Tuesday, June 21, 2016

My First Marathon

I have never been much of a runner. There were several times in my life that I tried to be. In High School I was required to run, but always got out of it because my knees hurt (growing pains). I half-heartedly tried in college, and after getting married, and after my first two kids. I ran a few 5ks, but nothing really stuck, mostly because I was running for the wrong reasons. I ran mostly thinking that if I did I could still eat whatever I wanted and loose the baby weight. There was never any joy in it, just a means to an end that never came, so I gave it up.
Then came 2015… I had three kids age 6 and under, and was pregnant with the fourth. I was trying to care for my kids, my marriage, my house, and myself and I was struck with a completely surprising and completely debilitating bout of Antepartum Depression. I had never even heard of it, let alone been through it, and it wreaked me. Those nine months of pregnancy were the worst I have ever been through, and it was a kind of darkness I never want to face again.
When I was nearing the end of it, I knew I needed to be proactive after the birth so I wouldn’t slip into any sort of postpartum depression. I hadn’t had it in the past, but this pregnancy was nothing like I had experienced, and I wasn’t taking anything for granted. I picked up the book “The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer” and started reading. There was very much the feeling of if I can survive this pregnancy, then I can do anything, so why not run a marathon.
Hannah was born at the end of September, and 6 weeks later, I started running. It was slow, painful, and full of walking, but I stuck with it and slowly started to get better. I was amazed at how good it felt to run! I had been so trapped in my own body during that pregnancy that finally being able to move and run gave me an almost instant flood of endorphins. Alan decided to join me a few weeks in, and we took turns running in the wee hours of the morning before getting kids off to school. It was difficult getting up those early mornings after feeding a baby however many times during the night. It was especially hard having to get up extra early and pump milk before squeezing into a sports bra. The winter came and we bought cold weather running gear. Slowly my stamina increased to where I was running a 5k every morning without even thinking about it.
At the beginning of January I officially started the training program and picked out a marathon. I signed up for Mainly Marathon’s Heartland Series – Day 6, Wisconsin. It is a series that runs 7 marathons in 7 days in 7 different states. It had some unique things that I liked about it. It was a looped course, which meant one big fully stocked aid station, easy access to any drop bag that I wanted to bring, and I always knew where the next bathroom would be. They also prided themselves on leaving no runner behind, which meant that there were no time limits and they stayed until the last runner finished.
There were many early mornings running in the dark and snow. Aside from one hiccup in March, training went fairly seamlessly, until the end of April. I suddenly had to pack up a few of my kids to fly with me to be with my Mom. I managed to go on a few short runs and one 16 miler while I was there, but mostly running was put on hold for more important things. When I got back there was only a few weeks left until the marathon. I pulled out a 20 miler in training before the miles went down for my taper. The 20 miler was hard, but it gave me confidence that I had the guts to finish the marathon.

My sister Becky flew out with her daughter Lucy to watch our four kids while Alan and I ran ourselves silly. The marathon was two hours north of us, so we packed up the night before and booked a cheap motel right by the race. I had to pump and dump before bed, and then again at 3:30am when I woke up to get ready. I put on all my tried and true running gear and slathered up with Body Glide. We headed over to the race and got signed in and picked up our numbers. I felt a little silly wearing my hydration vest when there was an aid station at the end of every mile, but I knew my running strategy, and I always felt better taking little sips every few minutes rather than chugging a whole cupful once every mile.

It was a 5am start time, and I was a bundle of nerves and freaked out energy. It was a small group, only 84 runners between the full and the half. The head guy gave a few announcements about how the course worked, and singled out a few people who were hitting running milestones. Alan and I were announced as running our very first marathon, and were met with lots of cheers. The course was set up as a perfect mile loop with two down and back sections. The chit chat finally stopped, and I honestly can’t remember if there was an air horn or whistle or a "ready, set, go", but suddenly I was off and running. I was finally running my marathon.

We started running the opposite way first to get the .2 out the way before looping 26 times. Alan and I split up almost immediately. We had different paces, and we each had to run our own race. But because of the way it was set up, we saw each other almost every loop at some point and could give encouragement as needed. My name was printed on my number, and I heard “Way to go, Sarah!” “Good job, Sarah!” and “You’re doing great, Sarah!” constantly through the course from the other runners. It was very much a community of runners that just wanted to lift each other up and help everyone be the best they can.

At the end of every loop I got a rubber band. After 5 loops, I traded in for an orange rubber band, and so on. I had Amy Poehler’s “Yes, Please!” on audio book pumping though my earbud. A few times while running I burst out laughing, and other runners gave me a funny look. I just told them “Sorry, Amy Poehler”, which probably didn’t make a whole lot of sense. I was doing really good and feeling really good. I didn’t even have to make a bathroom stop until lap 5. I was slowly making my way through the marathon.

Around lap 10 I hit my first little rough patch. Part of the mental preparation in the “Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer” was to make a mental movie of yourself finishing the marathon. Picture how it will look, who will be there, what it will feel like. When a run gets tough, I was supposed to play my mental movie to help get me through it. My problem was that my mental movie had changed several times throughout my training. At first my parents were supposed to be there with the kids, but then it was unknown if they would be there for so long, and then it was a little up in the air about what would happen. Finally it was settled on my sister coming out, but she wasn’t going to be hanging around the race sight for who knows how many hours while tending five kids age 8 and under. At lap 10, Amy said something about “If you have parents that are still living, call them right now and ask them about the day you were born.” That got me thinking about my Mom, and having already run 10 miles, my emotions were getting close to the surface, and I thought about a lot of things that I wasn’t ready to think about yet. I finally decided my mental movie ending to my marathon: I was going to finish, then collapse in the grass and call my Mom. Once I decided it, it was easier to get a handle on my emotions and keep moving.

I finished lap 13 with a big cheer of “Halfway!!” I was still feeling really good at that point. I was hydrating well, I switched up my fuel and was getting more protein and glucose, and I’d passed by Alan I don’t know how many times and gotten a high five or a kiss from him. I think I hit halfway around the 3:30 mark, which was a pretty good pace for me and about what I expected. I sent a fairly garbled message to my sister, and luckily she could understand it and started sending me pictures of my babies to keep me going for the second half. And then it got hot…

I think the high of the day was 93 degrees. The course was fairly well shaded, but there were some hot open stretches of trail that got difficult to cross, and with every hour the sun got higher and chased away what shade I had. Around mile 16 I had to take a break and use my stick to roll out my calves and thighs. My mouth started feeling funny, so I switched to ice water in my hydration vest instead of my Bai drinks, and focused on getting electrolytes and salt every time I passed the aid station. I felt myself slowing down with every loop, but I knew I had to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. A lot of runners had already finished by that point, and the parking lot kept getting emptier as they left. I had one sock that had started slipping down. I pulled it up once, and then had Alan pull it up another time, and I knew I saw blood but had to just not think about it and keep moving. I had some wicked chaffing going on right below my bra with all the extra sweat and salt from the heat, but again, I had to put it out of my mind and keep going. I just kept telling myself the only way to make it better was just to finish.

The race staff did a good job of trying to keep everyone cool. They had a couple of dunk buckets full of ice water with towels to cool off with. I used them for several laps, squeezing the water out on my neck and down my shirt until it made the chaffing too unbearable. They set up a table with water half way around the course with more ice, and I saw several people running with bags of ice on their necks or in their hands. One time I stopped and asked them to put a couple of ice cubes down the back of my shirt.

Alan finished around my 20th lap, and he was at the bag drop watching me finish my last handful of laps. I was so sweaty and crusted with salt at that point, but I just kept drinking and drinking as much as I could. The aid station had a sign that said “Drink so you Pee!!”, and that’s what I tried to do. It got to where I had to make a pit stop every two laps to fill up my squeeze pouches and empty my bladder. Every time I had to stop at the porta potty and try to get my pants back up over my swollen, sweaty body I thought about male runners and how much easier they have it.

Amy finished reading her book around mile 22, and I was left to finish my last few loops with nothing but my own thoughts. The aid station helpers kept asking what they could get for me, or what I needed, and most of the time I just answered “more rubber bands”. I spent the last few laps thinking about the people I love. I spent a lap thinking about each of the kids, what they were like as babies, how they looked and smelled, and who they have turned into since. I spent a lap thinking about Alan and all of the various ins and outs of our marriage. I spent lap 25 thinking about my Dad, how my relationship with him was going to change, how his life would be different, and what that meant for me and my family. Finally, lap 26, the last lap, I saved for Mom.

I was exhausted, chaffed raw, layered with grime and salt, and hurting everywhere. I finally let myself think about all of the things I had been pushing down. I thought about what life was going be like when she was gone. I thought about my kids growing up without her, and how I was going to keep her memory alive in our home. I let myself feel all of the deep aches and pains of the whole situation that I had been trying not to feel for so long. The course was deserted at that point, it was just me, the trail, and my Mother.

Alan met me at the last turn and hobbled to the finish with me. He told me “alright, big sprint to the end!” and I turned to him and said flatly, “this IS me sprinting!!” I made it to the table and they recorded my time and presented me with my medal and the official Caboose Award. 

I was the last one to finish with a time of 8:43:10. I hobbled over to the nearest patch of shade and laid down and called my Mom. She answered on the first ring, and I don’t remember our conversation exactly, but it went something like this:

Me: “I did it, Mom. I finished it!” (Breaks down into sobs)

Mom: “You are so crazy!! I’m so proud of you!! I don’t know why you had to do this, but I’m so proud that you did!! I’ve been so worried about you all day and have been pacing the house! That was insane to run a marathon, but you did it!! You finished it!!"

There was a lot more crying and laughing and everything in between. I was sad that she wasn’t there waiting for me to see me finish, but I was so happy that she was still there, and that I could call her.

The last of the race crew packed up and drove away to the next race site in Minnesota. There were a few calls of “see you tomorrow!” that I just laughed at. Alan and I finally gathered ourselves and our things and started the two hour drive home. I ended up with some massive chaffing on my torso, about 5 or so blisters in various spots on my left foot, and only one or two on my right. I managed to keep all of my toenails, which I'll admit I was more than a little worried about. The shower I took that evening hurt almost as bad as running the marathon. It took a few days for the soreness and stiffness of my muscles to ease. It took a week until I could stop wearing bandages with rash cream on my chaffing. As of ten days out, I still have yet to try to run, but I am starting to get antsy to get back out there.

Will I run a marathon again? It’s hard to say. I am currently signed up to run a half marathon in Utah at the end of July (a half seems so short and easy now!), and a 5k Warrior Dash in August. Setting aside so much training time for a full was the hardest part, especially with my busy household of 4 young kids. But I feel like running has finally become a part of my life. When the timing is right (and maybe the kids are a little older and more self-sufficient), I could possibly see myself trying this all again.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Hannah's Birth

     I tend to be in pre-labor for a very long time. By the beginning of September I was have at least a couple of contractions every day. Never enough to be consistent, just enough to remind me that I was so close to being done, but not quite there. My mantra was always “not until the 23rd” since that was when my mom was coming into town. I always had backup plans running though my head, but I always told myself “not until the 23rd.”
     It was a very long, long month, but finally September 23rd came. It was a pretty typical Wednesday, and I was pretty busy getting last minute things ready for my mom to come. I got the girls off to school, went to the store with Clark, picked up an air mattress, and did lots and lots of laundry. I was busy and moving (and exhausted) most of the day, but I did start having more regular contractions. Nothing too big, but definitely something every 20 – 30 minutes. I picked up Elsie early from school so we could drive all the way to the airport to get my mom. I had a few contractions while driving, but nothing too big. Mostly they were just very annoying. We finally got her and made it back home.
  Once at home, I was done. I was very tired and very sore from everything happening all day. I put some dinner in the oven and zoned out on the couch while my mom was swarmed with kids. The girls kept asking me if I was going to the hospital yet since Grandma was here. Alan came home, we had dinner, and put the kids to bed. I went over our regular schedule with my mom, made sure she knew where everything was and how it all worked, wrote a list of all the things I still needed to add to our hospital bag, and finally went to bed. I lamented to Alan that I was so sore and hurting, but I was still pregnant and didn’t know when it would end. He reminded me that since my mom was here, all I had to do was sit and watch Netflix and crochet or do whatever I wanted until the baby came.
    2am I woke up. I went to the bathroom and had an energy bar that I kept next to my bed for when I woke up in the middle of the night hungry. I laid back down to get to sleep when the contractions start to hit. Right from the start, they were INTENSE. I got my timer going on my phone and timed them for a little while. Laying down wasn’t working anymore and I sat on the edge of the bed. With all of my other spontaneous labors, my water broke before we went to the hospital. I kept waiting for it to break, even willing for it to pop so I could be 100% sure that it was time to go. It never did, and by 3am with contractions every 2 -3 minutes I couldn’t take it anymore. I woke Alan up and told him we needed to go. His first response was “well, has your water broken yet?” He mumbled something about how he knew how much I wanted this to be done with and he didn’t want me to have to be sent home. I firmly told him I didn’t care and that we needed to go NOW. He finally got up and we scrambled around gathering up last minute things. I woke up my mom and told her we were leaving and we’d let her know what was going on.
     The drive over was awful and the contractions were hard. At least there was almost no one else on the road that early in the morning. By 4am we made it to the hospital and started the long walk to the labor and delivery floor. We first ran into a security guard who looked at me very nervously as he walked with us, but then came across a nurse going back the same way who took us the rest of the way. I stubbornly refused to ride in a wheelchair. I guess I was still worried about being sent home, and thought walking would help things move along. Looking back, it was pretty dumb to say no, and the walk was really difficult and slow. I would have to stop every 20 feet or so for a contraction, lean against the wall and beg for Alan to push on my back. He was struggling carrying all of our bags and pillows, and I think a few times had to balance everything and use his elbows for counter pressure on my back. Finally we made it to the floor and to the front desk. After trying to answer questions and signing in, we got into a triage room.
     Somehow I got undressed and into the hospital gown. The nurse kept pestering me with lots of questions trying to figure out if my water had broken or not. I mentioned something about there definitely being more activity down there happening, but I wasn’t sure if my water was leaking or not. She kept bugging me about times and such while I was clenching and holding on during contractions, and I wanted to yell at her “just do the dang test already and get your answer!!” She finally did the Amnisure test, which came back negative for my water breaking. Once the test was done she could check my dilation; I was at a 6 and the water bag was bulging. She immediately worked on getting me admitted and starting an IV. I was Group B Strep positive with all of my pregnancies, and she was worried that I might not have time to get the full dose before the baby was born. They offered me a robe and a wheelchair to get to the Labor and Delivery room, the latter of which I again stubbornly refused. The walk down the hall was short, but difficult with contractions.
     We get to the room around 5am, Alan finally unloaded all of our stuff, and I used the bathroom one last time. I crawled in bed, laid on my side, gripped on to the guardrails, and just waited for the contractions to come. I had already told them about not wanting an epidural or pain relief. The nurse said something about trying different positions if I wanted to, but I grunted something about just wanting to lay still. At some point I realized clenching up during each contraction was counterproductive, so I did my best to “relax” into each contraction. Turns out my “relaxing” into the contractions meant closing my eyes and moaning deeply through each one. I still desperately needed Alan to press on my back during each wave. I vaguely remember thinking it must be uncomfortable for him to reach me having to lean over the bed like he was, but then the next contraction came and I didn’t care anymore how he was feeling.
     Technically I had an OB team of three doctors (one attending and two residents), but I really only saw my doctor throughout the pregnancy. I think I saw the other two once or twice, just enough to know who they were. Turned out one of the residents was at the hospital on call, so he came in to see me. They called my regular doctor too, and since she is a Family Doctor and I was probably one of her only pregnant patients, she got up and came to the hospital at 5am. She looked tired, and I think I apologized for waking her up, but then had another contraction and stopped caring. She told me I was doing great all on my own. I think I said something about it being too late for any pain medication now, and she started to say something to the contrary, but I grunted or groaned, and she shut up about it.
     I could feel baby moving down with each contraction. I felt sick, asked for a bag, and threw up during one of the contractions. That has got to be one of the worst things ever… After that I said something about it shouldn’t be too much longer since throwing up means it’s close to the end. At one point they tried to get the second robe off of me, and I wasn’t too happy about that since it meant I had to move. They talked about breaking my water, but needed to be ready because baby would be born soon after that. The nurse called for a delivery team and people started coming into the room. The resident would be catching, with his attending next to him. My doctor was on one side, with the nurse on the other. Alan stood somewhat helplessly near my head and just sort of held on to me. Several more contractions, baby moved lower and lower, and I said I needed to push. The resident broke my water, and they tried to move me into position (which I was not happy about). My doctor and nurse held my legs and tried to get me to grab them too, but I didn’t want to. I held onto Alan’s hand, and someone else’s hand (another nurse?) on the other side instead.
     I started pushing, and my deep moans turned into She-Hulk calls. My doctor and nurse kept shaking my legs telling me to relax them and push down. Breathing was difficult during contractions, and I felt like I couldn’t breathe while they were happening. I just remember them saying “take a breath, relax your legs, curl around your baby”. At one point during the pushing I remember yelling “why aren’t you out yet??” Finally, with one last effort, she came shooting out at 5:45am. Alan described it later as “well, it kind of looked like you exploded a little…” I pushed for maybe 5 minutes, but it felt like a lot longer. They told me to open my eyes, pulled baby up, rubbed her a little, and put her on me. I think one of the first things I said was “She has hair!!” I was more worried than I want to admit that she would be a bald baby. My doctor asked me her name. I looked at Alan, and told everyone that this is Hannah. Alan cut the cord, and we just looked at her for a little bit.
     Since she came out so fast and didn’t spend a lot of time being squeezed by the birth canal, they wanted to take her and rub her down good and get her squawking and breathing deep. I told them they could go ahead and weigh and measure and get a diaper on her. Alan went over to be with Hannah and my doctor while the resident and attending worked on me. The placenta was still coming out and they were giving me shots of Pitocin to help everything contract. He asked me to push a little, and I think I told him to “give me a break, I just pushed out a baby”. I had a little bit of a tear that needed to be repaired, but I told him to wait until I was holding Hannah before working on it. With 9lbs 5oz, 22in of baby laying back on me, I finally let them finish up.
     After everything was done, the crowd started leaving the room. Hannah settled in on me and started nursing like a champ. The nurse staff changed and a new one came in to help clean everything up. Alan finally got a chance to hold Hannah, and I felt a huge rush of emotions fall out of me. I looked at him holding her and choked out “it’s finally over. This whole pregnancy is finally over. “
    This year had been one of the hardest of my life. Antepartum Depression came out of nowhere, and was nothing like I had ever experienced before. I feel like I should have recognized the symptoms earlier – I suddenly stopped doing everything I used to enjoy. I stopped running, I stopped blogging, I stopped crocheting, I stopped sewing, and I even stopped reading books. I was more exhausted than I had ever been. I was angry all the time. The kids were completely overwhelming. It wasn’t until I was over halfway through and struggling every day just to do the basic things that I realized that it was not normal to feel this way and finally talked to my doctor.
      I started getting help. I saw a therapist. I opened up to some close friends. Alan drove us across the country to my parents’ house so the kids and I could stay with them for a month during the summer to take some pressure off of me. I cut out foods that were acting as triggers. I tried to get enough sunlight and sleep. I did everything I could do just to survive; just to hang on until delivery and hope that it would all get better.
     In that one moment when I looked at Alan holding Hannah—that little baby that I had struggled for so long to get here—an overwhelming sense of relief coursed through me. Suddenly, I felt lighter. Like I had just taken a deep breath after being underwater for so long. I have tried to hold on to that feeling, and it has only increased the further away from delivery I get.
      It was for that one moment, that one breath, that I knew I needed to have a natural delivery again. I needed to feel everything, to conquer this pregnancy, to see it through all the way to the end. I needed to have that raw, real experience to be able to rise above it. I look at Hannah every day and I know she was meant for our family. I don’t know why it was so hard to get her here and I am relieved that her pregnancy is over, but I am so glad that Hannah is in our lives.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Frozen Family

Another one of my huge projects of 2014 was making the Frozen Family for Halloween. When Elsie saw the movie for the first time in December of 2013, she assigned everyone characters for Halloween, and I heard about it at least once a week for the next nine months. It was my first time really doing clothing construction, and there was quite the learning curve. I bought and followed a pattern for Elsa and Anna, and just kind of made up Sven, Kristoff, and Olaf as I went. My awesome sister came to town at the beginning of October and did a little photo shoot of us. I used the images for my Christmas cards this year, so I've been holding off on posting them. Now that we are past that, here are some of my favorites.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Elsie's Quilt

I started cutting out the pieces sometime in February after I finished Alice's quilt. I slowly started sewing the blocks together whenever I had a spare minute to work on it. It took me a good while to get them all done.

Then the quilt took a break for a while. It was summer, and somehow it is harder to work on quilts in the warm weather. My twenty finished blocks sat on a shelf taunting me for a long time...

When fall came, it was becoming more urgent that Elsie have a bigger blanket. She still had a little toddler quilt that her grandma had made on her bed, and she was rapidly growing too big for it. I was getting constant reminders from Elsie and Alan that it needed to be finished. Finally, I pulled out the squares, figured out the measurements, picked out more fabric, and got to work finishing up the top.

I knew if I tried to quilt it on my little machine it would take way longer than I wanted to spend on it. I had given myself a deadline of the end of the year, and I really wanted to get it done. I took it to my local quilt shop and rented their long arm to finish it. It took me just over three hours to quilt it, and I don't know if I can ever go back to doing it on my little machine again.

I spent about two days curled up on the couch stitching the binding on it, and then it was finally done!

I did the "Inside Hearts" pattern for the quilting, and I really liked how it turned out. Elsie was thrilled with all of the little hearts all over her quilt.

I finished it with two days to spare before my deadline! I'm just really glad it is finally done and that Elsie can sleep with it.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas ornaments 2014

Each year we pick out a new ornament for the tree; one for each of the kids, and one for Alan and I. Here are this years picks:

Elsie scoured the shelves for every single princess. She carefully weighed how pretty the dresses were before settling on Sophia the First. She also tried to plan out what ornament she would get for future years so she could have all of the princess on the tree.

Alice did one lap around the ornaments. She saw Yoda, grabbed him, gave him a big kiss and proclaimed "I love Yoga so much!!"

I just found all of the soft squishy ornaments, held them up to Clark, and this is what he chose.

Five little stockings hanging by a cozy fire seemed to represent our year of being huddled inside from the polar vortex of last winter.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Twelve Months

I'm a little late in posting this, but the pictures were taken on time! Clark is on the go full time and getting into everything. Most of my kitchen cupboards are tied shut with bungy cords, and the ones that aren't are constantly being emptied. Clark likes to organize and put stuff away, so it is always fun to try and find the things I need. My tupperware drawer is full of cars, the fruit snack box is full of tupperware, the play kitchen is full of (clean) diapers... Don't ask me where my can openers are, because those are his favorite to carry around and put somewhere. Even though he is busy most of the time, he is still a Mama's Boy and always comes back to me for a quick snuggle before moving on to something else. He loves to follow around after his sisters and knock over whatever game they are trying to play. Even though he annoys them to pieces, his sisters still can't get enough of him and are always laughing at whatever he is trying to do.

We love our Clark and are so glad he's been in our family for the last year!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

11 Months

A few days late in posting this, but better late than never. Clark finally got one tooth, and has one more on the way. With his new tooth, he is suddenly very interested in all the food and is finally eating more than just a little taste at meal time. He is getting very brave at trying to walk and will walk short distances between handholds. He is starting to mimic our behaviors - trying to dip french fries before eating them, putting clothes in the laundry basket (and then pulling them back out), trying to brush his hair (and his sisters). He is turning from little baby to little boy right before my eyes!