Mom Pumped Breast Milk While Completing an Ironman

Beth Greenfield
Senior Writer
Katrina Bolduc poses with her son Grayson at Ironman Village the day before she completed Ironman Santa Rosa, in California. (Photo: TheBadassBreastfeeder/Facebook)

A fierce new mom is getting props on Facebook, where she posted a photo of herself nursing her toddler and explained how she’d just completed an Ironman race, stopping twice to pump milk along the way. The image, shared, appropriately, on the Badass Breastfeeder page on Monday, already has nearly 2,000 reactions and a slew of supportive comments.

“Here’s me nursing my 19 month old son at Ironman village this weekend,” wrote Katrina Bolduc, of Atascadero, Calif. “This was my first full Ironman — 140.6 miles!”

She added that she’d been nervous about “how my pump would get to and from the two transitions without getting me disqualified from taking something from my husband,” as participants in the event — a combo 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and full marathon — are barred from taking anything, be it a protein bar or a sip of water, from a spectator, in order to prevent any unfair advantages.

But Bolduc, 29, talked with Ironman staff, she wrote, “and they were amazing! Not only did they help me find a solution, but they were supportive and even took responsibility for my pump and brought it from [transition 1 to transition 2] and made sure it was in my run gear bag for when I arrived! Keep up the good fight mamas!!”

Completing the epic Santa Rosa race (in under 15 hours, no less) was a huge accomplishment for the new mom. But it was also not Bolduc’s first rodeo. She tells Yahoo Beauty that she’s been extreme racing — doing marathons, half-marathons, triathlons, 100-mile bike rides, and even a recent half-Ironman — “forever,” adding that she in fact did her most recent century bike ride, with her engineer husband, James (also an extreme racer), while she was pregnant, though she didn’t find that out until a week later.

It was a particularly poignant surprise, as doctors told her in 2010 that she’d likely never get pregnant.

“I have stage 3 endometriosis,” she explains, referring to a condition characterized by many deep ovarian cysts and scars. “I’ve had multiple surgeries, and I have one ovary. We assumed we’d adopt.” It was during the century bike ride, part of her training regimen for an Ironman she’d planned to do in 2015, that they realized they’d have a change of plans.

The amateur athlete, who works as a birthing doula and aerial yoga instructor when she’s not training for races, shifted gears, albeit slowly — still teaching 16 yoga classes a week into nearly nine months of pregnancy. She then stuck to a routine of simple walking, took a six-week postpartum break from all exercise, and got back in the game slowly.

“Coming back after he was born was way harder than I’d thought it would be, and it felt very frustrating,” she admits. “But I decided to really listen to my body.” She gradually began her Ironman training, doing “90 percent” of it right in her living room, on a treadmill and bike trainer, in between baby Grayson’s naps. And she stuck to her carb- and protein-rich diet, consisting mostly of Luna bars, pasta tossed with homemade sauce from the family’s garden vegetables, string cheese, and “superfresh” hardboiled eggs from the “23 chickens, ducks, and emus” they keep on their property.

When Grayson was just 3 months old, he got pushed in his stroller by mom as she ran a 10K.

“So he’s kind of been on the go with me the whole time,” Bolduc says of her boy, whom she plans to continue breastfeeding until he’s at least 2, citing the World Health Organization recommendation. That dedication was what led to her recent Ironman pumping quandary.

“I only pump when I absolutely have to, and I use a manual pump during long labors with my [doula] clients,” she explains, adding that she knew it would be necessary to pump during the long hours away from her son during the race. She explained her situation to an understanding race official, who agreed to take on what she agreed was a “very unique” situation by assuming responsibility for Bolduc’s manual pump throughout the race. She got it to the mom twice — once after the swim, then again after the biking portion, for a total of about 10 minutes of milk expression.

“It was absolutely necessary,” Bolduc says, recalling how full she felt after being away from Grayson for more than 20 hours. “I got out as much as I could to just be comfortable.” And she was reminded of how worth it her effort was during the final marathon portion of the race — when she got a killer blister at mile 13 (which ripped open, very painfully, at mile 18). It was during the run that she spotted Grayson, who had been brought to watch by her in-laws.

“I ran over and gave him a great big hug, which was so wonderful,” she says.

People often point out to Bolduc the seeming dichotomy between her earthy-crunchy professions and her take-no-prisoners athletic drive, but it all works seamlessly for her, she says.

“The yoga instructor/doula thing is kind of in hippie land. But I feel like I’m a very unique doula and yoga instructor, in that I embrace everything. I have that soft, mellow side … and then that athletic side,” she says. “A really driven, get-it-done kind of thing.”

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