Just a week after doing my first race postpartum, I toed the line again (and actually did so on time, not starting the race fifteen minutes late) at a 10 mile race in SF, the Mermaid Series Sirena 10 miler. It was part of the Mermaid Series’ race up in San Francisco, beginning and ending at Crissy Field, and runners could elect to run the 5k or 10k (both pretty flat) or the 10 mile (pretty hilly – about 900′ of gain, including an up-and-over [twice] on the Golden Gate Bridge, as well as descending and ascending stairs under the GGB). I haven’t raced a 10 miler in eons, so I was looking forward to racing a somewhat new distance.
A 7am race start time meant an early morning wakeup for my family plus my in-laws, who were visiting from IL, in order for all of us to get up to SF in time. After a
lazyass abbreviated warm-up from the car to the starting line, where I found Paulette and decided that chatting with her would be more enjoyable than running a proper warm-up, I felt ready to go (read: chatting with a friend I haven’t seen in a while > running a bunch of OABs to “warm up”). I didn’t have any expectations or goals for this race, except to just do the best I could on fatigued legs (thanks to running 18 miles and climbing 3,400′ the day prior). All of these postpartum races right now are more about assessing my fitness and endurance than they are about resetting or scaring PRs, so if nothing else, it makes for some really low-key and nerve-free race mornings. It’s actually kinda nice. Plus, I got this race comped, thanks to another race I had done earlier in the year, so this was really pressure-free racing at its finest.
I stayed in the front right from the get go, but I honestly couldn’t tell which runners were covering which distances. Everyone’s bibs looked the same — they (seemingly) weren’t differentiated by colors or numbers or anything — and as best as I could tell, nearly all the 10 or so runners ahead of me were all doing the 10 miler because no one turned off at the 5k/10k split. I rarely look at my watch when I run or race — for better or for worse — but a quick glimpse early showed that I was in the low/mid-7s and felt totally comfortable. I at least had a little bit of foresight to know that we’d be doing all of our climbing over the first 6 miles, so my race plan was to stay cool and collected for the first 6 and then try to open things up a bit on the back 4. And — of course — if my legs felt like hell, the race would become even more fun than I anticipated it being. 🙂 Again: pressure-free racing at its finest.
Much to my surprise — given the previous day’s mileage and climbing — my legs felt great, adrenaline was where it should be, and I felt in control. Perceived effort guided everything, particularly on the ascents, and I was just having a blast. By about four miles in, once we were on the west side sidewalk of the GGB, I tried to see if there were any leaders coming through on the east side, but I didn’t see anyone until I was nearly five miles in (and the leaders were near six and change). I figured I was probably in the top 15 or so, but I really didn’t know or particularly care. Honestly, I was delighted that I was feeling as well as I was, and once I (very surprisingly!!!) descended some stairs and then ascended another set — thereby running under the GGB — I found myself on the east side of the bridge and began looking west to see how many other runners I could yell at (including Paulette!). The GGB is fun to run on because not only is it so scenic, it’s also a false flat. It becomes especially evident that the GGB is uphill in each direction, cresting in the middle, when you’re on either end of it, but honestly, it’s so beautiful — and if Karl the Fog isn’t out, you get some gorgeous views as well — that a little hill action isn’t so bad. I think TSFM is the only race in SF that actually lets runners run on the roadway of the GGB, but the sidewalks aren’t too shabby, either.
By the time we were off the bridge, I was still feeling pretty good, though definitely getting tired and a tad toasty. With about two miles left on the course, we had to run this weird out-and-back section that, while it had cones on the ground and volunteers out, the volunteers (teens) weren’t telling people on which side of the cones to run… therefore allowing one lady who had passed me, and whom I had later caught up to, to cut the course short and finish ahead of me. Boo. My brilliant plan to chill for six miles and let it all out on the back four didn’t exactly come to fruition, but I was still having a lot of fun (a lot of very tired fun!) and just enjoying the scenery and the views. By this time, early in the 8 o’clock hour, many more people were out walking/bike riding/playing with their dogs/yogging, so it was a pretty hoppin’ place to be. I was also lucky enough to run into Berna again, just as I had at the previous week’s 510 race, who was again walking the 5k cane-free. She’s such a badass.
I completely spaced and didn’t realize that my watch dropped a GPS signal when we were running under the GGB, so the finish line surprised me. With probably 50 meters to go, I passed a woman who had passed me earlier, and we ended up sprint-dualling to the finish (I won 🙂 ). Lots of fun, lots of high-fives, and I eventually learned that I surprisingly pulled a #10 woman, #11 OA, and 2nd in my AG and was not far off my 10 mile PR (from a very flat course in Ohio many moons ago). Considering Saturday’s climbing and distance, and SF’s climbing for this 10 mile race, this race definitely buoyed my confidence and got me
considering wondering scheming a postpartum marathon…
Eventually, it was time for the kids’ run, a 1.5 jaunt along the bay. 1.5 miles is a long way for little kids, but I knew that I’d do it alongside Big Sis and that we’d inevitably end up walking some parts and running other parts (if not also stopping to “take a rest” or look around or do whatever else her little heart desired). The website wasn’t entirely clear the minimum age for kids– some places it said 5, others it said 6– but I figured “4.5 and running with mom” was okay.
Sure enough, Big Sis’s run went about as I expected — we alternatingly sprinted, yogged, walked, held hands while sprinting or walking or yogging; “took a rest” a couple times on some benches; had a little meltdown, replete with tears; proudly and panic-strickingly announced a right-here, right-now need to both pee and poop; asked to watch a movie on Netflix; asked to go home; asked to get in the stroller (there was no stroller present) … and upon seeing the photographer, and eventually, C and my in-laws, were all smiles and finished the race skipping and running with a smile and very excited to earn both a medal and a necklace, the swag for this year’s Mermaid Series event.
Overall, it was a really fun morning. Big Sis had fun, and if nothing else, running 10 mi with elevation at nearly MP, a day after running 18 with a ton of elevation, buoyed my confidence a touch about how my fitness and endurance is shaping up postpartum.