And Just Like that… A Mother Runner is Born

This Bi-Rite Creamery salted caramel cone was tasty, but not worth the hype.
Enjoying a Bi-Rite Creamery cone with MKFIII still nestled inside.

12 weeks ago I became a mother runner. It still feels surreal. (I’m a mom? I’m a mom!) One day I was standing in line for over 20 minutes with Michael K. Farrell to get a scoop of salted caramel ice cream (Bi-Rite Creamery, named the best ice cream spot in San Francisco by Yahoo! Travel), and the next day we were answering to new names: Mommy and Daddy.

MKFIII’s birthday was a roller coaster of emotions. (Is it possible for the same day to be the best and the worst day of your life?) My water broke 6 weeks early, so Michael K. Farrell and I rushed to the hospital.

Shortly after arriving, I was wheeled into a surgery room for an emergency C-Section. It wasn’t exactly the birth plan I’d gone over with my OB, but the little guy had to come out right away.

I didn’t get to put my endurance skills to the test. I didn’t get to go through labor and push a baby out, the way countless other mothers do. I felt—and to some degree still feel—cheated out of an experience that would have allowed me to prove my toughness. (I’ve completed three marathons and over two dozen half marathons; surely I could have risen to the challenge of contractions.)

MKFIII raced into my life on October 27, 2014 weighing less than 5 pounds. (He's a hefty 10 lbs. today!)
MKFIII raced into our lives on October 27, 2014 weighing less than 5 pounds. (He’s a hefty 10 lbs. today!)

Nonetheless, MKFIII entered the world with a healthy scream, and he has been making me smile ever since. He’s here, we’re happy, and that’s what really matters.

I have yet to lace up my sneakers for an actual run. But MKFIII and I have been racking up the miles walking along the Embarcadero. I have big plans to buy a new pair of shoes and a proper jogging stroller. Until then… I’ll be working on getting the nursing and napping schedule down (sleeping through the night would be nice!) and focusing on my core—my abs still haven’t finished knitting back together and my lower back is getting tired of doing all the work.

I’ll be doling out my “get back in shape” tips and mother runner advice soon. And I’d love to hear yours—please share in the comments!

How To Get Great Race Photos—Guaranteed!

Always Smile for the CameraMost runners can point to a photo or two of themselves in a race in which they look absolutely horrible—they’re making a weird face, arms are flailing, feet glued to the ground, etc. (Online slideshows and Tumblr sites devoted to such images abound. I think most people are being too hard on themselves—those are some badass moments captured on film! But I digress…)

I tend to look great in my photos, and I feel pretty darn lucky about that. The cameras usually snap at just the right moment, capturing me either smiling or looking serene. And even the “bad” photos—ones where I’m looking off at something else, or my hair is a wild mess—offer a glimpse of me having a good time. My secret: I really am having a good time. (I love running, people!) Still, I’m not afraid to admit that I ham it up for the cameras, and I fully support you doing it, too. I think it’s worth the two seconds of not focusing on your pace to get a great shot. Here’s how to guarantee you’ll love your next race photo:

Step 1: Find the cameras. Be aware of your surroundings when you’re out there on the course. When you spot a photographer, get into a good position with a clear sightline (make sure you’re not directly behind another runner), and play up your form. Run “perfectly” until you’re past him.

Step 2: Make eye contact. Look directly at the camera—even if you’re not sure if the photographer is focusing on you. Those guys are usually snapping constantly, so they’re bound to get at least one shot of you in that set.

Step 3: Smile. Smile. And then, keep smiling! Because everyone looks better when they’re smiling. Plus, making your mouth turn up for those brief seconds gives takes your mind to a happy place, away from the chore your legs are currently involved in. Even a forced smile allows the good-mood endorphins to start flowing. (Fake it till you make it, right?)

What are your tricks for getting great race pics?

What To Pack For A Trail Run (Hint: It’s Not The Kitchen Sink)

This stuff comes with me on every trail run.
This stuff comes with me on every trail run.

I’m an efficient suitcase packer. I keep it simple, only bring the essentials, and make sure everything fits neatly into the overhead bin. But when it comes to packing for a nice little run in nature, I have an overwhelming urge to load my backpack with all kinds of “might needs” and “just in cases”— like a headlamp (even though I only run trails in daylight) or a poncho (it never rains here in Silicon Valley!). In an effort to cut weight, I’ve forced myself to come up with this barest-of-the-bare sundries list that acknowledges my paranoia but doesn’t indulge it too much.

The North Face Enduro Pack Hydration Pack Better than a bulky backpack, The North Face Enduro Pack was worth every penny. It comes with a bladder to store my water, and the small size forces me to fill the pockets wisely.

Badger Sport Sunscreen CreamSunscreen Burns, brown spots, skin cancer—no thanks! I apply SPF head-to-toe before leaving the house, and then every two hours when I’m in the sun. I like this Badger Sport Sunscreen Cream SPF 35, because it blocks out both UVA and UVB rays, and it’s 100% certified natural.

Cortizone 10 Poison Ivy PadsPoison Ivy Pads The best way to avoid a painful rash is to steer clear of over-grown paths. Still, contact happens. Last summer Michael K. Farrell stood knee deep in 3-leaf itchiness—these single-use Cortizone 10 Poison Ivy Relief Pads would have been super helpful.

GU for the trailEnergy Gel I’ll suck down a GU on runs lasting more than an hour, but I usually carry four with me on the trails—you know, in case I get lost and need a “meal.” (GU Peanut Butter is still my fave flave.)

Toilet paper in a baggieToilet Paper Mother Nature doesn’t always provide this for you. I bring mine in a baggie, and I pack it back out with me to a garbage can if I end up using it.

The North Face Women's Verto JacketLight Jacket Shady woods and Bay Area winds can make temps drop fast, so I keep The North Face Women’s Verto Jacket handy—it scrunches up (hence, all the wrinkles) into its own pocket! It also happens to be water resistant in case of pop up showers. (Seriously, this fear is unfounded. Weather.com shows a 0% chance of precipitation around here most days.)

I also carry along my cell phone, sunglasses, and car keys—those are necessary for actually getting me to the trailhead and then home again.

Am I missing anything important? What do you pack for outdoor runs?

Running Reader Q: I Cross-Trained And Still Got Injured—What Gives?

Regularly rolling out your legs after running helps ease tightness by breaking up the fascia around your muscles and can prevent injuries down the road.
Regularly rolling out your legs after running helps ease tightness by breaking up the fascia around your muscles and can prevent injuries down the road.

Emily P., a regular Some Kind Of Runderful reader, is dealing with her first running-related injury. She’s fairly new to pavement pounding, and she was smart with the build up. She ran an easy pace three days a week for the past five months, “Plus, I did two days of exercises with weights in the gym,” Emily says. Despite her careful routine, she still managed to pull a hammy. “It was during my very first 5K two weekends ago. I was a few feet from the finish when something in the back of my leg popped. I practically had to limp to across the line,” she says. A quick trip to the doctor confirmed a strain and, luckily, no major muscle tearing.

Now, Emily is nursing a sore hamstring and a bruised ego. “I just don’t get it,” she says. “I’ve been cross-training and I thought I was doing everything right. Where did I go wrong?” To help me find the best answer for her, I reached out to Dan Trink, a fitness trainer and director of training operations at Peak Performance in New York, NY.

Dan, what do you think brought on Emily’s injury? Most running injuries are not acute, meaning someone doesn’t run out from behind a tree and hit your leg with a stick when you’re in the middle of a 5K. The injuries incurred from running are caused by overuse or muscle imbalances.

But Emily’s been hitting the weight room to build muscle. She may have been focusing on the wrong types exercises, or ones that use the same muscles and motions as running. Too many people mimic the energy system that they utilize in running in their strength training, which means that they try to build strength-endurance by only doing high-rep sets or metabolic circuits. Most runners are better served by increasing their strength with high-weight, low-rep sets in the weight room. Logging miles gives you plenty of endurance for running, but you’ve got to rely on your strength training to help you get stronger and keep injuries at bay.

What’s the best way for Emily to work through this injury? Very often overuse issues and muscle imbalances can be resolved with a smart strength-training program that not only builds foundational strength, but also incorporates foam rolling and soft-tissue work, dynamic warm-up and activation drills, and pre-hab or rehab movements as well as strength movements that will give you more stability and reduce your chance of the injury recurring when you return to running.

What should Emily do when she’s done with rehab and ready to run again? The key is not to get carried away, thinking she can drop everything else now that she’s running again. She should maintain a strength-training program that still includes all of the factors I mentioned before.

Thanks, Dan. This is great advice. Any time! By the way, how are your arms? Are you still working on your upper body strength?

…Um, no comment.

I’ve been through my fair share of injuries and I know how frustrating the recovery period can be. Your body will tell you when it’s ready to run again—but you have to be gentle with yourself and listen. Wishing you many more happy miles, Emily P.!

What’s the worst running injury you’ve ever been through? Got any rehab tips to share?