, though I'm sure hordes of bats would creep me out as much as going so far underground!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Thirty Week Running Thoughts

At this point, it feels like every blog post I write, or think about writing, could be titled "Still Running...But for How Much Longer?"

Because I look like this right now.

I run three or four days a week, and many of my runs these days are fairly uncomfortable. It's become a balancing game: how much discomfort am I willing to tolerate during the run? How much will tolerating it render me useless for the rest of the day? And always, the nagging fear at the back of my mind: Does tolerating this discomfort pose a threat to the baby?

My doctor is still fine with me running. Her instructions have simply been to not over do it, and that I will know if I do. (Honestly, I'm not sure I'm capable of overdoing it anymore. I can't breathe well enough to even contemplate running fast, and the thought of running more than three miles at a time no longer appeals). And the discomfort I've been experiencing has been round ligament pain, which doesn't hurt the baby.

The support belt helps, and tight running tops provide a little extra support as well. Maintaining good form helps too; slouching, shuffling, and pounding on my heels each step only make it worse. Sometimes the baby is just in a position that makes the round ligament pain particularly sharp. Sometimes walking for a few minutes helps; sometimes I cut the run short and do yoga.

When I do have pain, most of the time it doesn't persist after the run, and if it does, I've found that a warm bath works wonders. Also, it's not the most awful kind of pain: round ligament pain (for me) feels like a combination of really sore abs and a very low side stitch.

Aqua jogging has become my new favorite thing, because I can do it without any pain. On Wednesday, an awesome friend joined me and I was able to go for an entire hour! Alone, it tends to get very boring. I aqua jog twice a week and will probably add a third day next week. If the pool wasn't so far away, I would go every day because being in the water feels that good.

I really, really miss long runs and fast runs and runs that feel smooth and easy, but I'm grateful to still be doing any sort of running right now. I have about two months to go, and I'm getting really excited to meet this baby, and to get back to regular running!