My first postpartum race in July 2013 was simultaneously my most embarrassing moment and one of my most rewarding races.
The race was the Newburyport Yankee Homecoming Road Race, which observant Salty readers might recognize from Garlic’s latest race recap. Garlic ran a fast 5K there this year, but last year I ran the 10 mile course and although it was just one year ago, I feel like I’m really throwing back for this Thursday. I’ve grown so much in one year! But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Having delivered my second child (a little girl) in early February, I started running in late March and I looked for a summer race once I knew I could stick with training. Unfortunately I was closed out of my first-choice race (the which I ran this year) and had to search around for a race that was long enough to feel challenging, not too expensive, and during the summer. As luck would have it, my in-laws had purchased a second home in earlier in the year and Newburyport is only 15 minutes away. Free lodging plus cheering family and friends? Sold!,
When I started training postpartum I was much slower than I had ever been before. I was not able to run for more than a couple of minutes and when I did run it was around a 13 min per mile pace. Running ten miles seemed impossible! To make matters worse the race started in the evening, meaning it might be dark by the finish. Race directors warned slower runners to wear reflective gear since they would have to open some roads after a certain time. I hated the idea that I might be dodging cars in the dark as I shuffled through the chute. But I got the idea that I should take this seriously.
The first step of my plan to “take this seriously” was to get involved in the local running community. I hoped I could join some running groups or meet some like-minded moms to keep me motivated. I signed up to attend the “Run Like a Mother” party that was being held at my local running store, but the night of the event my daughter was screaming her head off and the party’s start time came and went without my even noticing. Disappointed, I felt sure I couldn’t balance this all. How could I commit to months of running when I couldn’t even make it out the door for a fun event 15 minutes away?
I didn’t let it get me down, though. I downloaded a bunch of podcasts to keep me company on the road and stuck pretty closely to mytraining plan. By the time July arrived, I was up to double digits in my long runs. My pace was still much slower than after my first child and certainly slower than before I had kids, but I was running! I felt good and my baby weight was almost all gone!
On race day though I realized that I hadn’t really trained for evening runs. Even today, the only time I can make runs happen with two very small kids is in the early morning before anyone notices I’m not there, so I felt at a loss about how to prepare. Should I eat what I normally eat for lunch? Should I have snacks? How much should I drink during the day? I went to the grocery store and walked the aisles aimlessly, eventually deciding on a salad for lunch and aand a banana as a snack. I also drank a ton of water in hopes of preventing dehydration. In hindsight, this was one of a few bad decisions I made. Another bad decision was choosing my cute purple Nike tempo shorts to match my shoes and tank top, instead of a modest black. If you remember that I had just given birth to my second human in a year and a half a little less than six months prior, you’ll see where this is going.
My husband dropped me off about an hour early and, as I stood in the sticky July evening heat, I started getting nervous about getting overheated so I drank some more water. Bad choice numero tres. After the gun went off I was only about half a mile into the run when I started thinking, “I have to pee.” Tragically, I sneezed about half a mile after that and my concern about having to pee was gone, having been replaced by concern that I already had peed.
I tried distracting myself by chatting with others running the 10 mile. I thought about stopping. I also tried to convince myself that people would think my pants were just sweaty– a chronic butt sweater? Is that even better than being a pants-wetter?
I came up a big hill around mile 6 where I knew my husband would be with all of our family. “Concentrate on the positive,” I thought. I smiled as I passed everyone, hugged my babies, and acknowledged that these were the people who loved me (and were the only ones I ever had to see again, thankfully). If they were out here on this hot night to cheer me on, why shouldn’t I revel in my success instead of being self-conscious?
From that point on, I enjoyed the race. I was more than half-way done and I had been averaging about 10 seconds per mile faster than I had hoped. I had set a modest 10 min/mile goal, which was a whole three minutes per mile faster than I had started at a little less than four months ago. On top of that, the course was pretty much downhill at this point, allowing me to blow by many other runners.
I finally saw the finish line at the top of a huge hill. I dug deep and sprinted all the way up, coming in at 1:37:48 — a 9:47/mi pace! I also saw a sprinkler at the end of the chute, which I slowly walked through to soak all of my clothes. I had a huge smile on my face as I walked back to the car to the “squish squish” sound of water in my shoes and the sight of the setting sun.