Liza Howard

Liza Howard

Liza Howard is a national champion runner with multiple records in distances ranging from marathons to 100 mile trail races.

September 2013
« Aug   Oct »


New Balance Team Pregnancy Blog Part 8: Squash, Shaming Freshman, & Bad Backs


How far along are you & what’s the baby’s squash size?

Brandy: As of today (Sunday August 25th), I’m 29 ½ weeks pregnant. Some days it feels like I’ve been pregnant for eternity.  However, now that we’ve hit the homestretch, it’s scary to think Matt and I will be human parents in about two months. That’s not very many “free” Saturdays left! The baby is the size of an acorn squash.

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I had my 28+ week appointment this past week and all is still looking good with the baby, so I’m thankful.

Liza:  So I sent these questions to Brandy the week before last and she immediately sent back her responses (she’s awesome like that), but it took me another week to compose my thoughts.  So Brandy’s baby is actually no longer a squash.  It’s somewhere between a cucumber and a pineapple.

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For my part, I’m 34 weeks along and my baby looks like a butternut squash.

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And I keep having dreams about exploding.  (Whatever can that mean??)  Honestly, I don’t know that I can expand much more – certainly not for another 6 weeks.  Eliot’s hoping for a 10/10 delivery date since Asa was born on 8/8 and he finds it easy to remember.  I don’t really care as long as it’s not after 40 weeks.   There will be no humor in any pregnancy blog in which I’m forced to post a picture of a watermelon to describe the baby’s size.

What was your training week  like last week?

Brandy: I’m still taking it pretty much day by day. Now that XC has started, some days, I’m dividing my runs into two if I know I’ll be able to run a 2nd time with the kids. The first week of practice I had about 65 miles in, this past week I was down to 54 but also got a couple of hour long hikes in. (These are estimates based on total running time.) Next weekend, Matt, the dogs and I may try and get one last camping trip in with a big hike in. In the past if I were to go hiking, I’d probably make sure I got a run in first, right now, a hike will suffice! So, my mileage will probably be a bit lower.  All my runs are now at a conversational pace.

Liza:  Well, I’d like to tell you that I got in 50 miles this week as planned, but as I was about to complete 45 miles last week, my lower back and piriformis decided they were tired of being yarded on by the 23-pound weight up front.  I was out at Bandera having a great time when my right glute started to feel tight.  Hmm.  And then it felt tighter, and then it hurt, and then I was limping.  And then I tried walking, but walking hurt just as badly as running, so I kept running – because I still had 4 miles to get back to the car and it was 100 degrees outside.  And then the pain moved to my lower back.  And by the time I got home, I was hobbling around like the little old lady I will be some day.  And it hasn’t gotten any better.  Despite the Tylenol I’ve been eating.  (Pregnant ladies are allowed to take Tylenol.  Pregnant ladies are also allowed to take muscle relaxants, which was a surprise to me.  Sadly the one pill I took made me feel too loopy to put the relaxants to good use.)  I saw a chiropractor and massage therapist three times (there is nothing pleasant about lying on a massage table on your stomach with your 23-pound belly fitted into a pillow with a hole in the middle, while some big fellow presses on your sacrum as you try to breathe using what little lung capacity that hasn’t been compromised by the aforementioned belly and the sacral pressure) and my back actually feels worse today than it did to begin with.  And I’ve even been doing the stretching and strengthening exercises my wonderful PT aunt gave me.  No dice.  I’ve been reduced to shuffling around the house grunting my discomfort to the dog and whoever else happens to be around.  Needless to say, not being able to run for a week has been a blow.  I dragged out a bike trainer and made a nice spinning plan, but I was too hobbled today to mount the bike.  I lay in bed instead with a pillow under my head, between my legs, and one propping up my belly – and thought dark thoughts.  I’ll give the bike a try again tomorrow and then I’ll make my peace with swimming.  I certainly have a lot more compassion for people with back pain now.  So there’s that.  Keep your fingers crossed it disappears and I can get back to running.  I’m so much nicer when I get to run.

How fast are you running?

Brandy: I’m not walking yet and I’m faster than some of the freshman boys on the XC team (who may think they joined the walking team). In all seriousness, even when I’m in my “serious” training mode, I run for time more than distance and by effort more than pace most of the time. I am definitely slowing down. I did a long run today—2:14, I think the last time I did this exact run (late June) I was 2:06.

Liza:  I was pretty darn slow, but then, I’m an ultrarunner and not a mountain runner like Brandy, so it was all good “time on feet” training. I was averaging a 10-13 minute belly-band-assisted pace.

What running clothes & shoes that you’re wearing now?

Brandy:  Anything that still fits! Thankfully, the mediums that Monica from New Balance sent me still fit (kind of). I’ve also been scrounging through my drawers and wearing old racing t-shirts that were always too big (and ugly) to wear in the past. Thankfully, my D width feet haven’t started to grow/swell yet, so I’m still alternating between the 890’sV2/1080sV2 for road running and the 910’s and 1010’s for trails. I still prefer to do most of my running on the trails.

Liza: I’m still wearing the mediums from Monica too.  I look more and more like a grape in the purple top she sent.


The clothes will last the next month, but the sports bras are too tight.  To be clear, I am complaining about the chaffing.  The boob fairy has also sized me out of my UltrAspire hydration pack.  I’m running in the NB1400s on the trail. I really appreciate their cushioning.

Are you using a belly band?

Brandy: I haven’t purchased a belly band yet, however, I should. Another pregnant friend told me they are great. Target is only 20 minutes away…

Liza:  And how!  My friend Trimble gave me one and I love it.  I won’t run without it now.  It really stabilizes my belly and makes running more comfortable.

What are the benefits of this “time off” for your running? Or how are you taking advantage of the time?

Brandy: I’d have to say being away from the racing season/hard training has been hard. However, I think it’s reignited the fire and desire to train hard again, and I’m excited for 2014 and beyond. It’s also reminded me of what a gift it is to just get outside and run each day. Running without a specific plan has allowed me to truly just enjoy the beauty of running wild and free (like my dogs) on the trails.

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The extra time I’ve had has allowed me to clean and organize all sorts of projects which have been on my “to do” lists for years. I’ve also had some time to hike with Matt and the dogs and explore some new trails. Because I am not on the World Mountain Running Team this year, I’m also a more devoted XC coach since I’m not leaving for Europe for 1-2 weeks to race.  I actually know the names of all the girls on the team, which may be the first time I’ve had all their names down prior to our first scrimmage.

Liza: I’m definitely more excited to train hard and race than I was before I got pregnant.  I wasn’t burned out exactly, but I’d been dealing with a number of injuries and I just wasn’t excited about training.  I enjoyed it, and it made me happy, but I wasn’t excited by it.  Now I’m very excited to really train hard again.  And I think my body is probably more sturdy from the time off from 100-mile and 100k races.

I was trying to take advantage of the time by cleaning up my diet and doing a lot of weight training with kettle bells to increase my arm and leg strength.

How have you kept motivated to run during your pregnancy?

Brandy: Thankfully, other than feeling rather large and slow, I’ve had a pretty easy pregnancy physically (knock on wood).  So it’s definitely been easier to stay motivated than it would have been if I’d had to deal with nausea or extreme fatigue the entire time. I also have two great training partners in Ches-E and Fischer. It’s hard to turn down two wagging labs. Having unmet running goals for 2014 and beyond has also helped keep me focused. On some of the days I feel like a sow running uphill and I visualize how light and fast I’m going to feel next summer running up Mt. Washington and Pike’s Peak. I think following all of the strong mountain and trail performances this summer has also helped keep my competitive drive alive.  I’m hoping the fitness I’ve maintained during pregnancy will help with labor and delivery and also getting back into shape afterwards.

Liza: I have specific goals for Rocky and Umstead in February and April.  Those goals kept me motivated to maintain a base level of fitness once I emerged from the hormone stupor of my first trimester.

What is your birth plan?

Brandy: We just took our “weekend express” child birthing class last Saturday. My goal is a 100% natural childbirth! With that said, I know things don’t always go as planned. So, I am praying the baby is situated correctly and willing to work with me. I had considered giving birth in the birthing center in Evergreen, but we are 45 minutes+ from the hospital.  So since this is my first birth, I am opting for a hospital to err on the side of the health and safety of the baby. I would like to use a midwife and/or a doula, but I’ve yet to find one that works with our insurance.  I’m hoping many of the mental tactics I use to get through hard races and workouts will apply to labor and delivery.

Liza:  We’re working with a group of nurse midwives who are partnered with an OB practice.  We’ll deliver at the same hospital where Asa was born.  He was an emergency c-section, after he did a flip and pinched off the blood flow from his umbilical cord.  We had a beautiful birth plan for a natural delivery replete with laboring tub and intermittent monitoring so I could walk around – and I ended up under general anesthesia and no memory of the birth besides the OR nurse scrambling to find a small enough blade for the laryngoscope to intubate me.  So I’m not writing anything down this time. I’m going to try to have a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) without an epidural, but we’ll see how things progress.  I actually have a counseling session with the OB on Thursday.  The will-probably-be-fine-but-your-uterus-could-rupture risk talk.  Fun.

Read any good pregnancy blogs or books?

Brandy: I’m not sure where the past two weeks have gone!  With school and XC both back in session, I haven’t had much time to read. It seems like the second my head hits the pillow I’m out like a light!  A good friend gave me a book with anecdotes of women who have had natural births. I had been reading one story a night, but I find it hard to fall asleep with images of expanding cervixes in my head.  I think I need a couple of good fiction books. Anyone have any suggestions?

I do have a couple of books I’d like to read before the baby comes regarding sleep training. I’ve been told Baby Wise and The Happiest Baby on the Block are must reads.

Liza:  The midwives asked if I had scheduled a tour of the hospital yet, and I told her I’d taken one six years ago when Asa was born, and I figured I could just ask for directions this time.  That’s about the approach I’ve taken with pregnancy literature too.  I read a lot before Asa was born.  I pretty much took up residence in the library and Barnes and Noble when I wasn’t studying my nursing texts.  I had Strong Opinions about things.   This time, I’ve mostly amused myself with cartoons.

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I have read a number of really good coaching and training books though.   And I have Strong Opinions about people who drop their used gel packets on the trail. (Okay, I did actually watch this documentary called “The Business of Being Born.” It’s good.)

Okay folks, I’m thinking we’ll do two or three more posts — and then there’ll be babies to tend to.  🙂

Heartfelt thanks to Monica at New Balance for really looking out for Brandy and me these past months.  She is wonderful.





Comments 4
  • Katie DeSplinter
    Posted on

    Katie DeSplinter Katie DeSplinter

    Reply Author

    The closest I can come to relating is having a herniated disc, being 10 lbs heavier, living life as a 34D and dealing with out of control hormones for the better part of the year. None of that was fun, so I can only imagine. At least at the end of it all you get a HUMAN! (I just got “not kicked out of the house” by Dom:)

    • Liza Howard
      Posted on

      Liza Howard Liza Howard

      Reply Author

      You’re totally right Katie. My griping is definitely done with underlying gratitude and excitement for the “end product” blessing. I think my happiness comes through much better in person — In person my grumpiness is more like a disgruntled Muppet than anything else. It’s the big eyebrows…

  • Christine Mathieu
    Posted on

    Christine Mathieu Christine Mathieu

    Reply Author

    Would you be able to tell me which belly band you used? My friend/running partner is 15 weeks pregnant and looking to get one specifically for running that won’t chafe. Thanks!

    • Liza Howard
      Posted on

      Liza Howard Liza Howard

      Reply Author

      Hi Christine,
      It’s called Gabrialla Medium Support Elastic Maternity Belt. A friend gave me hers, but it looks like it’s available lots of places. Target, Amazon etc. No chaffing. 🙂