This past weekend I ran the Run & Ride Carowinds half marathon. Run & Ride is a race series, put on by the Rev3 Tri folks, at amusement parks across the country. Carowinds is an amusement park that’s near Charlotte. You get free entry to the park for the weekend with your race entry fee. Hence the “run” and “ride” name.
This race was pricey. I ended up paying $100 (it’s tiered pricing and people who registered earlier got in at $90) to run. The organizers said they charge so much because you get admission into the park, so I understand that. I wish they had a cheaper option for runners who didn’t want park tickets. I’ll be honest, I had zero interest in going to the amusement park. I only chose this race because it was the closest local half in early fall, and I needed to run a half marathon before October 10 to update my proof of time for the Dopey Challenge. Of course Rocktoberfest, a big, more affordable half marathon in Charlotte, is taking place on October 11…
Anyway, I was excited for the race! I thought it’d be a great test of my NYCM training. I haven’t run a half marathon all out since October 2012, and I knew I was physically in good shape. My half PR stood at 1:40:40, from spring of 2012, and while I would have loved to PR (and finally break 1:40), I didn’t think it was in reach. I’ve been training differently lately – fewer tempo runs, more easy runs, and more cross-training – so I didn’t know what to expect. I decided a goal of 1:45 – 8 minute miles – sounded reasonable. Still, the night before the race, I pulled up a pace calculator and figured out what pace I’d have to run to break 1:40 – 7:38 per mile. I had a pep talk with my legs and told them if they felt strong I’d be really happy if they could hold a 7:38 pace.
The morning of the race it was 40 degrees. FORTY. I haven’t run in anything less than 60 degrees since last winter. I decided not to run in shorts and wear the crops that I usually wear to spin instead, even though I’ve never run in them.
I picked up my friend Lyndsey and we drove over to the race. I would have loved to have my family at the finish line, but the race started at 7:30. I expected to finish around 9:15 and Hadley naps at 9. Nap schedules > family finish line photos!
I was so happy to have Lyndsey to hang out with before the start. I was really nervous! Two years is a long time to go between racing half marathons. I wanted to do well and not let myself down, so it was really fun having a friend to chat – and shiver – with.
When we started walking to the start, I realized I left my Garmin in my car. Oops! I didn’t run back to get it because I figured it wasn’t a big deal. Running “blind” would be a good test of my own pacing skills, and surely there’d be clocks at each mile marker…
The race was really small. At the start, no one wanted to line up in front, so we did! As soon as we took off, I hated myself. My pants were not staying up at all. I must have tugged on them 10 times every minute all race. A huge rookie mistake. There’s a reason why we’re not supposed to try anything new on race day! Oops.
I felt good from the get-go, but I also wondered if I was running too fast. I was looking for mile markers, but didn’t see any. I figured I’d ask another runner once I got passed, but I was all on my own. There were three guys in front of me, and other runners maybe a minute or so back, but I didn’t pass anyone or get passed the entire race which was weird. I was really alone. Since the race was held in an empty theme park, there were no spectators. It was a pretty eerie feeling.
I finally saw mile marker 3, but I had no idea what my time was – though it felt like I had been running for longer than 3 miles! Soon after the mile 3 marker, I took a wrong turn in the theme park and had to turn around a re-trace my steps. There were arrows and cones directing us where to go, but it was confusing at times. I likely only lost 20-30 seconds off my time, but I still wasn’t happy. I wish volunteers could have been by some of the turns, but this was the first year this race was held, so it will take time to work out these kinks.
My least favorite part of the course was through the RV park around mile 5. It was after 8:00 a.m. by this point and RVs and campers were heading out after staying the night, and the course wasn’t closed. I literally had to stop in my tracks because an RV almost hit me – it really shook me up and I almost lost it! I just wasn’t on the lookout for vehicles so it caught me off guard. Again, I only stopped for maybe 10-20 seconds but it felt like a lot longer.
The rest of the race was kind of a blur. I definitely should have carried my own Gatorade. There were plenty of aid stations, but I missed being able to sip when I needed a drink. Also, since it was so cold, I stopped and drank at every fluid station because I didn’t want to get wet – I would have much rather run with my squirt bottle so I didn’t have to stop.
The course was two loops, and I was VERY happy to learn we didn’t have to go through the RV park again on the second loop. I felt strong towards the end, and I have a feeling I ran the second half of the course faster than the first. I felt like I was running around an 8:00 minute/mile pace, so I was hoping my finish time would be around my goal of 1:45:00. Well, I was completely shocked when I was around mile 12.5 and I passed Lyndsey running the other way and she said our time so far was 1:35:15. I’m pretty sure I didn’t even respond to her because I was in awe!
I tried to sprint the remainder of the course but my legs weren’t having it. Before I made the final turn, I heard the announcer say “here comes the first female” and it took me a second to realize that was me. That was a crazy feeling. This was a really small race, but it still felt surreal to “win” a half marathon.
I was so flustered that I forgot to look at the clock when I crossed the finish. But the race had computers at the finish and you typed in your bib and it printed a receipt with your stats! It was so cool!
My overall time: 1:39:55, 7:38 pace.
I was shocked and so, so happy. I PR’d and broke 1:40 by a hair. I held a 7:38 pace – without ever knowing my time! – just like I asked my legs to the night before. And, of course, I kicked myself for not asking my legs to run a 7:30 pace or something faster ha.
I was really happy with my race, and so proud of Lyndsey, too! She came in 4th and smashed her PR by over 10 minutes! I also learned a lot:
- I’m not a fan of small races. I never realized how much I love the energy of the spectators and chatting with other runners until there was no one around. Thankfully this won’t be an issue during NYCM!
- I need to carry my own Gatorade. From now on, for every race where I’m trying to do well. This is non-negotiable. I was really dehydrated all day on Sunday and it’s because I didn’t drink enough on the course.
- I need to stop under-estimating myself. I really thought I had no shot at PRing despite training well for the last 12 weeks. I either totally under-estimate my ability or set ridiculous, unrealistic goals (like trying to BQ in 2010! What on earth was I thinking?). So, I’m saying it. I’m going sub-4:00 at NYCM. I know I can.
Oh my goodness, there’s less than a month until race day! I went to NYCM’s website for the first time since choosing my baggage and transportation options months ago, and I closed it immediately because I felt so overwhelmed!
I’m obviously most anxious about the pumping situation, but then I also have no idea how I’ll find my mom and dad at the finish. The website has great instructions, but they warned us that we won’t be able to see family members until 30-90 minutes after we cross the finish line. I’m always a mess after races so I just hope I can make it to the family reunion area without getting lost. Hopefully I can just follow the crowds like a lost puppy!
I have a lot of research and planning to do for the actual day of the race. It is definitely going to be a full day’s event. I’m really excited, though!
Backing up, this was a weird week training-wise. I had a half marathon on Sunday and wanted to run it on not tapered, but not too tired legs if that makes sense. So, I kept my mileage a little lower than where I’ve been – and it paid off:
|OFF||8mi progression run – 9:55/ 8:52/ 8:37/ 8:20/ 8:14/ 7:50/ 7:40/ 7:32||Spin + TRX||8.5 mi at 9:29 pace||5mi at 8:38 pace||OFF||Half marathon in 1:39:55|
- I am loving progression runs – I think I may like them more than tempo runs. I planned on doing all of my runs this week at an easy pace, but I couldn’t help myself on Tuesday. I just felt good, and since it was early enough in the week, I went with it.
- Spinning and TRX is killing me lately. I’m only going to do one spin class per week until NYCM. The spin classes I take are tough workouts and not gentle on the legs at all – and there is nothing easy about TRX. I love it, but I think I just need to chill until after the marathon. This is why Thursday’s run was slower than normal, my hips and hamstrings were super angry with me.
- Ummm I PR’d in the half which was incredibly unexpected! It’s been my goal to go sub 1:40 for awhile, and I can’t believe I finally did it! I ran the entire race blind and had no idea what my time was until my friend shouted it to me with about a 1/2 mile to go. It was a crazy race experience for sure – I’ll share my race recap later this week!
I only have one more real week of training and then it’s taper time. I cannot wait!
Oh wow – this post. I have mixed feelings blogging about this subject. I’ve received several emails and comments asking how I’ve maintained my supply while training for NYCM.
I always bite my tongue, hold my breath, and cringe a little when answering because it’s such a complicated question. I hesitate to share my thoughts because:
- They’re exactly that – my thoughts. I have no idea what really helps increase supply, just theories. I am not a lactation consultant; I just have my experience to go by. If you want real breastfeeding advice, please see a lactation consultant or check out kellymom. Sadly, there’s no breastfeeding + marathon training content, so non-expert bloggers (me) write about their limited experience.
- Everyone is different. You could do the same exact “supply boosting tricks” that I do and not respond at all. Some people have a low supply for no reason. Breastfeeding is extremely unfair that way.
- Breastfeeding is a very passion-evoking, touchy subject. I can tell you what I do and it may come across as gloating to someone who cannot breastfeed. I almost stopped nursing Hadley in the beginning, and had that happened, a post title like this would upset me.
- I am not an expert on anything, especially topics with the word “marathon” in them. I’ve never run a successful marathon, and I’m a low mileage marathon runner. I’ve never run more than 40mpw and don’t plan on going about 42-43mpw in this training session. So, I have no idea how you’d maintain supply if you were running 60 or 80 miles in a week.
Now that the longest disclaimer ever is over, I’ll share my experience. I’ve already shared about breastfeeding and running when I was nursing my son – and gave an update after nursing him for over a year.
But with Hadley, it was a different ballgame. I knew I was going to start marathon training as soon as I was cleared to run after childbirth. Actually, I had NYCM in the back of my mind all pregnancy since I deferred last year – I always knew I was going to run a marathon at 6 months postpartum. I trained for a marathon when I was nursing Wyatt, too, but he was 11 months old when I started training so my supply was well established. Marathon training this time would also predominantly be in the heat of the summer (so I’d be more dehydrated), so supply issues were on my mind well before Hadley was born. The marathon is important to me, but making enough milk to feed Hadley is my top priority.
Here’s how I’ve tried to keep my supply up:
- I kept Hadley on my boobs all the time, starting in the hospital. I also did this because I was paranoid about jaundice in the beginning, so the “nurse every 2-3 hours” advice didn’t sit well with me. I wanted my milk to come in as soon as possible. Once it did, I continued breastfeeding on demand… and I still do. Her feedings are usually much more predictable now that she’s 5 months old. But for the first 2 months, I was literally nursing her every 1-2 hours during the day. Which sounds like a lot more than it really was – she was sleeping through the night at 5 weeks so I was more than OK with her nursing non-stop during the day.
- I never let my supply completely even out. I started pumping at one week. I pump every morning after Hadley’s first feeding – between 4- 5:30 a.m. My lactation consultant said your supply is greatest in the morning so it’s best to pump in the early a.m. hours. I pump at this time every day to create a freezer stash and to give myself a buffer. If I experienced a dip in supply, at least I’d have this “extra” to give to Hadley so I wouldn’t have to worry as much. I pump for 10 minutes after she eats. I used to get 10oz. in the beginning, now I get 7-8oz.
- I run right after I feed her and pump. This way, I won’t miss a feeding session while I’m out. Hadley doesn’t take a bottle so I’ve been very strict about this. A bonus is that you’ll be more comfortable running with “empty” boobs.
- I always pump if I miss a feeding. If my daughter did take a bottle, I wouldn’t mind missing feeding sessions while I was running. I’d just pump out the same amount she ate as soon as I got home. I took this approach for Wyatt and it worked fine.
- I drink a lot of fluids. I’ve mentioned this before but I’m always thirsty. Add marathon training, nursing, and the summer heat and humidity into the mix and, yeah… it’s bad. I drink about 300oz. of water and Gatorade each day. I chug 24oz. right before bed and drink about 24oz. when I get up at night to nurse. Apparently it’s a myth that dehydration affects breastmilk supply, but I’m not so sure.
- I eat a lot. Once again, the not eating enough calories/ being too thin and low milk supply correlation is most likely a myth, but I’ve heard anecdotes that make me not want to chance it. I eat when I’m hungry until I’m full. This basically means I eat all of the time since I’m marathon training and nursing. A sacrifice I can live with!
So far, things seem to be going well. I’m 4.5 weeks out from my marathon and Hadley has continued to thrive. In fact, she’s been in the 95% for weight since turning one month old, so I have zero concerns about my supply. However, I know this is really just luck and has nothing to do with any actions I’ve taken.
Some other notes: I dream feed her every day when I wake up (between 4-5:30 am). Yes, I feel a bit guilty waking her just so I can run, but she always goes right back to sleep. In an ideal world, she’d take a bottle so I wouldn’t have to feed her before heading out in the morning.
I also feed her immediately after runs sometimes, too. Lactic acid increases in breastmilk for up to 90 minutes after intense exercise (source) and while it’s not harmful to baby, some infants dislike the taste. Luckily, both my kiddos never seemed to mind.
Do any other breastfeeding mamas do any supply-boosting tricks during training? Please share!