One year ago - nearly exactly - I was still on maternity leave with Ivy, getting ready to go back to work and to get back to exercising. I convinced Jon to take up running with me, which meant that we were also going to drag the girls along and turn my hobby into a whole-family hobby.
I never would have believed you if you told me when Jon and I started running together that we would be running a half-marathon together just under one year later.
Back up to about a year before that, just before I got pregnant with Ivy. I had finally reached my goal weight (about fifteen years after I last weighed that little), and was running three miles a few times a week. I was just beginning to think about signing up for a 5k race and then I got pregnant, got nauseous, and stopped running. If you had told me then, when I was just pregnant with Ivy that within the next two years, I would stop running altogether, start again, and run thirteen miles in an official race, I'm sure I would have laughed right in your face.
But, that's exactly what happened.
Jon and I tried running together a couple of times before my maternity leave ended, but I was out of shape and my joints were still loose from pregnancy, and I hurt my knee. I gave it a rest for a bit, and then started up again slowly on the treadmill at work. Meanwhile, while I was at work, Jon was taking the girls out running and starting his own training regimen. I was ridiculously busy and didn't make it onto the treadmill nearly as often as I wanted.
Last fall, when my hometown announced that it was hosting it's inaugural half-marathon race, I mentioned to Jon that it would be a fun and convenient first race experience, with a beautiful location for a run - except that the distance wasn't what I'd had in mind for my very first race! When the event opened registration, somehow Jon convinced me to sign up. And we did, super quick, to get the early-bird entry price. My brother claims that we pressured him into signing up, too, but somehow I feel like he and Jon were in cahoots, and I got roped in.
Once I started the stay-at-home mom gig, Jon and I got serious about training, running together 3-4 times a week. In early February, I realized that the 10K interval training we were doing was not going to get us ready in time and we switched to a 21K distance-training program. I was super nervous, because we already didn't really have as much time as we needed. The training program says it is intended for people who are already comfortable running 5K distances a few times a week. At that point, I was not even comfortable running a 5K distance one time! And we had to start the training program in the middle!! Did I say I was nervous? I was actually pretty terrified.
But we went for it. The first week of the new program, we had a 7 mile "long run," which was the longest either of us had ever run. It was awful. The next week was a 9 mile long run, which we did during our mini-break to Monterey. That went much better than the 7-miler. The next week, we could only finish half of our scheduled 10 mile run. The week after, we did 11 miles and felt pretty good. We decided not to do another long run, because we were getting a little worn out. We planned to do a 6-mile run the next week, along with 4-mile training runs and then taper off for the two weeks before the race.
Instead, we succumbed to the upper respiratory infections we picked up in Monterey and from the tiny chairs in Alice's classroom during our parent/teacher conference. I had bronchitis and a double ear infection. Jon seriously injured a rib muscle from coughing. Instead of tapering, we were glued to the couch and bed, hacking up our lungs, and trying every prescribed and homeopathic remedy to heal ourselves before the race. We were scheduled to head up to Livermore on the Wednesday before the race, and as late as that Monday, Jon could barely stand upright and was pretty sure he wouldn't be able to run. I was feeling a bit better by then, and did my scheduled 2-mile taper run, and felt like I couldn't get enough oxygen through my phlegmy lungs. We were not encouraged, but we pressed on.
We were feeling a little better every day and on the Thursday before the race, we drove the whole course and picked a spot to do a one-mile practice run. We were both feeling surprisingly great, until my knee started hurting. Like, couldn't even finish the mile kind of hurting. I think because I'd been so sick and hadn't been doing the easy taper runs, my knees were tight and not in the groove. I cut my run short, afraid of injuring myself before the race, but then decided that trying to warm up better might give me a better shot at running on Saturday. So I took some slow strides and tried to adjust my form to let my knee get it's act together. And it did! I ran about a half-mile more and felt great by the time I finished.
And a little bit later, we picked up our bibs and shirts.
The next day, Friday, my sister and I helped Alice to make a couple of signs to hold up on the sidelines during the race.
It was fun to see all the other runners, and their gear - I was totally shopping for leggings and belts! The energy was infectious but I was having flashbacks to high school swimming, trying not to get psyched out by how comfortable and capable everyone looked. I loved seeing all the different shapes and types of runners, and thinking, if all of these people can do this - and it's clearly not their first rodeo - then so can I.
And then we were off!
It was crazy trying to find a stride among all of those people, and trying to find a good path on the terrain. But I loved having extra things to pay attention to and changing scenery to look at, and I loved the spectators along the route - especially the kids and their signs and high-fives. We saw our kids and family right around the 3-mile mark, when we were still feeling pretty good and going strong. We could see their awesome sign from way up the street! We were so excited to give them drive by hugs and kisses and high-fives.
The run felt pretty good, though my legs felt a little bit heavy and tired. Miles 4 and 5 were through Sycamore Grove Park, which was lovely, but on a narrow and uneven trail, and with a short but steep incline. There were even a couple of bridges that were seriously bouncing with everyone running over, so much so that I actually got a little queasy bouncing over them myself. Mile 6 started to get a little bit tough, and then miles 7 and 8 had some big elevation changes, both short and steep and long and gradual. Those really gave us trouble. We walked more than we'd planned once we hit those inclines.
I gave Alice a hug, and then she kept hugging my leg and saying "I love you I love you I love you!" And then she ran after us as we took off.
We had a tough time finishing mile 11, and mile 12 was even harder. I pretty much cried the whole time, mainly from endorphins and whatnot, though I was in a fair amount of pain as well. Three women passed us wearing signs for a friend who'd been killed by a drunk driver and I cried every time I caught sight of them.
We struggled to finish mile 12, but once we rounded the corner to First Street, we were able to finish the last .1 stretch strong, hand in hand.
Check out the RunLiv website, and watch for next year's registration! Here's the official course map and a link to the course I made in Map My Run, if you want to try it yourself!
After the race, we collected our medals and wine glass, and snagged our free donuts.
I can definitely say that I wouldn't have signed up for this race if it weren't for Jon, but I'm sure I wouldn't have been able to do it without him either. Even though he apparently felt like he could barely keep up with me during our training, he always kept me from giving up on those runs, and it would have been so much harder for me finish the race without him running next to me.
Without Jon and my brother, and their optimistic approach to the race, I would have waited to enter an event until I had trained to a point where I felt confident in my strength and stamina. Having a goal with a deadline is a great motivator, though. I adjusted my expectations that this wasn't going to be the kind of thing I wait to do until I can do it perfectly, like so many other things in my life. I was going to work hard, give it my all, have a good experience, and learn a lot - no matter what. And then I could put those gains to work improving myself for the next race. I am so proud of all of us, of the training we did, and our performance, and the medals that we brought home. It was a great first experience and Jon and I are both looking forward to the next one, we're already thinking about what we might sign up for!
We didn't have much time to revel or even recover, because we had to get ready for a funeral. We took a quick Epsom salt soak, and then said our farewells to a truly wonderful woman who was like a grandmother to us and every young person in my church.
The next day, my brother had arranged for us to visit a local winery that was closed for tasting that day, so we packed a picnic and enjoyed a lovely and leisurely afternoon on their idyllic property. The scene was even complete with toys for the girls, a brood of chickens and roosters roaming about, and a super friendly dog. If you're doing any tasting in Livermore, definitely check out BoaVentura de Caires Winery!
The girls had a great time riding the tricycle and playing on the bocce ball court. Ivy loved throwing the heavy balls around. I'm glad none of them landed on any tiny toes...
Alice loves hammocks and spent a good deal of time in this one, with anyone who would push her.
Alice is pretty stingy with the hammock and doesn't like to share with anyone, and for some reason Ivy pretty much hates swinging in the hammock (though she loves the swings and rocking chairs, go figure). But Jon was still able to get a quick cuddle with both of them.
And then we packed up our picnic and bid the chickens farewell.
During our stay in Livermore, we also squeezed in a visit to the lovely library, where Alice and Minnie enjoyed a little computer preview of a few books.
And a trip to a favorite fabric store, In Between Stitches, to pick out fabric for the baby/birthday quilt my mom is making for Ivy.
And just before we left, we were able to stop by the house of an old friend from high school (where I'd spent many, many hours of my high school life), and see her darling brand new baby before we left town and they jet-setted off to the exotic locale they call home these days. It was wonderful to see her after many years, and to meet her sweet little girl.
It was a great trip and we made lots of good memories, and we're glad to be healthy and back in the swing of things at home!