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October 26, 2015

Steph Bruce: The Ultimate Starting Line

steph bruce

October is a month for starting lines. From marathons to cross country. But it's also a new beginning as one season gives up the ghost; summer slips into autumn's crisp new goals. We're all at our own starting line, and Stephanie Bruce is no different. 

Stephanie Rothstein Bruce is a sub 2:30 marathoner, a professional running coach (along with her husband Ben), AND a mother of two boys under two. Yep. She just brought her little babe Hudson into the world just 5 weeks ago. Right now she's assessing where she's at and where she's going, with the 2016 Olympic year ahead. She's a keep-it-real sister hero and well... let's just let her fill us in on her ultimate starting line. 

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Standing on the starting line your knees trembling, heart racing, palms sweating, and mouth dry as the Saharan desert. It's a feeling we as runners know all too well. The nerves that overtake us make us question our reason for putting ourselves in that moment. We wish we were any other place but here. Now imagine you've been removed from the realm of racing for what feels like an eternity. Wouldn't you give just about anything to stand on that starting line, anxiety and all and have a shot at what lies ahead? I would.

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I am at the ultimate starting line. I recently gave birth to my 2nd son, Hudson about a month ago. I ran through most of my pregnancy, stopping at 29 weeks when pressure in my pelvis became too great. My delivery went very well and was much smoother than my first baby (which was only 16 months ago). Those that know me and have followed my journey since joining Oiselle in 2014 know I'm all about transparency. As a professional runner, women, and mom I found there was a hole in what was being shared about womens' experience training through pregnancy, body changes (boy are there a few) and coming back post partum. Sure in 6 months I could race back on the scene with my old 6 pack abs, crush my PRs, and proceed like the road to get there was easy and came naturally because that's how it is for pro runners. Well that shit ain't real. The reality is my post partum body is a hot mess. My abs are shot. I have rolls upon rolls of stretch marks and loose skin, a 3 finger gap of diastasis recti, a pelvic floor in need of a medieval chastity belt, boobs that ache on a run no matter how many Verrazano bras I layer on, and my mental game is far from solid. On the days I do feel motivated to get out the door, guilt  takes over me for leaving my kids and selfishly wanting to train. I'm juggling many balls with one ready to drop at any moment. 

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Photo from Justin Britton.

Starting over is scary. The farther removed you become from training and racing the easier it is to let mind games creep in telling you it's too hard, the road is too long, you'll never get back. When I signed with Oiselle in 2014 they took a gamble on me because I had just had my son Riley and hadn't competed since July 2013. That year was the best in my career having come off a 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place at the US 10k, 15k, and half marathon champs respectively. I also set my half marathon PR of 70:53 at the NYC half. These results gave me the confidence that I could return to a high level stronger than before post baby.

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Four months PP I put on my silky Oiselle singlet for the first time and got to prove this is what I was made to do: race. After not much training I ran the Great South 10 miler in 59:06 and was excited for the future. Then I got pregnant (oops) in January and my singlet would have to collect a little dust for the rest of 2015. We all have a little dust that needs to be brushed off whether coming back from an injury, pregnancy, or just a mental hiatus from running. How do we do it? We remain relentless in our pursuit of goals no matter the obstacles. We seek the company of our teammates, sisters in sport. We prioritize our time knowing if you have just 30 minutes of free time, shut your computer, ignore those dishes, and lace up those bad boys. You'll thank yourself later.

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I'm 1 month post partum and just embarked on my "true" journey back. I have a long road ahead filled with kegals, core restabilization, Elliptigo rides, slow and painful miles, doubt, pumping sessions pre workouts, 4 hour sleep nights, and endless cups of coffee. I also have a ton to look forward to: big gains in fitness weekly, watching my baby learn new skills daily, rejoining my teammates for practice, and a new fall and winter wardrobe (I'm talking Katron vests, lux arm warmers, KG tights, bolt long sleeves). I mean look good, feel good right? I know going ahead balancing 2 babies, a husband who is also a pro runner, our coaching business, and remembering to brush my hair maybe even shower once a day, will not be an easy task. Years ago when I dreamt about 2016 and my chances to make the Olympic Team I envisioned a different a path then I'm on now. Not a bad path, just different. Athletically it feels a little like I'm starting over at square one and it's scary.

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My plan for returning to competition is to actually not have a plan. By that I mean be flexible, open minded, and realize progress often happens with 2 steps forward and 1 step backward. I have no races written on my calendar however there is a big cloud that looms over my head. It's called the Olympic Trials Marathon and it's approaching fast, only 5 months away. Four years ago after I ran 2:29 at the Houston Marathon I believed I'd be on the starting line in February with a shot at making the Olympic Team. My path now is uncertain whether I'll even be on that starting line. Do I want to be? Absolutely with all my being. But sometimes you can want something so badly and take all the right steps to get there but it's not meant to be. Getting there however is where we learn who we are and what we're made of. Sometimes it's not so much the race we're training for but about our journeys to get to the starting line. It's about giving ourselves the chance to line up with sweaty palms, quivering legs and stare down the open road ahead which holds so much possibility.

Dream Big,

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Comments

Karen Dilfer | October 26, 2015 at 5:26pm

Thank You

Thank you for sharing this. On days when I am not feeling especially kind toward myself or my body I've come to remind myself that I don't have to be a perfect woman--I am a real person. Thank you for writing this to remind me and everyone that being a real person is beautiful and hard and so worth it.

Kenia Rivera | October 26, 2015 at 8:43pm

Thank you so so much, for

Thank you so so much, for always being so real. Im so relief to hear that even amazing, professional (mother) runners have their struggles PP. I have four kids but only ran in my last two pregnacies the 3rd one was an amazing one and the recovery even better. However, this last one, I also have those thought in my mind too, am I going to be able to run like I did before? How did I use to run before and so much further and faster? What heck ?...why is this so hard? Things are starting to get much better, but still I wonder why this time around was so much harder than before. Thanks again, and best wishes for your 2016 goals :)

Meggan | October 27, 2015 at 3:50am

Thank you!

Thank you so much for sharing your story and your photos! I'm a sub-elite, working mother of two. After the birth of my second child I was so eager to get back I did not listen to my body and ended up with a sacral stress fracture. After that things just snowballed and I've been injured for a year. I think if I had an example I would not have set such crazy goals for myself. There are so few examples out there for women like me. There's also very little information about what is normal to feel post baby (#2) so I hope you continue to share your journey. Thank you.

Shannon | October 27, 2015 at 11:41am

Congratulations, good luck, and thank you!

Thank you for sharing. I wish more women were real about how postpartum really looks like physically and mentally. Thank you for sharing your fears of the running starting line too. Just coming off my first marathon and starting to train for my second i feel overwhelmed. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves.

cheryl | October 27, 2015 at 5:26pm

I ran through my pregnancy

I ran through my pregnancy and had to be on bed rest the last few weeks because of excess amniotic fluid leakage-I started running/riding my bike to the hospital as my daughter was in ICU for a month following her birth due to surgery for a benign tumor on her liver. She's now turning 29 next month. I was back doing tris when she was 4-5 months. That was the easy part. I had to go back to work when she was 6 weeks old and had to find child/infant care. It was hell. I only had one child because I didn't have husband/family support and had to work full time. Good luck to getting back into it. I have completed 125 triathlons-many while raising my daughter and working in public schools. Running and swimming and cycling were the things that kept my head on straight.

Lisa | October 28, 2015 at 8:47am

Thank you!

What an awesomely honest assessment of post-pregnancy training, goal setting, and life in general. Thank you for sharing! Lisa

Aimee | October 28, 2015 at 1:45pm

Thank you for sharing this

Thank you for sharing this with us. My little boy is 3 months old and tonight, after putting him to bed, I put on my running shoes and did day 2 of my 5k training. I'm not a pro, by any means, but I'm really happy I found this blog as I know I'll need some inspiration over the next few months.

Beth | October 28, 2015 at 7:43pm

New mom of two

I'm not going to pretend that I'm a fantastic athlete, but I have always been in sports of some sort so it is helpful to hear other moms going through the same things while trying to get back in the saddle after having a baby( or two).

aaron krohn | October 29, 2015 at 10:02pm

Decades ago, in my "serious"

Decades ago, in my "serious" running years, I had a trick I played on myself to give myself a psychological boost. When coming back from a rest, or illness, or just lack of good training, I would try for as many PR's as I could. What, you ask? Well, what I did was---I ran a course VERY slowly. Then run several other courses (of various distances) ALSO very slowly. I'd have, say 5 or 6 different Course Records---all of them VERY slow! Then EVERY day, I'd go out on a different course, and BREAK one of those SLOW records---say, by 15 or 30 seconds. After that cycle was complete, and I was getting back into shape, I'd repeat the cycle once or twice more---each time PR'ing on each course by from 15 seconds to a full minute, based on its length! I was "racing" myself back into shape physically, and becoming more confident psychologically! Best of both worlds!! Anyway, best of luck coming back. I know you WILL!!

Sara | November 5, 2015 at 10:15pm

This is a brilliant idea. I'm

This is a brilliant idea. I'm starting this first thing in the morning!

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