How to train for a marathon as a new Mom 101

Though racing without a swim and a bike attached to it isn’t her first love, top age category triathlete Nicole Walker is a longtime friend and supporter of the Manitoba Marathon. Nicole is married to Jeremy Walker and sister-in-law to Brian and Darolyn Walker: longtime Manitoba elite runners whose family has been toeing the start line on Father’s Day for decades. Uncle Bob Walker set the course record for the full marathon for Manitoba men in 1981 and it still remains unbroken. Nicole fits right in with the crowd: she is a great partner for the Manitoba Marathon school age program Champions in Training, lending her time and energy leading warmups at Jog in the Park. Race day this year was definitely a different experience: amazingly Nicole took on the Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Full Marathon just 4 months postpartum with her first child. We look forward to seeing her son Teal eventually running right along with the rest of the crowd on race day.

You are part of a big family of running history: can you talk a little bit about that and how it feels to be a part of it? Do you feel like there is pressure to win every time you hit a start line?

I guess marrying into “The Walkers” just meant I had to started running a lot more haha. I’m still the slowest when the four of us (Jeremy, Brian, Darolyn and I) go out for long runs at the lake! I don’t feel any pressure comes from it though, I think it’s great. Where else can you discuss pace times at the dinner table and everyone understands exactly what you’re talking about?

You went from competitive gymnastics to competitive freestyle skiing. From there you started competing in triathlons then Ironman triathlons. What drew you into endurance sports after all of your previous experience in more “sprint-length” athletics?

Yes I grew up with acrobatic sports: gymnastics and then freestyle skiing. I originally bought a bike to stay in shape once I decided to retire from aerial skiing (I had ACL reconstructive surgery during my ski years and at the time couldn’t handle that much running for this reason even though I loved it) triathlon was appealing. Since then I’ve discovered I’m actually pretty decent at this endurance sport thing, too bad I didn’t start when I was younger, who knows where it could have taken me?

Tell us a little bit about your love for Triathlons vs the love for straight up road racing.

My main sport is definitely triathlon. In November 2019 I did a 9:30:05 at Ironman Arizona which allowed me to qualify for Ironman World Championships in Kona next October. I always love to run something at the Manitoba Marathon if I can fit it in my race schedule because it’s THE endurance event around Manitoba that gets the best hype and has the best atmosphere. Plus I always find my run fitness comes way up if I train for a stand-alone half marathon at some point in my season.

Can you talk a bit about the mental game that is involved with distance running? Do you have a mantra or other game that keeps you sharp while you are competing?

The longer the event the more important the mental aspect becomes. I usually have some sort of mantra that I hang on to when the hurt sets in but it’s not the same each race, I usually draw on something that is relevant to that race. This year during the race I just wanted to finish and be satisfied with my effort. To me this meant regardless of what the time or place that I truly pushed till the end and never quit, physically or mentally. It also was the longest I would have been away from my little baby ever at that point so that was pretty motivating too!

We haven’t even touched on the fact that you took part in the full marathon just four months postpartum with your beautiful baby boy Teal! How in the heck did you manage to not only be prepared for the race but then nail third place??

Well first of all, I’m crazy. I’m not sure I’d recommend it but I knew that for me to feel like me again after pregnancy I wanted to get back to training and racing. It took me till two months postpartum to start walk-runs but I was able to build up fairly quickly and did my first hour-long run six weeks out from the marathon. Training was a total gong show with a newborn: I did all of my specific workouts on the treadmill with Teal napping in his swing next to me. Luckily he was a good napper but I would always be praying he wouldn’t wake up on the second half of workouts! During the week, I did most of my easy runs pushing the chariot. At the time I was exclusively nursing him and he absolutely refused to take a bottle. That meant for weekend long runs, I would feed Teal fully dressed in workout clothes, hand him to my husband, run for 2+ hours, run straight into the shower and within 5 minutes of stopping would be back to feeding Teal again.

How do you find time for your training while being a mom now? How do you balance both yours and your husband’s training along with being new parents?

How to train for a marathon as a new Mom 101:  Buy a treadmill. Be ready to go the second the baby shuts their eyes!

Let’s chat about race morning: what does that look like for you? How long before the race are you up? What are you eating in the morning? What is the routine?

Race day was just as much of a gong show this year as the training was. I like to be up at least two hours before the race. In the past I have eaten oatmeal but recently I’ve found I race very well off two eggs and an avocado. The difference this year was fitting Teal into my pre-race routine. Between my warm-up and the gun going off, I fed Teal in the car!

Once upon a time, you introduced me to the term ASS (athletic supportive spouse) – can you talk a bit about how you and Jeremy support each other in your respective races?

I actually think you introduced me to the term but it sums up Jeremy to a T! Whoever is building up for an event gets priority in terms of workout times or getting the treadmill when they want it. I think it will be harder to both be in really top shape with a little guy around!

If you could have anyone pace you for your next marathon, who would it be?

Easy. Jeremy! He can run very steady and he’s very good at reading me.

United Way Winnipeg