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Training and Racing with Baby Onboard

Posted: Feb 17 2017

Balancing Triathlon Training and Racing as a Mom  

Interview by Sarah Jarvis

 I had the pleasure of asking Coeur ambassador Liz Waterstraat many questions on the topics of pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum for this interview. Liz has been competing in triathlons at both the amateur and professional level very successfully for many years, is the founder, owner, and head coach of Multisport Mastery, Inc., and the mother of three young children.

Liz with her child

She has documented her story with humor and candidness for many years and is not afraid to share her valuable insights and knowledge. We are excited to have her tell you how she got through three pregnancies, three c-sections, a few complications, and has been able to return to training and racing each time while taking great care of her kids, husband, and business. We hope this will answer some of your questions regarding these topics and are thrilled to see that there are many athletes, including more and more professional women, who are up for the challenge of juggling both motherhood and competing in triathlons. Being a mother and an endurance athlete are not mutually exclusive and, once you figure out what works best for you, can bring an abundance of joy to you and your family.

Sara: Hi Liz. How many kids do you and your husband have and how old are they?

Liz: Three kids. Max (age 6), Mackenzie (age 2) and Mason (6 months).

Sara: How soon after you and your husband decided you wanted to have children were you able to get pregnant?

Liz: Back in 2009. I got pregnant within one month but had a very early miscarriage (called a ‘chemical pregnancy’).  Luckily, I was able to get pregnant the next month with our first child, Max.  I had trouble with falling hormones and took progesterone shots for the first 16 weeks. 

With my second and third child, I went through the IVF process. My problem wasn’t getting pregnant, it was staying pregnant.  I didn’t have the right balance of hormones.  In between my first and second child, I went through 6 miscarriages and a failed round of IVF.  I was very fortunate to live within 50 miles of one of the top specialists for my age category.  He quickly identified my problem and created an effective protocol that led to my daughter and son.  

 PREGNANCY

 Sara: Do you enjoy being pregnant?

Liz:  Absolutely. For all of the physical discomforts (the backache, the weight gain, the sleeplessness), it is an amazing experience.  Being pregnant after so many losses, I felt my pregnancies were a gift.  I knew I was very, very lucky.  I enjoyed getting bigger, feeling the little kicks and even slowing down with workouts. 

Sara: Have you noticed a significant difference in your pregnancies relating to how old you were with each?

Liz: Not necessarily. The only difference was the level of fatigue which increased significantly with each pregnancy.  However, this was more likely due to having other children to chase around rather than age. But, it’s worth noting that your risk of complication increases as you get older and the “stuff” you have to do during pregnancy increases as you get older. For medical purposes, you are considered of ‘advanced maternal age’ once you are 34.  Doctors will suggest more testing and ultrasounds.  Once you are 40, there are even more frequent tests as you near the end of pregnancy. 

With my third child, I was set to deliver when I was 41. Starting at week 32, I was scheduled for weekly stress tests and being an IVF pregnancy, I had my cervix monitored for pre-term labor every 2 weeks starting at week 16 as well as more sophisticated ultrasounds.   I also carry a rare antibody in my blood which meant more ultrasounds to monitor for complications. 

Sara: Is there anything that you learned from your first two pregnancies that you applied during your third? If so, can you tell us about it?

Liz: To enjoy the journey. My third time around I knew it was likely my last time around.  I told myself to simply enjoy being pregnant because it was something I would never experience again.

I also knew (from being an athlete and going through the IVF process) to take things one step at a time. Pregnancy can sometimes be a wild, rocky rollercoaster of emotional and physical ups and downs.  There are so many things that can and will go wrong.  I learned to take it one day at a time, one mile at a time, one step at a time and to never look too far ahead. 

I also learned to be my own best advocate. I had so many experiences and complications, so many numbers and test results read back at me that I became the master of “googling” everything.  I became fanatic about finding the right questions to ask to know as much as possible.  It was kind of like preparing for a race – find out everything you can by way of reading race reports, maps, blogs to feel as prepared as possible.

Sara: How do you adjust your eating before/during/after a workout while pregnant to make sure the baby gets everything he/she needs?

Liz:  In general, I ate more all around. During workouts, I made sure to always have a snack on hand and hydration.  I never, ever deprived myself and didn’t follow any restrictions. 

Sara: Is it normal to have crazy cravings? What were some of yours? What do you do about the unhealthy ones?

Yes! I believe it’s your body’s way of telling you what you need. With my first son, I craved three things: bacon, steak and asparagus. I can’t explain the bacon but steak and asparagus are very good sources of iron (and I tend to struggle with anemia in pregnancy).

With my daughter, I was so nauseous that I could only tolerate eating white pasta, cheese and bagels for almost 16 weeks. For a healthy-eating person, this was like being trapped in the body of a 2 year old.  Things I normally ate every day (kale, chicken) made me want to throw up. 

With my third child, I only craved coffee and wine. I wish I was kidding.  But I was so tired from being pregnant, over 40 and having 2 other kids that I think my body was sending out a cry for help!  

As for my unhealthy cravings (see pregnancy #2), I just listened to my body. Yes, I ate white pasta with cheese for weeks on end.  In the end, it didn’t make a difference!  I had no problem with the weight gain of pregnancy and though my diet differed with all three pregnancies, I gained the same amount of weight at the same rate (roughly one pound a week). 

Sara: What did your training look like in each of the trimesters? Is there a big difference?

Liz: My answer here is...It depends. My first son was a normal pregnancy; I got pregnant naturally and I was 34 (advanced but still ‘young’). The first trimester, I limited my workouts to 75 minutes or less and mostly did one workout a day.  As I got more comfortable into the second trimester, I added in some two a day workouts.  Around the third trimester, I had to stop running and switch to hiking or elliptical because my legs started to hurt too much.  Naturally, I also slowed down. 

With my daughter, I became pregnant through IVF so I was considered higher risk. My specialist advised me to lay off of exercise for a bit.  Considering the emotional and financial cost of IVF, I had no problem complying!  At my 10 week visit with my OB, she assured me everything looked great and encouraged me to exercise from that point.  I returned to everything just as you would after a long lay off or injury; slowly building back into normal two a day training.  I still felt it was wise to keep things under 90 minutes (swim and bike) and never ran more than 60 minutes.  I was able to run all through pregnancy though by the end it was more like run :30/walk :30.

With my other son, I also became pregnant through IVF. I took the first few weeks off but then resumed normal exercise.  I swam, biked and ran all through this pregnancy.

Pregnant Triathlete

In general, my “rule” about the first trimester was to keep things fairly light, short and listen to your body. There are days when you’re so tired that 20 minutes of spinning might feel like enough.  In the second trimester, you start to feel more like yourself as your energy levels return.  I routinely swam up to 4000 yards, biked up to 90 minutes (easy) and ran up to 60 minutes (again, easy).  I also did strength training a few times a week.  In the third trimester, you slow down and let your growing body be your guide.  You might find some days you can run 60 minutes.  Other days, you have to walk. 

Of note: I did not follow my HR during pregnancy as most of the research I’ve done did not suggest the guidelines were based on any scientific research.

Sara: What or who helped you the most to figure out your training during pregnancy?

Liz: With my first pregnancy, I did a lot of research and reading. Dr. Clapp’s Exercising Through Your Pregnancy and Brigitta Gallo’s Expecting Fitness were the books I found most useful.  I read a lot of blogs, articles and websites.  I asked other athletes who had successfully navigated an active pregnancy.  From there, I did what felt best to me physically and psychologically. 

With my second and third pregnancies, because they were IVF, I had more research to do. I took that into account as well as I what learned from my first pregnancy.

Through all of this, I had the support of my OB/GYN. She understands my very active lifestyle and had no concerns or guidelines for my activity.

Sara: What's your favorite go-to work-out while pregnant?

Liz: I have the fondest memories of going on long hikes in my first pregnancy. I was around 6 months pregnant when I could not take the pressure in my lower legs anymore.  I never knew why it happened but I assumed my growing uterus was putting pressure on the blood flow that went into my lower legs.  I could no longer run and knew keeping the “impact” in my program would be important for my return to running.  I lived across the street from a 1700 acre Arboretum.  I went on so many beautiful and memorable hikes through the spring and summer.  It was so peaceful and refreshingly different than going for a run.  I would walk up to 8 miles which took me over 2 hours – bringing along plenty of snacks and fluids. 

Sara: What's your top advice for triathletes regarding training during pregnancy?

Liz: Write your own story. Each woman needs to decide what is right for her.  I know women who have raced during pregnancy.  I know other athletic women who didn’t do a darn thing.   You need to decide what works best for you based on what your body is telling you and what your doctor is telling you.  Just like there are many ways to train for an Ironman, there are many ways to train through pregnancy.  What worked for your friend, might not work for you based on your age, complications, risks, how you’re carrying the baby, etc. 

Beyond that, listen to your body. It is quite difficult to go too hard when pregnant – your body just won’t let you.  Any time you’re doing too much, you’ll start to feel tired, nauseous and off.  As endurance athletes, we excel at ignoring these cues from our body and pushing past.  That is what makes us good athletes! But as a pregnant athlete, you must listen and respect your body.  

Sara: Have you raced while pregnant? If so, how did it go? Would you recommend it?

Liz: I did not race. I race to push myself and be at my best.  That wasn’t something I could do when pregnant.  That said, I have coached women who have raced when pregnant.  If you have your doctor’s approval and your body gives you the green light, you could consider it.  I would encourage athletes to be extra cautious about effort level, hydration and calorie intake. 

DELIVERY

Sara: How did you prepare yourself for giving birth?

Liz: The first time around, we took one of those classes they offer at the hospital. At one point, they brought out a placenta puppet.  Chris and I looked at the puppet, looked at each other and busted out laughing. A PLACENTA PUPPET!

Needless to say, the class wasn’t very helpful. Don’t teach me how to bathe my baby (that’s common sense!), teach me how to manage the overwhelming fatigue and fear that accompanies being a new parent.  Teach me how to maintain my relationship with my spouse.  Teach me how to respect my new body. 

Beyond that class, I didn’t put too much thought into delivery. I didn’t write a birth plan.  I remember in one of my appointments towards the end of pregnancy, my doctor ask me a simple question: “What are your thoughts on pain management?” “I’m all for it.” That was the end of our discussion. 

Sara: You've had three c-sections. Were they similar or very different experiences?

Liz: All completely different experiences. With my first son, my water broke one morning a week before my due date while I was having coffee with a friend. I remember coming back from the bathroom and telling her, “my water broke.”  She said, “you should probably call your doctor.”  I looked at the clock, it said 7:40 and I said, “the office doesn’t open until 8 am, I’m finishing my coffee.”  At 8 am, she told me to head to the hospital.  Once there, they determined my water indeed broke but I wasn’t having the contractions that signaled I was in active labor.  This is a problem because once your water breaks, you have 24 hours to deliver baby.  They let me wait a bit but nothing was happening – so they began to induce labor with Pitocin.  This speeds up labor but is also riskier for the baby.  Max wasn’t tolerating labor well and his heart rate kept dropping.  I remember feeling like I was going to pass out when someone ripped the cords out of the outlets and started running down the hall while pushing my hospital bed.  At this point, I needed an emergency c-section.  Max was born healthy a short while later.

With my daughter, I wanted to try for VBAC. It was my due date and I still wasn’t having any signs of labor.  So I did what any highly pregnant athlete would do - I went to masters to swim.  It was distance free day.  I remember about 3200 yards into the practice, my back started hurting.  I thought maybe it was from pulling but it persisted.  I remember telling my lane mate, “I think I’m going into labor.”  He suggested I go to the hospital.  I finished the practice.  While showering, I told my friends that I was pretty sure I was in labor but had a few chores to do at home.  Once home, I called the doctor who told me to report to the hospital.  By the time I got there, I was 7 centimeters dilated.  The labor pains at that point became increasingly uncomfortable. It was like an elephant dancing on your spine while you’re simultaneously trying to poop out that same elephant.   It hurt – bad.  My labor stalled and the doctor was concerned about Mackenzie’s heart rate.  She let me labor a little longer but ultimately, Mackenzie was born via c-section.

It gets better.  Number three.  I was 32 weeks pregnant and in a doctor’s office when all of a sudden I gushed a ridiculous amount of blood right on to the floor.  My immediate reaction was to clean up the mess.  I’m a neat freak.  I called my OB/GYN who told me to immediately go to the hospital.  I was actually around the corner so drove to the emergency entrance.  At this point, I was bleeding everywhere and crying.  The poor woman who wheeled me to L&D assured me it would be ok.  I was like – I am 32 weeks pregnant with my third child, I know this is NOT ok!  My water had broken and I was having contractions.  The doctor checked on me, told me to get my husband to the hospital ASAP and within 30 minutes Mason was born via emergency c-section.  My placenta had ruptured (a very rare occurrence, happens for unknown reasons).

Did I want c-sections? No.  Do I feel sadness that I never experienced birth the natural way?  Yes.  But I eventually came to terms with it by telling myself – there are many, many things I am good at.  Birthing babies is not one of them!      

Sara: Do you think being an athlete makes giving birth easier?

Liz: No. I felt it was an entirely different level of pain – both physically and emotionally. The marathon in an Ironman doesn't even come close. You are in complete control during an Ironman.  You can stop at any time.  You are allowed to eat and drink.  During labor, the pain intensifies randomly.  It does not stop.  And, you’re lucky if they let you have ice chips.

But what being an athlete did do was prepare me for the process. The process of recovering one day at a time.  I remember the first time I could walk down the hospital hall 48 hours after my first c-section – I was moving so slowly and thought to myself it’s going to be a long road back.  But, I looked forward to that process. I knew I could handle it.

POSTPARTUM

Sara: How was your recovery after each? Did it get more difficult with each birth or easier?

Liz: When you have a c-section, they give you a lot of rules.   Don’t walk up and down the stairs, don’t lift anything heavy. I’m the worst patient ever.  I was walking up and down stairs a few days upon returning home.  I waited 3 weeks before I got on my trainer and started easy spinning, another week before I started running and a full 6 weeks before I started swimming again.  But as soon as they let me out of mother/baby, I was walking.  Chris joked that if I didn’t slow down, I was going to blow a wheel off of the stroller.  In those 3 weeks before I exercised, I walked, walked, walked.

After baby #2, I recovered very quickly. I was back to exercising again within 3 weeks – taking it very slowly. 

After baby #3, I was up and moving around within 24 hours. I remember a nurse walked in, I was sitting on a chair, working with my laptop, all showered when she said, where is the patient? It’s ME!  I recovered very quickly this time around.  Almost didn’t have a choice with two other kids at home – I had to keep moving. 

I was very lucky to have no complications with my incision or from the recovery. And, I believe that my high level of fitness going into each surgery helped quicken the recovery.  

Sara: What did you learn from the previous two times that you were able to apply?

Liz: Patience, one day at a time.

Sara: Did you experience any postpartum depression?

Liz: Yes, the third time around. As an athlete and mother of 3, I expected to feel tired but I was experiencing unusual amounts of fatigue and just not feeling like myself.   I had all sorts of excuses – age, life, kids, work, hormones.  But it was a feeling of extreme heaviness that I could not shake.  I was also feeling tremendous guilt at not feeling the joy of my life.  I thought to myself – here I am with a husband, three beautiful children, a nice house, a successful business – how can I not be happy?  What is wrong with me?  I felt like a complete failure.  I had some blood work done which revealed that I was 100 percent healthy.  After talking with the doctor, she felt my fatigue was a symptom of postpartum depression.  In her words, “it’s ok to feel tired, it’s not ok to not feel like yourself.” 

Sara: How did you deal with the lack of sleep?

Liz:  It wasn’t as big of an issue until this third time around. I nursed both my first son and daughter.  Max was up every 3 hours for about the first 6 months of life but I had plenty of time to rest and nap during the day – my business was much smaller and I only had him!  Mackenzie was a champ and slept 5 to 6 hours from the start.  With Mason being born 8 weeks early, he never did learn how to nurse but I still had to pump every 3 hours to keep my supply up.  When he came home from the NICU after 5 weeks, he was still so small and used to that every 2-3 hour feeding schedule.  So every 2-3 hours I was up, pumping AND feeding him so each time I was up lasted over 30 minutes.  By the time I fell asleep – you get the point.  It took about 3 months of that before I felt like I was going to lose my mind!  But everything with babies is ‘just a phase’ and he started sleeping longer stretches.  I still am woken up every night at least 2 to 3 times for something – a kid, a cry, a dog barking, an overactive bladder.  I read a study that said what you think about your quality of sleep determines how you function that day.  I’ve learned that sleep deprivation, at this point in life, is the norm and you just have to deal with it.  I do not take naps (no time) but I do try to be in bed for 8 to 9 hours each night.  I might only sleep a broken 6 to 7 hours but at least my body is getting some rest.

Sara: Most doctors advise to take six weeks off from any working out after giving birth. You were able to return to swimming, biking, and even running after just 17 days with your last baby. How did you feel? Would you advise other new moms to do the same?

Liz: From my research and talking with doctors, the 6 week guideline is standard for just about any surgery.   Ultimately, I felt most comfortable listening to my body.  I’ve talked to women who were running with 9 days post c-section and others who took months off.   I felt ready after 17 days – bleeding had reduced, pain was minimal and mentally I felt recharged.  But it was a very, very slow return.  I started by spinning easy on my trainer for 20 minutes.  If I woke up the next day with no increase in bleeding, pain or soreness, I did a little more the next day.

Sara: You toed the start line only 7 weeks after baby #3 was born. Can you tell us about that race? How did it feel mentally and physically to race again?

Liz: With all three kids, I raced within 12 weeks of giving birth. Each time, I toed the line with absolutely no expectations – simply being there was a win.  I knew I was physically prepared to race.  I was more curious about where I was mentally.  Where would I go once I started experiencing pain – would I go toward it or pull back? Would I look forward to the chase or play it safe?  Do I still have the fire to go after it?  In all 3 cases, I found myself fully absorbed in the process, the joy of racing.  To me, this signaled that I still had that fire, that it was worth it to make the time to pursue my athletic goals.

Sara: How did you manage to fit into your wetsuit again less than two months after giving birth? Do you have any tips on how to lose the extra pounds?

Liz: Like I said earlier, I have no problem gaining weight during pregnancy. My body’s response was to gain a pound a week.  I kept very detailed records after each birth.  This helped me to understand my body’s normal.  I knew that within a few weeks I would drop the majority of the weight just from the birth experience (and the night sweats that follow!). 

Unlike what you hear from many women, nursing did not help me lose weight. In fact, in all cases, I felt I retained weight (obviously it’s needed!) to continue nursing.  I have a strict rule when nursing – absolutely no dieting.  You are creating food for another human being.  You need to be able to fuel yourself, your activity and your milk production.  If you restrict and get into a deficit, your body will pull from your stores which can set you up for illness and injury later.

I found that eight weeks after I stopped nursing (around six months with Max, five months with Mackenzie and four months with Mason), my body fat dropped, my weight loss picked up and my body started to look more normal.

 So, when I toed the start line two months post-baby, I was only about 10 pounds over “race weight” and it was not a problem.

As for losing the final 5-10 pounds, be patient. Do not force it.  Your body is so delicate after birth – this includes your metabolism, your thyroid, your entire system is healing from the trauma of birth (a good trauma but trauma nonetheless).  Add to that sleep deprivation, fluctuating hormones, the stress of caring for a baby – forcing weight loss or becoming frustrated with yourself won’t help.  You have the rest of your life to lose weight.  Don’t rush it.  And, be kind to yourself.  

Sara: In general, is it a smart idea to schedule a race before you feel ready to race?

Liz: Hard to say. When you feel ready, you’ll know.  Until then – make no plans.  Give yourself permission to relax if that’s what you need.  Like losing weight, there is no hurry.  Take your time.  You have the rest of your life to race and be in shape. 

Sara: What was the BEST thing you did for yourself postpartum that you recommend to other new moms?

Liz: Taking some time completely off. Yes, I walked, but I took the advice of an athletic friend, Angela Kidd, who also had a c-section.  She said that the weeks she was forced to take off after birth were the best thing that could have happened.  They enabled her to focus entirely on her baby and her recovery.  I couldn’t agree more.  Taking a few weeks to learn how to navigate your new life and your baby is so important.    

GETTING BACK TO TRAINING AND RACING

Sara: Before your first baby, what were some of your fears regarding your return to training and racing? How did you deal with them?

Liz: I got pregnant at a time when I was really burnt out of the sport. I had been pursuing high level goals for nearly 10 years and I was ready for a break.  Honestly, I had no fears about my return. I just hoped to crave that return – feeling healthy and motivated.  Until that point, I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure of being pregnant.  I didn’t think too far ahead or put pressure on myself to be ready to race at a certain point.  Even the second time around, I didn’t sign up for Ironman Texas until Mackenzie was 5 months old.  I had no plans about my training, racing – I just took it one day at a time.  I let my body be the guide.  

Sara: Do you have any issues with incontinence after three babies? If so, any tips for the rest of us?

Liz: Three times, I’ve had 35+ pounds of placenta and baby sitting on my bladder. As my doctor was preparing me for my second c-section, she also discovered that my bladder had adhered to my uterus (very common from scar tissue).  Yes, I have some problems! My mom and I often break out into complete laughter about something and start screaming, “don’t make me laugh so hard, I’m going to pee myself!”  Then we both dash to the bathroom.  Your bladder takes a big hit from the pregnancy alone.  I never “pushed” or experienced natural birth but both are very hard on the bladder.  What many women don’t know is that you can go to a physical therapist to work on pelvic strengthening and address any issues with your doctor. 

Sara: Do you take your kids along with you in a stroller/trailer when running and biking or do you take that time for yourself?

Liz: I’ll admit – this is not really “my” thing. We do have a jogging stroller and occasionally I’ll take them out for a slow jog but I do not do this on a regular basis.  For me, running is my time to unwind and disconnect.  I’m fairly protective of my time as I feel you need it to balance out the challenges of parenting. 

Sara: What's your secret to time management?

Liz: You won’t believe it but - I don’t plan anything. I am not exceptionally organized, I don’t have every minute of my day planned out.  Here’s why – you can have the best laid plan for your day.  You plan to get up at 5:30 am, eat at 6:30 am, work by 8:30 am.  And then someone doesn’t sleep, someone is sick, someone needs to be picked up early at school.  There goes your plan, which brings with it disappointment and frustration.

I take each day as it comes. There is no pressure.  I have a basic list of things I need to accomplish each day: keep the kids alive (feed them, bathe them, etc), work and train.  In that order.  There are school schedules, appointments and naps to work around too.  I fit my life together like a puzzle, one piece at a time. 

Some days I know that I have more time than others so I can plan more workouts or more time to work.  But I try not to pressure myself.  In other words, I have not done a week of my training schedule as written by my coach for over 2 years.  I change things around as needed on a daily basis.  And I don’t stress about it.   

The other secret is my support system. With my first child, I hired a babysitter to come in twice a week.  After that, I was very fortunate that my mother is retired and lives 5 minutes away.  She is now at my house every single day.  Without her, I would be lost under piles of laundry. 

Sara: How do you balance working, training, and spending time with your family?

 Liz: I find myself at the end of each day wishing I had more time. But I have to remind myself that whatever I give to each of those things has to be enough.  And if one thing feels off balance, I can sense it and try to rebalance myself.   This is not easy.  It’s something I work on every day and something that changes every day.

My coaching business is a full-time endeavor. While I do not spend 8 hours at my desk every day, I do work every day of the week, multiple times of the day.  I also teach some classes outside of my home a few times a week. 

In general, I train much less than most age group athletes. I have a saying that if it can’t be done in under 12 hours a week, it’s not going to get done.  Even when training for an Ironman, I might hit 16 hours once or twice.  Beyond that I feel completely overstretched and unable to recover.  It’s not worth it!  I try to make my sessions count – I get in/get out when at the pool.  I only ride indoors.  I run from my house or on the treadmill. I train mostly solo to minimize any wasted time.  The difficulty is that I train at all times of the day and rarely is it predictable.  I might be on my bike early morning or walking onto the pool deck at 8 pm.   

Sara: Do you ever sacrifice a workout for more sleep? How important is sleep really?

Liz: As a parent, you have to be creative in how you view sleep. I would love to sleep more.  But I have a baby who doesn’t fall asleep until 10 pm and I need to be up around 6 am to get the kids ready for the day.  I have a husband who is in bed by 9 am out of the house before 5 am.  Would I like to sleep more?  Yes.  Can I?  Right now, it’s just not my reality.   Rather than fret about it, I take it one day at a time.  If I sleep very little or poorly, I keep my training session all easy.  If I get more sleep, I enjoy how I feel that day. 

Sara: What has been THE biggest difference in your life since you became a mother?

Liz: Perspective on what is love, what is pain. It’s hard to put into words.  I remember asking a friend for advice before I had my first child.  She said, “I never realized I could love something as much as I love my daughter.”  With that love comes extreme emotion and even pain.  Pain of wondering – am I enough?  Am I doing it right?  Am I failing?  Yet at the same time there are extreme highs of love, joy and elation that I never knew were possible.

Sara: In your long career as an elite athlete, what times stand out to you where you have felt at the top of your game? Do these moments happen again after having babies?

Liz: Ironman Texas, 2015. Brings a huge smile to my face.  9 months after giving birth to my second child.  I had no expectations – none.  I had no idea how fit, how relaxed and how connected I was for that race.  My training had been “just enough” – I arrived fit and fresh.  I had never raced a regular Ironman so had no idea what to expect (I had raced Kona 3 times prior – totally different ballgame!).  Crossing the finish line a little over one minute away from the overall win blew me away.  I truly enjoyed the experience and still to this day it is one of my favorite race memories of being 100 percent on top of myself and plugged into the race.  I smiled for every mile of that race.

(Editor's Note: Liz placed 2nd overall female amateur at this race and become the W40-44 North American Ironman Champion. She wrote an excellent race report on her blog.)

Sara: What advantage does being a mother give you in racing?

Liz: Perspective – win or lose, life goes on. More important things will take place.  You will race again another day. 

Triathlete with Kids

And, it completely resets your idea of what is fatigue, what is pain. I remember I used to cry at least once during a half Ironman.  I thought it hurt that bad.  Now I’m out there thinking I get 70.3 miles entirely to myself uninterrupted – no one can ask me for warm milk, buttered toast or PlayDoh! No matter how much it hurts, you realize that you’re out there with the freedom and health to do it so you better enjoy it!

Sara: As a coach, what are three pieces of advice you would give to a new mom regarding training and racing?

 Liz: (1) Listen to your body, take what your body gives you. Don’t rush the process. (2) Be kind to yourself – be patient, encouraging. (3)This is your journey, your path. Write your own story and timeline.  

Sara: Thank you, Liz, for taking the time to answer our questions so thoroughly. We wish you the very best in your athletic, professional, and family journey!