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?
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.
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.
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.