Every so often I get busy and overwhelmed and like to bury my head in the sand and pretend I’m living someone else’s uncomplicated life. My therapist would likely toss around some label like “denial.” I prefer to think of it in more positive terms such as “coping mechanism” or “survivalist technique.” The glass is always half full (of wine) around here. Except in the final week before a race, when I typically abstain from alcohol. It’s unfortunate when this dry period coincides with…life.
Here we are, two week after my last post – practically an era in social media terms. Right now this blog should be in the midst of adolescent angst, a breakout and telling me it hates me for embarrassing it, and yet it has barely left the toddler years.
Speaking of toddlers, has anyone ever thrown a birthday party for one? I just entered the world of planning and executing such an event, as the previous years were small, family-only affairs. Thanks to Pinterest, I’m led to believe that if I don’t create a buffet of options to cater to the most discerning of three- and four-year old tastes, I have somehow failed as a parent. So there I found myself at 3 a.m. the night (morning?) before the big day, creating multiple cupcake frosting flavours and colours, threading fruit chunks in rainbow patterns onto skewers, and carefully wrapping thoughtfully-chosen loot bags for a Muppet Show-themed party my little girl will probably not remember for more than a month or two,let alone during the aforementioned turbulent teenage years (not matter how long it took me to find a dozen Kermit, Miss Piggy and Animal Pez Dispensers).
In the past few weeks, we’ve also prepared our house for a major basement renovation and I’ve started a new part-time job. And we might have run a half-marathon somewhere at the end of it all.
To make a long story longer, life happened and didn’t always leave much room for other important things like blogging and training (and stretching!). I entered my race this past weekend, the popular Harvest Half marathon through the south end of Calgary’s Fish Creek park, feeling underprepared and just plain tired.
A few minor (but potentially longer-term) injuries meant that for the several weeks leading up to race day, I was doing only my long runs after my nine weeks of hill training sessions were complete. No mid-week steady runs, no speed work like last year. I had very low expectations for the actual event, which worked both for and against me. Because I was so busy, I was mostly distracted from the usual nerves and over-analyzing that plague the final days pre-race. However, I also had the sinking feeling that my lack of preparation meant I couldn’t even attempt to make this a PR no matter how good I felt the day of.
Yet once again 21.1k (mostly) zoomed by. I remember the warm morning air of a perfect race day; nervous, excited porta-potty line-up chatter; the crunch of fall leaves under my feet; feeling good until approximately the 16k mark when queasiness overtook me; trying to focus on, and get through, the final 5k stretch; unplanned walk breaks in the final three kilometers; the glorious sight of the inflatable finish line; screaming muscles in the last 50 metre sprint when you can’t think of stopping or slowing in front of such a large crowd of spectators/witnesses, even as your legs curse your every move; victory hugs from supportive parents and your excited (to see you) kids; celebratory coffee and bananas, and of course, a new piece of hardware to add to a growing collection.
I finished in a respectable 2:13:32, not terrible for five-and-a-half months postpartum, yet my slowest half-marathon race time of the three I’ve run. Despite that, I had envisioned myself running this very race throughout nine long months of pregnancy, should I be healthy, strong and rested enough. And as someone who doesn’t always plan ahead and do the necessary work to achieve goals, this felt like a big accomplishment. Especially when I remember the struggling breaths and terrible nausea of my first short 3k run, on the May long weekend, six weeks after giving birth.
And now the past few weeks of stress and preparation and celebration all sort of blur together, which most parents tell you is a fairly normal aspect of early parenthood. However, I am just grateful at this point to have a few vivid memories of the experience – a deep breath somewhere around 6k that smells like fall crispness; deeply inhaling the scent of my daughter’s clean hair a couple nights before the race, as she meshes her fingers through my own hair at bedtime and declares “I cuddle you mommy” amid my exhaustion; a small leap of excitement seeing smiling, chubby cheeks at the finish line and the feeling of my medal crushing against my chest as I squeeze my two babies against me. They don’t know what I’ve just done – they’re just happy to see mommy.
My PR can wait until next year.