I woke up bright and early on the Fourth of July and registered for a fun run in my hometown. I had only been running for two weeks since my knee/hip injury which caused me to miss my much-anticipated half marathon. I was really nervous that my hip pain would flare up halfway through the race and force me to walk.
I was also bracing myself for intense discomfort. For the past two weeks that I have been able to start running again, running has been a bit of a chore. Seven weeks of elliptical workouts does nothing for the lungs. And thanks to the growing human wedged in my lung cavity, running consecutive miles at an 8 minute pace had me constantly winded.
But the stars must have aligned perfectly that morning. I felt amazing during the entire race (despite my burning calf muscles- another area the elliptical just doesn't target). And, oddly enough, I barely felt pregnant at all during my run. The baby didn't feel wedged under my ribs, I could breathe pretty well, and I didn't feel any heavier. My goal (which I had assumed was a reach for the stars) was to finish the 3.1 mile course at 8:00 mile pace. And even though 3/4 of the course was either an incline or full-on uphill, I shocked myself when I crossed the finish line in 23:34. That was 7:40 pace!
For the race, I decided to embrace the ridicule and place my racing bib right onto my belly. The old ladies especially got a huge kick out of that.
Does this racing bib make my belly look big?
24 weeks: baby's first race.
And here I was. In my stretched out Target tank. With my running shorts bunched awkwardly below my large belly. Not a single piece of technology on me. Having never run the course before and having absolutely no idea what to expect. With only two weeks of training under my belt. I suddenly questioned my decision to start out in the front with this group of women (and insanely fit teenage crossfit boys).
The start line. Don't be fooled. There was a sea of people behind me.
The gun went off and that wonderful yet intensely scary pump of adrenaline coursed through my body. Oh god. I had so missed that rush. It's terrifying and wonderful at the same time. For the first half mile, I was trying to catch my breath just from that adrenaline rush alone. Best/Worst. Feeling. Ever. I think this is something only a masochist can understand.
Boy, those ladies weren't kidding. The course was intense. The first 1.5 miles was a gradual incline, which may not seem much when you are a car but is killer when you are racing on foot. There was no time to catch a breath because the gradual inclined ended at the base of an intense, mile-long uphill stretch. It was so insane that I (who LOVES hills) had to stop and walk for 30 seconds. My calves killed. I was certain I would keel over any minute. But I pushed through. Almost there. I kept chanting.
I didn't have anyway to track my timing or my pace but I was sure my goal was shot. My new goal was just to finish...as fast as my body physically could go. But I felt strong. My lungs were holding up. No hint of hip or knee pain. And I marveled at the fact that, for the first time in two months, I didn't feel pregnant at all. I couldn't even tell there was a soccer ball sized bump around my waist. So I pounded on.
We finally crested the hill and had a little more than half a mile to go. That's when I saw them. The two ladies in fancy running gear who had casually chatted up the challenges of the course at the start of the race. I knew I could do it. I had to do it. They were so close. I pumped my arms back and forth more quickly to force my legs to pick up pace (a trick my college cross country coach had taught me). They were struggling and I glided (painfully) past. Me and my stretched out Target tank....kicking the butts of the Under Armor-adorned running club ladies. It felt so good, so validating. Or maybe that was the runner's high talking.
The last half mile was all down hill but we runners were exhausted and done in. I gathered whatever strength was left in my reserves and pumped my way to the finish line. When I approached the line and saw the time displayed on the large clock overhead, I was shocked to realize that I still had a chance to meet my goal of 8:00 miles. I gained a mini second wind and powered through the home stretch in time to blow my goal completely away! In the process of finishing, I passed a fit young man just feet from the finish line. It was well worth the price of admission to see the look on his face when I turned around and he realized that he was passed by a pregnant lady. Oh, priceless!
The rest of the Fourth of July was fantastic (and will be given it's proper space on this blog later this week). But my accomplishment on the road that morning outshined the rest of the day's activities. I was elated for the remainder of the day. Drunk on runner's high and the after-effects of an adrenaline rush, the only adequately strong substitute for alcohol.