The Pregnant Athlete

Learning To Embrace My Changing Pregnant Body While Swimming, Biking, Running & Practicing Yoga


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First moments: A snapshot of Keira’s life.

Keira is 15 days old today. It still amazes me that I was running with her in my womb just over two weeks ago. Her arrival has completely changed Ray and my lives in the most wonderful way. I’m am grateful that she is healthy and strong, first and foremost. I’m also grateful that she has been been a really “easy” baby, as of now at least–she sleeps most of the time, complains only when she’s hungry or needs her diaper changed, and is a joy to talk to and play with for those few hours when she is awake.

With the amount of time and energy I dedicated to reading about labor and delivery to attain my ideal birth experience (and you can read my birth story here), it’s comical that I never considered doing research on how to actually take care of a newborn baby!  And I know I’m not the only mother who’s overlooked this important aspect of having a baby either. I’ve captured a few of Keira’s first moments since she arrived below as well as a few links to topics Ray and I have already Googled to make sure that some of these moments were nothing to be alarmed about!

Day 3. Keira finally arrived home with us! She also lifted her head off Ray’s chest while they were making skin-to-skin contact.

Skin-to-skin contact, 7/21/2014

Skin-to-skin contact, 7/21/14

Day 4. First visit to the pediatrician, and first walk outside, 0.6 miles roundtrip. Keira weighed 6 lbs. 14.5 oz., having lost 4.5 oz. since birth, and had developed a bit of jaundice, which develops in 60% of newborns 2-3 days after birth, and is especially common for Asian babies. Keira’s doctor informed me that more frequent breastfeeding, specifically feeding Keira at least every two hours, as well as daily phototherapy would treat the jaundice.  Random fun fact: We were the only non-Hasidic Jewish family at the pediatrician.  Apparently, the pediatrician rarely has non-Jewish families at her practice, and seemed bewildered at how we found her!

Day 5. First bath, a sponge bath! She didn’t cry or get startled, and seemed to enjoy the bath!

Keira's first bath, 7/23/2014

Keira’s first bath, 7/23/14

Day 6. Follow up visit to the pediatrician.  Keira surpassed her birth weight already, weighing in at 7 lbs. 4.5 oz, though newborns are expected to reach their birth weight 10 to 14 days after birth.  Her jaundice also diminished! Keira’s doctor told us we were doing a great job, and that I should continue to do whatever I was doing with respect to the feedings. Her remark was exactly what caused my confusion and exhaustion, unfortunately, as I took it literally–I continued to set my alarm every two hours to nurse Keira, as I had been doing since her birth.

Content after breastfeeding and above her birth weight, 7/24/14

Content after breastfeeding and above her birth weight, 7/24/14

Day 7. Ray and I panicked for a moment when Keira’s umbilical cord fell off, as we didn’t expect it to so soon. After some Googling, we realized it was perfectly okay, as long as there weren’t any signs of infection.

Day 10. First tummy time! Keira has strong neck and back muscles, and was able to start moving around on her tummy quickly and without cries.

Day 11.  First smiles! Granted, these are reflex smiles, I read, but it was exciting to witness them, nonetheless.

Day 12. First feedings based on hunger, not on my alarm! I received a phone call from a lactation consultant at the hospital where I had delivered Keira who informed me that, since Keira had reached her birth weight and was moving her bowels regularly, I should be feeding her based on demand, not on a schedule! She noted that the rule of thumb for newborns is that they nurse at least eight to 12 times per day.  I was confused, as this information was completely different from what Keira’s pediatrician had shared with me.  Thankfully, I found KellyMom, which offers evidence-based breastfeeding and parenting insight, and an amazing La Leche League Facebook group, both of which confirmed the lactation consultant’s advice.

Day 13. First visit with her only cousin on my side of the family, Sophia, who drove up to New York City from Northern Virginia with my sister Catherine and her husband Mark.

Keira and cousin Sophia, 2014-08-01

Keira and cousin Sophia, 8/1/14

Day 14. First day outside, aside from our short walks! We visited Brooklyn Bridge Park and Jane’s Carousel, and dined at Olea with my parents, sisters, brother-in-law, cousins, and niece. Aside from waking once to nurse and have her diaper changed, Keira slept the entire time.

Keira's first day out, 8/2/14

Keira’s first day out, 8/2/14

In addition to sharing a few first moments, I also wanted to provide links to insight online resources for moms that have helped me so far:

  • KellyMom. Truly offers everything you’ll need to know regarding breastfeeding, and plenty of other non-breastfeeding related information too!
  • La Leche League. Look up your local LLL for meetings with other moms that are breastfeeding or check Facebook for their online groups, if you don’t feel comfortable bring your newborn to meetings, and I don’t yet.
  • The Alpha Parent.  Look up the insightful timelines this blog provides to get a better sense of what to expect from your baby during different stages of life.
  • What to Expect the First Year.  Not an online resource, but I’d recommend buying this book for all their “how tos”–from changing diapers to bathing to feedings!


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Baby’s first marathon: A race recap of the Delaware Marathon at 29 weeks pregnant!

Week 29 | +22 lbs

This past Sunday, I finally completed the 2014 Delaware Marathon in 4:54:14, my 16th marathon-plus! Although the marathon was my second slowest ever, it was by far the most special, as it was my husband’s first, and my first for two at 29 weeks pregnant! Additionally, I ran to benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training, for whom I’ve now raised $12,300 over three seasons. I am sincerely grateful to everyone that donated in loving memory of my grandmother Susie Ying, and to our supportive coaches.

Finished the 2014 Delaware Marathon, 5/11/14!

Finished the 2014 Delaware Marathon, 5/11/14!

The days leading up to the race.

My husband and I drove down to northern Virginia the Friday before the race to celebrate Mother’s Day that evening with my mom and three of my sisters, who either currently attend the University of Virginia or reside there, and then my niece’s third birthday on Saturday. I was immediately concerned about how much warmer it was there, with temperatures reaching the 80s, as compared to NYC, which was at least ten degrees cooler.  My doula often reminds me, “don’t cook the baby,” as the pregnant body is ten degrees warmer than a non-pregnant one, and, being someone that usually feels warmer than everyone else, I wondered how would handle the heat.  I became even more nervous when I literally huffed and puffed through my husband and my 2-mile shakeout run on Saturday morning–not only was I sluggish and slower than usual, but I could feel the weight of the humidity suffocate me like a blanket. I promised myself during the run that I would hydrate at every aid station during the race, approximately every mile or mile and half, whereas I normally do so every 20 minutes.  Thankfully, I spent the rest of the morning and afternoon indoors at my niece’s birthday party with my compression socks on and my legs propped up on the couch. Party guests’ questions about the socks and then reaction to why I was wearing made me laugh!

Afternoon nap with my compression socks, 5/10/14

Afternoon nap with my compression socks, 5/10/14

The night before the race.

My husband and I made the 2.5 hour drive to Wilmington, DE just in time for the end of the designated bib pick up time. Although I normally put a lot of thought into researching restaurants for my marathons, my meals choices generally being almost as important as the race itself, it had slipped my mind for this race’s pre-race meal! I found a local Italian restaurant with positive reviews, Ristorante Attilio, and we headed over without a reservation. After suffering from food poisoning the night before two marathons in the past, the 2011 Paris and 2013 Big Sur, I now always make sure to eat fully cooked, hot foods for two straight days before marathons, and kept it especially “vanilla” that evening being pregnant–my husband and I both had pasta, cheese, tomato sauce and some cooked protein. We were pleasantly surprised with a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie for each of us when we checked into our hotel, and laid out all our race gear before sleeping early!

Race gear ready, 5/10/14

Race gear ready, 5/10/14

The morning of the race.

My husband and I awoke at 5:30am, an hour before we had to head out the door.  I ate a breakfast consisting of half a whole wheat bagel with peanut butter, half a banana and a quarter cup of coffee with milk, got dressed and prepped for the race, including rolling loads of Body Glide all over, slathering myself with sunblock and securing five GUs to my SPIbelt, and made sure to empty my bowels.  I’ve read constipation is a common issue with most pregnant women, but the pregnancy has had the opposite effect on me, as I now go number two up to four times a day, and always expect to at least once during a long run!  My husband and I took the ten-minute walk over to the race start, and immediately lined up on the Port-A-Potty line again, knowing that I’d also have to take a number of pee breaks during the race.  At 6:55am, when we still had a handful of people in front of us on the line, I gave up on the idea of peeing beforehand, and we rushed over to the starting line just in the nick of time!

Waiting on the Port-A-Potty line, 5/11/14

Waiting on the Port-A-Potty line, 5/11/14

Miles 1 – 6 (9:40, 9:37, 9:44, 9:36, 9:50, 9:59).

My husband and I gave each other a kiss, and wished each other good luck just before we crossed the starting line and parted ways.  I typically don’t feel great during the first few miles of a marathon, as it takes at least six miles before I start to find my rhythm, and I was even more uncomfortable during the start of this one! Our baby is now the size of a butternut squash, according to BabyCenter–is my belly too big to handle all this running at this point? Is it going to be too hot today? I’m starting too fast–will I be okay? Questions and concerns loomed over my head, especially as the first few miles were completely unshaded, and two women complained loudly about the heat at Mile 3, one of whom mentioned a female runner from her hometown in Maryland that died the week prior during a half marathon.  I started to feel better after Mile 6 when we encountered our first major, one-mile incline, as I love hills, and this one was entirely shaded by lush, full trees.

Delaware Marathon Course Map & Elevation Chart

Delaware Marathon Course Map & Elevation Chart

Miles 7 – 12 (12:03 with Potty Break #1, 9:57, 9:50, 10:05, 10:00, 10:00).

As I had promised to myself, I grabbed water at every aid station, and was confident that I was drinking enough fluids to compensate for the sweat loss when I had to stop for a potty break at the start of Mile 7.  I continued the rhythmic running and breathing that I had started just before the break, my “moving meditation,” as I often call this feeling.

Mile 13 – 18 (11:20 with Potty Break #2, 10:00, 10:37, 11:06, 12:28 with Potty Break #3, 11:25).

The Delaware Marathon is a double loop, with the half marathoners finishing their respective race at our halfway point, so I could hear the crowds roar as I approached Mile 13. Seeing and hearing the excitement of the crowds, some of whom responded with “Happy Mother’s Day!” as they saw and pointed at my shirt, as well as knowing that half the marathon was literally behind me made me even more excited about the race!! I smiled widely at the spectators, a Cool-Aid grin that was etched across my face until I crossed the finish line, and recalled why I loved about running marathons so much! I also thanked all the volunteers that I passed, especially the police officers that had to direct traffic and deal with a number of really angry drivers–apparently, the town is not the most marathon-friendly.

Smiles!

Smiles!

Miles 19 – 26.2 (11:45, 13:16, 13:07, 13:03, 14:41 with Potty Break #4, 13:02, 13:19, 14:14).

The rising temperatures, which reached 79 degrees by the finish, and the start of more hills took a toll on me, and my pace started to decline at Mile 17.  I started dumping a cup of water on my head at each aid station to cool off.  By Mile 20, my pace was slower than it had been for even the JFK 50 Mile Ultramarathon when I had ran it in 2012! At Mile 22, I remembered one of the things I struggle with the most during the last 10K of a marathon, the one constant–nausea. I realized I had only been ingesting water and GU so far, and started loading up on Gatorade at aid stations in hopes that the extra calories and electrolytes would help–my body normally doesn’t respond well to Gatorade, but it hopefully would this time. My hopes became a reality, and I was excited that I only had 4 miles left at that point until the finish, only less than a lower loop of Central Park left, as I like to think of it! A piece of advice: Always count the miles that remain at the end of a marathon, but not at the start.

The end of the race.

My smile widened, and tears of joy welled up in my eyes as I neared the 26-mile mark! I picked up my pace as I saw the finish line in my sight. The best part was still waiting for me–my husband was standing just beyond the finish line with my medal in his hands. I lept across the finish, and right into him. Our first family marathon was finally finished!! 

First family marathon, 5/11/14!

First family marathon, 5/11/14!

Week 28 (5/4-10) training: 8 miles 

Sunday: Rest
Monday: Spin
Tuesday: Rest
Wednesday: 3 miles
Thursday: 3 miles
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 2 miles


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Nostalgia: A look back at my progress as a runner.

Week 24 | +18 lbs

We, endurance athletes, rarely mull over all of our previous race times.  We also usually do not correlate races with events in our lives.  We often only remember our personal records, or PRs, for our favorite race distances, and, once we beat a PR, that last PR time is forgotten, with a new time ingrained in our minds as the one to beat. For example, I can tell you that I ran my PR marathon at the 2011 Chicago Marathon in 3:44:15. However, I could not tell you what my marathon times were for the marathons before or after that significant race. Sadly, I often forget exactly how many marathons I’ve completed so far–was it 14 or 16? And I certainly cannot tell you off the top of my head what my best times were for my shorter races.

2011 Chicago Marathon, 10/9/11

2011 Chicago Marathon, 10/9/11

As a pregnant runner, however, it is truly nostalgic to look back at my progress as a runner, perhaps since I now could not care less about my PRs or how to beat them.  I only care about how running makes me feel each day–each day is certainly a different day.  I am excited about each run I accomplish these days, and each race IS correlated with an event in my life, my pregnancy–even the number of weeks, specifically–and my growing baby.

6-mile run in Venice, Italy during which I ran over 29 bridges at 20 weeks! 3/14/14

6-mile run in Venice, Italy during which I ran over 29 bridges at 20 weeks! 3/14/14

A look back at a few significant races (and life events):*

  • 3/5/06 – First 5K – 27:02 (8:43/mi) – I had not yet met my husband, and worked at financial firm #1 post-college.
  • 5/4/08 – First marathon – 5:25:17 (12:24/mi) – My husband and my 6-month dating anniversary, and we both worked at financial firm #2.
  • 10/9/11 – PR marathon – 3:44:15 (8:33/mi) – 3 months after my husband and I got married, and less than a month before I opened my yoga studio. Also, notice that my pace per mile is faster than that for my first 5K!!
  • 11/17/12 – 50-mile ultramarathon – 10:44:14 (12:53/mi) –  5 years after my husband and I got together, and a year after I opened my yoga studio.
  • 8/18/13 – Ironman – 14:03:10, 4:31:36 marathon (10:21/mi) – My husband and I had always planned to start trying to start a family after this bucket list race.
  • 9/7/13 – Most recent marathon – 3:46:20 (8:38/mi) – I got injured during this race, and had to cancel my next two marathons in October and November. It worked out well that we got pregnant in October!

*It’s also significant to note that my husband has either volunteered or cheered me on at every one of my marathons, triathlons and ultramarathons I’ve ever completed!

On vacation in Jamaica just a month into our relationship, 12/07

On vacation in Jamaica just a month into our relationship, 12/07

I’ll be running the Delaware Marathon in 4.5 weeks at 29 weeks.  Although it may rival my first marathon as the slowest one, it will be the most special one yet. It will be my third marathon to benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training in memory of my late grandmother, my husband’s first marathon ever, and my first running for two.  The race will be so much more than just a family affair.

Month 6 Belly Photo, 4/9/14

Month 6 Belly Photo, 4/9/14

Week 23 (3/30-4/5) training: 38 miles 

Sunday: 10 miles
Monday: Spin
Tuesday: Yoga
Wednesday: 5 miles
Thursday: 5 miles
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 18 miles


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Training for a marathon while sick…and pregnant.

18 Weeks | +12 lbs

Two Thursdays ago.  I awoke with a slight sore throat, and realized that my immune system would soon be battling a virus.  Despite the fact that it was uncomfortable to swallow, the sun was out, and I couldn’t help but to go for a 5-mile run home from work that evening.  Scheduled: 5 miles easy, completed.

Two Fridays ago. The sore throat worsened, and a fever developed by that evening.  I canceled a yoga audition I had with a prospective teacher for my yoga studio, and dragged my butt to my parents’ for family dinner. Scheduled: Yoga, canceled.

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Dinner at My Parents’, 2/21/14

Last Saturday. The fever subsided, but I only felt worse.  I was scheduled to work all weekend at my studio, and couldn’t find coverage, and, so, I went to work, feeling bitter and annoyed that there are no such things as “sick days” when you own your own business. Somehow, I felt better by the end of the day, perhaps because of the 50-degree weather we had, after a winter chock full of snow storms and below freezing temperatures, and, so, I ran 5 miles home! Scheduled: 5 miles easy, completed.

Sunday. It was 50 degrees and beautiful out, so I went for my 12-mile long run with my husband to have Dim Sum with his family from Brooklyn to Flushing, Queens. Along the way, we ran through Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, which was location for the 1964 World’s Fair and is usually well-manicured, but was a mess that day–there were goose droppings, slush and puddles everywhere. It made for an entertaining but messy end for our run! Scheduled: 12 miles long, completed.

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Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, 2/22/14

Monday. I felt the same as I did on Sunday, and went to met with my mom for our weekly spin class at Flywheel Sports. Scheduled: Spin, completed.

Tuesday. I awoke feeling much worse than I had earlier in the week.  Plus, the Polar Vortex was on its way to NYC that evening again, and it was, once again, a bitter 20-degrees outside. I faced the fact that my body needed another remedy other than training–rest! Scheduled: Yoga and Team In Training Group Training Session, both canceled.

Wednesday. I continued to feel worse, and went to sleep even earlier that evening. Scheduled: 5 miles easy, canceled.

Thursday. While I was slightly better, I opted for more rest and sleep. Scheduled: 5 miles tempo, canceled.

Conclusion? Marathon training is entirely about the bigger picture. While I try to make all my scheduled workouts, I won’t do so if it means my health will suffer. If I’m not feeling great, rest is usually what my body needs.  I take each day as it comes.  Instead of beating myself up over missing my scheduled workouts last week, I was able to pick up again with the yoga audition class yesterday, and completed the Frozen Penguin Half Marathon this morning, my first half marathon for two!

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My Husband and Me at the Frozen Penguin Half Marathon, 3/1/14

Week 17 (2/16-22) training: 23 miles

Sunday: 13 miles
Monday: Spin
Tuesday: Yoga
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 5 miles
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 5 miles


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It’s a…

16 Weeks | +11 lbs

It’s a GIRL!!!!!!!!!! When family and friends asked whether I was hoping for a boy or a girl, I responded that I didn’t care as long as our baby was healthy, but that it would be great to have a girl some day.

Ultrasound, 2/10/13

My maternal family would make even some doctors believe that women determine the gender of a baby. I am the oldest of five daughters, my mother has only one sibling, a younger sister, who has three girls, and I have one niece, so far.  Although my maternal grandmother Susie, or Bubu, my cousins, sisters and I called her, was one of 12 siblings, both male and female, she was the matriarch of my family–having helped my entire family and many of her friends immigrate to the United States, started multiple global businesses, and donated time and money to a number of charitable causes.  She was one of the two strongest, most courageous women I knew–my mom is the second, as she owned a successful restaurant, Suzie’s, in the Greenwich Village, that was open for 40 years until she and my dad retired recently, has also led various charitable efforts, and raised my sisters and me. With such strong women in my family to look up to, and having had plenty of experience helping to raise my sisters and cousins, it’s no surprise that, deep down, I had hoped to have my own daughter one day.

Bubu, Mom, Me & My Sisters & Cousin, 8/10

My husband is already worried about having to “protect” our little girl from the inequalities that still exist between men and women in this world, but I am not. I am confident that our daughter will be just as strong as the women in her family–she’ll love, respect and have confidence in herself, play any sport and instrument well that she dedicates her time to, succeed in her studies and, ultimately, her career, voice her own opinion strongly, and know that she is capable of anything that she sets her mind to. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “We must become the change we wish to see in the world.”

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Month 4 Belly Photo, 2/11/14

Week 15 (2/2-8) training: 16 miles

Sunday: 5 miles
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Rest
Wednesday:  4 miles
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 12 miles