|Ponytail: Are you kidding me?|
And now, just a year later, it looks like this:
|Ponytail: T minus a couple weeks! Grow, hair, grow!!|
So if you are thinking of seriously chopping your hair, I would say definitely go for it. It will grow back. You will enjoy being the envy of friends and strangers who tell you they would never have the nerve to do it. Then again, you may not enjoy the in-between stage, which is especially cringe-worthy after the fact and you look back at old pictures. I’m glad I didn’t realize quite how unattractive it was at the time. I’m not even going to post a picture here. Let’s put it behind us, shall we?
Anyway, once my hair was in a ponytail, I ate my breakfast (instant oatmeal with a few walnuts), got my post-run smoothie blended and in the cooler and off I went, a mere 10 minutes behind schedule, which is early for me. Woot! My plan to was to incorporate the 10k race into my 12 mile long run, so I did a 3 mile warm up. Before I went, I had a shot of espresso at Panera (it was the Panerathon after all). My legs felt nice and fresh during the warm up.
It was perfect running weather, a a bit cool, crisp, and sunny with barely a trace of wind. I thought I’d be able to run a sub 8 minute pace and although I was hoping to break 48 minutes (which I had yet to do at altitude and had not done anywhere, at all, since 2007, much to my dismay), I wasn’t sure it was possible based on my current level of fitness. Also, the night before, I studied the race website and learned that the course was mostly on dirt trails, and the terrain would certainly rob me of some speed.
I hit the first mile mark at 7:43. That mile had a lot of downhill and I was running at a controlled, hard effort. I figured the first couple of miles should feel like a tempo workout, the next two should feel very hard, and the last 2.2 should feel like an all out death-fest. So far so good.
Somewhere between miles 1 and 2 a girl in an orange neon tank top passed me. I stayed right behind her and named her Prancer. She ran with her chest out and her legs kicking behind her like a happy little pony. She had a long, inefficient, bouncing stride. Her stringy, long, brown ponytail was swooshing rhythmically back and forth (Was I jealous? Maybe a little). She had a gorgeous body, she was prancing, and she was running faster than me. The whole thing was annoying. I decided to stay right behind her and pass her later, which I later did on an uphill.
Before I saw a 2 mile marker (as it turned out, there wasn’t one), I saw people coming toward me in the other direction and discovered I was the fourth woman. A woman in a pink running skirt ran up to me and told me I had been pacing her thus far. I asked her what her goal was and she said to break 50 minutes, and I told her at this rate she definitely would. She stuck with me, passing me once in a while, but I would pass her back on the uphills.
The fourth mile mark was the next one I saw and at that point I looked at my watch and the time elapsed was 28:19. I was working pretty hard, but I didn’t think I was capable of stringing four 7:05 minute miles together in a row. I suspect that mile marker was misplaced. Anyway, sometime after that, there came a fork in the road and while it was nice to be toward the front of the race, the downside was that I couldn’t see anyone in front of me. I decided to go straight instead of left, which turned out to be the wrong decision. I might have run for about 15 seconds before looking behind me and seeing a group going the other way. I turned right back around and stepped on the gas. There went Prancer! And there was Skirt lady! They were now in front of me and they were supposed be behind me. Curses! I cut a few corners, staying straight on the grass when the paved part curved, in an attempt to make up some of the time I had lost doubling back on the course. (Is that poor etiquette? I have no idea. I’ve never gone off course before). I focused on reeling in Prancer, and eventually Skirt.
For a while, I held the pace while Prancer stayed right on my shoulder. I could hear her breathing beside me but I was determined to stay in front. I told myslf “Keep the pressure on. Don’t back off.” My plan was to save some energy for the last half mile or so, as I knew it would be uphill. My plan backfired somewhere around the 6 mile mark, as I ran out of steam. Prancer passed me and I did not react. Then Skirt passed me and I didn’t try to go after her, either.
I looked at my watch at the 6 mile mark and it read something like 45 minutes, and I knew I would cross the finish before 48:00, halle-freaking-lujah! I crossed the line in 47:28, which I was very pleased with, as that is just 8 seconds off of my PR (which I ran in 2006). I was the third woman in the 30-39 age group and the 11th woman in this small-ish race.
I am suspicious that the course was short. Overall, it was poorly marked with few mile markers (just at 1, 4 and 6) and that one corner with no markings or volunteers, which makes me question the professionalism of the race. Also, the website said it would be mostly unpaved, when in fact, it was mostly paved. So who knows.
During my warm-up, when I was thinking about how to run my best race, I considered the fact that no matter how slow or fast I ran, I have everything I want. I’ve got my health, Dan, and our sweet, happy baby, and that is more than enough. So I felt pretty good before the race even started.
After the race, Skirt lady and I congratulated each other. She apologized for letting me pace her the whole way and then passing me toward the end. I really didn’t care. It’s a race, after all. But I convinced her to do part of my 3 mile cool-down with me. She was reluctant but I told her she owed me for pacing her to a PR and an age group win.
So… If I had known how poorly marked the course was, would have worn my Garmin? Possibly. Would I have studied the course map more carefully? Definitely. As irritated as I was with the race organizers for failing to mark this turn, it is an athlete’s responsibility to be familiar with the course.
Another thing I learned, perhaps the most important: It is possible to run just as fast as you’ve ever run with a seven month old baby, even if you’re nursing! And Sweet Pea nurses a lot. Although I try to give her purees a couple of times a day, I would estimate 90% of her calories are from breastmilk.
I also learned you can run just as fast as ever even if you are still waking up once a night to nurse.
We did the Cry It Out thing and while it was useful to some extent, it got messed up when we went out of town, and to make a long story short, I didn’t have it in me to continue lying awake in bed and doing nothing while the baby screamed her little head off for upwards of an hour, at least once, usually two times per night, while Dan would tell me it had only been like 5 minutes, even though he refused to wear a watch or keep a clock on his side of the bed, which meant he actually had no idea, when I had been keeping track of the time, and I was thinking the baby was legit hungry and feeling like I the cruelest mom/ person in general ever. This went on for many nights in a row, after our trip, and we’d already been through it for about 2 weeks, getting the sleep thing nailed down (so we thought) before the trip.
Everyone told me it would only take 3 hellish nights but this was not my experience. I went back to my trusted baby sleep book and discovered it’s totally normal for a 7 month old baby to require one night feed. It only takes us 15 minutes, start to finish, both Sweet Pea I fall back asleep with less than 30 seconds of crying (her, not me), and it’s ok. I don’t even remember what sleeping eight hours uninterrupted feels like so I hardly miss it. Ok I miss it, I am dying to stay in a hotel with room darkening shades and no baby, who am I kidding. But really, the current situation is working for us right now.
So, a big fat BOOM SHOCKEY (that is my brother in law’s term, it basically means boo ya, or screw you) to everyone who warned me that once I had a baby I wouldn’t have time to run or that I wouldn’t want to. And BIG TIME thanks to Dan, for always encouraging me to get out the door and run!