Posts Tagged by race recap

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

Post-race

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.

 

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

 

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