If you're a new visitor to my blog - welcome! I'm sharing my journey back to "racing shape" as a mom of 3, while I highlight the science of running and provide running tips tailored to female runners - especially busy moms! My youngest is just 10 months old, so I'm balancing mom duties, training, and a full-time job as the National Training Manager of Life Time Run. Coach MK Fleming is helping me carefully rebuild my strength & speed, while also providing balance and perspective as another mom of three.
I had only two races on my calendar this summer - the Twin Cities Orthopedics Torchlight 5K and Gildan Esprit de She 5k - as my main focus is on rebuilding my base this year. With a limited race schedule, I really didn't want to miss any. However, the days leading up to last week's Gildan Esprit de She 5K - Maple Grove were anything but perfect. I was fighting a cold, and on top of that my 10-month old was sick and teething, so sleep was hard to come by. As late as Wednesday morning I told MK "I'm not going to race it - I'll just have fun and run with my sister". That would have been a fun alternative, as the Esprit de She races are social events, where participants share a "sisterhood" of sorts through running. Both events are owned & operated by Life Time, so I'm typically there to talk about Life Time Run with participants, but I also enjoy experiencing our races first-hand. I 'wanted' to race, but not if I was going to feel miserable as I had on my limited runs that week.
MK wasn't so sure I should pass on racing this one. Here are some of Coach MK's thoughts as she would advise me on whether (or not) to race:
MK: "Most of our clients...wanna do #alltheraces. It's an urge we have to resist when we're not (yet!) where we want to be in our fitness journey. We have to say 'why do I want to participate? What do I hope to get out of it, and what is the likelihood I won't get it? Will this help me psychologically?' This is why we need a coach, an objective, interested third party, to help us intelligently navigate decisions on our journey."
If my goal in participating was just to have fun running around a bunch of awesome ladies, an easy run would have been the perfect fit. However, I'd set this as one of the races I was using to test my fitness, and MK had worked some of my training around it, so that made the decision more complex. The last thing I wanted to do was go out hard and feel awful, doubt my fitness, or have my cold settle into my lungs after the stress, which would cause further loss of training.
Here is a bit of our email conversation in the 24 hours prior to the race:
Me: "Looking forward to an easy jog with my sister tomorrow night at EDS instead of racing... I finally made it through a night without having to pick up the baby. Yay!"
MK: "Oh YAY!!!!! How good do you feel today?"
Me: "I'm still coughing up a little crud and going through some tissues, but don't feel awful. My energy level seems about normal but haven't tried anything physically taxing either. With how crummy I felt early this week, I'm assuming I should just race EDS 'for fun' at an easy pace and not push it. Do you still think that's the best option, or if I feel decent on a little warm-up tomorrow, should I go for it (conservatively of course)?"
MK: "Let's see how much sleep you get tonight..."
Me: "Fair enough, I can play it by ear."
Me: "I got 8 hours of sleep. #wow."
MK: "WOW!!!!!!! I say run it!"
Knowing this was my last race on the calendar before my 'A' race for the year (the TC 10 Mile in October), I wanted to give it a shot. The overall vibe at our Gildan Esprit de She races is very friendly and not-so-competitive, yet there are age group & overall awards, so there is still competition to be had for those who want it. The races are a blend of women chatting up a 'Happy Hour Run', women in tutus just having fun, and women testing their fitness while really pushing to see their potential. I've run in the first and final category (no tutu, yet...) and both are fun!
Here is how my race unfolded:
Warm-up: I was busy working the Run tent before (and getting a serious arm and core workout carrying it to our spot on the grass), so I only squeezed in a short 10-minute warm-up. I usually warm up for 20 minutes, but my mileage had been dismal for the past week so I didn't feel the need to push it.
Start: I love looking back at the field of women assembled while the national anthem plays. As a woman born in 1981, the same year the NCAA held it's first national championships for women's sports, I am particularly thankful for the opportunities I've had to participate. It's empowering to see thousands of women share the same starting line! As I looked around the front lines prior to the start, I noticed the wide range of ages. There were many high school girls racing, and a bunch others who looked to be in their 30's (like me) and beyond. They also had a dance-jam warm-up which looked like fun!
As we took off up the gradual slope past Maple Grove Life Time Fitness, I was cognizant that my lungs were not as 'happy' as they were at the Torchlight 5K a couple of weeks earlier. My legs felt fine, but it was going to be more 'work' to stay up with the lead pack. My goal was to get some experience with competing again, as I made some 'rookie' mistakes at Torchlight after my 2-year break from distance racing. If it looked like I could crack the top 3, I would embrace the challenge and go for it. If that wasn't to be, my goal was to run fairly steady splits and just practice racing. If I felt absolutely awful and not recovered, I'd back off, take some photos and just have fun!
The new course brought back memories of running cross-country races in high school & college. Maybe it was the youthful runners around me, or the scenery as we followed paved paths throughout Maple Grove into their new Central Park. It had more turns than I was used to seeing in a road race, but that broke up the miles a bit, and gave it that cross-country feel. I was in 4th or 5th most of the race, but tried to be patient and just find my stride. I had to focus on relaxing a bit in the 2nd mile as I was feeling pretty winded, and the finish seemed so far away!
Mile 3: As we started the 3rd mile, I noticed that I was creeping up on 3rd & 4th place. I was telling myself "it's only a mile - you can do this!" Mental toughness is something that needs to be practiced, and it's a big part of racing. I moved into 3rd with about a half mile to go, and tried to keep focus on my cadence to keep my legs moving, as my heart rate was high and I was feeling the effort! As we cruised around Central Park, I could see the finish line tents approaching. I knew a bunch of my co-workers would be watching, and I wanted to finish strong.
Finish: I held on to 3rd place, and crossed the finish line feeling amazed that I was able to pull together a good race just a few days after feeling so crummy. Sleep really is incredible, and I was feeling so much better after two decent nights of it! My time of 20:22 was a little slower than I ran at Torchlight, but it reflects where I'm at in my postpartum running journey. My race goals were not so focused on time, but were more about getting comfortable with the little things (water stops, GPS watch settings, etc) and getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.
First time on the podium in a long time! I'm the one in the orange singlet. The age-group & overall winners received an Esprit de She engraved necklace, which was a nice touch.
I was back to chatting with our Life Time Run Training participants at the Run tent shortly after the race, but took a few minutes to take in the beautiful scene as the sun set on a great evening.
In the week since the race, Coach MK has started to ramp up my training. I got a few active recovery days over the weekend, but have already done hill repeats with high knees and 2x2 intervals (x6) this week. I'm on a new 'macrocycle' (training phase) so I will be repeating these workouts for the next three weeks. Tune back in for a description of each!
Get running and chase your potential!