A year and a half ago running had slowed down for me. I barely got to 20 miles a week and it was due to a lot of things, but mostly a little guy who HATED the running stroller: Asher. If you follow our family Instagram account you know that my running companions are primarily my children, this has been true since I started running a few years ago. To have a child who hated the stroller and couldn't even really last a 5k distance, truly put a huge road block in my ability to get miles in during the week. However, with lots of hard work, getting a new stroller that truly changed the running game for us, he has come to love the stroller runs.
When Asher started to love stroller running, I made a goal for myself, a goal that didn't have an end date, but was a continuous effort to always improve. I set out to get faster and faster with my stroller 5k races. Am I the fastest? Heck no, not even close. Do I still run my heart out as if I am the fastest? Sure do! However, finding local stroller races is not such an easy task. Not to mention, being relegated to the very back is also a challenge. The navigating around so many people, trying to be polite and not accidentally bump an ankle, to save my energy to really go for it when I do get a clearing is trying and defeating at times.
Fast forward to a couple weekends ago and I hit the 5k stroller running race of my dreams! The She.Is.Beautiful race in Santa Cruz has been on my radar for a little while, but the cost of staying near Santa Cruz is outrageously expensive therefore I never took the leap and registered. Plus, and I'll be honest, the idea of an almost all women race wasn't the bees knees for me. Yet, thanks to an amazing friend and fellow runner, Erin (@erinamg), I took the leap, registered for my first 5k stroller race in a different city and it was the best thing ever! Why, you might ask? For many reasons: scenery, friends, support, but really this race has an actual stroller division! You can register to be in the stroller 5k or 10k. How awesome is that?!?!?! Oh and race photos are FREE! 🙌🏽. More races need to do both of these things: stroller divisions and free race photos.
Dave was so supportive and looked for a hotel as soon as possible. We ended up getting a decent deal in San Jose, about 45 minutes away. It meant that we would have to wake up early to get to Santa Cruz, find parking and make sure to warm up beforehand. The kids were great about it all. I admit I feel guilty every race when I have to wake them up to get to a cheer location or a finish line but over the few years we have been running, they have been great sports about it. To be honest, I think they like all the free swag afterwards. With 6 of us in the family, we certainly collect a lot of water bottles, stickers, and protein bars. Lol.
Race morning, everyone was up early and we were on the road on time, about 6:15. The race started at 8:30, but we wanted to make sure to get there and feed Asher, giving him enough time to have his breakfast settle before the race (again, if you follow us, you know Asher has digestive issues). Dave found a spot about a half mile from the start. We all ate something (my fuel was a banana and a kit kat bar. Don't judge!) and around 7:45, we got the stroller out and Asher and I waved them goodbye as they drove to mile 2, to set up a little cheer station for us.
Since I was so close to the start line, my warm up was up and down the street which was a little awkward. The other racers were chatting, taking pics, hanging out in the starting line chute while I ran back and forth. There were others warming up, but no strollers doing so just yet. I will also say wearing my team singlet also made me hyper sensitive to my actions. I love representing the Fleet Feet team, but it does bring with it the insecurities that others might think I'm super fast or showing off or whatever. I know that its all in my head, but the self consciousness is real. Luckily, I had been (bugging) texting Erin and she was so kind to let me join her running team in the front. I even got to meet Meg (@peglegmegruns) IRL! Not to mention, the entire Wolf Pack racing team (@runwolfpack) that I met that morning are complete badass, super fast, wonderfully welcoming women. I won't, but I could seriously go on and on about how awesome these ladies are. Very inspiring.
I had been sick the week prior, including the Shamrockn 5k race the weekend prior, so I didn't have huge goals. My last stroller 5k was last November and it was 23:xx. I had hoped to get as close as I could to that time as possible. I knew that Meg and Erin were running the 10k (with strollers mind you) and a little after the 2 mile mark, the two races split off. I had in mind that I would keep them in sight, who cares how far ahead they were, but just try to keep them in view and use them to somewhat pace me. Well, it kind of worked. I lost Erin (she WON the 10k stroller division!!) way before the 2 mile split. She sped off with such ease. I tried to keep up with Meg (second place 10k stroller division winner!!!), but my hard effort compared to Meg's graceful strides at the start was just too much for me. My first mile was too fast and I paid for it once I hit mile 2. Side note: both these mother runners can finish a stroller 10k faster than my non stroller 10k, just to give you a little insight to their speed. Crazy fast and they make it look easy. I was in pain, my chest was tight and it felt like an elephant was sitting on top of me. I forced a smile around mile 2 when I saw Dave and the kids, but afterwards I was barely holding on. Negative splits, uh, no. I got slower with each mile and I knew it.
By the time I rounded the corner for the last three quarters of a mile back, the only thing keeping me going and not walking was the massive crowds on the other side of the road cheering me on. "Go mama!", "Way to run with that stroller!", "You got this!". My face was not smiling, I was wincing, but I gave them a thumbs up and kept pushing forward. As I approached the finish line, I noticed a sign that read something like "prepare for hi-5's ahead". For some reason that sign gave me a little energy, but there were no hi-5's. Lol. Once I crossed the line, I saw the first place 5k stroller winner and gave her a hi-5 with a great race. Let me tell you she is FAST finishing in 20:xx! A-MAZE-ING! I made my way to pick up my race shirt and swag bag. Wish I had taken a pic of the stuff, but I was just trying to catch my breath and take it all in before the other racers finished.
The race was perfect, not so much my running. Although I ended up with a second place stroller division finish and a 40+ second PR, I wasn't truly happy with how I ran the race. I didn't feel my strongest and I started out way to fast. Obviously the views were gorgeous, the weather was nice at 52 degrees and the support of each other was truly a significant part of the experience. As I waited for the family, I walked around and read many of the quotes on signs in the finish area. I snapped a pic of some of them and told myself to try to remember so many of these when I was having a bad day or feeling defeated.
The race has another location in their series, in Santa Barbara. It is on my list! I am hoping to run this year, yes with the stroller. I won't have other stroller running mama's I know to help me start at the front of the race, hoping I have enough guts to do so myself. Perhaps, with hard work, I can shave some seconds of that current PR, adding more to my goal of becoming faster and faster with my stroller running 5ks.