Rachael Cuellar: Running While Pregnant
Last November I had my first child and did not know what to expect running and life wise. At the beginning of last year I was training hard and running 50 or more miles per week. I was getting into really good shape; it was going to be a good running year for me. At the same time, I was turning 30 and getting an itch to have a kid. I was getting older and felt like it was a “now or never” kind of thing. By the end of March, it was official; I was pregnant!
I started reading up on training while pregnant so I could still do what I love without hurting myself or the baby. Basically, I learned not to do more than I was currently doing, not to try new things that I have not done before (I don’t think I was going to try out for American Ninja Warrior any time soon), and most importantly…listen to my body. There were a number of other things such as staying hydrated, not running in the heat of the Summer, avoid running at a higher altitude than I was used to, and staying off the trails in the later stages of pregnancy because ligaments become looser; the list goes on and on, but I basically absorbed what I thought was most important and logical.
The first month or two of pregnancy I remember feeling tired; some days my legs felt like they were made of lead and did not want to move faster than a 10 minute mile pace, which was about 2 minutes slower than my regular pace. After the initial couple of months, I got a burst of energy and felt somewhat normal again and was running similar times to the previous year. I had planned to do the Triple Crown of Running in Colorado Springs, CO, which included the Garden of the Gods 10 Miler, the Summer Round Up 12k trail run, and the Pikes Peak Ascent; a 13.32 mile race with an elevation gain of 7,815 feet and a finish above 14,000 feet. I was able to place fourth overall at the Garden of the Gods and was Second overall at the Summer Round up, breaking the 30-34 age group record. On May 20th, I ran the Portland Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon in 1:25:13; much faster than expected.
A visible belly appeared around 5 months into the pregnancy. Running became a little more uncomfortable, but it was doable as long as I kept my pace slower and my cadence smoother. From here on, my racing distance was kept to a 5k and it was clear to see that I was getting slower. I had signed up for the Pikes Peak Ascent earlier in the year, but now it was definitely out of the question; I couldn’t have imagined waddling 13.32 miles up any mountain.
Heading into August and September I was running about 20 miles a week, by October it was only 15, and then by November it was 10. My last 5k race was on October 21st, almost one month before my daughter was born. I was able to run a 21:42 at this race and accomplished my goal; beating my dad! We still laugh about how I was able to outrun him with my big belly; it was the only chance he had at taking my down, but I was able to hold him off. The last month of pregnancy I was only able to run 3-4 days a week for 2-3 miles at a blistering 12 minute per mile pace.
The day before my baby was born I ran 2.7 miles on a track in 33 minutes. I took off completely from everything for a week after giving birth and then the following week I went to the gym and used the arm ergo-meter for 20 to 30 minutes a day to maintain my sanity. My first run post baby was 19 days after giving birth. On December 12th I ran 1.5 miles. It felt weird running without my 9 month partner and my legs felt like they were running for the first time in my life. After that first run, I gradually added millage to each run and started adding more runs per week.
On January 1st I started the new year off by doing a 5k and it was a head on battle with my dad once again. He didn’t beat me before the baby was born, but could he beat me now? The answer was no; he tried, but somehow I managed to run a 20:30, almost 2 minutes faster than him. I had no idea my legs could even move that fast anymore, especially this early in the season. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised.
Since then, training has been going smoothly. I have gradually been adding mileage every week; I started at 29 miles per week at the beginning of the year and just hit 60 miles this past week. I started doing a long run every Sunday; I started at 8 miles and added a mile every week. Last week I reached 15 miles for my long run and this is where I want to be. I have completed two more 5ks at 19:00 each and two 10k where I broke 40 minutes.
I have a lot of work ahead of me to get where I want to be this year, but getting back in shape has been a lot easier than I had thought. This year I’m looking forward to adding more trail races to my racing schedule because that’s what I love most and missed out on last year. There’s a fire burning inside that has been building up since and I’m hoping that by time Summer comes around I can unleash the beast.
Last and most importantly, I would like to thank my family for putting in some baby sitting time and being supportive. I’m not always able to do the exact run that I want to, but I do get to hit the trails a lot more than I would have been able to if I had to push a BOB stroller around. Without my family, I would not have been able to accomplish what I have or reach my potential.