Monday, September 29, 2014

Back At It

I went aero for the first time in over a year.

I cracked a 9:00 mile.

I drank a glass a wine.  

(or two)

And if I squint hard enough I think I can see my abs.

I AM (almost) “ME” AGAIN!

We have nearly hit the 5 week point since Mackenzie’s birth.  In that time I have learned one thing: my masters degree is useless!  I should have gone to school for a masters in Food Service & Sanitation.  My life is a whir of meal prep/clean up, potty visits, baths, laundry and household chores.  I remind myself that I get to do this and realize that I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Chris spent two weeks at home after Mackenzie’s birth and somewhere in week two made the very keen observation: this is a hard job you do, Elizabeth

Yes, now, let's talk about the PAY! 

Mackenzie is an adorable 9+ pounds of snuggleworthy cuteness.  I am utterly in love with her and even find her cry adorable (her cry sounds like a little sheep and who doesn’t love a sheep?).  She is a good baby in that she sleeps for 3 hours at a time and only cries when she’s wet, poopy or hungry.  At times I find myself wondering why or how it’s so easy.  Don’t get me wrong – waking up every 3 to 4 hours is not easy but compared to what it could be with a newborn?  I’m lucky.  She gets up, eats and within 15 minutes is back in bed asleep.  DREAMY newborn behavior!  There was even one night where she slept for 5 hours.  Every new parent knows the feeling when the kid finally wakes up, you look at the clock and think to yourself – wait, what?  I feel too good.  I feel refreshed.  You mean it’s been FIVE HOURS since they last woke?  OMG ARE THEY STILL BREATHING? 

It happened once.  The day I felt refreshed

Yet managing each day can be a wild ride of managing the details of the house, business, two kids and the dog.  5 weeks of juggling all of this – and, not to mention myself and my own recovery – has taught me that just like endurance racing, it pays to stay in the moment and not look too far ahead.  At times I think to myself how am I going to do it all?  Then I tell myself that I don’t have to do it all.  I don't have to figure it out now.  I just have to make it through today.  And then tomorrow.  And soon enough I’ll have strung together weeks, months of doing things that lead to a feeling of accomplishment.  Just like when you run that marathon at the end of Ironman – it’s not 26.2 miles, it’s 1 mile you have to repeat 26 times.  The same but different.

(yet still a very long way!)

Max has been adjusting to life as the big brother.  At first he was intimidated by the job duties.  Now he proudly tells everyone I’m the big brother.  He likes to help – and the more I ask him to help the more I think it makes him feel important.  He’s in preschool two days a week which means I get to live the dream of one child for 4 ½ hours on those days (thank goodness for extended care preschool – and he loves it!).

Most days I can manage my most amazing magic trick – getting both of the kids to nap in the afternoon at the same time.  Max still (THANKFULLY) naps for 3 to 4 hours every afternoon.  Even if he doesn’t nap, I insist he takes “quiet time” in his room for 60 to 90 minutes with puzzles or books or Legos.  Mackenzie (like it or not, kid!) will do the same!  One day I managed to squeeze in a 75 minute workout where they were both napping THE ENTIRE TIME!  Even the dog didn’t bark! 

At the 3 week mark, I got the green light from my doctor to return to all activity with the caution to “not lift anything heavier than 10 pounds.”  With my c-section for Max she gave me the green light at 6 weeks but I returned to biking at 3 weeks, running at 4 weeks and swimming at 6 weeks.  This time around, she seems to better understand me, my baseline fitness and what my body can tolerate.  So, for the past two weeks, I’m been merrily “training to train.”  In other words, building up my tolerance for bigger, faster, harder training again.  Swimming feels the strangest – I feel disconnected and the water feels heavy.  With some time I know I will be back with my own lanemates swimming on my old intervals.  That thought motivates me every day!  Biking feels ok but the adjustment to leaning over again is awkward after spending so long propping myself up higher and higher.  I had the opportunity to ride outside on Saturday morning and rode a route I’ve ridden 1000000 times in the past 15 years but it felt like the first time again.  Honestly I could have gotten excited about riding in a 1 mile circle as long as the wind was in my face and my wheels were moving on pavement.  Running has felt the best.  Make no mistake – I am heavy AND slow but I am RUNNING!  With Max I took 5 months off of running and when I returned it felt awkward and I was sore for days.  This time around I feel good.  I was able to run up until the end and the transition back has been much easier.  I’ve been strict on keeping my HR under a set point to allow my fitness to build up properly.  All it takes is a slight incline (and WHO knew that all of my run routes were so damn incline-y!) or a light headwind and my HR shoots straight over 150.  SIGH.  But, each run has gotten faster.  Lastly, strength training has been very light as I’m gearing up to start with Trainer Kate in a few weeks.  Kate was so integral in putting me (actually, putting my TVA) back together last time around that I knew I needed to enlist her help again.  Can’t wait – I’m sure there are many pull ups, angle lunges and TVA activation moves ahead.

I’m excited to get back to triathlon though I haven’t been too far removed from it in the past year.  It’s my business!  Though I didn’t compete this year, I was heavily involved in triathlon.  Locally, I led a women’s triathlon training program, a kids triathlon program, coached kids swim conditioning, coached masters and led an Ironman Wisconsin training program and continued with my coaching business.  My own business is now in its seventh year and I couldn’t be more proud of my athletes and what we’ve accomplished.  You can visit my coaching website ( or join our group on Facebook to keep up with the latest happenings and results.  The Well-Fit Ironman Wisconsin completed its sixth year and has now helped over 150 athletes across the finish line.  Our 2015 program starts in early February, more information is here.  Looking for a good local masters program?  Our small group allows for more individualized attention for stroke feedback while the workouts will challenge you at your own level.  The winter season starts in November, contact me for more information or how to register.  Finally, Jen Harrison and I also podcast about triathlon once a month, visit here to listen to our archived shows.  

In 2015, I'll stay involved with those programs & of course continue coaching while tackling my own goals.  Will it be easy?  No.  In the same way that it's not easy for my husband to work full-time outside of the home and manage to put together the training for yet another Kona qualification (congrats to him - we got to watch him race well at Ironman Wisconsin a few weeks ago!).  But the not so easy things are always worth it.  For now, I'm assembling ideas for my 2015 goals.  Should I do an Ironman?  Try to revisit the podium at Worlds?  Race local?  Try to do Rim 2 Rim?  In addition to setting goals for 2015, I will also be turning 40!  I should probably commemorate that by doing something monumental but right now I'd settle for having one day where it's all about ME.  That's right, ME! 

(I should confess that the other night, Chris told me to get out of the house and I said to myself I'm going to Binny's, yes, BINNY'S because it's the one place you can go where there are NO kids ---- Binny's is our local liquor store). 

I'm ready to get this triathlon train back on track and enjoy developing fitness.  Right now, I am so unfit that I can look at my bike and gain 10 points for my CTL.  It's THAT easy!  I know it won't last but I'm excited to chase PRs, podiums and a better version of myself next year. 

Thursday, September 04, 2014

She's Here

She’s finally here!

On Tuesday, August 26th, Mackenzie Hope arrived at 9:10 pm, weighing in at 7 lbs 11 ounces and measuring 20 inches long.  She is beautiful, perfect and she is mine.  Words cannot express how much joy is in my heart – the same heart that absolutely melts every time I look at her face. 

I left my 39 week appointment, 5 days before she was born, discouraged.  The doctor reported I had made no progress.  My amniotic fluid was on the high side which meant her head was floating, not descending and my contractions weren’t strong enough to encourage any more dilation.  I left upset, feeling the lack of progress would be a ticket straight to another c-section and if that was the case, why wait – why didn’t I just schedule it a week early and get on with it?  Every day longer I had to wait for her was another day she felt further from me.  I had waited so long, so very long to get to the end – now that it was just a few days away it felt further away than ever.  What if something happened to her?  What if I got this close and she didn’t make it here?  I wanted her out – safely – and wouldn’t relax until she was in my arms.

In the days until her birth I tried everything.  Bouncing on a ball, walking walking walking.  The ultrasound technician suggested that since most normal women are told to walk their way into labor, someone like me should consider climbing a mountain.

Peace out, people, I’m heading to Everest.

I stayed as active as possible, did as much housework as possible and finally when my spice drawer was clean and alphabetically organized, I shouted in my head: WE ARE READY NOW, PLEASE ARRIVE!

The day before she was born, I knew something was happening.  I felt off.  Tired.  My lower back ached.  I couldn’t make it through a bike ride.  I took a nap.  I had no appetite.  I had a few noticeable contractions in the middle of the night – the real ones that feel like a belt tightening around your back.  I wondered if I was close.  Three days, kid.  You’ve only got three days before my scheduled c-section.

Tuesday morning, I woke up and felt normal again.  False alarm.  I went to masters, distance free day.  All of my friends were there – Taylor, Amanda, both Bobs and Marty.  They applauded me for being this far and still swimming.  I put myself into a slower lane with the older Bob.  We set out on a 4000 yard swim when I noticed something different – every 500 yards or so, my lower back would tighten up.  I chalked it up to weight gain, front loaded belly, pulling, side effect of pregnancy.  But when it continued, I stopped at the wall and said to Bob, I think I’m having contractions?  Bob suggested I consider stopping.  I was 1000 yards away from finishing it.  I’m not stopping yet!

In the shower afterwards, I knew something was happening.  Consistent pain in my back and all of a sudden I had that feeling that this was it – it was really happening.  I never went into labor with Max so I relied a lot on other women’s experiences.  I’ve read reports that you will “just know” when labor is happening.  They’re right.  This was the real thing.  I announced to Taylor and Amanda that I was pretty sure I was in labor.  Taylor offered to drive me somewhere.  I said, I need to go home – I have a dishwasher to unload and laundry to put away.  I hightailed it out of the pool, grabbed Max and headed home.  A few household chores and a shower – I was not going into labor with a messy house and my hair would be done today. 

(by the way, when I saw the picture of me after birth in recovery, I said to Chris: wow, my hair still looks great, he replied, it does, actually)

Meanwhile, I timed my contractions – they were getting closer; 7 minutes, 5 minutes, 3 
minutes.  When they went closer than 3 minutes, I called the doctor who told me to head to Labor & Delivery right away.  I threw a bunch of stuff in a bag, my mom took Max, my house was clean and I was heading off to have a baby.

My contractions were not painful so much as they were just an all around tightening and some light pain at the base of my spine.  My spirits were high.  She was coming and I was going to get my chance at a normal delivery.  A day before my due date, perfect timing.  After a short stay in triage, they admitted me.  It was getting very real now.

My doctor arrived a short while later and reported that I was already 5 cm dilated – half way! The best part, to me, was that I really had not felt any pain.  I was hopeful that I could handle this, that if I continued this path I could tolerate whatever pain-filled craziness was ahead.  Last time, in the face of labor pain, I retreated into an epidural.  This time I wanted to be brave – stare the pain in the face, grit my teeth and get through it.  I wanted Chris to be proud of me.  I wanted to be present and feel my way through this process. The worst part, to me, about a scheduled c-section was a sense of such an anti-climatic ending.  I wanted the past year to end meaningfully. 

The doctor suggested she break my water because at the time the bag was bulging.  She warned me that my contractions could become more painful.  I was currently at a 3 out of 10 for pain so I decided to take her up on it.  She broke it and immediately said oh no.  Not exactly words of encouragement!  There was meconium which meant at some point the baby had gotten stressed and pooped herself.  She told me it was old which was reassuring.  But they wanted to be mindful of it. 

The next 3 to 4 hours were a blur of increasing levels of pain, moaning and rocking on a birthing ball.  At first I was laboring in a hospital bed which sent the pain from the base of my spine into my pelvis and then wrapped around my stomach. NOT GOOD.  I tried listening to music, “zoning out” but none of it was helping.  At some point, I requested to sit on the birthing ball and just rock myself back and forth –which alleviated some of the pain.  Contractions were coming every 1 to 2 minutes and as I saw them building up on the monitor, I braced myself – I let myself feel the pain.  And it hurt – bad.  Unlike anything I’ve ever felt.  Women who simply breathe through the contractions – no idea how you do it, ladies.  The only way I could relieve myself of the excruciating pain was to groan, moan and finish with OH MY GOD OH MY GOD!  Repeat like that.  Every 90 seconds.  As it kept building and building, I heard Chris tell the nurse that he was nervous.  This very well may have been the first time Chris has ever seen me express pain.  I knew that pain relief was an epidural away but I wanted to go for it.  So I just gave myself permission to keep expressing the pain.  At the next check, I was already at 7 centimeters dilated.  Only 3 to go!

Then, something strange happened.  Just like with Max – I stalled.  For a few hours.  The contractions kept worsening but I was no longer dilating.  The doctor was worried.  She gave me a few options.  I could continue but she didn’t want me to continue through the night laboring, it wasn’t safe.  She said based on the pain I was feeling and the ultrasound, the baby was face up and not turning.  Another option was to take an epidural hoping my uterus would relax and dilate.  Or, I could start a pitocin drip but it would greatly increase my risk of uterine rupture. 

In between groaning out another contraction, I thought about my options.  I asked her to give me a few more minutes.  I knew I was entering the final stages of labor and wanted to be patient.  My mood was spacey.  Everything Chris did bothered me.  I almost threw my phone at him.  I was hugging – no, literally hanging off of the nurse (the nurse?) because I was hurting so badly.  The whole experience was awkward – I was there but distant.  I was completely immersed in the pain yet at the same time totally transparent.  It felt unleashed yet I was very self-conscious – in the room was the doctor, the nurse, an EMT who was “observing” and the anesthesiologist.  For a moment I felt like for all of my groaning and moaning and OH MY GOD-ing that I was failing.  As if every other woman had gotten through this quietly, painlessly and then – pop! – baby was out.  I wondered – was I supposed to be hurting this badly?  And why is everyone staring at me?  Can they either do something else or help me?

After a bit longer like that, it made sense, then, to take the epidural.  The nurse commended me for making it that far without it.  And once I made the decision, it couldn’t happen fast enough.  WHAT DO YOU MEAN SOMEONE ELSE NEEDS ONE BEFORE ME?  It became a question of when will I feel less of this, when, NOW?  Finally, pain relief came slowly – very, very slowly. 

I wanted to rest but then baby stopped responding normally.  Her heart rate exhibited less variability which was concerning.  The doctor tracked it for 30 minutes but then was not comfortable with me continuing.  She suggested a c-section.  At this point, as much as I wanted to fight for my “normal” delivery, I wanted my baby.  I told her a c-section was ok – I know how it goes, I know the recovery.  I knew that within 30 minutes I would see my baby.  They prepared me for the surgery.

In the OR, they talked me through everything.  At this point I was so spaced out and because of the lower body block, my upper body was shaking.  So badly, they tied my arms down right before they put up the blue sheet so I could not see the surgery.   Chris was next to me but it was not at all reassuring – I was fussing, turning my head and my mouth – which had nothing, not even ice chips – for 9 hours felt like a desert.  I felt like I was choking.

Meanwhile, I could feel pain and tugging as the doctor’s got to work.  I could hear every word of the conservation and when I heard the doctor mutter oh my gosh, I worried.  Turns out my bladder had adhered to my uterus after my last c-section.  This required some careful maneuvering from my doctor as I wondered if I would ever pee normal again.  A little more tugging and next thing I heard was the doctor say oh my god, Liz, SHE’S HUGE.  I had visions of birthing nearly a 10 pound baby.

At that moment, Mackenzie Hope was born.  The neonatologist checked her out and reported that she was perfect.  They called Chris over to take her and he brought her to me.  At this point I was so spent, exhausted and still shaking, I could barely look at her.  I didn’t realize what I was seeing.  I didn’t realize that I was looking at my daughter.  I felt utterly exhausted of any emotion. 

Eventually I went into recovery.  I was shaking uncontrollably.  Going in and out of sleep, I could hear Chris talking to the nurse.  I could hear him talking about Mackenzie.  It pained me that he could experience her first moments while I laid there trying to gather myself.  Every minute I had to wait felt like an eternity. 

Finally, after an hour, I was ready.  The nurse brought her over to me and at that moment, I couldn’t believe what I was looking at.  This was my daughter.  This was quite possibly the hardest thing I have ever worked for in my life.  Not the past 12 hours – those were nothing in comparison to the years spent trying (and failing), hundreds of shots, drugs, doctor appointments, miles driven, tests, tears, ultrasounds and waiting – hoping that I would eventually get to this moment.  And now that she was here, I almost couldn’t believe it.

Around midnight, they took us to Mother Baby.  I would begin recovery.  The worst part being the next 3 days in the hospital.  Awoken every hour for vitals on myself, vitals on the baby.  Laying in a bed with women doing the most basic of duties for me – like changing me or monitoring my catheter.  That night as I knew I should be resting, I couldn’t help myself and held the baby.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of her.  She was simply the most beautiful thing I had ever seen and I didn’t want to let go of this moment.  If it cost me one night of sleep to realize the amazing lifetime I have ahead of me – with her – it would be worth it.

The next morning, they let me sit up on the side of the bed. My first walk to the bathroom, tugging my foley and IV was humbling.  I felt like I had been sliced in half and sewn together.  After 24 hours, they let me take a shower and dear god do they have to have full length mirrors in the bathrooms?  In front of my was a belly still 6 months swollen, staples, bruising, blisters from the adhesives and the worst cankles I’ve ever seen – full body cankles

When I was finally released from the hospital, I went home to start recovery.  The first day was rough.  It wasn’t caring for Mackenzie; actually, I’ve realized how easy the newborn stage is: eat, sleep, poop, repeat, every 3 to 4 hours.  The sleep deprivation – I got used to that the last time around and even in pregnancy.  The hard part is being patient.  Every time we went out in public someone would ask me when the baby was due.  You mean the baby in my arms?  Oh, sorry.  The hard part then is knowing that though I look and feel like this now, it will take a few weeks or months to feel like me again.  More waiting.  Like a 100+ mile bike ride, I keep telling myself the time will pass, it always does.  Soon enough I’ll feel like me again.

I’ve thought a lot about how I feel about having another c-section.  This time around, I feel no sense of failure.  I tried and for whatever reason, it didn’t happen.  There’s a lot of things I’m really good at and delivering babies just isn’t one of them.  The doctor suggested I was too small to deliver a nearly 8 pound baby.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her my mother in law, three inches smaller, gave birth to my 10 pound husband.  I’ll accept that I’ll never have an answer – but I’ll always have a daughter.  To me, that’s good enough.

And here I sit a little over a week later feeling much better than a week ago.  I’ve dropped 20 pounds (let’s hear it for nursing and night sweating!)  I’ve lost the 6 month pregnant belly (two words: belly binder, wrapped VERY tightly).  Mackenzie nurses like a champ and gives me a solid 3 to 4 hours of sleep at night at a time. I’ve been walking daily and life is falling into a manageable pattern with my responsibilities: baby, Max, house and work.  With an excellent support system, life seems to be ticking forward normally.

Someone asked me how it feels the second time around.  How does it feel?  Like holding a dream come true in my arms.  I waited so long for this.  I never lost hope in myself or my body.  There were so many obstacles along the way – doctors telling me to use donor eggs, telling me to just accept my bad luck, wanting to throw random drug cocktails at me.  It wasn’t an easy journey to get to this point but at some point I made up my mind that I would do what it would take to get here.  I took responsibility for all of the information, decisions and the process.  I accepted that no one would care about the outcome as much as I did – and if I truly cared, I would put 100 percent of my heart and effort into it.  Like crossing a finish line, I can truly look back and say that I have no regrets. 


(Max has had a few moments of telling us it's hard to be a big brother but otherwise seems just as smitten by his little sister as we are)