Last weekend Dan and I ran the Louisville Monster Dash 5K. I was nervous and excited to see where my fitness was, as this was my first race since Lady Bug was born in June. Dan and I spent more time trash talking each other in advance of this race than we actually spent running it, given the short distance. Though my fitness is still slowly returning, I couldn’t miss the rare opportunity to at least try to crush my opponent. Dan agrees to run a race with me just one precious time each year.
The day before the race, I felt a suspicious shooting pain in my achilles tendon. Having struggled with achilles tendonitis in the past, I knew I should baby it by taking at least three days off. Except I had invested so much time trash talking Dan. And we had already hired a sitter for the big event. So, I bailed on the run I’d planned to do the day before the race and soaked my ankle in a bucket of ice water while trying not to yelp too loudly about it while Sweet Pea calmly advised me “Count to four, mama.”
The race was at 3pm on Saturday. I had no idea what to eat for lunch. I originally planned to drink just a protein smoothie but when noon rolled around, I was SO HUNGRY, I had to eat peanut butter toast as well. I watched Dan inhale a bunch of lentils, onions and other random stuff and hoped his nutrition plan would fail. When it comes to our annual showdown, Supportive Wife Pam goes into hiding.
When we arrived at the race venue, it was hot. Like upper 70’s and super sunny hot. All of my recent runs have either been on the treadmill or early in the morning when it’s cool out. I was not ready to race under the blazing sun. Also, everyone else had a costume on. It was all I could do to dash a quick note for the sitter and get out the door on time. I felt inferior in my running shorts and fuschia tank top.
We headed out for a warm up. I quickly learned two things: The peanut butter toast was a poor choice and that my legs didn’t know it was race day. Not only that, my legs wanted to be home in bed, under the covers.
The toast was sitting in my stomach like a rock. My legs felt leaden. It could have been the heat. It could have been the fact that I’ve been getting up with Lady Bug at least twice a night for the last 90+ nights. It could have been that the universe was punishing me for talking so much trash to my loving husband prior to the race. Who knows. Then my Garmin died a mile into the warm up, despite being (supposedly) fully charged.
My positive self-talk was hiding deep, deep under the covers. She wouldn’t even peek the top of her head out when I reminded her that Dan and I were essentially on a date, while our kids were in the care of a babysitter. I tried to remember I was here to race and every race can’t be great. My self-talk, normally my best cheerleader, sent me the ambassador of doom and gloom in her stead.
It’s too hot for this. I didn’t train for this kind of heat. It’s OCTOBER. Why the eff is it so hot? Peanut butter toast… stupid. Really stupid. Why did I eat peanut butter toast!?! Why bother trying. This could just be a run, not a race. I don’t remember the last time I slept more than three or four hours in a row. Of course this is going to suck.
About five minutes before the start, I got myself together. It was just a 5k. It was for fun. And I would run as hard as I could, and if that wasn’t very fast at all, it would be fine. Of course it would be fine. Dan would beat me easily, there was no question, but I would run my best, whatever that would be.
The first three quarter miles of this “flat and fast” race was uphill. I ran conservatively, and when we crested the hill, I increased my effort level. Dan left me somewhere around the first quarter mile, as it was clear that we would not be running anywhere near the same speed. Gentleman that he is, he gave me quick kiss before dashing ahead. Negotiating a kiss while attempting to maintain both kissers’ strides is actually more complicated than it looks. Or maybe we looked like total doofuses (doofi?). I’ll never know.
I steadily passed people as I ran, having positioned myself in the middle of the field, and having taken off at a cautious pace. By the time I reached the second mile marker, I was in pain. My stomach was bothering me and my legs were tired.
I could have done without the stomach ache but this was a 5k. If your legs don’t hurt the whole time, you’re not pushing hard enough. I focused on the catching the person ahead of me, and when I caught them, I would set my sights on the next person. By the time I reached the 3/4 mile descent to the finish line, there was no one ahead of me for at least 25 yards. I focused on closing that gap. I forced myself to keep pushing, telling myself that it would soon be over. The finish line was in sight. All I had to do was remain focused.
I ran out of pavement before I was able to reel in the guy ahead of me. Which was fine. I crossed the line miserable, barely able to catch my breath and staggered to the volunteer who removed my timing chip, and then promptly bent down and put my head between my knees. I wanted to die. Exactly how I like to feel at the end of a race.
My time was 24:41, which is a 7:58 pace. My achilles didn’t bother me at all during the race, and it hasn’t made a peep since the race, either. Before the warm-up from hell, I told Dan I would be glad if I could run anything faster than an 8:00 pace. After the warm-up, I settled for not walking as a reasonable goal, so I am pretty thrilled with the result. I was 8/78 in my division (females 30-39) and 35th of all the 246 women racing.
As a running dork, I need to know where my fitness is now compared to where it was after I had Sweet Pea in 2012. I’m not really good with numbers, except for calculating paces, tips, and sale prices, so I didn’t remember anything from my first post-partum 5K after she was born except that I went out way too fast and ended up having to walk later in the race.
In my head, I had such an easier time getting fit again following my first pregnancy compared to the second. While I can’t compare apples to apples, as I was only 3 months out when I did my first postpartum 5k in 2012, and right now I am almost 5 months out, this is the only data I have. I was only 16 seconds slower this time. So my fitness is probably coming around a little more slowly this time, but then again, I have a toddler now, and Lady Bug has me up at least twice a night, every night, whereas Sweet Pea was an excellent sleeper. I’m pretty happy about where I am, running-wise right now.