Laurel and I may be the professional athletes, but our sister Sarah holds a title neither one of us was able to achieve. She was 1995 Maryland high school cross country state champion. Now, after 3 kids, she's rediscovering her love of off-road running. Here's her report from her first trail race. --Bec
If there's anything I've learned from getting back to running shape after having a baby, it's the art of embracing change. Whether it's accepting the fact that my body is different, or that my "routine" is allover the map, or that I've lost anything remotely resembling speed, things shift both mentally and physically post-baby. It can be a hopeless battle to try to go back to normal, so, as I've discovered, you're better off tabling those pre-baby PRs and goals and shifting your focus to life AB (After Baby). Sure, some women can just dive right back into the deep end and start cranking out fast times and long distances minutes after giving birth, but not me. It takes time to rebuild that foundation and regain both my fitness and my confidence. And, until that happens, it's just so much less stressful to go easy on myself and try new things to avoid constantly comparing myself to where I once was.
It's that mindset which lead me to my very-first trail run, The North Face Endurance Challenge 10K in Algonkian Regional Park
. Beyond the countless cross country courses I traversed in high school and college, I'd never run a true trail race. And while the idea always intrigued me, the fear of hurting myself, of running slow...even the thought of facing monstrous hills all kept me from entering one. Yet after having baby #3, I figured it was time. I'm not in PR shape, so I liked the idea that the numbers on the clock didn't really matter. Plus, my good friend Amber had run the New York race in Bear Mountain State Park
and raved about it. Sign me up.
Of course, it figures that baby Nell chose the night before the race to fuss from around midnight until 3:30 a.m., giving Mark (who also ran, along with two of our best friends) and I a whopping two hours of solid sleep. We groggily--and hastily--threw on our race gear and bolted for the bus that would take us to the park. In my rush, I left my Garmin at home, still charging away. No worries, there would be clocks and mile markers on the course, right? Well, as I soon found out, "true" trail races do not offer such luxuries and I was completely clueless as to my time and mileage for all 6.2 miles. Which wound up being a very good thing, because I ran without fretting about my pace or how much closer I was to the next mile. Instead, I just focused on passing people (I started in the second wave with Mark and our friends and it took me about 1:15 to get to the start line after the gun, so I had plenty of ground to make up) and simply enjoyed the scenery. Woodsy trails, winding paths, rocks beneath my feet...there was plenty to keep me occupied. Before I knew it, I was making the final turn into the finish line, where someone told me I was among the time ten women. Seriously?! I was so caught up in being present that I hadn't even bothered to figure out how many women I'd passed. Maybe this watch-less running thing is the way to go.
Turns out that my chip time landed me in 5th place overall and first in my age group
. Granted, all of the truly speedy runners probably raced in the 50K, 50 miler, marathon, half-marathon, or any of the other races offered throughout the weekend, but I must admit I was beyond pleased to pick up my award (The North Face arm warmers and GU! Sweet!). And ready to find my next trail race. If only The North Face offered more of these in DC throughout the year...they're headed to Wisconsin (September 14 & 15) and Georgia (September 28 & 29) next, so if you live near either of those areas or want to travel, add them to your race schedule. You can even get 10 percent off of any race distance by using the code COMPMAG (just note that the price increases on July 5, so sign up soon!).
So, I'm curious, how did you embrace change after having a baby? And do you have a trail race in the DC area you'd recommend trying?