I am an Ironman Finisher. My baby too. – Triathlete

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In #MyTri, we let triathletes share their own stories of inspiration, motivation, fantastic blunders and all the rest. Submit your story and photo for review by emailing us at [email protected] with “My Tri” in the subject line. If we choose your story for publication, we will contact you.

Six years ago, I completed my family medicine residency and started a family practice. I also started a family. Today I have three wonderful children and a fantastic husband in addition to a job as a doctor that I really enjoy. Yet, as I was building my identity as a mother and a doctor, some things fell apart. The first to go was my identity as an athlete.

I was never a super athletic person, but I loved jogging. When I was nine, I discovered that I could put one foot in front of the other and keep going. Whenever a bad mood hit, a good run could fix it. Running kept me balanced throughout my childhood and adolescence. In college and medical school, it provided me with a healthy outlet for my stress. I was never fast and I was definitely not consistent, but I always liked it. During my residency, I added swimming and cycling, and completed a few triathlon races.

Then I got pregnant. After my first baby, I had a touch of postpartum depression. I felt better when I went out for a walk, but I didn’t prioritize it – I was a new mom, after all. I got a little cranky and a lot overweight. It was the first time that I really saw how important exercise was for me, not only for physical health, but also for mental health. Two years later the second baby arrived and my husband and I made sure I took the time to take care of myself. I walked a bit more and even managed to jog every now and then. When I got pregnant with my third baby, my family and I had a complete game plan for Mom’s health and happiness. I signed up for the local running club and signed up for a few races.

This plan has worked very well. Four months after having my third child, I did a great half marathon. Then COVID came along and canceled the rest of the races I had signed up for. It also reduced my motivation to stay active, as it has for so many people.

Last winter my husband and I decided to try another baby, our fourth. This time around, we couldn’t get pregnant as easily as the first three times. I was almost 40 years old and the doctor in me knew that the healthier I could be, the better our chances of getting pregnant. Suddenly, my motivation to train came back in full force.

I surrounded myself with like-minded friends, signed up for a lot of races and went to practice. I was dedicated, and by the end of spring, I was in great shape. I was still not pregnant and I had been the most consistent I have ever been with training. I decided to capitalize on this physical form by registering for an Ironman 70.3 at Lubbock 70.3, then to go all the way by registering for Ironman Waco.

Lubbock was a perfect day. I broke my previous personal best of 70.3 by almost 20 minutes, which also qualified me for the Worlds of 70.3 in St. George. I hired a trainer and started a workout plan to prepare for St. George and Waco.

Three weeks later, I found out that I was pregnant.

It was no surprise, of course. My husband and I were actively trying to get pregnant. I had prepared and waited for this possibility all year. I knew that as long as I felt good and there weren’t any complications, I could proceed as planned. My husband, trainer, obstetrician and friends / training partners were all on board. Most importantly, my three children encouraged the trip. We all decided to take things day to day.

RELATED: Training During Pregnancy: How To Swim-Bike-Run Safely

In August, September and early October, I kept my consistency with the training, but I allowed flexibility when needed. I relaxed the speed work and the exercises a bit, and put in a bit more easy effort. I monitored my heart rate like a hawk and adjusted it when it increased. I hydrated like the water in the world was going to disappear tomorrow, and ate as I saw fit. My trainer didn’t make any major adjustments, but we worked for a few days where I just needed more recovery, and he reinforced me a lot when I felt like it was getting tough. My two oldest children, aged 5 and 3, also did triathlons this summer, and my husband trained alongside me as he prepared for his own 70.3 races.

I was 8 weeks pregnant in St. George. I cycled with a “Baby on Board” sign and took a four minute nap halfway up to Snow Canyon, the infamous climb of the race. I finished in 7:07 and felt great. When I crossed the finish line, I had no doubt that competing in Ironman Waco a month later was still a chance.

I like to say that I “swelled” at the start like at the Ironman Waco. I was 13 weeks pregnant, so my only goal was to see what was going on during the day. The priority was to manage hydration and heart rate, to stay comfortable throughout the day, to make baby and I feel good until the end. And that’s exactly what happened. The swim was peaceful (that bump made me float!), I stuck to my hydration and heart rate schedule on the bike, and the run – my first marathon – was surprisingly fun.

With a final time of 14:15:14 I became an Ironman. My baby too.

(Photo: Sydney Haggins)

Even at age 40, an uncomplicated pregnancy doesn’t necessarily mean stopping or significantly changing your activity level, but it does require listening to your body. I released any wait for finishing time, absolved myself from any competition or finalizing resolutions, and continued with what made me feel good.

Not many people questioned my decision to do this race, maybe because I am a doctor. But I know that myths and misconceptions exist. The truth is, I’m healthier here during this pregnancy than I was just a year ago, and I’m also healthier than I was as an athlete in my teens and twenties. An Ironman is definitely not recommended for the wheelchair athlete or for someone starting a fitness journey while pregnant. But exercise is important before, during and after pregnancy, for both mother and baby.

I started running and triathlon to improve my health and find myself. Through small steps and consistency I have done just that, and then some. Like so many others in the sport, small decisions led to goals and achievements that left me in awe of what the human body can do. I’m not the first person to do an Ironman pregnant, and I’m sure I won’t be the last. It’s a story I never thought I’d tell, but it’s now my story, and that of my child too.

RELATED: Ride for Two: How to Ride a Bike Safely During Pregnancy


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