Yoga prepared me to DANCE!

Boof and I snuck away from parenting duties to attend a wedding on Saturday. My parents were in town and Potamus was happily ignoring us for the novelty of grammy & grampy time. I got dolled up and away we went. While it was an old acquaentence, in a girl who grew up next to Boof, the wedding was far from awkward. Because how could a wedding be awkward when the reception is a pizza buffet? And the bride put the ring on the groom’s wrong hand, and then dropped the ring down under the stage and the Man of Honor had to crawl around in his suit to find it?

There was so much laughter and love in the room that I could hardly stand it. And when the music got underway, so did the music videos, and boy lemme tell you, there is nothing better than dancing right alongside vintage Whitney Houston music videos. Or any music videos from the early 90’s. By 9:30 I was dancing so hard that my neck was dripping with sweat (an attractive look I tell you), and I had convinced my in-laws to stay for an extra 5 songs (because how could you leave during Love Shack? Or Britney Spears? Seriously people!). I guess I was dancing so hard that the father of the bride dubbed me his “favorite reception” guest ever. Which is a high compliment from a man in his 60’s, wearing boat shoes, with unbuttoned top buttons of his dress shirt and 70’s pornstart hair. Seriously. This wedding was the shit!

But I realized, at about 60 minutes into the dance fest that my heart was beating fast, and I was enjoying myself and had no desire to stop. And at 90 minutes, when we were leaving because of kiddo-at-home, but I could have kept dancing for another hour, I realized: I am in shape.

90 minutes of bikram/hot yoga two-three times a week has somehow made me in shape enough to dance for an hour and a half straight. To ┬áLove Shack people, it’s not like I was slow dancing to “My Heart Will Go On.” I have never been this in shape for dancing. I have always gotten tired 2-3 songs in and taken a break. I have never done so many fist pumps or jumping moves in my life. And I walked away from the experience both sore and happy to be alive. Who knew that yoga would get me all pumped up for wedding receptions!

You think I could convince Boof to go clubbing now? ­čśë

when my hair still looked good and not like a sweaty aerobics instructor

A Yogi Named Mellow

I went to my first evening back-to-work yoga class. I was feeling vulnerable. Tired after a long day of work. Guilty that I had whisked Potamus from daycare and got to only spend 1.5 hours with him in the evening before I left again for my class. But there I was, ten minute early, alternating between savasana and easy sitting pose, when Mellow came in.

There she was, sitting front row. And in the ten minutes before class she was engaging in all sorts of yogi acrobatics. Full splits with head to knee. Full ekapadarajkapotasana (king pigeon) pose. All with a half-smile on her face, and her long hair in one sweet french braid, wearing cheetah panties. Yeah, panties.

I mean, bikram yoga is pretty notorious for the minimal clothing, but I can mostly tell the difference between yoga bottoms, which look like bikini bottoms, and underwear. And she was wearing underwear. Her seductively intimidating warmup, with her six pack abs, and slightly glowing skin, made me feel like a giant slob. And while there are plenty of super-awesomely-in-fit practitioners that I see in every class, it was this attitude oozing from her that was both better-than-and-humbler-than, which made me want to gag.

And so I spent the entire session down on myself. My balance was off in the standing poses. I couldn’t cool myself down during the floor poses. And generally altered between feeling like crying and wanting to punch someone. Maybe it was a test, on pushing through when it’s distracting. Or a giant metaphor about how balancing work-life is the theme of the week when the balancing poses are so hard for me. Because, with hindsight, it wasn’t about┬áher, it was about me. I got distracted. And jealous. And down on myself. I focused on things I couldn’t change, and forgot to breathe and be proud that I was there after a long day of work. She’s probably a very lovely person, but I was jealous and annoyed, rather than filled with awe, respect, and a silent congrats that she had gotten to such a limber state.

How do you deal with comparison/jealousy in your physical fitness endeavors?

Hot Chocolate 5k-Seattle

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5am came quite quickly this morning, but I headed out to meet my friend Elizabeth to carpool to the Hot Chocolate 5k. I’m glad that we carpooled, otherwise you might have seen me curled up under a park bench at the closest Starbucks ­čÖé

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This was my first big race, and it was thrilling to be around all of the other participants. My goal for this race was to:

a) pace myself from the beginning
b) not die from bronchitis

On both counts, I succeeded! Tabbi and I were in the slowest corral, but we started off at a pretty reasonable pace, running the downhills and flat parts, but walking the uphills. Because MAN this course had some hills.

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I wish I could have taken (or chosen to take) some pictures along the course, because Seattle was BEAUTIFUL today. Our run through Pike’s Market was the killer, and why we walked…because I hadn’t realized that the hill would be so brutal! Our goal was to run the first mile, run the flats/downhills, and RUN THROUGH THE BATTERY STREET TUNNEL!!! Oh, and to run across the finish line, but that’s kind of a duh…right?

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It was so nice to have a running buddy to keep me company, and the lessons from the last 5k (like listening to talk radio rather than music), and my thought-process was much more clear and full of positive thoughts, rather than “I suck and should never have done this” thoughts like last time. I can see why people get hooked on these races!

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My finishing time (according to my cell-phone) was 48 minutes, which wasn’t quite up to the 15 minute mile “requirement,” but overall I feel very proud of myself. And I enjoyed the dichotomy of the BIG race vs. the small, local race I did last time.

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And, who doesn’t want to eat some chocolate at the finish line?!

“Diet and Exercise to reduce BMI”

Keebler Cookies

I ate six Keebler elf cookies on the way to work this morning. It was THAT kind of morning, you know, when you find yourself absent-mindedly perusing the mail left on the table and come across some information from the doctor you saw last week for bronchitis. Remember that story? The hot, older, South African doctor who treated me kindly and prescribed an in-office breathing treatment for my acute bronchitis after taking a walk-in same-day appointment from a stranger who had never been seen in that clinic? Yeah, it was a letter of discharge notes from that visit, that rambled on about my acut sinusitis and bronchitis and the medicine he prescribed. And then, there it was, at the bottom of the list of treatment recommendations:

Diet and Exercise to reduce BMI= 30.1 (bolded added by me)

Nice.

A lovely little note from a doctor I’ve met once, with instructions written instead of verbally given (or even inquired about) with the general statement of “hey fatty, why don’t you eat less and get some activity to lose some weight.”

Awesome.

Way to ruin my perfectly good morning.

And it just got me to thinking about all things weight related. Now, I understand that I could stand to lose a few pounds, but what that insensitive line didn’t ask, or inquire about, was WHAT AM I DOING or WHAT HAVE I TRIED or ANYTHING about my current diet or weight situation. Because, he doesn’t fucking know me, so he wrote on a piece of paper that I need to change my eating habits and get some exercise.

I am annoyed and embarassed because it was handled so poorly. I actually wanted to cry, which is why I ate those cookies. But seriously, this issue has come up before and I want to talk about it.

Before Potamus was conceived, I had reached this ghastly weight of 230 lbs. Somewhere in my mind this had been the weight that I told myself “geez, if you ever reach 230 you need to put the pizza down and start figuring some shit out.” So I did. I lost nearly all of that weight in hopes of conceiving our child, which was done a few months later. I lost it slow and steady with a combination of eating low-fat options and walking, sporadically. As a woman who is over 6 feet tall, I figure that if I were 200 lbs I’d be okay with my weight, and if I were a solid 185 I’d be SMOKIN’ HOT.

The BMI says I should weigh 160, though, which is what I weighed as a adolescent volleyball/basketball player who worked out 3 hours a day for 9 months a year. I don’t think that will EVER happen again. Seriously.

But what this doctor’s passive aggressive note about diet-exercise didn’t take into account, the things that I am doing to lose weight and the struggle it has been to get the baby-weight off. I did Weight Watchers around the beginning of my maternity leave, and nothing happened. I have only lost 20-25 of the pounds that I gained during pregnancy.

DESPITE BREASTFEEDING.

It’s been 14 months people and the weight has not ‘dropped off’ like they promised. I guess I’m following in my mother-in-law’s footsteps, where the weight didn’t come off until after she weaned. I am committed to breastfeeding even if it doesn’t help me lose weight. And I have been eating healthy, eliminating dairy and watching portion control, and exercising (ala 5k training pre-bronchitis days). And I mostly avoid those cookies-in-the-car binges.

I don’t know what else to do. I am not about dieting, and I have been getting exercise. And someone who wants to judge me, like the doctor, without forming a relationship and asking what I have tried and trying to create a plan for change, is not helpful. At. All.

I know that I want to lose the weight, especially since we’re planning on trying for baby #2 in the near-ish future (another post for another day), I don’t want to balloon to an unmanageable weight.

Sigh.

 

Thoughts? Advice? Funny stories of junk-punching a-hole insensitive doctors? Anything?

Running with Bronchitis

I haven’t felt this shitty since I was in high school and first diagnosed with asthma (so THAT’s what was making my otherwise in-shape body puke after every warmup in volleyball). We had moved to Eastern Washington a few years before and so it was a surprise to find the beginning of 10th grade with asthmatic symptoms that continued through the rest of my short-lived high school sports days. I ended up hating to run, which I attribute to a combination of mean coaches who yelled (not my kind of motivation) and the inability to breathe. I was put on various inhalers and pills to manage my deteriorating lung capacity and limped through the rest of my teenage years with a wheeze and a shake.

Truthfully, I hated the medication. I never felt like it did anything to help and what I noticed was all of the shakiness and heart-racing that accompanies inhaling random chemicals into my lungs. When I started college I vowed to make a change, and went back to my interest in yoga and began working really diligently to use yogic breathing techniques to augment my asthmatic tendencies. After getting a job at the American Lung Association, as an asthma educator, I learned that despite a few years of not taking medication, my lung capacity was quite diminished. The doctors asked me why I didn’t take inhalers and I told them that I had gotten used to belly breathing and was quite pleased with the results, despite what my spirometry tests said.

It’s been over 10 years since I’ve had to consistently take inhalers, and only rarely in that time have I had to even use a “rescue” inhaler or even felt symptoms of my asthma. Granted, I never tried running. So I was pleased when I began this couch-5k journey and found that I could run, slowly, gaining strength and didn’t have any of my old asthma symptoms. Being out of breath was because of working hard, and my lungs didn’t seem tight or wheezy.

But then I got bronchitis, the day after my first 5k, and I haven’t been able to run since. I’m hopped up on inhalers and folding laundry makes me tired. I’m supposed to “run” a 5k this Sunday and am worried that the combination of bronchitis, not being able to train, and it being at 6 AM, that I’m going to have a negative experience that’s going to reinforce my old belief about running, which is, that I am not cut out for it.

I go back and forth. Truthfully I have enjoyed running these past few months. But I also acknowledge that I haven’t been running long enough to really miss it. Yesterday when I came home, let the dog out, raked some leaves and played with Potamus, I was pretty content and didn’t miss my Tuesday run. Maybe that’s because I’m feeling so crummy in the lung-department, though, so who knows.

Question runners: what prompts you to get back to running when you’ve taken, or been forced to take, a hiatus?

On Running my 1st 5k: Reflections & Lessons Learned

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Today I finished my first 5k! It’s what I’ve been training for since Christmas, and now that I am home, sitting on my couch getting ready to hang out with some friends, I feel awesome about my accomplishment. But, I must admit, I learned some things along the way that were surprising (and some just re-confirmed some things I already knew about myself but had forgotten).

Run how you train.

I got caught up in the magical excitement of the race that I got a little carried away with myself. Because this was a first annual 5k it wasn’t organized into groups based on how many minutes it takes you to run a mile. Instead it was broken down into two groups: runners & walkers. Because I am seeing myself as a runner, I ran with the runners.

That was a mistake.

The runners started off fast. I “kept up” for the first 1/8-1/4 of a mile (out of the starting gate and down the road) out of pride. It was the beginning, and there were people on the sideline cheering, and I didn’t want to look like Ms. Slow-poke right from the get-go. So I ran fast. And spent the rest of the time trying to recover from my basic sprint at the beginning.

Boof said, later, that I probably would have felt better if I had run faster than the walkers, instead of spending my time trying to ‘catch up’ to the runners. He was right.

Another aspect of running how you train, is remembering pacing. I normally train without listening to music. I’ve been focusing on my breath and my footfall, and the sound of the gravel under my foot. A few days ago┬á I ran to a local talk-radio podcast, and found that was a good distraction without getting me out of my groove.

Today, though, with all of the hype and music blaring through the loudspeakers I decided to listen to some upbeat music to help keep me motivated. Sadly, as a former band-nerd, I can’t really run/walk to a different beat than music. This made portions of my race faster than I would have liked, and made me more tired than normal. I didn’t get into the zen-like place that I’ve been getting to lately. I was running, but I had lost my connection to myself in the process.

Self-talk
A little less than half-way into my run was when I noticed the self-talk going crazy. It was like during transition in labor, when my mind raced and I couldn’t “get it together.” I just noticed myself spinning out of control, saying things like “I am never doing this again. This is stupid,” and “even that girl in jeans and running with a purse is faster than me, I suck.” When I pushed through the middle third of the race I was fine, but it was that part that made me feel like I was breaking and like I should just quit.

Know the course

I had heard, from family members who ran cross-country in high school, that part of the 5k course was hilly and hard. But I hadn’t really looked at my route before this morning, and so I found myself running blindly, with little ability to pace myself. They had written, in chalk, at the 1 mile and 2 mile mark, but there wasn’t anything in between that. I found myself having a difficult time knowing how much time had passed, especially since the sound of music was drowning my own sense of time, and I think if I had run the route before I would have known to save energy for certain parts and where I could expend a little more energy.

Have an incentive

Boof was at the finish line, camera in-hand. When I saw the ticker-time board running, and realized that I was 45 seconds from completing the race in my goal-time (45 minutes, because the next 5k I run it’s MANDATORY…dum dum dum), I gained this new found speed and stamina that pushed me through to the end. And this afternoon I am taking a sweet trip on the light-rail downtown with some friends and their 2 boys, and we’re going to drink beer and eat burgers and have a fun time. A hard workout rewarded with some playful fun.

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I’m really glad I did it. I’m really glad that I chose THIS run as my first one. It was low-key, all about community support, and was inexpensive and super-local. I may do more races, but it’s nice to have this one close to home be where I started out. Even if I don’t keep running extensively, I can see myself running this race annually to support my neighboring city!

I finished 97 of 103 women, with a time of 44:47. I ran for more than 2 of the 3 miles, and my goal had originally been to run 1.5 miles. And, the sun came out. What more can we Seattlelites ask for?

When did I become a person who could run two miles?

On Sunday I was whining about being slow and steady in the running department, in comparison to my friend who had only run 3 times (as opposed to my 8 weeks) and finished the 3 miles faster. After talking to my sister-in-law, a former college track/cross country runner and now high-school track coach, about my training methods vs. my friend’s, I was feeling much more confident in the longevity of my training routine. Her advice was to keep at it, slowly, building up endurance and then working on speed, while focusing on form…all things that I have been doing in my runs. She said that my friend’s leg pain was probably going to compound itself and cause an injury if she’s not careful. Her advice made me feel more relaxed about my running, and so off I went.

Today I was able to squeeze in a few minutes of running post-work and pre-Potamus-pick-up. It just happened: a two mile run. While not the first time I’ve run two miles, it was certainly the first time that I felt confident in running two miles. I did need to walk for about 10 seconds a few times, just to catch my breath and bearings, before I was off and running again. And the consistent pace was what impressed me the most. Whereas before I had found myself running harder at the beginning and reaaaaaaaaaalllly slowing down toward the end. But today I felt like I was consistent, even with a nasty headwind on the hills home.

While I didn’t get the “runner’s high” I’ve heard about in legend, it was pretty cool to feel an almost-effortless ability to run that far. I struggled at points, but it’s a far cry from where I was 9 weeks ago! Cheers to forming new habits and going slow & steady toward the goal line. Looking forward to Saturday and my first 5k!

 

 

“The Tortoise & The Hare was WRONG!” or “Why I like exercising by myself.”

 

In December when I decided that year 30 meant doing some running, I signed up for a 5k in February. It’s a super local 5k benefiting a youth organization and the cost is only $25. I figured I would run it and see how I liked it before I branched out into more “races.” I joined the Couch-5k movement and started in on my path toward becoming a person who runs (which I like better than ‘runner’ because that seems so…set in stone…)

But then, a former (twice) colleague and friend Tabbi signed up for the delicious-sounding Hot Chocolate 5k in March and I figured what the heck, it’s only a few more weeks after my first 5k, I might as well do it. It’s a gigantic 5k, with 10,000 people, and the sign-up process was daunting…I had to pick a time group and the rules state that if you fall below that time then they shuttle you up to be with the rest of your group.

GULP.

So naturally I signed up for the absolute slowest I could go (15 minute miles) because I KNOW that that is do-able, even with some brisk walking. But my anxiety has kicked in and so of course I check out my good friend Tabbi’s facebook page and see that she ran a 5k in 42 minutes this week. GULP, since I signed up to run with her, I figured we should at least run together once to see how it worked out. I mean, worst case scenario is we high 5 at the finish line.

Boy am I glad that we did a practice run. The weather was AMAZING as we ran around Greenlake today. The sky was blue, the air was chilly but not cold, there was aproximately 7,549 dogs being walked by their owners, and it felt great to be outside, with a goal, and a friend to run together.

But, about 30 seconds into our run, I realized that Tabbi and I have very different styles of running. I am a run slowly for long-distances (at this point, my long-distances are like 10-15 minutes) and her style is run really fast for a minute and then walk….A LOT. I told her that I was cool with her running on ahead, and to not worry about me at all. And so that’s how we rolled. She ran ahead, I ran slowly and consistently and caught up to her when she was in her walking portion. I would then ease on past her and keep going and she would pass me when she was running again. We did this all around the lake, with only one stretch in there of us actually walking together.

I’m glad I gave her the go-ahead, because my biggest head-trip is holding people back on their workout. Which is why I would have so much anxiety in highschool when working out with people. I would push myself past my breaking limit in order to try and not hold them back, rather than listen to my own body. She busted out some Tupac as she ran, and I listened to my breath and thoughts and the pound of my foot on the gravel. I tried not to beat myself up when she got so far ahead that it looked like I’d never catch up.

And then, we got to the end.

She ran it in 38:30 and I ran it in 40.

On one hand it made me feel good that the 45 minute time limit wasn’t going to kill me in the actual race, but on the other hand I was annoyed. Her walking/running strategy was actually faster. Which, I think, flies in the face of that whole “slow and steady wins the race” moral of the Tortoise and the Hare. I mean, she probably ran 1 mile out of the 3, and I probably ran at least 2 or so, but at a much slower pace.

On the way back to the car she told me that she was happy because this was her 3rd run. I was like, “what? you haven’t been running?” And she replied that she signed up for the 5k and knew she had to run it in under 45 and so she ran and busted her ass, but felt sore the next day. And she was complaining about ankle and shin pain. I advised her in a limited way that she might want to train less vigorously, but we’ll see. I know, for me, the goal is to run the whole 5k, even if it’s slower than her, but I couldn’t help but feel like, as far as racing goes, her strategy was better. But probably for a longer period of time it’s not as sustainable?

Barefoot Running or Shoes are like Bras for Feet

Shoes are like bras for feet

Shoes are like bras for feet

I have had two major bouts of barefooting. Once for four months, my senior year of high school. I took my shoes off in English class one day and absentmindedly left them behind under my desk. It started a trend-turned-social-experiment, where I tested various stores and venues to see what their bias toward a barefoot gal would be. I was already labelled the “hippie” girl at school, so my barefoot ways endeared me to my fellow classmates. Even now, over ten years later, when I bump into one of those peers they always comment on my shoe-wearing ways.

Barefoot

In college, senior year, again (hmm, noticing a theme, perhaps?), a friend forwarded me an article about some guy in Norway who had been barefoot for fifteen years. Well, if he could do it, in NORWAY, I figured that I could do it for awhile. It was January, in Central Washington, and there was snow on the ground. So naturally I picked the first day of class, winter quarter, to begin my new barefoot journey. This came after a weekend of researching barefoot laws and coming across the Society for Barefoot Living. That website had oodles of really great information about the history of barefooting, articles on feet mechanics in bare  feet vs. in shoes, and linked to a global list of members of the society.
Of course I joined, though haven’t actually made it to any meetups.

That journey of barefoot living lasted for a year.

Along the way I did meet some amazing people. I led retreats in my barefeet, went hiking, taught some of my friends about the joys of hiking barefoot, and travelled to Queens, New York, where I spent some time with shoes, but much of the time without. And met a fellow barefooter from Chicago. We challenged the status quo and got a dormitory to relax their rules on being barefoot in common areas. My chronic poor circulation was the best it’s ever been, that year, and I felt strong and stable and connected.

3/4 of a mile barefoot, feels good!

3/4 of a mile barefoot, feels good!

At the end of the barefoot year I moved to New Delhi, India and put on some sandals. I haven’t been a chronic barefooter for a few years, now, though I was introduced to the concept of barefoot running in barefoot simulated shoes. Wanting to be cool like one of my besties, I bought two pairs of Vibram Five Fingers barefoot shoes, and do love them. But there’s something magical about ACTUALLY feeling the mud between my toes and understanding how my body thrives when I am feeling grounded and connected to the earth.

I’ve been struggling with running lately. I’ve tried my two different pairs of shoes that had been recommended by a reputable running shop a few years ago. I’ve had these fluctuating mood swings while running and the negative thoughts have really begun to overwhelm me. I’ve been walking more and feel like my fear of performing poorly in my 5k is really messing with me. I’ve been ‘training’ and not ‘running’ for any type of pleasure.

So, today, at work I ran for awhile on campus. And then I took my shoes off.

The feel of the track under my feet felt marvelous. My form felt natural and my heel stopped striking even when I was tired. While I only ran 3/4 of a mile barefoot, it felt so good. There was sunshine on my shoulder and puddles underfoot, and I was running. Not training. Running.

And, it was kinda fun.

How breastfeeding is helping me become a runner

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just after my 13:30 (plus dog-poop stop) mile run.

 

Whenever people would talk about running, I would usually jump in and say that “I only run if I’m being chased…and by someone much larger than me, someone I wouldn’t fight.” It would get laughs, but over the years I realized that defining myself as a not-runner had prevented me from exploring a form of exercise that is easily accessible to me. Running, like my love of yoga, doesn’t require a ton of equipment. It’s my body, some basic clothing (and shoes) and a place to run.

Yesterday I ran a mile in 13:30, which included 2 dog-poop pitstops, so I’m thinking I actually ran the mile in maybe 13 minutes. I was short on time, so I ran 1 mile faster than trying for longer. While the race is only 2 weeks away, I’ve only managed to run 1.7 miles at my furthest. I think with a little bumping up my game, I should be good to at least run 3/4 of the 5k on the 16th!

And I horned in on a friend’s facebook post about running the Hot Chocolate 5k in March, and asked if she wanted company. She was doing it alone, since her friend was doing the 15k version, and she was thrilled that I asked! That makes 2 5k’s in the first quarter of the year, which is exciting. I also think that if I decide that I don’t want to keep running, that doing two races is pretty respectable for a newbie.

I’ve been surprised at my dedication to training, even running in the rain Seattle Sunshine. I attribute this dedication to my decision to breastfeed. That might seem strange, especially since I avoided exercise at all costs for the first few eleven months of Potamus’ life for fear that my milk supply would dwindle (and because of sheer exhaustion). Every time I think of running I conjur up images of my 10th grade volleyball coach making us run endless Swedish miles on the track, her small, marathon runner’s body, pushing us to puke-or-pass-out levels. Or my basketball coach yelling from the sidelines to run faster, harder, when I just couldn’t do it. Needless to say, those yelling/shaming tactics didn’t really work on me. In fact, they pushed my anxiety over the edge to a level of sheer panic. I’ve self-induced vomitting only a handful of times, and those were all to get out of practice.

But there was a time when I enjoyed running. As a kid I played tag for hours, and football and kick-the-can in the neighborhood, and on the playground at school. I enjoyed running. It wasn’t until I had to run for a grade that I understood what people had been talking about when they complained of exercise.

So I’m learning to see myself as a maybe-runner. Or even, instead of trying to box in my identity into that category of runner, it’s must, I run, sometimes, and it feels good. And when it doesn’t feel good I am able to keep a longer perspective in mind. And THAT I attribute to breastfeeding. Because if I had given up when it had gotten hard, Potamus would have had formula since day 3. Or month 4 when I was back to work and having to come home every 3-6 hours. Or when he day-weaned but nursed every 1-2 hours all night. It’s not that I never reached a goal, or pushed through hard times to get their, before I breastfed, but certainly not to such a physical level. My goals had always been mental, like finishing school or writing a paper, this feels so different. The daily physical toll with an end-goal in mind.

I’m not there, yet, but I’m on my way. Pushing through on the daily, my eyes set on the goal, and who knows, maybe even after my two races I’ll keep running. After all, I haven’t weaned Potamus yet, after we made it to our year goal!