Oiselle athlete and Littlewing teammate, Carrie Mack, shares how her goals and Conditions of Satisfaction have changed to reflect a new part of her life: pregnancy.
I’m pregnant. So that’s a thing to discuss. Sometimes I’m up for it, and sometimes not. Let’s try it and see how it goes.
Most of you are probably here reading this because you know I’m a runner: a marathoner who trains with Littlewing Athletics and races in the Oiselle kit. These are badges I have worked hard for and am immensely proud of. Parts of my identity that have been prioritized and nurtured with fervor over the last few years - and it has been rewarded in big ways. But I’ve always worried and resisted presenting myself as having a singular identity. I want and need to be more than a runner. Just as I want and need to be more than a mother. And that’s where most of my fear comes from, I think. The fear of losing myself.
I think I’ve always wanted kids, and I’ve certainly always enjoyed other peoples’ kids. As someone who married young in a time and place when most of my friends were doing the same thing, I then watched them start families of their own with a sense of wonder. How did they do it? Why did they do it? What was it actually like? Some of them became full-time caregivers, while others returned to work. Most have stayed with their partners, but as time passes that ratio changes. My takeaway was that it generally seemed like a value-added experience, but the pieces of who they were as individuals were left forever changed. And that scared the shit out of me.
So what did I do? I continued to watch and wonder. And I built my own life - a life I wouldn’t trade for anything. My husband and I owned and operated a remote fishing lodge in Canada for eight seasons. We learned how to work together and problem solve, how to show up for each other and others in moments of absolute exhaustion and defeat. We were supportive of our individual pursuits. We took time to think about where we wanted to be and who we wanted to be. We spent meaningful time visiting the world, our family, and friends. We invested in our communities. We spent 12+ years with our Cosmo pup, whose presence meant more to our relationship than either of us could have ever realized. These big and small adventures became an important throughline in our story - a steady rhythm that provided comfort and satisfied a constant craving in our hearts.
When I attended Lauren Fleshman’s Wilder retreat in 2017, she talked about using Conditions of Satisfaction when setting a goal. They define what success looks like and can be used to help guide decisions that keep you on track. For example, if you have the goal of writing for 10 mins each morning, you have to be satisfied when you hit that mark. None of this, “Well I had an hour to myself, so I should have done more” bullshit. Stick to your conditions of satisfaction and keep your focus. This is something I struggle with. Hard. As someone who likes to explore my own limits and thrives in chasing big scary goals, I tend to push the boundaries of my own Conditions of Satisfaction.
Stick to your conditions of satisfaction and keep your focus.
When I set the goal of qualifying for the Olympic Trials in December of 2017, that was it. That was the goal. And the conversation I had with my husband was that after the trials in February 2020 we would try to start a family. But as I went through the process and invested in myself, I kept unlocking all these things I was excited and curious about in my running. Yes, I wanted to qualify for the trials, but would I be satisfied with just that? I realized I secretly wanted to run the A standard, not the B standard. And when that happened, I set more secret goals about where I wanted to finish at the trials. When I got injured about 4 months before the race, I leaped ahead and started daydreaming of a fall training block in 2020 and getting to the next race that would give me the opportunity to run another PR. See, always pushing the boundaries of my own Conditions of Satisfaction.
And then COVID happened. And then it kept happening. And races were canceled and things shut down and realities changed. The opportunities I had planned for and what I thought could happen next weren’t really an option in the same way - with no real end in sight. All of a sudden, that throughline - the steady rhythm of adventure that provided comfort and craving - needed to be reevaluated. Adventures looked different last year, which was initially met with HEAVY resistance by me. It took some reframing and time to realize that perhaps the window of opportunity I could focus on in this moment was actually to pivot (not pause) my current individual pursuits and realign with building my life with Travis. I’m most interested in parenting because it’s an adventure I get to have with him. It feels possible because he’s on-board and it’s something we can discover and problem-solve together. As we discussed this more, I realized this adventure was making our hearts beat stronger than pretty much anything else. Was our throughline being restored?
So, back to my Conditions of Satisfaction. I knew I wanted to continue training with the intention of giving myself the chance and choice to come back postpartum to chase more big scary running dreams. I chatted with Lesko about it. I whispered my goal of prioritizing the option of having a family to my teammates. I didn’t die and I got pregnant very quickly. I thought about what the Conditions of Satisfaction would need to be with this very different goal. Having gone through that exercise has made it easier (not easy) to adjust and accept what training looks like while being the only pregnant teammate on a team where everyone else is gearing up for an Olympic qualifying year. Our lines of progression currently look very different and that’s okay.
My current Conditions of Satisfaction include:
- Did I get to move my body (preferably outside) without pain for an average of 1hr/day?
- Did I do 10 min of core/PT exercises at least 5 days/week?
- Did I text/chat with at least 3 of my teammates individually this week?
- Did I complete my workout effort session feeling strong and grateful?
- Did I stay hydrated (10 glasses of water/day) and nourished (eat every 2-3 hrs)?
Now for some very honest real talk.
This has not been easy for me. As someone who places an extremely high value on gratitude and can make some damn fine lemonade out of lemons, this has been much harder than I anticipated. I physically felt very bad the first trimester. Much like the marathon, pregnancy demands respect and I naively thought I could stubborn my way through this (which is now quite hilarious to me). I have taken for granted that my body has pretty much done whatever I’ve asked of it, and so I expect to feel generally very healthy and strong all the time. But instead, I felt sick and tired for eight straight weeks. It was like someone flipped a switch and I was all of a sudden trying to train at 10,000 feet while bonking, which wasn’t super enjoyable. So, I backed off on volume and intensity. I now intimately know every nook and cranny of our sectional couch and can tell you that when the afternoon light streams in, you want to switch sides for optimal book reading conditions. I have tried every bland form of cracker on the market, loved each of them for approximately 48 hours and then wanted to never touch them again. I have apologized over and over again for my lack of participation in basically everything at home. I have mourned the loss of being interested or able to plan, prepare, or eat actual meals of food. I have often momentarily failed at accepting the physical changes to my body. I have witnessed my training efforts hold steady but my paces and volume decline, which has been mentally hard for me to accept as well. In a recent conversation, Lauren compared pregnancy to the phases of a running injury. At first, there is denial and disbelief, followed by frustration and anger, some resisted acceptance and then eventual gratitude. I’m getting there. Don’t get me wrong, still very on board with the whole parenting concept, but not sure I’ll ever be one to love the pregnancy part. Which is okay. I am still finding comfort and craving during this very different and difficult adventure.
I want to acknowledge that the world of women’s running has provided us with some tremendous examples of how motherhood can be a part of the story. It has proven helpful to follow and learn from many of the amazing mother runners who continue to call up those in our sport and our communities to acknowledge them as full human beings, not as a singular identity. I also want to acknowledge that Oiselle and Littlewing have encouraged me every step of the way and their commitment to fully supporting women in sport has altered the spaces we all share in a way that has forever changed the world for good. While I won’t be toeing the line at any races in the near future, I continue to put down deposits on my dreams and plan to return to racing for Oiselle and Littlewing postpartum (and look forward to hugging my littlest superfan at the finish line). I can easily make some lemonade and raise a glass to that, can’t you?