32 weeks/MONTH EIGHT of pregnancy! It’s funny that it feels like an accomplishment with every week of progress and being in the 30s week realm feels like being at mile 70 in a 100 miler. I’m almost there!! By now, I’ve adjusted to the identity of being pregnant although it still blows my mind to think two tiny cells created this 4+ lb human being I regularly feel rolling around in my belly (and jabbing me in the diaphragm and ribs!). It’s even weirder to think that if he came out today, he would look like a tiny REAL baby and would survive. Also strange- I feel like I already love him which I wasn’t expecting this soon.
I was excited to get a couple of weeks of outdoor riding over the holidays after my one month off with the flu/bikeless travel (see my last post)! Something weird happened after coming back from my month off- my sit bones were sore- like a bruised feeling when I got back to riding. I finally got it when people told me their butt gets sore when they ride! Sorry guys and gals – I get it now! Matt had taken off the same amount of time and said that same thing! Funny. Our winter was a bit delayed so I got to ride outside in early December albeit I was super cautious on anything that appeared to be slick. It was also super cold with highs in the 20s. My bib shorts and tights still fit, but many of my winter cycling clothes don’t fit anymore. Basically, good windproofing means little stretch and that that gear got put away until next year. I had a few jackets that used to be too big I can still wear as well as particularly stretchy long sleeve jerseys, but I also stole Matt’s rain jacket and wind vest. I was ready by the time I moved inside to the trainer mid-December. I have to admit that I love the TrainerRoad interval workouts I do every winter because I always get to push my limits. I miss not doing that this year. I’m primarily doing tempo and endurance rides, but they are still plenty challenging. Some trainer rides have been better than others. Some days have been a complete slog and I had to really dig deep into mental motivation to get through them. I’m also thankful for a bathroom in my garage because at this point, I have to pee ALL. THE. TIME. So annoying!
In mid-December, we headed down south for our usual Albuquerque and Sedona holiday trip for Xmas and New Year’s. I was interested to see how my body would feel riding trails again after a few weeks on the trainer. I’m getting noticeably bigger each week. I was delighted that I still felt like myself (well, my pregnant self). I did feel more cautious for the first couple of rides, but then I just felt like myself again in terms of technical descending. One place I did feel hugely different was on climbs and especially on technical climbs. I basically just can’t ride anything steep anymore and I can’t access enough snap to power through uphill rock gardens very well. Uphill is so hard! I’m 20+ lbs heavier, riding at altitude, and can’t put out as much power either so it makes sense! Any time I found myself thinking critical thoughts about being slow, I reminded myself what carrying a 20lb weight feels like and reminded myself I’m carrying that uphill. What an awesome training load! Here is a super interesting article from the International Olympic Committee on how an athlete’s body (particularly elite athletes) adapt and change during pregnancy. Over the holidays, it was also nice to just ride for fun and ride less hours than normal. It meant I had more time to do other things. Amazingly, I didn’t even really want to ride more than 2 hours at a time and being able to have no structure or agenda was nice. I did stay off of a couple trails in Sedona and I only rode things where I felt 100% confident.
A controversial topic: when people judge you, make assumptions, and/or tell you to “take it easy”
This brings me to something I want to bring up. This paragraph will be controversial for some and it’s hard for me to write as a people-pleasing type but I need to say it. Some of you will not agree with me and that’s okay. I am putting this out there as my opinion for the pregnant women who feel judged for continuing their sport. There have been varying opinions about the fact that I’m still riding technical trails, or even the fact that I’m still riding at all. I’ve seen raised eyebrows of astonishment (in a good way) but also in a judgemental way from some. People have told me to “calm down” or “take it easy” which I find very annoying. I try really hard to look peoples’ opinions from the perspective of ‘people just care about me and want to help’, but I get frustrated when I repeatedly hear people telling me I should be careful or that I even shouldn’t be riding like I am. (and I have to say, it’s mostly men making these comments). I’ve had women reach out to me saying they are so glad I’m putting it out there that you CAN use your body while you’re pregnant and they felt persecuted when they were pregnant for wanting to keep doing their sport.
Number one, everyone’s skill level is different.
The things I’m riding are well within my ability, to the point where I find them super easy. I haven’t ridden one feature since I got pregnant where I felt even a little nervous. I really miss pushing myself technically and I instantly backed way off to ride easier trails than normal when I got pregnant. My idea of a super easy trail might be someone else’s crazy technical- and that goes for me too! Something super easy for one person might be insanely technical for me (believe me, I’m humbled ALL the time by incredible technical riders, especially when I ride in Squamish!). I ride well within my limits and because what I am riding scares someone else doesn’t mean I am going to stop doing it. This may not be a good argument because some might also think this is stupid, but I’ve also continued riding with broken bones on a few occasions (the doctor told me I’d be fine if I didn’t crash… so I’m well-versed in riding, choosing what I am comfortable with, and knowing I likely will not crash).
Second, in terms of effort or hours, I know my body and how hard I’m pushing it better than anyone and I have my baby’s best interests in mind.
Third, what pregnant women decide to do in terms of activity is really between the pregnant woman, her husband (even this one can be argued!), and her medical team. Don’t make assumptions or judgements about what someone should or should not be doing because you are not them. I think our culture looks at pregnancy as a handicap or a sickness. It’s okay to be an athlete AND be pregnant at the same time. It’s okay to still look fit while you are pregnant- it doesn’t mean you aren’t gaining enough weight or that your baby is unhealthy. I’ve had comments about my size- like I’m not big enough or I’m not gaining enough weight. Those assumptions are incorrect and really frustrating. You don’t know how much weight someone has gained unless they tell you. Don’t say those things to pregnant women. I want to add that I don’t want to sound insensitive to those who actually have high-risk medical conditions during pregnancy. I also know that not everyone is fit or prioritizes health and exercise so there ARE cases where people might need to be more cautious. I do appreciate my fitness, health, and skill level are something I have worked hard for and not everyone has had the opportunity as I have. As I said, everyone is different and some people can’t continue doing what they were doing before. Some simply don’t want to and that’s fine too. But for those that DO want to, I just want you to know that as long as it’s fine with your medical team and you’re staying within your comfortable limits, it’s ok to keep going. I’ve also seen pregnant skiiers continue to downhill ski in the winter too.
But How Does It Feel to Ride Now?
Now that’s off my chest, I’ll tell you what doesn’t feel good when I ride. It’s not all roses! I already mentioned lack of power and sometimes I get frustrated walking climbs. My rides sometimes feel like a slog and just showing up and getting started is an accomplishment, but it makes me feel good and proud when I am done. Yes! Much like when I would feel if I completed a hard interval workout, I feel proud for simply getting out and moving the pedals. Second, I’ve had some psoas pain/cramping since second trimester. I spoke with my medical team about this and they said I don’t need to worry. It feels like a side stitch on one side of my belly. It usually pops up after about 50-55 minutes (and usually from climbing). Note that I have NOT felt this pain on the trainer. When I do feel this pain, I just stop and wait for it to go away and it always does. At the suggestion of my midwife, I got a pregnancy support belt. It helps, but it doesn’t prevent it. My midwife also said that a lot of women get this type of pain simply from walking around. I can’t get my heart rate up very high (mostly in the zone 2 range), can’t put out a ton of power like before, and I also breathe a lot harder because my lungs are smashed and my increase in body weight means I need more oxygen. I go based on my perceived effort and try to keep it at endurance or tempo. I simply wouldn’t be able to do more but that’s just me! Maybe some pregnant women can still access higher intensities. I have to stop and pee a lot on rides too.
This blog post is already much longer than I planned, so I’ll get to a lot of questions people have sent me in my post in the next week or two!