Wahoo! After months of blog silence, I‘m back with a race recap!
My friend Jane & I ran the Leona Valley Trail Race 10k a few weeks ago. We both gave birth this past spring, and this was the first post-baby race for both of us. We made a point to tell all the aid station volunteers this info, so we’d get extra cheers and encouragement…yes, we are shameless!
We’d originally planned to do the half marathon distance, but the summer’s heat and the demands of family and work meant that we felt undertrained come race time, and we decided to drop down to the 10k instead. [I ran the half marathon course last year (while 12 weeks pregnant!) and you can see that recap here.] This turned out to be a great decision—I’m honestly not sure if I would have been able to handle a half marathon on that particular day.
Yes, I was the dork wearing a hydration vest at a 10k and no, it totally wasn’t necessary…but I was carrying snacks and cameras and phones for 2, and I prefer a half-full hydration vest to a stuffed waist pack.
I’ll be the first to admit my training was really sporadic going into the race. I’d run up to 6 miles, but my usual runs were 3-4 miles in length, often with a running stroller that slowed me down, and I only did that a few times a week. I figured the 10k was going to be fine because I could push through some discomfort, plus I knew Jane was cool with taking it slow and walking when necessary—we mostly just wanted to have fun and enjoy ourselves out on the beautiful trails.
I knew the race would have hills—how could I forget the 2-mile uphill grind at the start of this race?—but I expected that some combination of adrenaline, competitiveness, and long-buried athleticism would fuel me and make me more capable than I had been in training. Ha! The truth is, I didn’t run well the whole race. Blame it on the heat, blame it on the lack of training, blame it on the adorable baby who takes up all my time and leaves me chronically underslept—all those factors combined to leave me feeling lightheaded, wooden-legged, and devoid of any energy at all.
Jane was a great friend and was willing to take things at my pace, which on this day meant going sloooow. We walked almost all of the uphills. The downhills were run at a very conservative pace…and even then I was pretty beat by the end. I was so glad to be running it with someone, because otherwise my physical state would have been completely depressing. The course was lovely as usual, although the short distance meant we didn’t see any of the beautiful single-track the longer distances enjoy—it was all wide fire roads for us.
As usual, the aid stations were really fun. This was the crew of the first aid station (the 5k turnaround.) Men & women in swimsuits and fake fur offering us beverages? Don’t mind if we do. (And for the record, I was trying to look scandalized in my photo, but it ended up looking like I was yawning. Posing fail.)
So yes, we finished! It wasn’t speedy and it wasn’t pretty but we got the job done. I’m glad we ran it, even if it didn’t feel like my best effort, and it was so nice to just be back at a race environment. And the Leona Valley races are always so well-done. I love the comfort of starting/finishing at the community center, and there’s always great food and friendly faces at the end.
Date: Saturday, September 29, 2012
Distance: 6.2 (Garmin said 6.7)
Elevation gain: 1200 ft
Some thoughts on running post-baby:
Running after birth has been nothing like I expected. I was active during most of my pregnancy (even running a race in my third trimester) and I expected I would jump right back into running. Even after giving birth, before I’d been given the okay to start exercising again, I imagined all the satisfying long runs I would do and the trails I would once again be able to climb.
I did start running as soon as I could, around 5.5 weeks postpartum. Mentally it felt great to be active again, but physically was a different story. The truth is, even now, at almost 6 months post-birth, I still have weaknesses and pain in my core and thighs that impact my running. I thought running would feel comfortable and familiar, but it’s actually been a long, slow process of returning to running and gradually building up my mileage again. My body is still carrying baby weight and feels cumbersome and awkward, and the aforementioned pain causes me to change my stride and take frequent walk breaks. I wanted to greet running like an old friend, but in many ways it feels like we’re just getting acquainted…again. I’m trying to be patient, but it’s frustrating.
Added to the physical challenges are the logistical difficulties of finding time to train when caring for a new (breastfeeding) baby, and working full-time from home, and trying to keep on top of all the usual life responsibilities. [Familiar to all parents, I’m sure!] All of which is to say, I don’t know when my next long race will be, and at this point I can’t imagine jumping into ultra training. I enjoy racing, but I want to feel good while doing it—I don’t want to run races I’m not prepared for and end up slogging through the miles, beating myself up.
It’s strange to go into the fall season and not have a full race calendar and a detailed training plan. Part of me is really sad about missing out on some of my favorite fall races. Another part of me, though, knows that taking it slow is the right thing for me, and that I need to have joy and genuine excitement in my training. I’m waiting to feel ready, physically and mentally, before jumping back into the ultra game. To everything there is a season. Maybe this is my season for enjoying my young son, taking him on long walks, teaching him to love the outdoors, and letting the need to run build naturally. Stay tuned. I hope I have more to report soon.