What has a heart rate of 150 BPM, spends nine months in the aero position, and makes its first transition from 98.6-degree “waters” into your arms?
My husband and I joked that the second I crossed the finish line at Ironman Mont-Tremblant last August, we were going to start “trying” to start a family. We had no idea that a month later, a Dolbaby would already be in the works.
A friend of ours gave us a wonderful housewarming gift from her trip to Columbia over the summer—the mask of an ancient fertility god. I’m convinced that I got knocked up the second we hung it on the wall.
As I close out the first trimester, I have a confession to make. (I fully expect to hear the roars of laughter and round of knee slapping that will come after this next sentence, it’s okay):
I didn’t think that getting pregnant would be much of an adjustment for me. After all, I’m an endurance athlete who loves to put my body through challenges that regularly include pain and the feeling of almost throwing up.
Really, what’s a little morning sickness compared to a five-hour bike ride followed by a 35-minute transition run in Z2? Ha! I say.
More like, “hurl.”
Pregnancy has provided a two-fold gift: The miracle of life inside of me, and also the feeling of getting to know a completely different body.
Over the past twenty years, my body and me have gotten to know each other pretty well. I know which foods I like, what time I need to go to bed in order to be my most productive the next day, when the best time is for me to do certain kinds of workouts, and how to read my “dashboard” when it comes to evaluating my body for signs of fatigue, overtraining, or appropriate level of intensity.
That’s all out the window now. The moment I saw those two pink lines on the pregnancy test, it’s as if I jumped out of the world as I knew it and into a parallel universe where people play “opposites day” around the clock.
For the better part of the second month, I spent my time laying on the couch in the fetal position groaning about how queasy I felt. Any reprieve from the “gonna barf” feeling gave me just enough time to realize an insatiable need for fast food, which prompted me (or my amazing husband) to head out the door in search of the nearest drive-through. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve been spotted driving down the highway in broad daylight shoveling loads of salty fries into my face with one hand, while the other holds the steering wheel steady. There is a sense of urgency and completion to the whole act—sort of like Thelma & Louise as they take hands just before careening off the mountain to their destiny.
It feels, at times, like my destiny is in the deep fryer.
Who IS this person, and what have you done with the girl who used to snack on cucumbers and garbanzo beans?
I’ve been very anti-vegetable lately, feeling my mouth quiver all vomit-like at the mere mention of raw broccoli or sautéed cherry tomatoes (two of my former favorites). But say the word, “Chalupa” and you can ring my (Taco) Bell all day long.
My diet isn’t the only thing that’s changed. This “grape-sized” being nestled inside of me is apparently diverting 50% of my blood flow to serve its purposes (I may be writing that wrong, but the bottom line is baby is building limb nubs, so mommy no longer passes the talk test during tempo rides).
In the regular cycling classes I teach each week, I’ve definitely noticed a change in the length of the sentences I’m able to say over the microphone before I need to close my mouth and collect myself for a few strides (lest I treat my class to the cacophony of shallow, heaving breaths, accented by the occasional phlegm ball).
Motivational phrases like, “When you find yourself going through hell, keep going,” morph from throaty declarations of “can-do” attitude into a terse, sort of bad-ass shorthand, “Hell. Go.”
Ironically, the week before I found out I was pregnant, I was heavy into promoting buzz around a fundraising event I want to create in the next year called the “Revolution Ride,” inspired by the criticism that Lady Gaga received for gaining weight and daring to wear revealing clothing while performing on stage. The media coverage of her “Body Revolution” campaign made me think about the similar scrutiny that athletes face as people are judged not on their ability to actually CROSS the finish line in a race like a marathon or an Ironman, but on their ability to LOOK LIKE they can cross that finish line. As a testament to those thoughts, I proudly taught my classes that week front and center without a shirt on, showing off the little gut I’ve gained since smashing my personal record in the Ironman this summer.
“This is what a three-time Ironman finishing gut looks like, and I’m not ashamed to show it to you,” I proclaimed, pointing to my rolls as I sat up on the bike with my belly button looking more like an “em dash” ( — ) than a lowercase “o”.
Little did I know, that belly was about to get a whole lot bigger over the next few months, and it wasn’t because of the off season.
I’m starting to feel like there’s a cantaloupe jammed in my bike shorts on every ride these days, an awesome feeling that makes my shoulders ache and my bladder scream about five minutes into every ride.
I just keep thinking how happy I am that I took my coach’s advice and remained on the pill through my entire Ironman training and race day. At one point, I was thinking I would go off the pill at the beginning of the summer so my body would be “ready” to conceive in August.
“Every athlete I’ve ever trained who went off the pill, ended up pregnant by race day,” she cautioned. Would that really be so bad?
If the fertility mask had anything to do with it, I would have been in for a completely different Ironman this year. You think you need to pee on the bike now… Try being pregnant. There’s no end to the pee. And don’t get me started on the idea of combining a Lycra tri suit with bloating. Although, the flatulence on the bike may actually propel you along at a faster pace…
You’re probably wondering by now what all of this has to do with “mojo”? Well it goes back to the idea that life can sometimes throw you into situations where your body (and your mind) must reset back to zero. No matter how much work you did to be a certain way or do a certain thing, you will wake up one day and realize the game has changed and you have to change with it.
There are a few close friends in my life who are dealing with their own “factory reset,” some of them are also pregnant, but some of them are coming out of serious medical situations—rehabbing from illness or recovery from surgery. Others have hit rock bottom emotionally, feeling their fitness slip away while going through trying situations and struggling to find the motivation again in time to reclaim even a shred of what they worked so hard to gain before they went off track.
No matter what brings along this reset, it’s important to see it not as a “loss” wherein you look at something that was there before and gone now, but as an opportunity to start anew. There’s nothing to fix or change or tweak—there is only an open canvas for you to fill with hopes, dreams and goals.
I do not feel that I’ve lost myself as an athlete because of the changes I’m feeling through pregnancy. Truth be told, it’s actually sort of a relief to be able to feel my passion and drive shift gears into something completely new and different outside of triathlon. I know there are more Ironman finish lines in my future, and the work that I do as a person and an athlete will always be “ongoing” and “evolving,” never “finished” or “stalled.” It would be easy to see it that way as I balloon into a bigger body, feeling tired during workouts I used to do after four hours of cardio.
When I heard my baby’s heartbeat a few weeks ago, I felt my eyes get hot with tears. For the first time in my life, I truly felt a moment that was not about myself. I know that sounds self-centered, but you have to understand that I have been independent for a very long time, pouring myself into my career and my training before all other things. Even in my marriage, I still struggle to feel that sense of balance where I must weigh my needs and desires against those of my husband. I’ve always known that having a baby would break this in me…that it would flood my system with compromise, selflessness and compassion and pull me off the Type-A, OCD, “Achieve Goals Now” ledge that I’ve happily stooped upon for my entire life, but I had no idea it would happen so soon. Though I’ll still be Type-A and OCD about things, I know that “drive” will be shifting to the well-being of my family, rather than the well-being of some race.
I had no idea that the sound of my little “kidney bean freight train” making its journey from the womb to the world would stop me in my own tracks and make me completely forget about my own journey forward.
It’s a new kind of mojo, completely unrelated to executing an A-race. It’s about accepting changes, and enjoying the twists and turns that come along the unexpected paths, rather than resenting the missed turns that might have put you on the familiar roads forward.
One day I will be training for a race again, and I want to remember the way I’m feeling right now and over the next few years as I make my debut as mom. I plan to keep this new flavor of mojo around for a very long time.
Stay tuned for the spin-off blog (no pun intended) coming soon to Tri Mojo:
Two Pink Lines: The journey through pregnancy from a self-absorbed, Type-A, wine-slugging career woman in her mid-thirties.