Flashback to 2007: Sarah and I are kicking off our training for the Nike Women's Marathon, a process that will spawn the Marathon Moms blog on Runner's World (no longer available); a Marathon Moms feature in the magazine; and, eventually, Run Like a Mother and another mother runner.
Ben, my second kid, was just one year old then, and in order to gauge where my post-baby fitness was, I ran the Bolder Boulder, the popular Memorial Day 10K. I hadn't run a race in over two years, and I remember feeling very overwhelmed by the whole situation: the crowds (even though the waves are very organized, 55,000 people covering a 10K course means quite a bit of bobbing and weaving); the hills (I had stuck to the flattest paths possible while training, and the hills weren't kind); the fact that I felt so wasted after 6.2 miles, and I was planning, in five months, to go 20 more.
I just looked up my results, and I ran a 55:05 seven years ago.
Flashback to three or so months ago: I get an email from Runner's World, asking if I want to run the Bolder Boulder on behalf of belVita, the crunchy breakfast biscuits in yellow packages I always see in Costco. I am in the middle of training for Boulder 70.3, a half-Ironman, and think the 10K will feel quick, compared to the bulk of my long-distance training. Plus, I love the fiber-rich, tasty biscuits and the campaign—#morningwin—because I'm a morning runner, and any run completed before, say, 9:00 a.m. is a total win in my book. Could've been a kickin' race or a one-mile slog on your own: you rallied before much of the world does, you ran, it's a win.
Time to replace the anxious feeling the Bolder Boulder still brings up and help bring #morningwin to the world. I'm in. In April, I go up to Boulder to do a group training run with Revolution Running.
I run with Jeannette, a fellow tall mother runner from England who used to be a cop in Boulder until she had a heart attack; now she's reduced some stress in her life and has a job—in addition to mothering two kids—at a retail store. Her story and attitude floor me, and I grateful for our morning miles together. (#morningwin!)
Flashback to about a month ago: I decide that 70.3 is not the best call for my life right now. But I'm still on for Bolder Boulder. Time channel what little athletic spark I feel and focus on nailing a 10K.
During the subsequent workouts, I felt like I was cramming for an exam in a class that I had only attended two times the whole semester. Yes, I have remnants of IronMother fitness, and yes, I have been working out regularly, but the last time I tried to run truly fast—not long—was a flail of a 5K in December of 2012 (and the time before that? 2010, I think). The three fast-twitch muscles I possess were not psyched to come out of hibernation.
Fast forward to race day, yesterday. Because I had a qualifying time—something I didn't have when I registered, post-Ben—I am in wave EE, not ME. (With families and plenty of costumed runners, ME was a moving party. But like I said: I was Bob-and-Weave Overwhelmed.) EE feels more like a typical race, and a new starting location means it's not crazy crowded. (It also means the first mile starts uphill, not downhill.)
I gave up the 70.3 race, but I didn't lose Briana Boehmer, my coach, who gave me a general race plan: the first two miles, the effort should feel like a 5 on a scale of 1-10; the second two miles, an effort of 5-6; the next mile, mostly downhill, I should open up my stride and run strong; the final mile + .2, I should keep up the strong effort I had in that downhill mile. "Only 1.2 miles, Dim!" she wrote, "Hang in there!" If my Soleus read faster than a 9:00 mile during the first third of the race, I was going too fast, and would likely pay for it at the end.
So the first mile? 8:50ish. Dang it. Slow your roll, motherrunner. "Five, Dimity," I told myself, "Five on effort." The next one popped up in the low 9's, and so I changed my mantra for the next two: "5.5 to 6, Dimity. 5.5, light and quick and easy." I was moving, but the 5.5 wasn't feeling as light and quick and fast as it ideally should. I hit the highest point on the race—helpfully marked after a hump of a hill—and breathed a sigh of relief, let the downhill carry me, and didn't worry about my effort for a bit.
Then the downhill stopped, and my legs groaned. My brain groaned. I groaned out loud. I did everything I could to get myself in the game. I played the "strong, solid, strong, solid," mantra over and over. I told myself I was getting closer with every step. Around the 9K mark, I saw my pal Denise and her family, including Zoe, who made me the best.sign.ever, and that gave me a great lift. "1,000 more meters," I told myself, "That's half of a freakin' rowing race!"
Still, that last little bit felt monumentally hard. Just ugh and thanks, but no. I consciously slowed my running, let myself catch my breath, maybe took 15 steps of walking (just maybe...), and then fired my jets back up. The last two hills into the stadium were not a great moment in my running career: my posture was horrible, my steps were clunky, my mind had left the building.
Then I stepped into the flat stadium, and felt like a rock star.
I pushed the wrong button on my Soleus at the starting line, and also committed a user error on Strava, so I didn't have a super accurate idea of what my time was. I thought I kept my splits in the high 8's, minus the 9:05 mile 2, but I couldn't be sure.
Post-finish, as I was winding my way to the snacks and water, I heard my name being called. Lisa, a mother runner, introduced herself; prior to the 10K, she had recently run a half-marathon and used the training plans in Train Like a Mother. She started telling me about her running, and she has a friend who, last fall, invited her to start running in the morning with her. "I sat on it for a month," Lisa said, "I wasn't sure about morning running. But I decided to give it a try." They ran through the (tough, dark) winter. "She kept asking, and I kept going. Now I'm a morning runner."
"Isn't that the best feeling?" I asked, "You're up, you're running, no work, no family, no nothing can get in the way, and then it's done for the day. No need to worry about it anymore." She agreed she loved a good #morningwin—promise, I am not making this up! belVita karma was in the air!), then we snapped a pic and went our separate ways.
I got back to the car and looked up my time. 55:40. I was slightly disappointed; in my head and with no real training evidence to justify it, I pictured myself running just a smidge faster: something 53ish, or at the most, 54ish. (And I let myself walk! Dimity!). And my heart sank a little, about an hour ago, when I looked up my (fairly untrained, post-preggo) 2007 time. 35 seconds faster. Ugh.
Sometimes you have to be motherrunner enough to take your own advice. And if somebody came to me and told me about a similar situation, I'd tell her that race was seven years ago on a slightly easier course and you were looking forward to training hard for a marathon, not still feeling hungover from training hard. Losing five seconds a year is pretty dang good, if you ask me.
And I'd tell her she's stressing over two minutes at the most. 120 seconds, and it wasn't like she was jockeying for first. More like 7,341st. In the scheme of all things, it's no.big.deal.
More importantly, I'd tell her that not every race can be a win—but every race, every mile run, especially those put in before most of the world is stirring, is a #morningwin. (And no, I'm not making that up either.)
I am happy to announce that Memorial Day kicked off the Runner's World + belVita RunStreak: a challenge where you simply have to run one mile every day between yesterday (hopefully you got one in) and July 4. Share your streaking—the PG kind, please—on social media with #RWRunStreak and #morningwin.