For a race that was only thirteen miles long, it sure did feel dramatic at times. I realized when we were at the expo on Friday that I hadn’t actually run a race in two entire years – my last was the 2010 Flying Pig Marathon.
It had been so long since I had raced, and along with the out of town travel, I was feeling really unprepared and incredibly anxious going into Saturday morning. When my alarm went off at 5:30, I immediately told Casey I didn’t want to do it. He suggested I get up and at least think about it in the shower.
So I showered. Then I got dressed. Then I ate some sort of peanut butter bagel that Casey handed me. In order to make it downtown in time, our plan was to leave Casey’s parents house no later than 6:15am. At 6:15, I was still staring into the baby monitor – it just felt so wrong to wake Cullen up, especially after we had traveled all night the night before. It didn’t seem important enough – my baby needed a good night of sleep (it was only 3:15am pacific time!).
I told Casey I couldn’t bear to wake him up, and I was going to sit this one out and do my best to train well for the next race. And literally within ten seconds, Cullen started stirring on the monitor – he was up. I know it sounds super cheesy, but I took it as a sign. I was laying out every excuse I could think of not to run, and they were all backfiring.
So we packed Cullen up and headed down to the start 30 minutes later than we had initially planned. Casey ended up finding a great spot near the starting line, and pulled over so I could feed Cullen in the car. One of the trickiest things about this being my first postpartum race was figuring out the whole breastfeeding piece. Cullen is still not a bottle fan, and I knew it would likely take me close to three hours to finish the race. I had to feed him as close to the start and finish times as possible.
Once his belly was full, I jumped out of the car and headed to the start. Even at 7:30 in the morning, I was already feeling the heat (a high of 82 for the day!), and I knew it was going to be a challenge for me. I was undertrained to begin with, but the training I did do was in cool dry 50 degree Seattle temps. Indy was hot, humid, and very sticky.
Once the starting gun went off, I started jogging and immediately felt cramping in my sides. One of my biggest worries for this race (other than Cullen getting hungry) was getting dehydrated. My plan for the race was to drink at every water and Gatorade stop, and to start slow so that hopefully I could run as long as possible.
- Mile 1: 9:50
- Mile 2: 10:09
Within just a few minutes of starting, I was already drenched in sweat. I’m certainly not looking for excuses, since I went into this race totally unprepared, but the heat did me no favors on Saturday. Seattle is cool and dry, and Indianapolis was hot and humid. My body hasn’t felt conditions like that in over a year.
- Mile 3: 10:01
- Mile 4: 10:27
I knew Casey, his mom, and Cullen would be waiting for me around the 5.5 mark, and I made it my goal just to make it to him. I felt so overheated and tired already, and I knew there was no way I could maintain running for the rest of the race. I focused on getting to my family. I saw a man holding a sign that said “No one made you do this.” It became my mantra for the rest of the race.
- Mile 5: 9:52
From pretty far back, I spotted Casey and Tina up ahead, and I saw my precious baby boy being snuggled on the sidelines. I ran up and gave him a huge kiss!
I stopped and ate a few shot blocks, and told Casey I couldn’t finish the race. I didn’t quite feel ready to quit just yet, but I knew 13 wasn’t in the cards for me. I was just about to enter the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at that point – a 2.5 mile loop around the racetrack. He had planned to originally go to mile 11 from there, but I asked him to go to the other side of the track, so that I could be finished after I had run the loop. Mentally, I was finished, but I wanted to at least run the racetrack. I gave Cullen a kiss and kept going.
- Mile 6: 12:15
The minute I got inside the track, I wanted to be done. I wished I had just quit when I saw Casey and longed to already be in the car driving home. I was so hot, and no matter how many cups of water I dumped over my head, I couldn’t get myself cooled down and motivated to run again. Knowing I was going to quit on the other side, I slowed to a walk and decided to take my time and not push myself anymore.
- Mile 7: 12:37
- Mile 8: 14:21
I had my phone with me so that Casey and I could get in touch if needed. Since I had resigned myself to not finishing, I pulled it out and snapped a few pictures, so that Casey could see the racetrack portion of the course.
I knew my sister and friends were worried and wondering if I was running, so I tweeted that I was going to quit at mile nine. There was no shade on the course, and the heat was killing me. I was worried about being dehydrated, but I felt sick from drinking so much water. I wondered if Cullen was hungry.
We have gone to the Indy 500 several times over the past few years, and I got a surge of emotion and nostalgia as I entered the turn where we used to always watch the race.
Even though my run was terrible, it felt good to think about how much I’ve changed and grown since the last time I was at the speedway (many many beers deep!).
I felt my phone vibrate on my hip around the 8 mile marker. I pulled it out to see that Casey was calling me. The road closures made it impossible for him to get to the other side of the track, so my options were to either finish the race, or walk the course backwards to meet him. The thought of walking backwards felt totally humiliating, but the thought of finishing also sounded so painful.
- Mile 9: 12:38
But just like all my other excuses running out, my plan to quit wasn’t working. I dug deep and told myself this was happening for a reason, and I searched hard for a second wind to keep going. I told Casey I would see him at the finish line. I started running again. No one made you do this.
- Mile 10: 10:43
A few people had warned me that running on the track could be painful because of the incline of the road. Right around mile 10 I got a sharp, stabbing pain in my left hip. I think running on a slanted course had set me off balance for a few miles, and it left me really sore on my left side. I slowed back down to a walk/run.
- Mile 11: 12:21
- Mile 12: 13:39
By the time I was into double digits, I still felt completely overheated and drained, but I knew I was going to finish no matter what. I didn’t care about my time, and I didn’t care that I was walking. I felt proud that I had overcome a lot of race anxiety, and that I got myself back to the starting line after a two year break.
I promised myself that once I passed the 12-mile marker, I wouldn’t walk again. I tossed a few final cups of water over my head, and started running for the last time. The last mile was awesome – checkered flags waving, gorgeous trees lining the street, and so many cheers and smiling faces encouraging us to finish strong.
- Mile 13: 9:50
- 0.1: 2:06
No one made me do it, but I did it anyway.
I crossed the finish line in 2 hours and 30 minutes, about half an hour behind my personal best from 2010. But in that moment, my time felt so irrelevant. I was proud to be a running and racing mom. I rushed through the finishers’ corral to find my family.
Even though I tried to quit several times, I had finished. I know Cullen has no idea what I did on Saturday, but it mattered to me that he didn’t see me give up. I want him to grow up cheering us on and feeling proud of his parents’ accomplishments. I scooped him up and fed him right away. I was a successful racing, breastfeeding mom, and I was proud.
I’m not a superstar runner. I am not fast, and many many people finished in front of me. I know plenty of other moms who had babies after me, who are already running faster times, longer distances, and even winning their age groups. I am just another new mom, trying to figure out how to manage my new life balance, one day and one run at a time.
Even though I had a tough race, I went to bed Saturday with a renewed love for my old sport, and the motivation to work hard and see what I can do as I continue to run in the future. Despite how much the heat hurt me, I felt pretty good about how my body felt physically during the run. I think under the right conditions, and with the proper training, I can be back to setting and meeting goals again soon.
One of my big takeaways from this weekend is that I have really missed being part of the running and racing community. It used to be a huge part of my life, and I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed it until I got it back.
I have seven weeks to get ready for the Seattle Rock N Roll Half Marathon, and I hope that with better training and milder weather, I’ll feel confident to head back to the starting line. In the meantime, I’m also excited to sign up for shorter distances like 5K’s and 10K’s, and be part of the Seattle racing scene this summer. My body and my schedule have changed quite a bit, but my cheering squad has changed now too.
I tried to quit this race several times, but in the end I finished. Looking forward to my next trip to the starting line…