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2016 Pony Express Marathon race recap – pt. 2

2016 Pony Express Marathon race recap – pt. 2

Even knowing with near certainty that I wouldn’t be racing PEM, I left home somewhat begrudgingly (momguilt is very real) around mid-day on Saturday to make it up to Sac in time for the last couple hours of the expo, where I was supposed to volunteer as part of my ambassador obligations. The expo, held on the first floor of an Embassy Suites, was low-key, and had I not been working, I would have been in and out in about five minutes. Instead, I hung out for two hours and chatted up my RunningAddicts pacer buddies, the folks who’d be pacing anywhere from a sub-1:30 half or low-3 full all the way to 5 hours+ (since the course had a 7 hour time limit). I hadn’t seen many of these folks since I was pregnant, or even before, so it was a lot of fun to catch up and talk running and family.

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with some of my pacer buddies at the expo. L-R: Albert, Linh, Michael, Becky, and Adam. (PC: RA/Linh)

 

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basically famous. from the race weekend booklet.

Once I got to my hotel about 20 miles away, the family and I Skyped for a while, and then the rest of the night was fairly quiet. I eventually pulled the trigger and registered for a fall marathon before I went to bed, since the prices were going to increase the next day, and it took me a long time to make a decision about whether I wanted to run another marathon this year or if I should instead do some shorter and faster distances post SF in late July. I began to have this weird existential conversation with myself about why I run marathons – no really, why do I run marathons? Why do I keep doing this?and I eventually figured that, among other things, my sheer enjoyment of the structure that marathon training necessitates is why I keep coming back for more. Week after week, I can usually see some hints or outright signs of progress, especially as I’m doing this all postpartum, even if things don’t necessarily come to fruition on race day. Plus, I figured I’d miss running long in the summer and fall if I didn’t have a marathon on tap. It’s so funny; here I was, the night before a marathon, having some ambivalent feelings about covering the distance in the morning, but by golly, you better believe I committed myself to another one of these come November. So fickle.

Race morning was standard fare: not great sleep (FFS!), the usual bathroom song-and-dance, awakening pretty early to pump as much as I comfortably could, eat, but then also pack up and schlep all my shit out to my car because I most likely wouldn’t make it back to my hotel before the “late” check-out of 12 p.m. I was probably the only fool who managed to pay for parking in Sacramento on Sunday, and after I liberally applied sunscreen and vaseline, I met up with Chris and the other PEM ambassadors and his running/fitness group, 9run6, for some photo opps. Like with the RA pacers, I hadn’t seen many of the PEM ambassadors in over a year, so it was awesome to catch-up with them (and meet the folks I didn’t know IRL prior to this ambassador experience).

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with a whole bunch of pacer and ambassador buddies in front of the California Capitol building (PC: RA)
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with lots of PEM ambassadors and 9run6 runners at the start line (PC: Chris/9run6)

Chris had mentioned to me that he would be pacing his friend, Alexia, to her first marathon finish, and would be aiming for 8s for the entirety of the run. I said I was in for that – thinking that I run 8s on nearly all of my training runs, and usually with a stroller – and so I looked forward to what would really be a long-ass training run. In fact, even while standing in the corrals in my Wolfpack singlet and with a bib on my chest – things I typically don’t wear on any ol’ training run – I felt literally no pangs of nerves or anxiety. Really? Nothing? I’ve run 26 of these before, and I always have at least something fluttering in my belly ahead of time; that I didn’t this time around was a little unsettling, to be honest. I wondered if the distance had somehow suddenly lost its magic to me or if I had somehow gotten bored with it. I tried to put these sentiments out of my head – I had 26.2 miles to help get a woman to run 8s! – but I wondered for a long while WTF was going on.

Originally, race day forecast was something unnerving like 92/63, but it eventually tapered down to high-80s and high 50s. I have this theory, though, that the sun in CA is warmer than the sun in the midwest, so even a temperature like high-50s, which doesn’t sound all that warm, feels pretty hot. Race day confirmed this for me because even milling about in the corral felt warm in my shorts and singlet. I recalled thinking how happy I was that I let myself off the hook for this race, how freeing it was standing at the starting line knowing that I wouldn’t be going for a PR or any sort of accolade, and how for once, with the ever-rising hot temps as a backdrop, I wouldn’t go out fast and slowly wither as I attempted to still bring my A-game on a hot day. There would be no A-game; there would be no PR-chasing; the next 3 hours and change (god willing) would be more about chatting it up with friends, pacing, and just enjoying the fact that I could, was able, to run for a handful of hours. Racing is exhilarating, but sometimes just running is as equally wonderful.

The full/full relay and half racers started out together for the first few miles but then split off fairly early. We wove through an industrial corridor-like area in West Sac before hooking up to a trail akin to SJ’s Guadalupe River Trail. The temps felt surprisingly comfortable, given the wind that we had, and we wound our way south along the trail before veering off into some country-like residential neighborhoods (that felt a lot like Santa Rosa) before reconnecting to the trail and heading north and into a hefty headwind. We had a good group of us all running together, and we even helped each other out on aid stations; if one of us missed a water/sports drink, germs be damned, someone else shared theirs. At one point we were even running in a single-file line (drafting!). I took a rare mid-race pit stop around mile 6, but all things considered, I felt comfortable and at ease, just plugging along, taking in the surroundings, dumping water on my neck and head at every AS, and enjoying the ride.

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We hit the half at a 3:26 pace (about a 1:43:28 by my stopwatch, since my Garmin was measuring us at least .1 long), and we were consistently hitting each mile about :75 faster than planned. Chris and I often checked-in with Alexia, who was looking and feeling strong, and everyone in our little unofficial pace group looked great, so things seemed to be coming along fairly smoothly. After the half, we wound our way back through that early industrial corridor, through the downtown area, and hooked up to the other side of another bike path for about miles 18-home. Around mile 14, as we were in the industrial corridor, I was beginning to have a nasty internal monologue about how happy I was to not be racing today and how I was beginning to feel tired and that I should just cash it in and let the group go – all sorts of negative shit, for no other reason than I knew I still had a sizable bit of running left in temperatures that’d only continue to rise – so I tried my best to simply turn my head off and just stay with the pack.

If you haven’t already had the joy of experiencing this, please allow me to tell you: it’s hard as fuck to turn off your head. It’s especially hard when you feel like you might be the only person in the group feeling that way and thus, have to keep it all bottled up to yourself.

We were getting a little dispersed by this point, no longer running side-by-side, but we were all within a second or two of each other and still looked like a noticeably cohesive group. At one point, I asked Alexia how she was doing because she was looking great and strong, and I said that it’s ok to not feel great periodically during a marathon – it’ll pass – and to just run the mile that you’re in. Things will probably change. Retrospectively, I’m sure I needed to hear that probably more than she did.

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I think this was literally seconds after starting the race. (thanks for the free race pics, PEM!)

 

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somewhere around mile 10-12, jazz-hands-ing our way along, with Alexia on the left (#285). You can see Chris behind us.
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mid-very-deep conversation with Chris, apparently

During the armpit middle miles (14-17 of a marathon, kinda no-man’s land in my book), that existential “crisis” I had been experiencing over the course of the weekend began to resurface. Even though my fitness was obviously better than I thought it’d be, my aggressive nutrition and fueling was going smoothly, and realistically, I didn’t feel bad at all, the sheer amount of mental shit made me momentarily believe that I was done. I began to think of all the ways I could get out of really racing my other marathons this year (SF and Two Cities), reasons why I shouldn’t continue to train for marathons for the rest of the year, reasons why deep down, I probably don’t even really like marathons like I think I do; honestly, if I could paint a picture of what my mind looked like, I’d give you the nastiest piece-of-shit-garbage-landfill that I could. I know it’s normal to go to some dark places during marathons, and don’t get me wrong, I do, but the amount of negative bullshit bantering that I had during PEM was second to none. I’m chalking it up to the lack of concerted training that I did since Modesto and thus, a break away from the mental aspect and callusing of training, but shit. I’m not going to lie; that was tough. That diatribe was mine and mine alone, and a week later, all I can do is laugh at it/me and shake my head in disbelief. I’m glad I was surrounded by a small group of friends whose footsteps helped center me and get me out of Mental Purgatory? Hell? because eventually, I came out of it and re-focused on the race at hand. When I excitedly told Alexia at mile 17 that “we’re in single digits now,” again, I was probably telling myself that more than I was telling her.

After we got off the bike path in Sac, we begun our final bit of the marathon through some rather lovely neighborhoods in Midtown Sac (I think). We kept ticking off the miles, and by now, it was only Chris, Alexia, and me running together or at least in each other’s 1-to-5-second vicinity. Chris and I had mentioned to each other that we were beginning to feel a bit worn – him especially, since he was fresh off Boston – and how impressed we were that Alexia was kicking so much ass. I began taking the aid stations a little more gingerly once we hit the 20s because I wanted to make sure that I was actually ingesting all the fluids that I could, and the fact that a spectator yelled to me, “You don’t even look like you’re sweating!” was a tad alarming. Around 20, Alexia kicked into a higher gear but still remained within my eyesight – maybe about a minute or two ahead – and at 21, the only real “hill” on the course (which wasn’t much), I pulled ahead of Chris because I didn’t want to lose Alexia. This was also around the same point where the 3:28 pacer caught up to me, and then Alexia, so I figured she and I would probably finish pretty close to 3:29/3:30, if things continued to play out as they currently were.

For the remaining miles, I still took the AS gingerly, grabbing oranges whenever I saw them (by the end of the race, I had probably eaten an entire orange or two on the run), as well as taking sponges and stuffing them down my shirt, and while I was finally over the mental meltdown from the earlier miles, I was actually pretty happy to be just chugging along in the 20s with a smile on my face, the cloudless-day-and-rising-temps-be-damned. It was a perfect day to be playing outside, but it was a shitty day to race a marathon. All things considered, though, I was running way better than I had at any hot-weather-marathon I had run.

Between miles 20-23, Alexia remained in my view, and she looked fantastic. I was so happy for her – imagine running your first marathon on a hot day and pretty assuredly snagging a BQ on your first go of the distance – and around mile 23, RA pacer buddy Amy, who had paced the half, was on the sidelines and yelled at me, saying how good I looked, which, during a marathon and no less at mile 23, is basically like saying that the world is made of love and peace and rainbows and sprinkles. Hearing that I “looked good” made me SO. HAPPY.

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flying solo through what little shade there was on the course and obviously, over-the-moon happy to see a familiar face. (PC: RA/Amy)

Shortly after I saw Amy, I had caught up to Alexia, around 23.5ish, and I gushed to her about how great she looked, how close we were to finishing, and how happy I was for her. By now, as we were inching our way closer and closer to the Capitol Mall finish area, the streets were beginning to descend in both letters (Z to A) and numbers, which only guaranteed that we were getting closer to home. We saw another pacer buddy Albert around 25, whose animated hoots and hollers gave us another spring in our step. I periodically ran ahead of Alexia, while also running my mouth, encouraging, “You’ve got this! Finish strong!” and dammit if I didn’t fucking tear up when I told her that as soon as she got home tonight, she needed to go book her hotel for Boston ’17. I mean, c’mon. How often do you ever get to say that during a marathon as the marathon is unfolding before your very eyes to a runner whom you’ve run nearly the entirety of the race alongside? That’s some special shit right there. At about 26.1 (or thereabouts – again, my Garmin measured us long, which is rare for me in 26.2), she picked it up and finished a few seconds ahead of me, and suddenly, there I was, too, bounding over the finish line of my 27th marathon at eight months postpartum, with a time that I couldn’t have just casually gone out and run four years ago. 3:30 and change, fifth female, first in my age group, about 31st overall, and my 15th BQ, all while helping a woman who went from being a perfect stranger to a new friend in the course of 3 ½ hours finish her first marathon and fucking qualify for the Boston Marathon in the process.

Day. Made.

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they’re always special. I’m cheesin’ hard because I can see Alexia in the finisher’s chute freaking out 🙂 (damn, I get teary writing that)

I waited a few minutes in the finisher’s chute to see Chris finish, and shortly after, he, Alexia, and I shared some great congratulatory remarks and hugs and took more fun photos (while inhaling the copious amounts of post-race fresh fruit – thank you, volunteers) to commemorate the special occasion. I felt great, physically – very much like I had just run long, since that’s exactly what I did – but man, was I happy to finally get out of the sun and seek shade. I didn’t stick around long because I wanted to get home to my family, but I was so happy – thrilled – for how things went.

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with Albert, who had won an AG award during his pacing gig, and Alexia, the newly-minted marathon finisher and BQer. We had all won AG awards for our respective distances. (Horseshoes … Pony Express Marathon … pretty clever) 🙂
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tomfoolery with Albert and Chris. These guys were some of the first people I met after moving here. We were all ambassadors for TSFM ’14.

I feel like I say this all the live-long day, but man. Marathons are such unpredictable beasts in the first place, and sometimes, it seems that statistically speaking, you have a greater likelihood of things to go wrong than you have things to go right. I dealt with a very tough stretch of mental trash and felt pretty sub-par coming into this race, yet I was able to turn it around and transform the experience into something positive, something way better than if I had just decided to run this (or race it) on my own. Sure, I could have raced harder and physically suffered substantially more than I did, so maybe I took the easy way out, but I decided before I even began that the race really wasn’t going to be about me. So many people think that running is a solitary endeavor, and to that I enthusiastically call bullshit. Look at any marathon (or hell, even a track race), and I can guarantee you that there are camaraderie dynamics at place that may not seem obvious but are there. Runners help each other out, even implicitly, and it’s the community that makes this sport as soul-enriching as it is. I couldn’t help but laugh at myself on the two-hour+ drive home because it wasn’t even 24-hours prior that I was debating the merits of really training for SF and Two Cities for the remainder of the year and hell, even my worth as a runner and the whole meaning of it all, yet here I was, a handful of hours later, giddy on endocannibinoids and fucking stoked to go run another 26.2 and put in the training effort to show up prepared. Running is so weird sometimes.

There were things that I should have done differently for this race – for one, taken the front half a touch slower, perhaps, to account for the warming weather – but overall, I’m really happy with how PEM went. It could have been horrible, and for that stretch of mental garbage miles, I thought for sure it would be, but it wasn’t. It was far from it. I had a good time, far better than I was anticipating having, and I’m glad I at least gave myself the sheer opportunity to have a good time, if that makes any sense.

And yes, I’d recommend this race, particularly if you’re local or local-ish. Sure, the weather could make for a hot day, but it’s California. More likely than not, it will be warm. The course is favorable to fast times, and the race is organized by a community group (Rotary International), is a non-profit, and benefits some great charities. My only real miff was a lack of a gear check this year, but I bet it’ll be added in subsequent years. Full marathoners got a nice tech t, a blinged-out medal about the size of an oversized coaster, and a bottle of craft beer from Yolo County Brewing (I don’t drink, but man, I am acquiring quite the collection of adult beverages from races since moving here) plus a post-race beer garden ticket. What was most impressive was that you couldn’t tell it was an inaugural race, in my opinion. That in and of itself is a hard feat to pull off. It’s one thing to “not be able to tell” it’s an inaugural race for a 5k or a 10k, but for a marathon, that’s pretty cool.

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Yolo County is where Sac is located. They’re not being clever. (but how cool is that- the brewery released 4 different beers [think marathon relay] in the lead-up to the race).
I’ve got a solid 3.5 hours’ worth of memories from this little inaugural race, and for that, I am so pleased and really couldn’t be happier. Congrats to this year’s PEM finishers, and thank you for the opportunity to be an ambassador for the race over the past year.

2016 she.is.beautiful (Santa Cruz) baby mama 10k race report

2016 she.is.beautiful (Santa Cruz) baby mama 10k race report

I really enjoy racing, but very infrequently do I run all-women’s races or races that are heavily marketed to women. More often than not, I usually feel that all-women’s or heavily-marketed-to-women races almost distract me from the racing experience and sometimes even leave a bad feeling in my stomach. It’s tough for me to describe why I feel this way, and though the explanation comes up a little short due to my inability to better elaborate, suffice it to say that I often think that all-women’s/marketed-to-women races come off as more misogynist to me than supportive, celebratory, or competitive.

Don’t get me wrong – I totally get that many women don’t feel safe or comfortable racing amongst men, that they’re self-conscious or intimidated or whatever – but I don’t see where the connection comes to trading in the “community” aspect of running with mostly women for the weird marketing insinuating (or explicitly stating) that finishers will receive their race premiums “from hot firefighters” or that “sweating is sexy” or stuff like that. [In full disclosure, in the hundreds of races I’ve run over the past decade or so, very few of them – maybe 5? – have been of the all-women or mostly-all-women variety. Maybe I shouldn’t make blanket statements about races that have a more “gendered” focus than the standard garden variety, but I don’t know. I guess I’m just extremely selective with my races and think it’s kinda weird bullshit that I have to accept my racing medal from a half-naked dude or that for some godforsaken reason, my athletic endeavors – things I do to take care of my body and to maintain my health – has to be sexualized (you know, “sweating is sexy,” “fit is the new hot” and the like.]

Anyway, not long after I moved to the Bay Area, I learned about the Run She.is.Beautiful 5k and 10k (and accompanying “baby mama” stroller divisions) that takes place down in Santa Cruz, just over the “hill” (the Santa Cruz mountains) from me. In 2015, when I was promoting the now-gone ZOOMA Napa Valley race, at around 5 months pregnant, I ran the “baby mama” 5k stroller division, pushing my eldest, and we won. It was so much fun, and I vowed to return. Similar to the ZOOMA race series, with s.i.b., I immediately noticed that while yes, it is an all-women’s (or heavily-marketed-to-women”) race, it is absent of all that nonsense that I just alluded to; in 2015, when I first ran it, there were no undertones linking (or explicitly stating) how or why running/being fit/being healthy to being “sexy” or “hot,” nor were there clads of half-naked dudes waiting for eager and willing (and sweaty) female participants to get selfies with them post-race. In fact, I’d venture to say that s.i.b. is kinda like the antithesis of the all-women’s racing in that regard. Sorry, tangent. Back to 2016. This time around, with an ultra-cheap $29 registration fee (early bird pricing FTW), I ran the “baby mama” 10k stroller division while pushing the baby; big sis was out having the time of her life at a friend’s house/easter egg hunt/birthday party, so I’m pretty sure she didn’t mind.

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s.i.b. posted a throwback to the ’15 race on their IG and featured this gem with Meg, Lesley, A, and an in-utero Spike

It has been years since I raced a 10k, and since I was just six days post-marathon, I knew my legs weren’t going to be fresh for this race. Plus, who am I kidding? I’m running (or “racing,” note the quotes) with a freakin’ stroller. For those playing along at home: the single-BOB stroller is about 30 pounds, the baby’s about 20, so yeah – running one-handedly while simultaneously pushing about 50 pounds. Not easy. Just like at last year’s s.i.b. race, I wanted to have fun and to enjoy the wonderfully supportive and uplifting environment and immerse the baby in it, even though she’d be pretty oblivious to the entire thing – and the entire morning just ended up being one of those “ahhhh, this shit’s so good for my soul” type of days, thanks to the beautiful weather, the camaraderie of running with so many of my teammates, the super-encouraging-and-still-competitive environment of the race, and the small fact that I had a kiddo in tow. It was a great combination. I didn’t have any time goals for the race, and my only soft goal was to try to place in the top 3 for the “baby mama” division (and maybe repeat my ’15 “baby mama” win), but again, with post-marathon legs (and a right hamstring that was still in post-marathon purgatory,), I didn’t set anything in stone.

Santa Cruz is Meg land, so baby Spike and I got ourselves to her house early, nursed, played, and chilled before we three ran about 1.5 miles over to the new starting area at the Santa Cruz boardwalk with another Wolfpack runner, Meg. There were about 6,000 other (mostly women) runners who’d be doing the 10k, 5k, or corresponding stroller divisions, but the organizers did a top-notch job of getting people where they should have been. New for this year, too, were self-seeded start waves, so unlike last year, there wouldn’t be a sea of humanity running anywhere from 5 minute to 25 minute miles starting altogether. (Kudos to you for implementing this much-needed change, RDs. I came so close to clipping so many ankles last year).

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this wasn’t even all of us! (PC: Lisa/wolfpack)
race start sib 2016
Look on the right-hand-side and you’ll see tall Sam and behind her, us 🙂 (PC: s.i.b.)

I audaciously lined up about 6 inches from the starting line – I didn’t want to repeat last year’s experiences of getting blocked in and accidentally take out anyone with my front wheel during the first half mile – and luckily, when the gun went off, people spread out fairly quickly and I didn’t have to do virtually any dodging. Santa Cruz is such a beautiful place to run, and as we ran by the boardwalk and up a little hill (stroller running feels like running uphill, so when you actually run up a real hill, it gets challenging quickly), we were on the super-scenic west cliff drive and were treated to beautiful ocean views. I laughed to myself, thinking only in a race in Santa Cruz will I see a bunch of surfers in wet suits yielding to runners on a Saturday morning. Aside from the race starting at the boardwalk, the rest of the course was about the same as I remembered from ’15: running along west cliff and connecting through neighborhoods before turning for the finish at the lighthouse.

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you can (kinda) see the ocean in the background
you can (kinda) see the ocean in the background

Since I was running the 10k, I had the pleasure and incredible pick-me-up of seeing the 5k racers hit their turn-around to home, and so many in the top 10 or so were fellow Wolfpack ladies who were just flying and smiling en route. Between seeing so many of my teammates racing well and in the top ranks, and enjoying the super-encouraging s.i.b. motivational race signs (one thing, among many, that the race is known for) adorning the sidelines, I was just so fucking happy. I was having fun and racing as hard and fast as I could, given the post-marathon-legs and the small fact that I was pushing more than a third of my body weight, and quite surprisingly, my watch was indicating that I was running at basically the slow-end of my tempo/right around my steady-state pace. Well then!

The 10k wraps runners around and through the Natural Bridges state park area for a couple miles, which was a new experience to me this year. It was pretty and idyllic, though a couple hills in the park (around mile 4, I think) felt gargantuan. By the time we got dumped out of Natural Bridges, we were back on west cliff, next to the ocean, and making our way to the finish line at the lighthouse about a mile and change or two miles away.

The trickiest part about she.is.beautiful, depending on your race distance, is the final mile and change/two miles. As I was trying to come in hot on that final stretch, the sea of humanity who had been run/run-walking/walking the 5k was suddenly ahead of me. What made things even trickier is that the road was already divided, so there was a solid sea of participants still on the “out” portions of their 5ks/10ks on one side of the road, and directly ahead of me was still another sea of participants finishing the “back” portions of their 5ks. It quickly became a game of frogger and an incessant chorus of “on your left!,” “stroller back!,” “watch your ankles!,” because I wanted to finish my race as strongly as I could and not interfere with anyone else’s race. Fortunately, I was able to weave – a lot – between participants, some walking/running/run-walking many people wide or abruptly stopping to take pictures, and only a few times had to dodge into oncoming people traffic (!) because I didn’t have enough clearance. West cliff isn’t a wide road in the first place, so I’m at a loss as to how the RD could better manage the people traffic on the “back” portion. Maybe cones could partition a lane for the 5k participants and another for the 10k participants? I’m not really sure. Even the wave starts this year didn’t seem to account for the faster 10k runners coming hot onto the heels of the 5k participants.

At any rate, though my pace remained surprisingly strong for post-marathon-legs and for stroller running – I’m pretty sure I’ve never posted those splits with a stroller before, ever – I was getting tired and toasty (for once, it was sunny in Santa Cruz), making the forced-slow-down from all the necessary people-weaving somewhat welcome and definitely not the end of the world. Tons of participants cheered me on, telling me I was first stroller for the 10k, which was a huge boost. I hadn’t seen any other strollers ahead of me for the entire race, both in the 10k and until the 5k/10k split, but with the crowd of people over the final mile and change, it was hard to tell. I, too, threw out tons of encouraging remarks to the other runners (good for the soul, ya know), and as we inched closer to the finish line (and things got a little less people-dense), I tried to throw down one last time for the final stretch.

experiencing the rapture or a coronary; hard to tell
experiencing the rapture or a coronary; hard to tell

Man, that was fun, and even though my (and most everyone else’s) watch had the course a little short (6.01 by my Garmin), that was among one of my stronger 10k races – which is bizarre, given the aforementioned post-marathon and stroller aspects. 10K races are grueling, and I tend to go out like a bat out of hell and die a slow and needlessly long death. By and large, I felt pretty strong for the entirety of this almost-10k, and I was genuinely surprised to see my splits at the end of the race. This makes me think that maybe I should shoot for some shorter racing this autumn and shelve an autumn marathon. (I can’t believe I just wrote that; I’m reserving the right to change my mind later…).

I soon reunited with Lisa, Meg, and many of my other teammates for celebratory pictures and vendor sampling, and we’d eventually learn that many Wolfpack ladies finished in the top ranks overall and/or in their age groups. I learned that I won the baby mama 10k division – my reach goal for the morning, hooray! – and for my efforts, I earned a shiny new BOB Revolution SE stroller. I can’t complain: I paid not much money to run fast with my baby in a beautiful location; I got to spend the morning with many teammates; and I earned myself a stroller that’s worth about $450 retailand, later in the raffle, another baby sling carrier (worth about $150; man, baby stuff is expensive!) that I gifted to 5 mos. pregnant Meg. It was a good morning.

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run with a stroller, earn a stroller
tomfoolery post-race. Meg is getting stroller practice :) (PC: Lisa)
tomfoolery post-race. Meg is getting stroller practice 🙂 (PC: Lisa)

I had a ton of fun at the she.is.beautiful race. I really dig and appreciate the race’s message and positivity, and I absolutely love that I can participate in this with one or both of my daughters – as I have for the past two years – and still be competitive. S.I.B. is all about self-love and compassion – and being a good human being – and I love that I can come down to Santa Cruz and take part in a race that gives me the opportunity to run “fast and free” but also contribute to such an incredible environment. What I will always remember about S.I.B. though is that in ’15, I got to race it pregnant, while pushing Big Sis, and in ’16, I got to race it again, while pushing Little Sis, and both years, my performance surprised me and any expectations I had for myself that day. I guess that’s the funny thing about racing; sometimes we don’t know what’s there until we try – obviously. I doubt I could have run those paces just on my own accord on Saturday morning. This year’s s.i.b. shirt design’s message was that “your journey matters,” and without a doubt, it is this type of positive messaging that sets apart s.i.b. from other women’s-y races.

She.is.beautiful is a locally-run organization and only has two races each year – one in Santa Cruz and one down in Santa Barbara – but if you find yourself in California during either race’s weekend, I definitely recommend participating. My shitty descriptions are failing me now, but out of all the racing I’ve ever done, I don’t think I can say that I’ve walked away from a racing experience feeling like I did both something wonderful for my body (racing, running) and something good for my soul. She.is.beautiful gave me both this year (and last), and I look forward to doing this race for many more years.