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Half Marathon Unplugged Race Recap

Like most of the running world, my thoughts (and heart) are focused on Boston this weekend. I’ve read articles, watched news stories, followed along with many runners who are preparing to run. While I don’t regret my ultimate decision to not register for this year’s race (in fact, looking back at pregnantLC I now wonder what I was even thinking), there is still a small part of me that wishes more than anything that I could be one of the thousands running the streets of Boston on Monday. Or at least be on the sidelines cheering (which is looking less and less likely as race day approaches). Best of luck to everyone running! I will be virtually cheering for all of you!

Last Saturday I ran my first race postpartum…which also happened to be my longest run in over a year. The result? It went way better than expected. Official time: 1:48:28 (8:17/mile). Besides a few small aches in my knees and pelvis/groin by the end, I felt surprisingly good. Not really like my “old” self, but it’s amazing how quickly the muscle memory comes back. Almost like I never took any time off at all.

The downside to all this is that I seem to have irritated my SI joint without realizing it. Despite the fact that it did not hurt at all during the race, I woke up the next morning with what I initially thought was sciatica. Long story short, a week of pain and a little research later, I’m pretty sure I have SI Joint Dysfunction, a problem that is common during pregnancy and after childbirth. More about that later. For now, let’s focus on the fun part, shall we?

The end result was better than I could have asked for, but the entire event didn’t go quite as seamlessly as that. Here’s how it all went down.

Half Marathon Unplugged Recap

Night before, sometime around 9:00pm

I walk aimlessly around the house, trying to gather up everything I’ll need for race day but not quite remembering how this part of the routine goes. I get out a top and running shorts but beyond that I’m sort of lost. Suddenly remember that I have no fuel for the race. And although I never used to take anything besides water/Nuun during the half marathon distance, circumstances are a little different now. I briefly entertain the idea of running out to the store to find something (anything!) with calories…before remembering that this is Vermont and everything closes around 8:00pm. Decide not to worry and go to bed instead.

Sometime in the middle of the night

Darling child, who otherwise sleeps through the night (yes, I realize how lucky we are) has brought another cold home from daycare and wakes up in the middle of the night because she can’t breathe (poor baby). Stumble into the room and try to quickly suck her nose out, which succeeds only in making her mad. Abandon that idea and try to coax her back to sleep. After what seems like only a few minutes later, she wakes up again. This time I “accidentally” kick Evan awake and he goes in to wrap her back up and give her the pacifier.

6:00AM race morning

Alarm goes off. Baby, of course, is now sleeping soundly. Stumble around the house trying to gather up my things and prepare breakfast. Realize we have absolutely no food in the house besides one old, stale bagel (yum). Laugh at how completely unprepared for this whole thing I am. Make the last minute decision to stop at a local cafe on the way to the race for food and coffee.

Gently wake up baby. Feed her and then rush around the house trying to gather up everything she’ll need for the day. Kick myself for forgetting to get Amelia’s stuff ready last night while I was gathering up my own. On a whim, grab a couple handfuls of jelly beans and stuff them in a baggy for the race. Hey, sugar is sugar, right? Somehow make it out of the house relatively on time.

9:45 – 11:00 AM

Make it to packet pick up and then drive over to the start. Find a parking spot right behind the porta-potties and nurse the baby in the backseat of the car while other runners stretch outside. Pump out a few extra ounces to ensure I’m slightly more…comfortable. Nothing like a good nursing/pumping session to really “pump” you up for a race! Manage to make it to the start with a few minutes to spare.

team watermelon preraceTeam Watermelon – cutest cheerleader on the course!

Miles 1 – 4

With very little fanfare, the announcer yells go and the crowd surges. I surge with them, falling in step with the lead women. I look at the small lean runners around me and size them up, assessing the competition. I am light…I am floating…I am fast…for about 30 seconds, anyway. Then I look at my watch, remember I have no business keeping that pace for 1 mile, let alone 13, and crash right back to reality.

For the rest of that first mile, it’s hard to get in the zone. I can’t find my groove. I’m thinking about how out of shape I am, how running doesn’t feel as smooth and effortless as it used to. I find myself wishing I was fit and strong, annoyed that I can’t run the race like my old self. Hating the clunky, awkward feeling of my stride.

And then Avicii comes on my playlist singing, “I can’t tell where the journey will end, but I know where to start.” It’s exactly what I need to hear to snap me out of my weird funk. This race wasn’t the result of weeks of hard training — it’s the beginning of a new journey. I don’t know how long it’ll take to get back to my pre-pregnancy racing self, or if I ever will be that runner again. But I’ve got to start somewhere.

I finally relax, focus on having fun and enjoying the day. The sun is shining and spring is in the air. And I’m running! Life is good.

Half unplugged miles 1_4

Miles 5 – 8

The first four miles of the race wind through neighborhoods before entering the bike path. It’s flat and beautiful. For the first 5 miles, I didn’t allow myself to look at my watch (besides that moment immediately after the start) for fear that a) I would realize I was going too fast and panic or b) I would see how slow I was running and become frustrated. Instead I’ve tried to run completely by feel. Gauging my effort and keeping things relaxed. So when I look down at 5 miles in and notice that I’m averaging an 8:0X pace, I’m pleasantly surprised. A little panicked, since my only real goal had been to keep it under 10:00–okay, fine, 9:00–minute miles. But I feel completely in control of the pace. I figure my body will slow down when it needs to.

After that, my focus is on making it to Evan and Amelia. I know they’re somewhere around Mile 6 with Nuun and jelly beans. I see so many moms and dads on the sidelines with their babies — waiting while their partner runs. I can’t even believe how happy that makes me…how excited I feel to be a part of that group now (cheesy, I know. But true!).

Suddenly I see them on the side of the bike path and I feel a surge of energy. I say hello, quickly take a couple sips of Nuun, grab the jelly beans and continue running. The moment goes by way too fast. As soon as I’ve left them behind I wonder why I didn’t linger longer…there was still a long way to go before I would see them again.

postpartum half 1

I start to get a little hungry so I suck on a few jelly beans. Not quite the race fuel of champions, but desperate times… Unfortunately all the candy does is make me thirstier. After this endless, frigid winter, 60 degrees feels so much warmer than I’m used to and all I can think about is getting to that next water station sometime after the 7 mile marker. I finally make it there, gulp down water and hope I have enough energy to get through the next 6 miles.

Splits: Miles 5 – 8

Half Unplugged miles 5_8Ignore the third column – that’s something Strava calculates.

Miles 8-11

Unfortunately, just one mile later things start catching up to me. I’m starting to feel a little achey…the miles taking their toll. I don’t feel out of energy, but I don’t feel super pumped about running 5 more miles either. And I’m thirsty. So incredibly thirsty. I curse myself for not carrying water with me…or at least taking the Nuun from Evan a couple miles ago. I should have known – I drink a lot of water normally. Add breastfeeding to the mix and my thirst is out of control. I start fantasizing about the next water stop – 3 miles away. I tell myself I just need to make it there. The miles keep ticking by. I try not to look at my watch too much but can tell I’m slowing down a little. At mile 10 I eat a few more jelly beans  to celebrate making it to double digits…and almost immediately regret it (so much sugar, so little water). Just 3 more miles to go, I tell myself. That’s nothing.

Finally make it to the water stop and grab two cups, sucking them down like I haven’t had a drink in days.

Splits: Miles 8 – 11

Half Unplugged Miles 8_11


Miles 12 – Finish

The last two miles are the worst. We turn off the bike path and into the park. I notice fast runners coming back toward me in the other direction, and I start to wonder just how far they had to run before turning around. We weave into a neighborhood and up hills that feel a lot steeper than they should. I see the 12 mile marker but we still aren’t turning around. I curse the course designers for putting this stupid little loop at the end. Just make it back to the park, I tell myself.

We finally get back to the park and I check my watch – 12.66 miles. The finish is closer than I thought! I cruise down the hill, round a corner and there it is. I see the clock, still under 1:50, give a final surge and “sprint” to the finish line, smiling at Evan and Amelia as I speed by. For a second I feel like my old self again – running fast and light and free.

I cross the finish line and immediately everything hurts. My quads, my groin…I feel like I’ve run a full marathon, not a half. But I made it!

Splits Miles 12 – 13.1

Half Unplugged miles 11_finish


Evan and Millie_postrace pizza

Hobble around for a few minutes to “loosen” up my legs. Hop in the car, nurse the baby (sorry about the sweat, Little One) and make our way to our new post-race tradition: American Flatbread. Eat my weight in pizza and for the first time ever (since I was pregnant the other two times we’ve been there) enjoy a nice refreshing beer.

postrace beerAmelia gave the pizza and beer two thumbs up!

And my cute little cheerleader? She was amazing. So good and happy the whole day. And the best race day motivation I could’ve asked for.


20 Responses to Half Marathon Unplugged Race Recap

  1. I think this might be one of my favourite race recaps ever…

  2. Awesome job! What a great cheerleader you have! :)
    Sara @ LovingOnTheRun´s last post ..Journey to Boston and Crazy Compression Giveaway!

  3. Congrats on running a really solid half marathon! I can’t believe there were 3 miles in between water stops! The races I run they’re usually spaced 1-1.5 miles apart. I guess I’ve been lucky. Good luck figuring out your pain and finding a way to deal with it well!!

    • Thanks! The tagline for the half was “no frills, no hills”…and they weren’t lying on either account! It was a really low-key, bare bones race. Which was good in terms of not having much pressure, but I definitely could’ve used a few more water stops!

  4. You certainly have the cutest cheerleader! Congrats on a good race

  5. That sounds like a total success!! Yeah, you’d change a few things but my word, you came back and blitzed it! You should be super-happy with yourself! Congratulations.

    Really hope you’re feeling better very very soon.
    Cathryn´s last post ..Running The World: India

  6. Man, not only do you have a cute baby (and this is coming from someone who notoriously isn’t a fan of babies!) she sleeps through the night? From what parents tell me, that sounds impressive. :)

    I was actually really curious to read your report because I totally get the feeling of wondering what your “old” self feels like and I’m actually in awe of your ability to put yourself out there and accepting finding a baseline. I think that’s incredibly hard to do when you’re competitive, so you’ve got my kudos for getting out there and doing it well. Hope the SI joint feels better.

    • Haha knowing your thoughts/opinions on babies, I’m taking that as a HUGE compliment!! And she’s always been a good sleeper. I’d like to say that I had everything to do with it, but really I know that we just got super lucky (and it helps that she was a big baby right from birth).

      And thanks. Truthfully, it was incredibly humbling. It’s hard to be in a race and not actually be racing…or at least not to your old standards. In some ways, doing the half made me more frustrated because I saw other people running paces that I used to be capable of myself – so of course I want to be there now. It’s going to be a long, slow road back to my “old” self (if I ever get there…) so I’m just trying to be patient and tell myself it can only get better from here (I hope).

  7. […] half Marathon Unplugged Race Recap health on the Run […]

  8. Congratulations on your first post-baby race! Loved reading your recap! You’re amazing!
    Elizabeth´s last post ..Five Things Friday.

  9. […] half of Marathon Unplugged Race Recap well being on the Run […]

  10. congrats lauren! i’m so glad it went better than expected!

    i laughed at the pre-race routine…i’m totally out of practice too. i used to be able to get everything together in 5 minutes and now i seem to forget body glide and fuel all the time. mommy brain?!?!
    kristy´s last post ..Big Plans {revised}

  11. Glad it went well. Due to foot surgery I have not raced since October and can’t start running until late summer. I dream about running and in the dream I am so happy. Thanks for writing an awesome race update post.

  12. that is the best race day ever. regardless of feeling unprepared (thank goodness the race wasn’t super early), you ran so strong and had the perfect little cheerleader. that is living the dream. i LOVE it.
    dawn @ running the dawn´s last post ..weekly stats April 19

  13. So glad to hear the run went well! I’m running my first postpartum half in June (Monica will be 1 the next day), and I’m sure there will be a quick nursing and “pump up” session before the race.
    Cathy´s last post ..Baby Broccoli and Cheese Egg Souffles

  14. Congrats! Sounds like a great return. Hopefully the recovery goes well!
    EB @ Running on E´s last post ..Training Recap 4/7-4/13

  15. What a great race recap, and a wonderful time! I’m glad to have found a New England runner blog like yours…I’m always on the hunt for fun half marathons in New England. Thanks for sharing! xo Kelby
    Kelby´s last post ..What I Miss

  16. Congrats on the half!! So awesome seeing you back into things, and running solid too! I ran a half with my sister in the fall, it was her first post-baby half and it was awesome being there with her, and seeing her son at the finish..definitely has to be great with your own little cheerleader!
    Laura @losingrace´s last post ..Boston Marathon 2014 Recap

  17. Pregnancy, birth and postpartum hormones can really jack your pelvis and all the joints and muscles therein. I would find a good physical therapist who has experience dealing with that specific stuff. Get it all strong and solid now while it isn’t firmly entrenched in your neural pathways!

    You did awesome. Isn’t it cool to know that being unprepared can still work and be fun?

    Hope you’ve recovered :)
    MILF Runner´s last post ..The Pain (part 2 of my hip replacement) …including more graphic images *this is your warning*

  18. Sounds like an awesome race, especially for the first one back! Great to see that you can get out and do work, still have fun, all while juggling having a baby with you as well! (Can’t say pumping before a race has ever crossed my mind…)

    Excited to see your come back to training, whatever it may end up being…and that baby girl is just about as cute as they come!

    And American Flatbread….I want to eat there every day of my life.
    Susan – Nurse on the Run´s last post ..fun facts friday: eric edition

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