My Romance With Running

Stories about running


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Don’t call it a comeback

Making a comeback from injury is hard. It takes patience, persistence, and it makes you question the value of what you’re doing, is it really worth putting in all this effort to be ‘fit’ again?

Estimates vary wildly, but according to the internet and a quick scan of who is having a Strava drought, between 30-50% of runners will get an injury in the next 12 months. That is a lot!

In any group of runners there are always a handful that are coming back from some sort of injury or extended break, and the postpartum runners are often lumped in to this despondent bunch as well.

Pushing shit uphill – First 5km post baby

Not an accident, not an injury, what is it then?

In New Zealand we’re pretty fortunate to have accidental injuries covered by ACC. The majority of my ACC claims follow a very similar script. Something to the effect of… ‘I was running then I… stepped off a curb/ tripped backwards over a bench/ tripped on my own feet/ stepped on a rock/ ran down a hill in the rain through slippery mud wearing worn out Nike pegs and tried taking a selfie on my GoPro Hero 5 as I rounded a corner going full tit gunning for a Strava Segment. AND then I sprained my ankle.’

Running has meant that I have become fairly well acquainted with my physiotherapist.

‘Hello again Amanda. Let me guess, you tripped over again. What did you land on this time?’

It was long and hard but it wasn’t a curb Elaine. Heh.

The most traumatic event to happen to my body was not an accident, and is something that over 50,000 women in New Zealand go through every year. Oh, it’s the most natural thing in the world! Our bodies were designed for it, it’s a miracle! My dog did it too! Exciting times! #blessed! That aside, it is still an incredible physical feat that takes a massive toll on your body.

Technically pregnancy is considered a medical condition, because it can make your health suffer and you can lose some of your ability to function as normal. It also has the potential to kill you.

Back when I thought I was sick of doing laundry

The baby is OUT! What happens now?

38 weeks deep and feeling like a balloon filled with elbows and wet socks, I was thinking ‘I can’t wait to give birth and for my body to be my own again.’ Spoiler alert!! You might be sole charge of the body again but it’s not going to be the same as the one you started with.

Post-birth I found it pretty unbelievable that there was no defined path to helping your body to recover from such a major event. I thought that there would be a physical exam to check for abdominal separation, maybe something inserted somewhere to check for pelvic floor strength. When I asked my GP about this mysterious ‘Postpartum check up’ she said, ‘What? Why?’. There is no free postpartum check up in New Zealand.

She’ll be right! Our bodies were designed for it! My dog gave birth to six puppies in the wood shed and she was fine! Actually she suffered from arthritis in her hips for years and now she is dead, but totally fine apart from that.

I feel lucky that I know my body well enough to be aware of something feeling a bit off. I also feel lucky that I can afford to go to a personal trainer and get an exercise program designed to help me to recover after having a baby. Not everyone has that luxury, so recovering from birth ends up being a little bit of luck and a lot of guess work.

The recovery for this injury could just be the good old RICE method? Rest, sleep when the baby sleeps (Pro tip, sleep when the baby cleans). Ice your exit wound, compress your insides back into the correct place and elevate everything that hurts. Because literally everything hurts, the only way to elevate it all is to do a handstand. Or float face down in a pool of your own tears.

Just resting my eyes

Rehab for the addict

I got very mixed advice on how long to wait after birth to return to running. Six weeks, eighteen months, and just six days. After chatting to some running mums I decided I would wait for six weeks and see how I felt. Five weeks and four days in I went for a walk/run and just labelled the activity a walk on Strava. Sneaky. Pretty much six weeks!

It’s a year after the event and I have enjoyed a relatively smooth return to exercise. By relatively smooth I mean I am totally killing it fuck yeah go me! And aside from sprained ankle #47 I had a far easier time than I imagined getting back to running fast.

While I have had it easier than some, I’ve also worked very hard. Pelvic floor, and strength and rehab exercises were prioritised and done 2-3 times a week. I spent over 30 hours doing these alongside walking, cycling, screaming while left alone with my thoughts, and getting what I will very loosely refer to as ‘proper rest’.

I would often think about how much effort I would put in to rehab an ankle sprain to be able to run efficiently and without any pain or niggles. Having a human make an exit through my pelvis was a bit more serious than a little ankle sprain, so it was treated as such and I was very regimented about doing the right things to recover properly.

Hours were spent on the wind trainer while the baby slept. Solo laps run around the neighbourhood in the dark when parent #2 got home. Last minute rehab exercises at 10pm, or sometimes at 3am because I couldn’t sleep after night feed #4. Looking back I can’t believe how committed I was to getting my body back in to working order.

7 months postpartum ( . ) ( o )

Did it actually feel worse than an ankle sprain tho, like a really bad one?

Straight after having a baby it hurt to stand on one leg and put pants on. It hurt to walk, it also hurt to sit thanks to an episiotomy. EVERYTHING hurt and taking painkillers religiously every six hours would keep me from being a sobbing mess. My exercise consisted of walking around the house and lifting a 3.36kg weight all day. AND ALL NIGHT and oh my god it kept getting heavier.

I was waking up at night thinking that I had hip pain, was this another injury? Was it early onset arthritis?! It was just my undies cutting in to my skin because my ass got bigger. This expansion also explained another symptom that Google misdiagnosed. I was feeling like my bits were still swollen post episiotomy because it felt all weird when I sat down, like there was extra padding. No medical complications, no swelling, just the extra padding that comes with a fatter bum.

When the pain faded I started walking wearing the baby in a wrap, and for the first few walks everything felt quite wonky. I was still sore and if I walked for too long or on difficult terrain I would feel a bit crap. I was also exhausted and hormonal and slightly effing crazy but getting fresh air was very necessary.

Would I rather recover from a sprain or childbirth? I pick sprain for the ACC benefits, and a taped ankle says ‘serious athlete’ more than a maternity pad ever could.

Preggo ankle gets a lot of attention

Youuuu just wait until [insert random age of child or #of months pregnant] then you’ll see how HARD it is!

Everyone has such a different experience, some find pregnancy really tough, others find it easy. You have this fear of complaining about anything, or admitting to how you feel because you are going to get judged for every single thing you say. It’s easier not to say anything.

I hated being pregnant. At least you can get pregnant!

It’s hard adjusting to work while parenting and trying to run. I stopped exercising when I had kids, prioritise!

I’m so tired, I wish the baby would sleep past 5am. My three kids don’t sleep and I am up at 4 every day! *proceeds to piss so high that my eyes roll back in my head trying to follow the stream*

Years ago I got a stress fracture in my pelvis. I was in tears because I had to use crutches for two months, I couldn’t run, and I was worried that I would get depressed again without being able to exercise. Someone thought to console me by saying ‘Well it’s not like you have cancer.’ Ingrid, you’re a dick.

No matter what your situation, there will always be someone worse off than you. Does that mean that you shouldn’t get to have feelings because you’re not THE most tired, you don’t have the worst stretch marks, or didn’t have the most trouble breastfeeding?

Your feelings are always valid, because they’re yours. Your story is your own, so own it. Talk about your experiences because they’re yours. It might not mean much to most people but to someone it might mean everything, even if the only person it means something to is you.

Coming back to fitness from any sort of injury or medical condition is hard. Giving birth is a big deal and it’s amazing how little professional guidance there is for the average joe like me. I’m not a pro athlete, but exercise is a big priority for me. I’m not going to be scared off it because someone with a different lifestyle has a different opinion (shock horror) and thinks you shouldn’t run for 18 months after birth.

If it wasn’t for the honesty of many of the mums I have sent panicked messages to asking for advice and reassurance I think I would have given up. So thank you Emily and Emily, Sophie, Steph, Christina, Amanda, Hannah, Tamara, Megan, Anna, Ange, Jess, Claire Phaedra, Lisa, Sierra, Arpita, Jenna, Laura, Becky, Vera, Amy, all the Kates, Cassie, Shelley, Sarah and Michelle for being such amazing role models. You’re pretty cool!

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Exercising with a baby – The Wind Trainer

It’s a challenge to get exercise when you have a young baby. It’s not just because you can’t leave them to fend for themselves while you trot around the block for a run.

Has your body healed enough to exercise? Do you have the energy after getting up five times last night to feed them? Should you be tackling the pile of laundry or vacuuming the floor (that is looking rather gritty) instead of focusing on your fitness? Is it cruel to take them for a walk in the pram in the wind and rain?

I knew that to exercise I’d have to find a way to do it that did not involve leaving the house, so I bought a wind trainer to use with my bike.

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This is a wind trainer!

After some trial and error I have found the perfect method for a successful session on the wind trainer which I will share with you today. Below you will find the recipe for success, you can thank me later by sending me wine and cheese.

INGREDIENTS

  • Wind trainer – ordered online and held up due to duties tax which has turned in to a guilt tax at the amount you spent on it
  • Bicycle – best to have one with a filthy chain to match the rest of your filthy house
  • Large television – high-res so you can see details through sweaty squinting eyes
  • Table or shelf – at roughly the height of your top tube, wide enough to fit a baby on
  • Baby wrangling tools – i.e dummy, bottle, toys, a length of rope, your mum
  • Sleeping baby – (Do not use an awake baby, your recipe will be ruined)
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Example of an almost perfect set up

METHOD

1. Set up the wind trainer in front of the TV, lining up the cassette with the black smear of rubber you burned in to the carpet last time you tried to exercise on your bike.

HOT TIP! Set baby to sleep mode after you have set up your wind trainer to allow yourself three extra minutes of exercise.

2. Baby placement in relation to the bike is key if this recipe is to be a success. A good baby placement is to have their mouth within reach of your hand. When (not if, when) they cry you can easily put a bottle, dummy, or chain-grease covered finger into their mouth to placate them.

The best position is with baby sleeping parallel with your bike,  just out of range so that your knee doesn’t connect with their tiny infant body on the up stroke and fling them behind you. In this position it is easy to pick them up and dangle a sweaty breast into their mouth if they start to make screamy noises at you.

3. Put on a documentary about cycling, it should include doping, so pick any Tour de France race coverage. Watching people inject drugs into their butt cheeks will alleviate any parental guilt that you feel at putting yourself first and exercising when you think you should be cleaning, cooking, or doing baby related admin. Good on you for not injecting EPO in to your stretch mark-covered, saggy black underpants wearing, wobbly, sweaty ass cheeks. You’re going to earn a fitter bum-bum the honest way.

HOT TIP! Watch Icarus, Rodchenkov’s mother personally injected him with performance enhancing drugs. You aren’t doing any such thing to your precious baby, so while your kid might not win Olympic gold YOU might still win mother of the year!

4. Start the white noise of your pedalling BEFORE you turn on the TV to avoid any loud bangs that may activate the child’s startle reflex. If you can be bothered doing intervals, make sure that when you finish that hard minute of pedalling that you don’t clunk the gears changing them back down. This loud metal bang accompanied with your tired grunting activates the startle reflex in the baby, followed by the ‘waaaaah’ siren that is difficult to turn off without dismounting your bike.

5. If you begin to lose motivation, glance over at the baby’s head. Now look back at your bike seat, now back at the head. Your vagina has pushed out a thing bigger than the bike seat you’re sitting on, you’re a total bad ass! Superwoman,  if you laboured for hours then you can pedal a bike for five more minutes.

HOT TIP! If any sweat drips on to the baby, leave it there. Your child will learn from an early age what hard work tastes like. They have had almost every other possible bodily fluid of yours smeared on them so why not add this one to the collection?

If you begin to lose the will to live, looking at that sweet baby’s head will make you feel much better. You’ve already reproduced so your legacy will live on through the child if you don’t live to see the end of this wind trainer session.

 

 

 


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First the worst, second best, and last the golden princess!

Many people on the internets will tell you that the first trimester is terrible, the worst. They say that you will feel, and I quote, ‘fresh and full of energy‘ in trimester number two and that the third will be pretty terrible again.

In my experience, it gets better and better towards the end, this is why.

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Running and walking Korokoro stream at 36 weeks

As soon as I hit the third trimester I slowed down my exercise a lot, I started to swim more and counted my walking commute to work and back as exercise. Walking never use to tire me out but the fatigue was really noticeable in the last few weeks of carrying around a basketball.

I had expected to slow down, and it made me appreciate and value every single time I got out for a walk, run, swim or bike ride. Everything felt like a win and a huge achievement. I knew that it wasn’t much longer that I would be carrying around the basketball so I took time to appreciate being pregnant.

I tried to get to the pool regularly and eventually managed to get to the point where I could swim a kilometre. The last time I went swimming was when I had a stress fracture in my pelvis, it was hard. This time was a little easier and I felt a bit more at home having friends to swim with and Dougal the swim coach there smiling on the sidelines.

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8 months pregnant

Training for the Third Trimester

  • Longest run: 7km – at the 30 week mark, at 5.09 pace what a speed demon
  • Longest ride: 30km
  • Average weekly hours of exercise: 2 hours plus walking to commute
  • Biggest run week: 23km
  • Last run: a run/walk up Makara Peak at 38 weeks 5 days
  • Last Ride: 15km easy around the bays at 38 weeks 3 days
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My last ride, probably shouldn’t do one-handed selfies 38 weeks preggo on a bike

The best parts

I won a race! Behold my glorious shiny trophy!

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The victors returned with the silver trophy held high above their heads, and drank non-alcoholic caffeine free beverages with a low risk of listeria from it’s depths into the wee hours of the morning

It was won by the only means I could possibly win, on handicap. Apparently I owe the handicapper a beer but that has nothing to do with me beating my handicap time…

In the 5km race with my club Scottish Harriers I lined up to start right at the front of the pack with everyone else, then realised that I wasn’t quite in 18:30 shape and retreated to the back of the herd.  I walked and ran the first few kilometres then picked up the pace in the final km, it felt so great to run fast again! I ran 27:45 at 34 weeks pregnant.

We went on so many adventures, and each new place we went I would think about how cool it would be when we could come back with the tiny human and show it all to her for the first time.

 

The worst parts

Riding down Ngaio Gorge 33 weeks pregnant and thinking that I had broken the seat on my bike. Reaching down to see what was wrong, I realised that it was just the feeling of my gut resting on the bike seat. I avoided using my low bars after this!

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Stretching BB’s kit to the limit #noaero

Nothing was really too bad in trimester #3, although I did get to the point where I said very loudly, over a roast dinner that I was so damn sick of being pregnant. I could barely reach the plate over my protruding stomach, I felt tired and sore and just fed up with being big.

The baby must have been listening to me whine, and two hours later labour started.

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13-05-2018

I’m really looking forward to returning to running and riding once I get more familiar with my new job, my new body and all the fabulous new running gear I plan on buying because my chest doesn’t fit into the old stuff.

NEW BABY NEW BOOBS NEW CLOTHES THIRD TRIMESTER IS THE BEST!

 


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Round and Round and Round The Bays

I haven’t told many people about my first time. Have you?

It’s always going to be a bit embarrassing, but it is a rite of passage that we all must pass through. Your first time will always hold a special place in your memory. A painful, awkward, sometimes shameful place, but it is a starting point from which you learn and grow. For some it puts them off ever wanting to do it again. But some of us get hooked.

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My first time! Round The Bays Half Marathon in 2013

The first proper race I ran was Round The Bays in Wellington and I’ve been back every single year since that first magic run. For the past four years it has been in support of other runners, and this year, even though I wasn’t fit, and I was certain to be slow and perhaps less fabulous looking than other years, I wanted to run it again!

2013My first half marathon, 1.38.09 and dead legs for a week. Alexandra Williams won the women’s race in 78.15, who were all these crazy fast runners? Reading this list again today, those names are some of my best friends and training partners. Was it worth the hours of training that summer and the pain for a week afterwards? A thousand times over.

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2013 – My friend Emmatron made me this cool sign!

2014 – I came to the event as a supporter and pushed Naomi Sparrow in the buggy around the Bays while Mum and Dad raced. I didn’t tip her out onto the road and didn’t trip anyone over so will call it a victory!

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2014 – We chucked a few stones on course and cheered for Emily and James

2015 – I ran alongside my friend Hinano to pace the 50 minute group for the 10km, I would post a picture of us looking fly AF and matching strides but they cost $30 for one photo. Ah, race photos.

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2015 – Post race with Sarah, Emily and Naomi

2016 – I had real job this year, pacing the 10km. I run-commuted in to the city, paced, then finished off a long run totalling 28km. I look quite happy about it too.

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2016 – Pacing the 10km aided by Yuliya

2017 – Was spent pacing the Half Marathon 1.40 group. I was coming off an injury and pah-robably should not have run this fast. At the 17km point things got a bit rough but I made it across the line in 1.40.11 which is only half a second slow per kilometre, pacing is hard! I was also an ambassador for the event this year and met a lot of very cool people in the process.

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2017 – Most enjoyable half marathon I’ve ever run!

2018 – Round The Bays run in Wellington looked to be a race where I ran mid-pack and faded into the crowds. Wait, what does fade mean? If I can’t earn my way on to the podium as a means of directing attention to myself there are plenty of other ways I can do it.

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2018 had the best lighting

IMPORTANT RACE PLANNING

The thing that concerned me most about this race was what I was going to wear. My Scottish club singlet was now riding up over my belly button (an outie, I have an outie). Most of my shorts are tight to the point of being uncomfortable and give me little love handles and 100% of my sports bras are too small but since boobies are still a novelty I am yet to replace them.

I went for the only club top that remotely fitted me and paired it with red Ruby Woo lippy, Mr B’s flash new Giro cycling socks and a red tutu. The result was fabulous.

RACE DAY

I planned to run this race with the 50minute pace group of JT, Rampant Lion who is always keen for a scandalous chat, and Peter Murmu, another of my Scottish team mates. The thing is, when the starting gun went off we were well back from the timing mat. I had a good 12-15 seconds to make up if I was going to hit exactly 50 minutes for my gun time. Gun time is the real time, it’s the official race time and this was an official race for me god damn it.

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Ditch the boys

I set off at a manageable pace and within the first 2 kilometres passed a lot of the people who got far too excited and went out at 4min pace when they are a 50 minute runner. Not me, years of experience and a large tummy takes a bit of that eager premmie pace out of the legs.

I didn’t run balls to wall, just fast enough to be making some sort of effort but not puffing too much or putting too much strain on my body since it was carrying another smaller body inside of it. I passed a few people in the race who would eye me and the belly, attempt to overtake again, then concede defeat and disappear after a few hundred metres. I heard someone yell at me ‘You go Big Mama!’, that’s a new one.

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I got to the wind needle just in time to see all the fast people in their final finishing kilometre for the 10km and half marathon races. It’s always such a buzz to see these faces and cheer for them as they’re busting their nuts/ ovaries while I am floating along like the classiest red balloon you’ve ever seen.

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I’ve made several friends since RTB 2013, this is only like 2% of them.

I finished the race in 47.41 and was 36th female across the line, 10th in my age group. If we further segment the results data I was FIRST AMANDA! Basically I won but there isn’t a prize for it. Kinda hoped I would join Nicole and Ayesha on the podium to make it a Scottish trifecta but I was about 7 minutes behind schedule for that.

I’m looking forward to running this event again next year, hopefully a bit faster! The best thing will be having my little cheer squad at the finish line, or perhaps on course with me if I can find a tiny red tutu and some matching socks for her racing debut.

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Post race fuel at the Spruce Goose


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My very first Tri(mester)!

It was a Sunday night in September when we first found out that you were a real thing.

In our grand old rented villa with stained-glass windows, in a past life it was classy and timeless but now looked like a dated student flat. Every furnishing and fixture carelessly battered, coloured the shade of white specifically achieved through years of overuse and under-cleaning.

I think the moment we were conscious of you, I started feeling sick. Stomach flipping as gravity and the ground and all those comfortable certainties in life began to disappear. The Sunday morning drudgery, dehydration, fatigue and nausea that had previously been earned through several glasses of pinot was now greeting me on every day of the week, no wine needed.

Three weeks later, a few little spews, some bike rides abandoned at half way and a lot of mid-day naps and I was allowed to start on a walk run program to get over my pelvic injury, osteitis pubis. Finally!

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Rehabbing. I still have little shoulders here hallelujah!

The commitment to going to the gym several times a week, cycling inside on the wind trainer and aqua jogging – none of it seemed very important any more when I knew that I wouldn’t be getting ‘fit’ any time soon.

In the early weeks I was still feeling really strong, going to chain gang rides with the HCR crew, charging up hills on my bike in the rain after work, motivation I can no longer relate to! On the days I didn’t feel good I would make sure I went for a walk to keep active, or for a ride alongside Mr B as he ran, just to get some fresh air in my lungs.

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8 weeks in after a fast morning ride around the bays I felt incredible. Light, happy, and with that satisfying deadness in my legs. I finally got that familiar feeling after a hard training session and I felt like myself again. But myself wasn’t just me any more, and that hard session was the last.

11 weeks pregnant and I was making lots of progress on my walk run program, 6 minute walk, four minute run for thirty minutes. One particular day was a five minute walk, followed by a trip to A&E. I read later that pregnancy can make your balance a bit off, I agree with that!

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I was in a panic because my chin bled a LOT when it split open, it hurt, and I had to get a tetanus injection. I was really worried about falling with the baby, but the Doctor said ‘It’s fine, your pelvis will have protected the baby, the pelvis is really strong!’. Oh you mean the pelvis that got a stress fracture? The same pelvis that keeps malfunctioning and preventing me from running? THAT PELVIS!? *cue sobbing*

The Doctor said she recognised my name from Strava, and noted that I might not be on the leaderboards any time soon. She gave me 8 stitches while I held Mr B’s hand. That hand softly slipped away during her graphic blow-by-blow account of poking fat back inside my chin with the end of a pair of scissors. I’m crossing my fingers and toes that he gets over that squeamishness by May 2018.

The last week of the first trimester was a great one. I had one of those runs (still 30% walking) that was so blissful, in the sunshine, around Wellington’s Oriental Bay and in that moment I knew that the rehab was all worth it. I felt like me.

Training for the First Trimester

  • Longest run: 5.6km (a run/walk)
  • Longest ride: 74.9km
  • Average hours of exercise: 3-5 per week (not including walking)
  • Biggest run/walk week: 30km

I switched a lot of runs out for walks through the botanical gardens, I slept a lot, I tried to remember that I wasn’t eating like an athlete and to cut down on the portion sizes to account for this. I don’t need to fear being hungry any more when I have no long run in the morning!

I think in a way it helped already being unfit to begin with. I was riding a lot and doing yoga and gym work, then I very slowly built in the walk-run program when I felt I could. Working on increasing my running at a time when I knew that I’d barely get started before I had to decrease it didn’t worry me. Do what you can, where you are, with what you have, and all that.

The Best Parts of the First Trimester

The Beautiful people at Harbour City Racing! Being able to ride with a group who were welcoming, who helped me to learn, raced me on the hills, and showed me how it is possible to change a tyre with no tyre lever made my life very happy.

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The titties! A new toy! I have taken great joy in popping a tit into every possible photo opportunity.

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It was just sooo hot I had to ride with my shirt open ( . ) ( . )

Already being unfit before I got pregnant meant getting away with having a bit of extra fluff around the tummy with no pregnancy suspicions at all.

The Worst Parts of the First Trimester

Not being in complete control of how my body feels. Training is certainty, you tick the boxes, you feel the benefits, you get the results. Having the motivation to get outside, but dry retching when you move makes training near impossible. Serena Williams winning a grand slam 8 weeks pregnant is more mind-blowing for me than Elon Musk’s Falcon Heavy rocket launching a car into space. I felt like utter shit at 8 weeks!

Keeping a secret is very hard. Declining the wine matches at a five course degustation because you ‘don’t feel like drinking wine’ is really flippin’ hard and also a really terrible lie.

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Documenting my ‘obviously pregnant’ tummy at 11 weeks

A lot of the time I felt like I was letting my friends down, because I was feeling too sick to hang out, too tired, or just too emotionally unstable to leave the house between tears at the impending human thing or stressing out about whether or not I’ll be a good mother. It has also made me think how I could have been more supportive of my own pregnant friends, I realise now how little I understood what they were going through. I think I get it now *dry retches*.

I feel like I was very lucky to be able to keep riding, running and doing the things I love in the first trimester without having to dig too many holes to bury little piles of spew on the side of Polhill trail.

I’m optimistic about the other TWENTY SEVEN WEEKS (oh myyy that’s a long time) being just as cruisy and a little less spews-y. I’m looking seriously in to a running buggy that looks friendly enough to take to the Plunket rooms but will perform like the Dodge Charger in Death Proof when I need it to.

Any suggestions much appreciated 🙂