I tend to repeat myself frequently here — hence the dearth of posts — and one of my more popular refrains of late has echoed the sheer necessity of more or less rollin’ with running postpartum. I can have the best laid plans — and believe me, I do — but similar to running while pregnant, running postpartum can look and feel very different day-to-day. You can only control so much, making rollin’ with things pretty imperative.
That said, I planned for Represent Running‘s Let’s Go 510k, a 10k in Berkeley that started and ended at the Golden Gate Fields horse racing track, to be my first race postpartum, but I was pretty sure it’d be a “race” in name only. I’ve been happy with my PP running and how things are beginning to click, but I’m focusing on volume — not speed — for the remainder of 2015, so I knew that the 510k would be more about perceived effort than anything else.
With all of this in mind, then, you can imagine my surprise and somewhat amusing headgames when I toed the line (kinda — more on that in a minute) on Sunday, after kinda unexpectedly having surgery 48 hours earlier.
I envisioned a lot of things for my first race postpartum, but, uh, having surgery wasn’t in that mix.
Nor was arriving to the starting area kinda on time, but needing to nurse Spike, and therefore starting a good 15 minutes after the gun went off — hello, my name is Erin, and I was the DFL starting runner at the 510k — in my mental imagery games … but hey, these things are all about the experience, right!? The only thing I could do was roll with it, so that’s what I did.
More than anything, I was stoked to make the haul up to the East Bay (and drag the entire family along, I love you husband!) because Big Sis would be running again for the first time since the spring, the last time the two of us did a race together (in Morgan Hill). Had she not been running, I most likely wouldn’t have run and instead, would have taken another rest day post-op. Knowing how excited she was for the race, though, it was a no-brainer to make the haul north and hope for the best.
A little sidenote: Represent Running puts on a good show with their races. The 510k is the last in their “Run the Bay” series of races, a series that gives both local and remote runners the opportunity to run races in each of the major area codes of the Bay Area — the 408 (an 8k in SJ), the 415 (a 5k and 15k in SF), and the 510 (a 5k and 10k in Berkeley). Each race gives runners a medal that showcases attractions unique to that area (the SJ Sharks, the GGB, the GS Warriors), and if you run the entire race series in one calendar year, you earn an additional “I Run the Bay” medal. Admittedly, I’m not into hardware, but I dig this concept. Plus, I enjoy the staff at RR and have loved working with them over the past year as a social media ambassador, so surgery be damned, I wanted for my girl and me to run!
So — East Bay, Sunday, the last race of the calendar year to complete the “I Run the Bay” challenge. The family and I arrived to Golden Gate Fields at about 6:52 for a 7am start (oops), I nursed Spike in the car and chatted with the awesome Bernadette, another RR social media ambassador who parked next to us and who’d go on to walk the entire 5k course without her cane, nearly a year to the day after surviving a massive stroke, and before I knew it, whoops, it was about 7:15, and I needed to haul relative ass to run. Yikes. I haven’t had the pleasure of being the DFL runner at the start in a very long time, and I was *so* late to arrive to the start of the 510k that I couldn’t even run over the starting mats because RR had already switched things over to “finish” times. I couldn’t help but laugh about the comedy of errors on my part, so I just went with it and more or less began the race parallel to the starting line, yelling an “I’m sorry, JT!!” to the race founder/organizer/director as I began my 6.2. I felt like an ass and surely looked like a doofus.
The 5k and 10k runners and walkers started together, so within the first mile or so, I began to quickly catch-up to the rest of humanity and started seeing many 5k runners working their way home. Probably not even 2 minutes into my race, I saw my husband and the kiddos standing outside the car, yelling GO MOMMY!, necessitating a mid-run smooch for everyone, followed shortly thereafter by a quick photo of the awesomely-inspiring Bernadette and her husband walking.
As is standard fare with me and races, I rarely looked at my watch and just relied on perceived effort. I knew things would be a little screwy because my adrenaline was SURGING due to the aforementioned comedy of errors, and I just hoped that I wouldn’t crash and burn somewhere. If I did, well, at least I had my phone with me. And yeah, I was hoping that the sutures and such from Friday’s double laparoscopic surgery held up (which, for fun: an IUD removal from my right pelvis … it had apparently perforated my uterus (!) four weeks earlier and migrated … and might have ended up causing a healthy dose of appendicitis, necessitating my appendix to also be removed, much to my surprise when I woke up and they told me it was gone (!!)). Again: I figured if I needed to stop, I would; if I needed to DNF, I would; and really, this was my first race postpartum, one that I was prepared for (the distance) and not prepared for (truly racing at 10k speed) simultaneously. My expectations were low for my performance but hella high for my enjoyment.
For some reason, I felt compelled to call (!) my husband at the halfway mark to tell him that I was halfway done and totally fine — he reminded me as I was exiting the car to race that running this soon post-op was dumb — and that I’d be finishing soon. Like I said, I’ve been the DFL starting runner before, but I’ve never a) taken a pic mid-race; b) smooched my family mid-race; or c) actually made a phone call mid-race (while running, no less), so suffice it to say that Sunday was just a little bit of “everything new on race day.” Why not.
As I continued along in my little trek, enjoying the run, the nice scenery, the views of the bay, and catching up to people, I very surprisingly to me felt fantastic. I didn’t experience any of the post-op tenderness and swelling that I had had in the preceding 48 hours — making me hope that it wouldn’t show up later — and so along I went, looking for people I knew and cheering on those who were already on the ‘back’ portion of the race. I was having a blast.
The 510k constantly kept me guessing — for a while, we were on pavement, then crushed limestone, then dirt, then actual limestone (like the little stones that were in my grandparents’ driveway, back in the day), and for a hot minute, we even had some sand — so while I didn’t think it was a fast course, it sure was fun. Because of the timing mat issue, my official time is significantly slower than my watch time (about a 47:47, probably closer to a 47:45, since I didn’t stop it right away at the finish line), but hey — for my first race PP, and for the ridiculous comedy of errors I had that morning, whatevs. I consistently ran sub-8s for the first time since having Spike 11 weeks prior. I got to see many people I knew mid-race and after. And — most importantly — I had so much fun.
I’ve taken a good 1,500 words by this point to talk about a race that wasn’t really about me as much as it was about my oldest daughter. Big Sis is quickly approaching 4.5 and in the past few weeks, has especially taken a liking to running with me at night, after C has gone to bed and after I’ve put the baby down. More often than not, Big Sis rides in the stroller for the run, but she’ll often run in the beginning and again at the very end of the run with me, jumping out of the stroller, proudly wearing a reflective safety vest (while sometimes also running with a flashlight or my headlamp). Surely you can imagine how proud it makes me to see her so happy doing something she loves so much — something that I’ve never once pushed her to do.
As we were standing in the starting area of the kids’ race, I recognized none other than Bay Area local, Olympian, and 2015 Western States winner (in her debut 100-miler) Magdalena Lewy Boulet with her son. If there’s a badass runner out there I’d ever want to emulate — who’s also a woman and who’s also a mother — it’s Magda. And if there’s ever an example of a tough, strong, humble, and accomplished human I’d ever want my daughters to meet, in the hopes that they, too, would emulate her — it’s Magda.
I was beyond thrilled that she was so gracious to chat, take pics, and even do the goofy warm-up routines with the kids. She’s so *not* a running mortal, but for those 10 minutes of both of the big kids’ and little kids’ races, she was just another parent runner there to cheer on her kid and the other littles. It was just fuckin’ awesome and made me love this community even harder than I already do.
Big Sis chatted up a storm with Magda (I die of pride) while her son danced on in the background to the DJ’s smooth jams, and once the race began, Big Sis even ran alongside her, at some points step for step. Again: I die of pride. Big Sis has absolutely no idea how awesome it was that she got to meet, talk, and run with such an accomplished runner, so I plan to remind her of this experience when she’s older and can appreciate it a tad more 🙂
And once Big Sis finished the race, she quickly said “let’s do it again!,” so back out we went to do the 400m big kids’ run, though after sprinting the little kids’ 200m run, she needed a few run/walk intervals. I get it, Big Sis. Pacing is tough. I’ve never finished a race distance only to go back out and run double the distance again, so hey, you’ve got one up on your mother already.
After a fun morning of running, with no post-op complications arising or 4 year-old or 11 week-old meltdowns surfacing, the fam and I met up with Mere for brunch before heading back south. It was delicious and necessary and just a freakin’ lovely way to bookend the fun morning experiences.
It definitely was a whirlwind of a morning that began before 5 and didn’t end until nearly 2, but for my first race postpartum, I couldn’t have asked for a richer experience. Running and racing has been teaching me time and again that the time matters only so much; it’s the times that make it all worthwhile. Deep, I know, but hey — I’m sure I’m not the only runner who can use this reminder periodically. Getting my first racing fix PP and seeing my oldest race again (while also meeting one of the best runners in the business) just made my weekend, and I can’t wait to do it all again.
Thanks to Represent Running for the opportunity to Run the Bay this year and promote your races like hell. You guys do good work. Everyone should run a RR race (or three). They’re good times and wonderful people.