Crickets chirping? YUP. Chirping away all by their lonesome. I had company arrive Thursday and leave yesterday, and between lapping up every moment possible with them, a bridal shower, Paint Nite, a clingy baby cutting five teeth, a doctor’s appointment, and utterly beautiful weather, sitting down and writing just didn’t happen. I missed you though. I did!
I had a couple of good runs last week and this weekend that I didn’t get around to recapping, but the most consistent thought I keep having as splits click in and I submit my workouts on Daily Mile is when (and how) did I get faster? All of a sudden I’m running far more workouts between 8:00 and 8:30 instead of 8:30 and 9:00, and last night at my run club’s fun run 5K, I knocked out a 7:34 average pace, slowing up a bit in the homestretch, but running pretty consistent splits.
Last night’s 5K was the first time I’ve run the route without either being 5+ months pregnant or with the stroller out in front. I wasn’t sure what to expect from myself, but know the course well now and hoped to keep it under 8:00.
After the informal start — a ready, set, go kind — I took off with the front pack, committed to running my own rate, but not holding back either. I stayed a few strides back for the first half mile until the start of a climb and then tucked in to run on my own. Mile one registered 7:22. Woah. Mile two is completely downhill, but I also didn’t want to actually pass out on the way back up from two to three, so I tried to maintain my pace while easing up on effort. One runner passed me, which was fine, but I hung in there and let gravity do its thing. All the while, my allergies felt pretty crummy. Breathing was a little labored and my throat felt a little constricted, in addition to the terribly itchy eyes that have bugged me the last few days. I was plenty distracted and I hit mile two with a 7:25 split. I headed uphill.
There had been a guy in a red shirt close to my shoulder for part of the second mile and the other dude who passed me was maybe five or ten seconds ahead of me, so on the way back to the finish, I wanted to stay close to the one in front and hold off the one in back, though I knew all I could control was myself. It was a bit of a strain, but not terrible and I plugged along, turning back towards the school where we meet right at mile three, with a split pace of 7:57.
With a third of a mile left to the finish, I pushed myself without overdoing it (no one looks good finishing a fun run at mega-max effort, right?), bringing it in at 7:27, for an overall pace of 7:34. It’s only a fun run, of course, but I was the second female finisher behind a 3:39 marathoner. Works for me.
So seriously, what the heck happened that I’ve picked up the pace? Really, I’m not sure, but I have a few guesses. First, I exercised (safely) throughout most of my pregnancy and until going into labor. I ran until 34 weeks and then continued to walk — a half mile, two miles, four miles — until Henry arrived. Between exercise and a clean diet, I think I not only didn’t completely lose fitness, but actually got in better shape, even as my belly grew. But running (and then walking) shorter, easier distances for fun, I enjoyed it more and kept it up better. While pregnant, I exercised more often than before, at least in the warm weather months.
Immediately after having the baby, I was eager to start exercising as soon as possible and took Henry for his first walk in the stroller — only a mile and a half — at four days old. It turns out that was too much, too soon and my body rebelled. For the next two weeks I didn’t walk farther than the end of my block (though sometimes twice a day — slowly) and then eased back into exercise. I wasn’t fully cleared for exercise because of a few recovery hurdles until almost ten weeks post-partum, but I kept walking and then incorporated some nice, slow runs back into the mix. At my club’s New Year’s Day fun run and brunch, I ran 3.1 miles in 27:19, for 8:48 pace.
Then the winter from hell happened. I fell down a flight of stairs, landing at the bottom with a concussion and hairline fractures in my ribs: out of commission for 6-8 weeks. It snowed nine feet. We were sick constantly, passing colds and sinus infections back and forth. I exercised like… once. I did some yoga at home, taking part in the Yoga International Core-Strength Challenge, and continued to eat pretty well (while allowing slip ups for doughnuts and whatnot). When the weather broke, I got back outside.
In the couple of weeks I “trained” for the New Jersey Half Marathon, I ran with Henry in the stroller a couple nights a week, and aimed for two or three solo runs, though I’m not sure I ever hit those targets. After PR’ing at New Jersey, I’ve been taking it easy in the gap before starting to train for New York, but am still getting out on the road at least four days a week. Pushing the stroller is hard, but it helps me to control my pace a bit, too. I’ve gotten faster with my wheels, but am not finishing each workout or each week totally spent.
Finally, the weight “issue”. All of the above (plus genes, maybe), contributed to my losing the weight I gained during pregnancy, plus another 10 or 12 pounds. When it comes down to looking at my running numbers and the number on the scale, all I can really come up with is that I’ve been pretty well balanced, active, and am carrying less weight than before. If I strapped some big ole ankle weights on and headed out to run, I have to imagine I’d be facing 9:00s instead of staring down 8:00s. All of which is totally fine. This is certainly not a tutorial or soap box on post-baby weight loss, just a matter of trying to figure out where this progress came from.
Yowza. I’m not actually sure where I got all those words. It definitely wasn’t on my agenda for today, and was only skittering about at the periphery of my thoughts to begin with. So there’s that. Are you even still here? In summary: I had a really nice run last night. Counting down the minutes, in fact, until we can head back out tonight.
No, really. It’s over.