Crushing it while Pregnant = 1:18:07 for Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half
On the starting line early Sunday morning on January 18, my head was spinning with excitement entering the known, yet unknown of a 13.1 mile race at the early 5 week mark of my pregnancy. History was repeating itself. Another baby due during the same week of the Olympic Trials (Joanie was born in Virginia, 2 days after Alan’s 5000m race; this baby is due September 19, 2015- exactly 1 day before the trials race set for ITU Triathlon this summer in Chicago).
**Baby and I have have connected at a deep level and have both agreed to extend the time spent incubating to a full 41 weeks, just like sibling Joanie to ensure dad will be present during entrance into the world.**
Yes I know. Can that SERIOUSLY happen to a family twice? I swear there was NO premeditation on anyone’s part, it was NOT planned and the chance that we “blew it” AGAIN blows my mind. Once the discovery that baby #2 was in the making, our “no we don’t plan to have more for a while” mindset immediately shifted to, “alright, we can do this, this is definitely exciting and Joanie could use a pal”. So when plans change you adapt. I wasn’t planning to race a half marathon but the Rock ‘n’ Roll series was coming to town and I had amazing memories from racing my last half pregnant.
In Fall of 2011 I had been getting in the best shape of my life, only to be “surprised” by our first pregnancy, and opted at 7 weeks to jump in the Richmond Half with no expectations. With a very conservative start (6:20’s first 3 miles, then I dropped it down to ave 6:02 on cruise control the last 10- and ran 1:20:17). Now again, Just 5 days after discovering on Alan’s birthday I was on the long haul to getting Webb baby #2 in the world, I was going to attempt it again. Every pregnancy is different so my expectations for my race result were really unknown.
I had some big goals for the spring and fall. Being pregnant has definitely put a huge curve ball in my plans (obstacle racing, steeplechase, professional career.. not to mention our housing situation and timing of baby due date during Alan’s racing schedule)…. But honestly the chance at bringing in another life into the world, regardless of timing, is an easy thing to prioritize above everything else. It was time to adjust my attitude and embrace the present. I wasn’t ready to just head to the sidelines to cheer on runners. I was definitely fit and ready for a long aerobic test. In the Rock ‘n’ Roll half there would be no times goals or pressure, just run by feel and play it safe (following my “rules” below).
For the women who have not yet been pregnant, it may seem very unimpressive that I was able to run in the ball park of my fitness levels at just 5 weeks pregnant. I had gained 0 extra pounds and just a few weeks ago had what I’d consider one of the best track workouts of my life. So really in my book I had only been “pregnant” aka “noticing symptoms” for about 10 days.
But when they did hit, my body felt far far from the race ready “me”. The hormones, mood changes, nausea and extreme fatigue doesn’t wait til you start showing. In my book it’s at its ultimate worst at the very beginning.
Warming up the morning before Rock ‘n’ Roll was no treat. Like most runs early in pregnancy, I felt like a zombie space case as I attempted to ready myself for a pregnant me half marathon. I felt so bad I believe I stopped 5 times before I made it 1.5 miles, then resorted to sipping my Gatorade before I changed my flats and said a prayer (my only hope). I skipped the typical warm up routine of doing drills, ran a stride or two to make it to the starting line coral with thoughts of “lets aim for 6:15-25 pace”. Only then with the addition of quickly digestible sugars and the crowd of runners, I started to feel joy, excitement and hope; forgetting my predicament of “pregnant” and feeling alive and ready.
The gun went off, and it was as if I was changed. I felt strong, fluid, fast and in control. I was shocked but reminded myself “hold back, hold back”. First mile flew by getting in a rhythm just under 6:00. I was feeling great. A pack of girls were running together (3-6th places that I knew of).. until Loring Crowing broke away. We started cresting a small gradual incline and I started pushing a little more. The next 2 miles, 5:45, 5:46. Oops. I definitely was not confident I could “comfortably” hold this pace. I did not want it to turn ugly, so I backed off slightly and remembered to hit up all the Gatorade I could get.
I had a moment of “uh oh” this might be too aggressive around 5, when Anna Corrigan crept up and ran ahead of me (former UVA runner coming off injury). I latched on and we ran just about side my side the next 4 miles. The second half of the course gave us the right blend of uphill and downhill; and by mile 10 I used it to my advantage putting a surge in and dropping Anna and the pack of 2 guys.
I felt like I was flying and on cruise control. The extra carbs may definitely have helped as I had literally taken a swig or more at EVERY SINGLE Gatorade stop offered. I underestimated the finish being so close and thought I hadn’t reached mile 11 when really I was about to hit 12 (the one mile mark unseen to many on the course). I crested the final bridge and just like that the finish was in sight and I coasted in to an outright non-pregnant PR of 1:18:07, 5th overall and way way far from Amy Hastings win of 1:12:04. (My best had been way back in 2009 at Indy Mini in 1:19:05). Even without the new pregnancy I would have still been likely 4+ minutes behind, so no bragging there!!
- Amy Hastings 1:12:04 (5:29/mile pace)
- Natasha Wodak 1:12:23 (5:31 pace)
- Molly Watcke 1:15:59 (5:47 pace)
- Loring Crowley 1:17:16 (5:53 pace)
- Julia Webb + mini human 1:18:07 (5:57 pace)
- Anna Corrigan 1:18:23 (5:58 pace)
- Dorota Gruca 1:18:31 (5:59 pace)
For me, in 2011 I had some great experiences racing early (weeks 4-16) before it turned ugly when I ignored hip pain discomfort which eventually led to a year long injury (likely torn ligament in hip). This time I am vowing to be ultra careful, proactive in strengthening my weak areas (glutes/hip flexors) and seeking cross training options early (biking, swimming, yoga – top 3 choices).
I suspected and confirmed pregnancy with a test after I had a miserable run during the “heat” on my first day back from Wisconsin to Arizona. During that 12 mile run (See Instagram photo below). It was warm and I definitely wasn’t optimally hydrated after a long day of travel (and an extra dose of coffee). Yet the effects were extreme. My muscles literally felt like they were completely shut off. I was so frustrated I started doing drills/burpees and added some hill strides mid run to try to “wake up”. It didn’t do much and by 50 minutes (despite drinking my 12 oz of water I had carried) I could not think of anything except how good water would taste. I survived and made it back then checked my calendar and noticed I was past due for my next period. Uh oh. The following day I bought a test, started texting way too many people my concerns before finding out.. then took it and proceeded to scare the crap out of Alan on his birthday with the words “PREGNANT” on the stick.
- My miserable long run
- Felt sort of like a space case (best way to describe easy runs while pregnant)
- My resting heart rate when I woke at 48. I had never seen a reading over 40.
- Sudden desire to want to nap. The fatigue (like my previous 1st trimester) was back
- Coma level sleep – comparable to the middle school 12 hour stretches with intense dreaming
- Increased appetite – ravenous hunger after workouts and active days
- Weird ability to recover.. hard to pinpoint but could tell my recovery was on a higher level, less soreness.. made sense since I’m surging w/ Human Growth Hormone since that’s what I’m doing “Growing a Human”
- Intolerance for heat. Its bad. If its 80 it feels like 100. 60s I typically feel like i can fly!
- (LATER) Severe nausea, 99% of food looking disgusting and the nonstop thoughts of 1 specific meal that might taste good (only to have it and realize it tastes terrible just like the 99% other foods) followed by indigestion, more nausea and “please don’t throw up” thoughts
Self Made Rules to “racing” pregnant (I am far from an expert so these are only suggestions):
1) Stay hydrated and have access to fluids – I took at least 3-4 oz of Gatorade at EVERY single aid station. Overkill – probably. I didn’t want to chance feeling depleted or dehydrated. It definitely didn’t help my time, slowing to drink, but gave me peace of mind, and the ability to put a good hard surge in with 3 miles to go.
2) Overcompensate w/ abundance of carbs – see above. I had an extra meal sized snack before bed (well, that’s typical for me), and had ~10 oz of Gatorade post warm up up til the gun went off. (I used Gatorade b/c I know it works well for me and even when I’m not pregnant, I never have any digestive issues drinking during workouts/pre-race).
3) Use the comparison of Labor Pain as a gauge.. No it was not a completely comfortable effort, but on a whole, I said to myself when it got harder – “At no point does any of this compare to a minute in labor”.. if it had, that’s when I knew I would need to back off.
4) Keep breathing/effort in control – at no point do I ever plan to get to the feeling you get in the 3rd lap of a 1500, a K to go in a steeple, or a mile to go in a 5K- the point – stick to threshold effort.
5) Heed to warning signs – your body will tell you if you need to back off – If there would ever be a point when I felt dizzy, out of it, or “gone” that’s when I wouldn’t have had a problem backing off, even to the point of walking. Hey I walked in a cross country race even when I wasn’t pregnant and blogged about it. Ain’t no shame.
6) Once my belly starts growing (aka 2nd Trimester– April and beyond), time to find some other athletic endeavors (I don’t want to put any races on my calendar far in advance to put pressure on myself to continue training at a higher level) – not saying I may not jump in another, but once your body starts going through the extreme physical changes, racing isn’t a great addition to the picture- adding stress of running hard as my ligaments are already getting stretched- not smart and risk for injury.
So you like to run, but what’s the point of RACING??
For non-runners when they hear I am pregnant and “racing” or doing anything beyond jogging, it is largely frowned upon. Even with avid runners, I am surprised to find some are discouraging and disapproving when I tell them I raced the half or Spartan* (did that at 7 weeks- see previous post – didn’t mention but totally sandbagged the run portion because I wanted to be ultraconservative to give me additional strength on obstacles/expected burpees). Thankfully there are other mothers out there beyond myself who still continue to “train hard” while pregnant. Check out these blogs and stories–
Clara Peterson – MamaRunner.com Pregnant with her 4th and defying odds running fast late into her 3rd trimester
Here’s my reasoning to RACE PREGNANT:
- I love racing. I am one of those people who jumps at any chance to race regardless of the stage of my training, completely fine with racing when I’m “out of shape”. Even at my worst I am better than most people out there and admit it feels really good to do something many people cannot. A memory from one of those races- 2008 Run for the Door 5K. I wasn’t training for crap after my awful attempt (and miss at qualifying for the Trials steeplechase). I ran a pedestrian 18:55, won it, getting nonstop comments from other participants about how “amazing I did”, etc.. It was 3.1 miles at 6:05 pace but just what my bruised non-Olympic Trials qualifier ego needed! A large color photo of me crossing the tape ended up in the local D.C running publication which helped ease my transition into becoming well-known at the local shoe stores under my new job at Saucony.
- Pregnancy is not a weight bearing injury that requires me to sit the sideline! I am not forced to sit out from my favorite activities and as long as I do so in an intelligent manner. This means I’ll be less competitive to others and more in tune to myself, yet I should be allowed to do what I love! My body outside pregnancy is completely used to going to the well and in all of this intensity of training I have never even skipped a single menstrual cycle. I know pregnancy is a whole different story involving a much greater toll requiring the effort to back off, still doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a good tempo run! TEMPO PACE – STILL GETTING OXYGEN!!
- Without my daily dose of exercise (including some harder efforts every few days) I turn into a bad version of me. Crabby, depressed, and surging with bad stress which likely would lead to the baby feeling “my mom sucks” vibes.. therefore I will continue on running (or cycling, or swimming) and get really sweaty doing so! I need endorphins to function at my optimal level of living!
- No pressure racing – encouraging me to look at the scene of racing with a whole different set of eyes and appreciate the experience to an even greater degree (no time/place goals- run by feel and just let it happen!)
- No post menstrual cycle dip in iron. I always struggle with ferritin levels outside pregnancy. I feel terrible and am typically in a pretty worthless-to-race-state post period for up to a week (despite supplements/diet recommendations). This does not happen when I’m pregnant. I feel tired most of the time pregnant, but if I’m rested enough my body is pretty predictably the same (if the temps are cool!!) At 10 weeks into my pregnancy a blood test revealed I had a personal best ferritin level of 70!!! My typical levels top off in the 30s and have been known to dip in the teens by the end of each month.
- Adrenaline Rush – The whole process of racing – from the preparation, race day logistics of getting up early, having your ritual coffee, warming up… to the upbeat atmosphere, crowds, thousands of other runners pushing themselves… You can’t duplicate that amazing experience. The fact that I’m likely going to run a slower than non-pregnant time or not have a shot at my usual competition isn’t going to stop me. Races are fun!!! I promise I won’t run a marathon on my due date. 😉
- I have found that whether I run slow or “fast” during pregnancy, you only rarely catch a break of feeling “great” or “normal”. I have actually found that most instances the best I feel comes during the tempo portions, racing, OR the day after a hard effort. It seems completely backwards, but the slower I run, the more I start feeling like I want to stop and walk or even worse, lay on the trail (haven’t tried that yet but looks tempting more often than I want to admit!) So on with my racing!!!
Follow me on my journey through my second pregnancy on the blog… No guarantee on the amount of updates due to severe fatigue (hopefully ending soon as I’m creeping up to the 2nd trimester) and being a single mom for the next 6 weeks as Alan kicks off his racing season overseas.. I hope to report some good news to encourage other pregnant runners to continue doing what they love while of course looking out for #1 (their baby).
RACES PLANNED FOR MARCH –
(12 weeks) – Mountain to Fountain 15K
(13 weeks) – Shamrock 15K – I still have hopes to stock up on my beer supply!!! 😉
Apology to the blog followers who got this rough draft sent to their inbox a few weeks in advance. This was NOT a planned action! (Blaming pregnancy brain). A sincere appreciation for keeping the pregnancy off of social media til I announced at 12 weeks!!