I signed up for this race while I was still pregnant. It was a tad ambitious I suppose, a 50k just before Jules would turn 7 months old, but I wanted to prove to myself that I could keep up with my running even after a baby. So I needed a goal. This was my second postpartum race. (I had done a half in June.)
At race start I was feeling a bit ill prepared. I’d really struggled with my training throughout September. I’d been feeling really anxious in general, and it was coming out in my runs. I worried about keeping up with people, or guilt about taking time for a long run would turn to anxiety. I worried unnecessarily about pace until I felt so anxious it would slow me down. This is not new to me, it’s something that I’ve struggled with periodically.
At race start, a lot of those anxious feelings popped up. I wanted to start conservatively enough that I wouldn’t blow my legs out on the first loop (of a 2 loop course). Was I going too fast, too slow? Would something go wrong, and I’d drop to the 25k? These are pretty normal thoughts, but for me, I can allow them to become almost debilitating. I will feel my chest tighten up and have incredible trouble clearing my head.
I ran like that for the first several miles, trying all that I could to stay positive. I made the best choice by going out with friends. A few miles in I was able to chat more with my friend Amy, which was a perfect distraction from the noise in my brain. Rockbridge is a very runnable course, especially compared to the trails I’m used to. It’s not terribly technical, so I was able to get into a groove and run pretty steadily. By mile six, something started to click.
I do not like running in the summer. I struggle in the heat mentally as much as physically. This was the first truly cool day I’d been able to run in quite a while. The night before my husband has asked me what time he should try to meet me between loops. I said if I was really on, I’d be there in three hours. He should show up then, but be prepared to wait a bit. I started to enjoy the cool air more and more and gradually picked up my pace. I made it through my first loop in 3:02.
My husband was there with our son, and his sister Deb. To make the logistics of the race easier I planned to breastfeed between loops. That was one of the most privileged experiences I’ve had. I felt so supported and fortunate to be able to share that race with family. I took about 15-17ish minutes at that aid station to breastfeed while my husband Nathan refilled water and food. Then I went back out for loop two.
I started the first group with friends, but the second I was out alone. It was several miles before I caught back up to anyone. It gave me some time to have fun running. Something that I had been missing a bit. Gradually I began to pass some people, and eventually caught back up to Amy. We leapfrogged back and forth for a while, getting to talk a little more. The race has a small portion that you run both directions. It timed out so that I was able to see almost everyone that I knew running the 25k heading the other direction. It was so much fun to continually see people I knew out there. It was a race full of friends.
I got to where I had less than five miles to go and I glanced at the time. I had been running by feel, making a point of not looking at my watch. I realized that I could get in in under 6:30 if I could maintain what I was doing. Anxiety can get me in a lot of different ways. I’ll get worried about completing a distance and talk myself into hiking too much too early. I managed to push that aside and really run by comfort.
When I got through the finish, Nathan walked up and said “you know you’re second female right?” I had no idea. I thought he was joking. You never know who’s going to show up, or how things are going to fall. I came out in 6:24, more than thrilled with my time. I really ran that course, and am damn proud of it. I’ve really struggled with how I feel about myself as a runner, and this race helped to instill a lot more confidence.