Why I’m going for it.

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I’m back to tell you I delivered a healthy, beautiful baby girl named Annabel Grace. The labor was quick and easy (as easy as a ridiculously fast, unmedicated delivery can be). I feel grateful that we have such a mellow tempered baby to contrast the incredibly difficult pregnancy. I’ve spent the last 4 months adjusting to three kids. It’s hard, but for us, it completes our family life. I’ve also been trying to slowly regain my fitness in the cracks of time I have to run. With renewed motivation and a strong desire to make the most of imperfect training scenarios (in running & life!), I’m back with some big goals.

Running to me

Running to me is an itch I have to scratch. For quite a few years after college, I ignored it. But it was always there. I always knew deep down that I was a ball of untapped potential. I found my way back to running after my first baby and I haven’t looked back. I think about running the same way I do when I first met my husband: nonstop. Whether I’m thinking about growing Arete, obsessing over workouts and improvements for our team of runners, or getting lost in my own running dreams, it’s like a constant love affair. We grow together, we hit roadblocks, we evolve, and we’re maturing together.

Capitalizing on opportunity

For me running won’t always be about chasing times or goals. Some day, I won’t have my young(ish) body and I won’t be in a place to try and hit far flung, nearly impossible goals. It just won’t always be important to me in that way. That I know. I also look forward to that day. And I love that running can evolve with us throughout life. I have dreams of one day doing an ultra or getting really into trail running or destination running vacations. But for now, I am still in a place where I can dream about and capitalize on my outlandish goals. Competing still lights me up. I feel like I’ve been given a body that wants to and needs to run fast and now is the chance. I don’t want to look back one day and wonder “what if I had just gone for it when I was in my 30s…what if…?”

So now’s my chance. After not running from August to December 2016 because of pregnancy hernia and painful varicose veins, and then slowly returning in January, I was happy to run an 18:24 5k last weekend at the She is Beautiful 5k off of 30-35 miles a week. Add to that very poor sleep and sub-par nutrition (i.e. ice cream daily and constant nursing hunger and dehydration. P.s. the ice cream consumption continues post-nursing big time. #balance), and I’ll take it as a good sign that I can still run fast.

My big scary goal is to put myself in a position to run a marathon under 2:55 at the end of this year, run under 2:50 next year, and run under 2:45 in 2019, thus giving myself a shot at the Olympic Trials standard. It sounds absolutely insane, I mean nearly impossible. But, crazier things have happened. I also know that I ran my first marathon in 2:58 with quite minimal training (50-55ish miles), and many women have run slower in their first marathon and went on to qualify.  And I’m holding close to my heart the stories of the dynamic, dedicated lives of the Arete women. Committed to community, improvement, the love of the sport. So, I’m holding a lot of inspiration from these stories and these women, from trusting the long slow training process, and enjoying the ride. At the very least, I will never look back and say, “I wonder if I had…”

 

Working in imperfect scenarios

I do pretty well in imperfect situations. It’s taken me a long time to realize that I can’t wait around for the situation to be perfect. I have 3 little kids who are far and above the priority over any run, even a critical workout. My husband and I both work demanding jobs, and will always place the highest value on family time. This means that very few of my runs are ideal, I have very little time for “extras” like prehab and rehab and I’m most likely always undertrained. So what does this mean when I’m chasing big goals? It means I schedule my running a week in advance. When I have a workout planned, I try to focus, nail it, get in and out. But if it doesn’t work out for that day because my kids are sick or they need me, then so be it. There’s always another workout or another day. I enjoy my easy days, and I squeeze in pushups and core work. If I stick to a plan, I only need about 40-80 minutes a day. I can almost always do that. It also requires sacrifice from my husband. My kids go to bed later than I’d like on Wednesdays (track workouts), Saturday long runs cut into our family time sometimes. But my kids are happy and healthy and kind (my God are they kind), and I know they’re proud of me. So my motto is that the imperfect training plan is my perfect and it’s going to get me to exactly where I want to be. Because my kids, my husband, my team, the juggle of it all. It fulfills me in a way that fuels me to run fast. Without all those other pieces of my life, I’m not sure I’d be chasing these crazy goals. Imperfect training allows me to be resilient when I’m faced with unpredictable marathon variables. It’s part of the mental training that gives me the edge come race day.

Pushing the bar on postpartum running

Back in high school when I used to write my goal 800 meter times on my ceiling next to my glow in the dark stars and dream about going to the Olympics, I had a time table for all my goals that had to happen before I turned 30 and was old and washed up from having kids. I was absolutely convinced I couldn’t run fast after having children. I think that is still an overwhelming dialogue in the running community, and I hope that it continues to change and that women who want to run fast postpartum, go after those goals. Luckily there’s more research and understanding that’s going into helping women postpartum (e.g. pelvic floor issues–thanks Dr. Sara Tanza!) and I think that will only improve and encourage women to get back out on the starting line. I know for me, personally, I’ve never felt more focused, structured, or determined in my running since having kids, and I know I’m not the only one out there.

The challenges

A rule I have with myself when I train: running is fun, it’s my hobby. And for at least two runs a week, I run without a watch, reminding myself why I run in the first place: for the pure joy and freedom of movement. While I have big goals, it will never get in the way of my life: my kids, my husband, my work, my fun. The moment it crosses the line, I pull back.

As I look three years ahead at these big goals, I have many obstacles.  Although many new ones will appear, these are my biggest challenges that I’ll continue learn to turn into advantages: parenthood, working, tiredness, & time. The great thing about the marathon is that it’s all about training your mind to be present, trusting, and strong. All the above challenges present perfect learning moments.

The inspiration

This is the part where I start to get emotional. A few years ago, when I was really starting to feel fast again after my first baby, I never felt so inspired to run. By her new life, overcoming postpartum issues, by my strong body. Running was healing and invigorating. I’m more inspired now than ever. Sometimes I stand in my messy house that needs all kinds of remodeling and the pet rat has run under the couch (again) and my daughter wants to wear her dirty leggings to school (again) and my son won’t eat breakfast (again) and we’re late to work and school (again), and I just want to lie on the floor and take a nap and let everyone take care of themselves. But then I’ll sit in this same scenario another day and think how damn lucky I am to have this beautiful messy imperfect life and this powerful gift of running to push me through it, remind me patience, help me make sense of everything. Then I get to practice and coach this most dynamic group of women who show up for themselves in their own full lives. When they show up in their own full complicated lives with their diverse dreams and goals and challenges, it reminds me how much we all have in common. How much we all want to get better, how running is the tie that binds us.  I stand up in this complicated life and remind myself yep, running is here for me and it’s my time to go for it. It’s messy, imperfect, takes patiences and faith, community, and sacrifice. But it’s my gift and there’s no where else I’d rather be.

I am excited to be back and share this new journey along the way, so thank you for being part of the ride.

SJ Rock ‘n’ Roll 13.1 Race Report

349494_205596151_Medium (1)I never considered myself a distance runner–800m was my favorite distance, 1500 meters max–so the fact I’m writing about a whole different type of “half” is bizarre. But that’s why I love running. Virtually everyone can become a runner and some hard work and luck can get you where you want to be.

 

It was not a glamorous start to race weekend. The week prior to the race, I had worked 12+ hour days with 2 back-to-back 16 hour days, so I literally only ran once. I hadn’t thought about the race much, and my husband didn’t even know I was racing, so he planned a surf day–can’t fault him. He works so hard and only has one surf day a week for himself so I encouraged him to keep his plans. The couple days leading up to the half I was so exhausted that I wasn’t sure I could swing it. I emailed my coach asking him if I should just skip it and he said “Just go for it. Run 6:40s and whatever you do, don’t go out too fast.” So that was my plan. I was going to view it as a fitness test, make the first six miles feel really comfortable and then stick with the pace.

I’m infamous for getting lost. Like directional dyslexia lost. It’s soooo girly stereotype, but what can ya do. I’ve just learned to own it. The day before the race I had to drive to the Expo, about 45 minutes away. I just had this gut instinct I’d get lost (even with my phone navigator). And sure enough, I ended up at a Wienerschnitzle off the grid, asked for help from ice cream eating Grandmas, then called my husband who patiently sat on the phone with me for 15 minutes as he walked me through the next steps. I finally arrived and found the Convention Center. It was like nothing I’d ever seen. I ran into another runner acquaintance and she was sweet enough to guide me. I thought I was just standing in line to pick up a number, but it was like a giant festival. It was pretty late by then, so I just grabbed my number and drove home, but made a mental note to share the whole expo/celebration experience with friends one day.

 

Race Morning

I’m a light sleeper, but I’m especially a light sleeper the night before a race. But instead of beating myself up over it, I’ve just learned to accept it and expect it, and that way I don’t get my hopes up to have a perfect night’s sleep. I fell asleep by 11pm and woke up at 3:30am. Pretty standard for me before anything “big” in my life. I laid in bed a while but realized I’d be best off just popping out of bed, doing my pre race bath + coffee + netflix ritual. So I did, and I didn’t feel tired. Lots of adrenalin and anticipation for my first half marathon. I put on my “racing kit”-mind you usually it’s running shorts and any clean top I have–but I decided to feel fast and opted for some bun huggers and a sports bra by Oiselle. I figured why not. How many times in life will I run in glorified undies, so what the heck.

Had a bagel and almond butter, coffee, and headed out the door by 5:30am. Gave myself an extra cushion, assuming I’d get lost. I assumed right. I didn’t get lost, but underestimated how long it would take to get from the parking garage to the start. I started walking in the direction that other race looking people were walking, and walked with a lady who talked my ear off. It was nice because for a while I forgot I was about to race 13 miles.

When I got to the start area, I realized I was in corral 1 and with some seriously fast people. I looked around and realized most of the people had their last name only printed on their race bibs, as opposed to the rest of us who had a series of numbers. For those of you unfamiliar, if you have your name on your bib, it means you’re really good, like invited to the race elite status.

The race was to start at 8am, so at 7am I started my warm-up jog. I ran into some local Santa Cruz runner gals, exchanged hugs, and felt the good energy of bringing Santa Cruz representation to the race. I wish I could say I was in the depths of visualization, but since I’ve never run a half marathon and couldn’t really conceptualize what the race would be like, I just zoned out and tried to relaxed. I remember thinking to myself, “I wonder what you’re supposed to do for a half marathon warm-up?” I didn’t think about it before, so I just decided to keep it the same as my 10k prep: a couple miles jog, plus some drills and strides and a million pee stops. Ever since childbirth I have to pee a lot when I run, but it’s even worse before a race. At 7:55 I had this sudden urge to pee but the porter potties were too far away, so I snuck into the corner of an alley and made it back just in time for “Fight Song.” For some reason the anthem just sings to me right now, and I figured it a good sign for my first half marathon.

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Picture op lessons 101 from my buds!
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Bunions = shoes readjustments in the first miles.

The gun went off and unlike 5ks and 10ks where I often feel this sudden sprint from the line, it felt controlled. I was also focused on even splits, so that mentality helped as well. I liked the feeling. I eased in right away and by mile one, I hit a 6:25 which was good for a first mile considering I wanted to run about 6:30-35 pace, and I generally tend to go out way too fast. A couple days before I told my coach I had no idea how to run a half, and he said, “it should basically feel like you’re jogging for the first 8-10 miles. Do not strain at all.” I focused on that feeling at mile one when I had this sudden urge to go fast. Reminded myself to be patient and feel comfort and ease. I found this group of 4 men. They were all wearing red uniforms. I asked them their pace for the race and they replied in a thick accent: “We are doing 6:30. Join.” So I did join, and they formed a little pack for me, and yelled out the splits at each mile and gave hand gestures that indicated slow down or speed up. It was kind of perfect having a pacing pack for my first race. They were so sweet, and I wish I knew who they were so I could thank them. Total unsung heroes for a gal’s first half.

By about mile 10, I wasn’t really tired, but I didn’t have that “dig deep and grind” in me like I usually do in races. I think it’s mostly because I was afraid to hit a major wall and not finish. Turns out I carried out 6:30s the whole time (range of 6:25-6:36), so pretty damn consistent and a good sign for the full marathon.

 

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Finding a groove.

At mile 10, I had some Gu at a water station, stalled a couple seconds, and lost my guys. I couldn’t really recover them after that. I had no idea where the race was going to finish, so the last mile snuck up on me, and suddenly it was the final stretch and I gave it a solid push and heard my name “and Mary Maleta-Wright with a fine finish in 20th place just under one hour and 25 minutes.” It was fun to hear that crossing the line. I was immediately happy to be finished. What a relief. A few seconds after, I thought to myself, “Hmm I’m not very tired.”  I know there will be a time and place for that in a couple months, so the thought quickly passed and I was pretty damn proud. Just to be there, to be racing, showing up on time, putting in effort, takes so many sacrifices for so many people. Since racing as an adult, with different intentions than as a collegiate runner, I now get that feeling. The feeling of crossing the finish line and filling to the brim with gratitude. I immediately love every other racer around me–like we journeyed together. We did journey together. Blame it on the the endorphins, call it cheesy, but it’s a powerful feeling like none other. It’s the feeling that runners of every level understand and keep coming back for more.

After taking a couple photos at the booths as I walked by in a daze, I grabbed some trail mix, and realizing I didn’t have a crew of friends or family there, I started walking toward my car. Took me a couple times asking around to reorient myself and found my way back. It was an odd feeling of pride, relief, but just business as usual. I was in, out, and on my way back to reality.

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Boom! It’s over!

 

On my way home, I grabbed a mocha at the nearest coffee shop and listened to my pump-up playlist on the way home because I was starting to doze off. When I finally arrived home at about noon, my legs were more tired than I realized and I had a hard time walking to the front door. The moment I opened the door, my energetic toddlers ran straight toward me. The sweet babysitter took a couple pictures, and it was quickly back to mom life. They had no idea I just ran a half marathon, but they were stoked to run around the yard and race for my medal. It’s just the way I like it.

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