12 is the loneliest number - my first trimester

It’s true. I’m pregnant. Some women guessed, some women knew. Some people detected changes in my body and I told them. I’m looking at you, boob inspector :) 

Most of the interactions have been very positive with a few falling under the ‘lecture’ category. Given that a first trimester is ripe with anxiety in this day and age of online fora, early detection pregnancy tests and iPhone apps that claim to be able to detect a heartbeat as early as 8 weeks, I pushed back on the lectures and lapped up all the positive support I could get.

One thing that struck me as I was counting down the weeks was how long 3 months can be when counted in days. How long that week was until my period was due… (yes, I found out that early). How un-enjoyable the good days are when one is void of pregnancy symptoms and doubting that there is anything going on. Just to rejoice in dry heaving and extreme dizziness, midnight pee breaks and fatigue worse than in the height of marathon training.

I am generally an ‘early to bed – early to rise’ kind of person and as such, could get away with a quick disco nap when the physical demands of my job became overwhelming. I was utterly unprepared for the drooling mess I would become, waking from a 90 minute ‘nap’ and unable to function properly for at least one hour, wishing 9pm to come around so I could go back to bed.

I had stated to Chris beforehand that the worst that could happen to me would be nausea. Not quite vomiting but just ongoing, day-long, nausea. That’s exactly what happened. Didn’t eat quickly enough: nausea, ate too much: nausea, ate too greasy: nausea. My second favourite symptom: crippling dizziness. I am generally prone to low blood pressure, which was always celebrated as a great problem to have. But the doctor’s office commented on my blood pressure with “oh, oh, give me your other arm”. Not very calming and it did result in quite the spike in the following reading.

Within these three months, the 7 weeks and 2 days mark couldn’t come fast enough to confirm the pregnancy with an ultrasound. Seeing the blueberry’s heartbeat and hearing it, along with the OB’s words “everything looks perfect” elicited sobs, sweaty palms, joy, more sobs, telling the doctor that my due date is within a month of my father’s 20th death anniversary and the ensuing long hug from the doctor “he’s sending you your biggest gift”. I’m tearing up writing this.

Since then I have had two more appointments which still brought on some sweaty palms and relief when everything turned out to be great and we are on our way to the size of an avocado, i.e. the second trimester is underway. 

From a fitness perspective, coming back from my Spring injury and then trying to get fit pregnant wasn’t going to work. Initially it was a hard pill to swallow but conceiving quickly was a huge blessing so I ran some races in which I felt awful and fought hard to keep my ego in check until I got to a level where I run for as long and as fast/ slow as I feel and am ok with it. My OB told me that pregnancy can exacerbate existing asthma and it has already so my body has been putting the brakes on any of my attempts to be a hero. I will write a separate blog post on how I'm dealing with asthma before and during pregnancy.

I’ve started swimming again and worked my way up to a good 2500 yards, really enjoying being in an outdoor pool. I have emphasized cross training until my leg was healed and added in strength to make sure I have the best possible foundation for the next months. And, yes I’m doing 9+1 this year to receive guaranteed entry into NYC Marathon 2017 because a girl needs goals.

For those who have criticized my running, I have said it in person and will repeat it on here. My fitness level is high compared to the average person and as such I have no reason or recommendations from my doctor to not exercise or dramatically cut it back. I am highly in tune with my body and exercise as I see fit, when I feel up for it. It seems ridiculous to me that I’ve had to defend myself to women nonetheless, for doing something I’ve been doing since the age of 5 and that I love. If anything it is my calm time and helped ease some anxiety during the first weeks. I won’t even go into the benefits of prenatal fitness for both mother and child. It also happens to be my job…

So this brings me back full circle: 

I have never understood how a couple is supposed to keep things mum for 12 weeks and not burst. How women are supposed to keep their mouths shut during a time when they need so many answers. Why the fear of a miscarriage means celebrating and potentially mourning in isolation. I know that the people who knew would have uplifted me in any given scenario and am incredibly grateful to the many times when they talked me off a ledge or out of the spiraling thoughts. Sometimes firmly, sometimes pointing out that locking my bike helmet to a pole but not my bike was the best indicator that my pregnancy was going well.

Less than 25 weeks to go and I’m happy to share my experiences with everyone. More importantly I want to learn from all of you. How was your first trimester? Leave me a note in the comments. 

It's ok to be a slacker after a big goal / marathon...

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Before the Berlin Marathon, I worked like a Swiss precision clock. Every day of the week served a purpose: train early, coach others, refuel, remember hydration, entertain others, support others, wash, recover, rinse, repeat. For 16 weeks, I endured the humidity in NYC without giving it a second thought, I planned and dialed-in my nutrition for during the race and taught my gut to function like a well-oiled machine. The result was that I was able to execute my race plan very well. I was rested despite jetlag, fueled up well on carbs in the days leading up to the race and kept the legs relaxed. I was in a good place mentally to be patient, smooth, relaxed and attack the last six miles as a race. All that lead to even splits and I even managed to ingest almost 700 calories during the race, an all time high for someone with my sensitive stomach but I got the energy from it that I needed with a height of 5'11" and not exactly a frail frame.

The moment I crossed the finish line, I felt ambivalent. The time wasn't what I had hoped for (read more about that, here) but I ran well and I was content with that. I had raced my second marathon ever, my 2015 goal race and my husband was in Germany with me to witness it.

So in the next hours and days I turned into a pile of lazy mush :-)

Sleeping in, having beers, eating myself stupid on all the things I miss in the US that are typically German to me (potato dumplings, bread rolls, stews, roasts, Schnitzel, good butter, garden grown fruit and veggies, Nutella, home made jams, Italian food made by 4th generation Italians with pride, and gelato). I saw friends, lingered at brunch for hours, became notoriously late (sorry!), cuddled my friends' babies and just didn't feel like there was stress or pressure at all.

It was a gear shift that I desperately needed.

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I read too often how people race marathons or other big goal races and immediately jump back into training within days. Signing up for races within weeks and just never shifting their mindset. I know this works well for some but it doesn't work for me and I think it's good to allow for a time out, physically and particularly mentally. From an exercise physiology standpoint, off-season is a phase that allows the body to restup for the next season. Unless you are running your races for fun, you should begin each new season with a hunger to surpass your previous year, get that shiny new PR and build on the fitness from before. People don't peak - especially in distance running - within one or two seasons. It takes stringing together several good years and consistent training to get there. This phenomenon is also called periodization, knowing what to focus on (pro athletes usually plan around World Championships and the Olympic games), accepting a dip in performance at the beginning of the new athletic year to be able to dial in the perfect performance when it is needed. Off-season is also a time to give back to the community around you, the spouses who don't run and are often a bit neglected, the friends who would like to catch-up later than 8:30pm, family, children, and many more.

So here I am 3 weeks onward, I have written thank you emails and posts, I've resumed running and enjoy not being as winded as I run longer. I am starting to show more interest in planning my 2016 season, I am enjoying the feeling of fresh legs on most runs that are not fatigued by 70 mile marathon weeks and I'm startig to dial my nutrition in more to begin training again.

I still don't remember how I would do a speed, interval and long run workout week in and week out but I'm sure it will be like riding a bike... one doesn't forget.

Here are my five reasons why I think you should try giving yourself an "off-season" as a non professional athlete:

  • For the people around you who don't want to hear about racing;
  • to allow niggling pains and aches to subside - now is the time to take 2 weeks off and let that calf relax, plantar fascia take a break, that hamstring rest;
  • to discover other forms of exercise and not loathe them as "cross-training";
  • to have more physical energy for activities that took a backseat but would make your family and friends happy;
  • to let your brain rest and stop overanalyzing every split, every mile and every workout.

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Happy Running, friends! As always, let me know if you agree or disagree, in the comments below.

Roma

 

Rice Pilaf and sauteed Kale

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For Monday dinner, we had a beautiful summer/ fall dish. It has felt like fall in New York City and so rice pilaf and sauteed kale sounded just right. You will need 2 tbs of butter or a vegetable substitute, 1/2 cup of orzo pasta and 1/2 cup of basmati rice, 2 cloves garlic, 1 small onion, 2 cups of chicken or vegetable broth.

Prepare the pilaf as follows:

Melt the butter or oil in a saucepan. Cook and stir orzo pasta until golden brown. Stir in onion and cook until onion becomes translucent. Add garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Mix in the rice and broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer until the rice is tender, and the liquid has been absorbed, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

In the meantime wash and trim one bunch of Tuscan kale, add 3 garlic cloves (cut in half) to 2 tbs of EVOO in a skillet on medium heat. Wait until they are browned and fragrant, then add the kale little by little. After a few minutes it will wilt and you can add up to 1/4 cup of tamari. Season with salt and pepper to your liking.

ENJOY!

Summer Bean Salad

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Last week one of our friends couldn't pick up his CSA share and so he generously gave it too us! But as I was scratching my head over bok choy, lettuce, scallions and wax beans, it took a bit of creativity to make this summer bean salad. But it came out deliciously and the hubby almost polished off the whole thing by himself. You will need, one can of cannelini beans, 3/4-1 lb of wax beans, half bunch of red scallions, 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup of EVOO, 2 tsp sugar or other sweetener, 1/2 tsp salt, 3 cups of lettuce.

If you have trouble with a bloated stomach when you eat raw onions, dice the scallions and put them in cold water for 10 mins. Meanwhile mix the vinegar with sugar and salt. Then add the onions and cannelini beans.

Bring a pot of slightly salted water to a boil, add the wax beans (trimmed and cut into inch size pieces), boil them for approximately 5 minutes, then drain under cold water.

Add the waxed beans to the rest of the salad, wash the lettuce and spin it before adding it to the bean salad. Season with salt and pepper.

You will probably want to start eating right away but if you can let it stand for up to 1hr so the dressing can permeate everything.

Vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, not paleo!

Enjoy!

Cherry Pie (drool...)

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It is summer, darlings! And that means fruit pies... in particular for me: cherry pie (while I wait for the farmers market peaches to arrive). Those who have taken my classes this week may have noticed that I had an upset stomach a few times. As a girl once summer break came around I could usually be found at my best friend's house - in the cherry tree. I usually paid for the hours of eating cherries (and drinking water) with an upset stomach. And the past week was no different. Not in a cherry tree anymore but I ate as if I was and arrived at some classes with a bit of an upset tummy.

Anyhow... I hope you are all enjoying the diversity of summer fruit that is so abundant these days.

This pie was adapted from Smitten Kitchens' beautiful sour cherry recipe, made with some leftovers that I had but turned out delicious.

You will need:

One Trader Joes frozen pie shell

For the filling:

1.5-2 lbs of cherries (of the dark sweet variety) 2 tbs of corn starch 1/2 cup of coconut palm sugar

For the crust:

2/3 cup rolled oats or Trader Joes hot multigrain cereal: organic rolled whole grains(rye, barley, oats & wheat) 1/3 cup coconut palm sugar 1/4 tsp cinnamon 1/2 cup all purpose flour 1/2 cup almonds 4 tbs of melted butter (cooled)

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Let the frozen pie shell thaw and then press it into a pie form or a quiche pan - parbake in the oven for 10 mins at 300 degrees. Take out and let cool.

Mix the cherries with the other ingredients. Fill the mixture into the cooled pie shell.

In a food processor grind the oats/ grain mixture with the almonds, then add sugar and flour. Move the flour mixture to a bowl and combine with cinnamon and then fold in the melted butter.

Spread the almond/ flour mixture over the cherries. Bake in the oven for 70 minutes at 350. Once it starts smelling deliciously and is lightly browned on top, take it out. Let cool slightly and serve with fresh whipped cream or clotted cream.

ENJOY!

Waldorf Salad Healthy

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This salad was first created between 1893 and 1896 at the Waldorf Hotel in New York City (the precursor of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, which came into being with the merger of the Waldorf with the adjacent Astoria Hotel, opened in 1897). For me it was such a weird experience having it for the first time and it does symbolize NYC for me and how in awe I was when I first came here and walked the streets of Manhattan.

This version is mine to make the Waldorf salad healthy and I hope I don't offend anyone that I call it Waldorf Salad. Instead of celery I use endives which in their bitterness create a nice antidote to the apples and I soaked the walnuts to make them EVEN healthier!

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Mr. Hamilton: Would you make me a Waldorf Salad?

Basil Fawlty: [having never heard of it] I beg your pardon?

Mr. Hamilton: Get me a Waldorf Salad.

Basil Fawlty: Well, I think we just ran out of Waldorfs!

Anyway... you will need three small heads of endives, half a cup of soaked walnuts (read up on the health benefits of soaking nuts), one medium apple cored, peeled and cut into small pieces, juice of 1/2 lemon, 1/2 cup of vanilla yoghurt (GASP! alternatively plain yoghurt and a sweetener of your choice, maple syrup, stevia, honey or anything else that takes your fancy), 2-3 tbs mayonnaise, salt and pepper to taste.

Chop the endives and place them in a bowl with lukewarm water for 5 minutes (the water removes the bitterness). Then drain and mix with the apples and the walnuts. Mix the yoghurt and mayonnaise, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Combine.

ENJOY!!