Deciding Which Half to Run. And if I Should Run it.

>> Wednesday, June 15, 2011

In our last post on the topic, I wrote all about how to train for a half marathon while pregnant. And many of those tips can apply to new runners as well.

In fact, for me running pregnant -- especially in early pregnancy -- isn't entirely different from running normally. It just FEELS different on certain days and requires me to pay much, much more attention to how I'm feeling. For the safety of the baby, of course, but also for my own well-being.

Before I picked out and signed up for my half marathon race, I was honest with myself about my training. Though this post is specifically pregnancy and half marathon-related, I think many of these questions are good to ask before running your first race of ANY distance!

QUESTION #1: Had I run enough long runs to comfortably cover the distance . . . or would I be stretching to finish?
ANSWER: Before I became pregnant, I was comfortably running the half marathon distance. For several years, in fact. And more recently, I was still able to cover between 10 and 11 miles comfortably.

QUESTION #2: Have my long runs felt good . . . or have they been a struggle?
ANSWER: The main difference I had experienced was having to pee every 3 to 4 miles. Otherwise, with a slowed pace . . . my long runs were fine. I hadn't been doing quite as many, but my muscles seemed to be fond of the less intense pace. With careful tapering and a promise to take it easy the week after, I knew my body could handle it.

QUESTION #3: Had I been eating adequate calories to support a distance event . . . or was I feeling too much morning sickness?
ANSWER: This one was tricky. I didn't end up throwing up much due to morning sickness, but my eating habits had changed dramatically. I had lost a bit of weight. Still, I was responsible about getting in calories before/during/after my runs -- and if I couldn't, I had taken those days off. Morning sickness was sort of hit-or-miss the weeks before the race.

I'd have to play this one by ear.

QUESTION #4: Did my midwife think participation was a good or bad idea given my specific history with the pregnancy so far?
ANSWER: I had expressed my desire to continue running at my first appointment. My midwife was supportive and said I could keep doing up to what I was doing (no more, though), as long as it was comfortable and everything was going OK with the baby's measurements and my health. I told her about my desire to run in a half marathon, and she said it would be fine -- again -- if everything at that point was checking out.

So, with three out of four OKs on those questions and one question mark, I decided to search around for an event. Thankfully, our hometown was hosting its first half marathon this year, and it's ultimately the race I had been hoping to run.

  • The start was close to home. Less than five miles, in fact. Knowing I was prone to wicked car-sickness, staying local made perfect sense.
  • It didn't require crazy ahead-of-time registration. Giving me more time to figure out if I could participate.
  • It wasn't crazy expensive. So, if I had to bow out the morning of, I didn't lose out on tons of money (after my DNF at Wineglass and subsequent fail at making it to the start of the Philly Marathon, I didn't want to waste any more cash!).
  • The route was familiar. It went along much of my usual training spots. Plus -- mile 9 was a block from my house! I knew I was comfortable running 9. If I had to stop as a worst-case scenario, I could.
  • There were lots of water stops and potties along the path. Knowing not what the weather would be that day, I needed to ensure I had plenty of access to water. And I 125% knew I'd need to pee.
  • I had my next midwife appointment scheduled for two days before the race. This was like extra insurance. I could make sure everything was OK before setting out on my 13.1 mile adventure.
Still I was nervous that something would happen. Tons of things ran through my mind, like they do with pretty much any race. I imagined the temperature forecast would be in the upper-90s (unlikely in May); alternatively, we'd get horrible storms/rain (this WAS actually forecasted, but didn't end up happening); I would feel too tired to participate; I'd get injured or have some other medical problem; I'd get incredibly sick the morning of (this sort of did happen, but more on that in the next post).

The list of concerns went on.

But a week before the race, the directors announced they'd be capping entries soon. With credit card in hand, I hastily signed up in a moment of what felt like insanity. I could do it, right? Well, maybe. Possibly. I hoped! I set out that day for my last training run (11 miles) and got a huge boost of confidence. The rest of that week, I took it easy.

Then race morning, we had to rise at 5:30 AM to get ready. All hell broke loose with my body. I was the sickest I had ever felt. I couldn't keep down much of ANYTHING. And I had a BIG decision to make . . .

Part III of this series will be all about race day. How I felt, how I fueled, and how I finished! If you'd like to catch up on more baby-related stuff, check out (never home)maker, baby! Our latest post is all about week 16.

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