The annual Moonlight Run in Lethbridge was held on St. Patrick’s Day—March 17th, 2018. This would be my 7th time participating in the event, having done 5 previous 10km distances and one 6km distance. I have talked about this race at length in the past few years, so I won’t be going into as much detail about the event itself, but I do want to touch on the things that made it ‘unique’ this year…specifically 1) the weather 2) my postpartum race experience.
I’ll be doing a general recap of the race first, and then at the end I will touch on some specific things that came up as being a postpartum runner. So if you don’t care about one of those things, skip to where you want to read and ignore the other!
To put it frankly, this winter has been ugly. We got our first snowfall on the night of October 1st, and I remember this because this was the day of my birthday and baby shower. Just when you think winter is over, another dumping of snow comes….more ice, melting, snow, ice melting, grass, snow, snow..,..it hasn’t let up. It has been nasty and cold. And in the last week or more we got some bad drifting. Well, everything started melting….and the river valley was so ugly that the organizers for Moonlight Run had to make some adjustments to the course route (more on that in a bit). I went down the day before the race to check on one of the main paths….and the picture above shows the straightaway between Helen Schuler Nature Centre and Tollestrup. When I took the photo Friday afternoon, I considered this to be great conditions…I knew what I had looked like at Marathon Club the week before! By race night, it was even better. Sure there was still spots with thick chunks of ice and a puddle here and there, but considering what our winter had been like, this was heaven.
Given the weather, I am not sure how many people really thought they would be setting personal bests at Moonlight. Training this winter has been tough. But, Dan and I both went into the race knowing we wanted to give it our best. Dan has actually been legitimately training, running three times a week. And I wanted to see what I could power out as my first big race since having Andy. However, we obviously weren’t taking ourselves too seriously as we went to Sister’s Pub at 7pm the night of the race to share a beer….race started at 8 pm….
I knew I wanted to just try and power as much as I could during the race to really see what my body could handle at this point being 5 months postpartum. Dan wanted to see if all his training really has made a difference. When the race started, we both positioned our selves very near the front of the pack so we could have our space once the horn sounded. Dan was immediately in front of me and it stayed that way the whole race (this would be the first race Dan beat his non-pregnant wife…him beating me while I was pregnant doesn’t count!) The first mile of Moonlight is always great as we get to pass the bagpipe troupe and the Japanese drummers. And it’s a fast mile as you are flying down 3rd ave to the river bottom, lovingly called the Wendy’s Hill (Wendy’s is at the top). You can see in my splits later how fast that first mile went!
With the course adjustments due to the frozen and wet river bottom, we turned south on Indian Battle Road and headed on the asphalt to the water treatment plant. We turned around there heading back on the same road, and once we got to the base of the hill we continued on Indian Battle Road to Helen Schuler Nature Centre, down the path to Highway 3, past the smell of the sewage plant, and turned around at Tollestrup. This route was AWESOME as with the weather and conditions, if we had been on the normal route we would have encountered some very dangerous icy spots. With headlamps, road lights, volunteer flashlights and the bright moonlit sky I felt very safe and not concerned about falling and hurting myself. Another change was that all the runners, both 6km and 10km, went back up the same hill to get to 3rd ave. In previous years the 10km runners would head up on the adjacent trail (I found this part very mentally challenging).
While I did not stop to walk at all on the hill up, it was tougher than years’ past. Obviously because I have just been getting back into hill work! I made it up with help from the cheers of friends I passed who were spectating, and I pushed the final stretch back to the finish. My best Moonlight Run 10km time is from 2015 (the year I qualified for Boston) and I ran a 43:47. This year I finished with a 47:13. I had not advertised to friends or family what my goal time for this race was, but I had written it down (along with my other goal times for races this year). I had written a goal of 46-48 minutes for Moonlight. So, falling right in the middle of that range is perfect and I am proud! I am also extremely proud of my husband Dan, who did in fact run a personal best 10km with a time of 44:40. Yes, he beat his wife….but I still have the best 10km time between the two of us (41:30 from 2015).
We were able to stick around for awards, as our friends were watching Andy while we attended the event. Both Dan & I received age group awards. Dan earned 2nd in the 30-34 male age group, where he placed 2/24. He was 23/189 for men and 25/377 overall. I snagged 3rd in the 30-34 female age group, placing 3/28. I was 11/188 for women and 45/377 overall. The pictures below show us before the race, the start/finish area, and us after the race together and with our friends Bob & Christine.
So that was the race. I felt pretty good during it, and after as we waited for awards I kept moving about so I didn’t tighten up. I felt like it was a success and my body had held up. Now, onto the postpartum issues. So if you don’t care about this, stop reading now.
This isn’t actually a ‘gross’ issue that occurred, and it wasn’t something I really wasn’t preparing for. Hopefully is there are other postpartum runners out there this can help them. We left the race at around 10:15 pm and went to pickup Andy. When we got home around 11pm, I sat down to pump (I am an exclusive pumper by choice). I pumped for close to 30 minutes and got 275 ml—this is more than one regular sized Medela bottle. Well, I had earned a post race beer by now so I went to grab one and go take a shower. I immediately started having blurred vision and couldn’t really see clear out of my peripherals. Ok, I must still be hyped from the race. Got my contacts out, washed my face and jump in the hot shower. When I was done with the shower my vision was still fucked. I was feeling dizzy. I went to the kitchen to get some food thinking maybe I din’t eat enough. Strawberries….maybe my blood sugar was low? I ate a couple handfuls and that seemed to help the vision. But my head was starting to hurt. I started pounding water. I think it was too little too late.
While I had paid attention to really hydrating myself during the daytime, I stopped my water intake about 2 hours prior to race start because to be honest, I was nervous about having to go to the bathroom while running. And after the race, sure I had a bit of water (about as much as I would normally have after a race) but I didn’t take into account one major new issue—-I am now a milk truck.
The evening pumping session where I did not consume water did me in. I was dehydrated. And it hit hard. I went to bed quickly and had water bedside. When I got up with Andy in the middle of the night my headache was verging on migraine. I drank more water and pumped again. By morning, I needed Dan to get up with Andy at 7 while I slept another two hours. My head was in so much pain.
I eventually got it under control by noon. But, I learned one major lesson—I need to be drinking tons of water not only before the race, but after and ESPECIALLY during my next couple pumping sessions post race. I had had the headache issue occur when I was running while pregnant, because I just simply wasn’t drinking enough water to adequately hydrate my body that was working overtime. Even though I am no longer pregnant, my hormones are still in overdrive since I pumping about 6 times a day to feed our child. And while I do pay attention to my water intake during a normal day, race days are different.
I am glad that this ‘problem’ occurred this race though. It was better for me to realize the potential issues during a local 10km than have it happen during a destination race. When we go to Disney World in a month and run the Star Wars 10km & half marathon I need to be taking in tons of water, not only because of the reasons I have now realized but because it’s going to be humid as hell down there. To feel miserable one morning post race in my own bed is one thing…I don’t want to feel miserable post race while on vacation! So, any breastfeeding or pumping momma’s out there who do any strenuous exercise…please make sure you hydrate more than you normal would if you do something beyond your normal daily activity. If you are going to feed your baby close to after a big workout or race, have a water bottle handy and rehydrate yourself as your feed your little one….you start to become immune to realizing how much liquid you’re expelling from your body every time you feed or pump….and it’s important to rehydrate yourself so you don’t ‘go to the darkside’.