(Note: Before I launch into cycling with bun in oven, I want to remind you that Cycling Sojourner Washington is coming out next spring and you can back the project on Kickstarter through Wednesday afternoon (3pm, Aug 28th) and get your copy before they hit the bookshelves. Plus, there are other great rewards to check out. The stretch goal is a party for backers! Be a part of the project with me!)
Back to the regular programming:
Don’t ride your bicycle when you’re pregnant!
That’s what lots of internet resources and “professionals” tell moms-to-be. Other sources say bicycling is fine in light moderation. There’s only a few good articles that I found on cycling when pregnant, no information about bicycle touring, and little information that I felt applied to me. The articles seemed to speak to pregnant women who wanted to be healthy and keep extra pounds off through exercise, not cyclists wanting to continue cycling.
So when I found out that Joe and I were having a baby (a very good, partial surprise and the reason my posts have been MIA) right before my on-the-ground research for Cycling Sojourner Washington began, I didn’t know quite how it all was going to work out, but I knew that I was going to figure it out by talking to bicycling moms in Portland and listening to my own body.
Lots of my friends who have biked for transportation almost until the end of pregnancy have been good role models. And there’s one friend, Katie Proctor, who even rode to the hospital while in labor! I’m not that tough, methinks. Find her magnificent essay about that experience in the collection of stories Our Bodies, Our Bikes (buy it at Powell’s for $3).
A wrench was thrown into my plan of being a bike touring super preggo. It was called morning (noon, night) sickness, a form of minor torture where you experience gnawing hunger and simultaneously find all food noxious (yet, if you don’t eat food, you feel worse).
The image of myself as a glowing harbinger of fertility gliding by on a loaded bicycle faded quickly and was replaced a haggard reality of experiencing what is akin to the first hours of a hangover all day long, without the fun night before.
How would I research my bicycle tours? The on-the-ground research is such a small portion of the time it takes to produce a guidebook, yet it’s one of the best and most essential parts when it comes to a guidebook’s quality.
I decided to give it a go and push off for a tour anyway. The drive to Tonasket, WA, the start of the Okanogan tour, was a feat in and of itself with the curvy roads and hours in a vehicle. Yet the next morning, Joe and I began to pedal. We knew that it was possible that touring wouldn’t feel right, and we would have to turn around.
An essential piece of the success of a tour such as this is either having along the best husband or partner in the world (which I do) or having fabulous friends (check). During my Washington tours, my partners humbled me with their concessions of generosity. They waited constantly while I kept my heart rate under 125 while climbing a pass, told me stories to distract me from the act of eating food, went into mini-marts that smelled like fried food to buy Vitamin Water so I didn’t have to, were patient with the mandatory post-breakfast rest, and the list goes on.
That first tour, when we had no idea how I would react, was a miracle. My symptoms lessened. I felt joy again. My appetite made food slightly more possible. I don’t know whether the relief from pregnancy symptoms had do to reduced stress from leaving the day-to-day, the fresh air, doing something I loved, the gorgeous low-traffic Washington cycling, or just pure exercise. Maybe it was a combination. I really didn’t care either. I felt better!
Sure, I was obscenely slow while climbing. Maybe there were prideful pangs of nostalgia when I wanted to go faster. Yes, I resorted to taking restful naps on crumbling slabs of concrete, which might as well been a pillow top mattress.
When we returned from tour, I was optimistic about my evasion of the sickies. But the next day, they returned. And stayed. Well, that is they remained until the first day of my next tour. The same thing happened with the third tour.
Contrary to what one might have guessed, all I wanted (want) to do is be back out on tour, where I feel the best. I couldn’t (can’t) wait for the next tour. Back in the first 16 weeks, I would count the days down till we left on tour. Though there was a good chance I might dry heave at a diner during breakfast on the first day of tour, I always was good once I was on the road for a bit.
I’m really glad I pushed through to get my butt on a tour because it was my salvation. And, man alive, Washington bicycle touring is some of the best that I’ve ever experienced.
People lllllooovvveee to tell a pregnant woman what to do, but I will say that I believe women who pay attention to their bodies have access to one of the deepest sources of wisdom available.
By the way, don’t worry, this is not going to become a pregnancy blog. Soon I’m going to publish posts about the tours I’ve done in Washington. But I will get out another post or two about what I’ve learned about touring while pregnant, since there is no other source that I found about this. Insert cautionary disclaimer about cycle touring not being for everyone and consult your midwife or doc, etc.
This guidebook is going to rule.