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The blah, blah, blahs of being in the middle

The mid-point of anything is not always easy. It’s like the middle of a long road trip. There’s sure to be a lot of pretty country, but there comes a time when the “are we there yet?” mentality sets in.

That’s how I feel about this point in my pregnancy. “Are we there yet?”

Nope. With just over three months left, the biggest moments are still to come. Literally.

I’m finding it harder and harder to hike up the hills on my favorite trails. I can feel the extra weight taking its toll on my joints and the baby is making its presence known more with each stride.

It’s nice to reflect on how much progress has been made, but it’s also easy to feel daunted by the things that lay ahead.

So this week I headed out in search of motivation. After a week of higher-than-normal mileage, I have to admit I was tired. As a result of my increased efforts (I blame all the sunshine, by the way), my pace had slowed substantially and it now takes me over 20 minutes to warm up. Once I’m on step, things get great. Once in the groove, I settle into a pace that feels as comfortable as an old pair of pajamas. It’s getting there that’s the hard part.

So, I turned to Merry Ellefson, a local outdoors woman who knows a thing or two about motivation. She’s been inspiring athletes for years as a high school cross country coach and as an avid competitor.

It’s not surprising to find out she too ran while pregnant with her son Arne.

“I went on a 45-minute run up Perseverance the day I went into labor,” she said.

But running wasn’t all she did to stay active during those 10 months. Ellefson also mountain biked, skied, hiked and went berry picking.

“I just got out,” she said. “I knew it would help my spirit, that it would put me in a good place. I just kept thinking, ‘this is good for my baby.’”

It was. Ellefson enjoyed a healthy pregnancy and gave birth to an equally healthy baby boy that fall.

To keep herself moving out the front door and up into the hills, Ellefson believes strongly in the persuasiveness of people.

“It’s powerful to have other people around us,” she said. “Call on people who will get you out. Because once you’re out, you never regret it.”

People tend to engage in activities also shared by friends. We too often hear of the negative influences of peer pressure: smoking, underage drinking and drug use. But peer pressure can be an amazing thing, as well. Try surrounding yourself with individuals who are active and positive. It’s safe to say you’ll soon be following in their footsteps.

What are some other ways to cultivate initiative?

As a coach, Ellefson asks her athletes to find something that motivates them, and to bring it to a team meeting.

“You’ll get pictures, quotes, a cross, something that reminds them of a friend or sister … it’s easy to see the collage of things that motivates people,” she said.

It’s also good to shake up a stale routine, she said.

A solo bike ride can turn exciting when it’s mixed with the right people and a new trail. Think of it as a new recipe — ideal ingredients can make for an unforgettable experience.

These are all great ideas for finding harmony with the demons of de-motivation. But there was something else Ellefson said that struck a much more personal chord. She talked about the idea of getting out into the sun and fresh air for the spiritual instead of the physical. She talked about the idea of cultivating calm, which is a vital part of creating a holistic healthy lifestyle. Ellefson said the “calm,” which can only be found by being fully unplugged from our iPods, iPhones and social devices, resides nearly anywhere — the edge of a brook, on a beach at sunset, or along a lush trail through the rain forest.

“(Finding the ‘calm’) is crucial to being a healthy person,” she said. “It’s also important for clarity. I remember that about being pregnant, I slowed down. I listened to things a bit more. And just think, all those sights and sounds you’re seeing, hearing and feeling as you run or even just sit, your baby is experiencing the same things. What a good place to be for your child.”

I realized my calm is in the monotony of my breath as I move down a trail, the sound of my shoes hitting the dirt and the cacophony of Mother Nature in the woods.

It’s no longer important to run even when I don’t feel like running. What is important is to smile — to laugh, even — at the fact a 45-minute loop now takes me nearly two hours. After all, it’s only temporary and it’s all part of becoming not only a healthy person, but also a good parent.

Later that afternoon, as I tightened my laces, slipped my iPhone into my hip pocket and reached for my ear buds, I stopped. A bird song in a high spruce piqued my interest and the laughter of children at a nearby playground floated like cottonwood seed in the wind. That day, I chose to unplug from the digital world and instead leave my ears open to the sounds of Southeast. That day I found my “calm” and my motivation.

This week’s trail of choice is the Lower Loop trails at Eaglecrest Ski Area. Last summer, crews completed the hardening and widening of the trails that make up the Nordic ski loops in winter. These loops vary in distance and eventually drop down to intersect with the Treadwell Ditch Trail on the northern end of the area. These trails are a great choice for a summer stroll. And, if you’re looking for a bit more elevation, head up the maintenance road on the downhill side of the resort. The road winds all the way to the top of the ski area and offers spectacular views of the backside of Douglas Island and Stephens Passage.

•••

    • Week-by-week
    • This week’s mileage: 21.6 miles.
    • Runs: 4. 
    • Pregnancy stage: 25 weeks.
    • Trail of choice: Lower Loop trails at Eaglecrest Ski Area (Length: varies).

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Middle School Running

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