As I sit in in my favourite corner of our couch by the window with bright beams of Autumn sun hitting my left cheek, I smile at the thought of what I would have been thinking and doing this time last year. Whilst my Friday to this point would have been similar; wake up, say goodbye to Dylan as he rushes out the door, grab a bite to eat to calm my morning appetite, drive to SASI (the South Australian Sports Institute) for a thirty minute cardio recovery session followed by my strength and conditioning program, come home for a highly-anticipated open grill sandwich and pull out the laptop to catch up on emails….my body certainly feels different!
In May of 2018 I was on the tail end of my recovery phase from the Commonwealth Games and had set my sights on the Gold Coast Marathon in July. Today I have spent the last half an hour discussing pregnancy tights with my sister, Abbie who is a Mother to two gorgeous girls under three years old. She has been an incredible sounding board and source of inspiration throughout my pregnancy so far. Over the weekend I developed some aches and pains in the pelvic region that I daresay are due to the many hormonal changes going on. Relaxin is the likely culprit in this case and as with any running injury; I will work with the professionals to develop a management plan to settle these uncomfortable symptoms….and will possibly need to dust off my goggles. I won’t get into the nitty grittys of “pelvic floor exercises” as I’m sure the parents out there have seen + heard enough of these three words.
Below is an overview of the last five months; the excitements, the decision-making processes and the powerful impact of having a supportive team. I hope this insight helps others out there who are going through a transition phase in their life or career.
It is time….
I hobbled towards the elevator in my puffer jacket with a camera over my shoulder like a true tourist. “553 metres tall….” I squirmed a little at the thought of travelling to the highest floor of Toronto’s CN tower but trusted that the lanky structure would stand its ground against whatever winds may be blowing out there. Only six hours earlier I had been standing on the start line a couple of kilometres away, ready to race my twelfth Marathon. It had been exhilarating and the personal best time left me with a sense of complete satisfaction. I will never forget seeing Dylan shortly after crossing the line and exchanging a smile that said “We did it”. Preparation for this Marathon had certainly included its challenges but there were no regrets.Following the Gold Coast Marathon in early July, Dylan and I set off on a 3.5-month European adventure. We wanted to fulfil our travel bugs and to experience other cultures and parts of the world together before embarking on our next chapter at home in Adelaide.
We were two weeks into our trip, on one of Sicily’s picturesque Aeolian Islands, when I realised the need to make a call on whether or not I would commit to the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in twelve weeks. The temptation to visit my relatives in Canada, the incredible passion of Race Director Alan Brookes and the prospect of running a Marathon in a new part of the world made my decision for me. The hard part was the training and yes there were days during our nine week block in The Netherlands that started in tears. Tapping back into the fitness I had gained for my two Marathons on the Gold Coast that year was a journey riddled with doubt and apprehension but with the direct reassurance from Dylan, inspiration from the expansive and lush European trails, the good company of Dutch athlete Susan Krumins and the patience of my coach Adam Didyk via Watsapp, we got there. Upon crossing the line in Toronto on October 21st, Dylan, Adam and I knew it was time for me to have a mental and physical break from the daily grind of heavy training for a while.
Some days are Diamonds
It started on a calm Friday evening in late December (six weeks after returning from Canada) at our good friends’ property in One Tree Hill, a suburb just North of Adelaide. I had just knocked off work for the year and was still buzzing after having fluked a win over my physio colleagues in a basketball shooting competition that afternoon, despite getting smashed in tennis.
After an awkward walk downhill through dry grass and prickles wearing my sandals and a Summer dress, I started to suspect that there was more to this walk than simply “checking the sheep” as our friends had suggested. Dylan was chatting away and completely disregarded the large rug, picnic basket, survivor-like torches and vase of flowers arranged neatly in the paddock that we were approaching. Earlier in 2018 I had developed a soft spot for our friend’s orphaned lamb named Neville and despite being distracted by the romantic set up, I was excited to see if we could find Neville. Soon after calling his name, a much larger lamb than the one I remember bottle feeding months earlier emerged from the scrub with a thick red bow around his neck securing a small box. The box was clearly irritating “Nev” and within moments, he was bolting in the opposite direction towards a flock of sheep. Following some hearty laughs and a short sprint by our friend to retrieve the confused lamb, Dylan was untying the bow. As he opened the box and fumbled his way through a knot I couldn’t wipe the smile off my suspicious face. Neville munched on the grass nearby and Dylan dropped to his knee with a sparkle in his eye to match the one in his hand....
“Should we do this?”
Fulfilling a childhood dream
My desire to one day be a Mother was instilled long before I had ever pondered my sporting ambitions. Growing up in Naracoorte with my parents, two younger siblings, a tight-knit community and menagerie of pets was full of precious family moments that I hope to one-day experience from the perspective of a parent (and a grandparent!).
Two days after our Engagement, Dylan and I set off on a road trip to the Mornington Peninsula where we were to spend Christmas and welcome the New Year with my family and our friends. We were buzzing as we listened to our favourite Podcasts (currently The Howie Games) between surges of chatter, in which we reflected on recent months. Less than two weeks earlier I had lined up for the Zatopek Classic National 10000m Championships in Melbourne. I was aware that my training had been limited since the Toronto Marathon and that I may not be ready, however knowing that we hoped to start a family in the near future, I didn’t want to miss this once-a-year opportunity. I was bitterly disappointed to end my race six laps short of the finish but was grateful for the supportive words of Tamsyn Manou as I wearily bent over near the lap counter. “Are you okay? Don’t be too hard on yourself Jess”. After a few tears and a heart-warming hug from my friend and fellow athlete Eloise Wellings it was time to commit to having a proper rest. Dylan and I spoke about this experience as we drove across the border and fortunately I was able to take on Tamsyn’s words of advice.
A week later we made the decision with our families to get Married in Easter of 2019. Why wait? Excitement built over the following months as we sought advice from health professionals and specialists on how to best approach the next phase. I tried to remain open minded and was well aware of the challenges that can present when trying to conceive. Dylan and I were thrilled to learn in February that I was pregnant and the next big challenge for me was to try and keep it quiet for a couple of months! Fortunately, my morning sickness wasn’t too severe and because Marathon training has familiarised me with both fatigue and a manic appetite, these two symptoms were not a major shock to the system : ).
Dancing in the moonlight
Almost four months later to the day, Dad and I stepped out past my decorated Suzuki Vitara in outfits that could not have been further from my fluoro yellow race kit. After a few frantic but fun months of planning, Wedding Day had arrived! I had walked less than five metres before feeling my throat tense and my cheeks buckle. I threw my head back with a sigh and pressed my eye lids together. “I’m not very good at this” I joked with Dad whilst fighting back earlier-than-anticipated tears.
Getting ready with my Bridesmaids, the Ceremony led by my Auntie and brother Jack, photo fun with our bridal parties, the delicious food, heart-warming yet hilarious speeches and music that made for an addictive dance floor were some of the highlights of a day that I loved more than words can describe. Dylan and I decided to wait until the twelve-week scan to share our baby news. Whilst it remained a secret on Wedding Day it was very special to have a little extra one on board throughout the whole event. It didn’t hold me back from dancing until my quads went lactic. Thank you to everyone for the loving messages and for helping to make our Wedding Day so precious!
On return from our honey moon on the Fleurieu Peninsula, Dylan and I had the pleasure of seeing baby Sten on the screen, kicking around inside. It was magical! We both felt very grateful and whilst it is hard not to feel nervous at times about how the little one is going when you can’t communicate with him/her, we recognise the importance of staying positive and simply controlling what we can control. I am beyond grateful for the ongoing support from my coach Adam Didyk and his family, my team, work colleagues, my Manager at TLA, sponsors, partners, the wider community and of course my incredible family and friends.
Choosing a good time to start a family, not knowing how long it might take and working out how to best balance this phase of life with career is understandably challenging for any woman and her partner. I feel fortunate to have some wonderful role-model Mothers both inside and outside of the running community. Having spent time overseas on training camps with running Mums Eloise Wellings and Lisa Weightman and their families, I recognise the high attention and energy demands required from athletes with young ones and their partners but I have also witnessed the sheer happiness that Eloise’s daughter and Lisa’s son bring to their lives.
I have no doubt that being a parent will be very difficult at times but there are plenty of opportunities that I have seized throughout my life that I didn’t expect to be easy - the rewards make the challenges worthwhile. We have a lot to learn but Dylan and I are excited for the adventure ahead!
Thank you again for your support.