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The First Time

31 May

The First Time

Jackie Pirtle-Hall

I sign up. I show up. I toe the line. The air is wet, the ground a muddy mess, the people quiet with determination yet relaxed, friendly. I’m starting to feel like I kind of belong here. Afterall, I showed up with my husband and daughter after a two hour drive on a Saturday morning to complete a trail race: something I never really considered doing- until 7 days prior to race day- as a birthday present to myself. I knew I needed some long, hilly trail runs to prep me for the Pikes Peak Marathon in August and hey, why not run with fellow endurance athletes among the beautifully touted Mark Twain Forest with its picturesque foliage and copious wildlife. It was a no brainer; however, I have never distances further than 16 easy miles on rocky trail terrain -which I just ran the weekend before with my expert ultra running buddy Shelly. I learned as much as I could from her and convinced myself I could do anything if I stayed patient and didn’t get too hubristic out there.

26.2 miles of birthday bliss begins: As I get into the trails, I stay with a group of solid trail athletes who seem like they know what they are doing- Brian just finished a 100 miler- I figure I should pay attention to him and learn – so I did. I ran behind and observed. I told myself to stay patient and enjoy the fresh morning dew on the richest greens enveloping my whole self after a hectic year of teaching at a new school. I was in my element; I was at peace; I could breath out all the expectations and deadlines and be in the here and the now. Wow! The serenity, the joy, the pure elation that came over every inch of my working muscles. I was free.

After 5 miles, I passed- I felt like I needed to enjoy this moment alone- it was personal after all.  The men were kind and understanding. I was still hesitant when I announced, “Well, I’m gonna pass now- disclaimer:  if you see me in 20 miles crawling, just have mercy on my egotistical ass. I am a student of my sport. And so, they were gracious along with EVERY runner on that trail that day. My high school track coach once told my 4×800 team- after one of the girls got into some trouble-that if you mix shit with ice cream, you’ll get shitty ice cream. Well, I suspect the opposite is true, so I better keep hanging around these people.

Anytime you do something new, there is a sense of excitement, fear, and limitation. I know this. I understand that these “firsts” are what make life worth living- these are the opportunities for us to feel most alive and connected to ourselves- to realize just how strong and capable we are in all areas of our life.  I have an opportunity here to do something that scares the hell out of me in the scope of running- I’m game! While precariously racing through the misty, humid air-branches skimming my skin; slick,sliding rocks threatening my propulsion; creeks splashing my face, I realize I am easily catching the lead men. My blood begins to flood with fear, restriction. A voice: “Girl-put on the breaks wipe the mud from your cheeks and don that pretty diamond tiara.” Remember this is a first- an unknown. How big of a jackass  would I look like if I passed all these guys and just died hard later in the race. I would fulfill the expectations of many- including the race director who greeted me as the “princess” and asked me “have you ever run trails before?” and “are you ok with running creeks?”  

“Uh, yeah sure,  I uh I’m ok” I reply meekly strolling away really think- geeze what am I doing here!  But, wait- this is an opportunity in my running journey  that I have been waiting for- another first, another moment of hesitation, fear that I could ride. With this thought, I passed the lead men. I may have showed up as the princess (I don’t mind this title…lol) but I am going to leave the King. Yah, I didn’t know if I would be able to hold my pace, or what the heck my body would do at 20 miles on a very hilly terrain, but I was NOT going to hesitate. I am not going to be held back by fear of failing.  I tell my students all the time to take action towards their dreams that scare them the most and not to hesitate – hesitation is self-doubt and fear talking- do it and understand that yes…you might fail, make mistakes, but that’s part of the process. But never sit on the sidelines because you are afraid of not being perfect; of not winning the race.

Well, I took my own advice and continued into unchartered territory, so I could learn and grow both as a runner and as a person.  The best part: I never did hit that wall; I finished in a modest time that still got me the course record and the overall win. I loved every minute of this experience as it reminded me the importance of showing up, suiting up, and putting one foot in front of the other without hesitation, without fear. And, wow, what a great day to be alive, what a great first for me. Next year, I guess it’s gonna have to be the 50 miler?

A Side Note on Nutrition

Speaking of firsts: Anyone who knows me, understands that I am a true student of my sport. I love to read, listen, research, and experiment on myself. I think is one of my attractions to running. A new distance or event, a fresh training theory, or current nutrition plan, I like to experiment with all of them. Some work, some fail. But it’s fun to execute and actually see if aforesaid plan works for me.  

A couple of weeks before the race, I listened to a podcast by Runners Connect. They had Dr. Stacy Sims P.H.D.  explaining a new nutrition plan to employ during an ultra race, and I had to try it-especially since I am ultimately training to run the Pike’s Peak Marathon which is reputed to take twice the time it takes a person to run his/her normal marathon – so for me 5.5 hours. I have never run that long, so I needed to learn some other fueling strategies than Gu and Gatorade. I learned some new, current research promoting new theories on nutrition and racing. As a former elite ultra runner herself, Dr. Sims is a proponent of ingesting real food during racing. In fact, she makes a great argument against the use of products like Gu and Gatorade, claiming the like were created for marketability and can actually cause harm to our guts. Currently, we may not realize the ultimate damage on our bodies, but ten years down the road, we could see the repercussions  wreaking havoc on our guts and overall health! This sounds scary- especially for someone who runs a lot and relies on these products on a weekly basis. I run to stay healthy; why would I ingest a bunch of engineered products that could potentially cause me health problems in the future – no thanks!

So I decided this trail marathon would be a great opportunity to test drive her claims: salt my food the week leading up to the race, sip on water from the beginning to the end of the race, eat real foods (Lara bars, PB&J on white bread, maple syrup, and glucose tablets). No gels, no sports drink. She said 100-200 calories an hour and to eat early – don’t wait to eat once you start feeling lousy.- and nibble, nibble, sip, sip. The theory is when we ingest too much all at once  with fluid our gut (small intestine) gets overloaded, harming our guts and creating GI distress.  Thus, I knew that I needed to at least try her methods  because what person can ingest all that Gu and sports drink for 6 hours straight on a hot, hard trail and not have some sort of sick stomach!  So, I ran with this – pun intended. Below is what I did for the trail marathon described above, and I felt awesome! Granted, I really felt like an animal,  albeit a badass adventure babe, running with a cliff bar in my muddy hand -nibbling away for the next  30 minutes…yum! True eating for fuel right there!

Start – finish: sip, sip from water pack with plain water and squirts of sugar free electrolyte spray- thanks Jessica for lending me your pack best friend!

40 minutes – Begin nibble nibble for next 20 minutes finishing one larabar

In between Half glucose table

1 hour 40 minutes – Begin nibble, nibble for 20 minutes finishing larabar two

In between – half glucose tablet

2 hour 30 minutes – Take a glucose table, but I realize I am going to need more food. I see husband and daughter munching on a cliff bar and ask if they have an extra since I ran out of bars…opps. They throw me one. I nibble, nibble for 30 minutes or so.

3 hours 10 minutes – glucose tablet and a random baby tootsie pop I packed for one of my kids birthday party bags.


  • Entire pack of electrolyte water
  • 2 lara bars
  • Clif bar
  • 4 glucose tablets
  • Tiny tootsie pop sucker – just because it’s fun to run with a sucker in your mouth.

Meet the Runnababez: Juli Koenegstein-Stults

10 Aug


Meet the Runnababez: Juli Koenegstein-Stults

1. Name your occupation & what do you do on a daily basis at your job?Family Consumer Science teacher. I love teaching culinary classes and all the other practical arts FACS has to offer!

2. Name you favorite running route?Katy trail

3. When did you get into running?I started running cross country in 6th grade, and have loved it ever since! My dad is a runner, so I have always been a part of the running culture. I really got into running when I started running in college at Southeast Missouri State. I learned so much from my coaches and teammates. After my freshman year, I became so dedicated to training and racing – the feeling of working hard and producing results is what kept me wanting more. In so many ways, running has made me who I am today.

4. Which race is your favorite?Steamboat Classic in Peoria, IL.

5. Identify the distance you enjoy the most?My favorite racing distance is 5k, but I enjoy the short mile every once in a while.

6. Name your favorite food?I love so many foods, but I would have to pick authentic deep dish pizza – Chicago style! Or any dish at Katie’s Pizza & Pasta.

7. What is your favorite workout?Mile repeats.

8. Explain what motivates you to keep running?Having great teammates and feeling fit! Having a big race to train for keeps me going on those days I’m just tired. “Teammates (the RunnaBabez!)”

9. When you are not running, you are? Hanging out with my husband Danny and my cat Hankus, cooking or baking, planning new lessons for school, watching Andy Cohen and housewives on Bravo, and I recently picked up gardening.
10. State your future running goals? Setting some track PRs this winter and spring, and chipping away my marathon time!

Thank you so much Juli. We love you and are so happy you are a Runnababez- just the right fit 🙂 Can’t wait for the years ahead of us friend!

Meet the Runnababez: Amanda Albrecht

5 Aug




Meet the Runnababez: Amanda Albrecht

Throughout the next couple of months, we will present a Q&A session with each of our Runnababez. We are so excited to learn more about the ambitious interests and goals each of our teammates may share. Each babez is so unique and fun. Read on to learn more about the team and where we are heading together and individually. Our first babez is the beautiful, smart, and multi-talented Amanda Albrecht from Festus. We love her and know you will too. Enjoy. ☺

1. Name your occupation & what do you do on a daily basis at your job?

Special Education Teacher (self-contained/cross cat.) – I teach students in 4th-6th grade that qualify for special education services. What I do on a daily basis at my job? Hmmm…laugh! We have a lot of fun while acquiring necessary skills and my students make me laugh like nothing else. The students I service require and an alternative curriculum for core subject areas. They could be with me for 1 or 2 subjects up to the entire school day; disabilities range from moderate to severe. I am also the assistant high school cross country coach and middle school track coach.

2. Name your favorite running route?

Oh soooooo many favorites!  When you enjoy running you find many hidden treasures; all through Festus, the backwoods of R7, Crystal city out to the river, Al Foster, Katy Trail, Forest Park. I love running through West City Park in early spring to see all the babies (geese, duck, deer, turkeys, etc) and watching them grow throughout the weeks.

3. When did you get into running?

I started running in middle school because I wanted to get in shape for basketball and I just loved it. From there I ran at Herculaneum high school. My cross country team was my second family. We had so many adventures and good times together. I’m still close with many of them today. After high school I was recruited to high jump at ISU. My college coach knew how much I loved running but also knew it would be detrimental to my jumping. He told me at my first day of practice, “You are not allowed to run more than 30 minutes at one time.” This was then end of my distance running… for a while. After I graduated college I continued to train and tried to qualify for the Olympic trials in the high jump. I fell an inch short of the qualifying mark. I decided I really missed running and started running again. And have been running consistently for 2 years now.

4. Which race is your favorite?

My favorite race to run is the Rock n’ Roll half marathon. Probably because I ran my best half marathon time there, the bands, costumes, and crowds cheering. The most fun I’ve had at a race was Shamrock Shuffle in Chicago because we ran as a Runnababez team…everything is more fun when you’re surrounded by funny, fabulous ladies with so many inside jokes. Also, the course was super flat!

5. Identify the distance you enjoy the most?

I enjoy the half marathon distance. I also enjoy to flat out sprint in a 400m or 800m.

6.Name your favorite food?

I love to eat! My favorite thing to eat are jalapeño poppers! And pizza, I could eat pizza every day. Oh yea…and that healthy stuff.

7. What is your favorite workout?

I like doing 5 minute drills; you start at 1 min hard, go up to 5mins, back down to 1 min, and jog the time you ran in-between. It gets the mileage in and works on different speeds.

8. Explain what motivates you to keep running?

I am thankful to have a lot of inspirational people in my life. I just finished Powered by Hope the Teri Greige story and her story in itself is motivating. The Runnababez motivate me, the kids I coach in cross country, God, my health, and the pure freedom and physical ability to run.

9. When you are not running, you are?

Working. But for my leisure time I usually spend time with my wonderful boyfriend, friends, or family. Usually, hiking, shooting, going on some adventure, or just relaxing.

10. State your future running goals?

My goals are to just keep running faster. If I could PR in every race I ran that would be great!

Thank you so much Amanda! You define what Runnababez is all about; we are so lucky to have you as our teammate. Here is to many more miles logged- laughing and chatting the time away ☺ You are amazing!

Fast Friends

22 Jul

                                                           Fast Friends 

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one. ― C.S. Lewis

What we have is rare. It happens in an instant. Chemistry. Trust. Friendship. My heart swells as I think about these certain relationships in my life. It’s like the first time I met my husband. The experience was like two heart magnets, and I instantly knew I had to experience life with this one man. I think this might be rare. This intense chemistry. And although I believe there is just one soul mate in the world to fall in love, I do know there is a force that draws us to certain people in our lives. When I was younger, I had lots of friends, many who I had nothing in common or attraction, but as I got older, my time became more valuable and my confidence grew, I honored the need to foster those relationships that made me a better person, and those people who attracted me. I surround myself with those who I want to surround myself with. I don’t have time for fake. I am certainly not one to be crass or mean, but heck, you don’t live long enough to spend your time with people you don’t love and admire. Which brings me to the Runnababez. The whole reason Lisa and I decided to start this team was we both experienced other teams of post collegiate competitive women running at high levels together and at the same time, laughing and loving each other. Celebrating each other’s accomplishments. Helping each other reach one another’s goals. Sharing each other’s lives- all while running fast! We needed this in St. Louis. We wanted to line up and get competitive and fight, but after put a genuine smile on our faces no matter what the outcome and go back to our balanced lives of boyfriends, husbands, babies, family, friends, and careers.

Back to my heart swelling… we have these seven seriously amazing women on this team. I have been so blessed to share my early morning runs, races, and funny facebook threads with them. And even though we all have different lives outside of running, we are all the same. We are in sync. We dance to the same beat. We “get” each other. An instant attraction and respect for one another. It’s so rare to find one friend like this, much less seven and growing! Seven other women that are so much like me, yet each teach me something different about life, running, and myself. I can tell anything to them on a run, and they get me- no judgment; they get my craziness, my happiness, and my sorrow. I love them. They are my teammates-who keep me running because that’s what we do. Run. Together. I often think of this quote, “True friendship comes when the silence between two people is comfortable.”– David Tyson Gentry. Even though we talk A LOT on our runs about everything, sometimes the soft pitter patter of our worn shoes on the trail is all we hear for a mile or two- when we each get lost in our individual thoughts- and then of course come back each fighting to get in the next word!

I sometimes refer back to my training build up for the Olympic Trials in 2012 and think or say, “there is no way I could train like that again…it was too intense.” That statement is currently being obliterated. I am no longer alone climbing this next mountain- it amazes me how enjoyable and easy my training has been so far because of my teammates lifting me up (I know it’s summer and I’m only 7 weeks into a 9 month build up!) On a side note: I’m just starting to train with some intent again after a baby in the fall and a long spring of iron deficiency. My eyes are on the Go! St. Louis Half Marathon in April 2015 where I’m aiming to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Trials Marathon in L.A. I’m attempting to qualify a different way this time just for fun and to have new experience by running sub 1:15 in the half. Last time I ran like a billion marathons in order to chip away at my PR before finally qualifying at the last minute – which was so fun. But this time is going to be entirely different – a new goal.

Back to fun and enjoyment in running. Enjoyment and fun are mandatory in this process, this journey. My coach, Sheldon Webster, doesn’t just put workouts together for me to execute- I could do that myself. He mostly reads my temperament at any given time and adjusts- he takes the thinking out of the equation and makes sure I’m happy. He is so freaking good at this- it amazes me. As soon as I inadvertently give him a sign that I am not enjoying the process, he knows just what to do before I burn up literally!

This entire blog is backed by my running bible; Run The Mind-Body Method of Running By Feel by Matt Fitzgerald- thanks Jill for recommending this to me back in 2010! I re-read this book all the time and even go back to the highlighted sections for a quick tune-up of my mind and perspective. He says, “Do more of what you enjoy most and less of what you enjoy least in training. The feeling of enjoyment is your body’s way of telling you that your training is working…increasing levels of enjoyment were as likely to predict improved performance…indicating that enjoyment influences fitness improvement as much as fitness improvement influences enjoyment (Fitzgerald, 44).” Many elite runners let there passion for running get destroyed with the idea that more is better, even when it causes them misery…that passion gets lost. (Fitzgerald 43-45).” So I reply to that thought of “how will I ever train that hard again as I approach this new training chapter? My response to myself, “I will enjoy and love what I do.” And just how will I accomplish this enjoyment? By training, racing, coffee drinking, BBQing, and spending time with people that make me better…my attraction. My friends. My teammates. Thank you Tim and Lisa for finding these women tucked away all around St. Louis just waiting for someone to inspire them- offering a way they can still train and race for fun after college and that there are other women out there just like them! Thank you Fleet Feet for believing in us and sponsoring our individual journeys. Thank you Dr. Fader for keeping us healthy, and Emerge Fitness for keeping us strong and straight. Thank you Runnababez-Lisa, Amanda, Juli, Amy, Cheryl, Carrine, Lauren, and new member Teri Griege (hey, you said you wanted to join Teri!). Here’s to us for the many years ahead of lots of personal bests, qualifications, and even disappointments, because without the lows, there can be no real intense highs. We are the Runnababez. We are Fun. Fast. Fabulous.


Running Beyond Pregnancy: Postpartum Transition

19 Sep


Running Beyond Pregnancy: Postpartum Transition

As the Runnababez finished up another great Sunday run full of goofy laughter and ridiculous stories, the conversation ensued on giving birth, on motherhood, and on balancing running. And while these conversations have occurred often lately – mostly ending in: alright that’s enough birth/mommy talk for today, I realized I have some experience and knowledge to share with my teammates and other runners who may be contemplating pregnancy yet unsure how it can impact their running. In fact, there have only been a few studies done in the recent years on how pregnancy affects a runner positively and negatively. This research has helped me along my own pregnancy journey while logging 35-40 miles a week up to the day my second daughter, Gwyneth Kate, was born at a healthy 6 lbs.11oz/19 inches – the same exact size as my first born! I’m consistent right?  So now I want to further explore and share postpartum physical and mental challenges and perks the female runner may encounter.

Challenge #1: Pelvis Tilting Forward

Running Clinic Director and professor of orthodics and rehabilitation, Bryan Heiderscheit, set out to explore the running mechanics of pregnant and postpartum runners. The Scientists found that as pregnancy progressed in an active runner, the pelvis started and continued to tilt forward, effecting how the runner landed. Furthermore, six months postpartum, a majority of this forward tilt remained. In addition the runner now displayed a more side-to-side pelvic motion. For instance, the clinic had a mother of two come into the clinic due to hip and back pain 14 months postpartum.  The researchers determined that her pelvis tilted abnormally far forward during running and moved too much side to side, and her right leg struck the ground harder than the left, absorbing 30 percent more force with each stride (Reynolds).

Dr. Heiderscheit responded, Pregnancy and labor stretch the muscles and connective tissues in the abdomen which allows the slightly unmoored pelvis to tilt and sway… I think it’s time we acknowledge that having a baby is going to change how you run.  He emphasized that there is no evidence that mothers are slower or more injury prone postpartum but that things are just going to feel different. (Reynolds).

Solutions: Only doing crunches will not suffice!

  • Target the small, deeper abdominal muscles. Dr. Heiderscheit recommends pulling the belly up and in multiple times and also imagining that you’re cutting off the flow of urine.
  • Engage in traditional strength work: squats, planks, and deep core activation to help stabilize the pelvic area.
  • Try shortening your stride a bit to reduce the pounding experienced on a run.

Perk # 1: Strength and Speed Improvement

Many women actually claim they are stronger and speedier postpartum. Kara Goucher ran a personal best in the marathon (2:24:52) at the 2011 Boston marathon just seven months postpartum. Paula Radcliffe won the 2007 New York City Marathon nine months postpartum. And if you’re thinking like me: well running is their job; so they were probably training extensively through pregnancy, think again! Deena Kastor, who couldn’t even jog through most of her pregnancy, still managed to place sixth at the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials- just eleven months postpartum.  In addition, Clara Peterson, who ran 40 miles a week throughout her second pregnancy, came back strong six months postpartum to place sixteenth at the 2012 marathon trials, with what she refers to as the “crazy mom strength people talk about.” According to O’Mara’s article, Can Women Come Back Faster After Pregnancy, Dr. Karen Nordahl (obgyn and author of Fit To Deliver) said women who exercise through pregnancy experience strength increases as a result of working out with additional weightI actually think they do come out stronger, not necessarily fitter. 

Challenge # 2: Mental Focus and Enduring Suffering

During pregnancy, running by feel and staying in touch with your body is essential.  However, as you return to training, including challenging workouts, you may need to re-train your mind to endure the suffering that accompanies fitness gains.  In other words, you are not going to get back to your pre-pregnancy fitness without some lung searing, tough workouts.  This is the complete opposite type of running that you have done during the last year of your pregnancy. Re-teaching your brain to focus and re-learn that your body can endure can be difficult.  For Instance, I had to take well over a year off of any hard running (pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, and postpartum) and let my body dictate my slower, relaxed runs.  I am now eight weeks postpartum and have completed a few challenging workouts already; the first few intervals of these “pushed” efforts proved very hard to concentrate and handle, but once I got going, proving to myself I could maintain, the workout got done just as I had planned.  I have a feeling it will be tough like this for some time until I have had some more intense sessions for my mind to draw from.  However, when I think about what I went through to give birth drug-free, I feel like I can endure anything…just as long as my legs can keep up with my mind! Kara Goucher has said, …what was even harder (than losing the weight) was getting back to the competitive mindset.  I ran when I was pregnant, but the number one rule is to never push yourself.  I had to relearn how to push through the pain (Sugar).

Solution: Begin with shorter interval workouts and tempos. With every challenging workout or race you complete, you are sharpening your mental focus and strength.  Be patient with yourself. Time will get you back to your pre-pregnancy volume and intensity. Do not try and match your pre-pregnancy running log; you will only feel defeated and possibly injured. Be smart and patient while not being afraid to suffer a bit.

Perk # 2:  Increases in blood flow, oxygen, human growth hormone, and VO2 max

Pregnancy increases blood flow, oxygen, and human growth hormone.  In fact, there was speculation of pregnancy doping in the past.  The rumor was women were getting pregnant then having abortions just to reap the benefits of these increases (sick!).  According to one study expressed in O’Mara’s article, fifteen pregnant and non-pregnant athletes -at similar levels of exercise- were followed for over fifteen months. The results showed an increase of VO2 max in the pregnant athletes.  Dr. Nordahl states, you’re actually able to maintain physiological effects for up to a year (postpartum).  Clara Peterson adds, I’m doing stuff I never thought I could do, while Alex Allred (Olympic bobsledder) states that multiple studies have shown that moderate exercise throughout pregnancy can result in a happier, healthier pregnancy and mom (O’Mara).

Challenge # 3: Finding Balance

Even Kara Goucher, whose job is running, experienced a meltdown two months postpartum.  She was sleep-deprived and stressed trying to get back into shape running on her treadmill at home.  She told her husband she couldn’t physically keep this up anymore. Goucher realized being a mom and a runner was not going to be easy.  In fact, she said, it took a full year before I felt like myself again.  She quickly rebounded and remembered her passion and love for running.  She said, when I got pregnant, I knew and accepted that running would never be my top priority again.  While I hoped that I would often be able to put as much into it as I always had, I was prepared to make sacrifices as a runner for the sake of being a good mother.  After a tough first several weeks (postpartum), I got some momentum going and was maintaining a good balance.  Colt was doing well and I was getting the hand of being a mother, so I was able to make a full commitment to my running without making any sacrifices as a mother (Goucher).

Breastfeeding may also be a factor in your balancing act.  Kristin Alexander of Chicago who returned to running three weeks postpartum suggests: you have to time it so you feed the baby and get out right away before your milk before your milk comes in again…before this I was engorged and knew the baby was hungry and had to run home with huge breasts!

Solution:  Create a schedule and get the entire family on board.  Whether you wake up early or stop by the trail before heading home after work, make your run an appointment and keep it.  However, do not obsess if you have to miss a run- always be reasonable and flexible.  Understand that family is your first priority. Also, consider a baby sitter. This was part of Goucher’s solution after her early struggles. I can say it is worth the money: healthy mom equals happy mom. Other options are running strollers or treadmill running.  I have pictures of both my kids sleeping in their boppie chairs while I ran on the treadmill postpartum; I think the rhythmic sound of the belt lulled them to sleep!


Perk # 3: Experiencing the Joys

Running increases energy and can provide you quiet time from the demands of motherhood.  For most runs, I arrange a babysitter or go out after my husband returns from work.  I slowly started back to my running routine just two weeks postpartum to help me get through those days after sleepless nights with baby.  Getting outside in the fresh air renewed me and boosted my mood instead of shuffling around the house constantly complaining about how exhausted I was (I sometimes still did that too though!).

Two weeks postpartum, a joyful Deena Kastor shared, the forty-five minutes I walked was more than I slept last night, and it is amazing how that walk recharged me. Kastor shared her experience on her first day back to running after a pregnancy that left her sedentary because her body would have none of it (running). She later exclaimed, I ran! It felt so uplifting to open up my stride and move forward again. Invigorating! For three miles … I felt light and liberated during the run as I reflected on how lucky I am to have a beautiful and healthy three-week-old daughter.  Welcome back!

Kara Goucher states, being a mom has helped me really let go of things, and chill out a bit…I still want all the things I wanted before. I just found something that I care about more.  She has not lost her passion for running just because she has a child.  In fact, she wants another one…when she can fit it into her career!

Jackie’s Tips for Successful Postpartum Running

  • Do not start running without your doctor’s release
  • If you are one of those who will start back before your 6-week appointment, make sure bleeding has ceased.
  • Work on core and overall strength training
  • Do kegel exercises several times a day for about five minutes at a time to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles (so you don’t pee your pants!)
  • Run with friends and even grab a coffee after
  • Ditch the watch for a while and just run
  • When you’re ready, begin to practice suffering by inserting a little intensity
  • Wear a really good bra to support those babies!
  • Hire a babysitter once or twice a week while you run: you deserve it!
  • Run in the morning before the family wakes up
  • Purchase a treadmill and a yard gate to surround it for child safety (I would never be able to run as much as I do without my treadmill – it’s well worth the expense and so convenient).
  • Purchase a jogging stroller and take baby with you (wait until baby is 4-6 months old and can control his or her neck muscles).

I hope, if anything my Runnababez friends will look back on this article  when it is their turn to experience this blessing life offers.  Of course, I know they will tell me its not happening anytime soon, someday it will, and I want them to have all the information they need to understand that  their running is not over just because they want to start a family.  In fact, it is only just beginning. All my personal bests, marathon course records, and Olympic trials experience came after I became a mom.

Happy Running mommies and mommies-to-be…Jackie Pirtle-Hall


o       Running and Pregnancy by Chris Lundgren

o       How Pregnancy Changes a Runner’s Body by Gretchen Reynolds

o       Kara Goucher: Losing the Baby Weight Was a Marathon in Itself by Jenny Sugar of Popsugar Fitness

o       Can Women Come Back Faster After Pregnancy? By Kelly O’Mara

o       Goucher Balances Motherhood, training as she Preps for London by Brian Cazeneuve of Sports Illustrated

o       Goucher Carrying On Post-Pregnancy by Shira Springer of Globe Staff

o       Kastor, After Pregnancy, Sees Trials as New Start by Jere Longman of The New York Times

o       Kara Goucher’s blog at competitor

o       Deena Kastor’s blog at competitor

Anatomy of My 1st Marathon By Jerren Pirtle-McKamely

24 Oct

Below is a narrative from a very special RunnaBabez about her  first marathon experience at the Rock n’ Roll marathon on October 21st, 2012.  I think all you marathoners out there will be able to relate to her experience.  It explains maybe just why we get out the door on a day-to-day basis and do what we do-run!  I am proud of my sister and all the St. Louis RunnaBabez! Special thank you to Jerren for sharing such a personal experience.

Anatomy of my 1st marathon

By Jerren Pirtle-McKamely

Holy Crap I am nervous!  The alarm is beeping in my ear.  It is 4:00 in the morning on October 21st.  It’s the day of my 1st marathon.  Holy crap I am nervous!  Am I crazy to try and do this?  I mean, my knee, my hamstring, they don’t like me on a normal day of just walking around living life.  How in the hell are they going to last through 26.2 miles.  A thought, a quote, from my sister….”Pain is temporary; quitting will stay with me forever.”  I will try!  I always knew I would, no matter what.  That is who I am, and I am proud of that!  I am also someone who likes to make my friends and family proud.  What if I bomb?  Of course they will love me anyway but, What if I bomb?  Hellooooooooo….you are sabotaging yourself.  Positive thoughts!  Positive talk!  My Gran and I are out the door and on our way to mom’s house.  I am so glad she is here!    As we pull up I see the big sign:  Jerren Kay Pirtle-Mckamely.  My dad, my niece Sam, and my girls Alex and Sophia have worked very hard on some signs to cheer me on.  It makes me smile.  My dad wants me to be happy about what I am accomplishing.  He always wants me to be happy.  I am a lucky daughter.  Once we are there we hop in my mom’s car and we are off to pick up my Jackie.  She has a VIP parking pass, so we know exactly where to go to park.  She is running the half marathon that morning.  I feel kind of like a child….”Jackie should I eat my power bar now?”  “Jackie should I drink Gatorade or water?”  “When?”  I am annoying myself,   but I am so nervous I can’t help it.  She understands.  She brought me some cytomax and told me to drink it 30 minutes before I start.  I choke down a banana.  I hate bananas!  Jackie and my mom told me they were a good choice for me to eat.  So I do.  Again, I will do whatever I am told if helps me survive this and not embarrass myself!  We arrive and park.  It is cold!  I am shivering!  I think it’s because of the cold, but I think it is also nerves.  We go to the bathroom.  Twenty minutes later I go to the bathroom again…LOL!  I drink my cytomax.  Jackie strips off her long sleeve shirt and heads up to the front of the pack…corral 1….I head to corral 13!  My mom and my gran give me a big hug and kiss, and they tell me they love me.  I am sure they are nervous for me;  I know they are.  I have been in their shoes!  The start is delayed.  Are you kidding?  Come on and get it going!  Ok. The gun has officially gone off.  The clock has started, and I am waiting and waiting and waiting.  They release each corral 90 seconds apart….I am 13, so I wait for a while, and then we slowly start to shuffle forward.  I am in a sea of people, and I am alone.  I like it that way.  I am ready to see if I can do this.  Corral 12 takes off, and we walk up to the start.  Lucky 13 the announcer screams into the microphone.  Huh, never thought about that.  And….I am off!  I turn my music on.  I am hearing Jackie’s voice in my head.  “Don’t push it too hard- especially with your knee and hamstring.  11 minute miles are good.”  Ok…I will fight my urge to surge!  Mile 1 down…10 min. 50 sec. Ok, I am doing what I was told.   I will try and continue to do that.  I have never been much good at that!  LOL!   I am already aware that my left calf is sending me a very subtle warning.  Ok, Ok…I will be careful.  I see a sign around mile 5 that reads “Tell your legs to shut up”!  So that is what I do.  I am really feeling good except for my left calf.  Maybe Jackie is right; maybe it is all in my head.  That is what I tell myself.  Just keep knocking them off:  Miles that is.  I carry a small bottle of water so I don’t get caught in any congestion for the first few hydration stops.  I’ve gone by mile 5!  I think this was when I am supposed to get Gatorade.  Or was it mile 7?  Crap.  Oh well, better to have it than to not. Mile 7 I take my first GU pack.   I am still feeling good and by mile 8 I distinctly remember thinking…Ok, 18 more miles.  What’s 18 miles?  You can totally do that!  You are a strong chick (I actually used another word, but I won’t write that due to the fact that I will share this story with my kids) LOL!!!!  I am also thinking about my family.  How will they look when they see me at the finish?  Will they be proud?  Will they be grateful for my sake that it is over?  I am always grateful for my mom and my sister when it is OVER!  I think about how ironic that is!  I wish I could call my mom and tell her I am not in pain, yet!  I know she is wondering, and I don’t want her to worry about me.  I look down at my Garmin.  Jackie is definitely done with her run.  I wonder how she did.  I hope she is happy with her time.  She is amazing.  Thank god I have her.  And then I think about my brother.  He has helped me so much with this goal.  I love training at Emerge with him.  I love when he tells me how tremendous my progress has been.  I think he will be proud of me.  That makes me happy.  Jackie has told me that she will ride the metro link and meet me at mile 20. I see runners who I have been keeping pace with pulling ahead of me a little.  I want to catch up, but I say to myself, “They are probably only doing the half.  If they were doing the full, they would NOT be pulling ahead of me”.  This helps me try and keep a reasonable pace. By mile 10, I am feeling the run, but I am not in pain.    My leg is the only thing that makes me worry.  I do start a countdown….10 miles till I get to have my sister!  I have decided this will be a good way for me to tick off the miles….9 miles till I get to have my sister…8 miles till I get to have my sister (she is meeting me at mile 20).  Now I pass mile 12 and I think to myself,  of the 5 previous ½ marathons I have done and how by this point I am so unbelievably thankful that I was NOT crazy enough to sign up for the full marathon.  This time it is different.  I have more than paced myself (with the help of a calf and hamstring that are reminding me I don’t have a choice).  I CAN go on.  As I continue, I see the cut off….Half Marathoners to the right….Full Marathoners to the left.  I am kind of proud that I am going left.  I think this is very close to the start line so I look around for my mom and gran.  I bet they will be around here somewhere.  I see them. I am so glad to see them.   Mom yells…”Looking good baby!” or something like that.  And there is my gran…cheering me on…and there is Jackie.  She starts running with me.  I am glad but also very aware that she just finished a half marathon at a very fast speed.  “How are you?” She asks me.  “I am good except for my calf.  How are you?” I ask.  “Did you win?”  “No” she says.  “I came in second.”   I can tell she is a little down about it.  I also know that she has had some issues with her legs lately.  She still wants to do her best. Her best and mine might be very different, but we still have that in common.  She is amazing I think to myself.  I comment out loud to her that I am not used to running with such a sparse number of runners.  When you do a half marathon at my pace there are tons of people around you.  It is a much, much smaller crowd now.   A couple miles down the road I tell Jackie that she does not have to run all of this with me.  I mean, I know I am slow but I still don’t want her to be in pain for no reason.  She says she is fine.  She looks fine.  I will find out later that she too had a few “moments” along the way.  If you are a runner you know what I mean when I say “moments”.  She helps me decide when to take water and when to take Gatorade.  Somewhere around mile 14 or 15 I decide to take more GU.  I make a gross joke about it and she and I laugh. I love my sister!  I am glad my girls have each other!   I am not sure when, but there is a point where my calf starts to go.  I feel the muscle start to ball up to one side.  I literally punch my calf.  It works!  Holy crap, it worked!  Disaster diverted!   I think it is around mile 17 when I see runners on the other side of the road heading back to the finish.  I want to yell…”I wish I was over there with you!”  I see a sign marking 22 miles on the other side of the road.  I think to myself, Ok 5 miles, which is nothing.  I also see a massive hill on “the other side” which is how I view it at this point, “the other side.”    Holy crap that is a massive hill.  I think that is the biggest one yet.  Forget about it.  Just the next 5 miles.  I really have no idea where we are running.  I am paying no attention.  I am telling myself I am strong.  Just listen to your music.  The pain in my calf seems to have successfully moved up to my hamstring.   Crap.  Now I am scared.  Mile 17 is one of the longest miles of my life.  Again, hard yes…painful…I am not sure if that is how I would describe it.  Maybe not compared to what I now know is to come.  I just know that the dull pain might turn to an acute pain any second if any muscle in my left leg decides to seize.  It is a long ass mile.  Just tick them off.  8 miles to go.  I am still keeping pace.  A pretty decent pace.  I say to Jackie a few times, “I am going to need to slow down a little when we come to the next hill” she says “OK” every time.   I don’t really every slow down that much. I look back and I have a lot of pride about that now.  I am testing my muscles in my left leg.  I think about my girls and my husband.  I love that they don’t care anything about running, but they know what I am doing is hard.  I am glad that my girls know their mom is doing something that is hard!  We round a corner.  It is “the corner”!  I am heading back in.  This does not really register for me because I am focused on nothing going on around me for too long.  I have brief thoughts about other runners around me and where I am running, but not for long.  I only become fully aware of the turnaround when Jackie says “OK, we only have a 10K (6.2) miles left.  Act like we just started our run and we are just out for a 6 miler.”   Cool, I like this idea.  Now for my head to convince my body.  I think it does for a little while.  I am ok.  Not great, but ok.  It is not supposed to feel great.  Mile 21…I think about all of my girlfriends…we have been friends for 21 years.  That is crazy.  I think about how I e-mailed them and told them I was dedicating this mile to them. (I have dedicated each mile to different person/persons in my mind).   I was so touched by their responses!!!  Their responses mean more to me than they will ever know.  I feel very blessed to have them in my life even if we don’t get to see each other as much as we would like.   We start to approach mile 22.  I hear a faint yell that sounds like my name.  Oh my god.  No way.  My friends Erin and Peggy have come down to cheer me on.  No way.  I can’t even explain how special that makes me feel.  They have also brought Debra with them.  She has lost 100 pounds and did her first half marathon 2 weeks before.  I was so excited for her when she did that.  I am so glad to see them.  I blow them kisses.  I have tears in my eyes.  They even made a sign….LOL…I LOVE IT!   A little adrenaline rush…Thanks ladies.  I am starting to really feel the hurt.  I don’t stay in that place in my head too long.  I think about my family waiting for me at the end.  I hope to God I see them.  I imagine their faces.  I hear them yelling for me.  I keep the pace.  I want to slow down.  It will be ok if I slow down.  I will still finish.  I want to slow down.  I keep the pace.  Mile 23!!!!!  There is now only a 5K left (3.1 miles).  I am pleading with the muscles in my legs.  My quad starts to threaten me.  I take my head phones out.  I tell Jackie that the pain is moving around.  She nods.  It’s normal.  I will make it.  I keep going.  Despite all of this, I continue to keep the same pace.  I am somewhere around 2 miles out, and I want to cry.  I just really, really, really want to be done.  I am not sure what I say to Jackie but she tells me that it is normal.  Embrace it she says.  The pain is what she is talking about.  Embrace the pain.  That might sound weird to some people but it was exactly what I had to do.  It was not going away.  I had to accept it!   Jackie tells me that some people go through this at mile 18 and they still finish.  Your body can handle it she tells me.  I am about to cry writing this.  I remember those words.  Your body can handle this.  It is strong.  She knows I am strong.  I am strong.  I can do this.  I still want it to be over so bad.  We keep going.  I know we are close.  I feel tears.  I have to get my breathing under control because I am so emotional.  I do.  I ask Jackie how much further.  She points and says, “Right up there around the corner”!  Oh, thank god.  My muscles are on the verge.   I hear the announcer.  This is it.  I am almost there.  I see my momma.  I see my momma and I start to ball behind my sunglasses.  She is cheering for me.  I am not sure if she is crying, but I see her face and it makes me feel very proud.  She is my mom!   She is proud but she is also a runner   mom, and she knows I am in pain.  I feel my hamstring.  No way.  It is going to go!!!!!!!  I mean it really starts to go!!!!!   I am less than 5 minutes from the finish, and I feel it start to seize.  I look at Jackie, and I embrace it.  I will crawl if I have to!!!!  I turn the corner, and I hear my mom running along the outside of the crowd as I go.  I can hear her…I think!  I definitely see her out of the corner of my eye.  I see the finish, and I pick up the pace.  20 seconds ago I thought I was going to have to crawl, and now I am picking up the pace.  There is my family!!!!!!!  I see them.  I see my husband, John, cheering for me;  I see my sweet Sophia waving a flag;  I hear and see my amazing Alex!  I see Samantha and she is cheering!  I see Jonathan Hall taking a picture. I see my Dad and my Gran!   I am streaming tears like when they handed me my babies for the first time.  Weird!  But I can’t stop!  Jackie yells “This is my sister”; “It is her first marathon!”  We charge and we cross, together!!!!!  I hug my sister and literally tell her to hold me for a second so I don’t collapse.  I cry and she hugs me in all my sweaty saltiness.  She points and tells me to get my medal.  They put it around my neck.  4 hours and 38 minutes and 57 seconds and I have run my first marathon!!!!!  Holy Crap!  I stop and talk with my friends Erin and Peggy and Debra for a minute.  I thank them for coming, but I don’t think that I could put fully into words how much it meant to me.  Now, I want to find my family.  I collect some of the freebies (I am my father’s daughter), as Jackie and I make our way to the end of the area where only runners and volunteers can be.  To be honest, I am not sure if I found them or if they found me, but then there they were.  Way to go…Yeah…Great Job….is what I am hearing.  I kiss my kids.  I kiss my husband.  I see my mom, and I instantly start to cry.  So does she.  She gives me a big hug.  She is very proud of me.  I can feel it.  I kiss and hug my dad.  I see that look.  The one he always gives me when he is full of pride and love.  I love that look.  I hug my Gran.  I love my Gran she is very special to me.  She is proud of me!   Family pictures happen.  My dad tells me that my brother has texted and he is very proud of me.  That is more icing on the cake.  Jackie goes to collect her award for being awesome and coming in second place in the ½.  I sit because I have to.  My dad massages my calves.   We start to walk toward the car. My dad hands me his phone.  It’s my brother.  I can tell immediately he has strong emotion in his voice.  He tells me how awesome I did and how he is proud of me.  I can tell he really wants me to understand that he thinks what I did was great.  It is amazing to know he thinks that.  I know he feels a little bad about not being down there (at least that is what I sense) but I tell him I get it.  He and Angie have two   babies at home.  I have been there.  It’s hard.  He is happy for me and proud of me.  That makes me happy.  As we walk to the car, I am doing more of a limp.  We decide to go to lunch.  I have brought another shirt to change into.  Other than that, I don’t care that I am yucky!  I really don’t care at all what I look like.  I am just feeling good and glad to be with people that I love more than anything else in the whole world.  Lunch is good.  Hot shower is good.  I am sore but in seventh heaven.  My in-laws, Ken and Sue, call and congratulate me.  That feels awesome.  They are always good at that.  My mom calls and tells me I have gotten 67 out of 155 in my age group.  She tells me again how awesome she thinks I did!  I owe my parents for teaching me determination.  Especially my tough as nails momma!!!!  I didn’t do too shabby. There were over 15,000 runners both male and female.  ONLY 1,700 were full marathoners.  That makes me feel strong!   I love to feel strong!  I post on Facebook my accomplishment.  I am overwhelmed by the response.  Amazing!  It was a good day!  I have a thought….”There is nothing in the whole world that can show someone how much you love them more than supporting their goals,  even if you don’t understand them!”   I am never going to forget that.  Connie e mails me the next day and congratulates me like she always does.  She asks me the million dollar question….”Will I do it again?”  “ For  sure!”  I say.  Not for the attention I got the first time.  I will do it just because it is a feeling like no other.  It is the feeling of overcoming.  I LOVE it.  It reminds me of a shirt I saw at the expo, “I love running, when it’s over”.  LOL! I just need my body to heal and then I will be out there seeking my next goal,   maybe Disney.  Most of you know what a Disney Dork I am.  They have a marathon.  Am I crazy?  Yes!   I have learned to embrace it!!!!  At least I am trying to.  Thank you running for all you have given me, taught me, and pushed me towards.  I am forever in a love/hate relationship with you, depending on what mile I am on!  I will never be the fastest or the greatest runner, but it will always help challenge me.  It is only about doing the best I can do in the moment I have.

St. Louis Mills Mall next Friday at 6pm: Race to Cure Lymphoma Expo

30 Sep

RunnaBabez will represent at the Race to Cure Lymphoma: both Lisa and Jackie will have a RunnaBabez booth at expo next Friday from 4-9 at the St. Louis Mills Mall.  Visit our booth for sassy running apparel, running tips, and training logs for your benefit.  Also, Jackie will take the stage outside of Cabellas at 6 pm – don’t be late!

Race to Cure Lymphoma Posts:  It’s official!! RTCL is excited to announce our line-up of star speakers for the fitness expo. Please welcome Go! St. Louis Marathon champion Jackie Pirtle-Hall and physical therapist and 3:10 marathoner Julie Bockermann. They’ll speak on topics that will improve your training, avoid injuries and find balance in your life. You don’t want to miss it!

The schedule is posted for our speakers! Check for bio’s on Jackie Pirtle-Hall, Julie Bokermann and Joe Company! They are speaking on some great topics and will surely inspire your training.