Spring Races 2017

Running might not seem like the most natural complement to my life as a dairy woman, wife, and mom in rural ‘middle of nowhere’ Minnesota, but this year has given me a fresh realization of how grateful I am to be a runner.

When the stress of long hours, poor weather, or employee problems makes me crabby and short-tempered I know I can find some solace out on the paved trail just east of my home.

I give thanks every time I strap Speedy into the jogging stroller that he enjoys this time as much as I do. I was pretty certain once he started walking he wouldn’t tolerate being constrained in the stroller, but so far he has proven me wrong.


Last night he was nothing but smiles as we got ready to “go fast.” In reality we went for a super easy jog because I’m still a little sore from the half marathon I’ll tell you about in a minute.

The mild spring weather and warm afternoons helped me get in more training than I thought I would, and I did two races in April.

The first was Goldy’s Run at the University of Minnesota. I met up with two of my sisters on a gorgeous spring morning, and we walked, jogged, and chatted together the whole 5K as I pushed my bright orange stroller with a happy little boy inside. He loved seeing his aunties and cousins post-race, and it was really neat to do an event together with family.



We had a small snafu the morning of because my sisters were driving together and they forgot our race numbers. They were almost at the race when they realized, but they quickly turned around and an understanding husband met them along the way with the needed numbers to save time. We all found each other at the start with about one minute to spare, and we will laugh about this every time we think back on the race.

My second spring race was the Earth Day Half Marathon on Saturday. This was my seventh time running it so I know the course well. It felt a little strange to go without Speedy as it’s the first race I’ve done without him since he was born. (Or before he was born if you count the races I did in the first half of my pregnancy.)

If things went really well I thought I could break two hours, so I lined up several feet behind the two hour pacer at the start. Speedy had not slept well overnight and I was fighting a cold, but I was still optimistic. I had no stroller to push and the day was gorgeous. Maybe too gorgeous.

The bright sun warmed things up to 65 degrees by mid-morning, so I was a salty, sweaty mess several miles in. The pace didn’t feel easy, but I could manage it. I decided to try to run as even as possible and stay within sight of the two hour goal as long as I could.

I chatted with a few people but mostly went along in silence until about mile 6. Then I put in an earbud for some music, and a few minutes later I bumped into a friend which was a welcome distraction for a few miles. She eventually went ahead, and I was back to wondering if I would hit my goal.

I’d forgotten how hard the end of a long race feels, and it’s a little disheartening how tough the pace felt at the end. From mile 10 and on I mostly found myself just ahead of the two hour pacer. He was vocal and encouraging, and he kept shouting things like, “Stay strong and beat me to the finish” or “Just another 14 minutes at this pace. You can do 14 more minutes at this pace.”

At the time I found it a little infuriating, but I thanked him at the finish because I think he really helped me keep charging ahead. My last mile ended up being my fastest at 8:36. Clearly I was in shape for the pace, and I’m glad I didn’t just back off at the end when things got uncomfortable.

Official time of 1:59:09 which I am pleased with for my first post partum half. This race has been my training focus for awhile, so now I need a new goal! I’ll probably be spending more time working and less time training out of necessity as planting season approaches, but my littlest running buddy and I will definitely keep getting out there.

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She will be called Parsnip 

Happy April!

A small boy who keeps growing is keeping me on my toes all the time. He walks, crawls,and babbles with vigor. His favorite activity is loading and unloading — whether it be cans and bottles from any non-secured kitchen cabinet, dirty laundry from his basket, or items from the dishwasher if mom turns her back. 

We celebrated Speedy’s first birthday with JR’s family last weekend, and in a few weeks we will celebrate with my side. I thought I would save the photo onslaught until then, but here’s a sample of how much he liked his cake. 

  
I’m also writing today to finally announce a name for Henrietta’s newest heifer calf. She is 1 month old today, and it reminded me I needed to attend to this.

I didn’t get ANY suggestions on the post itself (sniff), but thankfully twitter and Instagram yielded a few ideas. 

– Midnight

– Shadow

– Nzuri

– Veronica 

– Parsnip

– Radish

The spring weather made me gravitate to the vegetable names, and I couldn’t help but smile every time I thought about naming a calf Parsnip. So that’s it. Parsnip she will be. She was more uncooperative for picture taking than I expected, but here is how she looked this morning. I simply wanted a nice profile or head shot of her standing outside in her yard. Every time I would shoo her out of her hutch she would dart back inside once I was ready to snap a picture. I compromised by standing in the doorway of her hutch and blockading her to take this first photo. She already has her own ideas about how she wants to do things — kind of like my son! 

   
 

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“Maternity Leave” Reflections

As my son approaches the one year mark I’ve been thinking back to those first few weeks of his life more often.


“Did I spend enough time holding and snuggling and simply enjoying him?”

“Did I realize how quickly he would begin to crawl, to walk, and to have ideas about independence from me?”

Thankfully I have spent many more hours holding and playing than cleaning or worrying about home decor, and I think my smiley boy and my messy house attest to that! But I still feel pulled and torn in more directions than I want to manage.

I vividly remember sitting in my hospital room with my new baby less than 48 hours old and trying to get my mind to focus. I needed to complete an online order for dairy supplies on the laptop my husband had brought to me that morning. My entire brain felt mushy and exhausted as I tried to type and remember what products we might be low on. I later learned some of the intense fatigue could be attributed to a magnesium IV. Regardless, I think we can all agree giving birth is not an easy thing to do.

When we brought our new bundle home the farm didn’t stop demanding attention. Because Speedy had come about 2 weeks early we had to quickly shuffle people around to cover my work, and it was made even more complicated by another employee who got sick and needed extra time off. I knew I wouldn’t have a typical maternity leave, but I longed for one. I cherished the few weeks I spent mostly at home. By mid-April I wasn’t working full days, but I still went to the farm with baby nearly everyday. Between JR and my in-laws they would watch Speedy while I checked on calves, made vaccination lists, and talked with my calf employees about projects. Things weren’t as caught up as they should be, but the necessary things got done. Soon it was planting season, and the days got even more crazy.

During low points I would inwardly seethe when I heard other moms complain about only six or eight weeks of maternity leave instead of twelve. Or just as bad, when they complained that their partner didn’t get as much paternity leave as they would like. Obviously neither JR or I got a lot of time off, and it was a struggle from day one to cover the work that had to be done. The rational side of me knows we choose to work as farmers. It isn’t someone else’s fault that I don’t have maternity leave, and I do have the option of brining my child to work if I have to. Other parents with their own business face these same challenges, and there are many more hourly wage workers who don’t or can’t take adequate time off either. By nature I look at all sides of an issue I’m concerned about, and the more I do that the more I realize no one has an ‘easy’ situation. It’s simple to think the grass in greener for everyone else, but that’s rarely true. We humans are also pretty resilient, and we can figure out solutions to do what we must to provide for and care for our families.

Right at six weeks Speedy started daycare, and I will forever be grateful for the warmth and love our first daycare family provided. I missed him beyond measure, but I always felt comfortable dropping him off. I knew he was safe, and I knew she snuggled him like he was her own. The happy pictures that would occasionally pop up in a text message were bright spots in my day. We are now on our second daycare family while our first works toward a new career goal. We were blessed to find a new spot – for an infant no less – where he is also thriving and happy.

While the past year has had intense moments I realize this balancing act is just beginning. As a farmer I know long and unpredictable hours are my reality. I’m sure I will always feel like the time I get to spend simply doing mom stuff is never enough. This “mom guilt” is real. In my case I would title it something closer to lonesomeness. I know it’s not practical to do all my work right now with Speedy by my side. I know cold Minnesota weather, multiple employees to manage, and open air side-by-side driving are not super compatible with an almost-one-year-old. Still, I miss my boy from the time I drop him at daycare to when I pick him up. I struggle with asking my in-laws yet again to watch him on evenings I have barn work to finish. I feel sadness (and tiredness) every Sunday morning when I wake him by 4:30 a.m. so I can feed him, bundle him up, and take him to Grandma and Grandpa’s while I do chores as quickly as possible.

I love his sweet face and smile more than I knew I could love anything. I don’t love him for what he does or doesn’t do. I love him purely because he exists. I have just one more parting thought to mention. No matter how challenging it can be to arrange child care or accomplish tasks with a baby, I am grateful beyond comprehension for him. I never find myself longing for the freedom I had before he was born. Perhaps this is because the farm has never allowed us the kind of freedom to sleep in on weekends, travel, or take sick days that more typical jobs do. I don’t know for sure. I do love being a mom, and I hope we can share our love and values with his siblings someday too. No matter what I do for work or where this farming journey takes us, I hope to instill strong values in him. Among many things I hope to teach my kids the satisfaction of hard work, the importance of being kind, and the reality that God is always waiting to guide and help in their endeavors. Especially when things seem unmanageable. And I will keep striving to believe and illustrate these qualities in my own life.

Moms, and especially farm moms, what insights do you have for me on managing work, home, child care, and daily living while keeping a smile on your face? 🙂

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Henrietta and Baby Number Four

Sunday, March 5th was a busy morning here at the farm. I cared for one new heifer calf right away at 5:00, another heifer at about 9:00, and then I went back to our pregnant cow pen again about 11:00 to check for more. 

Sure enough, Henrietta was lying by herself in the corner working on delivering her fourth calf. And it was coming soon. She was six days overdue, so I had been watching closely for awhile. This was also the first time she didn’t pick 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. so I was actually around for it!   

I quickly moved her to a straw-filled maternity pen, and within five minutes we had a big, healthy, black heifer calf. Judging by the size I expected a bull, and I was pleasantly surprised when I lifted her leg to check. 🙂

Henrietta was a good mother as always, and we got one of those coveted first photos. 

  
I’m glad she picked Sunday, which was a warm morning that turned into a 60 degree afternoon. The weather is turning colder now, and for the past two days we’ve had near constant 30 mph winds. Not as nice for delicate little ears and bodies even though the barn is closed up well! 

She will need a name, and I’m open to your suggestions. Please leave a comment or tweet @DairyCowGal if you like. I’ll plan to pick something my next Wednesday, March 15th. Thanks for your ideas.

   
 

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Running Through 2016

  
Running in 2016 admittedly took a back seat to pregnancy and new motherhood. I was prepared for this and at peace with it as I entered the year about 25 weeks pregnant.

I waddled along for a couple of miles at a time a few days each week, and I was happy to keep adding these slow miles to my log. Along with trying to keep up on needed farm work and get our nursery ready I was getting more than plenty of activity. I just needed the mental solace of those few weekly miles. 

I’ve kept track of my running miles in a spreadsheet since my 24th birthday, so even if I’m not running very much or training consistently I still log the miles. It’s fun to see the overall total grow close to 5,000. 😄 Looking back at the start of 2016 I’m surprised to see I managed a six mile run on January 2nd and multiple four to five mile runs throughout February. By March I maxed out around three miles, and my last pregnant run was on March 22nd – five days before Speedy was born. Then I really did take a break.  

In almost every way I relished the intensity of the first weeks after his birth. I got to stay home from work and chores for about two weeks almost exclusively, and even though it wasn’t long enough it was my longest break from work since my college days. My little son needed me so deeply, and I loved that I could provide everything he needed. Our world was small those first weeks but absolutely wonderful. 

I felt no need to rush back to running and create recovery problems for myself, but after 6 weeks the weather was getting nice. I was itching to put on my running shoes again. I started with slow 15-20 minute jogs and walk breaks as needed. By the time Speedy was three months our doctor said I could run with him in the car seat adapter of my Bob jogging stroller if we kept to smooth paths. By six months I felt comfortable strapping him into the main stroller seat, but I actually missed the carseat adapter because he faced me so it was easier to watch and talk to him. 

I love many things about being a mom, but I didn’t expect to enjoy running with a jogging stroller so much. My son is a sweet running partner who listens to me chatter away or sing as he takes in the scenery or simply falls asleep. I am grateful he enjoys the stroller as much as I do!   

Our first race was a 5K on July 4th weekend in my hometown. I was thrilled to finish in 28 minutes and pass multiple people in the second half. 

   
  My sister Julie deserves major props for walking the 5K at seven months pregnant!

In August we did a 5K in our current town that turned into more of a 3.5 mile race with misplaced cones and a brief rain shower for good measure. No matter, Speedy was perfectly content with this race. Fortunately I brought his wide brimmed hat and covered him enough that he slept through the rain. 

 

My ‘big’ race of the year was the Twin Cities Marathon weekend 10K. Speedy and I got up at an insane hour to travel to St. Paul for a 7:00 a.m. start, but I don’t think a race has ever been more worth it. 

The fall morning was brisk and beautiful, I felt great running along behind my precious cargo, and I hit my A+ goal of averaging under 9:00/miles. 

   
 Meeting up with a running friend and mentor extraordinaire!

For me, this 10K proved I could still do it. I could still be a runner while being a farmer and a mom. I could still run a decent and enjoyable race even if I wasn’t running ALL THE MILES in training. I could pass people politely with my jogging stroller and feel good doing it. I was and am so grateful for this race.

By the way, I also met the amazing Sarah Bowen Shea of Another Mother Runner at the race expo, and it led to me being invited to chat on their podcast! I am still a little starstruck about it. If you enjoy mothering, running, or even think you might you should give this a listen.

Lastly, I’m happy with the running balance I found in 2016. My family, our farm and cattle, and my roles as a wife, mother, sister, daughter, and friend need to take priority in my life. I’m grateful to God for the clarity He continually helps me find when I struggle with schedules, commitments, and balance. Even on the really hard days — the tear-your-hair-out days — if I can collect myself enough to pray for guidance I will know where my priorities and time need to be. The answer to this prayer is not always the same. But it’s always correct. 

I think it might be a while before I can dedicate myself to serious high mileage training again, but I deserve to carve out time to run several days per week and chase after incremental goals. In early April I will hopefully be doing a 5K with some (or all four!) of my sisters. Just two months from now I plan to run my seventh Earth Day Half Marathon. If it’s not my slowest half that will be a major victory. These goals aren’t for anybody else. They are for me.

If this post got a little long for you, here’s a quick recap. Running in 2016 was great. I came back healthy after a post-partum break, I enjoyed my races, and I was realistic about the goals and mileage I thought I could handle. Because of that I finished the year excited instead of depleted, and I’m looking forward to more races and miles in 2017. Thank you all for your encouragement on this journey. 



Posted in Being a Mom, Race Reports, Running | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments