Denisa Šulcová: Mothers are Capable of Great Things
Sport is my whole life. Climbing, bouldering, hiking, skiing - you name it. I couldn't imagine not being active in some way or another.
This is a story about how reality can often surprise us and steer us miles away from our plans. Only to make us appreciate life a bit more, if we keep an open mind.
This is my story of how I began running ultra trail marathons.
That year, I was looking forward to the many challenges in my professional career as a sportswoman. I was so excited about them. But then... I found out I was pregnant with my first child.
Don't get me wrong, it was exhilarating. But at the same time I also knew that many things in my life were going to change.
I decided that I wouldn't give up my activities during pregnancy. So with little adjustments I continued biking, climbing (of course only on the safe "top" rope), discovered Indian running (a running technique inspired by the Tarahumara tribe of Mexico) and took long walks daily. I enjoyed my first pregnancy and welcomed a beautiful daughter into this world.
I'm sure all the mothers out there will know that a newborn does not just change a few things. Your whole world turns upside down.
One of the biggest challenges for me as a professional climber was that I longed to get my body and stamina back. I am not one of those lucky moms who look like they were not carrying a child for the last 9 months after giving birth. I gained a lot of weight. And I couldn't wait to lose the pounds.
As mothers, we hear good advice from left and right, "just wait and see how fast the weight drops during breast feeding" or "you won't have time to eat anyway"... It didn't work for me, I really had to work hard for it.
It was difficult to find enough free time for my trainings, but I wasn't ready to give it up altogether. So I adapted. Instead of climbing, I took long walks each day, I climbed mountains nearby, or did some running on the High Tatra's tarmac roads to Popradské pleso, Hrebienok and Tatranská Lomnica.
I was pushing a large baby pram with my daughter in front of me and ran as often as I could, often all eyes on me. Feeling the wind in my face was recharging my batteries. I didn't mind that sometimes my breast milk would start dripping and left stains on my running shirt.
Becoming a mother is not an illness. As mothers, we are capable of great things, along with taking good care of our children.
I was running more often and also longer distances. Not even a year went by and I was pregnant again. This time I learnt that having two small children makes you extremely tired and also that I was able to gain even more weight than the first time around. I didn't think that I would be able to keep up with my active lifestyle anymore.
But movement is the best addiction. I was missing it so much that I was able to use every free minute for it, stealing a little time just for myself. Instead of watching TV or having a chat with friends over a cup of coffee, I went running.
While my older daughter was in kindergarten, I trained with the younger in a buggy or baby carrier. And when I got lucky and the grandparents or my partner took both girls, I rushed to the climbing wall. It was important for me to get back into shape, step by step.
It wasn't long before I signed up for my first ultra trail running competition in High Tatras, then the first half-marathon, and finally my first marathon. I had good results which kept me motivated.
After all the miles that I ran between taking care of my two daughters and other duties, something amazing happened - I finally felt I was ready to fulfil my dream of running an ultra trail marathon (50+ km). I was ready!
My first competition was an ultra trail race in Hungary that was 90km long. Then more races in Slovakia followed: another 50km and 100 km. Suddenly I had enough points from the races to sign up and attend the ultimate ultra trail marathon, the UTMB® race in Chamonix.
My two daughters, Karolínka and Julianka are big girls now and my best adventure buddies.
When I go running, they grab their bikes and go with me. We eat ice cream in Smokovec or pick delicious berries along the way. When I go climbing, they join me or just play around at the bottom of the rock cliff. In winter, we all go skiing together and without exaggerating, they soon will be faster than me. In those precious moments, you couldn't find a prouder mother than myself.
I know that not every mother is in the same situation. As for me, I kept working during my pregnancy. I didn't have a babysitter, my partner had a full time job. I've had many opportunities to find excuses.
But I didn't. Instead, I set my alarm clock to 5 a.m. each day to train before my kids woke up. I put on my running shoes in the evening despite feeling drained after all day.
What I want to say is that becoming a mother is not an illness. As mothers, we are capable of great things, along with taking good care of our children. You just need to look for that inner strength or motivation to do what you love most.
I am looking forward to fulfil more dreams and plans for the future, I've got so many of them that one lifetime seems not enough.
Denisa Šulcová is a pro climber and ultra trail runner. During winter seasons, she works as professional ski instructor and freeride camp guide in High Tatras. She organises the International Mountain Film Festival in Poprad. Denisa is a proud mom of two girls. She lives in Poprad.