ANOTHER
MOTHER RUNNER

Meet Amy Blake, a (slightly tired) #AMRinSaucony

Welcome to the first column from Amy Blake, our #AMRinSaucony. She's going to post monthly—and we're going to have a cool #AMRinSaucony contest on Friday, so stay tuned!

It seems like it was yesterday when Dimity told me I was slated for a blog post in March. In reality, it was three weeks ago, which seemed like it was forever away. Having blogged for a long time now – it will be fifteen years this May – I thought, no problem; I have plenty of time.

Feel free to laugh. Because as you can probably guess, Life happened. I got slammed with a ton of last minute “super critical” things at work. The oldest kid had school cancelled EVERY FREAKING DAY – it seemed like it, anyway – and sub-zero temperatures made the idea of an outside run a stupid idea. Add to that the general exhaustion from taking care of a new baby, which brings me to today: one day before the deadline, trying to hide on the couch behind a giant pile of laundry so I can have a few minutes to write down my thoughts in between requests for nose wipes and making sure the kindergartner isn’t giving herself a bang trim with the kitchen shears.

Here’s my story.

First, I’m a runner. Without turning this into a novel, let me tell you that I am not the girl you knew in high school or college who was the star of the cross country or track team. In fact, I deliberately avoided cross country in an act of stubbornness; I’ll save that story for another post! I was an athlete, though – softball and volleyball were my jam – and running was always in the background of my life. My dad, a former college athlete (football, wrestling, and track), was my model for fitness. In our family, he was the guy running on the treadmill and lifting weights in the basement every morning at 6:00am. I remember my dad running a half marathon when I was young. We’d even participated in a few “fun runs” together, and on more than one occasion I can remember him sitting us down in front of Frank Shorter running videos on video cassette, trying to get us excited about running.

Despite his attempts to get me interested in the sport, I didn’t bite. If it didn’t involve a ball or a bat, I couldn’t care less. But like a lot of us mother runners, later in life I realized I needed something to get me off the couch. There was a void in my life now that I couldn’t fill anymore with competitive team sports (cue The Boss’ Glory Days), and no, slow-pitch beer softball league just wasn’t cutting it. Eventually, I started running to lose weight and clear my head during a not so awesome period in my life. I signed up for a few races for fun and a friend talked me into a marathon (and then a few more after that).

I was hooked. Running exceeded every expectation and turned into something I really enjoyed.

So that’s my running story in brief. You won’t find me on the finisher’s podium, but I love the sport, the excitement of races, the buzz of the expos, and being with other runners.

My family: I live with my husband Scott in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, best known for the stupid amount of snow that falls every winter. On average, it’s probably about 250 inches per year, but the record is closer to 390. That snow is typically on the ground from November through the end of April. If you’re a skier, this is paradise. If you’re a runner, you pile on layers, screw spikes into the bottom of your shoes and deal with it.

I’ve got three kids - all under the age of six. My daughter, Sophie will turn six in May. Aaron, my only son, will be three in April. And Clara, the baby, is three and a half months old. Me? I turn 40 in September. As you can probably guess, I drink a fair amount of caffeine and don’t get much sleep.

So yes, this isn’t my first baby rodeo! And while in some ways I feel like an old pro at this—old being the key word here—I’m finding that coming back after kid #3 seems tougher than before. Exactly one year ago, I was training for a half marathon when I found out I was pregnant. I felt like I’d hit a stride with my running and was finally improving. I am definitely missing that mojo, and the challenges just seem harder to overcome.

Like what? Time. When there was one kid and I needed to get out for a workout, I strapped her in the jogger and left, or I put her in the bike trailer and got out for a ride. It’s much more complicated with three. My husband needs to be present if I want to get out. We both work full-time, and he often works late hours.

Plus, there is is the whole after school/pre-bedtime ritual that most nights carries on much longer than it should. Some nights it’s just not possible for me to get out and run. (Early mornings, which would have to be stupidly early, don’t jive with the baby’s feeding/sleeping routine.) Lunch time runs, or runches as we love to call them, aren’t something I’ve been able to fit into my work schedule lately, though I’m hoping that changes as the current school term winds down. (I work at a university.)

Next challenge: I feel wrecked. The physical recovery from this pregnancy has been the hardest of all three. I’m sure it’s a combination of a few things. First, she was the largest baby of all thre—almost nine pounds—and I’d dare say it was a bit of a, um, traumatic experience to my hardware.

Second, I gained the most weight with her - 40 lbs - 15 of which I’m still hanging onto right now on my 5’ 1” frame. Being a shorty, this is a lot of weight for me. (side note: Upon learning in an AMR podcast just how tall Dimity and Sarah are, I am even more determined to meet them both in person for a side-by-side photo opportunity.)

Third, I’m older. Even though I don’t feel like I’m closer to 40 than 30, let’s be honest: It takes me a little longer to get moving every morning. My joints make sounds they’ve never made before. There’s no denying it: I am officially entrenched in middle age.

My last challenge, and probably the hardest of all? Motivation. It’s just difficult to be excited about running—hell, moving—when it feels like fitness-wise I’m starting from zero. Current weather is playing a part, too. There’s a reason we all feel like badasses when we’ve finished a run in crummy weather: it’s not easy. Right now, every run feels like a lot of work and not much fun. Snow, ice, and freezing temperatures don’t make it any easier.

That’s where I’m at, which is why I’m so grateful to AMR and Saucony for this opportunity. The encouragement I’ve gotten from the AMR community through social media has been incredible. Seriously - you guys are awesome and we’ve never even met!

Also, I’m not going to lie: getting a load of running gear in the mail is a huge motivator to get your butt off the couch, even if the kids insist on opening the boxes and kind of infringing on your “this is all about me” moment.

I wasn't very familiar with Saucony gear, so this has been a real treat for me. I’ve run in their shoes in the past, but after they discontinued a model I’d liked, I jumped around to some other brands. I’m impressed with the shoes they sent for me to try, and I’ll be sure to expand on that more as I’ve gotten more miles on them. For the record, I’m trying the Triumph ISO, Ride 7, and Peregrine 5.

The apparel? Um, there were a few touch and go emotional moments when I tried some things on for the first time (see above, extra fifteen pounds). Let’s just say some size exchanges are happening. (Thank you, Saucony.) But I’ve already found some real winners in their apparel line. Favorite item so far: the Bullet Capris. In fact, even though it’s too cold to wear them on their own outside, I wore them OVER my tights today on a run just because of the pocket on the thigh, which is perfect for holding my phone so I can listen to AMR podcasts, which totally got me through an icy 5K this morning.

My goal this year is to, as Saucony says, find (my) strong. What is it? That’s a good question. During my pregnancy, I thought it would be to run the same pace I had before I’d gotten pregnant, or to finish a particular race distance, or to simply fit in my old running clothes again.

And now? I’m hoping to find the answer to that question in 2015. This pregnancy forced me to stop running for awhile and let me reflect on the role it played in my life. Pre-pregnancy, I had become really wrapped up in PR madness and run streaks and obsessing over how my splits measured up to other runners on social media.

Now that the postpartum fog has started to lift and I can run again, I find myself in a place where those things I’d put so much emphasis on are not particularly relevant to my current running state. And don’t get me wrong - all the GPS pics and gym selfies can be good, fun, and foster healthy camaraderie and competition; I’m still a fan! But being unable to meet my former standards was really discouraging. Some days, I really have to ask myself, why am I doing this again?

Even though I like to believe I’m a very special snowflake, I know I’m not the only mother runner who’s gone through this, who feels like I do. So I’m taking comfort and strength in that. And when you get down to brass tacks, we run because we love it.

And I have hope, you guys. Because even when the miles are tough and I have to stop and walk more than I’d like and my boobs hurt and I have to keep yanking my tights up because nothing really fits right and my GPS watch auto pauses during a run because yes, I’m moving THAT SLOWLY, I still choose running.

So please feel free to gently kick me in the butt to keep me moving, and thank you so much for sticking with me. I’m looking forward to reporting back on what March brings. Warmer weather, for starters? Fingers crossed.

Check in with Amy at @amyupnorth, her Twitter account. (You can also follow her on Instagram at @amyupnorth, or on her blog Amy, up north.)

And curious: Can you relate to what she's saying? What are your challenges these days?

 

21 responses to “Meet Amy Blake, a (slightly tired) #AMRinSaucony

  1. So looking forward to getting to know you through your blogs! I honestly don’t know how you guys deal with the snow! I’m spoiled with my southwest winters.

  2. I too can completely relate. Three pregnancies, one hysterectomy and life that continually throws curve balls, I feel like I’m constantly working my way back. I look forward to following your journey as I am in the midst of yet another “comeback” 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  3. Amy,
    Thanks for sharing your journey with us! I too am a 40 something, petite, trying to lose the baby weight (gained 40+ lbs) mother runner trying to find my running mojo again! I look forward to reading your blog!

  4. Amy- I’ve followed you on Instagram (nicowhat) for some time now, I’m not even sure how I cam to find you, but us runners always find each other! I’ve enjoyed your photos but love this post so much because I love getting to know you! Plus, you’re really good at writing and I feel like we could sit down and have a beer together and it would be totally normal. I’m looking forward to following this journey of yours. Thanks for your honesty and putting it all out there! You will certainly find your strong and we’ll all be cheering when you do!

  5. Looking forward to reading more of your posts. I also live in a very cold, snowy area. Looking for some relief! In the stash Saucony sent you, I hope they included the Siberius Pant. I have been wearing them in single digits and love them enough that I got a second pair.

  6. I just have to say that I definitely related when I was 3 months postpartum last year. However, for once, I was able to throw out of my head that I needed to be at or around the same training pace pre pregnancy (I am very numbers oriented so it was EXTREMELY hard for me). I shifted my focus on more postpartum strength training and trained for a half marathon but, instead of using pace I trained based on heart rate. I made it my goal to listen to my body and my heart rate was a good number (and more accurate) to base my training vs a pace that “I should be at”.

    I think it’s important to note that she (Amy) went through an amazing feat. I don’t think us women give ourselves enough credit for being pregnant and then the labor (mine lasted 21 hours). Our bodies are amazing. Give it time to heal (mentally and physically) and it will repay you sevenfold.

    And Amy, it’s AWESOME that you are even out there! That makes you a warrior. You will reach your goals, though some necessary shifting occurs, you can find solace in the new goals.

    After 1 month shy of a year, I am now faster than I was pre pregnancy. It paid to throw out the old me to make way for a fresh stronger me.

    Amy, you are one BAMR!

    1. Thank you! And I agree with you on the labor part. It amazes me what women go through in pregnancy and childbirth. I have to keep reminding myself that recovery takes time. Patience is just not one of my strong suits; ask my family. On second thought, don’t ask them. 😉

      It’s definitely a mentality shift to not worry about pace or compare my efforts to the old me, but I’m working on it.

  7. Well written Amy! I gave birth to boy #3 at 40 years of age and just over 5 years later ran my 2nd marathon with a PR of over a 1/2 hour and qualified for Boston. You can get older and faster! It’s a lot of hard work and juggling with family time but if you listen to your body, you can find a new speed. It seems so weird to read about your times with your young-uns and remember the struggles, challenges and joyful times. It’s seems like it was yesterday but I’m so thankful I’m not dealing with that anymore as my big boys turned 13 last week and the “little guy” will be 8 this month. Time flies when you’re having fun.

  8. I myself, am a native Michigander, familiar with cold winter running, mother of three kids under 6 yo and a doctor – oh right, and a wife, cook, chauffeur, etc. . . .!! Be gentle with yourself! You work full time and have a brand new baby and two other LITTLE ones – honestly, kudos for just getting out of bed in the morning and “thinking” about running. You WILL get back there – it may just take a little more time. AND a little bit of sun!

  9. Oh, I hear you on the pulling up the capris. Mine keep falling down because this winter has done a number of my little belly pouch. Because what else is there to do when all it does is snow, but bake brownies and cookies??? I’m in Boston and giving you props for just getting outside!

  10. Reading your post was like reading about my life! I have three kids (7,3 and 8 months) My 8 month old was a giant weighing in at a whopping 10 pounds. When the baby was 2 months old we moved from Oregon to Northern Minnesota (I grew up here, so I know what the winters are like). Anyway, getting my fitness back after baby number 3 has been SO difficult. I’m finally getting there (not at the same speed as I was pre-baby #3) and It’s not easy, but I know you will get there too! I have even signed up for my 1st half marathon post baby #3 at the end of June.

  11. Hi Fellow Amy! I am so there with you…I am coming back from baby #2, who is 11 months old now and I’m *finally* starting to get back to where I was pre-baby running. Like you, I was smashing PR’s at every race prior to this pregnancy. I ran through pregnancy (which is so humbling, let me tell ya…), but considering how much I progressed as a runner before getting pregnant, I found myself very frustrated as I was coming back because I wasn’t running near as fast or long as before. I’ve had to set my ego aside, run as well as I can in my present state, and enjoy the process. Can I also say that it made my heart leap for joy to hear from another mother runner who works full-time as well as juggles multiple kiddos?? I love you SBS and Dimity, and so many of the others that write for AMR, and while I recognize you all work just as hard, it’s different when you work full-time for an outside employer who has control of your schedule from 8-5. Amy, I’m looking forward to hearing from someone who also struggles with trying to fit runs in. I’m currently running over my lunch hours, it’s cold enough I can do that right now, but even squeezing in Saturday morning long runs is tough considering my husband’s job as a track coach. Anyway, keep chipping away at this running thing, one mile at a time. Set the watch aside, or turn it upside down so you’re not looking at it, and just run to keep your sanity. As your fitness level increases, you will start seeing progress again!

  12. Honey I feel your pain. Last year at this time I was right where you are. Now, 1 year post partum after pregnancy number 5 I am finally getting my grove back. Its a process but you will get there.

  13. Hi Amy. Excited to hear more for you. I love your honesty and openness. I cannot elate to trying to run in the weather you deal with. I’m a southern california baby. It’s rainning now and I’m thinking, when am I going to be able to go out again. But that’s for being so relatable on all the other concerns of AMR that I share. Cannot wait to read more.

  14. Hi! Greetings from another frozen tundra state…Minne-snow-ta as we like to call it. I can’t wait to read your posts and be with you through your journey. Stay strong Mama…we are here for you! =)

  15. I ran while pregnant and working full time, so I can relate to that. My daughter spent a whole month in ICU and I wasn’t “allowed” to run for awhile (I did anyway), so I rode my bike to the ICU to see her. She is now 28 and I am over 60. I still run. She does at times also.
    My parents were avid swimmers and runners. My mom swam with Tarzan once (the original-Johnny Weismueller).
    I ran a 5k this weekend-and have been running for over 40 years. No problem with motivation here-but I don’t call myself anything (runner, swimmer, triathlete, yogi) but my name.

  16. Hi! I’m really looking forward to your posts! Your real life struggles and honestly will relate to so many! While I may be ahead of you with my kiddos’ ages (10,8,4), I still need the motivation and kick to hold on to the love and battle the struggle. 🙂 Every day is a new day!

  17. Hi Amy! Greetings to the UP from another Michigander (we’re under the bridge)! Two really cold winters in a row have been TOO MUCH. Spring will come. It will. Daylight Savings is next weekend, so that will give us more light at nighttime. You’ve got this!

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