Author: edwina-sutton

Baby Body

My body, my machine, my engine and now my baby carrier and nurturer. Its been put through the mill the last five years. Firstly with four years of full on triathlon training plus full time working and then pregnancy, birth and breast feeding. It has stood up and answered every demand I have placed on it and yet I feel I am only just winning this love hate battle I have been fighting with all my life. I am beginning to feel at peace with what I have been given and to let the bonds and unrealistic expectations of modern society slip away.

My body has always been strong and powerful, it seems to have never ending powers of endurance. It’s never suffered a major injury despite training repetitively week on week out. When asked in a big race, its always performed and apart from falling apart in the closing stages of the World Champs in Kona, physically it got me to the finish line, though I left any coherent thoughts out on the Queen K!  Most importantly, it grew, protected, nourished my baby and then delivered it (with a little help!) safely into the world. And only now, am I able to look in the mirror and accept and be happy with what I have been given.

My body is in no way its tight, muscle bound shape it used to be. Bits sag (sorry), are wider, smaller, stretched, scarred and yet it is serving its natural function and finally finding its natural shape – not something I am forcing it into being to fit my demands or the expectations of others. Over the past few months as I battled with the realisation that I just wouldn’t be able to train and compete (at the moment) it has slowly dawned on me that my body does not need to be punished for the shape it is. It is what it is and no one apart from me (and my lovely friend Vickie!)  really cares. My son and husband both love me for being me, I am their rock, their nest and their comfort, they do not judge me for my shape, their love is unconditional and unjudgemental.

I am sure other Mums feel the same way. Life is suddenly not about you, in fact you are very low in the pecking order. That reliance on you by another or others makes you realise that body shape is really not worth worrying about. Time is so precious and seems to be going so quickly and I want to enjoy every last minute!

Jumpers For Goalposts

I saw the most brilliant thing in the park yesterday. Four boys in their 20s playing football with jumpers for goalposts; two little lads, cant be more than 8 years old came up to them and asked if they could join in. Without batting an eyelid they said, ‘of course, you go on one team, you on the other,’ and off they went. I watched them for a bit, all completely immersed in the game. There was no talk of rules, offside, fouls, they were just all playing for the love of it. I don’t think they even knew each others names. The PE teacher in me was delighted! This is what sport should be like, we put too many rules, restrictions and expectations on young people to perform and achieve, when really all they want to do is play.

Lots of people, in jest (of course I take it quite personally!) have said, what am I going to be like on the sideline when watching my son play sport or even worst, what if he doesn’t like sport?! (well that is hardly going to happen!) The truth is, though I am freakishly competitive myself, I have seen the products of one too many pushy parents. I have fielded the phone calls on Monday at 8am asking why I haven’t followed up on the e mail sent last night sent at 10pm demanding Fifibell be put back into the U12A netball team. These children are nearly always mortified by their parents behaviour.

Those children that do achieve and continue to achieve throughout their life are nearly always the ones whose parents support, but in the background. They are there to cheer the victories, but also to pick up the pieces in defeat. They understand the role of sport and its importance in their children’s life, but they create a balance where personal or team achievement is celebrated rather than winning.

And so this week I have set myself a number of personal challenges, no competition with anyone else (though I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE ‘chicking’ guys while I am running with a pram!), just me, myself and my baby.

For those who know…getting to this post hurt a lot!
Run 5km in under 20 minutes
Cover 50 miles in total throughout the week
Run to a new coffee shop (!!)

Do 1 double figure run

Max out up every hill to the ‘post’
I wont lie to you, previously I have always been motivated completely by winning and being the best I can be. I love racing and now that I dont have that in my life these mini challenges keep me heading out the door and they entertain me greatly, only clarifying what I already suspected I am a complete loser!
And so I have ticked them all off, apart from the 50 miles….got to 46 and couldn’t face one more mile with the pram and probably nor could baby, though he hardly has an opinion as sleeps through most of my epic victories!

So now without races all my energy really is focused on being the best Mum I can be. I am learning not to take it personally when he wont sleep, wont eat, just wants/needs to have a good yell, when pulling everything out of the cupboard is all he wants to do (again and again) or being carried around is the only thing that will settle him. I am learning this doesn’t mean I am a failure or not winning, but its all part of our learning curve. Watching him this week now rocket round the flat, pulling himself up, cruising round the furniture, I know it wont be long till he is one of those little boys asking to play football in the park, and you know what? I cant wait!

Closing The Door

For the first time yesterday post baby, I had to get up and go to work in a suit, on a train. I left the baby crying for me as I shut the door and it broke my heart. How do people do this everyday? I am sure it gets easier and you settle into a new routine. I had to tell myself strongly, not to express my adult emotions onto my baby, but I was torn up inside with this innate desire to rush back inside and hold him to me, never letting go. I felt sick as I boarded the train, glancing around, waiting for someone to accuse me for being a terrible mother and hearing his distressed cries alongside my rapid heart beat. Of course, women have to do this everyday, and for this I have a new found respect, doing the job is the easy bit, leaving the baby is the real challenge.

More and more I am now having to face up to people who ask ‘when’ am I going back to work? Normally there is an uncomfortable silence, which I fill with reasons… blah blah, oh I’m doing this, I’m doing that, we are getting by etc etc. All empty excuses and in my head I am shouting at myself-tell the truth! I cannot bear to leave the baby with someone else, in someone elses care. I don’t actually  think I am strong enough to go back to work. Funny for someone who all their life has competed, trained, worked their body to the limit that this little person has weakened every resolve I ever had!

It does seem that I have lost part of my identity now that I am unemployed. Am I of any value to anyone apart from my family now? Will I lose the ability to communicate with others; by taking my foot off the treadmill of employment will I be left forever wiping the floor and putting on the washing machine? !
But then, do you know what I did today? I went for a run with my baby (ha my legs were tired from standing in heels all day yesterday!). After we sat in the sun and shared breakfast, listened to the trees rustling and the skylarks singing overheard. I realised that everyday with my baby feels like I put together another part of our jigsaw. We put the pieces around each other (getting them in the wrong place, more than the right), but when they fit, they fit beautifully.  I just know taking some time out is right and one day when I see the whole picture my son and I have created I will know every precious minute of this time together was worthwhile.

A River Day

Its hard when you have been up since 5am with a teething sad baby to get your butt out of the door for a run. I try and think of every reason in the book not to go. Come on you are tired, go back to sleep (fat chance, I often give hubby an extra lie in, but if baby gets the faintest sniff that mum might still be in the house and better still in bed he is onto me like a shot!) or better still just stare into space with a cup of tea.

But I know if I go out now I will feel better, I don’t like to run with the pram more than four times a week. I know my running action shortens, my knees get sore and well sometimes its just so nice to be out and by myself.

So I headed out this morning, cranky in my head and in my heart. I didn’t want to spend another day with the whiner, I was tired.  Put the trainers on, out the door, don’t think about stiff legs, hungry tummy or itchy eyes. Just get the legs moving, get the blood pumping and the lungs working. In moments like this there is only one place to go. The river. The Thames, the artery of London. In and out it ebbs and flows all day, my constant companion, always different, but always the same.

Standing on the banks, hands on my hips, I take deep breaths, I am not running hard enough to be out of breath (I hate running hard in the morning), but it feels so good to fill my lungs with almost fresh air, savour the almost silence of 6am, feel my shoulders relax, my back straighten and my head lift.

My feet turn for home, lighter, faster and stronger. The pavements are filling with grey suits heading to the bus, as I run in the opposite direction, back to my work, which I love with my whole being.

It is by chance we meet by choice we become friends

As my life has changed in so many ways over the past year, one thing has remained constant and that has been my friends and family. Having a baby turns your world upside down, no one can prepare you for the huge range of emotions you go through daily or the exhaustion you feel day in day out. Not working, means you lose that network of friends you have inbuilt at work, daily ‘hellos’ become a lifeline as you realise its 3pm and the postman is the first other adult human you have seen all day. And that’s when your little support group of friends comes into its own. Some are new, some are old, some were forgotten, but all hold a dear place in your heart as they provide a vital lifeline to the outside world and the person you used to be!

I really struggled in the first few months with terrible loneliness, we have just moved back to London, I wasn’t training and could hardly walk to the shops with battered abdominals. No one told me that babies never stop crying. I had lost my network of training friends and without the routine of school timetables, training sessions and goals I felt lost.

Then I was invited to some postnatal sessions. Jumped at the chance, cant remember anything about the class, but here I met 6 other women who have become dear friends.  I would never have met these women in my ‘former’ life, but they have proved to be my life, my therapy and my support network through the tumultuous first few months! I know some of them will be friends for life.

Training friends have come and gone, those working towards big goals are understandably single mindedly training, I look back and think was I like this? Must have been and for that I apologise! Some-mainly those with kids themselves-totally understand what its like to be at home days on end and one in particular has gone above and beyond to meet for a quick coffee or take the baby for a walk so I can have a smash fest run. I have felt almost tearfully grateful at this simple act of generosity.

Finally my husband and family have proved to be invaluable. Hubby is my absolute rock, supported me through everything, from the labour, the terrible pain of initial breastfeeding and then kicking my wobbly butt out the door to get in shape again! Every morning he asks would I like to go for a run and rushes home at night so I can get out or so he can cook dinner. I know how lucky I am and how little I show my appreciation. Your relationship complete changes with your loved one once the baby arrives. Life is no longer about us, its about him, what he wants, what he needs, but he has brought us closer together-we’ve laughed, cried and clung to each other as we stumble our way to become the parents we so want to be.
It is funny to make new friends post baby. I feel now, having reached the grand old age of 31, I am finally becoming me. So different now I have this little man by my side all day. I feel stronger, more stable and happier within myself and in my body (that’s a whole other post!!). I do still struggle with my new identity as a Mum. Some times I am not really sure who I am or who I am supposed to be. And I suppose that’s why friends are so important, they love you for who you are, just the way you are.

Farewell My Carbon Friend

There has been some dismay this week as we bid farewell to the black panther who is off to pastures new. I have been umming and ahhing for weeks, no months, about my sporting future, what to do.

My sport, triathlon has taught me patience, its taught me dedication, motivation, to dig deeper than I ever thought possible. It has shown me what you can achieve if you put your mind to something and believe.

I love the multi sport element, the challenge of always improving, the millions of options of training sessions and the fact that after five years I still cant b*****y swim!! I have met some of my best friends through the sport,  had some of the biggest highs and biggest lows. Dodgy tan lines, chaffing in places a girl shouldn’t have chaffing and buckets of sweat have gone into my love of this sport, not to mention thousands of pounds and a very unfortunate bus drive back from Ironman Austria which involved my then not husband and his shorts!! Recently I have felt too guilty that a great lump of carbon is sitting in our hallway not being used, when it could be funding my sons enormous appetite and being ridden by another aspiring athlete.

And so the black panther, who taught me everything I know about cycling  is off to a new home.
She has been such a companion these past 4 years, what a journey we have been on.

And with the money I have brought her replacement……christened black panther 2….

And so where does that leave me now… be honest, I am just not motivated to compete at the moment. I know if I said to husband I wanted to compete again he would support me, but I just feel its not the right time. These early few months have been so precious as our little family have settled into its new rhythms and the relief of not worrying about a race or missed training has been immense.

Don’t get me wrong, I feel bereft at the loss of this part of my life. But if I want to stay at home and bring up my baby I cannot afford financially (or emotionally) to be that committed to training. I am excited at trying my hand at some ultra running, and now I have done a 40 miler 7 months post baby I reckon a 100miler 12 months post baby is not impossible?! Don’t worry all you triathlon friends, I know I’ll be back, mile 20ish, just out of the energy lab is still calling my name….

Come Join The Club

Out running most mornings with my pram I get one of two looks from other mums already out and about.

There are only ever two looks and they go like this:

1. You are MAD, what the HELL are you doing, WHY would you be out running at this time in the morning, you TERRIBLE mother!
2. GOOD on you, you go CRAZY woman!

I always smile, a little on the outside, a lot on the inside. I love my running time with baby. He has already been up for a couple of hours and is ready for a nap. I settle him in and he happily watches the world whizz by. Bang on 1 mile he is asleep and I am free! I know I have about 40-50minutes to get some exercise in before he wakes, I put on my ipod, turn up the volume and go for it. Sometimes its fast, sometimes its slow, sometimes I stop and just listen to the birds and enjoy as much peace as a park in London can offer. As we head home, baby normally awakes and asks how my session went (OK, he doesn’t actually ask, but I tell him) and then we are done. The rest of the day is free to completely devote to baby. I feel refreshed, energised and so much better about myself and my job as a mum.

And that is the beauty of running. Whatever doctors, trainer manufacturers, physios like to tell us, we are meant to move our bodies. It is part of our natural flight or fight defence. It is what makes us feel alive and powerful. It is like anything in life worth having, hard work at the start, but so worth the effort.

And when two runners pass each other nearly always there is an acknowledgement, a nod, a grimace or a smile, more often than not a brief hello. We are part of a secret club, there are millions of members, we are an easy to please bunch, anyone is welcome, you only need a pair of trainers. Come on join in!

Rolling with the changes

After a heavy few years of Ironman training and full time working I had promised my husband to slow down, give him some quality time and hopefully start a family. After a fantastic trip to Kona I was very lucky to fall pregnant almost straight away.
Pregnancy hit me like a sledgehammer, I was exhausted, sick and hardly able to drag myself into work let alone carry on training. The midwife advised me to keep exercising  `as normal,` I didn’t even bother explaining that perhaps 25-30hrs of training were not what she recommended!
 I found the lack of any conclusive studies on exercising when pregnant frustrating and nothing from any former ironwomen. Most of the studies completed are on rats (!), obviously women are not particularly keen to be subjected to tests while pregnant, however the majority of women I met while pregnant were keen to continuing exercise or start exercising as they focus on providing the best shelter for their baby. 
I was determined from the onset to listen to my body and do my best for the baby with my only goal being to be as ‘pregnancy’ fit as I could be for labour and the recovery (this was to prove invaluable after a very long labour and an emergency c section).
The first trimester I was nervous about hurting the baby in some way or overdoing it. One of the hardest parts was changing from the mindset of hard core triathlon training when you drag yourself through training session after training session and smashed legs are a daily occurrence to exercising just to keep lightly conditioned and even walk at some points! My husband had decided to embark on marathon training so I joined him for the end of his long runs and sometimes a few reps of interval training. Morning sickness ruled though for the first 12 weeks and after vomiting sometimes 40 times a day it wasn’t hard to let training take a back seat.
After 12 weeks I felt better almost overnight and decided to try and train a little more. I was advised to wear a heart rate monitor and not to exceed 150bpm which I followed.  I found personally ‘listening to your body’ approach the best method. I knew sometimes I overdid it and would find myself sitting half way up a hill I used to pound up after a 100 mile ride unable to even jog slowly. I knew that it was important for my baby to slow down, but I did find it hard watching my fitness (and my abdominals!) slip away. I was overjoyed to be pregnant, but changing my mindset from an athlete to a ‘mum’ took me a while.
Funnily as the weeks progressed, you naturally slow down as you become heavier, your muscles and tendons loosen and the drive to exercise diminishes. I ran till 30 weeks (and this I say to all my pregnant friends when I say ran by 28 weeks it was a 2 mile shuffle listening to some tunes and walking up any slight inclines). My husband loved it, he was as fit as a fiddle ready to do a 3hr 15 marathon debut (all my coaching!!) and could at last run circles around me – After years of me dropping him at every opportunity! At 30 weeks I made the executive decision that for the last ten weeks it was all about swimming and I enjoyed making up ‘pregnancy’ sets. I didn’t use the pace clock apart from to time recovery;  I am an athlete born and bred and even if I was only hitting 2 minutes for 100m I would start challenging myself to beat it each time! I loved swimming, though tumble turning was a no go after leaving me feeling travel sick for the rest of the day (poor baby!).
After a quick house move at 37 weeks I took to walking everywhere to reacquaint myself with all my old London haunts. I walked for an hour or so each day gradually getting slower and slower and with more tea breaks! By the end of 40 weeks I was longing to meet my baby, get out of my maternity clothes, back into lycra and to see my feet again!
I was looking forward to labour, I was intrigued how I would cope with the pain and whether years of firstly 8oom running training then ironman training would have me laughing all the way through! Lets just say it was the hardest training session I have ever completed, but the prize was the best ever!
I had images post baby of getting back into training and possibly an ironman at the end of the year. Well after a c section everything took a backseat for 6 weeks as I nursed my baby and my battered body. Spot on 6 weeks and with the all clear from the Doctor I excitedly laced on the trainers and headed out. I managed 2 minutes of running, my body felt like it was detached from my legs- what was that wobbling round my waist-oh my stomach! Husband gave me a strict talking to on my return as in floods of tears I moaned I would never be in Kona shape again. I’m no quitter and within 2 weeks was back to jogging 2 miles, challenging myself each time to a little further, walking when needed, smashing my legs when I felt strong and just enjoying having half an hour to myself. My general rule has been adding on a running mile for every month post baby, which has worked out well and allowed me not to overdo it or be too tired should I be required to do an unexpected ‘teething’ nightshift!
5 months on and my body is getting back to shape. As I wanted to feed my baby, timing of runs, swims and bikes have been a military operation, often completed late at night, turboing next to the cot as baby naps or a quick car park pit stop mid ride/run! I never thought I would appreciate exercise so much, the bliss of heading out the door for a quick spin or even better the joy of coming home to a delighted baby! With no time for the junk miles I used to love, every session now has to be quality and with more recovery time in between I am able to work consistently harder.  I’ve had my ups and downs –long days with a crying baby are exhausting, the frustration of not being able to train while all your friends are out getting fitter and fitter . The baby has taught me to slow down and appreciate the small things in life (and my amazing husband!). I contemplated just giving up as the road back to fitness has been so tough, but determination is something ironwomen are not short of, now I am not motivated by winning or course records, but seeing my son cheering me on and carrying him over the finish line and making my little family proud.
I would recommend other pregnant triathletes out there to listen to their body very carefully when exercising, but don’t be afraid to carry on gently SBRunning!  You know your body better than anyone. Look after your nutrition as well as you can, try to do a little activity everyday, but don’t feel guilty if you don’t and invest in a good quality maternity swimsuit!  Mostly, if you are anything like me, enjoy the free time! Enjoy not following a training programme and exercising for how long or how little you feel like! Instead of long runs take you partner out for long walks (with compulsory tea stops!), slow down, appreciate having time to do all the chores you always have meant to do and go to the cinema….believe you me life will never be the same again!!
Since writing this now almost 8 months post baby I am back into good shape and finished my first race last weekend! Nothing like a challenge…a 40 mile off road run! Well why do a marathon, I’ve done loads of those! I enjoyed this race more than any other I think I have ever done. The feeling of a ‘competition’ again, the pre race nerves, the targeting a runner ahead and pushing my body through the pain. The pit stop at 20 miles to feed the baby and wait for husband (ha ha ha back smashing him again!!) was a surprise. Watching others run by would have infuriated me before baby. Now I just thought, ah well I cant wait to run past you all again in a minute! I loved the ultra, loved the feeling of the last 8 miles as we ran over the most beautiful British countryside with legs that would hardly bend, but felt strangely stronger by the mile.
At the finish line was my husband and baby cheering me on, I felt like I could have run forever….but I didn’t want to, I had tea and love to give to my new little family.