Its no secret that I’ve been struggling with running over the last few weeks. I’ve talked about the pain and discomfort of it all, yet how I fight with myself to keep doing it.
The truth of the matter is that since I was about 14, running has always been there for me. I was never particularly outgoing or incredibly social growing up. I always had several really great friends and honestly wasn’t too insecure ( I mean honestly, who is really confident going through puberty anyway) but my point is that running changed all of that for me. I was naturally good at it from the start, but I also found that it was something that I could get better and better at the harder I worked at it. This can be true in many areas of life, but for me with many other sports that I tried growing up, no matter how hard I practiced I was never going to have great hand eye coordination, throw a hard fast ball or be able to make those game saving catches. Running was different. I found that I could push myself to the point of pain and exhaustion and keep going at that pace for miles. And I found out that I really, really enjoyed winning. I loved racing people! I loved how I could watch my competitors and look for their one weakness and use it against them. I loved making myself hurt and that it brought me to levels of success that I had never dreamed possible before. Running gave me a very different self confidence. I knew I would never be the prettiest, the most adored of my classmates, but I didn’t really care. I knew that if I worked really hard, that maybe I could be the fastest, and somehow that seemed to be even better to me anyway.
It also really opened up my social circle. I met my best friend when I was a freshman in high school on our cross-country team. Val was a sophomore and we ended up even running in college together. She’s highly competitive too, which sometimes I think its amazing we’ve been such good friends all these years. When it comes down to it though, I love her with all my heart and I am always wanting her to be successful in running and in life. Fortunately, or unfortunately for us depending on how you look at it, we haven’t really had the opportunity to race each other much over these last several years. She and I seem to take turns being injured and pregnant so we’ve had the chance to really be each other’s cheerleaders and I’ll admit its sort of nice.
What does all of this have to do with today? Well, Tim and I decided to do a fun little 5K. I have been trying to still find some races to sign up for just to keep my training fun and add variety, plus its Halloween weekend. Well, on my run on Thursday when I kept running 7:30 pace I started to wonder if I’d be able to run this fun run sort of hard. Not like an all out race, I’ve said that I’m not doing that while pregnant and will never change my mind. However, I thought about the summer and how I ran a couple 5K’s comfortably hard and thought that maybe it might motivate me in my running a little bit.
Honestly, during some runs this last week I started wondering how much longer I can keep doing this. Then I get mad at myself for being such a wimp and start motivating myself by thinking about how continuing to run as long as I can can help me to come back even stronger and in better shape than before. I think…”If I can just run a few miles up until my delivery, no matter how slow, it will allow me to start running again pretty quickly after delivery as long as there are no complications.”
Tim and I warmed up together this morning and honestly I wasn’t feeling very well. My abdomen felt very full and had a lot of pressure so when Tim asked how fast I wanted to go I told him I really didn’t know. The race started and some kids and a guy went out pretty fast and Tim and I held a steady 6:30 pace until we hit some trails and hills and slowed down to just over 7 minute pace. I felt pretty good at this pace. The hills were challenging and I was working hard, but could still talk to him and was smiling and felt like my breathing was harder but still controlled. Well, before we even hit the first mile, Tim and I had passed everyone and were leading the race. The guy had stayed pretty close behind us and during the second half of the second mile I started putting some distance on him.
We were still under a 7 minute pace for the second mile and amazingly I felt tired but also good. My abdomen didn’t really hurt and I just felt like I was racing with Tim again. I started thinking about how cool it would be to tell our daughter about us winning a 5K when she was 5.5 months “old” in my belly. I started to get really happy and enjoy the experience. Yes, I was tired and I was working harder than I have in months, but it was still in control and I was happy and felt so good. I looked over my shoulder many times as we entered the last half mile and saw that the guy was quite a bit behind. Still, I kept on the pace, running a 6:25 mile for the last mile. Well, with 400 meters to go the guy started kicking and was quickly closing the gap. I was comfortable where I was and knew that if I wasn’t pregnant, I would have picked it up more and that would be that, but I thought about the little peanut and knew that I wouldn’t feel safe pushing it faster than I was going at this point. Tim noticed the guy too and said “Now that will make me mad if that guy passes us.” I said “I know, don’t let him, just go and get him, don’t let him win.” I knew that I wasn’t going to kick it in, but I didn’t mind if Tim did just so this drafter didn’t get the chance to win that way. Tim said “No, I’m staying with you.” And I’ve gotta love him for that. I wanted him to get that guy, but it also made me happy that he wanted to be with me, his wife and his child.
Well, we were holding this guy off and with less than 200 meters to go I looked back and realized that he wasn’t making a move and that we’d actually get this. Excited, I started running into the finish line without looking back again. I was crossing the line, hitting my watch when all of a sudden the weasel out stepped me going right into the chute. Are you kidding me??? Suddenly, I was furious. I would have rather he had the balls (excuse me) to just pass us in the final 200 meters than sit on me like that and just edge by me in the chute. His wife was there congratulating him and I was seething.
“I hope you felt good about that!” I shouted out to him “You outkicked a 5.5 months pregnant woman!” Tim said the same thing. I may have said some more things than that. I may have had more anger than I’d like to admit about something that seems so small and unimportant. I’d like to say that that was it. That I walked it off and let it be, but I didn’t. In that moment I was so incredibly angry and in disbelief. I immediately started cooling down and was pretty silent to Tim the whole way until we were within a few feet of two miles out. I stopped my watch, bent over and the tears and the emotions just started pouring out. No one else was around. Very few actually get to see the raw emotion that lies beneath all that anger.
“Running has just been so hard for me lately.” I blubbered out to Tim. “I know it doesn’t make sense that I’m this bothered by that jerk, but its just been so hard for me. All these months I’ve been taking it so easy and I haven’t been able to race. Today I felt so good and wasn’t even expecting something like that, but it was there and I was so happy that I’d get to win again. It felt so good and I thought about telling our little girl about it. Now that’s all gone. I felt like that guy just took it from me and I felt like he did it in such a cheap, sneaky way and…and…and…” Tears, sobbing.
Tim hugged me and listened. I told him that I’m so happy I’m pregnant, and I mean it. I am. I love this baby and her safety and health is more important than anything else right now. But I told him “I’m still me. I’m still competitive and I still want and like to win and I can’t help it.” Somehow he seemed to understand more of what I’ve been going through.
I feel guilty for being that way. I know so many women that have such a hard time getting pregnant and then there’s so many things that can go wrong so I don’t want to sound so ungrateful for the wonderful miracle that exists in my belly right now. I do take it easy on the runs for her and I won’t push myself past a certain point, for her. I’d be lying though if I tried to say that it wasn’t hard for me and that I don’t miss this part of me with every inch of my being. Being a woman and a mother can be complicated. It’s the greatest blessing I’ve ever known and I worry about her incessantly, even if I go a few hours without feeling a movement. Yet its hard to sit out and be a host too. I’m ok with my body changing. I really don’t mind that my belly gets bigger every day and my clothes are getting tighter and the weight on the scale goes up every week. Call me crazy, but I honestly believe that I will get my body back after she’s born. I’ve gone through that transformation before. My body had put on 43 pounds and my muscles were mush and I worked it back into better shape than it ever was before so I know I can do it again.
My biggest issue with the pregnancy is that it changes my running. When I’m having a stressful day I can’t just put on my shoes and go for a nice, vigorous run that feels great. Its uncomfortable now.
So while that guy may never understand my crazy reaction, and maybe no one else will either, it both reassures me that I haven’t lost that competitive juice that flows within my veins and also makes me wish I could just control it better. I’m very hard on myself and I think at some point or another all of my coaches realized this and knew that when I had a bad race they didn’t need to say anything at all. I really need to give myself a break. Its easier said than done. Today I didn’t win the whole 5K but I was the first woman and at 5.5 months pregnant, that has to be good enough.