I again had the opportunity to promote ZOOMA Napa Valley at a nearby race, and when I saw that there was a separate stroller division for both the 5k and 10k distance, I immediately signed up. After A and I had so much fun down in rainy Santa Cruz for she.is.beautiful, I figured that this past weekend’s AAUW Wildflower 5k down in Morgan Hill would be equally fun. Spoiler: we weren’t disappointed.
The race is a pretty low-key, local type of event, but it’s also an impressive, well-oiled machine that shows that its organizers know what they’re doing; I think they’ve been doing it for a while now. The race benefits various scholarship/tech camp types of programs for girls in the area, as well as STEM programs, and the women from the AAUW, as well as the various scholarship recipients/camp participants were out volunteering at the event. Participants can run or walk the 10k or 5k, and kids 5+ can run a 2k on the high school track, near the 10k/5k races’ starting line. I thought the kids’ race was especially neat because it took place before the 10k/5k, instead of the usual after.
Though I didn’t register A for the 2k because she’s still too young for it, after we had run a 2 mile warm-up on the track in advance of the 5k, I think her little baby endorphins got the better of her because she insisted on getting out of the stroller and running 800m — in her $1 flip-flops she adores — and ended up jumping into the tail end of the kids’ 2k, even finishing in the chute, getting a medal and everything. I guess that means my kid’s a bandit; call the mother of the year committee to file my nomination.
The 10k folks started 15 minutes before the 5k gang, and just like at the previous weekend’s race, A and I inched our way toward the front in an effort to minimize all the early-race congestion that we faced at s.i.b. There were a lot of other stroller runners at this race — which was super cool — and kinda like at s.i.b., I didn’t really have any goals or expectations for this race. I thought if I really wanted to relatively push myself, I could probably fare pretty well, but honestly, I just wanted to have a good time. I love races and racing and the whole race experience — with pinning a bib on my shirt, waiting around at the starting line, the nervous excitement and anticipation, the adrenaline that starts after hearing the starting gun, the whole 9 yards — but sharing this stuff with my daughter (and in-utero Kiddo Dos) is really more of my jam these days than fretting over some completely arbitrary splits on my Garmin. I mean, good freakin’ grief, I’ve got nothing to prove right now, ya know? I’ve got my whole life to run a killer 5k; I’ve only got a tiny window to run one while pushing my three year-old and while I’m pregnant with my second kid.
We were soon off and running, and moving into the very beginning of the pack was a wise move because the congestion was considerably better than it was the week before. Only a handful of male stroller runners were ahead of me, which was cool, and not even .25 miles into the race, A completely surprised me and was excitedly asking to get out and run — something she didn’t do during s.i.b. and something that she generally doesn’t do when I push her. More often than not, she’s totally content to just soak it all in and observe the world from the comfort of the BOB. That early into the race, there was still enough runner congestion around me that I felt uneasy pulling over and letting her get out — plus the fact that we were on back country roads that were open to vehicular traffic — so I told her that I’d let her get out “in a little bit” to run, not really knowing if she was actually serious about wanting to run or if she was just being antsy.
At about 1.4 mi in, once we had crossed over from the country roads of Morgan Hill (with lovely views of the foothills straight ahead of us, #swoon), into a residential area, I asked A again if she still wanted to run, and her enthusiastic “Mommy I wanna RUN!!!!” response confirmed my suspicion. Other runners who were passing by us remarked how awesome it was that she was so adamant about getting up to run, and I’m sure I had a completely idiotic/proud mom look on my face as I chased behind her, taking pictures, when I wasn’t reminding her to watch where she was running, since she had a propensity to run forward while looking behind her and waving to the other runners. 🙂 She had the hugest grin on her face, and the fact that she was so compelled to run — completely on her own volition — just made me beam. I don’t expect or necessarily want her to enjoy running because I do, but seeing how happy she is while she runs just makes me beam. It’s cool to see her becoming her own little person as she figures out what she likes to do and how she likes to have fun.
For the remaining 2.1 miles of the race, A basically ran, walked, or was pushed by me, though I’d guess she did most of the work herself and only hopped back in the stroller for super short reprieves; she’s not yet 4 and still hasn’t figured out pacing. She eventually realized that running forward while looking backwards made things considerably harder, but once she rectified that situation, it was smooth sailing. She got a kick out of talking to the volunteers at the water station (and petting their dogs), smiling and waving to the photographers, and talking to all the other stroller-bound parents and kids whom we passed in the final stretch. A also provided her own soundtrack to the race for runners who weren’t fortunate enough to be wearing headphones; I apologize if you inexplicably have Mary Poppins’ “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” in your head. Mary is a big deal in our household right now.
Anyway, we finished the race with me pushing her along, even though she had jumped out at the mile 3 marker and had balls-out sprinted for about .05 mile, and she (and I) were just as happy as could be. We earned ourselves a lovely green ribbon (the kind that you probably got from your high school track meets) for our 28:50 minutes worth of 5k-ing together, and she got treated to a lovely butterfly face painting job from a middle-schooler. Seriously, my kid is crazy for running, Mary Poppins, and face-painting these days, so I don’t know if she could have been any happier.
So much fun. We called it a day after another 2 cool-down miles on the track, mostly with me pushing her as we watched a boys’ soccer match, but a few jaunts of her chasing after a little boy on the track, and she didn’t take off her bandited kids’ 2k race medal until hours later. On that note, I figured everything came out in the wash from all the running/walking she eventually did between our WU, race, and CD and that she more than covered the 2k distance (can you tell how guilty I feel about this!?).
The AAUW Wildflower race in Morgan Hill was a really well-organized, well-done event and just a gem for families and runners to attend, and I anticipate that it will continue to grow in size and that we’ll be back for future iterations. The 10k is USATF-certified, too, so maybe that will be a postpartum target race for me in 2016. Plus, both the 5k and 10k courses were flat, which can be hard to come by in these parts. Despite our lovely jump in pace — can you tell where my girl was dictating our speed?! — the back country roads course really is conducive to a nice PR, if that’s what you’re after.
Wearing my ZOOMA swag to help promote a race/race series that I dig, connecting with the other runners and moms’ groups, and running with my girl this time — and actually running, running with her — made this whole race morning such a sweet memory and experience. Brava, AAUW. Brava.