On September 19th, 2015 I gave birth to my 2nd son Hudson. Only July 2nd, 2016 I raced the 10,000m at the US Olympic Trials. Let me take you back to how it all began.
1 month before my due date I still held onto the belief that I could race the Olympic Marathon Trials. The race date was 6 months from my scheduled due date. So if all went went, I had the baby on time, took the “proposed 6 weeks post partum” before resuming exercise, I would have 18 weeks to train. Oh and did I mention I had to actually get a qualifier since I had been pregnant the last 2 years, I was out of the time window. The qualifying times were 2:43, 1:15 for the half. Before my kids I had run 2:29, 70:53. It wasn’t out of this world to think I could do it, just a little crazy. Which we’re all a little crazy right? Right? So like any normal scheming, goal setting runner I sketched out a possible plan. Listen I was 8 months pregnant, uncomfortable, bored, antsy so I took to daydreaming.
It was methodical, gradual in the beginning, and more aggressive the closer we got to the race, naturally. I defined gradual in relative terms because I was running 30-50 mile weeks for a while whereas my normal training routine hovered in the 80-90 range. The aggressive part was plain and simple. I would be training only a few months post partum, breastfeeding (energy suck), sleeping no more than a 5 hour stretch if I was lucky, and my body had changed after giving birth.
I told myself I would only stick to the plan if I had no pain, no major setbacks, I put my kids first, and I wasn’t training in a sleep deprived daze. You know what happened: I experienced a little pelvis at times, a few days setback, my kids came first, and I was tired but energized. By November I was nowhere near my plan of 50-60 mile weeks. I ran 7, 13, 18, 25 mile weeks in November. I was getting over mastistis and running a turkey trot 5k in 19 mins. Still the crazy part was I had a speck of hope (the size of the Whoville Whos that lived on a speck in which Horton the elephant carried) that I would qualify with a half and be on the starting line in February.
I can’t tell you why I held on to the Marathon trials for so long. Call it stubbornness, stupidity, legitimacy. Maybe I wanted redemption after the 2012 Marathon Trials. I had one of the fastest American times going in, hit a wall around mile 22, dropped out at mile 23. Maybe I wanted to prove that as a professional female athlete I could take a break, have kids, and it wouldn’t end my career. But in the back of my mind I knew rushing back too soon post pregnancy could end my career. So why the push? Deep down if I really peeled away all the layers there was some truth lying there. I believed I had a better shot making an Olympic Team in the marathon than on the track in the 10,000m. That was hard to admit, to swallow, and to accept.
In December, the snow poured into Flagstaff, and I sloshed through the cold, wet, bitter days with my teammates and with a big fat smile on my face. I was healthy and finding my stride again. Coach Ben and I still met often to plan out my weeks which included several fartleks and leg speed sessions to reintroduce paces that my body used to run half marathons at but at this point (12 weeks post partum) could only handle 30-60 second bouts. 5:20 pace for 20 secs on, 1 min off.
It seemed daunting on one hand and idiotically possible on the other. I was allotting most of my ancillary time to core and strength work. From my experience and understanding of having diastasis recti and the symptoms I presented returning to training, this was the prescribed routine from my sports chiropractors. I did 3 main core exercises: bird dog, side plank, McGill crunch. Twice a week I did strength work at Hypo2 with Dr. AJ and Wes Gregg which included single leg RDLs, around the worlds, hip airplanes, tons of glute activation with bands, and various other exercises targeting my hips, butt, and low back. Areas that we felt post pregnancy were most susceptible to breakdown and weaknesses.
As 2015 came to an end I reflected on all that had taken place in what felt like such a short amount of time. Our team had grown to a full roster and everyone was crushing it. We won a few national titles, made the World team in the half, ran some incredible marathons, and HOKAOneOne signed us. Riley turned 1, we hosted our first Running with the Bruces Camp in Flagstaff, Picky Bars got into REI, our family grew to 4, and we coached a few women to Olympic Trials qualifying performances. It was a great year, then the clock struck midnight and suddenly I had 6 weeks. Let me be clear there was no outside pressure for me to qualify or be on the starting line in LA, so that 6 weeks was hovering above my head and my head alone.
Well truthfully I had 3 weeks, because January 17th was the cutoff date to actually qualify for the trials and here I was thinking about the Olympic Team without a qualifier, silly me. The week of January 4th-9th was a breakthrough. I ran 60 miles, a 3 mile tempo in Flagstaff in 5:47, 5:47, 5:44, and then a tester workout that Sunday with Kellyn. Kellyn had 20 miles alternating 6:35, 5:35 paces in Camp Verde (3000ft) and I was to join her for 8 miles of it. 5:35, 6:39, 5:36, 6:28, 5:35, 6:22, 5:44 (uphill), 6:26. The workout made the decision for me. I could run the pace needed to qualify, but by the end of the workout my pelvis felt like it was fatiguing. My lungs were there but my body wasn’t. I remember the promise I made to myself in August that I would not force the plan if it didn’t come without risk. I was slated to pace Caitlin Comfort (whom I coach) next weekend at RNR Phoenix Half Marathon for her workout. 5:50s for 8 miles, then I’d cool down back to the finish. I knew I could do that, and then that voice crept in “maybe, just maybe, you could keep going and squeeze the pace down the last few miles and sneak under 75 mins and qualify.”
Ben was racing RNR as his tune up before the trials. He was heavy in marathon training and was looking for a solid effort. Hudson had an awful night of sleep waking up every 2 hours. I finally woke up at 4:30 a.m., stumbled around my hotel room, brewed the strongest cup of coffee, and thought today’s the day. The day to put on my uniform that had been collecting dust and I had been missing for so long. The day full of possibility. I warmed up with Caitlin and Tara Welling and I was giddy as a school girl weaving through the crowds at the start, waiting in line at the porto potty. I remembered I was meant to do this. Ben and I said our goodbyes and good lucks. See you at the finish line!
The first mile was 5:50, right on but feeling rusty. As the course rolled along I was warming up and feeling full of run each passing mile. I look down around mile 4 and we dipped just under 5:50. My mind was wandering, scheming “I feel good, do I keep going?” Mile 8 5:48. It’s time to stop and jog back to the finish but let me just have 3 more minutes of running to let go. To know I wouldn’t be in a position to make an Olympic Team in 1 month’s time, the risk of continuing today would outweigh the reward. I have already “competed” at many trials so I didn’t need that satisfaction. I could have kids and return to a high level, just in a different fashion and timeline. I have nothing to prove to anyone, so let go. Races, chances, times, goals will always be there to chase. You just need to give yourself time and grace to get there. I let go…. I jogged to the finish, found Ben who had just absolutely crushed it. He placed 2nd in a battling race, ran 62:28 (a 30 sec PR) and in doing so won the 2015 Rock N Roll Half Marathon Series. I was so glad I was there to celebrate that moment and happy our 2 boys could share it with him as well.
I knew there was a bigger plan and sometimes you are forced to see that in the very last possible moment. For me that was the last qualifying day for the trials and so there were no more options. I felt free and at peace to move on, cheer on my super fit husband and teammates in LA. Sometimes we are so obsessed with a timeline and goal that we forget why we’re on that path and we forget to savor the struggles and triumphs of it. It was painful and ugly those first few months post partum but I loved getting back in shape. I loved making progress weekly. You have nothing to lose only something to gain. So as I let go of one goal, inevitably another one materialized. The US Olympic Track Trials were in 6 months, and I had nothing to lose. Part 2 coming soon…
Dream Big –