Monday, January 10, 2011

How I found out

It was this past August when I toed the line for Beach to Beacon, a very exciting 10k put on by Joan Benoit Samuelson every year in Portland, Maine. Conveniently my family happens to go to Northeast Harbor, Maine every August, but this was the first time it worked for my schedule to do the race and I was thrilled. Finally after having my son, Ramsey, I was really beginning to feel like a runner again. I was roughly seven weeks into being coached by Magda and I was the fittest I had been in months.

After the three-hour drive from Northeast Harbor to Portland with my husband, dad and Ramsey, everything was going perfectly. A delicious pre-race dinner, stroll through the cobble stone streets of Portland and very restful night sleep, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. It wasn’t until the warm up that I knew something was off. Nothing specific hurt, but nothing felt especially good either. Granted that I didn’t feel great, I brushed it off as nerves. Just to be sure however, I asked my husband if he could run it with me (he is a professional triathlete and former UNC runner, so he can still school me any day of the week). Plus our anniversary was the next day and I thought it would be fun for us to run together, somehow having him there made me feel better about not having a great warm up.

A mile into the race, which is roughly all down hill, I knew something was still off. It was so hard to breath! I am one of those runners who never has breathing issues; it’s always my legs that get me first. I have always considered my endurance strength to be my best quality as a runner, so sucking wind in the first mile of the race was a foreign feeling for me. The first mile certainly wasn’t slow (5:08 or so), but it was downhill and I was hanging on to the back of the elite pack of women for dear life. Before I knew it, I was loosing the lead pack by the second. My husband looked over at me and asked why I wasn’t going with them. Under my very heavy breathing, I just said, “I can’t” and I think that was the last thing I could mutter out the entire race.

Mile after mile just kept getting slower and slower. Finally there was only one to go, and I barley pulled off a 5:30 (which was a vast improvement from the 5:50 I had run before). Before this race, I was sure this race was going to be a PR for me on the roads. “Low 33’s for sure at the worst” I believe were my words in the car on the way there. When I looked up at the clock coming through the line I couldn’t believe my eyes. 35:42! I hadn’t run that slow since, well ever in my life! I literally had no excuse. I was over two minutes slower than what I had planned on running and nothing like this had ever happened to me before.

It was at that moment it occurred to me what had just happened. It was at this time two years earlier that we found out that we were pregnant with our son Ramsey and two years before that that we got engaged. The only excuse I had and was sure about was that I was pregnant! There is just something about early August in my life when exciting things happen, planned or not! After a trip to the drug store as soon as possible, my prediction was correct. I was pregnant.

I was relieved to have a terrific excuse for my poor performance (your heart rate goes up close to 20 beats per minute when you are pregnant in the first trimester, this explained my inability to breath), but I was also confused. Finally on the right track to running fast after being injured, then pregnant, this next pregnancy came as a bit of a shock and felt like the wrong time. After some self reflecting and embracing the news however, I realized as a runner, there is never a “right time”. I decided that I am thankful to get the whole baby chapter of my life done in my mid-twenties, as my long-term goals are to have success in the longer distances, which usually comes with age anyways.

Additionally, the journey of being a mother is so much more rewarding and fun than I could ever have imagined. By having another baby close to the first, my family will be complete (for at least the next 6-7 years at least, not ruling out a third) and I can truly focus on running goals and perusing a career as a professional, something I still have yet to do since graduating from Duke in 2006.

At almost six months in, my training has been going tremendously. I have been able to hold 60 miles a week with two effort-based workouts (much more than I did during my first pregnancy). It was also inspiring to read about Carrie Tollefson, Paula Radcliffe and Kara Goucher through their pregnancies. I am in good company as well with Deena Kastor who is due a few weeks before me. Of course it always helps having a coach who has been through it also (Magda has been a tremendous support for my pursuing my running goals despite this nine month detour!)

Running pregnant is an interesting process. Your body is slowly growing and hormones are changing- all in a way that makes you feel a little less comfortable everyday. Obstacles such as constant bladder pressure and flat feet get worse by the day. Sticking to it and knowing it is only temporary always helps. The reward of a baby (Girl in our case!) reminds me that that every time eight miles feels like twenty, it will all be worth it in the end.

People say that having babies makes you a stronger runner. I think that they immediately assume that it is because if you can endure the pain of labor, then the pain of a 10k is nothing. I don’t think it is the labor specifically that makes you stronger, but the pregnancy itself. Getting out there everyday and putting one foot in front of the other during a time that your body really just wants to lay down and get fat, is the best time in the world to truly get tough.

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