Last October I received the best news of my life. I was pregnant! My husband and I had been trying since the summer and were ecstatic with the news. It had been a bit of a tough road to get to that point though. My peak race of the season in 2010 had been in early May at the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon. I had a great race and ended up finishing 5th place overall. Then it was a week of vacation in Napa. Perfect for baby making…right? Well, no. For a number of elite female athletes, trying to conceive can be a struggle. We put our bodies under a tremendous amount of stress that can lead to having trouble trying to conceive for a variety of reasons. So, after realizing that building a family was going to be trickier than I planned I went to the doctor to seek advice. Lighten up on the training and try to gain a few pounds was the advice I received. Ok, easy enough…I’ll just do sprint triathlons for the rest of the season, slack off and eat ice cream every night. Sounds easy enough.
A few months later, still no periods and no positive pregnancy test. So I went back to the doctor who suggested I see a specialist. Three months later I finally got my positive test! We were so excited! However, my first ultrasound revealed that I wasn’t just pregnant…I was really pregnant. I remember the doctor saying – “yep…here’s the heartbeat…oh…another heartbeat…twins! Oh…there’s a third. That hasn’t happened in seven years.” So in the span of about 10 seconds I went from being super-excited to scared-to-death. “WHAT?! What do you mean there are three? “ and then I just started bawling primarily from shock. My husband just kept saying ”Don’t worry, it’s OK.” Though I’m pretty sure he was in shock too.
As soon as I found out I was pregnant with triplets I was very careful about working out. I stuck primarily to swimming (about 3 times per week) riding a stationary bike (2 times per week) and walking (about 3 times per week). Everything was in Zone 1 – nice and easy. I had to stop biking at week 15 – my tummy just got too big and it became uncomfortable. Then at week 20 my doctor put my on home bed rest. This is just about the worst thing an athlete can hear. No activity at all…in fact you’re only supposed to get up to go to the bathroom. With the help of my family I pretty much stuck to this. It was tough though, after being so active to just sit on the couch all day and slowly get more and more uncomfortable. And by uncomfortable, I mean “I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy” uncomfortable. Luckily I had projects to keep me busy and friends would often stop by to keep me company and keep my mind off the pain I was experiencing.
While I was excited about the babies I missed training and competing…especially while on bed rest. A lot of my teammates at TT were planning on participating at USAT Nationals and I figured the sprint race would give me a realistic goal post pregnancy. So I signed up with the goal of just having fun and finishing. It also gave me something to look forward to that was not baby related while cooped up at home.
At 33 weeks I had to enter the hospital due to uncontrollable contractions, and at 33 weeks and 3 days I gave birth via scheduled C-section to three beautiful, healthy (though tiny) babies (1.5 weeks longer than the average gestation for triplets). After 2 weeks, my first baby was able to come home and I started walking with him every day, a week later, my other two babies came home and I started walking them every day around the neighborhood in our triple stroller.
Because of the C-section, I was only allowed to walk for the first six weeks post pregnancy. Also, because of the bed rest, I was terribly out of shape. So walking was actually a great way to ease back into fitness. After the doctor’s approval, I started regular exercise again, but started really slowly. Swimming 1,000 yards once or twice a week, running 5 to 15 minutes slowly 4 to 5 times a week and biking once or twice a week for about 45 minutes. I slowly increased the duration and intensity of my workouts over the course of the next 10 weeks leading up to USAT Nationals. About two weeks prior to the race I felt confident that I could finish and not make too much of a fool out of myself. The training helped with loosing some baby weight and more importantly provided me with a good non-baby outlet (with newborn triplets – it’s babies pretty much 24 hours a day). It was a nice mental escape to jog on the treadmill for 15 minutes or go for a 45-minute bike ride each day and the physical activity helped me feel rejuvenated for the babies.
So, less than 15 weeks after giving birth, I competed in my first post triplet pregnancy triathlon at USAT Sprint Nationals. My only expectations were to have fun and finish – and that is exactly what I did. And as an added bonus I ended up doing well enough to qualify for World Championships in 2012! A few weeks later I followed this up with my first post pregnancy win at the fun Westport Minuteman Triathlon…and it was the first triathlon my babies got to experience too!
If you’d like more information on balancing babies and triathlon training or would like to discuss pregnancy and training please feel free to email me. I’d love to help.