I spent my entire last pregnancy afraid of pushing myself. With good reason. First, my original doctor scared me into thinking working out and SWEATING was bad (I found a new doctor) and really, I didn’t know what my body was capable of while also making a human.
In the short span between this one and the last one–about a year–I’ve found fitness bloggers and pro athletes who were able to keep a training regiment while pregnant. I also caught the BQ (Boston Qualifying) bug. With minimal training and a mid-race injury, I came within about 10 minutes of a BQ on my only attempt four years ago. It’s past time to try again, and I’ve chosen Mountains to Beach next spring as my first back-to-BQ race.
Which gives me six months from the time I can run again after I have the baby to race day.
This pregnancy has been a complete 180 for fitness boundaries. I’ve found that I can still train, have workout and easy days and even…race(!) without it taking a toll on my pregnancy. (My energy is another story). Don’t misunderstand me–I’m not disobeying a doctor, pushing myself out of my comfort zone or putting my baby at risk. I’m just more comfortable with my limits and I’m determined to stay in as good of shape as I can, while I can, for next spring.
After a lunchtime “speed” workout on the treadmill, my coworker handed me the flier for the Isle of Palms 10k–3.1 straight beach miles out and 3.1 straight beach miles back on what I could only assume would be a sweltering Saturday morning.
There were two things I liked specifically about this race–it was a beach out and back, so if it was too ambitious, I got injured, or I got embarrassed by my pace, I could easily quit, walk to the boardwalk and call an Uber back to my car. The second thing was that the entire course was on the sand, which meant that the view would be beautiful, the breeze would be cool and the pounding on my already stressed joints would be minimal.
I signed up.
I didn’t do very much to train for this race–during my first trimester I scaled back my mileage and slowed my pace down, but since my second trimester hit a few weeks ago I’ve upped my mileage and felt more comfortable increasing my pace (slightly). The weekend before I did a total of 9.5 miles at 9:13 pace to make sure my legs, breathing and overall energy levels were still up for a race.
Races are different than long runs, even for this one, I felt a little anxiety creep in at the starting line, like I was actually there to race instead of just to finish. There’s also no stopping, stretching, resting, I wanted to start and finish like I would on a normal race day. Just much slower.
Isle of Palms was already in the 80’s when I got there around 7:30, a comfortable temperature if you can ignore the humidity, which I couldn’t do, and by the time I picked up my bib I was already drenched. The race started and finished on the sand down by a popular local bar, the Windjammer, and ran north on the coast towards the beach houses until the turn around point and back.
We started exactly at 8am, whatever breeze I thought would be there had failed to show up and I forgot there’s no shade on the beach. It was sweltering. I immediately started drinking my water from my hydration pack and checked my watch to make sure I was running in my comfort zone. By the second mile, a lot of people had already dropped back, probably because of the heat, the slow turnover in the sand and the sun, but, with my water, my hat and feeling like I was jogging, I actually felt really good. I never once felt like I was stressing my body. A cloud covered the sun and a breeze picked up, following us all the way to the turnaround point. We headed back into a headwind, and I was able to pick it up a little. The main pack was not that far ahead of me, maybe 200 meters, and I wanted so badly to catch them, but I fought the urge to race and just focused on the waves crashing, kids playing in the water and the pace on my watch.
I finished 5th in my age group, with a time of 56ish minutes. (They haven’t released the actual results, and I’m not really on pins and needles waiting for them). A decent effort given that I had to purposefully run slow. And although I found it a little irritating not being able to actually race, I had a really great time back in the excitement of racing.
Tips On Racing While Pregnant
- Choose your course: The last thing you want to do is get lost, trip on a rocky trail or find yourself unable to finish 6 miles from the finish line. Choose a course with lots of spectators, cell phone service, a comfortable climate (breeze, shade) and a terrain that’s realistic. I would not want to be running downhill with a baby bump as my center of gravity.
- Look like a dork: I got a lot of stares wearing my hydration pack for a 10k, but I saw people run off course to get water because it was so humid. Joke’s on them. You need to dress for the elements–extra water, a hat, sunscreen, and light, comfortable clothing. If you need a snack, bring a snack, I did, even though I didn’t eat it. Wear supportive shoes that are broken in and, like any race, test your gear. You’re pregnant, so you’re going to be uncomfortable. You don’t want to add being sunburned and chafed.
- Know your pace beforehand: This is the most important one. You should be consistently running and know what your comfortable pace is. If you feel great that day, increase it, if you’re tired or having an off day, start slower. The reasons I think this is the most important one are twofold–you don’t want to get caught up in the race mentality and run too fast and you want to know if you can beat the maximum time limit. You definitely don’t want to have them shut down the race before you’re done. (PS- a friend came to meet me at the finish line, and I had told her what I thought my pace would be after my long run the Saturday before. She arrived at 8:57 and said she knew she’d missed me by a minute…she missed me by exactly a minute!).
- The only person you’re racing is you: This was hard for me. I saw people I would normally be able to run with, and I could easily have been at the front of this small scale race. Had I not been pregnant. If I passed people, great, but I had to fight the urge to “catch” people by increasing my speed and trying to outrun them.
- Flaunt the bump: Feel self conscious about your bump, or your pace? Get a shirt that says “running for two” or “running buddy” and own the fact that you’re pregnant. Some people might judge you (it seems like everyone judges a pregnant person these days, no matter what you’re doing), but people will also cheer you on and, most importantly, they’ll know that you’re not in this to win it. And why.
Bonus: Save that race bib for baby’s memory book! I’m sure they’ll think it’s pretty cool when they grow up and to be a runner and see that they’ve been running since literally, before they were born.