Race Recap: Little River Trail Run 7k

In mid January I had been running regularly for a dozen weeks or so, and I started feeling impatient about racing again. The problem was, it was January, and I was not exactly in race shape. But if I've learned anything since becoming a parent, it's that I have to jump on things when I get a rare burst of energy for them, so I started looking for a race. I ran the Little River Trail Run a few years ago and got a gorgeous, long sleeve, SOFT tech shirt. The course is nice and I liked that it's only about 20 minutes from my house. So when I saw that the weekend forecast was in the 50s and there were still slots available, I decided that it would be my first postpartum race.

I had been having some moderately painful SI joint pain for a few weeks but I figured I would take some ibuprofen and ignore it. What could go wrong?

Race day clothes haphazardly flung on top of old mail and ice cream punch cards. Doing my best here.

Race day clothes haphazardly flung on top of old mail and ice cream punch cards. Doing my best here.

On race day morning, I woke up, fed the baby, got my stuff together, ate some breakfast, threw back like six ibuprofin, and headed out the door.

It was pretty gray and overcast, but otherwise warm for January in North Carolina. I had low expectations for my pace and felt no pressure to beat any time goals, especially because I was running a trail race and a strange distance. But even though I'm not anywhere near peak shape, I can still respect myself as an athlete, so I made a goal to run at a comfortably hard race effort.

As soon as I started running, I knew this goal was in trouble. My SI joint hurt a lot. This injury, if I am finally going to call it that, probably deserves its own post, but I've struggled to write or talk about it because it is so mysterious to me. It started during pregnancy and has flared up both times I've gotten into a semi-regular running groove.

I felt overwhelmed with frustration. I had started, stopped, and re-started running all in response to this sciatica pain. I wanted to have a triumphant first race, but instead I was going to have to cope with this pain for the entirety of the race.

A very dark cloud settled over my mood. I was angry and frustrated. This was a dumb, dumb idea.I contemplated quitting, but I had paid the money and was too stubborn/cheap to stop, even if it was going to hurt my back more.

I resorted to running with one hand on my own back, applying pressure to my SI joint. I got passed a lot. It was demoralizing.

Smiling for the camera though

Smiling for the camera though

I tried to just make peace with how I was feeling and do my best. Halfway through, I noticed that while it hurt really bad, it wasn't getting worse. It also felt much better on uphills, which was something! I managed to pass some people who had passed me earlier in the race. Toward the end I found myself accidentally pacing a duo of women who complimented me on my consistency and said I was pacing them to a good time. I was flattered and relieved to be of use out there in the woods. We chatted a bit and cheered on the lead 10-milers as they began to pass us.

I finished in 47:12 (10:51 pace) -- not fast at all but not nearly as slow as I feared I was running. After, my back "locked up" and I hobbled to the massage tent before heading home.

Free coffee though

Free coffee though

So, I didn't have the triumphant return to racing I had imagined, but at least I'm more motivated than ever to get to the bottom of my problems with my SI joint and race for real.

Weeks 2-5 of ?? Training

Week Two

We drove down to Florida for Thanksgiving this year, baby in tow. Somewhere along 1-95 in northern South Carolina, we got into a car accident and had to have our car towed away, be driven to a rental place to get a rental car, and then drive 5 more hours south. The whole journey took 12 hours. Everyone was fine (we were very lucky).

Once there, the baby slept terribly in his new/temporary environment in the pack and play. Each night for four nights, he woke up 5-6 times. Given the enormous stress of the car crash, plus sleep deprivation, I'm proud that I stuck to my plan. I was feeling extremely tired, but I am glad I got my miles done.

Over 15 miles this week, compared to 12 the previous week.

Over 15 miles this week, compared to 12 the previous week.

Holidays are pretty rough for me, but I'd forgotten what a salve running can be. I am a more patient, generous person when I can go run around in circles a few times in the morning.

A few things on my mind this week:

  • Speedwork: So far, I'm running everything at the same exact pace: 10-10:30 minute miles. I want to slowly start to push myself and get faster, so I'm planning to add in a little bit of speedwork soon. I forget which workouts I hate the least. 400s? 800s? Tempo runs? I guess I'll remember soon enough.
  • Joining a gym. I always join a gym during the winter. Right now I'm trying to decide whether to join a gym near my house, or near my work. My office has a gym in the basement which is super convenient, but I don't really have any extra time in my day to take advantage of it, since I am still pumping 2-3 times a day and using my lunch to catch up on work. I'm hoping that once the baby turns 1, I can quit pumping and I'll be able to start running during lunch. For now, I'm thinking about joining a gym near my house so I can go exercise after I put the baby down for the night. Usually running is the absolute LAST thing I want to do at 7 or 8pm after a long day, but since I'm not willing to wake up any earlier, it's basically my only option. 
  • Headphones: I mentioned I found and charged my iPod. But I haven't been able to find my earbuds (not an affiliate link) anywhere. I've had these earbuds for over four years! I'm hoping they turn up soon. In the meantime, I'm running without music and it's been really relaxing, if a little boring.

Week Three

A frustrating week with fallout from the holidays, lousy sleep, and living without a car. We finally broke down and bought one on the last day of the month. That little circle you see below is an attempt to run with an empty jogging stroller to go pick up the baby from daycare. What a disaster! The (loaner) jogging stroller isn't aligned correctly and kept pulling to the left, and it was absolutely maddening. I ran one frustrating mile on broken sidewalks or no sidewalks at all (thanks, City Council!) before giving up and walking. I don't think there is much stroller running in my future.

Week Four

A better week! I caved and ordered new headphones, and of course as soon as I did that I found my old ones. I joined a gym near my house. And I set a postpartum PDR, 6 miles!

Six miles doesn't sound like much to my brain, but my body thinks it's a lot. I had blisters on my feet after this run. It is hard to believe I ever used to run twenty-six miles.

Week Five

Every week I declare that I will run 3-4x that week. And nearly every week that eludes me somehow. It doesn't take much: This week it was holiday parties and a Quaker thing we do each month. I'm a little dismayed by my repeated failure to do what seems to me to be a very modest weekly running frequency. 

The bright side is that I am slowly getting faster. I'm not doing any speedwork yet; I'm just running (jogging, really). But my pace has gone down from ~11:00 to 10:30, to 10:00, and now I'm comfortably running around 9:30 min/miles. 

The other day on the treadmill my mind wandered to my first marathon, NYC 2013. I had the most pleasant daydream remembering the final miles of that race, when I realized I was going to run a sub-4 hour marathon and get my name printed in The New York Times (although it turned out that everyone got their name in the Times, not just those who finished under 4 hours, like I thought). It was so motivating to remember it, and know that somewhere underneath all of the suck that is getting back in shape, there is a person who can run marathons.

I'll just name it: These first few weeks of consistent running are not fun. Right now it's really about getting each run done and looking ahead to when I'm faster and this is a little more exciting and fun.