Colorado Women’s Classic 5k: Race Report

Race morning, Sweet Pea is in my room at 5:45 am.

“Can we snuggle? Open your Mother’s Day present!”

She’s standing an inch from my face. I mentally berate myself for convincing her to wait until Mother’s Day to give me the present she was dying to give me the day before. My alarm is set only fifteen minutes from now but sleep is delicious and I want more. Through half open eyes, with the gray light peeking through the cracks in the curtains, I tear off the wrapping paper, revealing a picture of my big girl in a bedazzled frame.

“I love it!” I exclaim.

“Turn on the light so you can really see it!” she implores.

“I can totally see it! Let’s leave the light off. It’s great.”

It’s sparkly and full of personality, just like my girl. She made me a mom five years ago and now she’s ready for kindergarten. I ran the same race I’m about to run today when she was three months old. I nursed her in a booth at Panera right before the start.

When I’m actually awake, I open the blinds so I can fully appreciate my present and I invite her back into my bed for a snuggle.

*     *     *

En route to the race, we listen to one track from a Strawberry Fairy CD the girls insisted on but that’s all Dan and I can handle. After that we rock out to one of my spin class playlists on Spotify. Please remind me to visualize my kids dancing in their car seats to Vibin‘ and the sound of Lady Bug’s little almost three-year-old voice imploring Dan, “Dada, move!” (e.g. “Dad, get your groove on already!”), the next time I get burnt out on being their mom.

Dan drops me off and then goes to park the car, and after I do the normal pre-race things (get my bib and find a bathroom), I warm up. Ten minutes easy, five minutes build to a moderately hard pace, then five twenty second strides, followed by 40 seconds to recovery. My legs feel fresh. This race will be an fitness experiment, considering since the Horsetooth Half Marathon I did in late April, I’ve run a handful of times, taught or taken a few spin classes, and did three yoga classes (which is more yoga than I’ve  done over the past year). I know my mind remembers how to run fast but I’m not sure if my heart and lungs are up to the task, given they’ve been out of practice for a few weeks.

I snake my way up to the front of the sea of women waiting to start. We begin and immediately a young woman with a long, swaying brown ponytail establishes herself as the leader. Behind her are a pair of girls. I’m hoping I can follow closely behind them, letting them break up some of the wind, but I can see by their loping,  almost playful-looking gait that I won’t be behind them for long. Within the first minute or so, I pass them. Ponytail is far enough ahead of me that it doesn’t make any sense to try to reel her in.

Instead, I focus on myself. I’m breathing hard but I am supposed to be. This will be over in less than 23 minutes. All I have to do is get in the zone and do my best to stay there until the finish. My legs aren’t tired. I tell myself that when they are, I won’t back off. I don’t look at my watch. I don’t want to worry about my pace. I just want to go by feel. I also just want to know how long I’ve been running. I look down and see 5:39. I’m over halfway to ten minutes. At ten minutes, I will be within spitting distance of eleven minutes, and by then I will be at or very near the finish line. I tell myself I only need to sustain this pace for five minutes and 39 seconds four more times.

A slim, muscular lady passes me like I’m standing still. Her breathing is relaxed and her form is efficient. I don’t even try to stay with her. I wonder if she’s doing the 5k or the 10k and decide probably the latter because of how chill she appears. I end up being right.

I pass the first mile mark and my watch reads 7:00. I’ve probably gone out too fast but the course is slightly downhill on the way out. My legs aren’t tired yet but I’m breathing hard and there’s no one around me, just an empty paved trail ahead and open space and big blue sky all around me as I head east.

I can’t see the first place women and the lead biker is just a neon yellow speck, and then they vanish from my line of sight. I turn around at the halfway point and my watch reads 11:07. I’m hoping to run under 22:30 and I just might, but what I really want to do is finish knowing I gave everything.

I’m halfway from the finish and 1.55 miles has never felt so intimidating. Just keep going. Don’t back off. I see practically the whole race stretched out behind me as I pass them going the opposite direction. They’re moms and daughters and sisters and friends and grandmas and they’re all beautiful and I want to yell “GREAT JOB, LADIES!” but I don’t have the energy so I smile when I remember and give a thumbs up to all the women who cheer for me.

I’m nearly at the two mile mark and I feel vaguely nauseated. I wonder why I eschewed brunch at a restaurant with my family and chose this as my preferred activity. I think of a blueberry scone and a mimosa and then my nausea intensifies. Instead, I think of a glass of ice water. I feel a little better.

I think I hear breathing behind me but I’m not sure until I pass a few spectators who yell “Great job!” and a few seconds later, they yell it again. Her breathing is becoming increasingly louder. I force myself to run faster, just to that pole, to the next tree, to that bend in the bike path, but I hear her getting closer all the time. I imagine her giving up, getting discouraged, realizing she surged a bit too early and that she cannot in fact catch me before we run out of pavement, but she overtakes me just before the three mile mark anyway. I look at my watch, which reads 2.92 miles. I have less 400 meters, one lap around the track, to go and it feels like forever.

When my competitor passed me, she took second place along with a heaping cup full of my energy and I don’t have to glance at my watch to be sure my pace has slowed. I see the final turn for the finish chute and I glimpse Lady Bug’s neon orange hoodie on the sidelines. Dan is cheering for me and I muster all my energy to finish strong though my body is begging me to quit.

My time is 22:56, a 7:23/mi pace, good for third overall. It’s not a PR but I wasn’t expecting that. All I wanted was to run as hard as I could, which I definitely did.Co Womens Classic 5k

Prairie Dog 10k Race Report

When I found out I was pregnant with Sweet Pea in June 2011, my first thought was “Yay!” My second thought was, “Shit, this is not going to be the summer I break 47 minutes in the 10k.” I was right. I spent that summer being bloated and nauseated as a little human began to grow inside me. I didn’t know then that I would eventually break 47 minutes, five and a half years later. It turns out, that’s not as long of a time as it sounds like. How is my baby starting kindergarten in the fall??? (A blog post for another time).

I did the Prairie Dog 10k this morning. I wasn’t sure what to expect, considering I’ve been injured (or maybe injured-ish is the right word?) for a while now, and not running as consistently as I’d like to be. Based on a few recent 5k’s I assumed I was fit enough to run between a 7:30 and 7:40 pace, but by the same token, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve run more than 5 miles at once over the past eight weeks. So I didn’t know if I could maintain a good pace for an entire 6.2 miles. And even though my physical therapist gave me the green light to race, I knew that if a friend or a client were in my shoes, I’d have advised against racing at this point.

But I love racing, I’d already convinced three friends to do the race and I was excited about it (not compelling reasons to race if your body can’t handle it), so I went for it.

I wake up and immediately do my 12 minute Foundation exercise program (I’ve skipped one day since Jan 2 and I’m a big fan, so far) and my ten minute meditation, which I back down to eight minutes in the interest in getting out the door on time. Normally, my meditation consists of sitting with my eyes closed and focusing on my breath but today I think about how I’m going to feel while I’m running. I visualize myself feeling horrible, my legs begging me to stop but continuing anyway, not backing off one single bit, knowing that a minute or ten minutes or even 47ish minutes is not a long time to suffer. Breakfast is the same as always before a race, a glass of water, instant oatmeal and instant coffee (don’t judge). It’s freezing, and not in a Colorado, dry, amazing way, but in the moist New England way that chills your bones. The sky is gray and thick with moisture and I kind of love it. I wear only a thin tank top under a medium weight top with capris and I know I’m underdressed but I also know I’ll be happy about my outfit a mile into the race, and it turns out, I’m right.

My friends turn down my invitation to warm up before the gun goes off (actually they laugh at me) and of course I want to keep chatting with them, so my warm-up is closer to 1.5 miles than two miles that’s ok because I haven’t run more than eight miles, period, in months. (Like, many, many months.) I jump into the start area with about a minute to go and line up toward the very front. The gun goes off and my breathing is controlled but I am asking myself Can I sustain this for six miles? Maybe. Probably not. Better slow down. No, hold it here. No slow down a hair. It’s a downhill, not holding back here. Ok catch your breath. Regroup. Seriously, is this pace do-able for six point two miles?

I futz with my watch, peeking at the pace, scrolling to check on my heart rate, although I haven’t trained with a heart rate monitor in so long, I’m not sure whether to be alarmed or encouraged by the numbers. I see a cluster of women ahead and I feel like I’m eventually going to catch them but I need to focus. I set my watch to display the time elapsed and resolve to stop messing with it. I don’t need distractions. I need to focus on my breathing, my form, the ground under my feet. I get into a rhythm and the chatter in my head gets softer and softer until I can barely hear it.

I am disappointed when I see the women I thought I was going to catch pass me in the other direction. It turns out they are doing the 5k. Just ahead I see a guy in a baggy sweatshirt and I pass him easily. Now there is no one I can see. I wonder if I can keep pushing the pace despite the lack of competition. All I see is a dirt/gravel path ahead. I’m thankful the course is extremely well marked. I get to the second mile mark and my watch reads 14:33. I do some math in my head and decide this race could turn out alright but I remind myself not to get ahead of myself and also not to waste energy on math. I can’t help it though.

The third mile comes at 22:00 and I do some quick calculations and I wonder if I could actually do this thing in under 47 minutes. Finally I see runners coming at me after the turn-around. They’re men. They’re flying. They’re smiling and saying “good job” and I wonder how they can even talk. I realize after I turn around myself, that it’s downhill at this point. I smile and wave or give a thumbs up to the runners coming the other direction. I wish there was another woman, another person anywhere near me but there’s not so I look on the bright side; I’m running my own race. I’m following my own plan: Miles 0-2 should feel hard, 2-4 should be extremely hard, and 4-6.2 should feel like death and destruction. I forgot how much I love this distance. It’s been a while since I did a 10k.

I get to the fourth mile and my watch reads 30ish minutes and I wish I had been doing the kind of workouts I have been longing to do.. 3 by two mile repeats with 2 minutes recovery, 4 mile repeats with one minute recovery, 60 minute runs with 20 minutes at tempo, 8 x 800 on the track. Then I would feel like I could run two miles hard in my sleep, like it’s nothing. But I haven’t been doing those workouts. I’ve only done what I can do so I let my mind drift to other things I’ve done; like grinding up to Ward under the blazing summer sun on my bike. Every painful thing is a deposit in my bank but the beauty, as I’ve discovered over all my years of endurance sports, is that you can make a withdrawal whenever you want, but the balance never decreases. You can always remember what it felt like to suffer without using up the memory or the knowledge that yes, you’ve done it before and you can do this again.

The course winds around a pond, under an underpass, then up from the crushed gravel trail onto the road, and now we are back to the point where the 5k runners turned around, what felt like a lifetime ago. I see a lady plodding in front of me, and I wonder where she has been this whole time, did she start out way too fast and then die? I pass her easily, giving her a thumbs up as I do. I’m in a neighborhood and I’m on pavement and I love it and I’m not supposed to love pavement, living as close as I do to the Rocky Mountains, but you run faster on pavement with less effort, so I am thankful for this gift. I’m charging up a hill, that same hill I didn’t think too much about on the way down, past a bunch of generic looking new golf course houses, and I have no idea what my pace is but I know I can’t go any harder than this. My breathing is doing that embarrassing thing where I’m making this kind of “huh” noise when I exhale but there’s no one around to hear me anyway, except the volunteers. I give a wave and grunt “thanks” as I pass.

As I turn the final corner, I see the sweet finish and I have less than 800  yards to go. It’s a straight shot to the chute and I stay focused, running as hard as I can until I cross the timing mat. I look at my watch. 47:00 flat. I’m exhausted. I’m happy.

Prairie Dog 10k Race Report

Turns out, my official time was 46:55, a 7:33/mi pace, I won first female overall and fifth person (it was a very small race). Of course I was thrilled to win a race (a first for me) but more than that, I was thrilled to race well, particularly with no one in my line of sight, and on low mileage. I was really proud that I stayed focused throughout. I have zero doubt that I gave it everything I had, which is huge. For the past eight weeks, I ran about 20-25 miles per week (plus cross training, including the spin class I teach every Monday, and the occasional swim or elliptical session), with some weeks far less mileage, due to injury stuff. Meanwhile, I had been strength training consistently (one to two times a week, which is not something I normally do) and I think that helped a lot. Meanwhile, my ever growing bank of experience had to have counted for something. There is a lot to be said for just getting used to a certain distance, and getting comfortable with discomfort. My time was not only an altitude PR but a PR, period, by 25 seconds! Also, the aches and pains that have been annoying me kept quiet throughout the race.

Prairie Dog 10k

Stats for my fellow running geeks.

 

 

Workout Wednesday | Diastasis Recti: What is it? (Part 1)

*disclaimer: I’m not a physician or a medical professional with specific training in pelvic floor and women’s health. Do not begin a postpartum exercise program before consulting with a physical or occupational therapist with advanced skills in pelvic floor therapy and women’s health.

“That’s not really a thing. It sounds like maybe it’s just, like, a Boulder thing.”

That’s what my sister said when I told her about my diastasis recti, right after my second child was born. But it really is a thing that many women deal with after a pregnancy and if you just had a baby and you have it, I’m here to answer some questions that you may not have even known you should be asking. Oh and the baby who caused my abdomen to split? She’s now two and-a-half and I am just getting around to editing and publishing this post. I’m not sure if that means I’m a slacker or I’m tenacious. In the spirit of kindness, I’ll go with the latter.

What is a Diastasis Recti and How Does it Happen?
The front-facing part of the abdominal wall includes the rectus abdominus muscle, which has a thin separation running down the middle of the right and left sides. Normally, the distance between the two sides of the rectus muscle is tiny, and a connective sheath of tissue holds the muscle together effectively.

But… when you’re pregnant, your uterus shoves other organs and tissues out of the way to make room for the baby. Yes it’s kind of rude, although in all fairness, the survival of our species depends on the take-charge nature of the uterus.

Sometimes, the uterus gets out of control with the pushing and shoving, with no regard for what organs and tissues were there first, and this is how you end up with a diastasis recti, which is a significant separation of the rectus abdominus muscle.

Risk factors include:
-a larger baby
-multiples
-previous pregnancy (or pregnancies)

How do you know if you have diastasis recti?
It’s actually pretty simple:
1) Lie on your back
2) Bend your knees
3) Do a partial crunch, just so that your shoulder blades are off the ground.
4) Press your fingers into your stomach directly above your belly button.

If it feels tight, you’re fine. If you feel a gap, or a valley there, and it feels like maybe you could lose a finger in there, or as a woman I recently met said, “you could tickle my liver” —you probably have a diastasis. A gap of about 1 to 1 and a half finger-widths is considered normal. Two finger-widths or more is considered a diastasis recti. If you have one, you will probably notice that no matter how many crunches or planks you do, your abs do not get tighter. Actually, until you close up the gap, these types of exercises will do more harm than good.

I’ll pick back up with a post on what you can do about it (and what I’ve done about mine) in a subsequent post.

For now, it bears mentioning, that lady I mentioned who said you could tickle her liver… She’s my idol. We randomly met at the gym and when I found out she’s an ultramarathoner, I had to know how she’s handled the injuries I assumed a distance runner would sustain. She told me stupidly ran a 50k ten weeks after the birth of her first child, which exacerbated her diastasis recti to the point where it will not close, even partially. She said she could not run even a few steps between the birth of her first and second child, due to glute pain, about three years later. She’s back to running ultras at the age of 44, despite her lack of an intact core. My diastasis is nowhere near as severe as hers, but I do think it’s part of what has kept me injured on and off since Lady Bug’s birth. This woman’s story was so inspiring to me.

 

#WorkoutWednesday: 30 Minute Strength Workout

Ever since Lady Bug was born (she’s now two-and-a-half), my running has been two steps forward, one step back, eg) frustrating to the max. As soon as I get in a good groove, I start increasing mileage, throwing in a workout here and there, jumping into a 5k, and then bam, something throws me off. It’s been beyond frustrating. Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result, right? Which is why I’ve tried all kinds of things.

A non-exhaustive list of things I’ve tried over the past couple of years includes: physical therapy, chiropractic, massage, more physical therapy, barre classes, cross-training, single leg squats, more single leg squats, donkey kicks, sooo many donkey kicks, clamshells, more clamshells, so many clamshells my butt was on fire, planks, side planks, plank challenges, self-massage, foam rolling, ice, heat, and stretching. My latest issue is an ache in the arch of my foot. It doesn’t exactly hurt but been annoying me when I run for about three weeks, which makes me think it’s not nothing. And as a wise friend pointed out to me, the definition of not nothing is something. And I really don’t want this to be something. I want to ignore this and run anyway. Though I have a talent for being dumb and stubborn, I recognize that that the smart thing to do is the opposite of what I want to do.

So… It’s time to try something different (eg not be insane). I’m going to incorporate strength training into my routine at least twice a week. I’ve been pretty good about doing my planks and pushups most days, but I usually do the other stuff (lunges, squats, deadlifts, etc) sporadically, at best. There is no excuse for this. I belong to a gym that has childcare, and my basement is home to a TRX, a bunch of dumbbells, two physio balls (one normal one and one Pam-sized one), a medicine ball, multiple resistance bands, and soon (eg hopefully the first night of Hannukah), a kettlebell.

On Saturday, after about 20 minutes on the spinning bike at the gym, I did this workout. I went through this routine three times, which took just under 30 minutes.

(10-12 reps each exercise)

Kettlebell swings (1st one with 12 kg, 2nd one with 8 kg, 3rd one with 12kg. I felt like Goldilocks, searching for the perfect weight, which I suspect would have been 10 kg, but I couldn’t find it. Also note, I did not make the whooshing noises like the guy in the video).

Pushups

Side step with resistance band (if you do this right, you’ll feel it in your glute med, big time). 

Standing dumbbell rows (with 15 lb dumb bells)

Goblet squats (with 8kg kettlebell. You could also do this with a medicine ball)

Back extensions on Swiss ball (I like to do these with my feet pressed up against a wall.)

Hamstring curls on Swiss ball

Reverse lunges with weight (8 kg kettle bell) 

Plank x 1:00

Curtsy lunges with weight (8 kg kettle bell) 

If you try this workout, feel free to improvise if you don’t have access to the same equipment I used.

 

#workoutwednesday Thirty Minute Strength Workout

 

Race Report: Wobble Gobble 5k

The morning started like any other race morning, with two packets; a square packet of Quaker Instant Oatmeal and a rectangular, tube-like packet of Starbucks Via. Unlike a usual morning, I Instagrammed my breakfast. I spent a moment wondering if I was a loser or a cliche or both because really? Choosing a cool filter for a photo of prepackaged food? But I went ahead and did it anyway, wrote a caption, slapped on a few hashtags, and boom, there was my first ever Instagram post.

I got out the door, drove to the Y down the street from my sister’s house, in Attleboro, MA, the one I’ve been to several times, made a few u-turns in the very confusing office park where it’s located, then gave up and parked in some biotech company’s parking lot. I tried my best to follow the markings on the road to get to the race start but missed a crucial point, which sent me way out of my way… So I got my warm-up in. If you saw an idiot in a pink Lole hat (the kind with a little slit just for your ponytail) running around pretending to be doing a relaxed warm-up while her eyes were darting around, searching for any sign of the YMCA, that was me.

I got to the packet pick-up area, where I ran into one of the friends I planned to meet, about 30 minutes before the start. We warmed up together, then ran into our other friend right before the start. When the second friend and I spotted each other in a sea of people, we screamed like teenagers, which was fitting, considering we are high school friends.

The first friend and I decided to run together once we figured out that our PR’s were eerily similar. Within a minute, I was in front of her. I wished I’d had her next to me, but it just didn’t happen. Right away, I noticed a woman in an orange neon top and a long blonde ponytail. I made it my mission to keep her in my sights. The scenery was unimpressive, but I didn’t mind. I was staring at that bobbing, blonde ponytail, anyway.  The course was very flat, weaving through the empty streets of an office park, down wide, sidewalk-less, curving roads, past office buildings, and through deserted parking lots. Through the first mile, I kept asking myself “Is this the right pace?” It had been a while since I did a 5k. I realize, having done a bunch of Stroke and Strides this summer (a 750 meter swim, followed by a 5k run), there is a huge benefit of doing a 5k over and over and over; it’s not just that you gain fitness (although that is great). It’s that you hone your sense of what the distance feels like and how to gauge your effort. Three months since my last 5k, my gauge was a bit rusty.

I looked at my watch as we passed the first mile mark and saw 6 something and thought to myself, either I went out way too fast, I’m a fucking machine, or my watch is wrong. When we passed the second mile mark, I was having trouble focusing on the itty bitty numbers on my watch because, well, I had been running at 5k race pace for two miles. The watch is a hand-me-down from my mother in law, and I had used it maybe once before, so I was not used to it. My (not so) trusty Tom Tom has been malfunctioning, which is why I was relying on a watch with numbers so small I could barely understand them. To TomTom’s credit, my GPS watch is no longer under warranty, but they are in the process of issuing me a  new one. In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t worn a watch at all.

Just after the second mile mark, I began to feel like I was on the verge of puking. On one hand, I was thrilled because, regardless of my pace, this meant I was doing something right. On the other hand, I really didn’t want to puke, so I was doing my best to find the sweet spot of running as fast as I could while keeping my oatmeal down. I wanted to run faster than my body was letting me. I still had my eye on ponytail girl when I started passing people. First a high school boy with a wonky, out of control gait. He reminded me of a really tall five-year-old, all enthusiasm and flailing limbs. Then there was a dude I passed on a hill. A chick in a Rhode Runner shirt passed me, and though I had every intention of passing her back, I never did. As we approached the 3 mile mark, I looked at my watch, which read 20 minutes and some seconds, and I felt sure that if I could just keep moving forward, I’d run my goal time of 21: 45.

As it turned out, I wasn’t a fucking machine and I had not necessarily gone out too fast… My watch was messed up. I crossed the finish line, absent of a finish clock (??), and looked down at my watch, which read 20:35. I was incredulous.. for good reason. It wasn’t true. I found ponytail girl, who’d finished just ahead of me. After I thanked her for motivating me, I asked her what her time was. She said twenty one twenty something, so I knew my 20:35 was completely wrong. How you mess up pressing a start button on a digital watch, I do not know, but obviously it is possible, because I did it.

As it turned out, I did PR by one second, with a time of 21:58, which made me the fifth female and first in my age group. I was happy with that, but I had to wonder if I could have found another gear if the stupid watch hadn’t given me a false sense of speed. Live and learn, right?

The best part of the race was not my time or my place, but the fact that I got to catch up with my old friends. It turned out the friend I started with was right behind me the whole time. We enjoyed a nice cool-down jog together, and then met up with the third friend. I promised myself I would not spend more time on this race report than it took me to actually run it. My timer is counting down and I have 13 seconds left… Till next time:)

race-report-wobble-gobble-5k-2016