The last time I ran 13.1 miles was last June in Seattle. I was 26 weeks pregnant with 17 extra pounds on my body. I finished in 2:24:27, an average pace of 11:02/mile. After that race I was hopeful to be able to regain my speed and fitness after baby, but I wasn’t sure if I ever would.
It is now 8 months later and my baby is 5 months old. I was finally able to run 13.1 miles again [2 weekends ago], this time in Myrtle Beach, minus those 17 extra pounds. I ran the same distance more than 30 minutes faster, with a time of 1:51:38, an average pace of 8:31/mile. I finished less than 3 minutes shy of my half marathon PR, set almost two years ago (1:48:55). Best of all, I felt AMAZING!
Let’s start at the beginning…
We had been planning to come to Myrtle Beach for my first post-baby race for a long time. Kevin’s parents live there now, so we thought it would be a great time to visit them and also make my comeback to long distance races. Originally, I had planned to run the full marathon. I signed up for it and started training, but then I fell and hurt my knee, which forced me to take almost a month off from running. Losing that whole month of training was crucial for me, and I decided to drop down to the half instead. I was still super excited for the race though, and looking back now I’m very happy I ended up running the half rather than the full. It was just the confidence booster I needed to kick off my post partum long distance racing.
We headed to Myrtle Beach on Thursday evening after work. It is about a 6 hour drive from where we live in Virginia, and it ended up being a perfect time to leave because the baby slept practically the whole time. We arrived around 1 a.m. after a few stops for gas and to feed/change the baby. We said our hellos and then passed out.
The next morning we got up, relaxed and hung out with Kevin’s parents. It was so nice to be able to have a leisurely morning. Plus the warm breeze coming through the open screen door felt amazing!
Eventually we made our way to the expo. His family lives in Surfside Beach, which is only about 15-20 minutes from where all the race festivities were happening. So convenient! The expo was small, which was to be expected since the race was on the smaller side as well. I think there was a total of 5,000 runners between the full and the half. We still had a good time walking around with the baby and Kevin’s parents and getting our free swag 🙂
After the expo Kevin, the baby and I all walked around Broadway at the Beach for a little bit. While we were walking we saw a bunch of kids run by, followed by a huge crowd of more kids and their parents. We realized it was the one mile Family Fun Run – another race weekend event. It was so cute seeing all the little kids run by. I could totally see us doing this as a family in a few years.
We were only at Broadway for about 30 minutes before we needed to meet up with Kevin’s family again for dinner at Mellow Mushroom. Whenever we go to Myrtle Beach we try to go here. Kevin loves the beer and we both love the food. We like to eat pizza before a race, and I appreciate how they offer vegan cheese on their pizzas, since the baby has a sensitivity to dairy and so do I. I don’t take any chances on the night before a race. Can’t risk having tummy problems! The food was great and it was the perfect pre-race meal. While we were at dinner Kevin’s mom also surprised me by giving me a shirt that I liked at the expo. I was so excited to wear it for the race.
After dinner we went back home and went to bed early. We wanted to try to get a good nights sleep (if that is possible with a 5 month old), since the race started at 6:30 a.m.! Thankfully, the baby had a good night and we all woke up to our alarm at 4:00 feeling pretty good!
I ate some oatmeal quickly and we were on our way. I used to just have a Clif Bar or Honey Stinger Bar before a race, but now I have found that I need more. I thought oatmeal would be too heavy, but it’s actually perfect and provides me with a lot more energy, so I have been eating it before my long runs.
We made the drive to the start and I pumped quickly, to make sure I was totally empty- necessary when you are about to run for 2 hours! Then we bundled up the baby (it was a little chilly at 6 a.m.) and walked over to where the race started.
I didn’t have a lot of time before the start, so I quickly used the bathroom, kissed my boys goodbye, and jumped into the crowd of runners. While I waited, I thought about my race plan. My training hadn’t been great, so I didn’t expect a PR. But I also wanted to try to push myself to see what I could do. I decided to go out around a pace that would get me to PR (about 8:18/mile in order to run under a 1:48:55) and hang on as long as I could. I wanted to see how long I could last at that pace, so I knew what type of work I had to do before my next half marathon on March 16th. I considered it to be a little test. With the pressure off, I was ready to go!
The race started and we were off and running… in the dark! Since we started at 6:30 a.m. it was still pretty dark out, which was strange. I had never started a race before the sunrise. Since it was a smaller race, it wasn’t too difficult to get to a spot that wasn’t overcrowded with people. I found an open path and got into my groove. I ran my first mile in 8:22, almost right on pace. My second was 8:07, which I realized was too fast, so I pulled it back a bit. It was hard to do though, because I felt great and I loved the course, which was basically a big out-and-back loop that was super flat.
I settled into a more consistent pace that was easier to maintain, ranging between 8:14-8:22 minute miles. I tried to focus on not expending too much energy and remembering to fuel correctly. Even though I didn’t feel hungry, I ate my first half pack of Stingers after 25 minutes. I have made the ‘fueling too late’ mistake too many times and I did not want that to happen today! I ate a half pack every 20 minutes after that. I didn’t carry water, but I knew there were water stops every two miles. At times I wished I had my own, but it was fine because they had water in HUGE cups that held a ton and were easy to drink out of. The first few miles went by so quickly. All of a sudden we were at mile 5 and heading into a shopping area to do a loop before heading back the way we came.
By this point Kevin’s mom had come to the start/finish area to meet Kevin and the baby. She scored a great spot by the finish line and got to see the first two men fighting it out to win the race. It was a close one!
Kevin left the baby with his mom and ran down to meet me on the course. I knew I would see him around mile 11, and as we exited the shopping area at mile 7.5 and headed back his way I kept that in my mind. It helped me to know that he would be there waiting. Around mile 9, I started to not be able to keep the pace I had been running before. I tried to keep it up, but I watched my pace slowly climb higher and higher. Honestly, I was shocked that I had made it to mile 9 running as fast as I was, so I was happy!
The tenth mile was a little slower than the last, and so was the eleventh. By now we were running on a street that ran parallel to the beach, so every time I started to feel tired I looked over and the beach took my mind off of it. I passed mile 11 where there was a radio playing the Justin Bieber song “Beauty and a Beat.” As embarrassing as I am to admit this, I LOVE running to that song! It was just what I needed to hear and perked me up. Finally at mile 11.5 I saw Kevin and he jumped in to run with me. I told him how the race had gone so far and that I was slowing down. When my watch beeped for mile 12 it was slower again, but I was still running sub-9 minute miles. I knew I wasn’t going to PR, but to my surprise I was going to come close.
The last mile was not easy, but Kevin kept talking to me which helped. I reminded myself how awesome it was to run with him again. We hadn’t run together as just the two of us since the morning my water broke almost 6 months ago! I started hearing the finish line music and my watch beeped as I hit mile 13. I saw the finish once I turned a corner and tried my best to sprint to it. I remember thinking, thank God I’m not running the full! I was ready to be done and start my celebration!
- Mile 1 – 8:22
- Mile 2 – 8:07 <– got too excited!
- Mile 3 – 8:14
- Mile 4 – 8:19
- Mile 5 – 8:18
- Mile 6 – 8:22
- Mile 7 – 8:22
- Mile 8 – 8:21
- Mile 9 – 8:31 <– starting to lose steam
- Mile 10 – 8:43
- Mile 11 – 8:49
- Mile 12 – 8:53
- Mile 13- 9:03
Kevin’s mom was waiting at the finish line to capture us coming through…
And in a time of 1:51:38, I crossed the finish line of my first post-partum half marathon!
I felt amazing and completely spent. I couldn’t believe how close I came (2 1/2 minutes) from getting a PR. While I don’t think it was the result of dedicated training, I know that my body is stronger post-pregnancy. I’m actually planning to write a post about how pregnancy and motherhood has changed my body and my running for the better. However, I also think that this was a race where everything came together perfectly- the course was flat and fast, the weather and temperature was perfect, my stomach felt great, I fueled myself well, I had no serious aches or pains… these are all things that have gotten in the way of me having a good race before. I got lucky, and ran an amazing race as a result.
The baby was passed out through the whole thing…
Eventually, after getting some food and walking around, he woke up and was all smiles. I was so happy to see him, and couldn’t stop thinking about how the last time I ran a half marathon he was inside me!
Maybe someday he will run a race with me and get his own medal 🙂
After the race we went to breakfast at Eggs Up Grill, one of our favorite restaurants in Surfside. Then we went back to Kevin’s parents’ house where I showered (isn’t the post race shower amazing?!), and napped for 3 glorious hours with the baby. It was AMAZING!
Since the race was on Saturday and we weren’t leaving until Monday, we still had a lot of time in Myrtle Beach after the race was over. The rest of our trip was spent relaxing some more, spending time with family, eating [a lot], enjoying some drinks, napping as much as possible, and accepting the help of an eager grandma who was willing to take care of everything baby related 🙂
We had such an amazing time in Myrtle Beach. I already can’t wait to return to run the full next year. I’m excited to see myself get stronger as I continue to make my comeback 🙂