Posts Tagged by race recap

View From the Sidelines: RaceVermont Fall Half Marathon

aka Evan’s First Half Marathon!

When Evan originally decided to train for and run a half marathon this fall, it was because the two of us were going to do it together. I had grand plans to run one in September, and it seems there’s nothing like a pregnant wife wanting to run a long distance race to convince a guy to do something he otherwise wouldn’t. Plus, after years of Evan watching me run races, his first half marathon just seemed like such a cool experience to share together.

But somewhere around 22 weeks into this pregnancy, I came to terms with the fact that distance running (a definition that changes by the week) while pregnant just isn’t for me. A hard thing to admit for someone who prefers training for marathons to running 5Ks. But you know, there are worse things in the world than having to hang up your distance-running-shoes for a few months because your body is growing a baby.

Fortunately, Evan was still committed to the idea of running a half this fall…with or without me. And once I got over my selfish desires to want to run his first with him, I accepted the fact that it was probably better for me to be on the sidelines anyway. Not only would I have held him back if we were running together, but I also know how nice it is to run a race when you have someone waiting for you every couple of miles. In the 5 years that we’ve been together, Evan has patiently traveled to many races, standing outside in all sorts of weather to support me. I figured it was about time I returned the favor.

So on one of the biggest racing days of the year, I woke up just after 4:00 am not to run, but to support my husband through his first attempt at 13.1. We drove ~2 hours north for the RaceVermont Shelburne Half Marathon. The morning was freezing (just about 30 degrees at the start), but fortunately the snow that was originally in the forecast held off…instead it was a beautiful, sunny fall day.

The race was small, but very well organized. Packet pick-up was inside the (wonderfully warm) field house, and runners hung out inside until 2 minutes before the start. Just before 8:00 am, the race organizers lead everyone to the starting line and with very little delay, they were off!

racevermont fall half_ec start.jpg

Thoughts from the sidelines:

1. Running in 30-something degrees may be cold, but standing around cheering in it is colder.

My main reason for envying the runners on Sunday was because I knew how much warmer they must have been. Meanwhile, I looked like a lopsided snowman all bundled up in my husband’s fleece and my winter coat that doesn’t really zip anymore. So sorry I didn’t take any #spectatingselfies to share with you.

2.  From an outsider’s perspective, the course (although beautiful) didn’t look very interesting.

racevermont fall half_lake view.jpg

The first 10 miles were basically on the same road, with a couple little out-and-backs on side roads to add on mileage. The final miles were on a gravel path that wound down along the water, before runners met up with the main road and headed back to the Field House for the finish. But Evan loved it…and it actually made it pretty easy to spectate. We had a good friend who was running the half as well, and her husband and I got to see our runners just after mile 2, the halfway point, mile 10 and the finish. Not too bad for a 2 hour race!

3. It felt a little weird getting Evan ready for (and through) a race that I also wasn’t running.

This was the first time we’ve traveled together for a race just for him. I thought I might be sad about the fact that I wasn’t also running, but I actually loved it. It was fun to focus 100% on his race. Plus, the excitement/pride I felt every time I saw him on the course almost rivaled the pride that builds when I race myself (…almost).

racevermont fall half_ec halfway.JPG

4. I’m a little rusty on my race spectating-logistics-planning.

While my husband has become a pro at it over the years, I found myself struggling with estimated times and paces. First, I completely forgot to start my timer (or even look at a clock) when the race started, so I was just going off an 8:00 am-sharp estimated start. Second, every time I saw him I struggled with the mental math to calculate his pace. Maybe we can just blame the pregnancy for that one. I finally got into the groove, timing the distance between Evan and our friend and our arrivals at different spectating spots almost perfectly.

5. I may be slightly biased, but Evan was such a fun runner to watch.

Granted, he says he was loving life for the first 10 miles (i.e. during all the times I saw him until the finish) and then hated it for the last 5K, but it was awesome to see him running so happy and so well. He admittedly didn’t fall in love with distance running during training, but that all seemed to change on Sunday. Despite the fact that there weren’t large crowds or tons of runners (the race was pretty small) just the experience of being in a race environment was enough to pump him up. His goal (besides finishing) was to maintain a sub-8 minute/mile pace the entire way. And for the first 10 miles, he blew that out of the water. Every time I saw him, I’d do some mental math in my head to figure out his projected finish time. I was so excited to see him flying through the course…hills and all!

racevermont fall half_ec mile 10.jpg

6. The last 5K of a half (just like the last 10K of a full) is make it or break it time.

Unfortunately the way the course worked out, I wasn’t able to see Evan at all during the last 3.1. And that’s when he needed support the most. I know that 3 miles can never seem so long as when they’re at the end of a distance race. And that’s especially true when the course has you running on a lonely path with no spectators and barely any other runners around to help you push. But to his credit, he didn’t give up. He may have sworn off running altogether during those last few miles (but who of us hasn’t??), but he kept plugging along.

7. Seeing Evan round the corner toward the finish line was one of the coolest moments.

Evan and I have done relays together, so it’s not the first time I’ve been able to cheer him into the finish of a run. But during those races there was always a sense that we were in it together. On Sunday, for the first time, he was in a race situation where he had done the work completely on his own. And it was so cool to be on the other side of the race for once — getting to support him while he gutted it out and finished something he once thought he’d never be able to do.

racevermont fall half_ec finish#painface

I know it must sound so cheesy, but running has been my passion since we’ve been together. Evan has been happy to support me and run shorter races with me, but until now he hasn’t really felt that drive to do a race on his own. Which is fine — I love that he has his own hobbies and passions that I’ve been able to support him in over the years. However, there’s just something so incredibly moving to see a person you love accomplishing something in a sport that you also love. I may not have been actually running that day, but the runner’s high I felt when Evan crossed the finish line was most certainly real.

racevermont fall half_ec finish sprint

Official Time: 1:42:52 (7:53 pace)

50th male/12th in his age group

8. Getting to dissect and discuss every minute of another runner’s race is the 2nd best thing to actually running it yourself.

Yes, I may miss running more than a few miles at a time. And I may be counting down the days until I can toe the line and push my body to the limits in the pursuit of a PR. But in the meantime, I love being around other people who have raced. When you know that your time on the sidelines is only temporary, it’s fun to be able to live vicariously through other people who are doing the one thing you would love to do but can’t. I’m not sure if Evan appreciated my 5,000 questions about every single detail of the race (what do you mean, you don’t remember exactly how you felt at mile 3??), but I sure loved talking strategy with him afterward.

9. Moe’s food is tasty, but it’s an interesting choice for a post-race meal.

racevermont fall half marathon moes

Tortilla chips and vegetarian chili. I guess beans are great for protein (and Evan appreciated the non-meat option!) but it was so spicy he couldn’t really get much down. Fortunately, we rectified that situation with post-race pizza and beer…i.e. the recovery fuel of champions.

10. I tried not to push TOO much, but Evan is already talking about “next time.” And I love it!

Despite swearing off running altogether at some point during the last 3 miles, a belly full of pizza and beer seemed to change his perspective. He already knows what he wants to do differently next time, and keeps saying that he could have done better “if…” You know, that classic running bug I’ve been hoping will bite him all along. We will see what happens. But I’m striking while the iron is hot! I’ve already made plans for us to enter the Vermont City half marathon relay lottery…AND have gotten him to confirm that he’d run this race again.

Now who wants to volunteer to watch Cheese Baby while we’re running??

Harpoon Brewery Octoberfest 2013 Race Recap

Otherwise known as the race where I made a friend who dropped me at the finish line.

Or maybe – Karmic payback for what I did to my husband last year.

 

It may seem strange that a very pregnant woman would sign up for a race hosted by a brewery (particularly when the entry fee includes drink tickets that she won’t actually benefit from), but there’s just something about the Harpoon Octoberfest Race. It’s not that the course is particularly fun — you basically run up a huge hill, through neighborhoods, and back down the hill into the brewery, or even PR-worthy — with a random distance of 3.66 miles, you can’t really compare your time to anything. There’s no cool t-shirt or even a finisher’s medal.

But there are cool beer mugs filled with water when you cross the finish line. A fun and festive atmosphere. Awesome food at the end (brats for the non-veg and delicious black bean burgers for those of us who prefer our veggies). And of course, lots of delicious beer to taste and (potentially) to win.

Plus, it just so happens that the Octoberfest is held the same weekend as the annual Conkey family camping trip, and we’ve somehow made this race into a family tradition.

Because this race happened over a week ago and because I don’t have any particularly inspiring tales to tell, here are the highlights in short, numbered form. Or in other words, The Joys of Running at a Beer Festival While Pregnant:

1. Although I publicly said that I didn’t have any goals for this particular race other than to finish, the real truth is that I wanted to keep a steady 9-minute mile pace…as long as everything was feeling good, that is. I figured that with the help of a few race day endorphins, this was a perfectly manageable goal.

2. Ever since the 5K we ran together in September, I’ve come to terms with the fact that Evan is now faster than me. I’m okay with this on account of two things: a) I’m carrying over 20 extra pounds in the form of our child; and b) I believe this to be a temporary state (we’ll see what Evan has to say about that). Even so, Evan and I had a last minute debate on the starting line about whether or not he should run with me. I pretended I didn’t want him around, but the truth was that I knew he was itching to go fast…and it really didn’t take that much convincing to send him up closer to the front. Once the race started he took off and I didn’t see him again until the finish (where he was waiting for me right at the line…what a guy).

3. Despite the fact that my pace continues to slow every week, those race day endorphins are still magical. When the race started, I found myself easily keeping a sub-9:00 pace without feeling like I was even pushing — something I haven’t been able to do on my own in weeks.

4. On a related note, this was the first race where I truly felt absolutely no desire to push. I don’t know if it’s that 3rd trimester, zen-preggo-running phase that I’m entering into, or if subconsciously my body has finally learned that it’s just not worth it, but all I wanted to do on that beautiful Sunday morning was to run. I kept the pace faster than my normal jog, but it felt effortless…and every time I felt my legs starting to surge forward, I held myself back. My pregnancy running “journey” (if you want to call it that) has been so full of ups and downs. All I wanted to do was take advantage of one of those good days…because who knows how many I had left.

Race 28 photo 587301Running up that first hill. Objects in picture are happier than they appear.

5. Somewhere after the 2nd mile mark, the course turns up this short but steep hill — the kind of hill that takes all the wind out of your sails, if you happen to be actually racing, of course. Right before I started to make the climb, a guy came up from behind me and says: “Let’s go! You and me. I’ve been waiting for this. No talking, let’s just push it up this hill!!” I had no idea what inspired him to use me as his hill running motivation (besides maybe taking pity on the pregnant lady running by herself), but I wasn’t about to turn down a good challenge. So up the hill I went, matching him stride for stride. We made it to the top together, congratulated each other on an outstanding effort, wished each other luck and went our separate ways. I was amused by the interaction but didn’t think too much of it, figuring that would be the last I’d see of my hill running friend.

6. Until…he caught back up to me just before the 3rd mile mark. With a quick, “Me again!” we resumed running together, stride for stride. I felt myself starting to pull away a little bit so I said (in the spirit of friendly competition): “You aren’t going to let a pregnant woman beat you in the last 0.5 mile, are you?!” (because, you know, he helped push me up that hill. I owed him. Plus let’s be honest, gentleman…what’s better motivation to get your butt in gear than that?) Well, turns out the guy didn’t even know I was pregnant! So we started chatting. I learned that he was a certified first responder (phew!) and we talked a little bit about running through pregnancy. At one point he asked me, “How much extra weight are you carrying??” which made me laugh. I don’t think another women would ever ask me that question, but I think he was genuinely interested in how I was running with all that extra weight…plus you all know I haven’t exactly been shy about my pregnancy weight gain.

Race 28 photo 589819

7. As friendly and encouraging as my new buddy was, I don’t think he really wanted to be beaten by a pregnant woman. He started picking up the pace quite a bit coming into the final stretch…you know, that same downhill stretch where I “accidentally” ran away from Evan last year and never looked back. I couldn’t be mad though. Mostly because as we were coming around the corner, he kept pointing to me and yelling “Lady with a baby!! Lady with a baby!!” I’m not really one who normally likes a lot of extra attention, but I can’t say I hated the cheers…or wasn’t touched by this stranger’s pride. And even though he totally surged ahead of me right at the finish, I forgave him because he high-fived me and then immediately wanted to meet “the father” so he could congratulate Evan too.

8. Runners really are all sorts of awesome. That’s all.

9. Evan ended up running a course PR — almost 2 full minutes faster than last year. Which also means that he now holds the family record for fastest time on the Harpoon Brewery course. I’m pretty sure he has caught the racing bug and will do everything in his power to keep it. Bring it on, I say (in the meantime, Cheese Baby and I were incredibly proud!)!

EC_harpoon octoberfest2013He also got to drink my extra beer so…I’d say it was a pretty good day for him

10. Despite my zen I-don’t-want-to-push-it-this-year attitude, I will admit that I DID look at the winning times (AG and overall)…just to see. I think it’s pretty safe to say that I’ve got some new goals for 2014. And they include winning a case of beer.

All in all, another fun race in the books for Cheese Baby and I! This was the last official race I signed up to run during pregnancy — that big goal I’ve held onto for the past 7 months. Although I still think it would be super fun to do a local Turkey Trot, I’m glad I made it through the 30 week mark still running. It’s been a fun and interesting adventure!

EC LBC harpoon_octoberfest2013

In case you’re wondering, here are the splits:

Splits: 8:53, 8:28, 8:45, 5:07 for last 0.67 (7:36 pace)

Official Time: 31:12 (8:32)

Maple Leaf 5K Race Recap

I just want to take a quick moment to thank all of you who weighed in on my Boston post on Friday/over the weekend. I appreciate every single comment and received great insight from both sides. Speaking of which…I also need to say that I’m so thankful that not all of you agreed with me! I’d always rather hear thoughtful criticism than fake praise. Seriously. I mean…why post something on the internet if you don’t really want to hear what people have to say?

Anyway, I’ve spent a lot of time this weekend going back-and-forth and weighing the pros and cons of signing up. No final decision yet, but I promise to keep you all updated!

On Saturday, Evan and I drove out to Manchester, Vermont to participate in the Maple Leaf 5K. This was the race that I had originally planned to do as my big pregnancy half marathon and I was a little afraid I’d feel a twinge of regret on that starting line. I shouldn’t have worried. Standing there with the runners before the start, I can honestly say that there was no part of me that wished I was running 13.1 miles instead of 3.1. Sure, in the back of my mind I thought about how fun it would be to run a half marathon on that perfect fall-like day…under different circumstances. But at 25 weeks pregnant (and feeling every single one of those weeks), I was happy to be taking the shorter route.

Other things that came out of yesterday’s race?

1.) I still have a little speed left in me — surprisingly, since my average running pace has dropped a lot lately.

2.) I need to figure out how to wear the Gabrialla support belt so that it actually helps and doesn’t cause discomfort by the end of the run. I’ve only run with it twice and don’t love it so far. Because of that, I left it at home on Saturday. A decision I later came to regret.

3.) Racing at 25 weeks pregnant feels way different than racing at 16 weeks (almost 10 weeks of growth is no joke). I didn’t even feel pregnant at all in my last race. The major struggle was simply trying to figure out how much to push and when to pull back. People assured me that it wouldn’t be a conscious decision for much longer – my body would let me know. And on Saturday, it spoke loud and clear.

4.) I am officially in race retirement. I don’t mean that I won’t run races, since there’s a couple more that I’m signed up to do with family before the end of the year. But no more pushing. Pushing on Saturday felt awesome…until it didn’t. And I spent the rest of the day so sore that I decided the only smart thing to do on Sunday was, well, nothing.

Oh…besides bake and eat my first apple pie of the season. I take refueling seriously these days.

vermont apple pie

5.) It’s pretty clear that even efforts that are moderately difficult are starting to take way too much out of me. I don’t think I’m putting Cheese Baby in any danger (she seems fine), but my body just can’t handle it. Between the round ligament pain and the flaring up of my pelvic/groin discomfort, I think my body is only cut out for easy, minimal jogging from here on out. I am totally fine with that. Sometimes I think pregnancy must feel an awful lot like getting old.

Anyway, let’s talk about the actual race, shall we??

Although the half marathon was clearly the main event on Saturday, the 5K drew a pretty good crowd. Overall, 250 runners and walkers crossed the finish line. This was a chip timed, well-organized affair on a relatively flat course. Combine that with the awesome post-race party that had the best free food I’ve seen in a long time (bagels! sandwiches! Vermont cheese! ice cream!), and I’d say that this race will definitely become a yearly tradition.

Before the race began, my biggest issue was figuring out where to pin the race bib around my expanded belly. I know I put those fake bibs on every week, but those are for a picture – I wear them for 2 minutes before taking them off. It’s hard to figure out the most comfortable position for a big square of paper around a hard round basketball when you know you’ll be running for close to a half hour.

MapleLeaf_pre race

For the first time ever in a race, I sent Evan up to the front and kept myself back — both because I didn’t want to get in anyone’s way and because I didn’t want the start to pull me into a faster pace than I could handle. Spoiler alert: this also happened to be the first race where he completely kicked my butt. I told him he better enjoy his position as the fastest family member while it lasts.

MapleLeaf_pre race_EvanEvan’s game face. So intimidating

Not surprisingly, when the race started I surged anyway. And I felt amazing! Fluid, almost. By far the best I’ve felt at the beginning of a run in weeks. My goal before the race was to keep my pace under 9:00, but I found myself easily running sub-8:00…even after consciously pulling back and reigning myself in.

The first mile ticked off at 7:42 and I still felt great, so I told myself to keep that pace for the next mile and then reassess. We hit an uphill section in mile 2, but it was gradual enough not to slow me down too much. I kept pushing forward, making sure my breathing was under control and that the effort never went above moderately difficult. I wasn’t taking it easy, but I wasn’t pushing myself to exhaustion either. I started to feel really awesome. Almost invincible. Why didn’t I do these 5Ks more often?

Maple Leaf Half 5KA beautiful day for a Vermont race

And then we got to mile 3 and everything changed. I started feeling some discomfort in my lower abdomen that made me immediately back off the pace. For a moment, I panicked — was I cramping? Was Cheese Baby okay in there?! I didn’t feel like I was pushing that hard, but I also knew that I’d never forgive myself if I did something stupid for the sake of a meaningless 5K.

After a few more strides, it became pretty clear that my pain was round ligament pain, and not some sign that Cheese Baby was in distress. I cursed myself for not wearing the belt, wondering if things would have felt differently if I’d had more support. You know – the last mile of a 5K is supposed to hurt. People don’t get to that point and think…this is so much fun! Most of the time, you know it’s going to be one big sufferfest until the end.

But this was a different sort of suck. I wasn’t racing, I wasn’t trying to PR, and I wasn’t even pushing myself that hard. I was running through the prettiest part of the course — a slight downhill through a park and a wooded trail, and all I could think was “when will this damn thing be over?”

Fortunately after about 3/4 of a mile of wondering whether I was okay with simply taking it easy or if I should stop and walk, the pain eased up. I tried to pick up the pace just a tiny bit, excited to be done. But when we hit the 3rd mile mark, I realized there was still a long way to go. Now — I’m not one to say, “my Garmin clocked 3.26 miles, therefore the course was long!!!” Garmins are inaccurate and courses aren’t measured the same way most of us end up running them. But I can tell you at least that the course felt long. My watch was spot on with the mile markers for the first 2 miles and then well over 3.1 by the end.

But I made the most of it. Knowing I had just a little bit left until I was done was the motivation I needed for one last surge. There was a girl about my age right in front of me, and I set my eyes on her back, determined to reel her in. I told Cheese Baby, “If this is our last real race together, let’s make the finish a good one!” And we flew…faster than I’ve run in a long time and passing the girl in the process. I’m not going to lie — it felt so good to fly again.

Splits (Garmin): 7:42, 7:57, 7:57, 1:43 (6:31 pace for last 0.26)

Official time: 25:18 (7:55 pace)

Obviously I was a little surprised to see how consistent my pace ended up being — especially since I felt like I was really holding back in the 3rd mile. But, mile 2 was uphill and mile 3 was down, so it’s all about effort (and perspective).

Meanwhile, Evan did amazing. He took off right at the start and I didn’t seem him again until I crossed the finish. He ran a new PR, coming in 4th overall and 1st in his age group. You might think I’d be frustrated that he’s getting faster as I get slower but truthfully — I’ve never been more proud. He’s been training hard to run a half marathon this fall (his first!) and it’s been so fun for me to watch him run stronger every week. He’s already scoping out additional 5Ks for a chance to improve his time.

Maple Leaf 5K_post race

In the end I somehow ended up placing in my age group too. Not my intention, but still totally cool. The results were a little screwy, so even though I passed a girl at the finish and had a faster gun time, we ended up having the same chip time and for whatever reason, she was listed first in the results (maybe because her name came first alphabetically? I don’t know how these things work). And then when they called the awards, they ended up giving me 3rd. First place went to the same woman who won the overall race award (she seemed equally confused about the whole thing).

But that all doesn’t really matter. Regardless of how I finished or where I placed, I’m excited to have another race with Cheese Baby that I can tell her about someday. The medals may or may not be hanging in her room already.

IMG 4173

I think they make for some perfect nursery decor.

 

Bear Hill 5K Race Recap

Since you already know the ending to this story, I figured I should start with a few confessions.

cheese baby_race win.jpg#1 Fetus!

1.) This was a really small race. In its first year. So when I say that I’m excited I won, I also feel like I need to put a little asterisk next to it. Don’t get me wrong…I’ll definitely be telling future Cheese Child about the time we won a race together. But I also realize that it was a very unique circumstance. Not likely to happen anywhere else…or ever again.

2.) That being said, I knew I wanted to win this race before I even showed up at the starting line. Not only was it the inaugural race in my sort of Vermont “hometown,” running through trails that I’ve traveled over countless times, but the prize for the winners was basically a dream come true: a basket of Grafton cheese and a free night stay at the Inn where we were married. How could I hear that and not entertain delusions of taking home the prize for myself? I didn’t think I’d have a real shot at it, but I can’t pretend the thought hadn’t crossed my mind before race day.

3.) After winning said basket of cheese, I once again approached my midwife to ask about aged raw cheese and pregnancy. I figured I was asking a different provider…maybe I’d get a different answer. Spoiler Alert: she didn’t tell me what I wanted to hear. Instead, she seemed to think that even aging something for four years doesn’t make it safe enough to eat during pregnancy (the danger from eating cheese made with raw milk is that it hasn’t been pasteurized, putting you at risk for coming in contact with Listeria…a bacteria that can be particularly nasty toward pregnant women and developing babies). Then again, she’s never actually experienced the cheese herself, so I still sort of doubt she knows what she’s talking about. When a person says to me, “Why risk it? Just stick to Cabot!” I tend not to trust their opinion (sorry Cabot-lovers out there. I know Cabot is also technically Vermont cheese, but I’m telling you…there is no comparison). And now that I’ve made myself sound like a complete and total snot, let’s move on…

Bear Hill 5K Race Recap

Once again, I was nervous about how my body would handle this race because I was so exhausted the night before. After a super early bedtime and a full night’s sleep, however, I woke up feeling a lot better. I think I underestimate the power of sleep all too often…it’s definitely something I need to work on.

Fortunately, the temperature was a little cooler than on Thursday. UNfortunately, it felt even more humid. Evan and I did a short warm up around town and were immediately drenched. Once again, I gave myself a little pep talk: “Just run what the day gives you.”

Bear Hill 5K 10K start

But when the race started (promptly at 9:00), and runners took off, we went with them. The first half a mile was on pavement, with the benefit of a small downhill. About a quarter of a mile into the race, I looked down at the watch, saw a pace that I shouldn’t even be dreaming about hitting at 4 months pregnant, and immediately dialed it back. It didn’t feel hard (in fact, I felt amazing!) but I knew no good would come from overdoing it within the first mile.

Once again, Evan and I fell into a comfortable pace, keeping up a relatively steady conversation. Much to the annoyance of the runners around us I’m sure. You’re not supposed to be able to talk during a 5K (don’t worry, I secretly hate myself for doing it)! I noticed right away that we were near the front of the pack. There was one guy who immediately took off at the start (see shirtless dude in above picture) and had already developed a significant lead on the rest of the field. But other than that, we were right in it.

After about a half a mile, the course turned to cross a covered bridge (#ilovermont), went through a field, and up the first hill. Now, I can maintain a fairly solid pace on flat ground, but hills are what really do me in. My heart rate skyrockets and it takes a lot more effort than normal to climb to the top. But I just tucked in and tried to steadily work my way up, paying more attention to the effort and my breathing than my actual pace.

IMG 3206Part of the course…obviously taken earlier this year

Once we got into the shade of the trails, everything felt great. We hit the first mile mark and I realized that there was only one woman ahead of me. I knew that the guy who surged ahead at the beginning still had an impressive lead, but the other runner…well, she was within striking distance.

Without saying anything to Evan, I slowly started to reel her in. One step at a time. I told myself to take it easy, bide my time, and see what happened. But the competitor in me smelled blood. Logically I knew I had no business racing. But logic doesn’t always prevail. And my heart was already soaring at the thrill of the chase. There was no way I was going to finish this race without at least trying to see what I could do.

By 1.5 miles into the race all three of us were running together. I didn’t say one word to Evan. I just did a quick surge, worked my way around, and never looked back.

I assumed that they were right behind me. I hadn’t really picked up the pace, and I figured it was only a matter of time before she was at my heels again. But I kept moving forward, determined to at least stay ahead through the trails. If the race came down to a sprint at the end, I knew I’d have no chance. But maybe, if I could slowly increase my lead through the woods, I just might finish ahead.

The third mile was the worst. We climbed up a hill that never seemed to end. The entire time, I kept alternating between encouraging baby (“Good job Baby! You are so amazing!!”…you know, as if he/she could hear me) and warning myself (“Be careful LB. Don’t do anything stupid, LB. Take it easy. Dial it back a bit.” ).

Racing while pregnant is such a strange experience. Runners train themselves to push through pain and fatigue. To ignore little aches and twinges…to thrive on discomfort. A successful race means finding that wall and pushing right through it. Digging deep and dialing into a gear that you didn’t even know existed.

Pregnancy throws all of that out the window. Instead of turning off the parts of your brain that perceive pain, you tune in…waiting for any tweak, twinge, or sign that things aren’t quite as they should be. And pushing yourself to exhaustion is completely off-limits. So whenever I felt myself getting really tired climbing the hill, I immediately slowed myself down. It didn’t matter that it was a 5K and I was in the final mile with a chance to win. I had to stay smart.

Finally, after climbing for what felt like forever (I’m sure it wasn’t nearly as bad as it seemed), I reached the top of the hill. At this point, I still thought I was in 2nd place overall, but I was determined to win for the women. Evan and the second place female were nowhere in sight. I pressed forward, coming out of the trail, crossing another covered bridge, and headed back onto the pavement for the final 0.4 miles.

A group of spectators watched me go by and said to each other, “There’s the first one!” At first I just figured they meant the first woman, but after a few moments it finally dawned on me that guy I had seen at the beginning must have run the 10K instead (the courses split after the first mile). Baby and I were leading the race!

I rounded a corner into town…ran past the library, general store, and our first house in Vermont. There are no words to describe how happy I felt in that moment. Running on streets that feel like home, rounding the last bend to the finish line. I “surged” up the final hill and crossed the finish in 24:03 (should have pushed for those extra few seconds!!).

Bear Hill 5K finishBaby’s first race win!

Evan came in about 40 seconds behind. 3rd overall, but 1st male finisher!! (How often does that happen?)

EC Bear Hill finish

Official Time: 24:03 (7:45); 1st overall

Splits from Garmin:

 

Bear Hill 5K_paces.png

When we realized that the top male and the top female each received awards, we felt a little guilty. We quickly agreed to give one of our cheese baskets to the woman who came in second (who unfortunately did not get anything), but by the time they got to the awards ceremony she was nowhere to be found.

I have to admit, however…it was pretty cool to hear the Conkey name called as both the winners of the 5K.

Bear Hill 5K_awards

Sounds cheesy, but sharing that moment with my husband (and little growing Cheese Baby) will forever be one of the top experiences of my life. Thanks Grafton Ponds for putting on an amazing race! For a tiny inaugural race, the organizers did an excellent job. There were no timing chips, but an official timing company ran everything very efficiently. The course was awesome, there was water everywhere, and I never really worried about going the wrong way on the trails. If you ever find yourself visiting Southern Vermont on 4th of July weekend, I highly recommend registering for this race!

But don’t count on winning the cheese. We’ll be back next year…with a title to hold onto and a little one in tow.

Grafton ponds_5K win

 

Firecracker 4-miler Recap

Yesterday, at almost 16 weeks pregnant (15w5d!), baby and I ran our first real race together (not counting the GOTR 5K). And despite the fact that it was hilly, hot, and humid, I’m happy to report that Cheese Baby did great!!

I have so many thoughts about racing while pregnant that I’ll probably cover in a later post…you know, once I have more than just the one race under my belt (and so possibly know what I’m talking about). But overall I can say that it felt so good to be out there again. And holding myself back was both harder and easier than I expected.

It was tough not to have goals in my head leading up to the race. Even though I kept saying “I’m just excited to get out there again!” and even though I accept the fact that I’m not in control of my body anymore…I’ve got a tiny little human calling the shots now. But I’m a runner, and I’m naturally competitive. I couldn’t expect all of that to disappear the instant I found out I was pregnant.

I told Evan that my goal was to keep an 8:00 minute pace for the entire thing. But really I was hoping I’d be able to go faster. I figured if I could shoot for a pace about a minute slower than what I would’ve wanted pre-pregnancy (so 7:45s or below), I’d be happy. But that all depended on how I was feeling and the temperature.

asics festive marathon shorts.JPGAwkward crotch shot to show off my new favorite pair of running shorts

Unfortunately, leading up to the race it seemed like the worst case scenario was going to play out. The night before I was so tired that I was in bed by 8:30. And the next morning came sunny, hot and humid — after more than a week straight of rain. I tried to let go of my goals and remind myself that at this point, I really am happy to be out there (okay…mostly happy to just be out there).

We got to the start of the Bill Powers Memorial Firecracker 4-miler in plenty of time to pick up our numbers, run a slow warm-up mile, and go to the bathroom about 7,000 times. This was a low-key, low budget affair. No t-shirt, no chip timing, no real starting line (but for $10, what do you expect?). Just a group of runners out for a competitive run on a steamy 4th of July morning.

cheese baby race1_15w5d

Evan_4th of July race

Right before the start, the race director walked us up to the starting area (at which time I found myself scoping out the competition — targeting women I’d normally want to stick with during the race…and instead just thinking next year, ladies, next year…), told us someone on a bike would be leading the runners, and tried to give a quick overview of the course. And then — we were off.

Like you’d expect, everyone surged out the second the gun went off. I was the official time-keeper for Evan and I, so I knew we were going faster than the 8:00 minute pace I had promised we’d start with. But I felt great! We quickly settled into a relaxed pace and I made an effort to keep up a regular stream of conversation the entire way — both to test my own breathing and to reassure my nervous husband that I really wasn’t pushing hard.

The course started off with a long uphill climb. Fortunately most of the climb was in the shade, but I already found myself cursing my choice of race attire. In an effort to be festive, I wore the only running shirt I own that has some red in it — and it was way too heavy for a race in 80 degrees + humidity. I remarked to Evan that if I wasn’t pregnant, I’d be running in just a sports bra. To which he replied: Why do you care now?

Good point.

Mile 1: 7:35

I saw that pace and secretly rejoiced, telling Baby (and Evan) to just hang on to sub-8:00s for the rest of the way.

The course continued to wind up and down hills and in and out of the sun. I gave up all pretenses of modesty and tucked my shirt up into the bottom of my sports bra — exposing that sexy gut I’ve been growing for the past 15+ weeks (good thing there was no race photography…not that I noticed, anyway). I felt instantly better once I got some air on my stomach. And that’s when I decided that I’m totally going to embrace the sports bra + shorts look this summer. I don’t even care anymore.

Mile 2: 7:39

I could feel our pace slowing down a little. Evan and I were still running together at this point, and I kept checking in to see how he was doing. I think he was a little concerned with the pace I had set, only because he hasn’t been running much lately and wasn’t expecting himself to be able to keep a sub-8 pace. But I could tell by his breathing and the fact that he could keep up some semblance of conversation that he was just fine. One of these days my secret goal is to get him to go to that pain place…and then he’ll realize how fast he truly is.

I told myself that I’d stick with Evan until the 3rd mile mark, and then, well…we’d see what happened.

Mile 3: 7:41

We hit the third mile mark and immediately started running downhill. I relaxed into the hill, not picking up the pace, but refusing to slow down either. Evan started falling behind a little bit, and I had a brief flash of guilt thinking about what would happen had our situations been reversed. I know for a fact that Evan would never ever drop his pregnant wife in a race, no matter how great he felt. Yet here I was, slowly pulling away from him. I’m lucky that he’s a forgiving man.

The last 0.6 miles or so went up the main street of Brattleboro. The shade had all but disappeared by this point, and I could feel myself getting hot. We climbed up a long hill, past people sitting out for the parade (which was nice, since it made it seem like they were cheering for us), and I told Baby to just hold on for a little while longer. It was the only time in the race that I started feeling a little nervous. I could feel the sun beating down on me and I was torn. I felt amazing. Better than I expected given the conditions. But I was also hot. And the little voice in the back of my head warned me not to push it.

As I climbed the final hill and turned the corner toward the finish, I saw 3 women right ahead of me. 3 women within easy striking distance — women who, on a different day, I would have chased down with every ounce of strength I had left. And for a brief moment yesterday, I contemplated doing the same.

But I didn’t. I held back. First, because I knew I wasn’t going for any sort of record here, and I certainly wasn’t going to place…so what was the point. And secondly, because I knew running all out to the finish wasn’t the smartest choice I could be making…as much as I wanted to (especially since I could see that at least a couple of the girls were in my age group). So like a good, less competitive version of myself, I cruised into the finish right behind them.

Mile 4: 7:37

Official Time: 30:30 (7:38 pace)

saucony a5Why yes, I wore my racing flats. Because I was planning to be so speedy! Okay, so really it’s because I rarely have a chance to wear them…also, they’re blue, and festive

I can’t pretend that I didn’t look at the official results at the end…or feel a slight annoyance when it was confirmed that the girls who finished right ahead of me were in my age group…or calculate how well I could have done if I had been able to race all out (pretty well overall, I think). I also may have spent some time dissecting the race in my head afterward, wondering if I could have pushed harder, or if I would have been faster if it hadn’t been so hot.

BUT those thoughts were fleeting. Because really, I’m just so happy to have been able to run. To still have a little speed left in my legs and to have a healthy pregnancy that allows me to share my passion with this kid. At one point during the race yesterday, I turned to Evan and exclaimed: “I’m so happy right now!!” And I meant it. Every single run at this point is a blessing. As much as I hope to do this right up until the day I deliver, I know I can’t take anything for granted.

Race 1 of 2 for this week is done! I’m so excited to go out and do it all over again tomorrow!

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